Tuesday reading: Testwuide, NCHC, 3 Things, polls

Testwuide adirondackIt is a quiet week news-wise with most teams inactive until Dec. 24 or later depending on their schedules. CC returns to practice on Dec. 28 since the players take block finals on Wednesday and then leave for home.

Here are a few offerings.

Former Tiger Mike Testwuide, pictured, took advantage of his first pro game as a center after being a healthy scratch for six of seven games with the Adirondack Phantoms. He may get more ice time after friend Ben Holmstrom of Colorado Springs went down with a knee injury requiring surgery.

Here is an NCHC-oriented weekend review and a polls update.

Here are the USCHO weekly poll and the USA Hockey rankings and Tyler’s take on last weekend.

The WCHA media blog poll will return after the holiday tournaments and games (Dec. 27-30):

Team Pts Previous Record High Low
1) North Dakota (8) 140 2 8-5-3 1 2
2) Minnesota (4) 130 1 11-3-3 1 4
3) St. Cloud State 125 5 9-7-0 2 3
4) Nebraska Omaha 102 4 10-5-1 3 6
5) Minnesota State 96 6 9-5-2 4 6
6) Denver 90 3 9-5-2 4 7
7) Colorado College 67 7 8-8-2 6 9
8) Minnesota Duluth 62 8 5-8-3 7 9
9) Wisconsin 45 10 2-7-5 7 11
10) Bemidji State 40 11 4-8-2 8 11
11) Michigan Tech 26 9 4-8-3 9 12
12) Alaska Anchorage 13 12 3-7-4 11 12

Thursday reading: Tigers in the pros, WMU, WCHA schedule

NHL.com interviewed former Tiger Jaden Schwartz for its regular 10 Questions feature. He has four points (two goals) in seven games with AHL Peoria.

Defenseman Brian Connelly has eight points (six assists) in six games for AHL Houston while teammate Chad Rau has three (two assists) in seven games. Kris Fredheim has appeared in two games for the Aeros.

For AHL Chicago, Brett Sterling has five points (four assists) in six games while Bill Sweatt has three (two goals) in seven games.

Mike Testwuide has one goal in two games so far this season for AHL Adirondack. Gabe Guentzel has appeared in two games for AHL Norfolk.

Here is a column focusing on Western Michigan.

This weekend’s schedule in the WCHA …

Games for Friday, November 2: Nebraska Omaha at Michigan Tech (WCHA), 7:07 pm ET; Colorado College at Wisconsin (WCHA), 7:07 pm CT; Minnesota State at Minnesota (WCHA), 7:07 pm CT; Boston University at North Dakota (NC), 7:37 pm CT; St. Cloud State at Denver (WCHA), 7:37 pm CT.

Games for Saturday, November 3: Nebraska Omaha at Michigan Tech (WCHA), 7:07 pm ET; Boston University at North Dakota (NC), 7:07 pm CT; Colorado College at Wisconsin (WCHA), 7:07 pm CT; Minnesota at Minnesota State (WCHA), 7:07 pm CT; St. Cloud State at Denver (WCHA), 7:07 pm CT.

Holmstrom brothers travel far, work hard for shot at college, pro hockey

Ben Holmstrom, shown playing for the Adirondack Phantoms of the American Hockey League, is only the second Colorado Springs native to play in the NHL.   COURTESY ADIRONDACK PHANTOMS

Here is my feature that appeared in Friday’s issue of the Woodmen Edition newspaper …

It may be across the country from their family, but Woodmen Edition area natives Ben and Josh Holmstrom are happy they chose to play NCAA Division I men’s hockey for UMass Lowell.

Ben took advantage of his four years to develop a promising professional career which young brother Josh hopes to emulate.

After fielding some offers from other schools, a season-ending knee injury left only the River Hawks interested in offering Ben a full-ride athletic scholarship.

“That made it an easy choice,” he said.

It proved to be the right one for Ben, 25, who served as a three-year captain for the River Hawks, before graduating and moving on to the professional ranks. That journey paid off with seven games with the Philadelphia Flyers spread out over the last two seasons, making him only the second Colorado Springs native to reach the NHL.

Former North Dakota standout defenseman David Hale was the first from the Springs to reach the bigs but has since retired. Ben and Hale played in what is now the Colorado Springs Amateur Hockey Association and its club team, the Pikes Peak Miners, while Josh, 23, played with the Colorado Rampage and Denver-area Colorado Thunderbirds. The brothers went on to play for the Sioux Falls (S.D.) Stampede of the Junior A United States Hockey League before moving up to Lowell.

“He’s a guy I was always looking up to,” Ben said. “I got to play against him in his final year in (American Hockey League) Binghamton. To be only the second player from Colorado Springs to make (the NHL) is something I take a lot of pride in.”

“We’re all very proud of what he accomplished,” said Josh, a 2008 Doherty High School graduate, who followed his brother out to Lowell, after finding the school to be the right fit.  “It’s a great hockey program and a phenomenal school.”

Both players continue to work hard and improve as much as they can, taking advantage of playing in what they consider the toughest hockey leagues in Division I; Hockey East, which includes Boston College, winners of three of the last five national championships, and Boston University, which won in 2009.

“Certainly one of the selling points for Lowell is being in Hockey East,” Ben said. “It is a high level and I had a lot of opportunity to play as a freshman and sophomore. It definitely prepared me while I got bigger and stronger (in four years).”

But little prepared him for the day he got the call from the Flyers the morning of March 3, 2011 and had to travel from upstate New York to Philadelphia for a game that night after two players were too sick to play.

“That was a whirlwind, driving five hours to play in front of 17,000 fans that night,” he said. “I had a lot of excitement and nerves.  The captain took aside me and told me to make sure to enjoy it because playing your first NHL game can never be duplicated. I did enjoy it.”

He got in two NHL games during the 2010-11 campaign and another five last season.

“I played with a little more confidence and with more comfort being around the guys,” he said. “It’s still a learning process.”

UMass Lowell junior forward Josh Holmstrom celebrated his goal against Miami (Ohio) during last spring’s NCAA tournament. COURTESY UMASS LOWELL ATHLETICS

Josh is on his way to a professional career as well, serving as an assistant captain as a junior, garnering all-league academic honors (3.6 grade point average) and recording the primary assist on the game-winning goal at No. 19 Colorado College last weekend.

“Josh Holmstrom brings an intensity to each and every game whether we’re playing at home or on the road,” said River Hawks head coach Norm Bazin, who spent several years as an assistant at CC. “He is someone who continues to improve and develop his skills and he will be counted upon to contribute offensively.”

Josh is enjoying being part of the proud program’s resurgence. The River Hawks surprised most of the experts by making the NCAA Tournament last spring in Bazin’s first season. They are a preseason pick to place second this season behind BC.

“It’s very exciting,” he said. “The key for us will be to keep working harder and getting better each day.”

It’s that kind of attitude that helped Ben go from a junior player with a knee injury to the NHL and his second year as captain for the American Hockey League’s Adirondack Phantoms, only a step below the Flyers. If the NHL lockout ends, the 2009-10 Hockey East Best Defensive Forward Award-winner will likely be a quick call-up to Philadelphia.

“I will never be a 40-goal scorer in the NHL,” Ben said. “I need to play my game, which is being good on faceoffs, on defense and finishing my checks. If I can do that and be consistent, I could have a good career.”

It’s an example Josh plans to follow to the pros just as he did when he took up ice hockey as a youngster  watching his older brother play in Colorado Springs.

“It’s great motivation for me,” Josh said. “He’s always pushing me and I am always pushing him. He has had a great hockey career. I just need to keep working and improving and hope mine goes as well.”

In the pros: Schultz heads to ECHL Trenton

Former Tiger Stephen Schultz has signed with the Trenton Titans of the ECHL. He is entering his second full professional season, and spent the majority of his 2011-12 campaign in the AHL with the Texas Stars. No contract details were announced.

The 5-foot-11, 185 pound winger tallied 11 points in 34 games with Texas last season, and also had a brief two-game stint in the ECHL with Idaho. The 2011 graduate played in five AHL games after his senior season at CC ended but could not find a regular role in Texas. His AHL contract expired at the end of this past season.

Trenton is the ECHL affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers and the AHL affiliate of the Adirondack Phantoms where Mike Testwuide recently signed a two-way deal.

NHL free agency: Testwuide re-signs; eight Tigers remain available

Former Tiger captain Mike Testwuide re-signed with the Flyers on Tuesday morning.

That leaves eight former Tigers (as of 11 a.m. MT) weighing their free agency options.

They are (name, 2011-12 team):  Richard Bachman (Dallas): Brian Connelly (Calgary); Mark Cullen (Florida); Kris Fredheim (Wild); Trevor Frischmon, (Islanders); Richard Petiot (Tampa Bay);  Brett Sterling (Blues), and Colin Stuart (Sabres).

From NHL.com …

11:40 a.m. – DAY 3: FLYERS INK THREE
With the third day of free agency underway, the Flyers announced three signings. Defenseman Cullen Eddy and forward Mike Testwuide will return to the Flyers organization, as will defenseman Danny Syvret who enters his third separate campaign with the team.

Eddy attended Flyers training camp for the past two seasons and appeared in 54 games for the club’s AHL affiliate, the Adirondack Phantoms, where he posted 15 points (2G-13A) and 130 penalty minutes. Eddy also recorded 14 points (4G-10A) in 15 games for the Greenville Road Warriors of the ECHL this past season.

Syvret played for the Flyers from 2008-2010 and part of the 2010-11 season.

He recorded his first NHL goal with the Flyers during the 2010 NHL Winter Classic against the Boston Bruins at Fenway Park.

Overall, Syvret has four points (2G-2A) in 27 games with the Flyers.

With the Flyers’ AHL affiliate, Syvret has produced 27 goals and 79 assists for 106 points in 142 regular season games, including 57 points (12G-45A) in 76 games during the 2008-09 season to finish second among all AHL defensemen for the Phantoms during the team’s final year in Philadelphia.

Testwuide has spent the previous two seasons in Glens Falls with the Phantoms. He posted 29 points (12G-17A) in 66 games to go along with 79 penalty minutes.

Since signing with the Flyers on March 19, 2010 out of Colorado College, the 6-3, 220-pound Testwuide has recorded 30 goals and 38 assists for 68 points in 142 games with Adirondack.

Sunday reading: NCAA bracket, J. Schwartz (first NHL goal video), Hall, M. Stuart, Guentzel

Minnesota Wild's Nate Prosser, left, and Carolina Hurricanes' Brandon Sutter exchange punches during a fight in the first period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, March 17, 2012, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Here’s the NCAA bracket in pdf format so you may print it out.

Former Tiger Jaden Schwartz scored his first NHL goal on his first shot in his NHL (also pro) debut for St. Louis. Here’s video of the eventual game-winning goal. Wow. Congratulations to him. The win clinches a playoff berth for the Blues.

Tim Hall recorded two assists in Alaska’a 3-1 road win over Colorado to clinch the ECHL Mountain Division title.

NEW YORK (AP)Winnipeg Jets defenseman Mark Stuart was fined $2,500 by the NHL on Saturday for his hit on Washington forward Marcus Johansson on Friday night. No penalty was called on the play in the second period of the Jets’ 3-2 victory over the Capitals.

Gabe Guentzel did not make his pro debut Saturday as hoped. His next chance is Wednesday at home against Rochester, which includies Colin Stuart.

Saturday reading: J. Schwartz, Guentzel, Hall, playoff recaps, previews

Here’s a preview of tonight’s St. Louis at Tampa Bay game when former Tiger Jaden Schwartz will make his NHL debut. (TV: 5 p.m. Mountain FS Midwest, SUN Network).

Expect Gabe Guentzel, pictured at left, to make his pro debut Saturday night for AHL Syracuse against Adirondack and former CC teammate Mike Testwuide. Guentzel will wear No. 10 judging from the roster.

Tim Hall made his pro debut for ECHL Alaska in a 3-1 loss at Colorado. It reads like he played his defensive role well, drawing two penalties.

Here’s a lot of good information on CC and its available personnel next season by the Gazette’s Brian Gomez: CC wing Dakota Eveland will not play next season after offseason neck surgery this Tuesday. Look for one or two more 2012 commits or one of the 2013 players to be brought in a year early.

North Dakota could be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, judging from the latest Pairwise rankings, if it wins its third Broadmoor Trophy in a row against Denver tonight in the WCHA Final Five championship game. ( TV: 6 p.m. Mountain ROOT Sports Rocky Mountain). Here’s plenty of recap and preview notes.

Western Michigan cruised past Miami in the CCHA semifinals on Friday. Top remaining seed Michigan defeated last-place Bowling Green State 3-2 in double overtime to end the Falcons’s memorable run at an NCAA berth.

In Hockey East, Maine downed Boston U in one semifinal while Boston College ended No. 7 seed Providence’s Cinderella run. Maine plays BC at 6 p.m. Mountain (TV: NBC Sports Network).

In the ECAC, Harvard kept its NCAA hopes alive by advancing to tonight’s championship against top seed Union. Harvard is rated at No. 19 in the Pairwise and must win the automatic berth to move on.

In the Atlantic, Air Force will take on No. 3 seed and host RIT tonight (Radio: 1300 AM, 5 p.m. Mountain)

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