Season’s predictions

Everyone has seen the national poll, media poll and coaches poll. And if you’ve picked up the Herald preview, you’ve seen my rankings. But here is my chance to explain my thoughts my picks and share them with those who have not seen them.

Player of the year: Chay Genoway, UND.
Thoughts: Genoway was fantastic in the nine games he played last season. He’s a game-changer and perhaps nobody in college hockey can create space like he can. Certainly, there are questions because of his lengthy time off. But after seeing how Robbie Bina, Ryan Stoa, Brock Trotter and Malcom Gwilliam came back from major injuries, I think Genoway can do it as well.

His toughest competition should be Jack Connolly from Duluth and teammate Jason Gregoire. St. Cloud’s Garrett Roe will put up a lot of points, but isn’t as good in all areas as Connolly and Gregoire.

Rookie of the year: Jaden Schwartz, CC.
Thoughts: After getting my pick in this category correct the last two years, I’m feeling the pressure to keep the streak going. For me, it came down to Schwartz and DU’s Beau Bennett. Both guys are not only extremely talented, they will get first-line minutes and power-play minutes from Day One. That means lots of points. I think highly of DU’s Jason Zucker as well, but everyone I ask says that Bennett is the higher-end guy. The big darkhorse in this is Omaha’s Matt White (no, not the former UND recruit). He was undrafted so there’s not a lot of buzz, but he dominated the USHL last season and I expect him to contend.

As for UND’s guys, they are highly touted, but it is doubtful that they will be in position to win it. I was surprised that Derek Forbort got as many votes as he did in the media poll. I don’t remember the last defenseman to win rookie of the year. It’s usually a tough league on rookie D. Forbort and Brock Nelson will both be great players, but with as many returners as UND has, it’s hard to see them getting the minutes and points that Schwartz, Bennett and Minnesota’s Nick Bjugstad will get (I actually thought Bjugstad would win the media poll).

Standings

1. UND
          Thoughts: I like their talent and depth at every position.

2. Minnesota-Duluth
          Thoughts: I really like the Bulldogs’ chances this season. They have that fantastic top line. Their defense should emerge. Dylan Olsen should make big strides on D. Mike Montgomery probably could have signed in the offseason and rookie Justin Faulk is highly touted. Kenny Reiter played well in goal for them last year, too. Very few question marks.

3. Denver
          Thoughts: Although the Pios lost a lot of great players, there actually is a solid crop of players returning, led by Anthony Maiani, Drew Shore, Jesse Martin, Matt Donovan and Kyle Ostrow. Donovan should fill in for Patrick Wiercioch as the puck-moving defenseman. I also think Denver’s rookie class will make a larger immediate impact than anyone else’s rookie class. Besides Benentt and Zucker, the Pios also bring in USHL defenseman of the year David Makowski and fourth-round goalie pick Sam Brittain, who they might need if Adam Murray falters.

4. Minnesota
          Thoughts: I’m not as down on Minnesota as everyone else and think the Gophers should be a top-five team (then again, I said the same thing last year). But if you look at their roster, all of their best players — at all positions — are veterans. Seniors Jay Barriball, Mike Hoeffel and Jacob Cepis lead them up front. Senior Cade Fairchild and junior Aaron Ness do so on the blue line. Alex Kangas is a senior. And Bjugstad is the real deal. The question again for Minnesota is not talent, it is whether they can put it together.

5. St. Cloud State
          Thoughts: If you tell me I have St. Cloud State too low, I won’t argue. I originally had them third, but switched it up at the last minute. It’s a way of being different, right? St. Cloud has a great 1-2 punch in goal and some flashy offensive players, but you can’t totally discount what Ryan Lasch has meant to that team for the last four years. My big question is who will emerge as the Huskies’ puck-moving defenseman? Garrett Raboin carried that torch for them the last couple of seasons. Nick Jensen comes in highly touted, but is he ready for that role? Or will anyone else step into it?

6. Nebraska-Omaha
          Thoughts: Dean Blais brings in a good recruiting class, including White, former Wisconsin commit Brock Montpetit, former Maine commit Johnnie Searfoss, former Minnesota commit Ryan Walters and Providence transfer Bryce Aneloski, but how many miles can he get out of them?

7. Wisconsin
          Thoughts: Wisconsin lost three first-round picks on defense, but that actually should still be the strength of the team. Second-round pick Justin Schultz was excellent as a rookie. First-round pick Jake Gardiner will be a junior. John Ramage was good as a freshman. Scoring will be the huge question mark for the Badgers. Like Omaha, they have good recruits coming in like Tyler Barnes and Mark Zengerle, but how much will they produce right away? Or will someone like Derek Lee emerge?

8. Colorado College
          Thoughts: Once I got to eighth and put Colorado College in the spot, I said that can’t be right. Went to switch them with somebody but didn’t know who. The Schwartz brothers will light up the scoreboard. Joe Howe will be strong in net. But Colorado College’s defensive corps needs to be better this season, because Nate Prosser is no longer there.

9. Bemidji State
          Thoughts: The Beavers have proved that they can beat anybody in the country at any time. Their challenge is doing it on a consistent basis. They found out how unforgiving the WCHA can be last season. After beating then-No. 1 Miami, the Beavs returned home and got swept by a ninth-place Minnesota State team. If you’re not on top of your game every night in the WCHA, you will get beat.

10. Alaska-Anchorage
          Thoughts: The Seawolves are a big, tough team to play against. If Rob Gunderson can prove to be reliable in net, they will be even more difficult to beat this season. Coach Dave Shyiak has recruited a team of 15 players who are 6-foot-1 or taller and they are going to wear out opponents this season.

11. MSU-Mankato
          Thoughts: The Mavs were hit hard with graduation and the loss of Tyler Pitlick to the WHL. Their strength is in their defensemen, like Kurt Davis and Ben Youds. Their big question is whether guys like Eriah Hayes and Mike Louwerse can do a better job of helping Rylan Galiardi and Mike Dorr put the puck in the net.

12. Michigan Tech
          Thoughts: Tech’s offense was bad last year and it loses three of the top six scorers. Brett Olson and Steven Seigo are offensive talents, but they need more help in order to get the Huskies out of the cellar.

There we have it. Share your thoughts, if you wish. Or else just join me after the season when we are all making fun of the picks.

College hockey preview is out

I meant to post this earlier, but the 2010-11 Herald college hockey preview was inserted into today’s paper. If you live in the area and want a copy, hurry to a store this evening to pick one up. If you do not live in the area and want a hard copy (I think it’s less than $5 including shipping), e-mail me at bschlossman@gfherald.com and I will make sure it gets to the right person. If a .pdf on the web will do for you, I’m told something will probably be posted on Sunday or Monday.

If you are curious about what’s in it, here’s what I’ve got:

  • Great photo of Chay Genoway, Brad Eidsness and Jason Gregoire on the cover by Herald photog Eric Hylden. It’s a poster-like cover. The photo was taken in front of the Sitting Bull statue in front of Ralph Engelstad Arena.
  • Overview of the team and the schedule.
  • Feature on Brad Eidsness and his quest to graduate in three years.
  • Feature on Corban Knight, who teammate Brett Hextall says is the happiest person he’s ever met.
  • Feature on Matt Frattin. Find out why trainer Mark Poolman has nicknamed him “The X-Factor.”
  • Short Q&A with Chay Genoway.
  • Feature on Brock Nelson, who used to skate with a U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer and Olympic gold medalist during lunch breaks in middle school.
  • Lists of the top 10 incoming recruits and the top 10 returning players.
  • Ten storylines to follow this season in the WCHA.
  • A look at Jonathan Toews’ accomplishments last season with a collage of magazine covers he’s been on.
  • Feature on UND recruit Zane Gothberg along with a list of all the recruits in the system.

UND names captains

In what is the most obvious choice of the decade, Chay Genoway was named captain of the Fighting Sioux this season.

His alternate captains will be senior defensemen Jake Marto and Derrick LaPoint. Marto and LaPoint both had turns with the rotating ‘A’ last season.

With the confirmation that Genoway is the captain, he becomes the first repeat captain since Dane Litke in 1995-96 and 1996-97. The team won the national championship during Litke’s second year of captaincy.

It also marks the fifth time in six years that UND’s captain is a Shattuck-St. Mary’s product. Ryan Duncan, Chris Porter and Matt Smaby were the previous Shattuck captains.

Marto will be the first Grand Forks native to wear a letter since Andy Schneider (was captain and alternate from 2003-05).

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Notes from media day

First off, I apologize for the false alarm on the captains announcement. The team didn’t get a chance to vote yesterday and will instead do so today. The announcement will probably be made tomorrow.

The rest of media day went off as planned. The meal — cheesy potatoes and a roast – was amazing. Both Brian Idalski and Dave Hakstol talked about the optimism that surrounds their teams this season.

Hakstol continued to say that the players need to have a short focus because the first 10 games are going to be critical. He said he liked the makeup of this team, but also pointed out that there are more great teams in college hockey this season than last season.

Idalski even made a few comments about the men’s team, saying that it is a class organization from the top down. He said that as a fan, he’s very excited to see what the men’s team can do this season because he knows how talented they are and he knows how hard they’ve worked. Idalski has made it no secret how much he admires the men’s program.

Goalie Brad Eidsness brought out his newly painted helmet. It has white bricks (the goalie tradition) on the front. There also are old North Dakota license plates with “SIOUX” written on it. Each plate has a year that UND won the national championship painted on it where the tags usually go.

There also is a throwback picture of a Sioux goalie wearing the old pads and equipment on the right side. I asked Eidsness who the picture was of. He said it was nobody in particular, rather just a tribute to all of the Sioux goalies that have come before him. He mentioned the great history that UND has had at that position.

On the back, it has his number “31″ painted. The inside of the 3 is the Canadian flag and the inside of the 1 is an American flag. Most of the ideas for the helmet came from Eidsness. FSSN will probably have a segment on the helmet during an intermission Sunday, so check it out. We’ll also post video of Eidsness talking about it later on.

I have interviews with Derek Rodwell and Mike Cichy on the recorder that I will post later. Rodwell is a lot bigger than I thought. He talked about wanting to carve out a role on this team. Cichy said he spent almost the entire summer in Grand Forks and he feels ready to make a bigger impact this season.

Media day is here

In a few minutes, I’ll be heading out to the rink for the team’s annual media day. Both Dave Hakstol and Brian Idalski will speak to the assembled press. Then, I’ll go get a bunch of player interviews.

The team is expected to announce the alternate captains this afternoon. They also will announce the captain, but we all know who that is going to be. I’ll post it on Twitter when it’s announced, so check it out at www.twitter.com/schlossmangf if you are not a regular Twitter follower. If any other interesting notes pop up during the lunch, I will post them, too.

Coaches pick UND to win WCHA

The 40th annual Grand Forks Herald poll results are in and UND is the favorite to win the league. Minnesota-Duluth’s Jack Connolly is the preseason player of the year and Colorado College freshman Jaden Schwartz is the preseason rookie of the year.

On to the results:

1. UND (10) 120
2. St. Cloud State (2) 105
3. Minnesota-Duluth 100
4. Denver 88
5. Minnesota 82
6. Colorado College 67
7. Wisconsin 64
8. Nebraska-Omaha 55
9. Bemidji State 46
10. MSU-Mankato 41
11. Alaska-Anchorage 19
12. Michigan Tech 15

Player of the year: Jack Connolly, Duluth (5), Chay Genoway, UND (4), Garrett Roe, SCSU (3)
Rookie of the year: Jaden Schwartz, Colorado College (9), Nick Bjugstad, Minnesota (1), Tyler Barnes, Wisconsin (1), Matt White, Omaha (1)

The coaches have correctly picked the winner in three of the last five years, including Denver last season.

In the media poll, UND is the favorite, Genoway is the preseason player of the year and Schwartz is the preseason rookie of the year. See the entire media poll results here.

UND gets Jordan Schmaltz

UND has received a commitment from one of the top defenseman recruits in the country.

Verona, Wis., product Jordan Schmaltz has verbally committed to UND and will likely join the Sioux in 2012. Schmaltz’s father, Mike, played football for the Sioux from 1988-90. His uncles, Monte and Marc, also played football for the Sioux in the early 1990s.

“He was sought-after by pretty much every school in the country,” Sioux City coach Luke Strand said. “UND got a good player. He has a big frame at 6-3 and there is so much upside. We haven’t even touched what’s there. There are parts of his game that are head-and-shoulders above the other players. His vision and poise with the puck is NHL-special.”

Schmaltz, who originally committed to Wisconsin at age 14 and re-opened recruiting in June, could have joined the National Team Development Program this season but decided to play for Sioux City in the USHL. He is a strong candidate to join the U.S. for the World Under-18 tournament in April.

“We’re excited about it,” Mike Schmaltz said. “It will be fun to get back on campus. We haven’t been there for a while.”

Look for a full story in the Herald tomorrow.

Women prepare for weekend showdown

The warmup game is in the books for the UND women and now the Sioux are preparing for one of the most anticipated weekends in the program’s history.

The Lamoureux twins, who combined for five goals and 10 points in UND’s 9-0 beating of the Toronto Aeros, will make their debut in a Sioux jersey at 2:07 p.m. Saturday against Boston University in Ralph Engelstad Arena. That is, by far, the most compelling storyline.

There are others as well. Boston University boasts two Canadian Olympians — Marie-Philip Poulin and Catherine Ward. Poulin, who made an official visit to UND over the summer, played a big role in keeping the twins from a gold medal at the Olympics. She scored both goals in a 2-0 Team Canada win in the gold-medal game.

This game also will be huge when it comes to Pairwise at the end of the season. UND certainly wants to make the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history.

A couple of other notes from the exhibition:

  • Defenseman Jordan Slavin continues to be sidelined, which hurts the defense quite a bit. Slavin will probably be back by the end of the month. She is arguably the team’s best defenseman.
  • Goalie Stephanie Ney did not dress for the exhibition. She’s also nearing a return. Expect Jorid Dagfinrud to start against BU, though.
  • Jocelyne Lamoureux tried the between-the-legs move that she scored on during the Olympics, but the Toronto defenseman played it better than Team China. Still, it is quite entertaining to see players talented enough to pull off a move like that at full speed.
  • UND is receiving votes in the preseason poll but did not crack the top 10. Boston University is ranked No. 6.

First national poll is out

The first national college hockey poll has been released and UND comes in at No. 2. The top four teams are Boston College, UND, Miami and Michigan — exactly the way the Herald has them ranked in the preseason preview. Two of UND’s nonconference foes, Maine (No. 7) and Fairbanks (No. 12), are ranked.

USA Today preseason poll

1. Boston College
2. North Dakota
3. Miami
4. Michigan
5. Yale
6. St. Cloud State
7. Maine
8. New Hampshire
9. Minnesota-Duluth
10. Cornell
11. Denver
12. Alaska-Fairbanks
13. Wisconsin
14. Boston University
15. Minnesota

Practice update

Some people have been asking for some practice updates. I was out at the rink this afternoon helping photog Eric Hylden shoot our cover for the 2010-11 college hockey preview. After the photos, which were taken by the Sitting Bull statue, I did some interviews and watched the team skate a little bit.

I suppose we could call this our first weekly Wednesday update of the season.

The players are saying that Matt Frattin has won the Iron Man competition this year. Frattin was one of the only guys who didn’t spend the summer here in Grand Forks. He went home to Edmonton, got in a routine, lifted weights with a trainer, and has returned in great shape. In fact, apparently trainer Mark Poolman has nicknamed him the X-Factor because of his fitness.

Some good news about Chay Genoway: It sure doesn’t look like he’s lost a step. He was flying around on the rink today.

As expected, Brent Davidson is back to forward. Joe Gleason is skating on defense and Ryan Hill is skating at forward right now. Jake Marto was the only player wearing a limited contact sweater.

All of the players I talked to today said they couldn’t wait to get the season started. I’m guessing the fans are with them on that one.