Friday reading: Target Center, blizzard, previews, predictions

target_center1Minnesota Duluth radio man Bruce Ciskie interviewed NCHC commissioner Jim Scherr about the Target Center and other topics.

The blizzard walloping the northeast United States prompted hockey games to be rescheduled.

The top match-up of the weekend may be No. 3 Miami at No. 6 Western Michigan, a league series that could determine the final CCHA regular-season champion.

Both are headed to the NCHC next season. USCHO predicts a WMU sweep. I say a split.

There are plenty of important storylines involving No. 7 North Dakota and No. 13/14 Nebraska-Omaha this weekend besides the outdoor game Saturday afternoon. UND gets its usual blanket coverage from the Grand Forks Herald.

Here are previews for No. 11/13 Minnesota State, in seventh place in the WCHA, at eighth-place Minnesota-Duluth this weekend.

CC must sweep Denver to retain the Gold Pan Trophy.

Here are my predictions for this weekend in the WCHA.

Air Force will try to bounce back from a bad home weekend with a challenging road series at Mercyhurst this weekend.

 

More Friday reading: Colorado College at Wisconsin TV/video stream options, McElhinney, Denver, Air Force, North Dakota, predictions

Photo: Kyle Daudelin

A tape-delayed free streaming option for any CC fans who don’t have access to Altitude2 (6 p.m. Mountain) is available for the Tigers at Wisconsin game Friday night. Wisconsin Public Television will broadcast the game at 9 p.m. Mountain on The Wisconsin Channel  at http://wpt.org/wisconsinchannel/ .

Colorado College is sixth in the WCHA in scoring at 3.17 goals per game but has struggled on the power play. The Tigers have not converted on their last 12 power-play chances and are ninth in the league at 13 percent (4 of 30).  Senior forwards Andrew Hamburg (four goals, one assist), William Rapuzzi (two goals, three assists) and Scott Winkler (three goals, two assists) are tied for the team lead in points at five.

Former Tiger goalie Curtis McElhinney, pictured, of the Springfield Falcons is the AHL Goaltender of the Month for October. In six appearances during the month, McElhinney went 5-1-0 with a 1.51 goals-against average, a .949 save percentage and two shutouts, helping the Falcons to the best record in the Eastern Conference. Here are the rest of the details.  Former Wisconsin standout Justin Schultz was named as player of the month suggesting that all the summer hype was not too overblown.

Here is the Denver Post’s preview for all three Front Range schools.

No. 12 Boston University is playing at No. 5 North Dakota for the first time since December 1996. Expect more such nonconference match-ups with the new league alignments forcing more nonconference games. Expect more such trips for the Terriers and Boston College, including to the state of Colorado. Fun fact: The last time UND and BU played in Grand Forks, both teams played in the national championship game (UND won 6-4 in spring 1997).

Here is Western College Hockey blog’s weekend preview and the USCHO predictions.

CC ranked 7th in WCHA coaches poll

With Don Lucia unable to vote for his own team, this poll was essentially unanimous for Minnesota to win the league title with North Dakota a very strong second.

The media thought more highly of Wisconsin than St. Cloud State for the only difference between the polls. The bottom five, starting with Colorado College at No. 7 are the same.

The media and coaches were close on the preseason player honorees with Nick Bjugstad of Minnesota as the Player of the Year pick and Rocco Grimaldi of North Dakota as the Rookie of the Year pick.

CC’s Rylan Schwartz and Josh Thorimbert were not recognized, but there was no goalie honor for the coaches poll.

I would be remiss if I did not not that the top eight teams are all leaving the WCHA for the Big 10 and National Collegiate Hockey Conference after this season.

Here is the media poll from last week so you may compare for yourself.

94X WCHA PRESEASON MEDIA POLL

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH

1. Minnesota (24 first place votes) … 11.92 poll average

2. North Dakota (1) … 10.76

3. Denver … 9.92

4. Wisconsin … 7.8

5. Minnesota Duluth … 6.88

6. St. Cloud State … 6.84

7. Colorado College … 6.08

8. Nebraska Omaha … 5.48

9. Michigan Tech … 5.2

10. Minnesota State … 3.6

11. Bemidji State … 2.48

12. Alaska Anchorage … 1.04

PRESEASON PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Nick Bjugstad, forward, Minnesota (16 votes)

Others receiving more than one vote: Erik Haula, forward, Minnesota (4); Mark Zengerle, forward, Wisconsin (3)

PRESEASON ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Rocco Grimaldi, forward, North Dakota (8 1/2 votes)

Others receiving more than one vote: Nic Kerdiles, forward, Wisconsin (5); Jordan Schmaltz, defenseman, North Dakota (2 1/2); Brady Skjei, defenseman, Minnesota (2); Andy Welinski, defenseman, Minnesota Duluth (2)

PRESEASON ALL-WCHA TEAM

Forwards

Nick Bjugstad, Minnesota (20 votes); Mark Zengerle, Wisconsin (17); Ben Hanowski, St. Cloud State (8)

Others receiving more than one vote: Danny Kristo, North Dakota (7); Erik Haula, Minnesota (6); Rylan Schwartz, Colorado College (5); Corban Knight, North Dakota (3)

Defensemen

Joey LaLeggia, Denver (20 votes); Nick Jensen, St. Cloud State (9)

Others receiving more than one vote: Nate Schmidt, Minnesota (7); Wade Bergman, Minnesota Duluth (3)

Goalie

Sam Brittain, Denver and Josh Thorimbert, Colorado College (7 1/2 votes each)

Others receiving more than one vote: Juho Olkinuora, Denver (3), Joel Rumpel, Wisconsin (2)

Monday reading: Goalies, outdoor game, Duluth, Penn State, women

Jason Torf shut out Rochester Institute of Technology for the Atlantic Hockey playoff title last season (photo: Omar Phillips).

Air Force’s  Jason Torf and Denver’s Sam Brittain are both considered “Goalies to Watch” this season.

Sophomore goalie Frank Slubowski (17-11-4, 2.03 GAA, .911 saves) led Western Michigan to its first CCHA postseason championship so his inclusion was no surprise. But I did raise an eyebrow since CC’s Josh Thorimbert did not make that top 10 considering he tied for preseason honors with Brittain in the WCHA media poll.

The USCHO preseason poll is scheduled to come out on Monday. Here is last season’s final poll so you may compare the two later.

Tickets for the North Dakota at Nebraska Omaha outdoor game went on sale at 10 a.m. CT today.

A former Minnesota-Duluth forward succumbed to brain cancer.

Penn State will play its first game at Pegula Ice Arena against Army.

Here is a look ahead at this season in Hockey East play and another perspective.

The women’s Division I schedule got underway this weekend.

CC foe Cornell garners second in ECAC preseason poll; Clarkson 10th

ALBANY, N.Y. — Union, coming off a magical season which it claimed its second consecutive ECAC Hockey regular-season title and first-ever league tournament crown and first-ever trip to the Frozen Four, was selected atop in the 2012-13 ECAC Hockey Men’s Coaches’ Preseason Poll according to voting by the league coaches in the annual poll.

The Dutchmen, led by reigning Tim Taylor award recipient as the league’s Coach of the Year Rick Bennett, garnered a total of 118 points, including eight of 12 first-place votes. Union, which led all NCAA Division I teams in scoring defense last season totalling 1.83 G/GM, returns its top netminder Troy Grosenick, who earned the Ken Dryden Award last season as the league’s top netminder. The Dutchmen shattered a school record by surrendering just 75 goals in 41 contests. Establishing a strong defensive corp, the Dutchmen have allowed fewer than three goals per game in five consecutive seasons.

Seeking its eighth trip to the NCAA tournament in the last 11 years, Cornell, which hosts CC Oct. 26-27, claimed three first-place votes in finishing second in the poll. The Big Red, who are led by head coach Mike Schafer, who enters his 18th-season behind the bench, return eight of their top 10 scorers from last season, amassed 110 total points.

Harvard, which set an NCAA record earning 11 ties last season, is slotted to finish third in regular-season play according to the voting by the coaches. Head coach Ted Donato’s squad compiled 98 points, including one first-place vote in the annual poll. Quinnipiac, coming off its 11th 20-win season on the NCAA Division I level, ranks fourth in the preseason poll with 93 points; Yale occupies the fifth slot with 77 points, followed by St. Lawrence, guided by first-year head coach Greg Carvel, with 61 points.

Dartmouth sits in the No. 7 spot with 58 points, while Rensselaer under head coach Seth Appert comes in the No. 8 position with 46 points. Colgate was selected in the No. 9 position in the preseason coaches’ poll under veteran head coach Don Vaughan with 45 points and Clarkson came in the tenth spot with 41 points. CC opens the season at home against the Knights on Oct. 12-13.

Princeton, led by second-year head coach Bob Prier is the No. 11 team in the poll, while Brown, under Brendan Whittet comes in at No. 12 in the poll.

The men’s season opens Saturday, October 6 with two non-conference games when Union hosts Merrimack and Quinnipiac travels to Maine. Three other ECAC Hockey schools will face-off in exhibition affairs on this evening as well with Rensselaer taking on Acadia at Houston Field House; St. Lawrence welcoming Carleton to Appleton Arena; and Colgate skates against Queen’s in Hamilton.

CC picked 7th, Thorimbert shares goalie honor in WCHA media poll

Compiled and written by Bruce Ciskie, KZIO Radio/Bulldog Radio Network …

A year after surprising many by winning the WCHA’s MacNaughton Cup Championship, the Minnesota Golden Gophers are a nearly-unanimous pick of WCHA media to win the league. The annual 94X WCHA Preseason Media Poll, released Wednesday, shows the Gophers easily outdistancing the rest of the league.

A panel of 25 members of the WCHA media voted on a predicted order of finish, along with a handful of individual honors.

Minnesota received a whopping 24 of 25 first-place votes. Defending WCHA playoff champion North Dakota had the other first-place vote and finished a distant second. Denver came in third, followed by Wisconsin and Minnesota Duluth. St. Cloud State claimed the final “home-ice” position in the preseason balloting.

Minnesota junior forward Nick Bjugstad, pictured, was a runaway choice for the Preseason Player of the Year. He also anchors the media’s second annual Preseason All-WCHA Team, where he is joined at forward by Wisconsin junior Mark Zengerle and St. Cloud State senior Ben Hanowski. The defensemen on the team are Denver’s Joey LaLeggia and Nick Jensen of St. Cloud State. Sam Brittain of Denver and Josh Thorimbert of Colorado College tied for the goaltending nod.

For the second straight year, the media chose North Dakota’s Rocco Grimaldi as Preseason Rookie of the Year. Grimaldi took a redshirt after an injury-ravaged season, and he is again eligible for rookie honors.

Teams were scored under a standard system of 12 points for a first-place vote, 11 for second, and so on. The number listed with each team is the number of points that team averaged per vote.

94X WCHA PRESEASON MEDIA POLL

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH

1. Minnesota (24 first place votes) … 11.92 poll average

2. North Dakota (1) … 10.76

3. Denver … 9.92

4. Wisconsin … 7.8

5. Minnesota Duluth … 6.88

6. St. Cloud State … 6.84

7. Colorado College … 6.08

8. Nebraska Omaha … 5.48

9. Michigan Tech … 5.2

10. Minnesota State … 3.6

11. Bemidji State … 2.48

12. Alaska Anchorage … 1.04

PRESEASON PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Nick Bjugstad, forward, Minnesota (16 votes)

Others receiving more than one vote: Erik Haula, forward, Minnesota (4); Mark Zengerle, forward, Wisconsin (3)

PRESEASON ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Rocco Grimaldi, forward, North Dakota (8 1/2 votes)

Others receiving more than one vote: Nic Kerdiles, forward, Wisconsin (5); Jordan Schmaltz, defenseman, North Dakota (2 1/2); Brady Skjei, defenseman, Minnesota (2); Andy Welinski, defenseman, Minnesota Duluth (2)

PRESEASON ALL-WCHA TEAM

Forwards

Nick Bjugstad, Minnesota (20 votes); Mark Zengerle, Wisconsin (17); Ben Hanowski, St. Cloud State (8)

Others receiving more than one vote: Danny Kristo, North Dakota (7); Erik Haula, Minnesota (6); Rylan Schwartz, Colorado College (5); Corban Knight, North Dakota (3)

Defensemen

Joey LaLeggia, Denver (20 votes); Nick Jensen, St. Cloud State (9)

Others receiving more than one vote: Nate Schmidt, Minnesota (7); Wade Bergman, Minnesota Duluth (3)

Goalie

Sam Brittain, Denver and Josh Thorimbert, Colorado College (7 1/2 votes each)

Others receiving more than one vote: Juho Olkinuora, Denver (3), Joel Rumpel, Wisconsin (2)

The following media members took part in the 94X Preseason Media Poll:  David Ahlers, KKAR Radio/University of Nebraska-Omaha; Stephen Anderson, Daily Mining Gazette; Andy Baggot, Wisconsin State Journal; Tyler Buckentine, USCHO.com; Mike Chambers, Denver Post; Bruce Ciskie, KZIO Radio/Bulldog Radio Network; Chris Dilks, Western College Hockey; Shane Frederick, Mankato Free Press; John Gilbert, WCHA.com; Kurt Haider, KENI Radio; Mick Hatten, St. Cloud Times; Dirk Hembroff, WKMJ Radio; Jack Hittinger, Bemidji Pioneer; Ken Landau, 103.9 FM The Eagle Radio; Don Lyons, Leighton Broadcasting/St. Cloud; Todd Milewski, USCHO.com; Dan Myers, Minnesota Hockey Magazine; Jess Myers, 1500ESPN.com; Joe Paisley, Colorado Springs/Colorado College; Kevin Pates, Duluth News Tribune; Chris Peters, United States of Hockey; Brian Posick, WIBA Radio/Badger Radio Network; Chad Purcell, Omaha World Herald; Brad Schlossman, Grand Forks Herald; Jay Stickney, 102.3 ESPN Radio.

Pairwise calculator available

So what does a Providence win over Boston College in the Hockey East semifinals mean for North Dakota’s chances of making the NCAA Tournament? Should I really root for my team’s archrival?

Figure it out and drive yourself a little crazy with College Hockey News’ You Are The Committee’ tool, which calculates what each win/loss scenario does to the Pairwise rankings, which determine the 16-team NCAA Tournament field.

Thursday reading: Pros updates, weekend preview notes

Mark Stuart has been a leader at every level of hockey he's played.

Former Tiger Mark Stuart, pictured at left playing for Team USA last summer, is profiled by the Winnipeg Jets while listing all his considerable accomplishments.

Getting replaced by Joey Crabb on your line is a good motivational tool for Leafs’ coaches. Crabb has made the most of his chance this season.

From the “Hockey is a Small World” department, here’s a story by the Post’s Mike Chambers linking two Avalanche teammates to their peewee days when they lost to two former Denver standouts and a former CC goalie named Richard Bachman.

Here’s Goon’s World’s weekly predictions and an injury update for Colorado College, which looks to have lost sophomore Michael Morin for the season with surgery on a broken right ankle.

Here’s the Gazette’s capsule preview for the home-and-home series between CC and Denver.

The Minnesota AD announced he will retire soon.

Former Mankato standout and Blues captain David Backes used his free time over the NHL All-Star Break to save three shelter dogs by flying them from Houston  to a no-kill shelter in St. Louis.

The City of Mankato is looking to invest some serious money into improving the Verizon Wireless Center. Great job by Shane Frederick finding that Backers story.

After some talk of the Blues trading the rights to current CC sophomore standout Jaden Schwartz, that rumor has been dispelled.

Michigan Tech is no longer anyone’s doormat.  The Huskies take on MSU-Mankato this weekend.

Here’s Denver’s weekly press conference video  featuring coach George Gwozdecky.

Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore discusses his team’s road series at Nebraska-Omaha in this video.

Alaska Anchorage has the unenviable task of hosting No. 1/2 Minnesota Duluth.

Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves talks about his team’s home series against St. Cloud State.

North Dakota’s Corban Knight is the subject of the “Through These Doors” weekly video feature. UND is idle this week as are the No. 1/2 Gophers.

This Week in the WCHA …

Games for Friday, February 3: St. Cloud State at Wisconsin (WCHA), 7:07 pm CT; Bemidji State at Nebraska Omaha (WCHA), 7:37 pm CT; Michigan Tech at Minnesota State (WCHA), 7:37 pm CT; Colorado College at Denver (WCHA), 7:37 pm MT; Minnesota Duluth at Alaska Anchorage (WCHA), 7:07 pm AT.

Games for Saturday, February 4: Bemidji State at Nebraska Omaha (WCHA), 7:07 pm CT; Michigan Tech at Minnesota State (WCHA), 7:07 pm CT; Denver at Colorado College (WCHA), 7:07 pm MT; St. Cloud State at Wisconsin (WCHA), 8:07 pm CT; Minnesota Duluth at Alaska Anchorage (WCHA), 7:07 pm AT.

Friday reading

Captain Nick Dineen and senior Tim Hall (pictured) may not be honored by the midseason awards, but both are big reasons the Tigers are in third and four points out of first place in the WCHA halfway through the season.

It’s time to look at the first half of the WCHA season. Here’s Bucky’s Fifth Quarter’s take which honors Rylan and Jaden Schwartz, Mike Boivin and Gabe Guentzel.

Here’s more on the Canada captaincy of CC sophomore Jaden Schwartz, including a feature touching on the influence of his sister Mandi.

Former Tiger Mike Testwuide looks due for a breakout later this season.

Minnesota’s Nick Bjugstad remains day to day for Team USA at the world juniors. Here’s an update on the Americans.

Nebraska-Omaha picks up a goalie commit.

Here’s a Gazette feature on AFA’s Kyle De Laurell, a product of the Colorado Rampage club in northern Colorado Springs.

CURRENT WCHA STANDINGS
WCHA Games
Overall
GP
W
L
T
Pts
GF
GA
W
L
T
GF
GA
1
Minnesota
14
11
3
0
22
51
28
14
5
1
83
41
Minnesota Duluth
14
10
2
2
22
59
32
12
3
3
73
44
3
Colorado College
14
9
5
0
18
59
48
11
5
0
67
50
4
Nebraska Omaha
14
7
4
3
17
46
43
9
8
3
62
60
5
Denver
14
6
5
3
15
47
45
8
7
3
59
55
6
North Dakota
14
7
7
0
14
39
37
9
8
1
51
50
7
Michigan Tech
14
6
7
1
13
41
43
9
9
1
54
55
St. Cloud State
14
5
6
3
13
43
41
7
9
4
64
62
9
Bemidji State
14
5
7
2
12
36
46
9
9
2
55
56
10
Wisconsin
14
4
8
2
10
40
50
7
9
2
57
59
11
Alaska Anchorage
14
3
10
1
7
29
54
6
10
2
46
63
12
Minnesota State
14
2
11
1
5
37
60
5
14
1
55
75

Friday reading

Some think CC sophomore Jaden Schwartz, pictured at left, may have a letter on his Canadian national team jersey soon, judging from this well-done feature. They’ll get no argument from me.

He is one of the five Canadians to watch according to NBC.

His absence makes it likely CC will split at Mankato this weekend according to this prediction. The Mavs are healthier headed into this series.

Here’s the Mankato Free Press’ preview capsule and The Gazette’s look at CC’s goalie situation. Fans should keep in mind that they needn’t freak out unless a true No. 1 hasn’t emerged by February. Remember CC turned its season around with a 2-1 loss at Bemidji State when the team suddenly started playing to its potential; capped by that memorable NCAA win over Boston College.

The Alabama-Huntsville at Bemidji State series is previewed by the Bemidji Pioneer. Beavers player Drew Fisher is interviewed in this video.

Denver sophomore Jason Zucker’s hectic days are profiled by the Post’s Adrian Dater. The Pioneers play at St. Cloud State.

The rivalry between the Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan’s coaches go back to their playing days and continued as assistants.

Here’s preview notes for North Dakota’s Saturday exhibition against the Russian Red Stars.

Former Tiger Bill Sweatt’s demotion to the AHL  is explained by the Canucks’ coach. It’s good news. Here’s a feature on his NHL experience by his hometown newspaper.

Richard Bachman continues to impress. It is unclear if he will play against the Devils tonight after winning 3-2 at the Islanders Thursday night.

There’s high hopes for UMass-Lowell, where former CC assistants Norm Bazin and Jason Lammers have engineered a strong start.

Goon’s World makes his predictions for this weekend.

The weekly news releases from the National Collegiate Hockey Conference is annoying to this columnist.