Monday, November 7, 2011

Week 5 Recap: Sioux Swept, Frattin Scores, Chorney & Commie Debut, Etc.

The Fighting Sioux ventured into Mariucci Arena last weekend poised to cool down the hottest and highest scoring team in the WCHA, and while North Dakota and Minnesota engaged in two games that maintained relevance until the final horn, the Gophers came away with a weekend sweep and four conference points. The hot goaltending of Kent Patterson and a stingy team defense earned Minnesota a 2-0 shutout victory on Friday, while a late third period rally Saturday night saw the Gophers pull out a 3-2 victory, completing the first Minnesota sweep of North Dakota since December of 2005. A few observations:
  • First and foremost, the reason Minnesota swept this series was because they are a very good team that played some very good hockey. They received consistently outstanding goaltending from Patterson, and their overall team defense and penalty killing units are vastly improved over the past few years. While North Dakota was able to generate several quality scoring chances each night, they were unable to apply sustained pressure in the offensive end, and even when they did get their best opportunities, Patterson was still very difficult to beat.
  • Aaron Dell was outstanding in goal, flashing the form that made him the best statistical goalie in the WCHA last season. He made several huge saves to keep the Sioux within striking distance on Friday, and he served up much of the same Saturday as the teams engaged in another low scoring affair. Defensively, there were too many odd-man opportunities for comfort, but many of the defensive concerns we had over the course of the first month are being corrected.
  • There appeared to be some nervousness out there for the Fighting Sioux this weekend. Danny Kristo did not look like his usual self, nor did Nick Mattson, and Derek Forbort really seems to be struggling to find his game. Overall, there seemed to be a number of guys pressing.
  • Rocco Grimaldi scored his first collegiate goal Saturday night after being unable to play Friday due to a nagging lower body injury. His goal was a true goal scorer's goal, and when he is fully healthy he is going to add an entirely new dimension to the Sioux offense. The upcoming off week will hopefully aid in his return to full health, but as we look ahead I wonder what role his potential participation in the World Junior Championships will play on his health over the course of the season. The WJC's can be a grind, considering the selection camp, travel, game schedule, etc. so if he is indeed named to the Team USA roster hopefully he will be fully recovered in order to best handle the tournament's rigors.
  • Overall, the Fighting Sioux find themselves in an unfamiliar spot as they currently sit in 11th place in the WCHA standings with a 1-5 record. They continue to show signs of improvement, as the goaltending and defensive corps are becoming the backbone of the team everyone expected them to be from the outset. Offensive depth continues to be a concern and the return to full health by Grimaldi and Brendan O'Donnell will certainly help in that area. While I'm sure the guys are itching to get back onto the ice to get the bitter taste of the sweep out of their mouths, perhaps the bye week will serve as an opportunity to regroup and focus on making a strong run into the holiday break in order to get into position for a strong second half push up the standings.
 Sioux in the Pros:
  • Matt Frattin (Toronto-AHL) and Chay Genoway (Houston-AHL) faced one another for the first time as professionals Sunday night, and Frattin's two goals (including his first as a pro) helped the Marlies earn a 6-2 victory. In three games with the Marlies Frattin has three points (2G, 1A). Genoway recorded an assist in Sunday night's game, and he finished the week with two assists in three games. Frattin's first professional goal can be seen below:

  • The Portland Pirates (AHL) defeated Manchester 4-1 Sunday night, and former Sioux had a hand in three of the four goals. Ryan Duncan and Brett Hextall each scored while Matt Watkins earned an assist.
  • Jake Marto made his AHL debut Sunday with the St. John's IceCaps. He was returned to the ECHL's Colorado Eagles Monday, however. He was an emergency fill-in for the injury depleted IceCaps.
  • Brad Miller had one goal and one assist in three games last week for the Gwinnett Gladiators (ECHL). Miller, Gladiator teammate Corey Fienhage, and Aaron Schneekloth (Colorado) all rank among the Top 20 ECHL defensemen in scoring.
  • Mike Commodore (Detroit) and Taylor Chorney (St. Louis) each debuted for their new NHL teams Friday night. They are the 10th and 11th former Fighting Sioux to skate on NHL ice this season, and they were both in the lineup Saturday night as well.
  • Among the other former Sioux highlights, New Jersey's Zach Parise had three points (1G, 2A) in three games, Chicago's Jonathan Toews had three points (1G, 2A) in four games, and St. Louis Blues forward TJ Oshie had three points (2G, 1A) in two games.
Sioux Recruits:
  • Jack Rowe of Cedar Rapids (USHL) made his RoughRider debut Saturday night after missing the first month or so of the season due to injury. He was held pointless after logging three shots on goal, and he should be available to play this coming Friday when Cedar Rapids visits Fargo to take on the Force.
  • Luke Johnson of the Lincoln Stars remained out of the lineup last weekend due to injury.
  • A host of other Sioux recruits had the weekend off from regular season action as they prepare for an assortment of international competitions. For more on that, check out my international tournament summary from last week.

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