Monday, December 27, 2010

Halfway to MacNaughton

We are at the midpoint of the WCHA season, or close enough to it. 10 of the 12 teams have played 14 games with SCSU and MTU with 12 league games played. The top and bottom already have a stark contrast, and the top is highly contested with the leader changing over the past few weekends. The Standings can be found here.

Taking a look at the first half we have found some, alright, many interesting developments from the WCHA.

The unexpected success stories of the year include the CC Tigers and UNO Mavericks. Both teams weren’t supposed to be on the top half of the standings, but are making big splashes in the new WCHA, which also “just got tougher.” We pick the Mavs as the biggest surprise.

Powered by solid goaltending by John Faulkner, UNO is in contention for first place in the league with a 12-5-1 record. Faulkner has started every game this season for the Mavericks totaling 1045:43 minutes, third in the nation, and a 0.915 saves percent. Maybe the goaltending was what some expected, but the accompanying scoring was not. Tied for 10th in the nation for total offense, Maverick players Terry Broadhurst, Matt Ambroz and Tyler Martin all are averaging more than one point per game.

The team under the direction of Dean Blais has been very competitive sweeping UMTC in Minneapolis and splitting a hard fought series against UND. They also did lay an egg in being swept by fellow first year WCHA team Bemidji State. It will be interesting to see if UNO can continue competing in the WCHA for the whole season.

The biggest disappointments thus far are Saint Cloud State and Michigan Tech. MTU wasn’t really supposed to be really good, but the wheels have really come off the wagon in Houghton. For that reason we pick SCSU.

After finally winning their first NCAA D-I Tourney game, expectations were it may be a reloading year, but not a total rebuilding year that this year seems to be. The goaltending from the Huskies duo has been exposed. Some point to a depleted defensive corps, but they have three seniors and two juniors on the blueline. Maybe they aren’t the best, but they have experience.

Scoring for SCSU dropped off, but much more than expected. Yes they lost key scorers in Latsch and Raboin, but the players left behind were also key players in last year’s run. It is still to be determined where Roe, LeBlanc, Festler and Marvin are.

The Huskies are 5-11-2 with a dismal home record of 2-6-2 and look forward to the addition of sophomore scorer David Eddy to return from academic ineligibility to start the new year.

Regular WCHA play returns in earnest January 14, 2011.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Blizzard Weekend One Best Moved Beyond

Gophers Snow Under Bulldogs 3-2 and 2-2 OT

After a weekend of snow and more snow coupled with illness and immobilization, the HighHorse is back at full strength, that’s debatable.

The weekend was a carnival for winter enthusiasts, and a disappointment for the Bulldog hockey team. Around the college hockey circles, all you see is, “didn’t see that coming.” Three points against the Gophers of UMTC, terrible.

The storm that hit on the ice at Mariucci was mostly the doing, more so the not-doings, of the Bulldogs. They were sluggish for two periods Friday then finally found their energy in the third, but it was too late. The Dogs fell 3-2 to the Gophers.

Saturday night’s game, er, Sunday afternoon’s game proved to be much the same as Friday’s. The main differences were UMD had the lead and couldn’t hold it and they arguably played well for two of the three periods.

What went wrong? Offense was absent. Yes, the Gopher netminders played very well, but the Bulldog group of scorers should put up more than two goals in at least one of the games. The scoring drought is best accented by the failure of scoring on a five minute major power play late in the third period Sunday with the score tied 2-2. Further the ineffectiveness of the UMD power play, 2 for 12, against one of the worst penalty killing teams in the nation. UMTC after the weekend against UMD is at 75% penalty kill which doesn’t get them in the top 40 teams of D-I (58 teams total).

Goaltending is getting better, but still leads the group with the need for most improvement. The current “plan” is that we can give up some goals and the scoring machine will pick the team up, but it currently is not working. This is also partially on the defense who need to do ALL THEY CAN to help the goaltenders out of the messes in front of the net.

This was not the weekend we envisioned going down to Minneapolis with the snow and the Mugging at Mariucci. But this is the way the first half of the season, both overall and in the conference, will end. And now for the layoff. Waiting for AMSOIL to open and see how UMD comes on in the second half. It will be a key time to get some rest and reset the energy this team had in preparation for the second half.

Look for the HighHorse mid-season report card coming soon and keep the faith just as the pollsters have keeping UMD at #3 or #4 in the nation.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Longest WCHA Weekend

The longest WCHA weekend in a long time is over. Thanks to a Thursday start to the MTU/UNO series and the snowstorm in Minnesota, the weekend stretched all the way to Sunday night.

If I would have stayed with my original pick of CC sweeping SCSU, I would have the WCHA nailed…except for the totally unforeseen results from Minneapolis and a tie in Alaska.

In Saint Cloud, the Huskies are hitting rock bottom. Although they have played 12 games when almost all WCHA teams have played 14, the Huskies are in 11th place. Top it off with the first time SCSU has been swept in Saint Cloud in over three years. And the CC team that completed the sweep didn’t have their leading scorer. Time to regroup, but the road ahead doesn’t get any easier.

In Anchorage, Denver left the frontier with three points, which is really good seeing that they gave up leads in both games. Anchorage is never an easy place to play, but the Pioneers showed their shaky side a few times in Alaska.

Bemidji is feeling the grind of the WCHA with a trip to Madison. Close games in a Badger sweep, yes, but the Beavers are still trying to find their way.

North Dakota swept into Mankato and swept the series. Again, close games, but in the end, the scoring power of the Sioux came back and finished off the Mavs.

In Omaha, Michigan tech continues their woes losing two more in league play. Huskies coach Jamie Russell felt Saturday’s win was a moral victory, but MTU is in desperate need of a real win. Their next chance comes this Friday at arch-rival Northern Michigan.

Next weekend marks the closest thing to a conference midway point. After CC and UNO play this weekend, every team except for two will have 14 league games played. The others will have 12.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Missing Players that will Miss

It tis the time of year when national junior teams are populating their rosters.  As a result, some of the WCHA games may be impacted when impact players (they are the best of their countrymen) are absent at tyouts.

CC's Jaden Schwartz and UMD's Dylan Olsen will be away this weekend for the Canadian camp.  Schwartz is reprtedly out for the weekend while reports say that Olsen will play at UMTC Friday before jetting off.

As a result, I will change our prediction on the CC / SCSU series to a split.  Schwartz is most of the Tiger's scoring, but the Huskies are still the Huskies.  I choose to keep the UMD / UMTC perdiction the same.  The scoring Bulldogs are still strong up front and on the blue line.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Bulldogs Travel to Minneapolis for Last Conference Games of 2010

Pomp and circumstance done. DECC retired. Back to the season that has so many fans all over Minnesota talking about the Bulldogs. And that is the challenge for this weekend is to ensure that the team is focused and ready for a Jekyll /Hyde Gopher team. You just don’t know what to expect from UMTC.

Shoring Up Goal. Last weekend was truly an adventure in goaltending for the Bulldogs. An arguably terrible game Friday night in net and defense followed by a solid performance Saturday night. The roller coaster has to stop for the Bulldogs to keep climbing. It can go as far as goaltending being the key to the series this weekend. The Gophers are 7-1-1 this season when scoring three or more goals. Conversely, when UMTC scores less than three goals they are 1-6-0.

Counter that with Crandall who has been shaky at times with an overall saves percentage of 0.902, but has yet to surrender more than three goals in a game. Reiter has looked better at times, but he has a more unimpressive saves percentage of 0.896. Gopher scoring will be the top key for the weekend.

Just Score More. UMD is currently the second scoring offense in the nation with 3.94 goals per game and a power play efficiency of 24.7%, good for seventh in the nation. Pair the UMD scoring numbers with the Gopher’s 3.25 goals allowed per game we expect scoring to not be of concern this weekend.

When Does the Game Start? UMD’s overtime prowess has been talked about ad nauseam. The Bulldogs are currently sitting at 50% of their games go to overtime 16 games into the season. The other stat that leads to overtime is slow starts, and UMD seems to have a penchant for those too. The Bulldogs sport a staggering lead in goals of 49-25 after the first period. When does that game start again?

Saturdays Are Right. UMD sports a 7-0-1 on Saturday nights this season. For that matter, the Bulldogs are 7-0-0 when leading after two periods.

Outlook. Currently the Bulldogs are on a 7-2-1 streak against the Gophers in their last ten meetings. The Gophers are coming back from being swept for the first time by MSU. In the end, this is a series that the Bulldogs scoring will prevail. There may be high theatrics and nail biter endings, but we see the Bulldogs sweeping.

Around the WCHA. Another full conference slate of games this weekend.

Michigan Tech at University of Nebraska – Omaha: in a rare Thursday – Friday series, MTU makes their first trip to Omaha for WCHA play. The teams have played four times previously with the visiting team winning each game. Not so fast, that streak ends here as the Huskies get swept out of Nebraska.

North Dakota at Minnesota State – Mankato: MSUM is currently on a four game winning streak and North Dakota is on a four game unbeaten streak. So what will give? It will be the Mavericks giving four points to the Sioux. Don’t be surprised to see if a tie occurs, as the Mavs have hot goaltending right now.

Denver at Alaska – Anchorage: Denver keeps the hot hand and gives the Seawolves their first sweep at home in league play this season.

Colorado College at Saint Cloud State: Role reversal. This series pits two teams that are in opposite positions in the standings than they were predicted. CC, 6th in the WCHA, seemingly has the upper hand on the struggling SCSU Huskies, 11th in the WCHA. But SCSU has not been swept at home in over three years (December 7-8, 2007 – Denver). Is this the weekend that SCSU breaks their streak? We say yes, with a Tiger sweep.

Bemidji State at Wisconsin: Beavers are coming off of two solid wins against UNO and Wisconsin is looking to right the ship in the WCHA, they are currently 8th at 4-6-2. Badgers get some relief and pull to 0.500 in league play with a sweep this weekend.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Moving On from DECC; WCHA Weekend Dec. 3-4

Bulldogs Split with Pioneers 4-5 OT and 2-1

It was a great run and now the DECC is no longer the home of Bulldog Men’s Hockey. Denver was the last visitor and provided two exciting, yet different, games in a split for the weekend.

Friday night’s game was an ultimate example of the ups and downs of a roller coaster ride.

UMD came out flat and it showed badly until early in the second period. Down 3-0 on two, if not three, soft goals, goalie Aaron Crandall pulled for Kenny Reiter, the Bulldogs finally came to life. UMD steadily worked their way back into the game and eventually took the lead 4-3 with four straight goals.

But knowing the way the game started and UMD’s seeming penchant for overtime, those of us in the press box had a feeling that this might go to extra time. Jason Zucker provided the opportunity for UMD’s 8th OT game of the season with his goal at 18:38, completing his hat trick.

The problem to going to overtime that night was the way DU scored. Three of their four goals came from the extended goal line at or near the boards. Looking at the period shot sheets it is difficult to find the goals because one does not expect to look to the corners for the scoring goals, but there they are.

So off to overtime again where the Bulldogs have made their living this year. It was joked before the game started that the game doesn’t actually start for UMD until overtime…how true.

Taking a 5-0-2 overtime record this season into OT, the feeling in the DECC was which Bulldog would become the hero tonight? In the end it was the lack of drive and defense that did in the Bulldogs as they fell 5-4 in overtime.

The winning goal came from Drew Shore camped all alone right at the top of the crease. He took a pass from Zucker and easily slipped the puck past Reiter to stun and silence the DECC crowd. The best quote of the night came after the goal from someone in the press box, “Of course he was open at the crease, UMD was protecting the corners.” A sarcastic, and very true, indictment on UMD’ defense Friday night.

Redemption came swiftly when the teams squared off again Saturday night in a well played, hard fought match that was expected from these two nationally ranked teams.

UMD turned the tables on DU and took the lead 2-0 entering the third period. In true UMD fashion this year, Denver scored one goal in the third and pushed hard for the tying goal. The big step forward for the night was that UMD didn’t allow the tie to occur, hanging on during a frantic finish for the 2-1 win.

The players of the game have to be Mike Connolly and Kenny Reiter.

Connolly pretty much single handedly worked the penalty kill late in the second and scored a shorthanded goal off his own rebound. His effort and skill netted the Bulldogs the game wining goal.

Reiter should be commended for shaking off the Friday night whatever that was for the goalies, and put in a great effort in keeping the Pioneers to one goal.

Moving forward, the Bulldogs slid to #2 in the Inside College Hockey Rankings as they put an emotional DECC closing weekend behind them in preparing to face the Gophers in Minneapolis.

Speaking of the Gophers, they were unceremoniously swept by the Mavericks in Mankato. MSU scored first in both games and kept the momentum going for a pair of one goal wins. This is a huge boost for the MSU team that has been struggling through the early season, but now has a 4-0-0 streak going.

In Houghton, the Huskies of MTU are now sleep walking through their season. They were swept up by a mediocre CC team 7-3 and 6-0. It is difficult to see MTU crash after a promising start to the season.

Up in Anchorage, UAA gained a split against visiting Wisconsin. Maybe it shouldn’t be that surprising as we see that Wisconsin is a middle WCHA team this year.

The games in Bemidji provided the big surprise of the weekend when the Beavers swept the upstart UNO Mavericks. Scoring an average of 4.2 goals per game prior to the weekend, the Mavs were held to one goal for the weekend by BSU en route to 3-0 and 3-1. The sweep marks the first for BSU in the WCHA.

In Grand Forks, the Sioux did what was expected and swept the visiting Huskies of Saint Cloud. SCSU is proving that losing some scoring talent and blueliners can impact a team in hurry and make once vaunted goaltenders look “D-I adequate” at best.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Bulldogs Bid Farewell to DECC

Denver Pioneers are the Last Opponent

The weekend that many have been waiting for is here. Now the feelings of nostalgia are starting to set in as Bulldog fans, players, and coaches say farewell to the DECC. Several players this week were quoted stating that they are going to miss the old place, but in the end, the new home will be a great place to be a Bulldog.

And its not that the old arena will be demolished and will be gone, but the home of the Bulldogs moves through the concourse to the new digs at AMSOIL Arena. But the end of an era for the Bulldogs and the whole community of UMD and Duluth ends this weekend.

Don’t Forget the Games! Lost in the DECC farewell is the fact that the hottest team in the nation, winning streak wise, is in Duluth looking to continue their streak and possibly take first place in the WCHA. That team is the Denver Pioneers who have won their last six games (UMD has won their last five games). It definitely is a chance not lost on the Pioneers who see this weekend as their chance to take on #1 and have a good chance of raining on the DECC closing celebration. UMD’s focus and grit will be tested this weekend.

Their Rookie is Good! Denver freshman Jason Zucker is tied for the WCHA lead with nine goals in WCHA play. He is also tied for first in freshman points at 9-3-12. No wonder their freshmen are good, Inside College Hockey ranked this freshman class at Denver #1 in the nation.

To counter, UMD’s leading freshman, JT Brown, is doing well also with his 5-10-15 overall and 3-6-9 in WCHA play. Brown’s numbers ranks him at sixth in the WCHA for rookies.

To Stop the Pioneer Movement. Denver has been scoring at an amazing clip lately. The Pioneers have scored at least one goal in their last 13 consecutive periods of play. The Dog’s defense will have to be at the top of their game to stop this offense.

Goalie’s Keep. To date, goalie Aaron Crandall has not allowed more than three goals in the games he has played in. Reiter has had some struggles, but is the UMD goalie who has not lost a game yet in this season. Both should be ready for this weekend.

Prediction. “You can through the records out the window”…not really, but there are extenuating circumstances this weekend. This is a series with two great teams. Denver is one the road and UMD has all the emotional burden surrounding the end of their DECC era.

We are quite sure that Denver will come out ready to play. The question is what will all the attention of the ceremonies, visiting Bulldog Hockey alumni, and personal emotions do to this team? What we have to remember is that UMD is a veteran team in terms of college hockey. Taking all the information into account, we predict a split.  We differ on the night of the loss, though.  I am going with redemption on Saturday night while staff writer Andy is going with the loss to close the DECC.  A sweep would be fitting for the retirement of DECC, but it looks like too much against this Denver team.

Around the WCHA.

UMTC at MSUM: Mankato turned many heads with the way they swept UMass – Lowell last weekend out east. Will it be enough to overcome their nemesis who don’t even recognize the Mavs are D-I? (Admit it, Gophers…its true). UMTC fared well at Houghton and they should do the same in Mankato earning a Gopher sweep.

Wisconsin at UAA: Wisconsin will sweep, but will have difficulty Friday with the physical Seawolves team.

UNO at BSU: The newbies square off for the first time as WCHA participants. Unfortunately for Bemidji UNO has winning figured out and they will win two on the road.

SCSU at UND: Before the season started this matchup was likely circled as the one to watch this weekend. But the Huskies are failing to do all the things that propelled them to their first NCAA Tournament win last year. Goaltending, scoring, and drive are lacking in Saint Cloud. The Huskies are going into tough territory to face the Sioux. The same Sioux team who have not swept a foe at the Ralph this year in three series. This will be their first of the year as they down the Huskies in two.

CC at MTU: This is another downing of Huskies in two games this weekend. That makes a prediction for an 0-4 Huskies weekend (SCSU and MTU). The wheels have really come off the wagon for the stories program in Houghton. It all started off so promising this season too.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Days at the DECC Numbered

The clock is ticking on the end of the DECC years and the start of the AMSOIL years. In fact, you can see it on the Bulldog Athletic page.

One more step in the transition occurs today in preparation for the change in home venue. Single game tickets for the new AMSOIL Arena go on sale today at 10am.

The remaining steps after this morning’s ticket sale in the transfer are to play Denver in the DECC this weekend, start practicing in the new arena next week, and face North Dakota on December 30 on the new ice.

It is a sad farewell to a great arena while it is the promise of new memories to be made in AMSOIL Arena.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thanksgiving Weekend WCHA Wrap

UMD Idle; Prepare for Pioneers

With a Holiday weekend, the WCAH had one conference series and six other teams playing in non-conference games.

In Colorado Springs, CC hosted UAA for the only conference match ups of the weekend. What appeared to be two bottom dwelling teams playing a series turned out to be a couple, well, at least one interesting game. The series ended in a split, but had its share of excitement on Friday night when UAA took the Tigers to OT and finished them off in the extra time. The following night had goaltender Joe Howe being himself in shutting out the Seawolves 2-0. Scoring is at a premium in Colorado Springs meaning Howe needs to be a shutdown goalie almost every night if CC wants to move out of the bottom of the WCHA.

The College Hockey Showcase.  In Minneapolis…to sum it up, expect the unexpected. UMTC gave up the ghost and were handily beaten by the Michigan State Spartans 5-2. That marks the first, and still only, road win on the season for MSU. The Spartans put the game away in the first period scoring the only goals including two in 0:22 to take a 3-0 lead. This was the game of the weekend that many, including the HighHorse expected UMTC to win.

On Sunday, the Gophers came out with Alex Kangas in net for his first start in five games. The Gophers played much better hockey and pulled off the mild upset of the Michigan Wolverines 3-1.

In Madison… The Badgers bounced back after being swept at home for two consecutive weekends to tie the Wolverines on Friday 4-4 and beat the Spartans on Saturday 4-1. The wins bring the badgers to an overall record of 7-6-3.

Shutout anyone? In Bemidji, the Beavers and Northern Michigan Tigers traded shutouts en route to a split. The scores were 4-0 for NMU and 3-0 for BSU.

In Denver, the Pioneers stayed on their hot streak while winning their tournament, the Denver Cup. Denver is currently on the nation’s longest winning streak and is the next opponent for UMD at the DECC this weekend.

Out east at UMass – Lowell, Mankato did the unexpected, they scored a lot of goals and swept the Riverhawks. I know that the Mavericks were missing some players who have now returned, but whoa! The eight goal output on Friday is very impressive. Then they came back to finish off the sweep Saturday. Can we expect more from the Mavs now? Let’s just wait to see what they do back in the WCHA as Lowell is 2-10-2 for the season.

In Grand Forks, disappointment was high after a three point weekend for the Sioux against Notre Dame. The reason wasn’t necessarily the tie, but the fact that UND held the one goal lead late into the third period before the Irish tied the score with 3:03 left in the third. “We’re not walking out of here with smiles tonight because of the tie,” Coach Hakstol said after the game. He did go on to credit the hard work the team used to get a three point weekend against a very good Notre Dame team.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Over one third in the books

The Thanksgiving weekend is here and the UMD Bulldogs have played 14 games to date and have this weekend off. This leaves 21 games left on the schedule for the Bulldogs. So we decided to look back and grade the team at what has happened to date.

We will start with the offense. UMD is currently third in the nation for team scoring averaging just over 4 goals a game and has five players with 15 points or more. We give the team an "A" for offense

On team defense UMD is currently averaging 2.50 goals against per game which is good for 17th in the nation. This is also good for the 2nd best in the WCHA in all games played. Individually the defensive players have played good. It has been great to see Dylan Olsen start off strong again and Justin Faulk be rock solid on the blue line. We give the team a "B+" for the defense.

For special teams it has been a little up and down. The power play is clicking great, sixth best in the nation at 25%. The penalty killing has been below average though. Currently the team is 80% on the kill, the good thing however has been the four shorthanded goals. We give them a "B-" for special teams. The team will need to solidify their penalty killing throughout the remainder of the year if they truly want to make a run for the MacNaughton Cup and the NCAA tournament.

As for goal tending, it is hard to say it is the Bulldog's weakest spot when you see a record of 11-1-2, but it is. UMD has been switching back and forth between Aaron Crandall and Kenny Reiter. Crandall has the better statistics and will likely be leaned on more the rest of the season. Wins, losses, and goals against are good stats, but the one we focus on a the HighHorse is save percentage because it measures what the goalie does with the shots on net.  With only one loss it is hard to give the team a poor grade, but unless both goalies can get above 90% save percentage a "B-" is the best we can give.

With the Bulldogs being the number one team in the nation the overall grade is an "A-." Yes there is always room for improvement, but if they keep skating they have the first 14 games of the season good things will happen for this team.

Bulldogs Still at #1; Enjoy a Weekend Off

Happy Thanksgiving a day late! It was a good time to be with friends and family for us regular people and especially for the Bulldogs who get a holiday weekend “off” from games.

It is time to give thanks for many things, and somewhere on that list is the great start fro this Bulldog Hockey season.

Around the WCHA

Just because the Bulldogs are off doesn’t mean that there aren’t good matchups.  Here are the WCHA teams playing this weekend:

Alaska – Anchorage at Colorado College: A lack luster series for the only conference matchup this weekend. Both cellar dweller teams are looking for a bright spot in a tough year. What CC has going for them is they are at home, but this series will still be a split.

Notre Dame at North Dakota: This arguably by far the most intriguing series of the weekend for a WCHA team. We should rename this the Fighting Series, Fighting Irish versus the Fighting Sioux (get that in while I still can). A surprisingly good Notre Dame team lead by Woodbury native Ryan Guentzel takes on a slow starting UND team in Grand Forks. UND has lots to prove and it should all start here against the Irish. Unfortunately the Sioux won’t sweep because a tie will happen in there.

Northern Michigan at Bemdiji State: This marks BSU’s first non-conference game of the season, strange. Northern Michigan is starting to get things on track after a rough start just like the Beavers. What else to do but to split in this cold one in Bemidji.

Minnesota State Mankato at UMass – Lowell: Mavericks travel. Mavericks play. Mavericks get swept.

College Hockey Showcase (Michigan and Michigan State at Wisconsin and University of Minnesota – Twin Cities): This whole article could be dedicated to this tournament. Namely how it is, and always has been, the set-up for the looming Bi6 Ten Hockey Conference. But put that aside and live in this season. In our eyes it boils down to this, Michigan State will lose two and Michigan will win two giving the WCHA participants splits.

Denver Cup (Lake Superior State and Air Force at Denver): it will be hard to beat Denver at their tournament. The team with that has the best chance is Air Force with their sneaky good games this year, but I don’t see it. Denver will be ready and will sweep their games this weekend.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Cliche, Yes...UMD is "Cardiac Kids"

Pair of OT Wins Over Wisconsin, 6-5 and 3-2

The age old quandary is the needed mixture to create a championship team. UMD is a good current study. One can look at the attributes of the Bulldogs squad, fleshing out the positives and shortcomings in relation to championship chances. Here one will be examined, winning the close games.

High power teams have sometimes been faulted, usually through no fault of their own, for beating teams at will and by comfortable margins. The question usually is asked about how a team will react when it comes down to the wire in a close game if they don’t have experience.

UMD certainly does have the experience needed in close games. Check it off, it is complete. The Bulldogs are 6-0 in one goal games including 5-0-2 in overtime.

But is it possible to play in too many close games? Maybe those against what should be inferior opponents? In 11 wins this season, the Bulldogs have won by more than two goals twice, and they have played teams like Alaska – Anchorage, Michigan Tech, and Providence. These are teams that UMD is definitely better than.

Maybe the next check-off for the Bulldogs on the list to creating a championship team should be putting teams away with their scoring power. Now that is something I would like to see.

Minnesota Teams. UMTC, MSUM, SCSU, and BSU are not helping the State of Hockey keep its name. Outside of Duluth, Minnesota Division I teams are placing 5th or below in the WCHA. The Gophers are the only Minnesota team that have an above 0.500 record thanks to a 5-1-1 current streak.

Scary in Anchorage. It is not all about the split the Huskies gave up in Alaska, as if that wasn’t bad enough for the swooning SCSU team. It was the injury to SCSU’s Travis Novak that has us worried. He went hard into the boards and had to be taken off on the backboard. We hope the best for Novak as he recovers.

Controversy in Omaha? After Friday’s game where North Dakota scored three straight goals in the third period en route to a come from behind 6-5 win, there was considerably more defense and controversy. Saturday’s game saw UNO under the direction of Dean Blais extracted revenge in the form of a 1-0 score. OK, revenge is a strong word, but this was a highly contested game where the lone goal was scored in the last second of the game. To add to the drama, the play that scored the goal started with a close onsides call at the blueline.

Talked about long after the game, the final verdict is had to be freeze framed to see that it was maybe offsides. Consensus that it was a tough call…defiantely not a consensus if it was the right call. Either way, the split happened.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Badgers on the Menu for Bulldogs

#1 UMD's Struggles in Madison Well Documented

The UMD Bulldogs travel to Madison this weekend with the best start after 12 games in school history, 9-1-2, and the #1 ranking in the nation. The only team with a better record is Boston University at 6-0-4.


Just as Harry Potter sets to do battle in the first part of his finale in movie theaters, UMD battles to fight the seeming curse of the #1 spot. UMD is the third team ranked #1 in as many weeks. The goal this weekend is to play well. If that means losing the #1 spot, that is agreeable as long as the team, coaching staff, and fans can agree that the games were well played and the Bulldogs gain at least a split.

Tough Row… UMD is again going into hostile territory, not only because it is not the DECC, but because they have struggled in Madison, no mater the building. The Bulldogs are 22-50-5 in their previous 77 games in Mad Town. Additionally, they have not swept the Badgers on their home ice in 23 series since doing so on February 8-9, 1985. That happens to be the last season Brett Hull played in Duluth while scoring 52 goals en route to an 84 point season.

To top it off, the Badgers under Coach Eaves have faced a #1 team 11 times. In those games UW is 7-2-2.

Something to Prove? UMD is not the only team this weekend with something to prove. The Badgers were the runner up in the National Championship game last season, so a lot is expected this year, right? In looking at the departures after last season, this season is an unknown. One thing for certain is the badgers take pride in their program and their home ice. After being swept last weekend the Badgers are certainly looking for redemption.

All of the Positives. Freshman Justin Faulk continues to lead all Bulldog players in +/- rating with a +9. Blueline partner Dylan Olsen is tied for second with Jack Connolly with a +8.

Heard AND Seen. This weekend offers plenty of choices to see the games on TV. Locally in Duluth, the Saturday game will be carried on My9.

The Wisconsin feed can be seen on Fox Sports Wisconsin on Friday and on the Wisconsin Channel on PBS for Saturday night. For those in the Twin Cities with an antenna, and that just might only be me, you can pick up Wisconsin PBS 28.2, but that is if you are close enough to Wisconsin, likely just in the east metro area. Again, that may just be me.

Outlook. We at the HighHorse have been picking UMD series correctly for three weekends now. I know that we don’t designate which night a tie or win is, but that is just plain difficult with college athletes. Looking at this weekend we both agree that the Bulldogs will come away with a split in Madison.

WCHA This Weekend.

North Dakota at Nebraska – Omaha: The #1 ranking for UMd garnered many headlines this week, but what was maybe lost in it all was the match up of UNO and the Fighting Sioux. UND takes the trip down to Omaha to face a Maverick team lead by Dean Blais who resurrected the Sioux into a national power. Oh, and North Dakota was the preseason pick to win the WCHA and UNO is the new upstart member vying for first at 8-1-1 overall. It is going to be electric in Omaha tonight. Unfortunately for the Mavs, UND is a team that will expose their young talent and take at least three points. And if UND wears their black alternate jerseys, then it is sweep and good night. The Sioux are 21-1-2 in the black jerseys since 2006-2007.

University of Minnesota – Twin Cities at Michigan Technological University: This is two teams where you just don’t know what you are going to get when they take the ice. Up and down and round and round are good words to describe their season with on and off ice issues. In the end, MTU and UMTC will split in the UP.

Bemidji State at Denver: Keep this one short and simple, Denver sweep.

Saint Cloud State at Alaska – Anchorage: See struggles with MTU and UMTC. SCSU had high expectations at the beginning of the season, and now they are just trying to keep the ship afloat. Am I being too dramatic? Yes and no, or is it maybe…if the Huskies don’t sweep this weekend, they will likely not achieve a 0.500 record until AT LEAST the middle of December, if ever this season. The trip to Alaska is always difficult from a logistics standpoint. Add in a physical Seaswolves team that wants to slow everything down and you have the recipe for a split this weekend.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

UMD Ranked #1 in the Polls

Bulldogs Find Target on Their Backs

The polls are out and UMD is #1 in the nation for all three rankings: USCHO, USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine, and INCH. This marks the fourth time UMD has been voted to the top spot and the first since October of 2004.

The Bulldogs next opponent, the Wisconsin Badgers, are currently ranked 15th in all three polls.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Bulldogs Keep Rolling; Undefeated at Home

Bulldogs Sweep Michigan Tech 5-3 and 4-2

It may not come as a surprise, but the weekend sweep of Michigan Tech by UMD is a sizable achievement. Tech is a team like Bemidji that traditionally gives UMD fits with their slow down, muck-it-up style. UMD overcame slow starts both nights to pull out the wins.

Friday night looked like a typical MTU/UMD grind it out game until the last minute of the second period through the third when UMD tallied five straight goals. Once the scoring started, it came from everywhere. Three goals from the FCC line included one even strength, one power play, and one shorthanded. Add in a goal from the third line (DeLisle) and the fourth line (Basaraba) and you get the outpouring of offense that was bottled up.

The topper of Friday night was the shortie from the stick of Justin Fontaine. Note I did not say shot from Fontaine. That is because it was a diving poke with his stick that found its way past the previously unbeaten Josh Robinson. See the photo below shoeing the effort nicely.

Saturday’s win was again close until UMD exerted its offensive power midway in the second while at the same time clamping down defensively to make the 4-2 lead stick.

Goaltending Save Escapades? UMD did have a good weekend in the split. The goalies get the nod, but the saves percentages from the Friday game is interesting on the low side. Crandall got the win Friday letting in 3 goals on 17 shots, 0.824 save percentage. It could be only quality shots from the Huskies or Crandall being lulled into oblivion. Either way, Crandall is off to a hot start and hopefully this was just a blip on the screen.

Outcome. The sweep keeps UMD alone in first place in the WCHA. It has also fueled talk of the Bulldogs moving up to #1 in the national polls. Inside College Hockey has their Power Rankings out and has moved UMD to #1 from #2 last week. That is in part to BU tying both games this past weekend.

The possibility (specter?) of being number one has not suited UMD squads well in the past. For whatever reason, #1 brings on too much pressure and has been the climax to a disastrous season in the not so distant past.

In the 2004-05 campaign, the Bulldogs were ranked #1 after the first six games going 5-0-1. After that it was all downhill completing the season at 15-17-6. But this is a different team…right?

Badgers Swept. Wisconsin, UMD’s next opponent, was swept at home by the Fighting Sioux of North Dakota. UND scored the only goal of the Friday game which rolled into Saturday’s 4-2 Sioux win.

UNO Rolls On. The Mavericks of Omaha keep their WCHA unbeaten steak alive with a win and tie at Saint Cloud. On the flip side, the Huskies of SCSU are still in their tailspin now 4-6-2. It is strange, but the Huskies score when they let open the flood gates into their net, and they can’t score when they clamp down on the defense.

Bemidji Wins First. The Beavers overcame themselves to win their first home game in the new Sanford Center. And they did it in fashion with a 4-0 shutout over Alaska-Anchorage.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Michigan Tech Looks to Continue Hot Start in Duluth

Teams Renew "Rivalry" in Huskies Last DECC Appearance

This upcoming Bulldog Hockey weekend feels more relaxed after a split last weekend at North Dakota. How tight would UMD be gripping their sticks Friday night is the Sioux had swept or even salvaged the tie last Saturday night?

Let’s be real here. In recent years UMD has struggled with the cellar-dwelling MTU Huskies. Maybe someone should remind the Bulldogs that MTU started out 4-0-2 before getting swept in Madison in their last action October 29-30.

Home Sweep Home. UMD is 4-0-0 at the DECC this season, their last in the building before moving to AMSOIL Arena in late December. During that stretch, the Bulldogs have outscored their opponents 21-6. UMD has four more games in the DECC including this weekend’s series.

Power to the Huskies. Michigan Tech enters his weekend with the fourth best power play percentage in the nation at 30.6%. UMD is sixth best in the nation, but with 25.5%, a good distance behind the Huskies.

On the flip side, MTU has been more efficient at killing power plays with a 84.6% rate compared with UMD’s 80.9%.

The Bulldogs have made a name for themselves nationally in recent years based on their special teams. This weekend they will be challenged and need to step up their special teams games.

Scorers Abound. The Bulldogs boast 5 of the top 20 scorers in the nation. They are Mike Connolly (4th: 7-9-16), Justin Fontaine (6: 6-8-14), Jack Connolly (9: 3-10-13), JT Brown (16: 5-7-12), and Travis Oleksuk (16: 6-6-12).

Series Outlook. The Bulldogs gained confidence this past weekend and are tough at home. Even though MTU is resurgent at first look, the teams they have beat are not top tier teams. As a result, UMD will continue their home unbeaten streak and sweep the Huskies. Expect both games to be tightly played with close scores.

Around the WCHA

Nebraska – Omaha at Saint Cloud State: Intriguing match-up with the upstart UNO team playing the underachieving SCSU Huskies in Saint Cloud. SCSU is having trouble with scoring and more importantly being scored on. One side says UNO is on the roll and they will sweep, but this is on the road in the WCHA. SCSU is also a hard one to sweep at the National Hockey Center. I can’t find the stats I had, but it has been years since that happened. The forecast is for a little snow and a split in Saint Cloud this weekend.

North Dakota at Wisconsin: North Dakota has taken their lumps early this season with some losses and injuries. Still, as most UND teams do, they persevere and play good hockey. This weekend in Madison has an offensive power in North Dakota meeting the vaunted Wisconsin goaltending duo as described at USCHO. The Badgers have not faced an offense like this and it will show, but they are still playing at the Kohl Center, so expect a split.

Alaska – Anchorage at Bemidji State: A big, physical team in the Seawolves make their first trip to Bemidji this weekend. Bemidji will get their first win in the new building, maybe. There win be at least one tie and no wins for UAA. Don’t be surprised if there are two ties here this weekend.

Minnesota State – Mankato at Denver: Denver is coming off of a disappointing blowout loss against their rival CC. A hard week of practice has them focused as Coach Gwozdecky is known for. Couple with a young Mankato team playing on the road and you have a Denver sweep.

CC at Air Force (Fri.) and Yale at CC (Sat.): CC gets a break from WCHA play, but not a break from their up and down season. CC could even be swept this weekend, but it is most likely to see a split.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Weekend Review Nov 5-6

UMD Gains Split in 3rd OT Win

There you go. Saturday’s 3-2 OT win caps the series at Grand Forks off with a split. That will hopefully prove to the Bulldogs they are a team that can play and win against the top tier teams and make the Ralph and the Sioux more mortal.

It cannot be overstated the importance of wining one in Grand Forks, no matter the method or score. This UMD team needed some confidence. After scoring six against Anchorage at the DECC, the Bulldogs went to BSU to escape with three points on four goals and gained the split with UND on five weekend goals. I thought this was the feared offense in the WCHA?

The Bulldogs go from one of their nemesis buildings, the Ralph, to go and play one of their nemesis teams, Michigan Technological University. Again, this is not a typo, but a reality. For whatever reason, UMD has trouble with MTU. Not to the point that they get swept, but UMD did account for two of the Huskies five wins last year…2 of 5!

Now the “real” challenge is over and the “soft” Huskies come into Duluth before the Bulldogs hit the road to Madison. The trap in this, and oh how I despise the “trap” analogy, series against MTU is every bit as real as conquering the demons of the Ralph and Sioux.

Good Call. Justin Fontaine finished off his birthday game Saturday night by scoring the game winning goal in overtime. As Bruce Ciskie said of the play, “…(Fontaine) put it top shelf where Grandma hides the cookies.”

Video of the goals from Saturday night including Fontaine’s OT winner can be found here from Northland’s Newscenter. It is grainy, but good to watch.

Welcome to the Club. The UNO Mavericks are on quite the tear going 7-1-0 to start the season and are undefeated (4-0-0) in WCHA play. Many, including the HighHorse, predicted Bemidji to be the better of the new teams to enter the WCHA. Its early in the season, but it looks like we were mistaken. UNO takes another road trip to Minnesota this weekend to play Saint Cloud State.

Bemidji Tallies First. The Beavers have their first WCHA win and first win of this season beating SCSU 3-2 in OT. Great for BSU program. At the same time, what has happened to the Huskies of SCSU?

Saint Cloud is still having their troubles of not scoring enough or not stopping enough pucks. The Huskies are 4-5-1, 2-2-0 WCHA, and have scored 30 goals for and have allowed 30 goals against. That is an average of 3.0 goals for and against per game. If the Huskies are to build on good last season, they need to figure out at least one side of the goals for/against problem.

Hot and Cold. A tale of two games has been the story of the season for Denver. The Pioneers easily beat their rival CC 4-1 Friday before getting destroyed by the same 9-2 Saturday.

The Gophers of UMTC are also hot and cold exemplified by the one point weekend against Wisconsin. The Gophers are 5-4-1, 3-4-1 WCHA. The winning record is mostly in thanks to a sweep over UMass early in the season. UMass is one of two remaining Division I teams that has not notched a win.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Highway 2 Revisited

Bulldogs Travel Through Bemidji Towards the Sioux

A telling weekend starts tonight as UMD again travels along US Highway 2, this time passing through Bemidji, on their way to Grand Forks.

The weekend is important in this young season to see where this Bulldog squad really is on the national scene. UND is the first team with a winning record and the first ranked team they face.

All this is will happen in the house of horrors for UMD, Ralph Engelstad Arena where the Bulldogs are 1-10-1 in their last 12.

The Sioux record is telling in their up and sown season leading to their 4-3-1 start. UND is 2-3-0 against nationally ranked opponents and 1-1-0 at home. The Sioux are looking to make a statement this weekend after being swept two weeks ago at Maine and splitting last weekend at home against Denver. But maybe that is just who they are, either the typical slow starting Sioux teams of past years, or, dare I say, an average to above average UND team. Without question, it is an opportunity that UMD can ill afford to pass up.

More Pluses. Two outstanding Bulldog Freshmen lead the team in plus/minus. Forward JT Brown and defenseman Justin Faulk are tied with Junior Travis Oleksuk with a +5. Great achievement eight games into the season for Freshmen, especially with Faulk who works the blueline.

Power is Key. After their first game, the Bulldogs are 27 for 29 in killing power plays. On the road against a team like NoDak, killing penalties will be a key to the weekend.

Make it a Good One. Bulldog forward Justin Fontaine celebrates his 23rd birthday on Saturday. Fontaine is currently second in scoring on the team with 4-8-12 in eight games.

Outlook. The Ralph is always a challenging place to play the Sioux, especially for UMD. This is a good time, if there is such a thing, to play at Grand Forks. It will be a successful weekend for the Bulldogs in taking a split and their first loss of the year.

Around the WCHA.

Colorado College and Denver (home and home): The first series in the race for the Gold Pan is on this weekend. Denver is coming off of a split at North Dakota and CC is coming off of a home sweep from UMTC. Both teams are still trying to find their place in this early season. Both teams have had impressive wins and baffling losses. I would think DU sweep, but this is the Gold Pan and it is home and home, so a three pointer for Denver is in order.

Bemidji State at Saint Cloud State: The way Bemidji can clog things up and the Huskies ineptitude to score, this series should be a low scoring series. BSU will come away with one point and still no wins in the WCHA.

Minnesota State – Mankato at University of Nebraska – Omaha: In the renewal of the Maverick series, these two Maverick teams are headed in opposite directions. Purple Cows (Mankato) are up in the WCHA standings thanks to six conference games already (most games tied with UMTC) and they have been against fellow bottom feeders. The Red Cows (UNO) is surprising many with their hot start in the new WCHA. The Red Cows sweep the Purple Cows this weekend.

University of Wisconsin at University of Minnesota – Twin Cities: A toss up this weekend. I think that both teams are figuring out who they are this season and they both will be middle to upper half of the conference. Both teams haven’t really played any good teams so records are deceiving. And just as the Gophers are figuring things out, they lose a player, Zach Budish, for the season. With the uncertainty I have to say split, but don’t be surprised if Bucky comes away with three or more.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bulldogs Rising, But Who Have They Played?

Bulldogs Take 3 from Bemidji: 3-2OT, 1-1OT

The Bulldogs are up and comers. First in the WCHA, second in the polls and rankings. But how has that resume been amassed? Against teams with losing records. The total records of the UMD opponents is a whopping 6-15-5.

Make no mistake, UMD is a good team with the talent to go far this season, enough experience to make a run into April even. But we still need to see how the Bulldogs do against the “contenders” in the upcoming weeks.

The weekend against Bemidji was a hard fought, grueling weekend for the Bulldogs. In talking with the rest of the HighHorse staff, we kept coming back to what we believe the BSU style of hockey that has given UMD fits over the years since the Beavers jumped to Division I. It was no different this past weekend.

Every time that UMD seemed to get the upper hand, BSU came back and pushed for, and achieved, the momentum time after time. BSU never held a lead in the weekend, good right? But let’s look at it the opposite way. UMD lost the lead both Friday and Saturday.

The upcoming weekend at Grand Forks will be a telling weekend if UMD should be at #2 in the nation or not.

Rankings. As it was stated above, UMD is ranked at #2 in the two national polls and the INCH Power Rankings. It is hard to put much stock into rankings at this point seeing that the Ivy League just started playing last weekend and the haves and the have nots still need to be shaken out.

Goalie Play. Another weekend of Reiter and Crandall splitting starts, but in reverse order with Crandall starting Friday. Two more nights of decent play kept UMD in the games enough to take three points.

It was a little bit of an adventure with Crandall Friday as it looked like he was out of control multiple times, but he did get the job done. And another win putting him at 3-0-0.

Reiter had less goal support…again, even on Saturday night instead of Friday. He was up to the task, but let in a shot off of a SLOW one-timer pass.

At this point, I think that the play of the goalies indicate that the #1 job is still up for grabs.

Gophers Back. A sweep of CC brought the Gophers back into the picture in the WCHA. Their six points put them at third with two more games played than the rest of the top teams. Kent Patterson in net seems to be the guy, at least for now.

Sioux Shutout at Home. In a rare shutout in Grand Forks, Denver salvaged a split in North Dakota. UMD will go to Grand Forks for their next series.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Bemidji and TV this Weekend

What is a hockey program without talent? They are left in the waste land of empty buildings and fan apathy. Here in Minnesota, the Gophers are looked to as a college hockey measuring stick locally and nationally. Last season and the trend this season is Gopher struggles on the ice. But they are still the gold standard because they have players who really want to “wear the sweater.” We have discussions about why that is and the issue of TV always keeps coming up. The Gophers are televised for well over 95% of their games on a regional level and now national level with the prevalence of satellite dishes.

This topic is pertinent because the Bulldogs are at Bemidji this weekend. Still don’t follow? Remember that BSU home games are on the Minnesota Channel, 2.2 in the Twin Cities and found throughout Minnesota and parts of Wisconsin and North Dakota over the air and on cable. At first look this looked like a huge recruiting tool paired with a new building, but take a look at the quality. Watching the UND-BSU series it is obvious that it is a one camera set-up with an operator who had WAY too much caffeine during the day. Analysts are mediocre and the booth looks like a closet. But still, they are on regional TV and I get to watch the games this weekend.

All in all, I would want a deal like UMD’s where you get quality coverage over Northern Minnesota.

Oleksuk Honored. Travis Oleksuk was name the Red baron WCHA Offensive Player of the week for his 2-2-4 weekend. One of his two goals Saturday night was a shorthanded, game winning goal. That give Oleksuk the NCAA lead in game winning goals at 3.

UMD Bucks Trend. Scoring the first goal is key to winning for most teams.  But the Bulldogs still have their unbeaten season while not scoring the first goal. In last Friday’s game, it was the fourth time in five games that UMD did not score the first goal, but still didn’t lose. Saturday became the second game this season where the Bulldogs scored first en route to a 6-0 shutout of UAA. But maybe it doesn’t matter as BSU is 0-1-1 when scoring first this year and 0-1-0 when their opponent scores first.

A First this Weekend? Bemidji is still looking for their first win in their new building, the recently renamed Sanford Center. At the same time, UMD is striving to keep their unbeaten season going. We predict that BSU will not get their first, but will not go away pointless either. A tie Friday and a Bulldog win Saturday looks to be in order.

Around the WCHA.

Minnesota State – Mankato at Alaska – Anchorage: one win for each team this year so far in 12 games. It should be a real slug fest. This will be a sweep for UAA because of their home ice advantage.

Denver at North Dakota: The Sioux want to get back on track after a terrible weekend at Maine. The Pioneers happen to be the next on the list for UND. But Denver is not a pushover so, but they will not get a win this weekend. Watch for a three point weekend for NoDak.

University of Minnesota – Twin Cities at Colorado College: Where is this season going for the Gophers? They have now decided to pull Kangas for the weekend and play Patterson in net. He is 1-0-0 and has let in one goal in 4 periods of play this season. Is he the answer? Yes and no, so give them partial credit and in college hockey that is a split.

Michigan Technological University at Wisconsin: The other unbeaten WCHA team, MTU, goes for more in Madison. Bucky is still an enigma this year after beating up on weaker teams, but not faring as well against decent teams. So which type of team is MTU? We are unsure about that too, so we see a split this weekend.

Quinnipiac at Saint Cloud State University: The Huskies challenging season continues as they struggle to score. A split in another non-conference series.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

WCHA Weekend: October 22-24

UMD Sweeps UAA 3-2 OT and 7-0

A good weekend of UMD hockey punctuated by Aaron Crandall’s first collegiate shutout in only his second start. To be even more specific, he has a 119:02 shutout streak going and again, he has only played in two games. That following a hard fought OT win for UMD Friday with Kenny Reiter in net.

So let us look into this goalie rotation the Bulldogs are currently using with Reiter on Friday and Crandall on Saturday.

In the last two Fridays, the Bulldogs have not been convincing in getting the aforementioned 3-2 OT win last Friday and pulling through for a 5-3 win October 15 where one goal was an empty netter. Both games Reiter played well, but needed every save to get the wins. It is good to have a seasoned veteran to backstop a very good team.

On the other hand, the last two Saturdays saw the Bulldogs crush the opponent 7-1 and 6-0 against Providence and UAA respectively. Both games were backstopped by Crandall. Did Crandall play well in the games? He must have to get scores like those. The real question is whether he is learning how to compete in the close games that will be prevalent in the WCHA season. Crandall is not new to hockey and he has played many games before his tenure at UMD, but it is accepted that the WCHA is “Tougher”…or is that just what we want to believe.

The bottom line is that Reiter has seemingly gotten the short end of the play in front of him. I don’t think that you can draw any conclusions about what that means about the team. It is just to point out an interesting trend and that UMD should rest easy, for now, that they have two quality goalies.

UMD Rankings. The Bulldogs hold #3 in all three rankings this week.

Mortal Sioux. The Sioux were swept this past weekend at Maine 7-3 and 4-2. It was Maine who last swept the Sioux in a non-conference series back in 2006 in Grand Forks.

First WCHA Win. At least for this season...UMTC Gophers pulled themselves of the mat to win a close game 2-1 against Saint Cloud State. That win Sunday afternoon prevented back to back home sweeps of the Gophers.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Seawolves to Duluth

WCHA Season Starts for Unbeaten UMD

The warm-ups are over; it is time to start the journey through the gauntlet of the WCHA season for the UMD Bulldogs. Alaska – Anchorage is the opponent at the DECC this weekend. UAA is a struggling team, 1-2-1, that is not on its usual early season tear before running out of steam later in the season.

But not matter where UAA is in the standings, the Seawolves have been a struggle for the Bulldogs over the past years. The Bulldogs are 1-5-2 against UAA over the last three seasons, not impressive at all. In fact it is alarming, but it should be noted that the win in that streak is the most recent game, if that really matters. UMD has to beat on the bottom half teams to keep their top three aspirations.

Slow Starts. UAA has not scored the first goal in any of their first four games. In the same vein, the Bulldogs have scored the first goal in only one of their first four games. First goal is sometimes a statistical marker for losses, thus far it has not hindered UMD.

Only Planned Meeting. UAA makes the trip to Duluth for the regular season this weekend. The host Bulldogs will not be polite in taking two games from the visiting Seawolves.

Around the WCHA.

We are still waiting for the first full weekend of WCHA games which doesn’t happen until December 3!

Colorado College at Minnesota State – Mankato: CC will continue the Mav’s skid. The Tigers will take home three points.

Wisconsin at Denver: Here is an interesting match-up pitting two teams that lost a lot of talent and are still trying to ascertain what they have this year. Wisconsin has had a fairly easy schedule while Denver has been in a meat grinder. So what will we have? If Denver’s will is not yet broken, we will see a split. If the Pioneers have had enough and need confidence, they will not get it from Bucky. And behind this all is the drama with the Gwozdecky contract non-extension that occurred this summer fueling rumors that George will go to Penn State. Enough distractions? Denver is well coached team and they will gain a split.

Saint Cloud State at University of Minnesota – Twin Cities: Again, two teams looking to see who they are and what they are made of. UMTC had two slow starts last weekend against UNO that they couldn’t overcome while SCSU is just having problems scoring. Both will likely keep their trends leaving us with a series split.

North Dakota at Maine: This looked interesting on the pre-season radar, but has lost some luster based on Maine’s struggles. UND will take three points.

Nebraska – Omaha at Michigan: A renewed CCHA series where two unbeatens meet. I guess that they could both remain unbeaten with two ties which has already happened to the Wolverines this season. But this series will be a win for Michigan as they take both games in a split.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Weekend That Was: Oct. 15-18

UMD Sweeps Friars 5-3 and 7-1

A very good home opening weekend for the UMD Bulldogs simply put. A sweep is what was expected and what was delivered.

Scoring is the main headline coming off of the weekend with Providence College. The FCC line combined for 14 points on the weekend with MConnolly and JConnolly netting 2 goals each and Fontaine adding one. That is great, but the part that the HighHorse always talks about is how second line scores and helps takes pressure off of the “main guys.” The second line came through. The Schmidt – Oleksuk – Brown line combined for six goals this weekend and 12 points in total. That is what a team that will make national waves needs to succeed. Is that enough? No, UMD needs to push further and get the third and fourth lines on the scoring sheet to have the best chance of fulfilling the high expectations of this team.

Just as we have borderline called out the third and fourth lines above, we must also commend those players for the even +/- rating for the weekend. If they don’t score, they must not allow the opponent to score.

The defense looked shaky again on Friday night. Shaky you say? Yeah, it was the defense that allowed six goals at LSSU and near comeback in the third period at NMU. The near comeback was in play again Friday night as the Friars pulled within one goal before an empty netter for UMD. But putting that behind them, UMD came out Saturday night and shutdown the Friars offensively for 59 minutes giving up the lone goal 0:58 into the first. That is the defense that UMD needs every game. It is the defense that needs to be present no matter who plays. It was Aaron Crandall who was the goaltender Saturday night making his first collegiate appearance. Kenny Reiter is the main guy, but the Bulldogs need to know that they have competent backup when needed. Good timing for it during non-conference at home.

UMD Rankings. Inside College Hockey and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine has UMD at #5 and USCHO pegs the bulldogs at #6. It should be noted that INCH is a rankings from their staff while USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine and USCHO have polls from voters.

Change at UMTC. Brewster is out…is Don next? That IS NOT a serious question from the HighHorse. Don is safe, for now, but his program did not do itself any favors by being swept at home by UNO in their first WCHA weekend. Welcome back Coach Blais!

Now the real question is should a sweepa t Mariucci be heralded as a big deal? From Inside College Hockey:

Rankings Outrage:
On the strength of its sweep of (UMTC) this past weekend, Nebraska-Omaha debuted at No. 10 in the USA Hockey Magazine/USA Today poll and climbed seven spots to tenth in the rankings. Good on you, Mavs; that makes for a nice WCHA debut. Pollsters, can we drop the notion that sweeping (UMTC) is a big deal? In the last two seasons and change, the Gophers have been swept nine times – they’re an average to slightly above-average team, not the juggernaut that rolled to two national championships nearly a decade ago.
Yoopers Still Unbeaten. Going into a deserved weekend off, the Michigan Technological University Huskies are still unbeaten after playing five games in nine days. A 3-0-2 start is good for anyone, but in Houghton, it is phenomenal! It is the start that the MTU program needs.

Still Want the Sioux? On their First Team Tour, UND swept Bemidji in two convincing games to open their new building. UMD also requested and will play UND in their building opener in late December. Hopefully they can do a little more than the Beavers accomplished.

Scoring at a Premium in Saint Cloud. The loss of scorers Ryan Lasch and Garrett Raboin to graduation and David Eddy to academic “problems” is really hurting this year’s squad. That was very evident in this weekend’s 6-3 loss and 1-1 tie. With a scoring drought looming, the net and defense need to step up. That will make or break the Huskies season.

Friday, October 15, 2010

WCHA Gets Tougher Tonight

The WCHA opens conference play this weekend with their new slogan “Just Got Tougher” that refers to the addition of new teams and the confidence that the WCHA will remain the best conference and even extend that claim over college hockey.

Meanwhile, UMD is still in a holding pattern, waiting for their first game in the new WCHA. Really it isn’t that different, it just has two more teams, University of Nebraska – Omaha and Bemidji State. In the meantime, UMD plays another non-conference series, this time against Providence College Friars.

The Series. It has been since 1997 that these two teams have met and UMD holds an all time record of 12-7-1 against the Friars. In fact, this is the first trip to Minnesota since 2002 when they faced off against Minnesota State – Mankato.

Scoring Around. The Bulldogs tallied 11 goals last weekend and it has been noted here how the goals have been spread around. What is seen after the weekend is that of the 21 players logging ice time last weekend, 13 scored at least one point.

Further, Justin Fontaine is starting off on a hot streak. He has taken 12 shots on goal tallying 2 goals and 3 assists. His linemates, Mike and Jack Connolly, added in, the FCC line has 4 goals and 7 assists for 11 points. The challenge is to keep up that pace while developing scorers on other lines.

Early Results Are In. It has been only two games, but a pattern is starting that needs to be stopped. UMD has been outscored in the third period in the first two games. It is only 4-3, but a contending team needs to be able to shut down opponents, especially when comebacks mount in the third period. It is a question of finishing power, defense and goaltending. All facets of the game that Coach Sandelin is stressing with his team.

Outlook for this Weekend. Look for the last DECC home opener to be a sweep over the Friars getting UMD ready for WCHA play next weekend at home against Alaska – Anchorage.

Around the WCHA.

North Dakota at Bemidji State: BSU is opening a new building in their first games as a WCHA member against the favorite in the league. This makes for a big weekend in Bemidji. More excitement? The NoDak bus was in an accident on their way to Bemidji, getting rear ended in Erskine. Through all the firsts and craziness, NoDak will flex their muscle and take three points home from Bemidji.

UNO at UMTC: UNO is another new team getting their new taste of “tougher.” Their tougher will be facing newly resurgent and more confident Gopher team coming off of a disappointing season last year. Barriball is back and he has lit the lamp for four goals over the weekend while completing a pure hat trick in the first period Saturday night. UMTC will sweep UNO. Welcome back to the WCHA, coach Blais.

Minnesota State – Mankato at Michigan Tech: At first look this is the cellar dweller series, but the Huskies are looking to build on a great start and leave the bottom of the standing in their rears. Tech has gone 2-0-1 in their first three games while MSUM is on a tie streak going 0-0-2. Tech is tough at home and that toughness will result in a sweep over the mega-rebuilding Maverick team.

CC vs Alaska – Anchorage (nc – Alaska Goal Rush): A WCHA preview in a non-conference game. UAA has been strong this early season, so look for a Seawolves win over CC paired with a loss against Union Saturday. CC too will get a split as they beat Alaska Saturday.

Boston College at Denver: Two teams that have to find their identity after losses of players. Look for a split.

Miami at Saint Cloud State: Here is an interesting series. SCSU is picked to be an elite team in the WCHA, but suffered arguably the biggest upset last weekend losing convincingly to Clarkson. Miami has also been picked to be at the top of their conference, the CCHA. But they too split a series last weekend at home against a good New Hampshire team. It will be two teams looking to assert themselves as the teams they were picked to be. This will lead to a hard fought series that will end in a split.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

First Weekend, Improving Results

What does it take to turn a team around? Evidently a few words of wisdom as evidenced by the UMD hockey team from Friday to Saturday night.

Coach Sandelin reportedly ask his team to do three things better after giving up, and scoring, six goals in the opening game. They were penalty kill, face-offs and coverage in the defensive end. Poof…Saturday brought 58 plus minutes of shutout hockey giving up two goals in a 3-2 win. Those two goals did come in a 108 second span so maybe defensive coverage could be stressed again.

I know, different teams and different nights, but both teams were ripe for the picking. Regardless of the shots on goal differential for the Lakers, they lost to a Canadian college team. UMD has to take that game and complete a “sweep” at Marquette.

The bottom line is that UMD did not lose a game this weekend which would have been disappointing at the very least.

Spread Around the Scoring. Tallying six goals Friday night was impressive. Four of them came from the FCC line with Schmidlt and Seidel rounding out the scoring sheet for UMD. On Saturday, the defense heeded the coach’s words to cover better on defense AND they stepped it up by scoring all three goals in the win. Olsen, Lamb and Faulk had all the offense that was needed by UMD to win. The more players that score, the better, and the more the wins the Bulldogs will win.

Superior Cup Winner. For the first time in the four year history, UMD does not have at least a share of the cup. This year’s winner is clear cut and is the Huskies of Michigan Technological University. MTU went 2-0 on the weekend putting an exclamation point on the deal with a convincing 6-2 win over Lake State.

Michigan Tech is admittedly my second favorite team, so this is a good sign for them, a team that has not had good fortune for a while. I wish it didn’t have to come at the slight expense of the Bulldogs.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Superior Cup Starts the Season this Weekend

Great Expectations for the Bulldogs in 2010-11
They are called early season jitters. That feeling of excitement of the unknown, a fresh start players and fans alike. For the writers, it is a time of speculation and looking for that information that isn’t based on games this year, but past performance or from practicing this fall. In both cases it is an unsure time before we see what the product is on the ice.

The Long Road to… Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan is first on the list of travel destinations for the Bulldogs this season. UMD holds an all time series lead against the Lakers of LSSU 7-3-4. In those 14 games, only one of them occurred in Sault Ste. Marie and that was the first game of the season two years ago.

The second night of the weekend takes the Bulldogs to Marquette, Michigan to face the Wildcats of Northern Michigan University, an NCAA Tournament participant last year. NMU, a former member of the WCHA, is 33-32-4 against the Bulldogs all time.

Opponent Update. It is very normal to play an early season exhibition game against a Canadian college team. What is not normal is for an NCAA team to lose to one of those Canadian college teams. The real good hockey players go to Juniors in Canada and the rest go to college, the opposite of what happens in the United States. The UMD Friday night opponent completed the unusual feat by losing to Western Ontario 5-4 last weekend. Bottom line, this is a game that UMD has to win when looking at the opponent.

NMU is coming off of an NCAA berth with confidence to boot. They are picked to finish in the middle of the pack in the CCHA this season. Their main loss from last year is goaltender, Brain Stewart who propelled them to a strong late season surge into the NCAA Tournament. They will have a big question mark in goal and are vulnerable, at least early in the season, because of it.

With season expectations high and a veteran crew, a Bulldog “sweep” this weekend looks to be a very good possibility. What may hold them back is the road trip is long to Sault Ste. Marie and having to backtrack over a hundred miles after Friday’s game to get to Marquette will be a grind. I know, good teams overcome those obstacles, but these are the first trips of the season.

Pre-Season Bulldog Picks. The HighHorse takes its stab at predicting season awards before the season starts.

MVP: Again, we will go with Connolly. Which one? We weren’t sure before the season last year, but this year we will go with Jack Connolly.

Darkhorse (Our breakout player of the year): If Mike Seidel shows his size and speed in practice so he can get to the ice for games, he will be a factor on this Bulldog team.

Rookie of the Year: UMD has a trio of forwards joining the team this year along with two defensemen. From reports and past records, Joe Basaraba will have the biggest impact on this UMD squad.

Key players that could make or break this season based on their play:

Kenny Reiter, goalie, has the only game experience in net on the team.

Dylan Olsen played well last season, but he has so much more potential on the blueline.

Travis Oleksuk had a great year two sesons ago after he broke into the game lineup. Last season was much less than expected. We will assume last year was affected by his knee injury and this year he will return to form.

Kyle Schmidt had a good thing going at the end of last year. He needs to continue to be the point scorer when teams shut down the top line players.
Around the WCHA. With all WCHA teams in non-conference tilts, we will leave this one go for this week. The one note that must be mentioned is the road that Denver has to travel this year. In our preseason WCHA rankings we noted that the Pioneers may struggle with all the talent they lost, especially at goalie. That point was accented when they lost to Lethbridge, a Canadian college, 5-2 last Sunday. Although LSSU also lost in their exhibition, at least the score was close.

Monday, October 4, 2010

True National Rankings

Inside College Hockey (INCH) has released their Great 58, a ranking of all 58 Division I hockey teams.

North Dakota is found at the top with UMD, Saint Cloud, and Denver also in the top 11.

From INCH:
5. Minnesota Duluth

Good luck getting a ticket for the Bulldogs’ Dec. 30 contest against North Dakota – it’s the night UMD christens the 6,600-seat Amsoil Arena.
Those tickets, by the way, go on sale December 1 at UMD ticket office or Ticketmaster.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pre-season WCHA Rankings

With the start of a college hockey season comes all the predictions from all the pundits. The coaches, the media, and now the HighHorse…among many other outlets. The staff at the HighHorse each made their own rankings which was followed by discussion and a final ranking. The process of finding the final rankings was difficult as all teams change from year to year. We made general ranges of where we thought each team would fall in the end and honed in from there. It is all new in the expanded WCHA, but much of it also looks the same as usual.

1. North Dakota

North Dakota under the direction of Dave Hakstol is always a strong team whether it is with seasoned upper classmen or the use of freshman talents. With a strong goaltender returning in Eidsness along with key defesmen coming back, the Sioux, or whatever they are now, will be a formidable force in the new WCHA.

2. University of Minnesota – Duluth

Overselling? We think not. Even with a slight question mark in net with late season standout Kenny Reiter, the scoring machine up front including the Connollys and Fontaine should produce enough goals to take many wins. The loss of Bordson will hurt, but with the disparity between hid two seasons with UMD, it could have just been a flash in the pan, especially with the added attention he would have received this year.

3. Saint Cloud State University

It just comes down to this…SCSU was an at par team with UMD last year when you look at players and talent. The difference maker was the streaks of wins and positive finishes that the Huskies came a way with. Although the Huskies may have goaltending with enough talent to push higher, the scoring losses seem too great. A lot of pressure will be on Garrett Roe to lead the team. This will leave the lesser-names a great chance to pull through for this team, or it may be a frustrating season.

4. Denver University

Departures highlight the Pioneers offseason. It will be a question of will the bit players stepping up this year to fill shoes. As always, this team will be well coached and that can be a difference in the game of WCHA hockey. Biggest area of concern will be in goal where the mighty Marc Cheverie will be absent this year.

5. University of Wisconsin

See capsule for Denver. Exception, biggest are of concern for Bucky will be defense where four starters left after last season.

6. Colorado College

Strong goaltending will be the biggest strength. Can enough goals be scored for the Tigers?

7. University of Minnesota

Upheaval of a storied program is an understatement. We will likely have ranked the Gophers the lowest of any site that ranks these teams, but we feel it is deserving. Unlike other teams up the rankings that saw many player departures (Denver and Wisconsin), the Gophers are coming off of two poor seasons. Couple those seasons with a coach who is being publicly questioned about “how much he has left in the tank” and you get the final collapse for UMTC. Defense will be challenged and scoring will be at a premium.

8. Bemidji State University

Inaugural season in the WCHA, so what can you expect? That is a great question, but they have been plugging away for the last few years in the vast wasteland of the CHA and doing well in the NCAAs, so looking past them is a mistake. We will put them at 8.

9. University of Nebraska – Omaha

Another inaugural team that brings strong goaltending just like CC. New this year is the coaching legend Blais. Can he work his coaching magic? Can he do it in one year?

10. Michigan Technological University
11. Alaska – Anchorage
12. Minnesota State University – Mankato

The order of the last three is very debatable. We see MTU as a program getting better, UAA as a stagnant program, and MSUM in the lowest part of rebuilding.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Penn State, Big Ten, and TV

Excitement and angst reign supreme in the college hockey world after the announcement last Friday that Penn State will join Division I Mens and Womens Hockey starting Fall 2012.

As every press release states in one form or another, it is good that the sport is expanding, especially in a state that will be hosting two consecutive Mens Frozen Fours. The angst comes from the specter of the Big Ten Conference and their TV network.

With Penn State, the Big Ten has the minimum six teams in hockey to create their own conference with NCAA auto-bid tied to it. And further reports indicate that Indiana is not far behind to make it seven Big Ten Schools. With a new conference comes more TV exposure and more money for the Big Ten. But to what cost to the sport? The WCHA and CCHA have to be working behind the scenes to keep their Big Ten schools in their conferences. The marquee schools in each conference that are also Big Ten current members bring in the revenue, notoriety, and many national championships.

The biggest loser in this possible Big Ten split would be the CCHA. Without Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State, what is left? A burgeoning Miami program, a lot of hit or miss teams from season to season, and even worse playoff attendance at The Joe, if that is possible. On the other hand, the WCHA looks to be in fairly good shape with North Dakota, Denver, and the slew of well followed Minnesota teams keeping the excitement high and some money still flowing into the coffers for the Final Five.

The most likely decision to add Big Ten Hockey will be made based on money and TV. As far as the state of Division I hockey goes we look to the Big Ten to not shake up current conference alignments and integrate into the CCHA to help grow the sport nationally.

Bemidji State Strikes TV Deal
In a very interesting move, Bemidji State has teamed with Lakeland Public Television to broadcast 16 of their games this season. Then Lakeland teamed with public television to carry the games on the Minnesota Channel (2.3 in the Twin Cities) throughout Minnesota and into Wisconsin and North Dakota.

No monetary figures have been disclosed, but one cannot imagine that BSU makes much money on this deal. What the Beavers do get statewide exposure. Whereas Saint Cloud State, Minnesota State – Mankato, and Minnesota – Duluth receive regional exposure on TV at best and maybe just on campus TV in at least one of the campuses.

TV exposure has been a valuable asset to the Gophers keeping a strong hockey presence in a state of five Division I teams and now Bemidji may very well be on the way to being the secnd most watched team in the state.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Summer Capsule

We're Back and Ready for a New Season

Now that it is time to buckle down for many, we too at the HighHorse are getting the musings and news from the summer finally into print. I will go over some of the releases and events leading to this new school year at the University of Minnesota – Duluth in chronological order.

Steve Rohlik leaves UMD for OSU – The first summer departure may prove to be the costliest. Rohlik was assistant coach of the Bulldogs, but it was obvious that he held a lot of sway and responsibility on the team, and rightfully so. Rohlik was at UMD for ten years and was often seen coaching players during games, adjusting their game on the fly to help UMD chances in that game. Further, it was Rohlik who had the white board most timeouts drawing up the plays. This guy was more than an assistant, and that is why it is the costliest loss, but also the one we should have seen coming.

His replacement is former UMD standout Derek Plante. Plante will need to get on board and moving quickly to help this team. If there is one piece of advice for Derek I have is too not follow what Grant Potulny did in his assistant coach role last year for the Gophers. Whatever Potulny did, we will not know because he blended into the wall well.

Brady Hjelle leaves UMD – In a surprising move to the program, fans, and his roommate Kenny Reiter, Hjelle packed it up and left the program in mid May bound for his second stint in the USHL. The heir apparent for the starting job going into last season, Hjelle was hot and cold in 2009-2010 splitting time and becoming backup to that surprised roommate, Reiter. The move seems short sighted as Hjelle has plenty of his game to work on to become a solid #1 in the WCHA. My take is that something must not have jived with the coaching staff to prompt this move. I think that because I don’t want to think that Brady has hurt feelings about splitting time or being backup to Reiter.

I am confident that Retier will do well this year, but he will need a backup to come in and play some of the games. According to the coaches and Reiter, sophomore Aaron Crandall was right with the Hjelle/Reiter combo in practices last year. If the same thing should happen to Reiter this year that happened to Hjelle last year, we have to hope that Reiter doesn’t pack it up in mid-May and leave the program…

The Bulldogs move to 94X, keep the network – In yet another move on the Duluth airwaves, the Bulldogs have a new home on the radio this season. The best news is the nothing new part with the network. KQ translators out of Grand Rapids (105.5) and Babbitt (106.7) will continue to carry the games. It is great to be able to travel the Arrowhead and still be able to keep up on hockey.

Hockey HighHorse plans rebranding – We are still planning to have a new home for the Hockey HighHorse before the end of the month. We will always be available at the current link, but plans are moving forward for purchasing a domain. There are still two obstacles: finding a new name that incorporates college hockey and HighHorse (yeah, we believe we have to stick with the original name for better or worse), and finding that new name available for a domain.  Comments and ideas are gladly welcomed!

So let’s drop the puck on this season and get the hot stove going in preparation for the impending college hockey season!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

2010-2011 UMD Schedule Released

It is never too early to check out nest year’s Bulldog Hockey schedule and mark your calendars. That is especially true this year as the current DECC Arena will be replaced as the home of UMD Hockey by the DECC Expansion (soon to be called the DECC?).

In the new WCHA with 12 teams after adding Bemidji State and Nebraska – Omaha, the rotation of opponents will be different.

Instead of playing five teams four times per season (a series at home and away), teams will play three teams four times. The new scheduling system is named the pod system. There will be three pods of four teams.

The pods are controlled by the current rival system, so each team will play another team, their “rival”, four times every year. UMD’s rival will remain Michigan Tech. The other two teams that make up the pod will rotate every year. The other teams in the Bulldog’s pod are MTU, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

2010-2011 UMD Men's Hockey Schedule

(Home games in CAPS)
Oct. 8     at Lake Superior State
Oct. 9     at Northern Michigan
Oct. 29-30 at Bemidji State
Nov. 5-6   at North Dakota
Nov. 19-20 at Wisconsin
Nov. 26-27 at Clarkson
Dec. 3-4   DENVER
Dec. 10-11 at Minnesota
Dec. 30    NORTH DAKOTA (DECC Expansion opening)
Jan. 14-15 WISCONSIN
Jan. 21-22 at Michigan Tech
Feb. 4-5   MINNESOTA
Feb. 11-12 ST. CLOUD STATE
Feb. 18-19 at Minnesota State-Mankato
Feb. 25-26 at Colorado College

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Frozen Four Bust

Maybe it is the high caliber of play that we come to expect in watching games in the WCHA. Or maybe the past Frozen Fours that have spoiled us. More likely it was just one of those years where the three games at the Frozen Four were duds.

The teams played hard, in some cases, but the results were lopsided games where spectators couldn’t help but lose interest because suspense was not there. And this has nothing to do with the venue even though many have voiced their opinion that it should be held in an arena. Aside…remember, the 2011 Frozen Four is at the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul. The venue is not the focus for this article, it is the implications of the three blowout games.

Where Does College Hockey Go From Here?
This could be a step backward for the game on a national level. What do you think was the reaction at ESPN at the results? “Sure glad we are in a contract to televise this stuff nationally…” I am quite certain the sentiment is being uttered outloud in Bristol.

In the middle of the West Regional press conference after the championship game between the SCSU players and coach leaving and the Wisconsin players and coach arriving, the ESPN technician started taking down the lights that make video possible. The NCAA Regional Director asked what he was doing and a heated exchange ensued.

The technician said that his ESPN people told him to take it all down because they were packing up to leave. The Director was angered because we still had a press conference to conduct in front of the cameras.

In the end, people the two in the argument in front of the media were quite mad. The technician put up one of the two lights he took down and stormed off with the other. The Director was visually agitated, and we, the media were left to crack jokes amongst each other about the incident, most taking sides with the NCAA.

I am sure that it is important to the NCAA to get the hockey championship on TV and the more mainstream the better. But after this year’s Frozen Four, I hope that someone like ESPN will be there to step up and take it on.