Updates across the country

Here are a few random updates from the hockey world.

First off, in the WCHA, Denver defenseman Keith Seabrook has left school in favor of Canadian major juniors. It’s been a rough stretch for the Pioneers in losing players.

It started in January, when the Pioneers lost defenseman T.J. Fast to major juniors. Both Seabrook and Fast were second-round draft picks. Shortly after the season ended, Denver lost forward Ryan Dingle to the pros, and a month later, top-end recruit Jason Gregoire decided to sign with UND instead of Denver.

You have to assume that Pioneer coach George Gwozdecky knew Dingle would probably turn pro, but the other departures seem more unexpected and may be tougher to plan for.

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The Herald in Everett, Wash., did a feature on T.J. Oshie this week. Check it out here. The last couple of weeks, Oshie was back in the state where he grew up and he helped with hockey camps. He will return to the area soon and work out in Brainerd for a couple of weeks.

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The Bismarck Tribune wrote a story on former Bemidji State goaltender Layne Sedevie, who will play in the Central Hockey League this year. Check out the story here. For those who don’t remember his story, Sedevie once signed with UND, but suffered an injury that threatened his career. He was able to make it back from the injury and he had a fantastic junior year at BSU. Sedevie didn’t play much last season, though.

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Street and Smith’s Sports Business Journal is reporting that ESPN and the NHL have started talking about bringing the sport back to ESPN as early as the 2008-09 season. This should be particularly good news for the hockey fans in Fargo who are shut out of Versus by CableOne (at least that is my understanding). Check out the entire story here. It details the situation well.

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Speaking of ESPN and the NHL, ESPN.com writer Scott Burnside wrote a story questioning whether the NHL will grow in popularity as the other major sports are being thrashed by scandals right now — Bonds in baseball, Vick in football, Donaghy in basketball and just about everyone in cycling. Check out the story here.

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Destinations for a couple of former Sioux players — Jeff Panzer will head back to Germany this season and Aaron Schneekloth re-signed with the Colorado Eagles in the CHL.

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Lastly, thank you for all of the suggestions everyone left and e-mailed to me.

Help out a former Sioux player

There will be a golf benefit and silent auction on Aug. 22 to benefit former Sioux forward Perry Nakonechny.

Last year, Nakonechny was diagnosed with cancer of the left tonsil and lymph nodes in the neck. He quickly underwent surgery and Chemotherapy, radiation and experimental Erbitux treatment at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. It is an intensive program that apparently few patients have been able to complete. Nakonechny is still recovering from the treatment and must undergo up to five years of follow-up care.

The golf event is an 18-hole scramble at King’s Walk Golf Course. Cost is $100 per person, which includes dinner. Registration begins at 10:30 a.m. and the shotgun start is at noon. Current and former Sioux players and coaches will be at the event to support Nakonechny and help with his medical costs.

There will be several items at the silent auction, including a Travis Zajac signed New Jersey Devils jersey, a Fighting Sioux fridge, an autographed Sioux jersey and tickets to Manitoba Moose games.

If you cannot make the golf event but still would like to make a donation, it can be sent to NDAD/Nako Fund, 2660 S. Columbia Road, Grand Forks, ND 58201.

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Looking for suggestions

We just started planning coverage for next season and I’m looking for suggestions from you guys.

What things do you like and dislike about the Herald’s hockey coverage? What would you like to see more of and what would you like to see less of? Do you want more news about recruits, current players, former players, other WCHA teams or other conference’s teams? I’m talking about both coverage in the print edition (especially our weekly Ice Time page) and on the blog.

I believe on our Web site we are adding a feature where, if people are going to miss a game, they can sign up to get score updates through text messages for any game. I foresee hunters liking this feature. Also, I’ll hopefully expand the live game blogs.

But I would appreciate hearing from you guys and what you like and dislike. Drop me an e-mail at bschlossman@gfherald.com and let me know what you think.

Q&A with Derrick LaPoint

After a standout high school career — one in which he was named the Wisconsin state player of the year — defenseman Derrick LaPoint moved to the USHL last season. Coming from Wisconsin, he was a bit of a mystery to many. How would he fare against tougher competition?

LaPoint quickly answered all questions. He was named first-team all-USHL and the second-leading defenseman scorer in the league with 13 goals, 36 assists and 49 points in 59 games. LaPoint will begin his college career this fall at UND.

Q. What are you doing this summer?

DERRICK LAPOINT: I got into Grand Forks late last night. I’m staying with my brother. I’m getting used to my surroundings here. It just makes sense to be up here. I’m going back to Wisconsin in early August for a wedding, but I’m pretty much up here for good now.

Q. Looking back at your season in the USHL, how would you assess it?

DERRICK LAPOINT: I think it went really well. I worked really hard in the offseason. I had high goals for myself after talking to UND and hearing their expectations. I wanted to prove them and prove Florida, who drafted me, right. I came in with confidence and it carried throughout the year. It was a great experience.

Q. Did you feel you progressed throughout the season?

DERRICK LAPOINT: As it went along, I started getting more ice time and I started playing against other teams’ top lines, and I played on the power play and the penalty kill. I was set at a high standard and I thought it helped me progress throughout the season.

Q. Did you put on any weight over the last season?

DERRICK LAPOINT: I did. It was one of those seasons… I came in at about 180. Going through the season, I dropped quite a bit by Christmas time. Then, I really set my standards and I ate healthy and ate a lot. By the end of the season I was back up to my normal weight. This summer, I’m still trying to eat healthy. I’m up to about 190 now.

Q. It seemed like you got a lot of points on the power play. Was that a result of moving the puck around or getting it to the net?

DERRICK LAPOINT: I played on the point on the power play a lot. I had a lot of one-time shots. I tried to get the puck to the net as much as I could — keep it low and aim for sticks. Sometimes, deflections or rebounds will go in. But I just try to keep it low and aim for sticks.

Q. At 6-foot-3, you must have a long reach. Does that help in getting the puck to the net?

DERRICK LAPOINT: It does. That’s something I’ve tried to get better at. I’ve also worked on using my reach to help defensively. I don’t have to get myself out of position. I can use my stick to force a guy one way or another. It’s an asset I need to use to my advantage.

Q. Have you heard much from the Florida Panthers (who drafted LaPoint in the fourth round last summer)?

DERRICK LAPOINT: Yes, I went to their development camp this summer and had a very good camp. They’re going to follow my progress at school. They’re happy with where I’m at and the situation I’ll be in.

Q. What are your expectations for this upcoming season?

DERRICK LAPOINT: I want to play right away. I don’t want to come in and be an average player. I want to be someone who makes a difference. That’s what coach (Dave) Hakstol wanted from me when I first met him and that’s what I want to be for him. I want to put some points on the board and I want to help us win a national championship. That’s what all of us are here for. I understand that’s the goal of the team and that’s what is No. 1 in my mind.

Q. The corps of defensemen should be stacked with experienced and talented players coming back. How do you see yourself fitting in with them?

DERRICK LAPOINT: I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a challenge and a battle for ice time. I’m expecting to come in, work hard and give it all I’ve got. Hopefully they’ll help make me better and hopefully I’ll help make them better.

Q. Rumor is that you played 50 minutes, 30 seconds of a 51-minute game in high school. Is that true or is that an urban legend?

DERRICK LAPOINT: It is true. My senior year, we made it down to the state tournament and we played a private school from Milwaukee. I played all but about 30 seconds of that game. My senior year was kind of a reflection of that. I probably sat for an average of maybe 1:30 per game.

Q. So in that state tournament game, you must have played entire periods, right?

DERRICK LAPOINT: Yes. I only came off the ice one time and it was in the first period. I was off for about 30 seconds. My coach pretty much told me before the game that he would let me know if I could come off. I’ll do whatever it takes to win. Unfortunately, we ended up losing that game 3-1, but I think we left it all out on the ice.

Did you know?

The season has been done for quite a while now. But if you are looking to make a quick buck and missed out on Tim Donaghy-reffed NBA games, here are a few odd trivia facts from last season’s team that you can help you win some bets with friends.

Did you know that….

Joe Finley, considered a stay-at-home defenseman, had more shots on goal than Brian Lee, considered an offensive defenseman. Finley also had more shots on goal than Chris VandeVelde.

Defenseman Robbie Bina led the team in shorthanded goals in conference games.

Jonathan Toews didn’t take a single penalty in a WCHA game.

Rylan Kaip had more game-winning goals than Toews.

If any other stat nerds out there have some good ones, throw them in there. On a side note, Chay Genoway led all rookies in scoring this season. I’ll try to dig up when the last time a defenseman led all Sioux rookies in scoring. It hasn’t happened since collegehockeystats.com fired up in 1999. Anybody have any ideas on that one?

In the news…

I have returned to Grand Forks from a friend’s wedding in Daytona after yet another adventure. This one, I can’t be blamed for getting on the wrong plane.

The blame for the bad trip home can be placed on a mechanical malfunction that left us on the tarmac for two and a half hours… without air conditioning. Yeah, it smelled great in there. Or we can blame the random gas leak that came after the first malfunction that left us on the tarmac for another hour and a half.

Between my airplane and cab rides (Madison driver ran out of gas, Anchorage driver took out a sign, Dayton driver got lost and took me halfway to Cincinnati), I would highly advise consulting me before going on any Sioux hockey trips…. just to make sure you are not traveling alongside me.

In the meantime, there have been a few Sioux hockey-related stories in newspapers. I wrote about former UND goaltender Karl Goehring for Sunday’s paper. Find the story here.

Goehring is living in Grand Forks during the offseason and he said he’s constantly reminded of his UND days no matter where he is.

"It’s amazing. No matter how many cities I go to, there’s always at least one Sioux fan there who wants to meet me and talk to me after the game. Last year in Milwaukee, we had a few Sioux jerseys in the crowd regularly at games. It never ceases to amaze me how far the UND connection travels around the country. It’s really neat to see."

Other Sioux connections in the news:

The Winnipeg Sun wrote about David Toews’ commitment to UND.

The Canadian National Post wrote about Jason Blake being introduced in Toronto.

Golf tournament brings big names

Tim Oshie, the father of Sioux standout T.J. Oshie, is organizing a celebrity golf tournament in Warroad to benefit three charities: Warroad youth hockey, the NHL’s diversity task force and the Minnesota Indian Education Association.

The event, which includes a round of golf and a fishing trip, is bringing out big names in the hockey world — especially former UND players. You’ll see Ginny Christian, a member of the first ever Sioux hockey team, at the event as well as all three members of the DOT line from last year’s team — Oshie, Ryan Duncan and Jonathan Toews. I’m told there is a possibility that they will be signing pictures of the three of them.

If you wish to sign up for the tournament, cost is $125 per player or $500 for a team (four-some). There will be a celebrity paired with each four-some. If you wish to play with a specific person, there will be an auction before the event.

The golf event will begin at noon on Saturday, Aug. 18. To sign up, mail your name, phone number, e-mail address and shirt size (each participant will get get a polo) to: Hockeytown USA Celebrity Golf; PO Box 544; Warroad, MN 56763.

Here is the list of celebrities signed up:

Willie O’Ree (first black player in the NHL)
Dean Blais (former Sioux coach)
Henry Boucha (Minnesota North Stars)
Dave Christian (1980 Miracle on Ice team/UND/Winnipeg Jets)
Neal Broten (1980 Miracle on Ice team/Minnesota North Stars)
Aaron Broten (New Jersey Devils)
Bill Christian (1960 Olympic gold medalist)
Ginny Christian (1956 Olympic silver medalist/UND)
Rube Bjorkman (1952 Olympian/UND coach)
Dan McKinnon (1956 Olympic silver medalist/UND)
Ron Naslund (1972 Olympic silver medalist)
Murray Williamson (1972 Olympic silver medalist coach)
Lefty Curran (1972 Olympic silver medalist/UND)
Craig Sarner (1972 Olympic silver medalist)
Huffer Christiansen (1972 Olympic silver medalist)
Zach Parise (New Jersey Devils/UND)
Jordan Parise (Lowell Devils/UND)
Paul Martin (New Jersey Devils)
David Hale (Calgary Flames/UND)
Andy Schneider (Wilkes-Barre Penguins/UND)
Nick Fuher (Utah Grizzlies/UND)
Colby Genoway (Manitoba Moose/UND)
Matt Smaby (Springfield Falcons/UND)
Mike Prpich (New Mexico Scorpions/UND)
Chris Porter (UND/Chicago Blackhawks pick)
Erik Fabian (UND)
Jonathan Toews (Chicago Blackhawks/UND)
T.J. Oshie (UND/St. Louis Blues pick)
Ryan Duncan (UND/Hobey Baker winner)
Taylor Chorney (UND/Edmonton Oilers pick)
Marc Chorney (Pittsburgh Penguins/UND)
Nigel Dawes (New York Rangers)
Mike Polich (Minnesota North Stars)
Mike Antonovich (Hartford Whalers)
Bob Bergloff (Minnesota North Stars)
Butsy Erickson (Winnipeg Jets)
Bill Butters (Minnesota North Stars)
Tim Hennessy (UND play-by-play)

USHR grades Select 17s

U.S. Hockey Report graded the Select 17 festival that was held in St. Cloud last week. Here is where the Sioux recruits landed:

Danny Kristo: A. Report says he’s smooth, talented and can bring you out of your seat.

Mike Cichy: A-. Report says his skills are outstanding but he needed to be more consistent.

Joe Gleason: B+. Report says he’s a great skater but questions hockey sense.

I couldn’t find anything on forward recruit Mike Fink, but the USHR report did mention a few other players of note. Roseau defenseman and Minnesota recruit Aaron Ness was tabbed as an A player. Defenseman C.J. Ludwig, son of former Sioux player Craig Ludwig, was given a B-plus, as were two North Dakota East Region players. Central turned Red River forward Alex Simonson and Grafton-Park River forward Alex Gaustad were both given B-pluses.

Visit the USHR site for more, although it requires a username and password.

Q&A with Matt Frattin

When Matt Frattin committed at the end of February, I tracked down his father and coach to type up the story, but I was unable to reach Matt that day. I promised I would eventually get comments from Frattin. Well, it’s a few months later, but here is some long awaited info from Frattin.

The 5-11, 190-pound Frattin led the AJHL in goals last season with 49 in 58 games. He finished the regular season with 83 points. Frattin will come to UND this fall.

Q. How would you assess your first season in the AJHL as a team (Fort Saskatchewan) and personally?

MATT FRATTIN: We lost in the finals. I thought we should have taken it. Personally, I thought I had a pretty good season.

Q. Were you surprised at how many goals you were able to score or was that something you expected?

MATT FRATTIN: I was a little bit surprised, because not too many people score that many goals in that league. But I’ve always been a goal scorer. 

Q. What other schools were you interested in?

MATT FRATTIN: I went on five fly-downs. I went to Michigan State, Ohio State, New Hampshire, Bowling Green and North Dakota.

Q. What made you choose UND?

MATT FRATTIN: I liked that it’s a middle-sized school. It’s not as huge as like Michigan State and Ohio State. I also like how much they love hockey there. Hockey is the main thing there.

Q. At midseason, you were unranked by the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau. At the end of the season, you were ranked as a mid-round pick. Did you feel the attention pick up quite a bit as the season went on?

MATT FRATTIN: I’d say I had attention the whole season. It started off with some college and WHL teams. I told the WHL teams that I was going to go the college route and then they backed off. Then it was colleges and after that the NHL teams started getting interested.

Q. You were taken in the fourth round by the Toronto Maple Leafs. What was the draft experience like?

MATT FRATTIN: A lot of teams were talking to me and a couple seemed pretty interested. I was really excited about getting picked.

Q. Did you attend the prospect camp?

MATT FRATTIN: Yeah, I was there last week for about a week. It was a really good experience. We were on the ice twice a day, we had some workouts and seminars. We had one scrimmage, too. It went well.

Q. What do you expect out of the upcoming season?

MATT FRATTIN: I hope to have a really good year — play consistent and earn a spot in the lineup.

Tech’s top recruit aims for December

Michigan Tech’s top recruit Casey Pierro-Zabotel is aiming to join the team in December, as he will not be eligible until then.

He is considered a partial qualifier and will use the fall semester to try to gain eligibility. Many players in his position would probably bolt for the WHL, but Pierro-Zabotel remains committed to college.

"I am very proud of Casey for his belief and commitment to earning a college education," coach Jamie Russell said. "Although this isn’t an ideal situation, it could be a great opportunity in the long run. Not only will he be able to combine his education with a Division I hockey career, it will help him move toward achieving his goal of playing in the NHL."

Pierro-Zabotel, a 6-2, 208-pound center, was drafted in the third round by the Pittsburgh Penguins. He had a big year in the BCHL and should be an instant impact player.

For more, check out Tech’s release.