Friday reading: Holmstrom, WCHA column, predictions, Kerdiles

HolmstromColorado Springs native Ben Holmstrom will miss much of the season with a knee injury.

Here is this week’s WCHA column from USCHO and my and Tyler’s predictions.

CC hopes the road proves kinder than its recent homestand.

Puckato’s Morning Skate provides links to previews from around the league.

Wisconsin 5, Alabama-Huntsville 0

MADISON — Junior forward Michael Mersch and freshman forward Nic Kerdiles each scored two goals to lead Wisconsin to a 5-0 victory against Alabama-Huntsville on Thursday night at Kohl Center. It was Kerdiles’ first college scores after a tough offseason.

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.”

CS native Holmstrom signs two-way deal with Flyers

Colorado Springs native Ben Holmstrom, a former UMass-Lowell standout, signed a two-way deal with the Flyers organization for one year worth $550,000 if he plays the entire season in the NHL and $105,000 in the AHL.

Holmstrom, 25, played five games with the Flyers as an injury call-up last season. In 67 games with the Adirondack Phantoms, Holmstrom scored 15 goals and 26 assists while compiling 134 penalty minutes. He was named Phantoms captain prior to last season and is a solid depth forward at the NHL level.

The contract comes after his two-year entry level free agent contract, signed with the organization in 2010. Holmstrom played at UMass-Lowell for four seasons before joining the organization. He is often a linemate  of former Tigers captain Mike Testwuide, who also signed a two-way deal recently with Philadelphia. They played together on the Pikes Peak Miners as youth players.

Wednesday reading: Dineen honor, Final Five previews

CC captain Nick Dineen, pictured at left, garnered a well-deserved spot on USCHO’s ALL-WCHA Unsung Team.

Here’s Minnesota’s Final Five preview notes and a feature on North Dakota walk-on freshman Dan Senkbeil, which includes a classic hockey story on how he got his nickname and created a new verb in use in the Sioux locker room. Really good stuff.

Michigan Tech has good reason for high hopes headed into the Final Five.

Wisconsin’s inability to perform “in the clutch” is why the Badgers were the No. 10 seed and are entering this offseason this week. Here’s a look at next season for UW.

Colorado Springs native Ben Holmstrom is expected to return from an unspecified injury tonight for AHL Adirondack.

UMass-Lowell head coach Norm Bazin, a former CC assistant, is the likely Hockey East Coach of the Year after taking the last-place RiverHawks to second in the league in his debut season.

Tuesday reading: NHL call-ups, pro and league updates

San Antonio Rampage center, Jon Matsumoto, fights for the puck while Houston Aeros goalie Darcy Kuemper and former CC defenseman Kris Fredheim, left, guard the net during the second period of an AHL hockey game, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012, in San Antonio. Photo: Josh Huskin/pressphotointl.com / SA

Former Tiger Chad Rau was called up to Minnesota as was Colorado Springs native Ben Holmstrom by the Flyers.

Nate Prosser stayed on the Wild roster over the All-Star break, giving him some time to recover from that blocked shot against the Avs. He talked about it in this CC video with smem current Tigers who made the trip to Denver during CC’s bye week.

Brian Connelly won the fastest skater competition at the AHL All-Stars Skills Competition.

Bill Sweatt talks about his hockey and college background in this Chicago Wolves profile video.

The Gazette sets the stage for this week’s Gold Pan rivalry against Denver and has an update on former Tiger goalie Chris Kawano’s reality TV debut.

Wisconsin’s inexperienced players need to bear down and convert their scoring opportunities if the Badgers are to make a run at home playoff ice.

Here’s a feature on Nebraska-Omaha recruit Zack Randolph of Duluth.

In the pros: Holmstrom called up by Flyers

Colorado Springs native Ben Holmstrom, the AHL Adirondack Phantoms’ reigning MVP and captain, was called up by the Philly Flyers earlier Saturday.

Monday reading: CC drops to No. 11; ND shake up; In the pros

Former Tiger Aaron Slattengren (No. 23) is pictured playing at Bakersfield.

The home split against unranked St. Cloud State this past weekend dropped Colorado College from No. 8 to No. 11 in the latest U.S. College Hockey Online poll and USA Hockey rankings. The Tigers (13-8-1) play at No. 4 Minnesota, up one spot from the previous week, this weekend.

Minnesota-Duluth remains an unanimous No. 1 while Notre Dame and Ohio State took a tumble after weekend losses.

Injuries and discipline continue to shake things up at North Dakota.

Former Tiger Aaron Slattengren scored the opening goal in a road win over Bakersfield for the ECHL’s Colorado Eagles.

Trevor Frischmon scored the game-winner for Bridgeport in AHL action on Sunday.

Mike Testwuide got the first assist on a goal by Colorado Springs’ Ben Holmstrom for AHL Adirondack on Saturday.

Joey Crabb scored in a recent loss for the Maple Leafs.