Friday morning reading

The Sioux aren’t playing this weekend, but there are still a few items to check out during the day.

The University of Wisconsin, which recently made public its effort to start the Big 10 Hockey Conference as an attempt to play against more bigger-named opponents, now is saying that it will schedule lesser opponents in nonconference action in order to have an easier road to the NCAA tournament.

Coach Mike Eaves admits in this State Journal article that the Badgers probably won’t be seeing a high-profile team from the East like New Hampshire (which is coming to Kohl this weekend) anytime soon. The Badgers have missed three of the last four NCAA tournaments, including the last two.

–In Denver, goalie Marc Cheverie has his eyes on the program’s consecutive shutout streak, currently held by Peter Mannino. Mankato, meanwhile, is looking to win in Magness for the first time in seven years (The Mavs have a 5-2-1 record in Mankato against the Pios during that time).

–SCSU’s all-time leading scorer says Ryan Lasch or Garrett Roe will break his record. Other linemates, Jared Festler and Ben Hanowski, are playing like they did back at Little Falls.

–The Gophers are desperately searching for some offense. And Alaska-Anchorage is well aware of that.

UND and Colorado College all have Halloween weekend off, which really is too bad. Last year, there were some hilarious costumes at the rink on Halloween.

And if you are extra bored without Sioux hockey this weekend, or if you are just extra bored at work today, try this quiz that Chris Dilks put together. How many of the top WCHA scorers of the decade can you name? It is pretty entertaining and it will rack your brain for old names. I missed a pair of St. Cloud State players, a pair of Duluth players and one Denver player.

Weekly Wednesday update

For the first time this season, injuries were brought up during the weekly Wednesday meeting with local media (although with the week off, the crowd was sparse).

Sioux coach Dave Hakstol said that a few players will benefit greatly from the week off. He said there are three guys who probably wouldn’t play this weekend if UND had games, without expanding who the players are. Nobody has missed a game with an injury yet.

Brett Hextall said that the team suffered from a lack of maturity on Saturday night. Hextall said it had nothing to do with how young the team is and everything to do with the way they played. He thought it was some immature hockey and he hopes the Sioux can get that out of their system during the week off.

Hextall also showed up to the press conference wearing salmon pants. He apparently has a whole series of strangely colored pants (yellow included). When asked whether he gets weird looks on campus, he said, "That depends on if I wear my boots."

Mario Lamoureux said Hextall wears a lot of "questionable" clothing around campus. Said that he can pull it off because he’s from California, though.

Players debated a little bit about which road trip they dislike more: the long flight to Anchorage or the long bus ride to Houghton (which is coming up next). Lamoureux said he prefers the bus ride, because they at least get back early Sunday morning.

The freshmen are usually in charge of picking out movies for the bus ride, but Lamoureux said that this group of "freshies" have weird tastes and he doesn’t know whether they can be trusted yet. He also said that Hextall and Chay Genoway are a big fan of the romantic comedies.

A part of the Houghton bus ride Lamoureux is looking forward to: As a sophomore he’ll get his own seat. He said he spent 10 hours next to Brad Eidsness last year. "He actually didn’t talk my ear off, but I’ll still enjoy my own seat."

Speaking of Lamoureux, UND SID Jayson Hajdu had the quote of the week regarding the sophomore forward. Hakstol repeated it at the press conference: "He practices and plays like he hasn’t made the team yet."

Guests of honor

Get ready to hunt down tickets and trek down Highway 2 a couple times next season. UND is tentatively scheduled to open both the Bemidji Regional Events Center and the new Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center next season.

The game at Bemidji will be Oct. 15, while the Duluth game is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 30. Plans are in the works to make the Duluth game the Hall of Fame game, too. It’s a great place for a HoF game since Duluth is the closest D-I program to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in Eveleth.

UND has strong ties to both programs.

The Beavers requested to the WCHA that UND be its first opponent in the new building. It also will mark Bemidji State’s first series as a member of the WCHA — a journey and process that UND supported.

"I’m happy the league could accommodate us and have North Dakota be our first opponent in our new building," Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore said. "UND has been very good to us over the years and we share the same hockey market. There are many Grand Forks people who have a close relationship with our community and many Bemidji folks who have deep connections with Grand Forks and UND.

"Plus, when you add how successful a hockey program UND has been, hosting them here to open the new building will be quite an event. A lot of people will want to travel here from Grand Forks for that series."

Duluth’s head coach, meanwhile, is former Sioux defenseman Scott Sandelin. Sandelin was a Hobey Baker finalist as a member of the Sioux. Updates from Duluth have continually stated that the DECC is on time for the December opening.

Random updates

The WCHA has sent a notice early this season that it is going to be serious about bad, illegal hits. Today, it announced that Wisconsin forward Craig Smith has had another game tacked on to his suspension for an illegal hit against MSU-Mankato’s Geoff Irwin.

Smith was given a game disqualification for the hit — not just a game misconduct — which means he was to miss Friday’s game against New Hampshire anyway. Now, he’ll miss the entire series.

I haven’t seen the hit, but it’s probably the right call considering Irwin was injured on the play and won’t be playing against Denver this week.

Elsewhere:

  • On the good news front for Wisconsin, BCHL forward Derek Lee has been cleared by play by the NCAA.
  • On the bad news front, former Sioux forward Ryan Johnson was hauled off on a stretcher and taken to the hospital tonight after crashing into the boards in the second period against Detroit.
  • USCHO.com reported this week that Mercyhurst also is interested in joining the CCHA. It will be interesting to see if things change as far as expansion is concerned now that the CCHA’s dream of getting Wisconsin may have died. Certainly, Huntsville will throw its name back in the mix. Can’t hurt to keep trying. Ask Bemidji State.
  • Western College Hockey blog asks whether Chay Genoway is the early front-runner for WCHA’s player of the year after Jordan Schroeder — the consensus pick — has gone four games without tallying a point.
  • Even CC coach Scott Owens admits that he didn’t think his team would be 4-1-1 at this point in the season.
  • The Pipeline Show guys say that Brad Berry has been targeted for a WHL coaching job. Don’t expect Berry to leave though. On a related note, how lucky are the high school athletes in the area to be able to train with Berry — a highly coveted coach at top levels — at The Hockey Academy?
  • Former Grand Forks resident Tony Turgeon, who has played hockey in Wisconsin and Bismarck since leaving town, has committed to Omaha. Turgeon is a big defenseman who ranks second in the USHL in penalty minutes.
  • Chris Heisenberg’s recruiting page also lists Fargo Force forward Johnnie Searfoss as an Omaha commit. Searfoss was committed to Maine, but it looks like he will rejoin his old USHL coach.

More NHL draft info

Chris Dilks posted some interesting NHL draft links on his blog here. Narrowing in on the Sioux recruits on the list, it should be an action-filled draft day.

The new Red Line Report is projecting defenseman recruit Derek Forbort to go No. 9 overall. That would tie him for third among the highest-drafted Sioux players ever behind Jonathan Toews (No. 3) and Jason Herter (No. 8). The high draft spot is good news for Forbort’s pro prospects, but probably means he’ll be heavily scrutinized here (look at the last two Sioux defensemen to get drafted in the first round).

The Red Line Report also raves about the newest Sioux commitment, Warroad’s Brock Nelson. His stock has went up during the Elite League. Kyle Woodlief wrote in USA Today:

"Warroad (Minn.) High School power center Brock Nelson recently committed to the University of North Dakota, and the Fighting Sioux can really count this one as a coup in smuggling the emerging star out of state right from under the noses of the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

Nelson, who is currently playing this fall in the Midwest Elite League until the local high school season starts in about six weeks, is one of Red Line’s favorite early line sleepers for the 2010 Draft. Not many scouts outside of Minnesota have ever heard of him, and he didn’t blossom until last season, so he’s never been a part of the whole U.S. select process. So he may suffer from underexposure for now, but that won’t last much longer.

Nelson, 6-2/205, with a great stride and powerful shot, also has a very strong bloodline in the sport. His uncle is Dave Christian, one of the key scoring cogs on the 1980 U.S. Olympic gold medal-winning squad. Christian is also a former UND All-American and won a national championship with the Sioux before launching an NHL career that spanned over 1000 games and nearly 800 points, so he likely had some influence on young Nelson’s decision."

The other internet site that Dilks found discusses Forbort, Mike Parks and Nick Mattson. On Forbort, it says:

"Ex-Duluth East Greyhound defenseman Derek Forbort bypassed his senior year to move on to the United States Development Program this year. He plays a very complete game from the backend and possesses the prototypical size that all NHL are looking for. He has the ability to make everything looks easy on the ice. Forbort is a two-way defender who has a nice blend of vision, puck distribution skills and strong overall instincts. He plays the point well and usually make strong reads on when to pinch but needs work on his defensive angles and foot speed. He also needs to add more of a physical game and more strength. His previous coach at Duluth East sounded like sour grapes when Forbort made his decision to leave, which tells you just the kind of player he is."

On Parks, the report says:

"Cedar Rapids forward Michael Parks is a potential riser as the season progresses. He has average size, isn’t the best skater but his undeniable strength is creating offense. Parks has a nice set of hands and makes electrifying moves with the puck in one-on-one situations and also in tight around the net.

The O’Fallon, MO. native has vision and offensive creativity that are both natural abilities you can not teach. Parks is not only a one trick pony as he is an able two-way threat that consistently plays in all three zones. He had a good showing as well for the US squad at this past summers U18 Hlinka tournament in Slovakia and the Czech Republic."

On Mattson, the report says:

"Indiana Ice blueliner and USNTDP graduate Nick Mattson is one of the better USHL defensemen with pro potential this season. Mattson is spending a year with the Ice after graduating from the US National Team Program U18 program before heading off to North Dakota.

He has a very good overall game with no glaring weaknesses at this stage of his development. Defensively Mattson holds solid positioning, possesses good foot work and maintains solid gap control. Offensively he has more to offer than he has shown thus far. His outlet passes are strong and he can see the ice well."

There also is one mock draft that goes through seven rounds. No idea how credible this is, but, for what it’s worth, here were the UND prospects:

10. Derek Forbort, D
36. Brock Nelson, F
62. Nick Mattson, D
85. Mike Parks, F
130. Danny Mattson, F
154. Zane Gothberg, G

Former player updates (Toews in SI)

Jonathan Toews, who is on the shelf after taking a huge hit from Willie Mitchell, was featured in an article by Sports Illustrated this week: Captain Serious. The story has some good quotes about Toews. One NHL executive said that while teammate Patrick Kane may one day lead the NHL in scoring, Toews will be the one you can win a Stanley Cup with. Read the Sports Illustrated feature here.

T.J. Oshie had to have an appendectomy on Friday night/Saturday morning. Oshie is expected to miss about two weeks. Oshie had a goal and two assists in eight games. Read more here.

Mike Commodore, on the other hand, is back in the Blue Jackets’ lineup after missing a few games. Commodore picked up an assist over the weekend.

The highest-scoring former Sioux early in this season is…. big surprise… Zach Parise. The 45-goal scorer from last season has six goals and 12 points in nine games so far this season. His teammate, Travis Zajac, also is off to a good start with 10 points in nine games. Zajac has six points in his last four games.

Matt Greene is fourth in the Western Conference in blocked shots (27).

Robbie Bina is the third-leading defenseman scorer in the ECHL. He has five points in four games for Las Vegas.

Jordan Parise appears to be taking the No. 1 job in Wheeling (ECHL). He has a .911 save percentage and a 2.71 goals-against average after three starts.

And one former player will be inducted into the UND Hall of Fame this weekend. That’s Dixon Ward. FightingSioux.com caught up with Ward for a story here.

Add any other news or notes in the comments section.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Reply

Upon further review

There are a few items of note in looking back at the week that was in the WCHA.

First off, in looking at the tape of UND’s Saturday night loss to Alaska-Anchorage, the first goal scored by Kevin Clark actually went off of Ben Blood’s stick, up in the air, and behind the goal line. Originally, I thought that the puck went off of Brad Eidsness’ stick, but he was in position to make that save.

Carrying the torch: A team that used to be forgotten when it comes to college hockey in Minnesota, Bemidji State is carrying the torch for the state. It was the only Minnesota school to reach the Frozen Four a season ago and it is currently the only Minnesota school to be ranked in either national poll.

St. Cloud State uses Dunn: Sophomore goalie Dan Dunn stopped 31 of 33 shots on Saturday night in leading the Huskies to a win and a three-point weekend against Duluth. Does this mean we’ll see a goalie rotation this season in St. Cloud?

Geoffrion continues PP success: Wisconsin’s Blake Geoffrion has scored all three of his goals this season on the power play. Last season, he scored 15 goals. Ten were on the power play, one was shorthanded.

Solid outing for Austin Lee: Former F-M Jets goalie Austin Lee may be working toward the No. 1 spot in Mankato. He’s now 2-1 with a strong .909 save percentage. He helped Mankato beat Wisconsin 3-2 on Saturday night.

Cheverie gets back-to-back starts: Denver coach George Gwozdecky said earlier this season that he planned to rotate goalies Marc Cheverie and Adam Murray. But that didn’t last real long. Cheverie earned back-to-back starts against Minnesota and delivered with two shutouts.

Minnesota struggling with DU: The Gophers dropped to 0-5 against the Pioneers in the state of Minnesota since the 07-08 season. In all, the Gophers are 1-7-1 against Denver during the last three seasons.

Bordson comes alive for Duluth: Bulldog junior center Rob Bordson, who entered the season with seven career points in two seasons (he didn’t have any points in 15 games last season) already has six in Duluth’s first six games.

Tigers off to strong start: Colorado College was picked to have a big drop-off this season, but maybe the Tigers are enjoying flying under the radar. They are now 3-0-1 after sweeping Michigan Tech and getting three points at Wisconsin. Bill Sweatt is racking up the points as expected and Joe Howe has been great in goal, which was a big question mark.

Poll time

Three weeks into the season, we’re still trying to figure out who the elite teams are going to be. So far, UND is in as good of a position as anybody. All of the others who were picked to finish high nationally have had bumps in the road, just as UND encountered on Saturday. The top of the polls didn’t change much this week.

USCHO.com poll

1. Miami (26) 4-1-1
2. Denver (20) 4-2
3. North Dakota (1) 4-1-1
4. Boston University 1-2
5. Michigan 2-2
6. Cornell 0-0
7. Yale (1) 0-0
8. Notre Dame 3-3
9. UMass-Lowell 3-1
10. Vermont 2-2
11. Princeton 0-0
12. Nebraska-Omaha 3-0-1
13. Boston College 1-1
14. Bemidji State 3-0-1
15. Colorado College 4-1-1
16. Alaska 3-0-1
17. UMass 3-0
18. Quinnipiac 3-0
19. Wisconsin 1-2-1
20. Michigan State 4-2

USA Today poll

1. Miami (22)
2. North Dakota
3. Denver (11)
4. Boston University
5. Michigan
6. Cornell
7. Yale (1)
8. UMass-Lowell
9. Princeton
10. Vermont
11. Notre Dame
12. Boston College
13. Nebraska-Omaha
14. Colorado College
15. Bemidji State

INCH power rankings

1. Miami
2. North Dakota
3. Denver
4. Boston University
5. Michigan
6. Vermont
7. Cornell
8. Princeton
9. Notre Dame
10. Nebraska-Omaha
11. UMass-Lowell
12. Yale
13. Alaska
14. Bemidji State
15. Boston College
16. UMass
17. St. Cloud State
18. Colorado College
19. Michigan State
20. New Hampshire