This Week in the WCHA: Oct. 25, 2007

Worst. Beginning. Ever.

I first want to apologize for the mistakes in the last column, particularly those regarding Andrew Gordon of St. Cloud State and the mishap about Wisconsin in the sidebar. Paraphrasing the Guinness commercials: “Factual errors in a first column? BRILLIANT!”

That being said, thank you for all the e-mails pointing out said errors. Good to know you’re a.) reading and b.) paying attention.

Super Freshmen

Granted, it’s still early, but when your freshmen are making a big impact early on? That would be called a good thing, especially for the two teams that have arguably benefited the most from their new players — Wisconsin and Colorado College.

For the Badgers, it’s especially good the freshmen are making such an impact — the team did have the top-ranked recruiting class coming into this season. However, that means nothing if the players don’t produce and they are producing. Third overall NHL draftee Kyle Turris already has 12 points (5g, 7a) — tops not only on the Badgers, but in the nation. Fellow freshman Brendan Smith (1-5–6) and Patrick Johnson (1-4–5) are also among the leaders.

In fact, out of all the freshmen Badgers who have gotten ice time, the only one who hasn’t scored points has been goaltender Scott Gudmanson, who has performed admirably in his one start to date — a win (2.01 gaa and .926 sv%).

“They are in a position, these young people, to be able to play because we need them to play,” Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves told USCHO’s Benjamin Worgull after the Badgers 7-2 victory over Robert Morris this past Friday. “We’re hoping they have those contributions offensively and we hope it continues.

“These young people have found that chemistry, taking what’s given and having a very important impact on the games we have played thus far,” he added after Saturday’s 8-2 win over the Colonials.

For CC, it’s been all about freshman goaltender Richard Bachman, who backstopped the Tigers to their first home sweep of Minnesota in nearly a decade. Bachman stopped 61 shots over the two nights to earn an 0.98 goals against average and a .968 save percentage.

“We have a very nice goaltender,” said Tigers’ coach Scott Owens after Saturday’s victory over Minnesota. “I thought he was good and would be the guy for us at some point.

“I can’t tell you I thought he would play both games against the Gophers or even start both games. He looked so poised and confident in the exhibition games and he was effective. He came in cold in both of those. So we said, ‘To heck with it, we’re going to go with him Friday night.’ And in that game he was good. He was a little more spectacular tonight, he made some big-time saves down the stretch, no doubt. We were concerned a little bit about a youngster playing back-to-back as a freshman because he is somewhat slight.”

A few other teams have also gotten early production from their freshmen. Alaska-Anchorage’s Craig Parkinson (3-3–6) and Winston DayChief (3-2–5) have already proved themselves worthy of a roster spot. Anthony Maiani and Kyle Ostrow have shown flashes of brilliance for Denver, as have Matt Frattin and Evan Trupp for the Fighting Sioux. For St. Cloud State, Garrett Roe and Tony Mosey (both 2-3–5) are tied with sophomore Ryan Lasch for the early team lead in points.

A Balanced Attack

Minnesota-Duluth coach Scott Sandelin said before the season that his Bulldogs were going to need a balanced attack offensively to be successful.

“We might not have that one big line or that one dynamic player,” he allowed.

As it is, he’s gotten his wish. Though no player has scored more than four points, the Bulldogs have had 13 players make their way onto the stat sheets.

Surprisingly enough, the Fighting Sioux are in a similar situation — 16 players have made the scoresheet and the highest-scoring forward has only three points. Granted, that will probably change soon enough.

Keeping Up with the Pros: Reader Mailbag Edition

Though I thought I had everyone who left early, I did get some e-mails informing me otherwise. With some further research, a few of the players named did leave early, but not within the time frame I was covering. Also, some left school early, but after their senior season of hockey had ended — not all that uncommon.

In any case, this edition of “Keeping Up with the Pros” will include all the players I was informed about in my inbox.

One kind reader informed me I left out North Dakota’s Zach Parise, now with the New Jersey Devils (2-8–10). Parise did leave after his sophomore season — the 2003-04 campaign. The players I tried to cover were those who left after the 2005-06 and the 2006-07 seasons.

I got an e-mail about former Pioneer goaltender Wade Dubielewicz, who graduated in 2003 and is trying to catch on with the New York Islanders full time (1gp, 0-1, 8.00 gaa, .810 sv%). Another e-mail mentioned Michigan Tech’s Chris Conner, which is a similar situation — graduated in 2006 and is now in the Dallas Stars system with the Iowa Stars (3-3–6).

A few former Seawolves were also brought to my attention — Curtis Glencross, Justin Bourne and Mark Smith. Glencross left early after the 2003-04 season and is currently scoreless after four games with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Bourne and Smith graduated last year and are both in the ECHL — Bourne with the Utah Grizzlies (1-0–1) and Smith supposedly with the Charlotte Checkers, though there is no record of stats as of yet.

Reader Mailbag

… a.k.a. “Baby’s First Hate Mail.”

I may have to reconsider how I do this section — I was surprised with the amount of e-mail I received. I’ll try to briefly answer most of the questions I received this week, but after this, we might just go to a simple poll question.

1. When DU and CC play, I’m an impartial observer as a member of the working media. In the past, I did favor the Pioneers since I grew up closer to them. Now, after having covered both teams equally last year for a local Colorado publication, I really don’t have a favorite.

2. I got an interesting question regarding the early departures and how many of them were Canadian natives and how many were native Minnesotans. If research holds correct, 10 were Canadians, seven were Minnesotans, five were from Wisconsin, two each from California, Colorado and North Dakota, and one each from Alaska and Slovakia.

3. Will I be doing a preview/analysis of the upcoming games each week in the column (I presume this means apart from the sidebar)? I might. I kind of like the idea and since the “Keeping Up with the Pros” section might get taken out …

4. The “deal” with Freddy Meyer is actually a joke off the Fan Forum — it’s been a long-running joke that the former BU Terrier is a hack.

5. For the question regarding TV coverage, I guess just call your cable provider? That, or head to the local watering hole. In terms of the Big Ten Network and CSTV covering games in general, I think anything that provides more exposure to the sport is good … even if the majority of people can’t get the channels.

6. Regarding the question about the Gophers overcoming the loss of Ryan Stoa: if Minnesota can get its power play going and ride the play of Jeff Frazee (who did play well — at least in the Saturday night game — in the CC series), it is certainly possible that they may follow the route of the Sioux the last couple years in making a second-half run.

7. For the reader who lambasted me regarding my low preseason prediction/ranking for the Badgers, I wasn’t the only one who did. Basically every media outlet — and the coaches themselves — picked the Badgers fifth or worse.

For this week, I’ll just institute a poll question:

“Keeping Up with the Pros”: Yay or Nay? Maybe monthly? I know y’all are just dying to e-mail me — let’s make it constructive.

I Don’t Care Who You Are, That’s Funny

By now, I’m sure most (if not all) of you have heard about last week’s fog-out during the North Dakota/Boston College game. As a result, Fan Forum poster A Shot and A Goal sent me the following recipe:

Recipe for Fog Cutter
– 1 ½ ounces light rum
– ½ ounce brandy
– ½ ounce gin
– 1 ounce orange juice
– 3 tbsp lemon juice
– 1 ½ tsp orgeat syrup
– 1 tsp sweet sherry

Shake all ingredients except sherry and strain over ice into a Collins glass. Top with sherry. Serve at Conte Forum.

Caveat: Do not make unless you’re over 21 years of age.

And Yes, I Get It

No quotations necessary when referring to the WCHA as the best conference in college hockey.

A Final Promise

More hockey talk next week. This early-season stuff is rough.