Established 1996

U.S. Hockey Report

October News


Color Him Crimson

6'0", 185 lb. Cushing Academy senior forward Dan Murphy has been accepted early decision to Harvard, and will be bound for Cambridge in the fall. 

Murphy made his final choice from between Harvard and Yale. He took his official visit to Harvard the weekend of Oct. 20-21, and then Yale last weekend.

Last winter, Cushing went 35-1-1, their only loss coming to St. Sebastian's in the prep school final. The Penguins top line consisted of LW Murphy (27-44-71); his brother, C Ben Murphy (24-46-70); and RW Mike Woodford (34-39-73).

Murphy's strength is his ability as a sniper -- he has a hard, accurate shot with a quick release. But, as the numbers show, he can set up as well as finish.

Murphy, a 4/26/83 birthdate from N. Andover, Mass., was USHR's #1-ranked forward among 11th graders playing in New England's prep or junior ranks last winter.

Speaking of Harvard, 6'0", 187 lb. RD Dylan Reese of the Pittsburgh Forge (NAHL), an 11th grader and one of the better '84s in the U.S., will be taking an unofficial visit to Cambridge this weekend. Reese is strong offensively, with the ability to run the powerplay at the Div. I level. 



He's the One Dressed up as a River Hawk

5'9", 175 lb. RW Danny O'Brien of the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders (USHL) has committed to the UMass-Lowell River Hawks 

O'Brien, the RoughRiders captain, is a tenacious, two-way player from S. Boston, Mass. A 6/82 birthdate, he's a 2000 graduate of BC High.  

Last season, his first in the USHL, O'Brien, in 58 games, posted a 14-24-38 line for the RoughRiders. 

How do you dress up as a River Hawk? Well, you either copy the school mascot or you use your imagination, because the River Hawk is not a real bird, or even a mythical bird. It's totally made up. 



Little Caesar's Sponsorship "Suspended" 

Little Caesar's, the midget AAA program that Chris Coury has run for 27 years, may no longer be operating with the financial assistance of the Ilitch family. 

Coury was reluctant to elaborate on the record, but said that his hockey club's sponsorship "has been suspended following a conflict with Little Caesar's Enterprises over philosophy." Coury also allowed as to there being significant details to follow, perhaps as early as next week.

"It's a mess," he said, but allowed as to there being a "slight glimmer" of hope that, by Tuesday, he could regain his sponsorship from the Caesar's organization, which, besides purveying pizza, also owns the Detroit Red Wings. 

In the meantime, Coury, with the support of his players and assistant coaches, is keeping the team going. Now, however, they are known as the Detroit Junior Red Wings and have moved operations from Joe Louis Arena into the Taylor Sportsplex in Taylor, Michigan. 

Coury wants college and junior coaches and recruiters to know that the team's schedule will continue as planned, with a league game next Tuesday at 6 pm vs Compuware followed by a trip to Massachusetts for the Valley Junior Warriors Tournament. Over Thanksgiving weekend the Junior Red Wings will be back in New England, at the Northeast Showcase; and then again Dec. 7-9 at the Lock Monsters Tournament in Hookset, NH. 



Richmond Picks the Maize and Blue

6'1", 175 lb. LD Danny Richmond of the Chicago Steel (USHL) has committed to the University of Michigan. 

This past July, Richmond was USHR's #1-ranked defenseman at the U.S. Select 17 Festival, where his stock went right through the roof. We also rated him the #1-ranked '84-born D at the USHL's Cedar Rapids Tournament Sept. 20-23. This fall, Richmond has made the step up from midget hockey -- he played for Team Illinois last season -- look easy, adapting quickly to USHL play. The head coach/GM of the Steel is his father, Steve Richmond, a defenseman at Michigan from 1978-82 before going on to a nine-year pro career.  

Richmond, who's from Buffalo Grove, Ill. is an excellent student and was high on the wish list of virtually every Div. I school in the country. However, he limited his visits to only two schools -- Notre Dame and Michigan. 

An 8/1/84, Richmond is currently the overall leading point-getter for the Steel with a line of 2-7-9 in 10 games. Having grown and made himself stronger over the last year, Richmond is an extremely well-rounded player. He's strong at both ends of the ice, is physical, poised, has excellent anticipation and reads the play very well. 



DePalma Fired

Cleveland Barons (NAHL) head coach Larry DePalma was fired yesterday. As of now, we don't know who will be replacing him, or exactly why DePalma was fired.  

GM Barry Butler and assistant coach Bob Mainhardt failed to return our calls. 

The Barons, who started the season strongly, have lost five of their last six games. In 11 games to date, they are 6-5-0. 

DePalma was hired by Barons this past April, just days before the start of the NAHL playoffs. He replaced Otis Plageman, who had been filling in for Tim Alexander since the latter's firing in January.

DePalma, a Trenton, Michigan native, was a fierce fighter who played major junior (WHL), then went on to play for ten minor league and three NHL teams over a ten-year pro career. 

After the 1999-2000 season, DePalma was suspended from coaching in the Michigan National Hockey League, a midget AAA loop, as a result of a couple of major brawls involving his team, the Detroit Trackers.  



Tambellini Makes His Decision 

5'11", 180 lb. LW/C Jeff Tambellini of the Chilliwack Chiefs (BCHL) has made up his mind -- and it's the Michigan Wolverines. Red Berenson and his staff learned of it a few hours ago, at around 3 pm.

Tambellini, a 4/13/84 birthdate, was a standout on the Pacific Team at the World Under-17 Challenge in Nova Scotia last winter, and, along with BU recruit Dave van der Gulik and Gabe Gauthier, has formed the core of Chilliwack's offense.

Tambellini is an excellent two-way player, strong in all three zones. He's the son of ex-NHLer Steve Tambellini, now in the Vancouver Canucks front office. 

The final three schools in the hunt for Tambellini, who's a 4.0 student, were BC, which he visited the weekend before last, Michigan State, and, of course, Michigan.

Note: Gauthier, a 5'9", 180 lb. LC from Buena Park, California (one town north of Anaheim), visited Denver over the weekend. Look for Gauthier to make his final pick from between Denver and BU. 

Gauthier represented the gold-medal winning U.S. team at the World Under-17 Challenge. 



The Final 33

Last week, we wrote about the cancellation of next month's European trips involving U.S. teams. One of these teams was the USHL All-Star squad, coached by Sioux City's Dave Siciliano, which was due to head over to the Four Nations Tournament next week.

22 USHL players -- Americans only, no imports, hence no Thomas Vanek or Brett Skinner -- would have been on the all-star team's final roster. At the time the trip was cancelled, the list of players under consideration stood at 33, meaning 11 cuts would have been made from among the following.  

Goaltenders (3):
Bobby Goepfert, '83, Cedar Rapids 
Chris Gartman, '81, Des Moines 
Marty Magers, '83, Omaha 
Defensemen (11):
P.J. Atherton, '82, Cedar Rapids
Chris Snavely, '82, Cedar Rapids
Ben Tharp, '81, Chicago 
Tom Gilbert, '83, Chicago 
Michael Hutchins, '82, Des Moines
Nate Guenin, '82, Green Bay
Lee Marvin, '81, Lincoln 
Chris Harrington, '82, Omaha
Ryan Geris, '81, Sioux City
Bryan Schmidt, '81, Tri-City
Nick Toneys, '81, Waterloo
Forwards (19):
Ted O'Leary, '82, Cedar Rapids
Mark Langdon, '83, Des Moines
Joey Crabb, '83, Green Bay
Matt Johnson,  '81, Green Bay
Tim Stapleton,  '82, Green Bay
Trevor Frischmon, '81, Lincoln
John Snowden, '82, Lincoln
Aaron Slattengren, '81, Omaha
Shawn Vinz, '83, Rochester
Brad Zancanaro, '82, Sioux City
John Zeiler, '82, Sioux City
Jeff Corey, '82, Sioux Falls
Quinn Fylling, '82, Sioux Falls
Eric  Przepiorka, '81, Sioux Falls
Eric Vesely, '82, Topeka
Konrad Reeder, '81, Tri-City
Bille Luger, '82, Tri-City
Jordan Pennington, '81, Tulsa
Dan Krmpotich, '82, Waterloo

There were twelve '81s, fifteen '82s, and six '83s among the final candidates. Each team was represented: Green Bay and Cedar Rapids led the way with four players apiece; followed by Des Moines, Sioux City, Sioux Falls, Omaha, Lincoln, and Tri-City, each with three; Chicago and Waterloo with two apiece; and Rochester and Tulsa with one each. 



Collar to UMass-Lowell

5'11, 175 lb. Danville Wings (NAHL) defenseman Matt Collar, a native of Plano, Texas,  has committed to play next season for UMass-Lowell. 

Collar, a gritty, quick, highly-mobile left-shot D who plays with an edge, is a second-year Danville Wing. Before that, he played for Dan Lerg's HoneyBaked Midget AAA squad. Danville GM Josh Mervis originally saw Collar four years ago playing for a Dallas Southwest League team coached by Carol Wilson, the wife of Dallas Stars assistant coach Rick Wilson, and the mother of Phoenix Coyotes RW Landon Wilson.  

Collar is a 1/18/82 birthdate.



The Man from Porcupine

Ohio State had him in for an official visit earlier this week; BU, Michigan State and others have made calls; and Lake Superior State, where he almost went this season -- and could still wind up at -- is following his progress, but suddenly finding the competition to be growing.   

Meanwhile, Waterloo Black Hawks goaltender Josh Siembeda (pronounced Sim-beeda), just goes out and does his job. "He's really popular," says Waterloo coach/GM Scott Koberinski. "And he's very upbeat." 

It's a good thing, too, because he's holding a 1-4 record. What recruiters are noticing, though, is his GAA of 1.97 and save % of .931. 

In early October, Siembeda came to Waterloo from the Espanola Screaming Eagles of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League. The Screaming Eagles, who got cash in return, sent him to the USHL simply because the goaltender expressed a wish to go there, presumably to be seen by more colleges. Director of Hockey Operations Mark Siedel felt that Siembeda, who in early September had turned down a four-year package from the Sudbury Wolves (OHL) because he wanted to go the NCAA route, had given Espanola enough over the past year and to stand in his way would have been unfair.

Last year, Siembeda went on one college visit, to Clarkson. The connection was Espanola assistant coach Chris Roque, cousin of then-Clarkson assistant Jimmy Roque. When Roque returned to Lake State, Siembeda's interest followed him. However, the goaltender's SAT scores were too low and he was unable to raise them until late summer -- too late for the Lakers. So Siembeda returned to Espanola, a town of about 5,000 two-thirds of he way along Route 17 between the Soo and Sudbury. 

Siembeda, who's from Porcupine, Ontario, which is up north, just a few kilometers east of Timmins, is a mid-70s student who has passed the clearinghouse. His SATs are still on the low side for a lot of schools, but he's working on improving them.  

A 3/14/83 birthdate who's 5'10", 170 at best, Siembeda is very good fundamentally and very athletic, quick, exciting to watch, and the possessor of a good glove. He handles the puck well enough, communicates well with his defensemen, has very good anticipation, and great competitiveness.  

Waterloo, which hosts Cedar Rapids and Sioux Falls this weekend, has, in their six games to date, scored nine goals while allowing 14. Four of their six games have been one-goal decisions, including both their wins. The club's leading goal scorer is Minnesota-Duluth recruit Ryan Langenbrunner, who has two. 

Notes: Former Avon Old Farms center Joey Grasso, a 20-year-old from Long Island who in recent years has bounced between the USHL and the EJHL, joined the Markham Waxers of the Ontario Provincial League this week.... There's something a little disingenuous, at best, about the USHL issuing press releases that make claims such as "On Thursday, three Des Moines Buccaneers announced their (college) intentions," and then going on to list Michael Hutchins (UNH), and Brett Skinner and Ryan Dingle (both Denver) as all being Div. I bound, which, of course, they are. However, none of them announced any such thing yesterday. As readers of USHR know, Skinner announced he was going to Denver seven months ago, in mid-March; Dingle committed (for 2003-04) in May, and Hutchins announced he was going to UNH in early June. In every case, the player committed to college well before playing even a single game in the USHL, yet the USHL is, in effect, claiming credit for something they didn't do, all the while failing to give credit to the teams from which the above-named players were actually recruited. So we'll fill the gap: Hutchins played for the St. Paul's School in Concord, NH, Skinner played for the Trail Smoke Eaters (BCHL), and Dingle played for Vail (Col.) Midget AAA. And that's where the credit belongs, to say nothing of the pre-prep teams, bantam teams, pee-wee teams, etc. that also helped develop them.  The USHL, as the top junior A league in the country, should realize that it is the direct beneficiary of the organizations below them, which provide them with the free labor -- the players -- that has turned the USHL into the cash cow it has become over the past decade. It wouldn't hurt the league at all to give St. Paul's, the Trail Smoke Eaters, and the Vail Midgets their props. 



USHR Price Hike

We hate to do it, but we have to.

It's time for a price hike -- actually, it's past time, as we've kept the same price, $37.50, ever since the U.S. Hockey Report went online in 1997. (Actually, we've kept the same price since 1995, when subscriptions to The New England Hockey Report, USHR's paper precursor, went for that.) Meanwhile, the price of everything around us has gone up, and, because of that, our profit margin has gotten pretty thin.  

Today, USHR, in order to grow and keep delivering the news you want to read, must raise its prices. Therefore, we're introducing a new price structure, which will go into effect starting Nov. 1, one week from today.

Here are the new rates:

-- Individual: $49.50. 
-- Family: $69.50 (This means mother, father, and their children only.)
-- Professional: $139.50 (Agents; pro, major junior, and Jr. A teams; plus all schools and colleges.) 

-- The monthly rates are $7.50 for individuals; $10 for families.

A lot of work goes into producing this website, and since we're a website which covers hockey year-round, we think the new prices are quite reasonable. Under the new price structure an individual subscriber will be paying just 13½ cents a day, a family will be paying 19 cents, and a "professional" will be paying just 38 cents. 

The U.S. Hockey Report thanks you for your support.  

Note: All current subscribers are locked in to their present rates until their subscription term expires. In other words, if you were to buy an annual subscription before Nov. 1, you wouldn't see a price hike until late October 2002.



Vanek a Gopher

Sioux Falls Stampede 6'1", 195 lb. RW Thomas Vanek made a verbal commitment to the University of Minnesota today. 

A power forward, Vanek chose the Gophers over Michigan and Wisconsin. BU and BC had early interest but reportedly dropped out because of academic concerns (see USHR, Oct. 10). A large part of Vanek's choice of Minnesota had to do with comfort level, as current Gopher assistant Bobby Motzko had coached him since he arrived in the USHL (after a brief stint with the now-defunct Rochester Americans of the NAHL) as a 15-year-old partway through the 1999-2000 season. In the previous season, 1998-99, Vanek, then 14, was playing midget hockey in Lacombe, Alberta, which is a little bit north of Red Deer. Vanek has seen more of North America than most Americans four times his age. 

Vanek, who has a Slovak mother and Czech dad who played pro in his native country, grew up in Graz, Austria, the hometown of  recently-graduated University of Maine forward Matthias Trattnig. It was through the Trattnig connection that Vanek came to the attention of Matt Keator, a Boston-based agent with Stephen Bartlett's Sports Consulting Group. Keator, who represents Trattnig, was asked if he could place Vanek with an American team. Visa problems prevented it -- for a year anyway -- hence the year in Lacombe, where the boy put up some big-time numbers.  

The rest is history. Vanek currently leads the USHL in scoring with a 13-11-24 line in just eight games. 

Vanek, who has been getting considerable pressure all fall from the Brandon Wheat Kings, the WHL team that owns his rights, is in a position in which, if he opted in, would, barring unforseen injuries, almost certainly go high in the first round.of June's NHL draft.

"Right now," Sioux Falls head coach Tony Gasparini said today, "Thomas is focused solely on college hockey." 

By the way, lest we make it sound as if Vanek is the perfect player, we should point out that one major area in which he could improve his game is when the other team has the puck -- he doesn't backcheck hard -- and in overall shift-to-shift consistency. 



European Trips Scrubbed 

With the current unease over air travel, all major international tournaments scheduled for November have been cancelled.

First, the USHL, which was scheduled to send an all-star team to Europe for the Four Nations Tournament, scrubbed its trip. The USHL has played in this tournament for five straight ears.

Next, the U.S. Women's Olympic Team took a vote among its players on whether or not to play in the Women's Four Nations Cup in Helsinki, Finland, scheduled for November 2-10. Reportedly, five or six players voted against going, so, in the interest of team solidarity, they decided not to go. 

Over the weekend, the U.S. National Team Development Program's Under-18 Team had its trip to the Three Nations Cup in Kuopio, Finland, scheduled for Nov. 5-11, scratched by USA Hockey executive director Doug Palazzari.

Finally, the U.S. Under-17 Team, scheduled to host Switzerland in a November 6-10 series in Ann Arbor, was notified by the Swiss that they wouldn't be making the trip. The Swiss cited fears over anthrax as the reason for bowing out. 



Horan Getting the Good Looks

Practically all the top seniors in the east coast have been picked over by the Div. I schools. An exception is New England Jr. Coyotes (EJHL) 5'11", 170 lb. forward Bryan Horan. 

A Farmington, Conn. native and 2/12/84 birthdate, Horan is drawing interest from UNH, though on the night last week when the Wildcats' assistant coaches took head coach Dick Umile down for his first look at the Coyotes' prospect, Horan had a poor game in a 7-4 Coyotes loss to the Junior Bruins. No matter, Horan will be visiting UNH this weekend. He visited Providence a couple of weeks ago. (The Friars, by the way, have seven former Coyotes on their roster this year -- D Dominic Torretti, D Jeff Mason, F John Luszcz, F Jon DiSalvatore, D Eric Lundberg, F Chris Chaput, and F Peter Zingoni.) Horan will be visiting Notre Dame shortly. Northeastern is in the hunt, too.  

Notes: Despite missing training camp and the first two games of the season while waiting for his visa, Yale recruit Christian Jensen, a former star RW for Taft, is the eighth-leading scorer in the Swedish Under-20 league. On Saturday, Jensen led AIK past Bjorkloven with a four-goal night.... Marty Quarters, who had been with the Cleveland Barons organization, and, before that, with HoneyBaked, has resigned his position as head coach of Suffolk PAL Jr. B less than two months into his new position... Just 11 games into the season Compuware is far and away the best team in the NAHL, playing a distinct level above everyone else. The Ambassadors are 10-1-0, have scored the most goals, allowed the fewest, and lead the league in penalty minutes. They also have five of the top ten scorers in the loop in '83 C Danny Knapp (8-16-24), '82 LW Matt Ruskowski (6-17-23), '81 RW Mike Falk (12-4-16), '83 LW Michael Walsh (11-2-13) and '81 LW Ryan Lessnau (3-10-13). Compuware's defense is solid throughout. '82 goaltender Chris Davidson, who's in a rotation with '84 Justin Tobe, has a league-leading 1.50 gaa..... Speaking of the NAHL, the Pittsburgh Forge, coached by former Maine defenseman Chris Imes, are doing far better than you'd expect from an expansion team. The Forge are 10-2-0, play with discipline, have a powerplay clicking at a league-leading 29.03%, and have '82 goaltender Tim Heneroty, who has a 2.75 gaa, the second-best in league. Imes says Heneroty, who's played all 12 games, has exceeded expectations. The Forge also have 11th grade defenseman Dylan Reese, the best '84 blueliner in the league and a player colleges are already targeting. Reese will make an unofficial visit to Harvard in early November. Maine and North Dakota are among other schools Reese is likely to visit. Who's the second-best '84 D in the league? That would have to be the Soo Indians' Jaime Milam. Milam, who's 6'0", 180 lbs. and a senior in high school, leads NAHL defensemen in scoring with a 6-4-10 line in 11 games. The best '85 defenseman in the league is an easy pick -- it's 6'1", 172 lb. Ryan Suter of the U.S. Under-17 Team. 



Fretter Settles on Spartans

5'10", 187 lb. Chatham Maroons RW Colton Fretter, who's been tearing up the Western Ontario Jr. B League this fall, has committed to Michigan State.

Over his team's first 12 games, played in front of a bevy of Div. I recruiters, Fretter has posted an eye-popping 23-12-35 line. A natural goal scorer with that special talent for finding open areas, Fretter has taken his game to another level this year, primarily by shedding 15 pounds and going from an adequate skater to a good one. 

Last year, when he notched 75 points in 54 games, he was noticed by a good number of  Div. I programs, but all held back because of concerns about his skating. The only school recruiting him hard was Union. 

This fall, Union's staff found themselves surrounded by company, as Bowling Green, Miami, Clarkson, Notre Dame, and, of course, Michigan State all jumped into the picture. 

Fretter is a 3/12/82 birthdate. His team is 12-0-0 in the early going. 



Sterling to CC

5'8", 156 lb. U.S. National Team Development Program LW Brett Sterling has committed to Colorado College. 

Sterling was the second-leading scorer on the U.S. Under-17 Team last winter, trailing only Patrick O'Sullivan. Sterling averaged better than a point a game, posting a line of 36-26-62 in 60 games. The Pasadena, California native's biggest asset is his pure scoring ability,  which stems from his quickness, fast release, and pure competitiveness.   

An Ivy-level student, Sterling was pursued heavily by Harvard, BU, and many others, but settled on CC, where he'll join a top-flight recruiting class that includes three Minnesotans (F Aaron Slattengren, F Marty Sertich, D Mark Stuart), and one Alaskan (F Joey Crabb). 

Last winter, Sterling played some of his best hockey in international play, coming up with some big-time goals for the gold medal-winning U.S. squad at the World Under-17 Challenge over the holidays last winter. A 4/24/84 birthdate, Sterling played for the Los Angeles Junior Kings before coming to Ann Arbor.

Sterling is the third NTDP player to commit in the last week, joining former Detroit HoneyBaked teammates Ryan Kesler (Ohio State), and Corey Potter (Michigan State).



Blair New Maine Assistant

Victoria Salsa (BCHL) head coach/G.M. Campbell Blair, a defenseman for the University of Maine from 1987-91, has been named the new Black Bears assistant. 

Blair, 35, arrived in Orono yesterday, and will be with the team for its trip to Western Michigan this weekend. He joins head coach Tim Whitehead and long-time assistant Grant Standbrook on the Black Bears staff.

With Victoria, Blair, a Prince George, B.C. native, posted a 105-73-16 record over his four years as head coach, the best won-loss record in franchise history. He also sent numerous players on to Div. I play, including Martin Kariya, Mark Kosick, David Neale, Matt Pettinger, Rob Vega, Jimi St. Jean, and others. Blair won one BCHL championship, just this past spring, but this season the club has stumbled out of the gate, going 5-9-1 to date.  



Fall Reading

There's a new hockey book out, and, unlike most hockey books, this one is worth the time. In Ice Time: A Tale of Fathers, Sons, and Hometown Heroes (Crown, $23.00), author Jay Atkinson -- two years ago, and at age 42 -- returns to Methuen (Mass.) High School, from which he had graduated 25 years earlier, and signs on as a volunteer assistant coach. 

In the hands of Atkinson, who's also a gifted novelist, the story of the 1999-2000 Methuen High varsity hockey team comes to life. The more I got into it, the more I found myself caring about this no-name Div. II Massachusetts public high school team. What comes across more than anything is Atkinson's love of hockey, and while some might find his take on the game, town, and high school overly-romantic, I see it more as a sincere paean to a game and the community that sustains it. The author is not on hand to try to recapture lost youth so much as look at it from another angle, that of a coach of high schoolers, and the father of a five year old playing youth hockey. Atkinson skillfully portrays his hometown, which is not the kind of place people move to from elsewhere -- it's a gritty blue collar town, part French-Canadian and part Italian. The biggest news in town is the soon-to-open mall, which is being eyed warily by the family that, for generations, has owned the apple orchard directly across the road, and lately has been battling harder than ever to keep the business going. And, just as in Atkinson's day, and for time immemorial, kids succeed and kids screw up (though, in this particular tale, usually in relatively minor ways).  

And Atkinson is there to capture it all. You get to know coach Joe Robillard, a backup goalie for BU in the early '70s, and all of the players, from the team's only star, Chris Cagliuso (who last year was a PG at Phillips Exeter and suddenly wasn't the star anymore), to others, including talented but undisciplined Ryan Fontaine; goalie Dan Bonfiglio, who's totally lovesick for a classmate named Emily; to Jarrod Trovato, whose father is weakened with steadily-advancing cancer. Atkinson captures all this with deep empathy.

We also get an inside day-to-day account of the team's successes and failures on the ice. For this reader, there were too many game accounts -- after awhile they just sort of melted into one. Also, a little more context would have helped, particularly for readers from outside Massachusetts -- or even outside the Merrimack Valley. Why, for example, is Methuen, with a population of over 40,000, a Div. II school, essentially locked into Mass. hockey's backwater, while far smaller towns like Billerica are afforded Div. I status? In Atkinson's book, the Methuen-Billerica game (a rare Div. II-Div. I matchup) gets plenty of pages. However, it's never really explained why Methuen, with just three wins in the last 40 meetings between the two schools,  keeps getting smacked around by Billerica. What keeps Methuen, with the rich hockey tradition Atkinson describes, from producing top-flight teams and players?

Ultimately, though, this book doesn't try to take on big topics. It's about  a town, a high school hockey team, and one man's love for the game. Methuen is a richer town for having a writer like Jay Atkinson among its residents.  

Notes: While we're on the subject of hockey books, we should mention Of Ice and Men: The Craft of Hockey by Bruce Dowbiggin. This book, by a Canadian television broadcaster, is hockey's version of George Will's Men at Work, looking in-depth at goaltender Dominik Hasek, defensemen Chris Chelios, forward Steve Yzerman, and then-Edmonton GM Glen Sather. Dowbiggin's book is useful for all players with high aspirations because, in the case of each of the individuals mentioned, Dowbiggin conveys, in the words of his subjects, just what it takes to reach the top. You get a strong sense of what it is that separates them from most of their peers. It's a good read, worth delving into while preparing for the upcoming prep and high school season. 

The only real drawback to the book is its huge number of factual mistakes. We have the original hardcover version, released a few years ago, and it's quite possible errors have been corrected in the current paperback edition. To give a couple of examples, Dowbiggin refers to Brian Leetch's alma mater of Avon Old Farms as "Haven's Farm." (p. 113). Seven pages later, Maine assistant coach Grant Standbrook is referred to as "Grant Stamberg." There are others, and many are far more obvious. 

However, there are some good anecdotes in the book. When, years ago, Eddie Shore, the former Boston Bruins Hall of Fame defenseman, was coaching at Springfield in the American Hockey League, he was one of just a handful of coaches who actually worked with their goalies, who, for the most part, were left to their own devices. By modern standards, Shore's devices were unorthodox, to put it mildly. To keep his goalies on their feet, Shore, always a bit of a madman, reportedly would tie a belt around their throats that would choke them if they went down. Shore also tied goalies' knees together to prevent shots from slipping between the pads, and would put a steel bar between the posts to prevent backing in. Last, but by no means least, Shore would put his goalies on leashes to prevent them from wandering too far from the crease. 

Can you imagine if he'd had Ricky DiPietro on his roster? 



Carroll to Maine?

Since the death of Shawn Walsh last month, the Maine coaching staff has been short-handed, going with two (instead of the allowable three) full-timers. Don't expect that situation to last much longer. When the red tape is cleared away, we expect that 14-year Notre Dame assistant Tom Carroll, most recently head coach at Des Moines (USHL), will join Tim Whitehead, Grant Standbrook, and volunteer assistant Matt Thomas in Orono. 

Carroll played for Willard Ikola at Edina H.S. in the late '70s, and the University of Wisconsin in the early '80s. At the time Carroll arrived in Madison, Bob Johnson was head coach, with Standbrook his top assistant. So, early on, Carroll learned from some of the best coaches around. 

After 14 years (1985-99) as an assistant at Notre Dame, the Des Moines Buccaneers hired Carroll as their head coach/GM. In his two years in Iowa's capital, Carroll posted a solid 67-41-6 record. He was fired in late May when Bob Ferguson, who coached Des Moines back when they were the dominant USHL team, and then went the pro route in the I and the Coast League, decided to return to the USHL. When Carroll, who's highly respected and liked by those in the college and Jr. A coaching fraternity, got the gate his peers in the college and Jr. A coaching fraternity were left shaking their heads in wonderment. After all, in his two years, he finished 26 games above .500.  

For Maine, though, it's a fortuitous situation. At this time of year, it's rare to find coaches with Carroll's credentials and contacts out there, ready to be hired. Now, it's a matter of just making it happen. 

Carroll, who's still living in Des Moines, has been closely scouting the USHL this fall.



A Mighty Mite

It will probably be different later tonight, but, as of this morning, Sioux City Musketeers 5'5" (maybe 5'6") center Brad Zancanaro trails league scoring leader Thomas Vanek of Sioux Falls by just one point. However, since the Musketeers have played one less game than the Stampede, Zancanaro leads the 6'1 Vanek -- on a point-per-game basis, that is. 

The two players go head-to-head --- well, chest-to-head -- when Sioux City (4-1-0) visits league-leading Sioux Falls (5-1-0) tonight. 

Zancanaro, an '82, is awfully small, but he's also skilled, quick, feisty, gritty, focused in traffic, and tough to knock off his pins. He's 160 lbs., which is a pretty fair weight for a 19 year old of that size, plus he has a lot of strength through his legs and midsection. Can he play Div. I? We think so. Previously, we thought of him as an energy guy at that level, which he could be, but could he be more than that?

Saturday night, in a 4-1 loss at Rochester, Zancanaro scored a beauty against Rochester goaltender Joe Fallon, coming down the left side on a partial breakaway, faking a shot, pulling back, and, showing great patience, walked across the crease, waited until Fallon went down and wrapped the puck around him. 

Sioux Falls head coach Dave Siciliano says that Zancanaro, whom he describes as "all heart and soul"  is shooting the puck more. "Also," Siciliano noted, "his passes -- and decisions -- are quicker than last year." 

Late last season, Siciliano placed Zancanaro between 5'11, 208 lb. LW Brandon Schwartz and 6'1", 190 lb. RW Matt Ciancio and the team finished up with an 8-1-1 run. Right now, Schwartz and Ciancio are second and third, respectively, in league scoring, though that's pretty likely to change before long. Schwartz is good digging the puck out of the corner, has good hands and vision, and is hard to knock off the puck. Ciancio is a sound two-way player who hits hard, and finishes his checks. Unlike Zancanaro, Schwartz and Ciancio are both '81s, so the clock is ticking as far as college is concerned. 

Siciliano believes all three have Div. I potential. "None has gotten a hell of a lot of recognition," he said. "They've had a few calls, but they have to go out and prove themselves shift after shift. They all have a great work ethic and the rest of the team plays off of them." 

Since we touched on Saturday's 4-1 loss to Rochester, we should mention that it was a difficult game to scout, as the officiating was lousy and the two teams combined for 21 power play opportunities. However, one thing was clear -- Rochester's Fallon had an incredible game, allowing only that one goal to Zancanaro and stopping the other 37 shots he faced as he led his team, which was outshot 37-27, to victory. 

Sioux City had a bunch of tremendous opportunities that Fallon, an '85, slammed the door on. He's always in position, has quick feet and, while he appears nonchalant, is incredibly focused. Watch him in traffic. He moves around well, and gets those good looks through traffic. On a 2x1 breakaway, he anticipated the pass, slid over, dropped and made a save that, while it looked easy to the casual fan, was actually a great one. 

Since we're on the subject of Rochester, we should mention that they are much improved over the team that finished 11-42-3 last year. A late addition is Sebastian Garneau, an import from Montreal, and he played well on Saturday. He's a good skater, though without top-end speed, has good hands and an incredible shot. In a game vs. Green Bay last week, he launched a laser from the blue line that zipped right over the shoulder of the Gamblers' goalie. On defense, Steve Czech, who's improved a lot, looked good. However, 6'1, 205 lb. RD Tim Conboy, a St. Cloud State recruit, didn't have a very good game, but he plays without fear -- and the rest of the team picks up on that.

UPDATE 10/18:  The final last night was Sioux Falls 6, Sioux City 4, with Thomas Vanek scoring four goals (two were powerplay tallies) and one assist for the Stampede. Vanek now has an 11-9-20 line in seven games. As for Zancanaro, he was kept off the scoreboard. The Musketeers, however, outshot the Stampede 44-35. Kellen Briggs had 40 saves for the Stampede. 



Purslow Hangs Them Up

Constant injuries have forced St. Cloud State junior forward Chris Purslow to bring the curtain down on his hockey career. 

Here's a link to an article in today's St. Cloud Times that covers, in depth, the difficulty Purslow faced in making his decision.  

St. Cloud Times/Purslow



Shattuck's Top Line on Fire

Shattuck-St. Mary's, with 3-1 and 4-0 road wins vs. the Chicago Chill Midgets over the weekend, are riding a 10-game unbeaten streak, with their only loss was a season-opening 7-6 decision at Bismarck (AWHL). 

The top line of University of North Dakota recruit Zach Parisé centering Brady Murray and Tyler Hirsch has scored over half of the team's goals. 

Right now, the college recruiters are homing in on Hirsch, who will be starting his official visits next week. By Thanksgiving, the 5'10", 165 lb forward (and leading point-getter on the U.S. Select 17 team that went to Fussen, Germany in late August) will have visited BU, BC, Minnesota, North Dakota, and CC. 

Hirsch, whose family recently moved from Bloomington down to Faribault, where Shattuck is located, is a right-shot, and an '84 birthdate. He's a smart player, with good anticipation, the ability to get open, and a strong finishing touch. 

Murray, the son of L.A. Kings coach Andy Murray, is also an '84, but only an 11th grader, so he has plenty of time to decide where he wants to go to college -- and there should be plenty of colleges that would like to help him make the decision, too. Murray, who is 5'10", and 160 lbs., is a native of Brandon, Manitoba. 

Through 11 games, the line has scored 29 goals. Parisé has a 10-18-28 line: Hirsch is 10-14-24; and Murray is 9-14-23.



Swiniarski Commits to Huskies

5'11", 190 lb. Tabor Academy forward Brian Swiniarski has committed to Northeastern University. 

Swiniarski, who shoots left, is an up-tempo player and a strong skater with competitiveness and scoring ability. A 6/7/82 birthdate, he's from Newburyport, Mass. 

Other schools courting Swiniarski included Providence, Yale, and Vermont. 



PC AD Candidates -- and a Slight Digression

Former University of North Dakota athletic director Terry Wanless is one of three finalists for the Providence College AD's job. 

Wanless was ousted at UND in 1999. This week's Sports Illustrated article on Ralph Engelstad, the reclusive multi-millionaire and owner, at least for now, of UND's new hockey palace, suggests that Engelstad was behind the move. Reportedly, Engelstad had been unhappy with Wanless ever since the latter fired long-time Fighting Sioux head coach Gino Gasparini  five years earlier. 

Wanless is the only one of the three AD candidates who has not yet visited Providence College. He'll be coming in to town next week. 

The next candidate is Larry Keating, who is currently the assistant commissioner of the MAAC, overseeing men's basketball and football.

Also being considered is Bob Driscoll, currently associate AD at Cal-Berkeley. A native of Concord, Mass., Driscoll has on-ice hockey experience. After Ned Harkness quit at Union College in Dec. 1977, Driscoll took over as interim coach, stepping into a no-win situation, literally: under Driscoll, the Skating Dutchman went 0-13-0. 

If I may digress a little, Harkness, now 80, was the founder of the RPI hockey program in 1949-50, turning it into a powerhouse within two years. In 1954, RPI won its first NCAA title, knocking off Minnesota in OT. 

In 1963-64, Harkness moved over to Cornell, and had even more success, coaching lacrosse as well as hockey. His hockey teams, over seven seasons, won two NCAA titles ('67, '70) and posted a 163-27-2 record, an .854 winning percentage. 

In '69-70, Cornell, went 29-0, the last team to post an undefeated season. (By the way, I've heard many insist that Ken Dryden was the goaltender on that team, but he wasn't. It was Brian Cropper. Dryden won his NCAA title ring in '67 and graduated in '69).

Anyway, after that season, Harkness was a hot property, and the Detroit Red Wings snagged him as their head coach, making Harkness the first head coach to go directly from college hockey to the NHL.

But Harkness' experience with the Red Wings was a disaster, as he inherited a team that, with players like Frank Mahovlich, Alex Delvecchio, and Gordie Howe, had gone 40-21-15 the previous season. Under Harkness, though, the Red Wings -- with the above-mentioned players still on board -- chafed under Harkness' rah-rah style of coaching (and the haircut rules and ban on cigar smoking) and started a player revolt, with every single player signing a petition demanding that Harkness be removed, which was duly presented to GM Sid Abel. By Christmas, Harkness was fired and immediately hired as the club's GM. Thus began the "Darkness with Harkness" era. Howe left, and so did the fans. You never saw cars bopping around the Detroit area with Red Wings flags flying from the window back then. After the 1973-74 season, Harkness was fired. 

He wasn't unemployed long. While he had flopped in the NHL, no one forgot what he did at RPI and Cornell. At the time, Union College, a Div. III program, had a newly-hired president named Thomas Bonner, who wished to raise the profile of the school's athletic programs. He hired a nationally-recognized football coach, Tom Cahill, and he hired Harkness. Bonner gave the coaches carte blanche to do whatever needed to be done to win -- and win quickly. Harkness immediately began recruiting players, but, as NESCAC officials would eventually learn, many were nowhere close to Union's admissions standards. 

Meanwhile, Union became an instant Div. III national power, going, over 2½ years, 46-6-2. In December 1977, though, four of Harkness' top players were put on academic probation and barred from playing. Harkness, furious, quit -- and, a couple of days later, his players did too, every last one of them. 

The scandal didn't end there, however, as President Bonner, realizing he had nothing whatsoever in the way of support from the faculty and the trustees, also quit. 

As for hockey, the school's JV team -- overnight --  turned into the varsity, and this is where we get back to Bob Driscoll, cited above as one of the three candidates for the Providence College AD's job. Driscoll, then Union's assistant AD, was named the school's interim hockey coach. Problem was, due to the scandal, Union's NESCAC schedule was rubbed out. They were forced to play a makeshift schedule which included games against prep schools such as Hotchkiss, Trinity-Pawling, and Kimball Union, as well as games against other school's JV teams. As mentioned above, they went 0-13-0 and there wasn't a single close game among them. The team was outscored 146-32, and our heart goes out to Driscoll, who never coached hockey again. We suspect that he's glad of it, too.  

As for Harkness, he instantly resurfaced as the founder/GM of the AHL's Adirondack Red Wings, which began play in 1979. In 1982, he was appointed president/CEO of the U.S. Olympic Regional Development Authority in Lake Placid. 

In time, it appears, people forget the bad and remember the good, which is perhaps why the winner of the college hockey tournament hosted by the Florida Everblades (ECHL) on the last weekend in December (Northern Michigan, Cornell, Maine, and Ohio State are the teams this year) receives the Ned Harkness Cup. And RPI's football field is named Ned Harkness Field. But, at far as we know, nothing at Union is named after Harkness.



Vanek Off to Fast Start, Again

With Zach Parisé having committed to the University of North Dakota over the weekend, attention now shifts to 6'1", 195 lb. Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL) RW Thomas Vanek, who, in the Stampede's first four games, has posted a league-leading 5-6-11 line. 

There are three schools on Vanek's list: Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Over the last couple of days, the native of Graz, Austria has been taking his official visit to the University of Michigan, where he saw the Wolverines 3-1 win over the U.S. National Under-18 team at Yost Arena last night. Vanek will be arriving for his official visit at the University of Minnesota on Sun. October 21st. He visited Wisconsin in early September. 

Look for Vanek to commit to one of the three schools shortly afterward, and sign during the early signing period in November.

After that, the school that gets him will have to sweat things out a bit. While he's doing well in school, and is fluent in several languages, he's also been to several different schools in several different countries over the last few years, and the NCAA clearinghouse can be unpredictable, even capricious, when faced with a plethora of transcripts.  

Then there's always the possibility that Vanek, a 1/19/84 birthdate, will opt in to the NHL draft, a decision which he would have to make by the first Saturday in May. If Vanek chooses to opt in, he'd likely go in the first round. Exactly where he goes is at least partially dependent on his health, as his shoulder kept him out of all but 20 regular season games last season. If he's healthy -- and there's a good chance he will be, as the troublesome shoulder has come through nicely in off-ice testing -- the money might be too good to refuse.



BGSU Lands Morrison

Bowling Green has received a commitment from 5'11", 180 lb. Donald Morrison, a left-shot defenseman with the Olds Grizzlys (AJHL). 

Morrison, a late '83, played midgets last year in Red Deer, which is where the Bowling Green staff first got onto him. Over the holidays, Morrison played in the Mac's Tournament in Calgary and was named to the all-star team. An exceptional skater, and very competitive, Morrison is averaging over a point a game so far this season. 

Other schools that expressed interest in Morrison were Ferris State, North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Quinnipiac.  

Bowling Green, by the way, has undergone extensive expansion and renovation to BGSU Ice Arena, which certainly helped in the recruiting of Morrison. The team, which last year moved into a new locker room, has just moved its operations into a new addition -- reportedly very impressive -- with new offices, a conference room, a video room, a weight room, a training room, a coaches change room, and a Hall of  Fame room. All was funded privately, with key contributions coming from former Falcons who moved onto NHL careers such as Rob Blake, Nelson Emerson, Garry Galley, Dave Ellett, and Ken Klee.



Tharp to Miami  

Chicago Steel (USHL) defenseman Ben Tharp has accepted a scholarship to the University of Miami-Ohio, and will be playing there starting next fall. 

Tharp, 6'0" and 175 lbs., is a native of Hastings, Minn., where he played at Hastings HS for coach Russ Welch. Tharp, along with teammate Dan Welch, graduated in '99, and moved on to the University of Minnesota. Last spring, after finishing his sophomore season, Tharp decided that the demands of Div. I hockey were too much, and left school. He appeared to be headed for a Div. III school in Minnesota. 

However, he had a change of heart, and signed on with the Chicago Steel over the summer. He's an assistant captain with the team.

Note: A week or two ago, we mentioned  that New York Apple Core (EJHL) goalie Brad Roberts had committed to West Point, but had then backed off while mulling over other offers. Well, Roberts has now officially committed to Army, and will be headed there next fall. Roberts was named MVP of the New Hampshire Monarchs Tournament over Columbus Day weekend. Two weeks earlier, Roberts was named top goalie at the Boston Junior Bruins Shootout. 



Moonlight Becomes Us

On Saturday night in East Lansing, Michigan, I left the glassed-in, heated press box midway through the second period of the Michigan State-Michigan hockey game, wandered up several ramps, emerged at the stadium's uppermost entryway, then continued on up to the top of the stadium.

The first thing I noticed was just how much fun everybody was having. While it was indeed cold, though not as cold as the mid-30s reported at game time (the wind, from the north and gusty, had died down quite a bit), nobody left or was even thinking about leaving. A seven-months pregnant woman sitting next to me offered the opinion that MSU should play all their games here. 

"Why?" I asked.  

"I can't get tickets to Munn Arena," she said. "Too small." 

I asked her how she'd feel if the temps were in the teens and the Spartans were playing, say, Alaska-Fairbanks. 

"I'd be here," she said. "I wouldn't care. This is fun."  

We talked for a while longer, then she went back to watching the game, as did I. It was a beautiful night, with just the canopy of sky above, and a thoroughly entertaining, physical hockey game. And the crowd -- 74,554 -- was something to behold. Ditto for the laser show after the second period. 

The biggest question many had before the game was simply, would it be watchable from such distances? It was, though it took some adjusting. Besides the extra distance, the ice surface wasn't painted, which gave the rink a gray pallor, and the pipes were clearly visible underneath. When wind gusts started blowing the snow from the players' skates across the rink about eight minutes into the period, it recalled, for older ex-players, days of pond hockey. The portable lighting gave the skaters long shadows, lending the proceedings a film noir look. 

Could the puck be seen? Yes, it could. One complaint I had - and it's not something easily fixed -- was simply that it was extremely difficult to read the numbers on players' shoulders. Also, the country singer who sang after the first period, wasn't very good. The acoustics were subpar, but, even so, she will not be joining Loretta Lynn in the Country Music Hall of Fame. Maybe Gordie Howe, who dropped the puck at the ceremonial faceoff, liked her. Maybe Chilliwack Chiefs forwards Jeff Tambellini and Gabe Gauthier, who were making their official visits to Michigan State, have a thing for female C&W singers.  

Who did we like? Well, Michigan's 5'8" center Mike Cammalleri, who had an excellent night, figuring in all three Wolverine goals (2g,1a) and looking like a Hobey Baker winner to these eyes.

We would have liked to have seen the schools marching band go out on the ice between periods. That could have been thoroughly amusing. However, we were happy to settle for the pyrotechnic devices that shot flames ten feet high after MSU scored.  

This was, hands-down, a great night for college hockey, and something few in attendance could have ever expected they'd see. Everyone at Michigan State did an absolutely first-rate job. As for other such games in the future, Wisconsin head coach Jeff Sauer was on hand, checking things out for a possible Minnesota-Wisconsin tilt at Camp Randall Stadium next fall. Boston College had no one there -- they were playing at UVM -- but have talked informally about setting up a game against BU at Alumni Field. Both of the above-mentioned fields have artificial turf, a must for putting on these games. Ironically, Michigan State will be ripping up their artificial turf and putting down grass next spring.

Oh, in case you're wondering, the game ended up a 3-3 tie. College hockey was the big winner here. 



U.S. Under-17s Take Compuware Tournament

The U.S. Under-17 Team capped off an undefeated weekend early this evening by coming back with a pair of third-period goals to edge the Compuware Ambassadors, 2-1, thus taking their first-ever title at the Compuware Junior Tournament in Plymouth, Michigan.

Compuware LW Matt Rutkowski put Compuware up with a powerplay goal 9:09 into the first, an assist going to Ohio State-bound center Danny Knapp.

It held there, through the rest of the first and all of the second period, with the older, more-experienced Compuware team carrying the edge in play.

However, Compuware let the U.S. kids hang around and, at 6:47 of the third period, the U.S. tied the game at 1-1 when T.J. Hensick scored a powerplay goal, with assists going to Josh Sciba, a Compuware alum, and Mike Bartlett. 

A little over a minute later, at 7:49, the Under-17 Team's two Massachusetts players teamed up on the game-winner as defenseman Jimmy Sharrow took a feed from Adam Pineault and buried a back-door goal.

Both Compuware's Justin Tobe and the U.S.'s James Howard were strong in net. 

The U.S. went undefeated through the tournament field, knocking off, in the round-robin, the independent Boston Bulldogs, 7-0, on Friday; the St. Louis Sting (NAHL), 3-2, on Saturday; and the Soo Indians (NAHL), 6-5, on Sunday.

The semis this a.m. were an all-NAHL affair, with the Under-17's edging the Chicago Freeze, 2-1. Hensick and Dusty Collins each had a goal and an assist for the U.S. kids. Freeze goaltender Matt Modelski and the Under-17 Team's Alvaro Montoya combined for over 50 saves as both teams went scoreless over the first two periods. In the other semi, Compuware defeated the Lansing Pride, 6-4. Compuware and the Under-17s then had less than four hours to prepare for their fifth game in four days.

Here are the tournament's leading scorers:

Ryan Lessnau, Compuware, 5 gp, 1-11-12
Danny Knapp, Compuware, 5 gp, 2-9-11
Jason Bloomingburg, Texas, 3 gp, 8-1-9
Leo Thomas, Lansing, 4 gp, 6-3-9
Joe Cigna, Lansing, 3 gp, 2-7-9
Mike Falk, Compuware, 5 gp, 5-3-8
Matt Rutkowski, Compuware, 5 gp, 3-5-8
Mike Walsh, Compuware, 5 gp, 5-2-7
David Borelli, Soo Thunderbirds, 3 gp, 4-3-7



Dirty Money 

A feature article in this week's (10/08/01) issue of Sports Illustrated documenting the bullying tactics that lifted UND hockey benefactor Ralph Engelstad from a backup goaltender with the Fighting Sioux between 1948-50 to the man whose name is today most closely associated with the highly-successful program, has thrown a big wet blanket on both UND and its hockey program, and makes the Fighting Sioux's 7-5 home opening loss to Minnesota on Friday night look positively inconsequential.  

For over a decade, many in the college hockey world have known of the reclusive Engelstad's interest in Nazi memorabilia, but tended to write it off as a rich man's eccentricity. SI reporter George Dohrmann goes deep, though, offering evidence that Engelstad's interest in Nazism went well beyond that of merely a collector. Dohrmann also offers evidence that Engelstad used his considerable clout -- he's worth $400 million according to Forbes Magazine -- to overpower North Dakotans who felt that the school's Fighting Sioux nickname was offensive to Native Americans, and, further, managed to get rid of those who attempted to stand up to him, such as former university president Kendall Baker and athletic director Terry Wanless.

SI also reports that Engelstad has not yet even given the rink to his alma mater (it's held by Ralph Engelstad Arena, Inc, which leases it to the school for $1 a year). There are fears that Engelstad will hold onto the arena as leverage against the university. 

There's way more in the article, which is damning, and a must-read for anyone who cares about the state, now and in the future, of amateur athletics in this country. It's on the stands right now. Barry Bonds is on the cover. It's also the NHL Preview Issue.  

All of this kind of makes the article below look a little besides the point, doesn't it?



Parisé a Guest of Honor

Tonight's the night -- the grand opening of the 11,406 seat Ralph Engelstad Arena on the campus of the University of North Dakota, the $100 million plus building that, according to all who have seen it, not only blows away every Div. I college rink, but every NHL rink as well. 

Among those on hand when the Fighting Sioux face off against the University of Minnesota in the USA Hockey Hall of Fame game will be Shattuck-St. Mary's star forward Zach Parisé, who is in for his official visit.  

Over future weekends, Parisé will be in for official visits to the University of Minnesota (October 13th), and Boston College (Oct. 27th). 

From the outside, the new Engelstad Arena is extremely impressive architecturally, a red brick structure that looks like a cross between a castle and some kind of magical turn-of-the-century train station. The lines and angles are clean. What sets it apart are the several short towers which prevent it from looking like today's 'shoebox' arenas, and the enormous glass bays through which fans will enter. Add to that the Hollywood-style lights shooting luminescent arcs into the night sky, and you have the most impressive building in the whole state of North Dakota. 

Inside are two rinks, the main rink, which has NHL dimensions (200x85), and an Olympic rink, to prepare for road games against WCHA opponents, most of whom play on big sheets. 

Both floors of the building -- and all countertops, too -- are done in Italian and Indian marble, 100,000 square feet of it. Another nice feature is brass trim, which is everywhere: there's 3.2 miles of it.

For live action and instant replays there are four jumbotrons over center ice, each 12' x 9'. There are also 350 smaller screens viewable from just about any spot from which you can't see the ice surface, including both the men's and women's bathrooms. 

Music, at least some of it, will be provided by a Mortier organ, 17' high and 26' long, and built in Belgium in 1926. The instrument, art-deco in design with pastel colors and gold accents, is played on a punch-card system, much like a player piano with a roll. The UND pep band will also be pumping out tunes. Finally, there's a state-of-the art sound system, which we're sorry to report will be spewing out the same dreck heard at hockey arenas all over North America.   

The seats are leather, with cherry wood arms featuring built-in cup holders. 

There are 48 luxury boxes, each going for between $20,000 to $40,000 a year.  

There's beer, which as long as you are 21 and not seated in the student section, will flow freely. You can even bring it to your seat. If you'd prefer a Martini, however, you'll have to go to one of the arena's two bars, located at either end of the building.

There's a weight room and it's enormous -- 10,000 feet to be precise. It's the largest to be found at a U.S. college with the exception of some of the big football schools. There's a sauna for twenty, and a treadmill inside a whirlpool. 

There is far, far more, but you get the idea. Is it excessive? Perhaps. But so, in its time, was Versailles. We're just glad that somebody realized that a hockey arena doesn't have to be ugly. 

One thing is for sure: very few recruits, at least in the near future, are likely to turn down the opportunity to take an official visit to the University of North Dakota. 

In case you're wondering, every penny that it cost to build the arena came from the pockets of Ralph Engelstad, a Thief River Falls, Minn. native who was a backup goalie for the Fighting Sioux from 1948-50, and a 1954 graduate of the school. Engelstad began building his fortune with commercial and residential construction in Grand Forks in the 1950s, then moved to Las Vegas in 1959, where he got in on the ground floor of that city's boom. In 1971, Engelstad purchased his first casino, the Imperial Palace; and subsequently built a sister casino in Biloxi, Mississippi. Engelstad is worth an estimated half billion dollars. He will be flying in to Grand Forks on one of two Boeing 727s he owns. 



Tippecanoe and Tyler, too

If you were, or are, a U.S. history major, you'll probably recognize the headline above ( it was a political campaign song from the pre-Civil War era). Sure, it's too cute by half, but what the hell, right? 

Anyway, our subject today is 5'9", 187 lb. left-shot D Bret Tyler of the Boston Junior Bruins (EJHL), an '85 being courted by the University of Michigan. While Michigan, spurred by Tyler's strong performance at Prospects in May and then at the Select 16 Festival, was the first school to show super-serious interest -- and are thus the frontrunners -- a number of Hockey East schools are hoping to work their way into the picture, too. For now, Tyler is a 10th grader, but there is talk of his possibly accelerating. 

Tyler, who was named to the USA Hockey Under-17 team that won the gold at the Four Nations Tournament in Slovakia in August, is in his third season in the EJHL, having started in the league as a 14-year-old. He's coached by former Boston College defenseman Peter Masters. 

The first thing you notice about Tyler is his rugged, bulldog style of play. Despite his being just 5'9", he goes at opponents hard, and never backs down. He's also more cerebral than given credit for. Last year, he posted an 18-33-51 line, and finished with a league-leading +76. Tyler plays in all situations. 

The Junior Bruins will be appearing at the Compuware Junior Tournament, which gets underway tomorrow in Plymouth, Michigan. Tyler is nursing a groin injury, but will be playing. 



Chill Show Skill, but Lose in Semis

On Sunday morning, in the first semi at the 11th Annual Marquette Electricians Fall Classic, the Chicago Chill were defeated by Detroit HoneyBaked at 14:36 of the 3rd overtime, 5-4.

It was a battle of attrition and The Chill, which was short five men for the game, lost (Two players came down with pneumonia, two more with the flu, and a fifth had to return home.) 

By dropping bouquets on the Chill, we certainly don't want to diminish the accomplishments of HoneyBaked and the Pittsburgh Hornets, the two teams that emerged from the field of 20 to reach the finals. HoneyBaked, coached this year by Dan Lerg, boasted defensive MVP Jeff Dunne, an '85, but were edged 3-2 in the title game by Joe Gaul's Pittsburgh Hornets. The game-winner came at 9:23 of the third period, a powerplay tally by the Hornets' Brendan Martin, with assists going to Adam Fincik and Randy Bauer. Jason Kearney, an '85, kicked out 31 shots for the Hornets; Jeff Lerg, an '86, kicked out 28 shots.

However, the Chill, the youngest team in the tournament, were also the most skilled, tic-tac-toeing the puck all over the ice, and scoring some beautiful goals. How far they go, nationally-speaking, will be held in check by their youthfulness. For starters, they're certainly not going to beat the Zach Parisé-led defending national champions Shattuck-St. Mary's, who weren't at the Marquette tournament, and, if they had been, would have been the team to beat.

It's hard to list the Chill's best players, because they can all play and, depending upon when you see them, one may be better than another. However, we'll certainly give it a shot, and start with '85 Anthony Cosmano, who won the tournament's offensive MVP award. Other standouts up front would have to include '84 Kevin Sheehan; Jeff Lovecchio, an '85; Andy Wiesner, a Minnesota HS player new to the program; Mike Mannina, an '84 who anchors the blue line; '85 D Kyle Klubertanz, formerly of the Madison Capitals Midget AAA squad; '85 D Zach Miskovic; and a pair of superb goaltenders in '85 Mike DeGeorge and '86 Chris Carlson.

Many feel that this is the best midget tournament in the country. It's a little difficult to get to, as you have to catch a puddle-jumper in Minneapolis or Detroit. Michigan's Upper Peninsula is just beautiful this time of the year, and Marquette is right on Lake Superior, which ain't no puddle, as the ships that went down in those waters over the last hundred years or so will speak to.



Miami Recruit Lighting it Up

6'1", 175 lb. left-shot forward Jesse Boucher of the Markham Waxers (OPJHL), who committed to Miami (Ohio) last week, is on fire, having posted a 14-11-25 line in the Waxers first nine games.



U.S. '85s in Major Junior 

'85 RC Danny Fritsche, the former Cleveland Barons (NAHL) star and a first-round draft pick of the Sarnia Sting (OHL), has yet to play a game after having surgery on his right shoulder in late April to correct a hereditary problem which resulted in frequent dislocations. The timetable for recovery was 24 weeks. He's expected to get clearance to begin playing in games shortly. 

The other U.S.-born '85s who opted for major junior have health on their side and varying degrees of fortune on the ice. 

Leading the pack is 5'10" LC Patrick O'Sullivan, who played in the NTDP last year and was drafted #1 overall by the Don Cherry-coached Mississauga Ice Dogs. O'Sullivan has a 2-4-6 line in five games, tied for second on the team in scoring. After the Ice Dogs' opener, Cherry said, "It was like I was coaching the Boston Bruins." Kind of makes one wonder what Jean Ratelle, Brad Park, Johnny Bucyk, Andre Savard, Terry O'Reilly, Peter McNab, Mike Milbury, Rick Middleton, and Gerry Cheevers would say to that. No matter, though: Mississauga, with two wins in their first five, are way ahead of last year's pace, when they finished 3-56-7. Other U.S. '85s playing major junior are forwards Aaron Bader (2-2-4 in five games with the Seattle Thunderbirds); Josh Hennessy (0-3-3 in eight games with Quebec); Jason Beeman (0-0-0 in two games with Tri-City); and defensemen Frank Rediker (0-2-2 with 19 pims in five games for Windsor); and Zach Fitzgerald (0-1-1 with 27 pims in five games for Seattle).

An '84 who's gotten off to a fast start in major junior is 6'0" Nate Thompson, an Anchorage, Alaska native who has a 3-3-3 line in his first six games, and is tied for the team lead in scoring. Thompson is also a rookie, and is also playing for Seattle. 



A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy?

Host Michigan State dubbed it "The Cold War" and it's looking like a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

With three days to go before Michigan and Michigan State faceoff at Spartan Stadium (6 pm, Sat.), the National Weather Service forecast, as of 4:30 this afternoon, is calling for rain Thursday and Friday, but only scattered showers on Saturday, with a 40% chance of precipitation in the day, and a 20% chance at night. However, it will be cold, with highs only in the 40s. In other words, there could be snow. So dress warmly, unless you're a student at either of the schools, in which case you're allowed -- even expected -- to run around in nothing but shorts, and face and chest paint. 



The Mink Story

When the University of Vermont hosts defending national champions Boston College in the season opener for both teams this Saturday, they will, as many of you may know, be without big winger Graham Mink, who was kicked off the team in the wake of an off-campus brawl that occurred early Sunday September 16th. Mink faces a criminal charge of aggravated assault in Vermont District Court. A felony, aggravated assault is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Mink will be arraigned on Nov. 6. 

The Burlington Police have been silent on the details, but, after talking to several people close to the scene, we learned the following.  

Shortly after midnight on the 16th, Mink, backup goaltender Tim Peters and Peters' girlfriend had just stepped out of a private party at a house on Buell St. in Burlington when they encountered a group of six young men, angry because they had tried to get into the party, but were refused admittance. All were said to be roughly the same age as Mink, who is 22. 

They razzed Mink and Peters, reportedly saying, "What are you doing in there, the Camel Walk?", this being a reference to the hazing incident that led to former UVM goaltender Corey LaTulippe filing a lawsuit against the school and hockey program in December 1999. Two months later, Mink was added as a defendant in the lawsuit, but wound up settling with LaTulippe out of court. 

A punch was thrown, reportedly by one of the kids on the sidewalk, and  the fight was on. Two of the group of six were held by partiers who had stepped outside, but that left four pugilists for Mink and Peters to deal with. 

It was four against two, with Mink and Peters taking on two guys apiece. Mink, who is 6'3" and 210 lbs., had no trouble, dispatching his opponents with four punches. However, when things were settled on his end, he turned and saw that Peters was in trouble, pinned under two guys. Mink waded in and did some serious hitting, getting Peters free. 

That should have been it. The fight, by all accounts, was over. However, Mink, who has long carried a reputation for volatility, had other ideas, and kicked his downed opponent in the face.

At a little before 1 a.m., the Burlington Police arrived on the scene. Reportedly, none of the other men, all rumored to have had a reputation as troublemakers, wanted to press charges. However, when the guy who was kicked in the face went to the hospital, it was discovered that he had a broken orbital bone, and that it came from a kick to the face.

As anyone who's watched enough police dramas knows, a shod foot used against somebody is considered a dangerous weapon. Police are called, and they automatically file aggravated assault charges, no matter what the victim wishes. In this case, it was reported that the man in question did not wish to press charges.

When the mother of the victim, whose name the police wouldn't release, learned of the beating, she was angry, as any mother would be. Reportedly, she called UVM officials and coach Mike Gilligan, and gave them all a piece of her mind. 

Gilligan didn't need any outside prodding, though. He did what he had to do. The coach, in a news release, said, "Here at UVM, we have high expectations for how our student-athletes conduct themselves. In addition, the hockey team has its own set of rules and standards regarding behavior of the players, both on and off the ice. Any time there is a potential issue, I have to use my judgment to determine whether these rules and standards have been violated. I have looked into this situation, and I have decided to suspend Graham Mink indefinitely from the team."

On Tuesday, Sept 25, Mink left UVM for the Portland Pirates (AHL) camp. It's expected he'll start the season in the ECHL. 

Gilligan was reported to have urged Mink, before he left, to come back to school and at least get his degree.

Mink, a native of Stowe, Vt. who played high school hockey there before taking a PG year at Northfield-Mt.Hermon, was the second-leading scorer on the Cats last winter, notching a 17-12-29 line in 32 games, just two points behind junior Jeff Miles.



Backes to Mankato State

6'2", 190 lb. Lincoln Stars (USHL) RW David Backes has made a verbal commitment to Mankato State. Backes, a 5/1/84 birthdate from Blaine, Minn., scored 75 points last season at Spring Lake Park High School. He's a senior playing a before-and-after schedule with the Stars. He'll be captain at Spring Lake Park this season. 

Backes will be joining fellow Mankato recruits John Snowden, currently playing with him at Lincoln; Chad Clower of the Vernon Vipers (BCHL); and Travis Morin of Osseo HS and the Chicago Steel (USHL). All are forwards.



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