Friday, January 23, 2009

Big News About Big Changes

Today marks a pretty huge change in this website.

Last October, the company SportsBlogs Inc., creators of the blogging network SB Nation got a pretty nice chunk of investment money from a venture capital firm to try and expand their sports blogging network. One of the areas SB Nation has tried to jump into is hockey, and more specifically, college hockey.

I was offered the chance to move my blog to SB Nation last December and decided to accept. So from now on, WCH can be found at

Why make this move? I have received several different blogging offers of varying quality over the years and have been reluctant to change how I do things. But there were a couple different reasons I decided to make this move.

1. I get to maintain complete editorial control. This was my first question when I was approached about signing on. This is always been a hobby for me, and if it ever stopped being fun, I'm not sure how much longer it would last, so it's best that I keep writing what I enjoy. So basically, the content is going to be the exact same as it is here(except I'll probably start posting nothing but funny YouTube videos and embarrassing pictures of celebrities. Super sorry.) It's still going to be the WCHA, CCHA, recruiting, HS hockey, USA hockey, whatever I feel like. So from that aspect, nothing is really changing.

2. A more interactive community for readers. This is actually something I've wanted for some time, but never had the technical acumen to pull off. Most newspapers in the country are in serious financial trouble at least in some part because they've failed at making the transition to the internet. The thing they've missed, at least in my mind, is that the internet was practically built on people being able to interact with one another. The problem with the comments section on most blogs or newspaper articles is that they get so cluttered with noise that there's little room for quality discussion. SB Nation has some tremendous opportunities for user-generated content that I outlined in the new blog's first post that should make this blog even better.

3. It's good exposure for college hockey. Even in the occasional emails I get from hockey people telling me what an a-hole I am, most are at least polite enough to thrown in a "While I appreciate what you do to promote college hockey..." before it. Being part of such a major network allows a different set of people to experience and learn about college hockey, who might not have otherwise, especially since there are many NHL blogs and blogs for other major college sports.

4. They have a pretty nice support staff with people that understand more about computers than I could hope to know. So now WCH will have, like, a logo, and a nice site design, and some colors that aren't a hideous shade of orange.

So overall, I feel like there are a ton of benefits to this move, and no real downsides. I'm pretty excited about it, and hope that the people who frequented this site will enjoy the new site even more.

Once again, you can find the new site at

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

New Commits

UAA picked up a commitment from BCHL forward Chris Crowell.

AJHL forward Carter Rowney committed to North Dakota after visiting during North Dakota's series against Minnesota.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

UNO Isn't Moving

Nebraska-Omaha head coach Mike Kemp spoke Alaska's hockey luncheon this afternoon, and had some interesting things to say about some future conference realignment.

Incidentally, the Mavericks lost 2-0 to Alaska tonight, and had to wear Fairbanks Ice Dogs jerseys, because United Airways lost their jerseys while rerouting the Mavericks a couple times turning their trip to Fairbanks into a 24-hour journey.

Anyway, Kemp said that Nebraska-Omaha had been approached by the WCHA about the possibility of applying to join the conference, but made it pretty clear that UNO had no interest in switching conferences.

One of the big reasons why is that even though the WCHA may have more traditional hockey powers, Nebraska is football territory and names like Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, and Ohio State are going to resonate more with local fans than a school like Denver or North Dakota. Even MAC schools like Western Michigan, Miami, and Bowling Green carry more cachet than some of the D-II football schools in Minnesota.

Kemp did mention the advantage of being able to bus to most games in the WCHA--and I'm sure avoiding the air looked especially tempting after the fiasco getting up to Fairbanks--but also said that the CCHA has been good to UNO, and they have no interest in moving.

So UNO is out in terms of a 12th WCHA team, but Kemp did mention, however, that Northern Michigan has been approached by the WCHA about potentially joining the conference as well. Would they be interested? I'm not sure.

Still, it probably has to be considered a good sign for Bemidji State that the WCHA is at least looking to add a 12th team. Twelve teams would help out with scheduling a little bit, because it would allow the league to use a "cluster" format like the CCHA has the past couple of years. Scheduling with 11 teams would still be workable though. In any case, things this summer could be very interesting as some major changes could be coming.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Step 1 for Bemidji

The ten teams in the WCHA today voted to lift the WCHA's moratorium on league expansion.

This was the first step towards getting Bemidji State out of the dying CHA and into the WCHA. Now that the expansion moratorium has been lifted, teams can apply for conference membership until March 31st of this year, and a final vote will take place during this spring at the conference coaches' meeting.

The Bemidji Pioneer ran an editorial on BSU's credentials.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Don Lucia doesn't have cancer, which is certainly good news.

A feature on Bowling Green's Dan Sexton. Sexton had actually committed to a school out east before decommitting and taking his chances at getting another offer, and eventually got one he liked from BG.

Former St. Cloud State forward George Awada is a hockey star in Ireland. There's a lot of interesting stuff in there about hockey culture in Ireland.

The OHL is instituting an automatic one-game suspension for playersthat remove their helmet prior to fights. Clearly no such rule exists in the WCHA.

Brandon Burlon looks poised for a big second half for Michigan.

Who would have guessed that getting swept by a weak Northern Michigan team would have negative consequences. It would be a funny coincidence if Northern Michigan kept Wisconsin out of the NCAA tournament this year, given that it was a weird comparison between Minnesota State and Northern Michigan somehow won by NMU that put Wisconsin into the NCAA tournament last year.

New Commits

The next stop on the Mike Dorr WCHA Tour will be Minnesota State.

Jacob Cepis decided on Minnesota after also taking a visit to Boston University.

North Dakota picked up commitments from AJHL forward Corbin Knight and Winnipeg Midget forward Brendan O'Donnell.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Bad Call 2: Electric Siouxgaloo

Or...Dude, where's Zach Jones' suspension?

Eleven months ago, some North Dakota player dropped his gloves and got into a fight with a guy from Denver. Referee Marco Hunt gave said North Dakota player a double minor for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct.

Later that week, WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod decided Hunt "under-called" the fight and gave suspensions to the players.

That brings us to Saturday night. Same team. Same official. Zach Jones clearly drops his gloves and takes off his helmet with the intention of fighting Tony Lucia. The referee's intervene before Jones can reach his target(something the referees were reprimanded for not doing last year in another, different North Dakota fight, BTW), but it's pretty clear that Jones wasn't trying to shake Lucia's hand.

And for that, Jones received a two-minute minor for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct. Incidentally, that marked the fourth time in Jones' career that he got two minutes for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct rather than getting tossed for fighting. But the question is: why? If you're going to give a guy a penalty for whatever he intends to do after he drops his gloves and takes off his helmet--and then wrestles with the officials to break away, but that's a different discussion--how can you give him anything other than a fighting major?

Last time, that mistake got corrected. This one probably should be too.

CSB Mid-Term Rankings

NHL Central Scouting released their mid-term rankings, which is the first list they put out that ranks each North American player.

You can view the list for North American skaters here, and North American goalies here.

As always, some very interesting choices from the NHL CSB, but overall, they seem to like the American players this year, especially as you move down the list, you start to see a lot of American players eligible last season that weren't selected.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Vote for Hobey

The online fan vote for the Hobey Baker Award began last week without a lot of fanfare. The past few years, the fan vote has been plagued by automated voting giving certain players a bazillion votes. This year, the Hobey committee offers this stern warning:
"Automated or programmed voting is not allowed. In the spirit of Hobey Baker himself, all voting should be conducted in an honest and ethical manner. If further automated voting is evidenced, then the fan vote will not be included in this year’s selection process. We thank all college hockey fans for participating in this year’s Vote For Hobey."
OK, first the spirit of Hobey Baker himself? Back before the delightful Fire Joe Morgan gave up blogging to focus on a new TV show starring Amy Poehler (*shudder*), they had an interesting observation on the evolution of video technology in baseball:
"If you could go back in time and take Nap Lajoie into a room after Rube Waddell K'd him on three pitches and show him a glowing box with a video replay of the at bat, he would call you a demon, slit your throat, tear out his eyes, and generally freak the f--- out."
I feel pretty much the same way re: Hobey Baker and computer voting fraud.

Second, is there an emptier threat than saying you're going to cut the fan vote out of the award? The fan vote counts for 1% of the final vote total, making it essentially meaningless already. Has the fan vote ever made a difference in the voting? It seems that most years, the recipient of the fan vote doesn't even make the top ten. Would anything really change if they stopped bothering with the fan vote?

Of course one thing that amuses me in all this is that they supposedly picked the 50 top players in college hockey this year. The most notable omission from that list of 50 is the guy that was allegedly the best player in college hockey two years ago. Either college hockey has come a long way over the past two years, or the committee's mistake in 2007 is becoming more apparent. Maybe they would be better off giving the fans more power.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Vilardo to OSU

Team Illinois U16 center Michael Vilardo committed to Ohio State. Vilardo is a late '92 birthdate that would likely join the Buckeyes in 2011. Vilardo had visited Ohio State with teammate Chris Joyaux, who also committed to the Buckeyes.


UNO's Mike Phillippi missed the first half of the season due to academic ineligibility, and was going to skip the second half and take a redshirt year, but coach Mike Kemp decided to let Phillippi play in the second half. That gives UNO a little more blueline depth after losing Alain Goulet over the break. Also, UNO freshman forward Jake Skjodt is out with mono. Luckily for UNO, he was most contagious while at home over break.

Meanwhile, UNO has been traveling quite a bit lately.

Michigan Tech has won 3 out of their last 4 games, despite only scoring 5 goals over that four-game stretch.

Matt Overman is out this weekend for Colorado College.

Eden Prairie's Nick Leddy is drawing praise as a potential first or second round NHL draft pick.

The WCHA only went 11-10-4 over the holiday break, which should have some pretty dire PWR consequences.

A feature on BG's Kyle Page.

Alaska will try to prove themselves this weekend when they face No. 1 Notre Dame. The match-up features the league's two top goalies.

Michigan/Miami Game Postponed

Tonight was supposed to be the start of a pretty big important series in the CCHA between Michigan and Miami, but the first game of that series has been postponed until Sunday due to structural problems at Yost Arena. Apparently the old barn suffered some weather-related damage over the holidays and needs some repairs.

Yost Fieldhouse was opened in 1923 and was the first indoor multi-purpose athletic facility in the country. It was converted to an ice arena in 1973.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

2010 US World Junior Team

Nate Fournier over at The World of Junior Hockey had an interesting post on next year's US World Junior team.

Even though this week, everyone seems more obsessed with re-picking this year's World Junior team, I figured I'd take my own stab at what next year's team will look like.

Mike Lee and Brandon Maxwell are pretty much gimmes(unless of course one of them struggles in the tournament, in which case, everyone will have totally known they should have picked someone else). Thank goodness you only need two goalies. If one of those guys was injured, who would be the next choice? Joe Cannata? Kevin Murdock? Adam Murray? Decent choices, but nothing that blows you away.

Zach Bogosian will still be eligible to play, but almost definitely won't be available. John Carlson has already signed a contract with the Washington Capitals, so his availability will likely depend on if he makes it past the 10-game cutoff in the NHL.

After those two, I think Cam Fowler is the next obvious choice. Like Jordan Schroeder this year, he'll be jockeying for a shot in the top 10, possibly top 5 of the NHL Draft with this tournament.

Aaron Ness and Jake Gardiner are going to be tough calls in my opinion because they're very good, but also very raw. Ness only had six assists in the first half of this year, but Don Lucia predicted he would take off in the second half of the season, and lo and behold, he scored his first goal, and added two assists last weekend, so he may just take off from there. Each will have a year and a half of college experience by that point, which is more than some of the other candidates, so I'd give them each a spot on the team.

Same goes for David Warsofsky of Boston University. He's got international experience and has played fairly well at the college level so far.

My next pick would be one of either Max Nicastro or Matt Donovan, or Sam Lofquist. All three are good skaters that can bring a little bit of everything to the mix. I'd imagine USA Hockey would lean towards Lofquist since he's got more experience both internationally and in college.

Next, I'd go with either John Moore or Nick Leddy. Both are excellent skaters that should make for very high draft picks this year. I wouldn't be surprised if Leddy was added to the US roster for the U18s this summer, and a good showing there may give USA Hockey more confidence in him.

That makes seven defensemen, if you count Carlson. If Carlson isn't available, I'd look for somebody that offered a little size and physicality to go along with a mostly finesse bunch, like a Collin Bowman.


Things will obviously start at the top with Jordan Schroeder. There's a very outside chance of someone drafting him really high, signing him, and him not being available next year. He might be good enough to handle it skill-wise, but I think he'll stick around for one more season at Minnesota.

You'd have to believe that Mitch Wahl, Tyler Johnson, and Danny Kristo will all be back after playing on the team this year.

I like the idea of giving Schroeder two skilled finishers in Jeremy Morin and Phil McRae to work with.

Joining Morin off of this year's U18 team, I'd take Kyle Palmieri, who was invited to the tryout camp for this year's World Juniors, and Drew Shore.

David Wohlberg and Derek Stepan have both had outstanding freshman seasons, and should be locks to make the team. Wohlberg is especially valuable since he's excellent defensively as well.

That would make 10 forwards. USA Hockey has shown in the past that they like to choose more defensive-minded players for those last couple rosters rather than guys with a lot of flash. Justin Florek is a big guy that is starting to put things together at Northern Michigan, and he might be a nice choice. A.J. Jenks is another big player that could play a nice role as a center on a lower line. That just leaves the 13th roster spot. Chris Brown would be another great energy player. USA Hockey may go with an NTDP veteran that some aren't as familiar with, like Colin Moore, similar to when they took Jimmy Fraser a couple years ago, or if they wanted to really young, they could take a strong two-way player off the U18 team like Jason Zucker.

Overall, it probably won't be the strongest US team. Like most years, they should be in contention for a medal, and if they get hot goaltending at the right time, or a couple bounces go their way, who knows what could happen.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

MN HS Linkorama

Before Christmas, I mentioned The Breakdown's listing of top forward lines in the state of Minnesota, and now they have a listing of top defensive units, led by Duluth East, and followed by Bloomington Jefferson, St. Cloud Cathedral, Edina, and Hill-Murray. I think it does a really nice job of picking out some kids who may not receive much hype, but are excellent players.

A look around the Big 9 conference, which covers most of southern Minnesota.

Hermantown and Duluth Marshall played on Fox Sports North last night, and though I missed it, it sounded like a great game. Marshall is playing without Zach Mausolf, who was one of the more talented players in Class A.

Blaine beat Duluth East in Blaine last night in a match-up of two top ten teams, by a score of 5-3, with an empty net goal. The game attracted quite a bit of attention from NHL scouts.

Edina's Anders Lee committed to Notre Dame for the 2010-2011 season. Lee had considered Notre Dame for a long time, but was a bit reluctant because they wanted him to play a year in the USHL after graduation, but apparently those worries of a post-graduate year of juniors were quelled.

Woodbury made their first state tournament in 2007 with a surprising upset over Cretin-Derham Hall. Last year, it was less surprising when they made the tournament. This year, they're probably the Section 3AA favorite and have become a power in the eastern suburbs. There must be something in the water out there.


There's not much to update on Minnesota head coach Don Lucia. "Dark Star" turned out to be wrong--and a bit of a douche--about the Bell's Palsy rumor. He'll miss this weekend's series against North Dakota. Apparently they're still running tests in hopes of finding out what is ailing him. This sounds like a House case.

Jase Weslosky is ready to play for St. Cloud this weekend. He missed St. Cloud's trip to Florida due to academic problems, and there were rumors that he'd be done for the year. It's a huge break for the Huskies, because I'm not sure Dan Dunn could have carried them for the second half of the year. Also, Jared Festler will likely miss this weekend's game with an ankle injury.

Nick Eno has been cleared to play for Bowling Green. The Falcons are currently tied for last place in the league, but have games in hand on just about everybody, and Eno's presence in goal could improve their defense and give them a big shot in the arm.

The article also has more on the Jacob Cepis situation:
"Jacob Cepis, a sophomore center who quit the Falcons Dec. 18, has been granted his release by BG which allows him to transfer to another school.
The release, however, does not allow him to transfer to another CCHA school.
Third-ranked Boston University, No. 5 Denver and Massachusetts remain the most popular schools on the rumor mill for where Cepis will end up. But No. 4 Minnesota and No. 14 Wisconsin still remain on the rumor mill.
Cepis is expected to be enrolled at his new school for the upcoming semester, allowing him to play the second half of next season.
If he’s not enrolled for the upcoming semester, he’ll have to sit out all of next season under NCAA rules."

Mark Mitera skated in practice this week after undergoing knee surgery in November. Red Berenson was skeptical about him playing in a game this year though.

Monday, January 05, 2009

US Fifth at World Juniors

The United States took a disappointing 5th place finish in this year's World Juniors, and as usual, there's a lot of noise about why the US didn't take home the gold. People can say whatever they want, but there's really only one thing you need to know:

Thomas McCollum vs. Canada: 5 goals allowed on 28 shots
Thomas McCollum vs. Slovakia: 5 goals allowed on 19 shots

Say whatever you will about coaching, or how the team is selected, or any other complaint you can come up with. You can't coach the puck out of your net, and when your goalie only stops 37 out of 47 shots over two games, and forces your team to score 6 goals win, you're going to lose 99 times out of 100. In a short tournament, hot goaltending can take your team a long way, and poor goaltending can kill you. This year, it killed the US.

I'll give the rest of my thoughts in bullet form, since it's easier...

-Some people are also blaming the US defense for playing poorly. They didn't look good against Canada, and I didn't see the Slovakia game, but how bad could they have been if they only gave up 19 shots and McCollum gave up a couple soft goals? That's more than good enough to win.

-Should McCollum have been pulled? In hindsight, yes, because they couldn't have done any worse. I'm not sure I would have pulled him at any point in the Canada game, because bringing a cold goalie into a close game probably wouldn't be wise. Maybe I would have started Unice against Slovakia, but again, that's using hindsight. I can see the argument for starting McCollum again as well.

-Why is it that the people screaming loudest about how not winning the gold is an absolute failure for the US, and the whole system needs to be torn down are the same people that talk about Canada being the greatest hockey nation in the world? Sorry, you can't have both ways. It only proves that these people don't have enough objectivity to make their opinion worthwhile.

-I still don't see how the NTDP-bashing is valid in any way. This year's team took way more CHL players than in the past and look where it got them. Adding a few more plugs like Eric Tangradi, whose biggest contribution to the team was putting his stick in some guys face and getting one of the good players jacked in the face, or Tyler Johnson, who didn't do much of anything, wouldn't have made things any better. One of the big omissions from the roster was John Carlson, and again, using hindsight, he would have been a better choice on D because he couldn't have been any worse, but the seventh defenseman on the US was Blake Kessel, who is not an NTDP alum, so I don't see how that decision is political.

-When trying to wow me with the OHL's goaltending, it's probably not best to cite some kid who needed a career game just to bring his tournament save percentage up to .901. As a general rule, goaltenders peak much later, and it's just hard to be a very good goalie in that age group. That's why you see so many talented young goalies struggle at the college level. I'm not saying some of those CHL goalies might not be great some day, but at 18 or 19, most aren't providing much of a challenge.

-Congrats to Canada on winning another gold medal. I hope the Queen doesn't decide to take it for England when she makes the call on reinstating your parliament later this month.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Lucia Ill

Minnesota head coach Don Lucia missed last night's game against Brown with an undisclosed illness. Lucia has undergone a series of tests to find out what is wrong, and so far, nothing has been released, though athletic director Joel Maturi said that major problems have been ruled out.

On WCCO radio last night, Dark Star reported that Lucia had Bell's Palsy, though two things should be kept in mind. First, he's like a 90-year-old man calls himself 'Dark Star' with a straight face, and second, he's a Twin Cities media personality, meaning he's probably wrong.

In any case, hopefully Lucia will have a speedy recovery to whatever is ailing him.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Goulet Leaves UNO

Nebraska-Omaha took a big hit this week when it was announced that defenseman Alain Goulet had signed with the Gatineau Olympiques of the QMJHL.

In November, Gatineau hired Jerome Dupont as head coach. Dupont had formerly coached for the Aurora Tigers, the junior team Goulet played for.

Goulet started off hot this year, with 4 points in his first six games, but only had one assist in his final 11 games.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

World Juniors

The US lost to Canada 6-4 last night in a pretty entertaining game. The US now gets Slovakia in the quarterfinals, Sweden if they win, and a potential final game against Canada.

A couple thoughts on the game last night...

1. I think I figured out how somebody scores like 250 points every year in the OHL. Tom McCollum was absolutely brutal for the US. Through the first two periods, every Canadian shot had one of three results, listed in order of frequency.

a. Missed the net
b. Goal
c. Save, with McCollum immediately looking over his shoulder and surprised not to see the puck in the net.

2. The US team must be pretty ugly to look at because a lot of those tough guys in red wouldn't touch them if they could see the US player's face.

3. Was this game played in Canada? That was not readily apparent to me.

4. The US had a terrible game defensively. Maybe one or two out of their seven defensemen played well last night.

5. I wouldn't be optimistic about a rematch in the final with Canada--though getting a win over Sweden would be an accomplishment in itself. Even if the US plays equally with them, the crowd could play a huge role, as well as the usual BS that comes with playing on the hosts' soil, like top players getting sucker-punched with no recourse and so on.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Dorr Leaves Gophers

Minnesota forward Mike Dorr has left the University of Minnesota hockey team, telling teammates that he needs "to do what's best for my own interest." Dorr had only appeared in two games this year for the Gophers.

Dorr is no stranger to controversy. He committed to Minnesota-Duluth in January of his junior year of high school, then, about a year later, during a very successful senior season, he re-opened his recruitment, and committed to Minnesota about a month and a half later.

Now, Dorr will likely return to juniors and try to transfer to another WCHA school. In the interim period between backing out on Duluth and committing to Minnesota, Dorr listed Wisconsin, Minnesota State, and Notre Dame as other potential schools of interest. Minnesota State currently has his high school linemate Adam Mueller on their team.

UW Announcement Coming

The Blog That Yost Built came across an interesting tidbit in the Detroit News, regarding Wisconsin holding an outdoor hockey game.

According to the News, Wisconsin will be making a formal announcement regarding an outdoor hockey game next February at Camp Randall stadium in the next two weeks. The Badgers have been trying for some time to schedule an outdoor game at Camp Randall. A deal to play a WCHA game outdoors fell through, so it's likely the game will be played against a non-conference opponent, with Michigan being one of the rumored schools.

I'd expect an announcement to come in the wake of tomorrow's outdoor hockey game between the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks at Wrigley Field.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Buckeyes Add Youngsters

Team Illinois Midget Minor defenseman Chris Joyaux, a '92 birthdate, committed to Ohio State, likely for the 2011 season.

The Buckeyes also added Ohio Jr. Bluejackets '92 defennseman Clark Christofoli, according to Chris Heisenberg.

Sunday, December 28, 2008


So my family and I showed up about ten minutes before puck drop for the first game of yesterday's Great Lakes Invitational, along with about 1000 other people, and we spent a good 20-30 minutes waiting in the ticket line. By the time we got I our tickets, I predicted Michigan would already be up 2-0 and the game would be, for all intents and purposes, over. Check and check.

The second game wasn't much prettier. Michigan State played pretty well by their own low standards, but had they not squandered so many quality chances, they could have easily scored 5 goals. Seeing them in person, it's just amazing the lack of depth they have considering how well-known their school is. That said, Corey Tropp was one very talented player that I thought underperformed, at least statistically in the first half of the year, and if he continues to create offensive--he assisted both MSU goals--they'll be better offensively.

It wasn't a great effort by North Dakota defensively. They've got some nice offensive defensemen, but yesterday, they were more prone to giving up 2-on-1 ones than creating odd-man situations for their team. Offensively, North Dakota moved the puck pretty well, but turned down too many decent shots in favor of a 90 mph backdoor pass that never connected.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

#4 Fargo-Moorhead vs. Southern Minnesota

Who: Fargo-Moorhead Jets vs. Southern Minnesota Express
Where: Shattuck-St. Mary's Arena, Faribault, Minnesota
When: April 27, 2007
Final Score: 3-2 Southern Minnesota (3ot)

If I recall, the press release put out after this game had something non-committal like "We're pretty sure this was the longest US junior playoff game in history" and as far as I know, nobody else stepped up and claimed a longer game, and nobody had a longer playoff game last year, so we'll just go ahead and call this the longest playoff in US junior hockey history.

Southern Minnesota had won the first two games of the series in Fargo, and needed this game to clinch a trip to the NAHL Tournament. Fargo-Moorhead needed the win to extend their season.

As you'd expect, this was an absolutely fantastic goaltenders battle from start to finish with current Minnesota State back-up Austin Lee in goal for Fargo-Moorhead, and current Denver back-up Lars Paulgaard in net for Southern Minnesota.

It took 37 minutes to get the game's first goal, when Chris Connolly scored to give F-M the lead. F-M looked like they were in the good shape to extend their season when they added a second goal at 5:51 of the third period. Southern Minnesota couldn't mount much attack on the Jets, and when they did, Austin Lee was rock solid in goal. But with just under 6 minutes to play, Southern Minnesota caught a break and went on the powerplay. Thirty seconds later, they had scored and cut the deficit to just one.

The game looked to be all but over with about 90 seconds to play, but Fargo-Moorhead took another penalty, and the Express tied the game with 44 seconds left on the clock. That would be the start of what would go on to be almost another entire game of hockey.

You'd expect both teams to play things pretty close to the vest in overtime of a playoff game, but the game was still pretty wide open. Shots were 12-10 favor Southern Minnesota in the first overtime period. F-M dominated the second overtime, outshooting Southern Minnesota 17-7 and had the first powerplay of the overtime. But Southern Minnesota's Lars Paulgaard was absolutely incredible. I was standing on the glass right behind Paulgaard and some of the saves he was making were phenomenal. One in particular that sticks in my memory was a shot through traffic that he was completely screened on. The shot was labeled for the lower left corner of the net and Paulgaard somehow threw his right leg out to kick it wide. There's no way he could have seen the shot until the very last second, but he was so locked in that he was able to make the save on pure instinct and quickness.

By the third overtime, it was becoming pretty obvious that the game would have to be won on special teams, because nobody was going to beat one of those goaltenders at even strength. After Fargo-Moorhead got their powerplay in the second OT, Southern Minnesota got a man advantage in the third overtime, and for the third time that night, they capitalized. It wasn't even a pretty goal. Mike Montgomery(now at Minnesota-Duluth) fired a shot that deflected off a shin pad or something in front of the net and went straight to the stick of teammate Dusty Jackson(now at Denver). Jackson caught the puck on his backhand, facing away from the net and just sort of flung the puck over his shoulder towards the net. Lee wasn't able to recover from the initial shot in time and the puck went in to finally end the game.

The final tally on the night was 110:15 of hockey, with each team registering 56 shots apiece, but Paulgaard winning the goaltending battle over Lee by making 54 saves, to Lee's 53.

#5 Mankato East vs. Austin

Who: Mankato East HS vs. Austin HS
Where: Lund Arena, Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, Minnesota
When: February 25th, 2006
Final Score: 3-2 Mankato East

This game was the Section 1A semifinal back when Section 1A was probably the weakest section in the state, so this wasn't necessarily a game between the greatest two hockey teams. Current Air Force defenseman Tim Kirby played for Austin, but other than that, there's no real recognizable names on either side. But whatever this game lacked in skill, it made up for ten times over in terms of grit and heart.

Austin was the #2 seed in the section, while Mankato East was seeded third, thanks to these two teams tying in Mankato, and Austin winning 4-1 at home in the regular season. Earlier that day, 4th seed Marshall had upset top seeded Austin Lea--a game that very well may have made this list had I been there, because I have a tough time imagining how that happened--so the door was open for the winner of this game to make it to the state tournament.

Gustavus' arena is set up really nicely for neutral site games with a balcony of seats along each sideline, giving each team half of the arena. Austin was a little more organized in their cheering, giving an especially tough time to Mankato East's goalie, while you could tell the Mankato East contingent wasn't used to being able to cheer their team in big games, but they were no less enthused.

Austin had the edge in play most of the day. It looked like every kid on their team was only about 5'11" or so, but had eaten Spam three meals a day every day for their entire life, was a solid 190 lbs. or so. Mankato East wasn't as strong, and was probably about a half step slower, but did everything they could to hang in the game.

After a scoreless first period, Mankato East opened up the scoring less than a minute into the second period, but Austin answered back with two goals in the second period to take the lead. Austin had a number of chances to extend their lead, but Mankato East held strong and went to the locker room only trailing by one.

You would have expected the underdog to wear down in the third period after doing nearly everything in their power just to keep the game close through 2 periods, but Mankato East came out like a different team in the third period. They scored twice in the first three minutes of the period to put themselves back on top. The final 14 minutes of the game was like a game in itself. Mankato East had an insurance goal disallowed a couple different times due to the net coming off right before the puck crossed the line. Austin had some great chances as well. A number of times they worked the puck back to Tim Kirby at the point for big slap shots, but Mankato East were literally throwing themselves in front of every shot, and doing whatever they could to maintain their lead.

That Mankato East team wasn't the most skilled, or the fastest, or the prettiest group of players. But I've never seen a team play with more heart. It doesn't take a lot of skill to block a shot, but it does take a lot of guts to dive in front of a guy winding up for a slap shot and get hit somewhere where you may or may not be padded. It takes a lot of effort to stay with someone on the backcheck at the end of a long shift. They were so close to their school's first ever trip to the state tournament, and they were going to do whatever it took to make sure they got there. In all the hockey I've seen, I'm not sure I've ever seen a team play harder.

As a postscript to this game, Mankato East did beat Marshall in the section final to earn their first trip to the state tournament where they lost an incredibly entertaining game to Little Falls something like 7-6. Both Mankato East and Austin completely fell off the hockey map after that game however. Austin only won one game last season, against Mankato East. Neither team has won more than 6 games in a season since. Hopefully, one day they'll both make it back to prominence.