NCAA Tourney Hopes Still Alive For 20th Ranked Gopher Hockey Team

The Minnesota Gopher Hockey team is playing its best hockey of the season at the right time.

 

A program that was once a staple of the NCAA Frozen Four, winning the National Championship in 2002 and 2003, has struggled to get back to the Mecca of college hockey.

 

The last two seasons the Gophers have watched the 16-team NCAA tournament from the comfort of their Dinkytown homes. Their last Frozen Four appearance was back in 2005.

 

While reaching this season Frozen Four is still a long shot for the 20th ranked Gophers, getting back into the field of 16– which was at one point this season a long shot– seems more than realistic. [Read more…]

Gophers-Sioux; An Underrated Rivalry

Brett Cloutier-

Over the weekend one of the biggest rivalries took place.

No, it was not the New England Patriots-New York Jets AFC Divisional playoff game.

Nor was it Universal, Disney, Paramount, and Warner Brothers battling it out at the 68th annual Golden Globes.

This rivalry was one in the amateur ranks, and a rivalry that many- even in the sports world- are unaware of the magnitude.

The Minnesota Golden Gopher and North Dakota Fighting Sioux men’s hockey teams took the ice for the 280th and 281st time in this storied rivalry. [Read more…]

Points from the Point

by Bryan Vickroy

Howdy doodily sports fanarinos!  A little something new for your sports palette:  a dosage of authentic, All American college hockey!  How and why? Well the higher-ups understand the greatness of hockey and felt a constitutional duty to educate the public.  So a guru I became.  No I’m not Canadian.  No I’m not a Minnesotan, though I have plenty of street and ice cred there.  I have played hockey all my life, and even coached a little bit.  Most importantly, I posses the most important hockey attribute: a head of luxurious McDreamy hair.  I am the dynamo of volition, so without further ado, Let’s Play Hockey!

Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) Year End Review

Affiliated Schools:

Alaska Anchorage    Minnesota Duluth

Colorado College Minnesota State

Denver North Dakota

Michigan Tech St Cloud State

Minnesota Wisconsin

The 2008-09 season in the Wild Wild West felt a bit off.  The illustrious programs like Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota, all started the season in horrible form.  Nonconference drubbings led to a perception that the league was down this year.  Yes and no.  The league wasn’t so much down as it was in flux.  The defections of one and done freshman over the years had eroded the conference greats’ rosters.  The first few months of the season were spent filling freshman and junior transfers into different holes.  Minnesota started the season with 12 freshmen.  The top three teams from last year were all starting  new goaltenders.

North Dakota, coming off four straight Frozen Four appearances, was under .500 until 2009.  Wisconsin, after sneaking into the postseason with a losing record, didn’t get a win until their eighth game of the season.  The high octane Gophers never won more than two games in a row all season.  It seemed parity had caught up to the big boys, and the standings saw the likes of Alaska Anchorage, St Cloud State, and Minnesota Duluth atop the standings.

This may not have been a banner year for the WCHA, but it still received three bids to the NCAA tournament, and its status as a super conference will never be questioned.  These rosters are full of young kids who got lots of playing time, and will most likely be back next year.  It looks like next season will be a shootout, just like the good ‘ol days.

This past weekend brought the WCHA Final Five to the world’s most revered ice sheet, the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.  At stake was the conference automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.  For the first time in the history of the event, a team won three games in three days to earn the automatic bid.  Minnesota Duluth held the potent offenses of Minnesota, North Dakota, and Denver to one goal TOTAL in the three games.  Tournament MVP, UMD goalie Alex Stalock recorded two shutouts, and secured the Bulldogs their first trip to the postseason since 2004.

Going into the tournament, North Dakota and Denver had assured themselves as postseason locks, while Minnesota, Minnesota Duluth, and Wisconsin were all considered bubble teams.  UMD got the job done, while Minnesota and Wisconsin both fell flat in their first games.  Minnesota had a shot at as the last team in, which would have forced them to play in the West Regional on their home ice, Mariucci Arena.  However, events transpired in other tournaments, popping Minnesota’s bubble, and leaving them as the last team out.

WCHA Year End Awards

All WCHA Team

(Stats in conference play only)

Forward:  Ryan Stoa, Minnesota, Junior (19 G, 17A, 36):  The leader of the Gophers had a hunger for the great light this season, leading the league in goals and overall points.  Streaky at times, but brought a veteran leadership to the minions of freshmen on the Minnesota roster this year. (2nd Round, 2005, Colorado)

Forward:  Justin Fontaine, Minnesota Duluth, Sophomore (10 G, 24 A, 34):  Led conference in assists with nearly one per game as a sophomore.  Nearly all the offense for a plucky, defensive minded team with only two other players over 20 points.  (Eligible for 2009 Entry Draft)

Footlocker.com

Forward:  Ryan Lasch, St Cloud State, Junior (15 G, 15 A, 30):  Played on one of the top lines in the WCHA.  This California kid, who was a Hobey Baker finalist last season, notched more than a point per game production.  Besides eight powerplay goals, tallied four game winners, tops in the conference.  (Undrafted)

Defenseman:  Jamie McBain, Wisconsin, Junior (6 G, 22 A, 28):  No not THE McBain, that’s Rainier Wolfcastle.  This McBain was the elder on a youthful Badger team who caugh fire midseason. The league’s top scoring defenseman quarterbacked one of the most powerplays in the league.  (2nd Round, 2006, Carolina)

Defenseman:  Patrick Wiercioch, Freshman, Denver (8 G, 18 A, 26):  Ran the powerplay, averaged more than a point per game, and a plus/minus of +8.  All as a true freshman.  Picked up the offensive slack for a team that battled injuries this season, and still finished in second place.  Established himself as a top flight defenseman in a very short time.  (2nd Round, 2008, Ottawa)

Goalie:  Alex Stalock, Minnesota Duluth, Junior (2.23 GAA, .920 Save, 3 Shutouts):  Led the league in goals against and shutouts, second in save percentage.  Played the part of Patrick Roy over the last three weeks and carried a defensive minded team to a postseason berth on his shoulders and canary yellow pads.  Needs to stay in the net to be most effective, not playing pucks in corners. (2005, 4th Round, San Jose)

Player of the Year Award

Jamie McBain, Defenseman, Wisconsin:  Tough call between Stoa and McBain, but head to head, conference finish, and the fact that in my world defenseman (like myself) are demigods give the nod to Jamie McBain.  He kept the team from falling off a cliff after its 0-6-1 start, leading them to a solid third place finish.  Gave an old school identity and grit to a team that lacked defensive balance at times.  Is the conference finalist for the 2009 Hobey Baker Award.

Freshman of the Year Award

Jordan Schroeder, Forward, Minnesota (11 G, 24 A, 35):  Such a tough call.  As impressive as Wiercioch was for Denver, Schroeder was even more impressive for The U.  Playing of the top line, he fed Stoa and Jay Barriball more than Homer Simpson at the Frying Dutchman.  Continues the legacy of fabulous Gopher freshman.  Native of Prior Lake, MN, played for the US National program in Michigan before coming back home to Minneapolis.

Footlocker.com

Coach of the Year Award

Dave Hakstol, North Dakota:  For a team who has been to four straight Frozen Fours, this year’s version of the Fighting Sioux seemed to be frozen until 2009.  However they must have made a mighty good New Year’s resolution.  Since the calendar has flipped, the Fighting Sioux have lost only two of 19 games in 2009.  Roster turnover and a starting freshman goalie caused early season drama, but the team turned it around and took home the McNaughton Cup as regular season champs for a record 14th time.

Now that you are in an enlightened state, let me know what you think.  We’ll let the Zamboni take a couple laps, and try it again with the NCAA Tournament preview in the next couple of days.  We’ll give you a look at all 16 teams, all four regions, and the most anticipated games of the other March Madness, as college hockey begins its assault on the Frozen Four.

Keep it real, and as the immortal Red Green says, “Keep your stick on the ice.”

en_USEnglish