Wednesday reading: M. Stuart charity, kids clinic, WCHA, NCHC

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Grace Thompson (from left), executive director of Dream Factory, Jets Andrew Ladd and Mark Stuart and Const. Shaun Chornley, announce an NHLPA versus police charity game.

Former Tiger Mark Stuart and other Jets teammates will take on a Winnipeg police team in a charity game next month.

Liberty Mutual has joined the Colorado Springs Amateur Hockey Association to bring the USA Hockey’s Try Hockey For Free Clinic to the World Arena Ice Hall this Saturday afternoon.

During this free, one-hour clinic, certified coaches from USA Hockey will give kids ages 4-9 the chance to experience the ice, equipment and fun of the game. All the equipment – skates, sticks and helmets – are provided by USA Hockey free of charge to use during the clinic. And at the end, your son or daughter will go home with a great goodie bag, a brand new hockey jersey from USA Hockey, and a new found love to the game of hockey (while supplies last).

Date: November 3, 2012
Host: Colorado Springs Amateur Hockey Association
Rink Name: World Arena Ice Hall
Rink Address: 3185 Venetucci Boulevard – Colorado Springs, CO 80906
Start Time: 3:00 PM
End Time: 4:00 PM

Richard Bachman took part in the NHLPA’s Plano Boot Camp to stay in shape during the lockout.

Now on to WCHA and NCHC news …

St. Cloud State’s Ben Hanowski is doubtful for the Denver series while others continue to heal.

Here is coach Bob Motzko talking about Friday’s win:

It will be at least a few weeks before the National Collegiate Hockey Conference announces its regular-season and postseason trophies.

Minnesota freshman goalie Adam Wilcox will be the Gophers’ No. 1, but expect junior Michael Shibrowski to get more than one period (last season’s total behind Kent Patterson, who wore down) in relief this season.

Minnesota State got a commit from a Muskegon defenseman.

This Janesville Jet turned down Air Force to commit to Bemidji State after seeing the Sanford Center.

From the WCHA …

Red Baron WCHA Offensive Player of the Week
Drew LeBlanc • Senior, Forward, St. Cloud State University

MADISON, Wis. – St. Cloud State University forward Drew LeBlanc, who topped all league players last weekend with five scoring points while helping the Huskies to a two-game sweep over visiting Minnesota State, is the Red Baron® WCHA Offensive Player of the Week for Oct. 30.

A 6-0, 195-pound center from Hermantown, Minn., LeBlanc was an offensive catalyst with two goals and three assists for the Huskies in back-to-back 5-1 victories over the WCHA-rival Mavericks on Oct. 26-27 at the National Hockey and Event Center in St. Cloud. Last Friday, he produced a four-point night with one goal and three assists, including one on teammate Ben Hanowski’s second period game-winner, and earned First Star of the Game honors. LeBlanc then completed the weekend last Saturday with another goal, scoring at 1:05 of the third period as SCSU opened a 3-0 advantage, to earn Third Star of the Game accolades. In addition to his five points, LeBlanc had three shots on goal in the series and fashioned a +4 plus/minus rating.

With points in each of his last three outings, LeBlanc shares the overall scoring lead among WCHA players with teammate Nic Dowd with 10 points (3g, 7a) in six games played.

Also nominated: David Boehm, F, BSU; Joey LaLeggia, D, DU; Danny Kristo, F, UND.

Red Baron WCHA Defensive Player of the Week
Joel Rumpel • Sophomore, Goaltender, University of Wisconsin

MADISON, Wis. – University of Wisconsin goaltender Joel Rumpel, who stopped 64 of 66 shots on goal for a .970 saves percentage and recorded a shutout while backstopping the Badgers to a victory and tie at No. 14-ranked Minnesota Duluth last weekend, is the Red Baron® WCHA Defensive Player of the Week for Oct. 30.

A 6-3, 185-pound sophomore from Swift Current, Sask., Rumpel’s outstanding play between the pipes enabled visiting Wisconsin to claim three points from the Bulldogs with a 2-0 triumph on Oct. 26 and 2-2 (ot) tie on Oct. 27. He blanked UMD on Friday with a 29-save effort for his fourth careeer shutout and second in five games dating to last season. He also held UMD scoreless on two power-plays, including a 5:00-minute major late in the third. On Saturday, Rumpel returned to the UW nets and recorded 35 saves in the overtime tie, with double-digit save totals in three periods. The Badgers trailed 2-0 in the third fell but Rumpel kept his team in the game, despite a 26-10 UMD shot advantage. He also stopped UMD on all five power-play chances.

Rumpel, a free agent, has now allowed two goals or less in nine of his last 10 games dating back to last season. He is 1-1-1 this season with a 1.30 goals-against average and .954 save percentage.

Also nominated: Sam Windle, D, BSU; David Makowski, D, DU; Derek Forbort, D, UND; Ryan Faragher, G, SCSU.

Red Baron WCHA Rookie of the Week
Kalle Kossila • Freshman, Forward, St. Cloud State University

MADISON, Wis. – St. Cloud State University forward Kalle Kossila, who continued his impressive debut by charting two goals and two assists for four points in the Huskies’ two-game league sweep over visiting Minnesota State last weekend, has been named the Red Baron® WCHA Rookie of the Week for Oct. 30.

A 5-10, 167-pound freshman left winger from Kauniainen, Finland, Kossila had a goal and an assist in each game on Oct. 26-27, fired seven shots on goal, and earned a +3 plus/minus rating as SCSU won for the third and fourth straight games. Last Friday, he kicked off the weekend with a goal and assist in the third period in a 5-1 victory and then in another 5-1 win last Saturday, scored his third goal of the season with a third period power-play tally and a solo assist.

Through his first four games for SCSU, Kossila leads WCHA rookies (overall games) with seven points (3g, 4a) and is an impressive +8 on the plus/minus.

Also nominated: Markus Gerbrandt, F, BSU; Quentin Shore, F, DU; Adam Wilcox, G, UM; Zane Gothberg, G, UND.

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Tuesday reading: CCHA, WCHA lookahead, web media poll

Here are notes of interest from the CCHA’s weekly Need to Know press release …

Miami- Miami split its CCHA opening-weekend series at Michigan, falling 4-2 Friday before rebounding for a 4-3 win Saturday. The RedHawks’ win was just their sixth victory in 53 tries at Yost Ice Arena. Miami is 6-46-1 all-time at Michigan.  On Saturday, U-M held a 2-1 lead entering the third period only to surrender three straight goals in a 4-3 loss to the RedHawks.

Notre Dame- Notre Dame’s 5-1-0 start this season equals the best start for the Irish since going 5-1-0 to start the 2010-11 season.  The last time that Notre Dame had a better start than that was in 2006-07 when the Irish started that year 6-1-0 on the way to a 9-1-1 start and a 32-7-3 final record.

Western Michigan- After a weekend off, the Broncos travel to Compton Family Ice Arena to take on Notre Dame. Sophomore goalie Frank Slubowski made all four starts against the Fighting Irish last season, posting a 2-1-1 record with a 1.96 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage.

From the WCHA …

The month of November launches later this week with four, two-game Western Collegiate Hockey Association series on the docket for Friday the 2nd and Saturday the 3rd as Michigan Tech hosts Nebraska Omaha, Colorado College travels to Wisconsin, Minnesota State visits Minnesota and Denver hosts St. Cloud State.

There will also be one non-conference set contested over the weekend as North Dakota entertains Hockey East Association-member Boston University.

At John MacInnes Student Ice Arena in Houghton, Michigan Tech (2-4-0, 1-3-0 WCHA) will take on Nebraska Omaha (2-3-1, 0-1-1 WCHA) in a pair of 7:07 pm ET face-offs on Friday and Saturday. The two teams will then conclude their four-game series on Feb. 1-2 in Omaha.

At the Kohl Center in Madison, Wisconsin will play its first regular season home games of 2012-13 as the Badgers (1-2-1, 1-0-1 WCHA) go up against visiting Colorado College (3-3-0, 0-0-0 WCHA) in back-to-back 7:07 pm CT puck drops. These will be the only two regular season meetings of the two clubs and will also be the Tigers’ first two league games this season.

Defending conference champion and pre-season favorite Minnesota (4-1-0, 1-1-0 WCHA) will play a home-and-home WCHA set against Minnesota State (2-2-2, 0-2-0 WCHA), with Friday’s contest at 7:07 pm CT at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis and Saturday’s match up at Verizon Wireless Center in Mankato at 7:07 pm CT. The No. 2-ranked Golden Gophers and Mavericks will then meet again on Jan. 25 in Minneapolis and Jan. 26 in Mankato.

And in the west, unbeaten and No. 3-ranked Denver (4-0-0, 2-0-0 WCHA) will entertain No. 18-ranked St. Cloud State (4-2-0, 2-0-0 WCHA) for a pair of league contests at Magness Arena, with game times at 7:37 pm MT on Friday evening and 7:07 pm MT on Saturday night. The Pioneers and Huskies will then meet again in St. Cloud on Jan. 18-19.

Outside the WCHA this coming weekend, No. 5-ranked North Dakota (2-1-1) will play host to No. 12-ranked Boston University (3-1-0) of the Hockey East Association. Face-offs at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks are 7:37 pm CT on Nov. 2 and 7:07 pm CT on Nov. 3.  Through 37 non-conference games so far this season, WCHA member teams stand 20-14-3 (.583) against other Div. 1 teams. Against each of the other leagues, the WCHA is 5-0-1 vs Atlantic Hockey, 7-9-0 vs the CCHA, 3-2-1 vs ECAC Hockey, 2-3-0 vs Hockey East, and 3-0-1 vs independents.

Three teams – Alaska Anchorage (2-2-2, 0-1-1 WCHA), Bemidji State (2-1-1, 1-0-1 WCHA) and No. 17-ranked Minnesota Duluth (2-3-1, 0-1-1 WCHA) – are idle this week.

Looking ahead to the conference schedule for the weekend of Nov. 9-11, North Dakota will play at St. Cloud State (Friday/Saturday), Denver heads to Minnesota State (Friday/Saturday), Alaska Anchorage hosts Minnesota (Friday/Saturday), Colorado College entertains Bemidji State (Friday/Saturday), and Minnesota Duluth visits Nebraska Omaha (Saturday/Sunday). Both Michigan Tech and Wisconsin will be idle.

Here are more details from the Tech Hockey Guide WCHA Web Media Poll for Week 3:

Team Pts Previous Record High Low
1) Denver (7) 138 2 4-0-0 1 3
2) Minnesota (5) 136 1 4-1-0 1 3
3) North Dakota 120 3 2-1-1 2 4
4) St. Cloud State 109 7 4-2-0 2 5
5) Colorado College 74 6 3-3-0 4 10
6) Wisconsin 72 10 1-2-1 5 11
7) Michigan Tech 69 5 2-4-0 6 10
8) Minnesota Duluth 64 4 2-3-1 5 11
9) Bemidji State 55 11 2-1-1 5 11
10) Nebraska Omaha 52 8 2-3-1 6 10
11) Alaska Anchorage 29 12 2-2-2 6 12
12) Minnesota State 18 9 2-2-2 10 12

Road sweep drops CC out of Top 20

No big surprises this week. Three losses in a row dropped Colorado College out of the top 20 while a home sweep moves Denver up to No. 3. An anemic weekend for Minnesota (tie, win) helped Boston College solidify its hold on No. 1 in this week’s USCHO poll.

From USCHO ….

Miami drops from No. 3 to No. 4 and North Dakota falls one to round out the top five.

Cornell jumps one notch to sit sixth, Notre Dame is up two to No. 7, Michigan falls a pair to the No. 8 rank, New Hampshire climbs three to No. 9, earning two first-place votes this week, and Union, even falling two places to No. 10, took home a first-place vote.

Western Michigan falls one to No. 11, Boston University rises one to No. 12, Harvard jumps four places to now sit 13th, Massachusetts-Lowell tumbles three notches to No. 14 and Northeastern holds steady at No. 15. At No. 16, St. Lawrence enters the rankings this week, followed by Minnesota-Duluth at No. 17, down from No. 14 last week, previously-unranked St. Cloud State at No. 18, Ferris State down one to No. 19 and Northern Michigan dropping four to No. 20 this week.

In addition, 15 other schools received votes, including Colorado College.

The USCHO.com Poll consists of 50 voters, including 28 coaches from the Division I conferences and 22 beat writers and sports professionals from across the country. The poll, published weekly by the Associated Press, is a production of USCHO.com, which provides in-depth coverage of college hockey.

Monday reading: M. Stuart, commits, weekend reviews, Minnesota

Winnipeg Jets defenseman Mark Stuart, left, knocks down Washington Capitals left wing Jason Chimera during the first period of an NHL hockey game on Friday, March 23, 2012, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Former Tiger Mark Stuart makes this blogger’s Top 5 Underrated list.

Last weekend’s home win impressed two Michigan Tech recruits who were in attendance. They committed soon after.

Here is Three Things about this past weekend worth noting.

Penn State is 4-1 against Atlantic Hockey and would be in first place in the league if it had joined that league instead of going independent for a year.

Here is a look at Hockey East.

With so many series splits, there may be no clear favorite in the CCHA for some time.

No. 2 Minnesota 1, Canisius 0

MINNEAPOLIS – Rookie goaltender Adam Wilcox played perfectly from start to finish on Sunday afternoon to earn his first career shutout as the No. 2 Minnesota men’s hockey team topped Canisius 1-0 in nonconference action at Mariucci Arena.

Wilcox backstopped the Gophers past the Golden Griffins, making all 20 saves on the day to improve to 3-0-0 on the season. The freshman from South St. Paul, Minn., turned away a flurry of saves in the final minutes after Canisius pulled Tony Capobianco in favor of the extra attacker. Capobianco also put together a stellar performance in net for the Golden Griffins, making 41 saves on 42 shots.

Minnesota (4-1-0 overall, 1-1-0 WCHA) came out of the gates in full force as Kyle Rau tipped Jake Parenteau‘s shot past Capobianco just 12 seconds into the contest. Raus’ goal – his second of the year – was also assisted on by Nick Bjugstad.

The quick start swiftly turned to a defensive battle, however, as the two teams closed out the night with 59:48 of scoreless hockey in the first-ever meeting between the two programs. Minnesota more than doubled its opponents in shots with a 42-20 edge – an appropriate representation of the Gophers’ offensive advantage until Canisius’ final push in the game’s final minutes.

Both teams would go 0-for-2 on the power play on Sunday afternoon. Canisius (1-4-1, 0-0-1 Atlantic Hockey) would also end the Gophers’ streak of consecutive periods with a goal at 13. Up until the second period of Sunday’s game, the Gophers had tallied in every period of play this season.

Minnesota returns to Western Collegiate Hockey Association action next weekend with a home-and-home series against Minnesota State. The series kicks off Friday at Mariucci Arena before concluding Saturday at the Verizon Wireless Center in Mankato. Both games are scheduled for 7 p.m.

WCHA roundup: Denver sweeps Michigan Tech

No. 4 North Dakota 3, Alaska Anchorage 3 OT

GRAND FORKS — Junior defenseman Derek Forbort scored at 18:52 of the third period to lift North Dakota to a 3-3 tie against Alaska Anchorage on Saturday night at Engelstad Arena.

No. 5 Denver 5, Michigan Tech 2

DENVER – David Makowski, Joey LaLeggia, and Shawn Ostrow each scored a goal and an assist to help lift Denver to a 5-2 victory against Michigan Tech on Saturday night at Magness Arena.

No. 14 Minnesota Duluth 2, Wisconsin 2 OT

DULUTH — Junior forward Michael Mersch scored at 14:47 of the third period to propel the Bulldogs to a 2-2 tie against the Badgers on Saturday night at AMSOIL Arena.

Bemidji State 3, Nebraska Omaha 2

OMAHA — Senior forward David Boehm scored a pair of goals to lead the Bemidji State Beavers to a 3-2 victory against the Nebraska Omaha Mavericks at CenturyLink Center on Saturday night.

St. Cloud State 5, Minnesota State 1

ST. CLOUD — Junior forward Cory Thorson scores two goals while freshman forward Kalle Kossila and junior forward Nic Dowd scored a goal and an assist each to lead the Huskies to a 5-1 win against the Mavericks on Saturday night at National Hockey Center.

No. 7 Cornell sweeps No. 19 Colorado College

No. 19 Colorado College refused to quit but also could not stay out of the penalty box in a 3-2 loss at No. 7 Cornell Saturday night.

CC senior Scott Winkler intercepted an errant Cornell pass and fired the puck in off a Cornell player moments after the Big Red scored its third power-play goal of the night to make it 3-2 with 12:09 left in the nonconference game.

“There are some holes in our game; giving up five power play goals and not scoring on ours caught up with us,” said CC assistant Joe Bonnett.”It is something we will continue to work on. Thorny (Josh Thorimbert) had a good weekend.

All five Big Red scores came with the man advantage this weekend. Charlie Taft scored the other Tiger goal.

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.”