Thursday, March 31, 2011

Another commitment and other news

Minnesota State received a verbal commitment from Dan Carlson, a 6-1, 201-pound forward who has played for the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich., the last two seasons (U17 last year, U18 this year). A native of Corcoran, Minn., Carlson was also chosen for the 22-player roster that will play in the U18 World Championships in mid-April in Germany. It appears that team is primarily made up of the USNTDP team. It looks like Carlson, who will turn 18 in May is coming to MSU in '12, which means he'll probably play a year of junior hockey first.

Former Maverick and good guy Tim Jackman, who is enjoying his finest season in the NHL, has been honored by the Calgary Flames, who gave him the J.R. McCaig Award. The award goes to a Flames staff member and a player who "best exemplify ... virtues of respect, courtesy and compassion for all individuals." Of Jackman, the Flames' press release called him a "fan favorite" and a "tenacious, determined and hardworking winger who embodies the meaning of this award in his on-ice performance as well as his off-ice actions. Highly respected among his teammates and the definition of friendly and courteous to everyone he encounters."

Another former Maverick, Kael Mouillerat, was named to the ECHL's all-rookie team. In 59 games, Mouillierat has 24 goals, 35 assists and 59 points, ranking second in scoring among all league rookies.

The Hobey Baker's "Hobey Hat Trick" was announced this week, and the finalists for college hockey's are  Boston College's Cam Atikinson, North Dakota's Matt Frattin and Miami's Andy Miele. PucKato is a former Hobey voter (2002-2004) and, if I had a vote this year, would have to go for Frattin. Of course, I've seen him play several times and haven't seen much of the others. Miele leads the nation in scoring, but Frattin not only leads the country in goal scoring but simply seemed to score big goals at big times for the Sioux. Character is one aspect Hobey voters are supposed to consider. Frattin had issues at North Dakota, getting kicked off the team last year. But his road to redemption sure seems to be a lesson lots of young people should learn from. Read more about that in Brad Schlossman's story on Frattin from December.

Folks will get to see Frattin in action next week in St. Paul during the Frozen Four. Minnesota Duluth and Notre Dame will play in Thursday's first semifinal, while North Dakota and Michigan will play in the second. I think it's a pretty intriguing field of western teams. I wrote about that in my Tuesday column for The Free Press. Read that here.

Another commitment and other news

Minnesota State received a verbal commitment from Dan Carlson, a 6-1, 201-pound forward who has played for the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich., the last two seasons (U17 last year, U18 this year). A native of Corcoran, Minn., Carlson was also chosen for the 22-player roster that will play in the U18 World Championships in mid-April in Germany. It appears that team is primarily made up of the USNTDP team. It looks like Carlson, who will turn 18 in May is coming to MSU in '12, which means he'll probably play a year of junior hockey first.

Former Maverick and good guy Tim Jackman, who is enjoying his finest season in the NHL, has been honored by the Calgary Flames, who gave him the J.R. McCaig Award. The award goes to a Flames staff member and a player who "best exemplify ... virtues of respect, courtesy and compassion for all individuals."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Frozen Four is set

Two WCHA teams are in the Frozen Four, as Minnesota Duluth and North Dakota punched tickets at their respective regionals this weekend. They will play Notre Dame and Michigan, respectively April 7-9 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

No eastern teams this year as the other two teams are CCHA teams (Michigan will be a Big 10 team in a couple of years).

Sadly, the nearly two-week wait between regionals and semifinals completely kills the momentum of what's been a pretty good NCAA tournament, with four overtime games — one a double-OT — and one controversial ending over the weekend. Too bad the North Dakota-Denver game didn't live up to the hype eight days after their own double-overtime thriller in the WCHA Final Five. The Sioux topped the Pios 6-1 on Sunday.

North Dakota and Michigan will play the night game on April 7 at the X. What a matchup between a pair of teams with 16 national titles between them.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Animal adoption is Backes' cause

David Backes and his wife, Kelly, have become spokespeople for animal adoption in the St. Louis area. This week, the couple unveiled a media campaign with, that includes a billboard blitz and TV commercials like this one:

Read/see more about Backes' cause herehere and here.

It's tourney time!

The NCAA men's hockey tournament begins on Friday, leading up to the Frozen Four April 7-9 in St. Paul. You can see this hear's bracket here, but here's a rundown on this weekend's games:

Friday's games
Yale (27-6-1) vs. Air Force (20-11-6)
Union (26-9-4) vs. Minnesota Duluth (22-10-6)
Boston College (30-7-1) vs. Colorado College (22-18-3)
Michigan (26-10-4) vs. Nebraska-Omaha (21-15-2)

Saturday's games
Merrimack (25-9-4) vs. Notre Dame (23-13-5)
New Hampshire (21-10-6) vs. Miami (23-9-6)
Denver (24-11-5) vs. Western Michigan (19-12-10)
Rensselaer (20-12-5) vs. North Dakota (30-8-3)

Some games are televised on ESPNU or can be watched online on ESPN3.

So check out the bracket and let PucKato know ... Who's in your Frozen Four? Who wins it all?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

10 thoughts on the Big 10

There are lots of stories and opinions this morning about the Big Ten finally announcing its intention to add men's hockey as a sport and what that will do to the WCHA and the rest of the college hockey world. Here are a few thoughts, links and opinions to ponder:

1. Supposedly, the Big Ten waited until Monday to make its announcement in order to let the conference tournaments have the spotlight. Yet the specter of the impending announcement seemed to hang over the Final Five all weekend. When it came to the hockey, at least, the WCHA didn't need the Big Ten to make it successful.

2. Minnesota State athletic director Kevin Buisman said he's optimistic that the Mavericks will come out of this with a similar schedule to what it has now and is counting on Minnesota and Wisconsin to do what's in the best interest of college hockey. Buisman did admit that there is some concern about those teams not playing in Mankato but also pumped up the WCHA as still being the best college hockey conference.

3. Speaking of scheduling, there are some different opinions out there as to what a scheduling agreement between the Big Ten and the WCHA/CCHA would look like. USCHO's Todd Milewski believes that at least 10 of the Big Ten team's nonconference games will be played at home. Chris Dilks think that's ridiculous or at least selfish. CHN's Adam Wodon is concerned that the Big Ten didn't wait until a scheduling agreement was in place before making its big announcement.

4. My opinion? I'm with Milewski. The Big Ten teams will have no choice but to play teams from their old conferences. With 14 nonconference games to schedule, it will be a no-brainer for Minnesota to play MSU, St. Cloud, Duluth and Bemidji. But I think they'll do it at Mariucci. What will be the incentive for the Gophers to go to Mankato? The good of the game? Especially when they're playing Minnesota teams whose fans would travel to Minneapolis, I believe they'll play in their 10,000-seat building.

a) Gophers coach Don Lucia said: "We want to play our natural rivals as much as we possibly can. There is great history there."

b) At least MSU would leave Minneapolis and Madison with a nice check.

5. Unless ... I had a recent conversation with someone associated with MSU who said the WCHA would be wise to make a unified effort in its negotiations and get a "home-and-home" scheduling arrangement with the Big Ten. Of course, that might mean MSU draws Penn State and Ohio State in Mankato instead of Wisconsin and Minnesota, but that could be interesting, too. 

a) The Wisconsin State Journal reported that a proposal has been put forth to the WCHA that would create "two blocks of opponents that will be rotated over the course of four to five years."

6. What about the conference championship? As I wrote about today and linked to in Item 1, this year's Big Ten-less Final Five was pretty successful, both in attendance and in the quality of the games. The X seemed like Ralph Engelstad Arena South with all of the North Dakota fans there. Rumor is that the Big Ten wants to have its tournament in Chicago, which would leave the X available for the WCHA. Will the X still want it? Will Fox Sports still want to televise it? Will the Final Five be able to command the same kind of money once even the possibility of Minnesota and Wisconsin being in the tournament is no longer there? Will the Twin Cities college-hockey fan still follow the WCHA when the Gophers are gone to the Big Ten? 

a) If not St. Paul, what towns would work for the Final Five? Omaha? Grand Forks? Denver? Duluth? Fargo? Des Moines?

7. How will the WCHA look in 2013-14? Without Minnesota and Wisconsin, will the WCHA be content to go back to 10 teams, with MSU, North Dakota, St. Cloud, Duluth, Bemidji, Michigan Tech, Alaska-Anchorage, Nebraska-Omaha, Denver and Colorado College? Would the WCHA try to poach two more teams away from the CCHA? There have been rumors of Miami and Notre Dame (the CCHA's top remaining programs after the Big Ten teams leave). Alaska (Fairbanks) and Air Force have been mentioned.

a) Right now, I'm inclined to keep it at 10 games and go back to the scheduling format that puts each team in another's building three of every four years. The league will need to build up current rivalries with those Big Ten teams gone.

b) What about an 18-team, two-division WCHA-CCHA super conference?

c) Will anyone take Alabama-Huntsville after this all of the dust settles?

8. Will the Big Ten ripple cause, as some hope, more schools to start college hockey programs? Penn State was helped by an $88 million startup donation. Do other Big Ten schools have hockey sugar daddies? Illinois seems like a natural fit, as do Northwestern and Iowa and Nebraska, where junior hockey is popular. What about outside the Big Ten. Iowa State has been mentioned for years because of its successful club program.

9. Who will be the power players in the WCHA with Minny and Wisco gone? North Dakota and Denver are the only across-the-board Division I schools in the conference currently, although Nebraska-Omaha is making the jump to D-I. Interesting that Minnesota AD Joel Maturi used the term "BCS conference" in the school's press release. Everyone knows that football is king in the WCHA NCAA, and there just isn't much football presence in the WCHA (UND is the old Division I-AA, Denver doesn't have football and UNO is dropping it).

a) This makes me more curious about St. Cloud State's decision to hire Gino Gasparini as a special adviser for athletics. Among his duties, according to SCSU's press release from last month is Division I programs as well as anticipated changes in the WCHA. Is St. Cloud considering going D-I? At the very least, it appears, the Huskies want a a seat at the adult table in the new WCHA.

10.  The move, of course, is two years away, so that leaves plenty of time to sort out all of the issues.

Monday, March 21, 2011

MSU AD: WCHA still 'best in college h

It's official: Big 10 hockey is coming (updated)

No surprise out of Big Ten headquarters Monday ...

The Big Ten announced Monday that men's hockey will be recommended as an official conference sport beginning with the 2013-14 season. Here is the press release: 
Park Ridge, Ill. - The directors of athletics of Big Ten institutions which sponsor men's ice hockey unanimously announce their intention to recommend to the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors in June the establishment of men's ice hockey as an official conference sport for the 2013-14 academic year with participation by Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin.
The recommendation includes both the establishment of the inaugural Big Ten Men's Ice Hockey Tournament in March of 2014, with the winner earning the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Men's Ice Hockey Championship, and a 20-game conference schedule with each team playing the other five schools four times (two home games and two away games). In addition, the Big Ten's men's ice hockey programs will continue to proactively work to maintain a strong schedule of non-conference competition with the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) and Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA).
In September of 2010, Penn State announced the establishment of men's and women's ice hockey programs set to begin competition in the 2012-13 academic year, giving the Big Ten six institutions sponsoring men's ice hockey. Big Ten rules allow for a conference championship when six institutions sponsor a program in any given sport.
Since Penn State's announcement, the conference has researched and investigated the establishment of men's ice hockey as a conference sport. The conference has sought input and communicated both internally with conference chancellors, presidents, administrators and coaches, and externally with members of the hockey community, including the CCHA and WCHA.
So two more WCHA seasons with Minnesota and Wisconsin in the fold. I'll be curious to see how those schools will "continue to proactively work to maintain a strong schedule of nonconference competition" with Minnesota State. I could see the Mavericks playing games in Minneapolis and Madison, but will the Gophers and Badgers ever come to Mankato again after 2012-13?

UPDATE: Minnesota State athletic director Kevin Buisman said he is optimistic that a "fair and balanced scheduling arrangement" can be made involving Minnesota and Wisconsin and their former conference. The Big Ten teams will play 20 conference games, including 10 at home, and will have to find 14 nonconference games. As many as 10 of those non-league games likely will be home games, according to this story, for budgetary reasons. That doesn't leave a lot of games for the Gophers to go barnstorming the the state of Minnesota.

"There are some concerns about not having those kinds of programs coming into your building," Buisman said. "But we're still working on a possible scheduling arrangement with those schools. I'm optimistic that our schedule would not be tremendously different than it is now."

Buisman said WCHA ADs have had good talks about the future of the conference ever since Penn State's announcement in September.

One question is: What will happen to the WCHA and the Final Five after that year? Many believe that the Final Five will still take place at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. This year was a good example of what that might look like, as Minnesota and Wisconsin failed to make it to championship weekend. Only one Big Ten team is in the national tournament, which begins this week, and that's Michigan.

See Monday's WCHA's release here.
The University of Minnesota released statements here.
Sunday's Star Tribune story on the WCHA/Big Ten here.

While I was out ...

Some happenings in the PucKato's hockey world over the weekend ...

Minnesota State senior defenseman Channing Boe turned pro late last week, signing with the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL. Boe has played in two games so far. MSU announced Boe's signing in a press release on Saturday, along with the signing of Rylan Galiardi with the AHL's San Antonio Rampage. I was able to talk with Galiardi before he left Mankato but not Boe. By the way, the Rampage made Galiardi's signing official on Friday.

The Gustavus Adolphus women's team lost to Middlebury in the NCAA Division III Frozen Four third-place game 5-0 on Saturday. Norwich, the team that defeated the Gusties in the semifinals on Friday, won the national title, beating RIT 5-2.

North Dakota defeated Denver 3-2 in double-overtime in an amazing WCHA Final Five championship game Saturday night in St. Paul. Matt Frattin scored the game-winning goal and was the tournament's most outstanding player, which should only help his Hobey Baker candidacy.

The Sioux and the Pioneers may be playing a rematch soon than they would like as they both were sent to the same regional for this week's beginning of the NCAA tournament. Playing in Green Bay, Wis., North Dakota, the top seed, will take on RPI on Saturday, while Denver will play Western Michigan afterward.

Three other WCHA teams are in the NCAA tournament, as Colorado College and Nebraska-Omaha are in the St. Louis regional. CC plays top-seeded Boston College on Friday, with UNO playing its old CCHA rival Michigan afterward. Minnesota Duluth was sent east to the Bridgeport, Ct., regional. The Bulldogs will play Union in the second game, following top-seeded Yale vs. Air Force. In the Manchester, N.H., regional, top-seeded Miami plays New Hampshire, followed by Merrimack vs. Notre Dame.

Wisconsin captured its fourth NCAA women's championship and got the Patty Kazmaier Award winner in Meghan Duggan. Pretty amazing season.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Gusties fall in national semis

The Gustavus Adolphus women’s hockey team put together a furious third-period rally at the NCAA Division III Frozen Four, but fell short, losing 5-4 to Norwich in the national semifinals Friday afternoon.

The Gusties scored three times in the third period and outshot the Cadets 15-8 in the frame but could not overcome the 5-1 two-period-deficit.

Allie Schwab scored two goals in the third, including one with 37 seconds remaining and an extra attacker on the ice to make it a one-goal game. They were the 15th and 16th goals of the season for the junior forward. Jenna Christensen got Gustavus’ rally started 75 seconds into the final period.

Norwich got off to a strong start, outshooting Gustavus 10-5 and getting two goals from Julie Fortier in the first period. Fortier completed her hat trick with a power-play goal at 2:27 of the second period, giving the Cadets a 3-0 lead.

Lindsey Hjelm got the Gusties on the board at the 4:48 mark, but Norwich got goals from Melissa Rundlett (power play) and Brittane Michaud before the period ended to take a four-goal lead into the third. Sophie Leclerc assisted on all three Norwich goals in that period.

Gustavus outshot Norwich 36-26. Gusties goalie Danielle Justice stopped 21 shots in the loss. Cindy Fortin got the win with 32 saves.

The Gusties (22-4-3) will take on either Middlebury or Rochester Institute of Technology for third place at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

Gustavus set for D-III women's Frozen Four

The Gustavus Adolphus women's hockey team is in the Division III Frozen Four for the second year in a row and the fifth time in its history. The Gusties face Norwich at 2:30 p.m. on Friday in Rochester, N.Y., and live video coverage of the game is available here. Gustavus has never won a national semifinal game, taking third place twice.

Gustavus hosted the Frozen Four last year and went 0-2. "Last year, it was really easy to get distracted," said junior goalie Danielle Justice, the Gusties' all-time win (45) and shutout (20) leader and one of the top netminders in the country this year. "There were NCAA people here all week, people hanging banners. It was easy to get carried away by everything."

She said all the focus has been on hockey this week.

Mike Carroll, who won the MIAC's coach of the year award, agreed, saying, "(The team is) jelling at the right time. They're not overwhelmed. They don't seem to show a lot of nerves on a daily basis. There's just a lot of excitement."

In the other semifinal Friday, Middlebury will face Rochester Institute of Technology. For more information about the Gusties and the final four, go here.

Meanwhile, Gustavus senior defenseman Kirstin Peterson was named All-American for the third year in a row on Thursday, and another senior defenseman, Sara Yungner, received the Elite 88 Award as the athlete with the highest cumulative GPA at that national championship site. Yungner, is a biology major with a 3.95 GPA.

Checking in on the recruits

Here's a quick look at the stats for MSU's 2011 class of recruits:

J.P. Lafontaine, C, Green Bay (USHL) — 13 goals, 29 assists, 42 points in 52 games, +11,  63 PIM
Max Gaede, F, Sioux City (USHL) — 8 goals, 14 assists, 22 points in 43 games, -22, 55 PIM
Zach Palmquist, D, Waterloo (USHL) — 4 goals, 10 assists, 49 points in 49 games, -25, 55 PIM
Brett Stern, D, Green Bay (USHL) — 1 goal, 5 assists, 6 points in 27 games, +10, 21 PIM
Matt Knoll, D, Spruce Grove (AJHL) — 6 goals, 17 assists, 23 points in 52 games, 51 PIM

Here are the players committed for 2012:

Bryce Gervais, F, Salmon Arm (BCHL) — 29 goals, 22 assists, 51 points in 58 games, 49 PIM
Brett Knowles, F, Salmon Arm (BCHL) — 30 goals, 28 assists, 58 points in 57 games, 58 PIM
Dylan Margonari, F, Youngstown (USHL) — 5 goals, 2 assists, 7 points in 46 games, -12, 45 PIM
Stephon Williams, G, Sioux Falls (USHL) — 18-6-6, .907 SV%, 2.61 GAA

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Galiardi to sign with AHL team (update)

Minnesota State captain Rylan Galiardi said that he's heading to San Antonio, Texas, on Thursday to sign with the American Hockey League's San Antonio Rampage. The Rampage are the top minor-league affiliate of the Phoenix Coyotes. Galiardi attended the Coyotes' prospects camp as an undrafted invitee last summer.

"I'm really thankful to get this chance," Galiardi said.

In four seasons with the Mavericks, Galiardi played in 140 games, scoring 29 goals and assisting on 52 others for 81 points. This year he had seven goals and 12 assists in 32 games

UPDATE: The Rampage made it official on Friday. Read their press release here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

2010-11 top 10

What were the top 10 moments from the Mavericks' 2010-11 season? PucKato gave it some thought and then came up with the following list for the blog:

1. Dorr takes Shillelagh Tourney MVP (Jan. 1-2): Starting with a tremendous, tie-breaking goal with 23 seconds left against Notre Dame, junior forward Michael Dorr went on to a three-goal, two-assist weekend to lead the Mavericks to the Shillelagh Tournament championship in suburban Chicago. The Mavs beat Brown in the final.

2. Cook shuts down Gophers (Dec. 4): The Mavericks pulled off a sweep of Minnesota — the first time they did that with both games in Mankato — and goalie Phil Cook was a big reason why they finished it off, stopping 49 of 50 shots in a 2-1 win in the Saturday game. He made 22 saves in the third period alone.

3. Lee withstands Bulldogs' barrage (Feb. 18): Staying on the subject of goalies, Austin Lee led MSU to a 3-1 win over high-scoring Minnesota Duluth by stopping 41 shots. But the Bulldogs fired 28 shots on net in the third period alone, and Lee stopped them all in what would be the Mavericks' last win of the season.

4. Boe's blast beats Beavers (Feb. 4): Bemidji native Channing Boe didn't score a lot of goals in his career but many thought he had the team's hardest shot. He showed off that cannon in the Mavericks' only overtime win of the season, one-timing a loose puck into the upper corner of the net from the left point for a 2-1 win.

5. Davis nets GWG against Gophers (Dec. 4): Defenseman Kurt Davis ended up leading the Mavericks in scoring for the second time in three years. He had nine goals, none bigger than the one he scored midway through the third period against Minnesota. He intercepted the puck in the neutral zone, skated over the blue line and absolutely blasted the puck past goalie Kent Patterson.

6. Youds sets tone against Minny (Dec. 3): Yet another moment against the Gophers. Defenseman Ben Youds (pictured) showed off his offensive skills, scoring the first goal in what would be a 3-2 win. Youds faked a shot to get a defender down and fired a hard shot that exploded the water bottle sitting on top of goalie Alex Kangas' net.

7. Leivermann has storybook start (Oct. 8): Few players have come to MSU with more scrutiny from fans than Mankato native Corey Leivermann. The freshman got off to a great start, scoring the Mavericks' first goal this season. In what would be a 5-5 tie with St. Lawrence, Leivermann got in front of the net and batted in a puck baseball-style.

8. Peterson has storybook ending (March 5): Senior forward Brett Peterson has had a career as practice player, as back and knee injuries kept him out of the lineup. Dressing in a regular-season game for just the third time, Peterson made his last college game count by scoring a goal against Alaska-Anchorage. His reaction, as well as that of his teammates, coaches and the crowd were priceless.

9. Jokinen scores hat trick at Lowell (Nov. 26): Junior forward Justin Jokinen made big strides this season, showing signs there's an NHL draft pick inside that young body. Jokinen helped the Mavericks turn the corner from a rough start to the season by scoring three goals in an 8-3 win at UMass.-Lowell over Thanksgiving weekend.

10. Total team effort against St. Cloud State (Jan. 29): The Mavericks looked dangerous that night as Dorr scored two goals, Rylan Galiardi had two points, Joe Schiller scored short-handed and Davis looked like the best defenseman in the WCHA in the 6-2 win. Cook was solid in goal, and Chase Grant and Andy Sackrison also had goals in the game

What do you think? What's missing? What were your top moments from the season?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Crazy stat

This is unbelievable:

Including this weekend's playoff series, Minnesota State is 0-3-1 in its last four games against Denver. In those four games — combined — Denver led a total of 2 minutes, 49 seconds! 

Most of that lead took place on Friday, when Denver went ahead 3-2 with 2:25 remaining in the game.

Final Five is set

So this is what the WCHA will look like when there's a Big Ten hockey conference, eh?

Yep, Minnesota and Wisconsin are out of the Final Five, marking the first time neither of the league's big schools will be at the conference's championship weekend since the one-site WCHA championship weekend/Final Five format began in 1988 (it became the Final Five in 1993).

Next week's games will be: Bemidji State vs. Minnesota Duluth at 3:37 p.m. Thursday afternoon, followed by Alaska-Anchorage vs. Colorado College at 7:07 p.m.

On Friday, Denver will play the BSU/UMD winner at 2:07 p.m. and North Dakota will take on the UAA/CC winner at 7:07 p.m.

The Broadmoor Trophy championship game take place at 7:07 p.m. Saturday (Remember: No third-place game this year). For more, read the WCHA's press release on the Final Five here.

Of course, Minnesota State will miss the Final Five for the eighth year in a row after getting knocked out by Denver over the weekend.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Denver 3, Minnesota State 2 - OT

For the third time in four years, the Minnesota State men's hockey team's season ended in overtime of the WCHA playoffs. Denver freshman Jason Zucker sent the Mavericks home just 1:29 into OT with a blast from the high slot during a rush. The puck hit goalie Austin Lee in the shoulder but bounced straight into the air before landing in the net behind him.

"In terms of how hard we played, I'm really proud of the kids," coach Troy Jutting said. "They battled the whole game, start to finish."

Indeed, it did not look like a matchup between the WCHA's 11th-place team and the second-place team.

Shots were even 34-34 for the game, and the Mavericks got goals from Ben Youds (5x3) and J.P. Burkemper for leads of 1-0 and 2-1. MSU led 1-0 after two periods, marking the fourth game in a row against Denver in which they've had a third-period lead. However, the Mavs did not win any of those games.

The problem continued to be goal scoring, and they were unable to cash in on some top-notch scoring opportunities, as they played solid defense.

"For some reason, it wasn't meant to be," Jutting said. "The guys worked their tails off."

Two Denver defensemen, Matt Donovan (4x3) and David Makowski tied the game with power-play goals. Makowski's goal made it 2-2 with 6:15 remaining in the third period.

The Mavericks' season ends with a 14-18-6 record. See Saturday's box score here.

MSU at Denver - WCHA playoffs, Game 2

Lots of readers last night, so let's do it again. ...

Road warriors

Three road teams won the Friday-night game in the first round of the WCHA tournament last night, while a fourth, Minnesota State, blew a 2-0 lead in the third period at Denver.

Alaska-Anchorage defeated Minnesota 4-3, and it was no fluke as the Seawolves opened up a 3-0 lead and outshot the Gophers 36-23. Minnesota came back and tied the game 3-3 midway through the third period, but Anchorage came back about 2 minutes later and got the lead back.

Wisconsin toppled Colorado College 3-1. Not a huge surprise here since this 6-7 series is pretty much a pick 'em. Interestingly, it wasn't the Badgers' big guns doing the scoring, rather it was the likes of Joe Faust (first goal), Ryan Little (sixth goal) and Jefferson Dahl (second goal, empty-netter). Goalie Scott Gudmandson made 27 saves.

Bemidji State continued its dominance over Nebraska-Omaha 4-2. The Beavers are now 4-0-1 against the red Mavericks this year. Credit goalie Dan Bakala, who made 46 saves. Bemidji led 2-0, before Omaha tied the game in the third. Jamie MacQueen broke the tie with 1:53 remaining, and Matt Read added an empty netter. Omaha outshot Bemidji 48-17.

In the other series, Minnesota Duluth defeated St. Cloud State 4-2 (UMD got goals from four different players) and North Dakota blitzed Michigan Tech 8-0 (Matt Frattin and Jason Gregoire each had hat tricks).

As for the purple Mavs, you can read The Denver Post's account of the game here.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Denver 4, Minnesota State 2

The Mavericks once again failed to hold a third-period lead against Denver, and lost the first game of their WCHA playoff series at Magness Arena.

Minnesota State grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals by Zach Lehrke and Kurt Davis (Davis' came with two seconds remaining in the period) but the Pioneers came back in four unanswered goals in the third period: Kyle Ostrow on the power play at 4:20, Beau Bennett at 8:00, Shawn Ostrow at 18:25 and Shawn Ostrow again with an empty-netter with 55 seconds to go.

Those were the first goals of the season for Shawn Ostrow.

Bennett's goal was a highlight-reel play. He skated into the zone 1-on-2 and walked defenseman Evan Mosey with a pull move before scoring past Phil Cook. Bennett was a first-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins last summer. The last time I remember seeing an MSU D-man get beat like that was when Jonathan Towes made Nick Canzanello look silly.

"For two periods we couldn't have played any better," MSU coach Troy Jutting said when reached by phone afterward. "Ultimately, we played the game we needed to play, but then we made some horrible mistakes."

It was the Mavericks fourth loss in a row and their 11th game without a win against Denver. But it was also the third time in a row that they led the Pioneers in the third period. The last time, on Jan. 15 in Mankato, they took a 3-0 lead and were up 3-1 going into the third, only to lose 4-3 in overtime. A night earlier, they twice had one-goal leads in the third and settled for a 3-3 tie.

The Mavericks and the Pioneers will play Game 2 on Saturday night.

MSU at Denver - WCHA playoffs, Game 1

What the heck, let's try a live blog from afar. I'll also be on Twitter. ...

Friday morning skate

The Mavericks — but not PucKato — are in Denver this weekend for the first round of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association tournament. Minnesota State is trying to get to the Final Five for the firs time in eight years, an accomplishment that, as I opined earlier this week would provide the program a real spark.

While this is an 11 vs. 2 matchup in the seeding, the Mavericks have been close to Denver, despite not beating them in recent play. That, combined with their close-but-no-cigar efforts in the playoffs, have them thinking they need that "one bounce" to give them a lift. Of course, if they get that bounce they need someone to score, too. Check out The Free Press' a position-by-position breakdown of the series.

As for the Pioneers, they have arguably the best freshman class in the WCHA, led by superstar and league rookie of the year Jason Zucker.

PucKato won't be at Magness arena but will be monitoring the game on Denver's webcast and on MSU's radio broadcast. I'll be posting updates on Twitter all weekend and, possibly, be doing a Cover It Live chat tonight. Check back later for more.

Going around the rest of the WCHA first-round matchups ...

Alaska-Anchorage at Minnesota: The Gophers have enjoyed a late-season surge, paced by freshman Nick Bjugstad, who is finally living up to some high preseason expectations. ... Minnesota has more work cut out for itself than it may think as the Seawolves seem to have found a hot goalie for the playoffs in Chris Kamal — yeah, the kid who gave up just one goal last week against MSU.

St. Cloud State at Minnesota Duluth: The Bulldogs get to play their first postseason games at their new arena and hope to erase a lost weekend there against the Huskies from a couple of weeks ago when they lost 8-2 and had to come out of a 3-0 deficit salvage a tie the second night. ... For St. Cloud, it hopes that its strong late-season play can lead to an upset and, perhaps, a boost in the Pairwise rankings.

Wisconsin at Colorado College:  The Tigers clinched home ice a week ago when David Civitarese scored the game-winning goal. The junior center is a smart student who said he needed to simplify his game in order to start coming into his own. ... The Badgers, meanwhile, have gotten wisdom from a pair of new-yet-veteran assistant coaches this season in Gary Shuchuk and Bill Butters.

(Interestingly, Wisconsin had the same travel concerns as MSU did trying to get to Colorado for this weekend. The high price of air travel, combined with spring breaks and many other NCAA charters in the air made last-minute reservations difficult. The Mavericks considered putting the team on multiple flights but eventually settled on taking a bus to Denver, leaving Wednesday at noon and staying that night in Kearney, Neb. They arrived in Denver Thursday afternoon. The Badgers ended up flying to Colorado Springs on charter and commercial flights and sending its equipment there by bus.)

Bemidji State at Nebraska-Omaha: There's an interesting matchup in Omaha where the red Mavericks have the WCHA coach of the year and the conference's third seed. But UNO is 0-3-1 against the Beavers this year. Either way, one of the league's two new teams will get to the Final Five. ... For the Beavers, six seniors are trying to extend their careers, which began with a lot of uncertainty in their new team's future.

Michigan Tech at North Dakota: There's a blizzard warning in Grand Forks this weekend, but that could mean a storm of goals by the Sioux, who hung 17 on the Huskies last weekend. North Dakota cleaned up on the postseason awards, getting the player of the year in Matt Frattin and an all-conference spot for Chay Genoway. Genoway is only the fifth player in WCHA history to make all-conference four times. ... As for the Huskies, they're trying to look at the playoffs as a new season despite the enormous challenge they face.

Here are weekend previews by USCHO, INCH and CHN.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Davis named third-team All-WCHA

Minnesota State senior defenseman Kurt Davis was named third-team All-WCHA on Thursday, as the league awards were released. It was the second time Davis was named third-team all-conference, having been picked when he was a sophomore as well. Davis was the only MSU player picked for the awards, although 14 players ended up on the all-academic team.

Reached by phone in Denver shortly after the team bus arrived there, Davis said: "It makes me feel good to get rewarded for playing well and doing the right things."

The Mavericks' all-academic picks included: Channing Boe, Phil Cook, Cameron Cooper, Tyler Elbrecht, Rylan Galiardi, Eriah Hayes, Justin Jokinen, Austin Lee, Evan Mosey, Adam Mueller, Brett Peterson, Andrew Sackrison, Joe Schiller and Ben Youds.

Major award winners included:

Matt Frattin, UND player of the year
Jason Zucker, DU rookie of the year
Justin Schultz, UW defensive player of the year (voted on by coaches)
Chay Genoway, UND, student-athlete of the year
Dean Blais, UNO, coach of the year

All-conference teams:

F-Matt Frattin, UND
F-Jack Connolly, UMD
F-Mike Connolly, UMD
D-Justin Schultz, UW
D-Chay Genoway, UND
G-Aaron Dell, UND

F-Jason Zucker, DU
F-Drew Shore, DU
F-Justin Fontaine, UMD
D-Jake Gardiner, UW
D-Matt Donovan, DU
G-Kent Patterson, UM

F-Jason Gregoire, UND
F-Jaden Schwartz, CC
F-Drew LeBlanc, SCSU
D-Kurt Davis, MSU
D-Justin Faulk, UMD
G-John Faulkner, UNO

F-J.T. Brown, UMD
D-David Makowski, DU
G-Sam Brittain, DU

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mavs get two '12 commitments (updated)

Minnesota State got another commitment for the 2012 season this week when forward Bryce Gervais gave his verbal to the Mavs. MSU appears to be getting back into Canada a bit, as Gervais plays for the Salmon Arm Silverbacks of the British Columbia Hockey League. He was named the top rookie in the BCHL's Interior Conference this season, scoring 29 goals and getting 22 assists in 58 games.

A 1992 birthday, Gervais is 5-foot-8, 155 pounds. He is a native of Battleford, Saskatchewan. Interestingly, he wears number 71 for the Silverbacks (who have a great logo, by the way); I wonder if the Mavs will let him do that.

Read more here.

UPDATE: Click on the above link and you'll also see that Silverbacks forward Brett Knowles has also committed to the Mavericks for '12. Awarded as Salmon Arm's most-dedicated player this year, he had 30 goals and 28 assists in 57 games this season. Read his coach Tim Kehler's quote and he sounds like a typical MSU player: "Brett  has made huge strides in his play this season, moving into an offensive role with our club but still maintaining that physical edge in his game that makes him hard to handle as a power forward."

That's three four players for '12, as Gervais and Knowles join goalie Stephon Williams and forward Dylan Margonari.

The '11 class includes forwards J.P. Lafontaine and Max Gaede and defensemen Zach Palmquist, Brett Stern and Mat Knoll.

My WCHA ballot

It's a tradition like no other. It's the time of year when several college-hockey writers unveil their all-conference ballot selections and wait to be pummeled by the fans. This year was tough, and several very good players were left off my -- and others' -- ballots. So here it is. Release the hounds!

F-Matt Frattin, North Dakota
F-Jack Connolly, Minnesota Duluth
F-Jason Zucker, Denver
D-Justin Schultz, Wisconsin
D-Jake Gardiner, Wisconsin
G-Aaron Dell, North Dakota

F-Mike Connolly, Minnesota Duluth
F-Justin Fontaine, Minnesota Duluth
F-Drew Shore, Denver
D-Kurt Davis, Minnesota State
D-Chay Genoway, North Dakota
G-Kent Patterson, Minnesota

F-Jason Gregoire, North Dakota
F-Matt Ambroz, Nebraska-Omaha
F-Tyler Johnson, Colorado College
D-Ben Youds, Minnesota State
D-Eric Olimb, Nebraska-Omaha
G-John Faulkner, Nebraska-Omaha

F-Jason Zucker, Denver
F-Jaden Schwartz, Colorado College
F-Mark Zengerle, Wisconsin
D-Justin Faulk, Minnesota Duluth
D-David Makowski, Denver
G-Sam Brittain, Denver

Matt Frattin, North Dakota

Jason Zucker, Denver

Dean Blais, Nebraska-Omaha

Like I said, a lot of tough choices here. Players who got left off who deserved -- and got -- close consideration for one of the top-three teams include, among others: Craig Smith (UW), Drew LeBlanc (SCSU) and Matt Read (BSU); Matt Donovan (DU), Cade Fairchild (UM) and Ben Blood (UND) on defense; and Sam Brittain (DU) and Scott Gudmandson (UW) in goal. Rookies on the outside looking in include: J.T. Brown (F-UMD), Nick Jensen (D-SCSU).

As for the individual awards, I think they were pretty much no-brainers. Frattin was simply clutch all year and is tied for the national lead in goals. Zucker has 20 goals (the Mavs hope that number doesn't change this weekend) and might have had some competition from Schwartz had Schwartz stayed healthy. Blais seems like a lock for best coach. Everyone knows he's great but it's no easy jump, joining the WCHA, and the red Mavs finished third.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Seawolves 4, Mavericks 1

Freddy's three thoughts of the game:

1. Big goal for Brett: Brett Peterson got to dress and the ceremonial start on Saturday since it was Senior Night. It was just the third time in four years at MSU that he got in a game. Back and knee injuries over the years have made him little more than a practice player for the Mavs. But he'll leave school with a goal on his stat sheet, scoring in the second period. The goal made it a 2-1 game and should have sparked the struggling Mavericks. Instead, it ended up being the lone highlight in a disappointing regular-season-ending loss. Peterson always seems to work hard in practice and never complains. Asked what he'll do this week to help his teammates prepare for the playoffs, he said, "To tell you the truth, I hope I made it harder for (coach Troy Jutting to make his lineup)." Nice answer.

2. Scoring struggles: The Mavericks managed just one goal on the weekend, and Peterson's goal broke a stretch of nearly 130 minutes in which MSU failed to score a goal. While the overall effort was better than Friday's 4-0 clunker, the Mavericks will be two and out in Denver next weekend if they can't score. Their power play continues to struggle, and they are 0 for 16 with the man advantage over the last three games — all losses. Seawolves freshman goalie Chris Kamal stopped 31 shots on Saturday and finished the weekend with 66 saves on 67 shots. Said Jutting: "Another player of the week (award) for the goalie who played against us." Phil Cook was in goal for the Mavericks and stopped 23 of 26 shots. Anchorage also had an empty netter.

3. So long, seniors: Saturday's game was the final one in Mankato for six seniors. Besides Peterson, five players with well more than 100 career games said goodbye to the Verizon Wireless Center: Rylan Galiardi, Andy Sackrison, Ben Youds, Kurt Davis and Channing Boe. Only Youds added a point during the series, getting the second assist on Peterson's goal. "It's tough to leave," Youds said after meeting friends and family on the ice after the game (MSU players presented their third jerseys to silent-auction winners). Youds is now focused on taking on Denver and trying to become the first team to get to the WCHA Final Five since 2003. "When we play well, we can play with anybody," he said. "It takes 26 guys."

Read the box score here.

WCHA playoffs set

Minnesota State's 4-1 loss to Alaska-Anchorage on Saturday night, coupled with Denver's 3-2 win over St. Cloud State set up a matchup between the Mavericks and the Pioneers in next week's first round of the WCHA playoffs.

Here are all of the first-round series (high seeds host):

1-North Dakota vs. 12-Michigan Tech
2-Denver vs. 11-Minnesota State
3-Nebraska-Omaha vs. 10-Bemidji State
4-Minnesota Duluth vs. 9-St. Cloud State
5-Minnesota vs. 8-Alaska-Anchorage
6-Colorado College vs. 7-Wisconsin

Winners will advance to the WCHA Final Five March 17-19 in St. Paul.

MSU vs. Anchorage - Game 2 live blog

It's senior night and the regular-season finale at the Verizon Wireless Center. It appears Phil Cook will start in goal for the Mavericks. Senior Brett Peterson will play for just the third time in his career — a nice gesture from the MSU coaches. Other lineup changes include forward John McInnis and defenseman Josh Nelson in (Zach Lehrke, J.P. Burkemper and Cameron Cooper out). Lines are posted below the Cover It Live box:

23-Dorr   21-Sackrison   25-Hayes
20-Grant   12-Galiardi   7-McInnis
24-Mueller   26-Schiller   9-Louwerse
27-Peterson   29-Zuck   14-Jokinen

28-Boe   22-Davis
16-Elbrecht   5-Youds
2-Nelson   17-Mosey


Scratches: Burkemper, Cooper, Heath, Leivermann, Lehrke

16-Grant   20-Gellert   12-Bruijsten
36-Portwood   14-Parkinson   27-Wiles
19-Haddad   17-Kwas   7-Cameron
10-Spencer   40-Naslund   26-Currier

8-Warner   15-Gorham
13-Sproule   11-Leinweber
22-Darwitz   3-McLeod


WCHA playoff scenarios

Tonight's WCHA games are the last of the regular season, and five of the six first-round playoff matchups have yet to be decided. The league put out all of its scenarios in a press release today. The Mavericks will get either the 10th or 11th seed and will travel next week to Denver, Duluth or Omaha, depending on who gets the second or third seed.

Here are the games and scenarios that should concern the Mavericks and their fans tonight (click on the above link for the others):

Minnesota State (20 points, vs Alaska Anchorage):
Seeded 10th with a win and a Bemidji State loss or tie.
Seeded 10th with a tie and a Bemidji State loss by 6 or more goals.
Seeded 10th/11th with a tie and a Bemidji State loss by exactly 5 goals.
Seeded 11th with a tie and a Bemidji State loss by 4 or fewer goals.
Seeded 11th with a win and a Bemidji State win.
Seeded 11th with a tie and a Bemidji State win or tie.
Seeded 11th with a loss.

Denver (35 points, vs St. Cloud State):
Seeded 2nd with a win.
Seeded 2nd with a tie and a Minnesota Duluth/Nebraska-Omaha tie.
Seeded 3rd with a tie and a Minnesota Duluth win or Nebraska Omaha win.
Seeded 3rd with a loss and a Minnesota Duluth win or Nebraska Omaha win.
Seeded 3rd with a loss by 4 or fewer goals and a Minnesota Duluth/Nebraska-Omaha tie.
Seeded 3rd/4th with a loss by exactly 5 goals and a Minnesota Duluth/Nebraska-Omaha tie.
Seeded 4th with a loss by 6 or more goals and a Minnesota Duluth/Nebraska-Omaha tie. 

Minnesota Duluth (35 points, vs Nebraska-Omaha):
Seeded 2nd with a win and a Denver loss or tie.
Seeded 2nd with a tie and a Denver loss.
Seeded 3rd with a win and a Denver win.
Seeded 3rd with a tie and a Denver win or tie.
Seeded 4th with a loss.

Nebraska-Omaha (34 points, at Minnesota Duluth):
Seeded 2nd with a win and a Denver loss or tie.
Seeded 3rd with a win and a Denver win.
Seeded 3rd with a tie and a Denver loss by 6 or more goals.
Seeded 3rd/4th with a tie and a Denver loss by exactly 5 goals.
Seeded 4th with a tie and a Denver loss by 4 or fewer goals.
Seeded 4th with a tie and a Denver win or tie.
Seeded 4th with a loss.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Seawolves 4, Mavericks 0

Freddy's three thoughts of the game:

1. Spring break: All of the other Minnesota State students went on spring break on Friday night; apparently the Mavericks did, too. In what seemed to be its worst performance of the season (or at least since Thanksgiving), MSU didn't look like a team trying to avoid being the first-ever 11th place team in the WCHA. The Mavericks put 35 shots on freshman Chris Kamal, but the goalie didn't have to get too acrobatic to score his second college shutout. MSU went 0 for 5 on the power play.

2. Holy moly, what a ... When the Seawolves went up 3-0, the previously red-hot Austin Lee was pulled from the Mavericks' goal in favor of Phil Cook. Lee had faced just 11 shots before getting the hook 7 1/2 minutes into the second period. "You can't give up three goals on eight shots," coach Troy Jutting said, referring to the shot total on the board at the time (officially, it was 11, according to the final summary sheet). "And you can't have 35 shots and not score. It's a disaster." Anchorage scored a 4-on-3 power-play goal with 1:23 left in the first period when Tommy Grant crashed the net and tipped in the rebound of a shot from the wall. The Seawolves' second goal came off a faceoff in the Mavericks' defensive zone. Winger Nick Haddad got behind the defense and wide open in front of Lee right off the draw, and Jordan Kwas found him for an easy goal. The third goal was deflected in from the hash marks by Craig Parkinson after a soft pass from Sean Wiles in the left circle.

3. Where they stand: The Mavericks are all alone in 11th place in the WCHA, thanks to the loss and Bemidji State's tie with Minnesota. Here are the standings, heading into tonight's regular-season finales:

1. North Dakota 41 points
2. Denver 35*
3. Minnesota-Duluth 35
4. Nebraska-Omaha 34
5. Minnesota 29
6. Colorado College 28
7. St. Cloud State 26
8. Wisconsin 25
9. Alaska-Anchorage 24
10. Bemidji State 21
11. Minnesota State 20
12. Michigan Tech 6

* Denver currently holds the tiebreaker over Duluth (I hope I have that right!)

The top six teams have all clinched home ice and will host tournament series next weekend. But nothing will shake out until Saturday's games are complete. The Mavericks can finish no higher than 10th now. Currently, they would go to Denver for the first round. However, Duluth and Omaha also remain possibilities

Read Friday's box score here.

MSU vs. Anchorage - Game 1 live blog

Lines are posted below the Cover It Live box. Austin Lee, it appears, will get the start in goal. ...

23-Dorr   21-Sackrison   25-Hayes
20-Grant   12-Galiardi   14-Jokinen
24-Mueller   26-Schiller   9-Louwerse
15-Burkemper   29-Zuck   19-Lehrke

28-Boe   22-Davis
16-Elbrecht   5-Youds
3-Cooper   17-Mosey


Scratches: Heath, Leivermann, McInnis, Nelson, Peterson

16-Grant   20-Gellert   12-Bruijsten
19-Haddad   17-Kwas   7-Cameron
36-Portwood   14-Parkinson   27-Wiles
10-Spencer   40-Naslund   26-Currier

8-Warner   15-Gorham
13-Sproule   11-Leinweber
22-Darwitz   23-Vidmar


Referees: Derek Shepherd, Marco Hunt. Linesmen: Tony Czech, Jeff Schultz.

Friday morning skate

Pat Christman photo
This is it. The final week of the regular season. The final home games in Mankato for the year. The final home games for Kurt Davis, Ben Youds, Rylan Galiardi, Channing Boe and Andy Sackrison -- and Brett Peterson (who, apparently, will play on Senior Night).

For the Mavericks, those seniors, who collectively have played 671 games in an MSU uniform, would like to leave the Verizon Wireless Center with a few more memories of their careers. 

Minnesota State will host Alaska-Anchorage and on the line are higher spots in the standings, better seedings for the WCHA playoffs and general preparedness for the postseason. You can read more about the Seawolves here.

Going around the rest of the WCHA, the next two nights are going to decide the pairings for the WCHA tournament, so there will be plenty of scoreboard watching. Here are the matchups:

Minnesota at Bemidji State: A lot of fans around the league have enjoyed the demise of the Gophers, but look out  now. The Gophers are 4-0-1 in their last five games and sitting pretty for home ice. One reason for that turnaround is the play of Jacob Cepis, something the senior credits to a talk with his coach. For the Beavers, they are hoping to improve their playoff position and get out the 10th-place tie with MSU.

Colorado College at Wisconsin: Interesting series here. CC sits one point ahead of Wisco in the standings, and the difference their spots is the difference between home ice and a road trip for the first round. For the Badgers, they're also trying to snap a six-game winless streak in which they suddenly can't score goals and have seen their once-great goaltending slip. The Tigers, meanwhile, are enjoying the return of freshman Jaden Schwartz, but not to be discounted is the play of his big brother, Rylan.

Nebraska-Omaha at Minnesota Duluth: Another matchup with implications for the final standings. This series may determine who draws MSU for the playoffs. There's also the chance to finish second in the WCHA, something the red Mavericks couldn't have imagined back in October. For the Bulldogs, this will be the first time coach Scott Sandelin will be facing his old coach, boss and mentor, Dean Blais, in seven years.

St. Cloud State at Denver: Denver is in second place and would like to keep that spot. The Pioneers also have a chance to see star forward Jason Zucker become the second freshman in WCHA history to win the league scoring title. Zucker has a one-point lead over Duluth's Jack Connolly. The Huskies, meanwhile, have been on a tear of late, losing just one of their last six games. Senior Garrett Roe has been very good and needs just eight points to become St. Cloud's all-time leading scorer.

North Dakota at Michigan Tech: The only first-round matchup that's set for next week is league-champion North Dakota hosting last-place Michigan Tech. The two teams will get a warmup series against each other in Houghton this weekend first. One thing the Fighting Sioux won't be doing this weekend, apparently, is resting their players for next week. They want to keep their seven-game unbeaten streak alive. For the Huskies, this series marks the end of what's been an exasperating season.

More WCHA predictions continue to trickle in. Here's another from College Hockey News, along with some conference award voting. Read the USCHO weekly preview here. (By the way, nice to see both CHN's and USCHO's coverage comes from former Free Press stringers Dan Myers and Tyler Buckentine. Good work, boys!)

Gusties advance

Pat Christman photo
The Gustavus Adolphus women's hockey team is going for its eighth straight MIAC tournament title and ninth overall. On Thursday night, the Gusties defeated upset-minded Concordia 5-2 in the semifinals at the Don Roberts Ice Rink, setting up a championship game against Bethel at 2 p.m. Saturday in St. Peter.

On Thursday, Concordia grabbed an early 1-0 lead but then started going to the penalty box. The Gusties made the Cobbers pay, scoring on four of their first five power plays to take command of the game.

Freshman Amanda Cartony (pictured) had two goals and an assist, and Allie Schwab finished with three assists. Goalie Danielle Justice weathered an early storm by a tough offensive team and finished with 21 saves.

This just in: The Gusties are pretty good.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Got my ballot

I received my WCHA ballot for league awards yesterday and need to take some time to study and fill it out. It's due on Saturday, so I may have to use this weekend's games to break a few ties. I imagine that other voters will be doing the same.

Each program in the league has eight ballots -- three for coaches, two for players, two for media and one for the sports information director. We vote on the three all-conference teams, the all-rookie team, player of the year, rookie of the year and coach of the year. (Coaches vote for defensive player of the year.)

Each team can nominate one player for player of the year, and MSU put senior defenseman Kurt Davis on the ballot.

I'll be working on my ballot over the next few days. Like I said on Twitter yesterday, some very good players are going to be left off a lot of ballots this year.

Any advice?