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8 posts categorized "North Dakota hockey"

October 23, 2014

Catching up with former Austin Bruin John Simonson

Posted by: Feldman

John Simonson was the leading goal-scorer in Austin Bruins history when he finished his second and final season with the team in 2012-13. He's now second in the franchise's four-plus-year history with 52 (Jay Dickman surpassed him last season), but Simonson has excelled at even higher levels.

He put up 59 points in 58 games for the Licoln Stars of the USHL last season and now he is three games into his Division I career for his hometown University of North Dakota men's hockey team.

I caught up with Simonson this week for a short story that is in today's (Thursday's) Post-Bulletin. Here is the full interview with Simonson:

P-B: What has the first month of Division I college hockey been like for you?

John Simonson: It's been good, definitely there's a learning curve and it's been a big adjustment. I'm getting into a routine now, though. The first couple of weeks there was a lot thrown at me, but I'm feeling good now.

P-B: After being a healthy scratch in the season opener, how does it feel to have a few games in?

JS: This past weekend (a two-game UND sweep at Colorado College), after I had a couple of games under my belt, I definitely felt more comfortable. Even that first game I played (Oct. 11 at Bemidji State), I just felt pumped and ready to go. I was happy with how I played in my first game and I feel like I played two strong games at CC. The team as a whole has come out with good effort the last few games.

P-B: You had a couple of great scoring chances in Saturday's 7-2 win at CC. You hit the crossbar once and a post once. Frustrating at all? Or just part of the game?

JS: The important thing is I'm getting those good chances. Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don't. I won't beat myself up too much. I'll just keep working. Another night, those shots will go in.

P-B: What has the UND coaching staff told you about what they expect from you, what role they want you to play?

JS: The coaches expect me to play a hard, simple game. That's the base of my game, playing hard and simple. I have to have that grit to my game, get to the net front as much as I can, just like when I was in Austin and learned from coach (Chris) Tok. I need to be there scoring a goal or getting a rebound and always going hard to those tough areas. I'm trying to keep it simple and not do too much, too soon.

P-B: What was your offseason like? You're back in your hometown. Did you work out with UND teammates? Take classes?

JS: We had a summer program that, for 6 weeks, most of the guys were here working out with our trainers and taking a class or two. That's what I did, I worked out with most of those guys Monday through Friday and took one class. I got to know the older guys and guys from other places. It was a nice way to build some relationships before we got here for the season.

P-B: What's it like to play for a program with a strong history of success, that you grew up watching?

JS: I use this word a lot, but it's pretty special. A lot of the time, I'm so focused on the task at hand that I don't really think about it. There are definitely high expectations here, especially with the team we have returning. The bar is set high from the coaching staff on down. We expect to go to the national tournament and make the Frozen Four. Anything less isn't acceptable.

P-B: What thing(s) did you learn during your two years with the Austin Bruins that made you a better player?

JS: It was a combination of a lot of little things, little details that add up to make a huge difference. I don't stick out in any one area, I just try to be a good well-rounded player. That comes from the little details I learned from coach Tok and the staff in Austin. They helped me develop good habits.

P-B: It seems like the Bruins coaching staff runs its program in a similar fashion to a Division I program. Is that fair to say?

JS: It's definitely fair to say. (Tok) expects players to come out, compete at a high level and bring a lot of energy. Some days the puck doesn't bounce your way, but you can control your effort and the way you play. It's the same way here. If you work hard and battle, everything else will fall into place.

P-B: One more: Your thoughts and feelings on stepping onto the ice for your first home game as a college player (likely on Friday vs. Providence), in a rink where you grew up watching a lot of big names play in a lot of big games?

JS: I'm definitely excited and a little nervous. I know it's going to be an unbelievable experience. I'm sure it will feel surreal in warmups and when I hop onto the ice for my first shift in that building (Ralph Englestad Arena). I can't wait. It'll be very special and exciting to play my first game in the Ralph.



June 12, 2012

H.S. Hockey | Some notes (and changes to Kiwanis Festival lineup)

Posted by: Feldman

Whew. That was a fun Stanley Cup Final, eh? Too bad the last game had to be the least enjoyable of all, but congrats to L.A., what a run for the Kings as a No. 8 seed. And I'm sure glad I picked them to win; it's in print and everything (but don't go back and look at my prediction, just take my word for it. Please.)

On to some local hockey stuff.

* A reminder: The Minnesota Wild Road Tour will stop in Rochester on June 25. Players Matt Kassian and Charlie Coyle will be here, as well as former player Antti Laaksonen and TV color analyst Mike Greenlay will be here. They'll stop at the Wells Fargo on 55th St. NW from 4:15-5:15 p.m. More info. on the Road Tour can be found here.

* The annual Don Lucia Model Camp began on Monday, with 108 players from around the state (and some from bordering states) divided into six teams of 18 players. Players from our area/Section 1 who are competing this year: Jared Bromberg, F, Rochester John Marshall (will be a junior this fall); Soren Colstrup, F, Owatonna (junior); Luke LIjewski, F, New Prague (junior); Ryan Jutting, F, Mankato West (senior); Andrew Scofield, F, Northfield (senior); Ryan Drazan, D, New Prague (junior); Austin Kilian, F, New Prague (junior); and Colton Schmidt, F, New Prague (junior).

For more information on the camp, including full rosters for each team, click here.

* First off, congrats to former Lakeville North goalie Charlie Lindgren, who has committed to play at St. Cloud State. The Huskies and coach Bob Motzko, an Austin native, are getting a steal. Lindgren was a pain in the side for Section 1AA teams for four years; I'm certain the Rochester teams were happy to see him graduate.

Lindgren's rise to a D-I scholarship reminds me of the path former Rochester Century standout Alex Kangas took. All of us in this part of the state realized how special Lindgren was from the time he stepped in the goal as a freshman. Two years ago, we watched him nearly single-handedly lift his team past Lakeville South in the section final, then nearly single-handedly win two consy games at the state tournament. I can't wait to see how he does in St. Cloud and the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference, which begins play in the 2013-14 season.

* This is pretty cool: The Ottawa Citizen newspaper recently reviewed the book "Scarlet Ice," written by Roger Dier. It's the story of the 1995 Mankato West hockey team, the issues it had on and off the ice, and more importantly, the story of its sparkplug player, John Janavaras. Just 15, Janavaras was a workhorse. He also died that year after a outbreak of bacterial meningitis swept through the school. Read the review, then check out the book. The writing is quite good in spots, not so good in others, but Dier has put a tremendous story in print.

* For college puck fans, I talked with Minnesota State, Mankato, beat writer Shane Frederick (follow him on Twitter @Puckato -- great follow) last week at the state softball tournament. I asked him how things were going so far with new Mavs head coach Mike Hastings officially on the job. He said it sounds like MSU has seen a spike in season ticket sales; the real test might be to watch the sales of single-game tickets. We know MSU can sell tickets when the Gophers, Wisconsin and North Dakota come to town. How will Hastings' presence impact the sales for games against teams like Michigan Tech or Anchorage, though? I suppose it all comes down to winning.

Frederick also said he expects that MSU assistant coaches Darren Blue and Todd Knott will be retained, at least through this season, if not longer. It would be tough for Hastings to start searching for assistant(s) now, anyway, with a short time before players report to campus. Plus, St. Cloud State is already on the hunt for a top assistant, after Steve Johnson left to join head coach Dean Blais in Omaha.


I fully admit I'm a dork, and I spend time in the middle of June digging through high school hockey schedules five months in advance of the season beginning. But as I did, I noticed a handful of teams who have been regulars at the Rochester Kiwanis Festival do not have the tourney listed on their schedules for this December.

I don't have the AA field (though I'll take a guess at most of it) yet, but I do have a tentative list of teams for the Class A field. I'll post what I know (and what I think I know) and let you formulate your opinions:

CLASS AA: Rochester Century, Rochester John Marshall, Rochester Mayo and Eau Claire Memorial all have the Festival listed on their schedules. I don't know this for certain, but I'm assuming long-time Festival attendees New Richmond (Wis.) and Fargo (N.D.) South will return. Those teams are a part of the Festival; it wouldn't be the same without them here. Eastview does not have its non-conference schedule posted as of yet, so there's a good chance the Lightning could return.

The eighth team in the AA field could be Richfield. The Spartans at one point had "Rochester tournament" listed on their schedule, but it noted "vs. Rochester Century" ... that has been removed from their schedule as of now. They only have 22 games listed -- three short of the 25 allowed by MSHSL rules -- so perhaps they're seeking a different tourney, or are waiting to confirm a spot in the Kiwanis? 

Prior Lake -- a team I was really hoping would return this year -- is out. The Lakers have the Schwan's Cup Silver Division listed on their schedule.

CLASS A: Here's the way the Class A field shakes out, tentatively, I'm told. Looks like long-time tourney participant Albert Lea is out, as are St. Michael-Albertville and Northfield, both of which were in it last year. Albert Lea is scheduled to play in Simley's tournament, in Inver Grove Heights.

The Kiwanis Class A tournament appears to include the following: Lourdes (defending champ), Dodge County, New Ulm (2010 champ), Ashwaubenon (Wis.), Verona (Wis.), WSFLG (Wis.), Northland Pines (Wis.) and Kansas City.

That would mean half the field has turned over. Lourdes (defending champ), Ashwaubenon (4th place last year), New Ulm (6th) and Dodge County (8th) are back; the other four teams are new.

Verona could be a nice addition; it went 22-1 in the regular season last year and qualified for the state tournament, where it lost in the semifinals to eventual state champion Notre Dame Academy.

That's all I know for now; I'll pass on more about the tournament as I find out.

March 18, 2012

College Hockey | Kirby for Hobey, tournament notes

Posted by: Feldman

We haven't had much time to talk college hockey on here this season, thanks to a 12-pound 3-month-old who clearly doesn't think I should work at home, and a 5-year-old with a much more active social life than me or Mrs. Feldy.

But, with the high school season having wrapped up, we can talk some college hockey now and through the national tournament. Let's get right to it:

* Huge news came Friday for former Austin High standout defenseman Tim Kirby, who was named one of the top 10 Hobey Baker finalists this week. Kirby, a senior at Air Force, is the third Falcons player to be honored as a top-10 finalist since 2007 (Eric Ehn, 2007; Jacques Lamoureux, 2009). Kirby, of course, is coached by former Rochester Mustangs head coach (and quote machine) Frank Serratore

KIrby has 12 goals and 27 points in 36 games. His 12 goals are third-most by a defenseman in the country. He ranks ninth in school history in points by a defenseman (87) and holds the AFA record for most career games played (152). He's never missed a game in his four seasons.

The top-10 list will be cut down to three names (the Hobey Hat Trick finalists) on March 29. The Hobey Baker Award winner will be announced on April 6 in Tampa, Fla., the day before the national championship game. You can find bios of all 10 finalists here.

Kirby had an assist on the game-winning goal Saturday as AFA topped Rochester (NY) Institute of Technology, 4-0, in the Atlantic Hockey championship game. That victory gives the Falcons an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament, which begins Friday. It appears that the Falcons will likely be sent to the Northeast Regional in Worcester, Mass., where they will face top-ranked and No. 1 overall seed Boston College.

* There's a good chance that Western Michigan ends up in the West Regional, at the Xcel Energy Center, as the No. 4 seed in that region. The Broncos beat Michigan for the CCHA postseason championship on Saturday, earning an automatic bid into the national tourney.

The Broncos are coached by longtime NHL coach Andy Murray, and Rochester native Pat Ferschweiler is an assistant coach for WMU.

* We could have a meeting of two former Rochester Mayo players out east as is projecting Maine and Minnesota-Duluth to meet in the first round. Defenseman Bill Norman, a 2011 Mayo grad, is a freshman at Maine, though he hasn't played in a game this season. UMD's head equipment manager is 1997 Mayo grad Chris Garner, who is in his fourth season with the Bulldogs.

* The Gophers are in the tournament for the first time since Alex Kangas was a freshman (2007-08), and as the site host, they're locked into playing in the West Regional at the Xcel Energy Center on Saturday-Sunday, most likely as the region's No. 2 seed. By the time you're reading this, we'll probably know the other teams who have been slotted into that regional (the tournament selection show will air at 11 a.m. Sunday on ESPNU), but it sounds like there's a good chance that North Dakota will end up back at The X for a second consecutive weekend.

Either North Dakota or Michigan is expected to the be the No. 1 seed in the West Regional. The question that the selection committee faces, though, is this: Do they hold up what's referred to as "bracket integrity" (send the No. 1 seeds as close to their homes as possible?) or do they consider attendance issues? If it's the latter, then Michigan will come to The X and UND will head to Green Bay and the Midwest Regional.

From the NCAA's point of view, the Gophers will carry the West Regional, attendance-wise. Sending UND to St. Paul would guarantee a sellout crowd, but it might also guarantee a a lot of empty seats in the Resch Center in Green Bay (with Michigan, Ferris State, Denver and Cornell the likely teams to land in that region).

Either way, if the Gophers get past their first game (quite possibly against Boston U.), they'll be staring down a big rival in the regional final -- UND or Michigan.

April 06, 2011

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year ... again (Frozen Four style)

FELDY: How often do Phersy and I use that headline? We have a lot of most wonderful times of the year around here. Usually that headline comes out when hockey season starts, or when the playoffs at any particular level of hockey are intensifying.

That's certainly the case this weekend, as the NCAA Division I Frozen Four makes its return to the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. The last time it was here -- 2002 -- some team from just across the river won it by beating Maine in OT. I might add, it took a player from North Dakota scoring in OT to finally bring the Gophers a title, after 23 years ... :-)

My only prediction for this weekend: The Gophers will not win the NCAA title this time around at The X. Should North Dakota be considered the favorite? Probably. If these were 2-out of-3 series, I'd feel confident in saying the Sioux will win. But this is a one-game shot, followed by another one-game shot, and the other three teams have a ton of talent.

Today was practice day for Minnesota-Duluth, Notre Dame, Michigan and NoDak. Each team also held a post-practice press conference. Here are some of the better comments that came from those:


On the one-game format…
"When you get into one-game situations, it is just a matter of which team goes out and plays 60 solid minutes of great discipline, as far as not taking unnecessary penalties. … One shift can be the difference in the game."


His advice to the 11 freshmen on the roster…
"Enjoy the moment. You're not guaranteed to be in this situation every year. It's really exciting. With such a young team, some people think we are at a disadvantage experience-wise. As far as energy and enthusiasm, I think we're a step ahead."


On the matchup against Notre Dame …
"In some ways, they're similar to our team. They like to play aggressively, they forecheck aggressively. It's going to be critical to get pucks out of the zone and try to challenge them defensively. Special teams are going to be big. Hopefully we can win the special teams and chip one in five on five."


On UMD's success late this season …
"We picked up our intensity at the end of the season. We've paid extra attention to special teams and systems because special teams are obviously important to have clicking at the end of the year."


On the intensity of the Frozen Four…
"In our league, it's a battle every night and it turns into a grind by the end of the year. It's just a mentality thing. As soon as we got into the playoffs, everybody buckled down and knew their role and that's how they've been playing."


On who the crowd will support …
"I think they will root for Michigan. I know the animosity between Minnesota and North Dakota. If it was a game at Michigan State, they would be cheering for North Dakota. We have to play our best game of the season, no matter who is here."

On why Michigan can win …
"Stranger things have happened. You need good goalkeeping, good penalty killing, good backchecking, good play coming out of your zone and you need to be opportunistic. We know they are a better team, but we are going to come and play hard."


On playing possibly in front of a pro-North Dakota crowd …
"We all want to be here, so it doesn't matter where we play. We focus on our task, and our task is to win the game."


On facing Michigan …
"I have a great deal of respect for their program, the history and tradition of their program, and the success they have had. More specifically, I have a significant amount of respect for their team this year and the accomplishments they've had over the long haul, winning the CCHA and how well they're playing right now. They're a complete hockey team in every sense of the word."


On the media attention the Sioux have had lately …
"A big aspect of team lately is that no egos have crept in whatsoever. Whether that is individual awards or media attention, we are all focused on one goal. People might think we are just being cliche, but we actually believe it. We are focusing on the job at hand. Right now, that is Michigan."


On returning for his fifth season at UND, after suffering a season-ending concussion last year …
"It has been a great experience so far. Obviously, last year was a tough one for me personally. Just to have the chance to do it over again has been pretty special. For this year's senior class to take me and to have the opportunity to join their class has been a pretty cool thing. That's a group of six guys who are pretty tight-knit. It's been a fun ride so far and hopefully we have a lot of memories to come."

August 19, 2010

Lakeville's Skjei, Apple Valley's Michaelson making tour of WCHA schools

FELDY: Two of the top high school juniors from Minnesota who have yet to commit to colleges are apparently both looking at a lot of the top WCHA programs (well, if we still consider the Gophers one of the top WCHA programs).

Star Tribune Gophers beat writer Roman Augustoviz notes that Apple Valley's A.J. Michaelson and former Lakeville North standout Brady Skjei are both considering the Gophers, among several other WCHA programs.

Michaelson has visited Minnesota and North Dakota, according to the report, with visits remaining to Bemidji State and MSU, Mankato.

Skjei is leaving North this fall to join the U.S. National Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich. He has visited Minnesota, North Dakota, Minn.-Duluth and Wisconsin, but has not yet made a decision.

June 29, 2010

NHL Draft | Century, Lourdes games appeared in highlight videos

FELDY: Probably not the way players from Century and Lourdes ever hoped to show up on the NHL Draft, but during Friday's first round, brief video clips of games played by each of those teams were aired.

A few plays from Century's 2009 Class AA state tournament game against Blaine were shown when Blaine's Nick Bjugstad was drafted No. 19 overall by the Florida Panthers. Bjugstad will make the short commute to the U of M this fall to play for the Gophers -- and will be a teammate of '05 Century grad Alex Kangas

Here's the video of Bjugstad being drafted; the highlights of the Blaine-Century game begin at the 1:24 mark of the clip.

Lourdes showed up on the final pick of the first round, when Warroad High School's Brock Nelson was drafted by the New York Islanders. They show a pair of short highlights of Nelson, beginning :40 into the video clip. The first highlight is of Nelson scoring against Breck in the state semifinals back in March; the second highlight is of Nelson scoring on a breakaway against Lourdes in the state quarterfinals. Nelson is headed to North Dakota this fall.

Here's the video of Nelson being drafted.

June 24, 2010

Wild draft talk, Back from vacation ... physically, anyway

FELDY: This is what it takes to get me to post on the blog these days: I'm watching the Isner-Mahut match at Wimbeldon. Bad tennis, but I can't stop watching simply because I don't want to miss the end. Don't even really like tennis, but if a baseball game went into the 35th inning, you'd watch, right?

In today's print edition of the P-B, Phersy and I talk Wild offseason and NHL draft. The Wild, for now, have the No. 9 overall pick. Who do they take with that pick? Who knows? Their options are a jumble of names, mostly from Canadian juniors, that most fans haven't heard of and won't start caring about for a couple years, at least.

But, since some of us are complete rubes, here's some YouTube clips of guys who the Wild could take if they decide to stay at No. 9 and make the pick:

Brett Connolly, RW, Prince George (WHL), 6-2, 181. Connolly to the Wild might be wishful thinking. Very well could be gone by No. 9.

* Nino Niederreiter, LW, Portland (WHL), 6-1, 205

* Emerson Etem, W, Medicine Hat (WHL), 6-0, 194

* Ryan Johansen, C, Portland (WHL), 6-3, 190

* Jeff Skinner, C, Kitchner (OHL), 5-10, 195

* Derek Forbort, D, USNTDP (Duluth native), 6-4, 200. Of course if it was up to me, Forbort would be the Wild's pick. You know he's tough; he'll be a defenseman at North Dakota this fall. :-)

* Nick Bjugstad, C, Gophers (Blaine H.S.) -- No. 9 is probably too high to expect Bjugstad to go, but if the Wild trade down, Bjugstad's combination of size (6-3, 190), speed and wicked shot might be difficult to pass up.


A couple of other quick notes from the Wild Road Tour stop here in Rochester on Monday:

* No breaking news here, but a Wild employee told me that team owner Craig Leipold is pushing very hard for the NHL to give the Wild the NHL Winter Classic, and do so soon. Problem: The NHL doesn't want to bring the game here until the Wild has a team worthy of putting in the national spotlight. So, it'll be a few years before we can watch our favorite NHL club play outdoors on New Year's Day. ... And, it sounds like the venue of choice would be the Gophers' TCF Bank Stadium, not Target Field, because TCF has more seats (more seats = more tickets sold = more $ for Wild, NHL). ... And it sounds like Dallas will be the opponent if/when the Classic comes to Minny.


Tennis match ... dead. Isner wins fifth set 70-68. Mahut, like all good Frenchies, should've just surrendered. That's it for me, too.

January 14, 2010

Who's ready for the big event in Mpls this weekend?

FELDY: Anyone have a spare ticket or two for the biggest sporting event in Minneapolis this weekend? I'd take tickets to either Friday or Saturday's UND-Minnesota hockey games. Honestly, I can't remember a time when the Sioux-Gophers series has been the second-biggest deal of a weekend to me. Between my favorite college hockey rivalry and the former Mr. Jessica Simpson guiding his club into Metrodome on Sunday, I'm going to once again be like the kid on the Disney World commercial -- "I'M TOO EXCITED TO SLEEP!!!"

And I think all of our Faceoff Faithful know I can't post about a Sioux-Gophers series without bringing up this. Sorry, Gophs fans. It just doesn't get old for us. And here's an article by Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald about a former cake-eater, who grew up 10 minutes from Mariucci Arena, but now plays for the Sioux.

Roman Augustoviz of the Minneapolis Star Tribune notes that Gophs freshman defenseman Nick Leddy wants to play "smarter" against the Sioux than he did in the first series this season, back in October in Grand Forks.

As for the Sioux-Gophers series, this is a crucial one for both teams, especially the Sioux. After this weekend, they go to Cornell for a non-conference series, but then comes the gauntlet: home for Denver, at St. Cloud, home for Duluth, and at CC before ending the season at home against Michigan Tech. UND is ranked No. 4 in the country (way too high if you ask me), but is tied for fifth in the WCHA. That means the Sioux need points at Mariucci this weekend, as they're battling for a home-ice spot in the playoffs. The top six teams in the WCHA are separated by six points.

Same goes for the Gophers. They're in seventh place, five points behind UND and Wisconsin, with two games in hand. Both teams are battling injuries; both have lost their best player for extensive periods of time (Minnesota's Jay Barriball is out for the season; UND's Chay Genoway has been out for the past two months because of post-concussion symptoms. He still can't do such simple tasks as look at a computer screen without having headaches.) The Gophs will also be without Taylor Matson, while UND will also miss agitator/top-line forward Brett Hextall and freshman forward Corban Knight, who had two goals against Phersy's Mavs last weekend before suffering a knee injury.

Speaking of Phersy's Mavs, I held off from the trash talk when the Sioux swept Mankato out of Grand Forks. So, Phersy, this is for you. And this.