Apply Lessons Learned at World Juniors
By the time pucks are dropping on Friday night,
the sleep patterns should be back to normal, and the faint
aura of herring and lesfe will likely have faded from the
taste buds of the players. But for those 12 WCHA skaters
who made the trek to Sweden and back for the World Juniors,
returning with medals (most bronze, one gold), the effect
on their collegiate game remains to be seen.
Skille made some good friends on the Gopher team while
they were playing at the World Junior Championship,
The conventional wisdom is they'll be tapped
out, and will take some time to be back to full strength.
"It was an emotionally draining experience,
especially after we lost the first two and every game was
do-or-die, so it will be interesting to see how they respond
back in the college environment," said Team USA coach
Ron Rolston. "But they're all elite players and situations
like this are things they'll have to deal with, especially
if they're going to play at the next level."
Nowhere is the "just back from Leksand"
theme going to be more prevalent this weekend than in Madison,
where Minnesota (and five Team USA veterans) faces Wisconsin
(home to a trio of bronze medalists). The trip to Scandinavia
was a breakout of sorts for Golden Gophers sophomore goaltender
Jeff Frazee, who silenced many critics with a stellar performance
between the pipes for the Americans. He says the WJC experience
made him a better player.
"I definitely think it'll help me out
now that we're all back with our schools," Frazee said.
"I took some things back that I think will help my
game mentally and some changes in the way I approach the
Frazee's coach said the goalie seems to shine
on the international stage, and understands that solid play
from him and top goalie Kellen Briggs are the keys to maintaining
their on-ice success in March and April.
"I hope we can get good defense and goaltending
the rest of the way, because that's going to hold the key
for us," said Don Lucia, acknowledging that the 2006
upset loss to Holy Cross is still fresh in many minds. "When
you get to the end of the year, you need a goalie who's
going to give up two goals or less facing 25 to 30 shots.
We weren't as strong as we needed to be there at the end
of last season, and I think you saw that in the way the
In the shadow of the Wisconsin State Capitol,
some of those in red are also looking forward to a less-friendly
reunion with the guys they called teammates a week ago.
"This weekend is going to be great,"
said Badgers forward Jack Skille. "Getting to know
those guys over the past three weeks has been fun, and it's
going to be great playing against them."
Like Frazee, Skille says the trip to Sweden
was about hockey education more than medals, especially
when the international lessons are applied on WCHA ice.
"When you get to play at that level for
three weeks, it really magnifies what you need to work on
and it's a good reminder of how you need to keep your feet
moving on the open ice," said Skille, who said he hasn't
yet shown his medal to his Wisconsin teammates. "I
keep forgetting to bring it to the rink. Of course, we've
got a couple of guys on this team who have gold medals,
so they're probably not too impressed."
SEEN AND HEARD IN THE WCHA
Pondering Bemidji State's Future:
An interesting rumor to come out of the college hockey world
in recent weeks has folks at Bemidji State quietly but forcefully
pushing for WCHA membership (or at least to be considered
for WCHA membership) in the near future. The league has
placed a firm moratorium on further expansion, so it's unlikely
that games versus the Beavers will count in the league standings
next year (or for at minimum a few years thereafter).
"We haven't applied for membership because
we can't until the moratorium is lifted, and we don't know
if that's going to happen," said Beavers coach Tom
Serratore. "There's got to be a motion to lift it and
a second and we don't know what the chances of that are."
While perhaps not making a lot of friends
in WCHA circles, Serratore's club is making a strong case
on the ice that they would be competitive in the league
right away. The Beavers are 5-1-0 versus WCHA team this
year, with sweeps of Minnesota Duluth and Minnesota State,
and could further improve that record this weekend when
they visit a Michigan Tech team that has not maintained
its hot start.
"We're playing pretty well," Serratore
said, just before boarding a Houghton-bound bus on Thursday.
"We've gotten a lot of breaks in those games and a
lot of bounces have gone our way all season, and we're also
a pretty good hockey team."
Great Weekend Getaway
Colorado College at Minnesota
The big-timers will tell you that Madison is the place
to be this weekend, but we see a slightly more interesting
match up happening six hours north of the Kohl Center.
Colorado College visits Minnesota Duluth with the
Tigers battling to stay in the top half of the league
standings and the Bulldogs battling to salvage their
While You're There: The sad lack
of snow has forced the weekend's big snowboarding
event at Spirit Mountain to be rescheduled for February.
Instead we suggest a walk along the lake (usually
unbearably cold in normal January weather), a stop
at the Marine Museum, then a trip a few blocks up
the hill for a great Sammy's Pizza before heading
to the DECC.
spent watching youth hockey in small-town Minnesota
provided an opportunity to see the Husky Productions
telecast of last Saturday's game between St. Cloud
State and Alaska Anchorage. While the Huskies have
gone a dozen games without a loss, the student-produced
television coverage is almost as impressive, with
great camera work and insightful (if unpolished) commentary.
Good work folks, the fans everywhere from Kasson to
Kelliher appreciate it..
advantage is supposedly a big thing in college hockey,
but that's not the case in the WCHA this season. As
of this week, the team in the white (or occasionally
gold, in the case of Minnesota and Alaska Anchorage)
sweater is 35-33-8, meaning road teams are just two
games under .500. What's the point of the loud music,
the rowdy students and the laser shows if they don't
help the home club win?
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
• When the ref's arm goes up, it can
only mean bad things for Alaska Anchorage lately. The Seawolves
have surrendered at least one power play goal in seven consecutive
games and have been held scoreless on the power play in
three of their last five games.
• A 21-save outing by Colorado College
goaltender Matt Zaba this weekend would move him ahead of
Tim Frame (1977-81) and into fourth place on the school's
career saves chart.
• Some great Canadians have skated for
North Dakota over the years, but Jonathan Toews made history
for his home country last week. In winning gold for Team
Canada in their final game versus Russia, Toews became the
first Fighting Sioux to claim two gold medals. Toews, who
was named to the WJC all-tournament team, also got the top
prize with Team Canada last year in Vancouver. With all
of those accolades, we'll let one little on-air f-bomb slide.
• How good are the youngsters at Denver?
Through the Pioneers first 24 games (15 of them wins), freshmen
have accounted for 49 percent of the team's scoring points.
Leading that group of young guns is redshirt freshman Brock
Trotter, who has 25 points thus far.
• A nice tip of the cap to young hockey
players this weekend in Houghton, where Saturday night's
contest with Bemidji State has been designated Junior Hockey
Night. All local junior hockey players who wear their sweaters
to the game can get a ticket for $3.
• There's good news and more good news
among the goaltending ranks at Minnesota State. Mavericks
sophomore goalie Dan Tormey, who suffered a severed tendon
during a game at Minnesota in December, got the cast off
his hand recently and may return to the ice soon. In his
place, fellow soph Mike Zacharias is doing good things in
the Mavs net, stopping 127 of the last 136 shots he's faced
for a .920 saves percentage in the past five games.
of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report.
Jess Myers can be reached at email@example.com.