February 21, 2008
Colorado College Says 'We Want The Cup'

By Jess Myers

Don't bother trying to convince Scott Owens that it's bad luck to win the MacNaughton Cup. He wants it, no questions asked.

Owens' Colorado College Tigers are technically tied with North Dakota in the race for the Cup with three weeks of the regular season remaining, but the Tigers have played two fewer WCHA games than the Fighting Sioux. That means four wins and a tie, and the Tigers will have the Cup for the third time in the past six seasons.

WCHA Notebook

Sophomore forward Andreas Vlassopoulos ranks second on the Tigers with 17 assists this season.

National TV Schedule

Still, if Tigers fans were hoping for an NFL-style end to the regular season, where they rest their key players and coast into the playoffs, an unprecedented home loss by CC, coupled with North Dakota's charge to a tie for first place, has put any of those thoughts to rest.

"If we win the Cup or a part of the Cup, we'll definitely have earned it," Owens said, comparing his team's required effort to the strategy that produced the most recent Super Bowl champions. "The Giants didn't rest anybody in their first game with the Patriots, and you saw what a difference that made when they met the second time."

But with a top-two WCHA finish looking very, very likely, Owens has given himself some time to look a bit beyond the regular season and set some March goals for his team. Owens noted that his team has not made a trip to the WCHA Final Five since falling to Denver in the 2005 tournament's title game, and they're gunning for a return to St. Paul.

With the NCAA West Regional being played in Colorado Springs, it would take a monumental collapse to have the Tigers playing there as a low seed in the NCAAs. But Owens would like to be ensured of wearing the home whites while they're at it.

"We're still on that bubble for the top four, and we'd definitely like to be a number one seed, but we're going to have to earn that too," Owens said, admitting one Hockey East foe has their number. "New Hampshire beat us twice earlier in the season, so we don't match up well there."

Questions remain about youth and health on the Tigers' roster, with senior Scott Thauwald hurting and freshman Stephen Schultz out for this weekend's trip to Minnesota Duluth. As for the questions about how long and how consistently rookie goalie Richard Bachman will be able to produce, Owens praises the schedule gods for last weekend's bye.

"Thank goodness for this off week, because I feel like Richard has been recharged a little bit," said Owens, despite his team's first home loss of the season (a 4-2 setback to st. Cloud State) coming right before the break. "You hate to lose anything at home in February, but hopefully that re-focused us and got us back to not cutting corners."


Meeting With NHL Folks 'A Good Start': Anyone hoping for a wide-ranging pledge from the NHL that the mid-season signings would stop is likely disappointed with the results of the recent meetings between pro hockey officials and three college hockey commissioners. But WCHA head man Bruce McLeod, who met with a key group of NHL general mangers in Florida this week, and who admits the college officials took a "pretty softball approach" to the topics at hand, came away satisfied that they'd taken a positive step.

"Our presentation was more to put a face on college hockey and explain who we are," said McLeod, who was accompanied by Hockey East's Joe Bertagna and the CCHA's Tom Anastos at the meetings. He said a big part of the college presentation was to stress the education aspect of college hockey, which does not exist for pro prospects in Europe or in major junior. A big concern about mid-season signings of college players is how their departures negatively affect the school's graduation rates.

"That's our issue," McLeod said. "We did bring up mid-season signings, but more just for information purposes. We're not yet to the point of asking what we could do about it."

McLeod added that it was heartening to look across the room and see so many ex-collegians in powerful positions with NHL teams. For Minnesota Duluth's former athletic director, seeing one of his former student-athletes (Brett Hull) running a NHL team now was particularly satisfying. There are sure to be future meetings between the NHL and college hockey leaders, and more discussion of mid-season signings and other issues like how a pro team should communicate with its drafted collegians during the season.

While far from solving all of the world's problems, McLeod said there was more than just good weather to like in Florida.

"This sent a real strong signal to the college hockey community that they are serious about these issues and we are important to the NHL," McLeod said, adding that the commissioners are working on a document that they hope to present to NHL leaders in June, and have language added to the current collective bargaining agreement. "We're not just a cheap deliver system for good players."

Great Weekend Getaway
120x60 - Brand Red

Wisconsin at Minnesota
The "Border Battle" between Minnesota and Wisconsin in Minneapolis this weekend takes on added meaning for the Badgers, who are on the border between the upper and lower echelons of the WCHA. A pair of wins versus the slumping Golden Gophers (Minnesota is 1-4-5 in its last 10 games) and Bucky could feel safe canceling those hotel reservations for the opening round of the playoffs.

While You're There: The intensity of Minnesota’s high school hockey playoffs can’t be beat. We suggest a trip to Braemar Arena in Edina for the noon Saturday game that will feature a powerful and exciting Minnetonka team. The Skippers’ star is senior defenseman Jake Gardiner, a future Badger.

Stick Salute

Our annual tip of the cap to Mentor Duluth Appreciation Night at the DECC. At Saturday night's Bulldog game versus Colorado College nearly 300 participants in the Mentor Duluth program will be the UMD athletic department's guests of honor. Tickets are provided free of charge to the mentors and children enrolled in the program. In addition, the entire Bulldog team and mascot Champ will be on hand after the game to sign autographs.

Bench Minor

It's been below zero in Minnesota for what feels like three months. In Madison they've already set a record for snowfall, and we've still got more than a month of winter to go. And in Grand Forks it was something like -60 wind chill one morning this week. The next person we hear fretting about the prospect of Global Warming in the Midwest gets a snow shovel to the face and a set of jumper cables hooked up to their…


• Last Friday's 3-0 shutout at Wisconsin was the fourth recorded by Minnesota State's Mike Zacharias this season, and ties him with Eric Pateman atop the Mavericks record books for most blankings in one campaign. More importantly, the victory gave the Mavs two wins and a tie versus the Badgers this season, meaning the tiebreaker goes to Mankato if the teams are deadlocked at the end of the regular season.

• College hockey is apparently filling the Sunday afternoon sports void left in North Dakota when the NFL season came to a close, at least for the next few weeks. The final two Fighting Sioux series of the year will be Saturday-Sunday afternoon affairs. This weekend the Sioux host Bemidji State and have moved the games to the afternoon to accommodate the North Dakota State High School Hockey Tournament. In two weeks they'll play a pair of afternoon games versus Minnesota Duluth, so scheduled because the WCHA women's tournament is being played on the same ice sheet that weekend.

• There should be a name (something akin to "hit for the cycle" or "triple-double") for what Michigan Tech senior Peter Rouleau did in last Friday's 5-2 win over Minnesota Duluth. Rouleau had a hand in all five goals for Tech as he finished with a career-high five points, and he recorded his second career hat trick thanks to a shorthanded goal, a power-play goal and an empty net goal.

• You can learn a good deal from a team that can tough out gritty road wins. With that in mind, we saw some impressive stuff last weekend when St. Cloud State won 3-1 and 2-1 at Alaska Anchorage. The Huskies were out-shot 54-33 over the two games but got the sweep to extend their current conference win streak to three games.

• A sweep by the Tigers this weekend in Duluth would make winners out of everyone who has ever donned a Colorado College hockey sweater. Now in the 70th season of varsity hockey at CC, the Tigers enter the series with an all-time record of 1,040 wins, 1,041 losses, and 96 ties.

• With Brock Trotter gone to the pro ranks and Tyler Ruegsegger still out with an injury, rookie forward Tyler Bozak has taken over the Pioneers' scoring lead (among active players) with 14 goals and 27 points in 30 games. He needs five more points to overtake Trotter, who finished with 31 points in 24 games.

• Heading on the road to face a desperate team never sounds like a good idea, but for Alaska Anchorage, history says that a visit to Denver this weekend might be a good thing. The Seawolves have lost six straight to the Pioneers, but all six losses were in Anchorage. The Seawolves were the first visiting team ever to win a game at Magness Arena, and three of their last four wins in their all-time series with the Pioneers have been in Denver.

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