Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday Evening Post

Another men's hockey season came to an end yesterday in St. Paul, and while the sting of the season-ending loss will most assuredly stay with the team for awhile, I'd just like to take the time to congratulate the players, coaches, and staff on another entertaining and successful season.

The 2011-12 Fighting Sioux displayed a tremendous amount of character, heart, and perseverance in battling through a trying season during which they were confronted with a dizzying series of personnel challenges. Rather than folding under the weight of these challenges, the team met them head-on and, from the depths of the WCHA standings, fought its way into national championship contention, earning itself a Final Five Championship and a top seed in the NCAA tournament along the way.

This team never quit believing that it could win a national championship, and it never quit believing it could become one of the great teams in this program's rich and storied history. While they may have fallen a few wins short of their ultimate goal, they built themselves into a team that is as easy for Fighting Sioux fans to be proud of as any in recent memory.


In other Fighting Sioux hockey news:
  • The United States of Hockey posted a review of last weekend's NCAA regional action, including commentary on Danny Kristo's strong play.
  • Travis Zajac returned to the New Jersey Devil lineup last night, and he played well in managed minutes. He had an assist in 13:31 of ice time, and he won 62.5% of his draws. He was a guest on NHL Live today where he spent a couple minutes discussing his return from injury:

  • Zajac's New Jersey teammate Zach Parise scored his 30th goal of the season last night, making him the first former Sioux to reach the 30 goal mark five times as an NHLer. Dave Christian did it four times.
  • As mentioned in a previous post, Chris VandeVelde scored his first career NHL goal yesterday. The USHL issued this release on the former Lincoln Star, and it includes video of his sneaky wrister.
  • Jonathan Toews is ramping up the intensity of his workouts and he looks to return to Chicago's lineup in the near future.
  • Last night was Ed Belfour Heritage Night in Chicago. A brief video documenting the event can be viewed here, while the Blackhawk organization published a nice piece on the undrafted, yet undaunted former Sioux goaltender.
  • Matt Frattin was a full participant in Maple Leaf practice today, after which he chatted about his foot injury, North Dakota's NCAA tournament fate, and who holds college hockey bragging rights inside the Maple Leaf lockeroom:
  • Once the season is over, expect Frattin to rejoin the Toronto Marlies (AHL) for their playoff run.
  • An NHL scout recently projected the first round of this summer's upcoming NHL Draft, and he had Sioux recruit Jordan Schmaltz going 17th overall to Los Angeles, where Matt Greene is a blue line stalwart and Derek Forbort is a top defense prospect.
  • Recruit Zane Gothberg of the Fargo Force was named the USHL's Goaltender of the Week for the third time this season, and expect him to be among the top candidates for the league's Goaltender of the Year award. Force head coach John Marks thinks Gothberg has the potential to become UND's number one goalie sooner rather than later.
  • Recruits Charlie Pelnik and Nick Schmaltz are off to New York this week for the 2012 Under-16 National Championships. The tournament runs Wednesday through Sunday, and Pelnik's Shattuck-St. Mary's team is scheduled to take on Schmaltz and Chicago Mission Friday evening.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sunday Afternoon Post, Part 2

And serving number two:
  • Danny Kristo's play this season has reminded Montreal Canadien fans of why the team selected him with the 56th overall pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Kristo and Mark MacMillan were also part of The Montreal Gazette's look at the Canadien prospects participating in the NCAA Tournament.
  • Former Sioux All-American John Marks says his current job as head coach of the USHL's Fargo Force is the best gig he's had in awhile.
  • Recruit Zane Gothberg posted his USHL-leading sixth shutout of the season Friday night as the Fargo Force beat Des Moines 2-0. He is also second in the league in GAA (2.29) and Save Percentage (.919), and he had been riding a scoreless streak that ended at 154:49 when Des Moines scored a first period goal last night in a 4-2 Force win.
  • Recruit Drake Caggiula and the Stouffville Spirit continue their strong run in the OJHL playoffs. They've won their first two series, and currently lead Georgetown 2-1 in the Northwest Conference Finals, with game four of the the best-of-7 series scheduled for tonight. Individually, Caggiula has had very nice postseason thus far, ranking third among OJHL playoff scorers with 20 points (9G, 11A) in 13 games.
  • Adam Tambellini was recently named the Vernon Vipers' Rookie of the Year. The Sioux recruit finished the BCHL season as the Vipers' third leading scorer, averaging more than a point-per-game with 56 points (27G, 29A) in 55 contests. Tambellini and fellow North Dakota recruit Geoff Crisfield are part of a strong core expected to return to Vernon next season.
  • Defenseman recruit and potential first-round 2012 NHL Draft pick Jordan Schmaltz was recently profiled by The Hockey Writers, who had a lot of nice things to say about the current Green Bay Gambler.
  • Recruit Chris Wilkie was an invitee of the 2012 US National Team Development Program Evaluation Camp, which took place in Ann Arbor, MI last week. The evaluation camp is a major part of the process of building the USA Hockey Under-17 team roster. Results and reports from the evaluation camp will be passed along as they become available.
Here are a few links that have recently trickled in related to items covered in the post from earlier today:
  • Travis Zajac says he is excited to be making his return to the New Jersey lineup.
  • Jonathan Toews says his recovery from a concussion is "probably the most frustrating thing" he's had to go through.
  • The Toronto Maple Leafs assigned a pair of forwards to their AHL affiliate today, likely signaling a return to the lineup for Matt Frattin Tuesday night when the Leafs take on Carolina.
  • Chris VandeVelde made his NHL season debut this afternoon, and in the midst of Edmonton's five-goal, second period onslaught, he scored his first career NHL goal. He is the 16th former Sioux to play for an NHL club this season. Here's the goal:

Sunday Afternoon Post, Part 1

Here is the first of two servings of the latest nuggets concerning Fighting Sioux men's hockey:
  • Brad Schlossman has a full listing of links on his blog concerning UND's win over Western Michigan yesterday in the NCAA tournament's West Regional. North Dakota will look to book a trip to its sixth Frozen Four in the past eight years when it faces off against Minnesota for the sixth and final time this season.
  • New Jersey Devil centerman Travis Zajac will return to the lineup tonight against Pittsburgh. Zajac has been limited to 8 games this season due to an Achilles tendon injury he suffered in the preseason, and has not played since January 2nd. Zajac will get right back at it on one of the Devils' two top lines, and his return gives New Jersey a much-needed pair of fresh legs as it looks to make a strong push heading into the playoffs.
  • Chris VandeVelde was recalled yesterday by the Edmonton Oilers and is expected to be in the lineup this afternoon when the Oilers take on Columbus. He will be the 16th former Sioux to play in the NHL this season. VandeVelde has spent the entire season with with the Oklahoma City Barons, Edmonton's AHL affiliate, where he's produced 22 points (7G, 15A) in 65 games. He was also recently featured in an Oklahoma City Gameday episode.
  • Chicago Blackhawk center Jonathan Toews practiced for the fifth consecutive day yesterday as he continues to work towards a return from a concussion. The injury will cause him to miss his 16th game tonight, and the Blackhawks are adamant about not rushing him back into the lineup.
  • Zach Parise is wrapping up a very nice bounce-back season after missing most of last year due to a knee injury, and one of the keys to his individual success has been eliminating the talk of his impending free agency status. Parise, who would be the offseason's most coveted free agent should New Jersey not be able to re-sign him, has recorded 63 points (29G, 34A) while playing in all 75 of New Jersey's game this season.
  • The Buffalo Sabres are making what could become a historic push towards the postseason, and fueling the effort has been the play of Drew Stafford and his linemates Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno. Buffalo, which has won four in a row and has not had a regulation defeat over its last eight games, currently holds down the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot. As for Stafford, the former Sioux winger has registered 12 points (4G, 8A) and a +10 rating over his last seven games, and has 45 points (17G, 28A) for the season. This is the second most prolific season of his six year career, and his 28 assists have established a new career high.
  • When Stafford hit the 45 point mark, he became the fourth former Sioux to do so this season, joining Toews, Parise, and TJ Oshie. As of Saturday morning, 21 former collegians had reached that mark, and UND's four led all NCAA institutions. 13 of those 21 players played in the WCHA, with Wisconsin (Joe Pavelski, Derek Stepan, Dany Heatley) and Minnesota (Blake Wheeler, Phil Kessel, Thomas Vanek) each having three players on the list. David Backes (MSU), Paul Stastny (DU), and Curtis Glencross (UAA) round out the WCHA representation.
  • Matt Frattin has missed Toronto's last two games due to a lower-body injury, while Darcy Zajac is out of the Albany Devil lineup indefinitely with an upper-body injury.
  • Evan Trupp went scoreless last night, snapping his five game scoring streak, but the Bakersfield Condor (ECHL) has been very productive over the last month and a half. Since February 8, Trupp has recorded 16 points (9G, 7A) and a +8 rating in 13 games.
  • Ryan Duncan had been looking forward to getting back into the lineup after suffering a nasty cut to the face last Sunday, and he had recovered enough to rejoin the Portland (AHL) lineup last night.
  • The Anaheim Ducks have had a rash of injuries hit its defensive corps recently, and should they need to make a call to the AHL's Syracuse Crunch for reinforcements, it sounds like former Sioux Matt Smaby would be the one getting the call.

Friday, March 23, 2012

NCAA West Regional Primer

In order to help you get ready for the 2012 NCAA Men's Ice Hockey West Regional, here is a host of informative links:
  • UND Sports, Cary Eades Previews the West Regional:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wednesday Evening Post

It is time to disperse some links prior to hitting the Road to the Final Five:
  • Fighting Sioux associate head coach Cary Eades was inducted into the Minnesota Hockey Coaches Association Hall of Fame last weekend during the Minnesota state high school hockey tournament. It's a very high honor for the former three-time state champion head coach of the Warroad Warriors, and congratulations are in order.
  • Inside College Hockey recently named Fighting Sioux head coach Dave Hakstol its WCHA Coach of the Year in its year end awards. Brock Nelson was also named the WCHA Breakthrough Player of the Year.
  • According to one blog, Corban Knight and Rocco Grimaldi are among the Florida Panthers top prospects.
  • Jocelyne Lamoureux was named one of three finalists for the Patty Kazmaier Award, which is awarded annually to the top player in women's college hockey. The winner will be announced this weekend during the Frozen Four in Duluth.
  • Brad Schlossman's Weekly Wednesday Update is full of good stuff today.
  • Travis Zajac has been cleared to resume hard skating, and New Jersey Devil GM Lou Lamoriello says their top centerman should return sooner rather than later.
  • The Hockey News recently conducted a poll of NHL players in order to determine the league's Top 50 players. Zach Parise came in at #29 (too low in my opinion, should be in the top 15) while Jonathan Toews is ranked #5. 
  • Toews remains sidelined with concussion symptoms as he's learning to cope with the complexity of his head injury. There is a possibility that he could return by the weekend, but if there is any certainty when it comes to dealing with concussions, it is that there are no certainties.
  • As for Parise, he recently moved into eighth place on New Jersey's all-time scoring list by registering his 400th career point, while there is more speculation that he could return home to Minnesota should he become a free agent this summer.
  • Mike Commodore is looking to revitalize his career in Tampa Bay, and he says he likes Florida so much that if Tampa Bay does not re-sign him this offseason, he might just stick around anyway.
  • Commodore's new Lightning teammate, Brian Lee, is also making an impact for the Bolts.
  • Matt Greene and a few of his Los Angeles King teammates discuss some of the more common hockey player problems.
  • TJ Oshie has taken over St. Louis' team scoring lead, and he looks to be due a nice pay raise this offseason.
  • ESPN recently ran an outstanding feature on Phoenix Coyote head coach Dave Tippett and his unique situation out in the desert. Tippett currently sits on 398 career victories.
  • Hockey Wilderness says Chay Genoway is the Houston Aero that has shown the most improvement over the course of the season.
  • The Edmonton Oilers' Future Watch recently profiled Chris VandeVelde.
  • Kyle Radke of the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees (CHL) was recently placed on season-ending Injured Reserve.
  • Fighting Sioux recruit Chris Wilkie was invited to USA Hockey's NTDP tryout camp.
  • Recruit Drake Caggiula and the Stouffville Spirit (OJHL) tied their Divisional Final playoff series with Newmarket at two games apiece tonight. Caggiula has been outstanding in the postseason, registering 14 points (5G, 9A) in seven playoff games. He has had multiple points in six of the seven games.
  • Being the Final Five is upon us, we'll leave you with a nice little interview of final Five superstar and current Bakersfield Condor (ECHL) Evan Trupp:

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Fighting Sioux in THN's Future Watch

The Hockey News' annual prospect review, Future Watch, arrived in the mail yesterday. Here's a rundown of the Sioux presence amongst the NHL's top prospects:

  • Brad Malone, Colorado Avalanche #5 Prospect
  • Rocco Grimaldi, Florida Panthers #7 Prospect
  • Derek Forbort, Los Angeles Kings #2 Prospect (#64 Overall NHL Prospect)
  • Danny Kristo, Montreal Canadiens #9 Prospect
  • Brock Nelson, New York Islanders #3 Prospect (#66 Overall NHL Prospect)
  • Jason Gregoire, Winnipeg Jets #5 Prospect

In THN's Sneak Peek at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, potential defenseman recruit Seth Jones, who took his official visit to UND yesterday, is currently slotted to go #1 overall.

Looking back at the Top 50 Prospects from 2007, three former Sioux were ranked in the top 18:

  • #2 - Jonathan Toews
  • #17 - Drew Stafford
  • #18 - TJ Oshie

Amongst THN's Class of 2007, Drew Stafford has the second most NHL games (366) under his belt, while Jonathan Toews (352) has played in the sixth most.

Friday, March 9, 2012

2011-12 Blogger All-WCHA Awards

Below are the results of the First Annual Blogger All-WCHA Awards. A big thank you goes out to the 16 participants who took the time to complete a ballot, and congratulations to all the teams, players, coaches, and staffs on yet another exciting regular season of WCHA hockey. As a note, there was a tie between Joey LaLeggia and Ben Blood for the second spot on 1st Team defense. Per WCHA methodology, they are both considered 1st Team while Nate Schmidt is the lone 2nd Team defenseman. An asterisk denotes a unanimous selection:

All-WCHA First Team
F – Jack Connolly, Minnesota-Duluth*
F – JT Brown, Minnesota-Duluth
F – Brock Nelson, North Dakota
D – Justin Schultz, Wisconsin*
D – Joey LaLeggia, Denver
D – Ben Blood, North Dakota
G – Kent Patterson, Minnesota

All-WCHA Second Team
F – Jason Zucker, Denver
F – Drew Shore, Denver
F – Nick Bjugstad, Minnesota
D – Nate Schmidt, Minnesota
G – Josh Thorimbert, Colorado College

All-WCHA Third Team
F – Jaden Schwartz, Colorado College
F – Mark Zengerle, Wisconsin
F – Travis Oleksuk, Minnesota-Duluth
D – Nick Jensen, St. Cloud State
D – Brady Lamb, Minnesota-Duluth
G – Kenny Reiter, Minnesota-Duluth

All-WCHA Rookie Team
F – Kyle Rau, Minnesota*
F – Caleb Herbert, Minnesota-Duluth
F – Jean-Paul LaFontaine, Minnesota State University-Mankato
D – Joey LaLeggia, Denver*
D – Andrew Prochno, St. Cloud State
G – Juho Olkinuora, Denver

WCHA Player of the Year Jack Connolly, Minnesota-Duluth

WCHA Defensive Player of the Year – Justin Schultz, Wisconsin

WCHA Rookie of the Year – Joey LaLeggia, Denver

WCHA Coach of the Year – Mel Pearson, Michigan Tech

Here's the rundown of the voters. Thanks again for taking part:
Timothy Boger, USCHO (North Dakota)
Donna, Runnin' With the Dogs (Minnesota-Duluth)
Summerzzzoff, CC Tiger Hockey (Colorado College)
Dirty, Dirty's Diatribe (North Dakota)
Nate, Gopher Puck Live (Minnesota)
Eric, Goon's World/Inside Hockey (North Dakota)
Joe, Paisley Hockey (Colorado College)
Chuck, Bucky's 5th Quarter (Wisconsin)
Matt, USCHO/Radio Free Omaha
Tim, Tech Hockey Guide (Michigan Tech)
Jon/Bridget, (Nebraska-Omaha)
Hammy, @hammyhockey (Minnesota)
Nate, SB Nation Minnesota/First Round Bust (Minnesota)
Andrew, College Hockey High Horse (Minnesota-Duluth)
Ryan, Gopher Puck Live (Minnesota)
Chad, A Tradition of Excellence (North Dakota)

Monday, March 5, 2012

2011-12 All-WCHA Ballot

The regular season is now in the books, and the WCHA bloggers have opted to supplement the annual preseason blogger poll with the First Annual Blogger All-WCHA Poll. Look for the full results of the poll to be posted by Friday morning. In the interest of full disclosure, you will find my completed ballot below, with brief commentary. In a league as talented as the WCHA,  it's never easy to come up with a "shortlist" of the year's top performers, so feel free to voice your disapproval/approval/suggestions via the comments:

All-WCHA First Team
F – Jack Connolly, UMD - Fantastic season for the senior Bulldog, could nab the Hobey.
F – Jaden Schwartz, CC - Dominant puck possession and passing skills, a treat to watch.
F – JT Brown, UMD - Speedy, quick, edgy. Love his game.
D – Justin Schultz, UW -  The dominant offensive defenseman had a remarkable season.
D – Ben Blood, UND - Tough as nails workhorse, became significant offensive factor.
G – Kent Patterson, UM - Historic year for the Gopher goalie, seemed to win games all on his own.

All-WCHA Second Team
F – Jason Zucker, DU - Love his motor, speed, and shot.
F – Brock Nelson, UND - Pure sniper with incredible hands and instincts.
F – Danny Kristo, UND - Displayed the ability to take over games, much improved defensively.
D – Joey LaLeggia, DU - Incredible freshman blue liner had a season for the ages.
D – Nate Schmidt, UM - Sophomore took a big step this season, clutch performer.
G – Josh Thorimbert, CC - Took over CC's #1 goalkeeper job and ran with it.

All-WCHA Third Team
F – Nick Bjugstad, UM - Big forward had a phenomenal season. Can't believe he's only third team.
F – Mark Zengerle, UW - As Schultz & Zengerle go, so goes UW. Can't believe he's only third team.
F – Drew Shore, DU - Wonderful all-around forward. Can't believe he's only third team.
D – Scott Kishel, UMD - Underrated d-man had a breakout year for UMD.
D – Nick Jensen, SCSU - Smooth & steady, helped keep injury ravaged Huskies in it.
G – Dan Bakala, BSU - Steady presence in the crease for the Beavers.

All-WCHA Rookie Team
F – Kyle Rau, UM - The UM freshman has a knack for the big goal.
F – JP LaFontaine, MSU - Dynamic force for the young Mavericks.
F – Caleb Herbert, UMD - Was a big factor for the Bulldogs from the get-go.
D – Joey LaLeggia, DU - See All-WCHA Second Team
D – Andrew Prochno, SCSU - Very nice freshman season for the poised Husky.
G – Juho Olkinuora, DU - With Sam Brittain out for most of the year, the Fin stood tall for Denver.

WCHA Player of the Year – Jack Connolly, UMD - Flip a coin between Connolly and Schultz? Can't go wrong either way, really, but my vote goes to Jack as team success gives him the ever-so narrow edge.

WCHA Defensive Player of the Year – Justin Schultz, UW - Brilliant year for the Wisco blue liner. No brainer pick.

WCHA Rookie of the Year – Joey LaLeggia, DU - Tough call between LaLeggia and Rau, but what LaLeggia has done as a freshman defender is truly special.

WCHA Coach of the Year – Dave Hakstol, UND - Hakstol and his staff took a young, raw, injury riddled team and built it into a unit as good as any in the league by the year's end. Bob Motzko, Don Lucia, Mel Pearson, and Scott Sandelin also deserve credit for great coaching jobs this season.

Monday Evening Post

  • First and foremost, congratulations to the University of North Dakota women's hockey team for earning the program's first ever NCAA tournament berth. Head coach Brian Idalski and his seventh seeded Fighting Sioux will head to Minneapolis to take on the second seeded Golden Gophers. Gametime is 4:00 PM Saturday at Ridder Arena, and ticket information can be found here. North Dakota is 2-3 against Minnesota this season.
  • On the men's side, North Dakota capped their regular season with a sweep of Minnesota State this past weekend. They now look to carry the momentum of a fourth place league finish into the postseason when they open up the first round of the WCHA playoffs this weekend at Engelstad Arena against Bemidji State. Also, be on the lookout for the league bloggers' version of the All-WCHA awards. The ballots went out last night and the results will be posted by the end of the week. I should have my ballot posted by tomorrow evening.
  • The last two games have not been kind to New Jersey captain Zach Parise, at least not physically. Friday night he received a hard hit from a couple of Washington Capitals, and Sunday afternoon he took a hard stick to the hand. He appears no worse for the wear however, and in Friday's game he managed to notch a hat trick just three minutes into the second period:
  • Jonathan Toews is not yet ready to rejoin the Chicago Blackhawk lineup, but he is showing progress in his recovery from injury.
  • Travis Zajac's return to the Devils' lineup is on the horizon. If Zajac can get back into the lineup within the next couple of weeks, he will provide New Jersey with a nice boost heading into the postseason.
  • Toward the bottom of this article, Tampa Bay head coach Guy Boucher and all-world sniper Steven Stamkos offer up their praise of new Lightning defensemen Mike Commodore and Brian Lee. Since the deal that sent Commodore to Tampa Bay, Detroit's blue line has suffered a minor rash of injuries, prompting one writer to ask, Where Has Mike Commodore Gone? The same writer, by the way, questioned the Commodore trade even before the injuries hit.
  • Matt Frattin had a two point game Saturday night in helping Toronto defeat Montreal. Here's the video of his quick snipe off the face-off:
  • recently published a very nice article on former Sioux Dave Tippett, who has the Phoenix Coyotes in the thick of the playoff race. The Coyotes' leading goal scorer Radim Vrbata also had some glowing remarks concerning Tippett and his coaching abilities. Thanks to Mr. Senay for passing the Vrbata article my way.
  • TJ Oshie is a big reason why St. Louis has developed into a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.
  • Taylor Chorney says things are trending up.
  • The Houston Chronicle considers Curtis Murphy one of the best Houston Aeros of all-time.
  • In transaction news, Michael Forney was recently loaned from Colorado (ECHL) to Texas (AHL), and Corey Fienhage was sent down from Rochester (AHL) to Gwinnett (ECHL).

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Thursday Evening Post

  • Yesterday it was reported that junior forward Taylor Dickin has not been practicing this week due to the lower body injury suffered Friday night against Denver. He is unlikely to play this weekend against Minnesota State, which of course means the Fighting Sioux will play one forward short.
  • After being dealt to the Tampa Bay Lightning on the NHL's Deadline Day, former Sioux defensemen Mike Commodore and Brian Lee were excited to make their Lightning debuts, and they were able to do just that Tuesday night against Montreal. They were paired together during even strength situations, and they were both regulars on the penalty kill. They both had very solid games for their new team and Lee delivered what was probably the hit of the game:
  • For Lee, the trade to Ottawa might provide a fresh start that will enable him to spark his career, while for Commodore it is perhaps a bittersweet move after he quickly became a fan favorite in Detroit despite his abbreviated stay. Commodore, by the way, tweeted his appreciation of the aforementioned article.
  • Matt Frattin was apparently the target of a number of trade inquiries leading up to the deadline, but Toronto GM Brian Burke is too high on Frattin to trade him (towards the bottom of the article).
  • In an injury update, Jonathan Toews is said to be progressing in his recovery from an upper-body injury that is unofficially suspected of being a concussion. He will not travel with the team to begin their next roadie, but it is possible that he could join the team at some point on the trip. Toews is also mentioned in a Rogers Sportsnet article covering the increase in the number of Winnipeggers playing for the WHL's Tr-City Americans, the team that once held Toews' CHL rights.
  • Phoenix Coyote head coach Dave Tippett currently has 397 career wins as a NHL head coach. When he reaches the 400 win mark, he will become just the 28th coach in league history to do so.
  • The Fargo Force will be holding their first-ever Skills Challenge this weekend. Sioux recruit Bryn Chyzyk will lead Team Chyzyk while fellow recruit Zane Gothberg will compete for Team Farley. The Skills Challenge will take place at 4:00 PM Sunday afternoon at Fargo's Scheels Arena.