According to Colorado College defenseman Brian
Salcido, the Tigers were as surprised as anyone to learn
of teammate Aaron Slattengren’s abrupt departure from
the team. The players got the news not long after returning
from their split at St. Cloud State last weekend and before
the school officially released the news last Monday.
“We were really kind of blindsided by
it,” said Salcido. “We didn’t know anything
about it coming up to it.”
According to the school’s statement,
Slattengren was dismissed from the team, effective immediately
due to a “violation of institutional academic policy.”
A senior from Proctor, Minn., Slattengren had 10 goals and
eight assists this season. On Wednesday afternoon, player
agent Ben Hankinson, an ex-Gopher, sent an email to several
pro teams informing them that Slattengren was academically
ineligible and available to sign an immediate contract.
Salcido said that Slattengren talked to his teammates after
the official announcement and “kind of apologized.”
“Slats was a great player and a great
person to have in the locker room,” Salcido said.
“He was always maybe a little underrated because he
was behind Marty (Sertich) and Brett (Sterling), but he’s
going to leave a big hole.”
The abrupt lineup shift, added to the fact
that the Tigers head into this weekend’s home series
with Alaska Anchorage having lost six of their last eight
games, might have some thinking that the Tigers are in deep
trouble. But Salcido said the team was buoyed by the play
of their fourth line last weekend, and all is good in the
“We had a little bump in the road, but
a lot have good things have come from those couple of wins
we’ve gotten recently,” Salcido said, noting
that Sterling’s six-game scoring slump has led to
some forced offensive diversity. “We’ve wanted
to see some production from other guys and take some of
the burden off Brett and Marty, so to have other guys carrying
some of the load is really good. It’s definitely something
we need right now.”
With three weekends left in the regular season,
any thoughts the Tigers may have had of keeping a share
of the WCHA title are pretty much gone, but Salcido feels
they have a realistic goal set of securing home ice.
“The year’s far from over,”
he said. “You look at the calendar and it seems like
it’s going to go fast, but a lot of things can happen
in this league.”
AND HEARD IN THE WCHA
Cup Crazy?: There’s
a trophy to be had in Mankato this weekend if the St. Cloud
State hockey team is able to sweep Minnesota State Mankato.
Two wins would give the Huskies an insurmountable lead in
the race for the DQ Cup, a new trophy honoring the WCHA’s
top Minnesota-based team based on head-to-head meetings
throughout the season.
The Huskies head into their final DQ Cup games
with a 3-1-0 record thus far. They split with Minnesota
in November and swept Minnesota Duluth in January. As each
team gets five DQ Cup points for a win (and two for a tie),
the Huskies currently trail Minnesota 17 to 15. But the
Huskies have two qualifying games remaining, while the Gophers
have just one (March 3 vs. Minnesota Duluth) meaning two
Husky wins this weekend earns them the Cup.
While the in-state title is admittedly on
the Huskies radar, it’s not taking up much of the
radar screen. Two wins in Mankato would be more important
to the team for the four WCHA points available than for
the 10 DQ Cup points up for grabs, what with three regular
season weekends left and the Huskies still with a shot at
securing home ice for the first round of the league playoffs.
Great Weekend Getaway
at Minnesota (Fri.-Sat.) Denver coach George Gwozdecky jokes that
the WCHA has ordered him to have the MacNaughton Cup
on hand at Mariucci Arena this weekend, just in case
it’s needed for an awards ceremony. While we
don’t see anyone clinching the Cup this weekend,
one of these teams could clearly drop out of the race
if the other sweeps. The Pioneers come to Minneapolis
with a seven-game winning streak, while the top-ranked
Gophers are on a 12-1-1 run.
While You’re There: If you
don’t get your fill from the Gopher pep band
and are looking for post-game live music on Friday,
one of the Twin Cities’ most popular local bands,
G.B. Leighton, hits the stage at The
Rock in Maplewood at 10 p.m. One word of warning:
The local forecast calls for -14 on Friday night,
so if you own mittens, this would be the time to use
weekend’s Lambeau Field crowd of more than 40,000
to the totals and the WCHA has now topped
one million in combined attendance for the 13th consecutive
season. With three weekends remaining in
the regular season, the league’s 10 teams are
averaging better than 7,000 per game. With tickets
for the Final Five a hot item again, the league is
expected to top 1.5 million at the gate for the fifth
Beanpot has come and gone with plenty of talk, and
still no movement toward establishment of
a similar tournament in Minnesota. With the
Xcel Energy Center available and five Division I teams
in the state, it would seem that a “State of
Hockey Classic” would be an easy sell, but five
years (and endless pledges that something is “in
development”) after the building opened, we’ve
still got nothing.
“We know that we can win that this weekend,”
said Huskies captain Casey Borer of the DQ Cup. “But
we’re looking more at the big picture and need to
take care of some other business. We’ve put ourselves
in a pretty good position, but there’s not a lot of
margin between the teams with a lot of hockey left to play.”
The Huskies had won six in a row before last
Friday’s 6-3 home loss to Colorado College.
“We kind of had a slip-up last Friday
with a bunch of guys all having off nights at the same time,
but we rebounded quickly,” Borer said.
As for the bigger picture of where they might
fit into the WCHA’s playoff picture, Borer says the
team’s sole focus is to win the games they’ve
got left and ignore the out-of-town scoreboard and the league
standings until it’s time to announce playoff pairings.
“For us, the main thing is just to take
care of our games and not worry about what else is going
on,” Borer said. “I know we’re in fourth
place, and I assume Denver is in third, maybe. But I couldn’t
tell you what’s going on beyond that.”
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
• Alaska Anchorage is a good bet to
finish in the league cellar in Dave Shyiak’s first
season, but it’s not for lack of effort. The Seawolves
boast some of the top special teams in the league, and haven’t
exactly rolled over to their opponents. Of their 21 losses,
11 have been by two goals or less.
• Michigan Tech’s tie versus Minnesota
last weekend gives the Huskies 16 WCHA points this season,
which equals their total from last year. With six WCHA games
left on their schedule, Jamie Russell’s club has a
good chance to show improvement in the league standings.
• North Dakota and Minnesota Duluth
head into this weekend’s series in Grand Forks with
the Sioux having won 10 of the past 11 meetings between
the two schools. Most notable in that streak was the 2003-04
season, when North Dakota went 5-0-0 versus the Bulldogs
when just one Minnesota Duluth win versus the Sioux would
have meant the MacNaughton Cup coming to Duluth.
• Wisconsin’s victory over Ohio
State last weekend was the Badgers’ 20th win of the
year, which makes three consecutive 20-win seasons for coach
Mike Eaves and 31 such seasons in the history of the Badger
• If you count the days when both schools
played Division III hockey, this weekend’s series
between St. Cloud State and Minnesota State Mankato marks
a renewal of one of the league's longer-running rivalries.
The Huskies and Mavericks (then called the Mankato State
Indians) first met in the 1969-70 campaign. The Mavs hold
a 50-39-7 lead in the all-time series.
A variety of sources were utilized in
the compilation of this report.