Roman Augustoviz spends Minnesota's winters covering college hockey, specifically the Gophers, and other University of Minnesota sports. During the summer, he writes about the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx, with a dose of U sports sprinkled in. Follow him on Twitter @RomanStrib.
In the heat of the college hockey playoffs, the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference released its 2013-14 composite schedule.
In case you missed it or didn't pay much attention to it, there is a link to it below.
Four NCHC teams -- Denver, Miami, North Dakota and St Cloud State -- were among the 16 teams in the NCAA tournament. The Huskies reached the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh.
The conference regular season will lead into the inaugural NCHC post season tournament, with all eight teams competing in the quarterfinals, March 14-16. The top four seeds will host the bottom four seeds in best-of-three series.
The winners of the quarterfinal series will advance to the Target Center for NCHC semifinals on March 21.
The two semifinal winners will meet in the NCHC Championship game while the losers will play for third place, on March 22. Semifinal and championship games will be televised nationally on CBS Sports Network.
The NCHC tournament champion will receive the conference automatic qualifier to the NCAA tournament.
"We are very excited to begin play in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, as this begins a new chapter in Miami Hockey,” Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. “The CCHA produced many great memories and rivalries for us and I am confident the NCHC will do the same.
"We look forward to creating those rivalries and welcoming new teams to our building that our fans have not typically seen in the past. This league provides a very challenging schedule for us every weekend that will prepare our student-athletes for postseason play and give them new experiences."
Said Trev Alberts, AD for Nebraska Omaha: “The upcoming season brings almost the same anticipation as Omaha’s first season of conference play back in 1999-2000. As expected, we have a very challenging schedule in the NCHC, and our staff has worked very hard to put together an outstanding non-conference schedule to complement it."
St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko, in his last weekly radio show, said during the WCHA season he did not talk much about the NCHC with other coaches: "It is like cheating on your wife ... Now it is over. It is still hard to talk about it ... I don't how to start.
But Motzko know what to expect. "At christmas, there will be eight teams that are 8-8," he said. "We are going to beat the tar out of each other. We all better get used to .500 records ... We have find ways to survive it to get into the NCAA tournament."
The eight NCHC teams are:
From the WCHA: Colorado College, Denver, Minnesota Duluth, Nebraska Omaha, North Dakota, St. Cloud State
From the CCHA: Miami and Western Michigan
For a composite Natonal Collegiate Hockey Conference schedule -- albeit without game times -- go here.
To go to the NCHC home page on the web, click here.
A look at the three or four games the Gophers will play against NCHC teams:
Nov. 22-23: UMD at Mariucci Arena
Jan. 24: vs. St. Cloud State in Minnesota Hockey Tournament (no official name yet) at Xcel Energy Center
Bemidji State -- one of the WCHA teams staying in the WCHA -- has announced it has signed three defensmen for next season.
One is from Minnesota, from Plymouth. He is 5-8, 170 D.J. Jones of the Victoria Grizzlies of the British Columbia Hockey League. He had four goals, 29 assists and 33 points. He played high school hockey for Wayzata.
BSU also singed a Canadian, 6-5, 197 Carter Struthers of Weyburn, Saskatchewan. He played for the Weyburn Red Wings of the SJHL (6-17--23).
The Beavers also signed their first Russian, 6-1, 175 Ruslan Pedan of Moscow. His numbers were 11-22-33 in 44 games with the Janesville Jets of the NAHL.
BSU coach Tom Serratore has always said he has to recruit a certain type of player for his program. Someone who likes playing for a team in a small city, likes the outdoors, etc.
Bemidji also has a new arena, the Sanford Center, which is as nice as any for its size.
The Beavers have signed eight players in all for next season. They open the season with a nonconference series against St. Cloud State on Oct. 11-12.
A third of the 18 players on the all-USCHO teams are Minnesotans.
USCHO.com is the web site for U.S. College Hockey Online.
On the first team are goalie Eric Hartzell of Quinnipiac from White Bear Lake and forward Danny Kristo of North Dakota from Eden Prairie. Both are seniors.
Two St. Cloud State teammates are on the second team. They are defenseman Nick Jensen of Rogers and Drew LeBlanc of Hermantown. Jensen is a junior, LeBlanc a senior.
On the third team are goalie Brady Hjelle of Ohio State from International Falls and forward Anders Lee of Notre Dame from Edina. Hjelle is a senior, Lee a junior.
The three complete teams:
Goaltender Eric Hartzell, a senior from Quinnipiac
Defenseman Chad Ruhwedel, a junior from Massachusetts-Lowell
Defenseman Jacob Trouba, a freshman from Michigan
Forward Kyle Flanagan, a senior from St. Lawrence
Forward Johnny Gaudreau, a sophomore from Boston College
Forward Danny Kristo, a senior from North Dakota
Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, a freshman from Massachusetts-Lowell
Defenseman Nick Bailen, a senior from Rensselaer
Defenseman Nick Jensen, a junior from St. Cloud State
Forward Greg Carey, a junior from St. Lawrence
Forward Drew LeBlanc, a senior from St. Cloud State
Forward Steven Whitney, a senior from Boston College
Goaltender Brady Hjelle, a senior from Ohio State
Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, a sophomore from Union
Defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk, a sophomore from New Hampshire
Forward Corban Knight, a senior from North Dakota
Forward Anders Lee, a junior from Notre Dame
Forward Andrew Miller, a senior from Yale
The Gophers tied St. Cloud State for the MacNaughton Cup but they were shut out from any USCHO honors. Why? The general perception, I have to believe, is that they underachieved.
After going 8-0-0 in nonconference games -- they were the only unbeaten, untied team in the country outside their league -- the Gophers managed to sweep just two series in the WCHA this season and those sweeps came against bottom feeders Alaska Anchorage and, in the last series of the regular season, Bemidji State.
They went into conference play as the overwhelming favorite to win the Cup, but played down to the level of their competition too often. This was a team with six of their top seven scorers returning from a Frozen Four team and their top six defensemen coming back.
The question was in the nets and freshman goalie Adam Wilcox broke the program's single-season record for the lowest goals-against average. Obviously, he had a great year.
The Gophers led the nation in scoring, were always high up in the national polls, but until late in the season were unsure if they had home ice for the first round of the WCHA playoffs because a top six finish in the conference was in doubt.
Then in postseason, they beat Bemidji State twice, but on the bigger stage, did little, losing to Colorado College 2-0 in the Final Five semifinals and to eventual NCAA champion Yale 3-2 in overtime in the West Regional semifinals.
In their last three NCAA appearances, the Gophers have lost to the eventual national champion.
Last year, they fell to Boston College 6-1 in the Frozen Four semifinals in Tampa.
Then, you have to go back four years, to 2008 for their next most recent NCAA trip. They trekked to Worchester, Mass., and lost 5-2 to BC in a regional semifinal. Maybe there is a little solace there. Being taken out by the champs.
But it has been 10 years now since Don Lucia has won a national title. His Gophers were back-to-back champions in 2002 and '03.
This was a veteran, junior-stacked team with the talent to do it.
The American Hockey Coaches Association picks the annual All-America teams, which are listed here.
St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko reminesced about the Huskies' season on his final weekly radio show of the season on Monday.
He said everybody was real down after SCSU's 4-1 loss to Quinnipiac last Thursday in the Frozen Four semifinals.
But the mood of the team changed a bit the next day when senior co-captain Drew LeBlanc was named the winner of the Hobey Baker Award the next day.
He said the chair of the Hobey Baker committee called him on Monday and said that picking a Hobey winner is always difficult when it gets down to three players, but there is always a moment afterward which validates the vote.
The validation for LeBlanc, the committee chair said, came at the ceremony. All his teammates came down from the stands and joined LeBlanc up front and that never happens.
"It was a great accomplishment. ... And that validated that the right decision was made," Motzko said, recalling what the committee chair told him. "It was a great group of guys to be around."
Who wanted the share the moment with one of their leaders.
Motzko said the team started coming together after the holidays last season and carried over into last summer's training. "A lot of times when your season has ended, you are glad it is ended," Motzko said. "This year you wish you could get started again ... If we could keep playing, we would."
Then SCSU got swept by New Hampshire the first weekend of the regular season. "We were tied at the end of second period in both games," Motzko said.
But even though he had a new boss, Heather Weems, he was not afraid to predict the Huskies would do will. "I said we are going to make noise before the season is over," Motzko said.
He said the Huskies needed three things to happen and they all did:
* LeBlanc had to come back strong from his injury, a broken leg
* the Huskies' freshmen had to score goal -- they did, especially Jonny Brodzinski with 22
* and goalie Ryan Faragher had to take the next step in getting better
The Huskies, who tied the Gophers for the MacNaughton Cup, were only swept in a series once more the rest of the season.
And SCSU cleaned up on postseason awards:
* LeBlanc, besided the Hobey, was named the Player of the Year in the WCHA and the Scholar-Athlete in the conference, and a first team All-American
* Nick Jensen also was named a first team All-American and the Defensive Player of the Year in the WCHA
* Motzko was one of two runners-up for national coach of the year
* Sophomore forward Brooks Bertsch received the NCAA 89 Award for having the best GPA among players in the Frozen Four
LATE START FLUMMOXED HUSKIES
But the season came to an abrupt end in Pittsburgh. Quinnipiac scored two goals in the first five minutes and in the 12th minute took a 3-0 lead.
"If we could just redo the first five-minute span to start that game," Motzko said. "After the overtime, we were thrown for a loop."
In the first game, Yale needed overtime to beat UMass-Lowell. So the second semifinal started late.A 60-minute wait was required between games.
"I just did not have them prepared or ready," Motzko said, referring to his players.
And now everything is changing.
LeBlanc and Ben Hanowski, his senior co-captains, both have signed contracts and are gone.
Motzko knew that was coming. His concern now is if any players with eligibility will leave early. The chief threats to do that are Jenson, forward Nic Dowd and defenseman Kevin Gravel, all juniors, and Faragher, a sophomore free agent.
"I met with a couple of them right away when the season ended," Motzko said. "I think we will get most of them back, and there is a chance we get all of them back. ... Now they are so emotional. And you don't want to make an emotional decision."
Motzko said entry-level NHL contracts are not that big unless you play in the NHL right away. And if that is the case, Motzko said, "if you are going to the NHL -- and I stole this from [Michigan coach' Red Berenson, we will drive you right to the airport."
But if a player is going to the ECHL or the AHL, "I don't get it," Motzko said.
"Even if Drew had not won the Hobey, he will never second guess his decision to come back," Motzko said. "And that is what I am pleased with ... It worked out pretty well for that young man and the university."
Next season the Huskies and five other WCHA teams will be in the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference. But Motzko said we got together with coaches from those teams he never talked about the NCHC. "It is like cheating on your wife," he said. "Now that [the WCHA season] is over. It is still hard to talk about it."
He expects the NCHC to be tough and balanced. "I anticipate at Christmas, there will be eight teams that are 8-8, we are going to beat tar out of each. ... We all better get used to .500 records. ... We have to find ways to survive it to get into the NCAA tournament."
The Huskies are playing Bemidji State in a nonconference series next season and, Motzko said, he hopes to get Minnesota State Mankato back on the Huskies' schedule in future seasons.
SCSU will also play the Gophers on the first day of the all-Minnesota teams tournament at the Xcel next season. They will meet in the second game.
The tournament will be on the weekend before the Super Bowl
"Fans can pre-book trips to St. Paul," Motzko said, which they can't for the Final Five until the weekend right before. "This could turn out to be a big-time event . ... We can plan alumni events."
The Huskies have at least five recruits coming in for next season. They are:
* Goalie Charlie Lundgren. He was 35-14-2 (last column is OT losses) for Sioux Falls in the UHSL with a 2.80 GAA. He said he will compete with Faragher for the starting job, which is good.
"Competition is the greatest motivator there is in sports," Motzko said.
* Defensman Ben Storm, 6-6, 213, plays for Muskegon. One of his assistants told Motzko that Storm recently had a Gordie Howe hat trick: a goal, an assist and a fight. "He's a big kid who is developing," Motzko said. "He has got a mean streak, but he has some game."
* Forward Judd Peterson (11-15--26) played for Cedar Rapids of the USHL this season. "He had a terrific career at Duluth Marshall," Motzko said. "He can skate, and it's been a very good year for him."
* Forward Ryan Papa has played for Waterloo of the USHL, a team with the top three scorers in the league. "Waterloo is stacked with some high-end forwards," Motzko said, so Papa didn't get as much chance on power plays as he could have elsewhere. His numbers: 21-20--41.
* Center Daniel Tedesco led the Toronto Lakeshore players in scoring (29-32--61) in 49 regular-season games in the Ontario Junior Hockey League.
SCSU fans have been invited to come to the National Hockey Center at 5 p.m. Wednesday to celebrate the Huskies' impressive season.
The Chicago Black Hawks agreed to terms with LeBlanc on a one-year contract, it was announced Saturday.
LeBlanc, 23, had 13 goals and 37 assists for 50 points in 42 games this season.
He led the nation in assists and tied for seventh in overall scoring. LeBlanc set career highs in points, goals and assists, and tied his career-best in game-winning goals with three.
He is a 6-pound, 195-pound center who played high school hockey for Hermantown.
LeBlanc will report to Chicago and wear number 14.
CCM HOCKEY ALL-AMERICAN HOCKEY TEAM
Chosen by the American Hockey Coaches Association
West - First
G - Brady Hjelle, SR, The Ohio State University (International Falls, MN)
D - Nick Jensen, JR, St. Cloud State University (Rogers)
D - Jacob Trouba, FR, University of Michigan (Rochester, MI)
F - Austin Czarnik, SO, Miami University (Washington, MI)
F - Danny Kristo, SR, University of North Dakota (Eden Prairie)
F - Drew LeBlanc, SR, St. Cloud State University (Hermantown, MN)
East - First
G - Eric Hartzell, SR, Quinnipiac University (White Bear Lake)
?D - Nick Bailen, SR, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Fredonia, NY)
D - Chad Ruhwedel, JR, UMass Lowell (San Diego, CA)
D - Trevor van Riemsdyk, SO, University of New Hampshire (Middletown, NJ)
F - Kyle Flanagan, SR, St. Lawrence University (Canton, NY)
F - Johnny Gaudreau, SO, Boston College (Carneys Point, NJ)
F - Steven Whitney, SR, Boston College (Reading, MA)
East - Second
G - Jon Gillies, FR, Providence College (South Portland, ME)
D - Shayne Gostisbehere, SO, Union College (Margate, FL)
D - George Hughes, SR, St. Lawrence University (Westwood, MA)
F - Greg Carey, JR, St. Lawrence University (Hamilton, ON)
F - Mike Collins, JR, Merrimack College (Boston, MA)
F - Andrew Miller, SR, Yale University (Bloomfield Hills, MI)
West - Second
G- Juho Olkinuora, SO, University of Denver (Helsinki, Finland)
D- Dan DeKeyser, JR, Western Michigan (Clay Township, MI)
D- Nate Schmidt, JR, University of Minnesota (St. Cloud, MN)
F- Corban Knight, SR, University of North Dakota (High River, AB)
F- Anders Lee, JR, University of Notre Dame (Edina)
F- Ryan Walters, JR, University of Nebraska Omaha (Rosemount)
Denver has announced hockey coach George Gwozdecky will leave after 19 seasons. A national search will commence immediately for his replacement.
The Pioneers recently finished their final season in the WCHA. Gwozdecky compiled a 443-267-64 record with DU and is on the verge of 600 career wins.
His overall record is 593-391-85. His team was 20-14-5 this season, 14-9-5 in conference. But the Pioneers lost in the first round of the WCHA playoffs to Colorado College and did not make the Final Five. They were also bounced in their first NCAA tournament game.
Both sides took the high road in the breakup.
“We certainly wish George the best in his future endeavors and we are thankful for his 19 years at the helm of our hockey program,” said Peg Bradley-Doppes, vice chancellor for athletics and recreation, according to a DU news release.
“He certainly had his fair share of success, returning the program to the pinnacle of the collegiate hockey world during our great run in the middle of the previous decade. In addition, he has always run our program with class and professionalism, which has certainly made our fans proud to be Pioneer supporters.
“We must now turn our attention toward a new direction for our hockey program with another innovative coach taking the lead for our inaugural season in the newly formed National Collegiate Hockey Conference.”
The Pioneers captured two NCAA Championships, three WCHA regular-season titles and four WCHA playoff titles during Gwozdecky's 19-year tenure.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to be the varsity hockey coach at the University of Denver for the past 19 years,” Gwozdecky said. “I’m extremely proud of the work that we have done to continue to build on the great Pioneer hockey tradition.
"Our consistency of success on the ice and in the classroom over the years has been a focal point of our work and I am very proud of what we have achieved. I will forever cherish the relationships that we have built in the Denver community with our fans, our staff and most importantly our former and current players. I want to wish them all the best.”
Gwozdecky will address the media in a news conference 10 a.m. Tuesday.
The Gophers had trouble beating Gwozdecky's teams in recent seasons. But his departure means less now because both teams will be in different conferences next season.
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