After a long six-and-a-half months of waiting since the Grand Rapids regional, UND hockey is officially back tonight with a season-opening game against the University of Vermont in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
And I think I have enough content to keep you occupied for a while today as you wait for the puck to drop.
For starters, I wrote a long piece on the current state of recruiting in college hockey. About 10 years ago, the recruiting age really dropped. I remember writing a story a while back about the trend beginning. This story was a chance to see how those recruits have panned out and how early recruiting has affected college hockey.
I talked to nearly every Big Ten and NCHC coach and relayed the most interesting comments. I enjoyed hearing their perspectives on the issues.
While doing interviews for that story, some coaches dropped some interesting comments about the NCAA vs. CHL battle, blaming some of the lost players on NHL teams. College coaches usually aren’t real outspoken about that, so I wrote a sidebar with some of their thoughts. Read the sidebar here.
Speaking of recruiting, both the Big Ten and the NCHC have some strong classes coming in this season. I talked with Bucky’s Fifth Quarter writer and Muskegon Lumberjacks scout Andy Johnson about them in my first venture into podcasting. Check that out on this blog entry here.
In case you didn’t see it on Thursday, there’s going to be a huge group of supporters for Stephane and Yvan Pattyn this weekend at the Ralph. About 100 people are coming down from Ste. Anne, Man. Read that here.
The Dakota Student also wrote about the Pattyn showdown. Read that story here.
The Burlington Free Press has a weekend preview, quoting Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon as saying: “A lot of the best players in the country are going to North Dakota right now.” He’s presumably also referring to UND’s future recruiting classes, which are pretty good.
Miami at Ohio State: The No. 2 RedHawks open with former CCHA rival Ohio State, which is playing its first game under coach Steve Rohlik. Miami sweep.
Western Michigan vs. Notre Dame (home and home): Two more former CCHA rivals face off in this one. The Irish have to be the favorites, but I think the Broncos pull one out. Split.
Michigan Tech at Minnesota Duluth: I think this is a battle of two teams who could be on the NCAA tournament bubble at the end of the season. This series will be huge for the Huskies, who play a difficult nonconference schedule this season. Split.
Bentley at Omaha: Logic says that this is a great way for an explosive Omaha team to start the season with some confidence. But in the past few years, these are the games where the Mavs have stubbed their toe. I don’t see it happening this time. Omaha sweep.
Bemidji State at St. Cloud State: The Huskies are planning to raise their first WCHA championship banner in a matchup of two teams who lost a lot of good offensive players to graduation. St. Cloud State has more in the cupboard, though. Huskies sweep.
Merrimack at Denver: The Pioneers didn’t inspire a lot of confidence by losing their exhibition game. Goals could be at a premium this series. Denver wins and ties.
Vermont at UND: Vermont will be playing without its third-leading scorer and its goaltender from last year, but the Catamounts have plenty of solid players on the blue line. They get one point. UND wins and ties.
My UND women’s content won’t be posted until Saturday because of the Saturday-Sunday series. You’ll have to wait for that.
But one note I do have to pass along is that there’s a new Twitter account from the UND women’s hockey video department, @UNDWIHVideo. It sounds like they are planning to post some video clips after watching game film. If that sounds interesting, check it out.
Lastly, if you are in town, you may want to check out the Fan Luncheon at the Alerus Center at noon today. There’s quite a list of speakers, including Dave Hakstol, Kevin Sneddon and Brian Idalski. Football coach Chris Mussman, volleyball coach Ashley Hardee (always entertaining) and Northern State hoops coach Don Meyer also are expected to speak. It’s $10 for a buffet lunch.