September 23, 2008


No that won't happen with every post I make, but really, I am just kind of excited for the season...and I tend to do things like that when I am excited. Seriously, I was watching a kids hockey tournament the past weekend and wanted to yell out SIOUX YEAH YEAH! in hopes that someone would respond, but held off. Obsessed. I told you.

Anyway, let's recap last season, shall we? *ahem*

The 2007-2008 season had a lot of optimism. Most of the big starters were returning, including a seasoned goaltender, the Hobey Baker winner, and his linemate, TJ Oshie. Losing Toews to the Blackhawks was a blow and the departure of a true leader, Chris Porter hurt, but the Sioux were still looking strong.

A convincing win to open the season against Michigan St. set the tone for the season. 6 different players scoring goals showed this team didn't have to rely on just 3 players up front. But as the season continued, it looked like this Hakstol coached team was similar to the ones in years prior. Series split after series split was beginning to wear on the fan base and the team as well. After losing a tough opening game at St. Cloud, however, the Sioux righted the ship, and as they have in years past, dominated the WCHA in the 2nd half.

Duncan scored two goals and got contribution from VandeVelde, Kaip, Oshie, and Watkins. They returned home against Michigan Tech and played, in my opinion, their best hockey of the season, cranking out a pair of 4-1 victories. They followed this up with sweeps of Mankato and Anchorage and took 3 points off of Minnesota at the Mooch, where a strong Sioux fan base outcheered the restless Gopher fans.

Continuing the strong play, they came back in the Friday night game against a tough Denver team and followed that up with a great dominating performance Saturday night, then swept Bemidji and Duluth. The Duluth series did come with a cost though, as Evan Trupp, a bright spot of the Sioux freshman class, went down with a leg injury and his returning for the season was in doubt.

To close out the season, the Sioux had two games at home against St. Cloud. They played both games to a tie. I was a little nervous about this. The Sioux certainly didn't play like a team that was poised and ready for the playoffs, and I had expressed this doubt to some friends, who dismissed it as something not to worry about. I was somewhat relieved when they drew Tech for the playoffs, a team in which got routed earlier in the season at the Engelstad. However, Tech played extremely tough. In game 2, they took the Sioux to overtime and beat them, and in game 3, Tech actually got on the scoreboard first. However, the Sioux persevered and won 2-1. I was excited for the Sioux to be in the Final Five, but still worried.

Denver simply outplayed the Sioux in their opening game and the Sioux fell 3-1. The Sioux bounced back in the next game and beat CC pretty handily 4-2. The Sioux still earned a #1 seed and earned the right to play in Madison alongside Princeton, Denver, and Wisconsin. The opening game against Princeton looks like the Sioux dominated on paper, winning 5-1, but were actually outshot 38-19.

The game against Wisconsin to a lot of Sioux fans showed how good this team is. To me, it showed that they were simply out of gas. Down 2-0 going into the third, Rylan Kaip halved the Wisconsin lead and 47 seconds later, Duncan tied it up. In OT, Watkins took a Bina rebound and put it in the net, sending the Sioux to Denver for their 4th consecutive Frozen Four appearance.

As nervous as I was about the upcoming game, I was also excited. Anything can happen at the Frozen Four. Unfortunately, that anything was a domination by Boston College. After the first period, the Sioux were looking at a 4-0 deficit and I was so angry the writer of Gross Misconduct was worried I was going to punch a University of New Hampshire family in the face. 2nd period = 6-0 deficit and a final score of 6-1 sent Sioux fans home sad, yet again.

Yet again, the Sioux could not get it done on a national stage. Already speculation was rampant about who would return for this team in 2008-2009. And already, Sioux fans were talking about a 5th consecutive trip to the Frozen Four. I was one of those. Still am.

This next season brings a lot of optimism. Look for my season preview in a few days. Until then...

September 17, 2008

A New Season Is Upon Us


Ok, now that we got that out of the way, time to discuss why I'm starting this blog, what I hope to bring to you, my fellow Fighting Sioux fans as well as college hockey fans out there.

I am obviously a Fighting Sioux hockey fan but also a WCHA fan and a hockey fan in general. I plan on blogging a lot about the Sioux, but also other games that I attend. I will bring a perspective of not only fandom, but the nuances about the game as well. Hopefully some insight that can help you look at the game a little differently.

So...first, my WCHA Predictions for the year. A little synopsis about each team, as well as where they will end the year. I'll start off with each team based on where they finished last year, starting with 10th place. Here we go...

University of Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves
Coach - Dave Shyiak

The Seawolves are coming off of a disappointing season, winning just 3 games last year in league and finishing with an overall record of 7-21-8. They struggled at the end of last season, losing 9 of their last 10 games with the non-loss being a tie. However, a little credit should be given here being that they took the Colorado College Tigers to overtime in their final game of the season, possibly derailing the Tigers going into the playoffs. I don't see a lot coming from this team, unfortunately in the next year. I am of the firm belief that Shyiak is at best a mediocre coach and the talent just simply isn't there.

Michigan Tech Huskies
Coach - Jamie Russell

High hopes for the Huskies in 2007-2008. After making it to the WCHA Final Five in 2006-2007, this team was expected to contend again. But a lackluster offensive effort early on and a goalie that checked out early mentally brought this team down to earth quickly. They did take the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux to 3 games in the playoffs, which is impressive considering the drubbing North Dakota gave them in January. Teslak departing at goaltender isn't going to help either.

Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs
Coach - Scott Sandelin

Duluth is one of those teams that has talent but tends to underachieve. They should have won the Frozen Four in 2004, but couldn't capitilze on a 6 on 3. Since the days of Junior Lessard and Issac Reichmuth, this team has tanked, and fast. Stalock finished last year with a decent save percentage and GAA, but a very mediocre offense returns. Not only that, but their defense is subpar at best. Not too excited about Duluth.

University of Minnesota Golden Gophers
Coach - Don Lucia

This team was a mess, plain and simple. Okposo departing the team, a cluster at goaltender, and youth spelled disaster for the Gophers. Fans were calling for tDon's head, or at least for him to step down. By the end of the season though, things started looking up. A solid freshman goaltender, Alex Kangas, emerged. Blake Wheeler started playing better. They played tough in the end against a very good Mankato team and even made the NCAA tournament when all looked lost. This team is poised for a good season, as long as Kangas doesn't have a sophomore slump.

University of Wisconsin Badgers
Coach - Mike Eaves

Another team that underachieved last season and didn't turn it up until it was too late. Wisconsin finished under .500; yet made the NCAA tourney, where they nearly knocked off North Dakota to make the Frozen Four. The departure of under-achiever Kyle Turis should not hurt this team, as far as I'm concerned. But other than Ben Street and Michael Davies, I'm not really excited about the Badgers. There's not a superstar on this team, which Wisconsin needs. They had Earl a few years ago who I've been told was a cancer on the team but still had the talent to lead this team to their 6th National title. Questions at goaltender are also there.

St. Cloud State Huskies
Coach - Bob Motzko

Ok, I'll get it out of the way right now. O-fer in the NCAA's. A loss to Clarkson. A terrible game played against a lousy team. Yet again. Ok, enough. This was a team that despite that game, they finished strong, winning 8 of their last 11 going into the playoffs, including sweeping 'Sconni to go to the Final Five in what some considered an upset, even though St. Cloud had the home-ice advantage. Pretty sure Roe is not going to have a slump this year and is probably looking for more goals this year. This team could be a dark horse this year.

Minnesota State University Mavericks
Coach - Troy Jutting

Finally, the Mavericks break out of the WCHA basement for the first time since 2003. I've always been a huge Jutting fan and hope that he can help his team build on what was by all means a surprising season last year. And screw you Wisconsin fans, this team deserved to make the NCAA's over your team. Andrew Sackrison returning is huge, as is Zacharias at goaltender. Another dark horse team that might finally get the credit it deserves.

University of Denver Pioneers
Coach - George Gwozdecky

This is a team that I am torn on this year. Last year, they took the WCHA Final Five. They were the team to beat in the 1st half of the season. In the second half, they started falling. After a game against Wisconsin in which Randy Schmidt blew a call (maybe, probably, Schmidt just sucks), Denver began falling apart. Swept against North Dakota, swept against Mankato, and being swept in the home and home against Colorado College and it's a wonder this team did anything. They played pretty convincingly against Duluth but got smoked by 'Sconni in the regional. Key losses on defense, including Chris Butler and Andy Thomas leave some holes in the defense. Also looking at an unproven goaltender. However, offense is mostly intact, with Bozak, Rakhshani, and Ruegsegger returning. On top of that, you have what I personally believe to be the best coach in the WCHA.

University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux
Coach - Dave Hakstol

Hooray, I get to rant about my own team. Of course, this will just be the abbreviated version; you will get a better version later on. So what, we're 0-4 in the Frozen Four under Hak? Last year's loss being the most embarassing, a 6-1 defeat with the Sioux being down 4-0 after the first and me out in the concourse of Pepsi Center walking with no direction, almost being in a daze. Luckily, the Sioux remain mostly intact. Losing the Oshie and the Chorney hurts, as does losing Lammy and Bina. However, Duncan is sticking around again and VandeVelde is looking to improve on what I would call a weaker season. Trupp will be even better after a leg injury sidelined him. The BIG question will be at goaltender. An unproven goalie in a program that is expecting results AGAIN.

Colorado College Tigers
Coach - Scott Owens

A team that surprised is the best way to put this. A fantastic goaltender emerged in Richard Bachman and the CC offense churned out a lot of points. However, as many teams in the WCHA tend to do, this team may have peaked too early. A disappointing showing in the Final Five and Regionals. They fought for the home seed and blew it bigtime against Notre Dame, an unproven program. Things are looking good this year though. Sweatt, Rau, and Testwuide emerged last year as the DOT line of 2007. The loss of Kilpatrick and Hillen are big, but this team looks poised and ready to repeat, as long as Bachman doesn't have a slump.

Ok, there's my brief take on every WCHA team. Aside from CC being the #1 team and Anchorage and Tech fighting for last, 2-8 can be tossed up. I might as well draw cards to pick. But I won't. I'll use my superior hockey knowledge and hatred towards Wisconsin to make my picks. *ducks at whatever is being thrown at him*

1. CC
2. Denver
3. UND
4. Mankato
5. Minnesota
6. St. Cloud
7. Wisconsin
8. Duluth
9. Tech
10. Anchorage

Like I said, this is a toss-up. I put Denver ahead of UND purely on the coaches. Mankato edges Minnesota based on goaltending, and 'Sconni just sucks, but not as much as the bottom 3 programs.

There's my take. Enjoy my blog this year!