October 1, 2008

Musings about the Season

Talking to many of my fellow Sioux fans, the general consensus on this year is that the team is yet again a contender. With a strong freshman class coming in, veteran leadership, a coach that has taken them to the Frozen Four all four years he has served in the position, reliable defense, etc., this team should be ready to do well.

First things first…who the Sioux lost. The seniors of JPL, Rylan Kaip, Kyle Radke, and Robbie Bina. Lammy was huge in net, no question. Kaip, while not exactly a huge name for Sioux hockey played efficiently. Radke, IMO, was one of the biggest underachievers I have seen since the days of Eric Lindros. And Bina’s leadership + skill level = Sioux D suffering a little bit. Also factor in the loss of underclassmen TJ Oshie and Taylor Chorney. Chorney was a reliable defenseman for MOST of the season, although he made some dumb plays that had me scratch my bulbous head. Oshie, well…let’s just say St. Louis was looking forward to a possible playoff run until Erik Johnson got drunk and tore two ligaments in his knee playing golf…

The big question coming into the Sioux season this year is goaltending. With the departure of Lammy, the workhouse of the Sioux that broke the Fighting Sioux record of starting in consecutive games, the Sioux are turning to senior Aaron Walski. Playing as Jordan Parise’s and Lammy’s backup for most of his career, he got one start last year against non-factor Bemidji State. I will contend that Walski held his own in that game, but putting your trust in a goalie that has one start in his whole career is no different than starting a freshman goaltender, IMO. I would like to believe that Walski will come in, make the spectacular diving saves that JPL made over the past two years, but honestly, I’m a little more skeptical. Optimistic, yes, but that’s cause I’m still ultimately wearing the green blinders.

Shifting towards offense, the Sioux are going to be looking for Evan Trupp to return to the great form that he had going last year until a leg injury sidelined him. This kid had the chance to win WCHA rookie of the year but due to the injury was a non-factor by voting time. Fully healed I anticipate him to have a big season.

One thing that we as Sioux fans cannot discount this year is that the team can simply replace an offense powerhouse like TJ Oshie. When Jonathan Towes departed the Sioux after the 2006-2007 season most Sioux fans, including myself, turned a blind eye, thinking that one player doesn’t make a team complete. The Sioux struggled the entire 1st half of last season to put away games, and I do believe some of it can be attributed to losing our star in Towes. I hope the team adjusts properly to the loss of Oshie, but again, when you lose a guy who scores 45 points last year, you are going to feel it.

On the plus sides of the Sioux offense this year, I think every Sioux fan thanked the same Jesus that hates Wisconsin for the return of Ryan Duncan, Mr. Hobey. After the Frozen Four, every fan base in the WCHA was trying to convince me that he would be gone. I asked why? He’s not ready for the NHL, if he even ever will be. He loves playing in North Dakota. He can get still another year and probably contend for the Hobey again. The leadership that he brings to this team is undeniable. I’m going to look for him to lead the offense and mentor the freshman coming in.

That all being said, let’s look at the incoming freshman, shall we?

Corey Fienhage – Played at Eastview High School in Apple Valley. Was a Mr. Hockey finalist in 2007-2008. Big kid at 6’3” and 214. Adds depth to the defense.

Mario Lamoureux – Every time I look at his name, I either think Mario Lemieux. Anyway, kid is out of Grand Forks (duh…) and has played the last 4 seasons in the USHL. He is the all time leading scorer of the Tri City storm. 5’9” forward that will make an impact this year.

Jason Gregoire – As Dirty's Diatribe has mentioned, he ditched his commitment to Denver to come to the Sioux. Spent the previous two seasons with the Lincoln Stars. He was a 2008 CCM All-USHL First Teamer. He got hurt towards the end of the season and it should be interesting to see if he bounces back from that.

David Toews – Yes, he’s the brother. Yes, expectations will be high. And yes, he will put up. He put up huge points at Shattuck and helped them win two national championships. I’m excited to watch him.

Brett Hextall – He’ll have to live up to his dad’s legacy, mostly the fact that Ron scored two goals as a goaltender. Played in the BCHL for two years, scoring 72 points last year, and was also voted fan favorite. Hooray!

Brad Eidsness – A goalie. If Watkins slumps, I could see this kid getting some face time. Who knows, it worked for Minnesota and CC last year with Kangas Khan and Richard. Sort of.

Graeme Harrington – This guy has the 3 strike thing going right now. One, his first name is the same as my college physics professor, who just sucked. Second, his last name is the same as a washed up NFL QB that played at Oregon. Third, he played in Dryden, where I have gone fishing many times before. It’s not that I don’t like fishing, in fact I love Dryden, but had a bad piece of pizza there once. Anyway, this kid may get a shot as well. Who knows?

Like I said, excitement is brewing in Grand Forks for the start of the season. Exhibition opener this weekend, and although we won’t see Andy Schneider go ballistic, hopefully someone will. Hell, Mike Prpich won a fight against Marco Peluso in the season opener against Duluth wearing a throwback….anyway…..

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