Dakota's Offense: It's All Happening
Wild coach Jacques Lemaire ever writes a book on how to teach
defensive hockey, don't expect to see Dean Blais in line at the
book signing. The Fighting Sioux coach has seen a lot of teams
playing a slow-down defensive game, and he's not impressed.
a lot of offense, and I hate the defensive game," said Blais,
whose team has averaged nearly six goals per game en route to
a 6-1-0 mark and the No. 1 ranking in the country. "Defensive
hockey is a lot of hard work. I love breakout patterns and odd-man
rushes and those kinds of things. Offense is more fun."
the case, then there's plenty of fun to be had inside Ralph Engelstad
Arena these days. North Dakota is blessed with some of the most
impressive young offensive talent in the country, and Blais is
encouraged by the teamwork he saw last weekend as his team swept
Minnesota 7-3 and 5-3.
nice is that this team plays pretty much the same all through
the top four lines," he said. "Different guys have stepped
up every night. You see that when Zach Parise's line scores five
goals on Friday, then gets shut out on Saturday but we still get
guys scoring and get the win."
coming out of Grand Forks is not a surprise. With the likes of
Parise, Brandon Bochenski, Brady Murray, Quinn Fylling and Drew
Stafford on the roster, anything less than offensive fireworks
would have been a letdown. Defense and goaltending was supposed
to be the problem for the Sioux. But does goaltending matter when
you're scoring five or more per game?
really," said Blais. "You can have a lot more flexibility
on defense and in goal when you're out-gunning the other team.
Jordan Parise doesn't have a great save percentage, but he's 4-0,
and that's the stat that matters most."
– Zach's older brother and a freshman – has numbers
(3.03 GAA, .855 save percentage) that aren't going to win any
individual awards, but he's been more than adequate when he's
getting the goal support fans have seen so far.
But will the
top ranking put a target on his team's back and get the rest of
the college hockey world gunning for the Sioux? Blais isn't worried.
used to it," said the coach, preparing his team for a weekend
home series with No. 7 St. Cloud State. "A program like Minnesota,
North Dakota, Michigan, Michigan State, Maine and New Hampshire
is always a target. Besides, St. Cloud State is undefeated, and
they're playing great defensive hockey right now. So we're kind
of gunning for them."
AND HEARD IN THE WCHA
Great Weekend Getaway
at Alaska Anchorage (Fri.-Sat.)
they might not admit it, both of these teams are in the
"happy with a split" category after last weekend.
For the Pioneers, beating their arch-rival Colorado College
in Colorado Springs last Friday was huge for the simple
fact that they hadn't won a regular season game versus the
Tigers since Nov. 3, 2001. For the Seawolves, beating their
arch-rival (at least according to the WCHA schedule-makers)
MSU, Mankato last Saturday in Mankato was huge because they
hadn't won a WCHA road game versus, well, anyone since Feb.
2, 2002. UAA coach John Hill, concerned with his lack of
offense early, juggled some lines and orchestrated a victory.
No, it's not the NCAA title, it's just one win. But when
you've been in a coma for 20 months, blinking your eyes
once is a big, big deal. The question now: Will that momentum
carry over into this weekend, as the Seawolves host a top
You’re There: Southern Alaska's most notorious meat
market, Chilkoot Charlies, gets a lot of attention (heck,
it even has it's own web
site). But we're partial to a quieter post-game gathering
where one can solve all the world's problems on a cocktail
napkin. During his reign as the WCHA's winningest coach,
Jeff Sauer was always partial to a little place called Darwin's
Theory. We'll follow the Dean anywhere.
St. Cloud State goalie Adam Coole for his
impressive homecoming last weekend. The Duluth native, and
former UMD Bulldog, returned to the site of his greatest
triumphs (as a state champion high schooler at Duluth East)
and his greatest frustrations (as a struggling freshman
and sophomore with the Bulldogs) and won twice, stopping
73 of the 78 shots he faced as the Huskies earned a sweep
at the DECC. Score one for putting distractions aside and
just playing hockey.
Tech forward Chris Conner for being named the national
player of the month for October. Not since Shawn Harrison
claimed the WCHA scoring title for Tech in 1989 (with an
underwhelming total of 46 points) has such an offensive
force been seen wearing a home sweater at MacInnes Student
Ice Arena. If the Huskies can find some defense and goaltending
to match the talent of Conner and Colin Murphy, they might
even see home playoff games in Houghton this March.
the cable and satellite television companies and
Victory Sports One, for their inability to communicate
thus far. Victory,
a new sports channel based in Minnesota and owned by the
Minnesota Twins, "launched" on Halloween weekend
with big full-page ads in the Twin Cities newspapers hyping
their coverage of the Twins, Golden Gopher basketball, St.
Cloud State hockey, and MSU, Mankato hockey. But here's
the rub: Victory is currently available on just a handful
of small-town cable systems, and on neither of the two satellite
providers (Dish Network and DirecTV). So if you want to
watch Victory's coverage of St. Cloud State at North Dakota
this weekend, you can't. OK, to be fair, Victory is available
on cable in these Minnesota towns: Sauk Centre, Winona,
Goodview, St. Charles, La Crescent, Houston, Rushford, Caledonia,
St. Peter, Rosemount, Hibbing, Lakefield, Ruthton, Holland
and Woodstock. But what's the point of having a sports network,
if next to nobody can see it? Let's get this done, folks.
Golden Opportunity – Those inclined to preach a
gloom and doom forecast for Wisconsin hockey had better push the
pause button. Bucky might not totally be "back" yet,
but the last few weeks make it look like there's a resurgence
underway on the Isthmus.
to a 1-3 start, the Badgers have rattled off four wins in a row,
and are suddenly on something close to equal footing with their
banged-up archrivals as they host Minnesota this weekend. The
difference a few weeks can make was underscored by the offensive
output in their October trip to St. Cloud State (two goals, as
the Badgers were swept) versus the offense Wisconsin generated
last weekend at Michigan Tech (14 goals, as the Badgers swept).
by some before they played in Houghton, the Badgers left little
doubt about who was the alpha team on Friday night, opening up
a 6-0 lead early in the second period en route to a 9-4 win. It
was only the second nine-goal outburst by Wisconsin in Mike Eaves'
tenure behind their bench. Interestingly enough, the Badgers won
9-5 in Houghton last season.
So with Minnesota
coming to the Kohl Center this weekend, and Wisconsin suddenly
with a better chance to grab a few points versus the defending
national champs, Badger fans have reasons to believe that it may
be time for a rally in Madison.
a great opportunity for us. We're on an upward spiral of momentum,
and the Gophers are fighting through some things right now,"
said Eaves. "But they're still the defending champs, and
they'll come in here mad as hornets, so that's why it'll be a
great weekend of hockey."
are expecting an emotional series with a team on the rise.
obviously an improved team," said Gophers coach Don Lucia.
"They're having some success thanks in part to some good
play from their blue line, with (Jeff) Likens and (Ryan) Suter
and (Dan) Boeser back at full strength. And they'll certainly
be excited to play us, with this being their first home WCHA series."
TO PICK UP AFTER PRACTICE
met politics last Saturday night in Grand Forks when North
Dakota Governor John Hoeven hosted Minnesota
Governor Tim Pawlenty in a Ralph Engelstad Arena suite, and the
pair of Republicans watched the Fighting Sioux beat the Gophers.
At the rink's grand opening in 2001, Hoeven spoke at center ice
before that Sioux-Gopher encounter and said that he had challenged
then-Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura to a bet on the outcome.
Ventura, who rarely watches hockey, declined Hoeven's offer of
a wager and thereby lost out on some premium North Dakota bison
steaks when the Gophers won the game. In sharp contrast to hockey-ignorant
Ventura, Pawlenty is proving to be one of the more accomplished
hockey jock sniffers in state history. On Veteran's Day, Pawlenty
(who played j.v. hockey in high school) skated at the grand opening
of a new arena in Sartell, Minn., and was on-ice at the Wild game
that evening as the team honored Minnesota's soldiers.
If you think the Colorado College Tigers aren't
thankful for their current bye week, you haven't seen their list
of injuries. Star sophomore Brett Sterling was one of three regulars
missing from the roster last weekend when the Tigers salvaged
a split with arch-rival Denver. Sterling was injured in October
during CC's two-game series at Clarkson. He is slowly healing
after breaking a bone between the thumb and the wrist in his right
hand, and is expected back in the lineup in December. The latest
addition to the CC injured list is senior wing and captain Colin
Stuart, who separated a shoulder early in the second period in
last Friday's 5-2 loss to Denver. The Tigers already were playing
without Sterling and freshman center Brandon Polich, who suffered
a lacerated spleen while skating against Alaska Fairbanks in October.
Stuart and Polich are expected to be out for at least two more
One of my most vivid memories of covering college hockey came
in 1994, at the WCHA Final Five in Milwaukee. I remember sitting
in the media dining room at the Bradley Center with some friends.
A few tables away, back in the corner all by themselves, sat Frank
Serratore (now the coach at Air Force) and Don Lucia, speaking
in hushed tones. A few days earlier, Frank had been fired after
four seasons at Denver. Don had just won the WCHA title as a rookie
coach at Colorado College, only to see the Tigers upset by No.
10-seed Michigan Tech in the first round of the
playoffs. I remember my head spinning at the thought of what they
might be talking about at that moment in time. For some reason,
I envision a similar hushed conversation in a corner of the room
when current Tech coach Jamie Russell and MSU, Mankato
coach Troy Jutting meet up prior to this weekend's series in Mankato.
Both teams have offensive talent. Both teams are struggling to
find their legs in this still-young season. And both teams are
in trouble if those legs aren't found pronto.
Duluth is quickly becoming a team known for getting the
early jump on the competition. The Bulldogs have scored first
in seven of their nine
games thus far this season, and have out-scored opponents 13-6
in the first period. Less encouraging is the way they've finished
recently. In getting swept at home by St. Cloud State last weekend,
the Bulldogs out-shot the Huskies 35-14 in the third period of
both games, but were out-scored 4-3 in that stretch. By the way,
if you're a Bulldog fan and you're ready to panic about the recent
home losses, don't. The team's next four series (home-and-home
vs. Bemidji State, at Union, vs. MSU, Mankato and at Michigan
Tech) are a golden opportunity for UMD to regain some momentum
and some confidence before their pre-Christmas showdown with top-ranked
if being without the service of Keith Ballard and Chris Harrington
wasn't enough to deal with before a trip to Madison, Minnesota
is now expecting freshman Ryan Potulny to miss four months
with a knee injury. It was, by all accounts, a lousy homecoming
for the Grand Forks native last weekend when he injured his knee
late in the Gophers' 7-3 loss at North Dakota last Friday. After
an MRI confirmed damage to the lateral collateral ligament in
his left knee, Potulny was scheduled for surgery on Friday, Nov.
14. The younger brother of Gophers senior captain Grant, Ryan
was leading the team with five assists. "He's still going
to be an outstanding player for us," said Gopher coach Don
Lucia in a statement released by the school. "We'll miss
him for the bulk of this season, but this is just a short-term
setback for what promises to be a great long-term career."
On the "possible good news" front for Minnesota, Harrington
was skating in practice recently and may return to the team's
lineup for the Wisconsin series.