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This Week in the WCHA

College Hockey:
Denver’s Brittain on schedule, but taking nothing for granted in comeback

Call it a comeback — one very long in the making. Nonetheless, goaltender Sam Brittain is right on track to make his return to the Denver Pioneers exactly when he, the coaches and trainers planned.

“Things are going very well,” said Brittain, who had his ACL and meniscus surgically repaired mid-summer. “Everything is right on schedule.”

The target date for the Denver goalie’s return: Jan. 27 when the Pioneers travel to Alaska-Anchorage for a series with the Seawolves. 

Brittain’s goals against average (2.40) and save percentage (.920) ranked second in the country among rookie goaltenders last season, and helped him get named to the All-WCHA rookie team. He helped lead the Pioneers to the WCHA Final Five championship game, and then within a game of the Frozen Four. 

But it was during Denver’s double-overtime loss to North Dakota in the Final Five title game that Brittain first realized he injured his left ACL and meniscus.

“It got progressively worse to the point where I had to get [surgery] done,” Brittain said. “I thought I could play on it the last few games of the season. After that I was hoping it might be OK but the more I trained on it, the worse it got.

“It was my decision the whole way. I decided I had to get it done.”

Brittain decided to undergo surgery in June, causing him to miss the first 24 games of the season. Although he’s a fixture in Denver’s dressing room and training room, he doesn’t travel with the team on road trips. Instead, he settles for watching road games via webcast with Denver’s other inactives. 

The injury caused Brittain to miss his chance at playing for Canada’s team in the 2012 World Junior Championship. He was expected to at least make the preliminary camp roster.

“That was pretty frustrating, having the chance to represent Team Canada and having the opportunity to be invited to make that team,” Brittain said. “It made my decision to have surgery that much more difficult, for sure.”

But Brittain’s work ethic to get back to the Pioneers has shown over the past six months. He has advanced his training to strength and speed rehab workouts, five days per week, two hours each. He’s skating again, but he won’t be in goalie pads until late December.

“As of last Tuesday I was able to get back on the ice again,” Brittain said. “I’m getting stronger, more flexible and back into that goalie position and back to play.”

Adam Murray (5-2-1, .902 save percentage, 3.40 goals against average) has seen the bulk of the minutes between the pipes for Denver this season but has been injured himself lately. That left Juho Olkinuora (1-3-2, .923, 2.20) in the spotlight.

“Before Murray got injured, he was playing really well and Olkinuora’s playing great,” Brittain said. “It’s going to be extremely tough to battle and get back in the lineup.”

Murray’s good record isn’t reflective of his save percentage and goals against average, and the Pioneers haven’t translated Olkinuora’s numbers into victories. 

It will be interesting how the situation looks when Brittain returns to the lineup and whether he’s automatically thrown into the starting role full time.

“No one will be handed anything,” Brittain said. “It’s going to come down to hard work, performance, pushing each other to hopefully get the start.”

Forty years later, former Bulldogs goalie’s heart remains in Duluth

Those fortunate enough to subscribe to the NHL’s Center Ice package on their local cable or satellite provider may recognize Glenn Resch as Mike “Doc” Emrick’s long-time color-commentating sidekick calling New Jersey Devils games on New York-based MSG Network.

Still others might remember his 15-year career as an NHL goalie, making stops on Long Island, Colorado, New Jersey and Philadelphia, including winning a Stanley Cup with the Islanders in 1980.

Some, however, will recall Resch’s run as a stalwart in the Minnesota-Duluth net from 1968 to 1971. As a senior, Resch served as captain of the Bulldogs and earned second-team All-WCHA honors for his efforts.

But 40 years later, the man whom Islanders teammate Doug Rombough dubbed “Chico” after a fictional 1970s sitcom character, has no trouble recalling, with great fondness, his time in Duluth.

“I thought, ‘Wow, these guys really seem to get it,’ like they understand I’m more than just a knucklehead hockey player,” Resch said of his first impressions of the school and its staff. “When I went to Duluth and I saw the enthusiasm of the fans and the sellouts and the way they were treating people … I thought, ‘They get it here,’ so that is what was fun.”

The Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, native, who played junior hockey prior to arriving in Duluth, talked about how impressed he was with the WCHA’s quality of play at the time.

“Remember, there wasn’t a lot of teams in college hockey so you were getting some real good, top-end players,” said Resch. “All those things made you feel like, except for the NHL, you were playing in the best environment possible.”

Resch, who earned a four-year degree in education from Minnesota-Duluth, could not say enough about his collegiate experience, both as a person and a player.

“In the ’60s and early ’70s, college hockey was run about as well and as classy as it gets,” said Resch. “Players were treated, except financially, probably as well or better than NHL players. We weren’t living under the pressure of, ‘Hey, if you don’t perform you’re going to the minor leagues,’ being traded, being intimidated. In college hockey, the attitude was we’re going to develop these players as players and as people.

“That’s what the NHL’s gotten to now because, with long-term contracts, you’ve got to develop your players in all different areas.”

Although eager to do so, the 1991 UMD Athletics Hall of Fame inductee and member of the All-DECC Team as chosen by Bulldogs alumni has yet to see UMD’s new home at Amsoil Arena. A scheduling conflict prevented him from attending UMD’s final game at the DECC last Dec. 4.

“They brought back [the All-DECC Team] last year and they wanted me to come in,” Resch said of the ceremony honoring him and his All-DECC teammates. “But I’d never missed a game [on MSG] so I just couldn’t.”

Resch’s Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs are atop the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll for the first time since defeating Michigan to win the 2011 NCAA Frozen Four in St. Paul, Minn. Resch kept a close eye on his alma mater over the course of the championship run while staying in close contact with former Bulldogs assistant Brett Larson.

“We were starving for a long time for a national championship,” said Resch, who still maintains an offseason residence in northern Minnesota. “It just kind of is a finishing touch on what we always thought was one of the best places to play college hockey.”

Could Sioux surge already be under way?

After a 1-5 start in WCHA play, the North Dakota — final reference, we promise — Fighting Sioux have won five of six to climb back to .500, which puts UND right about where you’d expect in the Dave Hakstol era. The nearly annual second-half surge could be well under way.

Before last season, when North Dakota entered the new year 14-4-1, UND had averaged a 7-6-1 conference and a 10-8-2 October-December record overall from 2004-05 to 2009-10. In those six seasons, however, North Dakota reached four Frozen Fours and one title game.

Although former North Dakota forward Zach Parise’s teams never had to rely on the surge, his family could not escape the ritual early-season swoon.

“A couple years after I left, my brother [Jordan] was there and they started off real slow,” Parise said during a stop in St. Paul for his New Jersey Devils to play the Minnesota Wild. “Everyone was wondering, ‘What’s going on?’ and all of a sudden they’re in the championship game.”

It’s a phenomenon for which Parise has no explanation.

“UND’s always had a strong second half and they always seem to heat up at the right time heading into the playoffs,” said Parise. “I don’t know what it is; they just seem to jell at the right time.”

When asked about last week’s announcement that as of Jan. 1, his alma mater will no longer use either the Fighting Sioux (OK, we lied, one more) nickname or logo, Parise was caught by surprise and expressed his disappointment with the decision.

“It’s a great logo and we only wore it with pride,” said Parise. “I don’t know why people are making a big fuss about it. We never disrespected anything about it — anything about the logo, anything about the name.

“They need to find something else to do rather than pursue getting rid of that.”

Players of the week

Milestone night earns BSU’s Hunt WCHA defensive player of the week honors

Heading into the season, seven Bemidji State players had reached 100 career points since the program elevated itself to Division I status. That number rose to eight last weekend when Brad Hunt became the latest member — and first defenseman — of BSU’s D-I 100-point club.

Hunt’s feat also makes him just the sixth defenseman in the program’s overall history to reach the century mark.

“It was very gratifying for him to get that point tonight and it was a big point,” BSU coach Tom Serratore said after last Saturday’s game. “It was a vintage Brad Hunt shot from the point and it got through.

“I’m very happy for him.”

With a slap shot past St. Cloud State’s Ryan Faragher on Saturday night, Hunt reached the 100-point mark with his third goal and team-leading 14th point of the season. The goal turned out to be the winner in Bemidji State’s 3-1 victory over SCSU.

“It feels great, but it feels even better that we got the win,” Hunt said. “If we didn’t win that game, the 100-point mark doesn’t really feel as special.

“It’s great to get the win and reach that milestone. It’s really cool.”

Hunt’s next assist will be his 79th and establish him as the BSU’s all-time D-I assists leader, breaking the record he shares with former Beavers player and current Philadelphia Flyers forward Matt Read.

Offensive player of the week: North Dakota sophomore Brock Nelson

Nelson’s recent tear (he was co-offensive player of the week last week) continued in Anchorage last weekend with five points (4-1–5) in UND’s sweep of the Seawolves. With his performance, Nelson took over sole possession of North Dakota’s scoring lead with 22 points (14-8–22) and his 14 goals overall rank him second among WCHA players.

Rookie of the week: North Dakota forward Brendan O’Donnell

Like Nelson, O’Donnell contributed a pair of goals to lift UND to a 5-2 win last Friday over Alaska-Anchorage. The goals were O’Donnell’s second and third in six games since his return from absence due to injury.

WCHA at the World Juniors

Of the 29 players listed on Team USA’s U20 roster, 19 are currently playing collegiate hockey and six are playing on WCHA teams.

Denver forward Jason Zucker (8-12–20 this season) and goalie Jack Campbell, of the Ontario Hockey League, are the only two members of the 2010 gold-medal team. 

North Dakota defenseman Derek Forbort (1-3–4) and Minnesota forward Nick Bjugstad (15-11–26) are going for their second years on Team USA.

St. Cloud State defenseman Kevin Gravel (0-4–4), Minnesota forward Kyle Rau (11-8–19) and Nebraska-Omaha forward Josh Archibald (7-4–11) are all in competition for their first appearances on the team.

Former Minnesota-Duluth defenseman Justin Faulk will make his second straight appearance pending a release from the Carolina Hurricanes.

Colorado College forward Jaden Schwartz was a key player for Team Canada last year before he fractured his ankle.

USCHO covers the WCHA all week long on the WCHA Blog, with weekend recaps on Monday, picks on Friday, and updates during the week.


The following is a self-policing forum for discussing views on this story. Comments that are derogatory, make personal attacks, are abusive, or contain profanity or racism will be removed at our discretion. USCHO.com is not responsible for comments posted by users. Please report any inappropriate or offensive comments by clicking the “Flag” link next to that comment in order to alert the moderator.

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  • Mr Hockey

    Chico is a class act guy. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know him. Even as Gophers fan I still like a few Bulldogs, Chico is 1 of them. I went to high school with his kids and still live a few houses from him in Central Minnesota not Northern Minnesota as the article states.

  • Fan Man

    The UND team will still wear the ~SIOUX~ hockey jerseys the rest of the year so I dont think the staff at USCHO need worry about calling them by their real name.  The fight to keep the name is not over!  There are still on-going issues that could (not probable) help in retaining the name…

    • guest

      Just let it go…

      • nogofer

        No.

        • Mr Hockey

          Seriously let the name go. If the real Sioux would’ve put up a bigger fight then the people calling to keep the namesake. The Sioux wouldn’t be living on reservations

          • Guest

            Seriously?  Like they even stood a chance..  Just compare that to your recent trips to Frozen Four= No Chance!!!  If UND’s president had a strong bone in his body, we would likely have retained the name but he comes in and next thing ya know, he’s bending right over for the NCAA

          • nogofer

            It is not over.  I’ll be wearing MY Sioux sweaters (jerseys, to you bozos) when you are long forgotten…  7 > 5+1

          • Phoenixfyre1313

            I am sure that you and all the other Sioux fans will be wearing your jerseys into eternity……….

          • Fan Man

            You are Damn right we will be!  Cant wait to see all the Green overshadow that maroon and gold this year at the Excel in March!  Oh wait, the goofs havent been there for a while so maybe thats why it was like playing on home ice ;)    Not to fret though, Im sure that nasty first line of yours will somehow get there eventually…

          • WCHA Fan

            Just remember, there are two teams that wear maroon and gold in MN.  They are both better than you this year…  :)

          • nogofer

            The season is not over…

          • Anonymous

            Really now? With Minnesota and Wisconsin already actively refusing to schedule UND beyond WCHA play, a Division I football conference effectively telling them to lose it or risk going independent, and NCAA sanctions that would have prevented them from hosting a post-season game, all for the sake of a name? Kelley was and is against continued use of the name, a fact that has frustrated many of us since day one, but to say that his hands weren’t tied in this situation is foolish.

            If the school, the state, or any members of the tribes had put forth the effort to retain the name that they are currently displaying 4 years ago we might have succeeded, but now? They don’t stand a chance. Sitting on our hands and refusing to believe that it could happen got us to this point. Kelley is doing what he believes is necessary to ensure the academic integrity of his institution, in short he is doing his job. I dislike the way he handled the situation, I dislike his perceived eagerness to sweep a long hallowed tradition under the rug, but I also respect his willingness to do what was necessary even in the face of adversity. Sioux fans will likely hate him for it, and he will forever be known as the man that ousted the most iconic piece of imagery in Division I hockey, but at the end of it all he did what he felt was best for his school. Starting on January first they are Sioux in everything but name. The school might retire it, but you can bet that the fans won’t.

            Now get off your maroon and gold soapbox, quit pretending that you give a damn about Kelley’s reaction, and stop being so predictable. “Ya?”

    • Ranger

      Go Sioux!

  • Guest

    OK…I found the ‘This Week in Sue-ville’ column, but where is the WCHA column?

    Isn’t their a und forum/fan page for these types of articles? Nelson as Offensive POTW? Jack Connolly is laughing.

    • Mr Hockey

      Read the Star Tribune’s Gopher Hockey coverage. More Sioux fans post on there then Gopher fans. For fans who say they hate the Gophers, they sure do spend a lot of time following them.

      • nogofer

        Rule #1:  Know your enemy.  Reading the rants of the gofer faithful keeps me laughing…

        • Phoenixfyre1313

          You are correct on rule #1, unfortunately, you see the Gophers are your only enemy……tunnel vision.

          • nogofer

            I read the rants from various teams, but the gofers are the most fun to poke, both here and on other sites, because they get so upset about the self-named state of hockey not being respected, blah, blah, blah…    No tunnel vision here, WE know that the college hockey world hates The Sioux.  We have dashed the prosects of winning a title at one time or another for every school, and the fans have long memories.

      • Ranger

        I guess the fact that thousands of UND alumni are from and/or live in the MSP area escapes you.  Many, like myself, call the StarTrib rag their “hometown” paper.  Unfortunately.

        • Fan Man

          Me too!  Sioux Fan living in Minni…  Right by the Goofer kingdom and still hating (maybe to strong of a word) them!

          • nogofer

            As a mn resident and proud graduate of The University of North Dakota, I display my colors on my vehicles.  My rear window with 7 stickers was shot out (air rifle?) in MY DRIVEWAY and my hood was destroyed at our HOME rink in the NW ‘burbs.  Both sides of the rig have been keyed…  mn goons…

    • OPKS

      Right…I guess you must have missed the the two articles at the top of the page about Denver and UMD.

      And it’s called Player of the WEEK.  Connolly is a fantastic player, but Nelson just had the better weekend, hence POTW:

      Nelson – 4 G, 1 A, 5pts
      Connolly – 3 G, 1 A, 4pts

      • Phoenixfyre1313

        If it is just about points, then maybe it should renamed WCHA point scorer of the week.

        • OPKS

          Usually goals, assists, and points are how one measures offensive success.

  • http://twitter.com/Butterz07 Aaron G.

    you are all goons

  • Phoenixfyre1313

    I find it hilarious that a four game winning streak constitutes a second half surge, nevermind that we aren’t in the second half yet.  The played two games against an  CC club that has struggled with its goaltending all year and prior to this series North Dakota could hardly score.  Both teams gave up a boat load of goals, the defense was non-existent.  Then North Dakota goes up to bottom feeder UAA and pulls out a couple of wins, which brings them up to an impressive .500 in the WCHA.  I would think that we could wait until they beat a real team on the road and actually show some consistency prior to practically handing over the McNaughton cup to them for a modest 4 game winning streak against the last place and a middle of the pack team.  Sheeesh!

    • ness180

      I find your obvious lack of reading comprehension to be hilarious. The columnists didn’t explicitly say the Sioux were on a second half surge but that it could be beginning to happen. DERP!!

      I also love the belittling of UND’s wins over CC and UAA. Pretty darn easy ain’t it? Tell me who you root for and I could do just the same with easy. So how about you jump off the ****ing soapbox because nobody is handing UND anything.

      • nogofer

        Phoenixfyre1313  is a rodent.

    • http://twitter.com/Butterz07 Aaron G.

      Your post shows ignorance, and with that ignorance I shall enlighten you. North Dakota has a very young team. The word young is used to represent the lack of communication that the players have between themselves. The top line of Kristo, Knight, and Nelson takes the bulk of offensive production. The line itself has been the “IT” for the Sioux in the past weeks, and why not? All three individuals are outstanding hockey players. Chemistry is a big part of hockey, and when you have a team full of big time players that leave after only a few years, it would be hard to keep the chemistry at hold. I watch the Sioux closely and they have been playing better hockey as of late. The ability has always been there, but a lot of missed opportunities as well as poor decision making has cost the team. Another thing that has helped the Sioux is the change in there power play. The power play is completely different, and the change was made before the CC series. Since then the power play is at a 40% clip (idk for sure) and Nelson getting 9 of them (leads the NCAA). So to say the Sioux couldn’t be showing positives after four games is ludacris and i know it is because  you are a bigot who is only out to bash North Dakota hockey instead of checking facts before generalizing…thanks and have a horrible day.

      • Phoenixfyre1313

        Your response is full of so many double standards it is laughable.  North Dakota fans seem to apply all these “facts” to their team, but when the same “facts” are presented about another team then they aren’t valid or there is some excuse as to why they shouldn’t apply.  All I heard all season from UND was how the Minnesota, didn’t have a tough enough schedule, the power play and Bjugstad’s goals were against weak teams, Patterson GAA and shutouts were against weak teams or at home.  Blah, blah, blah… Just stating the same about UND, at no one said they weren’t making progress.  Apply the same standards to your own team or your posts are meaningless.  Your last line shows what classless act you are.

    • nogofer

      MI Tech?  Hello? Splitsville at home!!!

  • None

    That four game winning streak got UND back into 4th place.  Also, CC isn’t a worthy opponent? Really?

  • None

    Also, Sioux seem to be getting some wins when other teams are slipping.  Example Minnesota, 1 pt at Mich State, and they looked terrible in Grand Forks.  

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