Some thoughts this week, while wondering why Minnesota can look like national champions one period and WCHA also-rans the next:
North Dakota hasn’t needed its power play to be effective to win a lot of games so far this season. But one thing the Sioux likely will need to improve is their penalty kill, which ranks in the middle of the pack in the WCHA at 82 percent.
And as UND goes on the road for the first time all season, a Denver team that is second in the league on the power play awaits.
While North Dakota has scored just three of its 43 goals on the power play, Denver’s production depends more heavily on the man advantage. The Pioneers have scored 38 percent of their goals (15 of 39) while a man up.
In fact, including the six shorthanded goals the Pioneers have scored, less than half of Denver’s goals have come at even strength, the time when North Dakota’s offense has struck.
Unless things change suddenly, a special teams battle at Magness Arena this weekend favors the Pioneers.
Wisconsin’s Adam Burish was mighty excited to score the game-winning goal against Minnesota last Saturday night. After hearing his story, it’s hard to blame him.
Burish was told by doctors he might never play hockey again in 2000, when he was involved in a serious car accident that left him with a broken leg. He then hurt his kneecap in a boat-docking accident. In his season of junior hockey with Green Bay, he suffered a broken arm in the first game of the playoffs. And last season, he suffered a broken collarbone just 19 games into his freshman season at UW.
So, yes, his first collegiate goal in his hometown of Madison was pretty special. But so was his first goal for the Badgers, which came a week before at Michigan Tech.
“I just felt like a piano came off my back,” Burish said. “It was unbelievable. The last two weeks, I’ve been sleeping better. It’s the best I’ve slept in two years these last two weeks because I can just relax. In the locker room, too, I say something and I feel more credible. I just feel like guys are going to listen more. I feel like I’m a leader on this team — I felt like I was a leader early on, not scoring. But you score a couple goals, get a couple points on the board and you just feel more confident, you feel more comfortable around the guys.”
‘Injured and Injureder’
Aren’t teams supposed to get healthier on off weekends? Not Colorado College, apparently, where another Tigers player has joined a growing list of those out of the lineup.
Curtis McElhinney, a second-team all-American goaltender last season, has mononucleosis and will miss about four weeks. That puts freshman Matt Zaba in the spotlight. Zaba has only two games of collegiate experience, but won both on the road — at Clarkson and Denver.
CC already was minus three forwards: Brett Sterling (thumb), Brandon Polich (lacerated spleen) and Colin Stuart (shoulder).
Stopping the Starter
Last season, a goaltender from Minnesota-Duluth named Reichmuth wowed the WCHA with his play. This season, a goaltender formerly of Minnesota-Duluth named Coole is wowing the WCHA with his play at St. Cloud State.
Of course, everything the Huskies have put together this season has been a surprise, but Coole has been one of the directors. He’s 5-0 after making 32 saves in a 2-1 victory over North Dakota last Friday.
Coole, however, has been sidelined since then with a groin injury and will miss this weekend’s series at Rensselaer.
“All I’ve been doing is riding the [stationary] bike,” Coole told the St. Cloud Times. “I feel like Lance Armstrong. I’m not happy about it.”
When Coole returns from the injury, all eyes will be on whether the setback derails the great start.
To the bozo at the Kohl Center who decided a moment of silence in honor of Herb Brooks was the proper time to air his views on the legendary coach: Get some class. No wonder Badgers fans are getting a bad name.
Gabe Gauthier is living up to his billing as one of the top forwards in western Canadian junior hockey two seasons ago.
And Gauthier, just a sophomore, may be emerging as one of the WCHA’s best playmaking centers. He set up four of Denver’s eight goals last weekend at Alaska-Anchorage, including all three goals in a comeback from a 4-1 deficit that forced a 4-4 tie on Friday.
He’s third in the nation with 10 assists this season, a figure that’s two ahead of his total from his freshman season.
Injury to Insult
Alaska-Anchorage has lost forward Ales Parez to a separated right shoulder for three to six weeks, meaning he likely won’t play again until the start of the second half of the Seawolves’ schedule.
Parez, who’s second on the team with nine points, has been on a line with other top scorers Chris Fournier and Curtis Glencross. Coach John Hill told the Anchorage Daily News that John Hopson will join the line when the Seawolves get back to action next week at St. Cloud State.
Change of Heart
Minnesota lost three points to Wisconsin last weekend but won one recruit a few days later. Nate Hagemo, a defenseman who had verbally committed to the Badgers, decided instead to sign a national letter of intent to play for the Gophers.
Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves said he was disappointed, but understood that was one of the risks in recruiting a 17-year-old. He added that, by all appearances, the situation was handled in a proper fashion by Minnesota coach Don Lucia.
Hagemo, an offensive defenseman who plays for the U.S. National Team Development Program, is from Edina, Minn.
“[Hagemo] wanted to be closer to home,” Lucia told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis. “He’s a local kid, and he grew up idolizing Gophers players. Plus, he made his decision at such a young age, we hadn’t even recruited him yet. He felt bad because he’d developed a relationship with Mike [Eaves], but there’s always going to be that danger that kids will change their minds.”
Last week, we relayed some of the comments made by Minnesota players during a bad weekend at North Dakota. Captain Grant Potulny questioned his team’s heart.
Before last weekend’s series against Wisconsin, Potulny said those comments were made “in the heat of the battle” and out of anger and frustration.
So now what to make of these Gophers? First place, the near-unanimous selection for them at the start of the season, appears to be all but lost. The focus now could turn to recovery in time for a good playoff showing, the hallmark of the last two seasons.
But it’s clear Minnesota needs some success rapidly to shake off a nightmare start.
“It’s getting real frustrating,” Gophers defenseman Chris Harrington told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis. “We’re so addicted to winning that to get a dose of losing, it’s ruining every day. Right now, it’s ruining my life. I don’t even want to talk to anyone.
“We’ve just got to battle through this. We know how to win, and that’s the weird thing. It’s just one of those deals where nothing is clicking.”
The third period certainly is not clicking. In the Gophers’ current five-game winless streak (0-4-1), they haven’t scored a single goal in the third period. Not one.
They entered the third ahead 3-1 last Friday in Madison but got only a tie. They were tied after two the next night and lost.
You may have heard it or read about it. Wisconsin radio color commentator Rob Andringa’s reaction as play-by-play man Brian Posick announced Burish’s game-winning, shorthanded goal against Minnesota last Saturday night has even been the talk around the Wisconsin locker room this week.
By Tuesday, Eaves had heard it, too.
“You talk about [Fox Sports Net color commentator] Tom Sagissor having genuine enthusiasm. This matched anything that Tom has done,” Eaves said. “Especially when he said, ‘Keep that horn going, baby!’ It was classic. That’ll get on a record someday when they talk about fun moments in Badger history.”
You can find the archive of the broadcast on the multimedia section of the UW hockey page on uwbadgers.com. Select the Minnesota game of Nov. 15 and go 2 hours, 12 minutes into the broadcast. A note of advice: Turn the speakers down.
Thanks for Reading
Michigan Tech’s Chris Conner and Brandon Schwartz both list USCHO as their favorite Web site in this year’s Huskies media guide. Thanks for the pub, guys.
In Other Words
League players of the week were Denver’s Gauthier on offense, Minnesota State goaltender Jon Volp on defense and Wisconsin’s Jake Dowell as the top rookie for the second week in a row. … Minnesota-Duluth forward T.J. Caig has a slightly separated shoulder and will miss this weekend’s series at Union, the Duluth News Tribune reported. Also out this weekend for the Bulldogs: forward Dan Kronick (back) and defenseman Ryan Geris (concussion). … Michigan Tech’s scoreless tie with Minnesota State last Friday was just the second in the 83-year history of the program. The other was against North Dakota on March 8, 1968 — the first game in total-goals playoff series. Friday’s game was the first scoreless tie for the Mavericks. … The 2-7-1 mark is Minnesota’s worst 10-game start since opening the 1971-72 season 2-8. That team, which featured a winger named Dean Blais, finished 8-24 under interim coach Ken Yackel Sr., who replaced Glen Sonmor at midseason. …
St. Cloud State’s Craig Dahl will coach his 800th game Saturday night at Rensselaer. He’s 384-363-51 in 22 years as a college coach. … Babe the Blue Ox resides in the Minnesota-Duluth locker room after the Bulldogs beat Bemidji State last Saturday. It’s the first time the trophy has been awarded. It goes to the winner of Game 2 of the non-conference series. … Volp passed the 1,000 mark in career saves last weekend. … Michigan Tech senior captain Brett Engelhardt broke out of a scoring drought with two goals against Minnesota State last Saturday. He had just one goal in his last 15 games dating to last season before netting two against the Mavericks. He scored in the second game of the first-round WCHA playoff series against Minnesota last season. … It was polar opposites for Minnesota State last weekend. The Mavericks scored no goals on Friday and six on Saturday, the highest offensive production of the season. Mankato still is averaging only two goals per game.