This Week in the WCHA: Feb. 7, 2008

Colorado College sweeps the last non-conference series of the season and the league race gets tighter than ever. But enough from me, we’ve got a lot to talk about …

Red Baron Pizza WCHA Players of the Week

Red Baron WCHA Offensive Player of the Week: Mike Testwuide, CC.
Why: Had four goals, one assist, 16 shots on goal and was a +3 in the Tigers sweep over Clarkson, earning first star honors both nights.
Also Nominated: Geoff Irwin, MSU-M.

Red Baron WCHA Defensive Player of the Week: Jack Hillen, CC.
Why: Had four assists, three shots, one blocked shot, was a +2 and went 4-4 on his penalty killing shifts in CC’s sweep over Clarkson.
Also Nominated: Jon Olthuis, UAA; Alex Stalock, tUMD; R.J. Linder, MSU-M; Shane Connelly, UW.

Red Baron WCHA Rookie of the Week: Andrew Sackrison, MSU-M.
Why: Scored two goals and two assists, had five shots on goal and a +3 to help the Mavericks sweep DU. Friday’s goal and two assists marked his first collegiate three-point game.
Also Nominated: Richard Bachman, CC; Alex Kangas, UM.

Old-Time Hockey … Like Eddie Shore

In two rinks this past weekend, we had two versions of old-time hockey.

First, in Colorado Springs, we had the CC/Clarkson series, where throwback jerseys were evident, teams from the past were honored and the Tigers put on shows of yore, putting up 11 goals over the weekend.

“It feels real good to [win] at home, and alumni weekend, with the special occasion jerseys, you always want to come out and put on a good show when you got former players in the stands,” said Tigers coach Scott Owens after Saturday’s game.

In Minneapolis, however, we had an old-time hockey brawl between the Gophers and the Sioux Saturday night. The two teams tied, 1-1, but had a combined total 160 penalty minutes in the contest — 97 of which came after the final buzzer.

After the final buzzer sounded, the Sioux’s Darcy Zajac crosschecked the Gophers’ R.J. Anderson from behind. The hit, apparent payback from an earlier Anderson hit on T.J. Oshie, caused a scrum that was perpetuated during the handshake line. Minnesota’s Blake Wheeler and North Dakota’s Joe Finley got into it, ending the handshake and causing both teams to be sent to their respective locker rooms.

“It’s just unfortunate. The game could have ended, but you get a crosscheck in the back to escalate things, and you just don’t like to see it end that way,” said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia after the match.

“You’ve got 20 guys on each side playing hard … You’ve got emotions running high,” said his Sioux counterpart, Dave Hakstol. “It’s not something you like to see.”

There is plenty of fallout from the series. The Gophers’ Tony Lucia and the Sioux’s Darcy Zajac will each miss a game due to game disqualifications for fighting. Hakstol, meanwhile, flipped the officiating crew the bird in the second period. As a result, the Fighting Sioux athletic department has suspended him for two games — which will be served in two weeks when the Sioux return to action at home against Denver.

Before the suspension, Hakstol issued an apology for his actions during Saturday’s game:

“I would like to sincerely apologize to our fans, players and entire program, as well as all college hockey fans, the WCHA and Don Adam, for my actions during the second period of last night’s game versus the University of Minnesota. I’m disappointed in myself for allowing my emotions and frustrations to get the better of me. I pride myself in not allowing this type of thing to occur.

“Most importantly, I am a parent before I am a coach, and I understand the responsibility that we carry as coaches within the WCHA to young hockey fans and families everywhere.

“I have evaluated and feel terrible about my actions and can assure everyone that such a thing will never happen again.”

Denver on the Decline?

For a good chunk of the season, the two teams that were rolling atop the WCHA were the two Colorado teams — CC and Denver.

Lately, however, the Pioneers have been sliding — ever since the Wisconsin incident, getting pasted by the Badgers the next night, losing to Air Force for the first time in 19 years, getting a win against Bemidji and then suffering a sweep at the hands of Minnesota State.

Given that the Pioneers struggled late last season and have failed to make the NCAA tourney — or the WCHA Red Baron Final Five — since they won their back-to-back championships, is there cause for concern down at Magness Arena?

“Well there are several things that cause us to be — in your words — struggling,” said bench boss George Gwozdecky. “There’s no question that I think that perhaps a little bit of a lackadaisical effort due to our prosperity the first half of the season, I think that probably has quite a bit to do with it, to be honest with you. That effort or lack thereof has caught up with us and we haven’t performed as well, we haven’t executed as well, we’ve lost some games because of it and our guys are trying to get it back now, but it’s challenging.”

Gwozdecky doesn’t think the team has a trend of late-season slides, but rather the matter — at least this year — is a lack of confidence.

“It’s a fine line between confidence and lack thereof so sometimes, no matter what you do, it takes a while to get it back.”

Random Notes (and Commentary!) From Around the League

CC — We may have the new version of last year’s DOT line — Scott Owens mixed some lines up this weekend and gave us the line of Mike Testwuide, Chad Rau and Bill Sweatt — a line that combined for nine points against Clarkson. Granted, it’s still early, but the speed and firepower on this line could mean the Tigers will keep on rolling.

DU — As the DU faithful have simply put it, “TrotterGate.” Amid rumors floating about the team’s top scorer, Brock Trotter, comes the late-breaking news that the sophomore has signed with the Montreal Canadiens and will report to the AHL shortly.

MTU — If you feel like a random road trip, Bulldog and Sioux fans, head on up to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan this weekend — it’s Winter Carnival time. This means, of course, snow sculptures, hockey (Tech vs. Wisconsin) and lots of drunken Techies. For a glimpse of the fun, there’s a very amusing drunk post thread in the café portion of the Fan Forum.

MSU-M — Just revisiting last week’s sportsmanship issue, I noticed Colorado College playing a sportsmanship public service announcement recorded by Owens before last Saturday’s game against Clarkson. What did I say about this spreading?

UM — Former Gopher coach and current color analyst for Fox Sports North, Doug Woog, has been chosen as the recipient of the John MacInnes Award by the American Hockey Coaches Association. The award goes to an individual who shows “a great concern for amateur hockey and youth programs” as well as had a high winning percentage as a coach and the ability to graduate and grow players.

I don’t have much to add to this besides the Wooger is awesome and deserves this. He will officially be presented the award in April when the AHCA has its annual convention.

Reader Mailbag

This isn’t exactly a contest, per se, but thanks to an e-mail I got, I’d like to know: how far do you travel for your team? I know a few people who go to basically every home and away series for their team — not a hard feat if you’re a fan of, say, a Hockey East school, but here in the WCHA? That’s no small feat — especially if you make the trip up to Anchorage.

So, let the e-mails flow — how far did you travel last year and how far do you estimate you’ll travel this year? The most impressive distances will be published next week.

Match-Ups By the Numbers

We’re in the stretch run of entirely conference play … which means bye weeks. This week, North Dakota and Minnesota-Duluth get a chance to rest up for the end.

No. 11 Wisconsin @ Michigan Tech
Overall Records: UW — 12-11-5 (8-9-3 WCHA). MTU — 10-12-4 (6-9-3 WCHA).
Head-to-Head: UW leads the overall series, 90-47-8.
Top Scorers: UW — Kyle Turris (10-18-28). MTU — Peter Rouleau (9-10-19).
Goaltenders: UW — Shane Connelly (25 gp, 11-11-3, 2.42 GAA, .914 sv %). MTU — Rob Nolan (15 gp, 6-7-1, 2.59 GAA, .899 sv %), Michael-Lee Teslak (13 gp, 4-5-3, 1.92 GAA, .928 sv %).

St. Cloud State @ No. 4 Colorado College
Overall Records: SCSU — 11-12-3 (6-10-2 WCHA). CC — 20-7-1 (15-4-1 WCHA).
Head-to-Head: CC leads the overall series, 39-28-4.
Top Scorers: SCSU — Ryan Lasch (18-18-36). CC — Chad Rau (19-12-31).
Goaltenders: SCSU — Jase Weslosky (19 gp, 8-9, 2.46 GAA, .918 sv %). CC — Richard Bachman (23 gp, 18-4-1, 1.74 GAA, .933 sv %).

No. 20 Minnesota @ No. 7 Denver
Overall Records: UM — 12-12-6 (6-10-4 WCHA). DU — 18-8 (12-6 WCHA).
Head-to-Head: UM leads the overall series, 92-61-11.
Top Scorers: UM — Blake Wheeler (13-13-26). DU — Brock Trotter (13-18-31), Tyler Bozak (12-11-23).
Goaltenders: UM — Alex Kangas (16 gp, 5-5-6, 2.16 GAA, .923 sv %). DU — Peter Mannino (25 gp, 17-8, 2.25 GAA, .916 sv %).

Alaska Anchorage @ No. 15 Minnesota State
Overall Records: UAA — 7-12-7 (3-12-5 WCHA). MSU-M — 13-10-4 (7-9-4 WCHA).
Head-to-Head: MSU-M leads the overall series, 25-18-6.
Top Scorers: UAA — Kevin Clark (7-15-22). MSU-M — Trevor Bruess (6-16-22).
Goaltenders: UAA — Jon Olthuis (24 gp, 6-10-7, 2.86 GAA, .887 sv %). MSU-M — Mike Zacharias (24 gp, 12-7-4, 2.15 GAA, .920 sv %).