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11 posts from May 2011

May 25, 2011

Catching up on some random hockey items...

Posted by: Feldman

The blog's been kind of slow lately, so I figured we'd patch together a few random notes.

• I heard from two sources today that Rochester Century is close to having a new head boys hockey coach. Can't provide the name just yet, but I'm hearing it's someone who is very familiar with the program, who played high school hockey in Rochester.

• Zumbrota-Mazeppa High School has been added to the Dodge County boys and girls co-op for next season. Wildcats coach Eric Hofmann tells me he's not yet certain how the addition of any new players will impact the program, other than adding depth. He said he would need to see any new players skate and compete before he can assess what kind of impact they'll have on the team.

• Rochester John Marshall has yet to announce its varsity assistant coach for next season. Former Lourdes coach Jay Ness will take over as head coach in the winter.

• A few high school programs around the state have filled vacant head coaching positions.

The most recent announcement came today, when Wayzata hired former Gopher forward Pat O'Leary. The Plymouth native had 15 goals and nine assists for the Gophers from 1998-99 through 2001-02, before playing three seasons of minor league pro hockey. O'Leary, an assistant at Wayzata the past three seasons, takes over for Carl Davis, who resigned shortly after the season. Wayzata lost to eventual state champ Eden Prairie in double OT in the Section 6AA championship game.

Ritch Menne, a 1990 Centennial High School graduate, will take over the reins at his alma matter. Erik Aus stepped down after this past season, after 24 years as the team's head coach.

I'm not sure this one has been reported, but Centennial assistant coach Adam Schmidt has been named the new head coach at Irondale. Schmidt and I went to school together at North Dakota, and he'll do a great job with a team that struggled last season. As he told me this week, "we have a long way to go, but there's only one way to go ... up!"

• International Falls, an annual competitior in the Kiwanis Festival here in Rochester at holiday time, is again looking for a new head coach. Mike Bolstad stepped down recently after just one season as the Broncos' head coach. Bolstad took over for long-time coach John Prettyman. The Broncos went 10-15-1 last season, losing to Duluth Marshall in the Section 7A quarterfinals.

• The North American Hockey League will hold its annual entry draft tomorrow (Thursday), beginning at 1 p.m. Amateur players who are younger than 21 on or before Dec. 31, 2011, are eligible, unless they are on an NAHL roster or have signed a tender from an NAHL team prior to the draft. Also, any player who was on an NAHL roster in 2010-11, but played less than 10 games, is eligible.

Rochester Lourdes defenseman Rory Vesel, a Second Team All-State player, has signed tender with the Bismarck (N.D.) Bobcats, and is not eligible for the draft.

Some rosters have been posted for the annual Don Lucia Model Camp, to be held at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis June 13-18. I'm not sure if the rosters are complete; only 10 of the 12 rosters are listed online right now. Registration deadline was last Friday, so perhaps they're still filling spots in the camp.

The only Rochester player listed as of now is Mayo D Jack Dingle, though I contacted Lourdes coach Josh Spaniol today and he believes a couple of his players have applied for the camp and may be attending.

Other current/former Section 1 players listed include former Faribault D Brandon Parker, who played for the Russell Stover AAA team last season with former Rochester Century standouts Connor Faupel and Drew Anderson; Lakeville South forward Michael Chuinard; LeSueur-Henderson/St. Peter goalie Chris Amsden; Lakeville North forward Evan Peterson; Lakeville South defenseman Charlie Heller; South forward and Gophers commit Justin Kloos; Lakeville North goalie Charlie Lindgren; and New Prague goalie Joe Morris.

• We're less than a month away from the NHL Draft, to be held at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, June 24 and 25. New Prague native and University of Minnesota recruit Seth Ambroz is ranked 31st among North American skaters in the final NHL Central Scouting Service rankings.

Here's a blog Ambroz did throughout his final USHL season for NHL.com.

• Members of the Big Ten Hockey Conference are mulling two possible scenarios for their postseason tournament format.

• The Minnesota Wild have scheduled a Fan Fest to coincide with the first day of the Draft, June 24, at the St. Paul Crowne Plaza hotel. Some big names are scheduled to appear, including 2010 first round draft pick Mikael Granlund, who showed the world what he could do earlier this month at the IIHF World Championships.

Tickets for the Fan Fest are $20 (ticket does not get you access to the Draft) and go on sale on June 1. More information is available here.

May 19, 2011

Hockey | Was the NHL's southern invasion worth it?

FELDY: It's looking more and more each day like Rochester native Mark Stuart and the Atlanta Thrashers will make their home in Winnipeg next season (or, possibly the following season, depending upon if, and how soon, a sale of the Thrashers can get done).

Another southern NHL team, the Coyotes, are safe in Phoenix for at least another season, thanks to the city of Glendale covering some of the NHL's big-time financial losses there. That leaves the Thrashers as the team targeted by Winnipeg's True North Sports and Entertainment to move into the seven-year-old MTS Centre (the name alone sounds like a hockey building, with the "re" on Centre).

With all of that in mind, an interesting topic has bounced around on Twitter over the past couple of days, primed by former USA Hockey P.R. guy Chris Peters (who happens to operate the kick-#!@ hockey blog, the United States of Hockey) and Fargo Fourm hockey writer Ryan S. Clark. (by the way, if you're a hockey fan at all, follow those guys on Twitter -- @chrismpeters and @ryan_s_clark)

The debate: Has the NHL's entry into southern markets been worthwhile?

With the financial troubles that the Coyotes and Thrashers have had, it's easy to say that the NHL's invasion of the non-traditional markets in the U.S. has been a bust. But that's really not fair, not looking at the big picture.

I won't quote all of Peters' research here; he did a lot of work on this, so go to his site to check it out. He looked at the increase in hockey players of all ages in the NHL's southeastern markets (Atlanta, Nashville, Raleigh, Miami, Tampa Bay, and he included Dallas).

Here's a link to Peters' statistical spreadsheet, which looks at the number of registered players in those southern states with NHL teams. Note that, over the past decade, the number of registered players in those states has either come close to doubling, or it has more than doubled. That's a pretty big impact on areas not previously known for hockey. In Georgia, nearly 85 percent of new players over the past 10 years are 18 years old or younger. Now, that is how the game grows, by getting kids involved and active.

Also, look at the number of players from Texas, California and the Carolinas now making their way into junior hockey, college hockey and the pros. It's obviously not as many as come from Canada and the northern U.S., but my hometown college hockey team (University of North Dakota) will have as many players on its roster next season from Arizona and California as it will from North Dakota.

More examples: Check out last year's NHL Draft: Beau Bennett and Emerson Etem, both California-born, were selected in the first round. Bennett's Denver University teammate, Jason Zucker, from Las Vegas, was a second-round pick of the Minnesota Wild.

The NHL may not have succeeded in Phoenix or Atlanta, but it's worked well in Dallas, San Jose, L.A., Nashville, Tampa Bay and Carolina.

It's difficult to watch NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman do all he can to keep a team (Phoenix) in a market that hasn't supported it. And, Atlanta looks like it will be NHL-less in a matter of months. But, two bad apples shouldn't ruin the bunch. The NHL's presence in the south has done much more good than bad.

May 16, 2011

Junior Hockey | One Vesel brother taken in USHL draft

Posted by: Feldman

So, I posted on Twitter early this morning that there was a chance Lourdes' Rory Vesel, a Second Team All-State defenseman this season, could be picked in the USHL Draft, which began at 10 a.m. today.

I forgot to mention that another Vesel -- Rory's younger brother, Tyler -- could also be taken. Turns out, Tyler was the one Vesel chosen today, going 56th overall (11th in the fourth round) to the Omaha Lancers. Rory was not drafted, but could still receive a tryout offer from USHL team(s). He has signed a tender with the Bismark (N.D.) Bobcats of the NAHL for next season, so, no fear, if he's not in the USHL, he'll still be playing at a high level.

As for Tyler, I haven't tried calling him yet to see what his plans are for next season. He was the second-leading scorer this year on Shattuck-St. Mary's prestigous U16 team. He compiled 108 points in 54 games (37-71--108), trailing only Taylor Cammarata, who had an amazing 139 points, including 71 goals.

Judging by the comments of Lancers coach/GM Bliss Littler, Tyler Vesel (5-feet-10, 160 pounds) will return to Shattuck and play on the Sabres' top team next winter. He's a 94 birthdate, so he would fit in on USHL rosters, but would certainly be among the younger players on the team. Littler had these comments in a press release on the team's website:

“Tyler Vesel is a player who we expect to play one more season at Shattuck-St. Mary’s,” Littler said.  “But we anticipate he’ll be ready to join the Lancers for the 2012-2013 season.”

All of the results from Monday's USHL Draft can be found here.

May 11, 2011

H.S. Hockey | Frutiger steps down at Century

Posted by: Feldman

There was still some sadness in Bruce Frutiger's voice this afternoon, when I reached him on his cell phone, just a few minutes after he informed his players he was resigning as Century's boys hockey coach.

"I told my wife last night, I'm OK with the decision now, but I'm not sure what I'll do in November when 2:30 comes and it's time to head to the rink," Frutiger said.

That's a fitting statement, because practices have always been Frutiger's favorite part of the job. He's never had to tell me that teaching the game, and the relationships he builds with assistant coaches and players are his favorite parts of the job.

Frutiger is a class act. Almost never have I heard him say something negative after a game, on or off the record. That's rare at any level of sports. In fact, the one time I can remember something negative coming out of his mouth (I can't even remember the exact comment, it was something like 'we were bad in our own end tonight.') he caught me later in the hallway at the Rec Center and asked if he could change his comment. He didn't want to make it appear like he wasn't giving their opponent enough credit.

Frutiger is a Rochester Mayo grad, played for coach Lorne Grosso, and you can see a lot of Grosso's style in Frutiger, especially in the way he demands his players to respect the game, their teammates, their coaches, their teachers and the opposing team.

He won 197 games at Century in 13 varsity seasons. That's an average of just more than 15 wins per season. Think about that, when teams play 25 game schedules, that's a pretty nice number.

Of course, Frutiger would be the first to tell me that it's the talented players he's had come through the program who have made it successful. Obviously, you can't win without talent, but that talent has to be coached, too. Frutiger and his assistants have done a tremendous job over the years.

I wasn't yet working in Rochester during those heartbreaking Section 1AA championship game overtime losses, but from talking to my predecessor, Steve Webb, Frutiger always handled those things with his usual low-key style.

My first season on the boys hockey beat was 2006-07, the year that Century upset HIll-Murray in overtime in the state quarterfinals (four goals by Joe Faupel -- hey, H-M, might wanna put a body on him!). The Panthers went on to a third-place finish, beating Burnsville in double overtime. That was an outstanding team -- Faupel, Joe Knoepke, Garrett Grimstad, Bryce Wilcox, Bryce Stevens, Bryan Frischmann, Justin Phelps, etc.

The great thing about Frutiger, though, is that he remembers the players from his 10-win teams just as fondly as those guys who won 25 games and a section title.

I have no doubt, Century will find a top-notch replacement (I would expect the applicant pool to be outstanding; this is a really good job with a Class AA team). But, Frutiger will indeed be missed.

May 08, 2011

NAHL | #rochmn players bringing Robertson Cup back to Fairbanks

Posted by: Feldman

Sorry, I didn't get anything posted about this on Friday night or Saturday, in advance of the NAHL championship game. We were making a quick road trip to NoDak for Mother's Day weekend, but the Feldy Family Wagon broke down just west of the Twin Cities and the weekend became more hectic! Toddler Feldy seemed to enjoy the whole experience, though ... the tow-truck ride, a surprise night in a hotel, etc.

Anyhow, back to the subject at hand — Rochester has three new national champions!

Former Lourdes boys hockey standouts Pete Spratte and Tyler Voigt, and former Mayo forward Charlie Thauwald, helped the Fairbanks Ice Dogs win the Junior A, Tier II national championship on Saturday, a 4-2 victory against the Michigan Warriors in Topeka, Kansas.

I talked to Voigt and Thauwald on Friday night, in advance of the national title game. Here's a link to that article. Here's the article from the NAHL website on the title game.

I just talked with Spratte — who was named the No. 2 star of the title game after scoring the game-tying goal — on the phone. He and the Ice Dogs were sitting in the Seattle airport on a layover, waiting to bring the Robertson Cup back to Fairbanks.

Spratte sounded tired, yet elated. The Ice Dogs won four emotional games in a five day span to capture the national title, the first in the club's history. I'll have a story in tomorrow's paper, which will include Spratte's thoughts about the week-long tournament.

Here's his description of his goal, which came with 5:22 remaining in the third period and tied the score 2-2. Spratte gave full credit to teammate Alex Jensen for setting up the play:

"I heard our coach yell 'Spratte shoot now,' and I saw Gabe Levin get the puck to (Jensen)," Spratte said. "I shot down the slot and he put it right on my tape. I got tripped up a little, but I had a wide open net to put it in. That gave us some momentum and we scored twice more in about the next four minutes."

I'll have more in tomorrow's paper; for now here's a picture that Spratte was able to text-message to me of Rochester's three Ice Dogs (left-to-right, Spratte, Thauwald, Voigt):

Roch trio

May 05, 2011

NAHL | Fairbanks, #rochmn trio to play for national title

Posted by: Feldman

It just went final in Topeka, Kansas — Fairbanks Ice Dogs 2, Amarillo Bulls 1.

That means Fairbanks — and Rochester natives (photos below from left to right) Pete Spratte (Lourdes), Charlie Thauwald (Mayo) and Tyler Voigt (Lourdes) — will play for a USA Hockey Junior A, Tier II national championship on Saturday. The Ice Dogs finished round-robin play at the North American Hockey League's Robertson Cup with a perfect 3-0 record and earned a bye straight into Saturday's national championship.

Amarillo, which went 2-1 in round-robin play, will face the winner of tonight's 7:05 p.m. game between Michigan and host Topeka, for the right to advance to Friday's national semifinal game.

Thursday, for a second consecutive day, Fairbanks was held scoreless through two periods, but rallied in the third to win. Jared Linnell and Zach Vierling each scored midway through the third to help the Ice Dogs rally from a 1-0 deficit to win.

On Wednesday, Fairbanks trailed 2-0 after two, but scored four times in the third to win and advance.

None of the Rochester players had a point in Thursday's game. Voigt was plus-1 with four shots on goal. Thauwald didn't register a shot, but had two penalty minutes. Spratte also did not register a shot on goal

(Note: All three Rochester players have dressed for every game of the Robertson Cup so far. The game sheet from Fairbanks' opening-day victory against Topeka initially indicated Spratte didn't dress. It has been corrected and can be found here.)

Saturday's championship game is scheduled for a 7:35 p.m. faceoff. The game can be viewed online at fasthockey.com

Spratte      Thauwald      Voigt

May 04, 2011

AHL | Stuart helps Portland stay alive

FELDY: Colin Stuart still has a chance to win a Calder Cup for the second time in four seasons.

Stuart had a goal and an assist on Tuesday as the Portland (Maine) Pirates beat the Binghamton Senators, 6-2, at Binghamtom in Game 5 of their AHL Atlantic Division Finals series.

Portland — CLICHE ALERT! — had its backs against the wall on Tuesday (and still does). The Pirates trail the best-of-7 series, 3-2, after their Game 5 victory. Game 6 is set for Friday night at Portland.

Stuart, the Rochester native who played on the 2008 Calder Cup champion Chicago Wolves (Atlanta Thrashers affiliate), has had a very good season for the Pirates, the top minor league affiliate of the Buffalo Sabres. He put up 44 points in 72 regular-season games, and has excelled in the playoffs, with seven points in 11 games.

Here's an audio clip of Stuart's goal from the Pirates' radio network. Broadcaster sounds like he has a helium tank hooked up to his mic or something. Then again, that's why I work in newspapers. :)

Don't discount Portland in this series, even though it was in a 3-1 hole. The Pirates have young goaltending phenom Jhonas Enroth back in net after he spent time with the Sabres late in the regular season. Enroth was 9-2-2 in 15 games with the Sabres, posting a .907 save percentage. He made 35 saves in Tuesday's game.

NAHL | Fairbanks improves to 2-0 at Robertson Cup

FELDY: It's a simple as this for three former Rochester high school hockey players: Win on Thursday and their team will play in the USA Hockey Junior A, Tier II national championship game.

Former Rochester Mayo standout Charlie Thauwald scored a goal and former Lourdes defenseman Pete Spratte assisted on one as the Fairbanks Ice Dogs beat the Michigan Warriors 4-2 in round-robin play at the North American Hockey League's Robertson Cup tournament.

Fairbanks, which also includes former Lourdes forward Tyler Voigt, is now 2-0 in round-robin play at the four-team tournament. The Ice Dogs are guaranteed no worse than a spot in Friday's national semifinal game. A victory on Thursday against Amarillo would allow the Ice Dogs to skip that semifinal game and receive a bye into the national title game.

The top team after round robin play is awarded a spot in the championship. The second- and third-best teams in round-robin play earn spots in Friday's semifinal game. The fourth-place team in round-robin play is eliminated.

Michigan led Fairbanks, 2-0, after two periods on Wednesday, but Spratte and Alex Hajdukovich set up teammate Tayler Munson just 2:42 into the third period to start a four-goal rally in a span of less than 17 minutes.

Just 1:16 after Spratte set up Munson's goal, Thauwald scored (on his only shot on goal) to tie the score 2-2. Munson scored the game-winner at the 10:36 mark, and Jared Linnell added an unassisted empty-net goal with 36 seconds remaining to seal it.

Spratte, who didn't dress for Tuesday's tournament opener, was plus-1 on Wednesday and had two shots on goal.

The Fairbanks-Amarillo game is scheduled to begin at 4:05 p.m. Thursday, and it can be viewed online at fasthockey.com

May 03, 2011

NAHL | Fairbanks (Voigt, Thauwald) win Robertson Cup opener

Posted by: Feldman

The Fairbanks Ice Dogs, which include three players from Rochester, put themselves in a good position to at least reach the semifinal of the North American Hockey League's Robertson Cup playoffs.

The Ice Dogs, whose roster includes Rochester Lourdes grads Tyler Voigt and Pete Spratte, and Mayo's Charlie Thauwald, received an unassisted goal from Zach Vierling with 54 seconds to go in overtime to beat host Topeka, 4-3, on Tuesday night.

Alec Hajdukovich, Tayler Munson and Jared Linnell also scored for Fairbanks.

Three of the four teams playing this week in Topeka will advance out of round-robin play. The second- and third-seeded teams will meet in the national semifinal on Friday, with the winner of that meeting the top seed on Saturday for the national championship.

Winning the opener gives the Ice Dogs a paw up on making at least the national semifinals. They're back in action Wednesday at 4:05 p.m. against the Michigan Warriors.

All games at the tournament can be seen online at FastHockey.com.

Neither Voigt nor Thauwald had a point in Tuesday's victory. Spratte did not dress. Voigt had two shots on goal, but was a minus-1; Thauwald didn't have a shot on goal and took a minor penalty in the third period, less than a minute after Topeka had tied the score at 3-3.

The Robertson Cup playoffs can be followed online at this site.

NAHL | Rochester trio chasing championship

Posted by: Feldman

Tyler Voigt and Pete Spratte were key players on a Rochester Lourdes hockey team that led the Eagles to the state tournament in 2009. It was the Eagles' first trip to state since 2003, and the first appearance in a string of three consecutive appearances.

Tonight, Voigt, Spratte and former Rochester Mayo standout Charlie Thauwald begin their pursuit of a Junior A, Tier II national championship.

The Rochester trio will attempt to help the Fairbanks Ice Dogs capture the Robertson Cup, awarded to the North American Hockey League postseason champion. The Ice Dogs are scheduled to face the host Topeka Roadrunners at 7:35 p.m.

The Michigan Warriors and Amarillo Bulls are set to meet at 4:05 p.m. in the other first-day game.

Round-robin play continues Wednesday and Thursday, with a semifinal game on Friday and the championship game on Saturday. The top team after pool play receives a bye into Saturday's championship game, while the second- and third-best teams from pool play meet in Friday's semifinal.

For more onthe Robertson Cup, the website can be found here.

Fairbanks was 40-15-3 in the regular season. Voigt had 36 points (17-19--36) in 54 games, while Thauwald had 12-21--33 in 49 games; and Spratte had 1-11--12 in 44 games. Spratte was also a plus-16; Thauwald had a team-high 144 penalty minutes; and Voigt was third on the team with nine power play goals.

All games from the Robertson Cup can be viewed at FastHockey.com