Koules headed to Medicine Hat

Miles Koules tweeted this afternoon that he has decided to play for the Medicine Hat Tigers in the WHL instead of UND.

Koules had committed to UND prior to going to the U.S. National Team Development Program after he finished playing for Shattuck-St. Mary’s.

The Sioux have lost three recruits to Canadian major juniors in the last 10 months. All three of them played at the National Team Development Program.

There’s more in this story in the Herald.

I will likely be getting in touch with Koules for more on Monday.

Travis Zajac’s OT winner in Game 6

Zach Parise made an outstanding backcheck to break up a 2-on-1 rush on one end, then fellow former Sioux forward Travis Zajac ended Game 6 with an overtime winner, keeping the Devils alive in the NHL playoffs.

After scoring the winner, Pierre McGuire interviewed Zajac on the bench on NBC Sports and McGuire finished the interview by saying: “There are a lot of people back in Grand Forks, North Dakota who are happy for you right now.”

Kristo returning for senior season

Danny Kristo is coming back for his senior season.

Kristo announced the news on his Twitter account this afternoon, saying: “Very excited to let everyone know that I will be playing for the Fighting Sioux next season #siouxwarriors”

Kristo tallied 45 points in 42 games last season and has 109 for his career.

The dynamic right winger should give UND a big offensive boost next season and there’s a good chance he will once again play alongside Corban Knight.

Sanderson commits to UND

UND has picked up a commitment from Saskatchewan-born forward Coltyn Sanderson, who finished fourth in points in the SJHL last season with 81 in 57 games.

Sanderson will come to UND this fall.

Sanderson is 6-foot-2, 185 pounds and is from Moose Jaw. He just completed his second full season with the Weyburn Red Wings, where he was the captain of the team.

“He’s one of the best captains we’ve had here and I’ve been here 38 years,” Weyburn coach Dwight McMillan said. “He’s a hard-working, young man. He never quits, no matter what the score is. He plays injured. He has great speed and he has the ability to make plays.”

McMillan described Sanderson as a skilled forward.

“I think he’ll be a top college player,” McMillan said. “He has to go there and fit into North Dakota’s systems and plans and I know he will. He’s a willing learner, easy to coach. I’m sure he will progress very quickly there.”

Portland negotiating with Jones, etc.

The Portland Winterhawks have acquired the rights to talk with Seth Jones — the standout defenseman from the U.S. Under-18 team that’s choosing between the WHL and UND.

Translation: He’s not going to Everett, but he’s probably going to end up in the WHL. It doesn’t look the greatest for the Sioux right now.

Jones visited UND during the Bemidji State playoff series and recently dominated at the IIHF World Under-18 tournament, where he led the Americans to a fourth straight gold.

*****

Speaking of the U18 tournament, it was a dominant performance for the Americans, who beat Sweden 7-0 in the championship. Wisconsin recruit Nic Kerdiles had five points in the gold-medal game.

The U.S. outscored its opponents 27-4 in the tournament.

For the first time, in the recent gold-medal run, there were no Sioux on the team. Rocco Grimaldi won back-to-back golds and Nick Mattson was part of the team that won it in Fargo.

*****

In the NHL playoffs, three Sioux players are safely into the second round: St. Louis Blues forward T.J. Oshie and Chris Porter and Los Angeles Kings defenseman Matt Greene. Those teams will meet up in the second round.

Oshie and Greene are regulars for their teams. Porter hasn’t played in the playoffs yet, but played in more than half of the games for the Blues in the regular season and could make it in at some point.

Tonight, Dave Tippett’s Phoenix Coyotes will try to punch their ticket to the second round against Jonathan Toews and the Chicago Blackhawks.

*****

In the AHL playoffs, Matt Frattin and the Toronto Marlies are up 2-0 on Joe Finley and Rochester in the first-round series. Frattin has three points.

Taylor Chorney is out with an injury for Oklahoma City, but Chris VandeVelde has helped the Barons to a 2-1 lead over Houston and Chay Genoway.

Brock Nelson and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers got knocked out by the Connecticut Whale on Sunday. Nelson played in the first two playoff games for Bridgeport but was scratched in the third.

Ben Blood’s AHL team, the Binghamton Senators, did not make the playoffs, so he is back in Grand Forks.

*****

The ECHL playoffs are down to the final four — Alaska, Las Vegas, Kalamazoo and Florida. There aren’t any Sioux players left.

Knight played 3 months with broken hand

UND forward Corban Knight played the last three months of the season with a broken hand, a source has confirmed.

Knight suffered the injury blocking a shot during a series against the University of Minnesota in mid-January. He didn’t miss a game the rest of the season, tallying 19 points in 20 games with the broken hand.

Knight was unable to take faceoffs immediately after sustaining the injury and gave up that duty to linemate Brock Nelson. When asked about it after the game, Sioux coach Dave Hakstol acknowledged that Knight injured his hand blocking a shot, but the severity was not revealed.

Prior to fracturing his hand, Knight was on pace to break his own school record of 59.9 percent in the faceoff circle. He was at 60.5 percent before the injury. After the injury, Knight won 57.1 percent of his draws, which is still remarkably good, but below his career-low average of 57.9 percent from his freshman season.

The injury affected Knight in the faceoff circle and shooting the puck.

Knight wouldn’t shake hands with his right hand at the end of the season, but shrugged it off like it wasn’t a big deal.

The High River, Alta., product also dealt with a lower-body injury, believed to be a high-ankle sprain. Knight sustained that injury against Nebraska-Omaha in mid-December. He missed four games with that injury and returned for the Minnesota series in which he suffered the broken hand.

Knight, who confirmed this week that he’s coming back for his senior season, is a polite, always-smiling, happy-go-lucky kid, but obviously is extremely tough as well. He’s a sure bet to wear either the ‘C’ or an ‘A’ next season.

Analyst discusses Hakstol deal

In putting together today’s story about Dave Hakstol’s new six-year contract, I got a couple of quotes from the coach and athletic director Brian Faison. Then, I thought it might add to the story to get comments from someone who is not connected to the university who lives afar.

So, I got in touch with Dave Starman. He’s a college hockey analyst for CBS, who broadcasted a handful of Sioux games this season and has watched many UND games in recent years (including a couple of trips to Grand Forks).

In addition to calling a lot of college games during the year, Starman is extremely connected at the NHL level, so I thought it would be interesting to hear his thoughts. They are below.

On Hakstol’s ability to build teams: “To me, the biggest affirmation of his success is his ability to build a team and to let a team build itself. That’s a trademark of great pro hockey teams. A lot of teams get better because they’re allowed to develop and allowed to make mistakes (early in the season). I look at North Dakota’s teams and they always get better. I think he lets them find their way a little bit.”

On UND: “North Dakota has an identity and it doesn’t change. I think that helps them in recruiting.”

On developing players: “I think you see guys come out of there who understand what pro hockey is, and they understand it because he puts them through a pro-like atmosphere in what he expects from them. When I talk to guys who have been through the North Dakota program, they say that Dave has gotten them not only ready for pro hockey but for life. I get the sense from them that he teaches a lot of life lessons through the game, not taking shortcuts and being accountable. That’s what you see from guys who have moved on from the program.”

On the elusive national title: “Red Berenson is considered a legend. He took over Michigan in ’84 and didn’t win a national title until ’96. Look at Hakstol and what he’s done in terms of putting out great teams consistently and getting players ready for the next level. He has a really good eye for identifying kids who can play at that level. He develops players, he develops teams, he’s been to the tournament every year, he’s been to a bunch of Frozen Fours…”

Starman said he mentioned on a broadcast in Duluth that if he were an NHL general manager, he would be trying to get Hakstol and Scott Sandelin to coach his AHL team, but added that he’s glad they are still in the college game. With new contracts for both of them, it looks like they will be staying a while, too.

Hakstol signs new contract

UND has signed Dave Hakstol for the longterm.

Hakstol inked a new, six-year deal that will take him through the 2017-18 season. His base salary will be $300,000.

Since he took over at UND in 2004, the Sioux have scored more goals and won more games than anyone in the WCHA. He has led the Sioux to two MacNaughton Cups, four Broadmoor Trophies and five Frozen Fours.

The Sioux also have been consistent, earning home ice, a Final Five trip and an NCAA tournament berth in each of the last eight seasons. Michigan is the only other team in the country that has made the NCAAs in each of the last eight years.

More will be coming later.

Most victories since 2004

219 — Michigan (Red Berenson)
216 — Boston College (Jerry York)
213 — North Dakota (Dave Hakstol)
200 — Denver (George Gwozdecky)
197 — Miami (Rico Blasi)