November 23, 2005
Three is a Magic Number

By Jess Myers

WCHA Notebook

Joe Jensen is St. Cloud State's leading goal-scorer with seven in 11 games. The Huskies are 4-0-0 when they score three or more goals this season.

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The St. Cloud State Huskies have made moves aimed at being the surprise team in the WCHA in the season’s first month, with home upsets of Minnesota and North Dakota and a road win at Northern Michigan. But if there’s going to be serious talk among Husky fans of home ice in the playoffs within the next few months, offense will be the key. Three is quickly becoming new Huskies coach Bob Motzko’s favorite number, but seeing a three on his team’s side of the scoreboard remains a challenge.

“We still can’t seem to get to three consistently,” said Motzko after his team’s 3-2 loss to North Dakota last Saturday. “When we get to three we’re pretty good, but getting there is tough.”

The stats tell the story – when the Huskies score three goals or more, they’re 4-0-0 this year. When scoring two or fewer, they’re 0-7-1.

“A lot of people probably didn’t expect us to be doing even this well,” said goalie Bobby Goepfert. “If anything, we’re a little disappointed about our record because we’ve had a few more games we definitely could’ve won.”

Saturday’s loss was particularly stinging to some of the Huskies as the chance to sweep highly-touted North Dakota was seemingly there for the taking. St. Cloud State had rallied late in the Friday game, scoring a pair of third period goals to win 3-2. On Saturday, the Huskies trailed 3-1 after a disastrous first period which saw the Sioux take advantage of three Husky defensive zone mistakes.

After the first 20 minutes, the Huskies out-shot North Dakota 31-13 (including a whopping 16-3 advantage in the third period) but were able to get only one puck past Jordan Parise.

“This was the first time all year that we made defensive mistakes like that in the first period and it bit us,” said Motzko. “And Parise was pretty good tonight.”

Goepfert took the loss on his shoulders after misplaying two pucks in the opening period. The Sioux got on the board when Goepfert left the crease, lost the handle on the puck in the corner and allowed Erik Fabian an easy wraparound goal. It went to 2-0 Sioux when Goepfert put a clearing attempt right onto the tape of Drew Stafford’s stick and Stafford’s rising put-back found the net.

“We’re not a team where we can afford for somebody to have an off night, so I told the guys that one was on me and I definitely owe them two points,” Goepfert said. “I’ve always considered myself a pretty good puckhandler, but I took a few steps back that night.”

Offensive shortcomings and all, the Huskies have six winnable games on the horizon (a road trip to Alaska Anchorage sandwiched between homes series with Brown and Robert Morris). Motzko’s club stands a good chance of being well above .500 by the second weekend of January when the Huskies travel to Denver. Goepfert said that after what happened last Saturday, the most immediate change you may see in the Huskies’ game is him spending a lot more time directly between the pipes.

“The next couple of week I’ll probably be about as mobile as a bubble hockey goalie,” he joked. “I’m hardly even leaving the crease in practice anymore.”


An early must-win for North Dakota For teams expected to be in the hunt for the league title, desperation rarely sets in before Thanksgiving. But after last Friday night’s 3-2 loss at St. Cloud State, players from North Dakota took what they felt was a necessary “backs against the wall” stance in the Saturday night series finale.

“This was definitely a must-win game for us,” said Erik Fabian, who scored the opening goal as the Sioux held off a Huskies rally to win 3-2. “If we lose this, we go two games under .500 in the WCHA and we definitely know how tough that is to come back from.”

Last season was a rarity in which Denver and Colorado College each had seven conference losses en route to tying for the league title. In most seasons, five losses is about the most a team in realistic contention for the WCHA crown can have. North Dakota went into Saturday night’s game with four league losses and knew a fifth so early in the year would make a Grand Forks appearance by the MacNaughton Cup a long shot.

“We definitely needed this one to get back on track,” said Drew Stafford. “We have next weekend off, so a loss in this one would’ve been tough to have to think about for two weeks.”

Great Weekend Getaway
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Colorado College at Boston U. (Sat.)
Unlike their Front Range neighbors, things are clicking for the Tigers these days. While staying relatively healthy, coach Scott Owens’ team heads to the Bay State with the offense still showing some diversity, Hobey finalists Brett Sterling and Marty Sertich clicking again and the defense not having allowed a goal in two-plus games. While nobody is awarding a trophy for shutting out Michigan Tech in back-to-back games, the Tigers are doing what they’re supposed to do if they want to keep their share of the MacNaughton Cup. They’re winning the games they’re supposed to win. It should be fun to see what they do in their first visit to Agganis Arena.

While You’re There: When college hockey fans hear about the historical significance of Faneuil Hall, they think not of the Revolutionary War, but of the site upon which Junior Lessard (in 2004) and Chris Drury (in 1998) were handed the Hobey Baker Award. On Saturday, holiday cheer will echo throughout the Faneuil Hall Marketplace with the sound of 100 tubas and other horns playing holiday tunes in front of Quincy Market.

Stick Salute

A shout-out is due to long-time UMD hockey radio voice Kerry Rodd, who left the airwaves earlier this season after 20-plus seasons manning the microphone at the DECC. Rodd abruptly left KDAL Radio (where he also hosted a weekday talk show) in October due to disagreements with the station’s new management. Rodd will be remembered for his ability to make the most routine shot on goal sound like a potential overtime game-winner. We mean no disrespect to new Bulldog radio voice Bruce Ciskie when we say we’ll miss the original K-Rodd.

Bench Minor

With four of the Big Ten’s five hockey teams facing each other on the this weekend, we’d like to ask the folks at Illinois, Penn State and maybe even Northwestern or Iowa one question: What’s taking you so long? Five Big Ten schools make money and draw fans with successful hockey programs. Heck, lots of people already refer to Champaign as “a warm Grand Forks.” Quit dragging your feet and make it your goal to see the Nittany Lions versus the Illini in the NCAA puck playoffs within a decade.


• When the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs fly outside the continental U.S. lately, they’re apparently forgetting to bring their offense along. Along with giving Alaska Anchorage its first WCHA win of the season, last Saturday’s 2-0 shutout by Seawolf goalie John DeCaro marked the second time the Bulldogs have been blanked in their last four games at Sullivan Arena.

Speaking of shutouts, last weekend’s back-to-back blankings of Michigan Tech marked the first time ever that Colorado College has shut out a WCHA opponent in both games of a two-game series. The last time CC blanked any opponent in consecutive outings at the same venue came on Dec. 10-11, 1954, when the Tigers defeated St. Thomas (Minn.) by scores of 17-0 and 11-0. The Tigers are now a perfect 14-0-0 all-time against Michigan Tech at Colorado Springs World Arena.

Sparked by a career-high 36 saves from rookie netminder Mike Zacharias, Minnesota State, Mankato won at Nebraska-Omaha on Tuesday, 6-3. The victory extended Mankato’s unbeaten streak versus college hockey’s other set of Mavericks to eight games. MSU has gone 7-0-1 against UNO since last losing to Mike Kemp’s club in the 2001-02 season. Tuesday’s start by Zacharias provided a well-earned bit of rest for freshman goaltender Dan Tormey. The rookie from Syracuse, N.Y., started the previous six consecutive games and during that time stopped 160 of 171 shots for a .936 save percentage and a 1.79 goals-against average. He also collected his first career assist when he was credited with a helper on Joel Hanson’s goal in last Friday’s contest 2-1 loss at Wisconsin.

For the second year in a row, it will be the top-ranked Michigan Wolverines vs. No. 2 Wisconsin this weekend when the College Hockey Showcase gets underway. The Badgers are 3-1 in their past four Showcase games but historically have struggled in the Thanksgiving weekend affair. Since the Showcase started in 1993, the Badgers are 2-10-0 vs. Michigan State and 3-8-1 vs. Michigan.

Last Friday’s 3-3 tie at Denver was the first game the Golden Gophers had played outside the state of Minnesota since their 2004-05 season ended with a loss to North Dakota in the Frozen Four semifinals in Columbus. Prior to the trip to Colorado, the Gophers had played 16 of their previous 17 games in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth or St. Cloud.

Denver, riding a four-game winless streak for the first time since March 2003, returns to a site of some of last season’s glory on Saturday when the Pioneers face UMass at the Mullins Center in Amherst. The ice sheet was where DU beat Bemidji State and New Hampshire last March, earning their second straight trip to the Frozen Four. Reasons for the team’s recent slide vary from injuries to inconsistencies. One of the current mysteries is the struggles of the goalie tandem Glenn Fisher and Peter Mannino – neither currently has a save percentage above the .900 mark.

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