There are fans of at least five WCHA teams
(Minnesota Duluth, St. Cloud State, North Dakota, Minnesota
State and Wisconsin) that consider the Minnesota Golden
Gophers their archrivals. As long as Colorado College has
a hockey team, you probably won't add Denver to the long
list of Gopher archrivals anytime soon, but it was hard
to tell that from what happened on the ice last weekend
from Minnesota and Denver battled for two tough games
last weekend, and there's a chance they could meet
again later on this year. Here, Minnesota's Mike Carman
(left) and Denver's Brandon Vossberg pursue a loose
From the start of the series (which ended
in a split after two one-goal games) there was an archrivals-like
intensity and more than 150 penalty minutes between the
Pioneers and Gophers. And when it was all over, there was
already talk of a potential playoff meeting.
"I've got a feeling these teams are going
to meet a few more times before this college hockey season
is over," said Pioneers coach George Gwozdecky, noting
that the Gophers didn't come to Denver this season. "We
have an off weekend a few weeks from now. Maybe they want
to come out and play an exhibition series."
In addition to the hard hits and post-whistle
rough stuff that referee Todd Anderson's crew dealt with,
there was plenty to be heard on ice level between two teams
that seem to have some suddenly bad blood.
"For whatever reason this weekend, there
was more talking going than I can remember in five years,"
Minnesota coach Don Lucia. "I was really surprised.
That helped escalate things."
Friday's 1-0 Denver win was decided on a goal
that came after Minnesota's Jim O'Brien skated through the
Pioneers' crease and may have made contact with netminder
Glenn Fisher. Replays were inconclusive about the extent
of the contact, but Fisher fell to the ice and drew a goaltender
interference penalty. Denver scored the only goal on the
ensuing man advantage. Lucia said afterward that Anderson
could've called a dive on the play. Anger over that play
may have come to fruition in the first period of Saturday's
5-4 Gophers win, when another collision in front of the
Denver net touched off a melee that ended with nine players
in the penalty box and two more (Denver's J.P. Testwuide
and Minnesota's Ben Gordon) tossed for fighting.
After the series, Gwozdecky talked to reporters
and failed to acknowledge the irony in comparing the two-game
set to an event more suited to pay-per-view from Caesar's
"What people predicted about this series
— at least the smart people — came true,"
he said. "There were two pretty good heavyweight fighters
going at it shot for shot. It was a pretty good 15-rounder."
With these two clubs playing well and the
players seemingly itching to see their newfound rivals soon,
fans of intense college hockey have got to be pulling for
a March rematch at the Final Five in St. Paul, and maybe
again a week later at the NCAA Regional in Denver.
SEEN AND HEARD IN THE WCHA
Ex-Pioneer Built For Speed:
A few hours before he notched a short-handed goal in the
YoungStars game (part of the NHL All-Star festivities held
in Dallas) on Tuesday, Matt Carle took what may have been
the ride of his life. The former Denver star and 2006 Hobey
winner caught a helicopter lift to Texas Motor Speedway,
the NASCAR track outside Fort Worth, and drove a regulation
race car during a 20-lap run around the 1.5-mile track.
According to speedway officials, Carle and the other NHLers
participating in the event hit more than 150 mph a few times
as they flew around the quad-oval.
"It was a blast," Carle told USA
Today. "They said they used the same engines and
cars as the Nextel Cup guys. The first couple laps, they
put a restriction on us, but after that they turned us loose."
Kinda makes that fastest skater competition
look pokey by comparison.
Great Weekend Getaway
Cloud State at Denver
They'll play the "guess who's the hotter team"
games this weekend at Magness Arena when St. Cloud
State visits Denver. The Huskies have taken over sole
possession of second place in the WCHA and are 14-1-4
since Nov. 3. The Pioneers are on a one-game losing
streak, but have gone 9-2-1 in their last dozen outings.
While You're There: If you're the
type who heads outdoors as soon as hockey season is
over, this is the right weekend to be in Denver. The
Denver International Sportsmen's Show, which is Colorado's
largest hunting, fishing, and outdoors event, runs
through Sunday at the Colorado Convention Center.
Sounds like the perfect time to plan that summer getaway
in the Rockies.
including INCH, have talked up the talented rookies
as being a key to St. Cloud State's strong season,
it's erroneous to forget the wily veterans. Huskies
junior forward Andrew Gordon and senior defenseman
Justin Fletcher were named, respectively,
the WCHA's offensive and defensive players of the
week after they combined for 11 points in their team's
sweep of Minnesota Duluth last weekend.
of Hockey Day in Minnesota last Saturday, ushers at
Mariucci Arena gave out thousands of posters to fans
upon entering the rink for the Gophers' game with
Denver. In the second period, when Mike Vannelli completed
his first career hat trick, hundreds of the
posters (along with dozens of hats) rained down on
the rink, thrown mostly by jubilant students.
The litter prompted a five-minute break to clean the
ice. Handing out freebie giveaways to fans before
games is a dumb idea, for this very reason.
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
• Two former WCHA assistant coaches
have been identified as applicants for the Alaska Anchorage
coaching job that's held by Dave Shyiak but technically
open due to U.S. immigration law. The Anchorage Daily News
recently reported that former UAA assistant (and Iona head
coach) Frank Bretti, and former Wisconsin assistant Troy
Ward are two of the five people who submitted applications
when the school was forced to post the job opening. Due
to the fact that Shyiak is a Canadian citizen employed in
the States on a temporary work permit, the school must receive
a permanent labor certification from the U.S. Department
of Labor while Shyiak seeks permanent U.S. residency. In
order to receive that certification, the school had to post
the job and see if any qualified U.S. citizens applied.
Since both Bretti and Ward have held college coaching jobs
(Ward was also with Denver for a stint), one would think
they may be considered qualified applicants, meaning that
UAA may have a staffing mess on its hands.
• About 15 years ago, when the idea
of WCHA membership for Alaska Anchorage was being kicked
around, a friend at Colorado College told me that for the
Tigers, it was sometimes easier to get to Anchorage than
to Houghton for road games. Apparently, the Tigers no longer
mind taking trips to Michigan Tech, at least not recently.
Heading into this weekend's road series in Houghton, Colorado
College is 16-1-5 in its last 22 games there.
• While it's unlikely we'll see Minnesota
Duluth in the NCAA tournament this year, the Bulldogs might
want to demand a post-season series with Lake Superior State
to determine the champion of the world's largest freshwater
lake. After beating Northern Michigan 4-2 at the DECC on
Wednesday night, the Bulldogs are now 4-1-1 versus two of
the other three teams on located Lake Superior, having beaten
Northern home-and-home and going 2-1-1 against Michigan
Tech. UMD's leading scorer, Mason Raymond, had a goal and
two assists as the Bulldogs broke a 2-2 tie in the third
for their ninth win of the season. Incidentally, the Bulldogs
are 6-3-2 all-time versus Lake State, but the Lakers won
their last meeting 4-3 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit during
the 1993 NCAA tournament.
• Is Wisconsin is looking to shadow
someone during this weekend's series with Minnesota State
in Madison, Travis Morin would be the obvious choice. The
Mavericks' leading scorer has put up 11 points in his past
nine games and has moved into third place on the school's
all-time scoring list in the Division I era. Minnesota State
is the only WCHA school that has never been shut out by
• Lars Helminen's recent hot streak
comes at a good time for Michigan Tech, as the Huskies battle
to get back into the race for home ice. Helminen's goal
last Friday at Alaska Anchorage was his first since Oct.
20. He added two assists in the Huskies' 4-1 win in Anchorage
last Saturday, giving him five points in three games.
• If North Dakota captain Chris Porter
can stay healthy, and if the Fighting Sioux can win a few
playoff games, he could make WCHA history. Porter, a senior,
has played in 158 consecutive games and needs 14 more to
become the league's all-time ironman. Currently Wisconsin's
John Johannson (1980-84) and Colorado College's Calvin Elfring
(1994-98) hold the record with 171 consecutive games played.
With 10 regular season games and a minimum of two playoff
games remaining on the Sioux schedule, they'll need to win
at least two postseason games, and advance to the Final
Five, for Porter to break the record.
• If the WCHA playoffs began today,
Wisconsin would have to go on the road, but despite their
current standing in the lower half of the league standings,
there's optimism for a strong finish among many Badger fans.
Wisconsin has played two fewer league games than fifth-place
North Dakota (which the Badgers currently trail by a point)
and four fewer league games than Alaska Anchorage, with
which it is tied for sixth place. Eight of Wisconsin's 12
remaining league games are against teams at or below the
Badgers in the standings.
of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report.
Jess Myers can be reached at email@example.com.