Things have been going so well for St. Cloud State that coach Craig Dahl had to be anticipating this kind of situation.
It started with losing Jon Cullen to an injured knee for up to four weeks. Then Chris Purslow decided to hang up his skates because of persistant groin injuries.
This week, it’s Matt Hendricks’ turn. The sophomore, who has scored five goals and three assists in four games for the Huskies, will either be out or not at 100 percent this weekend when SCSU plays at Minnesota State-Mankato. Hendricks has an abdominal strain.
If Hendricks can’t play, it could be enough to cause the rest of the lineup to see changes, including the productive freshman line of Mike Doyle, Peter Szabo and Dave Iannazzo.
Someone has to fill Hendricks’ spot on a line with Mark Hartigan and Nate DiCasmirro. Why not Doyle, who has five goals and two assists?
Whatever happens on the injury front, it doesn’t take away from the impressive 4-0 start for the Huskies. It’s the best debut ever for a SCSU Division I team, and it’s shows the Huskies are opening this season as a continuation of the successful stretch run last year that led them to the WCHA playoff title.
St. Cloud simply had too much speed for Michigan Tech last weekend. That statement may be made for a number of SCSU opponents before this season is done.
“We went out East knowing we’d play two pretty good teams there, and not really knowing for sure what to expect,” Dahl said of the season-opening IceBreaker Invitational two weeks ago.
“To win 5-1 [over Clarkson], 6-2 [over Maine] is really a bit of a surprise because I didn’t think we’d win by that much.”
The Huskies put an emphasis on speed and conditioning in the offseason, and that has translated into victories early this season.
And then, the Colorado College offense awoke.
It took roughly three weeks longer than some anticipated, but the Tigers finally showed the offensive capabilities most expected from them in a 7-1 non-conference victory over UMass-Amherst last Saturday.
That came on the heels of a 3-0 win on Friday, which doubled the goal production of the Tigers’ first three games, exhibition included.
“We hadn’t really been in sync, our timing wasn’t really good until Saturday,” CC coach Scott Owens said. “It just seemed like it was a matter of getting the games in. We finally got the power play untracked, we were able to score our first power-play goals of the entire season.
“Yeah, we needed that, but now we’ve got a week off.”
Indeed, the Tigers this week faced exams on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. They’re trying to stay in shape in off-ice drills while Michelle Kwan and company take over the World Arena, but nothing will come close to the experience of playing games.
Putting a positive spin on it, Owens said his team will be able to heal a few nagging injuries this weekend.
“That’s the good news. The bad news is we feel like we’re coming off a good weekend and now we lose some momentum,” Owens said. “At least the confidence level should be pretty good.”
Minnesota defenseman Matt DeMarchi’s return from a sprained ankle suffered in the Gophers’ first game of the season was sidetracked on Monday when he got his skate caught in a rut in the ice. The injury flared up, and DeMarchi, who sat out last weekend’s series with Bemidji State, will be out for this weekend’s series and possibly longer.
“We’ll see how much progress he makes in the next week, but we have to make sure he’s 100 percent healthy before we put him back out there,” said Minnesota coach Don Lucia, who admitted he’s not sure when DeMarchi will be back to full strength. “He may miss a couple weeks because of it.”
Mark Nenovich and Joey Martin filled DeMarchi’s spot alongside Jordan Leopold on the Minnesota blue line last weekend. Lucia said that will continue this week.
Proof of Character
Coaches often wonder before the season what kind of character their team will have.
Minnesota State-Mankato showed a little bit of its character in last Saturday’s come-from-behind victory over Minnesota-Duluth.
The Mavericks fell behind 2-0 in the first period on the road, then gained a goal back early in the second but lost goaltender Eric Pateman to a right shoulder injury.
Enter Jon Volp, enter the offense and enter a 5-3 Mavericks victory into the books.
The freshman goaltender stopped 24 of the 25 shots he faced in the last 37:52 of the game, Tim Jackman scored a pair of goals and Mankato walked out of the DECC with four points from the weekend and the knowledge it can survive adversity.
As for Volp, he may need the confidence boost from Saturday’s game to carry him in the upcoming weeks. Mankato coach Troy Jutting wasn’t sure earlier this week whether Pateman would be ready to play this weekend against St. Cloud State.
“I think it’s definitely good for his confidence,” Jutting said. “I’ve been very impressed with him all fall. He played Saturday night [Oct. 13] in Bemidji [a 5-3 victory in which he made 26 saves] and basically played all of two periods Saturday night in Duluth and has done a very nice job for us.”
Minnesota-Duluth senior center Nate Anderson missed last weekend’s series with Mankato because of an injured knee. Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin was unsure early this week if Anderson could return for this weekend’s non-conference series with Rensselaer.
In his absence last weekend, the Bulldogs tried freshman Luke Stauffacher, junior Jon Francisco and senior Tom Nelson on the line with Junior Lessard and Judd Medak.
Rest and Relaxation
With all the preseason talk of Lucia’s plan to get goaltender Adam Hauser some rest as the season goes along, it would be easy to draw a connection between the goalie’s 19-save, one-goal performance last Saturday and that he hadn’t played since Oct. 5.
Not necessarily, Lucia said. While it was Hauser’s first action since being yanked from the first game of the season after allowing four goals in the first period, the two weeks of practice between games probably did the most good.
Freshman Travis Weber played on Friday, which was Lucia’s plan — solidified by Hauser having the flu early last weekend.
“I’m glad [Hauser] got the chance to play on Saturday,” Lucia said, “because I wanted him to get back in there.”
The plan for this weekend’s non-conference series against Colgate is similar. Lucia said Hauser will play one night, and either Weber or Justin Johnson, also a freshman, will start the other.
Johnson, who was thought before the season to be seeking a redshirt, doesn’t want to follow that road, Lucia said.
“He’s 21 and wants to go to grad school,” Lucia said. “He doesn’t want to do that, he wants to compete for a job. That’s fine too, because we’ll find out whether we need to recruit a goalie for next year or not.”
As a group, the St. Cloud State freshman line has garned the most attention of any newcomers this season, but Denver freshman forward Jon Foster has been quietly putting things together for the Pioneers.
The 5-foot-10, 163-pounder from Dubuque in the United States Hockey League had two goals and an assist in the games that counted — two weeks ago in Anchorage — but has also shown promise in exhibition games in Denver.
He was named the player of the game in exhibition victories over Alberta and the U.S. Developmental Team.
“Offensively, he’s a very talented young man,” Denver coach George Gwozdecky said of the 19-year-old. “He’s got a real knack for knowing where to put the puck and has great touch around the net. He’s developing more and more confidence as time goes along here.
“He’s a very talented man when it comes to putting the puck in the net, that’s for sure. And making plays, he’s a real good and poised offensive player.”
Minnesota landed a big prize in this year’s recruiting class on Wednesday when Thomas Vanek, the superstar-to-be who’s tearing up the USHL, offered the Gophers his verbal commitment for next season.
Vanek, who has scored 24 points in eight USHL games this season, is highly regarded as the kind of recruit that could put a team like Minnesota over the top in the quest for a national championship.
Also this week, North Dakota got a verbal commitment from Brady Murray, a junior at Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Faribault, Minn. Murray, the son of Los Angeles Kings coach Andy Murray, is a linemate of Zach Parise, who committed to the Sioux earlier this month.
Murray’s commitment is notable because commitments to schools don’t often come in the junior year.
The Wrong Side of the List
It’s not true that Alaska-Anchorage has taken more penalties already this season than it has in the last two seasons combined. Maybe it just seems that way.
Yes, the Seawolves are at the top of the WCHA in penalty minutes per game. That’s most penalty minutes. They’ve been assessed 82 minutes in four games — more than 20 a game if you’re keeping score — and are almost one-fifth of the way to the 452 penalty minutes they accumulated last year … again, through four games.
“Just because of their overall aggresiveness and assertiveness on the ice, they’re probably going to take a lot more penalties than they have in the past,” said Gwozdecky, who studied the Seawolves from the Sullivan Arena seats two weeks ago.
Savoring the Experience
Colorado College coach Owens gave a thumbs up to the play of his goaltenders last weekend, especially to Curtis McElhinney.
The freshman made 24 saves in Saturday’s 7-1 victory after Jeff Sanger had to make only 13 stops for a 3-0 shutout on Friday.
“We wanted to give [McElhinney] an opportunity to play in a non-conference game, and he really responded well. He had a more difficult night than Jeff had, but he made several big saves for us.
“It’s an opportunity to give a young goalie a little bit of playing time and get his confidence going here. We have such a difficult early part of our schedule, so many difficult games, that you just have to grab the chance when you can.”
You don’t often see three goaltenders play for one team on one night in a game that counts in the records. North Dakota coach Dean Blais has turned some heads before; why should it surprise anyone that he’d be the one to go three deep in the goaltending ranks?
Andy Kollar last Saturday’s 5-1 Sioux loss to Maine, and allowed four goals in 12:22. Jake Brandt relieved him, only to be relieved in the third period by Ryan Sofie.
The makings of a goaltender controversy? Not just yet, but keep your eyes on this one.
Blais said he’s sticking to his original plan of having Kollar, a senior, play the vast majority of the minutes.
“That’s the plan, unless he has a couple more terrible outings,” Blais said. “He played good when it counted, and that was against Colorado [College, a sweep two weekends ago]. If he plays good against Wisconsin, he’ll be playing the following weekend against St. Cloud.”
Throw Open the Doors
The new luxury suites in Mariucci Arena will be set to open for Saturday night’s game against Colgate, Lucia said. The only thing not in place is food service.
With that comes the end of a noisy practice schedule for the Gophers. While it hasn’t been as bad in the last few weeks, in the first practices before the Oct. 5 game at North Dakota, the construction noise drowned out Lucia’s teachings.
“Maybe it shows they don’t need any coaching,” Lucia said, “because they did fine that game.”
A Long Time Ago
Late in the 1986-87 season, Minnesota State-Mankato picked up a 5-2 victory at St. Cloud State, one of 21 wins that season for the Division II team.
Why, you may ask, does that stand out among the 82 games played between the Mavericks and the Huskies? Well, one simple reason:
It’s the last time the Mavs won. They get two more chances this weekend at the Midwest Wireless Civic Center.
Since that game in 1987, Mankato is 0-9-2 against St. Cloud. Eight of those 12 games have come since 1996-97, the first year the Mavs played a Division I schedule.
“St. Cloud’s been a very good hockey team the last couple years,” Jutting said. “I shouldn’t even say the last couple; they’ve been a very good hockey team for a while now, and in particular the last couple.
“Obviously, it’s something that we don’t like.”
Denver played before 5,201 fans last Saturday night in the 6,028-seat Magness Arena. That’s not bad, especially considering the game was an exhibition.
Gwozdecky attributed part of the attendance to the opponent — any U.S. national team attracts attention, he said.
But there’s also something to be said about the attractiveness, on the ice at least, of his team.
“Although they’re preseason games, we’ve been playing well,” Gwozdecky said. “I think everybody recognizes that we’re going to have a very exciting team to watch this year. Because of those reasons, we expect to have a good home-ice advantage this year.”
Not a Bad Start
In earning a shutout in his first collegiate start, Wisconsin’s Bernd Bruckler last Saturday became the first Badgers goaltender to do so since Jim Carey in 1992.
That’s not a bad person to emulate. After leaving Wisconsin, Carey won the Vezina Trophy with the Washington Capitals in 1996.
When Gwozdecky and his Denver team sat in the stands two weeks ago and watched Alaska-Anchorage play in the Nye Frontier Classic, they gained a newfound respect, the coach said, for how the Seawolves play.
The Pioneers host Anchorage this weekend in Denver.
“They’re not as conservative as they had been in the past,” Gwozdecky said. “I know they were opening it up a little bit last year, but I think [new UAA coach] John [Hill] has brought some new ideas and a new philosophy.
“I’m glad as a team we had a chance to watch them play because there’s an understanding now amongst our team how good they are.”
Politics As Usual
So far this season, the job description for North Dakota’s head hockey coach has more traits of a politician than an on-ice leader.
Blais has had to answer questions about the Fighting Sioux nickname for weeks, starting with the opening of the new Ralph Engelstad Arena and culminating this week, when the university was criticized by leaders at St. Cloud State.
Blais, for his part, has an interesting perspective.
“When I hit the ice, I totally forget about all the other (expletive),” he said.
St. Cloud State presented its case to the WCHA in offseason meetings, asking that the league take a stance against Native American nicknames. The WCHA did not do so. SCSU president Roy Saigo submitted a resolution to the NCAA in March, asking that Native American nicknames be eliminated.
Blais, however, stands firm behind North Dakota’s nickname.
“We are the Fighting Sioux, and we are going to continue to be the Fighting Sioux no matter what St. Cloud says,” Blais said. “If they don’t want to play us, so be it. We won’t play them.”
Give Him a Chance
Denver senior walk-on goaltender Andy Lemelin, who has virtually no chance of seeing playing time this season behind Wade Dubielewicz and Adam Berkhoel, finally played against someone other than his teammates last Saturday.
Lemelin, who has only taken the ice collegiately in Pioneers intra-squad games, played the last 6:16 against the U.S. Development Team.
The bad part is, he played that whole time and didn’t face a shot. Couldn’t someone have let this guy see one shot?
Hey, You Scratched My Anchor!
There’s an awfully good reason why Blais’ friends and boosters got together to buy him a new boat.
From the sound of things, they didn’t feel safe on his old one.
The North Dakota coach was presented with a $24,000, 24-foot Lund fishing boat before Saturday night’s loss to Maine — “the most exciting thing to happen that night,” Blais said.
Blais’ old boat seemed overdue for a service.
“When we won the national championship in 1982, I received a bonus and I went out and bought a boat right away. I’ve had that boat ever since,” said Blais, a Sioux assistant in ’82.
“I had the whole staff up for a fishing trip, and we were coming across the lake and we hit a wave and my whole steering column came off. I think that’s when it started.”
What, the fear or the sinking?
Here’s your Clay “Woodrow” Wilson update for the week:
“Woody” suited up for both games against St. Cloud at the National Hockey Center, but, again, didn’t figure in the scoring. He’s still looking for his first collegiate point.
By the way, the Tech line chart last week will have you know that Wilson enjoys pottery.
He Said It
“My first year, we did not have a good non-conference record. I think part of it is I’ve put a little more emphasis on it.”
— Colorado College coach Scott Owens, on his team’s nine-game winning streak against teams not from the WCHA (8-0-1). The Tigers were 2-5 in that area in 1999-2000, Owens’ first season.