St. Cloud Skate?
mediocre record, impressive strength of schedule add up
to NCAA Tourney invite?
process for the NCAA Tournament has been pretty much fail-safe
over the past few seasons because teams are chosen largely
on empirical data. Thanks to its system of statistics-based
comparisons, the deserving teams outside of the conference
playoff champions have ended up with invitations to the national
tournament, for the most part.
However, a flaw in the machinery could be exposed this season
should St. Cloud State receive an at-large invitation. The
Huskies, a pedestrian 14-12-4 overall and seventh place in
the WCHA, rank 24th among Division I schools in winning percentage
and trail such teams as Dartmouth, Minnesota-Duluth and Yale
in that category. Thanks to their strength of schedule –
currently recognized as the nation’s toughest –
SCSU sits in a tie for with Minnesota eighth in the latest
Pairwise Rankings, ahead of 20-win teams Michigan, North Dakota,
Ohio State and Denver.
The juxtaposition begs the question, does St. Cloud State
belong in the NCAA Tournament? Former Bowling Green and Rensselaer
coach Buddy Powers, who sat on the selection committee in
the past, says if the data says the Huskies belong, they’ll
get an invite.
“The way this thing is set up, they’re pretty
cut and dried,” Powers explains. “The days of
five guys in a back room are long gone. The way they have
it down now, they’ve got it refined pretty good. The
numbers spit things out.”
Granted, there’s a lot of hockey left to be played.
St. Cloud State could conceivably finish the season with a
.500 record or worse, what with a series remaining against
Minnesota and the possibility of opening the WCHA playoffs
on the road against a team such as the Gophers, Denver or
North Dakota. Plus, it’s hard to predict what the Huskies’
two games against Alaska Anchorage this weekend will do to
their strength of schedule rating.
“We’ve got a long way to go yet,” said Wayne
State coach Bill Wilkinson, also a former member of the selection
committee. “A lot of it depends on what happens in the
While the selection process is based mainly on factual data,
Wilkinson believes there is room for interpretation. For example,
the committee might be inclined to choose a 25-win team over
a team with fewer wins, even if the data leans in favor of
“It’s not as cut and dried as you think…but
there’s not too much personal evaluation,” Wilkinson
said. “It’s pretty much factual. (The committee)
looks at the numbers across the board and see where (the teams)
Powers says any time there are changes to the tournament format,
as there are this year with the expansion to 16 teams, cracks
in the selection process may begin to show. But he adds that
the NCAA will work quickly to shore up any issues.
“It’s the first year (of the 16-team tournament)
and there are going to be some glitches,” Powers stated.
“There are going to be questions as far as how things
went. But when all is said and done after the playoffs are
over in all the leagues, the committee will follow the criteria.
Whoever comes out as the top 16 in criteria – that’s
who’s going to get the spots.”
WILD WEST WALK-ON
Alaska-Fairbanks is currently in ninth place in the
CCHA standings and has two fewer league games than the teams
in front of them, so odds are slim the Nanooks will host a
first-round playoff series for the second straight season.
Thanks to the contributions of walk-on goaltender Keith Bartusch,
however, UAF could prove to be a handful for its first-round
Bartusch, a sophomore from Graham, Wash., has started five
straight games for the Nanooks and is 3-0-2 during that span.
The latest victories came last weekend in Columbus, as UAF
surprised nationally-ranked Ohio State, beating the Buckeyes,
4-1, Friday and posting a 5-4 win in the series finale.
have a senior and a junior who are excellent goaltenders and
have proven they can win CCHA hockey games on their own,”
said UAF coach Guy Gadowsky, referring to backstops Preston
McKay and Lance Mayes. “Unfortunately, that hasn’t
been happening, and that opened the door for Keith to step
in and he has been unbelievable.”
probably a little upset I didn't stay here. But I'm
more than pleased with my decision to go to Michigan."
– Wolverine captain and Omaha native Jed
Ortmeyer, who’s greeted with a chorus of boos
from the home fans every time his team plays at Nebraska-Omaha.
of the above." – Minnesota captain
Grant Potulny, when asked by a reporter if his team’s
mood was one of anger, frustration or disappointment
following the Gophers’ 5-4 overtime loss at
in the beer league over the summer." – Minnesota
State, Mankato forward Grant Stevenson, to a scribe
who asked when the Mavericks, unbeaten in 17 straight,
will lose again.
More interesting than Bartusch’s transformation from
gate-opener to go-to guy is his background. He didn’t
start playing organized hockey until he was a teenager, and
that was because his mother forbade him from continuing on
in his favorite extra-curricular activity at the time –
“When he got old enough, around 13, I think, when he
couldn’t ride the baby bulls anymore – he had
to ride the big boys – his mom said, ‘Enough of
that,’” Gadowsky explained. “He was looking
for something to do and happened to go to a hockey game in
Tacoma and loved it.”
Bartusch spent one year as a forward, then moved between the
pipes at 14. Eventually, he joined the Fairbanks Ice Dogs
of the American West Hockey League and spent one season with
that organization before returning to Graham. He worked construction
for a year, but decided he wanted to take another crack at
“He got in great shape and got the opportunity to come
(to UAF) and try out,” said Gadowsky. “He certainly
made the best of it.”
Coming into the weekend with 499 career victories,
Michigan coach Red Berenson took time to reflect on his career
in Ann Arbor with Detroit Free Press writer Michael
Rosenberg in a question-and-answer session that appears in
today’s issue. The topics ranged from the rivalry to
Michigan State to his plans for retirement, but the most interesting
comments surrounded Jeff Jillson and Mike Cammalleri –
former players who left the Wolverines early to pursue professional
Berenson told Rosenberg that Jillson was up front about his
decision to go pro. In fact, the coach said he could sense
the defenseman’s prevailing attitude during his junior
year at U-M.
“He wasn't taking to the day-to-day work ethic and practice
that we were preaching,” Berenson stated. “He
was already looking past...he wasn't challenging himself.
There were nights I wanted to bench him. He was wasting our
time and his. You hate to say that about a kid. His head was
turned by pro hockey.”
Berenson saved most of his vitriol for Mike Cammalleri, who
stunned his coach by announcing he was signing with the Los
Angeles Kings last summer. Clearly, comments Berenson made
to Rosenberg indicate the coach still harbors ill will toward
“Jillson did it right,” Berenson said. “He
told me after spring term he would give me a yes or no. Andy
Hilbert was up front. Cammalleri was all cloak and dagger.
I didn't like the way Mike did it, how it happened and I was
really disappointed in him. Mike got in bed with an agent
that told him what to do.
“Our relationship is not very good right now, I'll tell
you that. It might smooth out in time. I told him, ‘Our
players don't act this way. If you do it, you do it up front.
But don't lie to your best friends on the team.’”
When asked whether freshman Jeff Tambellini would consider
forgoing part of his college career to pursue a professional
career, Berenson expressed optimism. It’s fair to say
if you read between the lines, however, one can infer a veiled
criticism of Cammalleri.
“I think Jeff has his head screwed on right,”
Berenson told Rosenberg. “He is from a hockey background
– his dad, Steve, is a pro, and he knows what I know.
So there is no rush. He can have a Brendan Morrison(-type)
career at Michigan, and you can't buy that.”
RIPPED FROM TODAY'S HEADLINES
arrested, suspended: Wisconsin senior captain
Brad Winchester was suspended Thursday by for two games
by coach Mike Eaves for his role in an altercation outside
a campus bar early Sunday morning during which he allegedly
punched a police officer. The 21-year-old Madison native
will miss both games of this weekend’s series with
Michigan Tech and return to practice Monday.
Great Weekend Getaways
Minnesota State, Mankato at Colorado College:
Could this be the weekend the Mavericks’
impressive 17-game unbeaten streak comes to an end?
The Tigers can salt away their first MacNaughton Cup
since 1995-96 – hard to believe it’s been
that long – by earning two points against Minnesota
State in this series.
you’re there: The March weather in Colorado
can be glorious (but it's only supposed to be in the
low 30s this weekend) so if the sun is out Saturday
afternoon, do yourself a favor and drive down to the
CC campus at 1 p.m. as the Tiger men’s lacrosse
team (an NCAA Division III program) hosts the Colorado
State club squad at Washburn Field. After all, lacrosse
is Canada’s national sport.
Denver at Minnesota: This
series has major implications on seeding for the conference
playoffs and NCAA Tournament. There’s still
bad blood between these two teams stemming from an
incident more than three years ago, when Minnesota’s
Erik Westrum kicked Pioneer defenseman Erik Adams
in the chest with his skate blade in the WCHA’s
first instance of Erik-on-Erik violence.
State vs. Michigan: This grudge match
starts Friday in Ann Arbor and concludes Saturday
at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. Coach Red Berenson
is in search of his 500th win behind the Wolverine
bench. What could be better than reaching that milestone
at Yost Arena? How about doing it against your most
bitter rival? The Spartans, meanwhile, hope forward
Jim Slater (shoulder) can suit up this weekend, but
it doesn’t look good.
Winchester is a fine young person and no one is as disappointed
as Brad with the incident of last week," Eaves said
in a prepared statement. "He made a poor decision last
week, but over the four years of his career has shown good
character. Brad will work through this situation, and our
hockey team will support him throughout the process."
Winchester faces a felony charge of battery to a police
officer and a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct.
He was released from custody on a signature bond after making
his initial appearance in Dane County Court Monday afternoon.
According to police reports, four Madison police officers
and a supervisor were called to the Kollege Klub, across
the street from the UW campus, shortly after 2 a.m. to break
up a fight. One of the officers – Caleb Bedford –
saw Winchester hit an unidentified man in the face with
a closed fist. Bedford grabbed Winchester as he prepared
to through another punch; the hockey player wheeled and
hit the police officer in the face, giving him a bloody
nose. Winchester then punched him once more.
Winchester makes his next court appearance March 11. The
battery charge is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000
and up to six years in prison. The misdemeanor charge carries
a maximum sentence of 90 days.
It’s the second black mark in as many weeks on the
Badger hockey program. Last week, sophomore forward Alex
Leavitt revealed Eaves used unnecessary physical force in
a November confrontation at a Grand Forks, N.D., hotel.
Doell on a roll: Denver forward
Kevin Doell is a pretty good hockey player, After all, in
his final year with the Melfort Mustangs of the Saskatchewan
Junior Hockey League, he was runner-up for Canadian Junior
A player of the year to a guy named Dany Heatley.
So how is it that he’s quietly become one of the most
dangerous scorers in the nation? With 23 goals and 22 assists
this season, he ranks tied for thirteenth nationally in
points and is tied for eighth in goals. He’s scored
at least one point in 13 of the Pioneers’ last 14
games, including seven goals and two assists in the team’s
four previous outings.
"I have to credit my linemates, Greg Keith and Connor
James,” says the senior from Saskatoon, who was named
WCHA offensive player of the week after notching four goals
and an assist in a win against Michigan Tech Friday. “They
just put the puck on my stick."
He makes a good point, but sells himself short. Listed as
5-feet, 11-inches and 192 pounds, Doell possesses a nasty
streak common among players from the western Canadian prairie.
Besides, he had a great role model when it came to toughness
– his brother, Curtis, was a rugged defenseman and
fan favorite at Minnesota-Duluth from 1996-98. There’s
one huge difference between Curtis and Kevin, however.
“Kevin is a goal scorer,” said Denver coach
George Gwozdecky. “When you put the puck on his stick
and he's in the slot, there's a good chance he's going to
The DECC – Reunion
Arena?: From frequent INCH contributor Jess
Myers, who reports Saturday’s Minnesota-Duluth game
against Minnesota featured a between-periods reunion of
the Bulldogs’ 1992-93 WCHA regular-season title team.
Six members of that team are still playing professionally
and couldn’t attend, but the likes of Joe Biondi,
Jon Rohloff, Kraig Karakas, Taras Lendzyk and Chris Sittlow
were introduced to an appreciative sellout crowd.
For the benefit of the 1,000-plus Gopher fans at the DECC,
the Bulldogs were recognized by the public address announcer
as “the last team from Minnesota to win a WCHA championship
outright.” Indeed, since that night a decade ago when
the Bulldogs stood alone atop the league, the closest a
Minnesota team has come to the MacNaughton Cup was in 1997,
when the Gophers shared the title with North Dakota.
News of the weird: Bemidji State
tied the NCAA record by playing its 13th overtime game of
the season last weekend, an extra-session win vs. first-place
Alabama-Huntsville Saturday…Count Niagara among the
nation’s hottest teams. The Purple Eagles are 8-2-2
in their last 12 games…All but one of Michigan’s
23 wins have been decided by two or more goals…Michigan
State marked its 300th consecutive regular season sellout
at Munn Ice Arena Saturday with a 4-2 loss to Northern Michigan.
The first game in that steak took place on Dec. 19, 1985
– a 3-2 loss to Northern Michigan…Nebraska-Omaha
played its final CCHA series at Civic Auditorium last weekend.
Only three conference schools posted sweeps at The Bullpen
– Michigan (once, last weekend), Michigan State (once,
in the first CCHA games at the building in 1999) and Alaska-Fairbanks
(twice)…Denver defenseman Jason Grahame was a whopping
+6 in Friday’s 7-2 win vs. Michigan Tech…Minnesota-Duluth’s
dramatic win against visiting Minnesota Saturday ended the
Gophers’ 21-game unbeaten streak (17-0-4) in WCHA
series finales…A Midwest Wireless Arena-record 5,182
fans watched Saturday’s MSU-Mankato game against North
Dakota. The Mavs-Sioux series also set a two-game series
record for attendance at 10,294…The Fighting Sioux
have lost three straight games – all by one goal.
Benson: North Dakota’s hockey sports
information director and a 17-year member of the Army Reserve,
was one of 15 soldiers from the 308th Engineer Detachment
called for active duty, with initial orders for one year.
Benson arrives in Fort Carson, Colo., near Colorado Springs
this week; no word on further assignment of his unit. Outside
of a few lazy, shameless self-promoters who care more about
getting on TV and quoted in newspapers than about their
athletic programs, sports information directors are –
not unlike our armed forces – a hard-working, affable,
under-appreciated lot. We’ve never met, Dan, but good
luck, be safe…and we thank you.
Drygas: The former Alaska-Fairbanks skater
was named Alaska’s top high school hockey coach by
the Anchorage Daily News. Drygas, whose career at UAF ended
prematurely after he was paralyzed when he crashed into
the boards during a practice in 1996, led West Valley High
School to the Alaska 4A state semifinals.
Dean Blais: I don’t know enough about
Blais’ alleged altercation with a fan following the
Fighting Sioux’s 2-1 loss at Mankato Friday to comment
on it, but refusing to talk with the media after the game
and barring players from doing the same was a petty, short-sided
move by a coach who’s won plenty of contests during
his tenure in Grand Forks.
Miami: Saturday’s loss to
Sacred Heart (yes, that Sacred Heart) in Oxford
isn’t going to help in the Pairwise Rankings.
THIS WEEK'S NHL TRANSACTIONS
Thrashers: Assigned forward Ben Simon (Notre
Dame) to Chicago of the American Hockey League; recalled
forward Mark Hartigan (St. Cloud State) from Chicago.
Sabres: Assigned goaltender Ryan Miller (Michigan
State) to Rochester of the American Hockey League.
LEAGUE TRANSACTION OF THE WEEK
Manitoba Moose (AHL): Recalled
center Jason Goulet (St. Cloud State) from Quad City of
the United Hockey League.