expecting North Dakota rookie coach Dave Hakstol to get reflective
about his first season behind the bench when there are still eight
regular season points up for grabs, you’ve come to the party
about a month early.
former Fighting Sioux defenseman who took over the team last summer
when Dean Blais bolted to the Columbus Blue Jackets, said that
when the season’s over, he’ll take time to evaluate
his methods and results in season one. But with four regular season
games remaining and his team in a pitched battle for the final
home ice slot in the WCHA playoffs, this isn’t the time
more concerned with wrapping things up, and with concentrating
on our team’s performance overall,” said Hakstol,
whose team faces fourth-ranked Wisconsin on Saturday and Sunday
in Grand Forks.
are coming off a good news/bad news weekend at Alaska Anchorage,
which saw them:
a) Score four third-period goals to snap a five-game WCHA losing
streak on Friday night (good)
b) let a 2-1 lead slip away in the final minutes and lose on Saturday
c) get sophomore Brady Murray back in the lineup on Friday after
the star forward had missed the previous five games with a shoulder
d) lose Murray to injury in the first period of Saturday’s
Friday we saw what Brady Murray means to this team offensively,
when he had a goal and an assist and helped his linemates contribute
offensively,” said Hakstol. The son of Los Angeles Kings’
coach Andy Murray, Brady was the WCHA’s top freshman last
season but has missed 13 of the team’s 32 games as a sophomore.
“Then he gets hurt on the first shift on Saturday and we
don’t have that offense in our lineup. We don’t have
anybody else that brings that much offense to our team.”
not expected to play against the Badgers this weekend, and his
absence is just the latest in a long line of Sioux missing action
this season. In addition to a rash of injuries, Hakstol’s
freshman campaign as a coach has included a few player suspensions,
including captain Matt Greene, who missed a pair of games earlier
this month after being arrested for DWI.
enter the weekend tied with Minnesota Duluth for the final home
ice position, and with two games in hand on the Bulldogs the Sioux
clearly hold the upper hand in the race. It’s a familiar
battle (although a few places lower in the standings) for North
Dakota fans, as the Sioux and Bulldogs were in a tight race for
the WCHA title a year ago at this time, with North Dakota prevailing
in the end.
one to make excuses, Hakstol is reflective enough to note that
considering the talent his team lost over the summer (when Hobey
finalists Zach Parise and Brandon Bochenski left early for pro
contracts) and the injuries he’s dealt with, his team’s
failure to defend the MacNaughton Cup isn’t overly surprising.
worked hard for every point we’ve gotten, and we’ve
played a lot of hockey games where we probably deserved a better
fate,” said Hakstol. “Standings-wise, we’re
probably about where we deserve to be.”
close the regular season with a series at St. Cloud State on March
AND HEARD IN THE WCHA
Johnson Lends a Hand, Again: Minnesota coach Don Lucia
may have felt an unpleasant sense of déjà vu this
week when it was learned that for the second time in three seasons,
a hand injury will likely cost the Gophers their top goalie for
the WCHA playoffs.
Gopher netminder Kellen Briggs left practice and was later diagnosed
with what the school officially called an “unspecified hand
injury.” Minnesota goalie coach Robb Stauber, the 1988 Hobey
winner, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that Briggs
could be out for the rest of the season.
that senior Justin Johnson will get the call for Minnesota’s
final four regular season games and the league playoffs, if not
more. It’s a familiar situation for Johnson, who filled
in two years ago when then-top goalie Travis Webber was lost to
a hand injury in Minnesota’s first playoff game. Johnson
was the starter as Minnesota defeated Minnesota State, Mankato
and Colorado College to win the WCHA Final Five that year.
A week later,
Webber returned for the NCAA playoffs and backstopped Minnesota’s
2003 NCAA title. Johnson has played in six games this season and
has a 1-2-1 record. Lucia said that Johnson’s previous playoff
experience should be helpful as he’s thrust into the starter’s
role this time around.
a senior, and he’s been through it,” said Lucia. “Justin
has performed pretty well when he knows he’s the guy.”
insists that despite Briggs’ struggles in the past month,
a change was not going to be made until the injury happened.
really felt comfortable with where we were,” said Lucia,
who rested Briggs during the team’s weekend off. “Kellen
had looked sharp in practice, and the off week came at a perfect
time, and then he came back with a hand problem.”
a freshman who has yet to play in a collegiate game, will serve
as Johnson’s backup.
Great Weekend Getaway
Wisconsin at North Dakota (Sat.-Sun.) While the accepted thinking is that the MacNaughton
Cup is headed to Colorado one way or another, the Badgers
haven’t given up on the idea of hoisting the hardware,
as a sweep this weekend could leave them just one point
behind current leader Colorado College (the Tigers are idle).
The Sioux can clinch home ice in the first round by winning
one of these games, which means there’s plenty to
play for on both benches.
You’re There: The last time a member of the INCH staff
was in Greater Grand Forks, a blizzard shut down the main
highways out of town, and with all hotels full, hundreds
of people ended up sleeping on Red Cross cots inside North
Dakota’s domed football stadium. So just getting to
sleep in a bed would be a step-up, accommodations-wise.
As for nightlife, low-rollers can check out the legal blackjack
in North Dakota hotels, where $1 is a big bet. After you
cash in your chips, just make sure to save enough for a
late-night trip to the Red Pepper.
the Mavericks headed for their second consecutive lower-echelon
finish, Minnesota State, Mankato rookie Ryan Carter
gave college hockey fans in southern Minnesota some reason
to be optimistic about the future last weekend, earning
WCHA co-rookie of the week honors. The White Bear Lake,
Minn., native had two goals and an assist as the Mavs split
a home-and-home set with St. Cloud State, and leads all
MSU freshmen with a dozen goals and seven assists thus far.
With David Backes and Kyle Peto available as linemates,
that could be a formidable trio for coach Troy Jutting to
red-hot pursuit of hockey wunderkind Phil Kessel resulted
what can best be described as a “mascot faux pas”
last weekend. When the U.S. National Under 18 Team played
at Minnesota last Saturday, Goldy Gopher
(the Minnesota mascot) was seen skating around the rink with
a Gopher sweater with the number 05 on the back. At one point
in the first period, Goldy even dangled the sweater over the
glass surrounding the Team USA bench, apparently tempting
Kessel to take it off his hands. While Goldy’s antics
didn’t constitute a NCAA violation, he came close, and
the whole incident certainly looked to be in bad taste.
TO PICK UP AFTER PRACTICE
• The high-flying Denver Pioneers
looked somewhat human last weekend, coming from behind to beat
Minnesota Duluth on a late power play goal on
Friday, then falling behind 6-0 en route to a 6-3 loss on Saturday.
That may be bad timing, with the MacNaughton Cup on the line and
the Pioneers returning to the Midwest Wireless Civic Center this
weekend, which was a house of horror the last time Denver paid
who have forgotten, the Pioneers held a 7-1 lead on Mankato in
the second period the last time the teams met in the home of the
Mavs, in December 2003. All Troy Jutting’s crew proceeded
to do after that was score seven in a row to win 8-7. Ouch. Of
course, while the Mavericks used that rally as a springboard to
a ninth-place finish, the Pioneers recovered pretty well, and
flew back to Denver in April holding the national championship
the founding of the Colorado College hockey program
in the late 1930s and the program’s resurgence in the mid
1990s, the team recorded 25 wins in a season just once (in 1956-57,
when the Tigers went 25-5-0 and claimed the school’s second
– and last – NCAA hockey title). On Saturday, when
the Tigers won 2-1 at Wisconsin, it marked the
ninth time in the past 11 seasons that CC has recorded 25 or more
wins in a season.
there’s ever construction or a natural disaster that forces
the St. Cloud State Huskies out of the National
Hockey Center for a time, look for school officials to inquire
about renting ice time at the Midwest Wireless Civic Center in
Mankato. After last Saturday’s 3-2 win at the home of the
Mavericks, the Huskies are now 7-1-1 all-time in the downtown
Mankato arena. Of course, the St. Cloud pessimist will note that
the Mavericks won both of the games they played on the Huskies
home ice this season.
Michigan Tech couldn’t beat U.P. rival
Northern Michigan last weekend (the Wildcats notched a 3-3 tie
and a 5-3 win), the Huskies’ Colin Murphy continued his
torrid point-production pace, recording four assists in the series
and extending his point streak to 11 games. He’s leading
the nation in average points per game with 1.65, and his 51 points
thus far are the most by a Husky in a single season since Jim
Storm notched 54 more than a decade ago.
Martin Stuchlik, Alaska Anchorage’s points
leader, can apparently be counted among the ranks of WCHA snobs
who think that the other conferences don’t matter. Every
one of the 22 points that Stuchlik has recorded this season has
come against a conference foe, and he’s recorded at least
one point in each of the Seawolves’ last eight WCHA series.
The native of Zlin, Czech Republic, has been particularly prolific
recently, recording 13 points (8 goals and 5 assists) in his team’s
last dozen games.
Minnesota Duluth took leads of 3-1 and 4-2 over
Denver last Friday at Magness Arena, the Pioneers
must have felt perfectly positioned. Indeed, when Denver rallied
for a 5-4 win, it marked the fourth consecutive game in which
the Bulldogs held a two-goal lead over the Pioneers and ended
up losing or tying. Many will remember UMD leading Denver 3-1
in the third period last April in Boston, before the Pioneers
recovered quite nicely. In December in Duluth, the Bulldogs held
two-goal leads each night en route to a 4-4 tie and a 5-4 overtime
of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report.