This Week In The WCHA: Oct. 11, 2001

Why Do It Again?

Jeff Sauer knows for a fact that Wisconsin could pull off a sequel to the “Cold War” staged at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Mich., last Saturday.

He’s just trying to come up with a reason to do it.

“We could do it here,” Sauer said. “I think we could do it maybe cheaper than they did it, just using their expertise on what they did right and wrong.

“My only concern now is why do it, other than to break the record.”

Sauer already knows it won’t happen next year: the WCHA schedule is already out, he said, and there wouldn’t be an opportunity.

The other catch is that he’d need an opponent that could help fill Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, capacity for football 77,000. The Michigan-Michigan State game set the bar high, so high that only a select few college hockey programs could try to better it.

To hold an outdoor game now, the record must fall. That will be tough, especially outside Michigan.

Sauer has talked to Don Lucia, coach of longtime Badgers rival Minnesota, and gotten a lukewarm response. Sauer said Lucia would listen to the offer, but didn’t sound particularly excited about it.

The other possibilities are North Dakota, which has fans travel anywhere to see it play, and Notre Dame, which is usually a good draw because of its large alumni ranks around the nation.

“Minnesota’s certainly a rivalry to us,” Sauer said, “but our important thing would be to put fans in the building.”

There is a possibility Camp Randall might not even be available. The stadium is set to undergo a major renovation, which could put plans on hold until the facelift is completed, in 2004.

The sticking point for Sauer right now, however, is coming up with a good reason to hold another outdoor game. Camp Randall has the capacity to, if filled, break the now days-old attendance record.

Sauer said, however, that he doesn’t think an event of this magnitude should take place every year.

“I don’t think [Michigan State is] ready to jump back in and do it again next year, and I don’t think there’s a reason to do it every year,” Sauer said. “It just was a very unique event.”

Chances are, it’ll stay that way.

Fine Work, Indeed

In 1997, with their newsroom and printing presses out of commission because of floods on the Red River of the North, the staff of the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald pulled together to cover the disaster in their city out of a school’s computer lab. The effort earned them a Pulitzer Prize.

The staff pulled together once again this summer, this time under much less duress, and assembled a book chronicling the history of the North Dakota hockey team.

They pulled off another masterpiece.

The staff, led by writer Virg Foss, beautifully captures the spirit and sense of history in the program in “Fight on Sioux.”

The book blends a thorough telling of the story of each of North Dakota’s seven national championships with anecdotes, a spotlight on key figures and detailed statistics.

It includes a two-page letter written for the book by UND super booster Ralph Engelstad, who debuted his $100 million arena, a gift to the school, last weekend.

It’s the kind of literature that appeals directly to the college hockey fan with a keen interest in learning about the history of the game. There are few that can present that information better than Foss, who has covered the WCHA since 1969.

“Fight on Sioux,” in addition to the stories behind the teams that made up North Dakota’s glory years, recaps all seven of the Sioux’s national championship victories with a two-page spread on the title game, including a game summary.

The staff of the Herald does well to integrate photographs from its archives and from those of the school. Those photos are as vital to the presentation of Sioux hockey history as the words.

The photos and the detail of the text serve as a reminder that UND hockey is of paramount importance in Grand Forks, and Foss and the Herald do an admirable job of following the team.

The book doubles as a quick reference into Sioux hockey history as well. It features a complete list of letterwinners, captains, year-by-year records, coaches and awards, not to mention the rosters of each UND national championship team.

“Fight on Sioux,” a must-read for any North Dakota hockey fan and still a good read for those less inclined to cheer for the Sioux, costs $19.99 ($29.95 in that wacky Canadian money) and is available by calling the Herald at (701) 780-1100.

Too Many Officials on the Ice

Some may have been confused, and understandably so, about why the WCHA sent out two referees and two linesmen to officiate last Friday’s U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game in Grand Forks, N.D.

Was this a grand new project of the league? Was it a precursor to reverting to the old two-referee, one-linesman system?

No and no, league supervisor of officials Greg Shepherd said. He wanted to give more people a chance to take part in the first game in the new Ralph Engelstad Arena.

“I had two senior men that both deserved the game,” Shepherd said, “and I wanted to give them both a shot at it.”

Tom Goddard, a former UND player, and Mike Schmitt worked the game with the orange armbands.

If it was only as simple as simply sending two referees onto the ice. The NCAA, being the stickler for control that it is, required Shepherd to write a letter asking for permission to break from the standard refereeing practice of one ref and two linesmen.

“It worked fine,” Shepherd said. “I just thought it was a good way of rewarding people on the job they do.”

Just don’t expect the WCHA to field four officials for a game any time soon.

“You won’t see it out of us,” Shepherd said.

Quick Out of the Gate

Out of many positive showings in a 10-1 exhibition victory over Brandon last Saturday night, St. Cloud State coach Craig Dahl glowed the most over one.

He liked the way his freshman forwards produced, albeit against an opponent of a level one step down from upcoming foes. He liked the way goaltender Jake Moreland stepped in for Dean Weasler in the second period and played like the game meant something to him.

His team’s speed, though, was what clinched it for him. Countless times, the Huskies were able to blow past their opponents in races for pucks. While the speed of the opponent will improve drastically in the immediate future, the Huskies now know they can use their speed to a definite advantage.

Forward Matt Hendricks, who scored two goals in the exhibition after scoring just three all of last year, didn’t waver when asked if SCSU was going to have to use its speed differently against Clarkson, its opening-round opponent Friday in the IceBreaker Invitational in Orono, Maine.

“We’re going to make them change their game to match us,” Hendricks said. “We know we’re fast, and we’re going to make the other team prove they can be faster than us. A lot of teams aren’t going to be.”

Practice Quickly

Tournaments this weekend made for short weeks of practice for some WCHA teams — not exactly the kind of thing coaches like to see this early in the season.

St. Cloud State practiced Monday and Tuesday and was scheduled for a brief session on Wednesday before flying out in the early evening.

Denver was scheduled to fly into Anchorage for the Nye Frontier Classic on Thursday, while Boston College and Northeastern were set to arrive on Wednesday to do some sightseeing, Alaska-Anchorage coach John Hill said.

Minnesota-Duluth’s game-week schedule hasn’t been thrown off by the Maverick Stampede in Omaha, Neb., coach Scott Sandelin said. Maybe it’s because the Bulldogs aren’t really in a traditional game-week schedule yet.

“I think after this week we’ll have more of our season routine,” Sandelin said.

The Bulldogs were scheduled to bus to Omaha, leaving Wednesday night with a stopover along the way.

Get a Recording, Please

Joe Marsh and Mike Sertich at the same dais? The mere thought of it makes one chuckle.

Marsh, the St. Lawrence coach, and Sertich, his compatriot at Michigan Tech, square off behind the bench this weekend in Houghton, Mich., but that’s not where the real action is going to take place.

Odds are, these two, being known for their ability to make anyone laugh in any situation, will match each other joke for joke at Friday’s Blueline Club Luncheon.

Look for Sertich to use the home-luncheon advantage and edge Marsh at the wire.

The Battle Begins

Dahl said after Saturday’s victory that he expects to play Weasler in Friday’s game, and that he’s leaning toward playing Moreland in the second game of the Ice Breaker.

Weasler, a senior, and Moreland, a junior, are fighting to be the top goaltender in the absence of graduated star Scott Meyer.

There Are No Winners Here

Doesn’t it seem somewhat fitting that the “Cold War” between Michigan and Michigan State ended in a tie?

No one could really win that other Cold War, either.

The Tournament Planner

New UAA coach Hill has been spared much of the planning for this weekend’s Nye Frontier Classic at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage, leaving him with more time to prepare his team for games against Northeastern and Boston College.

“We’ve had the tournament for a number of years and we have a large committee that has been involved with it since its inception,” Hill said. “Actually, the group of people takes care of everything. I’ve had to do very little.

“They’ve alleviated a lot of the pressure that I probably would have felt if I had to do more.”

Hill said his share of the planning came in getting in contact with the coaches of the three other teams and scheduling ice times. That’s crucial because the time a new coach spends with his players before they take the ice for their first game is invaluable.

What Was That?

Was that true hockey or mere shinny Minnesota and North Dakota played in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game last Friday? The 7-5 score, in favor of the Gophers, suggests the latter.

Jordan Leopold’s shorthanded toss down ice that bounced through UND goaltender Andy Kollar’s legs for a goal was reminiscent of another Sioux goaltending mishap.

In the infamous Water Bottle Game of 1982 against Wisconsin, UND goaltender Jon Casey fell victim to the same kind of embarassing mistake. Off a faceoff in the Wisconsin end, Badgers defenseman Chris Chelios ripped a slapshot out of his zone from the goal line. It took one hop, Foss writes in “Fight on Sioux,” changed directions and went in the net.

Not that Minnesota starter Adam Hauser had much of a game, either. He allowed four goals on eight shots and was yanked after the first period. Without needing stellar math skills, one can calculate that’s a .500 save percentage and a 12.00 goals against average.

Without needing stellar intellect, one knows that’s bad.

The Sioux and the Gophers showed us that it, indeed, was the first game of the year. But that excuse only goes so far.

The Rotating Captaincy

Jaron Doetzel is Michigan Tech’s captain … for now.

Sertich has decided to play the season with captains decided on a month-by-month basis. That makes Doetzel, a senior forward, Mr. October. He had four assists in Tech’s 11-0 thrashing of the U.S. Under 18 Team last Thursday.

One Ref Out, One Ref In

WCHA referee John Seidel retired in the offseason, Shepherd said, and the supervisor of officials replaced him with former linesman Randy Schmidt.

That’s right: now the WCHA lists a Schmidt and a Schmitt as referees. This from the USCHO “Know the Referee You’re Criticizing” committee.

He Said It

“I like the 4 o’clock games. I wish we played Saturday and Sunday afternoons, to tell you the truth.”

— St. Cloud State coach Craig Dahl, whose team plays Clarkson at 4 p.m. Eastern Time on Friday in the Ice Breaker Invitational.

Events That Shaped the WCHA: The Interlocking Schedule

Editor’s note: As the WCHA celebrates its 50th anniversary this season, USCHO will take a look at major events in the history of the conference.

A large part of collegiate athletics is dedicated to inter-league play. In hockey, teams supplement their conference schedule with a number of games against teams from other conferences.

In 1984, though, the WCHA and Hockey East shook up the definition of a nonconference game.

The interlocking schedule was born, and with it came Minnesota-Boston University regular-season games that counted in the WCHA standings.

For five years in the 1980s, the lines between Eastern and Western college hockey were blurred, and that fact helped form some of the rivalries and friendships we see today.

“It really jump started college hockey to another level,” said Sauer, who was in his third season at Wisconsin when the interlocking schedule started. “It was basically because those teams came into our buildings on a regular basis and they saw how the WCHA treats hockey as a Division I sport. I think that more than anything is what propelled the Eastern schools to make the next step hockey-wise.”

It’s critical to remember the WCHA was not as strong in 1984 as it is today. At the start of the 1984-85 season, the league added two members — Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan — to get back to eight teams.

It played three seasons as a six-team league after Tech, Michigan, Michigan State and Notre Dame left to join the CCHA in the summer of 1981.

For the players and coaches, it was just nice to see someone other than the same WCHA teams week in and week out, and to play them for points was even better. It also helped build the league pride that is still evident today nationwide.

“I think we took a lot of pride in the fact that we were the WCHA,” said Sandelin, who played at North Dakota in the first few years of the system. “You wanted to win those games as badly because of the pride thing within your league. I think that’s how I looked at it as a player, and how everybody looked at it.

“I think it’s the same way now when you play teams outside your league. You’re going to approach those games in that you want to win those games because of that pride thing and certainly some ramifications with postseason stuff.”

When the interlocking schedule started, Sauer said, people around the college hockey world thought the WCHA had lost its marbles.

As it turns out, it became a unifying event for the game.

“It turned out to be fun, and it brought the hockey community together better,” Sauer said. “The East coaches and the West coaches, it really became a rivalry, but they also became friends.”