November 30, 2006
You Can't Spell Mavericks Without E-R

By Jess Myers

On Tuesday, Minnesota State coach Troy Jutting got a good feeling as he looked over his troops at the start of the team’s practice in Mankato, and realized that for the first time this season, he had all 25 players on his roster skating. The feeling was fleeting.

“That lasted about 20 minutes,” said Jutting with sarcastic exasperation on Thursday. Early in the practice, sophomore forward Mick Berge was lost with a broken scapula (that’s commonly known as the shoulder blade for those of you who couldn’t get an override for Human Anatomy 1102 this semester), raising injury issues that have been an all-too-common refrain for Maverick fans this season.

WCHA Notebook

Minnesota State sophomore forward Mick Berge, who shares the team lead in goals with seven, is out until after the holidays with a broken shoulder blade.

National TV Schedule

Berge, who is tied for the team lead in goals with seven thus far, is expected back in the lineup sometime after the holidays. On defense, the scenario might be rosier, as three key defensemen (Chad Brownlee, Brian Kilburg and Nick Canzanello) are close to full strength again after missing time with assorted ailments in November.

Playing with just five defenseman at times has taken its toll on the Mavericks, who head into this weekend’s home-and-home series with Minnesota on a 1-7-1 streak. Coupled with a sort of slump by highly-touted sophomore goalie Dan Tormey, it’s led Jutting to give more starts to another sophomore, Mike Zacharias, who is now 1-1-1 on the season after a 4-4 tie with Nebraska-Omaha on Nov. 21. The coach says there’s no goalie controversy in Mankato at this time.

“The only controversy is that they both have to play better,” Jutting said. “I’m waiting for somebody to step up and take the job, and it hasn’t happened yet. The goalies haven’t been horrible, but they haven’t been good either.”

Tormey, who won 14 games and was named to the WCHA’s All-Rookie team last year, has seen his saves percentage fall from .902 last season to .850 in nine appearances this year. Jutting compares the struggles to a baseball hitter in the midst of a slump, and credits Tormey for working extremely hard in practice to reverse the trend.

With his defense in question and his goaltending in a slump, it was suggested that this weekend’s series with offensively-talented/defensively-challenged Minnesota could feature another 9-6 game like the one the Gophers and Mavericks played at the Xcel Energy Center a few seasons ago.

“I hope not,” said Jutting, who then added, “Unless we have the nine.”


Plover's Polish Prince Produces in Pros: Less than a year removed from his starring role on Wisconsin’s NCAA title team, ex-Badger Joe Pavelski doesn’t seem surprised to have scored three goals in his first four NHL games. Instead, after scoring in a 2-1 road win over the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday, the San Jose Sharks’ rookie seemed amazed that he didn’t have to buy more tickets for the game.

There were “a good amount” of Pavelski’s friends and family who made the four-hour trip from Plover, Wis., to St. Paul for the game, and here’s how many of them hit Pavelski up for seats: “This is going to sound kind of bad, but none,” Pavelski said with a grin. “Everybody was on the ball and they were calling me telling me they were coming and already had tickets. That wasn’t too bad for the first game this close to home.”

Pavelski started the season with the Sharks’ AHL affiliate in Worcester, Mass., and notched 26 points in 16 games there. Fans of the Worcester Sharks anticipating Pavelski’s return to the DCU Center may have a long wait.

“He’s done really well in the American League and it doesn’t take a good player long to adjust to the speed of this league,” said Sharks coach Ron Wilson. “He’s done a really good job being accountable defensively, he’s been great on faceoffs and obviously he’s got a nose for the net.”

Pavelski said that with his old team’s lack of scoring this season, it’s not uncommon to get joking emails, text messages and voicemails from former coaches and teammates asking when he’s due back in Madison. He still follows the Badgers when he can and is not convinced that this season is lost for them by any means.

“They got it back a little bit last weekend,” Pavelski said, after Wisconsin beat Michigan State 2-0 to snap a six-game losing streak. “It’s just play in the tough zones, right down in front of the net. Get a few rebounds right there and as soon as that happens, you’ll see them getting a few more goals. It’s a long season. They’ve got to have a good second half.”

As for the long season Pavelski has ahead of him in the NHL, he said despite appearances, scoring in the show isn’t as simple as he’s making it look.

“I don’t know if goals ever really come easy, but they’re coming right now, so that’s good,” he said.

Great Weekend Getaway
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St. Cloud St. at Michigan Tech

Not only is it the “Battle of the Huskies,” it’s a good chance to see who’s for real this weekend. The Central Time Zone Huskies haven’t lost in nearly a month and enter the weekend on a 4-0-3 streak, while the Eastern Time Zone Huskies are undefeated at home thus far, with a 4-0-1 mark at MacInnes Student Ice Arena. One would think that something’s got to give.

While You're There: True story from a cold winter night in 1992: I’m sitting in the Ambassador in downtown Houghton with a good friend. He was somewhat “ample” at the time but has since gotten into much better shape. It’s roughly 2 a.m. and we’ve thoroughly reviewed every play from that night’s Minnesota win over the Huskies, while consuming several Fishbowls (gigantic drinks that they serve there – each one has about five shots in it). We’re both getting sleepy and seemingly ready to call it a night when the waitress says, “Last call for food.” My friend lazily flips open the menu, browses for a moment, then asks, “How are the tacos?” Moral of the story: When you’re spending a long, cold winter in the U.P., the importance of that protective layer of “natural insulation” around one’s midsection can’t be underestimated.

Stick Salute

Minnesota rookie forward Jim O’Brien apparently wanted a big stage for his break-out night. The Gophers’ fourth-line center hadn’t recorded a collegiate point in 13 games, but changed that in a big way during last Saturday’s showdown with Michigan. Versus the Wolverines he scored twice and added an assist to earn WCHA Rookie of the Week honors

Bench Minor

In a recent letter to the school's newspaper, Dartmouth athletic director Josie Harper offered “a sincere apology to the Native American community, and the Dartmouth community as a whole, for an event that will understandably offend and hurt people within our community.” What did they do that was so offensive and hurtful? They scheduled a Dec. 29 home game with North Dakota (and apparently the NoDaks have a controversial moniker for their hockey club). Um, Josie, your own school’s teams used to be called the Indians, and your men’s hockey team last made a NCAA tourney appearance in 1980. Methinks there are bigger issues than your opponents’ nicknames


• Defenseman Matt Carle, who won the Hobey for Denver last season, got an assist for the San Jose Sharks in their win at Minnesota this week. It was his fifth career game at the Xcel Energy Center (three with the Pioneers, two with the Sharks) and he’s recorded at least one assist in every game there. Carle scored his first NHL goal in the building last March. Carle says he loves telling Sharks teammates the story of former Pioneers teammate Paul Stastny’s decision to continue living in a two-bedroom apartment with two college roommates, even after signing with the Colorado Avalanche over the summer. “It’s always like, ‘Hey, get off your wallet, buddy,’” Carle said.

• When Seawolf fans watched North Dakota leave Anchorage with a pair of losses in 1995, few would have figured that it would be exactly 11 years before it would happen again. Alaska Anchorage swept North Dakota on Nov. 17-18, 1995, and didn’t score a sweep over the Sioux again until Nov. 17-18, 2006. If the Sioux head to Anchorage for a series on Nov. 17-18, 2017, I’m betting on the home team.

• After four years of the Sterling-Sertich Show in Colorado Springs, more than one hockey fan predicted that offensive diversity would be the key to success for Colorado College this season. Despite having their five-game winning streak snapped last Saturday in Grand Forks, the Tigers are looking like a diverse lot when they have the puck. Eleven different players recorded at least one point in the spilt at North Dakota.

• If the number of Minnesota license plates I saw on Sanibel Island, Florida, last week is any indication, the State of Hockey is a place plenty of folks like to avoid when the weather turns cold. With a 2-5-1 home record so far, Minnesota Duluth should hope that avoiding the DECC for a few weeks will do the Bulldogs some good.

Starting with this weekend’s series in Anchorage, the Bulldogs play seven of their next eight games on the road. Of course, if you’re looking for a warm-weather winter getaway, going on tour with Scott Sandelin and company is ill-advised. The Bulldogs visit sunny Anchorage, Bemidji, Mankato and Columbus on their December travels.

• Former Gopher defenseman Keith Ballard, now with the Phoenix Coyotes, is back in coach Wayne Gretzky’s lineup now after missing the better part of November when he broke a finger blocking a shot. While the banged-up hand has temporarily kept Ballard off the many alluring golf courses in the Valley of the Sun, he says one of the biggest challenges when making the transition from college to pro hockey is dealing with all of the downtime.

Ballard told INCH that when you’re used to classes in the morning, several hours of practice in the afternoon and studying (or more classes) at night, it can be a big adjustment, especially on those off-days when practice only runs 40 minutes. He said as the full 82-game impact of his rookie NHL season wore on, he learned to savor that downtime as a chance to rest the nagging injuries that pile up between September and April.

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