Thursday, January 31, 2013

You want answers? You got 'em

Thanks for your questions this week. Let's get right to them ...

From Bryn Jarcho: In your opinion wants the biggest difference with the team this year? Same amount If games but we sit with 8 more wins and a high rated defense which I can't remember the last time that happened.

For starters, Bryn, I think this team was in a position to improve, especially with Leitner and LaFontaine being a year older. But I also think that you nailed it with your observation about defense. Mike Hastings has insisted that this team be more responsible defensively and more disciplined. As a result, Stephon Williams is seeing fewer shots than his predecessors in goal (26.3 per game this year vs. 33.1 last year) and fewer power plays (3.8 per game vs. 5.0). It took about a month or so, but when the team started buying into what Hastings was selling, the improvement began.

From MSU Grad 97: What do you see as the biggest needs (other than better internet) for the VWC for next year in regards to hockey? Do you think they have a reasonable chance at the bonding bill this session to get everything they need?

MSU Grad, the biggest needs are the new rink system — ice plant, floor, boards, glass, benches — and work on those items is set to begin after the season or sometime this summer. After that, I think the VWC needs to look at the other amenities that newer arenas have, including improved seating (purple or black seats would be ideal), a modern video display scoreboard, among others. If they indeed intend on moving MSU down there permanently, which it sounds like they do, they have to get going on improving locker rooms and other team areas (academic, training, etc.) that they've been considering. As for bonding money, the politics sure seem to be in their favor now, but we'll see what happens.

From MSU Grad 97 (again): I saw that no Mavericks were nominated by their team for the Hoby Baker - why wouldn't they try to get Leitner or Hayer or Williams on that list? Also, do you see anyone who has a chance to be an All-American this year based on play so far?

MSU Grad, I was surprised that MSU didn't nominate someone for the fan voting. But that counts for just a very small percentage of the vote. I don't think that actually eliminates other players for consideration. However, I'm not sure any of those three will be top 10 Hobey finalists or All-All Americans at this point. Having said that, all three should get strong consideration for all-conference awards.

From Darin Arnold: Based on the latest standings from today (1/28/13) how do the Gophs retain the top spot after splitting with Mankato this past weekend, but MSU loses a spot from 14th to 15th?

Darin, The good news is that rankings are just opinion polls and don't really matter (the Pairwise is another story). I was surprised to see MSU drop a spot after that split. Minnesota didn't drop a spot, but their first-place votes and total points fell and they barely hung on to No. 1 with several people voting for Quinnipiac there. You also have to look at what happened with other teams. St. Cloud State, for example, moved up, as did UMass-Lowell.

From MSU Hockey Girl: 1. How feasible is it to get Huntsville into conference play next year? It sounds like most schools have already finished their schedules and some shuffling would need to be done to fit them in.

2. Do we know what the non-conference schedule will look like next year besides playing in the Minnesota tournament and the Gophers twice at Mariucci?

3. Has there been any other word from the WCHA about next season, especially concerning the league tournament? It seems the Big 10 and NCHC had their plans wrapped up ages ago but the WCHA has been pretty mum on the topic. Also, have they settled on 28 games for the regular season?

Girl, 1) I'm not a scheduling expert, but I see no reason why they shouldn't be able to get Huntsville in on a full schedule right away. Even if the schedules are set for the next two years, each team has 14 home and 14 road games in conference play (they're using the 28-game schedule right now). Why shouldn't they be able to tweak those schedules and get Huntsville into the mix? As the UAH AD said, If the SEC can do it in football immediately after adding Texas A&M and Missouri, why can't the WCHA? ... 2) I haven't seen anything official from MSU on their schedule. Besides going to Minnesota and playing in the MN tournament, I thought I heard UConn was coming to Mankato, and that would leave them with two more games. At Providence, perhaps? Something else in Mankato? ... 3) We're all still waiting on official word about the WCHA tournament. There's been talk of alternating between St. Paul and Grand Rapids, Mich. I'm hoping they revisit their "Alaska Plan," too, before they finalize things.

From puckluck: Shane my question is also about the new WCHA's transportation cost policy. I understand that Huntsville has to fork over, as does Anchorage, maybe Fairbanks, too? What exactly do these costs cover? And finally, what is the bill to fly, house and feed a visiting team for a weekend in Huntsville or Anchorage?

Puckluck, Those costs cover a portion of the visiting team's transportation cost. I believe the Alaska schools used to cover everything, but I don't believe that's the case anymore. This might be worth a full story down the line, and I can try to get exact numbers then, but flying to and from Alaska is quite expensive. Minnesota State doesn't charter, so you're looking at plane tickets, 2-3 nights of hotels and meals for a traveling party of nearly 30 people. That adds up! I would guess a trip to Huntsville wouldn't be much worse than flying to Denver or Colorado Springs.

From Sam: How do you feel about MSU's chances of finally making the national tournament again this year? If I remember correctly, the program has only made it one other time in their D1 history (during the Shane Joseph and Grant Stevenson days)...correct?

Has there been any sort of official announcement that Blake Thompson is joining the Mavericks next season? I know you reported it, but I don't recall seeing either of the two prominent college hockey websites even acknowledge it (USCHO and College Hockey News). Perhaps I missed something.

Do you stay in touch with Chris Clark at all? If so, have you asked him how he came up with that hysterical ref protest idea? It looked like he had been planning it for years, and was executed flawlessly.
Sam, Looking at the Pairwise as it currently stands, MSU is 16th. That puts them in the tourney, but they're the last team in right now. They have to have a strong finish for sure if they want to get back to the NCAAs for the first time since that '02-03 season. I certainly think they're good enough; they proved that last weekend. ... I have seen nothing official about Thompson from MSU, but I assure you, he's in Mankato, going to MSU and practicing with the Mavericks. For what it's worth, his helmet has a number 3 sticker on it, so that might might be his uniform number next year (practice jerseys don't have numbers). ... I've communicated with Chris via Twitter but have not asked him about the blind ref stunt (I did comment on it). For those of you who haven't seen it, check it out in the post below.

From Robb Murray: "Yeah, I got a question. Does Barry Manilow know that you raid his wardrobe?"

I'll give you the answer to that question, Mr. Murray, next Saturday!

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