Tuesday, March 31, 2009

WCHA Players Finding Pro Homes

It's a very busy time for hockey agents. Graduating seniors and a few early departures are in the hunt for a place to play next season. A number of WCHA names are popping up on the transaction lists. Here is a list of players who have signed contracts since the end of the season. Underclassmen are noted by a *.

NHL Contracts

  • MacGregor Sharp, Minnesota Duluth-Anaheim (Assigned to Iowa, AHL)
  • Richard Bachman, Colorado College-Dallas*
  • Ryan Stoa, Minnesota-Colorado*
  • Jamie McBain, Wisconsin-Carolina* (Assigned to Albany, AHL)
  • Eric Walsky, Colorado College-Vancouver (Assigned to Manitoba, AHL)
  • Trevor Bruess, Minnesota State-Washington* (Assigned to Hershey, AHL)
  • Paul Crowder, Alaska Anchorage-New York R* (Assigned to Hartford, AHL)

AHL Contracts
  • Andrew Kozek, North Dakota-Chicago
  • Brian Connelly, Colorado College-Rockford *

ECHL Contracts
  • Cody Lampl, Colorado College-Las Vegas
  • John Schwartz, Michigan Tech-Las Vegas
  • Scott McCulloch, Colorado College-Las Vegas
  • Mat Robinson, Alaska Anchorage-Las Vegas
  • Mick Berge, Minnesota State-South Carolina

Henderson's AHL Stay Short Lived

Well it was fun while it lasted for Wisconsin career third stringer Jeff Henderson. As we noted on Sunday, Henderson was added to the roster of the Minnesota Wild's AHL affiliate the Houston Aeros. Monday morning, Henderson was released by the Aeros.

Like we mentioned, Houston was in a position of emergency when the Wild called up goaltender Anton Khudobin late on Sunday because thier starting goalie, Niklas Backstrom was banged up and wasn't sure if he could suit up on Sunday night against the Oilers. With Houston assistant coach Troy Ward's familiarity with the Badger program, all it took was a phone call to get Henderson to drive to Rockford, IL on short notice to be an emergency backup for the Aeros Sunday night.

Regardless, it's some nice publicity for Henderson. Now he can tell his kids some day that he played at the highest level of minor league hockey. Not bad for a guy who never even touched the ice at the college level.

Derek Lee's Victoria Grizzlies Hosting Game 7 Tonight

The Victoria Grizzlies dug themselves a 3-1 hole in the Coastal Conference finals vs the Powell River Kings. Good thing they traded for Derek Lee over the summer.

Lee, a 2009 Badger forward recruit, has put the Grizzlies on his back over the last two games to force a game 7 tonight on Victoria's home Ice.

Lee had a key goal insurance goal against Powell in game 5. In game 6, Lee made sure his career as a Victoria Grizzly wasn't done. Lee had a goal and two assists in a 5-2 Victory win.

Lee, who has been banged up all playoffs, currently has 12 points in 11 playoff games. I would assume that tonight in one of the biggest games of his career, Lee will be a presence on the scoresheet.

In other BCHL notes, Badger forward recruit Mark "First Star" Zengerle and his Salmon Arm Silverbacks have been eliminated from the playoffs. Zengerle wasn't himself after suffering a severe blow to the head that required him to miss a few games. Zengerle finished the playoff with 4 assists in 8 games. That's a huge drop off from his 93 points in 54 games in the regular season.

Brett Bennett USHL Goaltender Of The Week, Again

The decision Mike Eaves made to recruit transfer Brett Bennett is looking better and better by the day. For the fourth time this season, Brett Bennett has been named the Staubers Goal Crease USHL Goaltender of the Week. Bennett has also been a finalist for the award an astonishing 8 other times this season.

Press Release

The Ice regained first place in the race for the Anderson Cup, with Bennett playing a huge part. Bennett made 24 saves in a 5-3 win at Waterloo on Wednesday. On Friday, he was perfect, making 25 saves in a 4-0 win at Green Bay. Saturday, he made 25 saves in a 5-3 win vs. Chicago. For the week, Bennett was 3-0-0 with a 2.00 goals against average, a .925 save percentage and one shutout.

Bennett's current stat totals are fairly impressive. His 35-15-2 record blows all of the other net minders in the league out of the water. He leads the league in victories by 9! He is currently sporting a strong 2.46 GAA, and an impressive .913 save percentage that is good enough currently for fourth in the league. As a point of reference, former goaltender committment Aaron Crandall is 7-18-3 with a 5.01 GAA and a .859 save percentage.

One of the people who's opinion I value a great deal in recruiting is the famous fan and uscho poster Joey V. Joey was in Green Bay Friday and e-mailed me the following (I hope he doesn't mind me sharing, but his info is always too good to keep to myself): I was at the Gambler Indianna game on Friday night in Green Bay and wanted to let you know Brett look incrediable. At the end of the Badger season I was concern our goalie situation was up in the air but after watching Brett play, I am more exicted for next season to come. I think we might have got lucky with Brett, but like with anything time will tell.

Follow Team Wisconsin at Nationals

Tomorrow is a HUGE day for hockey in the state of Wisconsin. Our Badgers may be out of the NCAA tournament, but the state of Wisconsin is still being well represented on the national level.

As you're already well aware, Team Wisconsin midget minors are participating in the USA Hockey Tier 1 U16 National Tournament in Chesterfield, MO. Team Wisconsin advanced to Nationals by beating (then ranked #2 in the country) Team Illinois, and Russel Stover.

Team Wisconsin, who is currently ranked #12 in the nation, opens up the tournament tomorrow morning when they play the #52 ranked Connecticut Wolves at 1:00 PM. Thursday they open up early when they play #50 ranked Thunder Hockey at 10:10 AM. The toughest game in pool play for Wisconsin will be Friday when they take on #14 ranked Alaska All Stars at 4:30 PM.

For the most part, Team Wisconsin got a fairly easy draw in the tournament. Thier first two games are against the two worst teams in the enitre tournament. 4 teams from each pool advance to the next round (There are 6 teams in each pool). If Wisconsin takes care of business there should be no reason they won't advance. It would be great if Wisconsin could sweep pool play so they don't have to face off against Compuware or the Long Island Gulls (ranked #2 and #3 respectively in the nation) right away in the first game of the playoff round. Compuware is stacked and they are my pick to win the entire tournament.

This seasons national tournament will have unprecedented coverage. In addition to live scoring for every game, and updates on twitter, all the games will be broadcast live from fasthockey.com. To view the games, you must create a free account. Users can then buy game credits - a single game ranges from $6.99 (when one game credit is purchased) to $3.99 (when 100 game credits are purchased).

EDIT: No Sleep Till Madison has some great previews for Team Wisconsin's pool play games.

NSTM Game Preview #1: Wisconsin vs Connecticut Wolves
NSTM Game Preview #2: Wisconsin vs Thunder AAA Hockey
NSTM Game Preview #3: Wisconsin vs Alaska All Stars

Monday, March 30, 2009

Wisconsins best '92s, and '93s

Last weekend the Wisconsin Amateur Hockey Association (WAHA) held it's annual midget festival in Eau Claire to evaluate it's top players born in the years 1992 and 1993. From the festival, WAHA selected 7 defenseman, 11 forwards, and 1 goaltender from each birth year to participate in the Central District tryouts May 8-10 in Fond du Lac.

Central districts is the last step in the tryout process before players head to the national select festivals. This year, all national select festivals will take place in Rochester, New York. In the past, the select 15 and the select 17 festivals took place in St. Cloud, Minnesota. The Central District is made up of Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska.

Here is the list of players selected to represent Wisconsin at the Central District tryout. Players in bold and red were selected to last years USA National Select Festivals.

Bishop, Chris
Bubacy, Nathan
Delgadillo, Jose
Bukowski, Brett
Dixon, Cody
Byrne, Paul
Greenwood, Gerrid
Fiala, Joseph
Harstad, Aaron
McCabe, Jake
Kirley, Nolan
Schmaltz, Jordan
McLaughlin, Shayne
Watson, Clifford
Allen, Garrett
Dau, Ryan
Belonger, Ryan
Drawbert, Hans
Cayemberg, Tyler
Koritzinsky, Todd
Eick, Christopher
Lee, Kyle
Leahy, Simon
Morbeck, Trevor
Maric, Peter
Novinska, Kody
McCormick, Max
Okeson, Trevor
Mershon, Dillon
Otto, Drew
Navin, Bradley
Racino, Alex
Nelson, Noah
Szopinski, Nick
Sherer, Daniel
Walls, Brandon
Kujava, Tony
Platz, Tyler

No surprises on this list. Everyone who made the national select festival from last year is back with the exception of Jake Dutter (Team Illinois midget minor). I think we'll see a lot of the same kids from Wisconsin getting selected to nationals again any way. It will be interesting to see what they do with Shayne McLaughlin. Last season he made nationals but did it as a forward. This season he's switched to defense.

Harstad, Kirley, and Belonger should be close to locks to make it for the 92's. McCabe, Schmaltz, Koritzinsky, and Morbeck are locks for the 93's. Other than that, anything can happen, you really never know. I've seen a player get left off the from the select 17 national festival and then get taken in the third round of the USHL draft a few weeks later. It's a really subjective process and they don't always take the best players unfortunately.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Tickets punched; Frozen Four set

This is easily the most unlikely Frozen Four ever I would think.

As Chuck pointed out, Bemidji State just defeated Cornell 4-1 to earn their first Frozen Four berth. I thought Cornell played well early, but the Beavers never went away, and took control in the 3rd period. Congrats to their program!

In the NE Regional Final, Boston U and New Hampshire had an epic battle. New Hampshire was the better team, but a PP goal late in the game off a UNH defender's glove was the difference as BU wins 2-1. Boston is the only higher seed to make it to DC.

So here is the schedule for those heading to DC (see ya there!).

Boston U vs Vermont
Miami (OH) vs Bemidji State

I think there will be a lot of WCHA fans in attendance cheering for the Beavers, I will be one of them.

A little update on records by conf:

CHA: 2-0
HE: 5-2
AHA: 1-1
CCHA: 2-3
WCHA: 1-3
ECAC: 1-3

Well a week off from college hockey, but a good time to recap a few things from the Wisconsin Badger Men's season between now and the Frozen Four.

If your a Beaver fan, stand up and clap your hands!

The game of hockey never ceases to amaze me. Performances like the one that Bemidji State University put on this weekend are one of the main reasons that I love college hockey as much as I do.

If you've been living under a rock here's a little nugget of information you might be interested in. BEMIDJI STATE IS GOING TO THE FROZEN FOUR. Yes, you heard me correctly. The little CHA school from northern Minnesota that is on the brink of losing it's program, is heading to Washington, D.C. to take a shot at the Division 1 National Championship.

Bemidji shocked the world on Saturday when they beat the #1 seed in the Mid-West regional Notre Dame in convincing fashion 5-1. They took it one step futher tonight when they defeated Cornell 4-1 to advance to the Frozen Four for the first time in the programs history.

Welcome to the WCHA Bemidji State University!

Jeff Henderson is in the AHL

Apparently, Wisconsin career third stringer/practice goalie Jeff Henderson has been signed by the American Hockey Leagues Houston Aeros (Minnesota Wild Affiliate).

Forgive me for saying this, but I almost fell off my chair when I heard the news. Of course, no offense intended to Jeff, but the closest hes come to seeing ANY game action at the University of Wisconsin was when Brian Elliott went down with an injury during the 2006 National Championship season and Shane Connelly was forced into action.

Keep in mind that this is only an amateur tryout offer I would expect that Henderson is only in Houston for a short time. More often than not, in this scenario Houston was in dire need of a goalie to basically sit on the bench in an emergency situation. With the Aero's strong connection to Wisconsin (Troy Ward is the assistant), all it took was one phone call to his old boss to get Henderson to Rockford to sit on the bench tonight against the Ice Hogs.

According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Minnesota Wild starting goaltender, Niklas Backstrom is bothered by "lower body soreness" after he stopped 37 shots in a 3-2 loss last night to Calgary. Anton Khudobin, was re-called on loan from the Aeros to the Wild in case of emergency as the Wild finish up a 4 game road trip tonight in Edmonton.

Regardless, this is a great opportunity for a kid who hasn't received a lot of recognition while he's been with the Badgers. Henderson and fellow practice goalie Ryan Jeffery practiced with the team every day for 4 seasons knowing they would never see a second of ice time. It's nice to see that good things happen when you put in the work. Congrats Jeff, enjoy every minute of it.

Apparently Dowell still in Rockford

Well, we had thought Dowell had been called up to Chicago, but apparently he's still in Rockford, as he played in Rockford's 3-2 loss to San Antonio yesterday. Dang.

I'm a Bemidji State Beavers Fan?

Yes, apparently I am. Big time.

Holy Cross, that was fun last night. I was cheering for Bemidji to begin with, because you know I can't get behind the Losing Irish. But Bemidji really won me over. They played really hard right from the start, 60 minutes no alibis no regrets and all that. They played solid hockey, and they fought hard all night, and they certainly deserved their 5-1 win. And yeah, I'm a big fan now.

Maybe it was too much caffeine, maybe it was too much sodium, but I tell you what, I was fired-up last night, and I'm still fired-up this morning. I'll definitely be cheering for Bemidji tonight, and if they make it to DC, I'll be cheering for them there as well.


(Photo by Christopher Brian Dudek / USCHO)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The craziness continues: Regionals Day 2

Being a higher seed in this year's NCAA Men's Hockey Tourney has turned out to be a kiss of death.

To complete the first round, out in the Northeast Regional, North Dakota see-sawed most of the game w/ New Hampshire, but took a solid two goal lead late into the game. As the higher seed, they didn't win. New Hampshire tied the game w/ tenths of a second left and won not long after into OT 6-5. North Dakota apparently was watching videos of the Badgers blowing late leads this season and losing in OT. At this time I would like to return the comment to the Sioux fan on Kellogg in St. Paul, "I really enjoyed your team's last game of the season."

While this game was on ESPN2, fans didn't get to see it until the 2nd period was underway, but if you were watching you can pat yourself on the back, having witnessed the ending to the longest NCAA Lacrosse game of all time.

In the other NE Regional game, BU bucked the trend and spanked Ohio State 8-3. It was only close (a relative word) because BU was lazy later in the game after going up 6-0. Did Ohio State really belong in the tourney over Wisconsin? BU will take on New Hampshire in an all Hockey East Regional Final tomorrow afternoon.

Over in Grand Rapids at the Midwest Regional, 60 got to see a couple good games. In the early game, Cornell came from behind scoring late in the 3rd period to beat Northeastern 3-2. Later, Notre Dame was taken to the woodshed by Bemidji State. No that is not a typo, BSU won 5-1 over the Losing Irish. I would think this markee win can only help BSU's chances of gaining admission into the WCHA this off season. The Beavers and "Big Red" meet tomorrow evening for a ticket to the Frozen Four.

In the East Regional Final, it sounds like I missed a heck of a game between Air Force and Vermont (due to the lack of ESPNU). In the 2nd OT, Vermont apparently put a puck through the net. After a lengthy review it was determined to indeed be a goal, and Vermont punched the first ticket to DC in a 3-2 win.

In the West Regional Final, Miami (OH) has just defeated Duluth 2-1 to end the WCHA's season and send someone from the CCHA to the Frozen Four. What more is there to say? Not a great year for the WCHA. That rhymes.

I'll update the conference standings tomorrow.

NCAA 1st Round Update

Some big upsets on the 1st day of the NCAA Tourney.

Out in the East Region, Air Force pulled off the biggest upset knocking off Michigan 2-0. I'm not sure if this is on the level w/ Holy Cross taking out minnesota, but it has to be huge for the Academy. In the other game in that region, Vermont cruised past Yale 4-1.

In Minneapolis, about 7 people (5 of who were Denver fans) showed up to watch Denver get rolled by Miami (OH) 4-2. I saw a bunch of this game, and Denver looked horrible. In the night cap, Duluth scored two goals in the last 40 seconds of regulation (including the game tying goal w/ 0.8 sec to play) to send the game into OT and eventually win over Princeton 5-4.

Also hats off to the fair weather gopher fans who can't even take up a few seats in their home arena to cheer on WCHA counterpart Denver, because their Kangas poisoned team didn't make the tourney. While the Kohl Center would have been emptier last year had Wisconsin not made it, I know a lot of Badger fans who still would have shown up to support college hockey.

So keeping track by conference:

AHA: 1-0
CCHA: 1-1
ECAC: 0-2
HE: 1-0
WCHA: 1-1

Today the schedule thickens as the Midwest and Northeast Regionals begin (NE Regional games on are ESPN2 this afternoon) and the regional finals are set for the West and East.

If you are interested in reading up these games, check out College Hockey News, USCHO or INCH.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Ramage to represent USA at U-18 World Championships

Not that it comes as much of a surprise, but incoming defensive recruit John Ramage has been selected by the powers that be at USA Hockey to represent the United States at the upcoming IIHF World U-18 Championships. If they can control the flooding, the tournament is set to take place in Fargo, ND and Moorhead, MN April 9th-19th.

Ramage is in his first season with the NTDP after being a Robertson Cup Champion last season with the St. Louis Bandits of the NAHL. Ramage, who is the son of former NHL'er Rob Ramage, is the prototypical defensive defenseman. He has a stat line of 2-5-7 to go along 42 penalty minutes in 44 games this season for the NTDP U-18 squad.

Next season Ramage is expected to contend for playing time as soon as he steps on campus. Ramage, along with fellow freshman defenseive recruit Justin Schultz come with big time credentials and should ease the pain of losing Hobey finalist Jamie McBain.

Dowell recalled to Chicago

I haven't seen an official announcement yet, but I've been told that Jake Dowell was recalled by the Chicago Blackhawks late last night. No word yet if he'll be in the lineup tonight when the Hawks host the New Jersey Devils.

8 Badgers Players make IIHF World Women's Championship rosters

8 Badgers have made their countries' rosters for the upcoming IIHF World Women's Championship in Hameenlinna, Finland.

Defenseman Carla MacLeod and forward/defenseman Meaghan Mikkelson (she made the roster as a forward) will be representing Canada.

Defensemen Kerry Weiland and Molly Engstrom, goaltender Jessie Vetter, and forwards Erika Lawler, Meghan Duggan, and Hilary Knight will be representing the US. And of course Mark Johnson will be their head coach.

Needless to say I'm a bit disappointed that Bobbi Jo Slusar and Jinelle Zaugg didn't make the cut for their respective teams.

The tournament runs Apr 4 - 12, although there are some pre-tournament games before that. I'll do my best to keep up with things for you!

Good luck to our International Badgers!

Davis Drewiske!

Apparently while I wasn't paying attention, Davis Drewiske was called back up to the Kings and has played 4 games without my knowledge. Somebody's in trouble for not bringing this to my attention; I haven't decided who yet, but there are plenty of candidates (at the very least there's Chuck, nubeetle, and a certain someone I won't name - you know who you are) -- don't you guys know that when I'm completely oblivious to a Badger being called up to the NHL you're supposed to rectify the situation?

Anyway, here are his stats from those 4 games:
3/26 Kings 1 - Stars 0 (SO): 0-0-0, 2 SOG, E, TOI 18:32
3/24 Blues 2 - Kings 0: 0-0-0, 1 SOG, -1, TOI 14:08
3/22 Blackhawks 4 - Kings 1: 0-0-0, 1 SOG, E, TOI 13:35
3/20 Penguins 4 - Kings 1: 0-0-0, 1 SOG, E, TOI 15:30

So, not a great road trip for the Kings, but Drewiske got some nice ice time and it appears that he's playing well. He featured prominently in this article on the Kings' website.
Terry Murray
On the development of Davis Drewiske
“Davis has picked up right where he left off (from his first call-up in February). He plays strong, hard, heavy, and I really like his attitude. He’s got that edge that is so important for a defenseman. He’s also starting to show some composure and is learning how to deal with the quick plays and the speed of the game at the National Hockey League level.”

Davis Drewiske
On the differences between this call-up and his first call-up
“The biggest thing is confidence. I feel so much more comfortable. I know everybody – the team, the coaches, and the routine. I really believe that I’m starting to contribute.”

His expectations for this call-up
“You can’t really have any expectations. I’m just trying to take it one day at a time, play well, and make a good impression with the players, coaches and staff.

On playing in front of friends and family in Chicago last Sunday
“That was really special. Chicago is as close as we’re gonna get to my hometown in Wisconsin. I had to track down ten tickets for everybody that came to the game. I imagine that it would have been a lot more had they had more than a days notice.”

The Manchester Monarchs are proud to announce that defenseman Davis Drewiske has been named the team's winner of the American Specialty/AHL Man of the Year award for his outstanding contributions to the Manchester community and charitable organizations during the 2008-09 season.

Drewiske has become the spokesman for the Monarchs in the community during his rookie season. Drewiske takes pride in spreading a good message and spending time with children in the community. He enjoys talking about the Monarchs and bringing fans into his world as a professional athlete.

Dang, he hadn't even been in Manchester for a full year yet (he played his first game there 4/4/08), and he already has the most impact on the community. You really should read the whole release (don't worry, it's not too long), but here are a couple nice quotes from Monarchs Senior VP Cheryl Abbott:
"[He's] an inspirational role model for our organization. His ability to speak to children of all ages regarding health and wellness for the Monarchs Winning With Wellness program and his personal experiences of staying drug free is remarkable. He is able to convey the importance of saying no to drugs and living a healthy lifestyle in a way that youth today understand."

"Drewiske enjoys working in the community. His professionalism and steadfast dedication to youth and society are keys to spreading the right message. His enthusiasm and energy is contagious and students are able to take that positive influence into their daily lives."
Drewiske is now in the running for the AHL's Man of the Year Award. Pretty cool. Good work, Davis!

(Photo courtesy of Redheat15.)

Badgers In The Pros Update

Here is an updated list of forever Badger players currently getting paid to play the game they love. Not a ton of changes since the last time we updated the list. Davis Drewiske is now with the L.A. Kings, and Jack Skille has been sent back down to Rockford of the AHL. Matthew Ford has been re-assigned to Charlotte of the ECHL. Andy Wozniewski played a game with the Blues and is now with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. And last but not least, Tom Sawatske is now with the Reading Royals.

Click on any player to view player career statistics including stats while at Wisconsin.

NHL: (14)

Rene Bourque-Calgary Flames
Adam Burish-Chicago Blackhawks
Chris Chelios-Detroit Red Wings
Davis Drewiske-Los Angles Kings
Brian Elliott-Ottawa Senators
Tom Gilbert-Edmonton Oilers
Dany Heatley-Ottawa Senators
Curtis Joseph-Toronto Maple Leafs
Joe Pavelski-San Jose Sharks
Brian Rafalski-Detroit Red Wings
Steve Reinnprecht-Phoenix Coyotes
Ryan Suter-Nashville Predators
Kyle Turris-Phoenix Coyotes
Brad Winchester-St. Louis Blues

AHL: (10)

Alex Brooks-Chicago Wolves
Jake Dowell-Rockford Ice Hogs
Robbie Earl-Houston Aeros
Josh Engel-Toronto Marlies
Brian Fahey-Hartford Wolf Pack
Andrew Joudrey-Hershey Bears
Joe Piskula-Manchester Monarchs
Jack Skille-Rockford Ice Hogs
Nigel Williams-Lake Erie Monsters
Andy Wozniewski-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins

ECHL: (6)

Matt Auffrey-Dayton Bombers
Andy Brandt-Gwinnett Gladiators
Ross Carlson-Florida Everblades
Matt Ford-Charlotte Checkers
Ryan MacMurchy-Stockton Thunder
Tom Sawatske-Reading Royals

Europe: (9)

Bernd Bruckler-Espoo Blues-FIN
Shawn Carter-Sinupret Ice Tigers-DEL
Mickey Elick-VSV EC-AUS
Sean Hill-Biel-Swiss A
Mark Heatley-Munich EHC
Matt Hussey-Straubing Tigers-DEL
Kyle Klubertanz-TPS Turku
Alex Leavitt-Kassel Huskies-DEL
Jeff Likens-Augsburg Panthers-DEL

IHL: (2)

Dan Boeser-Muskegon Lumberjacks
David Hukalo-Fort Wayne Komets

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Recruit Stats Updated

Like I've mentioned previously, since Todd Milewski is no longer covering Badger hockey for The Capital Times, we've decided to keep track of recruiting statistics here. We've taken it a step further and put together a page of players that Wisconsin is actively recruiting as well. I've updated both the committed recruits page as well as the potential recruits page. As always, if you have a tip or just feel like telling me your opinion, feel free to e-mail me at chuckschwartz@live.com

Post-Mortem: Pairwise Mathematics

Earlier this week, I took a look at the key differences between the RPI and KRACH. KRACH, I feel, is a far superior methodology for assessing teams and accounting for varying strengths of schedule. Both the RPI and KRACH attempt to do the same thing, but the RPI is only one part (even if it's the most important part) of the PWR. Using the same data from RPI Hockey.net's rankings page, I put together this analysis of the various components and how they relate to one another.

This data again comes from games complete through 3/21, more recent data has altered the rankings slightly, but the relationships between the various systems is more important than the individual ranks of each one.

In this chart, each comparison is relative to the PWR. The three colored columns show the relationship of each ranking to the others.

Like the previous comparison of just KRACH and RPI, the comparison here of KRACH and PWR shows how similar the PWR and the RPI are - often only varying by one or two spots.

The takeaway message is that the PWR, despite all its obvious flaws - the TUC Cliff, the small sampling of COp games - will never be much more than a gussied up version of the RPI.

Wisconsin always seems to be at the forefront of PWR controversies. Back in 2005, Wisconsin was in the news because of the TUC Cliff, where they would have been better off losing their first round series against UAA. In 2008, it was UW sneaking in to the touranment with a sub-.500 record - fueling conspiracy talk due to UW's hosting a regional that season.

How much of that is just luck, and how much of it is the product of a flawed system?

Post-Mortem: Season Stats

With the pain of falling out of the NCAA tournament picture, it's human nature to try and assess what went wrong. Aside from the obvious opportunities to assess the season (if only they held on against NMU!), it's also worthwhile to take a step back and see how UW stacked up in more general terms. The following data comes from College Hockey Stats.

Scoring Offense

Wisconsin's offense could be frustratingly inept at times, yet UW managed to finish third in the league in terms of goals per game, with 3.27 goals per contest.
Scoring Offense: Games Goals G/GM
1 North Dakota 42 141 3.36
2 Denver 39 130 3.33
3 Wisconsin 40 131 3.27
4 Minnesota 37 119 3.22
5 St. Cloud State 38 122 3.21
6 Minnesota State 38 117 3.08
7 Minnesota Duluth 41 123 3.00
8 Colorado College 38 103 2.71
9 Alaska Anchorage 36 95 2.64
10 Michigan Tech 38 62 1.63
Not bad, eh? So why the frustration? It appears that there's quite a bit of variance in UW's scoring - more inconsistency from an inconsistent team. On one hand, the Badgers scored 5 goals or more eight different times. On the other, they were shut out or only managed a single goal in seven games.

Scoring Defense

On the defensive front, there's nothing to sneeze at. Wisconsin also finished third in the WCHA, allowing 2.65 goals per game.
Scoring Defense: Games Goals G/GM
1 Minnesota Duluth 41 92 2.24
2 Denver 39 92 2.36
3 Wisconsin 40 106 2.65
4 North Dakota 42 112 2.67
5 Colorado College 38 103 2.71
6 St. Cloud State 38 107 2.82
7 Minnesota 37 105 2.84
8 Alaska Anchorage 36 112 3.11
9 Michigan Tech 38 122 3.21
Minnesota State 38 122 3.21
Special Teams

Wisconsin's power play finished at 19.1% on the season, good enough for 4th in the league. The PK finished at 88.4% on the season, second only to the Jaundiced Gerbils' 88.8%. Thankfully, Wisconsin's nasty tendency from last season (and the early part of this one) of allowing shorties seemed to stop as the season wore on - UW gave up 7 shorties on the season, fairly even with the rest of the WCHA. The Badgers also managed to score 7 shorties while killing penalties, too. All of these factors mean that UW was the top WCHA team in net special teams, coming in with a +18 on the season, topping 2nd place Denver's +16 mark.

Scoring by Period

Fan discussion on USCHO has rightly focused on inconsistency. One common observation was UW's tendency to start games slow. The numbers also bear this out.
Scoring by Periods:             1st   2nd   3rd    OT   Total
2 Wisconsin 27 54 50 0 131

Goals Allowed by Periods: 1st 2nd 3rd OT Total
5 Wisconsin 23 35 45 3 106
Several numbers stand out here. First and foremost is the OT numbers, as they're the reason the clock on the blog's landing page keeps counting. Second, UW did not score much early. The 2nd and 3rd periods were far more kind to UW. Maybe the guys just need a little tough love from the coaching staff during intermission, who knows. At least this means they're finishing strong, right?

Well, not when you look at when UW was allowing the most goals. That's a lot of 3rd period goals to give up. Thinking back to the blown leads - against Denver, early in the season, against NMU, against Denver late in the season, etc.

The shot charts follow the same pattern. In the first period, UW was +25 over their opponents in SOGs. In the second, they were a whopping +137, but only +46 in the third and dead even in OT.

Individual Stats

(Taken from USCHO's Wisconsin team page)

Scoring Leaders
Name, Yr GP G A Pts. Pt/GP PIM GW PP SH
Jamie McBain, D, Jr40730370.925032141
Derek Stepan, F, Fr40924330.82506133
Tom Gorowsky, F, Sr361218300.83330340
Blake Geoffrion, F, Jr351513280.8000733101
John Mitchell, F, Jr401511260.6500118420
Andy Bohmbach, F, Jr391015250.641024121
Michael Davies, F, Jr341013230.676520150
Brendan Smith, D, So31914230.741975090
Jake Gardiner, D, Fr39318210.538518020
Ryan McDonagh, D, So36511160.444461011
Ben Grotting, F, Jr3559140.400025100
Jordy Murray, F, Fr4085130.325042210
Cody Goloubef, D, So3658130.361140220
Sean Dolan, F, So3547110.314338100
Matt Thurber, F, Fr332680.242424000
Patrick Johnson, F, So353470.200044000
Podge Turnbull, F, So244260.250026001
Aaron Bendickson, F, Jr332350.151516000
Eric Springer, D, Fr191230.157914000
Ryan Little, D, Fr220330.136412000
Craig Johnson, D, So230220.08700000
Chris Hickey, F, Fr81010.12504000
Ben Street, F, Sr41010.25008000
Shane Connelly, G, Sr370110.02700000
Scott Gudmandson, G, So40000.00000000
Tom Bardis, F, Jr30000.00000000

Goaltending Leaders
Shane Connelly, Sr37191449221982.51163965.913
Scott Gudmandson, So4120142193.82781104.881

Some items of note:
  • Holy crap, Big John Mitchell had a lot of penalty minutes. Our own Dr. Hook!
  • Maybe that makes Tom Gorowsky into a Ned Braden - 0 PIMs. All we need is a striptease.(EDIT: Apparently USCHO's data on Gorowsky is wrong, he had 13 minors for 26 minutes. We'll just have to give the Ned Braden award to Stepan, then.)
  • Very even scoring. No player with more than 15 goals, but twelve of them had 5 or more.
  • Similarly, nine players had more than 20 points, fourteen had more than 10 points.
  • Rough season for young Mr. Gudmandson. Only 4 games played and a nasty save percentage.
  • When did Shane get an assist, and how did I miss this?

Decommitted Montpetit looking around

The USHL had an article that former recruit Brock Montpetit is looking at either CC or Northeastern. Montpetit re-opened his recruitment last Fall after receiving his National Letter of Intent to sign from Coach Eaves. At the time, his dad claimed that Eaves previously stated his son would be on a 100% full scholarship, when everyone knows that a 92% schollie is about the tops you can do and is considered a "full" scholarship.

I'm of the belief that he saw his old Shattuck linemates brought in ahead of him, and was unhappy about such a decision. I think Eaves made the right decision, as Derek Stepan will be a superstar next season, and Jordy Murray adjusted quickly to the WCHA and has been a contributor in all phases of the game all season long. Montpetit has been up and down in his play all season w/ the Waterloo Black Hawks. While he's been playing well lately, most of the season I didn't see much contribution from him.

GL to Montpetit on making a commitment, I'm sure Jordy Murray would look forward to owning him if he chooses CC.

McBain's deal with terms

The Hurricanes hometown paper, The News and Observer, has details about Wisconsin junior defenseman, and Hobey Baker finalist Jamie McBain's contract that he recently signed.

According to Chip Alexander, The News and Observer's Hurricanes beat writer, McBain’s contract will begin with the 2009-10 season, and will pay him an average of $600,000 per year at the NHL level, $62,500 at the minor-league level and a $255,000 signing bonus.

A max contract for McBains draft year would be worth $850,000 per year at the NHL level. I didn't think he would get a max deal, but I did think it would be higher than $600,000. For example, Mike Ratchuk, a defenseman also drafted in the second round #42 overall in 2006, and Kevin Quick, a defenseman drafted in the third, #78 overall make $660,000 at the NHL level (McBain was drafted #63 overall). First rounders like Erik Johnson and Bobby Sanguinetti are getting max deals. Next season the minimum NHL salary will be $500,000. Players who sign their first NHL contract between the ages of 18-21 (McBain is 21), are required to sign 3 year entry level contracts.

NCAA Tourney Preview

The NCAA Men’s Hockey Tourney starts tomorrow, so why not take a look at who’s playing. I know a few Badger fans who are headed to Grand Rapids for the Midwest Regional despite the Badgers being the first team out.

Northeast Regional – Manchester, NH hosted by New Hampshire

Boston U (1) vs Ohio State (4)
North Dakota (2) vs New Hampshire (3)

Boston U has been #1 in the polls most of the season, won the regular season HE title and the HE tourney. North Dakota won the MacNaughton but didn’t look good last weekend in St. Paul. New Hampshire is playing at home, always a bonus after a good HE season. Ohio State is the last at-large to make it; they didn’t even make the final weekend of the CCHA playoffs.

I’m picking a BU vs North Dakota Regional Final w/ BU advancing to the Frozen Four. Looking forward to watching this game (should it come to pass) Sunday night. North Dakota is a good team, but which one will show up? The team that lost twice in the 2nd half of the regular season or the team that lost twice last weekend?

East Regional – Bridgeport, CT hosted by Yale

Michigan (1) vs Air Force (4)
Yale (2) vs Vermont (3)

This is an interesting Regional w/ Michigan heading east. I wasn’t overly impressed w/ Michigan when the visited the KC in November, and playing that easy CCHA schedule shouldn’t impress anyone. They were the runners up to Notre Dame in both the regular season and playoffs. Yale won the ECAC playoffs and appears to be on a roll. The one thing about ECAC teams is their schedule is weak. Vermont started the season well, but faded later on, and did not reach the HE semis. Air Force won the AHA regular season and playoff title. They were the talk of college hockey after a fast start which included a win over Colorado College. After losing to Denver the following night, they've came back to earth.

I’m pulling for Air Force, but Michigan should win. Yale is at home and Vermont is reeling. I actually have Yale winning at home in the Regional Final and making the Frozen Four.

West Regional – Minneapolis, MN hosted by minnesota (will Wangas and tDon be serving mini donuts in street clothes?)

Denver (1) vs Miami (OH) (4)
Duluth (2) vs Princeton (3)

The WCHA Regional if you will. Denver finished second in both the race for the MacNaughton and for the Broadmoor. They have Tyler Bozak back, though I wonder how a guy who hasn’t played for months will adjust. He could have a hat trick or be completely ineffective. Duluth has arguably the hottest team in the country right now, riding the goaltending of Alex Stalock and timely goal scoring. It wasn’t so long ago they choked away two games at home to UAA though. Princeton doesn’t belong in the NCAA tourney. Miami (OH) backs into the NCAA tourney just like Ohio State, just that they actually have a decent team.

Denver and Miami (OH) pits the teacher against the student. Miami’s coach played and coached under Gwoz in the past. Denver didn’t look great last weekend, but they have the talent to win the regional. I’ll pick them to get past Miami. Duluth is hot, and I think riding an impressive five game winning streak, they can take two more games this weekend. I think Duluth punches a ticket to the Frozen Four and have a legitimate reason to raise at banner at the DUMP next season. There is always the “misc wanderings” factor when Stalock is on the ice though. Will he do something stupid that costs his team the game?

Midwest Regional – Grand Rapids, MI hosted by someone

Notre Dame (1) vs Bemidji St (4)
Northeastern (2) vs Cornell (3)

Notre Dame’s Regional to lose this weekend. The won the CCHA regular season and playoff titles (if that impresses you) and were jockeying w/ Boston U most of the season for the top spot in the polls. Northeastern has had a great season for their program. They finished second in HE during the regular season. I think they could be a darkhorse to make the Frozen Four. Cornell is the 3rd ECAC school to make the tourney. Bemidji received what I believe is the last CHA autobid ever. I wouldn’t count this team out. They played tough against several WCHA schools this year included a couple one goal losses to North Dakota.

Notre Dame and Northeastern should make an interesting Regional Final. I’d have to cheer for Northeastern in that contest, but I think Notre Dame makes their second straight Frozen Four. Might be there last for awhile if all their talented recruits keep decommiting and heading to the OHL.

Projected Frozen Four

Boston U vs Yale
Duluth vs Notre Dame

This will be my first Frozen Four in two weeks, I can’t wait! The Final Five was a blast; I expect the same from the Frozen Four just w/ more fan bases to mingle w/. Does American International or Merrimack send huge contigent of fans?

In the end I think Boston U and Duluth win their semi-final games. Boston U wins another National Championship in a close game w/ some great goaltending.

I feel like I’m betraying the WCHA by picking BU, but I wasn’t impressed w/ North Dakota or Denver last weekend, and for how hot Duluth is, I don’t think they quite pull it off. Coming into the playoffs, teams need to be riding high, but anything could happen in single elimination action.

If DU or UND make it to DC, count me as part of your cheering section.

Today in Badger Hockey History: Championship Moments

Today's date in Badger Hockey History sure is a good one!
Women's hockey wins its first NCAA Championship in school history shutting out Minnesota 3-0.

Freshman Jack Skille one-times a no-look pass from sophomore Josh Engel to end 111:13 of scoreless hockey to give the Badgers a 1-0 victory over Cornell at the 2006 NCAA Midwest Regional Final at the Resch Center in Green Bay, Wis.

First-year coach Jeff Sauer led Wisconsin to a 6-2 win over Harvard in the NCAA hockey championship.

Steve Alley’s overtime goal led Wisconsin to a 6-5 win over Michigan in the NCAA hockey championship.



So, McBain's gone; just waiting for an official announcement. Yesterday's Raleigh News & Observer blog post indicates that McBain will join the AHL's Albany River Rats for the rest of the season.

On Tuesday, Chuck chastised me a bit (and understandably so) for not posting McBain's making the Hobey Top 10. And so I thought I'd better try to make amends (I'm sorry, Jamie!) by linking things up. By the way, McBain is the 8th Badger to be named a Hobey Top 10 finalist, and he's the only WCHA player among this year's Hobey Top 10.

hobeybaker: Hobey Baker Award Announces Top Ten Finalists
uwbadgers: McBain WCHA Player of the Year, Hobey Finalist; Gardiner honored
Baggot (WSJ): McBain named WCHA's best, Hobey finalist

And of course uwbadgers still has their McBain for the Hobey page, which includes a pdf flyer, a couple of video interviews, and some other features, but inexplicably doesn't include his highlight video.

Just last week, McBain was profiled on a couple of sites. I think you'll enjoy this player profile on the Carolina Hurricane's site, as it's quite complimentary. Here are some quotes.

“He skates very well and he shoots the puck very well, and we don’t think he’s too far away from being able to step in and certainly play at the American League level, if not the NHL level, in the very near future,” said MacDonald. “He’s a junior now, and whether or not he needs another year of competition at the college level is debatable. He might be ready to make the next step now, and he probably is.”

“He’s probably what you’d consider a man among boys at this point in college,” said Jason Karmanos, the Hurricanes’ vice president and assistant general manager. “He’s got an extremely high skill level as evidenced by his production this year, and we don’t think he’s too far off. He’s a guy that plays in all situations, he’s got good size, skates well and handles the puck very well. He has all the tools he needs and just needs to concentrate on getting his body better conditioned for the NHL level.”

“He’ll be no less than a solid two-way guy, if not an offensive contributor, in the NHL,” said MacDonald. “I think he’ll be able to play on the power play at the National Hockey League level.”

“We have high hopes for him,” said Karmanos. “As far as a guy with the tools and the physical package to be a player at this level, he’s right at the top of the list.”

Bruce Ciskie also profiled McBain over on Fanhouse.
There isn't much McBain doesn't do well. He moves the puck exceptionally well, anchoring a power play ranked fourth in the WCHA and tied for twelfth in the nation. He has a big shot, and he is greatly improved as a defensive player from even earlier this season.
And at the beginning of this month, Hockey's Future's Hurricanes Top 20 Prospects (Spring 2009) listed McBain at #4.
4. (4) Jamie McBain, D, 21, 7.5B
Acquired 2nd round, 63rd overall, 2006

McBain has taken his game to new levels in his junior season at the University of Wisconsin. The Badgers defenseman is college hockey’s top scoring blueliner and a Hobey Baker award candidate. His 34 points through 34 games leads all Wisconsin players in scoring, and his 27 assists are tied for 10th in the NCAA. The 6’2, 197-pound defenseman showed a mix of size and skill during Carolina’s summer rookie camp, and his maturation into a point-producer at the college level bodes well for him and the Hurricanes. McBain — who is coached by Mike Eaves, the father of current Canes forward Patrick Eaves — could skip his final year of eligibility with the Badgers, but a logjam at defense means his arrival in Raleigh could come in 2010-11 unless the organization makes room for him.
Good luck in the Hobey hunt, Jamie, and best of luck as well with the 'Canes.

(Photo from uwbadgers.com)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Dplaya knows people...

Dplaya over at HIW is reporting that Jamie McBain signed a contract w/ the Caroline Hurricanes last night, though nothing is "official" yet.

Dplaya's source also said that everyone else says they are coming back for another year of Badger Hockey. Yikes!!!!

If true this presents a series of positives and negatives.

The main positive, the team will be experienced and returning a shitton of talent and if they don't kick ass and take names, they never will. The blue line will be so full of talent other teams might not even take the ice to play the games. The only real ? will be at goalie.

The negatives are obvious, too many recruits coming in and not enough room for them all. A forward, a goalie and a dman are leaving for sure (along w/ two practice goalies). Incoming is expected 4 forwards, 2 blue liners and a goalie. That is where the real Yikes comes in here. As Dplaya points out that is 29 guys. And that doesn't even have room for a walk on goalie, which Eaves has to bring in at least one. That would make 30!!!

Not sure how all that is going to play out. On one hand the lack of potential early departures is awesome, on the other, the effect on recruiting and having to push kids back is not going to look good on the program. Eaves already has to look bad to a lot of kids, if more kids get delayed or told to hit the road (Zach Bearson style) it could be a rough road in the future. Speculation.

My guess would be someone else leaves, and Tyler Barnes and John Ramage are "asked" to play juniors next season, and Mark Zengerle decommits and joins Denver or CC or someone out East and I'm again forced into bitterness by the cruel hands of Badger recruiting.

Eaves got burnt bad by departures after 06 and 07, and he overcompensated, now kids are staying there just might not be room.

Stay tuned...

Post-Mortem: It Smells Rank in Here.

We've heard it already, Wisconsin missed the NCAA tournament by a painfully small margin of 0.0002 points in the RPI. That's small. Hell, it just sounds small. Two ten-thousandths of a point. But if this is even possible, I think the margin is smaller than most realize.

Earlier in the season when I was fighting off the Valentine's Day hangover, we took a look at the PWR (ironically, focusing on the individual comparison with Ohio State) and the components therein as they stood at that time. Wisconsin was then, as it is now, the first team out. That in and of itself isn't particularly notable, but that weekend also featured one Sunday game - offering a chance to see what influence one game could have on the system.

That Sunday, Robert Morris and Bemidji State played to a 3-3 tie, and UW's RPI increased by 0.0001 points. A tie game, between two teams UW didn't play, nearly made up the entire gap that kept UW out of the tournament.

How does something like this happen?

It all stems from the RPI's formulation. When you realize that the RPI is 25% your own record, 21% the record of your opponents, and 54% the record of your opponents' opponents, it becomes more obvious how a game that's seemingly so insignificant could play such a key role.

However, that's not the way it had to be. The RPI has had numerous forumlations, ranging from the current 25-21-54 to the previous 25-50-25, and a previous version even had your winning percentage weighted at 35% of the forumla. Each iteration has problems - the 35% version meant teams with weak schedules but good records would rank too high. The 25-50-25 version often had situations where a win against a bad team would lower your RPI, or a loss against a good team could increase it. The most recent version attempted to correct this as well, but also necessitated a redefinition of the PWR's TUC criteria, which is now the top 25 teams in the RPI, whereas it was previously all teams with an RPI above .500.

Suffice it to say that the RPI isn't exactly a sacred cow. It's been reconfigured more often than Michael Jackson's face.

So what does the most recent version value? Strength of schedule? Well, not exactly. If you compare all 58 teams' RPI rank to their KRACH rank, some interesting patterns emerge. KRACH does a better job at accounting for SOS, and it does so with a more coherent methodology.

(The data above was taken from RPI Hockey.net, with data current through 3/21 - the most recent rankings are slightly different)

The first column is a team's rank in the RPI, and the second is that same team's rank in KRACH. The third column represents the difference between the two, color coded based on the size of the difference. The greens, for example, have an RPI that far exceeds their KRACH rating, while the reds are teams where their KRACH is better than their RPI.

Minor fluctuations of one or two spots aren't a big deal, but larger gaps indicate some systemic issues. Several WCHA schools appear under-ranked, including Minnesota, Wisconsin, and at the bottom of the rankings, Michigan Tech. Every single WCHA school has a lower RPI rating than their KRACH rating. The over-rated schools include mostly ECAC, CHA, and AHA teams.

Take Air Force, for example. Their SOS compoents rank fairly low in both the RPI and KRACH - 45th and 51st, respectively. Yet the RPI gives Air Force the 17th best rating in the country, while KRACH puts them in 29th place.

Interpret this information how you will, but it seems clear that the current iteration of the RPI (and the PWR that relies on it so heavily) undercounts strength of schedule, thus systematically putting teams from stronger conferences at a disadvantage.

Badger Recruits In BCHL Playoffs

Two Badger recruits have made it to the semi-finals of the BCHL Fred Page Cup Playoffs. Forward Mark "First Star" Zengerle and his Salmon Arm Silverbacks are in a heated series with the Powell River kings. Also, forward Derek Lee and his Victoria Grizzlies are locked in a battle with the Vernon Vipers.

Zengerle has been banged up so far in the playoffs. He took an elbow to the head and received several stiches in game two of the last Salmon Arm series and didn't return for the rest of the series. Zengerle has returned to action but has been fairly innefective so far. The Silverbacks are down 2-1 in the series and Zengerle has only registered 1 assist in the three games. Salmon Arm is in action tonight at home in game 4.

Derek Lee has also been banged up so far this playoffs. He's been in and out of the lineup and cant find any consistency. Like Zengerle's Salmon Arm squad, Lee's Grizzlies are also down in the series 2-1. Lee was held off the scoresheet in game 1 and game 3 but registered a goal and an assist in a game 2 loss. Victoria will be on the road tonight trying to even up the series in Powell.

It would be really sweet if Zengerle and Lee could somehow carry thier teams to series victories so they could play each other for the Fred Page Cup. If you don't remember, Lee was traded this offseason to Victoria from Salmon Arm. It would make for an interesting matchup to say the least.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Jamie McBain, Hobey Baker Finalist

Somehow in the shuffle, arguably one of the most important pieces of info has been left off the table. For the most part, all Badger fans are aware, but if you have been living on mars and haven't heard, Wisconsin defenseman Jamie McBain has been named a top 10 finalist for the 2009 Hobey Baker Memorial Award.

The biggest complaint about McBain has been his low plus/minus this season. I still think that the plus/minus statistic is a crock of you know what and is a dinosaur statistic. Google "issues with plus/minus" and you could spend years reading all the articles that are written by plenty of people smarter than I basically saying that plus/minus is worthless and mis-used.

McBain finished the season with 37 points in 40 games and is expected to sign with the Carolina Hurricanes at any time. Here are a few notes from the Hobey site about the man, the myth, the legend, Jamie McBain:

Named as the WCHA Player of Year and First Team all-star, assistant-captain McBain has produced offensively at almost a point a game pace with 36 points in 38 games on 7 goals and 29 assists. He’s second in the nation in points by a defenseman. Especially dangerous on the power play, 24 of his points came with the manpower advantage for fourth best in the country.
• Finished 7th in WCHA scoring – is tied for 11th in nation in assists
• Carolina draft (2nd round) – leads Badgers in scoring
• Played 2 years at NDTP in Ann Arbor – visits UW Children’s Hospital

Image from the UWBadgers.com website

Craig Smith USHL Offensive POTW

For the second time this season, Madison native and 2009 incoming forward recruit Craig Smith has been named the USHL Offensive Player of the Week.

From the article: Smith led the way as the surging Black Hawks extended their winning streak to seven games with three victories. On Tuesday, he scored a goal and had an assist in a 6-1 win at Sioux Falls. On Friday, he had another assist in a 6-0 win at Sioux City. Then on Saturday, he scored a hat trick in the second period and added an assist in a 7-4 win over Chicago. He had 11 shots on goal and was +6.

Smith was also named the USHL Offensive Player of the Week back on December, 22 when he had back to back 4 point games.

The kid has done nothing but impress the hell out of me this season. He currently sits second in the USHL in scoring with 68 points in 49 games. He's 7 points back of the leader but has played in 4 less games. He's going to look awfully good in cardinal and white next fall.

Early Departures?

Andy Baggot has a Badger Beat post about early departures so why not chime in.

Overall, I think the # of early departures will continue to go down as the seasons go on. Following the NHL labor dispute, I think there was a great need for players to fill the minors, and now there just isn’t as much room or need. I’ve discussed this w/ several Badger fans who have come to a similar conclusion themselves. One year players will start staying in college an extra year, two year players will see a junior year, and three year players will graduate before moving on to a pro career. Nothing concrete here, just a theory.

In Baggot’s post, he thinks that WCHA POY and Hobey Finalist Jamie McBain and winger John Mitchell are the most likely candidates to leave early. He thinks Ryan McDonagh, Blake Geoffrion, Cody Goloubef and Brendan Smith will be back. 3 months ago I would have said no way McD and Boom^2 return, but now I’m not so sure.

Here are my estimations on early departures. The % I give is the chance they will leave early. I’ll go by position.


Scott Gudmandson – 0%


Jamie McBain – 99%
Ryan McDonagh – 50%
Brendan Smith – 30%
Cody Goloubef – 20%
Jake Gardiner – 10%
Craig Johnson – 0%
Ryan Little – 0%
Eric Springer – 0%

As NHL draft picks, McD, Smith, Goloubef and Gardiner have to be given a decent %. You never know what an organization is thinking w/ these kids. McD might be rumored to come back, but I say the chances are as good he leaves for the Canadiens. Smith was talking about his NHL career during his first semester freshman year, though I’d think the Red Wings want to see more improvement on defense before pulling out the checkbook.


John Mitchell – 67%
Blake Geoffrion – 50%
Podge Turnbull – 20%
Chris Hickey – 20%
Derek Stepan – 15%
Jordy Murray – 2%
Patrick Johnson – 1%
Andy Bohmbach – 1%
Michael Davies – 0%
Ben Grotting – 0%
Sean Dolan – 0%
Matt Thurber – 0%
Aaron Bendickson – 0%
Ben Street – 0%
Tom Bardis – 0%

If Mitchell gets a nice offer, he would be dumb not to take it. He has come so far in the past two seasons, and a pro career is w/ in his grasp. My opinion on Geoffrion is the same as McDonagh. Says he is back, but Robbie Earl said that too. Turnbull and Hickey are both NHL picks who didn’t get much playing time this season. Will Turnbull crack the lineup consistently next season w/ Craig Smith, Derek Lee and possibly Mark Zengerle coming in? Personally I don’t think Hickey received enough ice time this season, I liked what I saw when he did play. Jordy Murray very well could hear his name called in this June’s NHL Draft, probably in the later rounds. I don’t think Patrick Johnson would ever leave early, but he was a draft pick and the Bohmber had a great junior year.

Everyone else should be back, unless they transfer or “something”.

As for other WCHA teams, here are some possible early departure candidates:

North Dakota – Chay Genoway (Jr), Chris VandeVelde (Jr)
Denver – Tyler Bozak (So), Patrick Wiercioch (Fr)
CC – Richard Bachman (So), Brian Connelly – already gone
minnesota – Ryan Stoa (Jr), Jordan Schroeder (Fr)
St. Cloud – Ryan Lasch (Jr), Garrett Roe (So), Garrett Raboin (Jr)
Duluth – Alex Stalock (Jr), Justin Fontaine (So)
Mankato – Kael Moullierat (Jr), Kurt Davis (So)
UAA – Paul Crowder (Jr), Tommy Grant (So)
Tech – Well……

What do you think? Feel free to leave some comments below.

Thoughts from the Final Five

This was my first voyage to St. Paul for the Final Five and it certainly won’t be my last. All in all, it was a great weekend of hockey, among other things.

First and foremost, the Xcel Energy Center is an awesome place to watch hockey. Another way to describe it, it’s eXCELlent! When I was planning my trip, I posted on Buckyville asking for some advice on tickets and where to sit. When someone tells you there isn’t a bad view in the entire arena, they aren’t joking around. I spent the 1st period of the Badger’s Friday game in the 100 level, but then moved up to the 200 level the rest of the weekend, and honestly I thought my view from up there was better. You can see everything up top, and sitting in the last row, its still a great view. My opinion of the Kohl Center is slightly diminished now, though I still love the KC too.

Tickets were relatively easy to acquire, though the goofs were sent home early which helped. A lot of Sioux fans selling championship game tickets Saturday afternoon so they could get home, if their home was still there and not washed down the Red River. The announced attendances were far from accurate. I think championship game had 16,000 people roughly, more like 10 or 12k realistically.

Overall the event was awesome and I would recommend that every Badger fan makes a trip up there in the future. In general the crowd was made up of minnesota, North Dakota, Duluth and Wisconsin fans since their teams were playing. Denver brought about a dozen non-parent fans, and there were some St. Cloud, UAA and Tech mixed in. Only a few people were brave enough to wear those ugly Mankato jerseys, and I really wonder if CC even has any traveling fans. There was some smack talked, and apparently I missed several near "fights" between contingents. The gopher fans still talked smack even though their team was bounced, I can only imagine how obnoxious these idiots are when their team is actually playing.

On to the games.

I didn’t make the play-in game, but caught the end at my friend’s house. Any time the gophers lose, everyone else wins by osmosis.

On Friday afternoon, the Badgers were an embarrassment; it was a tough game to watch. They played well very early, but really didn’t play w/ any emotion, which is odd for a team who knew the writing was on the wall: win or likely no NCAA tourney. I don’t think Denver really played that well, Wisconsin was just horrible. Not much else to say, you probably watched or listened you know what I’m talking about.

The evening tilt was compelling. Not often I get to watch a non-Badger game that isn’t NHL/AHL or USHL/high school. I still think Alex Stalock of Duluth is 60% luck and 40% skill, but he had both rolling for him all weekend. My friends were humored by his wanderings and “antics” during the game. North Dakota made some poor decisions and I thought Brad Eidsness was shaky at best in net. Duluth was riding a high early on and never let off, I was surprised (along w/ roughly 6,000 Sioux fans).

After Friday’s poor play, I actually considered for a short time not going to the game, I wasn’t sure if I could take another performance like that, but I had to see the seniors and early departures play one last time. I wasn’t disappointed. After a slow start, the team brought a nice effort, a lot of the guys had good games. Andy Bohmbach scores his 10th goal, which is impressive since that is 10x the amount than in his first two years. The Sioux didn’t have their best game. What a good way to get ready for the NCAA tourney by being the only team to lose twice at the Final Five.

I had my money on Denver in the final, oops. Their dozen non-parent fans didn’t have much to cheer about. I thought Duluth would be worn out, but if they were they certainly didn’t show it and hats off to them on a great weekend. Stalock pitched back to back shutouts and the Bulldogs became the 1st team to win from the play-in game. I actually cheered for Stalock when he received the tourney MVP, which was difficult since I despise him. Have to give credit where it’s due though. Duluth was good in all facets of the game Friday and Saturday, and never really gave Denver any glimpse of hope late in the contest.

Overall, the Final Five was great, can’t wait to be back in St. Paul next season.

Next up, the Frozen Four in Washington DC.

Monday, March 23, 2009


Wisconsin Badgers men's hockey: An embarrassing moment


ST. PAUL, Minn. -- What caused the biggest buzz during the first day of the WCHA Final Five?

Hint: It wasn't Minnesota-Duluth staging a mild 2-1 upset of Minnesota in the play-in game Thursday night at the Xcel Center.

It was the highlight video shown during the annual awards banquet Thursday afternoon.

If the piece was supposed cast the WCHA in a good light, it failed miserably and prompted feelings of embarrassment from a variety of schools.

The video included multiple clips of players checking from behind, mugging one another, throwing one another to the ice and mixing it up.

There was a snippet of a player, apparently Minnesota State-Mankato's Channing Boe, being taken from the ice on a stretcher after he broke his ankle in a melee against Minnesota.

Those in the Wisconsin entourage were upset that much of their exposure in the piece had to do with goals allowed by goaltender Shane Connelly.

In fact, instead of celebrating the league and tying the whole season together, the final segment focused on the second UW-Denver series in which the Badgers allowed a late goal and were beaten in overtime.

After the banquet, UW coach Mike Eaves was asked for his reaction to the video.

"I'm surprised,'' is all he would say.

Coaches and representatives from multiple schools expressed dismay at the video.

"Embarrassing,'' said one.

"A total joke,'' said another.