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.
Today marks the official start of the college hockey season.
Teams can have full-length practices with their coaches and even schedule games.
There are two nonconference match-ups: Ferris State at Colgate (the Gophers women's team vs. Colagte is the early game at the Starr Rink in Hamilton, N.Y, 2 p.m.) and Clarkson at Niagara.
The other 18 college teams in action play teams from across the border, Canadian teams. So it's a U.S. vs. Canada day of exhibitions across the land.
The Big East and WCHA have four of their teams playing, the NCHA three, and the Big Ten, Atlantic and ECAC two apiece.
NCAA teams should win almost all these match-ups because the best Canadian hockey players are not at colleges. They have turned pro or are playing major juniors or are at American schools on scholarship. Figure U.S. teams should go 14-4, 15-3 something like that.
Alaska Anchorage, a WCHA holdover, got the jump on everyone Friday, beating British Columbia 2-1 in Anchorage on power play goals by junior D Austin Coldwell in the first and freshman F Dylan Hubbs in the 2. Freshman Michael Matyas was in the nets for first-year coach Matt Thomas.
What's interesting is some of the names of the Canadian schools: Wilfrid Laurier plays at Bowling Green, bet Wilfrid's players wear ties and carry their books ... Laurentian is at Michigan Tech. The Laurentian Divide determines which way water flows in northern Midwestern states; these guys must be geography majors eh? ...McGill is at UMass-Lowell, the No. 1 team in preseason NCAA polls. Sounds like the name of a school for lawyers.
The Gophers, of course, play the Lethbridge Pronghorns at 7 p.m. Used to know what a Pronghorn was, but I forgot.
We'll check the results of all these games closes but they will mean very little. This is a time for teams to experiment, to hit somebody beside a teammate and to get the competive juices flowing a bit.
Nobody will remember what happened in any of these games for long.
* Penn State, which is going from an independent to a member of the Big Ten, had a midnight practice and a public skate to get fans out. Think the Nittany Lions are excited to get going?
* St. Cloud State, coming off a Frozen Four, will have two practices Saturday. ... Did you know Huskies' freshman had 64 goals last season -- thanks Mick Hatten, Huskies beat writer for St. Cloud Times -- or almost half of SCSU's total last year? ... If those sophomores get just a little better, watch out for the Huskies.
* The Wisconsin Badgers have a scrimmage in Eau Claire today, with any money made going to the Blugolds hockey team which just happens to be the defending Division III champion.
* The Unites States of Hockey blog listed 25 players to watch in college hockey this season. To find the list, go here. Only one Gopher made the list, Kyle Rau, junior forward, at No. 8. ... Wisconsin had four players on it: sophomore forward Nic Kerdiles at No. 5, junior defenseman Jake McCabe at No. 13, and senior forwards Mike Mersch and Mark Zengerle at Nos. 19 and 21. ... No doubt the Badgers have some talent. Mersch carried UW the first half of the season and he is only at No. 19?
In major league baseball, pitchers rarely win the MVP Award. But they have their own award, the Cy Young.
Now so do goalies in college hockey.
Like pitchers, netminders rarely win the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, which goes to the top hockey player in the nation. But now they have their own award.
Let’s Play Hockey and the Herb Brooks Foundation, two established Minnesota hockey entities, have announced the creation of the Mike Richter Award which will got annually honor the most outstanding goalie in NCAA men’s hockey. The inaugural award will be presented during the 2014 Frozen Four.
College coaches wil make nominatd and the finalists and winner will be selected by a committee of coaches, scouts and media.
Richter was a former Wisconsin goalie in the late 1980s and then an NHL goalie for 14 years with the New York Rangers. He also compete in three Winter Olympics on the U.S. team.
Criteria for the word will go beyond just hockey skills. It will inclue academics and community service.
HONOR FOR SCSU's DAHL
Former St. Cloud State men's hockey coach will be admitted to the SCSU Athletic Hall of Fame on Saturday, Oct. 12 at 10 a.m. at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.
He will be one of eight inductees, the others:
Dahl was the Huskies coach for 18 seasons and won 338 games from 1987-2005. He also was there when they moved into Division I in 1987-88.
His teams went to five NCAA tournaments and won the Broadmoor Trophy in 2001.
He coached five All-America players and one Hobey Baker Memorial Award top three finalist in Mark Hartigan, in 2002. Seventeen of his former players reached the National Hockey League including Bret Hedican, Mark Parrish, Matt Cullen, Tyler Arnason, Ryan Malone and Duvie Westcott.
Dahl and the other inductees will be honored during the Huskies' season opener on Friday, Oct. 11 against Bemidji State at the Brooks Center.
Hopefully, Bemdiji coach Tom Serratore is not too superstitious. This is his 13th season as the Beavers head coach.
He has 15 players back, and 11 newcomers. And to start the season, he draws St. Cloud State, coming off a Frozen Four trip.
Last season Bemidji State was 6-22-8, 5-16-7, its lowest win total in 13 years. There's that number again. And BSU played top 25 teams 13 times, and averaged just over two goals per game.
“We only have 35 goals returning. That’s not a lot,” Serratore said in a BSU news release. “We are going to have to have some veterans take a step forward and I think we will, but we will also need to insert some freshmen into some roles that will be fun for them. It will be baptism by fire for some of those freshmen, but it’s also going to be exciting.”
“This is the youngest team I’ve ever coached. You wonder who is going to score and who is going to immerge, but I think you also need to look at things in a positive way. It’s going to be great to work with such young kids. There is nothing like youthful energy and enthusiasm.”
The captain of the Beavers is junior defenseman Matt Prapavessis of Oakville, Ontario.
The alternate captains are senior forward Matt Hartmann of White Bear Lake and senior forward Jeff Jubinville of Edmonton, Alberta.
* Denver is cominf off its 12th 20-win season in a row -- the longest such streak in the nation. First-year coach Jim Montgomery will lead the Pioneers vs. New Brunswick in a home exhibition game at Magness Arena.
N.B. has some talent, it is the defending Canada Inter-university Sport champion after going 31-7 a year ago and 4-1 in exhibitions so far this season.
Montgomery coached the Dubuque Figthing Saints to two Clark Cups in the past three USHL seasons. He has 16 lettermen and 10 freshmen at DU. New Brunswick plays at Colorado College on Friday.
North Dakota will play a familiar exhibition patsy in Manitoba at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Ralph.
UND is 8-0 under coach Dave Hakstol against the Bisons, winning those games by a combined score of 51-17.
Of course, most U.S. Division I teams should beat the Canada's universities. That country's best college-age hockey players aren't going to school but playing juniors or on pro teams.
It seems UND is trying to help those programs, too. North Dakota has three exhibition games against schools in Canada. The other two are Jan. 3-4 when UND travels to British Columbia and Simon Fraser, respectively. Maybe Hakstol is trying to recruit a few players up there, too.
UND also as a fourth exhibition game against the U18 U.S. national team on Oct. 26 at home. So plenty of opportunity to try new lineups or play the end of the bench.
North Dakota is ranked No. 6 in the USCHO web poll and No. 7 in the USA Today poll and picked to finish second in the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
Hakstol has 18 returning lettermen, including an NCAA-high of 15, according to UND media relations, who have been taken in the NHL draft. (The Gophers have 13 NHL draft picks on their roster.) Five of those UND draftees are incoming freshmen.
UND also has four Minnesotans on its roster: two juniors, defenseman Nick Mattson of Chanhassen and forward Connor Gaarder of Edina, sophomore goalie Zane Gothberg of Thief River Falls and freshman defensman Gage Ausmus of East Grand Forks.
Hakstol has had nine winning seasons in a row, and UND has appeared in the NCAA tournament 11 years in a row -- the longest current streak. His overall record is 235-119-37 for a .648 winning percentage. His WCHA mark was 143-82-27, a .621 winning pace.
2013 NCAA champion Yale, after vanquishing the Gophers last March, beat UND 4-1 in a regional final in the NCAA tournament.
UND finished 23-13-7 overall, 14-7-7 WCHA. Its top returning scorer is Rocco Grimaldi (13-23-36), He was a plus-14 player.
TWO FROM U GOING TO ITALY
Two University of Minnesota students, junior Ellie Gleason and sophomore Molly Sparks, have been named to the U.S. women's team that will compete in the 2013 Winter World University Games from Dec. 10-21 in Trentino, Italy.
Not heard those names before? Well, neither of them play for the Gophers. Instead, both are on the U of M women's club team which finished second in the Division I ACHA national tournament in Wooster, Ohio last season. The U lost to Northeastern 3-1 in the title game.
Gleason is a defenseman from Edina, Sparks a forward from Eagan.
The U of M women's club team practices at Mariucci Arena just like the Gophers men's team does.
Wisconsin, the preseason Big Ten favorite and ranked No. 3 in both national polls, will hold a Red vs. White scrimmage at 1 p.m. Saturdayat the Hobbs Ice Center in Eau Claire, Wis.
Tickets at the door are $20, but it's for a good cause. All proceeds will go to the UW-Eau Claire hockey program which won the Division III national title last season.
The scrimmage is also a homecoming of sorts for two assistant captains for the Badgers, senior forward Jefferson Dahl and junior defenseman Jake McCabe.
MAVS NAME CAPTAINS
Senior forward Johnny McInnis has been named the captain of Minnesota State Mankato this season. Alternate captains are senior defenseman Josh Nelson and junior defenseman Brett Stern.
McInnis, of Boston, has 22 goals, including eight game-winners, and 19 assists for 41 points in 92 career games.
Nelson, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., was named MSU's Unsung Hero last season and has six goals and 15 assists for 21 points in 84 career games.
Stern, Lino Lakes, has two goals and seven assists for nine points in 56 career games.
The Mavericks play with the University of Lethbridge (Alberta) in a home exhibition game 5 p.m. Sunday.
* The Gophers women's hockey team is a unanimous No. 1 this week, getting all 19 first-place votes in the USA Today national poll. Not sure why another poll was needed, only two two in the top 10 plays. No. 3 Clarkson is 1-0 and No. 9 Mercyhurst is 1-1.
Gophers play at Colgate this weekend, hoping to win their 50th and 51st games in a row. ... Three other WCHA teams are in the top 10: North Dakota at No. 4, Wisconsin at No. 6 and Minnesota Duluth, unranked last week, at No. 10.
So who votes on this poll? Coaches, media and the American Hockey Coaches officers and USA Hockey officers have one vote apiece, too.
* New Denver coach Jim Montgomery has quite a job ahead of him. Not only is he replacing longtime fixture George Gwozdecky at DU, he has 10 true freshmen on the roster. Fortunately, 10 of the Pioneers' first 14 games are at home, Magness Arena. DU, one of the eight teams in the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference, hosts Merrimack this weekend.
* Ferris State, one of the new teams in the WCHA, is the only team in that conference that plays a regular-season series this weekend. The Bulldogs are at Colgate Saturday and Sunday. ... Eight of the other nine WCHA teams play exhibition games. Only Bemidji State is idle. ... Lethbridge plays at Minnesota State Mankato at 5p.m. Sunday.
* By at least one criteria, Colorado College of the NCHC has the toughest schedule in the country The Tigers have 22 games against teams ranked in the top 15 in the USA Today preseason poll or at least receiving votes. Miami plays such foes 20 times, Notre Dame and Providence 18 times.
* Wednesday is hockey media day in Grand Forks for the UND men's and women's hockey teams.
Senior forward Zach Lehrke will not play this season for Minnesota State, Mankato, the preseason WCHA favorite.
“This is a difficult decision," he said in a Mavericks news release, "but due to a medical condition that I have been battling for some time, it has become apparent to me that I will not be able to compete for Minnesota State my senior season."
A story in the Mankato Free Press, which can be found here, said he suffered from an unnamed medical condition which caused severe cramping in the muscles throughout his body. It also said the cramping occured after workouts, practices and games.
“I’ve had a great experience here in Mankato and would like to thank the Maverick men’s hockey coaching staff, the athletic training and medical staffs in working with me on this issue in my three years with the program," Lehrke said, "and [I] wish my teammates all the best with the 2013-14 season."
Lehrke, a native of Park Rapids, Minn., had 23 goals and 31 assists for 54 career points in 104 games.
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