This Week in the WCHA: Oct. 15, 2009

Why, hello there again. Are you ready for hockey season? Most of the WCHA turned up to play this past weekend, with all teams in action but one earning victories Friday night. Granted, most of those teams lost on Saturday, but it’s always nice starting off one’s season with a notch in the win column.

Besides, the first weekend of the season is for teams to find themselves.

“[The first weekend] is going to give you a lot of videotape to see what you do well, but more importantly, maybe areas of weakness of our team and what we really need to work on.”

Though those words belong to Gophers coach Don Lucia and are in reference to his team playing North Dakota in their first actual games this weekend, Denver’s George Gwozdecky said essentially the exact same thing after his team lost to Vermont last Saturday.

Red Baron WCHA Players of the Week

Red Baron WCHA Offensive Player of the Week: Brett Olson, MTU

Why: Scored five points, including his first collegiate hat trick, in the Huskies’ victory over Northern Michigan.

Also Nominated: Joe Colborne, DU; Jack Connolly, UMD; Rylan Galiardi, MSU, M; Mike Cichy, UND.

Red Baron WCHA Defensive Player of the Week: Kurt Davis Jr., MSU, M

Why: Scored three points and had a plus-4 overall rating to help the Mavericks sweep Bowling Green.

Also Nominated: Patrick Wiercioch, DU; Steven Seigo, MTU; Chay Genoway, UND.

Red Baron WCHA Rookie of the Week: Michael Cichy, UND

Why: Had three points (1g, 2a) and a team-high plus-4 rating to help his Sioux sweep Merrimack.

Also Nominated: Rylan Schwartz, CC; Matt Donovan, DU; Steven Seigo, MTU; Kevin Murduck, MSU, M.

Diving Right In

When Wisconsin takes to the ice this weekend, it’ll be the last WCHA team to play an actual game. The other nine teams have games under their belts, most with several, given exhibitions. When it seems like almost everyone else as at the very least an exhibition game, often against a Canadian university, and most have non-conference series as well, why wouldn’t someone?

According to Badgers coach Mike Eaves, it was just a quirk in the schedule, and instead, he’s just been working on details the past few weeks. In other words, he has treated the season-opening break like he would a bye week mid-season.

“I relate to the fact if you have a bye week,” he said. “We get to detail work.”

As for how his team will do this weekend against CC? Same deal.

“We’ve come off bye weeks and played really well,” Eaves said. “Our concern is the first period. If we come out ahead or tied, we’ll be OK.”

“Hey, What’s With the Random Time-Out?”

While there aren’t any new rule changes to inform you all about this year, you may have noticed that your teams congregated at their benches a few times a period to talk strategy. I didn’t notice it myself until the Northeastern people I was sitting next to in the World Arena’s press box expressed their confusion at what they saw on the ice.

What they (and you) observed was a new official time-out policy the WCHA instituted this year. The Official Time-outs let each team go to its respective bench, last one minute and occur three times a period; roughly around the 15:00, 10:00 and 5:00 marks.

The time-outs were something voted on by the league in April to be instituted this year; why, exactly, is unsure. However, it does let coaches talk to their teams about stuff without having to use their one crucial regular time-out.

WCHA: Not Twitterpated

While there often isn’t much interesting on the yearly preseason media teleconference call besides the usual talk from the coaches about how they see their years shaping up, occasionally a fellow journalist will ask something that is.

This year, Andy Baggot from the Wisconsin State Journal asked several of the coaches if they have any rules regarding their players and the usage of Twitter and/or Facebook.

I presume his questioning was spawned off the recent NFL controversy with Larry Fitzgerald’s brother, and, given that college kids are generally on top of the newest social media, it was a fair thing to ask. The responses varied about team rules, but it was generally found that the coaches themselves have no want, desire or need for such social media.

“I don’t have a Facebook account and I don’t Twitter, so I don’t understand and use them on a daily basis,” North Dakota’s Dave Hakstol said. “Our players are responsible for them and their own personal use of those areas.”

“Our compliance officer does monitor some of the information that is on Facebook,” MTU’s Jamie Russell said, “but like Dave Hakstol, I’m not on Twitter or Facebook. The players are responsible for the content they put up on those various sources and definitely in today’s day and age, you have to be careful of what is put out onto the mainstream.”

“I’m an old guy; twitterpating to me was when all the bunny rabbits got twittered, twitterpated with Bambi back in those days. When you fell in love, you got twittered. It means something really different now,” quipped Lucia. “I’m not big on guys twittering to the media, they have media access right now, so it’s something we monitor. We try to monitor their Facebooks, but it’s not something that I’m going to worry about, but our SID has access to all their Facebooks and pays attention to what goes on there.”

“I take this thing very seriously,” Gwozdecky said. “We monitor this, we have an assistant coach who is assigned to monitor Facebook on a daily basis and it’s interesting to note that many times, you’re shocked to see what [kids] think is appropriate and what you know is not. We monitor it not only for the short-term consequences, but the long-term consequences.”

From someone who has been on Facebook since virtually its inception, I’ve noticed a change in profiles of student-athletes as the years have gone by, as players de-tag themselves in what might be considered improper photos and block their account access to everyone but friends. In the beginning, these guys didn’t care as much but now, they go to much greater lengths to either make their profiles more appropriate or harder to access.

Match-Ups By the Numbers

The first week of columns also means the start of conference play.

#3 Denver @ Ohio State
Overall Records: DU — 1-1-0 (0-0-0 WCHA). OSU — 0-2-0 (0-0-0 CCHA).
Head-to-Head: DU leads the overall series, 5-3-0.

Colorado College @ #13 Wisconsin
Overall Records: CC — 1-1-0 (0-0-0 WCHA). UW — 0-0-0 (0-0-0 WCHA).
Head-to-Head: UW leads the overall series, 105-57-8.

#9 Minnesota @ #4 North Dakota
Overall Records: UM — 0-0-0 (0-0-0 WCHA). UND — 2-0-0 (0-0-0 WCHA).
Head-to-Head: UM leads the overall series, 130-124-12.

Minnesota State @ Minnesota-Duluth
Overall Records: MSU, M — 2-0-0 (0-0-0 WCHA). UMD — 1-1-0 (0-0-0 WCHA).
Head-to-Head: UMD leads the overall series, 15-14-5 (or 14-12-5, depending on whom you ask).

#19 St. Cloud State vs. Union
Overall Records: SCSU — 0-2-0 (0-0-0 WCHA). Union — 2-0-0 (0-0-0 ECAC).
Head-to-Head: SCSU leads the overall series, 1-0-0.

Alaska Anchorage vs. Rensselaer, Robert Morris @ Fairbanks
Overall Records: UAA — 1-1-0 (0-0-0 WCHA). RPI — 1-1-0 (0-0-0 ECAC). RMU — 0-0-0 (0-0-0 CHA).
Head-to-Head: UAA is tied with both teams overall (1-1-0 vs. RPI, first meeting with RMU).

Future WCHA Team Watch

As you all probably know by now (and if you don’t, you probably should), the league grows to 12 teams next year with the additions of Bemidji State and Nebraska-Omaha.

As a result, the league is going to look different next year in several different ways, besides the obvious of a few new teams, faces, colors, logos and fan bases at the Final Five in March 2011. The schedule is going to be a bit wackier than normal, as the current format of 28 league games isn’t changing. I haven’t quite heard how it’s going to work yet — whether each team will only face every other team once except for a “rival” series (say, DU and CC will face everybody once except each other, where the four total games will stay), or something else, but it’s certain to be quite a bit different.

Anyway, given that we’re going to be embracing the Beavers and Mavericks into the fold, I wanted to add in a quick bit near the end of every column keeping up with the two teams. I don’t mean anything big; just each team’s overall record as well as their record against current WCHA opponents (or future, as UNO and BSU play each other at the end of the season). This way, all of us know what we’re in store for next year.

BSU: 2-0-0 overall, 0-0-0 vs. WCHA
UNO: 2-0-0 overall, 0-0-0 vs. WCHA

Dear Hockey Season …

… to be honest, I wasn’t ready for you to come this year. For the first time in a long while, I really enjoyed not thinking about you or hockey in general for the past five months. I enjoyed my summer (as busy and as work-filled as it was) and although I love you and covering teams during your tenure, I wasn’t ready for you to come knocking at my door.

However, now that you have, I’m ready. I’m here, I feel more confident than ever to face you and let’s face it, the fall weather that’s come around the past few weeks hasn’t hurt things either.

In closing, hockey season, while I might not have been as ready or as willing for you to come back this year as I have been in years past, I’m ready now. Bring it.

Love, T

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