Thursday, November 4, 2010

This weekend

Nothing but conference games on the docket for the first time this season.

Bemidji State at St. Cloud State
The Beavers scored their first point in conference play last week and were within a few seconds of gaining another one Friday night against No. 2 Minnesota Duluth. That's a good sign, considering how badly BSU was outplayed by North Dakota in their previous series. The difference for Bemidji was junior goaltender Mathieu Dugas, who made 28 saves in his first start of the season Saturday in a 1-1 tie. The Huskies have yet to get on track, splitting last weekend at home against Quinnipiac. In eight games, Garrett Roe has just one goal. That number will need to go up if the Huskies hope to get more than a split.

Wisconsin at Minnesota
Unlike SCSU, the Badgers have gotten scoring from a number of different players. Through eight games, five different Badgers have at least eight games. Jordy Murray has seven points, including five goals. In addition, UW is tops in the league in goals allowed, giving up fewer than two goals per game. They play a team in Minnesota this week that can't seem to get healthy. After losing Nick Bjugstad to mononucleosis, the Gophers learned this week Jake Parenteau will also miss time with the illness. Zach Budish was in a moped accident Monday and may miss the rest of the season. Nick Larson has a foot injury and could return this weekend, but is more likely back next week. On the bright side, Kent Patterson seems to have nailed down the starting goaltender job, backing Minnesota to a sweep at Colorado College.

Minnesota Duluth at North Dakota
The match-up between the Bulldogs and Fighting Sioux is one between perhaps the best two teams in the league. UND was picked as the favorite before the season and UMD is currently ranked No. 2 in the country. In the words of Dennis Green, Mike Connolly, Jack Connolly and Justin Fontaine "are who we thought they were." They are the three leading scorers in the WCHA right now. But they've also received help from freshman J.T. Brown (4-7--11) and junior Travis Oleksuk (5-5--10). Add to that, the surprising play of Aaron Crandall, who leads the league in goals against and is second in save percentage. Another surprise in goal is UND's Aaron Dell. He's played more minutes than Brad Eidsness and has posted better numbers. How much he plays this weekend -- in a critical statement series -- will show how much confidence Dave Hakstol really has in him. Brad Malone will miss Friday's game following the league's mandated one game suspension for his hit on Jesse Martin last Saturday.

Minnesota State at Nebraska-Omaha
The Spirit of the Maverick Trophy is on the line this weekend for the first time ever in a conference series. Minnesota State won three points at UAA last weekend, starting their month-long roadtrip off on the right foot. The key to MSU's play the last four games has been the play of goaltender Phil Cook, who seems to have nailed down the No. 1 goalie job. The purple Mavericks are middle of the pack in scoring offense, scoring defense and both special teams, which means Cook's play will be the key most nights. UNO started off red hot but was hammered at Michigan two weeks ago and then was off last weekend. The one goal scored in the loss at Michigan was the first time this season the red Mavs have scored fewer than four goals in a game. Five UNO players have scored at least eight points, but they've played just six games.

Colorado College vs. Denver
And speaking of rivalry trophies, Colorado College and Denver play this weekend in the first installment of the battle for the Gold Pan. Offensively, its been the Schwartz story. Jaden and Rylan are the only Tigers among the top 48 scorers in the league. Couple that with a struggling Joe Howe, and the Tigers are in deep trouble. They need a point or two this weekend. The Pioneers will have goaltender Adam Murray back this weekend, but will they need him? Freshman Sam Brittain has been outstanding in place of Murray, posting a goals against under two and a save percentage north of 93 percent. With Dustin Jackson on the verge of returning to the lineup and Nick Shore should be back within a couple of weeks. That should help ease the blow of the loss of Jesse Martin.

BSU at SCSU - St. Cloud State sweep
WIS at MIN - Split
UMD at UND - Split
MSU at UNO - Split
CC vs. DU - Denver sweep

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Injury Updates

Sorry for the lack of action this week, but I wanted to hop on quick and post some injury updates:

In the most unusual injury of the week, Minnesota sophomore forward Zach Budish hurt his knee in a moped accident. At Gophers media day today, head coach Don Lucia said Budish could rehab the injury and perhaps be back by the end of December or early January. He also noted he would recommend surgery, which would end his season. Because he's played in only seven games, Budish would likely be granted a medical hardship waiver, like teammate Jay Barriball was last season. Budish has two goals and four assists this season and was a critical cog on the Gophers' second line which was outstanding in last weekend's sweep of Colorado College. He will decide on having surgery or not by the end of the week.

The Gophers will continue to be without freshmen Nick Bjugstad and Jake Parenteau (mono). Forward Nick Larson (foot) could be back this weekend for a key series with Wisconsin.

- Denver's Jesse Martin remains at Hennepin County Medical Center after a vicious hit by Brad Malone in Grand Forks last weekend fractured Martin's C-2 vertebrae in three places. He will obviously miss the rest of the season, but will hopefully have the chance to continue his hockey career, much like UND's Robbie Bina did a few years back.

- Minnesota State senior captain Rylan Galiardi missed the team's weekend set in Anchorage last weekend after injuring his knee two weeks ago against Colorado College. His injury is not season ending, but will keep him out a couple of more weeks. Look for him to make his return to the lineup when the Mavericks return home against Minnesota the first weekend in December.

- Denver has been ravaged by injuries, including a groin injury to Adam Murray, a wrist injury to Nick Shore and yet another case of mono, this one to Dustin Jackson. Murray has practiced this week and will likely play. Jackson may need another week to get up to speed and Shore has been practicing but is limited with a cast. He will not play this weekend.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A quick look at this weekend

A busy weekend ahead, so I'll simply post my picks from a debate with the Minneapolis Star Tribune's Roman Augustoviz. To see what he has to say, check out his 'Goal Gophers' blog here.

As promised, I'll also link to this story I wrote for College Hockey News on CC's Rylan and Jaden Schwartz. Check it out here.

Minnesota at Colorado College

The Gophers won ugly Sunday, like the Tigers did the night before in Mankato. Both teams are without much top end talent, so solid special teams play and greasy goals will be the keys here. A split wouldn't surprise me, but faced with a pair of average hockey teams, I'll go with the home squad.

Michigan Tech at Wisconsin
The Huskies are unbeaten through five games for the first time since the Nixon administration. It ends this weekend in a big way.

Quinnipiac at St. Cloud State
The Huskies aren't where they need to be yet but their goaltenders finally showed up last weekend. This will be the weekend it all comes together.

Denver at North Dakota
A bunch of injuries and oddities have the Pioneers down to only 22 available bodies. All will travel to Grand Forks this weekend, where a freshman goaltender will take on one of the nation's top teams -- a team that's also angry after an embarrassing weekend out east.

Minnesota Duluth at Bemidji State
It was a short WCHA honeymoon for the Beavers, who opened up a brand new arena, got swept, then went on a bye. Meanwhile, down Hwy. 2, the Bulldogs have quietly started 5-0-1 and are ranked No. 3 in the country.

Minnesota State at Alaska-Anchorage
Talk about Jekyll and Hyde: The Mavericks can score in bunches, like they did in a 5-4 win Friday night. Just 24 hours later, they looked miserable in a 1-0 loss. After a solid opening weekend, the Seawolves have lost their last four games -- although three of those have been one goal contests. When in doubt, take the easy way out.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Saturday night thoughts

One night after trouncing Michigan, Nebraska-Omaha was blasted in Ann Arbor.

One night after a nine goal outburst in a 5-4 MSU-winning thriller, Minnesota State and Colorado College played a one goal snoozer.

After jumping ahead last night in a win, Denver fell behind Wisconsin tonight in a 2-2 tie.

At least we can still count on Alaska-Anchorage reverting to their old selves, dropping a 6-0 game tonight in rough weekend in Duluth.

Minnesota has a chance to pick itself up off the mat tomorrow against St. Cloud State. If the Huskies blow the Gophers out of their building again, Don Lucia may start to receive the Tim Brewster treatment from the locals. There aren't many must wins this time of year, but if there ever was one, tomorrow is it for Minnesota. You can't win the WCHA in October, but no doubt, you can lose it.

An exciting Friday night

Duluth wins in overtime, Mankato wins a shootout (not an actual shootout, but a figurative one), St. Cloud dominates Minnesota, UND is flattened by Maine and Nebraska-Omaha wins for just the second time ever at Yost Arena.

Performance of the night: Chase Grant -- Minnesota State
Grant scored the first and third goals of the night for the Mavericks, both in the second period, helping turn a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead and changing the tone of the game. The second goal was a power play marker and Grant's third goal of the season.

Non-performance of the night: Alex Kangas -- Minnesota
Yuck. Kangas allowed five goals on just 23 shots in just over 30 minutes of action in a 5-2 loss to St. Cloud State. The Gophers are now 0-3-0 in WCHA play and Kangas' below average play is one of the main reasons.

I am in Mankato tonight to work on a story on Rylan and Jaden Schwartz of Colorado College. Look for it on College Hockey News sometime in the coming days.

*Photo courtesy of College Hockey News

Friday, October 22, 2010

Hello, Again...

Good morning! I just wanted to hop on to welcome any new folks stopping by from Roman Augustoviz's blog... I know I didn't provided picks for him to pick against this week, but gave no reasons WHY I did what I did... so here it is. To check out Roman's picks, click here.

UAA at UMD: UMD Sweep
Minnesota Duluth is the better team, obviously.

Here is where I'm afraid a Gopher fan mutiny may take down my blog... but let me explain. The Huskies don't have the size of Nebraska-Omaha, but they have every bit as much speed and even more scoring punch. On paper, they also have better goaltending. Minnesota will need to score the first or second goal (preferably both) or like last weekend, they will see games spiral out of control.

CC at MSU: CC Sweep
Minnesota State doesn't have a win this season in four games. They've played Michigan Tech and St. Lawrence! What's gonna happen when a real, live, nationally ranked team comes to town. Unless the Mavericks get more production from their power play (currently under 10 percent success) and better play from their penalty kill (currently under 75 percent), this one could get ugly.

WIS at DU: Split
Denver doesn't have the goaltender to sweep this series and Wisconsin doesn't have the firepower. When in doubt, pick split.

UND at Maine: Split
North Dakota is already rolling (unfortunately for their conference counterparts) but this Maine team is more like your father's Black Bears (in that they don't suck anymore). At home, Maine, seemingly back in contention in Hockey East this season (at least in my opinion) will steal one from the Fighting Sioux.

UNO at Michigan: UNO Sweep
Congrats, Maize and Blue, you swept Bowling Green for your only two wins this season. They've also tied Mercyhurst and New Hampshire. The Mavericks showed me something last weekend. This team can score goals... and they can skate... and they're big. Dean Blais has this team looking kind of like a North Dakota team. Yeah, they don't have the superstar scorers (yet), but Nebraska-Omaha is for real (yes, I'm declaring it after two weekends).

Thursday, October 21, 2010

This weekend

Apologies for the lack of content... as I said a couple of weeks ago, I coach high school football -- meaning this is the end of our season. With playoffs beginning, weeks are getting shorter and shorter and I have less time to devote to college hockey right now. That will change.

I also spent last weekend in Green Bay meaning I didn't see a single second of action last weekend. That's why the site was updated so late.

Anyways, here is a quick look at this weekend's action, as well as some predictions.

Alaska-Anchorage at Minnesota Duluth
The Seawolves and Bulldogs both played nonconference games last weekend but open conference play at the DECC Friday night. As I predicted, the Bulldogs split time in net last weekend, with Aaron Crandall putting together a solid outing in a 7-1 win Saturday. All together, UMD put 80 shots on goal last weekend and with their firepower, that should be enough most nights. After starting 1-0-1, UAA dropped a pair of 4-3 decisions. In each night, the Seawolves allowed three goals in the first period, and they simply don't have the power to dig out of such messes.

St. Cloud State at Minnesota
After breaking ranks by winning AND allowing three goals or more two weeks ago, the Gophers simply couldn't keep Nebraska-Omaha off the board last weekend. Minnesota fell behind 4-0 Friday before rallying late to tie, but losing with less than two minutes to play. Minnesota fell behind 3-0 Saturday before pulling within one, but it wasn't enough as he Mavericks closed the game with an empty netter. Despite the loss, Alex Kangas came within one save of posting a career high with 44 Saturday night. The Huskies lost and tied at home to Miami last weekend, six goals for the second straight game Friday night. In one win and a tie so far, SCSU has allowed just two goals. In two losses, they have allowed 12 goals. Neither goaltender has been particularly stellar so far, something that must change if the Huskies are going to live up to their lofty expectations.

Colorado College at Minnesota State
All four of the Tigers games thus far have been of the one goal variety, which should put a premium on special teams this weekend. CC is scoring just over two goals per game, not totally unexpected for a young group of forwards. Speaking of scoring, it was supposed to be a major concern for the Mavericks this season. Yet this group of young scorers has posted five goals in a game twice now, although both finished in 5-5 ties. Both Austin Lee and Phil Cook have been abysmal so far, and it may not be too much longer before the Mavericks are forced to see what they have in freshman Evan Karambelas.

Wisconsin at Denver
A tale of two nonconference weekends for these two last week, the Badgers hammered Alabama-Huntsville in a pair at the Kohl Center while DU was rocked twice by defending national champion Boston College. The Pioneers will need more than two goals if they're going to knock off the national runner-up from a year ago. Luke Salazar scored both goals Friday night but it was long after the game was out of control. Nobody bothered to post any offense Saturday. In goal, Adam Murray was the 6-2 loser Friday and has yet to put together consecutive quality starts. Six different players scored goals for Wisconsin in a 7-0 win Friday before Jordy Murray's hat trick Saturday paced the offense for the Badgers. In two goals, UAH was only able to muster 37 shots against UW.

North Dakota at Maine
An emotional weekend for Bemidji State last weekend as they opened WCHA play with North Dakota. The Fighting Sioux went into Bemidji and calmly won twice by scores of 5-2. It was the kind of workmanlike effort expected from the conference favorites, outshooting the Beavers both nights (including a wide margin Friday) and posting a goal with the man advantage in each outing. Matt Frattin had a hat trick Friday and added another goal Saturday en route to WCHA Offensive Player of the Week honors.

Nebraska-Omaha at Michigan
The Mavericks come off an impressive sweep of Minnesota at Mariucci Arena, moving into the top-10 in the national polls. This weekend, they travel to Ann Arbor to take on a former conference rival and yet another storied hockey program. Both nights in Minneapolis, the Mavs were able to build insurmountable leads of four goals Friday and three Saturday. Senior Matt Ambroz already has five goals and two other Mavs have matched his eight points, making life easier on sophomore goaltender John Faulkner.

Last Weekend: 9-6-2
Season: 9-6-2

UAA at UMD: UMD Sweep
CC at MSU: CC Sweep
WIS at DU: Split
UND at Maine: Split
UNO at Michigan: UNO Sweep

UPDATE: For an explanation on why I picked who I picked, click here.