February 15, 2007
It's the Third Period: Do You Know Where Your Kids Are?

By Jess Myers

The topic of college hockey coaches producing college hockey-playing sons was visited again this week when Ryan Guentzel, the offspring of Gophers assistant coach Mike Guentzel, committed to skate for Notre Dame next season. Minnesota seems to be the unofficial home of coach-son connections: former coach Doug Woog watched son Steve skate for Northern Michigan while son Dan played for the Gophers, and current Gopher coach Don Lucia has son Tony on his roster.

WCHA Notebook

Minnesota coach Don Lucia is just one of several WCHA coaches who has had the opportunity to coach his son.

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“I don’t see him too much away from the rink,” said coach Lucia of his son, saying there’s a level of trust established during times like the holiday breaks when they’re home together. “I try not to breach that, and don’t ask him about other players or things like that away from the rink. The first month there’s a breaking-in period, but Tony’s earned his ice time, and it’s been easier than I expected.”

Just a few years ago, Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves’ two sons, Patrick and Ben, were playing for Boston College, creating a potentially stressful situation for the family when the Eagles and Badgers met on the rink.

“We played against the boys in Boston my first year here and it was definitely an interesting event,” said the elder Eaves, recalling a 4-2 Badgers loss, in which Patrick scored two of the Eagles’ goals. “I’m glad it didn’t happen every year, because it’s hard to separate your emotions. You try to concentrate on your own team but your sons are out there, and it’s amazing how strong your emotions are.”

Eaves coached Patrick for one season at the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, and said that some modifications to the normal coach-player and father-son relationships helped make things work.

“We laid down some ground rules right away, and made it clear that we’d never talk about hockey at home unless he brought it up,” coach Eaves said. “During games, if there was something that needed correcting about his game, I generally had an assistant coach talk to him, but I made it clear to Patrick that he would get called out by me in front of the team at least a few times, and there was no special treatment because he was the coach’s son.”

Had Patrick not left school a year early for the NHL, last year’s NCAA title game would’ve been a tense father-son reunion as well, as Mike’s Badgers beat his boys’ former team for the national crown.

As for the Guentzel family, Mike says that he’s hoping the Gophers can schedule Notre Dame a few times in future years for no other reason than an opportunity to see Ryan play. Mike said he’s only seen Ryan skate for Sioux Falls in the USHL six times or so this season.

“I don’t know how our schedule is going to work out, but it would be neat to see him play for Notre Dame,” coach Guentzel said. “In some ways, him playing in a different conference will be easier because there aren’t as many of those stressful situations. I miss out on not being able to see him as much, but he can do his own deal there.”

Guentzel added that the fact that his boss, Lucia, is a Notre Dame alum, did not factor into Ryan’s college choice.


McLeod's officials' statement: It seems that this year more than in past years, WCHA officials are under fire from coaches, fans and the media. WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod seemed to add fuel to that fire a few weeks ago, when he told a North Dakota radio broadcast that the officiating needed to improve. Many took this to mean that changes could be afoot in the league office in the near future.

While attending a recent NHL game in Minnesota, McLeod sat down with INCH for a few minutes to clarify his position on the folks who wear the black and white stripes.

“I’m proud of our officiating staff right now,” McLeod said, responding to a column in the Grand Forks Herald in which Virg Foss wrote that the WCHA had some of the worst officiating in college hockey. “I know in fact that the opposite is the truth. Talk to any coaches and anybody else that has watched the other leagues and they know what I mean.”

Still McLeod acknowledges that just like the other aspects of WCHA hockey, supervisor of officials Greg Shepherd and his charges have some room for improvement.

“We need to be better,” he said. “This league has come leaps and bounds when you look at the coaching staffs, you look at the quality of players, you look at the buildings, and all of those things. We need to find a way of having the officiating staff keep up with that too.”

League coaches have been more publicly critical of officials this season, culminating with the much-publicized incident at Mariucci Arena in January when campus police had to separate referee Jon Campion and two Minnesota State coaches.

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Minnesota at Colorado College

Minnesota visits Colorado College this weekend having already clinched home ice in the WCHA playoffs and looking to win the MacNaughton Cup for the second season in a row. The Tigers, even with a sweep, cannot catch the Gophers this weekend, but they can leapfrog idle arch-rival Denver and move into third place. With the jockeying for a top-three finish having already begun, there are important points up for grabs at World Arena

While You're There: There’s a three-game, three-conference, two-sport tripleheader to be had in Colorado Springs this weekend. After Gophers-Tigers on Friday, the red-hot Air Force basketball team (ranked #14 in the nation) hosts Colorado State on Saturday afternoon, and the Air Force hockey team engages Canisius in an Atlantic Hockey duel on Saturday night.

Stick Salute

For the second week in a row, we’re raising our sticks to the Dean. Long-time Wisconsin coach, and good friend of INCH, Jeff Sauer was behind the bench again recently, coaching a team of the nation’s best hearing-impaired hockey players to the goal medal at the Winter Deaflympic Games, held in Salt Lake City earlier this month. Team USA finished 4-1-0 with Sauer at the helm, beating Germany 8-1 in its final game.

Bench Minor

Reports out of Minneapolis have Gopher freshman defenseman Erik Johnson being smothered by autograph hounds nearly every time he appears in public. While we’ve got no trouble with the kids getting their college hockey hero to sign a Gopher sweater, the multitudes of shady-looking adults showing up with Blues sweaters and pennants (that you just know will be available on eBay within minutes) are getting annoying.


• Minnesota State visits Alaska Anchorage this weekend looking to continue its winning ways versus the Seawolves. When Alaska Anchorage won 3-2 in Mankato earlier this season, it was the Seawolves’ only win in their last 10 meetings with the Mavericks.

• Denver rookie Brock Trotter looks to join some elite company if his hot scoring way continue. Trotter leads the Pioneers with 36 points in 34 games and is on pace to become the first freshman to lead the team offensively since Dave Shields did it in 1986-87. Thus far, freshmen have accounted for 49% of the Pioneers’ offense.

• Michigan Tech defenseman Lars Helminen had four assists last weekend as the Huskies took three of four points from Denver in the annual Winter Carnival series. Helminen, who needs three more points to move into the top 10 on Tech’s list of top-scoring defensemen, was named Winter Carnival MVP for his efforts.

• Any Minnesota Duluth players who complain about being tired this weekend when the Bulldogs travel to North Dakota should be benched immediately. Friday night’s game in Grand Forks will be just the third game the Bulldogs have played in the past 22 days. North Dakota is not a great place for Minnesota Duluth to look for wins. Scott Sandelin’s club is 1-12-0 in its last 13 meetings with the coach’s alma mater.

• If you like goalies, and not goals, Madison might be the place to be this weekend. St. Cloud State boasts the league’s top goaltender in Bobby Goepfert, while Wisconsin’s team defense is the best in the conference. Of course, knowing the unpredictable nature of hockey, we can all but count on one team winning a game 7-5 with an empty-netter.

• In the “former Badger makes good” category, congratulations are due to New England College coach Tom Carroll, who now has 89 wins in five seasons behind the bench for the D-III school in Henniker, N.H. and has become the Pilgrims’ all-time winningest coach. Carroll played on the 1981 and 1983 NCAA title teams at Wisconsin and was an assistant coach at Notre Dame for 14 years. He is part of an impressive Minnesota hockey family. Brother Steve was a Hobey finalist goaltender at Minnesota State and led the Mavericks to the NCAA D-II title in 1980. Brother Jim was the Twin Cities metro area high school player of the year in 1986 and played four seasons at Michigan Tech.

• North Dakota needs at least a win and a tie versus Minnesota Duluth this weekend to finish above .500 at home. The Fighting Sioux, who close the regular season with four straight road games, are 9-4-0 away from home this season, but just 7-7-3 at Ralph Englestad Arena.

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report. Jess Myers can be reached at jess@insidecollegehockey.com.