| CHA | WCHA
recovers nicely from brutal start.
second-hottest hockey team, one spot below North Dakota and
above the likes of Ohio State and Boston University, hails
from Huntsville, Alabama.
Coach Doug Ross’ Chargers – the same team that
started the season with six losses in a row against Denver,
Minnesota and Wisconsin – have won five straight, are
unbeaten in their last nine and own a 9-1-2 record since starting
the season 0-6-0.
“(Our players) want the opportunity to play against
those types of teams,” Ross said from his hotel room
in Findlay, Ohio, where Alabama-Huntsville was preparing for
a two-game set with their College Hockey America rivals. “But
that was a tough way to start the season, especially three
weekends in a row on the road. It was challenging and we were
hoping it would toughen us up for league play.”
The Chargers’ emergence has coincided with that of goaltender
Scott Munroe. A heralded freshman from Moose Jaw, Sask. and
product of the legendary Athol Murray College of Notre Dame
in Wilcox, Sask., Munroe turned aside 52 shots in his first
career start, a 4-2 loss to Minnesota at Mariucci Arena Nov.
2. He’s posted a 6-0-0 record since, including a 3-0-0
mark and a sparkling .940 save percentage in conference play.
“We were looking for someone who was capable of rotating
with our senior (Mark Byrne),” Ross said. “Scott
got the opportunity – he got his foot in the door. He
looked good in practice in the preseason. Players are playing
well in front of him, knowing that he’s real dependable.”
While the goaltending has given Alabama-Huntsville a boost,
the team’s scoring has picked up. After scoring nine
goals en route to their winless start, the Chargers have tallied
62 goals in their last 12 contests, including four or more
goals on 10 occasions. Look at the list of the CHA’s
top point-getters and you’ll find four Chargers in the
top eight and nine among the top 25.
Despite the learning experience the first six games provided
and the confidence gained during the last dozen games, Alabama-Huntsville
players and coaches are acutely aware that no CHA team is
a lock to take the league postseason crown and the ensuing
NCAA Tournament auto-bid.
“All the teams in our conferenece have a legitimate
shot at winning the conference tournament,” Ross said.
“Whoever is playing well at the end of the season will
have a real good shot at it.”
have a lot of guys who were part of the under-18 team
that won the world championships and we have a great
future with that age group. But this is a tough pill
to swallow.” – North Dakota forward
Zach Parise, lamenting the U.S. team’s fourth-place
finish at the 2003 IIHF World Junior Championship
in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
heard that he is one of the best-looking guys in the
country, so I can’t really complain about that.
Hopefully, I’ll be able to help our team win
the national championship as well." – Michigan
State senior Steve Clark, who bears a resemblance
to Ohio State quarterback Craig Krenzel.
and Dad, please send money for beer.” –
Sign displayed by a St. Cloud State student during
Saturday’s tie with Minnesota at the National
member of the U.S. entry in the IIHF World Junior Championship
in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Colorado College freshman Brett
Sterling had the opportunity to see the sites of one of
Canada’s Maritime provinces. Unfortunately, one of
the side trips he made was to the city’s hospital.
During a power play/penalty kill drill at a Dec. 21 practice,
Sterling was hit in the mouth by a shot off the stick of
North Dakota defenseman Matt Greene – players are
permitted to wear half shields in international competition.
“I went down and everyone kind of knew it was not
good,” Sterling said. “Our trainer, who worked
in the NHL for 17 years, said it was the worst lip laceration
he had seen.”
The damage: 20 stitches to his upper lip, which Sterling
says was basically hanging off his face in two pieces. His
front incisors had been knocked back toward his throat and
had dropped down about a quarter of an inch, forcing doctors
to pull his palate back into place where the teeth were
in a five-hour surgical procedure.
Sterling was released from the hospital that day, returned
to practice two days later and played
“I have braces on the top layer of my gums that are
basically holding my front two teeth in place until they
solidify in my gums,” Sterling said. “They’re
still kind of loose a little bit. My left canine was cracked
off near the top, so I have to get a root canal done on
that tooth and get it capped. Depending on how my left incisor
does, I might have to get a root canal on that. My right
incisor has already had a root canal on it because I cracked
it off in hockey a couple years ago.”
Incidentally, Sterling and Greene meet as opponents at the
end of the month when North Dakota visits Colorado Springs
to face the Tigers. The Colorado College forward says he
and his Team USA teammate have already talked about the
incident and the two will share a laugh when they see each
other in three weeks.
been an inordinate amount of alterations to team rosters
during the course of the last month. To wit:
Alaska Anchorage: 13 skaters will serve suspensions
for violating NCAA rules regarding textbook purchases. Seven-game
suspensions were levied against Kurt Johnson and Jim Dahl.
11 players – B.J. Ballas, Petr Chytka, Spence Gilchrist,
Dan Gilkerson, Lee Green, Pavel Hlavacek, Sean Honeman,
Vladimir Novak, Sean Ober, Morgan Roach and Matt Shasby
– were handed three-game suspensions. The penalties
will be staggered so the Seawolves will have an adequate
number of eligible players on the roster.
Bowling Green: Coach Scott Paluch
dismissed two players – Kip Horner and Colen Pappas
– for violating team rules. An additional five skaters
were suspended for last Friday’s contest against Alaska
Fairbanks for similar reasons. They were Erik Eaton, Mike
Falk, Roger Leonard, Ryan Minnabarriet and Brandon Piersol.
Miami: Forward Derek Edwardson,
who ranks tied for ninth in the CCHA in scoring with 24
points, is expected to miss the rest of the season after
suffering a knee injury in the RedHawks’ overtime
loss at Michigan last Sunday.
Michigan State: Defensemen Duncan
Keith and Evan Shaw both left the team prior to the Spartans’
appearance in the Great Lakes Invitational. Keith joined
the Western Hockey League’s Kelowna Rockets. According
to the State News, Shaw has yet to decide whether to transfer
to another school or join the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles
of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Minnesota: Forward Dan Welch was
dismissed from the team because of academic issues. The
Hastings, Minn., native missed all of the 2000-01 season
and the first half of the 2001-02 campaign due to academic
Notre Dame: Forward Alex Lalonde
departed from South Bend in order to play in the major junior
ranks. He had one goal in 12 games this season.
RIPPED FROM TODAY'S HEADLINES
Great Weekend Getaways
North Dakota at Minnesota:
Coaches will tell you every game matters
regardless of whether it takes place in mid-October
or mid-February, but we’re getting to point
in the season where a series can be labeled “huge”.
This one fits into that category. Minnesota needs
to get untracked against quality conference opponents
- they’re 1-3-2 against teams in the league
with records at or better than .500. North Dakota,
while unbeaten in its last 15 games, hasn’t
played a road contest in two months (Nov. 8-9 at St.
Cloud State). They haven’t exactly been tested
during that stretch, either, with just four games
against foes above the .500 mark.
you’re there: In case you’re still thirsting
for hockey action following the Gopher-Sioux series,
the Minnesota Wild skills competition takes place
at the Xcel Energy Center Sunday. You know you want
to see how fast Cliff Ronning can skate, so don’t
try to deny it.
2. Michigan at Western Michigan (Saturday):
The two teams play in Ann Arbor Friday, but
Saturday’s game in Kalamazoo will be one of
two that sell out at Lawson Arena this season (the
other being the Broncos’ game against Michigan
State in March). The atmosphere at Lawson when U-M
or MSU rolls into town – especially in the WMU
student section – is how I envision soccer hooliganism.
St. Cloud State at Denver: St. Cloud
State travels west coming off a three-point weekend
against the hated Gophers. Denver got a weekend off
after shutting out Miami and New Hampshire en route
to the Denver Cup title. The Huskies took three of
four from the Pioneers in St. Cloud prior to the Christmas
break. Feel free to tack on your own clichéd
River Red Carpet: Grand Forks, N.D., was tabbed
by USA Hockey to host the 2005 World Junior Championship.
Ralph Engelstad Arena will be the primary venue for the
tournament, which will start in late December 2004 and conclude
with medal games in early January 2005.
Thief River Falls, Minn., will also host selected WJC tournament
games at its new 3,800-seat facility, also named Ralph Engelstad
Arena. Grand Forks beat out Columbus, Ohio, and Omaha for
the right to host the event. The last time the IIHF brought
the tournament to American soil was in 1996, when Boston
served as host.
December to Remember: Ohio State’s
R.J. Umberger and Zach Parise of North Dakota were honored
by the Ice Hockey Collegiate Commissioners’ Association
as December’s Player of the Month and Rookie of the
Umberger scored nine goals and four assists while leading
the Buckeyes to a 5-0-1 record in six December contests.
The junior from Pittsburgh, Pa., earned CCHA Offensive Player
of the Week three times last month.
Parise played in four games for the Sioux last month and
had two goals and seven assists. The Faribault, Minn., native,
who led Team USA in scoring at the recently-concluded World
Junior Championship, received WCHA Rookie of the Week status
twice in December.
Speaking of Awards: Three CCHA
players – Ohio State goaltender Mike Betz, defenseman
Brad Fast of Michigan State and Notre Dame’s John
Wroblewski – are among the 15 nominees for the Humanitarian
Award, presented annually to college hockey’s finest
citizen for their contributions to society.
The award was first presented in 1996. Past winners include
Michigan’s Blake Sloan (1997), Erik Raygor of Wisconsin
(1998) and Nebraska-Omaha’s Jason Cupp (2001).
News of the Weird: Lake Superior
State and Bowling Green have combined for two wins in conference
play so far this season – both against Michigan State.
The Spartans, whose struggles under first-year head coach
Rick Comley are well-chronicled, haven’t lost to the
Lakers and Falcons in the same season since the 1995-96
Bobble-Red: Wanna bring Michigan
coach Red Berenson home with you…for good? The first
1,000 fans attending Friday’s Michigan-Western Michigan
game receive limited edition bobbleheads created in the
likeness of the legendary Wolverine coach.
An additional 1,000 will go on sale for $15 each. Can’t
make it to the game? You can order one through the U-M athletic
department at (734) 615-2025 using your Master Card, Visa
or Discover. Proceeds from the bobblehead sale go to the
Dekers Club hockey booster group’s scholarship fund.
Berenson is the second CCHA coach to be honored in plaster.
At last year’s league tournament, fans were presented
with bobbleheads of outgoing Michigan State coach Ron Mason.
YES Network: For carrying selected U.S.
Junior National Team games from the recent IIHF World Junior
Championship in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Hockey fans receiving
the YES Network on cable or via satellite thoroughly enjoyed
the broadcasts. We encourage you to email comments of support
Wong: The longtime scribe for the St. Paul
Pioneer Press will drop the ceremonial first puck
prior to game one of this weekend’s Minnesota-North
Dakota series at Mariucci Arena.
Arbor News writer Antoine Pitts:
The Michigan hockey beat writer recently lamented that,
due to the yearly inclusion of Michigan, Michigan State
and Michigan Tech in the Great Lakes Invitational, the event
has grown stale, and even suggested that Tech, which founded
the tournament, should excuse themselves due to its recent
struggles. It must be a decent tournament, because the Wolverines
have a pretty good program and haven’t won the GLI
Sports Net (insert geographical reference here):
I love the fact that Fox Sports Net, in its various forms,
brings live college hockey broadcasts from across the nation
to my rumpus room. But enough with the silly, invasive,
in-game promos. Rupert Murdoch, if you’re reading
this, I’m aware that your family of sports outlets
carries The Best Damn Sports Show Period and Super
Bowl Saturday Night. Please, I beseech you, quit showing
John Kruk’s mullet-swaddled head or Jimmy Kimmel putting
a whole apple into his mouth when I’m trying to see
the game. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve going
to go watch The Junction Boys.
WEEK'S NHL TRANSACTIONS
Bruins: Recalled forward Andy Hilbert (Michigan)
from Providence of the American Hockey League.
Hurricanes: Recalled defenseman Steve Halko (Michigan)
from Lowell of the American Hockey League.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Recalled defenseman
Paul Manning (Colorado College) from Syracuse of the American
Los Angeles Kings: Placed forward Bryan
Smolinski (Michigan State) on injured reserve; assigned
center Mike Cammalleri (Michigan) to Manchester of the American
Minnesota Wild: Recalled goaltender Dieter
Kochan (Northern Michigan) from Houston of the American
Nashville Predators: Recalled forward Wyatt Smith
(Minnesota) from Milwaukee of the American Hockey League.
Phoenix Coyotes: Recalled forward Jeff
Taffe (Minnesota) from Springfield of the American Hockey
PRO TRANSACTION OF THE WEEK
Monarchs (AHL): Signed forward Dan Welch (Minnesota)
to an amateur tryout agreement.