NCHA teams figure in Hockey Day Minnesota celebration

Hockey has been celebrated as the state sport in Minnesota for many years. Recently, a tradition has been started by setting aside a day to illustrate the importance of hockey to the culture of the state. Hockey Day Minnesota is an annual statewide festival of the game. Saturday, January 21 will be this year’s day. It is an all-day event that features high school, collegiate, and a professional game.

As part of the festivities, two teams located in Wisconsin will play a game at the home of the Minnesota Wild of the National Hockey League. Wisconsin-Stout will play host to St. Norbert at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. There will be no admission to watch the game, which will start at 1:30 p.m.

This will be the second time Wis.-Stout will host a home game for Hockey Day.

In 2010, St. Olaf and Wis.-Stout played at the Xcel Energy Center. The Minnesota Wild was looking for a college game in the afternoon before the pros took to the ice in the evening.

“St. Olaf coach Sean Goldsworthy called and wanted to know if we would consider moving the game from Menomonie to St. Paul,” said Wis.-Stout coach Terry Watkins.

Watkins, who grew up in St. Paul, jumped at the chance to move his home game 60 miles west to his hometown.

“We did a great job two years ago hosting at the Xcel, so they were eager to have us back,” Watkins said. “Both games that have been scheduled in St. Paul have been our home games that have shifted from Menomonie to St Paul. I am from St Paul and have some friends who have helped.”

As the home team, Wis.-Stout has to provide timekeepers, public address announcers, and penalty box judges for the game  Both teams were given an allotment of tickets to sell for the Minnesota Wild game, later Saturday evening, against the Dallas Stars.

“It is an awesome opportunity,” said St. Norbert coach Tim Coughlin, “to play in the same building as an NHL team. We have played in some great places, like Lake Placid for a national championship, and we feel very fortunate to have this game.”

The Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul can seat more than 18,000 people.

Even though it will be one of the largest venues the players will ever play at, both teams are preparing for this game like any other NCHA battle.

“It is just so tight in points right now,” Coghlin said. “We have to concentrate on Wis.-Stout.”

St. Norbert is in second place in the NCHA, one point behind Wis.-River Falls, while, Wis.-Stout is currently in last place. Only seven points separate all the teams in the evenly-matched NCHA.

“Obviously it is a big NCHA game for us; considering our current situation in the conference, we need some points in the standings,” Watkins said. “We will be ready.

“The players knew early last fall I was working on the game so it was not a surprise, but yes we are all excited.”

Wis.-Stout has 13 players that were born in Minnesota and St. Norbert has one.

There will be other Division III action on Saturday for Hockey Day Minnesota.

In the MIAC, Augsburg is at Hamline, St. Mary’s is at St. Thomas, Bethel is at St. Olaf, and Concordia (Minn.) will be at St. John’s.

One other NCHA game will also be in Minnesota, as St. Scholastica hosts Wis.-River Falls.

Weekly Awards

Player of the Week: Colin McIntosh, Sr., Northland. McIntosh posted a seven-point weekend against Lake Forest. He recorded a goal and five assists in the contest, tying the school record for points in a game and breaking the mark for assists in a single contest.

Defensive Player of the Week: Mitch Kriz, Jr., Marian. Kriz played a key role in the sweep of nationally-ranked Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE). On Friday, he assisted on the game-tying and game-winning goals before adding another assist on a late empty-netter. He played a crucial role Saturday, scoring the first goal while assisting on the game-winning short-handed goal that came with just 1:12 remaining in regulation.

Freshman of the Week: Alex Heinonen, Finalndia. Heinonen opened the weekend with a goal and assist in Friday’s 7-6 loss to Concordia (Wis.), but topped that with his first career hat trick, including the game-winner, in Saturday’s 5-4 victory over Concordia (Wis.).

Athlete of the Week: Robby Phillipp, Sr., St. Thomas. Phillip was the difference-maker in a pair of close games last week against Hamline. He had five points on three goals and two assists, including the game-winning goal in overtime Friday and an assist in the game-winner in the final minute of regulation on Saturday.

Player of the Week: Brett Corcoran, Jr., St. Scholastica. Corcoran scored three goals and added three assists in three games last week. His week began with a nonconference game at Northland, where he had a goal and an assist in a 5-1 victory. In a series last weekend against Wis.-Stevens Point, he figured in four of his teams’ seven goals. He assisted on a second period goal and again on the game-tying goal late in the third in a 3-3 tie Friday. In the Saturday night rematch, he gave his team the lead twice with goals in the first and second periods, as St. Scholastica won 4-3. Corcoran currently leads the NCHA in conference scoring with 16 points and in goals with nine. His 14 total goals rank second in the nation.


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