Seeks Return Trip to Frozen Four
While the rest of the St. Cloud State Huskies
are hell-bent on getting to the Frozen Four for the first
time in school history, senior forward Dan Kronick can't
be blamed if he takes a bit of a, "been there, done
Kronick went straight from a stellar high
school career at Twin Cities powerhouse Holy Angels to Minnesota
Duluth, and was a part of the 2004 Bulldogs club (albeit
wearing a nice suit in the pressbox on most nights) that
made it to the Frozen in Boston.
But Kronick only suited up for 15 games in
his two seasons with in Duluth, and finished his career
there without a goal. When Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin
asked the 6-4, 229 hulk to spend a year back in juniors,
Kronick instead asked for and was granted a transfer.
As he heads into his final few weekends of
college hockey, Kronick has become a mainstay in the Huskies
offense, playing in all 37 of the team's games and notching
14 goals thus far. As he enjoyed a relaxing night at goaltender
Bobby Goepfert's house a few days before the Huskies headed
to the WCHA Final Five in St. Paul, Kronick talked to INCH
about his roundabout route to Central Minnesota, and what
it means to be a tree in Bob Motzko's offensive scheme.
Inside College Hockey: It took
three overtimes for your team to beat Minnesota Duluth on
Sunday night and get into the Final Five. What time did
you get to bed on Monday morning?
Dan Kronick: I'd say close to three. We got
back to our place about 12, hung out, played some vids then
tried to get to sleep but I was still shaking, so it took
INCH: What were the emotions like
during that game?
DK: It seemed, eventually, like no one ever
was going to score. People on our bench were leaving and
coming back, leaving and coming back. It was almost like
a blur out there. Everything was getting juggled around.
Some guys were getting hurt, coach was switching things
around. We knew a few guys were injured and battling through
it. (Andrew Gordon) and Casey Borer were injured and (John
Swanson) was hurt. Then I remember (Andreas) Nodl scoring
and everybody celebrating, jumping up and down.
INCH: Did you have enough energy
left to celebrate?
DK: I was the only guy who threw my stuff.
I threw my gloves and my stick in the air and I think I
hit our coach with my stick. I got fined a few bucks for
doing that, but it felt all the better doing that.
INCH: Considering your history,
was it inevitable that your last game against Minnesota
Duluth would end that way?
DK: I figured that we ended their season last
year, and we wanted to make it back to the Final Five, so
it was kind of ironic that we played them again to go down
there. I felt like there was no way we were going to lose,
and I didn't think at all about what if.
WCHA Final Five Capsules
1 Minnesota Record: 28-9-3 (18-7-3 WCHA)
Golden Gopher Note: The five previous
times that the Gophers have come to the WCHA Final
Four/Five as regular season champions or co-champions
(1988, ’89, ’92 ’97 and ‘06),
they have failed to win the Broadmoor Trophy.
How UM Wins: Last week we noted
that a 60-minute effort was the key to success for
a team that’s played just-barely-above-.500
hockey in the second half. Then last Saturday, the
Gophers logged a solid 50-minute effort versus Alaska
Anchorage, and the result was Sunday night WCHA playoff
hockey in Mariucci Arena for the first time ever.
The Gophers have shown they can win with flash. This
weekend, especially against the good goalie (either
Elliott or Teslak) they’ll face on Friday night,
winning with grit will be the key if the de facto
home team is going to hoist its second championship
trophy of the past three weeks.
No. 2 St. Cloud
Record: 22-8-7 (14-7-7 WCHA)
Husky Note: Huskies
assistant coach Eric Rud was behind the bench for
the second-longest game in WCHA history – last
Sunday’s triple-OT defeat of Minnesota Duluth,
which clocked in at 111:23. Rud was on the ice for
Colorado College in the league’s longest game
– a 1997 first-round playoff match with Wisconsin
that went 129:30.
How SCSU Wins: Their
Friday afternoon opponent is perhaps the hottest hockey
club in the nation, but the Huskies (thanks to a better
first half) finished four points ahead of North Dakota
in the regular season standings. That means the Huskies
will don the white sweaters and will have last change
on Friday, giving coach Bob Motzko the ability to
match lines with that scary triumvirate in green.
In less that two full seasons of running his own show,
Motzko has proven his worth as a recruiter. It should
be fun to see if he chooses to put on the tactician
cap on Friday.
3 North Dakota
Record: 21-12-5 (13-10-5 WCHA)
Fighting Sioux Note:
When he dons a sweater and heads out onto the ice
on Friday afternoon, North Dakota captain Chris Porter
will enter the WCHA record books, playing in his 170th
consecutive game, and tying the mark currently held
by Wisconsin’s John Johannson and Colorado College’s
Calvin Elfring. Barring an injury, Porter will hold
the record all by himself on Saturday.
How UND Wins: For a
few weeks now, we’ve subscribed to the theory
that as good as that top line has been, finding other
lines to contribute offense is the key to long-term
success. Upon reflection, we’re tossing that
notion out the bus window somewhere between Alexandria
and Osakis. The trio of Duncan, Oshie and Toews is
the most productive and exciting offensive force the
WCHA has seen this season, and for a few seasons prior
to that too. If that group stays hot and healthy,
this tournament is North Dakota’s to lose.
Husky Note: Think of
some of the great goalies Michigan Tech has produced
(Tony Esposito, Damian Rhodes and Jamie Ram come to
mind), then wipe their records from the books. Michael-Lee
Teslak’s shutout last Sunday was his fourth
of the season, which ties him with Jim Warden for
the top spot on the school’s list.
How MTU Wins: It doesn’t
take much scouting skill to watch the Huskies and
realize that they’ll go as far as the sophomore
goalie with two first names can take them. But beyond
Teslak and the top-flite defense, led by Lars Helminen,
is a surprising source of offense in Peter Rouleau’s
team-leading 30 points. If either of the Thursday
night goalies can keep the other team off the board
for a while and gain confidence, the doubts about
the oppoent’s offense will surface. If both
goalies get hot, it could still be 0-0 in the wee
hours of Friday morning.
Record: 17-17-4 (12-13-3 WCHA)
Badger Note: This weekend
will be the fourth straight that the Badgers have
been away from Madison. But far from being road-weary,
the defending NCAA champs head to St. Paul on a 3-0-1
How UW Wins: Remember
a guy named Brian Elliott? Lost amid all of the happenings
in the top half of the WCHA standings was the fact
that the kid who was thisclose to the Hobey last year,
and won the NCAA title the next day, quietly won the
WCHA’s goaltending title again this year. With
not much in the way of reliable offense, and minimal
contributions from the freshman class, the Badgers
will have to turn the clock back a year and ride Elliott’s
play between the pipes if they hope to win enough
this weekend to have a chance to defend their national
INCH: You went to Minnesota Duluth
right out of high school. Looking back, how do you feel
when people say you weren't ready for college hockey?
DK: They said I'd be given a chance to come
in and contribute right away. It just didn't work out, and
I didn't really get a good shot coming in. The thing that
drove me to go up there is that I didn't have to play a
year of juniors, and I could come in there on a full scholarship.
Obviously it didn't go too well.
INCH: Even though you didn't play
a great deal, did you feel like you were a part of the Frozen
Four run that the Bulldogs made?
DK: For sure. I got along with all of those
guys really well and was really close to all of them. Even
with not playing hardly any games that year, I still felt
like I was a big part of it.
INCH: After the Bulldogs made
that playoff run, was it a tough decision to leave shortly
DK: It was a situation where UMD wanted me
to play a year of juniors, then come back a year later and
continue with them. We were going opposite directions, so
I decided to take my chances up at St. Cloud, to finish
school and hopefully complete my hockey career, and it worked
out with the new coach who gave me an opportunity. This
system fits pretty well with how I play.
INCH: Does your Minnesota Duluth
experience help you as you prepare for what you hope is
a Frozen Four run with the Huskies?
DK: I've talked to a lot of the guys here
about how a Frozen Four is something you'll never forget.
With some of the younger guys, we've talked about getting
to things like the Final Five where you get to play before
18,000 people and it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
I think our freshmen and sophomores know what it takes to
make it there.
INCH: What was it like to go from
a Minnesota Duluth team that was on an upswing to a St.
Cloud State program that seemed to be headed in the opposite
direction at the time?
DK: I'd never really thought of that. St.
Cloud recruited me out of high school and wanted me to play
a year of juniors. That's probably the main reason why I
didn't choose St. Cloud over UMD. St. Cloud was where I'd
wanted to play since I was 10 or 12, and I figured the style
that Coach Dahl was playing, with big physical guys would
fit. I wasn't going to be a Gopher player, and I'd always
enjoyed watching the Huskies on TV, so I figure one day
maybe I'd have a chance to play for them.
INCH: How are things generally
for your team right now, heading to St. Paul and beyond
DK: It's pretty up-beat right now. We're looking
to hang a banner at our place this weekend, and from there
on out it's one game or done. So we're prepared this weekend.
We can afford to lose in a sense, but in the NCAAs it's
one game and out so we want to be well prepared then.
INCH: With your size, do you play
a different role than the other forwards?
DK: Me and (Nate) Raduns, the other forward
on my line, have to protect the little guy, (Ryan) Lasch.
We call it "two big trees and a little stump."
We have to open space, so for the most part we go establish
a forecheck, then you never know what can happen. For the
most part I'm not going to be the guy going one-on-one.
I'm the big body to gain possession and take it to the net.
INCH: People look at Ryan Lasch
and see an undersized Southern California kid with long
blonde hair and they probably expect something different
than a hockey player. What did you think when you met him?
DK: It's exactly what you said. I saw him
on his visit here last year and we took him out, and I said,
"This kid, there's no way he can play hockey. Get him
a surfboard or something." It's unreal.
INCH: When you score goals, it
comes in bunches, starting with the hat trick you got against
Minnesota Duluth last year. Was there extra inspiration
to score against your old teammates?
DK: I knew a few of them who were freshmen
when I was a freshman there, so that gave me an extra incentive
to go out and try to prove them wrong, in a sense.
INCH: You won a state high school
championship as a senior at the Xcel Energy Center. How
comfortable for you is it to go back to that building?
DK: So far I've done pretty well down there,
winning the high school championship there and playing in
another championship game there last year, in front of so
many people. It's a great opportunity and I try to make
the most of it.
INCH: When Bobby Goepfert transferred
there, people knew he was pretty good, but did anyone fathom
how much he'd mean to your team?
DK: I'm actually at his house right now, so
I don't want to pump his tires too much. (Laughs) He and
I had that year when we sat out and became pretty good friends,
but from the first day on the ice I knew he had something
that most goalies don't have. He's a competitor, who tries
as hard as he can to stop us even when it's just a scrimmage.
The kid's a jokester too. He's from New York and I think
he's an idiot actually.
INCH: What happened to his Long
Island accent? A few years in Stearns County and he sounds
like one of the guys from "Fargo."
DK: Every now and then it comes out. I don't
know what triggers it – it might be alcohol or something.
But comes out every once and a while and I have to bring
him back to reality and say, "check it a little bit
of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report.
Jess Myers can be reached at email@example.com.