Random updates

Apologies in advance in case updates are a bit slow right now and this week — the annual Grand Forks Herald preview section(s) are being worked on right now, will go to press this weekend and be inserted into Tuesday’s paper.

I’ll post details on how to get it when the time comes.

This year, because of ad sales, it has been increased from 12 to 16 pages. But since our press cannot produce a 16-page section, it will come out as two 8-page sections. The first section will focus on UND. The second one will focus on the rest of the country.

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Each fall, the Herald runs an online auction for gift certificates to restaurants, bars, services and goods in the area. I’m told that the auction will have a new twist this year: Any winning bids will be refunded if UND wins the national championship. Stay tuned for more info on that.

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The news of the day today — The Red Pepper will be served at men’s games this season. There will be stands behind sections 111 and 306 serving grinders, tostadas, Mexi-burgers, chips and sauce and Coney dogs.

Judging by the reaction on social media today, fans are rather excited about this development.

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Providence was picked to win Hockey East in the preseason coaches poll. The Friars will come to Grand Forks for a marquee two-game series in late October.

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The only two UND games that won’t be on NCHC.tv this season are the two in Magness Arena. So, there was a bit of good news for fans when it was announced that Root Sports will pick up one of UND’s games in Magness. So, fans should be able to watch that game on a dish (or find a place that has it).

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St. Cloud State took a little hit to start the season with Ryan Papa being sidelined for at least half the year. The Times reported that Papa will be out until at least January.

St. Cloud State announced its captains last week and Roseau’s Nick Oliver will wear the ‘C.’

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After sitting out last season, Brad Miller is back in the game, signing with ERC Sonthofen in the third German league.

Meanwhile, Tate Maris has signed a tryout deal with the Colorado Eagles of the ECHL. Clarke Saunders is already signed to play for that squad in net. Derek Rodwell also will go there.

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Danny Kristo registered an assist for the New York Rangers in their first preseason game of the year.

Also of note, Aaron Dell is with the San Jose Sharks right now. The Sharks play their first preseason game against Vancouver tonight.

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The first women’s national poll is out. UND checked in at No. 8. Minnesota is atop the poll. Wisconsin is second.

Also on the women’s side, Meghan Dufault, Halli Krzyzaniak and Becca Kohler all were named to Canada’s National Team Fall Camp roster.

Meanwhile, UND forward Michelle Karvinen is awaiting her fate. The NCAA is in the process of deciding whether to give her a fourth year of eligibility or not. Karvinen is at UND right now, attending school.

Fenton working on TV deal

Quietly, behind the scenes, NCHC commissioner Josh Fenton has been in contact this summer with CBS Sports executives, working on making adjustments to the exclusivity clause in the network’s deal with the league, sources have informed the Herald.

Read the story in the Herald here.

Nothing is done yet, but all indications are that CBS Sports appears willing to alter that exclusivity clause that prevented UND (and others in the league) from getting more nationally televised games last season.

How, exactly, will the exclusivity clause be altered? That’s what’s unknown at this point.

Obviously, CBS will still be able to pick its games and the CBS games won’t be allowed to be on any other network. But I think there’s a good chance that when CBS is not broadcasting hockey, the games could be free to other national networks.

This would be a big step forward for the league and for fans who live elsewhere.

UND could push to get some games back on Fox College Sports. I’ve heard that St. Cloud State and Minnesota Duluth will likely get some games on FSN North this season, too.

The final details could still be a month away from being worked out, so be patient. But as of right now, it looks like there will be some good developments for the NCHC and college hockey fans.

There are also some rumblings about the NCHC exploring a streaming package, much like the WCHA had last season. The goal would be to offer a subscription where you are allowed to view games from all over the league. There are hurdles, such as pre-existing contracts by individual schools. It is being discussed, though.

The league’s website hosted free streams during the first round of the NCHC playoffs last season. They were well received by fans across the country.

Random updates

UND freshman Nick Schmaltz made the cut at the World Junior evaluation camp and is staying in Lake Placid, N.Y., for the duration.

The final American roster played against Sweden on Wednesday night and wiped out the Swedes 7-1. Schmaltz had two assists in the game (one at even strength, one on the power play).

Based on the games I’ve watched, Schmaltz is more of a setup guy. Once he comes to UND, the staff will have to find a couple of linemates that have the ability to bury the puck because Schmaltz will create opportunities.

Freshman Austin Poganski did not make the final cut, which is not a surprise. Poganski was a late addition to the camp, and just attending it should be a very good experience for him.

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One of the camp’s attendees is making headlines as Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek tweeted earlier this week to look for Boston College recruit and first-round draft pick Sonny Milano to bail on the Eagles and go to the OHL. Milano disputed this to NHL.com.

The Eagles probably aren’t sitting comfortably right now, though. Milano is a former NTDP player and we’ve seen 14 committed NTDP players end up in the CHL since the summer of 2011.

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Two former UND players have inked pro contracts and will be added to the list — one guy who transferred in and one who transferred out.

Goalie Clarke Saunders signed a deal with the Colorado Eagles in the ECHL, while forward Mike Cichy signed with the Florida Everblades in the ECHL. Saunders played two years at Huntsville and two years at UND. Cichy played two years at UND and two years at Western Michigan.

Saunders is the second member of UND’s senior class to ink a pro deal, joining Dillon Simpson (Edmonton Oilers).

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Former Grand Forks Red River and Minnesota forward Ryan Potulny has signed with the Hartford Wolf Pack in the AHL. Hartford is the top affiliate of the New York Rangers. Potulny spent the last three years with the Hershey Bears, the top affiliate of the Washington Capitals.

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One current UND women’s player and one recruit have been invited to the USA Hockey National Festival this month. There, they will try for spots on the U.S. roster for a series against Canada.

Sophomore defenseman Gracen Hirschy will try to make the USA U-22 team, while forward recruit Rebekah Kolstad will try to make the USA U-18 team.

That camp will begin Tuesday in Lake Placid. The series against Canada will begin Aug. 21 in Calgary.

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One-time UND recruit Danny Mattson has left the Bemidji State team and signed with Boras in the Swedish league. Mattson would have been a senior this season.

BSU set to announce coach, etc.

Bemidji State has announced that it will hold a press conference to announce its new women’s hockey coach at 3 p.m. Tuesday.

I’m hearing that the new coach will be Jim Scanlan, the current East Grand Forks girls head coach and a former UND men’s assistant coach. He’s also a former Bemidji State goaltender.

Scanlan brings a strong resume to Bemidji, where he will replace the retired Steve Sertich. I would expect Scanlan to continue Sertich’s tradition of landing a lot of in-state players, which helps financially with low-cost, in-state scholarships.

Scanlan beat out longtime men’s coach Troy Jutting, among others, for the job.

It’s safe to say with the BSU hire of Scanlan and the St. Cloud State hire of Eric Rud, the WCHA isn’t getting any easier in the future.

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Matt Greene and the Los Angeles Kings held a parade through Los Angeles today to celebrate their Stanley Cup championship. Greene was one of the speakers.

Here’s a screenshot of Greene speaking.

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Former UND Hobey Baker Award winner Tony Hrkac has been hired as an assistant coach of the Madison Capitols, the expansion USHL team in Wisconsin.

Here’s the release from the Capitols’ site.

Hrkac most recently served as a head coach of the D-III Concordia-Wisconsin program. After UND, he played 13 years in the NHL.

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NHL.com has a story on UND recruit Nick Schmaltz and his friendship with William Nylander, another top draft prospect.

There are a few quotes on Schmaltz in the story, including one from his brother, Jordan, and another from a scout.

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Colorado College has hired one new assistant coach — former player R.J. Enga. Colorado College’s former coach, Scott Owens, is in the mix for the head job at Princeton, according to College Hockey News.

Random updates

Nearly all of UND’s start times have been announced for next season and I’ve updated them on the sidebar. Nothing of surprise at this point. All 7:37 or 7:07 p.m. local start times. I don’t anticipate anything too out of the ordinary when they are all said and done.

I have also updated the committed recruit list on the sidebar, removing Ryan Mantha and Luke Voltin from the list.

I haven’t had a chance to speak with Voltin, but he has been removed from UND’s list on Chris Heisenberg’s recruiting site. After checking with sources, it appears pretty certain that Voltin will end up playing somewhere else. Probably not a huge surprise. The Twin Cities continue to be real hit-and-miss for UND.

Also, I’m taking Mantha off the list because based on everything I’ve heard, there’s no reason to think that he will end up at UND. With his rights being traded in the OHL, it appears that the Niagara Ice Dogs are now the front-runners to pick him up.

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Who is coming to campus this year among the recruits?

That will probably be announced before the draft, so in the next week-and-a-half.

We know that Nick Schmaltz, Trevor Olson, John Simonson, Tucker Poolman and Cam Johnson will be coming. UND is losing just one defenseman and one goaltender, so I would guess that Poolman and Johnson are the only two from those positions to come.

Up front, UND has to replace Rocco Grimaldi, Derek Rodwell, Mitch MacMillan and Adam Tambellini. Logic says that UND will have to bring in one more guy up front after Grimaldi’s early signing. Austin Poganski is probably the front-runner there based on his big end to the season. We’ll know for sure soon.

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Speaking of the draft, that’s coming up on June 27-28 in Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center. Times have not yet been announced, but the first round will probably be held on that Friday and the next six rounds on Saturday.

Schmaltz will be UND’s highest-drafted player. He could become a first-rounder like his brother, Jordan. If not, he figures to go high in the second round.

After chatting with a couple of scouts, here’s a quick projection on what to expect for UND’s draft-eligibles:

Locks to be picked

Nick Schmaltz (No. 19 on CSB)
Austin Poganski (No. 100 on CSB)

Very likely to get picked

Shane Gersich (No. 132 on CSB)

Possibilities on Central Scouting rankings

Rhett Gardner (No. 167 on CSB)
Zach Yon (No. 169 on CSB)
Chris Wilkie (No. 207 on CSB)

Possibilities not on Central Scouting rankings

Drake Caggiula
Troy Stecher
Hayden Shaw
Cam Johnson

Caggiula, Stecher and Johnson are in their final year of draft eligibility. Usually, these types of players don’t get selected, but there’s a chance.

Caggiula, I think, is the most intriguing candidate. Not many players — even elite ones — have the ability to beat guys one-on-one. Caggiula can do that. He has one of the hardest wrist shots on the team and he plays with an edge to his game. He’s not the height that most NHL teams want with their prospects, but if they choose not to take him this year, I think there’s a good chance one will eventually sign him as a free agent.

Stecher is in the same boat as far as size is concerned. Most NHL teams like big, long defensemen. That’s not Stecher. But his solid freshman year had to at least interest some scouts. Enough to draft him? We’ll find out in two weeks.

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UND recently announced its Dean’s List for the spring semester. Two names really jumped out at me.

Women’s hockey players Michelle Karvinen and Tanja Eisenschmid both made the Dean’s List in a semester where they spent a month in Russia at the Olympic Games. Very impressive that they were able to maintain a high GPA while playing in the Olympics.

The women’s hockey team actually loaded up athletes on the Dean’s List, including Karvinen, Eisenschmid, Shelby Amsley-Benzie, Annie Chipman, Andrea Dalen, Meghan Dufault, Johanna Fallman, Halli Krzyzaniak, Amy Menke, Samantha Hanson and Lexi Shaw.

So, four of UND’s six Europeans — whose primary language is not English — ended up on the Dean’s List.

On the men’s side, Nick Mattson made the Dean’s List. Mattson also won the NCAA Elite 88 Award as the player with the best GPA at the Frozen Four.

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Two Grand Forks natives were part of the Los Angeles Kings’ run to the Stanley Cup on a support level.

Tony Gasparini won his second Stanley Cup as a scout for the Kings, while Ronald Kvitne is the team doctor. Kvitne is a Grand Forks Central and UND grad.

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USA Hockey Magazine has an article about David Tanabe, who has family in Grand Forks. Tanabe is a scout with the NTDP.

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How might new NCAA legislation affect the UND men’s hockey program? UND might need to bump up funding cover the cost of a “full cost of attendance” scholarship.

UND athletic director Brian Faison told the Herald’s Tom Miller that he plans to make sure that the hockey program has the funding it needs to recruit against the Big Ten schools.

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There’s an article about top WHL draft picks Dante Fabbro and Tyson Jost playing in the BCHL this season instead of the WHL. Both are potential UND recruiting targets. Fabbro is a defenseman. Jost is a forward.

The final rankings

UND is ranked No. 4 in the final USCHO poll this season (for whatever it’s worth) and I decided to go and look up some past polls. Some of the findings were interesting.

Only five teams have been ranked in the final poll in each of the last five seasons (which tells you a little about the parity in the sport these days). Who are those five teams? North Dakota, Boston College, Michigan, Denver and Union.

So yes, Union has been having similar success to the nation’s best programs over the past five seasons. Its national championship did not exactly come out of thin air.

The other striking stat to me: UND is the only program that has been ranked in the top 16 for each of the past nine years. And the lowest UND has been in that span is No. 7. While UND hasn’t finished off a national championship in that span, that is rather remarkable.

If you go back the last decade, UND has been in the top 10 each season in the final USCHO poll.

Worst final rank of the last decade

10. North Dakota (2005)
17. Denver (2014)
20. Michigan (2013)
20. Boston College (2009)
NR. The rest of the country’s teams

*Of note, USCHO used to do its final ranking before the start of the NCAA tournament. The last four years, they have conducted a poll after the NCAA tournament.

It was interesting to me that UND’s worst season of the last decade — as ranked by the polls — was a year in which it played for the national championship.

Four-seed success

There’s a story on this going in Thursday’s special section, but there’s one interesting stat that pops out about the NCAA tournament recently: No. 4 seeds have had their fair share of success in reaching the Frozen Four.

Since 2009, No. 4 seeds have reached the Frozen Four at double the frequency of No. 2s or No. 3s. Top seeds have been the most successful at reaching the Frozen Four.

Why is that? It’s tough to peg any reason other than the increased parity in the game, which leads to uncertainty in the tournament.

You can see the change in the NCAA tournament if you look at Frozen Four participants by seed. Let’s start by looking at 2003, when the NCAA started going with the current, 16-team setup.

Frozen Four participants by seed from 2003-05

No. 1 seeds — 8
No. 2 seeds — 3
No. 3 seeds — 1
No. 4 seeds — 0

As you can see, at first, the higher seeds dominated as you would expect. Then, in 2007, things started to change.

Frozen Four participants by seed from 2006-08

No. 1 seeds — 3
No. 2 seeds — 3
No. 3 seeds — 5
No. 4 seeds — 1

Through the first six years of the current setup, only a single No. 4 seed reached the tournament. In the last six years, six have made it.

Frozen Four participants by seed since 2009

No. 1 seeds — 12
No. 2 seeds — 3
No. 3 seeds — 3
No. 4 seeds — 6

Departure day arrives

UND will head to Philadelphia today on a charter plane, bound for its sixth Frozen Four in the last 10 years.

The team will get settled in its hotel and practice at the Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday. That practice is free and open to the public. UND goes from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time. Minnesota goes from 2:45 to 3:45 p.m. Eastern Time.

After practices, there are press conferences.

I got a look at UND’s jerseys with the Frozen Four patches on them today. Because of the big NCHC patch on the chest area, the Frozen Four patches will be on the left arm sleeve. There’s also a sticker on the back of the helmets.

UND will only be packing the green and black jerseys for this trip. Because it is the lowest-seeded team left in the tournament, it has no chance to wear the home whites, no matter how it plays out.

The Forum Communications team featuring journalists from the Forum, Herald and WDAZ will leave early Wednesday morning.

The Herald is putting out a 16-page Frozen Four section in Thursday’s paper. The stories aren’t going to be online, so you’ll have to get a copy to read them. I’ll post some details on the blog later this afternoon on how to order a copy if you are from out of town and want one.

One other programming note: There will be NO live chat on Wednesday afternoon. We will be busy covering practices out there. I’ll try to have some blog updates. We’ll also have plenty of video coverage from Philly.

Comings and goings

There’s been a lot of action in the past few days on the early signing front, a couple of note for UND.

GOING: Wisconsin’s Nic Kerdiles signed with the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday morning, becoming the second player to leave early this offseason. Standout defenseman Jake McCabe was the first (and he’s already played in the NHL for the Sabres). The Badgers lose their top five scorers and seven of the top eight. UND goes to Madison for a series next season, but it will be a completely different-looking team.

STAYING: Providence star goalie Jon Gillies, who led the Friars to the NCAA tournament this season for the first time in more than a decade, announced on Twitter that he’s coming back for his junior year. Gillies has a career .931 save percentage. The Friars come to Ralph Engelstad Arena next season, so start sounding the Hot Goalie Alert.

GOING: UND doesn’t have any games lined up against UMass-Lowell, but the River Hawks lost star goalie Connor Hellebuyck, who signed with the Jets on Saturday. Hellebuyck finished his remarkable two-year college career with the same number of shutouts as losses (12), which is ridiculous. Lowell also recently lost free-agent defenseman Christian Folin — a kid who was cast off by the Fargo Force to the NAHL just three years ago.

STAYING: Worst to first? Miami University will try to do that next year in the NCHC as the RedHawks were able to keep Austin Czarnik, Riley Barber and Blake Coleman. All three announced on Twitter that they are coming back. With Sean Kuraly, Anthony Louis and a healthy Jimmy Mullin, the RedHawks will without question be the most explosive team in the league.

GOING: In case you didn’t see the earlier post, Omaha lost a second player early in Jaycob Megna. The Mavs will still have some skill up front, but they do have some considerable holes to fill with six seniors graduating.

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In other news, I talked to outgoing WCHA commish Bruce McLeod, who was in Cincinnati watching the Midwest Regional last weekend. McLeod said that the idea of retirement has grown on him and he will continue to work part time. He also said he doesn’t want to “be in charge of anything.” Read that story here.

I talked to former UND forward Drew Stafford when he was up in Winnipeg earlier this season and he seemed to be loving the change to Ted Nolan as his coach. Now, with his resurgence, he has been named Buffalo’s nominee for the Bill Masterton Trophy, which goes to the NHL player who best exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. Read about that here.

UND recruit Nick Schmaltz was the forward of the week in the USHL last week for tallying six points.

The Poolman brothers played against each other in Fargo last night. Tucker, who plays for Omaha, got the best of the younger Colton, who plays for Fargo. Tucker had a goal in regulation and the game-winner in the shootout for the Lancers.

Matt Greene played his 500th NHL game this week for the Los Angeles Kings.

Grand Forks’ Monique and Jocelyne Lamoureux visited the White House this week with Team USA and even got to walk the president’s dog, Sunny.

Players chat with local media

The UND players had their final meeting with the local media of the season today, taking questions on their trip to the Frozen Four and the matchup with the University of Minnesota in the semifinals.

They are expected to depart Grand Forks on a charter flight to Philadelphia on Tuesday. They will hold a practice and a press conference on Wednesday, then, of course, the game is Thursday.

Among the players speaking at the press conference were Stephane Pattyn, Connor Gaarder, Rocco Grimaldi, Mark MacMillan and Dillon Simpson. Coach Dave Hakstol also spoke to the media.

The players seemed pretty excited about getting to play against the Gophers even though the matchup wasn’t on the regular-season schedule.

Hakstol said he understands that people won’t be picking them to win on Thursday, but says they are focused on trying to play their game.

At the Herald, we’re planning at least one special section to come out on game day and we’ll have stories leading up to then, so I won’t give too much away, but soon I’ll have one on the progress of the young defensive corps under the coaching of Brad Berry.

Also of note, UND defenseman Dillon Simpson was named first-team All-American by College Hockey News today. Nice honor for Simpson, who leads the nation in blocked shots with 107 (next closest shot block leader at the Frozen Four is BC’s Steve Santini with 62).

Big news in the NCHC today with Miami forwards Austin Czarnik and Blake Coleman both announcing that they will return for next season. Riley Barber was not included in the announcement, so I would assume he is still in the decision process.

Wisconsin lost standout defenseman Jake McCabe to the Buffalo Sabres today. The junior will report immediately to the NHL. It is also expected that the Badgers will lose Nic Kerdiles to the Anaheim Ducks this offseason.

Last note for now: The top four winning percentages in the nation since Nov. 30 are Union, Boston College, North Dakota and Minnesota. Seems fitting.