Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Last season, Oberg had nine goals and 14 assists in 52 games while playing for Camrose in the AJHL. UMD has landed several players from the Camrose program over the years, including former standout Mason Raymond, and current players Matt McKnight, MacGregor Sharp, and Logan Gorsalitz.
Oberg turned 19-years-old this past February.
From the release:
"Evan is just a real solid all-around defenseman," said head coach Scott Sandelin, who will begin his eighth season behind the Bulldog bench this fall. "He's got some terrific offensive skills, knows how to handle the puck, and see the ice well. His addition now gives us eight defensemen and a much-needed lefthanded shot from the point."
Monday, July 30, 2007
His brother Brent played part of five seasons in the WHL and has been a regular on the Chicago Blackhawks' blueline the last two seasons. Both are from Delta, British Columbia.
DU head coach George Gwozdecky had this to say in the USCHO.com article:
"Keith and his family felt the U.S. college hockey development model of practice and games combined with rigorous academics would not benefit his hockey career," Gwozdecky said. "Our development model has proven to be successful and rewarding, and we're looking forward to the 2007-08 season."
Seabrook is the second player to leave DU early this offseason. Senior-to-be Ryan Dingle, who had a team-high 22 goals last year for the Pios, signed a contract with the Anaheim Ducks shortly after last season ended.
Friday, July 27, 2007
He will likely serve as the Pios' third goalie this year, behind senior Peter Mannino and fellow freshman Marc Cheverie.
Here is a list of the cities that I've already covered:
This week, it’s city No. 9: Grand Forks, N.D., which is of course home to the University of North Dakota and the Fighting Sioux.
Getting to Grand Forks isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but it’s far from the drive to Houghton on the difficulty scale. The city offers an international airport, which gives folks coming from the Colorado area (CC and DU fans) a viable option. Fans may also choose to fly into Fargo or Minneapolis as well, as both cities are within a reasonable driving distance.
Many folks who make the trip to Grand Forks, be it Sioux fans going to see their team or opposing team fans, may come from the Twin Cities area. It’s under a five-hour drive Minneapolis to Grand Forks, assuming the weather cooperates. Once you hit Fargo, it’s just 81 miles, and thanks to the 75 MPH speed limit between the two cities on Interstate 29, it’s a quick jaunt.
The downside to Grand Forks is that the closest other WCHA city is St. Cloud, which is still 251 miles away, so most fans will have a pretty long haul to get there.
Because Grand Forks is a fairly large city in WCHA terms, they have plenty to offer in terms of bars and restaurants. The downside to the city’s setup for the college hockey fan is that there is really only one viable bar within walking-distance of the Ralph Engelstad Arena, and that’s Suite 49. It’s a solid sports bar with a good variety on the menu.
Despite the fact that there aren’t very many bars close to the Ralph, a plus to the area around the arena is that they offer free parking a few blocks away from the arena, and that is complimented with a free shuttle service that takes you to and from the games. Opposing fans will have to put up with some good-natured ribbing on the ride over, but it’s worth it.
Personally, my favorite bar in the Grand Forks area is Overtime Grill & Bar. Overtime was formerly known as Dagwoods. It’s a smoke-free facility that makes for some great viewing for a sports fan. Not to mention the fact that some buddies and I had a great time the day after the Holy Cross debacle for the Gophers. I should note that I haven’t been to this bar since the name-change, but hopefully it’s still rock-solid.
If you’re looking to party it up a bit at night, the El Roco can get fairly wild. Other establishments to hit up include Southgate Lounge and Whitey’s, with the latter being located in East Grand Forks.
One thing to remember when going to bars in Grand Forks: many of them have some sort of casino-type game in them, which means they can be fairly strict on letting anyone under the age of 21 in, although there are some bars that may make an exception (relax…the Blarney’s cheap shots are on the way come Minneapolis’ review). There are several family-friendly options to be found, including typical establishments like Green Mill, Buffalo Wild Wings, and an Applebee’s, among others.
Though not bars, two must-stops for anyone include the famous Red Pepper, which is great for late-night dining, and Happy Joe’s, which has a great pizza buffet.
Grand Forks really suffers in this area in my opinion, since there isn’t a whole heck of a lot to do aside from watch hockey games. The one staple that I try to incorporate into the trip is a visit to the Columbia Mall, which makes for a good time-killer.
Grand Forks’ official website goes into more details on some other offerings that the area presents, so hopefully some of these options will suite your needs.
There are plenty of lodging options in the Grand Forks area, but there aren’t too many options within walking distance of the arena. I personally like to stay at either the Holiday Inn or Super 8 that are located right off of Interstate 29 and Highway 2. Both offer fair prices and decent accommodations. Most opposing teams shack up at the Holiday Inn, which offers a good-sized water park for those who enjoy that type of thing.
Ticket Cost / Availability
Because of the popularity of the Fighting Sioux, tickets can be tough to come by for bigger series (i.e. Minnesota and Wisconsin). For most other series, you’ll probably be able to get in the building, but the quality of your seats may not be the greatest. No matter where you sit, chances are your seats are going to be spendy. Single game tickets cost at least $25.00, depending upon who the Sioux are playing. Plus, if you buy them online, you’re subject to TicketMaster and their extra fees / charges, which is obviously a negative.
I personally rank Grand Forks as one of my favorite roadtrips, but it’s not because of the city. It gives you everything you need to make the trip solid, but it really suffers in terms of other things to do aside from watching hockey and it’s long distance from most other WCHA cities.
Overall Grade: C+
Thursday, July 26, 2007
McBain will join several other WCHA players in participating in USA Hockey's 2007 USA Junior Evaluation Camp, which takes place Aug. 5-14 in Lake Placid, N.Y. McBain was on last year's bronze medal-winning 2007 U.S. National Junior Team , and is a virtual lock to make the 2008 team.
WCHA Blog's Take: Little Falls doesn't play the toughest schedule in the world, given the fact they are in the Central Lakes conference, so this move to the USHL should make Festler much more seasoned for his college career.
Tardy joins Jack Connolly of Duluth Marshall and John O’Neill of Anoka as 2009 Bulldog recruits.
Hjelle, a goalie, is slated to join the Bulldogs in the fall of 2008. Youso, a forward, is tentatively scheduled to be a Gopher in the fall of 2009, but could be moved up to the fall of '08 if Minnesota is hit hard by early departures next spring / summer.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
WCHA Blog's Take: The article hints that Marvin will turn pro in 2011, but doesn't give much basis for that assumption. Given the fact he was a third round pick, it's unlikely that Marvin will play four years at St. Cloud, but to predict something that will happen four years from now is a little silly.
Let's hope the Flames have more respect for Marvin and the St. Cloud program than they had for former Golden Gopher Kris Chucko, who was reportedly contacted by the Flames multiple times, both during and after his two seasons at Minnesota, urging him to leave Minneapolis and continue his career elsewhere.
If an organization invests a first round pick in a player, they obviously have a lot at stake. But to try and pull the player away from a program during that team's season is in bad taste, especially when in this case, the Flames knew Chucko would be attending Minnesota before they drafted him.
Carman, who was a third round pick by the Avs in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, had a solid freshman season at Minnesota. He often centered Minnesota's third line and finished the year with nine goals and 11 assists.
Unfortunately for Carman and the Gophers, he will sit out the first half of the upcoming season due to academic reasons.
Later this summer, he'll participate in the 2007 USA Junior Evaluation Camp which is used to help decide what players will represent Team USA in the 2008 IIHF World Junior Championship, which will be held Dec. 26, 2007-Jan. 5, 2008, in Pardubice and Liberec, Czech Republic. Carman played on the 2007 version of this team, and it would be surprising if he didn't make the team again this year.
Depending upon how Team USA does, and assuming Carman gets his academic issues addressed, he'll likely return to the ice for Minnesota in time for the Gophers series with St. Cloud State on Jan. 11-12.
Stoa, who played on that bronze medal-winning team with Carman and was second round pick by Colorado in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, had a somewhat disappointing season last year for the Gophers. He typically played left wing on Minnesota's top line that was often centered by Kyle Okposo. Stoa finished the year with 12 goals and 12 assists, which comes on the heels of his 25-point freshman season.
This season, Stoa will again be put in a position to succeed, and it would be surprising if his offensive numbers didn't increase across the board during his junior year.
The article also touches on former Wisconsin defenseman Nigel Williams, who left Wisconsin midway through his freshman year last season to play in the OHL.
This week, I’m going to start my list of which WCHA arenas are the best in my mind. What makes a college hockey arena good or bad? Here, in alphabetical order, are my criteria:
1) Arena – Obviously the arena itself is important when it comes to this ranking. How are the sitelines? Is the arena easy to get to and park at? Does the arena offer anything special on the inside?
2) Atmosphere – What is the arena like when the game is going on? Is it more of a college or a pro atmosphere?
3) Crowd – How into the game is the crowd? Do students typically attend the games?
Like I said last week in relation to what makes a roadtrip town the best, it’s largely a personal thing. Some people may base the in-arena experience largely on the crowd and how into they game they are. Others may want a nice and modern arena and don’t care as much about the crowd.
I’ve been to each WCHA arena at least once, and have been to most of the arenas multiple times, so I feel that makes me fairly capable of putting this list together with a decent amount of knowledge.
Starting today and continuing through the next nine Wednesdays, I’ll countdown my personal list, starting today with No. 10: Sullivan Arena, which is located in Anchorage, AK and is of course home to the Alaska Anchorage Seawolves.
One immediate red flag for me about Sullivan Arena is that it’s a multi-purpose facility. That generally means that the sitelines for a hockey game have potentially been sacrificed to accommodate for other events. But, because it’s fairly easy to get tickets to a Seawolves game and thus you can move around to find a decent spot to sit, this isn’t a huge issue in this case.
The Seawolves share Sullivan Arena with the city of Anchorage, and the arena is located in downtown Anchorage and not on campus. There is ample parking on both the south and west sides of the arena, so finding a place to park isn’t an issue. Because Anchorage is a decent-sized city, there are many hotel offerings in and around the downtown area. However, there aren’t many that are within walking distance of the arena, so the available parking comes in handy.
What really hurts this arena is the inside. Because of the sparse attendance, there are lots of empty yellow and orange seats littered throughout the crowd. The food options are okay, but I was personally disappointed that they had a very small souvenir stand with very few options. I like to purchase a puck at each arena I visit, and was unable to accomplish this feat in Anchorage. The campus bookstore does have some good souvenir options, though.
The university is moving forward with plans for a new sports complex that’s slated to include a new rink for the Seawolves, and that would certainly help out the Anchorage program.
Sullivan Arena really suffers here as well. Because the team has generally been one of the bottom-feeders in the WCHA over the past several years, the crowds for games are usually pretty sparse, especially when you consider that the arena holds over 6,000 people for hockey games, which is a pretty high number.
Plus, like I said, the arena is a multi-purpose facility; there isn’t that “great college atmosphere” that can help carry some smaller programs in various NCAA sports. Having a great college atmosphere, even on a small scale, can do wonders for the in-arena experience.
There are a handful of diehard Seawolves fans that certainly make their voices (and cowbells) heard throughout the evening and are 100 percent behind their team. However, if the team gets behind, which they often do, the arena can get quiet pretty quickly. Student attendance at the games I’ve been was nothing to write home about.
I found that the locals are very friendly to opposing team fans that make the trip to Anchorage. The city residents as a whole take a great deal of pride in what they have up there, and the same holds true at Seawolves games. I was graciously invited into the blueline club area and met many great fans that were a blast to talk to. If you make the trip up to Anchorage, I suggest you poke your head in and say ‘hi.’ You may even get in on some of that Wendy’s chili.
Overall Grade: C-
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
WCHA Blog's Take: From the article: "While the Islanders are probably crushed on the inside that Okposo, a 6-foot power forward with soft hands, announced he’ll go back to school for another year, they have publicly supported his decision."
Multiple sources have confirmed that Okposo was told by the Islanders that if he elected to leave Minnesota after his freshman season, his choices for this upcoming season would NOT have included playing for either the Islanders or their AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. The Islanders felt so strongly that Okposo was not ready for the NHL / AHL that they suggested playing major junior as an alternative if he wanted to leave Minnesota.
With that being said, it's not a surprise that Okposo elected to return to the Gophers.
From December 10 until the end of last season, Okposo scored just four goals. It was clear that the loss of Tyler Hirsch adversely affected Okposo's production. This season, Okposo will need to work on being more consistent in the offensive end.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
On Friday, the Winnipeg Sun had this piece that outlines the easy decision process for the younger Toews.
Friday, July 20, 2007
I have personally made roadtrips to each WCHA town for the purpose of watching the University of Minnesota at least one time, and have been to most towns several times for the purpose of watching the Gophers and other WCHA teams play. So, with that being said, I feel that I’m somewhat qualified to put together a ranking of all the WCHA towns and their ability to be a good host.
What makes a town good for roadtrips can obviously vary depending upon your prerogative and personal opinions. Some people go for the sole purpose of wanting to party and have a good time. Others may be traveling with kids and look for more family-friendly things to do.
In trying to put together this list, I took into account five different things that I personally would consider important to most fans in a hockey roadtrip town. In alphabetical order, here are those points.
Note that I plan on doing a separate list for WCHA arenas, starting with No. 10 next Wednesday.
- Access – How easy is the city to get to for most WCHA fans?
- Bars – As any fan knows, it’s important to have a place to eat and/or drink before and after the games.
- City Experience – Some people like to make a three-day weekend out of a roadtrip, so what does the city have to offer outside of hockey-related places?
- Hotels – When traveling, it’s obviously important to have hotels that are decent, affordable, and close to your main points-of-interest while on the road.
- Ticket Cost / Availability – Arguably the key to any roadtrip is securing tickets to watch your team play. It’s important to factor in the cost of tickets and how readily available tickets are at various schools.
Starting today and continuing through the next nine Fridays, I’ll countdown my personal list, starting today with No. 10: Houghton, Michigan, which is home to Michigan Tech.
Getting to Houghton is a challenge for most fans, regardless of where you’re coming from, for a few reasons. The main challenge for most fans is just the sheer distance you’ll have to travel. The closest WCHA town to Houghton is of course Duluth, which is still 217 miles away. If you’re traveling from the Twin Cities, you’re looking at a six-hour drive. Same goes for Madison, and Grand Forks is about 7 hours away.
The other challenge that travelers could experience is of course the weather. Those drive-times listed above don’t take into account the frequent snow that can occur in northern Wisconsin and the upper peninsula of Michigan during the fall and winter. Most roads are single-lane highways on the way to Houghton, so bad weather can really make the drive slow and possibly dangerous.
Houghton is the smallest town home to any of the WCHA schools. That being said, there are still some decent watering holes to be found. Most of the viable bars are found in downtown Houghton along Sheldon Ave. The Library is my personal favorite, as it features a cool atmosphere, a great food menu, and its own brewery. The Ambassador is known by fans for its great pizza, and business usually picks up later in the evening for the “party crowd.”
There are a handful of other bars and restaurants found in downtown, but one issue here is that because the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena is up on a hill away from the downtown a bit, it can be a challenge to walk from a bar/restaurant all the way to the arena. Most fans would rather have the ability to walk to the arena before and after the game without having to worry about driving and parking.
What makes a "city experience" good or not really depends on the type of person you are and what you enjoy. That especially holds true when it comes to Houghton. If you enjoy doing outdoor winter activities, then you’re set, as the area offers several offerings.
I am not that type of person, so for me, the thing I look forward to the most in terms of “non-hockey” things to do is to visit Dee Stadium, which is located right behind the Best Western. According to Wikipedia, it replaced the Amphidrome, which burned down in 1927, and was formerly home-rink for Michigan Tech. The rink itself is so-so, but the allure to the arena is that it has a pretty cool museum within it that houses some very cool memorabilia about the start of professional ice hockey in the U.S., which started in the Houghton-area.
The wild-card in the whole “city experience” situation when it comes to Houghton is Winter Carnival, which is the annual weekend in mid-February that turns the city into a complete zoo.
Houghton doesn’t offer anything fancy in terms of lodging, but that won’t be an issue for most college hockey fans. I personally stay at the Best Western Franklin Square Inn. The rates vary of course, but I’ve usually spent in the neighborhood of $90 per night, which isn’t outrageous, especially considering most fans travel with other people and thus tend to split the cost of the room. It features a bar at the top of the hotel which features a nice view over Portage Lake.
There are several other lodging options, which can be found here.
Ticket Cost / Availability
Aside from Winter Carnival weekend, WCHA fans should have no trouble getting tickets to watch their squad take on the Huskies. Games are rarely sold out and ticket prices are very reasonable, especially in relation to some other WCHA rinks. Additionally, they don’t adjust their ticket prices based on which team coming to town (like other WCHA schools do), so that is another nice feature.
More info can be found here.
Overall, Houghton is one town that your average WCHA fans needs to visit at least once. It's very unique and different than the other towns the conference has to offer. That being said, part of that uniqueness also hurts it in some of the categories mentioned above, as the size of the town limits what Houghton can offer.
Overall Grade: C
Thursday, July 19, 2007
The committee formulated three options to eliminate ties:
- Five minutes of 4-on-4 overtime, then decide the game by using a shootout. This option had the most support among committee members.
- Five minutes of 4-on-4 overtime, then 3-on-3 for five minutes of overtime, then a shootout.
- Each team would receive a 5-on-4 power play opportunity for two minutes. If Team A scores and then holds Team B from scoring, Team A wins. If Team B scores a shorthanded goal during Team A's opportunity, the game is over and Team B wins. If a penalty is called on the shorthanded team during the overtime opportunity, the power play opportunity is extended for the additional time. The procedure is used until one team scores.
- Five minute overtimes playing 4-on-4.
- 10 minute overtimes playing 4-on-4.
- Five minute overtimes playing 4-on-4 and then 3-on-3.
Andy Baggot discussed this issue with Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves in Baggot's blog Eaves is against the idea of making any of the changes outlined by the NCAA.
According to Baggot, one of the main issues Eaves has with the NCAA's ideas is that the power ratings (PairWise, which incorporates, among other things, RPI) used to seed and align the 16-team NCAA tournament would likely have to be adjusted.
"With the RPI, how do you put a quantitative variable on a shootout in a system that's based on wins, losses (and) ties? I think that's a huge hurdle to get over,'' Eaves told Baggot.
Eaves also points out that player developmental time is reduced because benches will be shortened ever more if a game gets into a 4-on-4 situation.
According to Eaves, he may be fighting an uphill battle, since he believes that most other NCAA coaches would be in favor of some sort of change.
"I think I'm an island onto myself,'' he said.
WCHA Blog's Take: I agree with Eaves and the points he makes. The NCAA tournament selection process no doubt needs work, and the committee tweaked its selection criteria yet again this year. However, adding something like a shootout would really muddy the waters. To a lesser extent I agree with Eaves that development time would be lost, but the overtime sessions being proposed are just five or 10 minutes, which isn't too much time in the grand scheme of things.
In terms of the NHL, the shootout is no doubt an exciting site. But is it really the best way to determine the winner of a game? Various arguments have been made about this idea, but the one that holds the most water with myself is that hockey is the ultimate team game. Determining the winner via a shootout turns a team game into a 1-on-1 situation.
Additionally, the NHL regular season is 82 games per team. Most college hockey teams play less than half of that, so the argument could be made the each regular season college game is much more important than a regular season NHL game.
The NHL turned to the shootout in part because of the excitement it brings, with the theory being that more fans would tune into their fledgling brand with a shootout in place. But college hockey, and in particular the WCHA, have no such issues. Attendance at WCHA games is at record highs during the regular season, and the Final Five seems to break various attendance records on an annual basis.
However, as some online college hockey fans know, USCHO.com complies team schedules on its team pages, even before schedules are officially released. There may be changes to these USCHO schedules if they are for a team that has not released its official schedule, but here are the links for Minnesota and Wisconsin's schedules via USCHO.
Here are the links to the officially released schedules for the other WCHA teams:
St. Cloud State
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Forwards Aaron Marvin, Tony Mosey, Nick Oslund, Garrett Roe and Brian Volpei, defenseman Brett Barta, and goalie Dan Dunn will all be members of the Huskies this fall.
Luca Cunti, a forward from Dubendorf, Switzerland and a third-round by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, hopes to be able to join the Huskies this fall as well, but must get past the NCAA Clearinghouse first. If he is not deemed to be eligible this fall, he will play with fellow SCSU recruit Drew LeBlanc for the Chicago Steel in the USHL this year.
Defenseman Nic Rioux will probably be on campus this fall, but may have to sit out the upcoming season depending upon his appeal to the NCAA of his enrollment.
Former Minnesota forward Brent Borgen, who was able to practice with SCSU last season but was unable to compete in games because of his transfer from the Golden Gophers to the Huskies, will also join SCSU this fall.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Michigan Tech freshman-to-be Casey Pierro-Zabotel, who was a third-round pick by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, is hoping to gain eligibility that will allow him to join the Huskies this December, head coach Jamie Russell announced via a press release today.
According to the release, Pierro-Zabotel is considered a partial qualifier according to the NCAA's initial eligibility standards. The Kamloops, B.C. native will continue to play junior hockey during the fall. He finished third in the BCHL in scoring last season with 51 goals and 65 assists.
The earliest he can join the Huskies would be on December 15 for a non-conference series against Northern Michigan.
WCHA Blog's Take: Most onlookers expect the Huskies to build on their strong 2006-07 campaign where they finished in a tie for sixth place and advanced to the WCHA Final Five. Losing Pierro-Zabotel for the first half of the season (at a minimum) is certainly a blow to the Huskies. They have a very tough first-half schedule, which features home conference series with Minnesota State, North Dakota, and St. Cloud State. Additionally, Tech travels to Wisconsin, Minnesota Duluth, and Minnesota for road trips.
The Huskies lost just three seniors off last year's team, so this loss isn't devastating by any means. However, Pierro-Zabotel was thought of by many to be one of the top freshman in the WCHA this year and certainly would have been a boost to a Tech offense that finished seventh in the WCHA last year in conference scoring.
Source: PIERRO-ZABOTEL AIMS TO JOIN MICHIGAN TECH HOCKEY TEAM IN DECEMBER
This team is selected based off performances at the recent 2007 USA Hockey Select 17 Player Development Camp, which was held last week in St. Cloud.
There were seven players who are currently committed to various WCHA schools elected to the team. Others, such as Holy Angels' forward Danny Mattson or St. Thomas Academy goaltender Aaron Crandall, may eventually end up verballing / playing for a WCHA school.
G - Brady Hjelle (International Falls) - Minnesota Duluth
D - Jake Gardiner (Minnetonka) - Wisconsin
D - Aaron Ness (Roseau) - Minnesota
F - Mike Cichy (Boston Junior Bruins - EJHL) - North Dakota
F - Nate Dewhurst (Des Moines - USHL) - Denver
F - Jordy Murray (Shattuck-St. Mary's) - Wisconsin
F - Jake Youso (International Falls) - Minnesota
Source: Under-18 Team Announced
I'll try to keep this somewhat updated, since no matter what time of the year it is, there always seems to be some sort of applicable news.
As you can see, the left side of this blog will be devoted to actual blog entries, while on the right side you'll find several links which may be useful to the average WCHA fan. Among other things, links to other WCHA-related blogs and message boards, informational websites, official school websites, and newspaper websites can all be accessed.
It should be noted up front that yes, I am a University of Minnesota fan. However, I feel confident that I'll be able to keep bias out of any factual articles. The WCHA Blog will represent both fact and opinion, and I will do my best to denote the differences between the two. For what it's worth, I do hold a degree in journalism, and do know the importance of keeping a distinction between factual items and opinions.