The WCHA is
known to have some of the more impressive rinks in college hockey.
So why does it seem like none of the home teams like playing in
them all of a sudden? With Michigan Tech winning twice in Duluth
last weekend, and Denver hauling four points home from North Dakota,
WCHA host teams were a combined 2-7-1 on the weekend. And that
was an improvement from a weekend in mid January, when road teams
In a game
where home ice advantage used to mean something, the recent numbers
are puzzling at best. Michigan Tech, for example, has won one
home game all season, but has won six of its last seven games
played away from MacInnes Student Ice Arena. St. Cloud State hasn’t
won a WCHA home game since Thanksgiving weekend, but is 3-3-0
in its last six road games.
In these strange
days when the wearing of white sweaters seems to cause teams trouble,
we’re reminded of Air Force coach Frank Serratore who, while
he was coaching Denver in the 1990s, said he preferred to take
his team on the road. Serratore claimed that getting away from
campus and having to work as a cooperative unit in a hostile rink
was how winning teams were built.
a lot of truth in that,” said Colorado College coach Scott
Owens, whose team holds the top spot in the league. The Tigers
haven’t lost a road game since Nov. 13, but went 0-1-1 in
their last home series. “On the road there are fewer distractions,
and you can focus in on hockey. But you still have to go on some
long trips and play in a hostile environment.”
State coach Craig Dahl notes that the records of the teams the
Huskies have hosted recently has a lot to do with the “winning
on the road” trend.
look at who we’ve played at home,” said Dahl, noting
that his team is 0-5-0 after visits by Minnesota, Wisconsin and
Denver. “They’re all top 10 teams in the country,
and we’re not ready to be a top 10 team. So it’s not
like we’ve lost to chicken little.”
Don Lucia, whose team is 1-5-0 in its last six home games, says
the recent road success looks more like a quirk and less like
a trend, noting that with top teams like Denver and Colorado College
at home this weekend, things could change quickly.
do start to tighten up this time of year,” he said. “All
things being equal, you’re still going to want to be playing
AND HEARD IN THE WCHA
Minnesota 'Beanpot' still an issue for debate: Since
the Xcel Energy Center opened in 2000, there’s been plenty
of talk about the arena hosting some kind of holiday tournament
or even a Minnesota version of Boston’s famed Beanpot ('The
Hotdish' perhaps?). With the Hub’s four teams squaring off
again this week, and with Minnesota State, Mankato officials announcing
that their one-game stint at the X (a 9-6 loss to Minnesota in
January) earned $148,000 for the school’s athletic coffers,
talk has been rekindled about a February play-in featuring some
combination of Minnesota’s five Division I teams.
from the arena and the Minnesota Wild will only say that they’re
exploring many options for future sports events at the rink. Others
in the know seem ready to drop the puck on the first such tournament
be very interesting, and I’m sure it would draw well,”
said St. Cloud State coach Craig Dahl. “A tournament like
that would be huge.”
But even an
optimist like Dahl admits that logistically there would be challenges
that the Boston teams don’t face. Most notably, while all
four Boston teams are a relatively short T ride from the FleetCenter,
it’s five or six hours round trip from Duluth to the X,
and can take eight to 10 hours to drive from Bemidji to St. Paul
is logistics, as schedules are already tight, and some potential
participants would be unwilling to trade a home game for a neutral
site game in St. Paul.
big question is how do you incorporate it into the schedule?”
asked Minnesota coach Don Lucia. “We can’t give up
any more home games, and the other teams would have to look at
revenues and see what kind of guarantee they could get.”
Lucia notes that currently, games at the X (where his team has
won two WCHA tournaments and a NCAA title) are special occasions
for WCHA fans, and he fears that too many games there might take
some luster off the venue.
special to go to the X, and the more games you play there, you
lose some of that,” he said. “It’s clearly a
league issue, but I think we have to guard against that special
feeling eroding somewhat. I have a sensitivity toward not taking
anything away from the Final Five.”
In other words,
don’t mark a Minnesota Beanpot down on your calendar for
February 2006 just yet.
Great Weekend Getaway
at Denver (Fri.-Sat.) While we love the history and tradition of Michigan
Tech’s annual Winter Carnival weekend, we’ve
got to look west to the matchup between Wisconsin and Denver.
The race for the MacNaughton Cup is realistically down to
three teams, and these are two of them. With the Badgers
losing last Saturday, they’re in desperate need of
a sweep at Magness Arena. If the Pioneers can win one or
both of these, the league office might be wise to ship the
Cup to an undetermined locale in Colorado, as we could have
a two-team race on our hands by Sunday.
You’re There: If you weren’t able to make it
to the Big Easy for Mardi Gras, head to Swanky’s at
1938 Blake Street instead. They've got the Fat Tuesday-style
frozen drink machines and you even get beads with every
one you order. And Bucky fans will like it because it doubles
as a Packer bar with cheap Old Style on tap. They serve
very good Cajun-style grub, featuring a spicy corn casserole
that is outstanding. For a great bargain, try the nightly
crawfish boil for eleven bucks. Look for the INCH crew to
spend plenty of quality time here when they’re in
town for the 2008 Frozen Four.
turning away 90-plus shots last weekend as his team swept
at Minnesota Duluth, we wonder if Michigan Tech
goalie Cam Ellsworth is worried about the four
shots he missed. We have a feeling that the four points
that came back to Houghton on the team bus were more important
to Ellsworth and company, who are quickly becoming the league’s
official “team nobody wants to host in the playoffs.”
Friday, we learned that the DECC doesn’t administer
a spelling test before hiring employees to staff
the home of the Bulldogs. The sign below, hung on the door
to the Michigan Tech locker room, provided proof. “Huskeys?"
Isn’t that a Nebraska football team?
TO PICK UP AFTER PRACTICE
• Rookie forward Shea Hamilton made Alaska
Anchorage history last Friday in the Seawolves 4-3 home
win over St. Cloud State. Hamilton became the first player in
the 26 seasons of varsity hockey at UAA to score on a penalty
shot. The Seawolves hadn’t even attempted a penalty shot
in more than a decade. For you trivia buffs, Paul Williams failed
the team’s previous penalty shot attempt, versus Northern
Michigan on Nov. 13, 1993.
Tech’s sweep at the DECC last weekend marked the
first time the Huskies had won a pair at Minnesota Duluth since
October 1988. Of course, trend watchers will note that every time
a Democrat from Massachusetts runs for president and loses, the
Huskies are unbeatable in Duluth.
are having an easy time diagnosing the problems Minnesota
Duluth is having scoring goals (and winning games) in
2004-05. Last season, the trio of Tyler Brosz, T.J. Caig and Luke
Stauffacher combined for 109 points. Through the Bulldogs’
first 30 games this season, that group has amassed just 18 points.
Backes rightfully gets the lion’s share of attention from
Minnesota State, Mankato’s opponents and fans, but shutting
down another sophomore forward may be the key to beating the Mavericks.
Thus far, the Mavs are 9-3-4 in games where Travis Morin
records a point, but 0-11-1 in games where Morin fails
to crack the score sheet.
Dakota may be in great need of this weekend’s bye,
as first-year Fighting Sioux coach Dave Hakstol finds himself
in uncomfortably familiar territory for rookie skippers. The Sioux
have lost their last five consecutive WCHA games, marking their
first five-game conference losing streak since the 1994-95 campaign.
There was a rookie coach named Dean Blais behind the Sioux bench
of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report.