2012 College Hockey Preview is out

The annual Grand Forks Herald college hockey preview is out. If you buy any Herald, a copy is inserted into the regular paper. So go check it out. Newspapers are cheap.

If you live out of the area and want a copy, you can e-mail gfhsubsc@gfherald.com, and they should be able to set you up with one. It will be about $4. Otherwise, the section will be online in a day or two.

The theme of the section is that it’s the last year of the WCHA. There are a couple of features on that.

Also, I rank the top 10 recruits and top 10 players in the league and give my predictions. There are stories on Joe Gleason, Brendan O’Donnell, Clarke Saunders and the freshmores, Rocco Grimaldi and Colten St. Clair.

There’s a breakdown of the national scene, former players, future players and an update on the women’s team.

Hope the subscribers enjoy….

 

Women’s WCHA coaches poll released

The WCHA announced the women’s coaches poll this week, and UND is picked in a second-place tie, the highest-ever preseason prediction for the program. UND received a first-place vote as well.

Jocelyne Lamoureux received two of eight votes for preseason player of the year.

1. Minnesota (6)
2. North Dakota (1)
2. Wisconsin (1)
4. Minnesota-Duluth
5. Ohio State
6. Bemidji State
7. MSU-Mankato
8. St. Cloud State

Player of the year: Brianna Decker, F, Wisconsin (4), Jocelyne Lamoureux, F, UND (2), Amanda Kessel, F, Minnesota (2).

Rookie of the year: Hannah Brandt, F, Minnesota (8).

My preseason WCHA picks

When the annual Grand Forks Herald college hockey preview section comes out tomorrow, it will contain all sorts of predictions and lists — top 10 players, top 10 recruits, all-WCHA and predicted finish of each conference.

For an early warmup, here’s my all-WCHA ballot with reasoning for my picks.

1. Minnesota.
Note: Defending league champs have most players back. Everyone is questioning the goaltending, but Kent Patterson put up very average, if not below average, numbers for much of last year (.894 save percentage from Thanksgiving on). The new goalie won’t see a lot of rubber and shouldn’t have a difficult time replicating that.

2. North Dakota.
Note: Like Minnesota, nobody has a clue what to expect from UND’s goaltending. Defensively, UND should be pretty solid. Up front, UND needs to stay healthy and needs the sophomore forwards to take a step in their games. If so, this team could be pretty good. Look for Rocco Grimaldi to be among the league’s best forwards.

3. St. Cloud State
Note: I’m surprised how low some people are picking the Huskies. I think this team could be in the mix to compete for a league title. Drew LeBlanc was one of the league’s best forwards before he got injured. Ben Hanowski developed into one of the league’s best forwards at the end of the season. Sure, the Huskies disappointed everyone two years ago, but that defensive corps wasn’t even close to as good as this one, led by Nick Jensen and Andrew Prochno.

4. Denver
Note: Yes, the Pioneers sustained major losses up front with three players signing NHL deals early. But Denver has one of the top defensive crews with Scott Mayfield, Joey LaLeggia and David Makowski manning the blue line. Sam Brittain is a top-notch goalie, too. They will have enough scoring to get by.

5. Wisconsin
Note: The Badgers should be back in the mix in the top half of the WCHA this season. Their younger players improved quite a bit as the season progressed last year. Tyler Barnes could be one of the league’s breakout players. Wisconsin may be one year away from being a top-five team nationally, but the Badgers should inch closer this season.

6. Duluth
Note: The Bulldogs sustained significant losses at every position. There is some good news for Duluth fans. The Bulldogs bring in some recruits who will impact their season immediately. Defenseman Andrew Welinski is the Herald’s No. 2 incoming recruit. Forward Austin Farley is very dynamic and could be on a top line right away.

7. Nebraska-Omaha
Note: The Mavericks have some question marks up front. They need some players to step up and fill the void left by the early signings of Jayson Megna and Terry Broadhurst. But I have a feeling that Dean Blais, known for his high flying offenses, will switch to a defensive style based on Omaha’s strong blue line and highly touted goalie Anthony Stolarz.

8. MSU-Mankato
Note: Minnesota State is this year’s Michigan Tech. There’s a new coach in town, but the old coach left the cupboard full. The Mavericks have some very dynamic players in J.P. Lafontaine, Matt Leitner and Zach Palmquist. Add in one of MSU’s most highly touted recruiting classes, featuring Shattuck’s Teddy Bluegar, and they will be the “surprise” team in the league this season.

9. Michigan Tech
Note: Michigan Tech was the surprise of the league last season. And while it does have a lot of key players returning it did lose Brett Olson, Jordan Baker and Josh Robinson. Highly touted recruit Jujhar Khaira should replace some of the offense, but goaltending may be a larger question mark.

10. Colorado College
Note: It’s very weird picking the Tigers down here, but they had a tough ending to the season and lost most of their top scorers. Rylan Schwartz is a star, but he needs help from others, who didn’t step up last season.

11. Bemidji State
Note: Jordan George is arguably one of the league’s most underrated players. But like Schwartz and Colorado College, depth scoring is a must. The Beavers won’t have Dan Bakala anymore in the net. Still, they won’t be an easy out for anyone they play.

12. Alaska Anchorage
Note: Some top players have left school. Another got kicked off the team last season. Not much good has come out of that program recently. That being said, injuries were a major problem for the Seawolves last season and if they are able to stay healthy this year, I think their record will improve.

Player of the year – Nick Bjugstad, Minnesota
Note: Bjugstad is tough to knock off the puck and has scoring touch. Now that Minnesota has a bunch of prolific offensive defensemen, that should help him rack up the points.

Rookie of the year – Rocco Grimaldi, North Dakota
Note: Although he only played four games, and was not healthy for them, we saw some glimpses of what Grimaldi is capable of doing last season.

All-WCHA
F — Nick Bjugstad, Minnesota
F — Danny Kristo, North Dakota
F — Mark Zengerle, Wisconsin
D — Nick Jensen, St. Cloud State
D — Scott Mayfield, Denver
G — Sam Brittain, Denver

Note: Forwards were pretty straight-forward. Corban Knight could have slipped into one of those spots. Jensen was an easy one on defense. I know everyone else has Joey LaLeggia at the other spot, but he made so many bad turnovers at the Final Five and at the end of the year. I thought Mayfield was their best D-man by the end. I also thought about Andrew MacWilliam here, as he’s the league’s best physical defenseman, and Nate Schmidt, who put up a bunch of points last year and will again this year.

All right, tell me where I screwed up. I know you want to.

WCHA media poll released

The WCHA coaches poll will hopefully be out soon. I’m still waiting on a few ballots. But in the meantime, the media poll was released today by 94X in Duluth. The results are below:

1. Minnesota
2. North Dakota
3. Denver
4. Wisconsin
5. Duluth
6. St. Cloud State
7. Colorado College
8. Omaha
9. Michigan Tech
10. MSU-Mankato
11. Bemidji State
12. Anchorage

POY: Nick Bjugstad, Minnesota
ROY: Rocco Grimaldi, North Dakota

All-WCHA team
F — Nick Bjugstad, Minnesota
F — Mark Zengerle, Wisconsin
F — Ben Hanowski, St. Cloud State
D — Joey LaLeggia, Denver
D — Nick Jensen, St. Cloud State
G — Sam Brittain, Denver; Josh Thorimbert, Colorado College (tie)

UND announces additional suspensions

UND announced additional suspensions stemming from the team party last Saturday.

Sophomores Connor Gaarder, Andrew Panzarella and Stephane Pattyn have been suspended for the Oct. 20 game against Alaska Fairbanks.

UND also will suspend Brendan O’Donnell for the Oct. 19 game and it added one game to Danny Kristo’s suspension for violating athletic department policy that’s unrelated to the party.

In all, UND will be without Kristo, Corban Knight, Andrew MacWilliam, Carter Rowney and Brendan O’Donnell for the season opener. It will be without Gaarder, Panzarella, Pattyn and Kristo for the second game.

Four players are expected to be cited for underage drinking on Monday due to the party.

UND will play the opening game with just 17 skaters, assuming there are no injuries in the next month.

NCHC hires Adam as director of officials

The NCHC has hired Don Adam as its director of officiating.

Adam will not ref in the league, rather hold an administrative job recruiting and overseeing the league’s referees.

The coaches in the league recommended Adam for the job, many citing his communication skills as one of his best assets.

“Don is very well respected throughout college hockey,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “Over the years his officiating style has constantly evolved as changes have come to the way the game is played and he is very well equipped to build a quality staff of officials for the NCHC.”

Omaha coach Dean Blais added: “Don Adam brings a wealth of experience in officiating to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. Don, as Director of Officiating, will be active in evaluating, recruiting, coaching and directing our conference officiating staff according to NCAA rules and regulations. He is a great communicator and will have a lot of significant responsibilities with our new conference. We are all looking forward to his role and leadership with our officiating program.”

Denver coach George Gwozdecky said: “For over two decades, Don Adam has been regarded as one of the top hockey officials in the NCAA. His leadership skills, organizational ability along with his experience will be a valuable asset to the conference and will assure that, under his direction, the league will receive the finest collegiate officiating available.”

Adam will still ref in the WCHA this season. He starts his job with the NCHC at the conclusion of the 2012-13 season.

BCHL standout Murphy commits to UND

Wade Murphy, who was named the co-MVP of the BCHL playoffs last season, has committed to UND for next season.

Murphy originally had committed to Merrimack, but de-committed about a month ago. He quickly set his sights on UND. It was the only school he visited and he said he verbally committed to the coaches in person on Monday.

“He’s a player that’s found a way to produce offensively over the last few years,” Penticton coach Fred Harbinson said. “He does it by not playing the perimeter. He’s a guy who gets involved in the corners and in front of the net.”

Murphy has seven points in four games this season. A year ago, he finished with 91 points in 60 games.

“There are players that score goals and there are players that score important, big-time goals,” Harbinson said. “Wade has found a way to score some big overtime goals. He already has done it this year in our first game scoring a goal in the last minute of play to win the game. He’s one of those guys that has a knack for when the stage is big.”

The full story is here.

Central Scouting releases watch list

The NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau released its initial watch list for the 2013 NHL Draft.

UND recruit and Grand Forks native Luke Johnson is listed as an ‘A’ player, which means he’s a possible first-round draft pick. Johnson will play in Lincoln this season and is projected to come to UND next fall.

Two other UND recruits are listed as ‘B’ prospects, which means they are being tabbed as mid-round draft picks right now.

One is Devils Lake product Keaton Thompson, who will play this season with the U.S. Under-18 team. Thompson, a defenseman, will play in Ralph Engelstad Arena against UND on Oct. 12.

The other is British Columbia Hockey League forward Adam Tambellini, who is playing for the Vernon Vipers. Tambellini has five points in four games to start this season.

One other notable name on the list is uncommitted recruit Ian McCoshen, who is choosing between UND, Nebraska-Omaha and Minnesota-Duluth. McCoshen, a defenseman for the Waterloo Blackhawks, is an ‘A’ prospect.

*****

A top recruit from the BCHL visited UND on Monday.

Wade Murphy, who helped the Penticton Vees to a Canadian Junior A title last season, posted on Twitter that he was in Grand Forks and also posted a picture from Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Murphy, who has 7 points in 4 games to start the year, de-committed from Merrimack on Aug. 23.

Captains suspended for season opener

UND has suspended its team captains – Andrew MacWilliam, Corban Knight, Danny Kristo and Carter Rowney – for the opening game of the season due to a team party held Saturday.

The season opener is Oct. 19 against Alaska Anchorage in the Brice Goal Rush in Fairbanks, Alaska.

According to online court records, no citations were handed out at the party.

“The behavior in this situation was unacceptable,” athletic director Brian Faison said. “Measures taken by the athletics department do not preclude possible additional measures  by the department, or actions by the University, local or state authorities.”

“Recent actions by our team are not a good representation of our place as role models within our community,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “We have young men of high character in our locker room, but our players, and in particular our leaders, must be accountable for their actions.”

Faison also announced additional measures, including:

  • Athletics Department-issued team probation under which any further violations by a team member could result in immediate reduction of scholarship, suspension from competition, or expulsion from the program.
  • The implementation of a mandatory team community service program.
  • Weekly team alcohol education programming.

The incident comes two weeks after UND sophomores Michael Parks and Dan Senkbeil were cited for underage drinking. At that time, Hakstol suspended Senkbeil for two weeks from team activities. Parks’ discipline was handed internally.

UND will be down to 18 skaters available for the season-opener, which means every healthy body will be in the lineup. It also means UND’s forwards for the season-opener will include no seniors and just one junior. The other 11 will be rookies or sophomores.