Monday, March 15, 2010

Don Lucia is right

After North Dakota's 4-1 victory over Minnesota to win the series, Gophers coach Don Lucia was visibly upset about Matt Frattin's hit that knocked defenseman Kevin Wehrs out of the game.

The moment I saw the hit, I knew the result would be bad and that Frattin would get a 5-minute major for it. He deserved it. He came a long way to make the hit, and both his skates left the ice when he delivered it. It was a classic case of charging. If the WCHA suspends Frattin, it will be because he deserves it.

In his post-game comments, Lucia said: "That’s a vicious hit. Say what you want, it’s not the kind of hits we want to see in the game. My own personal feeling is that it was more than a five. Obviously, Wehrs is not in great shape right now. They’ve got a defenseman (Chay Genoway) that hasn’t played all year because of a hit, and those are things that I don’t think need to be part of the game."

I'm in complete agreement with Lucia. I, too, thought Frattin should have been tossed out of the game and was surprised he wasn't.

I suspect that the league will suspend Frattin for at least one game, and that's too bad because he has proven himself a valuable part of the team at a critical point in the season. If Fighting Sioux fans are honest with themselves, they'll admit that it's the right course of action.

UND is the last team that should be delivering dangerous hits to the head because of what happened to Genoway. And because of what happened to Robbie Bina five years ago, it should be the last team taking checking from behind penalties. There's no defending those types of hits.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

So much for that theory

For just the second time this season, North Dakota lost when it outscored its opponent in the second period.

Going into Saturday's game against Minnesota, the Fighting Sioux were 19-1-4 when they held the second period scoring advantage. Corban Knight's goal Saturday, which made it a 1-1 game, meant that UND outscored Minnesota 1-0 in the second. When Matt Frattin made in 2-1 in the third period, I thought the Sioux were on their way to ending Minnesota's season, but it was not to be.

Give Minnesota credit: When they fell behind in a hostile environment, they didn't crumble as they did Friday. They pushed back hard and gutted out a 4-2 win. The Gophers looked nothing like the team that gave up in the first period Friday. They seem to respond well to hostility and abuse from fans, media and former players.

I mentioned in my blog Friday that UND was a different team from the one that played at Minnesota in January because it was without Knight and Frattin was not yet a factor. Those two players have certainly come through for the Sioux in the first two games of this series.

The big mystery is: What's happened to Brett Hextall and UND's power play? The Sioux are 1-19 with the man advantage in their last four games. The power play outage Friday didn't matter, but it did matter in Saturday's game. The power play must get back on track if UND hopes to win Sunday and go far in the playoffs.

Finally, WCHA officials have shown that when given the opportunity to play a role in influencing the outcome of a game, they will. UND's victory Friday was so decisive that there wasn't anything they could do to keep the game close, but Saturday's game was a different story. In the first two games of the series, Minnesota has a nearly two-to-one advantage in power plays.

If the Sioux are to win Sunday's third game against Minnesota, they'll need to do it in a decisive manner that doesn't give the WCHA's finest an opportunity to influence the final result.

It's not so much what the officials do call as what they don't. In Saturday's game, I witnessed two very obvious penalties on Mario Lamoureux that went uncalled at times when all eyes should have been on him. And while Brad Eidsness did trip Jacob Cepis in the first period of Saturday's game, Cepis should also have received a penalty for embellishment because that's what he did.

In the WCHA, players who are known divers and continually exhibit such behavior are frequently rewarded for it. At one time, the NCAA said that cutting down on diving was a point of emphasis, which led to the embellishment rule. But as with many NCAA points of emphasis, it got heeded for a short time by the WCHA and then ignored.

As Brandon Bochenski once remarked about players who dive, "It's unmanly."

Besides that, it's dishonest and unsportsmanlike. The WHCA needs to put divers down.