In the pros: Bidwill signs with Colorado Eagles

Arthur Bidwill saw a chance to move up a level in pro hockey and return to Colorado. He gladly took it.

The former Colorado College defenseman said he signed a one-year contract recently with the ECHL’s Colorado Eagles.

“After last season (in the Central Hockey League) ended I was looking for the best fit,” he said Friday. “It is great that I get to stay in Colorado. I really enjoyed my four years at CC. I know the Eagles have a really good fan base. It will be fun.”

Bidwill played four postseason games with the CHL’s Allen (Texas) Americans, with former teammate Brian McMillin, who recently re-signed with the franchise. Bidwill’s season ended early with a knee injury in the playoffs. He he fully recovered by the team awards brunch in May.

Bidwill did well in his short time in the CHL, finishing plus-7 thanks in part to the slower, more controlled pace on the NHL-sized sheets of the CHL, especially when compared to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. He knows the ECHL (which used to be an acronym for East Coast Hockey League) will be a step up in speed and skill.

“I do not know really what to expect,” he said. “I hope I can contribute. I know I will go in, work hard and then we will see what happens.”

The preseason starts Oct. 5 with the Eagles hosting the expansion franchise San Francisco Bulls with the regular-season opener at home against Alaska, which has Tim Hall on its protected list, on Oct. 12 at the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland.

UNO goalie sits out upcoming season

OMAHA, Neb. – University of Nebraska Omaha head hockey coach Dean Blais announced today that sophomore goaltender Ryan Massa will be taking a year off for personal reasons and will not compete again for the Mavericks until the 2013-14 season.

“We respect Ryan’s decision and wish him the best in the upcoming year,” said Blais.  “Per NCAA rules, he has five years in which to complete four years of competition, and we’ll look forward to his return in 2013-14.

“We are fortunate to have John Faulkner and Dayn Belfour returning as well as incoming freshman Anthony Stolarz joining our roster, and we think all three will do a very good job for us.”

Massa shared the top job with Faulkner but had superior stats. The native of Littleton, Colo. also authored UNO’s only shutout of the season, turning aside 35 shots in a 4-0 win at Michigan Tech on Feb. 11.

Massa finished 7-8-2 with a .914 saves percentage and 2.60 goals against mark but it was Faulkner (5-9-2, .886, 2.93) who started in Saturday’s elimination game during the WCHA playoffs when St. Cloud State ended the Mavs’ season.

Stolarz is well regarded and could end up being the new No. 1 while incoming sophomore Belfour, son of former NHLer Ed, posted good numbers in six games: 2-1-2, .902 saves, 2.55 gaa.

Regardless, the news loosens up a logjam at that position. Colorado College plays a WCHA series at Omaha Jan. 4-5, 2013 in their only scheduled games this upcoming season before both joining the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.

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.

Guentzel headed to AHL Syracuse

Former Tiger defenseman Gabe Guentzel will likely make his pro debut this weekend for AHL Syracuse. COURTESY TIM BRULE/USCHO

Former Tiger defenseman Gabe Guentzel is flying to Syracuse, N.Y. on Friday to sign an AHL-only contract with the American Hockey League’s Syracuse Crunch for the remainder of this season and the next, he said Thursday night.

“They really wanted to get me out there playing and learning their system,” he said. “That is one of the reasons I chose them.”

The Crunch are affiliated with the Anaheim Ducks organization, in which the puck-moving defenseman hopes he can find a niche and develop his game for the NHL.

Guentzel said he is unsure when he will make his professional debut. He is healthy and able to play when needed, he said.

“They really want to see me get some games under my belt this season,” he said.

The Crunch (27-27-4-4) host the Rochester Americans, which include former Tiger Colin Stuart, on Friday and the Adirondack Phantoms, which include former CC captain Mike Testwuide and Colorado Springs native Ben Holmstrom, on Saturday.

The college free agent said five other organizations – Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Edmonton and Minnesota – approached him about signing with them toward the end of his senior season, which ended March 10.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. He is the second  of the six Tiger seniors to sign a pro deal after his college career concluded. Tim Hall signed with the Alaska Aces late Thursday night.

Guentzel recorded 26 points (4g, 22a) his senior season and 94 points (16g, 78a) in 156 games for his career, missing only three games his freshman year out of a possible 159 contests played his his four years  a Tiger.

Sunday reading: In the pros, Hall, tonight’s playoff games

Toronto Maple Leafs' Joey Crabb, right, fights with Philadelphia Flyers' Wayne Simmonds during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Toronto on Saturday, March 10, 2012.

Former Tiger Aaron Slattengren scored Colorado’s only goal on a record-tying night for ECHL star Wes Goldie, Alaska teammate of former CC star Brian Swanson, who talks about the all-time goals record.

Trevor Frischmon recorded an assist for AHL Bridgeport Saturday night.

Tigers senior Tim Hall, one of the hardest working CC players up to the very end on Saturday, is featured here.

It’s a busy Sunday night in college hockey with eight best-of-three series going the distance.

CCHA regular-season champ Ferris State won 7-4 Saturday to force a decisive Game 3 Sunday against last-place Bowling Green.

Atlantic Hockey Association regular-season champ Air Force lost 3-1 Saturday to No. 8 UConn, forcing a Game 3 at 7 Mountain Sunday.

In the WCHA playoffs, No. 3 seed Denver forced Game 3 against Wisconsin at 7 Mountain at Magness Arena.

Quinnipiac at Colgate and Harvard at Yale’s ECAC playoff series will be decided tonight.

In Hockey East, UMass-Lowell will try to stave off No. 7 seed Providence, Merrimack tries for the road win at Maine and Boston University hosts New Hampshire.


Tigers beat Tech; will play them in playoffs Friday

The two teams liked this past weekend’s series so much that they’ll try it again next week

No. 19 Colorado College’s 2-0 win and results of other Western Collegiate Hockey Association games on Saturday night dropped Michigan Tech to the No. 8 seed in the upcoming best-of-three first round of the league playoffs when they will face the host Tigers on Friday.

The Huskies (14-18-4, 11-13-4 WCHA) will stay in Colorado Springs since the school is on spring break.

Tech head coach Mel Pearson likes his team’s chances after spending another week getting used to the altitude, the Olympic-sized ice sheet, and not having to travel.

“This could end up being an advantage,” Pearson said. “We know what they’re trying to do and they know what we’re doing. We just need to figure out a way to score goals.”

“That will help them,” Tigers head coach Scott Owens. “I like that we finished fifth instead of sixth and we’ve won both games in March. I like that it kept our Pairwise chances going.”

MTU last advanced to the WCHA Final Five in 2007, when the Huskies swept the host Tigers (18-14-2, 15-12-1), which also marked the last time Tech has won at the World Arena. The Huskies are 6-2 against CC in eight all-time postseason games.

Here are the other playoff matchups, pending a late Alaska score, for the best-of-three series starting Friday:  No. 12 seed Alaska-Anchorage at No. 1 Minnesota; No. 11 Minnesota State at No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth; No. 10 Bemidji State/Wisconsin at No. 3 Denver; No. 9 Wisconsin/Bemidji State at No. 4 North Dakota, and No. 7 Nebraska-Omaha at No. 6 St. Cloud State.

The Huskies have not finished higher than sixth place in the WCHA since 1992-93, when they were fourth. It was also the last time MTU hosted a WCHA playoff series.

CC senior defenseman Gabe Guentzel wound up and fired a hard slap shot that beat Tech goalie Kevin Genoe, making only his seventh appearance this season. The 5-on-3 power play goal was set up by penalties against the Huskies’ Alex MacLeod and Riley Sweeney only 42 seconds apart.

The goal, coming on CC’s sixth shot of the game, energized both teams with a lot of the rough stuff in the final three minutes of the second period.

CC picked up a huge insurance goal when Jaden Schwarz forced a MTU turnover along the left boards and skated in alone on the breakaway. He skated across the face of the goal, beating Genoe with a backhander inside the right post for s 2-0 lead with 52.2 seconds left in the second.

“They’re a good team and we can’t afford to give them a 5-on-3 or let Schwartz come clean for a breakaway,” Pearson said.

The third period was marked with a lot of end-to-end play with the Huskies coming out playing hard in hopes for staging a rally. Genoe made a huge legpad save on a one-timer by Rylan Schwartz from three feet away midway through the period to keep CC from pulling away.

“He gave us a chance to win tonight,” Pearson said.

MTU pulled Genoe with 2:44 remaining but the Huskies could not solve Thorimbert, who made 31 saves for his third career shutout.

“The guys in front of me worked their (butts) off,” Thorimbert said.

“Josh came up big and we found a way to win,” Owens said.

Michigan Tech put together a solid first period, but could not capitalize on its chances. Captain Brett Olson muffed a one-timer 4:28 in and his rebound attempt was stopped by Josh Thorimbert with 14:21 left.

Later, the Tigers killed off a 5-on-3 lasting an entire two minutes, being served by penalty-killing defensemen Guentzel and Joe Marciano, late in the period. The Huskies out shot CC 15-4 during the period and had a 19-4 edge early in the second.

“We had a good first period but we had nothing to show for it,” Pearson said. “We held them to two goals on the road. That’s usually good enough to win.”

Thorimbert made two big saves during that 5-on-3 man advantage for Tech, including a point-bank attempt by MTU 6-foot-5 right wing Milos Gordic, while CC captain Nick Dineen twice disrupted the MTU power play with a block and poke check out front.

Playing Tech in the playoffs mirrors last season’s finish when CC played Wisconsin five times, winning Game 3 of the playoff series.

“I thought it worked out well last year,” Owens said. “It has the flavor of a Junior A five-game series which we liked. I know tonight was the kind of game that earned our players’ respect. We were fortunate to win this game.”

It’s going to be intense,” Guentzel said/ “It’s do-or-die hockey.”

Updated Tuesday reading: Radio show, Hobey balloting, pros

Former Tiger Jack Hillen is expected to play tonight at Colorado. Take advantage of this chance to see him live.

The monthly Scott Owens radio show is tonight from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at McCabe’s Tavern, downtown Colorado Springs. CC captain Nick Dineen and new NCHC commissioner Jim Scherr will be the guests.

Here’s the Gazette’s weekend wrap-up.

Fan balloting for the Hobey Baker Award is underway. Get to it people.

Former Tigers Richard Bachman won the ECHL alumnus award for December.  Joey Crabb garnered some measured praise from this fan blogger.