Hextall gets clearance

The big reason Brett Hextall decided not to come to UND this fall was because of the shoulder injury he suffered in the playoffs. He had an operation on the shoulder this summer and wanted to play another season with Penticton of the BCHL before coming to college.

Some good news for Hextall: He has been cleared for full contact.

As you may remember, Evan Trupp didn’t get clearance until November of last season. It appears that Hextall will be ready to go when the BCHL opens. Believe it or not, exhibition games start tomorrow and opening night is just eight days away. Hextall is the only committed UND player in the BCHL right now.

For more on Hextall, the Penticton newspaper did a preview on the team and Hextall gets most of the attention in the story. Check it out here.

More team tidbits

Yesterday, we discussed all of the Minneapolis metro players that have been choosing UND lately. Here is a stat that might be interesting to you, though.

This season’s UND squad will have more North Dakota-born players (four) than Minnesota-born players (three). The North Dakotans are Robbie Bina, Jake Marto, Phil Lamoureux and Aaron Walski. The Minnesotans are Joe Finley, Michael Forney and Chris VandeVelde.

T.J. Oshie’s hometown is listed as Warroad and Taylor Chorney’s as Hastings, but Oshie was born in Washington and Chorney in Thunder Bay, Ont.

Another interesting tidbit is the diversity of the 2007 recruiting class. There are six players coming to UND. The BCHL, AJHL, MJHL and USHL all are represented. Also, the coaches spanned the map for this class. Brad Malone’s hometown of Miramichi, N.B., is 5,000 miles from Evan Trupp’s hometown of Anchorage.

So there is a freshman coming in from each end of the continent, as well as one from right here in Grand Forks. Very interesting mix.

Double Ts

Since 2000, UND has been able to pull a player out of the Minneapolis metro area every once in a while. There was Brandon Bochenski in 2001, Matt Smaby in 2003 and Joe Finley in 2005.

Now, they’ve landed four since March. The newest addition to the Twin Cities Connection is Holy Angels forward Danny Mattson. To read more about him, including comments from Mattson and his coach, check out the story here.

The run started when Danny Kristo committed last summer. Since, the other metro players are Joe Gleason, Mike Fink, Corey Fienhage and now Mattson. All of the players are friends and frequently communicate.

Speaking of Mattson, there may be some confusion, so I will try to clear it up for you. There are three with that last name (or a variation of) in the metro area — all about the same age and none are related.

Danny Mattson is a center who just committed to UND. He’s just beginning his junior year of school at Holy Angels. As a sophomore, he had 68 points in 28 games. His nickname among teammates was Double Ts, distinguishing him from teammate Taylor Matson, a Minnesota recruit (notice the spelling differences in the last name). Taylor graduated from Holy Angels in the spring and will play Des Moines in the USHL this season before going to Minnesota. He had 36 points in 19 games as a senior.

Nick Mattson is a defenseman from Chaska, who will play on the U.S. Under-17 team this season. He is considered one of the best defensemen in the country for his age. He’s only 15 years old, but probably has the pick of the litter for which college he wants to attend. Will the Twin Cities Connection pull him to Grand Forks, too?

Here’s the list of future players:

Forwards
Brett Hextall, Penticton (BCHL), 2008
Brett Bruneteau, Indiana (USHL), 2008
Mike Cichy, Tri-City (USHL), 2008
Jason Gregoire, Lincoln (USHL), 2008
David Toews, Shattuck-St. Mary’s, 2008
Danny Kristo, U.S. Under-18, 2009
Mike Fink, Waterloo (USHL), 2009
Danny Mattson, Holy Angels, 2009 or 2010

Defensemen
Ben Blood, Des Moines (USHL), 2008
Joe Gleason, Edina HS, 2008 or 2009
Corey Fienhage, Eastview HS, 2008 or 2009

Goaltender
Brad Eidsness, Okotoks (AJHL), 2008

Sioux land Danny Mattson

Academy of Holy Angels forward Danny Mattson has committed to UND for 2009 or 2010, his coach said today.

Mattson scored 19 goals and added 49 assists for 68 points in 28 games as a sophomore last season and led the 26-1-1 Stars in scoring. He was recently on the U.S. Under-18 team that participated in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament.

"He’s got the kind of skills that you are born with — you can’t learn them," Holy Angels coach Greg Trebil said. "He puts up a lot of points. He’s a good hockey player, a good ol’ fashioned hard worker and he combines that with a lot of skill."

Mattson also had offers from Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Stay tuned, there will be much more on Mattson later.

Practice begins Oct. 6

First of all, a quick bit of news — former Central forward Matt Moreland has turned pro, signing with the Arizona Sundogs of the Central Hockey League. He played with the F-M Jets of the NAHL last season.

It sounds like the first official day of practice is going to be Oct. 6 — one day before the opening exhibition against Manitoba. The quick turnaround from the first day of practice to the first exhibition has been pretty common in recent seasons.

Like last year, the team will be permitted to have skill sessions for a couple of weeks leading up to the first day of official practice. During skill sessions, four players are allowed on the ice with coaches for a certain amount of time, I believe.

Sioux hockey media day will likely be the first week in October, so you can expect to see a lot more coverage from a lot more media sources beginning then. The Grand Forks Herald WCHA coaches’ poll should be out around then, too.

Lets hear some of your predictions. Here are mine:

1. UND — The young, talented players aren’t young anymore.
2. Minnesota — Extremely talented up front, need to answer Qs on D.
3. Colorado College — Darkhorse. Lots of returning talent.
4. Wisconsin — The youngsters will develop as the season progresses.
5. Michigan Tech — Almost everyone is back from a Final Five team.
6. Denver — Some tough offseason losses will show.
7. St. Cloud State — Overlooked will be losses like Borer, Clafton, Kronick, Fletcher, etc.
8. Mankato — Could be better than people think.
9. Duluth — Could have been a top-five team had Niskanen and Raymond stayed.
10. Anchorage — Can’t see them passing anyone.

Player of year — T.J. Oshie, UND — 2006-07 was Duncan’s year. This is Oshie’s year.
Rookie of year — Kyle Turris, Wisconsin — He’s dominated at every level. Why not college too?

Benefit reminder

Reminder: The golf benefit and silent auction to benefit former Sioux forward Perry Nakonechny will be at noon tomorrow (Wednesday) with registration starting at 10:30 a.m. at King’s Walk Golf Course. Nakonechny is fighting throat cancer.

Several former Sioux players will be at the event. Word is that New Jersey Devils forward Travis Zajac and former defenseman and assistant coach Brad Berry are two of them. So get out of the office for an afternoon, enjoy a round of golf with current and former NHL players and help out Nakonechny.

For more info on the event, check out this previous post here.

Hakstol earns Clifford Award

Sioux coach Dave Hakstol is the 2007 Thomas J. Clifford Award winner.

The award, which honors the former school president, is given annually to a coach who "during the previous year or throughout cumulative coaching achievements, served the coaching field as a leader with distinction."

Hakstol will be honored during Potato Bowl weekend on Sept. 15 along with the school’s Hall of Fame inductees.

The new New Jersey?

With as many as three former Sioux players on the roster, Sioux fans have jumped on the bandwagon of the New Jersey Devils the last few seasons.

Here’s a new team to keep a close eye on — the St. Louis Blues.

The Blues signed last year’s captain, Chris Porter, to a two-year deal this week. For more on that, click here. It’s only a matter of time before T.J. Oshie makes his way to St. Louis, and the Blues have showed quite a bit of interest in free agent Ryan Duncan, too.

Just think, St. Louis had the No. 1 pick in the 2006 draft and could have taken Jonathan Toews and re-united the DOT line. Even without Toews, I’m sure they will be a team many of you will be following closely.

Q&A with Brett Bruneteau

Forward recruit Brett Bruneteau graduated from his Omaha high school this spring and just arrived in Indianapolis, where he will play a season in the USHL. The season will start in late September with the USHL Fall Classic, but Bruneteau and the Indiana Ice will play before that. The Ice are part of the USHL-QMJHL series that will take place in two and a half weeks (Sept. 7-8). They will play Quebec and Rimouski.

The Quebec game will be extra special for Bruneteau, who will play against Angelo Esposito and Kelsey Tessier. All three players attended Shattuck-St. Mary’s at the same time.

Q. How did your second season in the USHL go?

BRETT BRUNETEAU: It was a good year. I thought I developed a lot. I would expect that, though. I was a veteran player and a leader on the team. That was a new position for me. Coming into the USHL (in 2005-06), I wasn’t heavily depended on. Last year was a 180 from that. I had a lot more responsibility. It was a good learning experience.

Q. After the season you requested a trade from Omaha. What was the reason for that?

BRETT BRUNETEAU: The big reason was the style of play. I thought my style of play would fit a little bit better in a different type of system. I thought if I had a chance to play on a bigger ice sheet, to be a little more creative and to have a little bit more freedom, it would be better for my development.

Q. What do you expect out of this season?

BRETT BRUNETEAU: The No. 1 goal is to win a Clark Cup league championship. That’s what we’re striving for. Even when I got here on Friday, you could tell everyone was working for that. If I achieve anything personally along the way, that’s awesome, too.

Q. When Indiana announced the trade, it seemed clear in the press release that the organization expects a lot from you this season.

BRETT BRUNETEAU: Nobody has higher expectations than they do. I’m a third-year guy, I’ll be taking on a large role. I hope to have a huge year and accomplish our goal of winning a championship.

Q. You were not ranked in the Central Scouting Bureau’s final draft rankings, but went in the fourth round to the Washington Capitals. Did that surprise you?

BRETT BRUNETEAU: It came out of left field. I was actually sleeping in when I got drafted and my parents came and woke me up and told me about it. I was incredibly shocked and excited. It was a good thing my parents woke me up and told me, because it took me an hour to come back down to earth and I had time to compose myself before Washington called. It was a nice way to start the day.

Q. You went to their prospect camp, too, right?

BRETT BRUNETEAU: Yes. It was a phenomenal experience. I got to meet Joe Finley and play with him. He’s a great guy. I loved playing with him down there. Overall, it was a great learning experience. I met guys from all over the world. It was a really fast-paced game and it made me a better player. I learned what it takes to play at that type of level.

Q. I never had a chance to ask you when you committed — why UND and what other schools were you considering?

BRETT BRUNETEAU: My final three were North Dakota, Michigan and Denver. There were others I was interested in, but none matched up to those three. I like North Dakota’s style of play. North Dakota’s always competing for national championships. They have a history of sending guys to the next level — that’ll attract anybody. I was flattered to have the opportunity to meet the coaching staff and the guys. When I was offered, it was a phenomenal feeling. It shocked me at first, to be honest.