Faragher signs with Ducks

St. Cloud State goalie Ryan Faragher, who led the Huskies to a pair of conference titles in the last two seasons, has signed with the Anaheim Ducks.

Faragher is the sixth NCHC player to turn pro early this offseason and the first from the Huskies.

Faragher was 20-9-4 with a 2.79 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage. For his career, he played 98 games for the Huskies and had a 53-34-8 with a 2.58 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage.

With his departure, Charlie Lindgren will become the No. 1 goalie for the Huskies next season.

NCHC early signings

Colorado College (1)
Gustav Olofsson, fr, d, Minnesota Wild

Minnesota Duluth (1)
Caleb Herbert, jr, f, Washington Capitals

Nebraska Omaha (2)
Josh Archibald, jr, f, Pittsburgh Penguins
Jaycob Megna, jr, d, Anaheim Ducks

St. Cloud State (1)
Ryan Faragher, jr, g, Anaheim Ducks

Western Michigan (1)
Jordan Oesterle, jr, d, Edmonton Oilers

Megna leaves Omaha

Nebraska Omaha 6-foot-6 defenseman Jaycob Megna is the second player to turn pro early from the Mavericks this offseason, signing a three-year contract with the Anaheim Ducks, according to the Orange County Register.

Megna was one of Omaha’s top defensemen, playing 32 games and registering 10 assists. He played 105 career games.

Megna’s brother, Jayson, previously played for the Mavs, but signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins after one season. Jayson currently is up with the Pens.

Omaha will have to replace two of its minute-eating defensemen in Megna and senior Michael Young.

NCHC early signings

Colorado College (1)
Gustav Olofsson, fr, d, Minnesota Wild

Minnesota Duluth (1)
Caleb Herbert, jr, f, Washington Capitals

Nebraska Omaha (2)
Josh Archibald, jr, f, Pittsburgh Penguins
Jaycob Megna, jr, d, Anaheim Ducks

Western Michigan (1)
Jordan Oesterle, jr, d, Edmonton Oilers

WMU’s Oesterle signs

Western Michigan junior defenseman Jordan Oesterle is the fourth NCHC player to turn pro early this offseason from the fourth different team.

Oesterle, a streaky defenseman, had two goals and 17 points this season for the Broncos, who finished fifth in the NCHC and reached the inaugural Frozen Faceoff.

Oesterle was an undrafted player. The Broncos will now lose two regulars on defense in Oesterle and senior Dennis Brown.

NCHC early signings

Colorado College (1)
Gustav Olofsson, fr, d, Minnesota Wild

Minnesota Duluth (1)
Caleb Herbert, jr, f, Washington Capitals

Nebraska Omaha (1)
Josh Archibald, jr, f, Pittsburgh Penguins

Western Michigan (1)
Jordan Oesterle, jr, d, Edmonton Oilers

Three leave NCHC early

With teams’ seasons starting to end, the signing season is heating up in college hockey and the NCHC has already bid farewell to three standouts.

Over the weekend, Minnesota Duluth’s Caleb Herbert signed with the Washington Capitals and Nebraska Omaha’s Josh Archibald signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins. On Monday, Colorado College rookie defenseman Gustav Olofsson signed with the Minnesota Wild.

Archibald, the son of former UND great Jim Archibald, was the NCHC player of the year, scoring 29 goals this season — a whopping 15 more than anyone else on his team. Omaha loses a lot of offense and speed with his signing. Omaha has another player that could sign early in defenseman Jaycob Megna.

Herbert was probably the most skilled of Duluth’s very talented forward group. He led the team in scoring with 31 points. Even with his signing, the Bulldogs still have a very skilled group coming back up front.

Olofsson was one of the key pieces to Colorado College’s strong, young defensive corps. It’s a tough hit for the Tigers, who were hoping to watch that group grow and continue to be the team’s strength. The Wild reportedly tried to get Olofsson to leave Colorado College after the World Juniors and go to the WHL. Olofsson declined. So, it’s no surprise the Wild came after him.

NCHC early signings

Colorado College (1)
Gustav Olofsson, fr, d, Minnesota Wild

Minnesota Duluth (1)
Caleb Herbert, jr, f, Washington Capitals

Nebraska Omaha (1)
Josh Archibald, jr, f, Pittsburgh Penguins

Coaches talk tourney formats

MINNEAPOLIS — The NCHC and Big Ten hockey tournaments are both going on in the Twin Cities this weekend.

Both leagues use different formats — the Big Ten sends everyone to the tournament, the NCHC sends only the first-round winners — and some coaches sounded off about those formats this week.

Some like their league’s setup. Others don’t.

Since this is the first year of the new leagues, changes could be made in the future, though there doesn’t seem to be anything imminent. Both the Big Ten and the NCHC have deals signed with arenas for postseason tournaments for a few years.

UND coach Dave Hakstol:

“Absolutely I feel we have the right setup the way it is right now. You earn your way to our league championship tournament.”

Michigan coach Red Berenson:

“We’re used to playing on campus sites. I think it’s really good for those fans on those campuses. That will be something, I’m sure, they will discuss at the Big Ten after this first year. I’m a big fan of a series before you go to a major final four type of rink.”

Minnesota coach Don Lucia:

“The good thing is that with the way the league is — we’re more spread out — it gives fans the opportunity to know that when the year begins, if they want to go to St. Paul, they know their team is going to be there. Hopefully this can grow and fans will make arrangements. If we were on a campus site and we didn’t make it (to St. Paul), it would be a tough draw. Same thing if Michigan or Michigan State didn’t make it to Detroit. I understand the big picture.”

Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky:

“I like the setup because it mirrors what we try to do in the NCAA tournament. That’s the way it goes in the tournament. That’s the ultimate goal. I think to have a similar situation in the league championship is fitting. To win the national tournament, you have to win each game, no matter who you are up against. This mirrors that situation. So, I think it’s a good fit.”

NCHC hands out major awards

UND was shut out of major awards on Thursday night at the Muse Event Center in downtown Minneapolis.

UND’s Dillon Simpson was a finalist for the league’s offensive defenseman award, the league’s defenseman of the year award and the league’s player of the year award. Both defenseman awards went to DU’s Joey LaLeggia. The player of the year award went to Omaha’s Josh Archibald.

Below is a list of all the major award winners.

Player of the Year — Josh Archibald, Nebraska Omaha
Forward of the Year — Josh Archibald, Nebraska Omaha
Defenseman of the Year — Joey LaLeggia, Denver
Rookie of the Year — Jaccob Slavin, Colorado College
Coach of the Year — Bob Motzko, St. Cloud State
Goaltender of the Year — Sam Brittain, Denver
Defensive Forward of the Year — Nic Dowd, St. Cloud State
Offensive Defenseman of the Year — Joey LaLeggia, Denver
Sportsmanship Award — Eamonn McDermott, Colorado College
Student-athlete of the Year — Nic Dowd, St. Cloud State

The conference tourney streak

A lot of UND fans are expected to descend upon Minneapolis this weekend for the NCHC Frozen Faceoff.

UND getting out of the first round of the conference playoffs and making it to the conference tournament seems like an annual assumption at this point. But when I looked up other teams’ streaks, it is clear that not every program is able to do that.

UND’s run of 12 consecutive conference tournaments quadruples every other team in the nation outside of Michigan and Miami.

Longest conference tourney streaks

25 — Michigan*
12 — North Dakota
5 — Miami
3 — Providence
3 — Mercyhurst
3 — Niagara
3 — Union
3 — Minnesota*
2 — MSU-Mankato
2 — Notre Dame
2 — Canisius
2 — Quinnipiac
2 — UMass-Lowell
2 — Wisconsin*
2 — Ohio State*
1 — Colgate
1 — Cornell
1 — Robert Morris
1 — Anchorage
1 — Denver
1 — Western Michigan
1 — New Hampshire
1 — Ferris State
1 — Bowling Green
1 — Michigan State*
1 — Penn State*

*Big Ten member, received automatic entry this season

As you can see, Michigan has an absolutely absurd run going of 25 years, dating back to 1989, when it was bounced by Bowling Green. Then, it’s UND, Miami and everybody else.

It’s not easy in playoff time to consistently advance like UND and Michigan have been able to. I think the consistency is reason No. 1 why UND has built the crowds it has been able to during the past few years at the Final Five.

Fans started assuming that UND would be in the Twin Cities. They attended the tournament, had fun, and made plans to do it the following year, figuring the team would be back. It certainly helped the cause that UND won it four times in seven years.

This time, the tournament is on the other side of the river, but once again, expect a strong showing from UND fans. Many have planned to be there since the start of the season, and once again, the team delivered.

The 2013-14 all-dining team

It’s time for our postseason awards, including the big list, the 2013-14 all-dining team. After researching some new places and re-visiting old favorites, I’ve compiled the top spots that I’ve hit on the road with the UND men’s hockey team this season.

FIRST TEAM (pizza places, no particular order)

1. T. Anthony’s Pizza, Boston. Great place just a couple of blocks from the arena. Has a college hockey flavor inside. I ate an entire pizza by myself.

2. Erbelli’s Pizza, Kalamazoo, Mich. Not too far down the road from Lawson, Erbelli’s came highly recommended and didn’t disappoint.

3. Will’s Pizza, Oxford, Ohio. Pizza-by-the-slice place near campus. It was popular and I can see why. Had to go back and get seconds.

4. SDS, Oxford, Ohio. Solid take out/delivery place that I hit upon getting to town. Not as good as Will’s, but I still enjoyed.

5. Deek’s Pizza, Grand Forks. Obviously.

SECOND TEAM (restaurants, no particular order)

1. Cherry Cricket, Denver. An old favorite. Went there twice on this extended stay in Denver. The Cricket burger is a must.

2. Upstream Brewing Company, Omaha. They had a breakfast buffet going on Sunday afternoon when we hit this favorite Omaha stop. I over-ate. Good sign.

3. Paesano’s Pasta House, Oxford, Ohio. This came highly recommended by Dave Starman and it didn’t disappoint. Small place. Get there early or you won’t get a spot. Smells great. Outstanding authentic Italian food.

4. Chili’s, Minneapolis airport. My favorite chain restaurant. And when they are willing to break their rules and bring out chips and salsa for me at 9 a.m. on a layover back from Grand Rapids, it certainly earns a spot on the all-Schlossman team.

5. Parrot’s Cay, Grand Forks. For those visiting town, it’s a must. I’ve ordered their cajun pasta with chicken this season so many times that they know my name now when I call in take-out.

THIRD TEAM (bars, no particular order)

1. Bleacher Bar, Boston. Located inside the center field wall at Fenway Park. Greatest bar setting ever? I think so. We went there twice.

2. Bar 209, Bemidji. Met Bemidji Pioneer writer Jack Hittinger there and this is a hidden gem. The 209 burger is a mix of sausage and hamburger meat. So good. And the cheese curds are the best I’ve ever had.

3. Cheers, Boston. Where everyone knows your name. A must.

4. Rathskeller, Duluth. This is a bar underneath Tycoon’s. You have to go to the back and take an elevator down to level -1. It used to be the old jail. Really unique setting, cool lighting, very comfortable chairs, quiet enough to be able to have conversations.

5. D.J.’s Dugout, Omaha. I’ve been to D.J.’s more times than most places in Grand Forks in the last two years. Good place to watch games. Great location close to the arena and hotels. Food isn’t anything special, but it’s good enough.

Cherry Cricket. I don’t foresee myself making many trips to Denver without stopping at The Cricket.

T. Anthony’s Pizza. Not sure when UND will be back in Boston, but I’ll definitely be making a stop at T. Anthony’s again when UND does go back.

Brian Kelley.  Boston University’s SID took us/recommended three places on this list, so he edges out Western Michigan SID Adam Bodnar and Hittinger as coach of the year. After Kelley brought us to center field at Fenway, we started feeling a little bad. He comes to Grand Forks and we take him to Kelly’s Bar. We go to Boston and he takes us to Fenway and Cheers.

NCHC playoff matchups set

UND will host Colorado College in the first round of the NCHC playoffs next weekend in Ralph Engelstad Arena.

The four home teams are St. Cloud State, UND, Nebraska Omaha and Minnesota Duluth. If all four top seeds win, it would create an ideal situation for attendance for the NCHC Frozen Faceoff in the Target Center.

Also of note, Denver will be on the road for the first time in more than a decade. The last time the Pioneers were on the road in the first round of the playoffs was 2002-03, when they came to Grand Forks and lost in three. I am envisioning Gwoz in Florida sitting by a pool with his feet up and a little smirk on his face.

NCHC first round

No. 8 Miami at No. 1 St. Cloud State
No. 7 Colorado College at No. 2 North Dakota
No. 6 Denver at No. 3 Nebraska Omaha
No. 5 Western Michigan at No. 4 Minnesota Duluth

Home sweet road?

Home hasn’t been such a sweet place for NCHC teams this season.

One of the strangest stats in the league this season is that members have actually been better on the away from home (.526) than they have at home (.505).

UND has the best home record in the NCHC at 8-4-1 (.653), buoyed by its six-game home winning streak. Denver is in a close second at 9-5-1 (.633). Miami is the only other NCHC team with a winning record at home at 6-4-1 (.591).

Half of the league members — Minnesota Duluth, St. Cloud State, Western Michigan and Nebraska Omaha — all have been better away from home (neutral/road).

Home records

1. North Dakota 8-4-1 (.653)
2. Denver 9-5-1 (.633)
3. Miami 6-4-1 (.593)
4. St. Cloud State 3-3-4 (.500)
5. Western Michigan 5-6-1 (.458)
6. Nebraska Omaha 6-8 (.428)
7. Minnesota Duluth 3-5-2 (.400)
8. Colorado College 3-7-3 (.346)

Away from home records

1. St. Cloud State 11-3 (.786)
2. Minnesota Duluth 9-4-1 (.679)
3. Western Michigan 7-4-3 (.607)
4. North Dakota 5-4-2 (.545)
5. Denver 4-3-4 (.545)
6. Nebraska Omaha 4-4-2 (.500)
7. Miami 4-7-2 (.385)
8. Colorado College 0-10-1 (.045)

Home/away record differential

+30.1 percent — Colorado College
+20.6 percent — Miami
+10.8 percent — North Dakota
+8.8 percent — Denver
-7.2 percent — Nebraska Omaha
-14.9 percent — Western Michigan
-28.6 percent — St. Cloud State
-37.9 percent — Minnesota Duluth