NCAA tournament, etc.

For today’s paper, I wrote a column about the NCAA tournament. Basically, I’d like for them to go with an idea that came up at last year’s AHCA convention in Naples, Fla.

They discussed going to a best-of-three series in the first round at the site of the higher seed. Then, there would be two super regionals (two games at each site) to determine the Frozen Four teams.

Read the story to hear the reasons behind it. What does everyone else think about it?

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We always give out the Last Man Standing award here for the last Sioux player to be left playing his season. This year, the first round of the NHL playoffs were rough on former Sioux and there aren’t many left overall.

In the NHL, the only former Sioux left is Matt Smaby with the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Smaby hasn’t played yet in the playoffs.

In the AHL playoffs, the only Sioux left is Corey Fienhage with the Portland Pirates. And the only other former Sioux left playing, to my knowledge (let me know if I’m missing someone) is Aaron Schneekloth with the Central Hockey League’s Colorado Eagles.

There also is one recruit left. Mike Parks and the Cedar Rapids Roughriders are in the USHL semifinals.

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J.T. Miller was on The Pipeline Show this week. You can listen here.

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Wisconsin’s Jordy Murray is expected to do the same thing that his brother, Brady, did at UND: Leave early to go to Switzerland.

A few scouting reports

With a new season on the horizon, everyone is trying to visualize what next year’s team may look like. This includes trying to project where the recruits will fall in the lineup. That is usually extremely tough to project.

Judging by internet reports prior to their arrivals, most of us pegged Chay Genoway as a depth guy, not a two-time All-American. We pegged Derrick LaPoint as an offensive dynamo and he ended up being a top penalty killer and a shutdown defenseman. And we pegged Brett Hextall as a checker, not a guy who would have 81 points in three years and an NHL deal with the Phoenix Coyotes.

Keeping that in mind, I have had the chance to see a few of UND’s recruits in person or online in the last month, and here’s my impression of what I saw (only including guys I’ve seen play multiple times):

Rocco Grimaldi, forward — He has good speed and dynamic ability. Saw him put the puck between a defender’s legs to create a chance late in the third period of a tie game. Although he’s only 5-6, he doesn’t shy away from contact. He made a hit to separate a defenseman from the puck, which directly led to a goal in one game. His best plays, perhaps, were stretch passes from his own zone to spring teammates on breakaways. He has the ability to play on a scoring line from the start.

J.T. Miller, forward — When you think of Sioux hockey players, you think guys who play hard, physical, fast and show skill. That’s the exact way to describe Miller. Every time I’ve seen him, he’s played very hard and made at least one highlight-reel hit. He goes to the net every play, often getting opponents angry at him for doing so. He said on an interview on The Pipeline Show that he stays after practice every day to practice tipping pucks. With his big frame and tenacity, I think he has a great chance to take that net-front presence role on the power play from Brad Malone, who was outstanding at screening goalies. I see Miller as a guy who opponents will hate — not because he talks but because of how hard he plays. If he plays like he did at the U18 tournament, he will contribute immediately.

Colten St. Clair, forward — St. Clair’s production in the USHL has plateaued a little bit.  Saw him play twice at the end of the season. He’s not the most dynamic player — I don’t think he will be dangling through guys — but he can skate. When he’s going, he definitely has good speed. In one game, he back-checked extremely hard and broke up a two-on-one with pure speed. I don’t foresee him scoring a lot next year, but he can be an effective third- or fourth-line, energy player and a penalty killer. Over time, he could become a Matt Watkins type of player.

Nick Mattson, defenseman — I’ve seen him play at various times throughout the last three years. He’s a smart player and prefers to keep it simple at all times. He gets the puck off his stick quickly to forwards or his defensive partner. He always makes himself available as an outlet for his fellow defenseman and almost always is the guy who stays back. He does have the ability to pull out some dynamic moves — I saw him do a spin move at the blue line right before unleashing a slap shot that was tipped for a goal — but he doesn’t pull them out all the time. He’s not going to dazzle anyone with speed or a crunching hit, but he will be reliable and efficient.

If anyone else has seen these guys feel free to drop your observations. These are just a few of mine (keep in mind, the sample size is extremely small). But I’ve been asked enough about the recruits that I thought I would drop my thoughts here.

Women’s updates

The women’s world tournament ended earlier this week with the Lamoureux twins leading the Americans to a gold medal. See the full story here.

The overtime win over Canada finished a very successful tournament for UND women’s players/recruits.

Monique Lamoureux-Kolls was named the most valuable forward of the top tournament. Redshirt freshman Michelle Karvinen was by all accounts outstanding at the tournament, leading Finland in goals and points and finishing third overall in scoring. She was named to the media all-star team.

In the Division II tournament, recruit Josefine Jakobsen was named the most valuable forward. She plays for Denmark.

Also of note, UND junior-to-be goalie Jorid Dagfinrud played very well for Norway. She was a teammate of Andrea Dalen, who signed with the Sioux this week.

For the complete list of Sioux signings, check out the release here.

The absences from this list include Swedish national team players Klara Myren and Cecilia Ostberg. Sources say that neither will end up coming to UND. Don’t know reasons, but they are not expected to come.

As we know, getting Europeans through the Clearinghouse can be tricky sometimes, so the player to watch this summer will be Jakobsen. She is very talented, and by all accounts, can help this team greatly in the fall.

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UND played without top defenseman Jordan Slavin for the final few weeks of the season. Slavin ended up having a knee operation in the offseason and is recovering from it.

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Last season, the Sioux women’s hockey team had the largest attendance increase of any team in the country. I’ve been looking at NCAA attendance figures from 2010 and 2011 in all sports and will soon have a better break down, but I thought it was interesting that the Sioux women’s hockey team outdrew every Big Ten men’s baseball team from last year (this year’s complete attendance figures not yet available).

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I’ll try to get a women’s hockey schedule for next year soon. All I know is that they open up at Boston University and at Wisconsin — the two teams that played for the national title. That’s a ridiculously difficult way to open the season.

Toews named Selke finalist

Former Sioux forward Jonathan Toews is a finalist for the Selke Trophy, which goes to the NHL’s top defensive forward.

Toews led the Chicago Blackhawks in scoring with 76 points and was second in the NHL with 93 takeaways. He also had 32 goals and was usually responsible to play against other teams’ top lines.

The other finalists for the award are Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk and Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler.

The last Sioux player to win Selke was Troy Murray, who currently calls Blackhawk games on the radio. He won it in 1986.

Toews also scored a stunning, shorthanded goal to tie Game 7 last night with less than two minutes remaining. The Hawks lost, but Toews’ legend grew a little bit with the goal.

Mattson named USHL’s top defenseman

Sioux recruit Nick Mattson was named the USHL defenseman of the year today.

The award was determined by a vote of the league’s coaches and general managers.

Mattson finished second in the league in defenseman scoring (behind fellow Sioux recruit Jordan Schmaltz) with 36 points in 57 games. He also led all defensemen with a +33 rating. No other defenseman was within nine.

“Congratulations to Nick not just for being the USHL’s top defensemen this year – in a league known for stellar defensive play – but for his consistency, excellence, and leadership throughout a distinguished two-year USHL career,” USHL commissioner Skip Prince said.  “He has helped the Indiana Ice become a perennial contender and I suspect we will be watching him frustrate forwards on defense and goalies on offense at both the NCAA and professional levels in coming years.”

Mattson will arrive at UND this fall.

Gadowsky named Penn State’s coach

With loads of speculation that Minnesota-Duluth men’s coach Scott Sandelin or Wisconsin women’s coach Mark Johnson could be leaving the WCHA to take over as the head coach of the Penn State men’s program, the Nittany Lions went a different direction.

Guy Gadowsky, who was the head coach at Princeton, was hired Sunday to coach the Nittany Lions, who will begin play in 2012-13.

The announcement was made by Penn State.

U.S. pulls off comeback, wins gold

Trailing 3-1 after two periods, Sioux recruits Rocco Grimaldi, J.T. Miller and the U.S. rallied to tie it, then won their third straight gold medal at the IIHF World Under-18 tournament thanks to an overtime goal by Miami recruit Connor Murphy.

Both Sioux recruits were big factors in the 4-3 comeback victory over Sweden.

Just 1:20 into the third period, Miller left the puck for Grimaldi at the top of the right circle. Grimaldi made a no-look backhand pass to Murphy, who blasted a shot past the Swedish goaltender to make it 3-2.

Then, with just 1:29 left in the game, Miller hit Reid Boucher with a stretch pass and Boucher, a Michigan State commit, ripped a shot in to tie it.

In overtime, Grimaldi drew a power play by speeding past the Swedish captain on the left wing. He had to hold Grimaldi to make sure he didn’t get to the net. Just as the power play was set to expire, Murphy scored on a rebound of his own shot.

The Americans won their third straight gold in the event — a run that started with Sioux recruit Nick Mattson helping Team USA to gold in Fargo.

After the game, the IIHF named each team’s three best pl

Americans to play for gold again

Things appeared to be unraveling for the Americans at the IIHF World Under-18 tournament on Saturday afternoon after they blew a 4-1 third-period lead and watched Canada tie it with two extra-attacker goals.

But Miami recruit Tyler Biggs bailed the U.S. out by scoring in overtime to lift Team USA to a 5-4 victory in the semifinals.

The Americans will play Sweden for the gold medal at 11:30 a.m. If you wish to watch it on webcast, it is available at www.fasthockey.com for $7.

Although Biggs grabbed the headlines for the game-winning goal and Reid Boucher for scoring two goals, I thought Sioux recruit J.T. Miller was the best player on the ice for the Americans.

Miller scored an unassisted goal after blocking a shot and taking it the distance and he set up Boucher for both of his goals. Miller also had the hit of the game in the first period. When he’s on his game, he’s going to be your typical Sioux hockey player: he plays hard, fast and physical.

If NHL scouts have watched the last few games, Miller might be solidifying himself as a first-round pick. He’s Team USA’s leading scorer with 11 points in 5 games and is one of the top four scorers in the tournament.

Rocco Grimaldi didn’t have any points against Canada, but had plenty of chances. He also was the key to Team USA’s second goal, separating a defenseman from the puck with a hit. Yes, even at 5-foot-6, he will throw hits.

More to come on the tournament following the championship. You can also check out the United States of Hockey blog.

Sioux women shining at Worlds

Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux starred today in Team USA’s 5-1 win over Russia in the semifinals of the IIHF World Women’s Championship.

Monique had a goal and three assists. Jocelyne had a goal and an assist and was named the player of the game.

With the win, Team USA advances to the gold medal game Monday against Canada (who else?). In reality, these two countries are so far ahead of the world in women’s hockey, it’s ridiculous. But when they play each other, it’s usually fantastic.

Another very notable thing to come from this tournament is the performance of UND’s Michelle Karvinen, who redshirted this year after not getting through the NCAA Clearninghouse.

Karvinen is the third-leading scorer in the entire tournament, only behind a pair of Americans who play for national champion Wisconsin. Karvinen is the top scorer for Finland with seven points in five games. She was the lone goal-scorer for Finland in their loss against Canada in the semifinals.

Karvinen will be a huge addition for the Sioux in the fall.