This Week in the WCHA: Nov. 7, 2002

… And a Hockey Game Broke Out

Not to go off on a rant or anything, but …

No matter how many college hockey coaches go on the record saying fighting has no place in their game, it happens. It happened before and it’ll happen again.

It happened last weekend, when eight players were ejected after a brawl at the North Dakota-Yale game on Saturday.

But the infrequency with which we see a major donnybrook in the college game makes it tolerable. A handful of occasions each season won’t bring the game into disrepute.

And the NCAA has a proper way to deal with these situations. A one-game suspension should be enough to dissuade those who were quick to drop the gloves in junior hockey — that they let them get away with it there is another story — to keep them on in college. Those who fight in college know the punishment, so the decision is up to them.

The only gray area is the one North Dakota found itself in this week. It had four players given game disqualification penalties, meaning they’re out for Friday’s game at St. Cloud State. But the Sioux — or “the squad from Grand Forks,” as they’re known in St. Cloud, but more on that later — may have had a valid argument that two of their players were over-penalized.

North Dakota claims defenseman Nick Fuher and forward Kevin Spiewak never dropped their gloves, and were given DQs only because they didn’t return to the bench while the fight was going on. Forwards Ryan Hale and Rory McMahon also were ejected for the Sioux.

The penalty for not going to the bench during a fight is supposed to be two minutes. But ECAC commissioner Phil Buttafuoco turned down appeals from both teams this week to have two of the DQs commuted for each side.

That decision leaves the Sioux slightly unsettled for their WCHA opener Friday night. The WCHA allows teams to take 22 players on the road, and with two goaltenders that means they’ll take 20 skaters.

If coach Dean Blais wants the suspended four to play on Saturday, he’ll have to play with only 16 skaters on Friday, instead of the usual 18.

On (And Off) The Air

Who said the life of a WCHA radio play-by-play announcer is uneventful?

You could be challenged to a fight by someone in the crowd, much like North Dakota radio man Tim Hennessy was last Saturday as part of fight night at Ingalls Rink. Or you could never get off the ground, the fate dealt upon first-year Michigan Tech announcer Dirk Hembroff last Friday when his flight out of Houghton, Mich., was delayed because of mechanical problems.

That makes it quite possibly the most interesting week on WCHA radio in recent memory. Not that there’s much to compare it to.

Just as the Sioux and Yale were duking it out on the ice, Hennessy was having a verbal exchange with a fan a few rows in front of the press box at Ingalls Rink.

At one point, the fan challenged Hennessy to step outside.

“I stayed on the air because I thought if the guy beats me or something, that’s good radio,” Hennessy said.

Meanwhile, Hembroff never did make it to Colorado Springs for Friday’s game. Michigan Tech sports information director Dave Fischer — you may know him as the man behind the podium on those Frozen Four news conferences on ESPNews — took over behind the microphone, drawing on his collegiate experience calling Minnesota-Duluth men’s basketball and football games.

Fischer convinced Tech athletics director Rick Yeo to join him as the color commentator, and they got some radio equipment from Colorado College play-by-play announcer Jeff Thomas and KRDO to get through the broadcast. Hembroff arrived in time to announce Sunday afternoon’s game.

One Step on the Way

Isaac Reichmuth has a long road ahead of him if he’s going to be Minnesota-Duluth’s top goaltender this season.

With senior Rob Anderson likely to get most of the playing time as the seasoned veteran, Reichmuth knows he’ll have to make the best out of the time he gets in the crease.

“I just have to play as well as I can when I get the opportunity to play,” Reichmuth said. “As much or as little as I get isn’t up to me. I don’t know really where I see myself fitting in. I want to play as much as possible, so I’ll just play as well as I can when I get the chance.”

For starters, he made a good impression last weekend. Reichmuth was named the WCHA’s defensive player of the week after helping the Bulldogs claim a win and a tie at Alaska-Anchorage. They were the freshman’s first two WCHA games.

He was forced to make only 15 saves in a 3-2 win on Friday but got an assist on Tyler Brosz’s game-winning goal, sending back a Seawolves dump-in and creating a scoring opportunity. He had 25 saves in Saturday’s 2-2 tie.

Along the way, he made some saves that were magnified by the tight series. The three points were a solid start to the league season for the Bulldogs.

“We’re trying to have a turnaround year and get things going,” said Reichmuth, who is from Fruitvale, B.C. “To get a couple wins early is big for anyone.”

A win this weekend would be another building block for Reichmuth and the Bulldogs, last season’s ninth-place team in the league. They go to Denver to play the No. 1 Pioneers, a ranking that makes it easy to get excited to play.

“The top teams always get the toughest games because everyone plays so hard against them,” Reichmuth said. “We have to go there and play as hard as we can. … Wherever the chips fall, they fall.”

A Follow-Up

In the interest of being thorough: The WCHA’s non-conference record has surged to 26-13-5. You may remember that, two weeks ago, the WCHA’s record in games outside the league was 15-11-4.

Troubled Times

Maybe it wasn’t the panic button being pushed by the Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves, but it was pretty close last Friday night.

After losing a two-goal lead for the third time in five games and losing 3-2 to UMD last Friday, the words weren’t kind.

“I’ve chewed on them and chewed on them and chewed on them,” Seawolves coach John Hill told the Anchorage Daily News. “I don’t even know where to go anymore. I had a few things to say to some of them tonight that weren’t very nice.”

The big point of contention is a lack of production from juniors and seniors who are vital cogs in the UAA scoring system.

In six games this season, the Seawolves’ juniors and seniors have chipped in a grand total of two goals. Not per game — two goals in six games. Seniors Joe Garvin, Morgan Roach, Dan Gilkerson and Petr Chytka each has one point; junior defenseman Matt Shasby has three assists; junior forward Vladimir Novak doesn’t have a point.

Most of the scoring has come from the line of freshman Curtis Glencross, freshman Ales Parez and sophomore John Hopson, which is fabulous for the young players. But they won’t carry the team very far, which is becoming more and more apparent as fewer and fewer goals go in from the upperclassmen.

Holiday on Hold

A holiday tournament in Colorado Springs has been a topic of discussion for Colorado College since it stopped being an annual participant in the Denver Cup after the 1999-2000 season.

When it comes right down to it, money is a big reason why there isn’t a tournament at the World Arena. A tournament would need a major sponsor, and right now, it isn’t a hot topic around the CC athletics department.

But there’s another reason CC athletics director Joel Nielsen is a bit leery of a holiday tournament — the nine other tournaments scheduled for Christmastime.

“The landscape has changed, almost like in bowl games. There are so many bowl games it almost gets watered down,” Nielsen said. “We’re not just going to throw one together. If we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it right.”

The first 10 NCAA championships were held at the Broadmoor Ice Palace, with the support of the Broadmoor Hotel. That kind of history, plus the Tigers’ spacious new home, the World Arena, makes CC a good candidate for a tournament.

But everything comes back to costs. A big chunk of the expenses of running a tournament is paying for the other three teams to get there. That’s why sponsorships are crucial.

“The cost of doing things isn’t going down,” Nielsen said.

With the number of other holiday tournaments going up, too, don’t look for another in Colorado Springs soon.

Final Five Ticketing

Five-game packages for the WCHA Final Five, March 20-22 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., will go on sale on Nov. 29.

Until Jan. 13, tickets will be reserved only as blocks of seats, not the seat locations themselves. Seat locations for those already having purchased packages will be determined on Jan. 10. They sell for $115 for lower level, club level, and the sides of the upper level. The ends of the upper level go for $50.

On Jan. 13, ticket packages with locations will go on sale. Group sales begin on Jan. 20 and single-game tickets go on sale on March 3.

Packages can be purchased through Ticketmaster — (651) 989-5151 or — or at the Xcel Energy Center box office.

It’s Policy

It is policy in the St. Cloud State athletics department to not use Native American nicknames in any publications or in announcements at games.

That goes for this weekend’s series against North Dakota, meaning the Sioux are known as “the squad from Grand Forks” in the Huskies’ weekly press release.

The Huskies used to give the same treatment to teams from Morningside College of Sioux City, Iowa, formerly known as the Maroon Chiefs. Morningside is now the Mustangs.

Demonstrations by groups opposing the use of Native American nicknames are expected before Friday’s game.

On The Shelf

  • At Minnesota, add Jon Waibel to the growing list of Gophers watching from the sidelines. Waibel — you may know him from the Web site or from having never missed a game in his collegiate career before last Saturday — suffered a broken right hand after scoring three goals last Friday against Alabama-Huntsville. The part he probably won’t tell his grandkids about is that he hurt himself punching the glass in celebration. He’ll miss four to six weeks.

    Also, Jerrid Reinholz suffered a broken jaw last Saturday and will miss at least this weekend’s games at Minnesota State-Mankato. Grant Potulny (leg) and Barry Tallackson (separated shoulder) also are out, leaving the Gophers with 21 healthy skaters, only 13 of them forwards.

  • At Minnesota-Duluth, sophomore center Brett Hammond is listed as questionable for this weekend’s series at Denver with a broken left hand, an injury suffered last Friday at Anchorage. He missed last Saturday’s game.

    In Other Words

    Through eight games this season, Denver has allowed only one goal in the third period. … KDMD in Anchorage, Alaska, has plans to televise nine Seawolves road games this season. The first two are next weekend, Nov. 15 and 16, at North Dakota. … Steven Johns scored the 5,000th goal in the Minnesota State-Mankato program’s 33-year history last Saturday in a 3-1 win over Bemidji State. … For the first time in his collegiate career, “Wonderboy” Zach Parise didn’t score a goal last weekend. He gets a pass, however — he had seven assists in a pair of victories and leads Division I scorers with 3.33 points per game. …

    Seawolves goaltender Chris King will not make this weekend’s trip to CC because of “conduct detrimental to the team,” UAA coach John Hill told the Anchorage Daily News. Hill declined to elaborate. It’s unknown whether that also means King will miss next weekend’s series at North Dakota, since the Seawolves are not returning to Anchorage between series. … It would behoove anyone going to Friday’s St. Cloud State-North Dakota game to park at the National Hockey Center early. A Bill Cosby show at a nearby building is scheduled for the same time and the parking lots will fill up quickly. …

    WCHA players of the week were North Dakota’s Brandon Bochenski (four goals, one assist) on offense, UMD’s Reichmuth on defense and Minnesota’s Thomas Vanek (three goals, four assists) as the newcomer. … Next weekend is the first with five WCHA series, meaning all 10 league teams are playing WCHA games.