UMD Preseason View

There’s no secret about Minnesota Duluth’s most pressing need for 2008-09 as practice opens Saturday — goals.

And it’s not just UMD, but much of Division I college men’s hockey.

Even a modest offensive increase from last season would be cause for optimism for the Bulldogs.

"Our team defense was good last year and Al [goalie Alex Stalock] was better than any goalie I’ve ever played with," said senior tri-captain Andrew Carroll, a winger. "But our offense is what set us back; we just couldn’t finish our chances.

"We have 16 pretty good forwards this year and it’s going to be very competitive to get into the lineup. If you’’e not producing, you probably won’t be playing. We’re focused on finding that offense."

UMD was 13-17-6 last season and placed eighth in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, only five points from fourth. The Bulldogs were last in the league in scoring (2.05 goals per game for all games), in the lowest-scoring season in league history. They went 1-7 the final eight games and were shut out four times in that stretch while scoring seven goals.

UMD’s power play was last in the league at 11.5 percent after operating at 21.4 percent in 2006-07.

The Bulldogs, however, were also third in the WCHA in defense, behind North Dakota and Colorado College, as Stalock started every game as a sophomore and finished with a .914 save percentage and 2.35 goals-against average.

 "We put a lot of pressure on ourselves because we weren’t scoring, and we just didn’t have the confidence we needed to come back in games," said senior tri-captain Josh Meyers, a defenseman. "But we can already feel it’s going to better. Each guy is going to be ready to battle. There is the intensity and tenacity that we need."

Only five players are being replaced, including defenseman Jason Garrison, now with Rochester (N.Y.) in the American Hockey League, who had a year of eligibility remaining. UMD has six freshmen, including the heralded (but not related) offensive centers named Connolly, Jack from Duluth and Mike from Calgary, Alberta.

Despite a late-season tailspin, UMD still had a number of credible victories and wasn’’ far removed from making the Division I tournament, according to the computerized PairWise Rankings. The Bulldogs say they have better vision of their objectives this season.

"We needed a destination and a goal, which we didn’t make clear in other years," said senior tri-captain Matt Greer, a winger. "Our expectations, ultimately, are higher than at any time since I came here. We are all accountable; we are all working toward the same thing. We started talking about this with our exit interviews last spring."

Coach Scott Sandelin has said through much of his eight seasons that UMD’s goal was to finish in the top five of the WCHA. Yet, he says he believes a team should start each year with a goal of winning the league title, which he’s emphasizing as his ninth season begins.

The Bulldogs have finished eighth, ninth, ninth and sixth the last four years after placing second in 2004.

"Expectations have to be higher on the coaching staff as well, and we need to make sure our players are prepared. Complacency won’t be allowed. Being mediocre isn’t acceptable," said Sandelin.

"We’re solid in goal, we have more depth at forward than we’’e had for a while, and we have some good freshmen. What we need is to have some returning players step up their games."

Senior center MacGregor Sharp is the top returning scorer with 17 points, followed by senior winger Nick Kemp with 15 and Carroll, Meyers and junior winger Jordan Fulton with 14.

r UMD opens with two practice sessions Saturday at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. at the DECC, and has a 6 p.m. exhibition game Sunday with Lakehead University of Thunder Bay, Ontario, at the DECC.

r Former UMD defenseman Brett Larson, a Duluth native, makes his debut as an assistant coach this week, replacing Lee Davidson, who retired. Larson will be in charge of the defensemen in addition to scouting duties. Christian Koelling was hired this week as an administrative assistant, replacing Nick Siergiej, who took a similar position at Notre Dame. Koelling, a former Bloomington (Minn.) Jefferson High School player, has been the Duluth Central boys hockey coach the past three years.

r UMD goalie Kenny Reiter of Pittsburgh didn’t play as a freshman last season and earned a redshirt year.

r Eleven regular-season games will be televised on Duluth-Superior Charter 15 starting with a home Wisconsin series on Nov. 14-15.


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Elite League Update

     Part of a release sent by the Upper Midwest High School Elite League concerning two Team North victories last Saturday:

      Minnesota Duluth recruit Max Tardy of Duluth East scored a pair of goals, and Greyhound teammate Matt Cooper made 42 saves, to lead a victory over Team Southeast in the first game.

     Later that day, Cody Hotchkin of Duluth Denfeld recorded three assists in a victory over Team Northeast.  Zach Mausolf of Duluth Marshall scored a pair of goals, and Duluth East’s Jake Williams added a power-play goal in the third period. 

     Team North is 5-3-1 in Elite League play and has three games this weekend at Grand Rapids, at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Saturday, and at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday.


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CHA Tournament to Bemidji

    College Hockey America announced Wednesday that the league’s 2009 post-season tournament will be at John Glas Fieldhouse in Bemidji, Minn., on March 13-14. The release is below:

     The spring of 2009 will bring Division I men’s playoff hockey to northern Minnesota. College Hockey America Interim Commissioner Ed McLaughlin announced Wednesday that the league has selected the John S. Glas Fieldhouse and Bemidji, Minn. as the location of its conference tournament.
     "We are excited to return to the state of Minnesota, one of the true homes of hockey in this country," said McLaughlin.
     Bemidji State University Director of Athletics Dr. Rick Goeb echoed McLaughlin’s excitement about the event.
     The 2009 tournament marks the second time Bemidji State has hosted the CHA Tournament. In 2005, BSU facilitated the event, in conjunction with the city of Grand Rapids at the IRA Civic Center.
   The tournament begins Friday, March 13 and with a pair of semifinal games. The third place and championship games are Saturday, March 14.
     The winner of the CHA tournament has received an automatic bid to the NCAA Division I tournament the last six years (2003-Wayne State, 2004-Niagara, 2005-Bemidji State, 2006-Bemidji State, 2007-Alabama-Huntsville, 2008-Niagara).

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Lucia Backs McCain

     Minnesota coach Don Lucia was on hand last Friday in Blaine, Minn., as GOP candidates John McCain and Sarah Palin made a stop.
     Here’s part of a release from regional GOP communications director Tom Steward of St. Paul:

     At the McCain-Palin rally, Lucia, a native of Grand Rapids, made it no secret
who he’s voting for.
     "From what I’m hearing this year, it sounds like
John McCain and Sarah Palin have a power play going on in northern Minnesota,"
said Lucia.
    The speech may have been a hit at Friday’s rally, but with
some hockey fans at the U of M campus, it landed the coach time in their penalty
     Gopher fan Chelsey Kueffer thinks a coach at a publicly funded
University should keep  politics to himself.
     "When you are in our
school colors and representing our hockey team, I don’t think it is necessarily
appropriate to come out with your political views," said Kueffer.
     In a
statement released Friday, the University said Lucia is practicing
free speech and is speaking as an individual, not as a representative of the school.
     Andrew LaValle is a hockey fan and an Obama supporter, but agrees with the University that Lucia has every right to speak his mind.
     "It’s his right to. I mean I don’t agree with it, but if other people
can endorse Obama and support the Democrats, I don’t see why he can’t," said
     University of Minnesota President Robert Bruininks was asked
about Lucia’s speech but declined to comment.

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Single Ticket Sales

    Minnesota Duluth had a release Monday outlining the sale of single home-game tickets in 2008-09 for men’s and women’s hockey:


Single-game tickets for Minnesota Duluth
men’s and women’s hockey home games will go on sale beginning at 10
a.m. next Monday (Sept. 29). Tickets can be purchased in person at the
UMD Athletic Ticket Office and the Duluth Entertainment and Convention
Center Ticket Office or by contacting Ticketmaster (218-727-2121 or

The UMD men will make their 2008-09 home debut with an Oct.5 exhibition
game with Lakehead University before hosting Western Michigan
University in a two-game nonconference series two weekends later. The
defending NCAA champion Bulldog women will open up their home schedule
on Oct. 10-11 by taking on Minnesota in a pair of Western
Collegiate Hockey Association games.

     Also Monday:

Tickets for the WCHA Minnesota College Hockey Showcase go on sale to the public at 10 a.m. on Monday at the Xcel Energy Center Box Office, all Ticketmaster locations, charge by phone at (651) 989-5151 or online at  Groups (10+) please call 651-312-3486. Tickets will be sold as a two-game package and range in price from $32 – $42.

The teams will compete in a doubleheader format, with the University of Minnesota Duluth hosting St. Cloud State University in a 4 p.m. game, followed by Minnesota State-Mankato designated as the home team versus Minnesota in a 7:30 p.m. game. Both count as part of the regular WCHA season.

Fox Sports Net (FSN) North will televise the MSU-Minnesota match-up. Frank Mazzocco will handle play-by-play duties with Doug Woog as color analyst.

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NCAA Preseason Poll

      The USA Today-USA Hockey Magazine 2008-09 preseason men’s poll released Monday. Coaches and media vote:

2007-08 Record
Boston College
Notre Dame
North Dakota
Colorado College
New Hampshire
Miami (Ohio)
Boston University
Michigan State
Northern Michigan
St. Cloud State

Others receiving votes: Princeton University, 51; Cornell University, 30; Harvard University, 30; Minnesota State University Mankato, 28; U.S. Air Force Academy, 24; University of Massachusetts, 9; University of Massachusetts Lowell, 9; Niagara University, 9; University of Vermont, 6; University of Maine, 3; Northeastern University, 3.

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Weller Seeks Job With Wild

     Remember winger Craig Weller of Calgary, Alberta? He played six games with Minnesota Duluth in 2000-01, Scott Sandelin’s first season, then moved on that year to the Kootenay Ice of the Western Hockey League in Cranbrook, British Columbia. Weller, 27, is attempting to make the Minnesota Wild roster after playing last season with Phoenix. John Shipley of the St. Paul Pioneer Press had this story Monday on Weller.

GRAND FORKS, N.D.  Todd Fedoruk, Aaron Voros and Chris Simon weren’t the most conspicuous free agents to leave Minnesota last summer, but what they brought to the table could be sorely missed if the Wild can’t find some reliable muscle up front.

Enter Craig Weller, who hopes to make the Wild look smart for signing the journeyman to his first one-way NHL contract.

Weller kicked around the New York Rangers’ organization for five years before earning his first NHL job with the Coyotes. He played 59 games in Phoenix, scoring three goals among 11 points, but scoring isn’t his primary duty.

"I want to have (opponents) looking over their shoulder when they’re on the ice," he said. "I might not necessarily knock them down every time, but I’m going to finish my check every time."

Those should be reassuring words for Wild fans, who know the value of a guy who just wants to keep opponents honest and create room for teammates. General manager Doug Risebrough appreciates it, too, which is why he added Fedoruk and Voros to the squad last November and Simon at the trade deadline.

One can argue about whether the overall wisdom of those moves; it didn’t help in the playoffs. On the other hand, the Wild were never pushed around as they won their first Northwest Division title.

So finding replacement parts was imperative.

"We couldn’t lose all the guys we lost and not get anybody else," coach Jacques Lemaire said.

Weller is the one guy Minnesota brought in specifically for what Lemaire calls "presence."

Weller said he feels more comfortable trying to score now that he has an NHL season under his belt. During Sunday’s scrimmage at Ralph Engelstad Arena, he threw a lot of pucks on net and scored a goal in his team’s 6-2 loss.

Just the same, he said, "I still do play a pretty disciplined game; I don’t take too many risks. I like to make sure I make the safe play first and make sure the puck’s deep in their end. I get it deep and go after it."

That quote could have been taken straight from the mouth of Voros, who impressed Wild coaches and fans with his willingness to scrap and dedication to his role. Voros was a revelation upon being called up from Houston, scoring seven goals in his first 21 games.

But he never scored again, and his playing time shrank as the season wore on. Fedoruk was better, working his way into the top line and power-play units. But the Wild let both go, and each signed deals worth $1 million annually  Voros with the Rangers, Fedoruk with Phoenix.

Coincidentally, those are the former stops for Weller. He played 281 games, earning 45 points, with the Rangers’ minor league team in Hartford without a single call-up. By the end of his stint he was team captain, but that wasn’t necessarily a good thing.

"Once that happened," he said, "I pretty much knew they wanted to me to help down there with the young guys."

So he was thrilled to become a free agent, signing a two-way deal with Phoenix and making the team in training camp. He’s even more excited to be with Minnesota, which signed him to a two-year, one-way deal worth $1.2 million.

"That’s definitely a confidence-builder," he said. "They came really early in free agency, too - two hours into the free-agency period, so obviously they had a lot of guys to choose from and they came after me, so that was a good feeling."

Lemaire said he likes what he sees so far.

"Give us a little time, we’ll know more," he said. "I like what he does, though. I really like what he does; he gets the puck at the net, he goes at the net, finishes checks, works hard. It seems that he understands the game well. But like I said, when we get into the details, we’ll see if he grasps that."

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Filzen Gets VP Vote

     A campaign stop by GOP vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin on Thursday at the Resch Center in Green Bay, Wis., lasted just 10 minutes — however she did have time to mention former Green Bay Gamblers forward Justin Filzen of Proctor, twice.
     At least that’s the report from Filzen family members.
     Apparently Gov. Palin wanted a Green Bay-Alaska connection to inspire the crowd. Filzen, after a year in Green Bay, is headed to Alaska-Fairbanks this season as a freshman. The Gamblers play home games at the Resch Center.
     Palin and GOP presidential candidate John McCain were greeted by a crowd of about 10,000 Friday in Blaine, Minn. University of Minnesota coach Don Lucia was among those who spoke before McCain.

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Carruth in Washington

     Minnesota Duluth goalie recruit Mac Carruth of Shorewood, Minn., is playing for the Wenatchee (Wash.) Wild, in the team’s first season in the North American Hockey League. Below is a report from the team following exhibition games last week. The Wild is participating in the NAHL Showcase this week in Blaine, Minn. The Wild will play at home in the new 5,000-seat Town Toyota Center, starting Oct. 5. Carruth, 16, is a recruit for 2010-11.

      The Wild faced the Beaverton, Ore.-based River City Jaguars, who compete in the NORPAC Tier 3 Junior Hockey League, which is a level below the North American Hockey League. The Wild were firing on all cylinders with the consecutive shutout victories, 10-0, 12-0 and 13-0. Junior Cadiz, making his first appearance in a Wild uniform, led the way with 7 goals and 8 assists on the weekend. Jack
Nicoll also contributed with 5 goals. Mac Carruth and Mathieu Dugas
shared duties in goal and were rewarded with shutout victories.
     In another series with the Jaguars, the Wild won three games by a combined 28-4.

     "It will be interesting to see how we respond to our opening league games at the NAHL Showcase," stated coach Paul Baxter. "We need to be focused and prepared to elevate our game to a different level.  Everyone
needs to be committed to work, winning all the small battles and
playing hard defense. Every player is capable of excellence in those
four objectives."

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Erholtz Leads U.S. Women

Falls native Brandy Erholtz of Bailey, Colo., was the
top American woman finisher in Sunday’s 24th World Mountain Running Championships
in Sierre Crans-Montana, Switzerland.

Erholtz, 31, a former Minnesota Duluth
runner, was 11th overall in a field of 97 women from 32 countries in 47
minutes, 40 seconds for 8.3 kilometers. Austria’s Andrea Mayr won in 43:57.
The U.S.
women placed eighth.

The U.S.
men finished third with Rickey Gates, 27, of Boulder, Colo.,
placing 12th in 57:17 for 12.02 kilometers. Jonathon Wyatt of New Zealand won in 55:03.

Erholtz is featured in a question-and-answer section of the October issue of
Runner’s World. In the same issue, Proctor native and ultrarunner Scott Jurek
of Seattle is
profiled because of his vegan diet regimen.

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