February 16, 2006
Tigers Adjust on the Fly

By Jess Myers

WCHA Notebook

Colorado College senior forward Aaron Slattengren was dismissed from the team Monday due to academics.

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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 dressing room.

“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.”


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.

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Denver 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 them.

Stick Salute

Add last 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 straight year.

Bench Minor

Another 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.”


• 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 hockey program.

• 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.