Saturday, December 10, 2011

Team USA in Fargo, Malone Debuts, Oshie Evolving, Etc.

I took a rare night off from the Fighting Sioux home hockey schedule in order to take a look at 2012 incoming recruits Stefan Matteau, Miles Koules, and Zane Gothberg. Matteau and Koules play for the USNTDP's Under-18 team and were in Fargo to take on Gothberg and the Force. Here are a few observations:
  • Koules centered a line featuring Matteau on his left wing and BC recruit Frankie Vatrano on his right. 
  • The highly-skilled Team USA dictated play for much of the game, but Gothberg was outstanding. He stopped 35 of 38 shots and was very good in the shootout. He was tracking the puck very well, played with a lot of confidence, and earned the game's 1st Star. He's been a bit inconsistent this year for the Force, but that could be attributed to the Force as a whole being inconsistent.
  • Matteau comes as advertised. He's not at all afraid of the physical side of the game, and he uses his size (6'1" 209 lbs.) effectively. He scored a goal on which he out-muscled a Force player behind the net, eventually working the puck to teammate Thomas Di Pauli. Gothberg made the initial save on Di Pauli's shot, but Matteau had worked his way into position in front of the net and was able to deposit the loose change. He's also a solid skater (at one point impressively and nimbly hurdling a downed Force player at center ice), he has a nice, quick wrist shot that he displayed on his shootout goal, and he was solid on the backcheck. There has been talk of Matteau potentially taking the CHL route rather than playing collegiately, but if he does indeed make his way to North Dakota next fall he will be an immediate impact player as a solid two-way power forward.
  • Koules didn't find the scoresheet, but he has a nice nose for the puck. He, like most of Team USA, is a very solid passer, has very solid offensive instincts, and is a good, agile skater that accelerates very well. He's also good on the forecheck. Looking at his season as a whole, it's a bit surprising that he has just two goals in 24 games. That being said, he does lead the Under-18ers is assists, so perhaps he is developing into more of a playmaking centerman than the goal scorer he has been in the past.
  • Though speculation has U-18 defenseman Seth Jones eventually jumping to the CHL, North Dakota is said to be in the mix if he were to opt for the college route. He's earned nothing but rave reviews from every corner of the hockey world, and after watching him live he certainly lives up to the expectations. He's very poised and quarterbacks the powerplay like he invented it. He skates well, passes well, blocks shots, logs heavy minutes, and anticipates the action very well rather than reacting to it. He's an elite defender who will go very early in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
  • Michigan recruit Jacob Trouba was also impressive. He jumps into the play very well and is a very good all-around defenseman. Others who stood out on Team USA were Kyle Osterberg (Minnesota-Duluth recruit), Thomas Di Pauli (Notre Dame), Matthew Lane (Boston University), and Nicolas Kerdiles (Wisconsin), while Austin Farley (Minnesota-Duluth), Brian Cooper (Nebraska-Omaha), and Justin Wade (Notre Dame) impressed for the Force.
  • Somehow, I managed to survive the game and the shuttle ride back home without hearing any news on the Sioux-Maverick game. I went off the grid and was able to watch North Dakota and UNO in its entirety following the USHL action.

Brad Malone made his NHL debut last night for the Colorado Avalanche, becoming the 13th Fighting Sioux alumni to skate in the NHL this season. He logged 10:12 of ice time while centering the fourth line in the 4-1 loss to Edmonton. All Things Avs has a bit more on his debut.


Prior to the St. Louis Blues relieving Davis Payne of his head coaching duties in favor of Ken Hitchcock, TJ Oshie was averaging 1.46 shot attempts per game. Since Hitchcock has taken over, Oshie's shots per game have doubled to 2.93 and he has routinely been among the best players on the ice. Hitchcock attributes the turnaround to an adjustment in playing style. Rather than playing an east-west game, Oshie is becoming a north-south player who is maturing before our very eyes.

Other Notes:
  • I forgot to mention this earlier, but Alabama-Huntsville goaltender Clarke Saunders recently stated he was planning to transfer to North Dakota after the season due to UAH's adminstrative decision to discontinue Division I ice hockey. That situation, however, has been thrown into a state of flux due to the recent about-face on the part of UAH. The school is now planning on doing whatever it can to keep the program solvent, and they have begun the process of scheduling games for the 2012-13 season. Nothing is certain, and where this leaves Saunders is unknown at this point, but if the Chargers do indeed receive a reprieve he would have to sit out a year under NCAA transfer rules if he opted to leave Hunstville. Saunders, a sophomore with a 3.30 GAA and .918 save percentage in 15 games this season, would join Zane Gothberg as incoming 2012 goaltenders.
  • Former 'Hawk Jeremy Roenick recently commented on the Hart Trophy-caliber season Chicago captain Jonathan Toews is having, including stating that Toews is very motivated by last season's Stanley Cup hangover. If you so desire, watch the entire interview.
  • Recruit Nick Schmaltz scored his first career USHL last night in the Green Bay Gamblers 6-5 overtime win against Cedar Rapids. Assisting on the goal was big brother and fellow Sioux recruit Jordan Schmaltz. The 15 year-old Nick later added an assist and has now played in 8 USHL games, accounting for two points (1G, 1A) and a +5 rating.

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