Category Archives: College Hockey

Hey Hockey, What’s Up?

I’m really glad the NHL has returned. I missed the righteous slapshots of Pavel Datsyuk,the energy around Madison Square Garden on game day, the Enforcers, and my fellow fans- the best fans in sports.

Though I am wearing my Wings jersey, I really wanted to boycott the NHL and not watch a game. I don’t really care about all the past chaos, I’m just happy I can sit down and watch a game every night. All is forgiven. The lockout forced  me into a path that pays.

Blood, sweat and tears is the art of journalism. The drive is insatiable. No more up all night to hit the news wire, no more fantastic editors to work with….I’ve been so blessed, and no more play-by-play. I got a great marketing job, write for a local paper and get to interview people in sports, music and design….so, I think we’re okay.

I’ve covered the Colorado Avalanche, the Detroit Red Wings, the New York Rangers and will continue to follow. I’ve had the privilege to attend University of Denver Pioneers games, watching Matt Carle and Paul Stastny. Michigan hockey and the Detroit Red Wings have my allegiance. I can’t quit hockey.

Living on the east coast does provide the hockey fan with the best hockey coverage outside of Canada. Almost every night, I have a choice of watching a Devils, Rangers, or Islanders game. The only deprivation I face now is not getting enough Red Wings.

Fantasy hockey owners are scrambling to repair broken teams as players face injuries getting back on the ice. This is the time to watch out for the newbies on the roster. The fantasy hockey portion of my blog will be up next week.

Welcome back hockey fans!

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New Year, New Deal

This has been a dreary year for hockey lovers. Visiting my family in the Ann Arbor/Detroit area, the absence of hockey was noticeable. Some people don’t realize that entire communities rely on the business and traffic from hockey. Michigan is such a state.

The NHL lockout has sent fans back to their origins of college and junior hockey. That movement has been great for the base of hockey. Just like the holidays, the lockout has given fans a glimpse of what really matters…the game. Unfortunately, the NHL and this lockout nonsense reflects poorly on all those associated with such shenanigans. Benefits of the lockout have freed the players to donate their time for more charity games. Grass roots at its finest.

The University of Michigan Men’s ice hockey team has done well taking third place in the Great Lakes Invitational. Represented by colleges from Western Michigan to Michigan Tech, this college hockey expo draws a crowd at Joe Louis Arena in downtown Detroit. Good news for Detroit is that Windsor, Ontario is mere minutes over the bridge and brings NHL fans to town, so now long-term damage is expected. Hockey has survived, yet the identity of the Detroit Metro-Area is securely poised as the most successful sports franchise, the Detroit Red Wings.

Every year I haul Red Wings gear home. This year I hauled Michigan gear home. I even scored a Grand Valley State hoodie for those diehards. While it is great to add some more depth to my athletic collection, the Red Wings are not just shirts and key chains. There was little talk of NHL hockey. Fans in my home state have plenty of other options, because that’s how hockey is lived in the frozen earth that is Michigan.

You haven’t really felt cold unless you’ve stood outside in almost any town in the Wolverine State. Canada has bragging rights to the pain that is the cold, but we’re neighbors and feel their pain. Now living in southern New Jersey, I didn’t realize that 40 degrees is balmy. But when you are standing on ice most of the time, it’s natural to want to skate on it and live your life on it.

Despite the 13 degree temps, my sister and I went out Christmas night and took pictures on the streets of Ann Arbor. Michigan Stadium stood tall and proud ready for 2014 and the Winter Classic featuring the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Standing at the Big House is a monumental feeling. The Winter classic on this grad scale will bring a misty moment for hockey fans.

The Big House Xmas night….the site of the Winter Classic 2014

The New Year should bring a new deal, but let’s start all over again next year.

Hometown, Hockeytown

It’s taken a few days for it all to sink in. The town I grew up in will be the host of the Winter Classic 2013 between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The high school I attended sat kitty-corner from Michigan Stadium. Every Friday afternoon, tailgaters would descend upon Pioneer High School’s  parking lot to set up for the Saturday Michigan games. I remember my uncle Rich sneaking us in at the start of the 4th quarter at his gate where he volunteered for 35 years. He also volunteered with Michigan hockey, and gave me a set of Michigan hockey cards I still have. That was the year Kevin Porter won the Hobey Baker.

Ann Arbor is a hockey town. The University of Michigan Wolverines have been a cornerstone in Big Ten hockey and NCAA hockey for decades. Michigan boasts coach Red Berenson who has produced some of the best talent int he NHL today:  Carl Hagelin, Brendan Morrison, Mike Cammalleri, Mike Komisarek, Mike Knuble, Jack Johnson  and Kevin Porter to name a few.  The Wolverines have nine NCAA men’s ice hockey titles.

Hockey tradition represents Ann Arbor, but also training as the home of the USA Hockey Team Development Program.  NHL participants have included Ryan Kesler, Patrick Kane, Erik Johnson and Cam Fowler.

Not too far down the road is Hockeytown, home to the Detroit Red Wings and the bright spot for the Detroit sports scene. Just across the Detroit River is Windsor, Ontario, home of the two-time Calder Cup champions Windsor Spitfires and MVP Taylor Hall.  The matchup between the Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs is fitting not only because of the close proximity, but both are each country’s respective hockey epicenters.  The line coming in and out of Detroit and Windsor after Wings games displays the regions affinity for hockey.

The perfect platform, the picturesque scenery of Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan campus, plus the craziness of hockey fans in A2 will create an atmosphere that could cost the Winter Classic in topping it the following year.   I read somewhere that this Classic could break attendance records….it will! Michigan Stadium holds up to 113,000. The Big Chill at the Big House broke an outdoor hockey game record, and so shall the Winter Classic 2013.

 

The Road to the Frozen Four

Minnesota-Duluth, Michigan, North Dakota, and Notre Dame will battle in St. Paul April 7-9 to claim the NCAA college hockey championship title at the Frozen Four.  Michigan will meet North Dakota and UMD will meet Notre Dame to determine the final pair. The defending national champs Boston College were stunned by a sturdy Colorado College team, but that wasn’t the last shock as the No. 1 seed fell short of advancing in what many called the “dog fight.”
The University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs took on the top seeded Yale Bulldogs to move on for the first tourney spot. UMD looked like they had it all wrapped, 5-1. Yale took task and came within reach, 5-3, but couldn’t pull it off.  UMD (24–10–6) held on to be the first team to advance to the NCAA championship game. UMD have had 4 tournament appearances, the latest in 2004.

West Regional action took St. Louis by storm with the appearance of two vital St. Louis Blues personalities: Red Berenson and Jaden Schwartz.

Sixth-ranked Michigan (26-10-4) met Nebraska-Omaha (21-15-2) in the first round. UNO joined the WCHA last season and took on such notable tournament teams as Denver and North Dakota. The Wolverines made their 21st consecutive appearance in the West Regional held in St. Louis where Wolverine coach Red Berenson played then coached.  In a controversial call, the Wolverines took the win in overtime, 4-3.

Michigan faced Colorado College for the next slot. And it was tough. Scooter Vaughn scored first the Wolverines and stood with a 2-0 lead. Ryland Schwartz beat Wolverines goaltender Shawn Hunwick to up their chance 2-1 with just over 3 minutes left. With their 43 shots to 19 shots, the Wolverines kept it close but move on to St. Paul for their 24th tournament appearance.

Though the CC Tigers lost to Michigan, they played a phenomenal game against the defending champs. Colorado College faced Boston College with a 4-1 lead in the second, then leapt into an 8-4 victory knocking off the defending champs and No. 1 seed in the West. Boston’s star forward Cam Atkinson, a Hobey Baker finalist, met his match in Colorado College’s freshman, Jaden Schwartz, who is the first-round draft pick of the St. Louis Blues.

Green Bay hosted the Midwest regional action. WCHA super teams, North Dakota and Denver graced the rink for a chance to move on.  For North Dakota, it was no contest as they denied Rensselaer 6-0.

Denver faced a tough Western Michigan team to advance. The Broncos, who have never won a championship and was last in the tourney in 1996, had control through the second period with a 2-0 lead, but Denver roared back to tie the game in the third pushing the challenge to OT. Then, another OT. Until Jason Zucker scored his 22nd goal of the year, for a 3-2 win. Zucker is a draft pick of the Minnesota Wild. Denver moved on for a rematch of the WCHA championship game with North Dakota, who won 3-2 in double overtime. North Dakota wanted another run at the title with a 6-1 victory over the Pioneers to advance to St. Paul. Both Denver and North Dakota have each won 7 national titles.

Notre Dame (23-13-5) beat New Hampshire, 2-1, to take the final slot in the Frozen Four for their second appearance. The last Frozen Four for both Notre Dame and Michigan was in Denver in 2008, and advanced beating Michigan but lost to Boston College. There is a possibility that Notre Dame and Michigan could face off for the NCAA title- awesome rivalry in college football, so the Frozen Four battle would be amazing.

It’s been a good showing for Colorado this season with Air Force, Colorado College and Denver competing in the ultimate college hockey experience. The Midwest will be abuzz with fans traveling to St. Paul, which means the Xcel Energy Center will be electrified with plenty of hockey loyal. Watch for Frozen Four updates April 7-9. Notre Dame will play Minnesota-Duluth  on Thursday, April 7 at 5pm EST in the early semifinal, followed by the Michigan-North Dakota semifinal.  Tune to ESPN  for Frozen Four games and coverage.

March Madness

Former Wisconsin Badger Blake Geoffrion scored his first NHL goal with the Nashville Predators this week.  Geoffrion’s Wisconsin Badgers lost 5-0 to the Eagles of Boston College last season in the Frozen Four. But it wasn’t all bad.  Geoffrion became the first Badgers player to win the Hobey Baker and only the 10th Wisconsin player to be named a finalist. In his college career, Blake led the WCHA in goals with 19, and was named to the All-WCHA First Team. He was the 56th pick in the 2006 NHL entry draft, selected by the Nashville Predators.

The Badgers had two Hobey Baker candidates last year, Blake Geoffrion and defenseman Brendan Smith, who has been playing for Detroit’s AHL affiliate the Grand Rapids Griffins. The road from college hockey to the NHL can be tough, and some never get the chance. Geoffrion’s goal reminded me that now is the season for March Madness- hockey, that is.

Tournaments are happening this weekend to determine who will play towards the Frozen Four April 7-9 in the Twin Cities. Minnesota puts more effort into hockey than any other state with an abundance of media coverage in high-school to NHL hockey. What else is there to do in Minnesota besides playing hockey?

Next to the Stanley Cup playoffs, this is the best time of the year to be a hockey fan. Both Michigan and Denver are tied in rank at No. 5, so I’ve  got two chances to get to the Frozen Four.

Since Red Berenson’s mighty Michigan Wolverines are one of my teams, notable players to look out for include Carl Hagelin who finished fourth in the CCHA scoring race (15-22-37. Rookie John Merrill became the first defensman to reach the 20-goal mark  since, now NHL Kings defenseman, Jack Johnson in 2005-06. Goaltender Shawn Hunwick ranked first in the CCHA in goals-against average (1.95) and save percentage (.931). Michigan’s energetic season, inlcuding the “Big Chill in the Big House” has prepared the team for the big stage heading into the divisional tournaments.

The Denver Pioneers have completely revamped this season losing many player to graduation or the NHL track. Despite being in the top-ten most of the season, the Pioneers have been under the radar. Expect the usual quiet analytical play by Denver. Denver’s top two scorers are sophomore Drew Shore and freshman Jason Zucker. George Gwozdecky can’t look at the year and expect to foretell the future. In previous years, the Pioneers have learned that once in the NCAA tournament, the regular season and conference tournaments mean nothing. Last year, the Pioneers won the MacNaughton Cup, stumbled a bit in the WCHA Final Five and lost in the first round of the NCAAs for third consecutive season as a No. 1 seed.

Many fans don’t take the time to watch college hockey, but it’s exciting if you are a hockey fan to realize you are watching the next great NHL stars.

Big Chill at the Big House

The most exciting event is happening in my hometown, Ann Arbor. Just blocks away from my aunt’s house, crazy collegiate hockey fans will pour into Michigan Stadium for a legendary game.  College football is done, so bring on the hockey!

NCAA hockey has taken over the nation’s largest football arena. The Michigan Wolverines will host the Michigan State Spartans for” The Big Chill at the Big House,” an outdoor hockey game on Dec. 11 before a sold out crowd of 110,00. The two teams met previously on Oct. 6, 2001 at Spartan Stadium for what was called “The Cold War.” In a 3-3 tie, both teams hope to change the past.

Big Chill at the Big House

Michigan brings a veteran team that has been inconsistent this season (9-5-4, 8-3-1 CCHA), but is pushing for a tournament tour. The Wolverines have the most NCAA championships than any other collegiate hockey program. Coach Red Berenson anticipates a strong show for Michigan, expecting 80-85% maize and blue. Berenson, who played some World Championship games for the Canadian National Team as a teenager, coached two outdoor games with the Wolverines.  Michigan and Wisconsin drew more than 55,000 hockey fans to Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis., last February for an outdoor game.

Rick Comley, Michigan State’s coach also grew up playing outdoor hockey. Michigan State hasn’t fared as well as their state rival (6-8-3, 3-7-1 CCHA).  Michigan State goalie Drew Palmisano attended Ann Arbor Pioneer High, directly across the street from The Big House. He attended many Wolverine football games, and anticipates a memorable game and experience.  Wonder if ex-MSU goaltender Ryan Miller will use his day off to watch the game?

The Michigan hockey team will sport retro-inspired game jerseys designed by Adidas, to honor the “The Big Chill at the Big House.” The design is similar to Wolverine jerseys worn by the 1945-46, 1946-47 and 1947-48 teams with an image of a wolverine on the front and stripes on the shoulders.

A fireworks display, will introduce the Wolverines as they take the ice, plus more fireworks with a Michigan goal. Post-game fireworks, will be choreographed to the music from the movie “The Big Chill.” Big Chill co-writer, director, and Michigan grad Lawrence Kasdan, will take part in the pre-game ceremonial puck drop.

To help prepare the ice for Saturday’s big game, Michigan Stadium have scheduled hockey games, including high schools, youth leagues and a few alumni groups. A public skate will end the festivities on Dec. 12.

Former MSU forward, Mike Modano will watch, as well as other former Michigan players Kevin Porter, Mike Knuble and the other  Wolverine players now in the NHL.

Catch the game on the Big Ten Network at 3 p.m.EST. Go Blue!

Spring Forward for the Frozen Four

The Michigan Wolverines will not be bringing their pack of wild fans to Detroit’s Ford Field this year for the Frozen Four.As a Wolverine fan, I’m bummed.Last year, the Michigan State Spartans graced the Final Four in Detroit creating a bond between Spartan and Wolverine basketball fans.No such luck with the hockey.

Michigan faced Miami in the semi-final last Sunday. At the end of a 2-2 tie, overtime ensued. Michigan took control in overtime out shooting the RedHawks of Miami,with three close calls on net.Much talk about Michigan outplaying Miami can be directed to a controversial call involving a play by the Wolverines where the puck crossed the line, but seemingly after the whistle.It was a clear goal, but deemed invalid.I can only imagine the conversations in Ann Arbor right now.

In 2008, Michigan made it to the Frozen Four in Denver, but lost to Notre Dame.Hanging out with Michigan hockey fans brought me back to the excitement of Yost Ice Arena. Michigan’s captain, Kevin Porter, was the Hobey Baker winner that year. Porter was drafted by the Phoenix Coyotes, but had minimal play and sent to the minors. He was sent to the Colorado Avalanche in a trade this year that sent Wojtek Wolski to the Yotes in exchange for Porter and Peter Mueller.

The Hobey Baker Award is given annually to the top American college hockey player. Hobey Baker was captain of both the Princeton hockey and football teams, and his college classmate, F. Scott Fitzgerald based a character off of Baker in his novel, This Side of Paradise.This year, Detroit Red Wings prospect and Maine sophomore forward Gustav Nyquist is one of the three finalists for this year’s award.New Hampshire’s Bobby Butler and Wisconsin’s Blake Geoffrion were also announced as Hobey finalists.Buter has signed a free-agent contract with the Ottawa Senators, and Geeffrion was drafted by the Nashville Predators.The award will be presented on April 9 at Detroit’s Ford Field.

But despite the lack of top teams such as Denver and the defending champs, Boston University, the Frozen Four boasts some top dogs and underdogs.The Boston College Eagles and the Miami-Ohio RedHawks have fought for the title in the past few years.This should be a great game as both teams know each other’s style of play.Miami comes into the competition ranked No. 1 in the nation, while Boston College ranked No.3.

The Wisconsin Badgers are synonymous with hockey and have won six national titles.And they also have senior tri-captain,Geffrion, who leads the Badgers with 27 goals.Can’t say the Badgers won’t bring it, because they will and will make it difficult for their opponent, RIT.

As with an unexpected bounce off the boards or a wide slapshot, no one could accurately hit the target of RIT.The Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers came from the bottom of the standings to take a spot in the Frozen Four.Only in their fifth season as a Div. I team, this was just their third eligible postseason bid for the tournament.The Tigers have claimed  a Division II national title in 1983 and a Division III championship in 1985.RIT’s leading scorer and a Detroit native Cameron Burt must be thrilled to play with such a home crowd at such an amazing time for his team.

While the Michigan Wolverines prepare for another season, we can celebrate a few ties to my hockey home state of Michigan.My call is that Miami will take a home-field advantage, being only fours hours from Detroit, and will fight to the bone to beat Boston College.It’s the RedHawks’ time to win the match-up.Wisconsin will be tough, yet many will be cheering on the RIT Tigers, the underdog in the year of the Tiger.