Come join the weekly Grand Forks Herald live chat with sportswriters from 3-4 p.m. today.
Herald writers Brad Elliott Schlossman and Tom Miller discuss UND’s hockey roster for the 2013-14 season, UND baseball and conference shifting.
Matt Frattin and the Toronto Maple Leafs were knocked out of the playoffs Monday night in crushing fashion, letting a 4-1 lead slip away in the final 11 minutes and losing in overtime to the Boston Bruins.
That means if UND is going to have another Stanley Cup winner, it will have to be either Jonathan Toews (Chicago Blackhawks) or Matt Greene (Los Angeles Kings).
Greene has been hurt and has not been cleared to play yet, but he’s working his way there.
In the AHL playoffs, Brian Lee and Syracuse are up 2-0 in their second-round series, while Chris VandeVelde and Oklahoma City lead Mike Commodore’s Texas Stars 2-1 in a second-round series. Commodore has not played yet in the series.
If things couldn’t get any worse in Anchorage, now there’s another controversy/scandal brewing up there with a former Seawolves player, Mickey Spencer, accusing recently fired coach Dave Shyiak of hitting a player with a stick during practice. Read the details in this Anchorage Daily News story.
There’s also a controversy about the NAHL’s championship, the Robertson Cup, where Amarillo has been accused of throwing a pool play game to make sure they reached the championship.
The way I understand it, is this: If Amarillo would have won its final pool play game vs. Wenatchee, it would have reached the championship. If it lost by two or more, it would make the final. However, if they lost a one-goal game, they would have been knocked out (yes, the NAHL has some absolutely bizarre tiebreaking scenarios).
Amarillo ended up losing 7-0 to Wenatchee on Sunday night – a loss that kept the Bismarck Bobcats out of the championship game and clinched the trip for Amarillo (the worst loss Amarillo suffered during the season was by three goals). Then, 24 hours later, Amarillo ended up beating Wenatchee 5-0 to win the title.
So, the question is: Did Amarillo just happen to have, by far, its worst day of the last two years on Sunday? Or was something more going on?
Defenseman Geoff Crisfield, who had a relatively quiet year in the BCHL, will no longer be coming to UND.
Vernon Vipers coach Jason Williamson confirmed that Crisfield’s recruitment was re-opened about two weeks ago. Williamson didn’t have any details of what happened and UND coaches are not allowed to comment on players who have not signed letters of intent.
Even so, this appears to be a case of a player whose development may have stalled and there wasn’t going to be much ice time for him at UND, especially with the addition of East Grand Forks blue liner Gage Ausmus, who de-committed from Denver last month after the firing of George Gwozdecky. Ausmus committed to UND last week.
Crisfield, a 20-year-old, stay-at-home physical defenseman, had one goal and two assists this season for the Vipers, while leading the team with 73 penalty minutes.
UND is expected to bring in four defensemen next season — USHL defenseman of the year Paul LaDue, BCHL defenseman of the year Troy Stecher and NTDP blue liners Ausmus and Keaton Thompson.
UND recruit and former Grand Forks Central standout Paul LaDue is the USHL defenseman of the year.
LaDue, who played for the Lincoln Stars, was the top-scoring defenseman in the league with 49 points in 62 games — five points ahead of Waterloo’s Ian McCoshen. The award likely came down to either LaDue or McCoshen.
“Paul LaDue was the heart and soul of a great Lincoln Stars team this past season,” USHL commish Skip Prince said. ”His work in the offensive zone was League-leading – but there weren’t too many goals scored against the Stars when he was on the ice, either. He’ll be a great addition to the University of North Dakota next season, and the Los Angeles Kings made an excellent choice in drafting him last year. Congratulations and thanks to him for his stellar USHL career – and best wishes on his next steps.”
LaDue will come to UND next season along with the BCHL defenseman of the year in Troy Stecher.
The USHL put together a highlight video to showcase LaDue for winning the award.
On Friday, the NHL named the three finalists for the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player. They are Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh), John Tavares (New York Isles) and Alexander Ovechkin (Washington).
Several national writers took to Twitter to express their disbelief that former UND standout Jonathan Toews was not among the top three, including Damien Cox from the Toronto Star, Pierre LeBrun from ESPN and Gord Miller from TSN.
Miller wrote: “I know this: There’s only one player in the league Chicago would consider trading Toews for (Crosby) and they’d think long and hard about it.”
You often hear analysts, general managers and coaches talk about Toews and his all-around game. Right away, everyone will bring up his faceoff numbers, which are annually among the league’s best.
But there’s an even better case for Toews with numbers to back it up: Ovechkin and Tavares, for as offensively dazzling as they are, do not kill penalties. In fact, much to my surprise when researching this, many of the league’s top offensive players do not kill penalties.
Former UND center Chris VandeVelde, who spent 11 games in the NHL this season, had more time on the penalty kill this season (11:00) than both Tavares (6:26) and Ovechkin (3:24) combined.
Below, I compiled the top goal scorers in the NHL and the average amount of time they spent on the PK per game. You can see who routinely kills penalties and who doesn’t.
It also should be noted that Chicago finished tied for last in penalty minutes in the NHL this year, which means Toews didn’t have a lot of opportunities for huge shorthanded ice times.
Top NHL goal scorers’ average time on PK per game
1:25 – Jonathan Toews, Chicago (23 goals)
1:12 – Jeff Carter, Los Angeles (26)
0:58 – Jiri Tlusty, Carolina (23)
0:53 – Logan Couture, San Jose (21)
0:43 – Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay (29)
0:31 – Rick Nash, New York Rangers (21)
0:12 – Thomas Vanek, Buffalo (20)
0:08 – Chris Kunitz, Pittsburgh (22)
0:08 – John Tavares, New York Islanders (28)
0:04 – Alexander Ovechkin, Washington (32)
0:01 – Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia (22)
0:01 – Phil Kessel, Toronto (20)
0:00 – James Neal, Pittsburgh (21)
0:00 – Patrick Kane, Chicago (23)
Out of curiosity, I also tracked each UND player and the average number of minutes they spent on the PK each game. You will notice that almost all of UND’s guys in the NHL are counted on to kill penalties.
Perhaps this shouldn’t be a huge surprise: If you are not a two-way, reliable player, it is difficult to play for coach Dave Hakstol.
Of the guys who ended the season in the NHL, only Matt Frattin was not counted on to kill penalties (Frattin did kill penalties at UND).
UND average time on PK per game
2:07 – Matt Greene, D, Los Angeles
1:45 – Travis Zajac, F, New Jersey
1:38 – T.J. Oshie, F, St. Louis
1:27 – Zach Parise, F, Minnesota
1:26 – Drew Stafford, F, Buffalo
1:25 – Jonathan Toews, F, Chicago
1:00 – Chris VandeVelde, F, Edmonton
0:53 – Chris Porter, F, St. Louis
0:18 – Brian Lee, D, Tampa Bay
0:17 – Brad Malone, F, Colorado
0:14 – Joe Finley, D, New York Islanders
0:00 – Matt Frattin, F, Toronto
There was this same debate on the college side with John Gaudreau and his chase for the Hobey Baker Award.
The Boston College forward is much like Alexander Ovechkin – a great offensive talent who can score on the drop of a time, but not a great player in his own end and someone who does not kill penalties for the Eagles.
The Hobey ended up going to St. Cloud State’s Drew LeBlanc, an all-around player, and I have a feeling that the Hart Trophy will go to Sidney Crosby (:41 of PK time per game).
Aaron Dell stopped 21 of 23 shots and the Allen Americans used an overtime goal in Game 7 to win the Central Hockey League title over the Wichita Thunder on Saturday night.
Roseau’s Brian McMillin, who played his college hockey at CC, was named the CHL playoff MVP for scoring 12 goals and 20 points in 19 games.
Dell played all 19 playoff games for the Americans, posting a .915 save percentage and a 2.46 goals-against average.
Also of note, two sons of former UND defenseman Craig Ludwig — Tyler and Trevor — also were on the Allen team. Tyler was the top defenseman scorer for the Americans and the No. 2 defenseman scorer in the CHL playoffs.
Craig Ludwig and former Sioux goaltender Ed Belfour are both minority owners, who now have CHL rings to go along with their NCAA titles and Stanley Cups.
T.J. Oshie and the St. Louis Blues were knocked out of the NHL playoffs on Friday night. On Saturday, he was off to Scandinavia to join Team USA at the World Championships.
Oshie will be playing with one of his friends and the guy who took over the No. 7 at UND, Danny Kristo.
The Americans have two games left in pool play – Sunday against Germany and Tuesday against Slovakia – before the tournament play begins.
Team USA is 4-1 and in control of its destiny in its group.
Brock Nelson made his NHL debut on Saturday night — in Game 6 of an Stanley Cup Playoff series between the New York Islanders and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Nelson wore the same number he did at UND, No. 29.
The former first-round pick had a great season in the AHL, setting the Bridgeport rookie scoring record with 52 points. He also was the second-leading rookie scorer in the AHL this season.
The Islanders entered Game 6 trailing 3-2 in the series against the Penguins.
Nelson, who starred at UND for two seasons, turned pro last summer.
The St. Louis Blues were eliminated from the NHL playoffs on Friday night, but not before former UND captain Chris Porter scored his first-career NHL playoff goal. Porter tipped a point shot by Roman Polak to tie the game.