Cloud State Marches In
and the surrounding region in central Minnesota are heavily populated
by German Catholics, meaning many St. Cloud State hockey fans
attend Mass every Sunday. That’s fitting, because the wait
for a new Pope may be shorter than the wait for the Huskies to
fall from their position among the WCHA’s elite teams. Like
Holy Father John Paul II, the Huskies just keep hanging in there,
and making new believers in the process.
Picked by the league’s coaches (and this scribe) to finish
eighth in the WCHA, the Huskies find themselves just a point out
of first place in the league, with a 5-0-1 record and a place
in the top-10 in one national poll. While happy about the start,
Huskies coach Craig Dahl sounds ready to chant “over-rated”
from the team bench.
“I know what our rating is, and I don’t think we’re
there yet,” he said while preparing his club for this weekend’s
series at Minnesota Duluth. After the date with the Bulldogs,
SCSU goes to North Dakota for a pair. “We’ll certainly
find out more about what’s going to happen over the course
of the next two weeks.”
Dahl has a young team and has used a fluid lineup, giving near-equal
playing time to three goalies and eight defensemen thus far. The
result has been a quick jump in experience and some contributions
from unexpected places.
getting scoring from four lines, and I’m playing eight defenseman
because eight of them deserve to play,” Dahl said. “They’re
all playing extremely well for this early in the year.”
upperclassmen like Matt Hendricks and Peter Szabo were expected
to lead the Huskies offense, it has instead been three freshmen
defensemen (Casey Borer, Grant Clafton and Justin Fletcher) most
impressing their coach, and men like Dave Ianazzo and Billy Hengen
kick-starting the forwards.
gone from being a bit player to being a really gritty, tough forward,
and that’s certainly helped,” Dahl said. “But
for me the biggest surprise has been the play of the freshmen
on defense. That’s as good a trio of rookies as I’ve
seen in my 24 years.”
Huskies have benefited from a lighter schedule in the first month.
They’ve played six home games, sweeping Wisconsin and Princeton
and earning a win and a tie versus Michigan Tech. The forthcoming
road trips to Duluth and Grand Forks will likely teach fans much
more about where St. Cloud State will fit in the league race.
AND HEARD IN THE WCHA
The League's Longest Rivalry – Rivalries are supposed
to be based on two things: geography and history. Well, the strangest
rivalry in the WCHA has a little of one and absolutely none of
the other. But they’ll play the games anyway this weekend,
when Alaska Anchorage visits Minnesota State, Mankato.
to MapQuest, it’s 3,341 miles from Anchorage to Mankato
(a brisk 79-hour drive for those of you with a lot of time and
an Esso card). But according to the WCHA, the Seawolves and the
Mavericks are archrivals. You see, a few years ago, the league
paired each team with a designated “archrival.” Those
pairs are guaranteed to meet four times per year (with two games
in each team’s building). So, for example, Minnesota and
Wisconsin are archrivals. Ditto for Denver and Colorado College.
The league also paired Minnesota Duluth with Michigan Tech and
St. Cloud State with North Dakota. The league’s two newest
teams, the Mavs and the Seawolves, got lumped together, too.
despite the three time zones and of distance and nine hours of
flying time between them, the teams have developed something that
feels a little bit like a rivalry.
Great Weekend Getaway
at North Dakota (Fri.-Sat.)
one go with the hot team? That would be North Dakota, which
is coming off posting 10 goals versus Yale. Or do you pick
the desperate team. That’s Minnesota, which already
has three WCHA losses and is at risk of seeing the MacNaughton
Cup out of reach before Thanksgiving. The Gophers have never
lost a game in the new Ralph, but their still uncertain
goaltending situation will get its biggest test of the young
season this weekend. As for the Sioux, goaltending was supposed
to be an issue. But when you’re scoring a touchdown
a game, it’s not.
You’re There:The Red Pepper gets the headlines as
the place to go post-game, but this writer has always been
partial to crossing the Red River of the North and grabbing
a burger and a beer at Whitey’s in East Grand Forks.
Of course, the coolest bar in Greater Grand Forks is inside
the arena, with a view of the rink to boot.
forward Thomas Vanek gets the nod for his early season
tour de force. The Gophers’ stumbling start
has nothing to do with the play of last year’s Frozen
Four MVP, who has been exceptional thus far. Against Denver
he had three goals and an assist and scared the daylights
out of the Pioneers every time he was on the ice. Even after
a win in Mariucci, the Pioneers were ready to hand Vanek the
Hobey. “If you forget to play his body, he’ll
make you pay for it every time,” said coach George Gwozdecky.
“And when that body gets going, with the speed and the
strength that he has, he’s very, very difficult to stop.”
Forward Connor James concurred: “You’ve got to
make sure you know where he is when he’s on the ice.
What can you say? He’s probably going to win the Hobey.”
Vanek, for his third period outburst Saturday.
Whistled for high sticking at the end of a nearly three-minute
shift, Vanek was sent to the box for two minutes, by himself,
and ordered to feel shame. Instead, he had a full-blown
conniption, slamming the door, throwing his helmet, stick
and gloves, repeatedly yelling over the glass at referee
Todd Anderson and even squirting a water bottle in the direction
of the officials at one point. We understand that it was
late in a close game, and the Gophers’ best player
didn’t like the idea of an involuntary timeout with
his team down by a goal, but another display like that is
likely to earn a lot more than two minutes in penalties.
Take it easy, big guy.
North Dakota sophomore defenseman Matt Greene
who in an interview with the Web site Hockey’s Future,
didn’t exactly brag about his commitment to academics
at the finest university in all of Grand Forks County.
Asked what he was studying at UND, Greene replied: “Right
now I’m ‘undecided’ so it’s (laughs)
pretty much a wash. I’m just playing hockey here.”
Funny, but some of us look at college hockey as something
other than “major junior with bigger rinks, and cheerleaders.”
Just a few blocks straight south of Engelstad Arena, at
the corner of University and Centennial, is a place called
Chester Fritz Library. It’s got books, periodicals,
microfiche and a whole bunch of other cool stuff. Mr. Greene,
you should check it out sometime before practice.
had played Anchorage a lot before we joined the league, and when
we were a D-II program, so there’s a little bit of a rivalry
just because we’ve played them so much,” said Mavericks
coach Troy Jutting.
Seawolves coach John Hill says he has a young enough team that’s
just concerned with being competitive and hasn’t yet begun
to concentrate on things like rivalries, real or imaginary.
don’t think that this series really feels like a rivalry
for them yet, but in time I think it will as the players and the
programs get to know each other better,” Hill said. “This
is such a young team that they don’t seem concerned about
who we play."
of youth, both coaches blame inexperience for their teams’
recent offensive woes. Jutting’s Mavs managed just one goal
while getting swept at Colorado College last weekend, while the
Seawolves have scored one goal in each of their past three games.
says the big concern is that the youthful offense isn’t
creating scoring opportunities and he’s juggling some lines
in hopes of finding a spark. Jutting said his team’s offensive
troubles have more to do with his defense.
playing defense really well, but one problem I’ve seen is
that our young defensemen are still a little tentative with the
puck,” said Jutting. “So they’re not moving
the puck up ice as much, which has cut down on our scoring chances.
It’s going to take us a little time.”
TO PICK UP AFTER PRACTICE
Hockey has named nine WCHA alums to the American team
which will compete in the 2003 Deutschland Cup. The four-team
tournament, which includes squads from the United States, Germany,
Switzerland and Canada, will be played this weekend (Nov. 7-9)
in Hannover, Germany.
Named to the team were forwards Pat Mikesch (Michigan Tech), Jeff
Panzer (North Dakota), Bryan Lundbohm (North Dakota), Erik Westrum
(Minnesota) and Derek Plante (Minnesota Duluth) and defensemen
Brett Hauer (Minnesota Duluth), Barry Richter (Wisconsin), Jeff
Dessner (Wisconsin) and Dan Bjornlie (Wisconsin).
During both games of last weekend’s Denver-Minnesota series,
there was a regional switcheroo going on with
the starting goalies. Denver senior Adam Berkhoel hails from the
St. Paul suburb of Woodbury, Minn., while Minnesota freshman Kellen
Briggs is from Colorado Springs. So when the Colorado kid (Briggs)
made 25 saves to beat the Minnesota kid (Berkhoel) and the team
from Colorado (Denver), some felt that turnabout was fair play.
“We always have Minnesota kids coming in and playing great
against us here,” said Don Lucia. “For once, it’s
nice to see a Colorado kid play well for us against a Colorado
the “no good deed goes unpunished” category, Wisconsin
coach Mike Eaves and company were rewarded for their home sweep
of Quinnipiac by getting news that Badgers’ hockey
tickets aren’t exactly a hot item on the Isthmus.
The Wisconsin State Journal recently reported that nearly
1,700 hockey season tickets were not renewed after last season’s
club finished 10 games below .500. There are currently only 7,164
season tickets sold for Friday night games in the 14,385-seat
Kohl Center. We’re a long way from the days when a sellout
crowd of 8,664 was all but guaranteed every time the puck was
dropped at the Dane County Coliseum.
decades-old rivalry between Denver and Colorado College
is renewed this weekend, and while the Pioneers hold the historical
edge (with a 141-94-8 mark versus CC since 1949), it’s the
Tigers who’ve been dominant lately. CC has beaten Denver
in the teams’ last six regular season meetings, and has
gotten quite used to keeping the Gold Pan (the traveling trophy
the series winner claims each season) safely tucked away in Colorado
Springs. The Tigers' efforts will be hampered, however, with fireplug
forward Brett Sterling out with an injury.
was easier for Denver equipment manager Lee Greseth
in the days when the Pioneers wore red and yellow. But team’s
switch to crimson and gold a few years ago has created headaches
when Greseth tries to buy gloves, pants, helmets and goalie pads
in colors that match the team’s sweaters and socks.
The Phoenix Coyotes have unintentionally come to the Pioneers’
rescue this season by switching to brick red as their primary
team color. Since equipment manufacturers generally follow the
lead of NHL teams in picking what colors to offer for their products,
there’s suddenly a lot more protective gear available in
Coyotes’ red, which is close enough to Pioneers’ crimson
to match. Suddenly, life’s a breeze in the world of Denver