November 30, 2010

Sioux move in the poll

A win and a tie against Notre Dame was enough to cause some shaking and moving in the polls this week, as North Dakota moved up to the 7th spot in the poll.

Here's what I don't understand. Sioux fans have been moaning and complaining for weeks about how the Sioux haven't moved in the polls and have gone the wrong way and aren't getting a fair shake. Then they move up two spots and all is forgiven. I don't get why. I mean, after all, they took 3/4 from a very good Notre Dame team and essentially controlled the play all weekend. Why wouldn't they be ranked higher than 7th?

Oh wait, it's because I've been trying to beat this in the head of people for years. POLLS DON'T MATTER!

Seriously. Voting is an inexact science in sports polls. It's done by humans. It's the reason every now and then you will see the team that ranks 5th get a 1st place vote. Sports writers and columnists can put whoever the hell they want wherever the hell they want. It doesn't mean anything. There's no point in reading into this. North Dakota is proving to be a good team and will be a force to reckon with over its homestretch here. The real battle will come with the pairwise rankings, which aren't out yet.

Relax, Sioux fans. Relax.

November 26, 2010

Friday Musings...and Happy Thanksgiving

While my Thanksgiving was spent mostly on airplanes and in airports trying to get back to Denver, I hope you all had a great day and didn't kill yourselves eating delicious food.

Now, we still have a hockey series this weekend, as do a lot of WCHA teams. Albeit, most are out of conference, but still.

The Sioux get a chance to earn some pairwise respect when they face Notre Dame this weekend, who isn't a bad team. They are sitting at the top of the CCHA with a .750 winning percentage and an overall win/loss record of 9-3-1. This is a different Notre Dame team then the Sioux faced last year; but this is a different Sioux team as well.

North Dakota is, by all regards, doing pretty well this season. An overtime loss and a .3 second loss prevent them from having 18 points and being at the top of the WCHA. Right now, they are in third place, behind Denver and Duluth. Considering they have played a ridiculously tough schedule so far, I'm pretty satisfied with where they are right now. But getting swept by Maine is going to hurt them later in the pairwise, and if they get swept by Notre Dame this weekend, that's going to smart a lot. Remember, in the NCAA playoff scenario, to be a lock, you have to finish in the top 11. You have to assume someone will win every conference championship that isn't ranked in the top in pairwise. It's early though for a pairwise discussion, so let's move on.

Aaron Dell will most likely get the nods both nights. While I would like to see Brad Eidsness get a start this weekend, this series is too crucial for the Sioux. They have to come out with a sweep if they hope to remain in serious contention for the pairwise later in the year. With how shaky Brad has been in net, I think it would be foolish to do a rotation this weekend. You can make the argument that if Eids goes out and has a big game and gets the win, it would allow him to regain his confidence, but if he goes out there and sucks, the Sioux not only lose a game, but they also probably lose the opportunity to go with two goalies this season. It's a tough decision; one I'm certainly glad that I don't have to make.

Hextall needs to get some points. He's been pointless in his last 7 games. He needs to find the back of the net or help out his team. He's usually lethal on the powerplay, so if the Sioux can get some PP time, that might be the spark he needs.

Danny Kristo needs to get it going too. Sure he's got one goal, but let's see him score some more, please. Also, let's keep getting the puck to Frattin. He was leading the nation in goals until some dink from Niagara retook the lead on Tuesday. Let's see him score this weekend in a big way, shall we? Eidsness compared Frattin's shot to Andrew Kozek's wrist shot, which was potent and lethal.

Schloss linked an article about the Notre Dame players possibly playing with a chip on their shoulder due to their disappointing performance last year. Coach Jeff Jackson almost seems to be using the 12 freshman he has in a competition game. And it seems to be working. I've always respected Jeff Jackson as a coach and recruiter and it looks to me like he's turning the program back on the right track.

The other thing Schloss mentioned is how UND needs to get some garbage goals. I'm a big fan of garbage goals; in my opinion, you need to score goals however you can. Teams like Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Boston College do not rely on the garbage goals. BU, North Dakota, Miami of Ohio, and Sparty are teams that are willing to bang in the garbage on the doorstep. It's time to get the puck to the point, grab the rebounds, and bang it home. I've been saying all year that someone needs to step up and do this. Gregoire, Hextall, and Trupp seem like perfect players to get this trend going this year.

That's all for now, see you tomorrow.

November 21, 2010

.3 seconds

Twice now in the past 3 seasons, we've seen the Sioux burned by a last second (literal) goal. UNH tied the Sioux with .1 on the clock of the Regional game in the 2008-2009 season and last night, the Mavericks won the game with the only goal of the night, scoring with .3 seconds left. From the radio call, it sounded like the Mavericks were blatantly offsides, but you take a look at a youtube video clip of it and I'm not so sure. I think they were, but it's very hard to tell. Regardless, the Sioux had plenty of opportunities to seal the deal last night and were unable to do so.

Aaron Dell continues to establish himself as the go-to goaltender for the Sioux. It sounds like he is making the saves he needs to, and let's face it; over this roadtrip, he was solid. He shut out the Badgers one night, kept the Sioux in the 2nd game, replaced Eidsness on Friday night in Omaha and did a stand-up job there and played 59:59.7 minutes of shutout hockey on Saturday. You can't ask for much better then that! It really just sucks that the team was unable to come away with a victory last night.

You do have to give UNO credit though. They are a tough, well-coached team and certainly can go toe-to-toe with anyone in the league. I can't help but wonder if the grind of the WCHA will wear them down as the season goes on, but for right now, I give their program a lot of credit. It starts with coaching for sure. Dean is a classy guy; we all have a lot of good memories of him at North Dakota and you can't take that away for sure. UNO will have some great success with him at the helm.

November 20, 2010

Coming from behind and winning

Sorry I haven't been blogging this week; I was in Tucson getting some R&R. I'm back though and raring to talk about last night's game and looking forward to tonight's game.

The Sioux won their third game in a row last night, beating the (Red) Mavericks 6-5 in Omaha. Facing a 2-0 deficit to start the 2nd, the Sioux tied it up with goals from Frattin and Marto. From there, it was a back-and-forth contest, with the teams swiping the lead from each other time and time again. Some big things happened last night though.

Kristo netted his first. It's been a long time coming for the sophomore, who is still a ridiculous talent and is always buzzing all over the ice. A lot of Sioux fans have predicted that once he gets his first, they will come in waves. I'm one of them.

Chay Genoway got his 100th point last night, and is now at 101 points for his UND career. He's just a freaking catalyst out there and a very classy hockey player. I'm just waiting to see one of his end-to-end rushes this year. Chay has the potential to finish his career with 120+ points.

The thing that is impressing me the most is the Sioux are winning right now on the road. They swept Wisconsin in the Kohl Center last weekend and last night beat UNO on the road. Both arenas are hostile environments that ridiculously favor the home team. You have to be impressed that this Sioux team is able to get league wins on the road. The old montage of "win both at home, split on the road" might not apply to this team if they can continue to get sweeps on the road.

Matty Frattin is leading the NCAA's with 12 goals. Dean Blais mentioned he's worthy of the Hobey Baker. Unfortunately, I think his character issues will prevent that, much like TJ Oshie's character issues prevented him from winning the award.

The fact that we're hearing Cichy's name more and more this year is great. He definitely was an up-and-down player last year, not playing in every game. If he continues the way he is playing now, he should be a mainstay for this Sioux team this year.

The one frustrating thing right now is the goaltending situation. By giving the start to Eidsness last night, Hakstol, in my opinion, was telling him that Dell has not won the job and that it was still up for grabs, if Eids wanted it. Eidsness continues to struggle and was replaced by Dell to start the 3rd period, who only surrendered one late 3rd period goal. When you're fighting for your roster spot, you do everything in your damn power to make sure you don't give it up. Eids had a chance to get a convincing road win last night and failed to do so. Give him his next start at home, and if he fails to perform again, I think Dell is the goalie to go with. Eidsness is good, not great, but a 2 goalie rotation would not hurt this team.

MacWilliam was back in the lineup after missing a few games with mono. The Sioux are generally healthy right now, which is good.

In the WCHA, scores from last night. Minnesota beat a scrappy Tech team 6-4. Minnesota-Duluth handed the Badgers another loss, 6-5 in OT. Denver upended Bemidji 3-1, and UAA beat St. Cloud 3-2. Let the overrated chant on St. Cloud begin.

In some other NCAA action, Army destroyed AIC 9-3, Air Force and Canisius tied 1-1, Miami beat Bowling Green 4-3, Sparty lost to Notre Dame in a 6-2 game, Northern Michigan and Alaska tied 1-1, Michigan won 7-2 over LSSU. BC blanked Maine 4-0, BU fell to UHN 5-2. Yale beat Cornell 4-2.

The Sioux look to sweep tonight. Let's see it happen.

November 15, 2010

A great weekend and some laughs

This weekend was awesome in sports. The Sioux swept the Badgers, Pacquiao proved he's the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, and I have a very safe lead in Fantasy Football this week.

And then the Vikings got destroyed.

But I digress...

Anyway, the Sioux swept the Badgers with a convincing 4-2 win over them in the Kohl Center on Saturday night. It gave the Sioux their first sweep of Wisconsin in Wisconsin since 2002-2003 and quieted the doubters of this team. The Sioux have ridiculous talent, and when that talent is firing on all cylinders, there is realistically not a better team in the country.

This weekend wasn't without some controversy though. Questionable penalties on Friday night marred the Sioux's ability to get into a rhythm, and only because the Sioux were so disruptive on the PK did they even have a shot of winning that night. On Saturday night, we saw Wisconsin committing numerous fouls and in my opinion, some of them should have been whistled for 5 minute majors, based on what the Sioux have been whistled for this season. Kristo appeared to finally net his first of the season, but it was called no-goal after a review found a Sioux player in the crease. (never mind that he didn't interfere with the goalie) We also saw a Wisconsin player lose his cool and bring back memories of Tyler Hirsch at the Final Five, although Craig Smith forgot to lay his stick at center ice.

Good on Mike Eaves for not letting Smith back into the game, who was trying the...I really don't know. Neither did the Sioux players though.

Corban Knight -
“I honestly… I don’t know. I was in front of the net and I was getting ready to regroup there and… and I honestly don’t know. It’s just one of those things… I don’t know if he… you know… I honestly don’t know. I don’t know what to say.”

Chay Genoway - “I don’t know if that guy… I don’t know. I think he just kind of… I don’t know. A bit undisciplined on his behalf. I’m not sure. I don’t think he lost an edge or anything…”

So where do the Sioux go from here? They face a tough UNO team that has clearly exceeded early expectations and is excelling so far in the grind-it-out WCHA. But UNO hasn't exactly faced any powerhouses yet this season, and the Sioux are proving as of late they are a tough foe to be dealt with. It'll be a great series this weekend.

November 13, 2010

Winning in the best way

Last night's win by the Sioux was probably the most satisfied I've been with a win in a long, long time. A hard fought, gritty, tough tough game in which the Sioux were stymied by another great goaltender and two major penalties, they were able to eek out a 1-0 win behind a great goaltending performance from Aaron Dell and Jason Gregoire's snipe of a shot.

The Sioux were put on their heels from the get-go, losing Joe Gleason to a CFB penalty. A questionable call and yet the Sioux responded in the best way possible, limiting Wisconsin to 0 shots on goal. Later in the game, they were called for another 5 minute major, this time contact to the head by Hextall and still they got the job done, again limiting Wisconsin to no shots. Gregoire's goal came at a great time in the 3rd, and finally the Sioux had their lead they had been looking for all night long.

I was listening to Hak's postgame show and trying to read in between the lines. He sounded very upbeat and happy and was saying things like "our team" and "our guys". He praised about everyone on the team at one point, especially Danny Kristo, who could have fired at the open net late in the game but instead passed it to Trupp, who didn't have enough time to score. We all know how much Kristo wants that first goal and it will come, but to be unselfish like that shows a lot of poise on Danny's part.

Back to Dell. I said yesterday whoever was in net needed to take charge. While Dell didn't exactly see a lot of shots yesterday (Wisconsin was held to their lowest at the Kohl Center since the 02-03 season set by...the Sioux!) he made all the saves he needed to and earned a shutout. That's gotta be a huge boost to both him and Eids, who will definitely want to duplicate that feat next time he's given an opportunity. The defense can be rest assured he will make the saves as well.

Tonight will be very interesting. Wisconsin was booed last night and Andy Baggot's article mentioned it more than once. I think Wisconsin will come out on fire tonight and definitely grind the axe, but the Sioux should be up to the task.

A great win. A satisfying win.

November 12, 2010

A Few Hours away...

Well, we're a few hours away from puck drop. I have a couple thoughts on this series.

- The Sioux need to stay out of the box. We've seen how well they roll when all 4 lines are clicking and Hakstol has the depth to do so. When they players are constantly in the box, it disrupts this flow. Wisconsin is a talented team and also very physical, so it will be interesting to see how they do

- Whoever is in net needs to take charge. I'm not a huge fan of splitting the goaltender duties, but right now, the Sioux don't have a clear-cut #1 goaltender. Eids has not played like he did last year and Dell, while filling in nicely, isn't exactly stellar. Neither seems capable right now of making huge saves to keep the team in it. This weekend, that might have to happen. We'll see if either goalie is up to the task

- Gregoire and co. need to find a bit of puck luck. We've seen a lot of hit pipes, pucks bouncing over sticks, etc. The old cliche of "good teams make their own luck" I guess can apply here, but seriously. The boys are in some dire need of good luck

- Be physical. I want to see the Sioux not afraid to hit guys this weekend. Wisconsin is always a big, physical team and never have been afraid to throw their weight around. The Sioux need to match that intensity from the first drop of the puck.

A lot of people are calling this a statement series. A sweep at the hands of Wisconsin will not be crushing to the Sioux, but certainly will cause doubt to creep into the players' minds. A lot of Sioux fans will be reaching for the panic buttons and the "Fire Hakstol" threads will show up. I think a split is doable, likely, and will be just fine for this series.

November 10, 2010

What to talk about...

I've been pondering the start the Sioux have had to their season.

I don't think any of us thought they would be undefeated at this point. Certainly we knew there would be a couple issues to look for. And while they have had their struggles, I think there's a lot of positives to take away so far.

But has the team underachieved?

I'm not sure. I think there's areas where the team certainly hasn't looked strong. Take a look at the goaltending. Eids was definitely the clear cut starter at the beginning of the season, but a couple lackluster performances have forced Hakstol to go to a goalie rotation. I'm not downing the idea of rotating goalies, but Dell hasn't exactly been spectacular either. Neither goalie has stood out as a stand-up, make-huge-saves type of goalie.

The defense has not been spectacular. A lot of opponent goals have been scored off of turnovers. They are too prone to giving the puck away and letting the opposing forwards walk in. This has to stop.

The offense has been dynamite some nights and other nights, they just can't seem to catch a break. Notice I didn't say bad. There have been a ton of opportunities (see the DU Saturday night game) where forwards like Gregoire, Kristo, and Frats make plenty of opportunities but either the goalie stands on his head or just a bit of bad puck luck.

I think the Sioux are in a good position. There's a lot of room to improve, but the team I'm sure is up to the task of doing so. This upcoming stretch against Wisconsin and Nebraska-Omaha is going to be a good test of what this team is capable of.

November 6, 2010

Sioux win, I was wrong

So, I said that UMD would sweep. I said that their record in the Engelstad didn't matter and they would control the weekend series and reverse their trend of struggling here. I figured with the rash of Sioux injuries, illnesses, and suspensions, that UMD would basically be able to score at will and control the entire game.

Someone at UMD didn't read my blog, aside from Donna, who worships me.

The Sioux dominated last nights game, winning 4-2. Behind an offense that was buzzing all night long, good defense that limited UMD's chances, and decent goaltending by Aaron Dell, the Sioux were able to do what it took to beat the Bulldogs. Their goals were gritty, Fighting Sioux hockey style goals.

So was I sandbagging?

No. I was not. Let me explain why.

Past records do not mean a damn thing in the WCHA. How's that, you might ask? Because past records fall all the time in this league. DU had never lost the Final Five when they were there. Fell last year. Two years ago, Duluth stormed the Final Five and won the whole thing from the play-in game. Never had happened before. Hell, Minnesota had never missed the Final Five since it moved to the Xcel Energy Center, but we saw how that went last year, didn't we? My point is, records don't mean a thing. Minnesota-Duluth, normally stymied by the superiority of the Engelstad, had the skill and the ability to come into the Sioux's house and make a statement Friday night. Instead, the Sioux won, Duluth is no longer undefeated, and I'm forced to explain that I wasn't sandbagging.

Besides, a split is possible still.

In the post-game radio interview, Dave Hakstol and Tim Hennessey again mentioned the benefit of having the Sioux roll with 4 lines. Hak loves to roll the 4 lines. It showcases the depth of this hockey team. Generally, the teams in the Minnesota high school hockey tournament that can run 3 lines compared to 2 are the ones that have the most success. With the Sioux running a strong 4 line system, it keeps the best players fresh. Even guys who don't see the most playing time (Bruneteau) got a chance last night, and it didn't seem wasted on anybody.

In other news...

- Minnesota got blanked by Bucky in Minneapolis last night 6-0. After a strong showing in CC, Minnesota definitely struggled last night
- DU won at home against CC 4-1. The student section chanted Jesse Martin's name in the pregame
- St. Cloud put up half a dozen against Bemidji State, who continues to struggle in the WCHA
- In the battle of the Mavericks, Nebraska-Omaha won 5-1, continuing to do well in the WCHA

and outside the WCHA...

- Boston College fell to UNH 2-1
- Michigan got shutout by Alaska 3-0
- Ferris State beat Miami of Ohio 3-2
- Air Force continues to get beat up by the AHA, losing to Mercyhurst 6-2
- UConn beat Canisius 3-2
- Sparty, one of my early teams to watch out for, lost to Western Michigan 4-3. So much for that
- Union over Harvard 2-1

There will probably be a big shake-up in the polls based on those results. BU, with the bye, could be #1.

November 4, 2010

Malone Suspended

Yep, we all saw it coming. A one game suspension.

Why? Why was he suspended? For a hit that was clean but caused an extremely unfortunate injury? Or is it because the WCHA can't figure out what to do when something like this happens and instead lumps everyone in the same boat? Regardless, the Sioux are going to be even more depleted on the offensive side of the puck on Friday night.

Thursday ramblings

Hi everyone.

First off, I was put through The Gauntlet last night. I had a very long day on Wednesday and was quite ornery, so I don't think Donna got to see my best side. Then again, I don't know if Donna thinks I have a good side to see. Regardless, go check it out and read the (sometimes) funny convo that took place last night.

Secondly, a few things to touch on for this coming weekend. Derek Forbort and Andrew MacWilliam are out with illness (I'm guessing mono; it's touched DU and Minnesota as well). Carter Rowney is hurt and will not play, with no timetable on his return. We should hear today about Brad Malone, whether he will be available this weekend or not. My guess is Malone will not be suited up this weekend, and possibly for two weekends. I hope this isn't the case, but the WCHA Wheel of Justice likes to thump its chest in situations like this...oh wait...only when it's a Sioux player.

Duluth is red-hot coming into this series, and there's no reason to think that the Sioux can shake their blues against this team. I hope I'm wrong.

November 1, 2010

Martin reaches out to Malone

You have to admire this move by Martin. Here he is with a halo around his head and he reaches out to the player that caused it to be there. I can only hope this allows Malone a bit of closure and helps him focus for the upcoming series against Minnesota-Duluth.