Saturday, March 31, 2007

Colorado College Celebrates 50 Year Championship Drought
From Colorado Springs Gacette
by Kate Crandall

In 1957, regular-season tickets to Colorado College hockey games were 60 cents for faculty and free for students.

When CC advanced that season to the NCAA championship game against Michigan — played 50 years ago Friday — the price rose to $1.20 for general admission seats at the Broadmoor Ice Palace.

The KRDO radio broadcast of the game was sandwiched between Dance Date and Saturday Night Dance.

Then known as the Bengals, CC entered the third period with a two-goal lead against Michigan before breaking open the game with seven goals to win 13-6 over “the mythical Wolverines” — as they were called the next day in the Gazette-Telegraph — and capture the school’s second and last national championship.

“We used one line after another to keep the pressure on them like they wouldn’t believe it,” said Harley Patterson, who scored a goal in the third period and still lives in Colorado Springs. “We had the horses to do it.”

When the players left CC, they went into business of one sort or another, became husbands and fathers. Only 15 are alive, but 12 returned for a reunion this month. They normally gather every few years in Arizona, where some spend their winters and golf is easy.

The team was led in part by the “Hay-ch Bomb” line, named for the nuclear weapon of the time and players Bill “Red” Hay, Bob McCusker and Ike Scott. Hay became the first U.S. NCAA player to make an NHL team, later made some money in the oil business and is now CEO at the Hockey Hall of Fame. The 1956-57 team out- scored opponents 205-106 and remains the winningest in program history at 25-5.

“We kind of overpowered most of the teams we played that year,” said McCusker, whose 47 goals that season still rank first on CC’s season scoring chart.

Hockey was different. Goaltenders didn’t wear facemasks. Players wore leather caps and gloves and little upper-body protection. In college, body checking wasn’t allowed in the offensive zone.

“You couldn’t hit anybody out there,” said Patterson, who runs a cabinet store in Colorado Springs. “We played up and down, covering our wings and those guys were all over the ice. We played like we were taught in Canada.”

Mainly Canadians, the players were recruited by word of mouth.

After hitching a ride from Saskatchewan, Hay and Mc-Cusker showed up on the first day of tryouts sight unseen and without promise of a scholarship from coach Tom Bedecki. In fall of 1956, CC did not require entrance exams for admission, and “it was fair to say that the college was in a period of transition from a ‘safety school’ to a more rigorous, prestigious school,” said Jessy Randall, curator of special collections at CC’s Tutt Library.

The players’ scholarships were funded by private citizens and the El Pomar Foundation. Most of the players also had jobs at CC and in the community.

CC bonded by helping each other find rides to the rink, which was at The Broadmoor hotel, and buying food for one another when money was stretched.

“It was tough,” Patterson said. “Some of the guys didn’t have a job, or they lost one. . . . Some of them were pretty hungry.”

Don Wishart, who later earned a master’s at RPI and owned an engineering firm, was the captain.

“We were a family,” Wishart said. “That’s how it was through everything. If one guy was having a hard time, then we talked and got things going again.”

Those tight bonds proved invaluable on the ice.

“Each time you went out on the ice, you were playing for the guys (on the bench),” Patterson said.

In the NCAA semifinals, CC met Clarkson, a team it had not played that season.

The matchup worried the players more than the one against Michigan, even though the Wolverines had claimed six of the past nine NCAA championships.

“Once we beat Clarkson, we knew that we could go out and beat Michigan, because we had played them before,” Patterson said.

Michigan also had key players injured and three were ruled ineligible.

Before the championship game, Michigan coach Vic Heyliger, who started Air Force’s hockey program in 1968, told the Gazette-Telegraph, “We’ll be lucky to come within three goals of Colorado College. We’re all banged up.”

He was right.

“Nobody was going to beat us that night,” Hay said. “They could have put 12 men on the ice.”

Friday, March 30, 2007

Riley Nash Close To A Decision
Budding Superstar To Select A College In "The Next Couple Of Weeks"

From: Salmon Arm Observer
by James Murray

It was a season that ended too early for the Salmonback Silverbacks (BCHL) all involved but still produced many memorable performances.

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Rookie centre Riley Nash was the most recognized player during their annual awards banquet, as he picked up awards for Top Scorer, Rookie of the Year and MVP.
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When asked about lasting impressions of the 2006-07 SilverBacks, head coach Ty Davidson said the emergence of Nash is something that sticks out in his mind.

“The excitement that grew over everyone in regards to his development,” said Davidson.

Where that development will take him next is the major question on the minds of SilverBacks’ personnel as Nash contemplates returning to Salmon Arm and junior hockey next season or making the move to the college ranks.

“It’s about whether I’m comfortable leaving,” said Nash prior to the awards dinner.

“It’s a question of, I’m ready to step up to the college level, versus the benefits of another year here. I’m hoping to make my decision in the next couple of weeks... to be fair to the colleges I’m considering and to Garry (Davidson - SilverBacks GM), because he could be recruiting with the knowledge of replacing me.”

The impact of Nash’s decision and the fact he opened the door to a number of options is a testament to the way he emerged as a dominant force in the BCHL over the course of the season. He talked about the different stages and how his confidence grew with each success.

“At the start of the year, I was away a lot so it wasn’t until right before Christmas, when I was actually home (in Salmon Arm) for a month straight, that I started to feel really comfortable. I started to get on a roll as far as goals and points and then after Christmas, I came back refreshed and even more confident.”

He elevated his game once again after then linemate and team leading scorer Ben Winnett went down with an injury. He was asked about picking up the reins for one of the best players in the league.

“It was a combination of continuing on the good streak I was on and the knowledge that we were missing our 30-goal scorer,” said Nash. “I knew I had to produce and be that much better, especially knowing other teams would be focusing on our line more.”

The rise of Riley Nash
SilverBacks rookie centre Riley Nash took home three awards during the team’s award dinner on Sunday evening. Nash is undecided on his playing plans for next season.

Air Force's Eric Ehn Quietly Makes A Name For Himself
Fighting For Recognition

From: College Hockey News
by Theresa Spisak

Most years, Hobey Baker award candidates and leading scorers are from the big-name schools or, at the very least, one of the "Big Four" conferences.
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Now and then, however, an unexpected name from an unexpected conference shows up. This year, that name is Eric Ehn, from Atlantic Hockey's Air Force Falcons.
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Over the course of the year, the junior from Dexter, Mich., has quietly made his mark as the nation's leading scorer, ending the season tied with Michigan's T.J. Hensick at 62 points. His play has also made him a candidate for the Hobey Baker Award, given annually to the nation's top collegiate hockey player.
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Ehn finished fourth in the first stage of fan balloting, aided in part due to a grassroots campaign by fiancé Abbey Craft. (Read rest of story)

Cook Will Not Return For Extra Season At DU

There had been some speculation that Steven Cook might be granted another year of eligibility by the NCAA due to several extenuating circumstances. We have learned that his appeal was denied by the NCAA.

Originally enrolled at the Air Force Academy (see how I stay on message by bringing up Eric Ehn's Hobey Baker Campaign, while doing a story about a DU hockey player) in 2002, Cook appeared in 33 games. He was named Air Force's Rookie of the Year.

After his Freshman season, he transferred to DU and also sat out the 2004-05 season with a shoulder injury. After not playing competitive hockey for two seasons he appeared in 30 games in 2005-06 and 38 games this past season.

On the ice, he will always be remembered for his courageous play and his huge goal his Junior year that tied the game against the Gophers late in the Third period.

As a student, Cook was on the Academic Dean's list at Air Force and twice was honored on the WCHA All-Academic team at DU. He has recently taken the LSAT and hopes to attend law school.

Air Force Star Eric Ehn Is Hobey Finalist

From: Colorado Springs Gazette
by Kate Crandall


Hobey Baker would be proud.

Baker, a fighter pilot who was killed while testing a newly repaired airplane shortly after the end of World War I, is the namesake for college hockey’s most prestigious honor.

But since the inception of the Hobey Baker Memorial Award in 1981, there has never been a service academy finalist — until now.
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Air Force’s Eric Ehn, the first player from a service academy to be nominated for the award — college hockey’s equivalent to football’s Heisman Trophy — was named a top-three finalist Wednesday. The winner will be announced at 5 p.m. April 6 at the NCAA Frozen Four in St. Louis.
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North Dakota forward Ryan Duncan and Notre Dame goalie David Brown are the other finalists.
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According to the selection criteria, the award is given to a player who demonstrates character on and off the ice, displays outstanding skills in all aspects of the game, sportsmanship and scholastic achievements.
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“I’m pretty stunned,” said Ehn, a junior.
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“Based on the criteria, I think that someone from a service academy fits the bill every year, but sometimes the award is done a little bit differently in the selection process. It’s definitely a big honor.”
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Ehn, who had 24 goals and 40 assists, led the nation in scoring for 14 of the last 18 weeks and finished second with 1.60 goals per game.
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Named Atlantic Hockey Player of the Year, Ehn is also the first player not from one of the four major conferences to be named a top-three finalist.
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Fan voting accounts for just 1 percent in the selection process, but Ehn was the top votegetter. Ehn credited his fellow cadets for the votes. Daily reminder e-mails were circulated around the academy.
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Even though Ehn did not score in the Falcons’ first NCAA Tournament appearance Saturday, a 4-3 loss to Minnesota, coach Frank Serratore used him on virtually every offensive zone faceoff and on special teams. During one stretch, Ehn won nine consecutive faceoffs.
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“Thankfully the decision makers didn’t take a team loss against his individual achievements,” Serratore said.
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“He’s more than just a scorer, he’s a good all-around player.”
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Ehn had a goal or assist in 31 of the 40 games and became the first Falcon in 27 years to score more than 60 points. His 40 assists are the most by a Falcon in 31 years.
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Colorado College had recent Hobey winners in Peter Sejna (2003) and Marty Sertich (2005).
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“It’s a milestone for the program and it’s a tribute to Eric and also his teammates and his linemates,” Serratore said. “It’s a great compliment to him and the people around him.”
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How will Ehn celebrate?
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“I’ll sleep till 9 a.m. as opposed to 8 tomorrow,” he said.
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Ehn plans to return to the ice next week.
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“I’ll be focused on next year and start working on things that were missing from my game this season,” he said.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Dingle Gets Assist In First Professional Game

Manchester, NH- Ryan Dingle notched an assist in his first professional game for the Portland Pirates in the American Hockey League on Wednesday night. Dingle's assist on what proved to be the game winner, helped lead the Pirates to a 3-0 victory over the Manchester Monarchs.

In the first period, the Pirates struck first with just 42 seconds left in the period. Sean Blanchard slung a wrist shot toward the Monarchs net that wobbled through traffic and past goalie Jason LaBarbera. Simon Ferguson and Ryan Dingle were awarded assists on the 1st goal of the season by Sean Blanchard. The assist by Dingle was his first professional point.

Defenseman Sean Blanchard scored two goals and former Cornell goaltender David McKee made 17 saves as the Pirates extended their winning streak to two games.

Notes
Portland is coached by DU & NHL legend Kevin Dineen...Dingle signed a two year entry level contract with the Anaheim Ducks earlier in the week and was assigned to Portland...Dingle logged some time on the power play for Portland.

Latest DU Flight Risk & Incoming Recruit Report

Warning - This article contains rumor, speculation and inuendo. In other words, it full of gossip and b.s. But you already know that since you're reading LetsGoDU instead of relying on the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News, which do an excellent job of covering the Pioneer hockey program.

Mannino & Butler
Former DU player and Colorado Avalanche player Paul Stastny was quoted in the Denver fishwrap today as saying, "Peter Mannino and Chris Butler will be back at DU next season."

Since Stastny used to room with Mannino and grew up in St. Louis with Butler, its believed to be a pretty good source. Of course things can change as both Brett Skinner and Stastny signed professional contracts over the summer.

Nash Possibly Closer To DU Commitment

The University of North Dakota internet message board Sioux Sports has a message that, "Its just a matter of time until Riley Nash commits to the University of Denver."

Putting any faith in internet message boards is a hazarous exercise at the best of times, but there are links between UND and the Salmon Arm Silverbacks program.

The Salmon Arm franchise is partly owned by St. Louis Blues head coach Andy Murray. Andy's son Brady Murray played at the University of North Dakota.

There are also messages that claim he hasn't made up his mind yet, so the hockey world keeps waiting.


Paukovich Still Not Signed With Edmonton
As each day passes without a contract being signed with the Edmonton Oilers, a flicker of hope rises that Geoff Paukovich could return for his Senior season at DU. If Edmonton doesn't come up with a suitable contract, they risk Paukovich returning for his senior season.

Next season Paukovich will have more puck handlers capable of getting him the puck in close quarters in front of the net. DU recruits Kyle Ostrow, Tyler Bozak and Jason Gregorie all have excellent hands.

Eric Ehn Named Hobey Baker Finalist

U.S.A.F. ACADEMY, Colo. - Air Force junior Eric Ehn has been named to the Hobey Hat Trick as one of three finalists for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, college hockey's most prestigious individual honor. This year's winner will be announced Friday, April 6, at 6 p.m. CT in St. Louis. ESPNU will broadcast the Hobey Presentation live, followed by the Hockey Humanitarian Award and NCAA Skills Challenge as part of "Friday night at the Frozen Four". All three finalists, Ehn, North Dakota forward Ryan Duncan and Notre Dame goalie David Brown will be present for the presentation.

A center from Dexter, Mich., Ehn finished the season second in the nation in scoring with 1.60 points per game, just .08 behind the national leader from Michigan, T.J. Hensick. Ehn has 24 goals and 40 assists for 64 points in 40 games. Ehn led the nation in scoring 14 of the last 18 weeks. He ranks 11th in the nation in goals and second in assists.

Ehn becomes the first Air Force hockey player, and first ever service academy player, selected to the Hobey Hat Trick. He is also the first player named to the final three who is not a member of one of the four major conferences. Three other players were named to the list of 10 finalists, but none moved on to the final three. Those three players were Iona's Ryan Carter (MAAC) in 2002, Niagara's Joe Tallari (CHA) in 2003 and Quinnipiac's Reid Cashman (AHA) in 2005.
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The Atlantic Hockey Association Player of the Year and a first-team all-conference selection, Ehn scored in 31 of the 40 games. He became the first Falcon to score more than 60 points in 27 years. His 40 assists are the most by a Falcon in 31 years. Ehn set a new AHA record for points in a season in conference games with 45 points (16-29-45). In six games against teams from the Big Four conferences, Ehn had four goals, five points and was a +3.

The top vote-getter in phase two of the Hobey Baker fan voting, Ehn's accomplishments extend well beyond the rink. He was an academic all-conference selection in 2005-06 as a systems engineering management major and maintains a 3.00 GPA, carrying 36 credits in two semesters this season. He spent two-thirds of this past summer in Air Force Academy-sponsored programs. Ehn attended Operation Air Force at Hill Air Force, Utah to experience the operational Air Force and also, worked Basic Cadet Training to prepare the incoming class of 2010 for the school year.

"This is a huge honor on the personal level, but is even bigger for the team and the program," Ehn said. "Anytime you get recognized for any award is great, especially one as big as this. I could not be happier for the team to get this kind of recognition and publicity. Hockey is certainly not a game played by one guy, and I think recognition like this shows that we have some pretty good hockey players with some talent here at the Academy. (Andrew Ramsey) is going to St. Louis as well for the skills competition so this is definitely not about just one guy."
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"This honor is a tribute to Eric's talent and to the team that he played with," head coach Frank Serratore said. "Eric is an extremely gifted player that also works very hard. This shows how far our program has come in that we won a conference championship, earned our first trip to an NCAA regional and now a Hobey Hat Trick finalist."

The criteria for the award, which was first given to Minnesota's Neal Broten in 1981, is: 1. Candidates must exhibit strength of character both on and off the ice; 2. Candidates must contribute to the integrity of the team and display outstanding skills in all phases of the game; 3. Consideration should be given to scholastic achievement and sportsmanship; and 4. Candidates must comply with all NCAA rules: be full time students in an accredited NCAA college or university; and complete 50% or more of the season.

A standout hockey and football player at Princeton, Hobey Baker was a fighter pilot in World War I. Prior to returning from France, he was killed at the age of 26 while testing a repaired aircraft in 1918. Baker is a charter member of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame and one of a handful of Americans to be inducted into Canada's Hockey Hall of Fame. He is a member of Princeton's Hall of Fame, both football and hockey.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Fast Named WHL Player of the Month in March

From: Western Hockey League
by Jesse Watts

CALGARY, AB - The Western Hockey League today announced that defenseman T.J. Fast of the Tri-City Americans has been named the HUSKY WHL Player of the Month for March.

Fast, a product of Calgary, AB, scored two goals and added 11 assists for 13 points in nine games during the month of March, helping the Americans to an 8-1-0-0 record in that span.

The 19-year-old rookie rearguard, who joined the Americans in January after leaving Denver University, recorded points in eight consecutive games during the month of March. Fast also registered five multi-point games, and was the top-scoring defenseman in the WHL in March.

Paukovich Still At DU
Internet Rumors Unfounded

DU Junior Geoff Paukovich has not signed a professional contract with the Edmonton Oilers and is still attending classes at the University of Denver. It had be speculated that Edmonton was interested in signing Paukovich, and that may or may not be true, but both sides have not come to an agreement as of last night.

Paukovich grew up in Denver and one can assume that he won't be jumping ship, unless the Oilers make a quality offer. Paukovich was drafted under the old Collective Bargaining Agreement and as such, may qualify for a better deal than players drafted in the past two years.

Edmonton also has the NHL rights to DU Senior goaltender Glenn Fisher and DU Freshman Matt Glasser.

With Dingle Gone The Rebuilding Begins

From: Denver Post
by Mike Chambers

(left) Coach Gwozdecky has to replace Ryan Dingle and as many as three other players who may turn pro with eligibility still remaining this summer

DU coach George Gwozdecky noted on Tuesday that, "We're proud of the fact that Ryan has been able to accomplish one of his boyhood dreams, which is to have an opportunity to play professional hockey. On the other hand, our leading scorer with eligibility remaining has left us. It might be a positive recruiting tool down the road, but there is nobody that can come in as a freshman and produce like Ryan."

Gwozdecky could lose as many as three more underclassmen, and said his staff would recruit through the summer for possible additions to the incoming freshman class.

DU could begin to make up for Dingle's loss by signing highly-sought forward Riley Nash of the Salmon Arm Silverbacks of the British Columbia Hockey League. Nash, 18, was the league's top rookie scorer with 84 points (38 goals) in 55 games.

Two players from the United States Hockey League who have committed to DU for the 2008 class - forward Jason Gregoire (Lincoln) and defenseman John Lee (Waterloo) - might be brought in this fall.
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Notes: Ryan Dingle is the sixth DU player in the past seven years to leave early, joining forwards Mark Rycroft (2000) and Matt Pettinger (2000), defensemen Brett Skinner (2005) and Matt Carle (2006), and forward Paul Stastny (2006). All but Skinner currently are playing in the NHL.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Dingle Signs With Anaheim

From: Denver Post
by Mike Chambers

(left) Ryan Dingle will report to the AHL Portland Pirates and play for legendary DU Alum Kevin Dineen who coaches the team


University of Denver junior Ryan Dingle has signed a professional contract today with the Anaheim Ducks, DU sources said.

Dingle, who grew up in Steamboat Springs and Littleton, led the Pioneers in goal scoring the past two seasons. He had 27 goals in 2005-06 and 22 this season.

"Ryan has developed into an outstanding two-way hockey player," DU head coach George Gwozdecky said. "We wish him the best of luck in his pursuit of a career in the National Hockey League."

Dingle finished his three-year DU career with 98 points on 55 goals and 43 assists in 121 games. He netted two career hat tricks and finished his career ranked third all-time at DU with six career shorthanded goals and 14 career game-winning goals.

He helped the Pioneers capture their seventh NCAA National Championship in 2004 and also helped the team to one WCHA regular-season title, one WCHA Final Five title and two Wells Fargo Denver Cup championships. DU posted a 74-39-9 (.643) record during Dingle's three-year tenure.

He will become the fourth DU player in the past two years to leave school early for the pros. Defenseman and captain-to-be Brett Skinner signed with Vancouver in the summer of 2005. Defenseman Matt Carle and center Paul Stastny signed a year ago with San Jose and Colorado, respectively.

Dingle, who will be 23 next week, is an undrafted free agent, so he was free to negotiate with any team. After completing the school year, he will join an NHL club that has had success grooming undrafted college stars.

Ducks first-line forwards Andy McDonald (Colgate) and Chris Kunitz (Ferris State) also were bypassed during their draft-eligible years of 18-20 years old.

DU Recruit Leads Team To Playoff Series Victory

The Nanaimo Clippers led by DU recruit Kyle Ostrow, accomplished three things in Game 7 of their B.C. Hockey League second-round series with the Burnaby Express on Sunday at Frank Crane Arena.
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They won the game (5-4), they closed out a series, and they learned a valuable lesson about heart and determination, courtesy of the visiting Express.
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The Clippers, who had to scratch and claw for every goal they scored in the opening six games, built a 5-1 lead on Sunday, only to watch the Express mount a third-period charge that put both Sunday's win and Nanaimo's season in serious doubt.

Trailing by four goals, Burnaby's Chris Demoe cued the comeback with a power-play marker at 3:46 of the third. Express captain Tyler McNeely further cut into the lead at 5:20. And Burnaby climbed to within one goal of the Clippers when Express sniper Jovan Matic scored (from McNeely and Demoe) at 5:40.

"For a five-minute stretch we were panicking," said Clippers head coach Bill Bestwick. "That club gave us everything we could handle."

On the bench, Clippers forward Kyle Ostrow couldn't help but think he'd seen this movie before.

"Two years ago in the midget playoffs, I was with Calgary and we had a 4-1 lead in Red Deer. We ended up losing 5-4 and we were done," he said. "I kept having flashbacks (on Sunday). I didn't want it to happen again."

Thankfully for Ostrow, history didn't repeat itself and Nanaimo was able to withstand the Express comeback attempt to win the game 5-4 and the series four games to three.

Matt Irwin, Taylor Langford and Ostrow scored first period goals for Nanaimo, and Cody Danberg and Brendan Mason tallied in the second as Nanaimo finally seemed to figure out the enigma that was Burnaby netminder Matthew Gordon.

Langford, whose goal was the result of a Burnaby turnover and a fortunate bounce, says the secret was simple -- it came down to luck.

"We've been out-shooting them all series by two-to-one (shots were 42-21 in favour of Nanaimo on Sunday) and I knew sooner or later the floodgates were going to have to open," said Langford. "We finally got some lucky bounces. Our first three goals were all off lucky bounces and that's something we hadn't had all series."

Solving Gordon was one key to the Clippers' success and slowing Burnaby phenom & Wisconsin recruit Kyle Turris was the other. Nanaimo defenceman Erick Belanger addressed the latter with a thunderous body check on the gifted forward midway through the opening frame.

"(Burnaby) had been coming up the ice on the same set play for seven games. We needed someone to step up and take that opportunity away," said Bestwick. "Belanger certainly stepped up . . . and hit Turris hard.

"Belanger isn't a mean player and it was a clean check."

Turris limped to the bench following the hit and didn't take a regular shift for the remainder of the game.

When he was on the ice, he skated at half speed.

His second-period goal, a power-play marker at 6:15 that made it 3-1, should stand as a testament to his skill and willingness to compete.

Burnaby coach Rick Lanz, whose roster was decimated by injuries, praise his troops outside the Express dressing room.

"McNeely was playing on one leg and probably shouldn't have been playing at all . . . they broke the mold when they made that kid," said Lanz. "And then the best player in the league, Kyle Turris, gets hurt in the first period . . . but we still battled back. I couldn't be prouder of these guys."

As difficult as it is to believe following this hard-fought seven-game series, the road to the Royal Bank Cup only gets more difficult next round as the Clippers get set to battle the Cowichan Valley Capitals in the Coastal Conference final.

The Capitals, who disposed of the DU recruit Tyler Bozak's Victoria Grizzlies in the second round, were the only team in the BCHL to post a winning record over the Clippers (4-2) during the regular season.

"They are more physical, bigger, deeper and healthier (than Burnaby)," said Bestwick.

"They have a good offence and their defence got the job done against Victoria. We are going to have our hands full, there is no doubt about that."
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DU goaltending recruit Marc Cheverie did not appear in a single game of the seven game series. We understand he may be nursing an injury.

The first two games of the Coastal Conference final series are in Nanaimo (Wednesday and Thursday) while Games 3 and 4 are in Cowichan (Saturday and Sunday).

Note: DU recruit Stephen Cunninham from Boulder, Colorado plays for the Burnaby Express.

Denver's 2007 Recruiting Class Still Not Finalized

  • Steve Cunningham-LW (3/19/07) Burnaby (BCHL) 6'1 195
  • Dusty Jackson-LW (3/19/07) So. Minn. (NAHL) 6'3 195
  • Tyler Bozak-RC (11/2/06) Victoria (BCHL) 6' 175
  • Marc Cheverie-G (11/8/05) Nanaimo (BCHL) 6'2 195
  • Jesse Martin-RC (10/28/05) Tri-City (USHL) 5'10 170
  • Kyle Ostrow-LC (8/17/05) Nanaimo (BCHL) 5'9 160
  • Jason Gregoire-LW (2/1/07) Lincoln (USHL) 5'11 175 (2007 or 2008)
  • John Lee-RD (10/3/06) Moorhead H.S. 6'1 170 (2007 or 2008)
  • Riley Nash - DU or Cornell (2007 or 2008) (Uncommitted)

DU's recruiting picture is currently muddled due to Dingle's departure and Paukovich rumors which continue to swirl. The good news is that if they leave, DU has a budding superstar in Jason Gregorie waiting in the wings, who chose DU in a recruiting battle with North Dakota.

Also hanging over DU's head like a huge matzah ball is Riley Nash who is trying to decide between DU & Cornell. His brother plays at Cornell, but he also likes DU. The odds may be slightly tilted in Cornell's favor, but its too close to call.

Forwards
2007 has the chance to be DU's deepest recruiting class since the mid to late Sixties when DU landed Magnuson, Koroll, Wiste, Powers, Morrison & Trembecky within a few seasons. Its to early to tell if there is another Stastny or Carle in the group, but certainly Denver has not had four (five if Nash comes) recruits the caliber of Ostrow, Bozak, Martin & Gregorie in one class. Three of the four are Top 5 forwards in the USHL & BCHL and Bozak was the leading scorer in the BCHL.

Cunningham & Jackson will provide some much needed depth and may find a role of the team if they bring an expected physical presence.

Defensemen
The question at DU right now is, "Who's coming in to play defense?" TJ Fast left in mid-season and Adrian Veideman graduated and yet, DU has no defensive recruits at this time. John Lee, brother of Brian is waiting in the wings, but he's may not be ready for the WCHA. He spent most of last season at Moorhead High School where he was a Mr. Minnesota Hockey finalist.

Goaltending
Marc Cheverie has had an up and down season in goal in the BCHL, but he is already drafted by the NHL. He chose DU over UND and has an incredible upside potential since he's 6'3".

If DU gets Nash and Gregorie comes in 2007, I'd take DU's class over Wisconsin's. If neither come, DU's recruiting class is probably third or fourth behind Wisconsin, Minnesota & UND.

Monday, March 26, 2007

33,549

The games were thrilling, the fans were great and when it was all said and done Denver had broken the college hockey record for attendance at an NCAA Regional. The three-game attendance of 33,549 set the NCAA regional record at the Pepsi Center this weekend. And to think it was all done, without DU making the Tournament.
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This is going to change the way regional sites are selected, marketed & staged in the future. The partnership between DU and the Denver Metro Sports Commission pulled off the stunning result despite DU & Colorado College failing to make the NCAA Tournament.
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Over 8,600 ticket packages were purchased months before the event by DU, CC & Avalanche fans, and that, more than anything else, propelled the attendance figures. Those fans will be eligible to purchase 2,800 Frozen Four tickets at next years National Championship event at the Pepsi Center.

North Dakota Wins "Group Of Death" In OT

From: Rocky Mountain News
by Pat Rooney
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(left) Minnesota goaltender Jeff Frazee can't stop Chris Porter's shot in overtime
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In a rivalry this intense, turnabout is always fair game.
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Eight days after Minnesota ended North Dakota's dream of a Western Collegiate Hockey Association tournament championship with an overtime goal, the Fighting Sioux ended a dream of the Golden Gophers with a golden goal of their own.

Only this time, the stakes were much bigger.

North Dakota's Chris Porter scored on a wraparound chance 9:43 into overtime Sunday, lifting the third-seeded Fighting Sioux to a 3-2 victory in a thrilling West Regional final at the Pepsi Center.

The Fighting Sioux will make their 17th appearance in the Frozen Four and their third in a row under third-year coach Dave Hakstol. North Dakota (24-13-5) will play Northeast Regional champion Boston College in St. Louis in a Frozen Four semifinal that will feature the two hottest teams in the nation. (Rest of article)

Sunday, March 25, 2007

NHL Looking To Sign College Underclassmen

From: Denver Post
By Mike Chambers

(left) Geoff Paukovich is the latest name to emerge as a flight risk

Among the West Regional attendees at the Pepsi Center on Saturday were a handful of NHL executives with blank checks in their pockets, and the so-called "family advisers" looking to formalize their relationships with players by becoming contracted agents.

The country's most talented regional features Minnesota's Erik Johnson and North Dakota's Jonathan Toews, selected first and third overall in the 2006 NHL draft, respectively, plus a bunch of other high-round draft picks and many attractive undrafted free agents.

In a single-elimination tournament and NHL late-season opportunities underway, yesterday's amateur stars could today become professional millionaires. And they don't have to be seniors. Johnson, a freshman, and Toews, a sophomore, head the list of NHL-bound players performing at the Pepsi Center, but some athletes not even playing this weekend are negotiating from Denver.

Among those is junior Ryan Dingle, who has led the University of Denver in goal scoring the past two seasons. Dingle, according to his family adviser who was speaking on the condition of anonymity, has "a dozen or more" NHL teams seeking his services.

DU coach George Gwozdecky also risks losing junior Geoff Paukovich to the Edmonton Oilers, sophomore Chris Butler to the Buffalo Sabres and junior goalie Peter Mannino (free agent) to the highest bidder.

Gwozdecky expects a decision from Dingle, who grew up in Steamboat Springs and Littleton, this week.

"He was going to take the weekend and early part of next week to decide," Gwozdecky said.

"Obviously, we'd like to know, and the teams interested in him would like to know."

Blogger Goes Deep Undercover


This weekend I had the opportunity to cover the Denver Regional for College Hockey News, instead of my usual role as gossip mongerer and plagiarizer here at LetsGoDU.

Lets just say that trying to write an article while the wireless connection at the Pepsi Center goes in and out of reception and the Sioux and Wolverines are popping goals in the back of the net every few minutes, is harder than it looks.

Here's the context of the work, not much in the way of quality or quantity but College Hockey News got what they paid for. I think I'll stick to blogging and leave the hockey coverage to the underpaid professionals.

Theresa Spisak is a common sight around DU, CC & Air Force hockey games and she guided me through this bewildering experience. Needless to say, I don't think she'll volunteer for "Team Toga" training sessions again.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Dingle To Sign Pro Contract

(above) Ryan Dingle, who played much of his youth hockey in Steamboat Springs, talks with his agent on the phone before agreeing to sign a contract with the Anaheim Ducks. Dingle is expected to head to Portland, Maine to play with the Pirates in the American Hockey League.

Steamboat Fishwrap Says Anaheim Has Made Dingle An Offer


From: Steamboat Pilot
by Luke Graham

Steamboat Springs, CO — Ryan Dingle isn’t sure how he’s going to spend his first paycheck as a professional athlete — that’s something he has to first run past his mom, Karen.

What he’s sure about is he’s one step closer to a dream he’s been pursuing for the past 19 years.
On Wednesday, Dingle agreed in principle to sign with the Anaheim Ducks of the NHL, foregoing his senior year at the University of Denver.

“I started playing when I was four,” Dingle said while hashing out details of the contract at Steamboat Springs High School. “I always remember sitting in the driveway playing street hockey imagining I’d be in the NHL.”

Dingle, who was a free agent, said when the Pioneers’ season ended early, he gave his family adviser the go-ahead to start talking with NHL teams. After weighing his options, and seeing the Ducks with two players on their roster (Andy McDonald and Chris Kunitz) that were signed as free agents out of college, he decided Anaheim was the best fit for him.

“They obviously have a history placing players in the NHL that were free agents,” Dingle said. “I felt very comfortable that this is going to be my best chance to take that next step. I’m comfortable with the team, comfortable with the organization and very happy with the decision.”

Dingle’s coming off a two-year stretch as one of the most dangerous offensive players in college hockey. This season, Dingle led the Pioneers in goals (22), power-play goals (9), short-handed goals (2), game-winning goals (4) and finished second in points (37).

He also is Denver’s active career scoring leader with 98 points and a two-time All Western College Hockey Association third team selection.

“I think when you look at a guy that’s been the third-leading scorer in the country the last two years, you’re talking about one of the best players in the country from an offensive standpoint,” Denver coach George Gwozdecky said. “To do that in the best college hockey conference says he’s a pretty special player.”

Dingle, 22, wasn’t draft eligible because of his age. North American players who are not drafted by the age of 20 become unrestricted free agents.

While Dingle’s numbers were slightly down from his sophomore campaign (27-16-43), Gwozdecky said that wasn’t an indictment on Dingle’s play.

Dingle switched to center during his junior year and Gwozdecky said he became a more complete player.

After spending his freshman and sophomore years of high school attending the Lowell Whiteman School in Steamboat Springs, Dingle transferred to Battle Mountain his junior year to play Triple A junior hockey. During his senior year, he moved to Des Moines, Iowa to play for the Des Moines Buccaneers of the United States Hockey League. In December 2002, he was traded to the Tri-city Storm in Kearney, Neb. He joined the Pioneers for the 2004-05 season and helped lead them to their second straight national championship.

Dingle will be in Anaheim starting July 5 for a conditioning camp. After that, he’ll most likely be assigned to Anaheim’s American Hockey League team in Portland, Maine, the Portland Pirates.
Although Dingle said he doesn’t have a timetable for making the NHL, Wednesday was a step in the right direction.

“Obviously (making the NHL) is the end goal and the end result of a dream,” he said. “We’re still working at it. We’re not there yet, but we’re still working at it.”

North Dakota Fans Help Serratore Scout Gophers

From: College Hockey News.com
by Theresa Spisak


Being the first service academy to make the NCAAs, Air Force coach Frank Serratore has been receiving many e-mails from Air Force fans and alumni. However, he's also gotten e-mails from a few other places as a result of the Falcons' feel-good story.

"Another thing that makes you feel good is the amount of hockey fans, the Avalanche fans that have e-mailed me, the CC fans that have e-mailed me, the DU fans that have e-mailed, I mean it's just great to know — everybody's pulling for us," he said.

"I'm sure if CC was in, Scott [Owens] wouldn't be getting letters from DU fans and if DU was in, George [Gwozdecky] wouldn't be getting them from CC fans."

Since his team is playing the Gophers, he's also gotten some e-mails from admitted Gopher-haters — North Dakota fans.

"I got a scouting report from one of them," he said, and he described the end of one particularly salty e-mail as being "and when you win, I'll send you my Holy Cross t-shirt."


For more Air Force Regionals Coverage check out Theresa Spisak's article at CollegeHockeyNews.com

Dingle Listens To Pro Offers
Close To Free Agent Deal With Anaheim?

From: Rocky Mountain News
by Pat Rooney

The University of Denver's Ryan Dingle might have one foot out the door, but his college hockey career has not officially closed.

At least not yet.

Dingle, the Pioneers' top goal scorer the past two seasons, is a native of Steamboat Springs, and Thursday's edition of the Steamboat Pilot reported that the junior forward would forgo his senior season to sign a free-agent contract with Anaheim.

Pioneers coach George Gwozdecky, though, said Friday that the report is premature.

"I know there are a number of teams that have expressed an interest in him . . . but I spoke with Ryan (on Thursday) and he said, 'Coach, I'm still looking at opportunities here,' " Gwozdecky said. "At this point in time, there is nothing that I'm aware of."

Gwozdecky said he expects to meet with Dingle on Monday to discuss his future.

After suffering few early departures throughout much of his tenure at DU, Gwozdecky and his program have endured early attrition the past two years, a price the Pioneers have paid for winning national championships in 2004 and 2005.

Captain-to-be Brett Skinner signed a contract shortly after the NHL lockout ended, abandoning the Pioneers about a month before practice began for the 2005-06 season.

Last year, Hobey Baker Award winner Matt Carle and current Avalanche standout Paul Stastny left after their junior and sophomore seasons, respectively. Because DU's spring quarter begins Monday, Dingle's decision likely will be finalized within days.

"He was going to sit down with his parents over the weekend," Gwozdecky said. "But (Thursday) he was pretty much really undecided."

Berenson Takes The Boyz Sightseeing

From Ann Arbor News
by Antoine Pitts
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(left) Michigan coach Red Bereson pulled out all the stops this week by chartering an old DC-9 and taking the boys hiking in the Colorado foothills to build character. Old School coaching moves...



DENVER - Taking advantage of being the first to arrive for the NCAA West Regional, the University of Michigan hockey team used its practice session to slowly go over several points.

With the Pepsi Center not available to the teams until today, the Wolverines skated late Thursday morning at the Colorado Avalanche's suburban training facility.

They practiced longer than what is usually a one-hour session this time of year, stopping several times to talk specifically about what they want to do when they face North Dakota on 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Video coordinator L.J. Scarpace even did a short presentation on a projection screen from the bench.

"It was a good practice,'' Michigan coach Red Berenson said. "The goal of coming out here early was to get used to the time change and the altitude. By Saturday, we should be fine.''

None of the players appeared to be dragging through their first practice in the thinner air.

"To be honest, I don't feel a difference,'' sophomore Jack Johnson said.

Michigan arrived in Denver on Wednesday night via a charter flight. Weighed down with 25 hockey bags and other equipment, the DC-9 made a refueling stop in Kansas City as the players enjoyed each other's company all alone on the trip.

"It's a fun time just being with your teammates on the plane and not have to worry about being on your best behavior if there's someone sitting next to you that you don't know,'' Johnson said.

To kill some time the rest of Thursday, the Wolverines went to the Red Rocks geological formation before going back to their hotel for dinner and meetings.
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They were scheduled to tour the Coors Field ballpark this morning and then practice late in the afternoon at the Pepsi Center.

Friday, March 23, 2007


Denver Regional Happy Hour


ESPN Zone tonight on the 16th St. Mall

7-10 PM

All Are Welcome




Blocking Shots: College Hockey Style
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From: Denver Post
by Mike Chambers


(left) Kyle Okposo (Minnesota) gets ready to drop to one knee and block a shot

When an NCAA hockey player takes a knee in front of a puck-handler preparing to take a slap shot, the defender isn't praying. He's hoping.

Hoping the puck hits him solid.

Hoping the pain goes away and injury doesn't send him out of the game.

Talent usually gets teams to the NCAA Tournament, but the combination of skill and sacrifice is typically what gets teams to the Frozen Four.

"For us it's simple," Air Force coach Frank Serratore said of his team's shot-blocking philosophy. "If you refuse to do it, you won't play."

The college form of blocking differs from the professionals and could be paramount in giving Air Force a chance to beat perennial power Minnesota in Saturday's West Regional opener at the Pepsi Center.

The face mask that protects college players makes them feel less vulnerable to injury and more willing to block shots. They can go face-to-face with shooters, often on one knee to build a maximum wall.

NHL players typically block shots by what Serratore dubs "selling out" - laying sideways on the ice and looking away to protect their face. For most pro teams, the stars don't sell out.

For most college teams, everybody must get on one knee and pray.

Taking a 5.5-ounce, hard- edged puck to an unprotected area can break bones and cause severe pain. The most delicate areas include the inside of the wrist, forearm and elbow, above the knee and the groin.

Each of those areas are exposed by taking a knee, which keeps the defender in position to react and adjust if the shooter fakes a shot and skates laterally to find another hole to the net.

One-knee blockers also give themselves a chance to take one for the team and take the puck the other way.

"You don't even realize how big of a play it is to block a shot at the point," Air Force's Josh Print said. "One puck that goes by you can find its way in the net and cost you the game.

"The ultimate goal is to block the shot, but you have to stay in position to adjust with him, rather than selling out and seeing the guy walk around you for a clean shot."

During the 2004 NCAA championship game, many considered Maine the better team, but Denver won 1-0.

The difference was DU had 27 of the game's 32 blocked shots by building an unselfish wall between the shooters and goalie Adam Berkhoel.

DU assistant coach Matt Laatsch was a defenseman on that Pioneers team and senior captain the next season, when the program captured back-to- back titles.

Under Laatsch's guidance, one of DU's strengths this season was unselfish shot-blocking.

"We teach our guys that a blocked shot is as good as a turnover," Laatsch said. "You have to do it. It's part of the game."

Minnesota has 14 NHL draft picks on its team and is the most talented team Air Force has faced this season. The Gophers' European offensive style features a lot of puck movement, with circling dropoffs and cycling against the boards. That forces defenders wide and lessens traffic in front of the net.

If the Falcons have a chance to keep it close, they must stop the big shots from the point and control the forwards from cashing in on rebounds.

"We don't have anybody that won't block a shot," Air Force's Theo Zacour said. "In college hockey these days, it's imperative, and the one thing that you're always going to get from us is hard work. And that includes blocking shots from all of us."

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Regional Tickets For Sale or To Buy

If you have extra tickets for either or both days you want to sell or buy list them in the comments section below. Please provide your email address. Please do not scalp the tickets or sell them for more than face value or I will delete your comment. Most DU tickets are in the club level or lower bowl.

Also you might want to try listing them in the "Tickets" section of the USCHO.com Fan Foum.

North Dakota Plays In Rented Arena

From: The Dakota Student (UND Student Newspaper)
by Kyle Johnson


UND plays home games at some of the nation's finest athletic facilities, especially in hockey and football. These same facilities, however, also make UND stand out for a different reason: The majority of UND's athletic programs play and practice at facilities not owned by the school.
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The Ralph Engelstad Arena and Betty Engelstad Sioux Center - home to volleyball, basketball and hockey - are currently owned by Ralph Engelstad Arena, Inc., a non-profit corporation.
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This system was created when Ralph Engelstad announced his donation paying for the arena. The original agreement called for UND to take ownership of the facility on Sept. 30, 2030, although that handover could come sooner.
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The Alerus Center is owned by the city of Grand Forks. The UND football team plays and sometimes practices there.
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The baseball team plays at Kraft Field and the softball squad calls Ulland Park home. The Grand Forks Park District owns both facilities. The tennis team also plays at a city-owned facility, the Center Court Fitness Club.
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Bob Boyd, UND vice president of student and outreach services and chair of the NCAA Classification Commission, said UND's situation is unique in several ways.
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"When the task force was examining a move to Division I, what was unusual was to take your major revenue-generating sports and have them in facilities you don't control," he said.
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Most other schools the task force looked at owned the facilities for the largest sports, such as hockey, football and basketball. Many other schools use shared or rented facilities for smaller sports, however, such as baseball.
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UND's situation is fairly new, as the Alerus, REA and Betty Engelstad Sioux Center all opened in recent years and moved sports out of campus facilities.
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A wet part of campus
The major problem of UND's athletic situation has to do with its alcohol policy. UND is a dry campus, and all buildings on campus are alcohol-free. When the REA opened, however, UND officials were unable to prevent alcohol sales in that facility, and instead had to settle for a compromise."
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If the university had its choice, we probably would not serve alcohol," said Bob Gallager, UND vice president of finance and operations. "But there's a give-and-take there. You can't take alcohol into the student section at the hockey games."

"Ideally, the sporting events would provide an alternative to alcohol," Boyd said.
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The Alerus Center is city-owned and located off-campus, so it too sells alcohol during UND sporting events.
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In addition to the alcohol aspect of the facilities, they also present scheduling problems. The UND-REA agreement says that the hockey game schedule takes priority over other events; however, the REA's other events, such as concerts, can and do interfere with practice schedules.
Scheduling can also be problematic for football practice at the Alerus Center, because UND pays a fee for each practice.
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Boyd said UND officials have "great cooperation" with officials from both facilities, and said that scheduling hasn't been a big problem yet.
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"The coaches would always like to schedule more time in the facilities," Gallager said. "If they need something, we give it to them.
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"The outside ownership of the facilities also impacts the games' profits. UND pays a set fee to the Alerus for each game and then splits ticket revenue. At the REA, ticket revenue is also split, with the REA's portion going to pay for the operational costs of the arena.
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D-I solution
Time should help to change UND's current situation, school officials said.
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By 2030, the Engelstad complex will be owned by UND. School officials have also talked in recent months about building new basketball and football facilities in next few decades, moving those sports back to UND facilities.
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"The ownership of these facilities is not the issue. The capacity of the facilities is the bigger concern," Boyd said. "We'll do fine with hockey, but as we move to Division I and our teams become competitive, it's very possible that at some point the Betty will no longer hold all the spectators."
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Boyd added that the Alerus could become too small to house all the football fans as UND starts competing against top Division I teams.
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"The good news is that we have at least a half-decade if not more to work through those issues," he said.
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Although the REA could change hands before the 2030 deadline, it appears unlikely to happen anytime soon.
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"There's lots of water left to go under the bridge before we get to that," said Jodi Hodgson, general manager of the REA, adding that no discussions on the handover have been held since he began his job 18 months ago.

Blake Wheeler To Lead Gophers Against Air Force

From: Pioneer Press (St. Paul, MN)

by Bruce Brothers


Blake Wheeler called his shot.

As Minnesota's players lined up before going onto the ice for the overtime in their Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoff championship game against North Dakota last Saturday night, team host Dave Meisner yelled, "OK, boys, who's going to get it?"

After a momentary silence, Wheeler swung around to Meisner, a vice president of Minnesota's amateur hockey association, and announced: "I'm going to get it."

Of course, Wheeler's dramatic, sprawling goal after 3:25 of overtime gave the Gophers a 3-2 victory and the WCHA playoff crown.

The storybook goal was the most visible payoff from a mental transformation by Wheeler over the past few weeks, a change that began during a two-hour conversation with his parents early this month. His dad, Jim, who pitched two seasons in the Detroit Tigers' organization before discovering he didn't have big-league stuff, made a pitch to his son about "putting a smile on your face," about having fun.

"It's only a game," he told his son.

Jim Wheeler explained it this way: "If you try to throw a sinker too hard, it doesn't sink."

The younger Wheeler listened.

It showed.

In the words of Gophers coach Don Lucia: "Blake was dominant all weekend."

Wheeler, who could not recall ever scoring another overtime goal, said the game-winner against the Sioux felt like icing on the cake because, by then, "I was just having such a blast out there that no matter how that game had ended, we would have felt good about ourselves."

The goal just pumped up those feelings.

"The night after, I really couldn't sleep all night because I was so excited about it, so excited for our whole team," he said.

"He just loves this team," his father said. "Blake wants to win."

"I take so much pride in wearing that sweater," Blake said.

That, coupled with a second-half dearth of goals, started to weigh on the 6-foot-4, 212-pound sophomore forward from Plymouth. He said he "kind of hit rock bottom" after the Gophers' 5-4 loss to Michigan Tech on March 3.

He had scored just two goals since Dec. 30.

He needed a pep talk.

He turned to his parents.

In the next game, Minnesota's 6-2 first-round playoff victory over Alaska Anchorage on March 9, he scored. After adding four goals in two games during the WCHA Final Five - he had a hat trick in a 4-2 semifinal victory over Wisconsin - he now has 18 goals, tied for second on the team.

"One thing my dad told me, 'There's two ways people handle it when things get tough; they get sad or they get mad,' " Blake remembered. "I guess that kind of hit home because at that point I started getting mad when things weren't going right. I guess before I was getting a little sad. It's easy to feel sorry for yourself when things aren't going well, and I think that's when you kind of get on a downward slope."

He chose to bear down.

And relax.

Not hard to do for someone who discovered a love for the sport from the first time he put on skates at age 5.

"My mom brought me to the rink and said, 'This is Minnesota; this is what kids do.' I just went out there and skated around and I just loved it. I don't know what it was about the game. I just loved playing; it was always what I wanted to do."

As he grew better, expectations increased.

"I think I've always put a lot of pressure on myself, just because I expect a lot out of myself," Wheeler said. "Being a sophomore this year, we've got a really young team, and I wanted to be a leader on the team, too. I wanted to go out there and show the guys what it takes. For whatever reason, I was putting so much pressure on myself in the second half, it kind of limited me a little bit."

He said he was "kind of stuck out there."

That was an uncharacteristic position for Wheeler, who totaled 45 goals and 55 assists for 100 points while leading Breck to the 2004 state high school hockey championship as a junior, then went to the NHL draft that summer and was stunned when the Phoenix Coyotes announced his name as the No. 5 overall pick of the first round. After the long walk from the nosebleed seats to the podium, he met Coyotes coach and part owner Wayne Gretzky.

That evening, Gretzky took the draft picks out to a high-class restaurant, and Wheeler told USA Hockey magazine it was a moment he'll not forget.

"A month earlier I'm standing in line in the cafeteria at Breck trying to get some food, and now I'm having dinner with Mr. Gretzky," he said.

Gretzky was in town for the Coyotes-Wild game Tuesday and visited briefly before the game with his former top draft pick, whom he said would likely benefit from more time with the Gophers.

"We knew when we drafted him out of high school that he had a ways to go," Gretzky said. "With Blake, he's a big boy, a big man. We're not going to pressure him. When he decides he's going to play one more year or two more years and when he's ready to come out, we'll talk to him.

"At this point, he's in the right program and he's going to get better every month. When it happens it will be good for us, because obviously we look at him as part of our future."
Wheeler refuses to look that far ahead.

"It would be kind of a disgrace to even think about anything other than the next couple of weeks," he said, "just because we've worked so hard to get where we are now."

Where the Gophers are now is heading into the first round of the NCAA tournament opposite Air Force Academy, which happens to come from the same conference as Holy Cross. It was Holy Cross that ousted Minnesota in the first round of NCAA play a year ago.

The Gophers' focus is on Air Force, Wheeler said.

"This much is true," Wheeler said. "We definitely learned what can happen at this time of year, you know, from last year."

After going 8-8 during a 16-game stretch in the second half of the season, the Gophers also learned they need to relax and simply enjoy the game.

Exhibit A: Blake Wheeler.

"It's fun to be playing hockey at this time of year; it's playoff hockey," he said. "I can't wait to get out to Denver and just get back at it. Obviously after the week we had last weekend, all you want to do is get back on the ice."

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Its Time To Dump Pairwise, RPI, Brackologists, Bonus Wins & Fan Confusion

Over two million fans attended college hockey games this winter and yet you'd be hard pressed to find 50 fans in the entire country who can coherently describe the PairWise System and how the "At-Large" teams are selected for the NCAA Tournament. To make matters worse you can't find too many coaches that understand the process either.

Head coach Mike Eaves was unhappy with a result that saw just three WCHA teams get in.

"It was disappointing. We knew it was a slim chance, but still to see the teams on the wall was disappointing.

"It sure would be interesting to talk to someone on the committee. Because how does the WCHA only get three teams in there? To me, that's the biggest question that I have. You get past our own disappointment, and I look at our league and how strong our league is."


Red Berenson can't figure out why Michigan wasn't sent to Grand Rapids:
"It's about the system, and that's the way it works," Michigan coach Red Berenson said. "I don't fully understand it, but that's how it works. We've got to play somewhere. It's how we play, that's the most important thing. Grand Rapids has been a good place to play, but we've lost there too."

George Gwozdecky regrets DU's late season slide and yet DU almost made the tournament until Wisconsin defeated St Cloud & Dartmouth beat St. Lawrence.
"When you don't have any power over your fate, you have to use that to educate and learn for the future," DU coach George Gwozdecky said. "We controlled our own destiny at one point but we didn't do a good enough job down the stretch. If we have everyone return who is eligible to return, we should be in good shape. But that is yet to be determined."

And yet a simple solution exists that would be easy to understand, was used by college hockey for many years to select the field and would allow more "Cinderella Teams" to make the Final 16 teams in the NCAA Tournament.

Allow the conference playoff decide the NCAA Field. No excuses, no confusion and no misunderstandings. The teams that play well at the end of the season would be rewarded accordingly.

The final four teams in the WCHA, CHAA & Hockey East playoffs would make the Tournament. The ECAC would receive two spots reserved for their playoff Champion & runner-up. Finally the AHA & CHA would receive one spot.

How would the teams be seeded in the Tournament? Easy, based on their playoff tournament position the positions would be known before the season started, minus any changes for attendance purposes. Then in future years the field could be rotated.

The LetsGoDU College Hockey Playoff System


Note: I assumed that BU defeated UMass in the imaginary HE Consolation game, but they could be switched.

West - Denver
WCHA #1 (Minnesota)
ECAC #2 (Quinnipiac)
HE #3 (Boston U)
CHA #1 (Air Force)

Midwest - Grand Rapids
CCHA #1 (Notre Dame)
HE #2 (UNH)
WCHA #4 (SCSU)
HE #4 (UMass)

Northeast - Rochester
ECAC #1 (Clarkson)
WCHA #2 (North Dakota)
CCHA #3 (Michigan State)
CCHA #4 (Lake Superior)

East - Manchester
HE #1 (Boston College)
CCHA #2 (Michigan)
WCHA #3 (Wisconsin)
AHA #4 (AL-Huntsville)

You'd swap UNH & Michigan for attendance purposes and the field would be complete.

Every second year you could rotate the formula & you'd come up with:

West - Denver
WCHA #1 (Minnesota)
CCHA #2 (Michigan)
HE #3 (Boston U)
AHA #1 (Air Force)

Midwest - Grand Rapids
CCHA #1 (Notre Dame)
WCHA #2 (North Dakota)
CCHA #3 (Michigan State)
HE #4 (UMass)

Northeast- Rochester
ECAC #1 (Clarkson)
HE #2 (New Hampshire)
WCHA #4 (St. Cloud)
CCHA #4 (Lake Superior)

East - Manchester
HE #1 (Boston College)
ECAC #2 (Quinnipiac)
WCHA #3 (Wisconsin)
CHA #1 (AL-Huntsville)

Under this scenario you'd swap New Hampshire & Quinnipiac.

Q & A:


Q: What happened if the regular season champs lost in the first round of the playoffs?
A: Tough Nookie. They're out.

Q: Would it hurt regional attendance?
A: Probably, but in the long run you'd have far for intersectional matchups.

Q: Why wouldn't the ECAC get three teams?
A: you could go with three ECAC, HE, WCHA & CCHA teams. I just went with the historical average of the number of teams from each conference.

Q: Could teams from the same conference meet in the first round?
A: Yes, if that's what it took to get a Regional host to play at home.

Q: How did you come up with the brackets?
A: In the first scenario I made the WCHA an imaginary #1 seed & HE a #2 seed. In the second scenario I went with HE as a #1 seed & WCHA as a #2. You could keep rotating the formula so that the CCHA & ECAC were the #1 seeds every fourth year.