This Week in the WCHA: Oct. 18, 2007

The Basics

Hi, my name is Theresa and I’m a hockey dork.

With that out of the way, I’d first like to thank the powers that be at for giving me the opportunity to cover the WCHA this season. If I can do half as well as those before me, I’ll count this season a success.

Now, so you know a little of the background of the person who will be covering the “best conference in college hockey,” here’s a bit about me.

A native Coloradoan, I attended Boston University, where I played four years on the women’s club ice hockey team (forward and defense; mostly the latter) as well as becoming a certified official, so I’d like to think I know what I’m talking about most of the time. You may disagree, faithful readers, and if you do, let me know about it.

In regards to my hockey play, many joke that I’m a hack in the Freddy Meyer mold (I’m not) and fellow columnist — and goaltender — Brian Sullivan (ECACHL) will point out that I have a notable inability to score on him … to which all I have to say is “Fiiiiiiive-hooooole.”

As for hockey analysis, I did radio play-by-play and color in college and is the fourth hockey publication I’ve written for.

But enough about me — let’s get down to business.

Rocktober Inspiration

The story of the Colorado Rockies (baseball team; not the 1970s hockey team) this fall has been an inspirational story to many — including the University of Denver hockey team.

Coach George Gwozdecky has been a fan of the Rockies since the team honored the Pioneers after their championship seasons and is acquaintances with Rockies manager Clint Hurdle (the two go to the same Starbucks).

“They have inspired many of us,” Gwozdecky said on the WCHA media teleconference call. A few days later, after his team’s 5-1 exhibition victory over the University of Calgary, he expanded on the reasons why.

“The thing that really shows me is the esprit de corps, the togetherness, the chemistry, the care they have for each other,” he said. “They’re an inspiration to us all. I mean, here we go, same old Rockies — and they’ve been magnificent.”

For a Pioneers team that struggled with cohesiveness and arguably leadership at the end of last season, Gwozdecky can hope his team takes a few pointers from the 2007 edition of the Rockies. If the Pios do, they have a good shot at getting to — and winning — the Frozen Four, being held at Pepsi Center, a mere 1.08 miles from Coors Field.

Gophers: Stoa Roadblock, Warming Up, Leaders of a WCHA Conspiracy?

Although the Minnesota Golden Gophers main holes this season may be on defense, the offense just gained a small one with the loss of junior forward Ryan Stoa, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first period of Saturday’s 4-3 win over Michigan.

“We’re going to miss him as a leader and a person this upcoming season,” said coach Don Lucia.

The Gophers, who had a slow start in the Ice Breaker Invitational, scored three power-play goals to overcome a 3-0 deficit against Rensselaer to win 4-3 and then followed it up by beating the Wolverines by the same score in front of basically a home crowd at the Xcel Energy Center.

And while I don’t particularly believe in conspiracies, it sounded like RPI head coach Seth Appert thought there was a bit of unfair dealings in his team’s loss to the Gophers, thanks to his team’s five power plays compared to Minnesota’s 11.

“You don’t expect to get any calls coming into this rink, playing Minnesota with WCHA refs,” said Appert after the contest. “We came out on the short end of some unfortunate calls in the third period.”

There were no such problems in Saturday’s game, however, with both the Gophers and the Wolverines recipients of four power plays during the contest.

Keeping Up with the Pros: Early Departures Edition

Before I was a college hockey fan, I was a fan of the National Hockey League. Since becoming a college hockey fan, however, I’ve started to notice the number of former college players in the pros and specifically the number of WCHAers. As a result, I’d like to start a weekly bit that keeps up with former WCHA players who are now in the professional ranks somehow, somewhere.

If you read my season preview (and if you didn’t, please go read it now) and Eric Schmoldt’s last year, you probably noticed that the main theme has been players leaving early. As a result, I decided to research the players the WCHA lost to early departures over the past two seasons for this week’s “Keeping Up with the Pros.”

With all the talk of early departures the past two seasons, I wondered exactly how those players who left early were doing. Therefore, I decided to do a little research and figure out where everyone was.

For the Gophers: Ryan Potulny has seen spot duty with the Philadelphia Flyers and has started this season in the AHL with the Philadelphia Phantoms (2-1-3). Phil Kessel is having a good start with the Boston Bruins (3-2-5) and Erik Johnson is similarly doing well with the St. Louis Blues (1-1-2). Kris Chucko (Quad City Flames) and Alex Goligoski (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins) are also in the AHL with the same stat lines as Johnson, while Danny Irmen has one assist so far with the AHL’s Houston Aeros.

For the Sioux: Jonathan Toews is already off to a big start, with four points (1-3-4) already for the Chicago Blackhawks. Drew Stafford (Buffalo Sabres; 1-2-3), Matt Smaby (Tampa Bay; no stats) and Travis Zajac (New Jersey Devils; 3-3-6) also are all on NHL rosters. Brian Lee is in the AHL (Binghamton Senators; 0-3-3) as is Jordan Parise (Lowell Devils; 1-1, 2.5, .931 in two games played), while Rastislav Spirko is over in the Czech Republic playing for Slovan HC (2-1-3).

For the Badgers: Among the four early departures, only two are currently on NHL rosters (Joe Piskula, Los Angeles; Joe Pavelski, San Jose) and only one has had regular playing time (Pavelski; 1-1-2). Robbie Earl (Toronto Marlies; 2-1-3) and Jack Skille (Rockford Ice Hogs, 1-2-3) are both a step down in the AHL.

For the St. Cloud Huskies: Andrew Gordon is 0-2-2 with the AHL’s Hershey Bears this season, while Tim Boron has yet to catch on with a team for this season.

For the Pioneers: The success story for the Pioneers’ crew of early departures so far this season has been Paul Stastny (Colorado Avalanche; 5-8-13), though Matt Carle should come on strong later this season with San Jose (0-2-2). Ryan Dingle is in the AHL playing for the Portland Pirates (0-2-2) while Geoff Paukovich’s season (ECHL; Stockton Thunder) hasn’t quite started yet.

For the Bulldogs: Of the two players that have left early over the past two years, both are in the NHL — Matt Niskanen (Dallas Stars; 0-2-2) and Mason Raymond (Vancouver Canucks; 0-1-1).

For the Tigers: Colorado College has been blessed with only one major early departure in Brian Salcido, who has started this season with the AHL’s Portland Pirates (0-3-3).

For the Mavericks: David Backes (1-2-3) and Steve Wagner (0-3-3) are playing for the St. Louis Blues while fellow Maverick Ryan Carter is with the Anaheim Ducks (0-0-0). Kyle Peto is playing professional hockey in England for the Basingstoke Bison (1-6-7).

For the Michigan Tech Huskies: Nothing to see here, folks; Tech hasn’t lost anyone the past two years.

For the Seawolves: Jay Beagle is scoreless so far for the AHL’s Hershey Bears while Nathan Lawson is waiting for the season to begin with the ECHL’s Phoenix Roadrunners.

Reader Mailbag

I know this sometimes works with columns and sometimes doesn’t, but I’d like to try and make this column reader-friendly and interactive. Therefore, if you have a question or a theme you’d like to see in this column regarding teams, players, coaches or issues related to the WCHA, let me know. Depending on the nature of the question, I’ll try to get it answered within two weeks. So, e-mail me today and see your question either next week or in two weeks.

Easy, eh? Just remember — mail = good. Send mail to [email protected].