Three Tigers among top western college free agents

CC Rylan Schwartz actionThe Western College Hockey Blog announced its top 15 college free agents from the CCHA and WCHA and that list included three Tigers. Here are the list’s write ups on each with my take on the other seniors at the bottom.

8. Alex Krushelnyski, Junior, Forward, Colorado College

Krushelnyski was a player barely on the radar heading into this season, but has had an incredible year. Krushelnyski has 32 points through 30 games this year, including 28 points at even strength. He’s the nation’s third best scorer at even strength behind Walters and Boston College’s Johnny Gaudreau. There’s nothing flashy about his game, but he’s the type of player that wins battles and rarely makes a mistake. He has the type of tools to be an effective bottom line player in the NHL.

11. Rylan Schwartz, Senior, Forward, Colorado College

While never quite as dynamic as younger brother Jaden, Schwartz has always been a dangerous offensive player in his own right. He’s having a very strong final campaign, with 35 points through 30 games this year, and his playmaking abilities could be valuable for some NHL club.

15. Mike Boivin, Senior, Defense, Colorado College

Boivin is an offensive defenseman that has been a rock on the power play for the Tigers this year. Colorado College has a long history of getting offensive defensemen into the NHL including players like Mark Stuart, Jack Hillen, Nate Prosser and Tom Preissing.

The other three senior free agents (Scott Winkler is a Dallas draft pick) are Andrew Hamburg, Joe Marciano and William Rapuzzi. I expect all three to garner some attention as well, especially Rapuzzi (33 points, 19 assists).

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Wednesday reading: Duluth suspensions, league news, Hobey voting

rylan roadAccording to the Duluth News Tribune, Minnesota-Duluth will have three top players out of the lineup for Friday’s home game against Michigan Tech to serve a one-game suspensions for violating team rules.

Senior forward and captain Cody Danberg, senior defenseman Wade Bergman and freshman forward Austin Farley will sit for the unspecified violations. The Bulldogs had a bye last weekend.

Here is a look at recent developments in the WCHA and an update from North Dakota.

Colorado Springs native Josh Holmstrom, a junior forward at UMass-Lowell, and Colorado College seniors Mike Boivin and Rylan Schwartz made the first phase of fan balloting for the 2013 Hobey Baker Memorial Award. The three are among the 77 student-athletes under consideration.

Fan voting opened earlier this week at hobeybakeraward.com and will remain open until March 10.

CC at St. Cloud State preview

CC Alexander Krushelnyski roadHere is part of a preview I wrote earlier this week.

Colorado College (8-8-2, 5-4-1 WCHA) at No. 17 St. Cloud State (9-7-0, 7-5-0) 7:37 p.m. Central Friday, 7:07 p.m. Saturday

The Tigers’ run of five weekends in a row against ranked opponents continues this Friday through Saturday in Minnesota. The league’s 11th-rated scoring defense (3.50 goals) is balanced out by CC’s potent offense (league-best 3.61 goals), although the Tigers start out slow with 51 of the team’s 65 goals coming in the second and third period.

“We just need to keep getting better,” said Tigers head coach Scott Owens. “Our 5-on-5 scoring has been good which is better than it has been the past three years.”

CC senior Rylan Schwartz is tied for the WCHA scoring lead with 24 points while senior captain William Rapuzzi is tied for third with 22 points (13 assists). Tigers senior Scott Winkler has 20 points and is tied with Schwartz and two others with a league-high 10 goals.  Junior Alexander Krushelnyski now has 19 points (11 assists), good for a tie for eighth on the WCHA point scoring list with two others.

They face a team that is every bit as good as the higher-ranked opponents CC has faced, Owens said.

“And it is at their home which only makes it tougher,” Owens added. “They have two top lines that are as strong as anyone’s. You knew they would be good coming into the season with (Drew) LeBlanc back. Their defensive corps is underrated, led by one of the league’s best in Nick Jensen, and they have had good goaltending. They are going to be good as always.”

SCSU Nick JensenThe Huskies are paced by senior LeBlanc’s 21 points (team-high 16 assists) and 20 points (12 assists) from junior Nic Dowd. Freshman Kalle Kossila has 13 points (eight goals) while junior defenseman Jensen has 12 points, with his first goal of the season last weekend.

Senior Ben Hanowski has 11 points (seven assists) while freshman David Morley has 10 points (four goals, including his first hat trick last Friday). Sophomore goalie Ryan Faragher is 8-6-0 with a 2.44 goals against mark and a .912 saves percentage.

Tigers battle back to tie No. 4 Minnesota (with interview video)

Minnesota was only 20 minutes from reclaiming a spot atop the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings as it headed into its holiday break with a road sweep of Colorado College on Saturday night.

The Tigers would have none of that.

The never-say die Tigers rallied with three unanswered goals to stun No. 4 Minnesota and pick up a huge home point with a 4-4 tie after entering the third period trailing 4-1. CC senior Rylan Schwartz completed the rally when he ripped a one-timer past Minnesota freshman goalie Adam Wilcox with 24.6 seconds left in regulation after CC junior Alexander Krushelnyski, another Tigers hero in the third period, sent a crossing pass from along the near boards to the far post where Schwartz was unmarked.

Schwartz finished with two goals and an assist, including two points in the third period, while Krushelnyski recorded two goals and an assist in the final 16 minutes of regulation.

“Every night, certain guys step up and spark the team,” Krushelnyski said. “It just happened to be my turn. You have to give credit to Rylan for burying that puck to tie it. You also have to give credit to (Thorimbert) for shutting them out over the final 45 minutes.”

The comeback was big for a Tigers squad that has now gone 1-5-2 over its last eight games to drop into seventh place in the WCHA with two fewer league games played than most of the league. CC travels to third-place St. Cloud State, which is tied with Minnesota State, this weekend.

“We took a little step in the right direction,” Schwartz said.

Saturday’s result was comparable to the 4-4 tie against then-No. 5 New Hampshire, which had the Division I’s best scoring defense then. This time the rally came against the WCHA’s best scoring defense (11.88 goals),

Despite Denver’s 6-3 loss at North Dakota, the Pioneers are one point ahead of the Gophers (11-3-3, 6-3-3) as DU heads into its final weekend before the holiday break. UM is idle until it plays Air Force in the Mariucci Classic Dec. 29 while Denver (9-5-2, 7-3-2) travels to Bemidji State Dec. 14-15. DU’s winless streak is now at six games, the program’s longest such stretch since the 1999-2000 season.

“Some ties feel good and others feel like a loss,” Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said. “This feels like a loss. We were up 4-1 and could have made it 5-1 but we didn’t put it away and to their credit they battled back. It is disappointing we let a point slip away.”

Colorado College (8-8-2,-5-4-1)  got back into the game when Krushelnyski scored a shorthanded goal with 15:46 left and scored again 1:47 later to trim the Minnesota lead to 4-3. Krushelnyski’s first goal of the night came after Rylan Schwartz collected a loose puck in the Tigers zone and passed to the junior to  start a 2-on-1 breakaway. Krushelnyski fired the shot past Wilcox’s glove attempt to energize what had been a silent announced crowd of 6,954 fans at World Arena.

They were quiet no longer.

Krushelnyski’s second tally came after CC senior defenseman Mike Boivin fired a hard shot that went off Wilcox’s leg pad and ended up in front where Krushelnyski beat a UM defender to the puck to knock in the rebound.

And suddenly, Minnesota was battling to hold on. CC drew a penalty a couple minutes later but was unable to generate more than one shot (Krushelnyski). The Tigers continued to harass Wilcox but Minnesota weathered the storm.

CC came close to tying the game with 1:23 prompting a video review when Wilcox had to reach back to grab a loose puck in the crease. It was ruled the puck did not cross the line.

The rally continued a pattern of the Tigers falling behind only to battle back, usually falling short during this stretch, which included losing last Saturday against North Dakota after leading in the third period and falling after entering the third tied on Friday against the Gophers. CC has led in only 14 if its 18 games this season.

“It is starting to get kind of embarrassing,” Schwartz said. “We need to start better.”

“We know we can come from behind,” Krushelnyski said. “It’s a good asset to have. If we could add good starts we could be unbeatable.”

“It is a big point for us, especially after last Saturday and last night.” Tigers head coach Scott Owens said. “It reinforced a few things we have been talking about. I am proud of the team’s effort.”

Earlier, Schwartz scored the Tigers’ fourth power-play goal since the Bemidji State series in October. His wrister whizzed over Minnesota freshman goalie Adam Wilcox’s shoulder to make it 3-1 with 11:30 left, coming only 11 seconds into the man advantage.

The Gophers regained control when Mike Reilly scored an unassisted goal after collecting a loose puck in the Tigers zone and beating CC junior goalie Josh Thorimbert on a hard-angle shot inside the far post.

Minnesota seized control early when Tom Serratore, the Colorado Springs native who scored the game-winner on Friday, banged in a rebound after Nate Condon’s shot caromed off Thorimbert’s chest pad into the air and landed to Thorimbert’s left in front of an open net with 15:21 left in the first period.

Only 28 seconds later, a CC penalty set up Kyle Rau’s power-play goal only six seconds into the man advantage. Zach Budish won the faceoff, sending the puck back to Nate Schmidt who passed to the opposite faceoff circle from where Rau wristed a shot over Thorimbert’s shoulder as he slid over. That score made it two Gopher goals in only 34 seconds.

The game was the final WCHA regular-season game between the two programs with Minnesota leaving for the new Big Ten league and CC headed to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference with the start of the 2013-14 season.

Seth Ambroz fired a hard shot through traffic from the right point with 5:28 left to make it 3-0.

No. 4 Minnesota 4, No. 19 Colorado College 4

Minnesota          3              1              0              0              –4

Colorado College             0              1              3              0              –4

First period – 1. Minnesota, Serratore (Condon, Ambroz) 4:39; 2. Minnesota, Haula (Schmidt, Budish) 5:13; 3. Minnesota, Ambroz (Schmidt, Boyd) 14:32. Penalties – CC, King, tripping, 5:07; UM, Helgeson, cross checking, 12:21; CC, Skalbeck, slashing, 12:21; CC, Rapuzzi, roughing, 19:22.

Second period – 4. Colorado College, Schwartz (McDermott, Winkler) 8:30 (PP); 5. Minnesota, M. Reilly (unassisted) 15:41. Penalties – UM, Ambroz, holding, 1:32; CC, Schwartz, slashing, 5:59; UM, Haula, tripping, 8:19; CC, Collett, tripping, 10:59; UM, Isackson, hooking, 15:52; CC, Boivin, roughing, 16:15.

Third period – 6. Colorado College, Krushelnyski (Schwartz) 4:14 (SH); 7. Colorado College, Krushelnyski (Boivin, Rapuzzi) 6:01; 8. Colorado College, Schwartz (Krushelnyski, Winkler) 19:36 (EX). Penalties – CC, Bradley, high sticking, 2:30; UM, Isackson, roughing, 8:56.

Overtime – No scoring. Penalties – none.

Power play – Minnesota 1-6, Colorado College 1-4. Shots on goal – Minnesota 11-10-5-3 — 29; Colorado College 11-6-9-1 – 27. Saves-minutes – Minnesota, Wilcox 11-5-6-1- 65:00; Colorado College, Thorimbert 8-9-5-3- — 64:01. Referees – Bokai, Thul. Linesmen – Stankevich, Stodgell. Attendance – 6,954.

Serratore lifts Gophers past Tigers in third

serratoreNo. 4 Minnesota kept up the pressure and the Colorado College defense finally cracked, with hometown boy Tom Serratore scoring on a shot through traffic with 6:37 remaining in the third period to lift the visiting Gophers to a 4-2 victory on Friday night.

“For Tom, it’s big to score the game-winner in his hometown,” said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia. ”He has been such a good solider. We moved him up to the third line and he has been producing.”

The goal came 47 seconds after a CC clearing attempt failed and the tiring Tigers could not clear the zone before the puck ended up in front for a shot CC goalie Joe Howe did not appear to see clearly with the four players locked up in front screening him. Serratore, the son of Air Force head coach Frank Serratore, was happy to bang the loose puck in.

“It is always good to score against the Tigers,” he said.

Minnesota’s Zach Budish scored an empty-netter with 1:08 left for the final margin.

The loss drops CC to 1-5-1 in its last seven games during a stretch of 10 straight games against ranked opponents to close out the first half. The Tigers have struggled to close out the close games, dropping to 4-6-1 in one-goal games (not including empty-netters).

“We have to find a way to win those close games,” said Tigers head coach Scott Owens. “I like the team. It was 6:37 left and we were right there. I would like to see someone step up and take charge.”

The Tigers held a upperclassmen-only meeting following the loss.

The game was delayed for seven minutes when Minnesota defenseman Justin Holl broke the Zamboni door glass as he tried to check CC junior wing Archie Skalbeck. Holl went high, missed the crouching Skalbeck and busted the glass to the delight of the announced crowd of 7,021 fans at Colorado Springs World Arena with 2:43 left in the third.

The Tigers awoke from their slumber in the second period thanks to their top line.

Senior captain William Rapuzzi took a pass as he skated across the face of the Minnesota net and backhanded the puck past UM freshman goalie Adam Wilcox to tie the game at 2-2 headed into the third period.

The goal was CC’s second in only 101 seconds.

“There were good things,” Owens said. “I like how the defensive corps played after (sophomore Aaron) Harstad went down.”

Harstad is out with an undisclosed upper body injury and will not play on Saturday, Owens said.

Rapuzzi’s ninth goal of the season came with 3:22 left, only 1:41 after Archie Skalbeck, who made the pass to Rapuzzi, scored off a pretty crossing pass from senior Rylan Schwartz to spark the host Tigers only 1:45 after Minnesota’s Sam Warning scored his second goal of the night and season. Skalbeck’s score made it 2-1 Gophers.

Warning scored three seconds after a UM power play expired on a wrist shot from the left faceoff circle to stake the visiting Gophers to a 1-0 lead in the first period.

He added his second goal of the night and the season when he corralled a loose puck in the left faceoff circle and wristed the puck under CC goalie Joe Howe’s arm as he slid over.

“It’s good to see Sam score,” Lucia said. ‘He had been hurt (nine games, upper body injury) and it took him a couple games to get back to speed. We needed him to score those two big goals or we would not have won.”

UM out shot the host Tigers 12-4 in the first period, but CC came back with a superior effort in the second to trim the advantage to 20-15. The Tigers, which gave up 88 sots last weekend and the 97 two weeks ago made some progress by allowing only 31.

“We did a good job keeping out of the box,” Owens said. “We had 2-3 pretty good efforts late but either (freshman goalie Adam) Wilcox came up with a play or we could not convert. I would like to have us get one goal on the power play.”

Notes

U.S. national junior prelim camp roster invitee Brady Sjkel of Minnesota was a coach’s scratch on Friday. … The Gophers’ ranks were depleted by the flu. … The Tigers held a seniors-only meeting after the game. … Last night’s CC lineup was identical to the previous Friday when it beat No. 9 North Dakota 5-2. … Minnesota coach Don Lucia served as head coach at CC from 1993-99, leading the Tigers to three WCHA titles, a 1996 national runner-up finish and a return to the 1997 Frozen Four. … UM sophomore Kyle Rau, younger brother of former Tiger standout Kyle, is a good harbinger of the Gophers’ success. They are 10-0-0 this season when he records a point. The Gophers won for the first time when he did not record a point. … Erik Haula’s two assists makes it 11 games in a row with a point or more. … Baseball Hall of Famer “Goose” Gossage, a Colorado Springs native, dropped the ceremonial first puck before the game. … Rapuzzi has recorded a point in eight straight games.

No. 4 Minnesota 4, No. 19 Colorado College 2

Minnesota          1              1              2 —         4

Colorado College             0              2              0              –2

First period – 1. UM, Warming (Marshall, Reilly) , 7:36. Penalties – CC, Hamburg, hooking, 5:33; UM, Isackson, boarding, 12:51.

Second period – 2. UM, Warning (Schmidt) 13:12; 3. CC, Skalbeck (Schwartz, Rapuzzi) 14:57; 4. CC, Rapuzzi (Skalbeck, Schwartz) 16:38. Penalties – UM, Reilly, interference, 3:29; UM, Haula, unsportsmanlike conduct, 6:33; CC, Bradley, unsportsmanlike conduct, 6:33; UM, Serratore, charging, 10:12; UM, Rau, unsportsmanlike conduct 17:10; CC, Hanson, unsportsmanlike conduct, 17:10.

Third period – 5. Minnesota, Serratore (Budish, Haula), 13:23; 6. Minnesota, Budish (Condon) 18:52 (EN). Penalties – UM, Holl, tripping, 6:54; UM, Helgeson, roughing,  19:50; CC, Taft, roughing, boarding. 19:50.

Power play – Minnesota 0-2, Colorado College 0-4. Shots on goal – Minnesota 12-8-11 – 31; Colorado College 4-11-11 – 26. Saves-minutes – Minnesota, Wilcox 4-9-11 – 60:00; Colorado College, Howe 11-7-9 – 59:48. Referees – Bokai, Thul. Linesmen – Stankevich, Stodgell. Attendance – 7,021.

Friday reading: Video, columns, predictions, features, previews

North Dakota released its weekly preview video:

Here is this week’s USCHO column on the WCHA. I wrote about CC’s defense, Mark Zengerle, the players of the week and provided the quick hits.

Here are my predictions for this weekend.

Here is the Gazette’s preview for the North Dakota at CC series. The Grand Forks Heralds says UND wants to generate greasy goals and keep an eye on senior Rylan Schwartz, who leads a potent Tigers offense. You may recall he had hat tricks two nights in a row at Grand Forks last Thanksgiving. Those links and plenty of others are provided here. More links including info on video streaming is included in links found here.

Puckato provides links to preview from all around the WCHA on his morning blog post. Check it out.

Here is a preview of the Wisconsin at Denver series focusing on the college debut of freshman Nic Kerdiles tonight, which will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network at 8 p.m. Mountain. Goalie Juho Olkinuora will start for Denver on Friday with Sam Brittain slated for Saturday, the Denver Post reports.

Here are capsules previews for all three series being played along the Front Range this weekend and a more detailed DU preview with an injury update on Josiah Didier.

Here is the NBC SN schedule this weekend:

Nov. 30 – Boston College vs. Boston University, 7:30 p.m. Eastern, Wisconsin vs. Denver, 10 p.m.

Dec. 1 – Boston University vs. Boston College, 7:30 p.m.

The NBC executives certainly picked the right games: BC coach Jerry York is one win away from tying Ron Mason for most Division 1 wins all time.

Tuesday reading: Engelstad, CC seniors, Kerdiles, commits, web poll

As part of its NCAA deal, the Ralph Engelstad Arena removed some Sioux references (though certainly not all). Courtesy GOON’S WORLD.

The seven CC seniors have stepped forward into the leadership roles nicely through the first two weeks of the season.

Badgers freshman Nic Kerdiles will serve his suspension and stay at Wisconsin, easing fears he would bolt for the WHL.

Bemidji State adds a commit while Minnesota added two. Here is the weekly WCHA web media poll:

Team Pts Previous Record High Low
1) Minnesota (9) 141 1 3-1-0 1 2
2) Denver (3) 131 3 2-0-0 1 3
3) North Dakota 123 2 1-1-0 2 4
4) Minnesota Duluth 96 4 2-2-0 4 8
5) Michigan Tech 87 8 2-2-0 3 9
6) Colorado College 80 5 3-1-0 4 10
7) St. Cloud State 72 7 2-2-0 4 9
8) Nebraska Omaha 67 6 2-2-0 4 10
9) Minnesota State 52 10 2-0-2 5 11
10) Wisconsin 46 9 0-2-0 6 12
11) Bemidji State 24 11 1-1-0 9 12
12) Alaska Anchorage 17 12 2-1-1 10 12
Representing Name Publication Twitter
Alaska-Anchorage, Taylor Hall College Hockey News @thall907
Bemidji State, Troy Mills The Beaver Pond
Colorado College, Joe Paisley, Paisley Hockey @Paisleyhockey
Denver, Mike Chambers, Denver Post @MChambersDP
Michigan Tech, Tim Braun, Tech Hockey Guide @TBraunTHG
Minnesota, Dan Myers, Minnesota Hockey Magazine @1DanMyers
Minnesota Duluth, Bruce Ciskie, The Ciskie Blog @BruceCiskie
Minnesota State, Chris Dilks, Western College Hockey @ChrisDilks
Nebraska-Omaha, Matt Semisch, Radio Free Omaha @matthewsemisch
North Dakota, Eric Burton The Hockey Writers Combine and Goon’s World @goon48
St. Cloud State, Jeremy Larson, Husky Hockey Time @jclarson02
Wisconsin, Andy Johnson, Bucky’s 5th Quarter @andyjohnsonB5Q