Friday, September 28, 2007

2007-08 Inside College Hockey Recruiting Rankings

Each year, Inside College Hockey comes out with their recruiting rankings, and they published the 2007-08 rankings today. According to INCH, the put their rankings together "...with extensive input from college and junior coaches, as well as professional scouts. Participants were asked to evaluate recruits based on their projected impact at the college level, not on their professional hockey prospects."

WCHA players / teams are listed in bold.

Forwards

1. Kyle Turris - Wisconsin
2. James van Riemsdyk - New Hampshire
3. Colin Wilson - Boston University
4. Riley Nash - Cornell
5. Tyler Bozak - Denver
6. Max Pacioretty - Michigan
7. Aaron Palushaj - Michigan
8. Kyle Ostrow - Denver
9. Patrick White - Minnesota

10. Phil DiSimone - New Hampshire
11. Ben Ryan - Notre Dame
12. Carter Camper - Miami
13. Carl Hagelin - Michigan
14. Mike Hoeffel - Minnesota
15. Tyler Helfrich - Rensselaer
16. Jacob Cepis - Bowling Green
17. Corey Tropp - Michigan State
18. Scott Freeman - Clarkson
19. Matt Frattin - North Dakota
20. T
yler Johnson - Colorado College

Defensemen

1. Ryan McDonagh - Wisconsin
2. Kevin Shattenkirk - Boston University
3. Jeff Petry - Michigan State
4. Ian Cole - Notre Dame
5. Nick Petrecki - Boston College
6. Colby Cohen - Boston University
7. Kevin Quick - Michigan
8. Shane Sims - Ohio State
9. Cade Fairchild - Minnesota
10. Brendan Smith - Wisconsin
11. Bryan Brutlag - Rensselaer
12. Ted Ruth - Notre Dame
13. Cody Goloubef - Wisconsin
14. Brian Rufenach - Clarkson
15. Derrick LaPoint - North Dakota
16. Joe Lavin - Providence
17. Alain Goulet - Nebraska-Omaha
18. Ben Youds - Minnesota State
19. Vince Lo Verde - Miami
20. Kevin Wehrs - Minnesota

Goalies

1. Matt Dalton - Bemidji State
2. Alex Kangas - Minnesota
3. Richard Bachman - Colorado College
4. Pat Nagle - Ferris State
5. Dan Dunn - St. Cloud State
6. Brad Phillips - Notre Dame
7. Cameron Talbot - Alabama-Huntsville
8. Alan Reynolds - Princeton
9. Marc Cheverie - Denver
10. John Muse - Boston College

Overall Freshmen Classes

1. Wisconsin
2. Boston University
3. New Hampshire
4. Notre Dame
5. Michigan
6. Michigan State
7. Miami
8. Boston College
9. Denver
10. Minnesota
11. North Dakota
12. Clarkson
13. Rensselaer
14. Ohio State
15. Nebraska-Omaha

2007-08 Team Preview – Michigan Tech

Official Roster
Full Schedule
2006-07 Team Statistics

Top 5 Returning Scorers

1. F – Peter Roleau – Senior – 7 G, 23 A – 30 points
2. F – Tyler Shelast – Senior – 15 G, 9 A – 24 points
3. F – Jimmy Kerr – Senior – 10 G, 9 A – 19 points
4. D – Geoff Kinrade – Junior – 5 G, 14 A – 19 points
5. F – Malcolm Gwilliam – Junior – 9 G, 8 A – 17 points

Key Losses From Last Season

F – Tyler Skworchinski – 8 G, 7 A – 15 points
D – Lars Helminen – 2 G, 19 A – 21 points

2006-07 Scoring By Class

Senior 12 13.33%
Junior 36 40.00%
Sophomore 28 31.11%
Freshman 14 15.56%

Non-Conference Schedule

1 vs. Northern Michigan – Oct. 12
1 vs. Lake Superior State – Oct. 14
1 at Northern Michigan – Dec. 14
1 vs. Northern Michigan – Dec. 15
1 vs. Michigan State – Dec. 28 – Great Lakes Invitational, Detroit, MI
1 vs. Michigan or Providence – Dec. 28 – Great Lakes Invitational, Detroit, MI
2 at Mercyhurst – Jan. 4-5

Incoming Freshmen

F – Casey Pierro-Zabotel (Merritt – BCHL) / 18
F – Bennett Royer (Calgary – AJHL) / 19
F – Eric Kattelus (Indiana – USHL) / 20
F – Jordan Baker (Olds – AJHL) / 19
D – Deron Cousens (Penticton – BCHL) / 20

Average Freshman Age: 19.20

AJHL: 2
BCHL: 2
USHL: 1

Breakdown of Current Roster

Freshmen – 5
Sophomores – 5
Juniors – 9
Seniors – 8

NHL Draftees

F – Jordan Foote – Senior – NYR
F – Casey Pierro-Zabotel – Freshman – PIT

2006 Season Recap

The Huskies were one of the feel good stories in all of college hockey last season. After being one of the bottom teams in the WCHA more often than not, head coach Jamie Russell led his team to a winning record and a trip to St. Paul for the WCHA Final Five.

The team got off to a great start, going 5-1-0 to start the year, including an impressive sweep at Vermont. The Huskies struggled a bit in November and December, but managed to sweep North Dakota in Grand Forks to close out the first half of the season.

They were one of the better teams in the nation after January 1, going 10-7-3, including a opening round win in the WCHA playoffs by winning a pair of one-goal games at Colorado College. The Huskies came up flat in the final five against an equally hot Wisconsin team, but that didn’t take away from what was a great season for Michigan Tech.

2007 Season Preview

This season could be even better for the Huskies than last year was. No team in the WCHA returns more goals (as a percentage) than Michigan Tech. They only lose 13 goals from their lineup, and bring in a solid freshman class led by BCHL forward Casey Pierro-Zabotel. Due to some academic issues, he won’t be able to suit up for the Huskies until December, but he should be an impact player when he joins their lineup.

Peter Rouleau, the team’s leading scorer from last season, returns for his senior season, as does the team’s leading goal-scorer Tyler Shelast. The biggest loss from last season for the Huskies is defenseman Lars Helminen, who had 21 points. He was also the quarterback of their power play and will be missed. Junior Geoff Kinrade will look to improve on his 19-point sophomore season on the blueline.

Both of Tech’s standout sophomore goalies return as well. Michael-Lee Teslak (.916 save percentage, 2.00 goals against average) and Rob Nolan (.910 save percentage, 2.26 goals against average) were arguably the league’s best duo last year, and they’ll hope to build on last year’s numbers. The two will likely split the goaltending duties to start the season.

Key Question

Coming into last season, the Huskies had won just seven games the previous season and nobody thought they would have the type of success they did. This year though, because Tech returns a good deal of talent and supplements that with a solid recruiting class, the bar is set a little higher. Can Michigan Tech prove last year wasn’t a fluke and find similar success under the raised expectations?

WCHA Blog Prediction:

Fourth place

Previous Team Previews
Alaska Anchorage
Colorado College
Denver

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Season Preview, Part VIII – Key Losses from Last Year

As part of the WCHA Blog’s preview of the upcoming season, here is a look at some of the key losses that each WCHA team has suffered this offseason. This list incorporates both players lost to graduation and also those who elected to sign professional contracts before their eligibility was up.

Season Preview Archive
Part I: Conference Schedules
Part II: Non-Conference Schedules
Part III: Top 5 Returning Scorers By Team
Part IV: Goal Production Lost By Team
Part V: Freshmen by Team
Part VI: Freshmen by Age / League
Part VII: 2006-07 Scoring Breakdown By Class

Alaska Anchorage

F – Justin Bourne – 10 G, 21 A – 31 points
F – Jay Beagle – 10 G, 10 A – 20 points
D – Chad Anderson – 7 G, 13 A – 20 points
G – Nathan Lawson – 10-15-2, .892 save percentage, 3.03 GAA

Colorado College

F – Brandon Polich – 4 G, 15 A – 19 points
F – Braydon Cox – 7 G, 9 A – 16 points
D – Lee Sweatt – 9 G, 15 A – 24 points
G – Matt Zaba – 15-13-4, .917 save percentage, 2.39 GAA

Denver

F – Ryan Dingle – 22 G, 15 A – 37 points
F – Geoff Paukovich – 8 G, 9 A – 17 points
F – Adrian Veideman – 3 G, 10 A – 13 points
D – Keith Seabrook – 2 G, 11 A – 13 points
G – Glenn Fisher – 13-9-2, .919 saves percentage, 2.32 GAA

Michigan Tech

F – Tyler Skworchinski – 8 G, 7 A – 15 points
D – Lars Helminen – 2 G, 19 A – 21 points

Minnesota

D – Mike Vannelli – 10 G, 29 A – 39 points
D – Alex Goligoski – 9 G, 30 A – 39 points
D – Erik Johnson – 4 G, 20 A – 24 points
G – Kellen Briggs – 17-7-2, .917 save percentage, 2.13 GAA

Minnesota Duluth

F – Mason Raymond – 14 G, 32 A – 46 points
F – Bryan McGregor – 16 G, 12 A – 28 points
D – Matt Niskanen – 9 G, 22 A – 31 points
G – Josh Johnson – 8-7-2, .922 save percentage, 2.14 GAA

Minnesota State

F – Travis Morin – 17 G, 22 A – 39 points
F – Kurtis Kisio – 4 G, 7 A – 11 points
D – Steve Wagner – 6 G, 23 A – 29 points

North Dakota

F – Jonathan Toews – 18 G, 28 A – 46 points
F – Chris Porter – 13 G, 17 A – 30 points
D – Brian Lee – 2 G, 24 A – 26 points

St. Cloud State

F – Andrew Gordon – 22 G, 23 A – 45 points
F – Dan Kronick – 14 G, 12 A – 26 points
D – Justin Fletcher – 6 G, 18 A – 24 points
D – Casey Borer – 2 G, 9 A – 11 points
G – Bobby Goepfert – 17-10-7, .924 save percentage, 2.29 GAA

Wisconsin

F – Andrew Joudrey – 9 G, 20 A – 29 points
F – Jake Dowell – 19 G, 6 A – 25 points
F – Ross Carlson – 5 G, 18 A – 23 points
F – Jack Skille – 8 G, 10 A – 18 points
D – Joe Piskula – 1 G, 4 A – 5 points
G – Brian Elliott – 15-17-2, .923 save percentage, 2.10 GAA

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Grand Forks Herald's annual preseason coaches' poll released

In today's edition of the Grand Forks Herlad, the 37th annual WCHA coaches' poll was released. Not surprisingly, the North Dakota Fighting Sioux were picked to win the league for the first time since the 2000-01 season. UND received 7 of the ten first place votes, with Minnesota picking up the remaining three.

Nine of the ten first place votes for WCHA Player of the Year went to members of the Fighting Sioux. Reigning Hobey Baker award winner Ryan Duncan picked up 5 votes, with fellow juniors T.J. Oshie (3) and Taylor Chorney (1) took the other four votes. Minnesota forward Kyle Okposo also received a vote.

For the Rookie of the Year voting, Wisconsin freshmen Kyle Turris was the clear-cut pick amongst the coaches, as he received 9 of ten first place votes. UND forward Evan Trupp got the other vote.

Courtesy of Brad Schlossman's blog, here are the full results of the poll:

1. UND (7) 79
2. Minnesota (3) 74
3. Colorado College 55
4. Denver 53
5. Wisconsin 52
6. St. Cloud State 43
7. Michigan Tech 41
8. Minn.-Duluth 23
9. MSU-Mankato 19
10. Anchorage 11

2007-08 Team Preview – Denver

Official Roster
Full Schedule
2006-07 Team Statistics

Top 5 Returning Scorers

1. F – Brock Trotter – Sophomore – 16 G, 24 A – 40 points
2. F – Rhett Rakhshani – Sophomore – 10 G, 26 A – 36 points
3. F – Tyler Ruegsegger – Sophomore – 15 G, 19 A – 34 points
4. D – Chris Butler – Junior – 10 G, 17 A – 27 points
5. F – Patrick Mullen – Junior – 5 G, 12 A – 17 points

Key Losses From Last Season

F – Ryan Dingle – 22 G, 15 A – 37 points
F – Geoff Paukovich – 8 G, 9 A – 17 points
F – Adrian Veideman – 3 G, 10 A – 13 points
D – Keith Seabrook – 2 G, 11 A – 13 points
G – Glenn Fisher – 13-9-2, .919 saves percentage, 2.32 GAA

2006-07 Scoring By Class

Senior 11 10.28%
Junior 33 30.84%
Sophomore 15 14.02%
Freshman 48 44.86%

Non-Conference Schedule

2 vs. Maine – Oct. 12-13
2 at Notre Dame – Oct. 18-19
1 vs. Sacred Heart – Dec. 28 – Wells Fargo Denver Cup, Denver, CO
1 vs. Dartmouth or Northern Michigan – Dec. 29 – Wells Fargo Denver Cup, Denver, CO
1 vs. Air Force – Jan. 18
1 vs. Bemidji State – Jan. 19

Incoming Freshmen

F – Steve Cunningham (Burnaby – BCHL) / 21
F – Dusty Jackson (Southern Minnesota – NAHL) / 21
F- Tyler Bozek (Victoria – BCHL) / 21
F – Jesse Martin (Tri-City – USHL) / 19
F – Kyle Ostrow (Nanaimo – BCHL) / 20
F – Anthony Maiani (Sioux City – USHL) / 18
D – Jon Cook (Camrose – AJHL) / 21
D – Chris Nutini (Wichita Falls – NAHL) / 20
D – John Ryder (Ohio – USHL) / 18
D – Joey Brehm (Edina High School – USHS) / 18
G – Marc Cheverie (Nanaimo – BCHL) / 20
G – Eddie Guinn (Cleveland – CSHL) / 20

Average Freshman Age: 19.75

BCHL: 4
USHL: 3
NAHL: 2
AJHL: 1
CSHL: 1
U.S. High Schools: 1

Breakdown of Current Roster

Freshmen – 12
Sophomores – 7
Juniors – 4
Seniors – 4

NHL Draftees

D – Chris Butler – Junior – BUF
D – Andrew Thomas – Senior – WAS
F – Rhett Rakhshani – Sophomore – NYI
F – Tyler Ruegsegger – Sophomore – TOR
F – Matt Glasser – Sophomore – EDM
F – Brian Gifford – Sophomore – PIT
F – Jesse Martin – Freshmen – ATL
G – Marc Cheverie – Freshmen – FLA

2006 Season Recap

Much like their counterparts to the south, the 2006-07 Denver season – like the CC Tigers’ season – started off with some promise but eventually was derailed prematurely. Through October / November, the Pioneers were 9-4-1 and appeared to be one of the better teams in the WCHA. They were then swept by the Tigers in a home-and-home series, but lost just once in their next 11 games, leaving them at 18-7-2.

They appeared assured of an NCAA tournament birth, which would have meant placement at the Pepsi Center in downtown Denver, home to the West Regional. After defeating Minnesota by a 1-0 score on January 19, DU would win just three games the rest of the way, as their season culminated by being swept at home in the first round of the WCHA playoffs by the defending national champion Wisconsin Badgers.

2007 Season Preview

No WCHA will bring in as many freshmen – 12 – as Denver. However, as you can see from the above stats and info, the average age of these freshmen is nearly 20-years-old, so they should be able to contribute right away. Up front, Denver returns a trio as good as any in the league. Sophomores Brock Trotter, Rhett Rakhshani, and Tyler Ruegsegger combined for 110 points last season, and should build on that number this year.

After those three though, DU doesn’t return a lot of scoring up front. Freshmen such as Tyler Bozek, Jesse Martin, and Anthony Maiani will likely be leaned on to contribute offensively from the get-go.

On the blueline, the mid-summer departure of Keith Seabrook as a big blow. Junior Chris Butler, who had 27 points last season, will be one of the elite defensemen in the WCHA this season. Senior Andrew Thomas will likely continue his steady play, but after that, there are a lot of question marks.

DU returns one of the top goalies in the WCHA with senior Peter Mannino. Last year, he posted a .919 saves percentage and a 2.19 goals against average. However, with a depleted defensive core in front of him, things could prove to come a little tougher this year. Freshmen Marc Cheverie will back up Mannino and will likely see action in 5-10 games.

Key Question

We’ve seen over time that youth is more often that not a recipe for disaster in the WCHA. However, there are expectations to the rule, such as the 2005-06 North Dakota team and the 2006-07 Minnesota team. Both rosters were riddled with freshmen and sophomores but both had successful seasons. However, on paper, those team’s had more talent within those classes, so will DU’s freshmen and sophomores be able to carry the load? The proverbial carrot is out there: a regional in Colorado Springs and the Frozen Four is in Denver. Should the Pios make the NCAA tournament, they might follow Wisconsin’s lead from 2005-06 and not have to leave their home-state.

WCHA Blog Prediction:
Seventh place

Previous Team Previews
Alaska Anchorage
Colorado College

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Steve Downie rocks Dean McAmmond

Not WCHA-related of course, but former Canadian World Juniors standout (a reason why the name might be familiar to some WCHA fans) and current Flyers forward Steve Downie crushed Senators forward Dean McAmmond tonight.

Season Preview: Predictions

According to Brad Schlossman's blog, the 37th annual Grand Forks Herald WCHA coaches' poll will be released this week. I feel somewhat obligated to make some pre-season predictions, so I thought I'd get them out there before things like the coaches' poll and sites like USCHO and Inside College Hockey publish their predictions.

Feel free to let me know what you think and/or what your predictions are via the comments area.

Season Preview Archive
Part I: Conference Schedules
Part II: Non-Conference Schedules
Part III: Top 5 Returning Scorers By Team
Part IV: Goal Production Lost By Team
Part V: Freshmen by Team
Part VI: Freshmen by Age / League
Part VII: 2006-07 Scoring Breakdown By Class

Standings
1. North Dakota
2. Minnesota
3. Colorado College
4. Michigan Tech
5. Wisconsin
6. St. Cloud State
7. Denver
8. Minnesota State
9. Minnesota Duluth
10. Alaska Anchorage

Player of the Year
T.J. Oshie - UND

Freshman of the Year
Kyle Turris - UW

Coach of the Year
Dave Hakstol - UND

All-WCHA First Team
F - T.J. Oshie - UND
F - Andreas Nodl - SCSU
F - Kyle Okposo - UM
D - Taylor Chorney - UND
D - Chris Butler - DU
G - Michael-Lee Teslak - MTU

WCHA All-Rookie Team
F - Kyle Turris - UW
F - Patrick White - UM
F - Tyler Bozek - DU
D - Derrick LaPoint - UND
D - Ryan McDonagh - UW
G - Alex Kangas - UM

Season Preview, Part VII – 2006-07 Scoring Breakdown By Class

The WCHA Blog will continue previewing the upcoming season today by breaking down each WCHA team’s goal-scoring by class from the 2006-07 season. These numbers are based off all games, both conference and non-conference.

Orange text: highest scoring senior class (by percentage of team’s total goals)
Red text: highest scoring junior class (by percentage of team’s total goals)
Green text: highest scoring sophomore class (by percentage of team’s total goals)
Blue text: highest scoring freshman class (by percentage of team’s total goals)

Season Preview Archive
Part I: Conference Schedules
Part II: Non-Conference Schedules
Part III: Top 5 Returning Scorers By Team
Part IV: Goal Production Lost By Team
Part V: Freshmen by Team
Part VI: Freshmen by Age / League

Alaska Anchorage

Senior 27 30.0%
Junior 19 21.1%
Sophomore 13 14.4%
Freshman 31 34.4%

Colorado College

Senior 21 18.92%
Junior 42 37.84%
Sophomore 17 15.32%
Freshman 31 27.93%

Denver

Senior 11 10.28%
Junior 33 30.84%
Sophomore 15 14.02%
Freshman 48 44.86%

Michigan Tech

Senior 12 13.33%
Junior 36 40.00%
Sophomore 28 31.11%
Freshman 14 15.56%

Minnesota

Senior 14 8.70%
Junior 41 25.47%
Sophomore 34 21.12%
Freshman 72 44.72%

Minnesota Duluth

Senior 21 20.39%
Junior 7 6.80%
Sophomore 63 61.17%
Freshman 12 11.65%

Minnesota State

Senior 23 21.70%
Junior 23 21.70%
Sophomore 32 30.19%
Freshman 28 26.42%

North Dakota

Senior 19 12.42%
Junior 17 11.11%
Sophomore 101 66.01%
Freshman 16 10.46%

St. Cloud State

Senior 35 27.56%
Junior 46 36.22%
Sophomore 11 8.66%
Freshman 35 27.56%

Wisconsin

Senior 37 39.78%
Junior 13 13.98%
Sophomore 23 24.73%
Freshman 20 21.51%

Cumulative Numbers

Senior 220 19.28%
Junior 277 24.28%
Sophomore 337 29.54%
Freshman 307 26.91%

Monday, September 24, 2007

2007-08 Team Preview – Colorado College

Official Roster
Full Schedule
2006-07 Team Statistics

Top 5 Returning Scorers

1. F – Jimmy Kilpatrick – Senior – 7 G, 25 A – 32 points
2. F – Chad Rau – Junior – 14 G, 17 A – 31 points
3. F – Bill Sweatt – Sophomore – 9 G, 17 A – 26 points
4. F – Scott McCulloch – Senior – 18 G, 6 A – 24 points
5. D – Brian Connelly – Sophomore – 2 G, 15 A – 17 points

Key Losses From Last Season

F – Brandon Polich – 4 G, 15 A – 19 points
F – Braydon Cox – 7 G, 9 A – 16 points
D – Lee Sweatt – 9 G, 15 A – 24 points
G – Matt Zaba – 15-13-4, .917 save percentage, 2.39 GAA

2006-07 Scoring By Class

Senior 21 18.92%
Junior 42 37.84%
Sophomore 17 15.32%
Freshman 31 27.93%

Non-Conference Schedule

2 at New Hampshire – Oct. 26-27
1 vs. RPI – Saturday, Dec. 29 – Lightning College Hockey Classic, Tampa, FL
1 vs. UMass or Notre Dame – Sunday, Dec. 30 - Lightning College Hockey Classic, Tampa, FL
1 vs. Bemidji State – Jan. 18
1 vs. Air Force – Jan. 19
2 vs. Clarkson – Feb. 1-2

Incoming Freshmen

F – Tyler Johnson (Cloquet High School) / 18
F – Stephen Schultz (Lincoln – USHL) / 19
D – Ryan Lowery (Lincoln – USHL) / 19
D – Brett Wysopal (Tri-City – USHL) / 19
G – Tyler O’Brien (St. Paul’s Prep School, Concord, N.H.) / 19
G – Richard Bachman (Cedar Rapids – USHL) / 20

Average Freshman Age: 19.17

USHL: 4
U.S. High Schools: 2

Breakdown of Current Roster

Freshmen – 6
Sophomores – 10
Juniors – 5
Seniors – 5

NHL Draftees

D – Kris Fredheim – Sophomore – VAN
F – Chad Rau – Junior – TOR
F – Scott McCulloch – Senior – CHI
F – Bill Sweatt – Sophomore – CHI
G – Richard Bachman – Freshman – DAL

2006 Season Recap

After getting off to a 3-4-1 start, many questions whether Colorado College would have a real down season after going 24-15-2 the year before bowing out to Cornell in the first round of the NCAA tournament. However, Tigers’ head coach Scott Owens turned his team around after that sub-par start, as the Tigers went 14-6-1 over their next 21 games and appeared headed to another NCAA tournament birth.

However, with youth comes inconsistency, and the wheels fell off down the stretch. CC lost a pair of one-goal games to Minnesota at home, and then dropped a pair at Mankato State by a total of three goals. They rebounded nicely to take three of four points from Denver to close out the regular season, but were defeated – at home – in three games by Michigan Tech in the first round of the WCHA playoffs. Because of this, their chances of making the NCAA tournament were dashed and the Tigers’ season came to a close.

2007 Season Preview

The Tigers appear to be on the way up in the WCHA. They lose just 21 goals – or just under 19 percent of their total goals scored – from last year’s team, and many key players return. Up front, sophomore Billy Sweatt, who missed time last year due to a bout with mono, should excel in his second season in Colorado Springs. Senior Jimmy Kilpatrick will be out until November with an injury, but he should provide a nice spark upon his return. Junior Chad Rau is poised for a breakout season after registering 14 goals and 17 assists last year. Leading goal-scorer Scott McCulloch (18) also returns.

The Tigers also bring is some fire-power up front in the form of freshmen Tyler Johnson from Cloquet, Minn., and Alaska-Anchorage transfer Erik Walsky. Johnson had some injury issues last season but if he can stay healthy, he could be the next in a long line of little guys (he’s just 5’8”) to excel for the Tigers. Walsky, a junior, posted 15 points in 35 games for the Seawolves in 2005-06, and should prove to be a nice addition.

Seniors Lee Sweatt and Brandon Straub will be missed on the blueline, but CC has a nice core of young talent ready to step up and replace them. Sophomore Kris Fredheim should emerge this season, while fellow sophomore Brian Connelly will look to build on his 17-point freshmen campaign.

Matt Zaba, who played in 33 games as a senior last year, is now gone, leaving the duties to junior Drew O'Connell and freshman Richard Bachman. O’Connell, who posted a 2.90 goals against average and a .886 save percentage in eight games last year, will likely get the bulk of the work this year.

Key Question

Zaba was a rock between the pipes for CC over the last few years, so will the O’Connell / Bachman combination be enough for the Tigers? The Tigers have built a nice string together of very solid goaltending, starting back with Jeff Sanger, who handed the reigns off to Curtis McElhinney and then Zaba. There’s no reason to expect things to fall off, but neither 2007-08 candidate has proved that they can excel at the D-I level. They’ll get put to the test early this year, with the Tiger’s first six games coming with two each against Minnesota, New Hampshire, and North Dakota.

WCHA Blog Prediction:

Third Place, NCAA tournament birth

Previous Team Previews

Alaska Anchorage

Sunday, September 23, 2007

UM recruit Larson to take year off

About a month ago, it was reported that Minnesota recruit Nick Larson was planning on redshirting this year, as opposed to playing in the USHL after graduating from Hill-Murray High School last year. However, rumors started circulating last week that Larson would take the year off from hockey entirely and not be a part of the Gopher program in any way (i.e. practicing with the team). The Pioneer Press' Bruce Brothers confirmed this in a report in Saturday's paper. From the story:

"As of right now, at least at this time, he's not going to play hockey this year," Gophers coach Don Lucia said Friday, adding that Larson has enrolled at Minnesota but has not been participating in early team workouts.

Friday, September 21, 2007

WCHA Roadtrip Town No. 1 – Duluth

About two months ago, the WCHA Blog kicked off its list of which WCHA towns make for the best roadtrips. For my list, I’m basing this off five criteria (Access, Bars, City Experience, Hotels, and Ticket Cost / Availability). For a detailed list of what these five items mean to me, click here.

Here is a list of the cities the preview has previously covered up until today:

10. Houghton
9. Grand Forks
8. Mankato
7. St. Cloud
6. Madison
5. Anchorage
4. Minneapolis
3. Colorado Springs
2. Denver

This week, its city No. 1: Duluth, which is home to the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs.

Access

This is the only criteria of the five where the city of Duluth struggles a bit, although in reality, it’s not too tough to get to for most fans. Duluth isn’t really far from any of the non-Colorado or Alaska-based WCHA teams. It’s about five hours or so away from Madison, and it’s less than four hours from cities such as Houghton, Grand Forks, St. Cloud, Minneapolis, and Mankato.

If you’re coming from the Twin Cities, 99 percent of your trip will be on Interstate 35, which makes for an easy commute. Those coming from places like Madison or Houghton will find that most of their travel will come on two-lane highways, which aren’t bad, but obviously don’t give you the chance to go at higher speeds like an interstate does.

Folks that need to fly to get to Duluth will likely need to fly into Minneapolis and rent a car, but it’s only 170 miles or so to Duluth from the Twin Cities International Airport, which isn’t too bad.

Bars

Canal Park – which is the area of downtown Duluth that the DECC is located – is full of bars and restaurants for fans to flock to before and after the games.

Before and after the games though, Grandma’s Sports Garden is the place to be. Located just out the backdoor of the DECC, it’s a spacious facility that serves decent food before the games, but really excels afterward. As frequent message board contributor and noted Duluth fan “Fire Helmet Guy” likes to point out, while other cities may have lots of bars to go to after the games are done, Duluth has just one, and it’s where almost everyone goes. And because of that, it does make for quite the post-game atmosphere. The Garden is noted for their pitchers of kamikazes and good drink specials.

Another arm of the Grandma’s chain – The Saloon – is another solid bar that’s located in Canal Park. It’s just upstairs from the main Grandma’s restaurant that many people are aware of, and it offers more of a laid back and traditional bar atmosphere.

Places such as Red Lobster, Timberlodge Steak House, Green Mill, Old Chicago, and Famous Dave’s offer everything you’d come to expect from those chain restaurants.

There are a few places outside of the Canal Park area that are worth your time if you head to Duluth. The Reef, which is located a bit closer to campus, is also a more traditional bar, but it attracts quite a few visitors at night and is a good place to maybe start your night, if you plan on finishing things up in Canal Park.

Just across the border (in Wisconsin, about five minutes from Canal Park) you’ll find the Anchor Bar, which to be honest is a complete dump. But, as many people know, bars like that can be hidden gems, and the Anchor is no exception. It’s very small on the inside, and only holds about two dozen people comfortably, but they offer one of the best burgers you’ll ever have. Those who are counting calories should probably not venture into the Anchor, since grease is about as prevalent as the meat on these burgers, but they are worth it.

City Experience

Duluth is one of the most family-friendly cities in the WCHA. Canal Park offers much more than just bars and restaurants for people to enjoy. Half of the famous Aerial Lift Bridge is based in Canal Park, and makes for some good photo opportunities, and the same can be said of the scenic views of Lake Superior. The lighthouse at the end of the pier is also a popular spot for tourists. Other highlights of Canal Park include the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center, the Great Lakes Aquarium, and the William A Irvin floating ship museum.

If you venture out of Canal Park and head up the hill into downtown, there are several small shops to hit, as well as the Lake Superior Railroad Museum, which is great for kids.

If you visit the area in the winter, you can take advantage of the skiing options that the area provides, including the Lutsen Resort.

Click here for to visit the city of Duluth's official tourism website.

Hotels

Another great feature of Canal Park is that there are several hotel options to choose from. My personal favorite is the Comfort Suites, which features rooms for about $100 a night. But it’s worth it, since the hotel is nice and they offer, among other things, a free continental breakfast which features several different things to eat and drink.

Click here to see other hotels in Canal Park, and click here to hotels in the downtown Duluth area.

Ticket Cost / Availability

Tickets to Bulldog games are generally very easy to get. The only concern one should have is that if they are going to see either Minnesota or North Dakota play UMD, tickets to tend to go quick, especially if the Bulldogs are having or are expected to have an “up” year.

The price of tickets is about on par with the rest of the league. Single game tickets are $18 for most games, while the price rises to $25 for games against the Gophers and the Sioux.

UMD uses TicketMaster, which adds about $5/ticket to your cost, but most people are, unfortunately, accustomed to this type of fee these days.

Summary

Duluth is one of my favorite roadtrip towns because it blends the amenities of some of the bigger WCHA towns with the quaintness of some of the smaller towns. There are plenty of things to do in the area, and there are tons of restaurants and hotels to choose from; but at the same time, everything you need is right in Canal Park, and if you choose to stay there, you don’t need to move your car all weekend to have a great time.

Overall Grade: A

Thursday, September 20, 2007

UND adds Lamoureux for 2008

According to a report in the Grand Forks Herald, Grand Forks native Mario Lamoureux has given a verbal commitment to North Dakota for the fall of 2008. His older brother and the Fighting Sioux's No. 1 goalie, Philippe, is a senior this year at UND. Mario had originally committed to play at Northern Michigan, but rescinded his verbal after another older brother - Jacques - decided to transfer from Northern Michigan to Air Force. Mario played for the Tri-City Storm in the USHL last year, and had 34 points in 60 games. He'll play for the Storm again this season.

Season Preview - Part VI: Freshmen by Age / League

As part of the WCHA Blog’s month-long preview of the upcoming WCHA season, here is a detailed look at the WCHA freshmen in terms of where they come from and their average ages as of October 31, 2007. These numbers are based off team rosters listed on team websites as of September 2, 2007.

Season Preview Archive
Part I: Conference Schedules
Part II: Non-Conference Schedules
Part III: Top 5 Returning Scorers By Team
Part IV: Goal Production Lost By Team
Part V: Freshmen by Team

Alaska Anchorage

Average Freshman Age: 19.80

BCHL: 4
NAHL: 2
USHL: 2
AJHL: 1
U.S. High Schools: 1

Colorado College

Average Freshman Age: 19.17

USHL: 4
U.S. High Schools: 2

Denver

Average Freshman Age: 19.75

BCHL: 4
USHL: 3
NAHL: 2
AJHL: 1
CSHL: 1
U.S. High Schools: 1

Michigan Tech

Average Freshman Age: 19.20

AJHL: 2
BCHL: 2
USHL: 1

Minnesota

Average Freshman Age: 19.14

USHL: 4
USNTDP: 2
U.S. High Schools: 1

Minnesota Duluth

Average Freshman Age: 19.63

NAHL: 3
AJHL: 2
BCHL: 1
USHL: 1
U.S. High School: 1

Minnesota State

Average Freshman Age: 19.67

NAHL: 2
USHL: 4
U.S. High Schools: 3

North Dakota

Average Freshman Age: 19.50

USHL: 3
AJHL: 1
BCHL: 1
MJHL: 1

St. Cloud State

Average Freshman Age: 19.14

BCHL: 2
OPJHL: 1
USHL: 3
U.S. High Schools: 1

Wisconsin

Average Freshman Age: 18.44

BCHL: 2
NAHL: 1
OPJHL: 2
USHL: 3
U.S. High Schools: 1


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Denver adds NTDP's Murray for 2009

According to the U.S. Hockey Report, the Denver Pioneers have added U.S. National Team Development Program netminder Adam Murray to their 2009 recruiting class. The Anchorage-native reportedly chose DU over Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan and Colorado College. Murray will play for the NTDP's Under-17 team this season.

2007-08 Team Preview – Alaska Anchorage

Official Roster
Full Schedule
2006-07 Team Statistics

Top 5 Returning Scorers

1. F – Paul Crowder – Sophomore – 10 G, 21 A – 24 points
2. F – Josh Lunden – Sophomore – 11 G, 9 A – 20 points
3. F – Merit Waldrop – Senior – 5 G, 14 A – 19 points
4. F – Kevin Clark – Sophomore – 8 G, 9 A – 17 points
5. F – Peter Cartwright – Senior – 5 G, 8 A – 13 points

Key Losses From Last Season

F – Justin Bourne – 10 G, 21 A – 31 points
F – Jay Beagle – 10 G, 10 A – 20 points
D – Chad Anderson – 7 G, 13 A – 20 points
G – Nathan Lawson – 10-15-2, .892 save percentage, 3.03 GAA

2006-07 Scoring By Class

Senior - 27 goals - 30.0%
Junior - 19 goals - 21.1%
Sophomore - 13 goals - 14.4%
Freshman - 31 goals - 34.4%

Non-Conference Schedule

1 vs. Wayne State – Friday, Oct. 12 – Nye Frontier Classic, Anchorage, AK
1 vs. Boston University – Saturday, Oct. 13 - Nye Frontier Classic, Anchorage, AK
2 vs. Alaska – Oct. 19-20
2 at Alaska – Dec. 28-29

Incoming Freshmen

F – Sean Wiles (Tri-City – USHL) / 20-years-old
F – Craig Parkinson (Cowichan Valley – BCHL) / 21-years-old
F – Nick Haddad (Fairbanks – NAHL) / 20-years-old
F – Tommy Grant (Westside – BCHL) / 21-years-old
F – Winston Daychief (Cowichan Valley – BCHL) / 19-years-old
F – Brad McCabe (Alaska – NAHL) / 19-years-old
D – Luka Vidmar (Chicago – USHL) / 21-years-old
D – Kane Lafranchise (Spruce Grove – AJHL) / 19-years-old
G – Matthew Gordon (Burnaby – BCHL) / 20-years-old
G – Aaron Mayo (South Anchorage High School – USHS) / 18-years-old

Average Freshman Age: 19.80

BCHL: 4
NAHL: 2
USHL: 2
AJHL: 1
U.S. High Schools: 1

Breakdown of Current Roster

Freshmen – 10
Sophomores – 8
Juniors – 3
Seniors – 5

NHL Draftees

D – Luke Beaverson – Senior – FLA
D – Nils Backstrom – Sophomore – DET

2006 Season Recap

The Seawolves’ 2006-07 campaign got off to a good start, as the team began the year by going 2-0-2. That record was posted in non-conference play, which is an area in with the Seawolves excelled last season. They went 4-0-2 against Alaska, Merrimack, and Nebraska-Omaha.

Unfortunately, the team won just eight WCHA games and finished in last place for the second straight season. One bright spot for the Seawolves is that a pair of freshmen – forwards Paul Crowder and Josh Lunden – were second (Crowder) and tied for third (Lunden) on the team in points last season, and both return for their sophomore campaigns.

The Seawolves’ goaltending was subpar, as both netminders – junior Nathan Lawson and freshman Jon Olthuis – posted save percentages under 90 percetn and both had goals against averages over three.

To close the season, Alaska Anchorage pushed the regular season champion Golden Gophers to the brink in the first round of the WCHA playoffs. After falling 6-2 on Friday night, the Seawolves won 2-1 on Saturday night before dropping the decisive game by a 3-1 score on Sunday night.

2007 Season Preview

Junior-to-be Jay Beagle, who had 20 points last year, will not return, which is a blow to a team that has generally struggled to score over time. Also gone is senior Justin Bourne, who led the team with 31 points. Senior Chad Anderson is also gone, and his leadership will surely be missed.

Lawson, who was inconsistent in his time at Alaska Anchorage, will forgo his senior season as well, leaving the bulk of the duties to Olthuis. The majority of the defensive core is back, led by senior Luke Beaverson and sophomore Nils Backstrom, both NHL draft picks.

A large (and old) freshmen class will see plenty of icetime and will be leaned upon to play key roles. With only eight upperclassmen, this season could certainly be a struggle for the Seawolves, but if they can keep some of the freshmen and sophomores on campus for three or four years, they’ll have a chance to move out of the basement of the WCHA in the coming years.

Key Question

Goaltending is always at a premium, especially in the WCHA. Olthuis had some of the worst numbers of any WCHA goalie last year, which is kind of expected out of an Alaska Anchorage goalie who is a freshman. However, if the Seawolves are going to make noise this season, he’s going to need to be better. Will Olthuis be able to step up his play and be a reliable backstop for the Seawolves?

WCHA Blog Prediction:

Last place

WCHA Arena No. 2 – Ralph Engelstad Arena

About two months, the WCHA Blog kicked off its list of which WCHA arenas are the best. I'm basing my list off of three criteria (Arena, Atmosphere, and Crowd). For a detailed list of what these three items mean to me, click here and scroll down a bit.

Here is a list of the arenas that I've already covered:

10. Sullivan Arena - Anchorage, AK
9. John MacInnes Student Ice Arena – Houghton, MI
8. Alltel Center – Mankato, MN
7. World Arena – Colorado Springs, CO
6. Magness Arena – Denver, CO
5. DECC – Duluth, MN
4. National Hockey Center – St. Cloud, MN
3. Kohl Center – Madison, WI


This week, its arena No. 2: Ralph Engelstad Arena, which is home to the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux.


Arena


It terms of sheer building quality, there’s likely no arena or facility in the world that can compare to what the Ralph Engelstad Arena (REA) brings to the table. Right when you walk in the front door, you can see the quality of the building from floor to ceiling.

Right when you get inside, you’ll have a chance to walk through the REA’s gift shop, which is probably the best in the WCHA. Even though I’m not a Sioux fan, every time I peruse the gift shop, I can’t help but get jealous of the great array of gear they have the option of buying. The gift shop also sells official WCHA game pucks.

Before walking through the green gates and entering the arena’s concourse, there are several pictures of great Sioux teams form the past that are rich in history. Once you get inside the concourse area, you’ll notice the granite floors and wide hallways, among other things.

There are plenty of food and beverage options as one would expect, and there are also several bubble hockey tables to kill some time; some of them even feature custom-painted players to setup a Gopher / Sioux game.

Every seat in the REA is leather, which needless to say makes for a very enjoyable viewing experience. The sitelines in the arena are above average, but aren’t the greatest for hockey. The building is home to concerts and other non-hockey events, so that could be one cause for this.

Another issue is that some of the corner sections in the upper-deck have nearly 40 seats in a row, so if you’re sitting in the middle in one of those rows, you’ll have quite the trek to get to the aisle.


Atmosphere


The REA toes the line in mixing the traditional collegiate atmosphere with the NHL-style 80s rock approach. It’s tough not to get excited for the game at hand after watching the pre-game video and player introductions. A mix between a great laser-light show and a music video showing big goals and hits by the Sioux certainly gets home (and, at least in my case, visiting) fans pumped for the game.

After the game starts, however, the UND band takes over, and they do a solid job.

I’ve only been to the REA for games where the Sioux have played the Gophers, but the atmosphere hasn’t reached the level I thought it would for these types of games. I think one reason for this may be that the arena is so nice, the crowd can’t be as intimidating as in other buildings like the DECC or the National Hockey Center, which allow for the crowd to be right on top of the action because of the design of the arenas.

At the old Ralph Engelstad Arena, there was just a feeling as an opposing fan that if your team was going up against a good UND team, you were really in for it. If you’re team was up in the third period, UND was going to storm back and win the game. If you were down in the third period, the game was over. I just don’t think the new REA has this kind of swagger to it.


Crowd

For nearly each and every game, the new REA is on the verge of a sellout (11,640 is capacity for hockey games), thanks to the great season ticket base and the demand for Fighting Sioux tickets in the area. No team's fans are as passionate about their team as Sioux fans.

The students get prime real estate for their seating areas, as a good portion of the students sit between the bluelines in the lower level, with the rest of the students sitting in the same area in the 300 level. They are in the upper-half of the league in terms of a student body being loud and into the games.

Summary

As I said before, the building itself is second to none. Most fans are well aware by this point of all the great amenities and luxuries the building presents. When compared to the old REA though, there isn’t that same intimidation factor as an opposing fan. That behind said, it’s a great arena and I’m sure it’s No. 1 on many fans’ lists in terms of the best arena in the WCHA.

Overall Grade: A

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Season Preview - Part V: Freshmen by Team

The WCHA Blog’s season preview continues today by looking at each WCHA team’s freshman class for the 2007-08 season. On occasion a team can elect to alter their plans later in the month by brining in an additional player (such as SCSU recruit Luca Cunti being cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse), but these should be up to date.

For each player, I’ve listed out their position, name, team and league where they played last year, and their age as of Oct. 31, 2007.

Season Preview Archive
Part I: Conference Schedules
Part II: Non-Conference Schedules
Part III: Top 5 Returning Scorers By Team
Part IV: Goal Production Lost By Team

Alaska Anchorage

F – Sean Wiles (Tri-City – USHL) / 20
F – Craig Parkinson (Cowichan Valley – BCHL) / 21
F – Nick Haddad (Fairbanks – NAHL) / 20
F – Tommy Grant (Westside – BCHL) / 21
F – Winston Daychief (Cowichan Valley – BCHL) / 19
F – Brad McCabe (Alaska – NAHL) / 19
D – Luka Vidmar (Chicago – USHL) / 21
D – Kane Lafranchise (Spruce Grove – AJHL) / 19
G – Matthew Gordon (Burnaby – BCHL) / 20
G – Aaron Mayo (South Anchorage High School – USHS) / 18

Colorado College

F – Tyler Johnson (Cloquet High School) / 18
F – Stephen Schultz (Lincoln – USHL) / 19
D – Ryan Lowery (Lincoln – USHL) / 19
D – Brett Wysopal (Tri-City – USHL) / 19
G – Tyler O’Brien (St. Paul’s Prep School, Concord, N.H.) / 19
G – Richard Bachman (Cedar Rapids – USHL) / 20

Denver

F – Steve Cunningham (Burnaby – BCHL) / 21
F – Dusty Jackson (Southern Minnesota – NAHL) / 21
F- Tyler Bozek (Victoria – BCHL) / 21
F – Jesse Martin (Tri-City – USHL) / 19
F – Kyle Ostrow (Nanaimo – BCHL) / 20
F – Anthony Maiani (Sioux City – USHL) / 18
D – Jon Cook (Camrose – AJHL) / 21
D – Chris Nutini (Wichita Falls – NAHL) / 20
D – John Ryder (Ohio – USHL) / 18
D – Joey Brehm (Edina High School – USHS) / 18
G – Marc Cheverie (Nanaimo – BCHL) / 20
G – Eddie Guinn (Cleveland – CSHL) / 20

Michigan Tech

F – Casey Pierro-Zabotel (Merritt – BCHL) / 18
F – Bennett Royer (Calgary – AJHL) / 19
F – Eric Kattelus (Indiana – USHL) / 20
F – Jordan Baker (Olds – AJHL) / 19
D – Deron Cousens (Penticton – BCHL) / 20

Minnesota

F – Drew Fisher (Sioux Falls – USHL) / 20
F – Patrick White (Grand Rapids High School) / 18
F – Mike Hoeffel (USNTDP) / 18
D – Stu Bickel (Sioux Falls – USHL) / 21
D – Cade Fairchild (USNTDP) / 18
D – Kevin Wehrs (Cedar Rapids – USHL) / 19
G – Alex Kangas (Indiana – USHL) / 20

Minnesota Duluth

F – Mike Montgomery (Southern Minnesota – NAHL) / 21
F – Rob Bordson (Cedar Rapids – USHL) / 19
F – Kyle Schmidt (Fairbanks – NAHL) / 20
F – Justin Fontaine (Bonnyville – AJHL) / 19
F – Cody Danberg (Nanaimo – BCHL) / 20
D – Chad Huttel (Hermantown High School) / 18
D – Evan Oberg (Camrose – AJHL) / 19
G – Kenny Reiter (Alaska / St. Louis – NAHL) / 21

Minnesota State

F – Brett Peterson (Indiana – USHL) / 19
F – Mike Louwerse (Blake High School) / 19
F – Andy Sackrison (Tri-City – USHL) / 19
F – Ryan Galiardi (Alexandria – NAHL) / 21
D – Kurt Davis (Green Bay – USHL) / 21
D – Channing Boe (Green Bay – USHL) / 21
D – Ben Youds (Shattuck-St. Mary’s – USHS) / 19
D – Peter Lompado (Shattuck-St. Mary’s – USHS) / 18
G – Austin Lee (Fargo-Moorhead – NAHL) / 19

North Dakota

F – Brett Davidson (Neepawa – MJHL) / 20
F – Matt Frattin (Fort Saskatchewan – AJHL) / 19
F – Brad Malone (Sioux Falls – USHL) / 18
F – Evan Trupp (Penticton – BCHL) / 20
D – Derrick LaPoint (Green Bay – USHL) / 19
D – Jake Marto (Omaha – USHL) / 21

St. Cloud State

F – Tony Mosey (Salmon Arm – BCHL) / 19
F – Aaron Marvin (Warroad High School) / 19
F – Nick Oslund (Tri-City – USHL) / 19
F – Brian Volpei (Salmon Arm – BCHL) / 19
F – Garret Roe (Indiana – USHL) / 19
D – Brett Barta (Waterloo – USHL) / 20
G – Dan Dunn (Wellington – OPJHL) / 19

Wisconsin

F – Sean Dolan (Chicago – USHL) / 19
F – Pat Johnson (Lincoln – USHL) / 18
F – Josh Turnbull (Waterloo – USHL) / 19
F – Kyle Turris (Burnaby – BCHL) / 18
D – Craig Johnson (Fairbanks – NAHL) / 20
D – Cody Goloubef (Oakville – OPJHL) / 17
D – Brendan Smith (St. Mike’s – OPJHL) / 18
D – Ryan McDonagh (Cretin-Derham Hall High School) / 18
G – Scott Gudmandson (Omaha – USHL / Salmon Arm – BCHL) / 19*

* - For argument’s sake, I’ll count Gudmandson as a BCHL player since that is where he finished last season.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Elite League - 9/15

Here is some video featuring current and potential WCHA recruits from this past weekend's Upper Midwest High School Elite League games. Obviously viewing a short video clip from one game isn't a great way to judge or view a player, but it's better than nothing.

You can keep up to date with scores, stats, and more by clicking here.

Note that I'm far from a professional when it comes to filming.


video

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Terry Frei article on U.S. hockey player development

Denver Post columnist and ESPN.com contributor Terry Frei wrote a great article talking about the increased number of options that American-born hockey players have today, thanks in large part to USA Hockey's National Team Development Program, which has of course produced several WCHA players over the years.

Minnesota recruit Ness to accelerate to 2008

Roseau High School defenseman Aaron Ness -- a Gopher recruit -- will accelerate his schooling to enroll at Minnesota in the fall of 2008, according to Brad Schlossman's blog. Minnesota is slated to lose only one defenseman after this season (senior Derek Peltier) and the only other flight risk is sophomore David Fischer, who is likely to stay in school for his junior season unless he makes major strides this upcoming season.

Ness will join U.S. NTDP member Sam Lofquist as Gopher freshmen blueliners next year. Lofquist is also accelerating his schooling to enroll next fall. Fellow NTDP member Grant Scott, who was at one time penciled in as a defenseman, shifted to forward at the Select 17s this past summer and will play the position full-time for the NTDP this year, so it appears as though his move to forward will carry over to into career at Minnesota.

Here is some recent video of Ness playing in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League last weekend.

video

WCHA Roadtrip Town No. 2 – Denver

About two months ago, the WCHA Blog kicked off its list of which WCHA towns make for the best roadtrips. For my list, I’m basing this off five criteria (Access, Bars, City Experience, Hotels, and Ticket Cost / Availability). For a detailed list of what these five items mean to me, click here.

Here is a list of the cities the preview has previously covered up until today:

10. Houghton
9. Grand Forks
8. Mankato
7. St. Cloud
6. Madison
5. Anchorage
4. Minneapolis
3. Colorado Springs

This week, its city No. 2: Denver, Colo., which is home to the University of Denver Pioneers.

Access

Despite the fact that Denver is pretty far away from a vast majority of the other WCHA cities, it’s not too tough to get to. There are many daily flights from the Twin Cities International airport via carriers such as Northwest, United, and Frontier. You should never have to spend over $300 to fly from the Twin Cities to Denver, and often you can find flights for under $250, which isn’t too bad.

The schedule is also very flexible if you’re flying from the Twin Cities, as there are flights starting from about 7 a.m. each day all the way through the night. I’ve noticed that, over time, it seems like there are a limited number of flights leaving between 3 and 5 p.m., which is an ideal time for some people because it allows them to work a full day on a Thursday (for example) and still get out to Denver a day early.

Most flights from Grand Forks to Denver connect through Minneapolis, while flights from the Madison area can often connect through Chicago or Milwaukee.

Bars

Unfortunately, there aren’t very many bars in the area of the DU campus or Magness Arena. But, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of fun to be had in the city of Denver.

One of the best places to pregame near Magness Arena and the DU campus is Spanky's Roadhouse Bar and Grill. They have great burgers and because it’s one of the only places to pregame at, it’s always packed with hockey fans. It’s one of the better bars / restaurants to hit before a game in the WCHA.

Downtown Denver is maybe my favorite place in any WCHA city, as the city offers so many great bars and restaurants to choose from. The two main areas in downtown Denver – the 16th Street Mall and the LoDo area – connect to form a great stretch of establishments.

The area is laced with bars and restaurants on nearly every corner. Standbys such as an ESPN Zone, Hard Rock CafĂ©, and a Cheesecake Factory can be found on the 16th Street Mall. Once you get down to the LoDo area (which, by the way, is short for “lower downtown”), there are more bars than restaurants.

Braun's Bar & Grill, which is adjacent to the Pepsi Center (which is a little southwest of the LoDo area), is a great sports bar that was home to Minnesota’s fanbase during the 2006 NCAA West Regional.

My favorite restaurant that I’ve found in my travels to the Denver area is called The Delectable Egg, which is a great breakfast joint that features phenomenal food at very reasonable prices. The menu is very eclectic and the atmosphere is very cool. There are a handful of locations in the Denver area, including one just off the 16th Street Mall.

Another must-stop for our group in Denver is Woody’s Woodfire Pizza, which isn’t too far from the DU campus. They offer a lunch buffet for about $10 that features salad and pizza. Best of all, you can talk with the cooks about what type of pizza you’d like, and they have everything under the sun in terms of choices. Definitely worth a try.

City Experience

This is an area where a city like Denver really shines, as there are countless things to do aside from watching your team take on the Pioneers.

The 16th Street Mall makes for a great time-killer and is good for those who like to “people watch” as they say. The Pepsi Center – which is home to many events – is worth a visit as well, as the building (both inside and out) is pretty cool for a sports arena. If you’re lucky, you can catch an Avalanche game on the Thursday before or Sunday after your team’s games against DU.

Last spring, I took a tour of Coors Field and would highly recommend doing that if you need to pass some time. I’d image a tour of Invesco Field would be equally entertaining. The Coors Brewery isn’t really anything special, but the town of Golden is pretty cool to see. Plus, it’s only about 15 miles from the heart of downtown.

I also hear there’s some mountain range near the area, which of course makes for some great sight-seeing and picture-taking opportunities.

With a city this big, I’m sure there are many cool things I’m not even aware of, so feel free to visit the city of Denver’s official tourism guide.

Hotels

The city of Denver has many lodging options, as one would expect. There aren’t many hotels near Magness Arena, but with a city like Denver, it’s not as important to be staying near the campus / arena because there are so many more things to do in the city as opposed to a city like Madison, for example.

The Four Points by Sheraton Denver Southeast is a pretty close to campus and gets the seal of approval from the hardcore UMD fans who have made the trip to Denver. I’ve also stayed at this hotel and highly recommend it. The rates can get spendy, but you can also find times when you can pay less than $100 per night. The hotel has a solid bar in it and is right on the interstate, so it’s easy to get to and from.

Ticket Cost / Availability

The University of Denver uses TicketMaster, which means you can expect and additional $5 - 8 to be tacked onto your ticket price, which ranges from $18 to $25. It’s unfortunate, but there’s not much you can do about it.

Tickets are pretty easy to get for the games if you’re on top of things when single game tickets go on sale, which is usually early September. Tickets for the high-profile games (Colorado College, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin) tend to go quicker than others, so make you’re online or calling when the go on sale, but you shouldn’t’ have any issues.

Summary

The city of Denver is probably the one WCHA city that I’d go out of my to visit for a non-hockey based trip. There are so many fun things to do just in the downtown area, you could spend a weekend there and not feel like you missed out on anything. Throw in the picturesque scenery and some good hockey, and you’ve got all the makings of a great roadtrip.

Overall Grade: A

Thursday, September 13, 2007

INCH A to Z: St. Cloud State's Jase Weslosky

Click here to read more about St. Cloud State's Jase Weslosky, who was featured today as a part of Inside College Hockey's annual A to Z list of various players throughout college hockey.

Previous WCHA players featured this summer:

Alaska Anchorage's Paul Crowder
Denver's Chris Butler
Michigan Tech's Geoff Kinrade
Minnesota's Ryan Stoa
Minnesota Duluth's Drew Akins
Minnesota State's Mick Berge
North Dakota's Chris VandeVelde
Wisconsin's Shane Connelly

Season Preview - Part IV: Goal Production Lost By Team

The WCHA Blog will continue previewing the upcoming season today by taking a look at the amount of goal-scoring production each WCHA team lost from last year. These loses include players who left the team this past offseason, either via graduation, signing a professional contract, or any other various reason.

Check back on Tuesday for Part V of the season preview.

Season Preview Archive
Part I: Conference Schedules
Part II: Non-Conference Schedules
Part III: Top 5 Returning Scorers By Team

1. Wisconsin – 49.46% (46 goals)
2. St. Cloud State – 44.88% (57 goals)
3. Minnesota Duluth – 42.72% (44 goals)
4. Alaska Anchorage – 42.22% (38 goals)
5. Denver – 40.91% (43 goals)
6. Minnesota State – 27.36% (29 goals)
7. North Dakota – 25.49% (39 goals)
8. Minnesota – 21.12% (34 goals)
9. Colorado College – 18.92% (21 goals)
10. Michigan Tech – 13.33% (12 goals)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

WCHA Arena No. 3 – Kohl Center

About seven weeks ago, the WCHA Blog kicked off its list of which WCHA arenas are the best. I'm basing my list off of three criteria (Arena, Atmosphere, and Crowd). For a detailed list of what these three items mean to me, click here and scroll down a bit.

Here is a list of the arenas that I've already covered:

10. Sullivan Arena - Anchorage, AK
9. John MacInnes Student Ice Arena – Houghton, MI
8. Alltel Center – Mankato, MN
7. World Arena – Colorado Springs, CO
6. Magness Arena – Denver, CO
5. DECC – Duluth, MN
4. National Hockey Center – St. Cloud, MN

This week, its arena No. 3: the Kohl Center which is home to the Wisconsin Badgers.

Arena


The Kohl Center joins Ralph Engelstad Arena and Mariucci Arena as being the crown jewels of the WCHA when it comes to rinks. All three of them are head and shoulders above the rest of the arenas in the WCHA, and not surprisingly, they are three of the newest.

The Kohl Center opened in 1998 as the new home for the men’s and women’s hockey teams, as well as the men’s and women’s basketball teams. From the outside, the arena looks fantastic, and that carries through into the inside. The concourses are very wide and provide ample room for getting around.

The biggest mark against the Kohl Center comes from the fact that it is a multi-purpose facility. Because of this, the sightlines are compromised, and in some instances it can be extreme. Additionally, because of the recent success of the Badgers, the lower bowl is almost always sold out, which can force opposing fans into the 300 level. If you are high up in this level, there are likely parts of the ice you won’t be able to see. Try and sit on the sides as opposed to the ends.

As you imagine in an arena the size of the Kohl Center, the gift shop is very robust, although they don’t offer official game pucks.


Atmosphere


There isn’t an arena in the league that can match the atmosphere that the Kohl Center brings to the table. Obviously the atmosphere is better for games where the Badgers take on the Gophers or the Fighting Sioux, but even for lesser opponents, the building can still rock.

One of the main reasons why the atmosphere is so great is the band. It’s one of the best in the WCHA and their songs – while somewhat annoying to visiting fans – really get the crowd going.


Crowd

Like the atmosphere, the crowd is equally, if not more, impressive. They truly make the experience in Madison one to remember. As is the case with most loud and vociferous crowds, there are a fair amount dopes that tend to have a little too much “anti-freeze” (as former Gopher coach Doug Woog would say) going through their system. Still, it’s not a huge problem and most people don’t give you a hard time unless they are provoked.

The student section is the key to the crowd. Like at all UW sporting events, they are really into the game and always going crazy. Do they know the game of hockey too well? Probably not. But, they certainly get fired up and have a good time in the process.

Summary

As I said, the main reason the Kohl Center is not higher on the list is because of the sightlines, which are fairly important on my list of important factors in an arena. Still, the atmosphere and crowd are as good as you’ll find at any sporting event.


Overall Grade: A

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Season Preview - Part III: Top 5 Returning Scorers By Team

The WCHA Blog will continue previewing the upcoming season today be listing out the top five returning scorers for each WCHA team. These lists of course don’t include players who left the team this past offseason, either via graduation, signing a professional contract, or any other various reason.

Check back on Thursday for Part IV of the season preview.

Season Preview Archive
Part I: Conference Schedules
Part II: Non-Conference Schedules

Alaska Anchorage

F – Paul Crowder – Sophomore – 10 G, 21 A – 24 points
F – Josh Lunden – Sophomore – 11 G, 9 A – 20 points
F – Merit Waldrop – Senior – 5 G, 14 A – 19 points
F – Kevin Clark – Sophomore – 8 G, 9 A – 17 points
F – Peter Cartwright – Senior – 5 G, 8 A – 13 points

Colorado College

F – Jimmy Kilpatrick – Senior – 7 G, 25 A – 32 points
F – Chad Rau – Junior – 14 G, 17 A – 31 points
F – Bill Sweatt – Sophomore – 9 G, 17 A – 26 points
F – Scott McCulloch – Senior – 18 G, 6 A – 24 points
D – Brian Connelly – Sophomore – 2 G, 15 A – 17 points

Denver

F – Brock Trotter – Sophomore – 16 G, 24 A – 40 points
F – Rhett Rakhshani – Sophomore – 10 G, 26 A – 36 points
F – Tyler Ruegsegger – Sophomore – 15 G, 19 A – 34 points
D – Chris Butler – Junior – 10 G, 17 A – 27 points
F – Patrick Mullen – Junior – 5 G, 12 A – 17 points

Michigan Tech

F – Peter Roleau – Senior – 7 G, 23 A – 30 points
F – Tyler Shelast – Senior – 15 G, 9 A – 24 points
F – Jimmy Kerr – Senior – 10 G, 9 A – 19 points
D – Geoff Kinrade – Junior – 5 G, 14 A – 19 points
F – Malcolm Gwilliam – Junior – 9 G, 8 A – 17 points

Minnesota

F – Jay Barriball – Sophomore – 20 G, 23 A – 43 points
F – Kyle Okposo – Sophomore – 19 G, 21 A – 40 points
F – Blake Wheeler – Junior – 18 G, 20 A – 38 points
F – Ben Gordon – Senior – 12 G, 19 A – 31 points
F – Ryan Stoa – Junior – 12 G, 12 A – 24 points

Minnesota Duluth

F – MacGregor Sharp – Junior – 11 G, 16 A – 27 points
D – Josh Meyers – Junior – 11 G, 13 A – 24 points
F – Michael Gergen – Junior – 5 G, 11 A – 16 points
F – Mike Curry – Senior – 3 G, 11 A – 14 points
F – Nick Kemp – Junior – 4 G, 8 A – 12 points

Minnesota State

F – Joel Hanson – Senior – 15 G, 13 A – 28 points
F – Jon Kalinski – Junior – 17 G, 10 A – 27 points
F – Mick Berge – Junior – 12 G, 7 A – 19 points
F – Kael Mouillierat – Sophomore – 8 G, 7 A – 15 points
F – Trevor Bruess – Sophomore – 3 G, 11 A – 14 points

North Dakota

F – Ryan Duncan – Junior – 31 G, 26 A – 57 points
F – T.J. Oshie – Junior – 17 G, 35 A – 52 points
D – Robbie Bina – Senior – 10 G, 22 A – 32 points
D – Taylor Chorney – Junior – 8 G, 23 A – 31 points
F – Brad Miller – Junior – 10 G, 14 A – 24 points

St. Cloud State

F – Andreas Nodl – Sophomore – 18 G, 28 A – 46 points
F – Ryan Lasch – Sophomore – 16 G, 23 A – 39 points
F – Nate Dey – Senior – 10 G, 22 A – 32 points
D – Matt Stephenson – Senior – 2 G, 22 A – 24 points
F – John Swanson – Junior – 9 G, 14 A – 23 points

Wisconsin

F – Michael Davis – Sophomore – 11 G, 13 A – 24 points
D – Jamie McBain – Sophomore – 3 G, 15 A – 18 points
F – Ben Street – Junior – 10 G, 7 A – 17 points
F – Matt Ford – Senior – 7 G, 6 A – 13 points
D – Kyle Klubertanz – Senior – 1 G, 12 A – 13 points

Monday, September 10, 2007

CC's Kilpatrick out until November

Colorado College forward Jimmy Kilpatrick will be out until November because of a torn labrum, according to Colorado Springs Gazette writer Kate Crandall's blog entry. The senior led the Tigers in scoring last year with seven goals and 25 assists in 37 games.

Tigers' coach Scott Owens hopes to have the New Prague, Minn. native back in the lineup around Thanksgiving.

INCH A to Z: North Dakota's Chris VandeVelde

Click here to read more about North Dakota's Chris VandeVelde, who was featured today as a part of Inside College Hockey's annual A to Z list of various players throughout college hockey.

Previous WCHA players featured this summer:

Minnesota's Ryan Stoa
Michigan Tech's Geoff Kinrade
Minnesota Duluth's Drew Akins
Minnesota State's Mick Berge
Denver's Chris Butler
Wisconsin's Shane Connelly
Alaska Anchorage's Paul Crowder