Grimaldi doesn’t play as U.S. advances

There wasn’t much drama early Monday morning.

The U.S. jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the game’s opening 14 minutes and went on to beat Slovakia 9-3 in a must-win game.

The victory earned Team USA a spot in the quarterfinals on Wednesday morning. The opponent will be determined after today’s Sweden-Finland game (Sweden was leading 3-0 when I went to bed, and if they hold on, the Americans will play the Czech Republic).

Johnny Gaudreau and Vince Trocheck each had two goals to lead the Americans, while UND freshman forward Rocco Grimaldi was dressed as the 13th forward but did not play a single shift.

Those in Ufa are reporting that the coaching staff has not been happy with Grimaldi’s play. Coach Phil Housley told NHL Network: “We’re just trying to look for the right chemistry, I’m sure we’ll see him in some action in the future, but we just wanted to keep our four lines rolling.”

U.S. falls to Canada, faces must-win vs. Slovakia

It comes down to this: The U.S. needs to beat Slovakia (4 a.m. Monday) or it will be sent to the relegation round for the second year in a row.

The Americans took favorite Canada to the limit early Sunday morning, but lost 2-1 after not being able to convert a late power-play chance.

The Americans also lost to Russia by the same score and the same circumstance two days earlier.

For a full story on the U.S.-Canada game, see the Herald website.

Slovakia won’t be a walk-over game for the U.S. The Slovaks took Russia to overtime and they were leading Canada 3-1 at the midway point of that game before losing 6-3.

Random updates

Christmas break is over for the men’s and women’s hockey teams. Both are back in town and practicing and preparing for their returns to the ice next weekend. UND will host Holy Cross, while the women travel to St. Louis to take on Lindenwood.

In the meantime, there’s been some action around the country…

1. What’s the best Sioux hockey jersey ever? A website dedicated to Sioux jerseys is putting on a tournament where fans will be allowed to vote and give their thoughts. I think this will be fun and interesting to see what the fans chose. Check it out and participate here.

2. UND recruit Shane Gersich came through with a funny Christmas gift for his grandfather (who is the father of Gopher greats Neal, Aaron and Paul Broten). Check it out here.

3. The WCHA is selling commemorative merchandise. Weird or not?

4. St. Cloud State freshman Joey Benik, who starred in the BCHL last season, played his first college game Thursday night. Benik suffered an injury in preseason camp that kept him out until now. Benik had an assist in SCSU’s 4-3 loss to RPI.

5. Omaha center Brock Montpetit will be out three to five weeks due to a leg injury.

WORLD TOURNAMENT TIME

WORLD JUNIORS – UND rookie Rocco Grimaldi and the U.S. holds a 1-1 record. The next game is 3:30 a.m. Sunday against Canada.

WORLD UNDER-17 CHALLENGE – UND recruits Austin Poganski and Chris Wilkie will suit up for the Americans, who are made up almost entirely of NTDP players. Poganski is one of two skaters outside the NTDP asked to join. Canada West features arguably the top two uncommitted 1996-born forwards in Western Canada in Ryan Gropp of the BCHL and Tanner MacMaster of the AJHL. The tournament begins Saturday in Quebec.

WORLD UNDER-18 WOMEN’S – Four UND recruits are suiting up in this event. Defenseman Halli Krzyzaniak is an alternate captain for Canada. Goalie Lexie Shaw, defenseman Gracen Hirschy and forward Amy Menke are suiting up for the Americans. That tournament begins in Finland on Saturday.

And lastly, from Ufa, Russia, Grimaldi wishes the “Fighting Sioux family” a merry Christmas.

Russia tops Americans 2-1

The U.S. dropped a tight pool play game against host Russia by the score of 2-1 on Friday morning.

The game could have gone either way — goaltending was very good on both sides — but Russia made one more play in the third period and came away with the key victory.

All possibilities are still out there for the Americans right now. They still could end up with a bye to the semifinals and they still could end up in relegation for the second year in a row.

If the U.S. loses to Canada at 3:30 a.m. Sunday morning, it will need to beat Slovakia to avoid relegation. Prior to the tournament, that seemed like a fairly easy task, but not anymore.

The Slovaks took Russia to overtime in their first game, then held a 3-1 lead midway through Friday’s game against Canada. The Canadians ended up winning 6-3, but Slovakia was impressive nonetheless (shots were 30-28 in that game).

So, there are two key games coming up for the Americans.

To read the game story on the U.S.-Russia contest, go here.

RUSSIA 2, USA 1

First period — 1. RUS, Albert Yarullin (Nikita Nesterov, Nail Yakupov) 2:42 (pp)
Second period — 2. USA, Jacob Trouba (Alex Galchenyuk) 13:18 (pp)
Third period — 3. RUS, Vladimir Tkachyov (Valeri Nichushkin, Artyom Sergeyev) 4:10
Goalie saves — USA: John Gibson 28; RUS: Andrei Marakov 41

Americans crush Germany in opener

Team USA used eight different goal-scorers en route to an 8-0 blowout win over Germany in the opener of the World Junior Championship.

UND’s Rocco Grimaldi had one assist and also had a highlight reel backcheck to break up a German breakaway late in the third period.

For a full game story, see GrandForksHerald.com.

The Americans will take on host Russia in a Group B showdown at 8 a.m. Friday.

USA 8, Germany 0

First period – 1. USA, Kuraly (Galchenyuk, Barber) :19; 2. USA, Trouba (Pietila) 8:30; 3. USA, Galchenyuk (Kuraly, Barber) 9:54

Second period – 4. USA, Barber (Galchenyuk) :14; 5. USA, Gostisbehere (Jones, Grimaldi) 6:33 (pp); 6. USA, Hartman (Pietila, Bardreau) 7:55

Third period – 7. USA, Miller 8:36; 8. USA, Jones  10:32

Goalie saves – USA: Gibson 19, Gillies 7; GER: Cupper 38

Grimaldi will make final roster

After Team USA’s 5-1 loss to Finland in the final exhibition game before the World Junior Championship, UND freshman forward Rocco Grimaldi posted on Twitter: “I was the worst player on the ice today. I did absolutely nothing and that is unacceptable. That CAN NOT and WILL NOT happen again.”

Even so, he will be on this year’s World Junior team as expected.

USA Hockey announced two cuts at 2 a.m. this morning — forward Stefan Matteau and defenseman Brady Skjei — and all that’s left is one more defensive cut (the U.S. is unsure yet if Connor Murphy will be able to go because of an injury situation).

Grimaldi has been playing right wing on the top line along with J.T. Miller and Boston College’s Johnny Gaudreau.

Team USA’s first game is 8 a.m. Thursday against Germany.

Check out the latest roster here.

UND lands Shane Gersich

UND’s big week in recruiting continued Thursday night as Holy Family forward Shane Gersich, believed to be the top available forward in Minnesota, tweeted that he has committed to UND.

Gersich currently is a sophomore in high school. He is the nephew of former Roseau greats Neal, Aaron and Paul Broten, all of whom went to Minnesota.

This comes on the heels of UND landing St. Cloud Cathedral forward Austin Poganski.

For a full story on Gersich, including quotes from the player, go here.

The Houghton trip

Going to Houghton can be a little bit like going back in time. There’s some good and bad that comes with that.

The bad? Tom Miller went to get some concession food at the arena, but they didn’t take cards and there was no ATM in the arena.

The good? I expected to pay $2.50 to get a Gatorade out of a hotel vending machine. I was floored when I saw 20 oz. bottles for $1. You can also get beers for like $1.50 downtown and I once took a taxi from my hotel to the arena for $4, which is about the minimum charge anywhere else.

THE TRAVEL

There’s no way around it. Houghton isn’t easy to get to. I think this is the No. 1 reason why Michigan Tech is not in the NCHC. The team goes by bus. It’s about a 9-hour drive from Grand Forks — if the roads are good. They often are not. It typically snows about 200 inches per winter. The record low for snowfall in a winter is 81 inches, set back in the 1930s.

If you fly in, you have to go United through O’Hare. Delta/Northwest used to fly into Houghton/Hancock from Minneapolis, but quit its service a few years ago. I don’t like having to go through O’Hare, but the one good part is that United flies jets to Houghton/Hancock. On Delta/Northwest, you got a prop plane. I believe there are two flights in and two flights out each day.

THE CITY

For those that don’t know, Houghton (pop. 7,708)/Hancock (pop. 4,634) is like Grand Forks/EGF. There’s a river (which the locals call a lake) separating the two cities. Both cities are on a hill and it sort of reminds me of Duluth in that regard (I have no idea how they walk on the streets or drive on them when it’s icy). Hancock is home to Finlandia University. Houghton, as you probably know, is home to Michigan Tech.

The downtown has a classic, old school type of feeling to it. The roads are cobblestone. The businesses are one or two stories and right up by the street. It has bars, restaurants, motels and the newspaper.

If you go up the hill on the west side of the city, you will find the chain stories — a Walmart, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Quiznos, Applebees, McDonalds, etc. If you go up the hill on the east side of the city, you will get Michigan Tech’s campus.

THE ARENA

The arena has seats on two sides. On one end, it has a small set of bleachers and the box seats, which were recently installed a couple of years ago. They also recently put new chairs in the arena. Both upgrades have made John MacInnes Student Ice Arena look way better.

I’ve seen a vast range in crowds there. In 2007, they had a great student section that had some unique chants and really got into it. It made for a fun atmosphere. Two years ago, I counted 98 people in the building at puck drop. It really depends on circumstances, which is why I think Tech could become resurgent under the new WCHA alignment.

The most unique part is the band. Dressed in their yellow-and-black striped overalls, they are constantly playing. Once there’s a whistle, it only takes a split second for them to get going. The Copper County Anthem before the third period is Virg Foss’ favorite. The fans lock their arms together and sway during it. Virg told me that Rube Bjorkman refused to bring his team out to the bench until that was over, worried that his players were getting hypnotized by the swaying crowd.

Also, there’s no video board, so don’t miss any action. No replays.

THE CHARM

The greatest part about the city is the people. They are all very nice, smart and helpful. I don’t know if there’s a WCHA town where you will encounter nicer people.

You get a sense of Houghton’s charm when you walk into the press box and right by your seat, they leave you a bowl full of candy. I’ve never seen that anywhere else. Then, they bring Dominos at the first intermission — one of the only places that still provides media meals.

Basically, if you are not a nice person, you won’t fit in there.

THE FOOD

My restaurant of choice is The Ambassador. Being a thin-crust pizza fan, I always enjoy my thin-crust pepperoni from The Ambassador and this trip was no different. The Library also is a classic. It’s a nicer-looking place, but I didn’t feel out of place in my jeans and t-shirt (do I ever?).

Houghton is most famous for its pasties, though. Having roots in Eveleth, Minn., (and eight pasties from Paul’s Market currently in my freezer), I can appreciate the pasties. Suomi Home Bakery is one of the famous pasty places.

Photo 1: A view of Hancock from Houghton. If you look closely, you can see the river in the picture.

Photo 2: Downtown Houghton. Classic feel with the cobblestone roads and the old-school store fronts.

Photo 3: My favorite dining stop, The Ambassador

Photo 4: A view of the famous drawbridge between Houghton and Hancock. I believe this bridge made it onto the cover of a Tech hockey media guide once upon a time.

Photo 5: John MacInnes Student Ice Arena at opening faceoff.

Photo 6: A view from one end of MacInnes. Sorry it is not in focus (this is why I don’t take photos for the paper). You can see the box seats at the top. Below, there are tributes to Tech’s greatest players and national championship teams.

Photo 7: MacInnes from the other end.

Photo 8: During the six-hour layover in O’Hare Airport on Sunday morning, Miller and I decided to grab breakfast at the Chicago Blackhawks theme restaurant, where we could watch ESPN. Appropriately, we were seated next to these two jerseys. One Tech great, one UND great.

Poganski commits to UND

St. Cloud Cathedral junior forward Austin Poganski has committed to UND.

The 6-foot-2, 195-pound forward is one of the top juniors in the state of Minnesota and chose UND over the Gophers and St. Cloud State.

Poganski says he played for a Junior Sioux team when he was 10 or 11 (coached by former Sioux Jeff Bowen) and always wanted to play for North Dakota.

Read the full Herald story on Poganski’s commitment, including quotes from the player and his high school coach here.

He previously appeared in Sports Illustrated’s Faces in the Crowd. Read that here.