September 30, 2010

Steps for success

The puck is close to dropping for the season, and I'm excited, of course. This Sioux team is loaded, and could be the best one that the Sioux have seen in years. With the return of Chay at defense, there are very few glaring weaknesses on this team. I'm trying to figure out if the Sioux have anything to worry about, and yes, I found a few things that need to go in their favor this year to continue success.

1. Stay healthy

The loss of Chay hurt the team early on in the season last year, and various injuries up and down the team hindered their progress. Losing Hextall for 9 games shattered their power-play. Certainly, injuries are a part of the game, but if the Sioux can stay healthy for the most part, they will be fine.

2. Stay out of the box

The Sioux get a lot of attention when they are out on the ice, most of it unwarranted. And last year, we saw the bias in officials when they played DU at Magness on Saturday night, when they were called for 9 penalties in a row compared to DU's 0. But that being said, the Sioux need to continue to be smart. They antagonize a lot of teams and if they can play that to their advantage, they will be looking at a lot of powerplays.

3. Fill the voids

VandeVelde returned for his senior season, and his presence on the ice will definitely be missed. Darcy Zajac definitely shined in his senior year, especially on the faceoff dot. Guys like Brett Hextall, Corban Knight, and Mario Lamoureux will have to step up this year. We saw Evan Trupp really shine in the Final Five and when Frattin returned to the team, he certainly provided a nice spark. It is critical that those guys continue to produce like they were last year.

4. Give Eids a rest

Eidsness has established himself as one of the best goaltenders in college hockey. He had a great GAA last year of 2.11 and a save percentage of .914%. That all being said, I don't want to see the Sioux leaning on him all season long. We saw that with Lammy in the 2007-2008 season and while I'm not blaming him for the 6-1 defeat in the Frozen Four, it would have been nice to have him get some rest during the year. Brad is a great goalie; Aaron Dell is just fine and can spell him when necessary. I'd like to see Dell play 8-10 games this year.

Polls are out

And clearly, the expectations for our beloved Sioux is very high. UND was the runaway for both the coaches poll and the media poll, garnering the majority of first place votes in both polls. The Sioux, with all they are returning, are expected to do great things this year. Anything less then a FF appearance will be a disappointment, IMO.

Coaches Poll

Team (first-place votes)   Points
1. North Dakota (10) 120
2. St. Cloud State (2) 105
3. Minnesota-Duluth 100
4. Denver 88
5. Minnesota 82
6. Colorado College 67
7. Wisconsin 64
8. Nebraska-Omaha 55
9. Bemidji State 46
10. Minnesota State 31
11. Alaska-Anchorage 19
12. Michigan Tech 15

Media Poll

Team (first-place votes) Points

1. North Dakota (28) 347
2. Minnesota-Duluth 300
3. St. Cloud State (1) 295
4. Denver 242
5. Wisconsin 218
6. Minnesota 203
7. Colorado College 182
8. Bemidji State 156
9. Nebraska-Omaha 125
10. Minnesota State 97
11. Alaska-Anchorage 51
12. Michigan Tech 46

September 20, 2010

Season Preview

Ok, I've been putting this off for awhile, but it's time to finally dive into the season preview.

So...let's break it down, shall we?

The Sioux return loaded. Aside from senior departures Darcy Zajac and Chris VandeVelde, the Sioux lost David Toews and Corey Fienhage to the pros. Other then that, everyone returns. The Sioux lost 1 person on a great defensive corps and return their leader and catalyst, Chay Genoway, who, in my opinion, is the best player in college hockey.

Brad Eidsness returns for his junior season, and brings with him a great sophomore season campaign. He posted a very respectable 2.11 GAA and .914 save percentage. Some of his big games included a 2-0 shutout of Minnesota-Duluth in the WCHA Final Five play-in game, made 33 stops in a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Denver, in which questionable officiating cost UND the game, and he shut out the Gophers at the beginning of the season. Eids has controlled his rebounds better and wanders less from the net. He is still prone to lapses, but overall, he has become a lot more consistent and was a big reason the Sioux saw a lot of success last year. His backups, Aaron Dell and Tate Maris have yet to show their talent, but assuming the Sioux do what they are expected to do this year, I expect we will see both of them get some playing time.

As I mentioned earlier, the Sioux lost no defensive players in the offseason other then Fienhage. After losing their defensive catalyst Chay Genoway to a concussion thanks to a dirty hit from SCSU goon Aaron Marvin, the defense stepped up nicely, finishing ranked #3 in the country. That can only improve this season, with the addition of Derek Forbort, who was drafted in the first round by the LA Kings. Junior Ben Blood will build on his great sophomore season, and senior Jake Marto will continue to be a strong force at the blue line.

As I said, the Sioux are returning a lot of people this year. Evan Trupp is here for his senior season, and it's time for this kid to be the consistent leader that I think he can be all year. Brett Hextall was quiet last season after a great freshman year, and he should return hungry and ready to piss off a lot of teams again. Gregoire is still great and just needs to harness that talent that he has. Matt Frattin's return to the Sioux last year was critical to their post-season run and having him around all year will help tremendously. Brad Malone could be the most underrated player on the Sioux. He's strong, he's fast, he's got great hands. Brock Nelson, a freshman, is coming to the Sioux and should immediately contribute.

The coaching staff remains intact and is continuing to do a great job. Hakstol continues to impress me and Cary Eades is a fine assistant, who is capable of being a head coach no problem. I think the players enjoy playing for Hakstol, who demands a lot from his players, but is clearly a players coach. He doesn't play favorites and juggles the lines when necessary.

I think this is a do or die year for the Sioux. They have a ton of talent and a lot of seniors. The WCHA appears to be in a downward spiral, so the Sioux need to capitalize on that. There's no reason to think that a run to the Frozen Four is out of the question. And with this team and talent, I think anything less would be unacceptable.

September 18, 2010

Penn State going's official

After being talked about for months, and even years, college hockey is adding a new team. Penn State will add both mens and womens hockey in the year 2012-2013. They are in the process of constructing a new rink, capable of seating between 5000 and 6000 fans. Here's the article discussing the 88 million dollar donation.

Obviously, the question at this point is, what will happen to the other two Big Ten teams in the WCHA? The thing everyone seems certain on at this point is that a Big Ten Hockey Conference will be in place by the 2014-2015 season. My friend Steve is skeptical, thinking that this is just a thing the USCHOers are discussing.

Both the WCHA and CCHA have made statements regarding the future formation of a Big Ten Hockey Conference. The Big Ten has also made a statement. Personally, I feel that there is a ton of potential revenue that has the potential to be there, for all 6 schools in the Big Ten that would play hockey plus for the Big Ten itself. However, at this point, it isn't happening, so it's not worth discussing.

In the meantime, my season preview/predictions will be out soon.

September 13, 2010

Penn State going D1?

It's been talked about in the college hockey community for years now. The potential for the Big Ten Hockey Conference (*ducks*). That is probably one step closer to reality.

Milewski has the story at Although it's not official, it looks to come to fruition in the 2011 season, with the BTHC developing for the 2014-2015 season.

Stay tuned...

September 9, 2010

2009-2010 Season Recap

Yep, it's time. Time to recap the 2009-2010 season. I figure it's September, baseball is winding down, football is starting, so it's getting close to hockey time.

Last year was interesting. The Sioux went into the season without a target on their back. They clearly were not the favorite of the WCHA. That distinction went to DU. Instead, the Sioux were looking at a top 5 finish, but nothing spectacular. They would probably make the NCAA's, but weren't locks. It would almost be a rebuilding season, being that they lost 7 seniors the year before and were relying on Brad Eidsness, a decent goaltender, but not a catalyst.

The season got off to a good start with a sweep of a scrappy Merrimack team up in Grand Forks, followed by taking 3 of 4 points from the Sioux's hated rival, Minnesota. The Sioux then split against UAA, then rattled off 3 more wins, sweeping Michigan Tech and winning against St. Cloud. That win against St. Cloud came with a ridiculous cost, however, as Chay Genoway was knocked out with a ridiculously blatant hit from St. Cloud goon Aaron Marvin.

At the time, we all thought it was just a concussion and that he would be back soon. Little did we know...

Without their star defenseman and captain, the Sioux were in a bad spot, as they lost the next night to St. Cloud and got swept by the Pioneers in Denver. The Sioux were in position to win both games, but some horrible officiating made sure that Denver would earn a sweep of the Sioux.

The Sioux were able to beat Ohio State in the Subway Holiday Classic and were beating the Redhawks from Miami of Ohio, but the Sioux had some costly lapses in the third period that allowed the runners-up tie the game. The game ended in a 5-5 tie. The Sioux then split with Duluth at the DECC, again jobbed by some questionable officiating (puck hit the netting but no stoppage). But the trend was already setting in of the Sioux not being able to hold a lead.

The Sioux then struggled against Wisconsin, only gaining one point in the standings. They beat Niagara in the Shillelagh Tournament, but failed yet again to hold a lead against Notre Dame, eventually tying and losing in a shootout.

They proceeded home to sweep a terrible Mankato team, but played a terrible series in Minnesota, only taking one point, and again, giving up a late goal to give up the lead. They split with a good Cornell team, but proceeded to get swept by Denver at the Ralph. The Sioux were clearly not playing great hockey at this point and needed to start winning some games, and needed to win convincingly.

The Sioux went to St. Cloud, with much anticipation of the series. The Sioux fell on Friday night 3-4 but Saturday night, returned with a fury of goals, beating St. Cloud 8-1. You could feel the Sioux's energy just watching the game. It was a sign of good things to come. The Sioux rattled off 6 wins to close the regular season, including sweeping Minnesota Duluth, CC, and Michigan Tech. The CC games were tough, scrappy games that I had the pleasure of attending. You can actually see me jump into the glass when Frattin scores the game winner.

The Sioux took 4th place in the WCHA, and were greeted with the prospect of facing the falling-apart Golden Gophers, a team that seemed content to mail in the season and try again the following year. Most Sioux fans were very excited at the prospect of the game. I, on the other hand, was very worried. I have heard the WCHA Commissioner say that they prefer Minnesota in the Final Five, so there was always the possibility of the game being called in a certain fashion. However, the Sioux quieted any doubt that I had, destroying the Gophers 6-0 in the first night. The Gophers took care of business the 2nd night, but the Sioux put them away for good the last night, winning 4-1 and prevented the Gophers from reaching the Final Five for the first time since it was held at the X.

This F5 promised to be special. There were going to be out of towners in attendance, including our friend Lindsey, who is a Wildcat fan but chooses to date a Techie (yeah, I dunno why either) and Joe Yerdon, a RPI fan who has always wondered about the Final Five. Combine that with our usual fans, and you have a recipe for a good time.

The Sioux were forced to play Friday night and drew Minnesota Duluth. Behind a great goaltending effort from Eidsness, the Sioux beat Duluth 2-0 and moved on to face their new #1 rival, Denver. Again, the Sioux got a great goaltending effort from Eidsness, plus a huge spark from Evan Trupp, who had caught fire in the 2nd half of the season. The Sioux were 4-3 winners over DU.

Check out the 2nd Trupp goal. You will see me in the Zamboni tunnel celebrating. I'm in the white Sioux jersey and hat.

The Sioux were due to face St. Cloud in the championship game. Again, the hype surrounding this game was epic. Clearly, the Gophers were no longer the Sioux's biggest rival. DU and St. Cloud were both vying for that spot. St. Cloud scored two goals less then a minute into the game, but the Sioux never panicked, tying the game up by the end of the 1st period. In the 2nd period, the Sioux controlled the game and took a 4-3 lead. They sealed the deal with an ENG, earning their first Broadmoor trophy since 2006. The ceremony was special, as when the trophy was presented, the Sioux insisted their captain and friend, Chay Genoway, who had never returned from the blatant cheapshot that was delivered by goon Aaron Marvin, went to get the trophy. It was a humbling moment and one that made me very proud to be a Sioux hockey fan.

Naturally, the Sioux made the NCAA tournament. They were sent to Worester, where they would face Yale, a team that had last won in the NCAA's in 1952. However, Yale came prepared and quite frankly, took it to the Sioux. Instead of sitting on their heels and waiting for opportunities, Yale skated hard, aggressive, and frustrated the Sioux, who were clearly thrown off by Yale's style of play. Factor in a missed penalty shot by Darcy Zajac, and it just wasn't in the cards for the Sioux. They fell 3-2 to Yale and were sent packing again.

I don't think last season was a disappointment though. The Sioux were relying on a lot of freshman and lost their captain and rock early in the season. Yet to finish the way they did and win the Broadmoor was quite impressive.