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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Blog has been moved

This blog has a new home.

The new address is: www.areavoices.com/undhockey.

The move is part of the transition to the Herald's new owner, Forum Communications Company. FCC owns the blog host areavoices.com, therefore, that's where the blog will be out of now.

Other FCC employees already have blogs on areavoices, such as the Forum's Jeff Kolpack and Mike McFeely and WDAZ's Terry Dullum.

Soon, you will likely see a change in the look of the Herald's Web site, too. Hopefully it is easier to navigate.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Analysis: Take a lesson from Toews

The Phil Kessel saga has ended. As expected, he will leave Minnesota after one year and sign a three-year contract with the Boston Bruins.

Now, more WCHA players have left school early this offseason than the total number of college players a year ago. Whether or not this trend continues, top-end players who will have opportunities to sign should take a lesson from UND's Jonathan Toews.

This isn't because Toews decided to stick around. There are times players are ready to leave and should do so. Matt Greene proved that when he left UND after his junior year and ended up being a key component in Edmonton's Stanley Cup Finals team.

Top draft picks will continue to have chances to bolt to the NHL and many will do so.

It puts these players in a difficult position at the end of their college seasons. Questions will come from media members. Are you going to sign, or are you going to come back?

With all the pro signings this offseason, I've seen just about every possible way players deal with it. In my opinion, the youngest one -- the 18-year-old Toews -- handled it the best.

When hit with the often-asked question, Toews continually responded, "My dream is to play in the NHL, so if I think I can be an impact player, I'd like to sign. But if not, I have a great place to go back to in North Dakota, where I can continue to develop my game. I want to be in North Dakota if I can't be an impact player in the NHL."

Toews didn't hide the fact that he wants to play in the NHL. He was honest and upfront about it. And I think everyone appreciated that. Fans aren't stupid, especially WCHA fans. They know who will have an opportunity to sign, and denying it doesn't do any good if the chance will obviously be there.

At the same time, Toews didn't alienate his teammates by making comments like Kessel's draft day: "I didn't dream about playing college hockey, I dreamed of playing pro hockey." Kessel's comments left some Gopher fans wondering if they even wanted him to come back.

When Toews announced he was returning to UND, two things happened. First, fans believed him. In his only year at UND, Toews has made a reputation of being honest and everyone knew when he said "I'm coming back," it meant exactly that. Secondly, fans, teammates and coaches were excited to have him back.

I wonder if some Minnesota fans almost feel a relief that Kessel has signed. Especially after initially signaling he was ready to go.... then telling his coaches that he is returning.... then leaning toward signing again.

Kessel, among others, could have taken a lesson from Toews and Minnesota recruit Erik Johnson. They both were respectful and always had good things to say about their schools. But at the same time, they didn't try to hide the opportunity that was in front of them. When they made their decisions, they made it clear what they were.

I think fans respect both players for that.

Hopefully future first-round draft picks are taking notes.

Briefly: Walk-on defenseman Todd Alexander will be transferring to St. Thomas. I think earlier I may have said St. John's.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Two more join pool

The names came up almost as soon as Brad Berry left UND for an assistant spot with the Manitoba Moose (AHL) -- Ian Kallay and Dane Litke. Now, it's official. They applied. They are likely the last two candidates... unless some come in Tuesday that were postmarked Friday. The human resource office began screening candidates Monday afternoon, I believe.

UND coach Dave Hakstol thought the timing of the opening might prevent a few people from applying, but it seems that a strong field of candidates has been formed. Nearly every name that was thrown out as a possible applicant, ended up responding to the open position.

Profiles of the latest applicants are:

IAN KALLAY
Age: 32.
Hometown: Calgary.
College: UND (1995-97).
Position: Forward.
Professional playing career: 1997 (cut short by injury).
Coaching career: 2000-01 -- Assistant at Green Bay Gamblers (USHL); 2001-02 -- Head coach at Drayton Valley (AJHL); 2003-06 -- Assistant at Michigan Tech.

-------------------------------------------------
DANE LITKE
Age: 34.
Hometown: Beausejour, Man.
College: UND (1993-97).
Position: Defenseman.
Professional playing career: 1997-2002.
Coaching career: 2000-01 -- Player/assistant with Baton Rouge Kingfish (ECHL); 2002-05 -- Assistant at Bismarck Bobcats (NAHL); 2006-present -- Head coach at Bismarck Bobcats.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Mark the calendar: August 22nd at 7 p.m.

Mike Commodore will be hosting the Stanley Cup at Ralph Engelstad Arena at 7 p.m. on August 22nd.

There are still some final details being worked out, but the time has been set.

REA's director of media relations, Chris Semrau, said former UND hockey notables will be around for the event, which will highlight Commodore's UND and pro career.

There will be a photo opportunity with the Cup following the main presentation. Bring your own cameras.

A free Commie and the Cup poster will be given out to the first 500 children.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Seventh application hits UND

As of about 3 p.m. Friday, there were seven applications in the UND human resource office. The deadline was Friday, however they will still accept applications postmarked by the deadline. On either Monday or Tuesday, we should know the entire field. The latest applicant:

GAVIN MORGAN
Age: 30.
Hometown: Scarborough, Ont.
College: University of Denver.
Position: Forward.
Professional playing career: 1999-2006.
Coaching career: 2005-06 -- Volunteer coach of Peoria Mustangs Junior B team.

For previous applicants, check earlier posts.

Quick hits:

USA World Junior evaluation camp update: UND defenseman Taylor Chorney scored a power-play goal to help lead USA Blue to a 4-1 win over Finland on Friday.

Article of note: A newspaper in Fayetteville, N.C., recently did a story on former UND All-American John Marks, who took a head coaching job with the Fayetteville FireAntz of the Southern Professional Hockey League. Marks became the all-time winningest coach in the ECHL last season, but the team he coached (Greenville Grrrowl) folded this summer. Check it out here.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Two new applicants join field

Two-thirds of the Hrkac Circus have applied for the vacant assistant coaching position. Bob Joyce was one of two new applications received by the UND human resource office Thursday. The newest applicants' profiles:

BOB JOYCE
Age: 40.
Hometown: Saint John, New Brunswick.
College: UND (1984-87).
Position: Forward.
Professional playing career: 1987-2000.
Coaching career: None listed on application.

-------------------------------------------------
GARY SHUCHUK
Age: 39.
Hometown: Edmonton.
College: Wisconsin.
Position: Forward.
Professional playing career: 1990-2004.
Coaching career: 2003-04 -- Player/assistant coach of Springfield Falcons (AHL); 2006-present -- Coach of Wisconsin Elite U-16, U-18 teams.

Also in the field are: Jason Herter, Dane Jackson, Steve Johnson and Keith Morris (See previous post for their profiles). The UND Web site still lists today as the deadline.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Sioux nab top prospect

UND received a commitment from one of the top 2009 prospects Tuesday when Eden Prairie's Danny Kristo verballed [read story here].

Many seemed to think that Kristo would pick Minnesota, but after talking with Danny and his father, Mark, I'm not sure why that was the prevailing wisdom.

Mark, a standout for Bemidji State during the 70s, has several ties to UND. The most notable being that he's very good friends with Tim O'Keefe, the executive vice president of the UND Alumni Association. Also, Mark's high school coach was Dudley Otto, a former Sioux goaltender.

Apparently Danny has been a Sioux fan all his life, too, and wears UND merchandise all the time. I asked the Kristos if they could track down a photo of Danny for the paper, and they found a family picture. In it, sure enough, Danny is wearing a Sioux hat.

Because Danny goes to school in the Cities area, I'm guessing, many assumed he grew up a Gopher fan as most Minnesota kids do. But Danny's experience was different. His family moved from Minnesota to Indiana shortly after he was born, and Danny grew up there until he was 13.

When he moved back to Minnesota in seventh grade, he said he found himself idolizing the Parises and Drew Stafford.

He took his first unofficial visit to UND during the Michigan Tech series and made a return visit in late July. He visited Minnesota on Monday.

Kristo said he wants to work on becoming more physical while he's playing with the U.S. National Team Development Program. The 5-foot-11 forward might be even bigger when he gets to UND. Kristo said he grew about three inches in the past year.

With three years left until he puts on a Sioux jersey, there is lots of time for him to grow.

Assistant coach application update: No new applicants Wednesday. Still four on file. Deadline is Friday.

World Junior evaluation camp update: Michael Forney scored a goal in USA Blue's 8-5 win over Finland on Wednesday.

WCHA update: Michigan Tech named former Wisconsin defenseman Chris Tok an assistant coach Wednesday. He replaces former UND player Ian Kallay, who left to pursue a business opportunity.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Day one applicants

Applications began to hit the UND human resource office Tuesday for the vacant assistant coach position. Here are the first four candidates in alphabetical order:

JASON HERTER
Age: 35.
Hometown: Hafford, Sask.
College: UND (1988-91).
Position: Defenseman.
Professional playing career: 1991-2002.
Coaching career: 2004-06 -- Head coach of Russell Stover Stars Tier AAA team in Overland Park, Kan. (Don't quote me on those years, I'll have to double check Wednesday afternoon).

-------------------------------------------------
DANE JACKSON
Age: 36.
Hometown: Castlegar, B.C.
College: UND (1988-92).
Position: Forward.
Professional playing career: 1992-2003.
Coaching career: 2003-05 -- Assistant coach of Manchester Monarchs (AHL); 2005-06 -- Head coach of Adirondack Frostbite (UHL).

-------------------------------------------------
STEVE JOHNSON
Age: 40.
Hometown: Grand Forks.
College: UND (1984-1988).
Position: Forward.
Professional playing career: 1988-1990.
Coaching career: 1995-96 -- Head coach of Fargo-Moorhead Bears (USHL); 1996-2006 -- Head coach and general manager of Lincoln Stars (USHL).

-------------------------------------------------
KEITH MORRIS
Age: 35.
Hometown: Winnipeg.
College: Alaska Anchorage (1990-94).
Position: Forward.
Professional playing career: 1994-1998, 2001-02.
Coaching career: 2003-06 -- Assistant coach at Alaska Anchorage (WCHA). Resigned after last season.

I'm sure we'll see a bunch more before Friday's deadline. I'll continue to update them daily. Any frontrunners so far? Who do you all like?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Brian Lee sits as scrimmages begin

UND defenseman Brian Lee spent the first two days at the World Junior evaluation camp on a stationary bike, Hockey's Future reported.

Lee is recovering from a minor injury, but still made the trip to Lake Placid, N.Y. His name was removed from the USA White roster over the weekend, so it makes you wonder if he is going to play at the camp at all.

Lee's fellow Sioux defensemen, Taylor Chorney and Zach Jones, (USA Blue) will take on Finland at 3 p.m. today. Incoming freshman Michael Forney will take on Sweden with USA White at 6 p.m.

Gopher Erik Johnson, the No. 1 pick of the 2006 NHL Draft, did not make the trip to Lake Placid. He is recovering from a minor injury, the HF article stated. Michigan defenseman Jack Johnson stayed home for personal reasons.

The two Johnsons and Lee are all-but-locks to make the team. Their absences should give other guys, like Jones, plenty of opportunity to showcase their skills. However, it seemed like USA Hockey put a large emphasis on how the players performed during the first half of the season a year ago.

In other news...

There are swirling reports about what Russian star forward Evgeni Malkin will do this season. His Russian club, Metallurg Magnitogorsk, announced Monday that Malkin has re-signed and will not play in the NHL for one more season. Malkin, the No. 2 pick in 2004, is widely considered the best player in the world not in the NHL.

His agent, however, said to ignore those reports and that Malkin still wants to play with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the team that drafted him, this season.

If Malkin does ends up back in Russia, it has to make you wonder whether its effects will be felt in the WCHA. The Penguins obviously have saved cap room to sign Malkin. If they do not sign him, will they try to sign a different draft pick instead?

If, by chance, they do decide to pick up somebody else, two of their best prospects (ignore what Hockey's Future says this time) are Minnesota defenseman Alex Goligoski and St. Cloud State goaltender Bobby Goepfert. Both players had the type of season that could warrant a nice pay day.

I still expect both Goligoski and Goepfert to be in college this season, but it was just a thought that popped into my head when I read the Malkin reports. With the landscape of college hockey this summer, I think it's a natural reaction...

Monday, August 07, 2006

Eades to coach USA at Three Nations

As coach Dave Hakstol searches for one new assistant coach, USA Hockey recognized his last hire as one of the top coaches in the country.

Sioux assistant Cary Eades was named head coach of USA's Team White at the Under-17 Three Nations Cup in Rochester, N.Y. Play begins Aug. 12 and runs through the 18th.

Eades said he had a family vacation planned during that time, but he decided this was too good of an opportunity to pass up. He definitely is fired up for this chance -- the first time he will have coached a Team USA in international competition.

Read a little more, including Eades' comments, here.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

WJC evaluation camp begins

The 2006 Team USA World Junior Championship evaluation camp began today in Lake Placid, N.Y.

UND's Zach Jones, Taylor Chorney, Brian Lee and incoming freshman Michael Forney are all at the camp. Jones, Chorney and Lee made last year's squad.

The first scrimmages against Finland and Sweden will be Tuesday. It appears that Forney and Lee will play on Team USA's white squad, while Chorney and Jones will be on the red team.

The camp ends August 12. The team usually is selected in early December.

Check out this site for updates.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Assistant job posted

POSITION: ASSISTANT COACH, MEN’S HOCKEY, #07-044

DEADLINE: 8/11/2006

SALARY: Commensurate with experience

DESCRIPTION OF POSITION: Assist in all phases of coaching a Division I men’s hockey program to include but not limit to: assist with all competitions, practices, games and travel; teach game skills and strategies; oversee academic supervision of players and recruiting of student athletes. Teach minimum number of classes in Physical Education Exercise Science. Participate in public relations, alumni functions and fundraising. Other duties as assigned by the head coach.

CRITERIA FOR SELECTION: Requires a bachelor’s degree. Prefer successful hockey coaching experience. Desire experience in player evaluation and recruitment. Knowledge of NCAA rules and regulations. Must have experience in the area of on-ice skill development. Must have successful playing experience, pro-experience preferred. Prefer experience in developing and implementing successful penalty killing systems.

....That's the ad UND posted on its Web site, and at least one big name will be thrown into the hat.

Steve Johnson said Friday that he will apply for the job, and based on the "criteria for selection," Johnson will be a strong candidate. He fits all of those requirements, especially the ones about evaluating, recruiting and coaching players.

He's built nine winning teams in 10 seasons in the USHL. As the GM in Lincoln, Johnson was largely responsible for bringing in the players and developing them. He is close with every coach in the USHL and he deals with the top midget programs in the country often.

He definitely wants to get back to Grand Forks. Yes, he would have to take a pay cut to get the UND assistant job. But Johnson said, "That part doesn't even matter. I've discussed that with my family and it's not even a factor."

Of course, there are many other coaches out there who could be strong candidates, too. I mentioned a few in the article. I've heard James Patrick's name tossed around, but he recently took a job with the Buffalo Sabres organization replacing Scott Arniel, who left to become the coach of the Manitoba Moose and promptly nabbed UND assistant Brad Berry (interesting cycle, huh?). Therefore, I don't think Patrick will apply.

It's been reported that Dane Jackson is a strong candidate to become an assistant at the AHL level in the Sabres organization.

There certainly will be many others interested. I'll do my best to keep everyone posted as the resumes come in.

Friday, August 04, 2006

WCHA departures hit 16

A few weeks ago, I started to wonder how Colorado College has been able to avoid the early-departure bug the past few summers.

How CC got four years out of Brett Sterling, I'm not sure. Same with Marty Sertich. And Brian Swanson. And Tom Preissing. Getting three out of Peter Sejna was a steal, too.

Then, the Anaheim Ducks answered my question. In this summer of rampant early exits, the Tigers aren't getting let off. The Ducks signed CC defenseman Brian Salcido this week, leaving the Tigers without their top four scorers from last season. Salcido had one year of eligibility left.

CC is the sixth WCHA team to lose somebody early, and Salcido is the 16th WCHA player to bolt. That means the number of WCHA players that have left early this offseason now equals the total number from all of college hockey last summer.

UND has been hit harder than anyone in college hockey -- losing five underclassmen early. But this stat may surprise you. I took a look at every team in the WCHA and how many of their top five scorers are returning. These are the results (in order of last year's finish):

Minnesota -- 2 returning, 1 of them still pending.
Denver -- 2 returning.
Wisconsin -- 0 returning.
UND -- 3 returning.
Colo. College -- 1 returning.
St. Cloud -- 1 returning.
Mankato -- 1 returning, he still could leave.
Mich. Tech -- 2 returning.
Minn. Duluth -- 4 returning.
Anchorage -- 3 returning.

The only WCHA team returning more top-five scorers than UND is Duluth. And the only team that ties UND is Anchorage. When you consider those figures... and that Duluth and Anchorage were the two worst teams in the conference last season... and that the Sioux return almost their entire defensive corps... maybe this offseason wasn't so bad for UND?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Oshie to transfer

It's a done deal.

He's already enrolled elsewhere and will be taking his hockey game halfway across the country, where he will be closer to his brother.

No, that's not T.J... Taylor Oshie, T.J.'s younger brother, will be attending and playing hockey at Warroad High School this year. Taylor, who will be a junior, is moving to Warroad from Stanwood, Wash.

T.J. made that same move before his sophomore year. Their father, Tim, lives in Warroad, while their mother, Tina, lives in Washington.

Taylor missed a few years of hockey growing up, so developmentally he is behind where T.J. was at that point in his career (who was on the same level as T.J.?). Taylor has been working out with T.J. this summer, both in Washington and in Minnesota/North Dakota.

By moving to Warroad, Taylor will be able to watch his brother play at UND this season. Because yes, Sioux fans, T.J. will be back.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The latest on...

UND coach Dave Hakstol talked Monday about losing Brad Berry and getting Jonathan Toews back [read story here].

Hakstol said he would like to hire a new coach as soon as possible, but stressed that they will go through the hiring process carefully. Other than that, there weren't too many details. I asked Hakstol if UND would be seeking another defensive mentor (like Berry), and he responded that he will look for the best possible fit.

Tim Campbell of the Winnipeg Free Press wrote an interesting story on Manitoba's hiring of Berry. It seems the Moose are very, very high on Berry and they've had their eye on him for years.

"We've had the same short list for two or three years, both coaches and assistants, because we've gone through a few," Moose GM Craig Heisinger told Campbell. "He's been a guy who was identified, even when Scotty wasn't here, a guy that we had talked about."

The story also says that newly hired head coach Scott Arniel had Berry tabbed as a possible assistant two years ago when Arniel interviewed for the head job in Manitoba.

Read Campbell's entire story here.

**********On another note**********

Someone asked me today about Sioux defenseman Todd Alexander.

Here's what I know:

I talked to Todd in the early part of July and asked him about the possibility of him transferring. He said he was looking into going to St. John's but it was not final yet. He said he wanted to make a final decision by the last week in July.

I have tried to get a hold of him several times since, but he is working long and late hours this summer. I left messages three times but haven't heard back. So, unless I hear from him soon, I will probably give up trying to reach him for a while.

It sounds very unlikely that he will be returning to UND, though.

Alexander played in three games last season and would have been behind a stacked defensive group again this season. Without Alexander, I would expect Scott Foyt to skate at defense quite a bit.

**********Former Sioux in the news**********

There was an interesting story on the AP wire about the town of St. Albert, Alta., which is auctioning off the naming rights on Troy Murray Arena. Murray's mother, Betty, expressed her dismay toward the city's decision [read more here]. Murray played at UND from 1980-82.

Also, the Dallas Stars did a feature on one of Murray's former teammates, Craig Ludwig. Ludwig, who won a Stanley Cup with the Stars, was at the arena watching his twin sons, Trevor and Tyler, participate in the team's development camp. There is a short feature and also a more lengthy multimedia piece showing interviews with the Ludwigs. Check it out here.