7 , 2006
Getting Tough For Sioux
Don't bother telling North Dakota coach Dave
Hakstol about the great opportunity his team has versus
a vulnerable Wisconsin team this weekend. He's not buying
"I'm not so sure that they're not quite
a bit better than what their record indicates," Hakstol
said, reflecting back on the spilt the team battled to in
Madison back in October. That was before both rosters were
beset by a rash of injuries that has fans wondering what
the real Fighting Sioux look like, and when they'll be back
to full health.
Dakota goalie Philippe Lamoureux was among those Sioux
players stung by the injury bug.
Hakstol says his club is getting back closer
to what they had in training camp, long before Jonathan
Toews, Erik Fabian, and goaltender Philippe Lamoureux all
missed significant time with a variety of ailments. Forward
T.J. Oshie hasn't missed a game, but has been playing with
a significant hand injury since the Sioux were swept by
Maine in October, and has been limited to just three goals
in 14 games. All of that medical news has limited the team's
hunt for wins (they're currently 7-6-1) and identity.
"I don't think we've established ourselves
with a team identity," Hakstol said. "We just
haven't been a very consistent hockey team – and that's
not looking strictly at wins and losses."
Hakstol praised the unsung play of defenseman
Taylor Chorney and forward Brad Miller thus far. Miller,
who hails from Alpharetta, Ga., and grew up playing roller
hockey, quietly has the second-most goals for the Sioux
this season with five (Ryan Duncan leads the team with nine).
And the coach said beyond Wisconsin the Sioux will face
more challenges in December, with Michigan Tech coming to
town, three players leaving for the World Junior Championships
(Chorney and Brian Lee are on Team USA and Toews is expected
to crack Team Canada's roster), then a trip to the tournament
at Dartmouth, where they'll face an Indian nickname protest
as well as two on-ice foes. Hakstol welcomes the challenges.
"We still need to mature as a team and
I think we're seeing some signs of that, so we look forward
to the fact that we have an opportunity to go into a new
environment," he said. "That's one way a team
SEEN AND HEARD IN THE WCHA
Okposo Goes Five-Hole ... On Himself:
Minnesota rookie forward Kyle Okposo turned a few heads
and spurred a few Internet video searches on Saturday, scoring
the game-winner in his team's 2-1 victory in Mankato with
move that had Gopher fans gushing. Cutting across the
front of the goalmouth in the first period, Okposo took
a pass from Ryan Stoa, drew the puck back between his own
skates, and flipped a rising shot that sailed over the glove
of Mavericks goalie Mike Zacharias.
While the shot was a surprise to the netminder
and all of the sellout crowd in attendance, careful scouting
of Okposo's past games would've let you know that such a
move exists and could be coming at any time. While watching
the Minnesota Wild play the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday
night in his hometown, Okposo told INCH that last Saturday
was the third time he's used that move in a game, and he's
scored all three times.
"I've been doing that since I was little,"
Okposo said with a grin. "Fortunately for me it went
in, because I was trying to go upstairs and didn't get all
He scored on the same play once while playing
for Des Moines in the USHL and again while at Shattuck-St.
Mary's. While he's never missed, the move strikes some as
hot-dogging just a bit, and has drawn some criticism from
his own coaches in the past.
"Coach (Tom) Ward at Shattuck wasn't
real happy the first time he saw me do that," Okposo
said. "He kind of told me to leave that one in the
With Okposo and four other Gophers heading
to Sweden later this month to represent Team USA at the
World Junior Championships, Okposo wouldn't reveal whether
his signature move will make its international hockey debut
"I doubt it, but we'll see," said
Okposo with a sly grin, as if to say to opposing goalies,
"you never know what's coming."
Cutting Tormey Out: Minnesota
State goalie Dan Tormey has struggled in the first two months
of his sophomore season, but seemed to be on the right track
last Friday at Minnesota, holding the Gophers to one goal
on 18 shots through half of their game.
"That's the best I've playing all year,"
Tormey said. "I was seeing the puck well and felt confident.
It just seems that it's always the case that we can't catch
Near the midway point of the game, Minnesota
forward Blake Wheeler was knocked down and slid into the
Mavericks' net skates first, opening up a gash in Tormey's
glove hand. The prognosis was a severed tendon that required
surgery. While Tormey skated off the rink with TV cameras
picking up a significant amount of blood on his hand, he
vowed a speedy return after the game.
"It's minor," Tormey said, despite
having a significant bandage on his left hand. "I'll
be back as soon as I can and keep kicking. They can't keep
me down. I wanted to go back in and play, but they wouldn't
Great Weekend Getaway
at North Dakota
It's looking like desperation time in Grand Forks,
and not just for the Columbia Mall shoppers fighting
hard to fill that holiday gift list. The Badgers visit
the Fighting Sioux with plenty of long-term standings
implications on the line. North Dakota is a game over
.500, while the memories of Wisconsin's NCAA title
are fading fast as the Badgers struggle. A sweep by
either team would go a long way toward calming the
troubled waters they experienced in November.
While You're There: Yes, it requires
a drive from the rink all the way into another state
(although it only takes 10 minutes), and yes, it'll
be a little too chilly to sit on the riverfront patio,
but when in Greater Grand Forks, we know of no better
way to cap off an evening of college pucks than sipping
a Blue Moon at the Blue Moose, just across the river
in East Grand Forks.
takes another step toward making video of every game
available on Saturday as the University of Denver
offer a free webcast of the Pioneers' game with
Minnesota State. If you can't get enough of the Pios
and the Mavs from reading the box score, log on at
7 p.m. Mountain Time and enjoy.
WCHA assistant referee Brad Shepherd called Minnesota
State's R.J. Linder for checking from behind. Linder
was tossed from the game, and Minnesota was given
a five-minute power play, upon which the Gophers promptly
scored. While the merits of the call itself are open
for debate, it was bewildering to see Shepherd make
the call from the opposite side of the rink, more
than 100 feet away, while referee Jeff Albers was
roughly 10 feet from the play. A call of that magnitude
should be left to the guy with the closest perspective.
Otherwise, why not just call the game from the pressbox?
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
• Michigan Tech has slipped a bit since
the Huskies' surprising 5-1-0 start and holds a .500 record
heading into this weekend's home series with Minnesota.
One reason for the better start to the season (Tech was
2-13-1 at this time a year ago, and 1-14-1 two years ago)
has been a lighter workload for goaltenders Michael-Lee
Teslak and Rob Nolan. On average, the Huskies are giving
up fewer than 22 shots per game this season, which is tops
in the WCHA.
• Denver fans looking for a silver lining
after last weekend's sweep by archrival Colorado College
can take some heart that good things might be coming in
April. The last time the Pioneers lost two consecutive games
to the Tigers, in the opening round of the 2004 WCHA playoffs,
Denver bounced back to win the NCAA title about a month
later. Last Friday's win by the Tigers was their 100th all-time
versus Denver and snapped a string in which the Pioneers
were 6-0-1 versus CC.
• A win by Alaska Anchorage at Colorado
College this weekend would be a rarity. The Seawolves have
gone more than a decade since their first and only win in
Colorado Springs – a 7-4 triumph on Nov. 30, 1996.
UAA is 1-28-0 all-time in road games versus the Tigers,
and has never won there since the opening of Colorado Springs
World Arena in 1998. Although, sticklers for detail will
point out that the Seawolves were officially the road team
in their 4-1 win over CC in the opening game of the 2004
WCHA Final Five in St. Paul.
• How bad have things been for Minnesota
Duluth lately? The Bulldogs 7-4 win at Alaska Anchorage
last weekend was the program's first WCHA regular season
road victory in nearly a full year. UMD last won a WCHA
road game on Dec. 10, 2005, beating Colorado College 4-3
in Colorado Springs.
• They say winning cures all ills. Wisconsin,
which snapped a six-game losing streak in its last outing,
beating Michigan State 2-0, also saw several other unpleasant
milestones go away in the victory. The Badgers power play
broke a 0-for-16 streak in the game, while defenseman Jeff
Likens snapped a 12-game streak without a point and forward
Andrew Joudrey scored a goal for the first time in 10 games.
Bewildered by their team's struggles in November, faithful
Badger fans hope this is the start of a comeback.
of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report