Postcard: The Curse of the Sioux Goalie
The news of
North Dakota goaltender Jake Brandt being cited for stealing $200
worth of pull tabs from a bar in his hometown of Roseau, Minn.,
earlier this month shouldn’t come as a shock.
Brandt: the latest victim of The Curse?
Before you fire
off that “Jake is a fine young man” e-mail, take this
into account: We’re not calling Brandt’s character into
question, even though we have every reason to do so. It’s
just the latest occurrence of the Curse of the Fighting Sioux Goalie.
North Dakota has a fine history of goaltenders. Guys like Bob Iwabuchi,
Jon Casey, Darren Jensen, Ed Belfour and Karl Goehring left an indelible
mark on the program. Take a closer look at the team’s roll
call of netminders over the last 16 years, though, and it's hard
not to think the Sioux treat goalies like Van Halen treats lead
in his lone season at North Dakota – you’re allowed
to insert your own “one year in Grand Forks equals three seasons
anywhere else” joke here – won a national championship
as a member of the Hrkac Circus in 1987, posting a 29-4-0 record,
a 2.43 goals against average and a 91.5 saves percentage. In the
16 seasons since, one can argue the Sioux haven’t had a go-to
guy between the pipes for a myriad of reasons, from the arrival
of “the next big thing” to coaches whose patience with
goalies rivals George Steinbrenner's patience with...anything.
the facts, ma'am
1987-88, the Fighting Sioux have had two goalies record 10 or
more decisions in the same year 10 times in 16 seasons. By comparison:
has done so seven times during the same span, including
each of the last four seasons and all three since former
UND assistant coach Scott Sandelin took over as the Bulldogs'
bench boss. Coincidence? Yeah, probably.
State has had two backstops with 10+ decisions in the same
year five times since 1987.
College had two goalies with double-digit decision totals
four times in 16 seasons. Once was in 1999-2000, when Scott
Clemmensen was hurt and replaced by backup Tim Kelleher.
Michigan, it’s happened exactly twice. Once
was in 1999-2000 when Josh Blackburn, who made 40 or more
starts in a season three times in his career, was sidelined
with an injury.
How about games played?
16 years, North Dakota goalies have eclipsed the 30-start
plateau in a season seven times. Throw out Goehring and
Kvalevog and that number drops to one (Todd Jones in 1991-92)
MSU, one goaltender has made a minimum of 30 appearances
in all but two seasons, one being 1999-2000 when the Spartans
boasted a returning All-American (Joe Blackburn) and a future
Hobey Baker Award winner (Ryan Miller).
least one BC goalie has seen action in 30 or more games
in 12 of the last 16 seasons.
at Michigan, where Red Berenson treats goaltenders like
Nike treats southeast Asian sixth graders, one goalie has
made 30 or more appearances in all but one season.
It's not too
difficult to conjure up the statistical backing to support of this
theory (see box at right). But as a friend posited, it's more likely
that one good goalie ruins things for the next five to follow. Why
else would the goaltenders' log at North Dakota read like something
out of the book of Genesis: Brower begat Dickson, who begat Peters
who begat Couture, and so on?
Has there ever been a place outside of CBS' NFL pre-game show where
so much talent has gone, only to drop off the face of the earth
shortly thereafter? Long before "Survivor" was even a
thought in a producer's mind, netminders were being voted off the
wind-swept prairie with alarming regularity.
Take into consideration:
- Steve Peters,
son of former North Dakota and Bemidji State coach and current College
Hockey America commissioner Bob Peters. Touted as one of the aforementioned
"next big things," the younger Peters played in 17 games
over three seasons.
- Todd Jones,
who made 30 starts in his rookie campaign in 1991-92. Since Belfour's
departure, he's the only goalie not named Toby Kvalevog or Goehring
to accomplish that feat. The following year, he split time with
freshman du jour Kevin Powell. As a junior, he played in three
- Powell, who
appeared in 17 games as a freshman, saw action in 12 games in
his next two seasons.
was a workhorse, playing in 99 games in his first three years
at UND. In recognition of his yeoman-like effort, he was benched
in favor of freshman Aaron Schweitzer in 1996-97. Of course, Schweitzer
backstopped the Sioux to a national title that year.
fell out of favor with coach Dean Blais after starting the 1997-98
season with an 0-1-7 record. His replacement? A diminuitive netminder
named Karl Goehring. Schweitzer left North Dakota, bounced from
the Canadian national team to the West Coast Hockey League to
a Canadian college. He's now out of hockey.
did pretty well for himself, winning a national title and all.
Still, he had moments like the 1999 WCHA Final Five title game,
when Denver defenseman Shawn Kurulak beat him from the top of
the circle with a looping, saucer-like backhand in the third period
to provide the Pioneers with the final margin of victory. The
Sioux never recoverd from that goal, losing to Boston College
in their first NCAA Tournament game that season. Goehring also
battled injuries during his career, enough to allow backup Andy
Kollar to see significant playing time.
- Kollar wobbled
to a 7-9-1 record in his first season as "the man" after
posting a 34-5-4 mark in his first three seasons. He eventually
yielded playing time to Brandt and Josh Siembeda.
the subject of a fierce recruiting war between North Dakota and
Michigan State, joined the Sioux at the midway point of the 2000-01
season. He was named to the all-Great Lakes Invitational team
after backstopping his team to wins against Michigan and Michigan
State in his first two career starts. He'd go on to record three
wins in his next 10 starts. His 2002-03 record (12-4-0) looks
respectable. Then your eyes hit that 85.3% save percentage. Siembeda
will not return to the Sioux this season.
- Last season,
three different goalies saw significant game action: Brandt, Marc
Ranfranz and Siembeda. None had a save percentage better than
90%, although each had at least one shutout.
The curse even
trickles down to recruits. Layne Sedevie, a goalie who had been
on the UND recruiting list so long it seemed like he verballed with
David Hoogsteen, had his scholarship offer withdrawn due to concerns
surrounding an injury he sustained in the USHL. Sedevie has since
signed a tender with Bemidji State.
For the sake
of argument, let's say that Brandt gets booted off the team. Knowing
Siembeda is gone, North Dakota returns Ranfranz and welcomes freshmen
Jordan Parise (Zach's brother) and Nate Ziegelmann, fresh from the
USHL. That's a combined nine games of college hockey experience
between the pipes. I'm prepared to eat crow in April, but I don't
see that trio leading the march to Boston.
Engelstad’s insistence on bucking political correctness in
favor of the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo angered a powerful
Native American deity, who then decided to put a hex on the position
the tycoon played at North Dakota more than 50 years ago in retaliation.
Hey, it's gotta