Sunday, July 6, 2008

So How'd I Do?

So, how'd I do in my speculations ("Should I Stay Or Should I Go")?

At forward I picked (albeit with inaccurate logic):
- Oshie to be the most likely to leave, and
- Hextall and Lamoureux to be coming in.

Where'd I miss? David Toews (not Brett Bruneteau) is scheduled to matriculate on the UND campus this fall.

So the tally appears to be: Hextall, Lamoureux, and Toews for Kaip, Radke, and Oshie.

At defense, well, you win some and lose some.

Ben Blood as Robbie Bina's replacement was all but a gimme, but I'll take it.

Let's hope Taylor Chorney's replacement, Corey Fienhage, can make that jump from MSHSL to the WCHA/NCAA. (I'd figured a guy with AJHL time to be the most likely replacement but it seems MacWilliams is another year in Canadian juniors.)

All in all, not terribly bad predicting for strictly looking from the outside in.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

It seems appropriate that The Clash (stay or go, conflicted, a clash, get it?) filled the airwaves with that question many years ago. I’m sure many UND players with professional aspirations are struggling with that question right now.

But before we delve into those considerations, let’s view this not from the individual’s but the team’s point of view.

UND has 9 forwards lined up to come in between now and September 2009. (Yes, that does say 2009 intentionally.) UND has 8 forwards who will run out of eligibility between now and 2009 and another named Chris VandeVelde who most likely won’t play a senior season given his size and talent (two of the NHL’s favorite commodities).

UND has 4 defensemen lined up to come in between now and September 2009. UND has 4 defensemen who will run out of eligibility between now and 2009.

Goaltending? JP Lamoureux leaves and Brad Eidsness arrives.

About the only non-alignment I see is a replacement in fall of 2009 for Aaron Walski.

To use a badly overused phrase: Coincidence? I think not.

Ever since I was first exposed to that data I was impressed. It seems to me that Dave Hakstol and his staff recruit with a plan much larger than just “this fall”. They seem to be thinking in terms of a couple of falls from now. The numbers bear this out.

So knowing that the numbers align nearly as well as one could possibly imagine I’m only left to wonder: “Who is going when? Who is coming when?”

Put another way, a lot seems to hinge on the answer to the question on the minds of some of UND’s top players, namely: “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” Only those players can answer that question for themselves.

Me, however, I can speculate on who would be coming in.

We know Lamoureux is gone. Welcome Brad Eidsness.

Robbie Bina has expended all of his eligibility. Ben Blood is the obvious choice. He’s USHL tested and will be 19.5 years old come September 2008.

Andrew MacWilliam, Joe Gleason, and Cory Finehage will all be 18.5 years this fall; however, MacWilliam is coming from an AJHL championship team this season, the others, the MSHSL and short stints in the USHL. MacWilliam seems next in line if there is a defensive early departure, with the remaining two filling the slots due to open for 2009.

Forward is where it gets tricky.

Rylan Kaip and Kyle Radke open immediate spots at forward. Given their ages (each will be 20+ when school opens in 2008) Brett Hextall and Mario Lamoureux appear to be obvious replacements.

But after that comes pure speculation. TJ Oshie? Kozek? Duncan? VandeVelde?

Oshie’s departure assures Jason Gregoire coming in (if that’s not the case already). Another forward departing early would seem to signal to me Brett Bruneteau’s position.

Some of you are wondering why I speculate Bruneteau and not David Toews or Mike Cichy. I based that on Bruneteau’s age (full year older than either) and extensive USHL experience.

Toews and Cichy would each be just past their 18th birthdays (18 years, 3 months or 2 months) at start of school this fall. In the recent era UND has only brought in three forwards that young: Jonathan Toews, Drew Stafford, and Zach Parise. (Michael Forney and Brad Malone each arrived at 18 years 4 months.)

David Toews’ late season injury adds further question to his entry. Mike Cichy led Tri-City (USHL) in scoring but didn’t crack the top 25 in the league with his 45 point tally. Those things make me wonder if they are ready for the WCHA and make me really glad I’m not Dave Hakstol having to make these calls.

More importantly for each, where’s their slot in the line-up?

Right now we have more questions than answers, with the key question being, for current roster members: “Should I stay or should I go?”

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Season finale: Fighting Sioux Coaches Show

Here’s a summary of UND hockey coach Dave Hakstol’s comments on tonight’s season finale of the Fighting Sioux Coaches Show with Tim Hennessy and Scott Swygman on KFAN (1440 AM).

On whether the Sioux are sick of playing Boston College:
I hope we get another shot at them. We’re beginning to work on getting back to the Frozen Four and trying to change that word “appearance.” We’re into our end of the season meetings. We turn the page and keep moving. That’s the excitement of college hockey in the playoffs. It’s one-game shots. Believe it or not, we did a lot of good things in that first period. In a matter of seven minutes we saw our season come and go. I give a lot of credit to BC. They were the better team and got the job done.

On not gooning it up when the score became lopsided:
There were a lot of shots thrown at our team throughout the year for playing good, hard- nosed hockey, playing together and sticking together. Once we got to that third period it was hard to keep our cool, but our guys did a great job of that. It wasn’t a lack of competitiveness. One of the hard things to do is to keep your cool and act with class. It was a tough way for that group to have their season end. I really wanted the seniors to go out with at least a shot at a national championship. That isn’t the way we wanted to see their season end.

On what he said to the team after the first two periods:
The real difference after one was that fourth goal. It was the one that really let the air out of the tire and we never recovered from. After the second period, all you can do is play for that crest on the front of the jersey. You try to get the first one and then try to get two. There’s no quit in our program. The one thing you do is you play for the program and the jersey. Under the circumstances, I think we did the best we could do. What else can you ask of the team?

On whether the Sioux would have acted differently in a regular-season game:
Yes, there was some chirping and jersey pumping going on, but you don’t come out on the right side of that. In the playoffs, it’s a different scenario and you’re working to build something.

On having BC on the ropes in the first half of the first period:
Somewhere after the Eagles scored their first two goals, we needed to get one. We had some great opportunities. We had 8 or 9 great opportunities that we didn’t capitalize on and they did. That’s the difference in the game. On both of our first power plays, we had a lot of good opportunities. Right off the first shift, Rylan Kaip’s line set a real good tone for us.

Were you surprised that Notre Dame was in the championship?
It wasn’t a surprise, but it was an upset. They had a tough second half, but they won some games late in the season and they started to get their confidence back. It was an upset to beat Michigan. The Wolverines couldn’t find their way out of the three-goal deficit. Notre Dame’s a good team. They’re really well prepared.

On a caller’s comment that he would have liked to see a third-place game between UND and Michigan:
It would have been one heck of an entertaining game. It’s hard to come back after a season-ending loss to play another game, and I think that’s why the NCAA did away with the third-place game. I would have liked to have played that game on Saturday in this case. It might have been easier for us to put our season in perspective. You have a chance to redeem yourselves and end on a high note. It’s tough when you take a look around the rink and see all the Sioux fans who were there and participating around the country. We had unbelievable support. I’ve never seen anything like it. You’d like to do something positive for the fans.

On whether Oshie, Duncan, Chorney, Finley and Kozek will leave early:
Those guys have decisions to make. We’re going to lose one or two or three guys. They have to look at the situation and figure out what the best opportunity is for them. If they’re ready to go, we help them out. That’s what we do. There are a lot of guys who are close. T.J.’s proven that he’s ready to go to the next level. For any of them, there’s nothing wrong with coming back to play a fourth year and getting a degree. We’ll know in the next two or three weeks. Nobody’s going to play, so they’ll stay here and finish up school. They’ll take several days to look at things and take their time. It comes down to a business aspect. Sometimes a player will want to play a game or two to earn the first year of a contract. None of our guys are in that situation.

On the importance of a player coming back for the right reason:
You have to come back for the right reasons. I believe all our guys who had opportunities to go last season came back for the right reasons. You have to be here for the right reason or it’s not going to work with the individual or the program. If there’s indecision and you spend half your time thinking you should be somewhere else, it’s not going to work. We have a very good relationship with our players and we’re able to talk to them about these things. We want to make sure everything’s in place and everything’s perspective. At the end of the day, it’s the players and their families who have to decide.

On next year’s goaltending situation:
We have to have three goaltenders. We have to give consideration to Landon Snider. I’m not going in with any preconceived notions. We know Aaron Walski is a good goalie and we know his work ethic. We know Brad Eidsness is a good goalie. We want to have a third goalie involved in that. Whether it’s Snider, I don’t know.

On whether some recruits scheduled for 2009-2010 could come next season:
Let’s be realistic and honest. It’s a combination of opportunity and readiness. I was in Chicago last night and Dane Jackson was in western Canada. We have to be part of making good developmental decisions for each recruit. We’re looking at a little bit of everything. We’re pretty comfortable with where we’re at with our guys. Jason Gregoire, Eidsness and Brett Hextall have all earned honors this season. All three are 19-20 year olds with great experience who could have come in last year.

On whether there will be any restructuring or revamping of the WCHA officiating system:
Officiating will definitely be on the agenda during the WCHA meeting in April. How in- depth we’ll get, I don’t know. What’s most important is the level of calls we want to hold our players to. That’s a tough one. You can show one video clip of a penalty to 10 people and get three or four different interpretations on how it should be called.

Does college hockey need a system where everyone calls penalties the same?
You have discrepancies from league to league and within the leagues. We have to get ourselves on the same page and keep working on it. From the last half of last year, our standards slipped. I thought we were getting away from clutching, grabbing and obstruction. I thought we slipped back there. That will be discussed in Florida.

On whether differences in officiating styles are what makes hockey unique:
To a certain degree, the personality of the referee has some bearing. But there has to be a more standardized, specific level. For example, what is a hook? What constitutes a penalty and what doesn’t? Two seasons ago, if you put an arm around a guy for two counts, it was a penalty. That has slipped back. Maybe I’m off base and I’m the only one who thinks that way. I’ve been the first one to say that we can’t go to the level of the NHL. They’re the best of the best and they still make mistakes. But I think we can get closer to that level of efficiency. We all have to be part of helping with that. One of the best ideas came from Dean Blais who said that after a 10-minute cooling down period, the coaches would meet with the officials after every game. He thought that would solve everything. (laughs) I thought that was a great suggestion, but I don’t think it was ever put to a vote.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Now, Sioux! Now is your time!

I'm a bit of a military history buff. The battle I've probably studied more than any other is Waterloo. It occurred in Belgium in 1815 when a British-allied force led by the Duke of Wellington and a Prussian force led by Blucher teamed up to defeat a French army led by Napoleon.

The painting here depicts a defining moment of the battle. The French Imperial Guard, which to that moment had never known defeat, believes it has broken Wellington's defensive line and is marching to victory. But the British commander has cleverly concealed some of his best troops behind a ridge. They are lying down in corn fields. At the right moment, Wellington waves his hat and shouts an order to his brigade commander: "Now, Maitland! Now is your time!"

With that command, lines of red-coated British troops rose up and fired the devastating volleys of musketry for which they'd become famous. After mowing down France's finest infantry in waves, the British infantry followed up with a bayonet charge that sent what remained of the Imperial Guard fleeing back down the slope. Seeing the Guard running for their lives sent a shockwave through the French army, which crumbled under the pressure from the advancing Prussians. The French went down to defeat at Waterloo and Napoleon was vanquished for good.

Wellington went into the campaign not knowing how much he could trust the Prussians or the allied units of his army. But he knew that the British infantry, which provided the backbone of his force during the Napoleonic war in Portugal and Spain, were absolutely reliable and dependable in critical situations.

What does this have to do with Fighting Sioux hockey? To me, the British infantry of North Dakota's team heading to the NCAA Frozen Four in Denver this week are the seniors and juniors. If UND brings home its eighth national championship, it will be because the older, more experienced players on the roster stepped up and provided leadership when it was most needed and made the key plays at the critical points in two games.

Against Princeton in the NCAA Midwest Regional at Madison, it was senior goalie Jean-Philippe Lamoureux who prevented the Tigers from taking advantage of UND's slow start. It was junior forward Andrew Kozek who got the first goal. And it was Ryan Duncan, a junior and last year's Hobey Baker winner, who took the team on his back by scoring three straight goals to put the game out of reach.

In the game that sent the Sioux to the Frozen Four, Lamoureux once again came through with stellar goaltending that kept Wisconsin from running away with the contest after two periods of dominance. As assistant coach Dane Jackson noted on last week's Fighting Sioux Coaches Show, it was senior captain Rylan Kaip who scored the first UND goal against the Badgers and sent the message to his teammates: "Follow me!"

Forty-seven seconds later, Duncan tied the game after being set up beautifully by junior T.J. Oshie, who was playing in pain after blocking a shot during a Wisconsin power play. In overtime, it was Oshie's faceoff win in the Badgers' zone and senior defenseman Robbie Bina's shot from the point that resulted in the rebound that Kozek pounced on and stuffed in to end the game with a UND victory.

Much has been written about the pact that brought juniors Oshie, Duncan, Taylor Chorney and Joe Finley back to Grand Forks for another season of Sioux hockey rather than signing NHL contracts when they had the opportunity. But championships at UND aren't won by individuals. They're won by teams with players who lead by example and inspire everyone around them to be their best.

That's why I look back at the Battle of Waterloo and put my own spin on Wellington's famous line: Now, Bina, Kaip, Lamoureux, Radke, Chorney, Duncan, Finley, Jones, Kozek, Martens, Miller, Oshie, Walski and Watkins.

Now is your time!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Fighting Sioux Coaches Show: Special Frozen Four Edition

Here’s a summary of UND assistant hockey coach Dane Jackson’s comments on tonight’s special Frozen Four edition Fighting Sioux Coaches’ Show with Tim Hennessy and Scott Swygman on KFAN (1440 AM).

On being in the Frozen Four his first two years as assistant coach:
It’s an exciting time and we’re excited to get it done again this year. Dave Hakstol’s going to watch a couple of our kids for next year to make sure we have the right ones coming in. Getting to the Frozen Four helps a lot with recruiting. Players know what they’re getting when they come here. They know they’re getting into a big-time program. Our players do such a good job of recruiting. We always have the recruits talk to our players and tell them what it’s like to play here.

On the team being in four straight Frozen Fours:
It says a lot about Hakstol and the guys we have here now. It’s been a standard of excellence and we all feel accountable to the guys who came before us who started it. It was a standard Gino Gasparini set when he became head coach at UND in 1979. It’s not just a sign on the wall. It’s something we talk about. We have former players come in and talk about what it was like to play at UND and what a neat thing it is a part of. Sometimes it takes the younger guys a while to understand what it takes to play here. You find out that the guys who really want to be Fighting Sioux are the most successful in our program.

On starting slow and finishing strong:
It’s a matter of amalgamating the new guys into the process. They need to learn how hard they have to practice and play. Hakstol does a good job of letting the guys run their own team. He wants them to figure some things out and learn how to lead. It’s important that we have character guys and big-time leaders. It’s the guys beside you like Rylan Kaip who say, “I’m going to get the first one. Follow me.”

What impresses him about Hakstol:
It’s his calm under fire. When we’re down a couple, he’s always so stern on the bench. A lot of NHL coaches are like that. They’re planning the next move because they know what needs to be done. They’re the coaches who hold themselves accountable and they’re not freaking out. Hakstol’s under control at all times.

What he likes about coaching at UND:
I love the access we have to our rink. I like running the penalty kill. My role on the team is to be a go-between. The guys like to play for Hakstol, but sometimes I’m a little more approachable. I might talk with them a little bit more about school and other problems. It’s important to have a go-between to get a little more information to the head guy. Hak’s not aloof to our players. They know that he’s hard, but he cares about them. Some of the younger guys are a little more intimidated about talking to him than the older guys. Rick Wilson, the former Sioux player who coaches with the Dallas Stars, takes care of his defensemen. He sticks up for his D-corps if he thinks the coach is messing with them too much. They have their own little tight group. I feel like we have that with our penalty kill guys.

On T.J. Oshie, Ryan Duncan, Taylor Chorney and Joe Finley coming back for another season:
They all had firm offers. We had a meeting in St. Louis a couple hours after our Frozen Four game where there were agents and general managers talking to guys about leaving. We didn’t include Jonathan Toews because we thought he was ready. We thought Oshie could use one more year. It’s a dream the guys have been working at and chasing all their lives. It says a lot about the character of the guys and how much they care about UND when they decided to come back. You don’t want guys to come back and have a “big wheel” attitude when they think they have to be treated special. We don’t have that. It’s more than just putting a bunch of great talent together. We thought Michigan had the most talent last year. You have to have talent, will and team attitude.

On practicing at Gambucci Arena instead of Engelstad Arena:
They treat us great over there. It’s been great. We had a good skate over there. The ice is nice and cold and hard. It makes for good practices.

On preparation for Boston College:
The emphasis is on their speed. They play so fast and have so many quick skill guys. We have to attack, attack and go to the net. We’ll have to play better than we’ve played our last two years at the Frozen Four. They’re a quality team that plays well in big games. Against Princeton we had some nerves because people think they’re a team that you’re supposed to beat. That doesn’t happen any more. They were actually a good team. With Wisconsin, the crowd got them going and got them pumped up. When we battled through that and got a goal, they didn’t seem so much like Supermen. Our guys showed their champion’s heart. We settled down and took over the game after we took a few punches.

On the difference between NHL and NCAA playoffs:
In the NHL, I played in some seven-game playoff series. You struggle to get your mind around the finality of the NCAA tournament. In the NHL, you play to get to game seven and then you realize that this is it, you have to elevate your level of play to its highest. We will have to raise our level of play a lot for Boston College.

On Jean-Philippe Lamoureux not being in the Hobey Hat Trick:
We felt that the numbers Phil had were remarkable. He’s had an incredible year. Look at the weekend he just had. I talked to Oshie and Phil after practice to let them know that they weren’t finalists and they were totally fine with it. They’re team guys.

On how well Duncan plays for his size:
Robbie Bina can eat apples off the top of his head. Those little guys, I give them a lot of credit. Duncan might not give a lot of hits, but he goes into hard areas where he takes a lot of elbows to the jaw and crosschecks to the back. Boy, did he come up big for us last weekend. He’s such a focused kid. He’s one who has maturity beyond his years. We’re fortunate to have a lot of our guys who can be professional, no matter what.

Is there extra motivation knowing that BC ended UND’s season last two years?
There’s definitely going to be a readiness in knowing that we have to play very well to win. They’ve been successful and you better be ready when the puck drops. They can score a couple goals in a hurry.

Senior goalie Jean-Philippe Lamoureux
The win over the Badgers at the Kohl Center was one of the most exciting, unbelievable wins I’ve been part of. I couldn’t be prouder. I saw the picture of me at My Mom printed it off. It was embarrassing. I tried to jump on the pile and I fell off. I hit the ice face first. I thought I chipped my tooth. We were watching it on YouTube last night. I’m getting made fun of on a national scale now, but I’d rather be the one jumping in the air than the one hanging his head.

On playing at UND with four Frozen Four teams:
I’m equally proud of each team I’ve been on. We’ve got a veteran crew here and hopefully we can figure out what we need to do to beat Boston College.

On playing his best in the biggest games of the season:
I like to think I’ve been turning it on at the right time. My preparation is always the same, both physically and mentally. I felt pretty loose going into this weekend. Now that we’re going into the one-game shots, I wanted to make sure that I left it out all on the ice. I’m going to do the same thing against BC and leave it all out on the ice. I try to do everything that I can to make timely saves for the team. Whether I’m facing a lot of shots or a few, I’m comfortable in either situation. I’m focused and ready for whatever situation I’m in.

Is he ever critical of a teammate’s mistakes?
I just know what my job is. I have 100 percent confidence in our coaching staff and the guys in front of me. The guys always answer the bell when it matters the most. That’s all you can ask of your players. They play their hearts out for me I and I try to do the same for them. I feel like if I’m going to ridicule a teammate, then it’s going to come around to me.

On whether he’s a leader in the locker room:
I’m not really a big talker. I just try to lead by example through my work ethic and preparation. If there’s a spur-of-the-moment thing where I feel I need to say something, I will. But our captains do a really good job with that. The nature of the position is that you’re playing more of an individual position in a team sport. In practice, the coaches and players give me my space to prepare and do my thing. I just do what I can to play on the weekend.

On how much goalies need to know:
I need to know the offensive zone systems of other teams. I’m always in our penalty kill meetings. I need to know which opposing players have a lot of goals and assists and who shoots with which hand. I haven’t had a chance to look at any tape of BC. You have to have your eye on Nate Gerbe, Dan Bertram and Ryan Whitney. He’s a guy who’s been scoring timely goals for them.

Is he disappointed about the Hobey?
I haven’t thought about it. I don’t really care. Playing for UND isn’t about individual stats or rewards. My focus has always been on extending our season. If anything, it’s nice because it’s not going to be a distraction. It might be something to help motivate my game.

Junior defenseman Joe Finley

On the Sioux peaking at the right time:
It’s a marathon not a sprint. This week, we have to take time to let bumps and bruises heal up to be at 100 percent going into the game with BC.

On wanting to pay back Boston College:
At first glance, that’s what it seems like. This BC team is different from their past teams and the makeup of our team is different, too. This year, they might have a little more depth up front. I’d compare them to Colorado College with their team speed. Gerbe and Whitney really get things going for them offensively. Getting back on the NHL ice is going help us do what we do well, which is making them take shots from the outside.

Comparing this season to last season at the same time:
Maybe we were a little burnt out or self satisfied last year after beating Michigan and Minnesota. The most important thing at this time of year is to put yourself in the position to win the game.

On the Eagles being a quick, small team:
Getting back on NHL ice sheet will be good for our defenseman. It makes it easier to get into the shooting lanes because you know exactly where the net is. Getting back on an ice sheet that we’re more accustomed to gets us back into our comfort zone and what we’ve done well all season long.

On improving his game each season:
Looking at my game and some of the things I do, I try to simplify my game. It’s learning the decision-making and knowing what the right play is. Once you get that down, you get to the comfort level where you can advance the puck out of your zone.

On playing in his third Frozen Four:
We’re accustomed to playing in big games. All we’re looking to do is advance. All the stuff that goes with it, that’s other stuff we have to put out of sight, out of mind. We’re familiar with Denver since we played at the regional there last year. It was like playing in the Kohl Center last weekend. It wasn’t something new to us. This time of year, it’s all about making that smart play about getting the puck past the defensive blue line and letting our forwards take care of things.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Fighting Sioux Coaches Show summary

Here’s a summary of UND hockey coach Dave Hakstol’s comments on tonight’s Fighting Sioux Coaches’ Show with Tim Hennessy and Scott Swygman on KFAN (1440 AM). Denver Pioneers coach George Gwozdecky joined the show later by phone.

On UND being placed in the NCAA Midwest Regional in Wisconsin:
It’s probably the one place nobody really predicted us to go. I’m not surprised because every prediction over the last two or three years hasn’t been close. Wherever you’re going, you’re excited to be there.

On UND being sent east to play Boston College and Boston University in 2005:
We felt like the sacrificial lamb being sent out there. We messed up the plan. It’s an exciting time of year. It’s what the guys in the locker room work for all year. You have to be playing well going into the tournament and then play well when you get there.

On the Sioux players being loose before last Saturday’s game against Colorado College:
Our guys were not tight before the game. Pat Swanson pointed out Saturday that our locker room was loose. That’s when we play best, when we’re loose and focused. That’s the way the team was today and we had a great practice. When you play at a high tempo and practice that way, it’s fun.

On failing to capitalize on the power play against Denver on Friday:
In the 5-on-3 power plays alone, we had eight great scoring opportunities. A couple missed the net. Mannino made a couple of great saves. A few others we just didn’t bury. We were sharp on the power plays, we just didn’t finish. For whatever reason, we were on our heels for the second period against Denver. We had a good 5-on-5 period in the first period and a good third period that we carried over to Saturday against the Tigers.

On bouncing back after the Friday loss to Denver:
At that point in time, that was our biggest game of the year. We wanted to be playing Saturday night for the Broadmoor Trophy. We were disappointed, but the guys kept it together and played for a full 60 minutes against Colorado College. At times during that game, we were outstanding. But they key was that we were solid for the whole 60 minutes.

On depth being a strength of this year’s UND team:
An area that’s been a strength has been our depth. On Saturday, everyone contributed. On Friday, there was one guy on each line who wasn’t contributing. The strength of this team is through 25 guys. If we’re going to be successful this Saturday against Princeton, it’s going to be because the 20 guys in the lineup do their jobs and contribute.

On the Princeton Tigers and their coach Guy Gadowsky:
They’ve only given up one goal in last three games and they’re the ECAC champions. They’re playing well. I’ve known Guy for a long time. I knew him growing up in Alberta. He played at Colorado College. Dixon Ward and I went on a recruiting visit and Guy Gadowsky was our player representative. Princeton has been very, very good since Christmas. Style-wise, they go. They have very good team speed throughout the depth of their roster. They’re very aggressive and play on their toes. They have good size and good puck-moving ability. Their goaltender has been outstanding for them. They’re a good hockey team. They’re not a trapping, defense-oriented team. It’ll be an entertaining game. We have to concentrate on what we’re going to do, not on what they do. We’ll learn a little bit about their tendencies, but the key for us is to play our game.

On the possibility of playing Denver or Wisconsin:
If we get there, we’ll be happy to play either one. You have to beat two good teams to keep playing. One team is on a heck of a roll and has been playing very well. One’s at home and has a lot of rest.

On playing a number-four seed:
Take the seeding and throw it out the window. There are 16 teams in the tournament and they all have the same goal. We don’t want to match their intensity. We have to match the intensity level that we expect. When we do that, we play our best.

On injuries:
The biggest question mark is Derrick LaPoint. The hit from behind that he took gave him post-concussion syndrome. That was from a two-minute penalty. The signs of the concussion didn’t show up until after the game. There’s no real answer as far as timeframe when LaPoint can play again. It’s probably not an injury where he’ll wake up Thursday and be 100 percent. Evan Trupp isn’t available for Saturday, but he is making great progress.

On the officials for games this weekend:
We won’t have any officials from either the WCHA or ECAC. We’ll probably have Hockey East or CCHA officials. There’s a pre-game meeting between the referee and the captains from each team. You need to pay attention and listen to the referee’s expectations and the things he’s going to key on. Hopefully, we’ll discover the level that the game’s going to be called in the first 10 minutes. He’ll say what his points of emphasis are. He’ll give the guys an idea of what to expect.

On which of the four NCAA regionals is the toughest:
Every regional is tough. I thought they did a good job this year of being fair. They had some curve balls thrown at them with Wisconsin getting in as the sixth WCHA team. There are always arguments you can make against every region. There are four pretty good regionals. They protected the No. 1 seed versus the No. 16, which they had to do.

On which regional is the toughest one to pick:
It’s probably Colorado College against Michigan State. Richard Bachman is good in goal for the Tigers and Jeff Lerg is good for the Spartans. MSU is a team that’s been through the battle of winning a national championship. CC is a team that’s been great at home and just won the MacNaughton Cup.

On predicting other regional outcomes:
Last year, two four seeds were playing the next day and two one seeds were on their way home. There are a lot of very, very good teams. If you’re in this tournament, you’re playing well and you’re a good team. The team that plays the best is going to win nine times out of ten.

On whether the NCAA selection process should factor in how a team is playing near the end of the season:
How do you add reason into the computer if two teams are so close? You could add an element of how you’re playing in the last ten or fifteen games. If you want to have the best tournament, you should find a way to include the teams that are playing the best. Wisconsin was playing well before they lost to SCSU in the playoffs, so I don’t know how I’d pick between them and Minnesota State.

George Gwozdecky, head coach of the Denver Pioneers joined the show via phone. DU will play Wisconsin in the Saturday game at the Midwest regional. Gwozdecky’s first words were: “Gopher pride, baby!”

On winning the Broadmoor Trophy at the WCHA Final Five last weekend:
We played well. It’s become such an event that every player on every team has a desire to get there. The Final Five is the highlight to cap the regular season. Everyone was very concerned when the event was first taken to the Xcel Energy Center. Everyone just assumes that if the Gophers are playing, they’ll have an advantage. That Minnesota doesn’t win every year is a testament to the parity of the league. League parity also shows in how many teams the WCHA placed in the NCAA tournament. Next to the Frozen Four, the WCHA Final Five is the best college hockey event in the country.

On whether Wisconsin should have been included:
They met the criteria and they’re in. They’re a quality team. We had our issues at some parts of the season and were struggling. It will be a terrific regional. Three of the teams playing in Madison have a lot of experience in the national tournament.

On the importance of goaltending in the playoffs:
This tournament is all about goaltending. If your goaltending is suspect, you’re not going to win all four games. Last season, Michigan State came out of nowhere because Lerg was phenomenal. Peter Mannino is playing well for us right now and he has experience playing in the NCAA tournament.

On how the Pioneers got through the adversity they faced this season:
We had some challenges, such as when Brock Trotter, our leading scorer, left the team and when Tyler Ruegsegger went down with an injury. We were challenged to figure a better way to play to give us a chance. We had to because we weren’t a team that scored a lot. We had to tweak the playing philosophy a little bit. Certain guys were able to get back into the roles they were good at. We’ve been able to score enough games and Peter’s played well enough to keep us in games. We’re playing well, but we’re not the kind of offensive team we were the first two-thirds of the season.

On the WCHA’s declining trend in goal scoring:
The problem is that the league's top goal scorers are playing in the NHL. If guys like Jonathan Toews and Paul Stastny were playing in the league, scoring wouldn’t be down as much. We’d still have Ryan Dingle and Geoff Paukovitch. The top-end players have left way early. Our team has to rely on freshmen to score. I think that’s part of the reason scoring is down. Wouldn’t you like to see Toews and Brian Lee playing for UND? There’s a ton of firepower in the NHL that could be playing in the WCHA right now.

On whether WCHA officiating is part of the problem with lack of scoring:
I think the officiating is a lot tighter in the NHL. I think the officiating in our league is similar to the way it is in other leagues across the country. It would be different if the NHL let college players get to their senior years. It used to happen in the old days when we were scoring a lot of goals. It’s a sophomore league now.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

No Fighting Sioux Coaches' Show summary

There is no Fighting Sioux Coaches' Show summary tonight because UND coach Dave Hakstol and the hockey team are on the road to the WCHA Final Five tournament in St. Paul. Hakstol was expected to call in to visit with Tim Hennessy and Scott Swygman on KFAN (1440 AM), but apparently was unable to do so. We'll try again next week.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Dear members

On, one of my favorite Web sites, there's been ongoing speculation as to why I'm no longer posting in the forums there. Following standard Internet operating procedure, some pretend to know "the truth" about why I'm no longer active on the board. Suffice it to say that their knowledge of events and their ability to read my mind is pathetically inadequate.

First, I don't owe the public an explanation for my decision. I didn't announce my reason to start posting and there's no need to announce the reason behind my decision to stop. There are a few people who know the specifics as to why I stopped posting at They are the only people who need to know. There are a few more who know some of the story, but not all of it. That's the way it's going to stay.

Second, I didn't abandon in favor of the U.S. College Hockey Online forums. The fact is that I was an active poster at USCHO for two years before even existed. I've never stopped posting on USCHO.

In addition, given the fact that I've written for USCHO for nearly seven years, nobody should be surprised that I participate on its forums. Some have theorized that my USCHO participation has something to do with money. They are 100 percent wrong.

Third, I don't choose to participate at USCHO because I consider it more civil, more polite or vastly superior to Both sites have more than their fair share of trolls, flamers and idiots. There are also knowledgeable, thoughtful and reasonable posters on both sites.

I began posting in Internet newsgroups 15 years ago, which means that I've been around long enough to understand the nature of the Internet. I'm well acquainted with the "bravery" of people hiding behind the cloak of anonymity and what passes for "the truth" in the online world. That isn't going to change, no matter how much I detest it.

Fourth, my decision to stop posting on wasn't made on an impulsive whim or in a juvenile pique. It was literally at least two years in the making. I spent several months thinking about what to do before I actually stopped participating. There was no single incident that caused me to stop. It was a culmination of events over a number of years.

Finally, I have met some great Fighting Sioux fans as a result of my time on I hope that I can continue to have contact with them. I invite people to e-mail me here. The most difficult part of my decision was knowing that I'd be closing off future opportunities to meet wonderful fans of UND athletics. So it wasn't an easy decision and I didn't treat it lightly. But for a variety of reasons, it was the best decision for me at this time.

Now, I'd appreciate it if everyone would please stop talking about this subject. Life will go on.

Those who wish to continue reading my opinions and recaps of the Fighting Sioux Coaches' Show can do so on this blog. And because I enjoy interacting with college hockey compatriots, I will continue to do that in the Men's Division I Hockey Forum at USCHO, the place where I originally began posting my thoughts on and observations about Fighting Sioux hockey.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

WCHA: Control what's yours to control

So we have yet another officiating incident in the WCHA. This time, it’s referee Jon Campion being reprimanded by Commissioner Bruce McLeod for grabbing Minnesota-Duluth goalie Alex Stalock from behind. It happened during an altercation last weekend in a game between the Bulldogs and the Gophers. For the second time this season, a league referee has been reprimanded for inappropriately grabbing a UMD player during a game.

A trend I find disconcerting in the WCHA is officials losing control of games and, as a result, players and coaches losing respect for the officials. Perhaps I’m suffering from selective memory, but it seems that there are more and more incidents in which officials literally fight to maintain control of players while the players mostly ignore the officials’ efforts to restrain them.

Interestingly enough, the WCHA didn’t issue any public reprimands following UND’s Feb. 2 game at Minnesota. In that game, an official ripped the helmet off Sioux player Brad Malone and caused him to fall while being pushed into the penalty box. At the time I didn’t feel too badly for Malone because he wasn’t doing what the official told him to do. But having his helmet violently ripped off his head probably didn’t do much to improve Malone’s mood at the time.

At the end of the same game, another fight erupted between the Gophers and Sioux. When an official broke up a fight between UND’s T.J. Oshie and Minnesota’s Ryan Flynn, Flynn continued to struggle and resist the official as he pulled him away, nearly punching the assistant referee in the face. Oshie and Flynn each received double minors for roughing and 10-minute game misconducts, but Flynn received no penalty for resisting the official.

This need not continue. The NCAA ice hockey rule book is chock full of regulations designed to allow the on-ice officials to control all aspects of the game, including who is allowed to come on the ice at certain times for specific purposes. There’s an entire two-and-a-half-page section on abuse of officials that spells out the penalties that can be applied when players and coaches get out of hand. Unfortunately, these rules are not always enforced.

Some are aghast when a fight breaks out during a college hockey game because student-athletes aren’t supposed to engage in such activity. These incidents could be minimized if the officials would simply enforce the fighting rule as it’s written which is: “A player shall not fight an opponent or participate in a fight, on or off the playing surface (punching or attempting to punch is considered fighting).”

Note that nowhere in the rule does it mention the dropping of gloves. If a player attempts to punch another player for any reason – even if the other player throws no punches in return – a fighting major and game disqualification should be assessed to the puncher. Just imagine how many players would be tossed out of games if this rule was enforced as written. It wouldn’t take long for fights to become rare occurrences.

It would also help if officials broke up fights the moment they had the opportunity to do so and worked harder to protect players when they're attacked and in defenseless positions. But we've seen fights happen that could easily have been prevented. And we've seen players exacerbate volatile situations by coming to the aid of their teammates as officials looked on with seeming indifference to player safety.

There are other more mundane details that would help avoid conflict and tension. For example, the scrum that broke after the second period ended during the Feb. 16 game at Engelstad Arena between UND and Denver University was a direct result of the Pioneers coming off the bench and on to the ice. This caused the few Sioux players left on the ice to traverse the large gathering of Denver players. A bump led to a punch which led to a melee and a fight.

While allowing players to come on to the ice at the start of an intermission isn’t against the rules per se, under the section on protocol, the NCAA rule book states: “Game management officials should avoid having teams cross when entering or exiting the ice surface. Conferences and institutions are encouraged to establish a written policy for visiting teams.”

In other words, it’s recognized that allowing players to mix during the course of a game invites the potential for trouble, as was demonstrated during the UND-Denver game. However, two weeks later when UND played conference opponent St. Cloud State the Huskies engaged in the same practice of pouring on to the ice at the end of a period. Why?

Didn’t the WCHA learn from experience? Players should not be allowed to come on to the ice between periods when it’s totally unnecessary and has been demonstrated to cause problems.

As UND coach Dave Hakstol is fond of saying, “Control what’s yours to control.” The WCHA has the authority to control the games it schedules. The NCAA rulebook gives on-ice officials the tools they need to maintain control of the games in most situations.

However, if the participants are allowed to flout the rules and the league doesn’t use common sense to minimize volatile situations, it shouldn’t come as a surprise when the officials find themselves having to use greater amounts of force to establish or regain control of a game. Such actions wouldn’t be necessary if players and coaches respected the authority and the ability of on-ice officials to do their jobs properly. But based on what I’ve seen this season, that’s not the case.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Fighting Sioux Coaches' Show summary

Here’s a summary of UND hockey coach Dave Hakstol’s comments on tonight’s Fighting Sioux Coaches’ Show with Tim Hennessy and Scott Swygman on KFAN (1440 AM).

Wisconsin was very happy up until the point when Ryan Lasch scored the overtime goal for St. Cloud Saturday night. It was right down to the wire for everybody in the league. When you spread it out over 120 minutes in the weekend and it ends up a tie, it has a lot of significance. On Friday night, we had ample opportunities to score and just didn’t. It would have been a different game if we had scored a goal or two in the first or second periods.

Our goal for either night wasn’t to tie. On Friday, we wanted to be in position to have a shot at the McNaughton Cup. We wanted to win that game. Other than finishing our opportunities, we did a pretty good job. We just didn’t finish. We needed to be a little bit hungrier. It’s important to finish this time of year because you don’t have a second chance once you hit the playoffs.

In Saturday’s game, I thought we stumbled a little bit in portions of the first and second periods. We knew where we were health-wise. We just didn’t have a ton of energy. We were ready to play. I felt like we got ourselves in great position in the third period. Rylan Kaip nearly scored a minute before the penalty call, and that probably would have been the game. SCSU took advantage of a bounce on the power play and scored to tie it.

Lasch is a good goal scorer. That’s his position on the power play. He puts himself in good position to get rebounds. Phil Lamoureux was probably trying to put the rebound in a different spot, but it just didn’t happen. His awareness is usually good enough that it doesn’t happen.

There is always something to play for this time of year. You put the jersey on and you have something to play for. You want to keep momentum going this time of year. We put out best foot forward and just didn’t quite get it there. The last 10 minutes of the third period on Saturday, we were playing very solid hockey. We were still creating chances and opportunities. One of the lessons is that you have to be ready to deal with the hooking and slashing penalties because they can cost you.

Regarding the injuries to T.J. Oshie and Chay Genoway, I don’t know if they will be ready. It’s up to the two players and our medical staff. We want them in the lineup, but it’s still too early to say if they will be. We’re only half way through the week. The track record of Mark Poolman, our athletic trainer, is outstanding. Once you get past a certain point, it becomes a decision of the staff and the player. It depends on whether the player can contribute anything on the ice.

Hakstol doesn’t think coaches should go after players who have made verbal commitments to other teams. Our gentleman’s rule in college hockey, which is different than Division I basketball and football, is that we’ve always honored verbal commitments. I hope that doesn’t change. That’s been the way it’s been in NCAA Division I hockey and among the small group of coaches. At some point in time, maybe that will change, but I hope it doesn’t. I like the way we’re doing business now.

I hope the discussion is larger than honoring verbal commitments. I hope we’re thinking about what’s right for the development of a young man. I hope we’re talking about other things than our jobs. It’s a competitive job and we understand what our jobs are and where our loyalties are. Right now, there’s a good level of professional respect between all programs. We don’t all love each other, but there is mutual respect.

Hakstol isn’t concerned that beating Michigan Tech twice might hurt UND’s standing in the PairWise Rankings. At this time of year, I take the PairWise, RPI and throw it out the window. I want our team to play as well as we possibly can. This is the time of year you want to play well. There are a lot of things we can’t control, but we can control how well we’re playing and the momentum. For the NCAA tournament, it doesn’t matter what seed you are, you’re going to have to play two good teams to get out of the regional.

Regarding the upcoming series with Michigan Tech, Hakstol said: We’re going to expect what we always see from them. They’re extremely competitive. Michael Lee Teslak is as good a goalie as you’ll see in the league. They’re dangerous on the counterattack and they’re based on a sound defensive system. We’re going to have to go through some hard areas in the offensive zone. We’re going to have to win some battles down low and use our defenseman to get some pucks through to the net. You can’t get too fancy. These games will be battles.

Hakstol wouldn’t make any predictions for the upcoming WCHA series. He thinks Scott Sandelin and the UMD Bulldogs have a real opportunity in Denver. He thinks Colorado College has the upper hand because of how well the Tigers have played in their building. The others series, UND’s included, will be very close and hard-fought series. Some will go to three games.

Hakstol said the Fighting Sioux just want to be one of the teams that get to the WCHA Final Five in St. Paul. They’ll be happy to see any other four teams there.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Will things change or stay the same?

During the four seasons of the Dave Hakstol era, St. Cloud State has engineered some big wins over the Fighting Sioux. But it’s been UND that’s come up with the important late-season victories over the Huskies when they mattered most.

For example, in 2005, the Sioux went to St. Cloud for their last regular-season series desperately in need of points to secure home ice and to improve in the PairWise Rankings. UND and SCSU played to a 2-2 tie in the Friday game and the Sioux won the Saturday game 2-0. That finish, combined with a three-point series against Wisconsin the previous weekend, secured home ice and began the momentum that carried UND all the way to the national championship game against Denver.

During the 2005-06 season, coach Bob Motzko’s first year at SCSU, the Huskies went 3-1 against the Sioux during the regular season, including a sweep of UND at home. But in the game that mattered most – the WCHA Final Five championship – the Sioux won their fourth Broadmoor Trophy by defeating the Huskies 5-3.

The 2006-07 season saw UND travel to St. Cloud once again for the final series of their WCHA schedule. The Huskies, ranked second nationally, went into the weekend with a chance to catch league-leading Minnesota. Eighth-ranked UND had a chance to move up to third place in the WCHA. The Sioux tied the first game and dominated the second game, winning 7-2. That gave UND enough points to capture third place in the conference and avoid the Final five play-in game.

UND and SCSU met again in the conference tournament and, once again, the Sioux put on a dominating performance, defeating the Huskies 6-2. UND went on to defeat Michigan and Minnesota in the NCAA West Regional to gain a third consecutive Frozen Four appearance. SCSU never recovered from its losses to the Sioux and was “one and done” in the NCAA playoffs.

None of this is to say that the Sioux can afford to take the Huskies lightly. I don’t think they will. However, history shows that UND under Hakstol has traditionally used its late-season games against SCSU as a springboard to success in the playoffs while the Huskies have faltered. Will history repeat itself this weekend? Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Fighting Sioux Coaches' Show summary

With UND coach Dave Hakstol somewhere on the road and Fighting Sioux basketball on the radio tonight, Tim Hennessy had captain Rylan Kaip and assistant captain Taylor Chorney on the show. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that the show started early tonight because of basketball, so I only caught a small portion of what they had to say. Hakstol called in by cell phone later to give a few comments.

Both Kaip and Chorney think Denver and Colorado College will split this weekend. Chorney called it one of the better rivalries in college hockey.

On the upcoming series with St. Cloud State, Chorney said that the Sioux would have to be sharp defensively. Every team in the league has enough skilled players that it you take off a shift or two, the puck will be in the back of your net.

When Hakstol phoned in, Hennessy asked him about his votes for the All-WCHA team. He said that he hadn’t done his voting yet. There are a lot of guys in contention. He’s going to sit back and take some time before he votes. There aren’t really any can’t-miss players this year like there are some years. He hopes that everyone around the league takes some time to look at the players and what they’ve done throughout the season, not just statistics. He said it’s important to consider consistency and what a player brings to the table besides scoring.

Regarding the success of former Sioux player Jonathan Toews with the Blackhawks, Hakstol agreed with Kaip and Chorney that nothing he’s accomplished in the NHL surprises them. Watching him day in and day out for a couple of years at UND, Toews acted like a pro then, not just for games, but for practices and how he prepared. “What he’s doing is pretty special, but you can’t say it’s a surprise,” Hakstol said.

Hakstol said the Sioux want to be in position to take advantage of whatever might happen between Denver and Colorado College.

Regarding the injuries to Chay Genoway and Evan Trupp, Hakstol said he didn’t know if Genoway would play this weekend. He said it was safe to say that Trupp won’t be available, but he doesn’t know how long that might be. With Genoway, he’d just be guessing and he really doesn’t know, even at this point in the week.

Whether or not Genoway plays will first be based on what’s best for him and then what’s best for the team. They’re not going to put him at risk for further injury. The team comes second. They have a lot of confidence in the guys who can step in for Genoway. He said Jake Marto has done a good job for the team this season.

Hakstol said he doesn’t agree that SCSU has more to play for than UND and will play with more desperation. He said both teams have a lot to play for. The Sioux are playing to get better every week and to build momentum by winning games. He can only assume that the Huskies will be hungry and play desperate hockey. But he also assumes that the Sioux will show up and play the same way.

Hakstol said that both Kaip and Chorney are even-keel as team leaders. Throughout the season in practice and in games, they’re even keel, hungry, focused and driven to play well.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

And Hakstol said: Let there be depth!

All season long, UND coach Dave Hakstol has touted the depth of this year's Fighting Sioux team. Fortunately, they have gone through most of the season without serious injuries. But now with sophomore defenseman Chay Genoway and freshman forward Evan Trupp out indefinitely, the team's depth will be tested this coming weekend against St. Cloud State and probably beyond during the playoffs.

It's a terrible time of year to lose players such as Genoway (6 goals and 16 assists) and Trupp (8 goals, 5 assists and 5 game-winning goals) who have contributed so much to UND's 15-game unbeaten streak. They're key parts of the second power play unit, which clearly suffered in their absence during Sunday's game at Duluth. They also play on UND's penalty kill.

Hakstol has been through this before. The 04-05 Sioux lost Rylan Kaip at mid-season and a number of players were in and out of the lineup with injuries. To make matters worse, Robbie Bina, Brady Murray and Mike Prpich went down during the WCHA Final Five. Prpich returned and played hurt for the NCAA tournament. A cobbled-together line of Erik Fabian, Brian Canady and James Massen helped carry that team all the way to the Frozen Four championship.

The 05-06 team lost Fabian in the last game of the regular season against Michigan Tech. In the first game of the best-of-three series against Minnesota State, leading scorer Drew Stafford went down with an injury in an overtime loss to the Mavericks. Stafford sat out the Final Five, but Kaip picked a good time to score the first two goals of his career in a 3-2 win over Wisconsin. The Sioux went on to win their fourth Broadmoor Trophy by beating SCSU 5-3.

Last season, the team struggled through injuries to T.J. Oshie, Jonathan Toews and Jean-Philippe Lamoureux, but rebounded in time to make a third straight appearance in the NCAA Frozen Four.

So although the Sioux will certainly miss Genoway and Trupp, all is not lost. The wisdom of Hakstol's decision to give playing time to freshmen defensemen Derrick LaPoint and Jake Marto now becomes obvious. Both of them have strong offensive upsides. Can one or both of them combined make up for Genoway's absence? Can they limit rookie mistakes? We will soon find out.

Trupp's absence might be somewhat easier to cover. Brad Miller has shown occasional flashes of brilliance during his three years at UND. He could certainly help fill the void, and his playoff experience is a definite plus. And what of Matt Frattin? He began the season playing on the top line with Ryan Duncan and Oshie. Now would be a good time for him to break out of his scoring slump.

Kaip has demonstrated a knack for scoring big goals in the playoffs. Junior forward Matt Watkins has also shown scoring ability. Ryan Martens has gotten better as the season progressed. It could be his time to shine.

The good news is that the Sioux are virtually assured a spot in the NCAA tournament. That means there's time for players to step up their games and fill roles they haven't needed to fill during the season.

As Desaix told Napoleon at the Battle of Marengo: "There is yet time to win another battle!"

Don't look now, but...

Following North Dakota's last series at Minnesota-Duluth, Fighting Sioux opponents now have more penalties and penalty minutes than UND.
  • UND: 268 penalties, 685 penalty minutes

  • Opponents: 270 penalties, 694 penalty minutes
In addition, the gap between UND's power play opportunities and those of its opponents continues to grow. The Sioux have had more or the same number of power plays per game as their opponents 20 times while opposing teams have had more power plays in 13 games.

UND is 12-1-2 when it has more power plays, 3-2-0 when it has an equal number of power plays and 8-5-0 when it has fewer power plays. Therefore, as the stats demonstrate, it's not to UND's advantage to "goon it up."

Monday, March 3, 2008

The weakest link? It's not Lamoureux

When I interviewed UND goalie Jean-Philippe Lamoureux for US College Hockey Online near the end of January, I reminded him that before the season started, many "experts" considered goaltending UND's weak link. He responded by saying:

"The confidence that I have in myself and the amount of work that I put in to be successful and be prepared, it’s almost music to my ears. To know that if I’m going to be the only weak link on the team this year, that’s going to be fine with me because I know what my abilities are. I understand the amount of work I have to put in and the type of preparation I need to be mentally and physically ready to play. If I’m going to be the only weak link, then so be it. If I’m the weakest link, we’re going to be all right."

Just look at where UND's "weak link" is today. Lamoureux's 1.68 goals-against average is No. 1 in the nation and his .934 save percentage is tied for first nationally. His .719 winning percentage is fifth nationally. He's a big reason why UND gives up a nation-best 1.79 goals per game and why the Sioux kill 89.3 percent of their penalties, despite being the second most penalized team in the country.

As the regular season winds down, Lamoureux is the one Sioux player with a legitimate shot at the Hobey Baker Award. Given the talented NHL draft choices on the team, who would've predicted that at season's start? Certainly not me. But just as Hobey winner Ryan Duncan was UND's most consistent player last season, Lamoureux has been Mr. Dependable this season.

It wasn't long ago that some Sioux fans were decrying UND's inability to recruit a world-class, shutdown goaltender. Well, now you've got him, and he was right under your noses all along.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Fighting Sioux: Yes, it's already gone

Because of recent news reports, loyal backers of UND's Fighting Sioux nickname are finally waking up to the reality that the days of the name and logo are numbered. I attempted to explain this to Sioux fans three months ago, but few seemed to believe it. In fact, the writing was on the wall after the state of North Dakota settled its lawsuit with the NCAA last October.

The good news - if you want to look at it that way - isn't that the NCAA or the tribes won. No, it's that the state of North Dakota simply gave up. The opportunity to play football against the University of Minnesota was more important to some key UND alumni and athletics supporters than the principle of free expression, the reason many of us waged the battle to retain the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo for so long.

As Abraham Lincoln once observed, "A house divided against itself cannot stand." Thus, when UND athletics could no longer present a unified front on the issue, the state's political leaders decided the most practical approach was to strike the best deal possible with the NCAA and put the issue to rest once and for all.

Knowing that the end is near for the once-proud Fighting Sioux nickname and logo, I dedicate this rewritten version of the Eagles 1974 song "Already Gone."

I’m Already Gone

Well, I heard some Sioux fans whinin' just the other day
'Cause they fear someone’s gonna take me off the shelf
So I’ll give to you a clue that will be news to you
Yet I know darn well it's true
It means you'll have to pin the blame upon yourself

Yes I'm already gone
And I'm feelin' wronged
I will sing the loser’s song
Boo, hoo, hoo
Boo, hoo, hoo

The wording that you sold me made me stop and wonder why
But I guess you felt like you had to quit the fight
Just remember this, my fans, when you’re fallin’ for the spin
You can play the game but it doesn’t mean you’ll win (that’s right)

So I'm already gone
And I'm feelin' wronged
I will sing the loser’s song
Boo, hoo, hoo
Boo, hoo, hoo

Well I know just who it was who held me dear
Someone knows it was them who sold me out
So many times it happened that you closed your eyes to shame
Now you act like you don't know what it’s about

But me, I'm already gone
And I'm feelin' wronged
I will sing the losers song
'Cause I'm already gone
Yes, I'm already gone
And I'm feelin' wronged
I will sing the loser’s song
'Cause I'm already gone
Yes, I'm already gone
Already gone

Monday, February 25, 2008

Most penalized compared to what?

Whenever someone tosses out the factoid about the Fighting Sioux being the most penalized team in college hockey and uses it to claim that UND has a team of "goons" and "thugs," it's useful to ask the question: Most penalized compared to what?

Instead of picking on some other team from the current season, I'll make an apples-to-apples comparison with another Dave Hakstol-coached team from the recent past: the 2004-05 Sioux that made it all the way to the national championship game against Denver.

This was the team that ESPN commentator Barry Melrose said had an "NHL-style defense" during the 2005 Frozen Four. Given that four members of the defensive corps (Matt Greene, Matt Jones, Andy Schneider and Matt Smaby) were big, physical NHL draftees, the analogy was appropriate. That team also featured master instigator Mike Prpich and developed a reputation for rough play that resulted in numerous penalties.

Here's a comparison between the two teams.

2004-05 Sioux (36 regular-season games)
Penalties: 370
Penalty minutes: 800

Penalties: 348
Penalty minutes: 731

2007-08 Sioux (32 regular-season games to date)
Penalties: 257
Penalty minutes: 663

Penalties: 253
Penalty minutes: 630

Now it's possible that the 07-08 Sioux will end the regular season with more penalties and/or penalty minutes than the 04-05 team, but barring a bench-clearing brawl or two in the final four games of the regular season, it's not likely. What's more likely is that this year's Sioux team will end the regular season with far fewer penalties and penalty minutes than the 04-05 team.

To update and expand on the statistics The Sicatoka provided in an earlier blog here, compare the power play numbers and records of the 04-05 Sioux to the 07-08 Sioux.

2004-05 Regular Season Record with:
More power plays 6-5-0
Fewer power plays 6-6-4
Equal power plays 4-2-1

2007-08 Regular Season Record with:
More power plays 10-1-2
Fewer power plays 8-5-0
Equal power plays 3-2-0

When the 04-05 team had the same or more penalties, it was 10-7-1 (.583 winning percentage). When the 07-08 team has the same or more penalties, it's 13-3-2 (.777 winning percentage). This year's Sioux team not only takes fewer penalties, but it also takes better advantage of its power play opporunities and is more likely to win even when it has fewer opportunities with the man advantage.

The 04-05 team developed a reputation for being able to take a lot of penalties because it was so effective at killing them off. But this wasn't really the case until the Sioux hit the playoffs in 2005. Incredibly, during the post-season, that Sioux team was 5-0-0 when the opposition had more power plays, 1-1-0 when UND had more power plays and 1-1-0 when the power plays were equal.

Ironically, the only playoff game the 04-05 Sioux team lost when it had more power plays was the national championship game against the Denver Pioneers. One could argue that the Sioux might have stood a better chance of winning that game if they'd played the style of hockey that got them there.

The Boards Room: Now open for comments

Due to popular demand, we've decided to open our blog to comments from the outside world. However, the comments here will be moderated. If I find myself spending too much time deleting trolls, flames, insults, personal attacks and baseless gossip, we will return to allowing comments from select individuals only.

So if you have something constructive to add to the discussion, please feel free leave a comment here. Thank you for your interest.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Most Penalized Team In The Country

The most penalized team in the country .... but what does that really mean?

UND has, over 29 games, taken 248 penalties for 645 PIM this year. That's 225 minors, 7 majors, and 16 other penalties (all 10 minute). But why?

UND's head-to-head opponents have taken 223 minors, 3 majors, and 13 other penalties for a summary of 239 penalties for 591 minutes.

So let's put some context around that ....

Penalty Minutes: Games PIM PIM/G
1 North Dakota 29 645 22.2
2 Canisius 31 681 22.0
( North Dakota's Opponents 29 591 20.4)
3 Bowling Green 30 589 19.6
4 RIT 30 574 19.1
5 Western Michigan 32 590 18.4
6 Nebraska-Omaha 32 589 18.4
7 Sacred Heart 30 552 18.4
8 Miami 32 574 17.9
9 Ferris State 30 538 17.9
10 Michigan 32 571 17.8

Now, tell me, are UND's penalties the chicken or the egg? To try to figure that out let's play "Run the Scenario":

Theory 1: UND is a bunch of dirty hacks: Those poor Opponent souls are just doing what they have to to stay alive.

Contradictory Indicators: If UND was a bunch of dirty hacks, how are they leading the WCHA, #2 in the polls, and holder of an NCAA region #1 seed as of today?

Theory 2: Opponents are a bunch of dirty hacks. UND is defending itself.

Contradictory Indicators: UND has more penalties and PIMs. Pure retaliation doesn't fit this notion.

Theory 3: UND comes out playing a "to the edge" physical game. They make some hits, take a couple penalties along the way, but drive the opponent to retaliate questionably.

Contradictory Indicators: In this theory, the opponent should be at par or higher as retaliatory may be more severe penalties. So we may be close.

Theory 3 Amended: UND comes out playing a "to the edge" physical game. They make some hits, take a couple penalties along the way, but drive the opponent to questionably retaliate. UND doesn't stand for the retaliation and deals with it.

Indicator: UND has more minors but otherwise reasonably comparable penalty numbers.

I think we've found our plausible solution. But can we do more to make it fit the numbers and reality of the situation?

Let stop looking at penalty numbers, but games, and see what that can show us. Wouldn't you expect the most heavily penalized team in the country to be playing net short-handed games far more often than they are playing net even or man-advantage games? You would, and you'd be wrong in this case.

In games in which UND has:
- more power plays than its opponents, the Sioux are 8-1-2.
- fewer power plays than its opponents, the Sioux are 8-5-0.
- the same number of power plays, the Sioux are 3-2-0.

Therefore, in the 29 games UND has played, the Sioux have had the the same or more power plays than their opponents 16 times and fewer power plays 13 times.

So there you have it folks, the most penalized team in the country is even or at a total powerplays advantage in more games than not.

Friday, January 25, 2008

A Game Day Observation Points To A Glaring Change In the WCHA

I'm looking at the PDF from UND Sports Information for UAA at UND, page 3, lower left, and I'm struggling to believe my eyes.

The top two career active point scorers in the WCHA are juniors? And there are only 2 guys in the whole league with 100 career points? And there are sophomores, *three* sophomores, in the top 11?

All it takes to be top 11 in active career scoring in the WCHA right now is a mere 73 career points. And 119 points is the active career points leader (UND junior TJ Oshie).

To understand my wonderment, let me put this to you from my perspective:

Tony Hrkac put up 116 points (46-70-116) in a season (1986-1987, 48 games).

If that single season was active today it would put him tied for second (UND junior and fellow Hobey Baker winner Ryan Duncan) in active career points and almost in the top 11 using only the assists total (70).

Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald has pointed to scoring being down, way down, in the WCHA. Brad is onto something.

Personally, I do not view scoring being down, this far down, as a good thing.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Here come your Fighting Sioux!

Anyone who's followed Fighting Sioux hockey since Dave Hakstol took over as head coach in 2004 knows that a second-half surge is becoming trademark of his teams. In his first three seasons, Hakstol's teams got off to slow starts before ending up in the NCAA Frozen Four. All indications are that this season's surge has begun.

With 2-1 and 5-3 road victories over Minnesota State-Mankato this weekend, the Sioux broke out of another trend for the second straight weekend. Last weekend's home sweep of Michigan Tech ended the trend of splitting at home. This weekend's sweep of the Mavericks ended the trend of splitting on the road.

UND now has a five-game winning streak going. Prior to the sweep of MTU, the Sioux hadn't won more than two games in a row all season. With the lowly Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves visiting Ralph Engelstad Arena next weekend, the Sioux should keep that streak going. In fact, the way Minnesota has been playing, the road series at Minneapolis the following week looks less daunting than it once did.

When the Denver Pioneers visit the Ralph Feb. 15-16, the two teams might very well be playing for control of second place in the WCHA. Currently, while UND's fortunes appear to be on the upswing, DU seems headed in the opposite direction. Still, there's a lot of talent on the Pioneers and nobody should take them for granted.

One trend the Sioux must end if they're going to be serious contenders for their eighth national championship is their inability to come from behind to win in the third period. It's been nearly three years since UND trailed at the start of he third period and rallied for a win. That was Feb. 18, 2005, at Anchorage. Since then, the Sioux are 0-23 when behind after two periods.

This team has the talent to win it all, but it would be a mistake to pencil in the Sioux for a Frozen Four slot just yet. The Sioux are in a good position to control their own destiny, and that's exactly how Hakstol likes it.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Have we hit an all-time low in the state of WCHA officiating?

Not that long ago I thought officiating in the WCHA had turned a corner. The league had just finished an experiment with cameras over the goals and was making the system league wide. The WCHA was calling obstruction and the game opened up for the top end players to showcase their skills. And more recently the league even experimented with a four official system on the ice.

But even with these positive factors showing the WCHA does care about the quality of the officiating we're left this season with not one but two controversial goals (DU at SCSU and UW at DU), technology or not, haunting the standings. Bruce McLeod and the league office are offering not much more than apologies.

Amidst this fiasco one (at least one) WCHA coach is calling for officiating to move to the NHL style of calls (strict enforcement). I do agree with this sentiment and believe it has to occur or the top end talent may stop coming to the WCHA, yet ....

I'm sorry Dave (and others): The WCHA office needs to figure out what is and isn't a goal before it can be credible in calling a style where a stick parallel to the ice and touching an opponent is a minor penalty.

I've stopped believing this WCHA administration is willing or capable of doing either any time soon.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Welcome to The Boards Room

Welcome to a new experiment in the discussion of collegiate athletics. This blog focuses on the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux (yes, those Fighting Sioux) athletics teams. However, we will also invite contributors from competing schools to give their thoughts and provide comments on the blogs as they're posted.

The objective here is NOT to have a wide-open, no-holds-barred, free-for-all forum where rabid fans trash talk, vent and rip apart each other's opinions. There are plenty of sites on the Web for those who wish to engage in that sort of activity. Our objective is to provide intelligent, insightful and sometimes humorous analysis of the Fighting Sioux and their competitors.

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Thanks for checking out The Boards Room.