Sustained Success Sends Mavs Up Standings
Minnesota State coach Troy Jutting acknowledges
that times are good for his Mavericks these days, with them
having won six in a row to move into the top half of the
WCHA standings. But ask him about the start of the good
times, and Jutting looks back not just six games, but more
than six weeks.
Trevor Bruess is emerging as one of the top scoring
threats in the WCHA as a sophomore.
Before leaving for Madison earlier this week,
Jutting turned the clock back to Nov. 30, when the Mavs
were 3-6-1, and noted that his team has gone 12-4-3 since
"I don't know that it's been that big
of a turnaround when you consider that we've only lost four
times in our past 19 games," Jutting said. "We've
actually been playing pretty well for quite a while."
A microcosm of the Mavericks' successes can
be found in sophomore forward Trevor Bruess, who heads into
this weekend's series with Wisconsin on a six-game scoring
streak. A month ago, he had a five-game scoring streak come
to an end when he locked up in an NHL-caliber
scrap with North Dakota's Rylan Kaip during a 2-1 loss
in Mankato. After sitting out the next night due to the
fighting disqualification, Bruess started the streak that
continues today, and has pushed him to the top of the Mavs'
scoring chart with 25 points and a team-leading +19 mark.
Jutting thinks the second-year player from
Minneapolis is indicative of a sophomore-laden team coming
together at the right time.
"They have that first year where they
don't really know what they're doing, but by this time in
a player's sophomore year, they're a college hockey player,"
Jutting said. "You see a time when it kind of clicks
and they start to get a pretty good handle on what's happening."
Bruess and junior Mick Berge have clearly
been the leaders, but Jutting notes the offensive emergence
of players like Andrew Sackrison, Jason Wiley and Joel Hanson,
along with a change in some coaching philosophies, has helped.
Mankato used to be a place where 8-7 games weren't unheard
of, as the Mavericks usually played a wide-open game. The
addition of some better defensive cogs (like star goalie
Mike Zacharias) has led to the appearance of a new brand
"We still like to go, but recently we've
placed a lot more emphasis on being defensively responsible
and defensively conscious," Jutting said. "You've
got to coach the team to fit the players you have."
Asked if those players are all hitting their
stride at the right time, Jutting said the notion that his
club is "peaking too early" doesn't really fit.
"In terms of getting home ice, this is
the right time," Juttig said. "We're playing our
best hockey of the year right now, but I still think we
can play a lot better."
SEEN AND HEARD IN THE WCHA
Snow storms back into Gopher Land:
New York Islanders general manager Garth Snow, the former
Maine goaltender, was in Minnesota last weekend for his
new team's game versus the Wild – his first visit
to the since his controversial signing of fomer Gopher Kyle
Okposo in December. He told INCH that Okposo has done excellent
work with the Islanders' AHL affiliate since leaving Minnesota,
but there are no plans to call him up to the big club just
"Right now he's going to stay in Bridgeport,"
Snow said. "We'll see. The plan all along was to get
his feet wet playing professional hockey in the AHL, and
we're not going to deviate from the plan."
Asked about the decision to sign Okposo in
the middle of the season, Snow mentioned the credentials
of Islanders employees like Ken Morrow and Bryan Trottier,
and said he trusts their judgment in evaluating players
and doing what they feel is right for each of them.
"The bottom line is we wanted to do what's
best for Kyle and what's best for our organization,"
Snow said. "A lot of the meetings we have, we've got
some very knowledgeable hockey people on my staff who know
exactly what it takes to be a pro hockey player. The credentials
speak for themselves – a lot of hardware."
As for the current relationship between the
NHL and college hockey, in the wake of in-season defections
like Okposo and Brock Trotter, Snow fondly recalled his
time at Maine, while claiming that things between the pros
and college are sound.
"I thoroughly enjoyed my college experience.
I had a great time. I even stayed for a fifth year,"
he said, with a laugh. "As for the relationship between
college hockey and professional hockey, from my own personal
view, it seems to be more of an issue between college hockey
and the NCAA than it is between college hockey and pro hockey."
Snow also claimed that despite the ill feelings
of many Gopher fans after his signing of Okposo, he had
no trouble walking around St. Paul last weekend. Islanders
media relations man Chris Botta even claimed that Snow had
signed over 100 autographs during his time in Minnesota.
"Minnesota people are the nicest people.
Well, number two right next to Long Island," Snow said.
"People have been great. We share the same passion
– that's hockey."
Rink Talk on Capitol Hill:
The opening week of the 2008 legislative session at the
Minnesota State Capitol could've featured a ceremonial puck
drop, what with all of the rink talk beneath the dome in
St. Paul this week.
On Wednesday, the Senate Economic Development
Committee heard proposals from city and school leaders in
Bemidji and Mankato, both of which are seeking state dollars.
The college hockey-related topics were familiar ones for
the committee's chair, State Senator David Tomassoni of
Chisholm, who was a four-year letterwinner on defense for
Denver in the 1970s.
Bemidji State president John Quistgaard and
city leaders asked for $22 million in state funds to get
construction on the new downtown arena and events center
underway. The city is expected to pay $66 million for the
new home of the Beavers.
Mankato city officials gave details of the
expansion they want to make to the Alltel Center, and are
asking the state or $1.2 million in planning and design
money, as they seek to add a second ice sheet to the building
to house the Minnesota State women's hockey program. It
was noted that the building, which opened 13 years ago,
was built without any state funding.
Also expected to be heard before the session
ends are proposals for expansion and renovation of the National
Hockey Center in St. Cloud, where they want to add a new
lobby, team offices and a merchandise store to the 19-year-old
facility. And Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty recommended
that upwards of $40 million in state bonds be sold for construction
of a new waterfront arena in Duluth, which would replace
the 41-year-old home of the Bulldog men's and women's teams.
The Minnesota House and Senate approved said
funding for Duluth a year ago, only to see Pawlenty veto
Great Weekend Getaway
at North Dakota
(Fri.-Sat.) North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol, serving
his school-mandated two-game suspension, will be just
one of countless TV viewers this weekend when the
Fighting Sioux host Denver in a series that will determine
if Colorado College will have a challenger for the
WCHA crown, and which team will do the challenging.
The Sioux could move into a first-place tie with a
sweep, while Denver needs a sweep to move ahead of
their weekend hosts.
While You're There: Saturday is
Hockey Day 2008 in Grand Forks, meaning that in addition
to great college hockey, there are high school playoffs
and a chance for players of all ages to get in on
the fun. Between noon and 2 p.m., bring your skates
to University Park for a free skate with several Fighting
Sioux hockey legends. Event organizers assured us
that hot chocolate will be available on site.
a nice family event in Madison this weekend, giving
kids a chance to get autographs and photos of their
favorite college hockey players. Skate with the Badgers,
which runs from 2-4 on Sunday afternoon at the Kohl
Center is free and open to all comers. Bring your
skates and a camera.
Hockey Day in Minnesota has come and gone with some
great features and some great hockey. Sadly, for the
second consecutive year, the TV coverage featured
a much-hyped Gopher game and nary a mention of the
state's other four D-I college programs. Apparently,
it's only Hockey Day in selected parts of Minnesota.
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
• Sophomore forward Josh Lunden's play
has been a bright spot for Alaska Anchorage recently. Lunden
tallied goals in both games last weekend at Minnesota State,
pushing his team-leading total to 13, and has scored a goal
in three of the Seawolves' last four games.
• League-leading Colorado College, which
is idle this weekend, needs just one more win to clinch
home ice in the playoffs. It's a long shot, but despite
last Saturday's home loss to St. Cloud State, at least one
Tiger would likely love to see the Huskies again this season.
Sophomore defenseman Kris Fredheim, who came out of the
penalty box to score on a breakway in the first period of
last Friday's 5-3 CC victory, has notched both of his career
goals against St. Cloud State.
• Even after a tie and loss with Wisconsin
last weekend, Michigan Tech's all-time record during its
annual Winter Carnival series is an impressive 58-30-10.
As an aside, carnival weekend MVP Shane Connelly, the Wisconsin
goalie who backstopped the Badgers to three points, apparently
was informed ahead of time of his duty to kiss the Winter
Carnival Queen upon being handed the award at center ice.
After some soul-searching Connelly followed the tradition.
• How cold is the Golden Gopher offense?
Minnesota has been held to one goal in four consecutive
games and has scored a total of 10 goals in its last eight
games. The last time Minnesota scored fewer goals in an
eight-game stretch was Jan. 4-27, 1930.
• When Colorado College fans recall
their team's first (and so far, only) home loss this season,
they'll undoubtedly think of Matt Hartman. The St. Cloud
State senior (a St. Cloud native) had a career-best four-point
night, assisting on all of his team's goals in the 4-2 win.
• Minnesota Duluth goalie Alex Stalock
has started all 26 of the Bulldogs' games this season, but
has a way to go to make a mark in the league standings and
the school record books. He still trails North Dakota's
Jean-Philippe Lamoureux and Wisconsin's Shane Connelly in
minutes played this season and can't touch the school record
of 72 consecutive starts, set by Brant Nicklin between Oct.
12, 1996 and March 15, 1998.
A variety of sources were utilized in
the compilation of this report. Jess Myers can be reached