Pregame party announced

The UND Alumni Association announced its Frozen Four pregame party.

It will be held at Exhibition Hall A in the St. Paul Rivercentre on Thursday from 2:30 to 7 p.m. Admission is free and there will be food and drinks for purchase.

I say good call in booking the Exhibition Hall. In Denver, they picked out a large bar and it was so packed that it was impossible to move around. In Milwaukee, the bar ran out of beer.

They plan on broadcasting the Duluth-Notre Dame game from the pregame party.

If UND beats Michigan, they will have another pregame party there on Saturday beginning at 3 p.m.

The flier is located here.

For those who live out of town and are looking for viewing parties, a bunch of them are listed here.

Wednesday update

Okay, it may be early Thursday morning but I just realized that I forgot to update my weekly Wednesday post.

Today’s press conference was the Ben Blood Comedy Hour. He had everyone in there laughing most of his press conference.

When asked about the first time he met Derek Forbort, Blood said: “Last summer, when I met him, I think I met him in the locker room. I was like, why is this guy in the locker room? He needs to be in the gym.”

On what advice he’s given Forbort: “When I first met him, I thought he was kind of a pushover. So, I think the biggest thing with him is getting him to be more assertive as a person and project himself when he talks. . . just to grow up a little bit and be more of a man and play more aggressive, because I don’t think he played as aggressive at the beginning of the year as he does now.”

The rest of the press conference was pretty straight forward. For the first time in a long time, we have no injuries to be updated on (not that we were going to get any injury updates at this time of year).

Everyone was loading up with content to try to carry coverage until the next press conference on Monday, so it was a busy day. Roman Augustoviz from the Star Tribune made the trip to do a story on Matt Frattin. The New York Times is scheduled to do the same.

Herald writer Tom Miller, who will be going to the Frozen Four as well, did a few interviews and will be unleashing his college hockey wisdow on everyone in the next couple of weeks. We plan to have at least one story a day leading to the Frozen Four and we’re working on a special section that will come out on game day.

Today’s story was about Matt Frattin being named to the Hobey Hat Trick.

Here’s a story from earlier in the week that talks about the team’s focus.

Frattin named Hobey Hat Trick finalist

UND senior forward Matt Frattin is one of three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award — joining Miami’s Andy Miele and Boston College’s Cam Atkinson in a group known as the Hobey Hat Trick.

The winner of the award will be announced April 8 at the Frozen Four.

UND’s only winners of the award have been Ryan Duncan (2007) and Tony Hrkac (1987).

Grimaldi, Miller to suit up for USA at U18s

As expected, UND recruits Rocco Grimaldi and J.T. Miller will suit up for Team USA in the World Under-18 Championships in Germany next month.

Grimaldi led Team USA to a gold medal last year as an underager. Tyler Biggs was the only other underage on last year’s team. This squad will have four underagers: uncommitted defensemen Seth Jones and Jacob Trouba, uncommitted forward Henrik Samuelsson and Wisconsin forward recruit Nicolas Kerdiles.

The tournament opens April 14 with a game against Switzerland. The medal games are on April 24. Team USA is a two-time defending gold medal champs, winning the event in Fargo two years ago and in Belarus last year.

Sometimes USA Hockey picks up players who are not part of the National Team Development Program for this tournament, but they did not do so this year.

Goalies

John Gibson, Michigan recruit
Matt McNeely, Duluth recruit

Defensemen

Seth Jones, uncommitted
Barrett Kaib, Providence recruit
Jake McCabe, Wisconsin recruit
Connor Murphy, Miami recruit
Michael Paliotta, Vermont recruit
Robbie Russo, Notre Dame recruit
Jacob Trouba, uncommitted

Forwards

Cole Bardreau, Cornell recruit
Tyler Biggs, Miami recruit
Reid Boucher, Michigan State recruit
Travis Boyd, Minnesota recruit
Dan Carlson, uncommitted
Rocco Grimaldi, UND recruit
Ryan Haggerty, RPI recruit
Nicolas Kerdiles, Wisconsin recruit
Zac Larraza, Denver recruit
J.T. Miller, UND recruit
Blake Pietila, Michigan Tech recruit
Adam Reid, Northeastern recruit
Henrik Samuelsson, uncommitted

Donovan leaves DU, signs with Isles

A couple of days after losing to UND in the Midwest Regional championship, Denver sophomore defenseman Matt Donovan signed a three-year contract with the New York Islanders, giving up his final two years of college eligibility.

Donovan, the top puck-moving defenseman for the Pioneers, had nine goals and 23 assists for 32 points in 42 games this season. He also had 21 points in 36 games as a rookie for Denver.

His departure means Denver will be looking at a little bit of a makeover on the blue line, losing Donovan and two defensive-minded defensemen in seniors Chris Nutini and John Ryder.

Even so, the Pioneers should be just fine on the blue line next year. They will return David Makowski, who had a very good freshman year, and will bring in potential first-round pick Scott Mayfield and Joey Laleggia, who ripped up the BCHL this year. Donovan is the fourth WCHA player to leave early this offseason.

Early signings in the WCHA

Denver (1)
Matt Donovan, so, d, New York Islanders

Minnesota (1)
Aaron Ness, jr, d, New York Islanders

St. Cloud State (1)
Oliver Lauridsen, jr, d, Philadelphia Flyers

Wisconsin (1)
Jake Gardiner, jr, d, Toronto Maple Leafs

Hakstol is Penrose finalist again

UND coach Dave Hakstol is a finalist for the Spencer Penrose Award as the national coach of the year for the sixth time in his seven seasons with the Sioux.

For more on that, including a comment from captain Chay Genoway, read this story.

This is Hakstol’s best chance to win the award. His team has won 32 games, which is tied for the third-best in program history. Only the 1981-82 and 1986-87 teams won more games. His team won the MacNaughton Cup, the Broadmoor Trophy, the Midwest Regional and it boasts a Hobey Baker finalist.

The two other Penrose finalists from the WCHA also have UND connections. Omaha’s Dean Blais coached the Sioux for 10 years and Duluth’s Scott Sandelin played for the Sioux and was an assistant on the 2000 national championship team.

The award will be announced after the Frozen Four. The finalists:

Dave Hakstol, North Dakota
Dean Blais, Nebraska Omaha
Scott Sandelin, Minnesota Duluth
Jerry York, Boston College
Jeff Jackson, Notre Dame
Red Berenson, Michigan
Paul Pearl, Holy Cross
Nate Leaman, Union

Recent winners:

2010 — Wayne Wilson, RIT
2009 — Jack Parker, Boston Univ.
2008 — Red Berenson, Michigan
2007 — Jeff Jackson, Notre Dame
2006 — Enrico Blasi, Miami
2005 — George Gwozdecky, Denver
2004 — Scott Sandelin, Duluth
2003 — Bob Daniels, Ferris State
2002 — Tim Whitehead, Maine
2001 — Dean Blais, North Dakota
2000 — Joe Marsh, St. Lawrence
1999 — Dick Umile, New Hampshire
1998 — Tim Taylor, Yale
1997 — Dean Blais, North Dakota
1996 — Bruce Crowder, UMass-Lowell
1995 — Shawn Walsh, Maine
1994 — Don Lucia, Colorado College
1993 — George Gwozdecky, Miami
1992 — Ron Mason, Michigan State
1991 — Rick Comley, Northern Michigan
1990 — Terry Slater, Colgate

Tickets hard to come by

Some athletic department officials were anticipating by Sunday night that the 2011 Frozen Four would be the hottest ticket in the history of Fighting Sioux athletics and it’s certainly shaping up that way.

Almost every ticket package is at least double face value. Some tickets are going for up to $1,500.

Herald writer Ryan Johnson wrote a story about that, and he gives people some info on what to do if they want to get tickets. Read that story here.

Fighting Sioux Club members have until noon Wednesday (Central time) to request tickets. Info on that is here.

Sunday night rewind

After UND’s 6-1 win over Denver in the Midwest Regional final, I had multiple photographers come up to me in the media room and ask: “What? No celebration at all?” Sorry, photogs, no postgame celebration shots. In part because of the lopsided score and in part because of this team’s business-like attitude, there were only a few handshakes and fist bumps after they punched their ticket to the Frozen Four. Twitter comments:

Mike Commodore: “Fighting Sioux crush DU 6-1…frozen four ticket punched…next up Mich..NCAA loves Mich..UND will have to battle Mich and pro Mich refs.”

Ryan Duncan: “Fighting Sioux back to the Frozen Four! Fantastic news to wake up to! Well done men. Keep it going.”

Game stories:

Grand Forks Herald gamer

Grand Forks Herald notebook

Grand Forks Herald photo gallery

Grand Forks Herald story on the 2,000 people at The Ralph

FightingSioux.com

Denver Post

USCHO

USCHO sidebar

Inside College Hockey

Other notes:

  • St. Paul businesses have to be thrilled with UND coming back in two weeks. Sioux fans are the most passionate in all of college hockey, which was demonstrated today. They brought a nice crowd to Green Bay, there were 2,000 watching in Ralph Engelstad Arena and we had just under 4,000 on our live chat.
  • UND didn’t lose in either February or March this year.
  • UND is going to the Frozen Four for the fifth time in Dave Hakstol’s seven years as head coach, a remarkable feat.
  • Hakstol also is a finalist for the Spencer Penrose award for the national coach of the year. He has been a finalist for this award six times in his seven years at UND.
  • In seven years as a college coach, Hakstol’s teams now have two more NCAA tournament victories than Dean Blais’ teams have in 12 years, which is somewhat surprising considering Blais’ teams won two national championships.
  • Aaron Dell broke Ed Belfour’s school record for wins in a season. Dell now has 30. He won the regional MVP award. Recent UND regional MVPs include: Jean-Philippe Lamoureux (2008), Chris Porter (2007), Jonathan Toews (2006) and Jordan Parise (2005).
  • Dell now ranks No. 1 in the nation in goals-against average (1.81), winning percentage (.816) and shutouts (six).
  • Denver was gassed by the end of the game. That was evident. Did the 2 OT game the night before play a role in that? You have to believe it did. UND’s grinding style of game couldn’t have helped, either. But the Pioneers hardly had a quality scoring chance in the third period.
  • Captain Chay Genoway had a fantastic weekend, racking up five assists, a plus-3 and joining with Andrew MacWilliam to shut out each opponent’s top line. UND tried to match Genoway and MacWilliam on the Drew Shore line.
  • Genoway wasn’t the only defenseman that played well. All six of them did their jobs well. I thought Ben Blood should have been on all-tournament team at Final Five and this weekend at the regional. Really, though, I thought every defenseman played well this weekend.
  • Carter Rowney and Derek Rodwell were both held off the scoresheet, but both played key roles in this game, I thought. They gave UND a ton of energy every time they were on the ice and had the puck in Denver’s zone on almost every shift. They were fast and physical. Their center, Mario Lamoureux, chipped in a snipe for a shorthanded goal in the first.
  • Brock Nelson’s goal, a backhand top shelf from in tight, is the type of play we saw him make in high school. Nelson has looked a lot stronger on his skates recently than he was at the start of the season. He’s now going back to St. Paul, where he scored some pretty goals in the state tournament.
  • Danny Kristo’s three-game goal streak is over, but he continued to prove that he can be a big factor even when he’s not scoring goals. In some ways, I think his goal drought at the start of the season was good for him. Right now, he has the attitude that he doesn’t care if he scores as long as he helps his team win in other ways. He did that today.
  • Denver coach George Gwozdecky had some good things to say about UND in the postgame press conference. He talked about how difficult it is to win the WCHA regular season title, playoff title and regional title.
  • One big key to the game was holding Denver scoreless on four early power-play chances. Denver didn’t even get a ton of good looks on those power plays and I think the brutal ice conditions might have had something to do with that. It was hard to make crisp passes because the puck was bouncing so much. After practice Thursday, some of the guys were already talking about how bad it was.
  • Corban Knight was 23-12 on faceoffs this weekend.
  • During UND’s current 15-game unbeaten streak, Brett Hextall has 10 goals and 19 points. He was asked to do the postgame press conference. But don’t worry, he wore his “Give Blood, Play Hockey” hat to the press conference.
  • If there were regional champion hats, UND didn’t put them on.

Sioux headed to Frozen Four

Just a quick update before boarding the charter flight back to Grand Forks.

UND will play the 7:30 p.m. game against Michigan on Thursday night at the Frozen Four. The Sioux got there by beating Denver 6-1 in the Midwest Regional championship.

For a game story, a notebook and some photos from Green Bay, check GrandForksHerald.com.

More updates when I get back to Grand Forks.

And no, I cannot get you tickets.