October 26, 2009
In my opinion, the Sioux looked uninspired and quit playing hockey. And that brings me to my next point. Over the past couple years, I think we're looking at the parity in college hockey closing. In other words, on any given night, any team can compete and win. Take a look at Bemidji's run to the Frozen Four last year or Alabama-Huntsville upsetting Nortre Dame this year. These are just some examples. Now I can hear the argument of if the parity is getting closer, why aren't these teams winning the Frozen Four or their respective league championships? I think the reason is that while these teams are good enough to win on any given night, sustaining these victories is a lot tougher. Obviously schools like North Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, BU, and BC are going to attract the prime talent that is available in college hockey. However, players may be electing to go to a school that is a better fit for them (see baby Lammy at Air Force, James van Riemsdyk at UNH last year) and therefore, the talent is getting spread out.
Granted, schools like AIC, Michigan Tech, UConn, or Western Michigan are going to play second fiddle pretty much all the time. Every now and then they might eek out a win against a good powerhouse team, but for the most part, I believe that college hockey is becoming more and more competitive every year.
October 23, 2009
DU at Minnesota
Neither team is looking spectacular early on. DU has split against Vermont and Ohio State, while Minnesota took 1 point from North Dakota last weekend. But I'm going to be bold and say DU breaks out of their rut. DU Sweep
Michigan Tech at CC
CC isn't that good, but Tech is not that good either. That being said, the battle of the should-be bottom feeders goes to CC. CC sweep.
Minnesota Duluth at St. Cloud
Duluth pulled out a great sweep against Mankato last weekend, while Cloudy couldn't sweep #26 Union. I'm going to say Duluth stays hot and sweeps the Huskies.
Wisconsin at Minnesota State
Kato might be awful, but Wisconsin isn't exactly playing good hockey early on this year. I'm going to go with a split in this series. Kato Friday, 'Sconni Saturday.
UND at Alaska-Anchorage
With Anchorage having two key defensemen out of the lineup, the Sioux keep rolling. UND sweep.
October 22, 2009
I can't figure out this city. First it was built simply out of convenience for the Alaska Railroad. Unlike other Alaska cities, this city had no mineral resources around it. Basically, it's a dump. Then they discover oil in the bay. But wait...aren't we not allowed to drill for oil in Alaska cause we might kill a sea otter? Or a seawolf? Really, what is a seawolf anyway?
This city actually matches New York City in a strange way. Only New York City has a higher percentage of residents living in its largest city. And aside from Anchorage, can you name me any cities in Alaska besides Fairbanks, Juneau, Barrow, or Dutch Harbor?
Not only that, but the Seawolves have Donald as a fan. Nuff said.
Is it possible to give a state back to the country that sold it to us? I think once we strip Alaska of its resources, we should sell it back to Russia for what we paid for it...7.2 million dollars. In fact, let's pay Canada to take Wisconsin and Michigan.
All kidding aside, the Sioux do have a tough weekend ahead of them. I am aware that two defensemen for UAA are out, Nils Backstrom and Trevor Hunt. Coach Shyiak has been forced to put freshman in their place, but is optimistic right now about their play. I know cause I heard the WCHA writer interview him yesterday. Hak said he might try to get Aaron Dell some playing time at goaltender this series. Personally I am excited for that and hope we do get to see him.
Prediction coming tomorrow. Be prepared to stay up late to watch the games. Oh, and Dirty is calling Sioux sweep.
October 19, 2009
Saturday night the Gophers played much better. Or the Sioux played much worse. I think the Gophers played better. And still, the Sioux were able to salvage a tie and take 3 of 4 points. Against your most hated rival, in a game this early on in the season, I'll take that any day.
The Sioux travel this weekend to visit the Seawolves. Should be a tough series...although really, is any series easy?
October 16, 2009
I was talking to the WCHA Writer of uscho.com and tried to get my thoughts together on how the series will go down. I can see it going any which way, to be honest. Gopher sweep, Sioux sweep, split, ties, one tie and a win for each team. Really, it can go anywhere in this case. So I'll break it down by each team...and determine it by then...
WHY THE GOPHERS CAN WIN
Aside from not losing a lot of people last year, the Gophers are coming in with a year more of experience under their belt. Kangas is looking to rebound after what last year was a miserable series for the then sophomore goaltender. The entire team will be fired up to play their biggest rivals, and the guys from last year are not going to forget how North Dakota trounced them. They are also going up against a questionable goalie in Brad Eidsness.
WHY THE SIOUX CAN WIN
Simply put, it's the talent. This freshman class is dynamic and balanced. All the freshmen that played last weekend against Merrimack contributed in some way. The leadership and talent of Chay Genoway and Chris VandeVelde will keep the team fired up for what is clearly their biggest rival. Certainly the team knows they are capable of beating what looks on paper to be an inexperienced Gopher team and a goaltender who slumped last year.
So, after looking at the facts, my inclination is to call a Sioux sweep. But it's too early in the season and Minnesota is too angry and hungry to let it happen. So I'm calling split. North Dakota Friday, Minnesota Saturday.
Now drop the puck!!!!
October 13, 2009
October 11, 2009
"The saddest day of my life was when Jason Notermann checked Pat O'Leary from behind and O'Leary wasn't permanently injured." - Dirty
"My son is a UND grad so it's always sweet to beat him, and me being a UMN grad, it's all that much more sweet." - My dad
"I like the Sioux vs Gopher series because it's an opportunity for the Fighting Sioux to beat down the Golden Boys from Minnesota. 7 > 5. You can't save sieve without Kangas." - Goon
As you can see, this rivalry means something to a lot of people, both on the Sioux and Gopher side. This is the equivalent of Michigan/Ohio State or Vikings/Packers for many of the fans on both sides. So what does it mean to me?
Although I hate Wisconsin, whenever the Sioux play Wisconsin, it's like Armani vs. Wal Mart. Wisconsin has nothing. It's a blue collar state. It's fat. It's people are fat. It has towns like Milwaukee. Overrated and disgusting but somehow the locals love it. Unreal. No, Minnesota vs. North Dakota is epic. This is a battle of two powerhouses. A battle of egos. A battle that rivals BC/BU. One team with 7 national championships, the other with 5. Both teams draw great talent and both teams have good fan bases, although I'll say North Dakota's fans are more educated in terms of hockey.
Predictions to follow tomorrow...
October 10, 2009
I wasn't able to watch the game as I was working, but from reading the recaps and whatnot, it sounds like it was a pretty complete game. The Sioux scored 21 seconds into the 1st period, as Gregoire netted his first of the season with an assist coming from the freshman Kristo and the senior Genoway.
Baby Toews found the net later in the period to make it 2-0 UND. Check it out here.
Merrimack tied the game by the end of the 1st period, with their goal coming with 24 seconds left. I have a rule in hockey. Don't give up a goal in the 1st minute of the period or the last minute of the period. So I guess UND balanced it out there.
However, the Sioux came back in the 2nd and scored two more. Chris VandeVelde scored his first of the season 5 hole to put the Sioux up 3-2. Freshman Corban Knight made it 4-2 with a very pretty goal you can see here.
Finally, in the 3rd, UND put the game away with a beautiful Brett Hextall goal.
The Sioux outshot the Warriors 40-17. That, my friends, is how you are going to win games.
October 5, 2009
2008-09 Record: 9-21-4
2008-09 HE Finish: 9th
Head Coach: Mark Dennehy (5th season, 30-89-17)
Why they’ll finish 8th
So, as I attempted to come up with my 1-10 Hockey East predictions, I had the Warriors all over the place. In some cases I had them as high as sixth. In others, they were in the basement. Not so much because Merrimack is a tough team to gauge, but rather the rest of the league has some considerable question marks.
Merrimack finishes ahead of Maine and Providence because the Warriors have better goaltending than both teams, their defense is also better, and the offense is good enough. Out of the three teams we’ve looked at thus far, Maine has the best offense and Providence is second best. But the disparity between the Warriors’ offense and the Friars’ and Black Bears’ isn’t as wide as the disparity in defense/goaltending in which the Warriors have the edge over both.
Pat Bowen, Karl Stollery, Adam Ross and Fraser Allan bring experience and toughness to the blue line – Stollery is a PP quarterback and Bowen can play the point on the PP as well. Allan, who has been among the Warriors’ best defensemen since joining the team in 2007-08, is finally healthy (he’s been battling knee issues his first two seasons).
Losing Joe Loprieno to the NHL hurts, but Kyle Bigos will do more than pickup the slack. Bigos will make an immediate impact.
On offense, the Warriors should have to see increased production from guys like Chris Barton, whose development continued as a sophomore last season. Rob Ricci’s graduation leaves an opportunity for someone else to step into the go-to role, and expect that to be freshman Stephane Da Costa.
As I said, I had them higher in some other projections, but Northeastern and UMass will finish higher simply because those teams have shown that winning big games isn’t going to be as much of a hardship as it will be for the Warriors.
Make no mistake about it, Merrimack has to prove to me that it can score goals. From a defensive standpoint, they can shut down any team on any night – that’s thanks to head coach Mark Dennehy’s systems and a very good goalie tandem (the best in the league? I’d put Braithwaite/Cannata up against any other 2 goalies in Hockey East).
The Warriors lost an eye-popping 14 one-goal games last year (winning four). If you consider some added experience turns just three of those one-goal losses into wins, then the Warriors would have finished higher than Maine last season.
But, this is a team that needs to prove that they can score goals, and prove that they can win those one-goal games. It’s not a given, just because some players have another year under their belts, that those 14 losses automatically turn into some more wins.
In theory, it sounds nice. But the Warriors have some proving to do before the rest of the league will even consider respecting them.
Why they could finish higher
Joe Cannata and Andrew Braithwaite, for my money, is the best one-two goaltending punch in the league. Cananta was stellar as a freshman, he needs to avoid the “sophomore slump” (i.e. John Muse last season), but there have been other goalies, like former Maine netminder Ben Bishop, who really solidified themselves as top players in the league as a sophomore.
Teams are going to have a hard time scoring goals against this Merrimack team. Kyle B
igos brings a new dimension to this defense – a big guy (6-foot-5) who isn’t your typical “big” defenseman. He can move, he can hit, and he’s a pest to play against. He’s also a guy that is used to winning.
If Da Costa has the type of season I and many others believe he can have, even as a rookie, and others like Barton, Francois Ouimet, Joe Cucci, etc. can carry the offense, the Warriors could finish as high as fifth or sixth. It really depends on goal-scoring – that was Merrimack’s biggest weakness last season.
Player to Watch
J.C. Robitaille needs to have a big season. He was one of the best freshmen in his class in 2006-07 (a miserable year for the team, just 37 goals in 34 games). In 2007-08 he had a quiet start to the year before coming on as a first-line winger that January. But as a junior, there were times when he was almost invisible.
Robitaille has to establish himself as a first-line forward for this team. He’s a senior, he one of the guys the Warriors have to look to for some goals. He doesn’t need to score 20 goals – in fact, I don’t think that’s his style, but 10-15 goals and 20-25 assists is what this team needs from J.C. Robitaille. His game lends itself to being more of a playmaker than a goal-scorer, and that’s OK. He showed that when he took some shots as a sophomore, pucks were going in.
He has the ability to make anyone on his line better, and the Warriors need him to be that player. He needs to fill that hole left by Ricci.
Edit: here's the logo...found by my girlfriend, who is better at searching than me or Dirty.
The other observation, and this is what is most important to me, is that Ben Blood has stepped up his game BIG TIME. It sounds like he is a completely different player. This is really important if the Sioux hope to have success this year. Last year the defense struggled at the end of the season. I'm looking for a turnaround this year.
Up this weekend is Merrimack. I'll hopefully get a Merrimack preview to post here in the next couple days.
For more on the Sioux win, click here.
October 1, 2009
The North Dakota State Board of Education is expected to make a ruling today as to whether the school will get an extension to get Tribe approval of the nickname. The deadline to get tribe approval was today. With a Sioux supporter in Charles Murphy, if North Dakota can get an extension, it's a safe bet to say the Sioux name will stand firm.
UPDATE: The North Dakota Board of Higher Education has agreed to a 30 day extension. This should ensure the nickname stays in place. For more on it, click here.