January 30, 2003
West Notebook

Rocky Mountain Rumble
North Dakota. Colorado College. Need we say more?

By Mike Eidelbes

North Dakota's Zach Parise

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This weekend's North Dakota-Colorado College series in Colorado Springs is the sportswriter's equivalent of an empty-net goal. There's no shortage of storylines here.

The Fighting Sioux and Tigers are battling for the upper hand in the WCHA regular season championship race. Should one of the two earn three or four points this weekend, they'll likely ascend to the top of the national rankings. Both continue to jockey for No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. And on an individual level, the series boast the two leading candidates for the Hobey Baker Award in Colorado College junior forward Peter Sejna and North Dakota freshman forward Zach Parise.

"It’s as much like a playoff atmosphere a series can get in the regular season," Colorado Coach Scott Owens said. "It’s definitely as big as a regular season series can get."

It's also about as even as a regular season series can get. Both teams have scored 124 goals in 26 games. Colorado College has allowed 57 goals on the season, while North Dakota has given up 71 markers. No surprise, then, that special teams play a huge role in this weekend's outcome. Both teams boast top-notch power plays – the Tigers are first nationally, while the Sioux are fifth in that category. CC is fifth in the NCAA in the penalty killing; North Dakota, meanwhile, is 50th.

"It’s a bit of a cliché, but it really comes down to special teams and goaltending at this time of year," North Dakota coach Dean Blais said. "It’s the little things right now – faceoffs, taking advantage of odd-man situations, power play, penalty kill."

Both teams will have a little bit of a different look this time around. Because of the IIHF World Junior Championships, the Tigers were minus the services of forward Brett Sterling and rearguard Mark Stuart when the teams first met earlier this month, while the Sioux played without defenseman Matt Greene and Matt Jones and Parise.

"Zach has found a way to get his points no matter who’s been covering him," said Blais who believes the host team might have a slight edge because of the World Arena's Olympic-sized ice surface "He’s been shadowed by teams, but he’s always managed to make a big play here or there and get his share of points."

Blais offers an interesting fact about the significance of this series. North Dakota and Colorado College have combined to win seven of the last nine WCHA regular season championships – the Sioux captured the McNaughton Cup in 1997-99 and 2001, while the Tigers took top honors from 1994-96. In those previous seasons, however, the teams were never really battling each other for first place in the standings. That changes this year.

"It’s the final time we will meet in the regular season," Owens said. "There’s a little bit of significance there in that you want to do well against them at this point, because you’re not going to get a shot at them again.”


Things People Say

"We battled to get both ties this weekend, so I'm not disappointed at all. This has been our thing all year. These kids don't give up." – Minnesota State University, Mankato coach Troy Jutting, following last weekend's draws vs. Minnesota at Mariucci Arena.

"To hold that club down to one goal for two nights – and really to zero goals until 51 seconds left in the weekend – that's very gratifying. It speaks volumes about the way our guys approached the game and the way our guys were committed to playing sound defense." – Nebraska-Omaha coach Mike Kemp, on his team's sweep of visiting Ohio State last weekend.

"I fight the demons in my head wondering why I can't score anymore...I feel like a dog named "Stay." – Minnesota-Duluth alum and current Detroit Red Wing Brett Hull, in a first-person article in last week's Hockey News.

Bowling Green coach Scott Paluch is the definition of perpetual motion behind the bench, always moving, talking, clapping and encouraging his troops. Fitting for a man who's been charged with jump starting a tradition-rich program that had stagnated in recent years.

The challenges he faces range in scope. For example, trailing by one goal in the third period of a game against Wayne State last week, Falcon freshman defenseman Don Morrison tried to clear a puck away from the slot in the BGSU end. Instead, he inadvertantly fired it into the net, putting the Warriors up 3-1.

While the frustration was visible in the body language of his players, Paluch remained vibrant, clapping his hands, keeping his troops energized and offering words of encouragement to a disconsolate Morrison. The Falcons would rally, earning a 4-3 win on the strength of a Mike Falk goal with 12 seconds left in regulation.

"What I liked a lot about that play was not only Donny coming back strong, but the rest of the team just kept going after that," Paluch said. "Those kind of things happen in hockey."

At 6-15-2 overall and 3-12-2 in the CCHA, Bowling Green harbors slim aspirations of postseason success. A closer look, however, reveals the Falcons are moving in the right direction. Their record includes a win against Michigan State, a sweep of Northern Michigan and a tie with Michigan. One-third of their losses have been by one goal. And they're a respectable 3-3-1 in the month of January.

The seeds of transformation are also apparent in Bowling Green's style of play. A group that was listless and uninspired for most of last season, the Falcons now play with greater resolve and discipline, a direct reflection of Paluch's approach.

"The less time you spend in the penalty box, the better you are," said senior goalie Tyler Masters. "Coach Paluch is holding guys accountable for stupid penalties and stuff like that. He's a very energetic guy. He expects a lot out of us energy-wise and expects us to remain upbeat."

Things are looking up at Bowling Green, but Paluch, a BGSU alum who helped Jerry York with a similar rebuilding effort at Boston College, has a lot to do. The Falcons are in dire need of more offensive punch (they're 10th in the CCHA in scoring) and allow netminders Masters and sophomore Jordan Sigalet to face too much rubber (both average more than 32 saves per game). Outside of X's and O's, the program has to re-establish BGSU Ice Arena as one of the CCHA's most inhospitable rinks, continue its facilities upgrades and emphasize the teams and players from the past that made the Falcons one of the nation's top powers.

"We've got to stay the course and understand what makes programs strong and what makes programs consistent," Paluch said. "Our hard work and discipline are going to be our foundation."


It's become a tradition at Minnesota-Duluth: bring in a young goaltending prospect, get him in net right away and ride him until he graduates. In the days before freshman eligibility, backstops such as Chico Resch and Jerome Mrazek put in yeoman-like efforts for the Bulldogs; Rick Heinz was a workhorse in the mid-'70s; during the latter stages of the Mike Sertich era, Taras Lendzyk and Brant Nicklin routinely made 30 or more starts over the course of their four-year careers.

Now in his third season behind at UMD, coach Scott Sandelin has found a netminder who looks to be in the same mold as the aforementioned stalwarts. Freshman Isaac Reichmuth (pronounced RYECH-mooth) is poised to etch his name into the school's record books this season and is one of the major reasons the Bulldogs have the opportunity to earn home ice for the first round of the WCHA playoffs for the first time since 1998.

"We have the confidence and the attitude that we can earn home ice," Reichmuth said. "We feel that we can play with anyone and we’re definitely shooting for home ice. It’s one of our main goals right now. We’d actually be a little disappointed if we didn’t get it."

The Book on Reichmuth

A WCHA coach breaks down Isaac Reichmuth's game:

"He's a technically sound goalie with a great butterfly. He's aggressive without being too aggressive, keeps his chest up and squares himself to the shooter. You can beat him if you make him move laterally – he can throw his leg out to make the first save, but scrambles a little if the defense can't clear the rebound."

Reichmuth hasn't disappointed Bulldog fans so far this season. With a 11-7-2 overall record in addition to a 2.12 goals against average and a .912 save percentage, the Fruitvale, British Columbia, native ranks second among WCHA goalies in GAA and save percentage. Reichmuth, who ranks sixth nationally in GAA and 13th in sv%, has been even better in conference play, sporting a league-best 2.10 GAA and a .924 sv%. His breakout game – Nov. 8 at Denver, when he turned aside 41 shots in a 3-2 win over the Pioneers.

Pretty solid numbers for a freshman in the high-scoring WCHA. But Reichmuth came to Duluth prepared for the offensive stylings of the "W"; he spent two years with the Trail Smoke Eaters in the run-and-gun British Columbia Hockey League. In his final season in Trail, he owned a respectable 90.1 sv% despite recording a 20-21-0 mark and a 3.63 GAA.

"The BCHL is a really offensive-minded league and not as much defense is played in BC as compared to the WCHA, so it probably prepared me more than I’d like," Reichmuth admits.

While he still has a long way to go before he can be compared with Bulldog greats from seasons past, Reichmuth does have the advantage of leaning on one of UMD's former goaltending stars for advice. Taras Lendzyk, who shares the school record of 60 career wins with Rick Kosti, is the team's goaltending coach.

"(Lendzyk) comes around two or three times a week," Reichmuth says. "He’s helped me keep my mind clear and keep focused on hockey."

Oh, yes, let's not forget those single-season school records. At his current pace, Reichmuth would set new UMD marks for save percentage (the current record is 90.1%, shared by Nicklin and Bill Halbrehder) and goals against average (Kosti, 1983-84, 3.04).


Werner Ineligible: Michigan defenseman Eric Werner was declared academically ineligible for the winter semester by the Big Ten Conference last week, bringing the sophomore's season to a premature end.

Werner, who currently leads Wolverine rearguards in scoring with 13 points, was cited by the Big Ten because his overall grade point average wasn't up to conference standards. The Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich., native attributed his struggles in the classroom to personal problems.

The good news for Michigan is that junior Andy Burnes, who has been sidelined with a groin injury, should return to the lineup for this weekend's Ferris State series, giving the Wolverines five solid defensemen: Burnes, senior Mike Roemensky, sophomores Nick Martens and Brandon Rodgers and freshman Danny Richmond, a talented offensive player whose defensive prowess has lagged. Coach Red Berenson is expected to fill the sixth position with either Dave Wyzgowski, who has played forward prior to this season, and redshirt freshman Reilly Olson.

Betcha Didn't Know: What two characteristics do these six teams – Boston College, Denver, Massachusetts, Miami, Northern Michigan and Providence – share? First, all six are ranked among the nation's top 25 according to Tuesday's Pairwise Rankings ranging from sixth (BC) to 24th. Second, none of the half dozen have more wins over their last 12 games than Michigan Tech. The list (in order of victories):

Boston College
Michigan Tech
Northern Michigan

Key cogs in Tech's improvement during the team's last dozen outings? Sophomore goaltender Cam Ellsworth ranks fifth in WCHA games in saves percentage (90.7%), ahead of well-known names such as Travis Weber of Minnesota and Denver's duo of Wade Dubielewicz and Adam Berkhoel. The Leamington, Ontario, product has faced 583 shots in conference play, nearly 100 more than any other goalie in the league – Alaska Anchorage's Kevin Reiter ranks second, having seen 495 shots against WCHA foes. Freshman Chris Conner leads the Huskies in scoring with 24 points in 24 games. He ranks third among WCHA rookies in that category, trailing only Zach Parise of North Dakota and Minnesota's Thomas Vanek.

All-Star Activities: The college ranks are well-represented at this weekend's National Hockey League and American Hockey League All-Star festivities. They include:

NHL All-Star Weekend; Sunrise, Fla.

Eastern Conference All-Stars: Ed Belfour (North Dakota), Toronto Maple Leafs; Dany Heatley (Wisconsin), Atlanta Thrashers.
Western Conference All-Stars: Marty Turco (Michigan), Dallas Stars; Rob Blake (Bowling Green), Colorado Avalanche; Doug Weight (Lake Superior State), St. Louis Blues.
Eastern Conference YoungStars: Ryan Miller (Michigan State), Buffalo Sabres.
Western Conference YoungStars: Jordan Leopold (Minnesota), Calgary Flames; Tyler Arnason (St. Cloud State), Chicago Blackhawks; Adam Hall (Michigan State), Nashville Predators.

AHL All-Star Weekend; Portland, Maine

PlanetUSA All-Stars: Joe Corvo (Western Michigan), Manchester Monarchs; Jeff Taffe (Minnesota), Springfield Falcons; John Pohl (Minnesota), Worcester Icecats; Matt Herr (Michigan), Providence Bruins; Andy Hilbert (Michigan), Providence Bruins; Mike Peluso (Minnesota-Duluth), Norfolk Admirals; Mike Komisarek (Michigan), Hamilton Bulldogs.

Canadian All-Stars: Travis Roche (North Dakota), Houston Aeros; Duvie Wescott (St. Cloud State), Syracuse Crunch; Curtis Murphy (North Dakota), Houston Aeros.

Three Great Weekend Getaways
120x60 - Brand Red

1. North Dakota at Colorado College: Haven't we said enough about this series? What's not at stake here? The Louisiana Purchase? The AWA Intercontinental Tag Team belt (vacated by Greg Gagne and Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka)? By the way, for those of you who can't make the trip to Colorado, WDAZ-TV in Grand Forks will feature streaming video of the series on its web site, www.wdaz.com.

While you're there: My anonymous source in the Springs – let's call her Mrs. Peacock – reports a number of options for postgame entertainment. The top club is Bourbon Street at Rum Bay, featuring seven different venues under one roof. For a true taste of the area's history, make a trip to the Broadmoor Hotel and the Golden Bee. The Bee's selling points according to Peacock: "piano music, killer cosmopolitans and the best cheese spread you can possibly imagine."


2. Ferris State vs. Michigan (home-and-home): The Wolverines have two games in hand over the Bulldogs – and if George Costanza taught us nothing, it's the importance of hand. These games mark the start of a hellacious end-of-the-season run for Red Berenson's squad.

3) Miami at Michigan State: Another key CCHA series, as the suddenly resurgent Spartans welcome the RedHawks, fresh off a split with Ferris State in Oxford, to Munn Ice Arena. By the way, the last time Miami scored a regular-season goal in East Lansing (January 8, 1999), Enron stock was trading at $32 per share.

Another Milestone for Dahl: It's not quite on the level of his 300th career victory behind the St. Cloud State bench, which he achieved earlier this month vs. Providence, but Huskies' coach Craig Dahl did accomplish another first in last weekend's series vs. Minnesota-Duluth. Dahl earned his first-ever bench minor in SCSU's 3-2 victory at the National Hockey Center Friday after stepping on the ice to, ummm, have a word with referee Bill Mason.

Legislative Laceration: State senator Ralph Seekins received more than 50 stitches after getting hit in the head with a puck during the first period of Friday's Alaska-Fairbanks game against Western Michigan. Seekins, a Fairbanks resident who was elected to the Alaska state senate in November, is the father-in-law of former Nanooks forward Ryan Reinheller. Sen. Seekins was back at the Carlson Center for Saturday's series finale between the two teams.

A Must Read: The latest in the ongoing series of vignettes on CCHA.com written by one of the league's players is the best of the lot so far. Make a point in reading Ohio State goaltender Mike Betz's account of a trip he made to Tanzania last summer. It's a thoughtful, well-written, informative piece.


MSU, Mankato and Minnesota: Last weekend's series was played with a playoff-like intensity, and both games were exciting, see-saw affairs featuring a full range of emotions and drama. From a fan's perspective, it was an excellent series.

Western Michigan: The Broncos have quietly slipped into a sole possession of fourth place in the CCHA standings thanks to a sweep of host Alaska Fairbanks last weekend. WMU enjoys a weekend off before traveling to Ohio State and engaging in a home-and-home series with Ferris State to open the month of February.


Alaska Anchorage:
The Seawolves won their first game of the season - and have posted a 0-16-7 mark since, including a pair of losses at Michigan Tech last weekend. UAA ranks 59th out of 60 NCAA Division I teams in scoring offense (1.62 goals per game). Coach John Hill tries to get his team off the schneid this weekend when the Seawolves entertain Minnesota. Hill was an assistant under Don Lucia at Colorado College and Minnesota.

Wisconsin power play: Can it be true that the Badgers are that bad with the man advantage? Bucky failed to notch a PPG against Colorado College last weekend, the 10th straight game that has happened. Wisconsin, which hasn't scored a power-play goal on the road this season, owns the nation's worst power play at 7.8 percent (9 for 116).


Mighty Ducks of Anaheim: Assigned forward Rob Valicevic (Lake Superior State) to Cincinnati of the American Hockey League.

Calgary Flames: Recalled defenseman Jordan Leopold (Minnesota) from Saint John of the American Hockey League.

Carolina Hurricanes: Recalled defenseman Steve Halko (Michigan) from Lowell of the American Hockey League.

Florida Panthers: Acquired center Matt Cullen (St. Cloud State), defenseman Pavel Trnka and a 2003 fourth-round draft pick from the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim for defensemen Sandis Ozolinsh and Lance Ward.

Los Angeles Kings: Recalled forward Mike Cammalleri (Michigan) from Manchester of the American Hockey League.

New York Rangers: Assigned defenseman Dave Karpa (Ferris State) to Hartford of the American Hockey League.

Phoenix Coyotes: Assigned forward Jeff Taffe (Minnesota) to Springfield of the American Hockey League.


Worcester Ice Cats: Recalled forward Ernie Hartlieb (Miami) from Arkansas of the East Coast Hockey League.

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

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