Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The polls are closed - MSU picked 10th

When the clock struck midnight, the WCHA coaches and media preseason polls were released. Here's a look at them as well as a link to my Wednesday column about why Minnesota State was picked to finish 10th in the now-12-team WCHA.

40th annual Grand Forks Herald coaches poll:
1. North Dakota (10 first-place votes) 120 points
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 41
11. Alaska-Anchorage 19
12. Michigan Tech 15

Player of the year: Jack Connolly, UMD (5 votes); Chay Genoway, UND (4); Garrett Roe, SCSU (3)

Rookie of the year: Jaden Schwartz CC (9 votes); Nick Bjugstad, UM (1); Tyler Barnes, UW (1); Matt White, UNO (1)


94X media poll
1. North Dakota (28 first-place votes) 347 points
2. Minnesota Duluth 300
3. St. Cloud State (1) 295
4. Denver 242
5. Wisconsin 218
6. Minnesota 203
7. Colorado College 182
8. Bemidij State 156
9. Nebraska Omaha 125
10. Minnesota State 97
11. Alaska-Anchorage 51
12. Michigan Tech 46

Player of the year: Chay Genoway, UND (10); Garrett Roe, SCSU (5); Justin Fontaine, UMD (4); Jack Connolly, UMD (3); Jason Gregoire, UND (2); Mike Connolly, UMD (1); Matt Read, BSU (1); Evan Trupp, UND (1)

Rookie of the year: Jaden Schwartz, CC (10); Derek Forbort, UND (6); Beau Bennett, DU (4); Nick Bjugstad, UM (2); Tyler Barnes, UW (1); J.T. Brown, UMD (1); Rob Gunderson, UAA (1); Radoslav Illo, BSU (1); Jason Zucker, DU (1)


Here's how PucKato voted in the media poll (you can see the entire media panel here):
1. North Dakota
2. Minnesota Duluth
3. St. Cloud State
4. Denver
5. Wisconsin
6. Minnesota
7. Colorado College
8. Minnesota State
9. Bemidji State
10. Nebraska-Omaha
11. Alaska-Anchorage
12. Michigan Tech

Player of the year: Jack Connolly. Rookie of the year: Jaden Schwartz

Here's a link to my Wednesday column.

What do you think of the polls? Let me know. For now, it's late. I'm going to bed.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A tale of two goalies

Folks in Mankato may be curious to know how the USHL Fall Classic has started. On the first day of the preseason festival in Sioux City, Iowa, both ex-MSU goalie Kevin Murdock and Mankato native Tyler Bruggeman saw time in goal.

Murdock, back with the Lincoln Stars after one season with the Mavericks, had a rough go of it, allowing seven goals on 32 shots in a 7-0 loss on Wednesday. He did not play on Thursday.

Meanwhile Bruggeman, a former Mankato West standout who had a solid season in the NAHL a year ago, appeared to pick up where he left off with the Des Moines Buccaneers. He played the first half of a game against Sioux Falls and stopped 17 of 18 shots before being replaced. Bruggeman also sat out on Thursday.

As for the Mavericks themselves, the USHL currently has five recruits (no goalies) playing in the league, including J.P. Lafontaine and Brett Stern in Green Bay, Max Gaede in Sioux City, Zach Palmquist in Waterloo and Josh Berge in Lincoln.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

WCHA coaches pick MSU women last

The WCHA women's preseason coaches poll was released today, and Minnesota State was picked to finish last in the eight-team league. Defending national champion Minnesota Duluth was picked to finish first, getting six first-place votes. Here are the results of the poll (first-place votes are in parenthesis):

1. Minnesota Duluth (6), 48 points
2. Wisconsin (2), 43 points
3. Minnesota, 37 points
4. Ohio State, 30 points
5. North Dakota, 27 points
6. Bemidji State, 17 points
7. St. Cloud State, 13 points
8. Minnesota State, 9 points

Preseason player of the year: Hilary Knight, F, Wisconsin (7); Monique Lamoureux, F, North Dakota (1)

Preseason rookie of the year: Amanda Kessel, F, Minnesota (6); Alex Rigsby, G, Wisconsin (1); Packer Madison, F, Wisconsin (1/2); Brittany Ammerman, F, Wisconsin (1/2)

The Mavericks, who are entering their second season under coach Eric Means, have 11 freshmen this season and are coming off a 7-22-5 season (5-18-5 in WCHA). They have not finished last in the WCHA since 2002-03 when there were seven teams in the league. They were seventh last season, two points ahead of North Dakota and 10 points behind fifth-place Ohio State and Bemidji State. One reason for the Sioux's big jump is undoubtedly the addition of Lamoureux and her twin sister Jocelyne -- 2010 Olympians who transferred to UND from Minnesota.

Minnesota State will open  the season Oct. 8-9 with a home series against Niagara.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Galiardi gets the 'C,' Boe and Youds are assitants

Minnesota State named its captains today, and senior forward Rylan Galiardi (pictured) will wear the 'C' as team captain. Senior defenseman Channing Boe and Ben Youds will be the Mavericks' assistant captains.

Galiardi has played in 108 games over his first three seasons, scoring 22 goals and compiling 40 assists.

You can read more about the captains here.

Also, MSU has posted more preseason information, as well as an updated roster with player pictures, on its website.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday-morning reading

Yeah, it's a little early for a Friday-morning skate, but I'll be out of town for a few days and want to get ahead on a few items ...

I've stopped by a couple of Minnesota State practices and there hasn't been too much to report. It's hard to tell much out of captains' skates when guys are playing shinny (no-check) hockey. Coaches got some ice time with the team this week and will get a couple of hours next week before the season officially starts on on Saturday, Oct. 2.

I'm told the captains this season will be seniors Channing Boe, Rylan Galiardi and Ben Youds, but it has yet to be determined who will wear the "C." Boe was an assistant captain last season but all three seem capable.

Speaking of Youds, it looks like he'll be blogging this season. You can read his first post here. He sheds a little more insight on the Mavericks' preseason happenings. I talked to Youds this week, and he is very excited about the season and is raving about the team chemistry already, saying it's the best he's seen in his four seasons at MSU. It seems like I hear that from somebody every year but maybe this will be different.

The big news on Friday will be Penn State's likely announcement that it is adding men's and women's hockey. I wrote on Tuesday that this may start much-talked-about Big Ten hockey conference's wheels. More recent stories from around Big Ten country sure make it sound like it's coming sooner than later:

• Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez is already talking about the "logistics" of leaving the WCHA, while a source tells Wisconsin State Journal hockey writer Andy Baggot that, "There's going to be Big Ten hockey" by 2014, if not sooner.

• Meanwhile, Mike Chambers of the Denver Post speculates that if Penn State plans on making a big splash with its new hockey team, it might just think about going after DU coach George Gwozdecky. Gwozdecky is a Big Ten guy, having played at Wisconsin and working as an assistant at Michigan State. He won national titles at both stops and also won two with Denver.

• U.S. College Hockey is reporting that Penn State could start playing as soon as a year from now and maybe even try to have a coach in place by this Thanksgiving (I'm guessing that might rule out Gwoz?).

• Finally, how quickly could the Big Ten grow? Could it get to eight teams? What about 10 or 12 (the number it will have in most major sports next year when Nebraska joins)? There is already speculation about interest from other schools. Illinois and Indiana have been tossed out there, while in PucKato's opinion Iowa and Nebraska seem like schools that might make sense based on the success of junior hockey in those states.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

But the 'W' is bigger

The WCHA unveiled its -- uh -- new logo today and, as you can see, it looks curiously similar to the old one. Well, except that the W is bigger. You can read the league's release here, including this quote from the logo's designer:

"In the rapidly changing landscape of college sports, the WCHA remains the premier college hockey league, so the need for a refined logo and positioning tag line was imperative," said Dan Price, Principal/President of Adrenalin, Inc. "Our team analyzed the current logo and made modifications that are representative of the league's direction. More emphasis was placed on the 'W' to pay homage to the league's name, new colors were introduced to encapsulate the talent, toughness and power of the league's teams, and the player graphic was refined for more clarity in all applications." 
 But didn't you just make the W bigger? ... I couldn't help but think of this:

The league, which is adding Bemidji State and Nebraska-Omaha this year, also has a new slogan for the season: "Just got tougher."

Monday, September 13, 2010

Big Ten hockey?

Inside College Hockey is reporting that Penn State is getting ready to announce that it will be adding men's and women's hockey to its selection of varsity sports. What does this mean for college hockey. Well, it means that there would be six teams (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penne State) from the Big Ten with men's hockey -- enough to qualify as a conference for an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament.

There has long been talk about a Big Ten hockey conference, especially since the advent of the Big Ten's television network, but, until a sixth team could be added to the fold, that was pretty much all it was -- talk. Now, it's looking more and more like a possibility that the Western Collegiate Hockey Association could be losing two of its signature programs in the coming years.

That would put the WCHA back to 10 teams (Bemidji State and Nebraska-Omaha are making it a 12-team league this year), and the CCHA would become an eight-team conference. The WCHA would remain strong, it seems, with powers like North Dakota and Denver and other perennial NCAA tournament teams like Colorado College, St. Cloud State, Minnesota Duluth, as well as Minnesota State, Bemidji, Omaha, Michigan Tech and Alaska-Anchorage.

Friday, September 10, 2010

More with Brownlee and other stuff

I had a chance to talk with Chad Brownlee this week as he was heading to Edmonton for the Canadian Country Music Association Awards. You can read my Free Press story on him here. The awards are on Sunday night, and Brownlee has been nominated in the "rising star" star category. But the festivities also included a charity hockey game on Wednesday and a prestigious new-artist showcase concert on Thursday, both of which Brownlee was scheduled to appear in.

Meanwhile, we're getting closer and closer to the hockey season, and some preseason news is starting to trickle in ...

Western College Hockey blog has rated the goalie position in the WCHA and ranked the 12 teams accordingly. Let's just say Chris Dilks have a lot of faith in Phil Cook, putting Minnesota State 11th on the list.  An excerpt:
Phil Cook earned the starting role for Minnesota State, on the back of some nice non-conference starts against Bemidji State and RIT, but his 3.24 GAA and .890 save percentage would have put him 12th in the WCHA in both categories if he had played enough minutes to qualify. Even in last year's playoff series against St. Cloud, which some considered Cook's finest moment, he let in 3 or more goals in all three games, failed to stop 90% of his shots in all three games, and lost third period leads in games two and three of the series.
Not sure I would Cook & Co. behind Michigan Tech, Nebraska-Omaha and maybe even Minnesota Duluth and Denver right now, but Mr. Dilks, who's a pretty keen observer of the WCHA does make an interesting statistical argument. ...

College Hockey News has put out it's preseason Top 10 and has defending national champion Boston College at the top of the heap. WCHA schools on the list include North Dakota (2), St. Cloud State (6) and Minnesota Duluth (9) with Wisconsin as a team to watch from the WCHA. ...

Duluth radio guy Bruce Ciskie is taking over the WCHA preseason media poll from the folks in Madison, and he'll be releasing the results on Sept. 29. He's hoping to get 30 voters to predict the order of finish, player of the year and newcomer of the year. Yes, PucKato will be voting in this. Got any advice? ...

It's been a wild offseason for assistant coaches in the WCHA with several openings to be filled. The latest is in St. Cloud where Eric Rud left the bench to be the head coach/GM of the Green Bay Gamblers USHL team. St. Cloud hired Fargo Force head coach/GM Steve Johnson as Rud's replacement. ...

Getting back on the subject of ex-Mavericks, many of last year's seniors will be playing in the ECHL this season, including Zach Harrison (Elmira), Geoff Irwin (Idaho), Kael Mouillierat (Idaho) and Jerad Stewart (Alaska). ...

Late addition: The MSU men's and women's hockey teams will have a fundraiser -- a pork loin feed -- at Buster's from 4 to 8 p.m. on Saturday. Cost is $15 for adults and $7 for kids.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Brownlee's album now available

Former MSU captain Chad Brownlee's first album, the self-titled "Chad Brownlee," was released on Tuesday. It's available on iTunes and Amazon, among other retail outlets.

Brownlee, a defenseman who played for the Mavericks from 2003 to 2007, decided to pursue music after calling it a career in hockey. He was a Vancouver Canucks prospect, who played one season of minor-league hockey after his college career ended before retiring from the sport.

But it appears he's found a calling with music, considering his first single, "Best that I Can (Superhero)," rose to No. 19 on the Canadian country music charts and his second release, "Hood of My Car," is already at No. 15 on those charts. His name is mixed in with the likes of Lady Antebellum, Keith Urban, Sugarland and Alan Jackson, among others

For more on Brownlee, including samples of his songs, check out his official website here.