November 15, 2006
Bulldogs Singing the Blues

By Jess Myers

It's a telling sign of the current state of hockey at Minnesota Duluth that highly-touted freshman goalie Alex Stalock got his first career shutout last weekend, and didn't get a win (the Bulldogs tied 0-0 at Michigan Tech). To quote the stereotypical bluesman who croons each summer at Duluth's Bayfront Blues Festival, "if it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all."

WCHA Notebook

Minnesota Duluth freshman goalie Alex Stalock got his first career shutout last weekend, and didn't get a win.

National TV Schedule

After Wednesday night's 6-4 win at Northern Michigan, the Bulldogs head into a much-needed bye weekend having gone 1-4-1 in their past six outings. There's currently no word as to whether the time off will include any kind of exorcism in the home locker room at the DECC, in hopes of banishing the injury bug from the premises.

"We're a little snakebit right now," said Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin before the Northern Michigan game. "We've gotten a lot younger real quickly."

Sandelin and company are currently dealing with injuries of varying severity to Matt McKnight, Jason Garrison, Nick Kemp, Andrew Carroll and Ryan Geris. Garrison, in addition to dealing with an injury, found out his mother had passed away one night before scoring his only goal of the season – the overtime winner versus Denver on Oct. 27. And McKnight was feared to be lost for the season, but after a visit to the Mayo Clinic was found to be in better shape than originally diagnosed, and may return in four to six weeks.

As big a concern for some has been the Bulldogs' propensity to let games slip away in the final 20 minutes. Minnesota Duluth was tied with Denver 2-2 in the third period on Oct. 28 and lost 4-2. One week later a 2-1 third-period lead over Minnesota became a 3-2 overtime loss.

"The third period has been our nemesis," Sandelin said, admitting his team is not where it needs to be in terms of conditioning. "I told the guys that we're not in good enough shape."

Sandelin brought 1985 Hobey winner Bill Watson on staff as an assistant coach this season, and is hoping that Watson's upbeat attitude, and knowledge of how to score goals, will pay dividends for the young team down the road.

"Bill Watson said it best, that scoring is an attitude you have to bring to the rink. And he scored a lot of goals," Sandelin said, recalling playing defense for North Dakota versus Watson in two seasons when the Bulldogs' forward led the WCHA offensively. "His personality is nice for the guys to have around. They love him and you can see on the ice that he loves the game. That attitude is contagious."

Before giving up hope or writing off this team and too young and beat up to win, optimists who follow the Bulldogs will recall the team three years ago was only a game over .500 in December before going on a 14-game unbeaten streak and making a trip to the Frozen Four. While working to get his team healthier and better conditioned, Sandelin takes solace in the fact that we haven't even reached Thanksgiving yet.

"I'd rather go through this now when we have 26 games left, and 20 WCHA games left, to get better," he said. "I love this group, we've just got to teach them how to win."


Feeling hungover? In Madison?: Fans are feeling something akin to that much-publicized post-Super Bowl hangover in Madison this season, as the defending national champs are dealing with injuries and a lack of consistent offense that has them below .500 and having won just once in their last six games heading into this weekend's series at Minnesota.

After last Saturday's 4-3 overtime loss to Denver, Badgers' coach Mike Eaves said he liked everything about the game except for the final score. Still, budding star forward Jack Skille remains sidelined with an elbow injury and senior forward Ross Carlson just returned last weekend after missing several weeks with a bum knee. That leaves Eaves still searching for other sources of goals.

Great Weekend Getaway
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Wisconsin at Minnesota

What's the color of bad blood? Is it bright red, or is it a dark red that almost looks maroon? We may find out this weekend when the red-clad Wisconsin Badgers visit the Minnesota Golden Gophers before Mariucci Arena's ocean of maroon seats. Each team won twice in the other's building last season, and Wisconsin shut out the Gophers in the WCHA playoffs, then won the big prize in Milwaukee. The only thing missing is Madison native and ex-Gopher Phil Kessel, who was a fun little sidebar to this series for one season.

While You're There: This weekend's rare Saturday-Sunday format gives fans a chance to see bonus small-college hockey on Friday night. We suggest a trip to Augsburg Arena in Minneapolis (at 23rd and Riverside) to catch the MIAC battle between the Augsburg Auggies and St. Mary's Cardinals. There are great Davanni's hoagies and pizzas to be had across the street. Sadly, they don't offer a discount if you can tell them what an Auggie is. (The school's mascot is a baby eagle).

Stick Salute

His alma mater will offer 2006 Hobey winner Matt Carle his own form of stick salute this Friday after Carle and his new San Jose Sharks teammates visit Denver for the first time this season. The Pioneers will honor Carle for his Hobey (the school's first) during the first intermission of Friday's game with Michigan Tech. Carle is the Sharks' top rookie scorer this season.

Bench Minor

We commend St. Cloud State for earning a split with powerful Minnesota last weekend — a feat that included rallying from two goals down in the Gophers' home rink on Friday. But here's the stat that concerns us: in 10 minutes of overtime versus Minnesota, the Huskies had zero shots on goal. In the final 25 minutes on Saturday, when a 3-1 Husky lead became a 3-3 tie, St. Cloud State had five shots total. Against a team like Minnesota, where the goaltending may the only Achilles' heel, ya gotta throw the biscuit on net a little more, eh?

"It varies from game to game," said the coach when asked for offensive bright spots. "That's part of being young, trying to find consistency."

Heading to high-scoring Minnesota's building might be scary for a team without Brian Elliott in goal, but Eaves said that playing against their arch-rivals seems to bring out the best in his Badgers. After the weekend in Minneapolis, the Badgers have games with Michigan and Michigan State coming up, and WCHA series at North Dakota, at Denver and home with Minnesota looming – not exactly a cakewalk for a team looking to get back above .500. But don't bother asking Eaves about the road ahead. His current focus is more short-term.

"We're so focused on the next game that we've barely taken a look at the schedule ahead," he said. "The energy is there for the next game, and that's what matters to us right now."


• A glance at the national goaltending stats gives a clear indication of why Michigan Tech is off to a nice start at 6-3-1. Netminders Michael-Lee Teslak and Rob Nolan each have a 1.57 goals-against average and are second and third in the country, respectively, in that category. Tech also has the second-stingiest scoring defense in the nation thus far, trailing equally-surprising Notre Dame.

• With all of the talk about the freshmen and sophomores in the North Dakota lineup, senior captain Chris Porter is quietly having a career year for the Fighting Sioux. Porter heads into the series at Alaska Anchorage having score the game-winning or game-tying goal in three consecutive games and is on six-game point streak, his career best.

• Looking for free hockey? Minnesota Duluth and St. Cloud State are the places to be this season. Five of the Bulldogs first 10 games went to overtime, while the Huskies have played an extra period in four of their last eight games. St. Cloud State tied 2-2 at North Dakota on Nov. 4, then tied both games of a home-and-home series with Minnesota last weekend, marking the first time in the Huskies' 21 seasons as a D-I program that they've had three consecutive ties.

• Youth may hold the key if Minnesota State is to snap its winless streak versus Colorado College this weekend in Colorado Springs. The Mavericks are 0-7-1 in their last eight meetings with the Tigers, but are getting a point-per-game output from freshman forward Jerad Stewart over the past few weeks. Stewart scored his first career power play goal last Friday versus Alaska Anchorage, snapping a streak in which the Mavs had gone 0-for-23 on the power play.

• Call this the "Sterling/Sertich Syndrome":After 10 games last season, Colorado College was 9-1-0 and had scored 40 goals. This season the Tigers are 5-4-1 after 10 games and have scored 28 goals.

• Alaska Anchorage went 0-for-9 on the power play during last weekend's split at Minnesota State, marking the first time this season that the Seawolves have gone an entire weekend without a man-advantage goal.

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