Spend a few minutes watching Minnesota Duluth
playing at home this season and your eyes might drift to
the DECC’s rafters during a break in the action to
check out the character and quirks of the WCHA’s oldest
rink. Banners commemorating the school’s four Hobey
Baker Award winners are particularly impressive. And when
you see the product on the ice this season, it’s worth
noting that the Bulldogs were the WCHA’s first team
to have a Hobey-winning defenseman when Tom Kurvers grabbed
the trophy in 1984.
Junior defenseman Jason Garrison is one of three Minnesota
Duluth players tied atop the Bulldogs' scoring chart
with 13 points.
More than two decades later, these offensively-challenged
Bulldogs are sticking in the national rankings and staying
afloat in the race for a top-five finish in the WCHA thanks
in part to a puck-moving goaltender and two puck-shooting
defensemen who are (finally) working in something akin to
College, and college hockey, are all about
learning. And for the Bulldogs’ top defensive pair,
juniors Jason Garrison and Josh Meyers, learning to communicate
and play with sophomore goaltender Alex Stalock has been
quite an education. Meyers likens Stalock’s aggressive
puck-moving plays to snowflakes — no two are exactly
“He makes the breakout easier sometimes,
but you’ve definitely got to communicate more with
him because you never know what he’s going to do,”
a grinning Meyers said while pedaling away on a stationary
bike after a recent Bulldogs game. “It’s never
the same thing.”
While proving solid defense, Garrison and
Meyers are currently tied atop the Bulldogs scoring chart
(with junior wing Nick Kemp) with 13 points each. Stalock,
who sees more of that pair heading up ice than just about
anyone, said it’s a matter of different skills complementing
each other that has made the tandem so successful.
“(Garrison) is a big guy who was a forward
when he was younger and I think he just converted to defense
a few years ago,” Stalock said. “He’s
got speed for a big guy and has that long reach to get around
guys. Then he’s got that shot.”
The sound of Garrison’s booming slap
shot has quickly become a hallmark of a trip to the DECC,
putting a cringe into the opposing defensemen and goalies
who are supposed to get in its way, and reminding some fans
of another name hanging from the DECC rafters: Brett Hull.
Then there’s Meyers, whose game is more about vision
and finding openings to work the puck down low.
“Josh is a little like Niskie,”
Stalock said, referencing Dallas Stars rookie Matt Niskanen,
who was a fixture on the Bulldog blue line last season.
“He’s not going to beat people with his speed
but he’s got really good hands and sees the ice with
unbelievable vision. Somehow he finds a way to get the puck
to the net.”
Entering their junior seasons while playing
without Niskanen (who left for the NHL after two years of
college) has meant much more attention for Meyers and Garrison,
but they’ve welcomed the chance to showcase their
skills, and the results have been solid so far.
“There’s more pressure, but as
you get older you know that’s going to come,”
Meyers said. “We’re juniors now and can’t
use the freshman excuse anymore. We’ve got pressure
on our shoulders, but that’s what we’ve asked
for. We have an older defensive corps so they expect that
out of us, and if you can break out the puck it’s
pretty difficult for the other team to score.”
Other teams have learned that to get a crack
at beating Stalock’s high-risk, high-reward game,
they’ve often got to get past Garrison and Meyers.
That trio’s coach has learned that on a team that’s
not scaring anyone with its forward lines, the defense is
the key to a strong finish and a possible playoff run for
“I think 17 (Meyers) and 7 (Garrison)
are our guys, no question,” said Bulldogs coach Scott
Sandelin — himself a former Hobey finalist who played
defense. “They get the most ice time and they’re
our two best players.”
SEEN AND HEARD IN THE WCHA
Schmidt Happens: Referee
Randy Schmidt will not be on the ice at a WCHA rink this
weekend. But don’t get too excited just yet. He wasn’t
scheduled to work this weekend, so the time off had nothing
to do with his controversial (and admittedly erroneous)
actions at the end of last Friday’s Denver-Wisconsin
To quickly recap, an apparent tying goal by
Wisconsin’s Matthew Ford in the final second of regulation
was originally ruled a goal by Schmidt, then overturned
after he looked at video. The next day, the WCHA issued
an apology, confirming that the puck crossed the goal line
before time expired and should’ve counted.
Wisconsin athletic officials filed an appeal
of the result (a 3-2 Denver win) and on Thursday, the WCHA
denied the protest, saying that the result stands despite
the error. As for Schmidt’s future in stripes, that’s
As it was the second time this season that
the league has apologized for errors Schmidt has made, many
have called for him to be removed — and the WCHA may
do just that. But on Thursday, league commissioner Bruce
McLeod told INCH that for now, Schmidt is still a WCHA official
and “at this point he has not” been fired or
“We’re currently evaluating his
status for the rest of the year, and I expect we’ll
have a decision on that early next week,” McLeod said,
adding that whatever decision is made, it’s not likely
to be released to the public or the media.
Great Weekend Getaway
at Alaska Anchorage (Fri.-Sat.)
Wisconsin visits Alaska Anchorage for
a pair, and it’s tough to decide who has more
to prove. Hell had no fury like Badgers scorned last
Saturday, but one wonders how long that chip on the
shoulder will inspire Mike Eaves’ club. The
Seawolves are in the league cellar and have just one
win in their last six, but a sweep of the Badgers
could get them back on track.
There: Sorry, Houghton, but you do not have the market
on ice sculptures cornered. Six teams of sculptors
have been hard at work at Town
Square in downtown Anchorage this week, carving
gigantic blocks of special “blue diamond”
ice shipped in from Fairbanks, competing for a $1,000
prize. Check out their works and enjoy free skating
at the on-site ice rink.
In a rare
but enjoyable merger of ECAC Hockey and WCHA talent,
the famed Yale Spizzwinks (?) men’s chorus gave
a great a cappella performance of the Star Spangled
Banner before last Saturday’s game between Minnesota
Duluth and Minnesota State at the DECC.
And before you ask, the question mark
is an official part of their name. So says the
Friday in Denver was an error on the part of one official,
and it may cost that official his job. But to the
folks who vehemently called for a replay of the game,
an addition of overtime to be played later, or taking
a point away from the Pioneers and calling it a tie,
remember this time-honored fact of hockey: Bad calls
are, and always will be, part of the game.
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
• This week’s significant change
on the Alaska Anchorage roster has a local kid and Seawolf
legacy coming back to the old stomping grounds. Freshman
goaltender Bryce Christianson has joined the Seawolf hockey
team and is eligible to play beginning with this weekend’s
home series against Wisconsin.
Christianson, whose father Todd skated for
the team in the 1980s, won 15 games in the USHL last season.
Alaska Anchorage was in need of a backup goaltender to starter
sophomore Jon Olthuis when junior Matthew Gordon was lost
for the season after suffering an eye injury. Freshman walk-on
Aaron Mayo was the only other available netminder after
the loss of Gordon.
• Rhetorical question: How good is St.
Cloud State rookie forward Garrett Roe? We thought maybe
it was just hyperbole when a high-ranking NHL front-office
friend of INCH told us Roe should be a Hobey finalist a
few weeks ago. That was before the newbie from Vienna, Va.,
scored four of his team’s eight goals last weekend
in a win and tie with Minnesota, earning WCHA Rookie of
the Week honors for the second time this season.
• Expect bittersweet feelings for the
seniors on both teams this weekend when Bemidji State visits
Denver. It's the first meeting between the Beavers and Pioneers
since Denver survived a 4-3 overtime win versus BSU in the
opening round of the 2005 NCAA playoffs in Amherst, Mass.
Matt Climie had 45 saves for the Beavers in that one, while
the Pioneers went on to win the NCAA title two weekends
• Michigan Tech has the weekend off
to contemplate what went wrong during their visit to Grand
Forks. North Dakota beat the Huskies by identical 4-1 scores,
marking the first time Tech had been swept in a road series
in more than a year.
• While visiting Minnesota Duluth this
weekend, the Golden Gophers might want to stay across the
bridge in Superior, Wis., for a preview of what’s
coming. The Gophers, who will start rookie goalie Alex Kangas
on Friday, face either Minnesota Duluth or Wisconsin in
eight of their final 14 regular season games.
• Folks in Mankato can cancel that order
for meds needed to fight the sophomore jinx. Entering this
weekend’s series with North Dakota, sophomore forward
Trevor Bruess, who leads Minnesota State with 11 assists
and 16 points, owns a team-best plus-minus rating of +12.
The Minneapolis native has already eclipsed last season’s
14-point effort and enters the games with the Fighting Sioux
riding a five-game scoring streak (2-4—6).
• Neighborhood rivals Air Force and
Colorado College have been playing each other for nearly
40 years, and they’ll do so again this weekend. The
series has been surprisingly lopsided, with the Tigers owning
a 55-6-2 all-time mark. More impressively, CC is 28-0-1
in its last 29 meetings with the Falcons. Air Force’s
6-5 overtime win at Broadmoor World Arena in Nov. 1985 was
the last time the boys in blue have scored a win in the
battle of Pikes Peak. How long ago was that? Well, just
a handful of the current Tiger or Falcon players were born
then, and that rink was torn down nearly 14 years ago.
• According to National Geographic,
not many people live in North Dakota (at least in the western
regions of the state) anymore. But the eastern third of
the Peace Garden State is thriving, and people there apparently
like watching hockey in person. Both of last weekend’s
games with Michigan Tech were sellouts at Ralph Engelstad
Arena, extending the school-record streak of sellouts at
that building to 11 and breaking the record of nine, set
in 2001-02, the year the new Ralph opened.
A variety of sources were utilized in
the compilation of this report. Jess Myers can be reached