February 28, 2009

Where we're at

What do we know after last night? Not a lot...some new things have come about, though

- There are only 3 teams that can clinch the McNaughton. UND, DU, and CC. Wisconsin losing means they cannot and Duluth tying means they cannot.
- Minnesota can't win a game
- UND, with a win tonight, would be assured of no worse than 2nd place

That really about it. I'm stuck in Hayden so I don't know if I'll be able to watch the game, but I'll try.

February 24, 2009

An Explanation and some number crunching

I'm not your typical homer.

What I mean by this is I'm a Sioux fan who is willing to call his team out when they perform poorly. Hell, I do that for any team I cheer for. As a lifelong fan of the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, and to a lesser extent the Wild (I like the Wild, I just can't stand the NHL) I call it like I see it. A couple weeks ago I predicted a split in the Mankato/UND series. To me, it seemed justified. Mankato owned the Sioux earlier in the season for 110 minutes. The Sioux were coming off an off weekend. Mankato has just destroyed the Gophers. A split seemed justified as a pick. Yet people were calling me out on it, saying I'm not a true fan, how can I go against North Dakota, etc. While it may look like I'm not being a Sioux fan, it could just be a bit of pessimism on my part.

Talking with my buddy Steve, who just returned from a trip to Asia, he told me it's time to stop being pessimistic. And he's right. I've been reflecting over the past couple days about the Sioux season. How a team that at one point was 9th in the WCHA is now tied for first and has the tiebreaker edge over DU. How a team that got swept in the GLI by horrid Michigan State and Tech has lost one game in 2009. There's something special about this Sioux team. Talking with the WCHA Writer this morning, she asked me what makes this Sioux team capable of making a run. I told her a combination of no expecations and a bunch of gritty guys that are determined. There's no superstar on this Sioux team. There's no NHL caliber players on this team. But there are a bunch of GOOD players who can do great things.

I've been crunching numbers in my head left and right. The Sioux right now have 33 points. DU also has 33 points. Since DU plays one less game than the Sioux, the Sioux are in control here. Let's say they sweep CC this weekend. That gives them 37 points. If DU sweeps St. Cloud, that also gives them 37 points. This means the Sioux would have to at minimum split in Wisconsin to clinch a share of the McNaughton cup. However, let's say DU splits against Cloud. This leaves DU with 35 points. The best they can do then is beat CC the following weekend and finish with 37. This means that it's a moot point what UND does in Wisconsin.

The bottom line is, the Sioux need to sweep this weekend. They sweep and they are sitting mighty fine. This is a special team who will do some special things in March. And yes, I am now optimistic. But the team has given me reason to be so.

February 22, 2009

A sweep...home ice is guaranteed...yeah!!!!

The Sioux are really clicking now. Firing on all cylinders. Call it what you want, they are definitely rolling now, sweeping Alaska Anchorage up in Alaska. Combine that sweep with a Minnesota loss last night, and the Sioux now are guaranteed home ice for the playoffs.

On Friday night, I thought the Sioux looked sluggish. A step out of it. The passes weren't crisp and accurate and they really didn't challenge UAA. I personally thought they were lucky to get a win, but as Dirty was telling me, that is what the good teams do. Find a way to win, even when it doesn't seem possible. On Saturday night, however, it was a different team. The Sioux simply looked like the Sioux. They were passing well. Banging home rebounds. Playing tight defensively. It was a great game.

I normally don't do this, but because we're getting so close to the playoffs, I'll round out the other games from the weekend in the WCHA. I got to see a couple of these. DU swept Wisconsin in Madison. On Friday, DU tied it up 3-3 with 14 seconds left, then scored in overtime. On Saturday, they just made Wisconsin look silly, winning 5-0. Minnesota-Duluth took 3 of 4 points in Houghton, winning 4-1 on Friday and tying 2-2 on Saturday. The Gophers woes continue as they got swept by CC, losing 4-3 and 5-3.

So, let's review the standings, shall we? UND is at the top with 33 points, tied with DU. As everyone knows by now, UND has a game in hand on DU, plus a better conference record. CC is alone in 3rd with 29 points. Wisconsin is 4th with 28 points, and Daloot rounds out the top 5 with 26 points. Every game is critical this upcoming weekend, and every game is important for every team.

UND plays at home to CC
DU plays at home to St. Cloud
Minnesota plays at home to Daloot
Wisconsin plays on the road at Mankato

Like I said, every team has something to play for.

February 20, 2009

A few more hours

A few hours to puck drop and all is well. A lot is riding on this series, and more importantly, this game. I think for the Sioux to do well, they are going to have to come out fast. UAA is the type of team that is content scoring a goal and locking down defensively. The Sioux need to get a goal quick and keep them coming.

I know I said they would split against Mankato last weekend, and I was wrong. This weekend, I think the Sioux take care of business, and earn a sweep against UAA.

February 18, 2009


Just sitting here waiting for Friday to roll around, and reflecting on the rest of the season looming.

With three series left, the Sioux definitely control their own destiny. With a sweep and two splits, they will take 2nd or 3rd in the WCHA and have home ice for the playoffs. If they can sweep all the series, they will probably win the McNaughton and face Tech at home.

If by some horror they don't do well in these final 3 series, we'll be looking at 5th place probably.

February 16, 2009

12th in the Pairwise...tied for first...a sweep of Mankato...looking good!

The Sioux proved the doubters wrong yet again by beating Mankato on Saturday night, earning a crucial sweep and moving up from 17th to 12th in the pairwise. As far as I'm concerned, the Sioux are in control of their destiny now. 3 series remain, one at home and two on the road.

Let's just quick review highlights and lowlights of Saturday:

- The Sioux just simply never quit in this game. I was amazed at their hard work throughout the entire game
- Goon alluded to this a little in his blog, so I'll keep it short, but Hak did a great job of keeping the players in control, especially when the game had the chance to get chippy
- Ryan Duncan is a sniper. Plain and simple. He froze Zaccharias on his wrist shot.
- On a somber note, Derrick LaPoint went down in the 1st period with a very ugly leg injury. I won't post the picture, but the thought is he broke his leg in two places. The prognosis is that he will be back next season, however.

There is something I noticed about the Sioux this weekend that I was very proud of, and it fills me with optimism. They were hungry. Focused. They were determined to win at every point of each game last weekend. Even when they were down 3-2 in the 3rd, I had this feeling in my gut that they were going to win the game. And they did.

I also talked to the WCHA Writer yesterday about how every single team in the WCHA that does not play their home games in Houghton needs to treat each game like it's a playoff game. Every win or loss means so much now it's ridiculous. No, UAA will not be able to take 1st in the WCHA, but with a few more wins, they could be looking at an 8th or 7th place finish. CC is fighting for home ice right now, and Wisconsin is looking at the top of the standings and I'm sure as hell wants to be there. The Sioux need to treat UAA like a formidable opponent, and realize that if they neglect their business, they may be looking on the outside.

February 14, 2009

Happy Valentines Day

First off, a Happy Valentines Day to you all.

The Sioux played a great game of hockey last night, beating Mankato 4-1 in front of a sellout Engelstad crowd. Behind two Miller goals, a Trupp flukey goal, and a tip by Kozek, the Sioux were able to escape Mankato, which is always a team that plays tough against North Dakota.

A few things stood out from last night's game that I was real impressed with:

- Special Teams. The Sioux snapped a powerplay drought with Miller's backhand goal. And then his goal at the end of the 1st was also on the PP. They also killed a 5x3 which killed the Mankato momentum at the time
- Good offensive pressure. They outshot the Mavericks in the 2nd period 21-4. Zacharias stood on his head for a lot of those shots.
- Good defensive game. The Sioux didn't make mistakes in their defensive zone. They were physical and relentless in their pursuit of the puck.
- Smart hockey. The game had the potential to get out of hand; yet the Sioux kept their cool and the game was relatively clean. Good job on Kato's end as well for that.

If they play like they did last night, it will be real easy to win tonight. UND would be tied for first again. Also, UND is 13th in the pairwise. I imagine a win would push them to 11th.

February 11, 2009

Here's Hoping

The Sioux are in an interesting posititon. Currently they are 17th in the pairwise rankings. If the season were to end today, North Dakota would be watching the NCAA tourney on TV and I would be sad. But they can certainly turn that around.

This shows different scenarios for how North Dakota can end up based on how many games they win. The general consensus is they will have to win 6 of 8 to have a chance to make the tournament. It's not going to be easy. With Mankato, UAA, CC, and Wisconsin to go against, anything can happen. But the writing is on the wall. If the Sioux do not play above .500 hockey down this stretch, they will not be dancing.

As much as I would like to be optimistic, I don't see the Sioux doing it. That's right, readers. I'm thinking that this is the year they get humbled and don't get to be in the NCAA's. Truthfully, the only teams guaranteed to make the tournament are the top 10 in the pairwise. Think about it for a second. Say you get a surprise team from every conference winning the tournament to become the conference champion. Now, more realistically, you're looking at the top 12/13 teams in the pairwise. But still. We aren't there now.

February 7, 2009

Saturday morning news

I'm sitting at home with a cup of coffee, looking at the standings and trying to figure out how things can play out for North Dakota, both in terms of winning the WCHA and getting into the NCAA's.

DU beat Duluth last night 4-3. I was talking with the WCHA writer how that matchup meant a lot to both teams. If DU swept the series, they are probably looking at a first place finish. If Duluth swept, they would be right in the thick of a top 5 finish. I'm not saying Duluth can't get that with a split, but a sweep at home would have been real nice. Unfortunately for Duluth, it's still going to be an uphill battle.

Wisconsin beat the stumbling Gophers 3-2. I don't really know what to say about this except the trend for Minnesota in recent years has been to come out real strong, by December be the #1 ranked team in the nation and have everyone picking them for the FF. But either their goaltenders get tired, or they somehow can't score, but whatever it is, Minnesota is struggling right now.

Tech mustered a tie out of CC last night. CC is easily the league disappointment of the year. Tech, when they want to, can play with anyone in the WCHA. It's just a matter of which team shows up.

Finally St. Cloud topped UAA 3-1. I'm not too surprised by this. UAA, which the WCHA writer pointed out, stumbles down the 2nd half pretty consistently. It appears they are well on their way to doing so again.

So I was looking at the pairwise info and it looks like UND is now in 13th. Still not a GUARANTEE, but they keep going the right way. As for the standings, UND is in 3rd place now and no matter what will finish the weekend in 3rd place. If Minnesota beats Wisconsin tonight, the Sioux are out of 2nd by one game. If DU loses, the Sioux are out of 1st by only 3 points. I do think it will be tough to get into 1st place, but a 2nd place finish is not out of the question.

February 4, 2009

Another Rant

Ok, I know I've brought this up numerous times before, but I need to bring it up again. I'm tired of thuggery in hockey. It's at every single level and it seems to be a lot worse than before.

The incident that comes to mind is what happened Friday night in Minnesota, when Schack, who is one of the most unclassy hacks I have ever seen play the game, fought with Boe of MSU-Mankato. But it wasn't a squared-off type of fight. Schack jumped on top of Boe and punched him in the head numerous times. When Boe didn't have a helmet on. After Boe had turtled and gone fetal position. And yet, somehow, Coach Lucia is defending this classless act?

To not be one sided, I'll quick fill everyone in. Boe had hit Barribal earlier in the game and I believe had just checked Tony Lucia from behind. Boe was drawing a 5 minute major for checking from behind + a game misconduct for that hit. But about 14 seconds later, Schack made sure he wouldn't be serving the penalty in the penalty box.

The league is not suspending Schack. Rather than doing the right thing, Lucia praised Schack's garbage play. And Gopher fans are saying that he did nothing wrong. Really? I suppose Clinton blowing it in the mouth of an intern wasn't wrong either.

This needs to stop. This garbage hockey. It has to stop. Michigan State did the right thing. Minnesota did not. That program, which I have always viewed as an unclassy program, took a few more steps in the wrong direction.