Tuesday, April 28, 2009

No Vote is Good News

To no surprise here, the WCHA meetings in Florida ended with no vote taken on the entrance of Bemidji State. The issue of 11 teams is the expected hang up on this round. The members of the league have decided to end the moratorium on expansion opening the door for schools to once again apply for admittance. Bemidji will get in next year, but they need to find that dancing partner to make an even dozen.

Teams that are likely to explore entering and that make sense are:

  1. Northern Michigan
  2. Air Force
  3. Nebraska – Omaha
  4. Minnesota State – Moorhead, if they can get it going soon, but this is a real long shot.

Teams that are right out:

  1. Alaska (it is hard enough for the Alaska teams to get people to play them once a year, think about traveling that far twice in a season)
  2. Alabama – Huntsville (still looking for a home conference after the CHA folds next year, but keep looking, please)

I have to go with Northern Michigan as my fan favorite with their history and the proximity to the other schools in the WCHA versus the CCHA. That second preference is much more difficult. As much as the Front Range rivalry and proximity created with Air Force, I think that they may be reluctant to enter. Tied in that second spot is Omaha which is now an established program. They are geographically in line with the WCHA, but they may feel more at home with the Ferris States, Western Michigans, and Lake States of the world. How it plays out will be decided on who wants to make the, dare I say from my HighHorse, step up to the WCHA.

Monday, April 27, 2009

To Beaver or Not To Beaver, That is the Question

Well, here it is, the day Bemidji State has been waiting for. At least since their exit from the Frozen Four. Today is the day that they may, or may not, be able to present their case for admittance tot the WCHA. From the reports, the Beavers are putting on the full court press. They are sending eight representatives from coaches, tot the AD, to a spokesman from the design/construction company for their new arena. Get the whole scoop from the Bemidji Pioneer.

Is it going to be enough? It seems a this point very unlikely that BSU will get in. They have the pressing need to find a home as the CHA ends after next year, contrary to what I have said in the near past. Unfortunately, they have a couple of big issues holding them back from entering.

  1. If a vote is taken, and it is not a given, they will need 8 yes votes from the 10 teams.
  2. It has already been stated that an 11 team schedule is not feasible, so they need a partner to enter with them.

About that partner, it has been reported by the WCHA that 5 teams were interested in applying, but only BSU did formally. And then you have the Moorhead appearance. Minnesota State – Moorhead (MSU-M….I thought Mankato already had that) has shown interest to create a men’s hockey team and jump right into the WCHA. Is this for real? Apparently so from news reports. So to sum up my thoughts, BSU will not be approved. The WCHA cannot work an 11 team league and a legitimate partner for BSU has not stepped forward. Don’t get me wrong, adding BSU would be a great positive for the WCHA, but they must make it a 12 team league or this is all a joke.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Season Review; Hockey HighHorse Awards

Season in review, huh? It has taken long enough to get to it, but believe me, it has been in the forefront of my mind since I heard the buzzer sound ending the game against Miami. Puzzling? No, at least to those who know me or have gotten to know my passion (insanity?) for UMD hockey. I see this as the season that could have been and would go so far as to say should have been. Regular season aside, because really, I could go on for pages about that roller coaster ride, it was a great run. Like all runs, it had to end. I wish it would have ended with a win and a national championship, but it didn’t. And that is what is gnawing at me. Of all seasons of late, this was the one that was the most wide open. With all the “top” teams going down and BU barely squeaking out wins, this was the year that a Bemidji State, a Miami, a UMD could make it far. I firmly believe that the Bulldogs should have beaten Miami and if they would have, they would have been vying for the title if not winning it. Events just fell together that made the tournament seem very winnable for the Dogs, but yes, in the end you need to keep winning. To sum it all up, thanks to the boys for a great and exciting season! Onto the 1st ever HighHorse Awards.

The HighHorse Awards

As voted on by the HighHorse “staff.”

MVP: It has to be Alex Stalock. Where would the team have ended without the net minder? Likely not in the NCAA Tournament. He was the stonewall and the 3rd defenseman on the ice. His early departure will have great consequences, but really, I should have known it was coming.

Rookie: It is the Connolly game! In this case Mike Connolly is the winner. Mike Connolly and Jack Connolly both played well all season, but Mike really turned it on for the last third and landed himself on the Inside College Hockey Freshman All-American list. He was fun to watch and has skills that are unbelievable! We should all look forward to seeing the Connolly Boys back at UMD for years to come.

Most Improved: Justin Fontaine seemed to come out of nowhere and score and score and score. He went from 4-8-12 (goals-assists-points) in 07-08 to 15-33-48 in 08-09. if he makes the same leap……OK, that is likely not going to happen, but next year’s team needs him to be the scorer he was this year and he needs to make it work with some new faces.

7th Defenseman: Given to the defenseman who steps up, becomes a regular player for the team and makes an impact. This year we salute Chad Huttel. Not expected to log many games nor many minutes, Chad worked his way onto the regular playing team and logged many minutes on the ice. It is always good to see hard workers be rewarded and Huttel receive just that.

#29 Award: Given to the leading goal scorer and named after the most famous #29 from UMD, Brad Federenko, no really it is definitely Brett Hull. For both conference games and overall games that player this year was MacGregor Sharp. A leader on the ice and a hard working forward who saw that pay off in goals. His stats include 24 goals for the season, 50 goals over his four year career, and 105 points for his career. Good luck to Sharp in his hockey future.

This article is close to over, and when it is over, then the season will be fully completed to me. It will seem like a long wait for the 09-10 season to start, but I like summer and fall. Still, I do miss the weekends full of college hockey and all the speculation and analysis that accompanies it.

Now this isn’t the end of posts for the season. Look for WCHA expansion articles and anything that may happen this summer with recruits and with the new DECC opening December 31, 2010!

Time to get off my HighHorse and get out the lawn mower.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Another Season Done; Stalock and Oberg Leave

It is all over now and Boston University is king. I can brag about getting the Frozen Four picks correct, but it wasn’t brain surgery. It was a very straight forward set of events played out by teams that for some of the time seemed like they didn’t want to win the championship. Think about it,

  • A BSU player admitted in a USCHO article that they hung their heads and dragged their feet when Miami scored 60 seconds after BSU cut Miami’s lead in half, 2-1.
  • In the BU – Vermont game there were three lead changes in a 5-4 game that ended with two BU goals for the win.
  • BU needed 2 goals in the last minute of regulation against Miami in the championship to send it to OT where they won.

Playing with the lead may be harder than it looks! And I say again, what is the hardest lead to hold in hockey? That’s right, a 2 goal lead!

Stalock Goes Pro. I was just getting ready to post this article only to check a fact about Oberg and found that Stalock too has gone on with eligibility remaining. I can't comment much on this right now except that this news is a HUGE buzz-kill and paired with the Oberg news will leave UMD in a big defensive hole. More to come when I can sort it all out.

Oberg the Cannuck. Well, he is from Canada and now he is the property of the Vancouver squad. Evan Oberg will forgo his last two seasons of eligibility to join the professional ranks. Big loss for the Dogs. Oberg was the second leading blueline scorer this past year and provided UMD with steady play and a big frame out on the ice. He will be sorely missed.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

NCAA Regional: Postmortem

It has taken a while to get this “last” blog for the season out. Yes, it is partly due to the season ending “hangover” (there is that time after the season ends that I cannot remember what I did on weekends prior to UMD hockey) and it also includes that I am on Spring Break from my real job and that I have a broken thumb. (See future article on why a hockey player should not be playing basketball even if it is for charity!) Let’s again not mince words, Saturday’s game was heartbreaking. But why? Look over the stats and standings and we should be thankful for the spot for UMD to be in the tourney, right? It all comes down to if you think that the 08-09 Dogs were an overachieving or underachieving team. I for one look at the players, talent, and numbers accrued and say that we should have received more. UMD, I firmly believe, had the pairings that they wanted in the regional they wanted and yet we want for more. I am left with “that little voice in my head” (Thomas Magnum) asking why such late season heroics were needed to get to where UMD ended. The final word from me on Sandelin for 08-09 will be to guard against a huge let down after the last NCAA appearance in 03-04. It truly was a great season, lest I forget, and assuming that early departures are not reaped, next year should look good too. Look for the season wrap-up and HighHorse (1st ever) awards coming soon!

Who Are These Guys? I don’t rail on referees often and hardly ever in print, but here I go. Those guys were terrible Saturday night. I won’t name them, but it isn’t hard to find who they are and that they came to us from Hockey East. I feel justified taking my stand because I would have felt the same way if UMD had won or lost, honest. Consistency is a word that these two should acquaint themselves with and also what constitutes a check and then what checking from behind looks like. Lastly, when are we going to get rid of the putting obstruction in front of penalties? Isn’t the definition of interference, obstruction? So why obstruction interference?!?!?!

I Can Be Wrong AND Admit It! I was wrong on the Beavers chances in the NCAA Playoffs so far. But I will defend my position that they should not even be there if they were in another conference (see March 26 post). So let’s look at the four who are now frozen. They are dominated by lower seeds, but this is hockey in a one game playoff system, so anything can happen. What’s more interesting that 3 of the 4 teams did not play the weekend before the NCAA Tourney. BSU had their tournament early and Vermont and Miami were knocked out in best of three early round action. Rest = Wins? Maybe this year, but who would ever try that on purpose?

So Who Is Going to Win It? Short and simple…I see BU over Miami.

Time to get off my HighHorse and get out the rake.