ST. CLOUD, Minn. — It’s a strange time to be going to St. Cloud.
UND has only made this road trip before January once in the past nine years (2005-06). Otherwise, this has typically been a late-season matchup in the National Hockey Center.
And even then — when UND usually is starting to buzz through the competition — this is a place the team has had a tough time winning.
In fact, UND has not won a Friday night game in the National Hockey Center since 1998. Strangely enough, UND is 10-0 in the last decade in Saturday games, though. Read a little more about that in this story.
This also may be the deepest and most complete St. Cloud State team since I started on the beat eight years ago. They’ve had some very good teams over the years, but I’m not sure if they’ve had the combination of top-end talent up front, depth up front and talent on the blue line like they do this year.
Standout forward Ben Hanowski will miss the series, but the Huskies have more than enough to compensate. The return of Drew LeBlanc has been huge. The emergence of Nic Dowd and Cory Thorson has been big. And the play of freshman Kalle Kossila has surprised many.
That talent has helped St. Cloud to its best start since 2003-04, but the Huskies say they will find out this weekend whether they are for real.
This week’s Q&A is with Connor Gaarder, who is the grandson of former Minnesota Vikings coach Jerry Burns. Gaarder says he’s still a big Vikes fan.
The lead of my column this week is about recruit Wade Murphy, who has flown under the radar a little bit and hasn’t received much buzz, but is tearing up the BCHL and the World Junior A Challenge. Could he be a big impact guy much like fellow undrafted BCHLers Tyler Bozak and Mark Zengerle?
Thursday’s story details what happens to all the hats once they are thrown on the ice after a player notches a hat trick like Gaarder did last weekend. Find out here.
If you didn’t see this week’s UND Sports Zone show, watch it here. Apologies in advance for my in-front-of-the-camera shortcomings.
One story I found interesting this week is that Hockey East is having problems with players diving and Boston University coach Jack Parker says repeat offenders should be suspended. One of Parker’s players was called for diving last weekend in The Ralph, and Parker says it was the right call and that he was “really upset with the player that did it.”
This week’s USCHO column features goalies around the league, leading with Denver’s unique situation of having three guys. It also mentions Clarke Saunders’ success.
Elsewhere around the league….
Denver at MSU-Mankato: The Mavs are winless in 14 straight against Denver. The last MSU win came in 2008. This will be DU’s first road trip of the season. In fact, the Pioneers play 12 of their first 14 games of the season in the state of Colorado.
Bemidji State at Colorado College: The Beavers are unbeaten in the last three but didn’t play last weekend. The Tigers, whose leading scorer is defenseman Eamonn McDermott, are coming off of a sweep of Wisconsin.
Minnesota at Alaska Anchorage: The Gophers aren’t pleased with back-to-back splits with Michigan Tech and MSU-Mankato and want to get a sweep this weekend. Anchorage hasn’t played since its trip to Grand Forks.
Minnesota-Duluth at Nebraska Omaha: This is a Saturday-Sunday series due to Creighton basketball. Duluth had last weekend off and will travel to Grand Forks next weekend.
That’s it for now. Check back a couple of hours before game time for full lineups and the live chat.