Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Recruit Profile: Rhett Gardner

Current Team:  Okotoks Oilers (AJHL)
Potential Arrival at UND:  2015
Position:  Forward
Birthday:  February 28, 1996
Hometown:  Moose Jaw, SK
Height:  6'2"
Weight:  180
Shoots:  Left

Profiles & Press Clippings:
  • He will play for the Okotoks Oilers of the AJHL.
  • In September he was listed as a C skater on the NHL Central Scouting Service's Preliminary Watchlist for the 2014 NHL Draft. 
  • Serving as captain for the Moose Jaw Generals of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League, he recorded 48 points (27G, 21A) in 35 games and one goal in two playoff games. He led the team in goals and points per game (1.4) on his way to earning the Generals' Team MVP and Top Forward award, and he also appeared in one game for the USHL's Green Bay Gamblers.
  • Participated in the 2013 World Under-17 Challenge as a member of Canada West. In five tournament games he produced two goals.
  • Playing for the Moose Jaw Generals (SMAAAHL), he produced 30 points (19G, 11A) in 41 regular season games and six points (4G, 2A) in nine postseason games. 
  • Represented Team Saskatchewan at the 2011 Western Canada Challenge Cup, notching one goal during the tournament.
  • He played in 10 regular season games for the Moose Jaw Generals (SMAAAHL), notching two goals and three assists. He also appeared in two postseason contests.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Favorite Sioux-Gopher Memories - Repost

I posted this last January prior to Minnesota's last visit to Grand Forks as WCHA rivals. As we near their last ever regular season series as WCHA foes, I figured a repost was in order:

The greatest rivalry in all of college hockey is about to be renewed tonight, and that begs the question, what is your favorite Sioux-Gopher memory? Countless memories, both joyous and heartbreaking, come to mind when trying to pick a rivalry-defining moment. But after a great deal of reflection, I've settled on my top three:

#3: February 15, 1998 - The Comeback:

"They just turned it up. They got their 'A' game back and kicked our butts."
                                                                         - Minnesota coach Doug Woog

After having lost the night before, Minnesota was looking to salvage a split in a rare Sunday game at Old Engelstad Arena. The Sioux came out flat, a rare occasion considering they had outscored their opponents 86-38 while having won 14 of their previous 15 contests. The defending national champions, led by 1998 WCHA Player of the Year Curtis Murphy and fellow All-Americans Jason Blake & Karl Goehring, fell behind 3-0 in the first period and there was little to suggest that the Sioux would be able to mount any sort of comeback against goaltender Steve DeBus and the Gophers.

Then, Murphy's power play goal just under 7:00 into the third period ignited both the team and the crowd, and less than eight minutes later the Engelstad Arena crowd was in a delirious frenzy after goals by Blake and Jeff and Jay Panzer gave the Sioux a 4-3 lead. The five-goal third period was capped with an empty netter, and Minnesota was forced to head back home without a point.

If memory serves, I believe that was the game that gave birth to "Welcome to the Jungle" as the unofficial "get off your tail and make some noise" song, and at one point, the crowd was so fired up that the noise caused Midwest Sports Channel's cameras to shake during the broadcast. To this day I have never heard a Fighting Sioux crowd as loud as it was that day.

 #2: March 17 & 25, 2007 - Reversal of Fortune:

“I just took a whack at it. I couldn’t believe when the crowd started going crazy. I didn’t see it go in.”
                                                                                                           - Minnesota forward Blake Wheeler

After winning the WCHA regular season title, Minnesota entered the 2007 WCHA Final Five Championship game looking to avenge the home sweep North Dakota had served up earlier that season. Minnesota was the #2 ranked team in the nation, and the red hot Sioux were ranked #7 after a second-half surge that had seen them go 15-2-4.

A scoreless first period was followed by a second period that saw Minnesota take a 2-1 lead. After Ryan Duncan tied the game for the Sioux early in the third, both teams went scoreless until this happened:

Wheeler's lunging swipe propelled Minnesota to the top overall seed in the NCAA tournament, where they were placed in the West Regional along with their favorite neighbor, North Dakota. After each team did its part by winning their first round game, a rematch of the previous week's Final Five championship would decide which team would get to punch its ticket for St. Louis and the Frozen Four.

"Nobody likes to lose the WCHA championship game and it kind of stuck with us all week."
                                                                                           - North Dakota forward Chris Porter

Each team scored in the first period, and after a scoreless second period North Dakota took a 2-1 lead early in the third on a Robbie Bina power play goal. The Sioux held the tenuous one-goal lead for over ten minutes, until a power play goal by Jay Barriball evened the score. Neither team scored the rest of the way, setting up overtime drama for the second time in just 8 days. North Dakota was applying good pressure in the extra session, and they started planning for St. Louis because of this:

Perhaps the most memorable aspect of these two games was their proximity not only on the calendar, but within the games themselves. In more than 133 minutes of action, neither team was able to enjoy more than a one goal cushion, leading to some very dramatic and intense play.

#1: February 2 & 3, 1996 - Giant Killers:

"The only time that game was close was when the referee dropped the opening puck."
                                                                                         - Minnesota coach Doug Woog

My number one memory of the Sioux-Gopher rivalry comes from the first weekend I'd ever seen the two teams play in person. Top-ranked Minnesota came into Engelstad Arena a confident bunch, having won 12 straight and going unbeaten in their last 20. Led by eventual Hobey Baker Award winner Brian Bonin, Minnesota looked to deliver a knockout punch to a North Dakota team that had scored just eight goals while staggering through a four game losing streak. Furthermore, the Gophers had not given up a goal in over 192 minutes.

Well, it didn't take another four games to score eight goals, as North Dakota came out with guns blazing. When Billy Trew scored halfway into Friday's 1st period, the offensive barrage was on and didn't let up until the Sioux had the sweep. By the time the dust settled the Fighting Sioux had lit the lamp 15 times via 8-2 (Friday) and 7-5 (Saturday) victories. The sweep not only ended the Gophers' impressive unbeaten streak, but it marked the beginning of a tailspin that saw them lose six of eight games.

Those are my favorites. What are yours?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Golden Boys: Team USA, Grimaldi Come Up Big

Team USA struck gold this morning at the 2013 World Junior Championship, defeating Sweden 3-1 in the gold medal game in Ufa, Russia. This is the third gold medal USA Hockey has earned at the WJC, and the second in the last four years. Team USA displayed strong defensive play and superb goaltending throughout the tournament, and they were able to break out offensively when it mattered most. Following back-to-back disappointing defeats to Russia and Canada in which they scored a combined two goals, Team USA peppered Slovakia with nine goals in a must-win preliminary round game. They then proceeded to defeat the Czech Republic 7-0 and Canada 5-1 to advance to today's championship game.

North Dakota forward Rocco Grimaldi was instrumental in today's golden victory, scoring two goals and buzzing all over the ice on virtually every shift in being named Team USA's Best Player of the Game. After being benched during preliminary round action for what the coaching staff deemed as selfish play, Grimaldi was a dynamo during medal round action as he was involved in the game-winning goals in both the semifinals and the finals. Over the course of the tournament, Grimaldi recorded two goals and two assists in the six games during which he appeared. He became the 12th University of North Dakota player to earn a gold medal at the WJC, and the 19th medalist overall.

Here is a sampling of video clips highlighting a few of Grimaldi's contributions to Team USA's triumphant excursion to Ufa:

Assist on Jake McCabe's Game-Winning Goal in the Semifinals:

Slick Drop Pass in the Slot For McCabe:

Ties the Gold Medal Game at One With a Sneaky Wrister:

Scores the Gold Medal Game-Winner Off a Deflection:

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Wednesday Evening Post

  • Team USA and Rocco Grimaldi have advanced to the semifinal round of the World Junior Championship where they will take on Canada at 3:00 CST Thursday morning for the right to play for WJC gold. Sweden and Russia will play in Thursday's second semifinal matchup. Grimaldi, who was benched for Monday's preliminary round game against Slovakia, returned to action this morning in the quarterfinal game against the Czech Republic and it will be interesting to see what role he plays in the big rematch with Canada. His combination of speed and puck skill is as good as anyone playing in this tournament, making him an instant offensive threat that could be a difference maker in a big game. 
  • The Team USA U-17 team rolled through World Under-17 Challenge preliminary play, going 4-0 while outscoring its opponents 23-11. UND recruit Chris Wilkie is tied for fourth in tournament scoring with seven points (1G, 6A), and his six assists are tied for the tournament lead. Fellow recruit Austin Poganski scored a pair of goals in prelim play, but his level of play is not reflected in his stat line. His strong play has earned him increased ice time as the tournament has progressed, and he is now seeing time on the second powerplay unit. Team USA will take on Russia tomorrow evening at 6:30 CST in the semifinal round, with the medal games scheduled for Friday. All tournament games can be streamed live and free via FastHockey.
  • Both Team USA and Team Canada rolled through preliminary round play at the Under-18 Women's World Championship. Team USA, featuring North Dakota recruits Amy Menke, Gracen Hirschy, and Alexis Shaw, went 3-0 during the preliminary round and outscored its opponents 25-0. Canada, with recruit Halli Krzyzaniak, also went 3-0, and they outscored their opposition 15-1. Krzyzaniak, a defenseman, is Canada's leading point producer and she is tied for fourth in tournament scoring with six points (2G, 4A) while Menke is tied for 11th with four points (2G, 2A). Hirschy has recorded two assists while Shaw posted a shutout in her one appearance thus far. Team USA next takes to the ice in a semifinal tilt with the Czech Republic Friday, while Canada will face Sweden in Friday's other semifinal. The gold medal game will take place Saturday, and anything outside of a USA-Canada final would be a major, major surprise. For realtime stats and a full schedule, checkout the official tournament website.
  • Former Sioux defenseman Travis Roche and Team Canada defeated Davos (Switzerland) to win the 2012 Spengler Cup. Roche recorded two assists during Canada's four tournament games.
  • Andy Johnson of Bucky's Fifth Quarter issued his WCHA First Half Awards, and his Player of the Year is UND centerman Corban Knight. Danny Kristo, Derek Forbort, Clarke Saunders, and Rocco Grimaldi also received recognition.
  • Brock Nelson of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL) is expected to miss the next two weeks after suffering a broken jaw.
  • The second annual USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game is scheduled to take place January 23 in Muskegon, Michigan, and a trio of North Dakota recruits received invitations today. Luke Johnson (Lincoln) will take part for the second consecutive season, and he will be joined by Luke Voltin (Des Moines) and Tucker Poolman (Omaha).
  • Recruit Nick Schmaltz sent 2012 out in style by notching a hat trick in Green Bay's (USHL) 6-5 (OT) win over Muskegon on New Year's Eve. He completed the hatty by scoring the overtime game-winner.