November 25, 2004
Coaches Corner

By Jess Myers

WCHA Notebook

Minnesota's Don Lucia, like Red Berenson of Michigan, has two national championships to his credit.

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Though they’ve spent most of their respective coaching careers living between one and three time zones apart, Minnesota’s Don Lucia and Michigan’s Red Berenson know each other well. In the past decade, the two men’s teams have met nearly every year (both when Lucia was at Colorado College and since he moved to Minneapolis in 1999), including three notable times at the Frozen Four.

This weekend they meet again at Mariucci Arena in the annual College Hockey Showcase with the Wolverines ranked No. 1 in the nation and the Golden Gophers at No. 3. While the reunion doesn’t make Lucia misty-eyed or anything, he recently told INCH that his colleague who runs that team with the funny-looking maize and blue helmets doesn’t get the recognition he’s due for the job he’s done in Ann Arbor.

“I’m surprised that Red has never been the national coach of the year, but sometimes you don’t get the credit you deserve when you’re always good,” said Lucia, whose Colorado College team fell 3-2 in overtime to Berenson’s Michigan team in the 1996 Frozen Four title game. “Michigan’s got great talent and I love the way they play the game end-to-end with speed and skill. I’ve always believed that if you can beat Michigan, you can beat anybody.”

A reflective Lucia recalled perhaps his favorite moment from all of the games he’s faced Michigan, saying it wasn’t either of the times that Minnesota had to get past the Wolverines in the Frozen Four semis en route to the NCAA title (in 2002 and 2003) but rather a funny moment before a regular season game early in his stint at CC. The Tigers opened the 1994-95 season in Ann Arbor, and more that a few of Lucia’s rookies were somewhat awed by the electric atmosphere in Yost Ice Arena. As the Tigers headed toward the stairs and out to the ice for warm-ups, Lucia stopped then-freshman Stewart Bodtker and offered a bit of friendly advice.

“I said, ‘Stewie, you might want to grab your stick and take it with you,’” Lucia recalled with a laugh. “It was his first game, and with the band playing and the crowd roaring, he forgot it.”


A Cruel November in Duluth – Nearly 30 years ago, the harsh winds of November brought tragedy to the Twin Ports when a ship named the Edmund Fitzgerald and its crew of 29 men was lost on Lake Superior after leaving Duluth harbor fully loaded.

This November, the weather has been mild by northern Minnesota standards, but the stormy times have been found inside the DECC instead. The month began with the Bulldogs undefeated in their first six games and ranked No. 1 in the nation. Since then, Scott Sandelin’s team is 1-4-1 (with losses to lightly-regarded Vermont, Alaska Anchorage and Brown). The most recent loss came with less than a second to play in last Saturday’s game at the DECC, and prompted a 45-minute players-only closed-door meeting in the UMD locker room.

And the news got worse this week when sophomore defenseman Ryan Geris called an end to his hockey career due to complications with recurrent concussions. In the midst of it all, Sandelin has remained surprisingly calm and forward-looking, while admitting that his team may miss Hobey Baker winner Junior Lessard’s offense more than he anticipated.

“Some guys that we expected to make up that slack simply have to play better,” said Sandelin before a recent practice at the DECC. “This isn’t a six-game thing, it’s been a 12-game thing. I pretty much felt the same way as I do now about our team after the first six games, but nobody was questioning things because we were winning.”

One of the reasons so much was expected from the Bulldogs in the preseason (they were the WCHA coaches’ pick to win the league title) was the 11 seniors that Sandelin has on-roster (it was 12 before third-string goalie Matt Klein decided to hang up the pads a month ago). Sandelin says that his seniors are all thrust into new roles this season, and the transition is taking some time.

“Every year, roles change, and it takes longer for some guys to adjust and accept the change,” he said. “And sometimes the senior year can be tough on guys. Some want to play beyond college and get wrapped up about things they can’t control. You’ve got to focus on the now.”

With the games looming on the Bulldogs schedule between now and the holidays (when Sandelin will be coaching Team USA at the World Junior Championships), focusing on the now shouldn’t be a problem. After this weekend’s series at St. Cloud State, the Bulldogs travel to Wisconsin for a pair, then have home series with North Dakota and Denver.

The results of that octet will go a long way toward determining whether Bulldog fans will be smiling again on Christmas morning.

Great Weekend Getaway
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Michigan at Wisconsin (Sat.)
Both teams could be on one-game losing streaks by the time they meet Saturday night at the Kohl Center, but in any case, it’ll be No. 1 versus No. 2 when Michigan faces Wisconsin in Madison. The Badgers got some offensive diversity in their game last weekend while sweeping Alaska Anchorage and Wisconsin is hoping to repeat its College Hockey Showcase performance of last year, when Bucky won a pair in the weekend series for the first time ever. And we’re sorry Badger fans, but we checked with our good friend Jen at the Big Ten and the answer is no, a hockey win over the Wolverines will not get your football team into the Rose Bowl.

While You’re There: A good friend used to be impressed by the amazing array of pubs, restaurants, street life, shopping, nightlife and general fun one sees walking down Madison’s famed State Street. Then he took a trip to New Orleans and upon returning said, “Bourbon Street at any time of day or night makes State Street look like an outdoor concert by the Wiggles.” Still, real hockey people still love south-central Wisconsin’s most famed pedestrian mall, and we’ll take a tall pilsner and a sausage at State Street Brats over a mint julep and seafood gumbo any day.

Stick Salute

A belated recognition goes out to FSN North broadcaster Frank Mazzocco for the Regional Emmy Award he won a few weeks back. Frank has been covering Gopher hockey since 1986, and his pairing for Doug Woog (with Mazzocco playing straight man to Woog’s fun-loving antics and insights) makes for one of the more informative and entertaining college sports broadcasts around. Anyone who could remain calm while seated between Woog and Tom Sagissor during a few of those tight Minnesota-Wisconsin games clearly deserves some kind of medal for valor, but for now, an Emmy will have to do.

Bench Minor

To the hockey broadcasters at FSN Rocky Mountain, for their lack of opposition research. Guys, we love your enthusiasm and your admiration for Pioneer hockey that comes across so clearly over the air, but would it kill you to learn a little bit about the other team? In case anyone on the Front Range was confused, Golden Gophers senior Jake Fleming is not from anyplace called 'Uh-say-O', Minnesota because no such town exists. Fleming’s hometown, Osseo, is pronounced 'ahh-SEE-OH.' Get it right, and fans in Minnesota promise they’ll learn how to properly pronounce 'Arapahoe.'


• Alaska Anchorage is off for the weekend (and has to vacate Sullivan Arena with basketball’s Great Alaska Shootout being played there) after dropping below .500 for the first time this season when Wisconsin left town with two wins. The Seawolves' losses to Bucky were their first versus ranked opponents this season. Alaska Anchorage has beaten ranked Minnesota once and Minnesota Duluth twice this season.

• It’ll still be a few months wait, but anyone dying to see hockey in the Xcel Energy Center (what with the NHL still locked out and all) can now purchase season tickets for the 2005 Red Baron WCHA Final Five, to be played March 17-19. The season seats went on sale recently and can be found via Ticketmaster and at the Xcel box office. Any remaining single-game tickets will go on sale March 7.

• Michigan Tech sophomore defenseman Lars Helminen had a relatively quiet first year of college hockey, recording just 10 points in 38 games. But while the Huskies have struggled as a team this year (they’re 1-10-1 overall heading into this weekend’s home series versus North Dakota), Helminen is having a breakout season of sorts. He’s put together a six-game point streak this season and has recorded 14 points in 12 games. According to the Huskies media guide, the native of Brighton, Mich., likes Garth Brooks, but wants to hear “Welcome to the Jungle” in warm-ups. That’s one tune we don’t want to hear Brooks covering.

• Just in time for Festivus, the Minnesota State, Mankato Mavericks pulled off some impressive feats of strength to keep their unbeaten streak intact last weekend. The Mavs trailed Alabama-Huntsville 3-0 in the third period last Saturday in Mankato before a trio of goals (including the tying marker by Brock Becker with 11 seconds left in regulation) lifted them to a 3-3 tie. Since starting 0-5-1, the Maves have taken George Contanza’s advice to “do the opposite” and head into a weekend off on a 5-0-1 streak.

• It’s apparently feast or famine for the offense at St. Cloud State. Prior to last weekend’s series at North Dakota, the Huskies had posted 26 goals in their previous four games. During a pair of games in Grand Forks, the Huskies managed just two goals.

• While the College Hockey Showcase is getting the lion’s share of attention this weekend, what with the nation’s top three teams involved, there’s likely some good hockey to be played in the Mountain Time Zone as well, with surprising Boston University visiting Colorado College and Denver. The Tigers and Terriers have a long history of appearances in the NCAA playoffs, and both teams made it to the Frozen Four in Milwaukee in 1997, but it might surprise some to learn that CC and BU have not played one another in the NCAAs since 1951. Denver fans will sadly remember that BU got to that ’97 Frozen Four via a 4-3 overtime win versus the Pioneers at the NCAA Regional in Worcester, Mass.

• Just up the Red River from Grand Forks, a prominent former Fighting Sioux played a key role in recent hockey milestones in Winnipeg. On Nov. 6, the AHL’s Manitoba Moose played the final pro game in Winnipeg Arena, the 50-year-old former home of the Winnipeg Jets during their NHL and WHA days. Winnipeg native Lee Goren, MVP of the 2000 Frozen Four for North Dakota, was credited with the final pro penalty in the building, a minor for unsportsmanlike conduct early in the third period. On Nov. 17, Goren had a goal and an assist as the Moose won the first game in the new 15,000-seat MTS Centre in downtown Winnipeg. Hockey optimists in Manitoba (as well as in North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota) are hopeful that Winnipeg may again be home to a NHL team when the league’s labor woes are settled.

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report.

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