Monday, October 31, 2011

Week 4 Recap (Part 1): Sioux Split

Following their first road trip of the season North Dakota returned home to Engelstad Arena for a weekend pair with St. Cloud State, and the Sioux wound up with a split as SCSU rode a red-hot goaltender to a 4-0 victory Friday night and North Dakota produced its best defensive performance of the season to earn a 3-1 win on Saturday.
  • Friday night saw North Dakota throw everything including the kitchen sink at Husky freshman goaltender Ryan Faragher, but he turned away each of the 44 shots he faced in place of the injured Mike Lee. It was the second consecutive game that saw UND offensively dominate yet come away without a conference point. As I was walking away from the Kohl Center following the Saturday night loss to Wisconsin I commented that I'd take that type of offensive performance every game because the Sioux would win 90% of those games. Apparently the hockey gods decided to test (and quickly debunk) my theory the very next game.
  • The Sioux outshot SCSU 39-16 through two periods, and though SCSU led 1-0 it certainly felt like the second goal of the game was going to be the dagger. And it was. When the Huskies scored less than three minutes into the third, the arena and everything in it not draped in red & black seemed to instantly deflate. The building was ready to erupt with a NoDak goal, but that energy was sapped when they fell behind 2-0.
  • As alluded to earlier, Husky goaltender Ryan Faragher was sensational Friday night. Saturday at Wisconsin Joel Rumpel played a great game that was aided quite a bit by his defense. Faragher's performance, on the other hand, was a case where a goaltender virtually stole a game all on his own as SCSU saddled him with a lot of shorthanded minutes and he responded beautifully.
  • Defensive responsibility was much improved this weekend. The forwards did a much better job at getting back defensively and occupying SCSU in transition. One play that really comes to mind was an odd-man chance in the second period of Saturday's game. Mike Parks was leading the Sioux rush, and when SCSU was able to successfully defend and turn the play up-ice, Parks (who ended up behind the net) was the first forward back and helped break up a Husky chance.
  • As it turns out, a doubtful Rocco Grimaldi is pretty dang good. He ended up with one assist on the weekend, and he's one of the rare, electric players that leaves you holding your breath whenever he possesses the puck. When he's fully healthy, watch out.
  • Saturday night, there were a few cases where the team seemed to have some trouble passing out of the defensive zone, and the third line (MacMillan-Grimaldi-Gleason) got stuck on a couple extended shifts as a result. 
  • The goaltending of Aaron Dell was solid and he's showing signs of returning to his sophomore form. However, I sit on the end that the visitors attack twice and at times it seemed as though he might've been struggling with tracking the puck.
  • Look for Grimaldi to start seeing some time on the penalty kill as he works his way back into full health and game shape. He has a solid reputation of being a forechecking nuisance/point hound on the PK.
  • I really liked the second line on Saturday night. Lamoureux-Rowney-Rodwell went up against the LeBlanc line much of the night and did a great job defensively.
The weekly recap of former Sioux in the pros and Sioux recruits, along with a few other items, will be on the docket for tomorrow. The steady stream of trick-or-treaters severely cut into the writing time tonight.  

Friday, October 28, 2011

Fighting Sioux vs. St. Cloud State Notes & Links

North Dakota vs. St. Cloud State - Series Notes & Links:
  • Gametime: Friday 7:37 CDT/Saturday 7:07 CDT
  • The games will be broadcast on a variety of media outlets across the region. As always, here's the standard broadcast information.
  • Series notes in PDF: North Dakota and St. Cloud State
  • There are some family ties being renewed this weekend. Mark MacMillan will be playing against his big brother Mitch, a Husky sophomore. The St. Cloud Times has a take on the MacMillans, as does The Dakota Student. Meanwhile, Brock Nelson and Jordy Christian, a Husky senior, are cousins. Jordy's father, Ed, played for North Dakota from 1980-84.
  • Rocco Grimaldi's status for the weekend is doubtful, while fellow freshman Brendan O'Donnell will not be available. Both players have lower body injuries. 
  • The Fighting Sioux received word today that the NCAA has ruled Colten St. Clair ineligible to play this season. No specifics have been released as to why he did not make it through the NCAA Clearinghouse, but there have been rumblings that there is some online coursework that has come under scrutiny.
  • Due to injury St. Cloud State's junior goaltender Mike Lee did not make the trip with the team this weekend. The Huskies will likely rely on freshman goaltender Ryan Faragher in net. Faragher spent the last two seasons playing just down I-94 West for the NAHL's Bismarck Bobcats.
  • Danny Kristo is becoming a complete player as the team's top offensive threat. He was also named 2nd Star by Habs Future for his play last weekend at Wisconsin.
  • St. Cloud State senior forward Drew LeBlanc is approaching 100 career points. Let's hope it doesn't happen this weekend.
  • This is the first series of the season in which the Fighting Sioux will face a future NCHC foe.
  • GF Herald's Ice Time
  • USCHO's This Week in the WCHA
  • USCHO's Weekend Picks 
  • INCH's This Week in the WCHA

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Jordan Schmaltz & Windsor, World Junior A Challenge, Schneekloth Video

The Windsor Star recently published an article outlining the Windsor Spitfire's unabashed public recruitment of Fighting Sioux defense recruit and potential 2012 NHL first round pick Jordan Schmaltz (Sioux City-USHL). Comments from the Windsor front office insinuated that the Canadian major junior system is a better development avenue for elite talents such as Schmaltz and that Schmaltz needs to further explore his options.

It's understood that it is very much in Windsor's best business interests to do all that they can to lure a prospect they took a flyer on in the OHL draft (a seventh round pick who at the time was deemed unlikely to go to the CHL) to make the unexpected jump to Canada. But when do ethics enter into the process? Apparently they do not. Because college hockey recruits do not typically sign their National Letters of Intent until they are about to arrive on campus, university staff is hogtied in regard to commenting on such transgressions, while CHL execs are free to spew forth their NCAA-bashing rhetoric. Numerous NCAA member schools have tremendous track records of producing top-end NHL talent, but due to bureaucratic limitations, institutions are unable to specifically defend their interests.

College Hockey Inc's Paul Kelly issued a rebuttal via a radio interview with Sportsnet 590 the Fan, which is analyzed by Buzzing the Net, and he has defended the ability of institutions such as North Dakota to produce elite NHL talent. But he is absolutely powerless to prevent Windsor from making continuous overtures to Schmaltz throughout the pre and post-draft processes. Schmaltz, meanwhile, remains firm in his commitment to North Dakota, a commitment that is strengthened by his family's NoDak roots, and Kelly states that he would be "stunned" if Schmaltz forgos his scholarship in lieu of the Windsor opportunity. My hunch, like that of Chris Peters at the United States of Hockey, is that Schmaltz will spurn the recruitment efforts of Windsor and attend North Dakota. If he were to jump to the CHL, the time to do it would have been this fall in order to help boost his draft stock, particularly after the rookie breakout season he provided last year as a first team All-USHL defenseman.

However, no matter what any of us think, Windsor has definitely drawn the line in the sand: the recruitment (retention?) battle is on.

Speaking of Jordan Schmaltz, he and fellow Sioux goaltending recruit Zane Gothberg (Fargo Force-USHL) have been named to Team USA's World Junior A Challenge roster. Both Schmaltz and Gothberg were on the 2010 gold medal winning team, and they will be looking to help Team USA defend their gold November 7-13 in Langley, BC. Last year's gold medal team posted an unblemished 5-0 record while outscoring their opponents 27-10.

The Colorado Eagles (ECHL) have a host of former Sioux currently on their roster, and defenseman Aaron Schneekloth was recently featured as part of their Player Profile series:

Monday, October 24, 2011

Week 3 Recap: Sioux Drop Two While Future & Former Sioux Have Big Weeks

The Fighting Sioux hit the road for the first time this season and found Madison to be a less than hospitable place. North Dakota dropped Friday night's WCHA opener against Wisconsin 5-3, and while they rebounded with a strong offensive showing Saturday, the Badgers completed the sweep by pulling out a 5-4 victory. Here's the recap:
  • Costly mistakes were the name of the game Friday night. Sometimes you are able to get away with mistakes, but that certainly was not the case Friday as the Badgers proved to be quite the  opportunistic bunch. Untimely penalties led to a pair of 5-on-3 opportunities for the Badgers, while a bad turnover at the Sioux blueline, an unprotected goal mouth, and a lost one-on-one battle on the wing all directly led to goals for Wisconsin. 
  • Saturday's contest was dominated offensively by the Sioux in virtually every category except the one that matters most: goals scored. The North Dakota offense peppered Wisconsin all night, generating a number of quality scoring opportunities throughout the game. The Badgers, meanwhile, countered by plugging up the ice between the faceoff dots, blocking shots, deflecting passes, and minimizing rebound opportunities. Combine that with a very well-played game by freshman goalie Joel Rumpel and Wisconsin came away with an early season sweep.
  • The goaltending probably wasn't as bad as the scores would indicate, as there were a number of critical mistakes in front of the Sioux netminders that provided Wisconsin with most of its prime scoring opportunities. However, in order to be a MacNaughton Cup contending team the Sioux need Aaron Dell and Brad Eidsness to settle into the season and provide the consistently solid goaltending we've seen each of them deliver in the past.
  • The play in the defensive zone, particularly defensive awareness and responsibility, was inconsistent from both the defensemen and the forwards. Players left unattended down low and unoccupied in transition led to several Badger goals this weekend.
  • Offensively, the Sioux carried the play for significant stretches this weekend and generated a host of quality scoring chances. The offensive performance becomes even more impressive considering that two of their top nine forwards were out with injuries (Rocco Grimaldi and Brendan O'Donnell) and two-thirds of the fourth line consisted of defensmen (Joe Gleason and Dan Senkbeil) forced to play up front. 
  • Danny Kristo was the best player on the ice all weekend, while Nick Mattson and Ben Blood did a nice job of jumping up from the blueline to generate offensive chances.
  • Among the freshmen, Mattson, Mark MacMillan (who got his first collegiate goal Friday) and Mike Parks continue to look the most comfortable, while Dan Senkbeil played with a lot of jump Saturday in what was just his second career game.
  • Having both Mattson and Kristo on the top power play unit is a big advantage due to their abilities to skate the puck into the zone. They were consistently able to get the power play setup quickly without having to dump and chase.
  • So, what does all this mean? It seems odd to say after getting swept, but I am now even more confident that this team will evolve into a legitimate Frozen Four contender.Why? Because while I completely expect the goaltending situation to solidify and the defensive zone sloppiness to be cleaned up, I think the offense is going to come together sooner than originally expected, particularly once Grimaldi and O'Donnell are able to return to action. 
  • This weekend the Sioux (2-3-1) return to Ralph Engelstad Arena to take on St. Cloud State (2-3-1) in what will be the WCHA opener for the Huskies.
  • North Dakota is now ranked #12 in the USCHO poll and #13 in the USA Today/USA Hockey poll.
Sioux in the Pros:
  • Jason Gregoire scored his first career professional goal Friday night and followed up Saturday with a two assist performance as the St. John's IceCaps (AHL) split their weekend pair with Bridgeport.
  • Derrick LaPoint has signed a professional tryout contract with the Syracuse Crunch (AHL). He registered one assist in one game with the Reading Royals (ECHL) prior to making his Crunch debut Sunday.
  • Corey Fienhage scored his first professional goal Friday night in Gwinnett's (ECHL) 6-1 blowout of Greenville. Brad Miller also scored for Gwinnett Friday night, and both Miller and Fienhage notched assists in Saturday's loss to Greenville.
  • Jonathan Toews had four points (3G, 1A) in three games last week for the Chicago Blackhawks.
  • A strong start with Portland (AHL) resulted in 2011 Hobey Baker Award winner Andy Miele being called up by the Phoenix Coyotes last week, and he gave some of the credit to his early season success to his Pirate linemates, Ryan Duncan and Brett Hextall.
  • Matt Greene earned the LA Kings "Ice Pack Award" Thursday night after leading the team with six blocked shots during their 2-0 victory over Phoenix. Greene also had an assist and the Kings and goaltender Jonathan Quick have now posted three consecutive shutouts.
Sioux Recruits:
  • Luke Johnson continued the strong start to his USHL career by notching three assists as the Lincoln Stars split a pair of weekend games. The youngest member of the Stars leads the team in scoring with eight points (1G-7A) and he has at least one point in each of the team's six games.
  • Keaton Thompson scored a pair of power play goals in the USNTDP U-17 team's victory over Youngstown Saturday.

    Friday, October 21, 2011

    Fighting Sioux vs. Wisconsin Links, Bochenski on Team USA

    North Dakota vs. Wisconsin - Series Notes & Links
    Other Sioux News:
    • Joe Finley is off to a solid start for the AHL's Rochester Americans. Here's some brief commentary on his play after they defeated the Syracuse Crunch earlier this week: 
    Finley was terrific, really. He faced some speed and it was no problem. For 6-foot-8, he really didn’t get beat wide. Plus, he plays mean. He doesn’t just clear the front of the net, either. “He keeps everyone pretty much out of the zone, he’s so big,” (Americans goaltender David) Leggio said.
    • Yesterday Brandon Bochenski was named to the Team USA roster for the Deutschland Cup, which takes place Nov 11-13 in Munich, Germany. Bochenski has spent the past two season playing for Barys Astana in the Kontinental Hockey League (Russia), where he has produced 53 points (23G, 30A) in 48 games. He has 68 points (28G, 40A) in 156 career NHL games, where he last played in 2009-10 with Tampa Bay.
    • 2011 Hobey Baker Award winner Andy Miele credited his linemates Brett Hextall and Ryan Duncan for helping him get off to such a strong start for the AHL's Portland Pirates. The start was so solid that this morning the Phoenix Coyotes called Miele up to the NHL.

    Thursday, October 20, 2011

    Recruit Rankings & Ryan Duncan, Matt Frattin Have Big Days

    Inside College Hockey has released its annual recruiting class rankings, and the Fighting Sioux freshman are regarded as the second best group in the nation. Rocco Grimaldi, Nick Mattson, and Mark MacMillan are also included in the individual rankings. Check them out:
    Top 15 Freshman Classes
    Top 20 Forwards
    Top 20 Defensemen
    Top 10 Goaltenders

    In terms of the 2012 Fighting Sioux recruiting class, Jordan Schmaltz is considered one of Kevin Allen's Top 5 US-born prospects for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, while fellow recruit and current USNTDP Under-18 team leading scorer Stefan Matteau was a Tuesday guest on The Pipeline Show. The link to the interview can be found here, and the Matteau interview begins about five minutes into the clip.

    Wednesday was a quiet day in terms of NHL and AHL action with just one game scheduled in each league, but some former Sioux had big nights. In the AHL, Ryan Duncan had a goal and two assists and Brett Hextall added an assist to help Portland defeat Manchester 5-3. Duncan (2G, 3A), Hextall (1G, 3A), and Matt Watkins (1G, 1A) are all among Portland's leading scorers through the first four games of the season, and Duncan (+1) and Hextall (+2) are two of only four Pirates on the positive side of the Plus/Minus ledger.

    In the NHL, Matt Frattin scored the shootout winning goal as the Toronto Maple Leafs edged the Winnipeg Jets. Below are videos of Frattin scoring the goal and discussing it afterwards:


    Tuesday, October 18, 2011

    UND To Play Outdoor Hockey? Pro Sioux News, Etc.

    A rumor had been floating around the past couple weeks concerning Nebraska-Omaha potentially hosting North Dakota in an outdoor hockey game sometime during the 2012-13 season, but details were pretty sketchy. Today, Nebraska-Omaha head coach Dean Blais was on Omaha's 1620 The Zone and he confirmed that UNO is indeed trying to make it happen and that North Dakota would be the opponent, mentioning Feb 8 or 9 as the potential date. The USHL's Omaha Lancers would also host their in-state rival Lincoln Stars, coached by former Sioux Chad Johnson. The Stars, barring any unforeseen transactions, should also have Sioux recruit Luke Johnson on their roster. The outdoor games would take place at Omaha's brand new baseball field, TD Ameritrade Park (the new home to baseball's College World Series) and would be part of what Blais called Hockey Week in Omaha.

    When asked if the rumors were realistic talk, Blais laughed and said UNO Athletic Director Trev Alberts "told me to shut my big mouth about this. But I think so, yeah." Blais finished the discussion by saying, "Omaha's a big event city, and this would certainly be a big event, playing North Dakota outside."

    Hopefully all those involved will be able to make this happen. It really has the potential to be a showcase event for an area of the country that isn't considered a traditional hockey hotbed.

    You can check out the audio for yourself at 1620 The Zone. It's Oct 18, Seg 10, and they begin discussing the outdoor event at about the 12:40 mark. Thanks to the folks at for spreading the word on this.

    In other Sioux hockey news:
    • Toronto Maple Leaf Matt Frattin has yet to register a point in four games this season, but that doesn't mean his solid play has gone unnoticed. In fact, Maple Leaf head coach Ron Wilson bumped Frattin up from the third to second line in order to help the second unit generate more offensive chances. And Wilson says he won't hesitate to do it again, considering Frattin has probably created the most scoring chances on the team outside of Phil Kessel. Here's a Frattin interview following today's Maple Leaf practice: 

    • Former Sioux and current Phoenix head coach Dave Tippett is confident his Coyotes will continue their early season success.
    • Due to some early season injuries, TJ Oshie and the St. Louis Blues have been forced to make some adjustments to their lineup.
    • It's been nearly a year since Denver University's Jesse Martin was critically injured while taking on North Dakota at Ralph Engelstad Arena. The Denver Post recently published a three-part series detailing Martin's recovery: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
    • And finally, I had heard several people expressing concern early this season as to the whereabouts of the Ralph's Beer Grandma. Through five home games, she hadn't made an appearance on the big screen and there was concern for her health. Well, today we found out just why we haven't seen her offer up a cheers this season. Evidently it's because she has turned the University of North Dakota into a binge drinking party school.

    Monday, October 17, 2011

    Week 2 Recap

    Here's my Week 2 Recap of Fighting Sioux men's hockey:

    North Dakota vs. Maine:
    The Fighting Sioux came away from their non-conference match-up with Hockey East rival Maine with a win and a tie. The Sioux were able to escape with a 3-1 victory Friday night after Maine had been the better team most of the night. Backed by stellar goalkeeping from senior Brad Eidsness the Sioux were able to survive a slow start and a 1-0 deficit to earn the victory. Saturday also saw the Sioux fall behind early as the Black Bears went up 2-0 early in the second period, but North Dakota battled back and eventually settled for a 3-3 tie. Here are my thoughts on the Sioux-Maine weekend:
    • Coming into the season, most assumed the backend would be the strength of this team, enabling a young roster to endure some growing pains as it navigates through the early portion of its schedule. That was very much the case Friday night when Brad Eidsness turned back 24 of 25 shots through the first two periods to keep the Sioux in the game despite a very slow start. He was rock solid all night, playing a great positional game, smothering shots and severely limiting opportunistic rebounds. Aaron Dell also had a strong start in net Saturday to help the team earn a tie.
    • The defense, while still not playing at the level I think most of us expected, was much better this weekend. Sticks were more active, the shot blocking was better, and they did a much better job of occupying the Black Bears around the goal. 
    • Andrew MacWilliam could very well be dubbed The Eraser. Anytime he's physically engaged in a one-on-one play, his strength and brute force almost always render his counterpart irrelevant. This is true both defensively and when he has the puck. And man, can he lay the wood when it comes to checking.
    • Danny Kristo was an absolute blast to watch this weekend. His skating and stickhandling were scintillating, and he and Nick Mattson were outstanding on the point for the top power play unit. Not to be overlooked is the immense progress he's made defensively. He was very effective in using his speed and quickness to take away time and space. He's very quickly becoming a dominant player.
    • Brock Nelson didn't fill up the stat sheet, but all weekend he was making great hockey plays that sometimes go unappreciated but often affect game outcomes.
    • Corban Knight was ridiculous at the dots, winning 16 of 22 faceoffs Friday and 21 of 26 Saturday. How significant was Knight on the draw? Maine won 56% of the faceoffs Knight didn't take, but only 23% of those he did. That's crucial in terms of puck possession.
    • Nick Mattson and Michael Parks were the most consistent freshman. Mattson is playing with a lot of confidence and there is no doubt he's going to be a difference maker all season. Parks continues to impress me with his motor and speed. He's always buzzing out there, usually making good things happen. Mark MacMillan also seems to be finding a bit of a comfort zone as he's been looking stronger and stronger as the young season has progressed.
    • Freshman Rocco Grimaldi was out of the lineup both games. Hopefully the extra weekend will allow him to be ready to roll this coming weekend when the Sioux open conference play at Wisconsin. Colten St. Clair has yet to receive the go-ahead from the NCAA Clearinghouse.
    • The Sioux moved up a spot to #5 in the USCHO poll and held steady at #6 in the USA Today/USA Hockey poll. 
    Sioux in the Pros:
    • The Portland Pirates lost once in regulation and once in a shootout, but all three former Sioux on their roster registered a point this weekend. Brett Hextall notched an assist in Saturday's loss to Manchester, while Ryan Duncan and Matt Watkins each scored a goal in yesterday's shoot out loss in Providence.
    • On Friday night the Colorado Eagles won their first regular season game as a member of the ECHL, with Michael Forney leading the way with a goal and an assist. Aaron Schneekloth assisted on the only goal as the Eagles dropped the Saturday portion of the back-to-back. Jake Marto played in both games but did not register any points.
    • Chris Vande Velde had a goal and two assists in Oklahoma City's 10-1 victory over the Texas Stars.
    • Anaheim Duck Jason Blake suffered a lacerated tendon Friday night against the San Jose Sharks. He is expected to be out of the line-up for three months.
    • Detroit Red Wing Mike Commodore took part in his first regular season practice today, and while he's hoping to be available by Friday, he and the Wings staff are taking the patient approach.
    • Drew Stafford has picked up where he left off last season. He is tied for the team lead in goals (3) and has four points in four games for the Buffalo Sabres. Watch him snipe the game winner from the faceoff circle during last Friday's victory over Pittsburgh, with one of the best play-by-play guys of all time Rick Jeannerete on the call:

    Sioux Recruits:
    • Luke Johnson had an assist in Lincoln's 4-1 victory over Sioux City Saturday. Johnson has now registered at least one point in all four of Lincoln's games, and he is tied for the team lead in points (5) with one goal and four assists.
    • Both the USNTDP Under-17 & Under-18 teams are led in scoring by Sioux recruits. Luke Voltin is tied for the U-17 team lead (7 points) with three goals and four assists in eight games, while Stefan Matteau leads the U-18ers (6 points) with two goals and four assists in nine games. Voltin scored the only goal for the U-17ers in their 4-1 loss to Indiana (USHL) Saturday night. Matteau scored a goal and Miles Koules had an assist in the U-18ers 2-1 victory over Vermont (NCAA). Koules continued his breakthrough weekend by recording a goal and an assist in Saturday's 2-0 victory over Plattsburgh State (NCAA Div. III).
    • I asked Chris Peters of the outstanding United States of Hockey blog about the USNTDP's Sioux recruits, and here's what he had to offer: "I haven’t seen Matteau play this year, yet, but I did speak to someone at the NTDP who said he looks vastly improved this season. Apparently Matteau put in some serious work over the summer and has come back in terrific shape for this season. That could be a big factor in his improvement. I haven’t seen Thompson or Koules yet this season either, but Thompson got some fair reports from the person I talked to regarding the first U17 USHL game. With his previous USHL experience, he’ll need less time to adjust than his teammates. Koules is a very gifted offensive player and sees the ice very well. He got hurt last season, which may have slowed him down a bit, but I’d expect him to be a big factor this season for the u18s."
    • Zane Gothberg stopped 42 of 43 shots in a 1-0 Fargo Force loss to Omaha Saturday night, and Slightly Chilled detailed the meaning of his goalie mask artwork.
    Misc. News:

    Friday, October 14, 2011

    Fighting Sioux & Maine Links & Former Sioux News

    North Dakota vs. Maine - Series Notes & Links:
    Former Sioux News:
    • Matt Greene's first unofficial assist of the season? Packing advice for the King's recent European vacation.
    • A recent Brett Hextall feature also includes some old footage of his father Ron's AHL days.
    • Hextall's Portland Pirates have a lot of new talent, including fellow former Sioux Ryan Duncan and Matt Watkins.
    • Speaking of Ryan Duncan, he is the feature in the most recent Pirates Notebook.
    • Kyle Radke and the Rio Grande Killer Bees are also adjusting to a lot of new faces.
    • A trio of former Sioux are part of the Colorado Eagles move to the ECHL. The Sioux contingent is comprised of Michael Forney, Jake Marto and Aaron Schneekloth. Marto and Schneekloth have been defensive partners in the preseason, and Forney has been playing on the Eagles' top line.
    • Adam Calder is off to a sizzling start in the UK.
    • David Toews has been loaned from Rockford (AHL) to their ECHL affiliate, the Toledo Walleye. I don't know what it is, but something tells me there's something mighty fishy about that transaction...
    • David Hale has opted to retire from professional hockey. 
    • TJ Oshie and Jason Blake both made a recent list of the 15 Slickest Shootout Goals. Ya gotta love the ol' spin-o-rama.
    • In addition to the Maine series, there's a ton of action involving former and future Sioux this weekend. Look for all the highlights and summaries in the Week 2 Recap.
    • And we'll leave you with Zach Parise's shootout goal from New Jersey's victory over Los Angeles last night. His slick backhand made a goalie named Quick look anything but. Check it out:

    Through These Doors

    The media staff within UND's athletic department is producing a new series that will follow the Fighting Sioux men's hockey team throughout the season. The series, entitled Through These Doors, gets its name from a sign that hangs outside the UND locker room that reads "Through These Doors Walk Champions." The first episode, An Introduction, is available below and more info can be found on the UND athletics website. The series will also soon be available in HD on the UND athletics YouTube channel (it wasn't available in HD as of this morning though). It has an HBO Hard Knocks and 24/7 feel to it, and it's very well done. Check it out if you haven't already:

    Thursday, October 13, 2011

    College Hockey All-Star Team

    Due to a turbulent summer that saw several high-end players bolt on their college commitments for the CHL, the United States college versus Canadian major juniors debate came to the forefront amongst the hockey faithful. Is the CHL really the fast-track to the NHL? Will the US college system continue to lose top committed recruits to the CHL at the eleventh hour, or was this past summer simply an anomaly? My allegiance certainly lies on the side of college hockey, and though I remain a large fan of CHL hockey, I've chosen to assemble a college hockey alumni all-star team.

    I've tried to remain true to a player's natural position, though I did do a little shuffling position-wise in order to acquire some depth throughout the lineup. And then I got to thinking, if I have an all-star team, who are they going to get after it against as they prepare for the mythical match-ups against their CHL and European counterparts? The answer was clear: the college hockey alumni practice squad. So who made the cut? Check it out, and let me know your thoughts and suggestions for swapping between teams, omissions, etc.

                                                                College Hockey Alumni "Practice Squad"
    LW C RW
    James Van Riemsdyk (New Hamp.) Travis Zajac (North Dakota) TJ Oshie (North Dakota)
    Ryan Malone (St Sloud State) Mike Cammalleri (Michigan) Kyle Okposo (Minnesota)
    Erik Cole (Clarkson) Andy McDonald (Colgate) Teddy Purcell (Maine)
    David Booth (Michigan State) Derek Stepan (Wisconsin) Brian Gionta (Boston College)
    D D
    Jack Johnson (Michigan) Ryan Whitney (Boston U.)
    Matt Carle (Denver) John-Michael Liles (Michigan State)
    Paul Martin (Minnesota)  Tom Poti (Boston U.) 
    Jonathan Quick (Massachusetts)
    Jimmy Howard (Maine)

                       College Hockey Alumni All-Star Team
    LW C RW
    Zach Parise (North Dakota) Jonathan Toews (North Dakota) Martin St Louis (Vermont)
    Dany Heatley (Wisconsin) Ryan Kessler (Ohio State) David Backes (Minnesota State)
    Patrick Sharp (Vermont) Paul Stastny (Denver) Phil Kessel (Minnesota) 
    Thomas Vanek (Minnesota) Joe Pavelski (Wisconsin) Drew Stafford (North Dakota)
    D D
    Ryan Suter (Wisconsin) Duncan Keith (Michigan State)
    Kevin Bieksa (Bowling Green State) Dan Boyle (Miami-OH)
    Erik Johnson (Minnesota) Kevin Shattenkirk (Boston U.)
    Tim Thomas (Vermont)
    Ryan Miller (Michigan State) 

    Any glaring omissions? How do you think this team would fare against a CHL all-star team? How about a European squad?

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011

    Week 1 Recap

    I wasn't too sure how I was going to approach the blog posting during the season, being this is a new gig for me and all. At first I considered just posting stuff as it happened, but after additional thought I have decided to go the route of more structured weekly recaps. The recaps will feature reaction, thoughts, and opinions on the Sioux action from the previous weekend as well as highlights and summaries from the week that was for former and future Sioux. I'm getting this week's recap out well after the weekend's play came to a close, but I hope to get future recaps posted in a more timely manner, specifically by Monday night. This will be in addition to the usual articles, features, videos, and other news items I have been posting with some semblance of regularity. I will still be doing other posts in addition to the weekly recaps, and I've been pretty good (thus far) about staying on top of things in the Twitter universe (give me a follow @SiouxTradition if you'd like). So without further adieu...

    Week 1 Recap
    I haven't had an opportunity to watch the replays of either of last weekend's games, so all thoughts from the Ice Breaker are my initial reactions. Friday night saw the Sioux defeat Air Force 4-3, while on Saturday night Boston College claimed the tournament championship with a 6-2 victory over North Dakota.
    • In both games, the defensive corps really seemed to struggle, but those struggles were magnified Saturday night due to the skill level of BC. 
    • Air Force is a hardworking, skilled and smart team, but they don't have the high-end talent to capitalize on miscues the way BC was able to. Some of the turnovers and missed assignments that Air Force was unable to take advantage of on Friday turned into goals when they were presented to BC. 
    • The silver lining to all this is that a lot of the suspect play we saw this weekend is fixable and will be cleaned up. I thought North Dakota skated with BC just fine and kept up with them all night. The vaunted Eagle team speed wasn't what did the Sioux in, it was simply some sloppy play that a very good team took advantage of. 
    • Our top line, much like during the exhibition game, was clearly a cut above the rest of our combinations in terms of regularly generating offensive chances. 
    • Brock Nelson was sensational Friday night, potting two goals to go with an assist and he is noticeably stronger on his skates, both with and without the puck. Corban Knight was also very good.
    • We saw Derek Forbort score his first collegiate goal Saturday, when we also saw highly-touted freshman Rocco Grimaldi hit the ice for the first time as a Sioux. I think it's fair to assume he wasn't 100% healthy Saturday considering he wasn't healthy enough to even get into the lineup just the day before. He did show some flashes of being the dynamic top-end talent we were expecting to see, and with full health I believe we'll begin to see that talent with regularity. Rocco is also one of the Top 10 Americans to keep an eye on this season.
    • It's very important to remember that this is a very young team and it is very early in the season. They played two good teams and came away with a split without playing their best hockey. This season could be a rollercoaster ride as the youngsters and veterans alike adjust to their surroundings: the freshman need time to adjust to the college game and the veterans also need time to adjust to their new teammates. If there is one thing I'm confident in, it is that the coaching staff will have this team playing their best hockey after the Christmas break as they make another strong run down the stretch.
    • UND now sits at #6 in both the USA Today/USA Hockey and USCHO polls.
    The NHL and AHL seasons both kicked off last week, and several former Sioux got off to great starts:
    Sioux Recruits:
    • Luke Johnson had two assists for the Lincoln Stars last Friday in a 4-3 loss to Waterloo. He now has three assists two games into the young USHL season.
    • Jordan Schmaltz notched two goals and an assist over the weekend, including Saturday's one goal and one assist performance on his 18th birthday. His Sioux City Musketeers split their two weekend games, and earlier this week he was recognized as the USHL's Defensive Player of the Week. He earned Defensive Player of the Week honors on five occasions last season.
    • Luke Voltin, who is currently second in scoring on the USNTDP U-17 team with two goals and four assists in seven games, is happy his parents gave him the option to play hockey. Voltin and Schmaltz are also two of Chris Peters' early USHL standouts.
    • Stefan Matteau leads the Under-18 team in scoring through the first seven games with one goal and four assists.
    Other Info:
    • Senior goaltender Brad Eidsness is a candidate for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award.
    • Last season we saw four players reach a significant Fighting Sioux milestone as Matt Frattin, Chay Genoway, Jason Gregoire, and Evan Trupp all joined the Century Club by reaching the 100 point mark for their respective careers. Who might do it this year? Juniors Danny Kristo (64) and Corban Knight (57) are the two odds-on favorites.
    • There have been rumblings of North Dakota taking part in an outdoor game next season against Nebraska-Omaha. Thus far it all appears to be speculative in nature, but it would certainly make for a fun day of outdoor hockey should it become a reality. Nebraska-Omaha, of course, is coached by former Fighting Sioux head coach Dean Blais, who is yet another with North Dakota connections to keep an eye on this season.
    • And lastly, a very dedicated Colorado College fan has a remarkable streak going. UND staff is looking into whether Fighting Sioux hockey has had any such streaks.

      Saturday, October 8, 2011

      My Blogger/Website Preseason Poll Ballot

      Earlier this week the results of the 2nd Annual WCHA Blogger & Website Preseason Poll were released. In the interest of full disclosure, here is the way I voted:

      1 Colorado College
      2 Denver
      3 North Dakota
      4 Nebraska Omaha
      5 Minnesota-Duluth
      6 Minnesota 
      7 Wisconsin
      8 St Cloud St
      9 Alaska-Anchorage
      10 Bemidji St
      11 Minnesota St
      12 Michigan Tech

      Preseason All-WCHA Team:
      F - Jaden Schwartz, Colorado College
      F - Jason Zucker, Denver
      F - JT Brown, Minnesota-Duluth
      D - Justin Schultz, Wisconsin
      D -  Ben Blood, North Dakota
      G -  Aaron Dell, North Dakota

      Player of the Year: Jaden Schwartz, Colorado College
      Rookie of the Year: Rocco Grimaldi, North Dakota
      Defensman of the Year: Justin Schultz, Wisconsin
      Breakout Player of the Year: Brock Nelson, North Dakota

      Thursday, October 6, 2011

      Two Sioux Named NHL Captains, New Recruit, Frattin Starts For Leafs, Etc.

      Two former Fighting Sioux teammates were named NHL captains this week. Zach Parise was named captain of the New Jersey Devils, while Drew Stafford was named as an alternate captain for the Buffalo Sabres. This will be Parise's seventh NHL season, all with the Devils, while Stafford is entering his sixth season with the Sabres. They join Jonathan Toews (Chicago captain) and Matt Greene (Los Angeles alternate captain) as former Sioux serving as NHL captains.

      Parise was recently interviewed by the New York Times concerning the upcoming season, while Stafford has been busy filming workout videos. Check it out:


      Matt Frattin was on the ice when the puck dropped on the NHL regular season tonight in Toronto, starting on the Maple Leafs top line in place of the suspended Clarke MacArthur. Frattin is one of two former WCHA players to make the Leafs roster out of camp, being joined by former Wisconsin Badger defenseman Jake Gardiner. He knows making the team is just the beginning, as each game will be an audition to retain his spot on the roster. Frattin was also featured in Meet the Leafs, and give the Toronto Star credit-they'd be hard pressed to find a better picture for the feature.

      In other Sioux in the Pros news:
      • Jason Blake, whose Anaheim Ducks are in Europe as part of the 2011 NHL Premiere, is getting a little extra attention these days due to his Finnish linemates.
      • Joe Finley and Corey Fienhage recently signed with the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League. Both had been taking part in Buffalo Sabre training camp prior to being reassigned to Rochester, which is Buffalo's AHL affiliate.
      • Finley is hoping to have an injury free season for the first time in his professional career.
      • David Toews is looking to make a name for himself with the AHL's Rockford Ice Hogs. (The article is from last week, but as of tonight, Toews was still on the Rockford roster)
      • Jake Marto and Michael Forney were both recently released from St John's Ice Caps (AHL) training camp, meaning they'll likely be starting the season with the ECHL's Colorado Eagles. The Eagles also feature former Sioux Aaron Schneekloth. Forney was recently featured as part of The Illegal Curve's Prospect Pulse.

      The Sioux received a commitment today from Calgary native and Vernon Viper (BCHL) defenseman Geoff Crisfield. Crisfield, who this fall took part in Team Canada West's World Junior A Challenge evaluation camp, is expected to arrive at UND in the fall of 2013. Through five games with the Vipers this season the 6'1" 200 pound blueliner has one assist and seventeen penalty minutes. Looking at his statistics, he isn't afraid to mix it up, having earned 182 PIM in 40 games last season.
      Crisfield's Viper Profile & Season Stats
      Crisfield's Elite Prospect Profile


      The college hockey regular season commences tomorrow, and the Fighting Sioux will be hosting the annual Ice Breaker Tournament at Ralph Engelstad Arena. Friday will feature Boston College taking on Michigan State, while North Dakota will face Air Force. The Ice Breaker will be played under a four-team tournament format, with the losing and winning teams from Friday's games facing off against their counterparts on Saturday. Game times each day are slated for 4:07 and 7:37 CDT. The Fighting Sioux will play the 7:37 games each night, regardless of Friday night's outcome. Below are links from each competing team's respective athletic departments:

      North Dakota Fighting Sioux
      Michigan State Spartans
      Air Force Falcons
      Boston College Eagles
      Broadcast Information

      Monday, October 3, 2011

      2nd Annual WCHA Blogger & Website Preseason Poll

      The ballots have been returned and the votes have been tallied for the 2nd Annual WCHA Blogger & Website Preseason Poll. 17 ballots were returned, including representatives from eight of the twelve conference programs. At least one representative from every school was contacted, but as the saying goes, you can send the voters their ballots, but you can't make 'em send 'em back in. Also, not all voters cast votes in every category and this will be noted in the results. Thanks to all the voters who took the time to complete the ballot and thanks to RWD, Chuck S., and Goon for helping track down the voters, etc.

      Team (1st Place Votes) Points
      1. Denver (10) 196
      2. Colorado College (4) 179
      3. North Dakota (2) 175
      4. Nebraska-Omaha 141
      5. Minnesota-Duluth (1) 140
      6. Minnesota  124.5
      7. Wisconsin 100
      8. St. Cloud State 92
      9. Alaska-Anchorage 68.5
      10. Bemidji State 52
      11. Michigan Tech 30
      12. Minnesota State-Mankato 28

      All-Conference Team (15 Voters):
      F -  Jaden Schwartz, Colorado College
      F -  Jason Zucker, Denver
      F -  Jack Connolly, Minnesota-Duluth
      D -  Justin Schultz, Wisconsin
      D -  Ben Blood, North Dakota
      G -  Aaron Dell, North Dakota

      Player of the Year:
      Jason Zucker, Denver (9)
      Jaden Schwartz, Colorado College (8)

      Rookie of the Year:
      Rocco Grimaldi, North Dakota (14)
      Jayson Megna, Nebraska-Omaha (1)
      Joey LaLeggia, Denver (1)
      Josh Archibald, Nebraska-Omaha (1)

      Defenseman of the Year (16 Voters):
      Justin Schultz, Wisconsin (11)
      Ben Blood, North Dakota (4)
      Nick Jensen, St. Cloud State (1)

      Breakout Player of the Year (16 Voters):
      Beau Bennett, Denver (2)
      JT Brown, Minnesota-Duluth (2)
      Zach Budish, Minnesota (2)
      10 Other Players Received 1 Vote

      Again, a big thank you to everyone that took part:
      Timothy Boger, (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 (North Dakota)
      gmf1a, CC Tiger Hockey Forum (Colorado College)
      Nicole, Cute Sports (Wisconsin)
      Chuck, Bucky's 5th Quarter (Wisconsin)
      Matt, USCHO
      Jeremy, Husky Hockey Time (St. Cloud State) 
      Tim, Tech Hockey Guide (Michigan Tech)
      Jon/Bridget, (Nebraska-Omaha)
      Hammy, Gopher Hockey Blog (Minnesota)
      Nate, SB Nation Minnesota/First Round Bust (Minnesota)
      Ryan, Gopher Puck Live (Minnesota)
      Chad, A Tradition of Excellence (North Dakota)

      Sunday, October 2, 2011

      Exhibition Game, Recruit News, NHL Preseason News

      On the night the 2010-11 WCHA championship banner was raised to the Ralph Engelstad Arena rafters, the Fighting Sioux men's hockey team came out with guns blazing, defeating the University of Regina Cougars 8-1. Here are some of my observations from the game, for what they're worth:
      • Scoring came from up and down the lineup, and several freshmen made their presence felt immediately. With Rocco Grimaldi (injury) and Colten St Clair (NCAA Clearinghouse) out of the lineup, the freshman class accounted for a goal and six assists and generally looked very solid throughout the evening. It'll be interesting to see how the lines are shuffled when everyone's available to play.
      • The defense was very solid and active all night, regularly jumping into the play and tilting the ice towards the Cougar goal. Joe Gleason was very noticeable, as was freshman Nick Mattson.
      • The top line of Brock Nelson-Corban Knight-Danny Kristo looked really, really good. They dictated the action anytime they stepped onto the ice. Kristo, at times, played at a level higher than anyone else out there and Nelson easily could have had a hat trick or more as he clanged a couple off the iron in addition to the two pucks he buried. Knight is just a smart, heady player that is downright fun to watch.
      • Even though he didn't make it into the scoring column, freshman Mike Parks played with a motor that wouldn't quit. He's fast, he's a puckhound, and he was good on the backcheck.
      Next weekend the games will begin to count in the standings as North Dakota will host the 2011 Ice Breaker Tournament. The Air Force Academy, Michigan State, and Boston College will all descend upon The Ralph for what should be a tremendous weekend of college hockey.

      In Fighting Sioux recruit news:
      • Luke Johnson notched an assist in his first game with the Lincoln Stars, a USHL franchise he is plenty familiar with.
      • Keaton Thompson opened his USHL season this weekend, and had he not chose to play for the USNTDP Under-17 team, Thompson might otherwise have found himself on the gridiron. Fellow Sioux recruit and Under-17 teammate Luke Voltin  scored two goals and had an assist in two games over the weekend.
      • Jordan Schmaltz will serve as an alternate captain for the Sioux City Musketeers.
      • Stefan Matteau is off to a strong start for the USNTDP Under-18 team (the info on Matteau is about halfway down the page). Matteau, Miles Koules, and the rest of the U-18 team kick off their schedule October 3 when they take on the University of Michigan. They also travel to the University of Denver, Colorado College, and the University of Vermont before beginning USHL play.
      NHL preseason news:
      • Detroit Red Wings defenseman Mike Commodore could miss up to three weeks with a knee injury.
      • The Anaheim Ducks will be without the services of Matt Smaby for 2-3 months due to a thumb injury.
      • The Winnipeg Jets reassigned Jason Gregoire to the St Johns Ice Caps of the AHL. Former Sioux Jake Marto and Michael Forney are also at St Johns training camp.
      • Brad Malone was reassigned from the Colorado Avalanche to the AHL's Lake Erie Monsters.

      Saturday, October 1, 2011

      The Season is Upon Us

      As the season kicks off tonight with an exhibition game against the University of Regina Cougars (Broadcast Information), what are the expectations for this year's team? Six of the top seven point producers from last year's Frozen Four team have either graduated or moved on to the professional ranks, but the cupboard certainly was not left bare. A solid returning cast coupled with a large and highly regarded recruiting class should have the Fighting Sioux in contention to both repeat as conference champions and challenge for another berth in the Frozen Four.

      Earlier this week, the team announced it's 2011-12 captains, and it will be Grand Forks native Mario Lamoureux who will be wearing the C for his hometown Fighting Sioux. Considering that North Dakota is 12-0-0 in games in which Lamoureux scores a goal, if he could just do us all a favor and pot one every night the team will finish 43-0-0 and that eighth national title will be ours. Anyway, Timothy Boger of the Dakota Student calls Mario the perfect Sioux captain, and serving as alternate captains will be senior Ben Blood, junior Andrew MacWilliam, and junior Corban Knight. A few other links, including UND's season preview, can be found below:
      Here's a look at where North Dakota stands in the eyes of others as we head into the 66th year of Fighting Sioux hockey:

      National Polls & Rankings:

      Team (1st Place Votes) Points
      1 Notre Dame (11) 740
      2 Miami (12) 722
      3 North Dakota (5) 720
      4 Denver 670
      5 Boston College (2) 659
      6 Michigan 613
      7 Colorado College 594
      8 Minnesota-Duluth (10) 586
      9 Yale (1) 571
      10 Boston University (2) 542
      11 Union 382
      12 New Hampshire 368
      13 Western Michigan 362
      14 Nebraska-Omaha 288
      15 Merrimack 198
      16 Maine 190
      17 Wisconsin 129
      18 Rensselaer 121
      19 Minnesota  107
      20 Cornell 106

      USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine

      Team (1st Place Votes) Points
      1 Miami (Ohio) (15) 453
      2 Notre Dame (4) 427
      3 North Dakota (3) 373
      4 Denver 366
      5 Boston College (1) 364
      6 Boston University (3) 343
      7 Colorado College 316
      8 Yale 277
      9 Michigan 262
      10 Minnesota-Duluth (6) 232
      11 Union College 151
      12 New Hampshire 124
      13 Western Michigan 116
      14 Nebraska Omaha 89
      15 Maine 64

      College Hockey News

      1 Miami (OH)
      2 Boston University
      3 Notre Dame
      4 Colorado College
      5 Boston College
      6 North Dakota
      7 Denver
      8 Western Michigan
      9 Michigan
      10 Yale

      WCHA Polls & Rankings:
      Coaches Poll

      Team (1st Place Votes) Points
      1 Denver (7) 115
      2 North Dakota (4) 110
      3 Colorado College (1) 105
      4 Nebraska-Omaha 89
      5 Minnesota-Duluth 75
      6 Minnesota  74
      7 St Cloud St 61
      8 Wisconsin 54
      9 Alaska-Anchorage 36
      10 Bemidji St 30
      11 Minnesota St 29
      12 Michigan Tech 14

      Player of the Year: Jaden Schwartz, Colorado College
      Rookie of the Year: Rocco Grimaldi, North Dakota

      Media Poll

      Team (1st Place Votes) Avg.
      1 Denver (16) 11.35
      2 Colorado College (7) 10.54
      3 North Dakota (2) 10.31
      4 Nebraska-Omaha (1) 8.31
      5 Minnesota-Duluth 8.12
      6 Minnesota  7.73
      7t Wisconsin 5.54
      7t St Cloud St 5.54
      9 Alaska-Anchorage 3.85
      10 Bemidji St 2.92
      11 Minnesota St 2.12
      12 Michigan Tech 1.69

      Player of the Year: Jason Zucker, Denver
      Rookie of the Year: Rocco Grimaldi, North Dakota
      Coach of the Year: Scott Owens, Colorado College
      All-WCHA Team:
      F - Jaden Schwartz, Colorado College (Unanimous)
      F - Jason Zucker, Denver
      F - Jack Connolly, Minnesota-Duluth
      D - Justin Schultz, Wisconsin (Unanimous)
      D - Ben Blood, North Dakota
      G - Aaron Dell, North Dakota

      Lastly, the ballots for the Second Annual WCHA Website/Blogger Preseason Poll are continuing to trickle in, and I expect to have the results tallied and posted by Sunday night or Monday morning. And in the interest of full disclosure, my individual ballot will also be posted. Look for that tomorrow.