Seawolves Focus on Realistic Goals
who spend a lot of time looking at computer rankings will tell
you that if the NCAA playoffs started today, Alaska Anchorage
would be solidly in the running for a spot among the final 16.
After a winless WCHA season last year, the Seawolves are turning
heads, having earned at least a point in their last seven league
fans in Anchorage get too excited, Seawolves coach John Hill is
quick to do a little “expectation management” and
offer a realistic view of what he hopes for his team in the next
two months. A finish in the league’s upper half would be
nice, but with the way some other teams are playing and collecting
points, Hill doesn’t see it happening this year.
we’re shooting for sixth,” said Hill. “But we’ve
still got a list of things that haven’t happened in the
history of the program that we’re hoping to accomplish,
namely winning a playoff series and getting to the (WCHA) Final
Chris Fournier (7-11--18) has played a key role in
Alaska Anchorage's rebound from an abysmal 2002-03 season.
that while nobody expected last season’s one-win disaster
(Hill has joked that he promised his team would double its win
total this season), the fact that his team is playing competitive
hockey this year is in keeping with the plan he put into motion
when he took the job at his alma mater in 2001.
hoped that we’d start showing progress in year three, once
I had two recruiting classes in,” Hill said. “Chris
Fournier transferring back here has obviously been a huge addition
for us, but in addition to that, we’ve got a young hockey
team that gets along very well. I honestly thought our team was
capable of doing this.”
the biggest challenge in year three has been fielding a full roster.
A “perfect storm” of player departures, injures and
academic troubles has left the Seawolves short-handed to the point
that defenseman Ryan McMullan, an Alaska native who had been playing
junior hockey in Missouri, enrolled in school and joined the team
just last week, making his college debut in the Seawolves’
6-3 home win over St. Cloud State.
AND HEARD IN THE WCHA
Flew Without A Net On NCAA Vote – While these are
tough times on the ice for the Colorado College hockey team, off
the ice, all is well in Colorado Springs now that the NCAA has
issued a favorable vote. After his team was swept in Duluth last
weekend, Tigers coach Scott Owens admitted that they’re
glad to see the distraction created by the D-III issue gone.
was a big relief,” said Owens of the NCAA vote. “There
have been so many things going on with this team this year, from
accidents and injuries to illnesses, and this was just one more
added thing, so it’s nice to have it over.”
the school would have done had the vote gone badly, Owens said
there was no “Plan B” in place.
didn’t have a contingency plan,” he said. “We
didn’t even think about ‘what if” because we
wanted to put all of our energies into the fight. And we were
fortunate because the eight schools involved were incredibly organized,
and they worked their butts off to make sure things came out right.”
As for the
Tigers’ struggles on ice, they’re in new territory.
Prior to the team’s current six-game WCHA losing streak,
CC had gone 21 consecutive WCHA series without getting swept.
is a tough stretch for us, but we’re trying to stay positive
and patient,” said Owens. “We’ve had 27, 27
and 30 wins the last three seasons, so we haven’t really
experienced this. I think we’re a pretty good team without
a good league record, but I think we’ll be pretty good eventually.”
Great Weekend Getaway
Dakota at Minnesota (Fri.-Sat.)
Despite the current trend in pro and college arenas, there
are still no protective nets behind the goals at Mariucci
Arena in Minneapolis. With the way these two teams shoot
the puck, there are about six sections of seats that could
be similar to a combat zone this weekend. Some casual college
hockey observers get pumped up about the Gopher-Badger rivalry,
but others contend that the Gopher-NoDak series (which has
been going on 20 years longer than Minnesota-Wisconsin)
is the true “big game” in the WCHA. Both teams
are red-hot, with Minnesota on an 11-1-2 streak and NoDak
on an 11-0-2 streak. Some are still not sold on the Sioux
goaltending, and with the way Minnesota is scoring (putting
up 16 goals last weekend in Mankato) many expect the Gophers
to put an end to the Sioux unbeaten streak. But NoDak has
gotten a win in each of its last six trips to Mariucci,
so don’t be surprised to see that streak grow to seven.
You’re There: In the winter, North Dakotans watch
hockey. In the summer, North Dakotans (at least the ones
I knew growing up) come to Minnesota to fish. It’s
somehow appropriate, then, that with hundreds of North Dakotans
coming to the Twin Cities to watch hockey this weekend,
32nd Annual Boat Show is in full swing at the Minneapolis
Convention Center. If you stop by on Saturday, expect to
see more than one person wearing green and white while checking
out the newest equipment for use on Minnesota’s 11,842
Minnesota Duluth sports information director Bob
Nygaard and his efforts with the Mentor Duluth
program. Run by the local YMCA, Mentor Duluth is similar
to Big Brothers Big Sisters, and pairs kids from the Twin
Ports with adult mentors. For the fifth consecutive year,
Nygaard organized Mentor Duluth Night at the DECC, and more
than 150 kids were on hand to see the Bulldogs host Colorado
College last Saturday. The event is completely funded through
private donations, and UMD athletics offers kids and their
mentors discounted tickets. We can think of no better character-building
event for the youth of America than witnessing a night of
top-level collegiate hockey.
the Minnesota State, Mankato fan who threw a dead
gopher on the Midwest Wireless Civic Center ice
last weekend as the Mavericks and (live) Gophers battled.
Two decades ago, when North Dakota fans started this trend,
it was funny and unique. Nowadays, it’s old hat, and
somewhat cruel, and we’re not ones to condone throwing
anything on the ice during games. Kudos to Gophers forward
Thomas Vanek for having the good sense to toss the carcass
back into the stands.
TO PICK UP AFTER PRACTICE
this for parity in the WCHA: In the last 20 meetings between Minnesota
Duluth and Michigan Tech, the Bulldogs hold a razor-thin
10-9-1 edge. It almost makes one hope that Tech wins and ties
this weekend in Duluth. That even play is a far cry from the start
of the rivalry between the WCHA’s two Lake Superior schools.
Between their first meeting in 1952 and 1970, the Huskies were
43-2-1 versus UMD.
What has already been a long, cold winter in Mankato got
a little bleaker this week when it was announced that
senior forward Cole Bassett has left the Mavericks hockey team
for personal reasons. Bassett was a highly-recruited player out
of St. Paul’s Hill-Murray High School and had been among
the team’s top five scorers as a sophomore and junior. Expected
to complement Shane Joseph and be a major contributor to the team’s
offense this season, Bassett had struggled in his final year,
recording five goals and no assists in 18 games.
sophomore defenseman Tom Gilbert is prominently featured
in the new book “Blades of Glory: The True Story of a Young
Team Bred to Win.” Minneapolis author John Rosengren spent
the 2000-01 season as an insider with the Bloomington (Minn.)
Jefferson High School hockey team, when Gilbert was a senior and
the team’s captain. Rosengren has written an engaging book
based on the experience, including an unvarnished look at the
pressures put on kids to make the team and the disturbing increase
in the use of performance-enhancing substances among young athletes.
Jefferson is one of the most successful prep hockey programs in
the nation, having won five state titles since 1981 and having
produced such notable collegians as Hobey winner Tom Kurvers (Minnesota
Duluth), All American defenseman Mike Crowley (Minnesota) and
current Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ben Clymer (Minnesota).
Look for suites and club seating to factor prominently
into any design for a new arena in Duluth. Bob Nielsen,
who took over as UMD’s athletic director in December, said
that if sightlines were the only factor in an arena, the Bulldog
hockey program would be happy to stay in the DECC. “I think,
and most people agree, that the DECC is a great place to watch
hockey,” said Nielsen. “But unfortunately, facilities
are judged more on the basis of bells and whistles today.”
As for abandoning an effort to get an arena built on the UMD campus
(the DECC, and the proposed new arena site, are five miles from
campus, on the waterfront near downtown Duluth), Nielsen said
he likes the agreement under which the city would build a new
lakefront arena and give UMD hockey free rent for life. “I
think having college hockey in Canal Park is good for UMD, for
the city, and for the Duluth business community,” said Nielsen.
“We certainly want to work with the city to secure a new
facility, because we think there’s a great partnership between
UMD and the city.” The DECC, which opened in 1966, is the
oldest arena in the WCHA. The building has hosted two men’s
Frozen Fours (1967 and ’81) and the women’s Frozen
Four last season.
luck picking winners when Denver hosts Alaska Anchorage
this weekend. With the Seawolves playing well and the Pioneers
unable to win WCHA games at home (Denver is 0-6-1 in WCHA games
at Magness Arena this season) it would be tempting to pick Anchorage.
But the Pioneers have owned the series recently, going 8-0-2 in
their last 10 meetings with the Seawolves. With a trip to top-ranked
North Dakota looming on the Pioneers’ schedule, the four
points at stake this weekend are vital to Denver’s chances
of getting back into the league’s upper echelon.
face on ABC’s “The Bachelorette” recently might
have looked familiar to college hockey fans. Yes, that
Wisconsin forward Rick Enrico receiving the all-important
white rose from bachelorette Meredith Phillips at the end of the
show’s first episode. For their first date, People magazine
reported that Rick and Meredith had an intimate dinner and a tour
of Michael Jackson’s $20 million Beverly Hills estate. While
we don’t know what was on the menu at Jacko’s house,
we’re guessing it was a far cry from any pregame meal Rick
had at the Fabulous Westward Ho in Grand Forks. Enrico played
for the Badgers between 1994-98.
his team trailing 1-0 in the third period at Anchorage last weekend,
St. Cloud State captain Matt Hendricks scored
two of his team’s four goals as the Huskies rallied for
a 4-1 win. In doing so, Hendricks became the 18th player in SCSU
hockey history to top 100 points for his career. While the computers
still rank the Huskies in the top five nationally, their WCHA
fortunes have gone south recently. After starting their WCHA slate
on a 6-0-1 tear, the Huskies are 1-5-1 in their last seven conference
of the true nice guys in college hockey media will call
it a career at the end of the current season. After 26 years as
the color analyst for Minnesota Duluth hockey broadcasts, Rik
Jordan is stepping down from his post with KDAL sports. Jordan,
who has struggled with eye problems at times, made an amazing
recovery after going blind in both eyes during the Bulldogs’
run to the 1993 WCHA title. Surgery helped him re-gain sight in
one eye, and he’s been back behind the mic for home games