October 29, 2003
"Big Fade" Avoidance Tactics in Duluth

By Jess Myers

 WCHA Notebook

This week's schedule
National TV Schedule

Atlantic Hockey/CHA Notebook

In the spring of 1990, Richard Marx played the DECC and opened with his big hit "Don't Mean Nothin'." It was an appropriate anthem at that time in the home rink of the UMD Bulldogs, who had begun the previous hockey season on a blistering pace which, in the end, meant nothing.

The 1989-90 Bulldogs, the last UMD team to sweep a series in Minneapolis, opened the season on an 8-0-0 tear, and were 13-3-0 in early December, ranked no. 1 in the country and battling Wisconsin for the league's top spot. But after beating the Badgers at home in early January, the Bulldogs collapsed, going 4-12-1 in their last 17, and finishing fifth in the WCHA, while
Wisconsin stormed to the league and NCAA titles. To many Bulldog fans, this is still remembered as the year of the "Big Fade."

Just two seasons ago, the Bulldogs opened the season with a similar splash. They beat Nebraska-Omaha and Michigan in the Maverick Stampede and were ranked 15th in the country after one week, before a 2-11-1 stretch had them gasping for air by December.

So if the Bulldogs and their fans seem to take a nice start to the WCHA slate in stride, don't be surprised. While delighted by his team's road sweep of the
defending NCAA champs last weekend, Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin was quick to remind reporters that a nice two-game set in October can be meaningless in March.

"It's probably been awhile since anybody's done this," said Sandelin of the four points his team collected at Mariucci Arena. "This is a tough place to get points. But we need to keep things in perspective and keep improving. Trust me, I'll make sure they do."

For the record, the last time a visiting WCHA team swept a series at Mariucci Arena was on Feb. 25-26, 2000, when Wisconsin won two in Minneapolis and
clinched the MacNaughton Cup in the process.


Tech Engineering Goals A-Plenty
Houghton, Mich., is one of the most scenic and most remote towns in the college hockey world. It's been said by critics that the Huskies fans in Houghton-Hancock are a little bit behind the times, and take a little longer to catch on to the latest trends. Well, if hockey is truly in a "dead puck" era of lower scoring, that news apparently hasn't reached Michigan Tech just yet.

Including their 10-1 exhibition win over Waterloo earlier this month, the Huskies are averaging better than five goals per game. Much of the offense comes as a result of the efforts from sophomore Chris Conner and junior Colin Murphy.

Conner, who hails from the Detroit suburb of Westland, Mich., is leading the nation in scoring with nine goals and two assists in four games. Murphy, from Fort McMurray, Alberta, is right behind Conner on the scoring chart with six goals and four assists. Murphy was named the league's offensive player of the week on Oct. 20, and Conner snared the same honor this past week.

Huskies media relations director Dave Fischer speculated that the last time Tech had the nation's top two scorers on their roster had to be the middle
1970s, when the Huskies were in the NCAA title game three years in a row.

That's the good news. The bad news is that the offense has yet to translate into a winning record, thanks to some suspect defense and goaltending. Freshman goalie Bryce Luker has started three of Tech's four games and
is 0-2-1 thus far. Junior Cam Ellsworth has worse numbers than Luker (5.76 GAA, .806 SV%) but has recorded the team's lone win.

Bad Bump, But No Break, For Ballard It was more than just a pair of home losses to Minnesota Duluth that made it a rough weekend for Gopher fans. Things went from bad to worse in the third period of Friday's game when Minnesota star defenseman Keith Ballard limped off the ice favoring his left leg.

Ballard collided with a Bulldog at center ice and hurt his left knee in the process. "I just ran into somebody," said Ballard on Saturday. "I don't even know who it was. I didn't see them coming."

A junior from Baudette, Minn., Ballard ran the Gophers power play on Friday and collected a pair of assists before the injury knocked him out of the game. While it is unclear how long he'll be out of the Gophers lineup, Ballard said that he is not going to undergo X-rays or a MRI, and expects to be back on the depth chart within a few weeks.

"He doesn't need surgery, so it's probably a short-term thing," said Gophers coach Don Lucia. "We've been very lucky as a team over the last few
years in that prior to this, our key defenseman have never been hurt."

As for watching the Gophers from the stands at Mariucci Arena as opposed to the view from the bench or the ice, Ballard wasn't impressed.

"It's frustrating," he said after Minnesota's 4-2 loss on Saturday. "This is not something I want to be doing for too long."


Great Weekend Getaway
120x60 - Brand Red

Minnesota State, Mankato at Colorado College (Fri.-Sat.)
These teams finished second and first in the league, respectively, last year, and both have plenty of
questions to be answered before they can claim another spot among the WCHA's elite. It's the conference opener for both teams, with the Tigers 3-0-1 in non-conference games, and the Mavericks at 1-2-1 so far. With the series being played at altitude in
Colorado Springs, and the Mavs already with two losses under their belt, the pressure is on Mankato to get at least a split, or suffer an early setback in the battle for respectability and league status. The hottest Tiger is junior forward Scott Polaski. The Colorado Springs native put up two goals and two assists last weekend at Clarkson, and needs just two more goals this year to eclipse his previous season-high.

While You're There: This space is normally reserved for mentioning good bars and restaurants, and there are certainly plenty of those all along the Front Range. But if you're in Colorado Springs this weekend, keep in mind that it's fall and the wonders of Rocky Mountains are beckoning. A trip to the top of Pikes Peak, through the Garden of the Gods, or to view the
Royal Gorge Bridge, is your best bet

Stick Salutes

To fans who take their road trips seriously. Hats off to the dozen or so members of the UMD Penalty Box who made an event of their team's trip to Minneapolis last
weekend. Led by the legendary Chris Orlett, the Penalty Box members invaded Mariucci Arena wearing camouflage combat pants and making lots of noise as the Bulldogs got a rare road sweep of their biggest rivals. Most impressive to some was the $400 pre-game bar bill the group posted at Sally's in Stadium Village before
Friday's game. One note of interest: the "UMD Penalty Box" is the new name for the former "UMD Dog Pound." As Orlett pointed out, every college hockey team with a canine mascot (Bulldogs, Huskies, Terriers, etc.) has a group of fans called the "Dog Pound." The folks
from Duluth wanted to be different, hence the name change.

Bench Minor

To Golden Gopher fans in the Twin Cities. After taking a shot at Fighting Sioux fans last week for their lack of a sellout, it's only fair to note the non-present fans at the 10,000-seat Mariucci Arena last Friday. With a big in-state rival (Minnesota Duluth) in town for the home opener, the 2003 NCAA champs banner being raised and the Wild playing on the road, there's no excuse for the no-shows. The official announced
attendance for Friday's game was 9,639. Gophers ticket manager Dan Teschke later said that the announced number was incorrect, and that actual attendance was over 10,000. But there were plenty of seats unoccupied throughout the game, which earns a bench minor.
Long-time Gopher fan John Kavanagh of St. Paul, who drove to the games in Omaha but not the ones in Minneapolis, will serve the penalty.

• After his run-in with police this summer for stealing pull tabs from a bar in his hometown of Roseau, Minn., North Dakota goalie Jake Brandt should be prepared to face the wrath of opposing fans. College hockey message boards have been crowded with fans, many of them from Minnesota Duluth, saying they
will wear giant necklaces made out of pull tabs (picture a Hawaiian lei made out of little pieces of cardboard) when the Fighting Sioux come to visit this season.

Brandt and his teammates, who have taken over the top spot in the INCH Power Rankings, can take some solace in the fact that the Sioux only have two road games (at Denver on Nov. 21-22) on their schedule between now and January 2.

• If you're attending this weekend's Princeton at St. Cloud State series, and you're trying to decide which school you or your children should attend, take a
quick look at your checkbook and consider the following: Average yearly expenses for a student at Princeton are close to $40,000, while that student's
counterpart at SCSU pays about $9,000 per year.

Of course, there are other notable differences between the schools and their hockey programs. While St. Cloud State has produced one Hobey Baker Award finalist (Mark Hartigan in 2002), Princeton produced one Hobart Amory Hare Baker (Class of 1914) himself. Princeton can claim the likes of former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson and one-time pro tennis groupie Brooke Shields on its "famous alumni" list. SCSU is the college home
of talented Fox Sports North producer Matt Hoover and KMSP Fox 9 news anchor Jeff Passolt, a star for the Huskies in their D-II hockey days.

Wisconsin is 7-6-1 all-time against Minnesota State, Mankato. But it looks as if the Mavericks will get a golden opportunity to even the score in January.
The Badgers visit Mankato on Jan. 2-3, when Badgers' coach Mike Eaves, along with defensmen Ryan Suter and Jeff Likens and assistant coach John Hynes, will still be at the World Junior Championships in Finland. Other WCHA players named to the team are Denver defenseman Matt Carle, Colorado College defenseman Mark Stuart, Tigers forward Brett Sterling and North Dakota forward Zach Parise. The trip will be a father-son affair for Eaves and Stuart. Mike's son Patrick, of Boston College fame, has also been named to the squad, and Stuart's father, Dr. Mike Stuart, has been named the team physician.

• The WCHA playoff championship claimed by Minnesota last March was the school's first since 1996 and the first of Don Lucia's coaching career. But when the Gophers won the NCAA title a few weeks later, the league playoff crown lost a little bit of luster. So when the Gophers unveiled their most recent NCAA
championship banner last weekend at Mariucci Arena, there were balloons, streamers, speeches and much fanfare.
And at the other end of the rink, there was a blank space where the banner proclaiming "2003 WCHA Playoff Champions" should go. Team officials have said that there was no oversight, and the WCHA banner (which costs $1,000) has been ordered. It will be raised to the rafters sometime in the coming weeks, without ceremony or fanfare.

• Don't be surprised if the Alaska Anchorage Seawolves work on their scuffling skills and watch "Groundhog Day" for inspiration en route to Duluth for
this weekend's series with the Bulldogs. The last time the Seawolves won a WCHA road game was on Groundhog
Day 2002, when they held off Wisconsin 3-2 at the Kohl Center. After a post-game brawl that night, the teams combined for an impressive 174 minutes in penalties and six game disqualifications.

• After viewing INCH's list of the great now-defunct eateries in the college hockey world, Wisconsin's long-time team manager Rob Malnory emailed to note an obvious omission. Malnory – who has kept Bucky well equipped and ensured they're housed and fed on the road since the days when Badger Bob Johnson was the coach in Madison – was shocked to see INCH's crack staff (two of whom once lived in Duluth) forgot to mention the Chinese Lantern, which was a Twin Ports fixture until a fire destroyed the restaurant nearly a decade ago. As well as hosting the UMD Blueline Club luncheon every Friday before a home series, the Lantern was a favorite pre-game meal stop for visiting teams. Whenever a road team won at the DECC, it might have been due to the month's supply of protein they got from the Lantern's teriyaki prime rib, which sometimes came sliced two inches thick. INCH regrets the omission, and the fact that the Chinese Lantern is no more.

• According to Mike Chambers of the Denver Post, there might be a goaltenders battle emerging in Pioneerland (which, incidentally, was the
least-crowded part of Disneyland when we visited there during the 1999 Frozen Four). While Wade Dubielewicz was the clear no. 1 goalie for the Pioneers the past three years, current senior Adam Berkhoel has been
close to being a co-no. 1 in that time. With Dubielewicz now toiling in the New York Islanders' system, Berkhoel has taken over the top slot. But lanky freshman Glenn Fischer, an Edmonton native who has been drafted by the Oilers, is waiting in the wings and may see more starts in the near future. Berkhoel is 3-0-0 for the Pioneers with impressive numbers (1.33 GAA, .953 SV%). Fischer has started one game and is undefeated in his college career after beating Northeastern 6-3 in Denver.

• People at the University of Minnesota Duluth can be touchy about their school's name. While they like being called "Minnesota Duluth" or "UMD," many at the school bristle when they're referred to as just "Duluth." They make a fair point in asking, how often do you hear UCLA called "Los Angeles" or UNLV called "Vegas?"

So the release of this week's USA Today/American Hockey Magazine national college hockey poll was likely greeted with a mixture of anger and
delight at UMD. The Bulldogs moved into the nation's top 10, but in the initial version of the official poll release put out by USA Hockey, the no. 10 team in the nation was listed as "Minnesota State University - Duluth." So would that be MSUD then?

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report.

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