Its been a fantastic week in the State of Hockey. The Boy's State Hockey Tournament and the trade deadline as well as the continued strong play of Minnesota's college programs have given fans all across the State of Hockey lots to feel good about this weekend. The Minnesota Wild helped add to those good feelings by making another nice splash at the trade deadline adding Matt Moulson, Cody McCormick and Ilya Bryzgalov as they ready themselves for their push to the post season. Yet admittedly, the mini-break the Wild had after their Monday victory over the Calgary Flames has been great in allowing fans to focus on the 'the Tourney'. I know I've enjoyed the opportunity to watch the games without trying to sneak the time by Wild games. I know this sounds very greedy, but I'd love a break like this every year because in my opinion the Boys State Hockey Tournament is a huge celebration of hockey culture and its simply the best tournament of its kind in the world. Some of my favorite hockey viewing memories were created from the State Tournament; like the epic 5 overtime semi-final battle between Apple Valley and Duluth East in 1996 is perhaps the greatest game I've ever seen. Listening to Beyond the Pond on KFAN, with Nate Miller, Brandon Mileski and Pat Micheletti interview legendary Bloomington Jefferson Head Coach Tom Saterdalen was fantastic. Talking about perhaps the best high school team ever assembled in the 1993 Jaguars that had 8 players that went onto play division hockey including a few that went onto play in the NHL (Ben Clymer, Mike Crowley, Dan Trebil and former Wild forward Mark Parrish just to name a few). It was a great trip down memory lane. Its been a great trip down memory lane, with one notable exception.
The Dallas Stars are going to retire the #9 jersey of Mike Modano this evening. I know some fans in Minnesota still like this guy; not sure why since he bashed Minnesota as the team departed for Dallas and then questioned the decision for the league to return to State of Hockey and I'm sure Dallas thought we'd appreciate being there when such an honor was bestowed on the former North Stars' great. Yet, when news broke that former and much reviled former owner of the North Stars Norm Geen will be in attendance the vitriol started to rise to the surface rather quickly. So can the upgraded Wild help sour the good feelings for Modano, Green and the Stars tonight by giving their fellow Central Division foe a key loss? Or will Minnesota's historic struggles in Big D continue? Oh, and NORM SUCKS!!!
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1st Period Thoughts: It did not start out well. The Wild would look a bit groggy aftre their prolonged wait to play after the Modano jersey retirement ceremony as Jared Spurgeon would cough up the puck and Rich Peverly was able to feed a puck back to Jamie Benn who found some space in the offensive zone and he'd rip a wrist shot by Darcy Kuemper to give Dallas a 1-0 lead. Minnesota looked a bit disorganized and hesitant throughout most of the period, sort of floating and reacting as opposed to anticipating the play. Dallas nearly added to its lead when Tyler Seguin got a step on Jonas Brodin and he moved into the slot before firing a wicked wrist shot that was snagged by the glove of Kuemper. The Stars were flying all over the ice, taking every opportunity to dish out hits and the Wild seemed to struggle with Dallas' speed and aggressiveness. The physical play was drawing turnovers and causing Minnesota to spend more times looking for incoming checkers than making plays and putting the puck on goal. The Stars were making effort to try to take Minnesota out of its game by getting into the face of its start players. Off a pretty little move by Mikael Granlund to spit the defense to go on a partial breakaway he shot the puck high as Zach Parise crashed into the goal looking for a rebound and shortly thereafter Antoine Roussel would get into his face. Just minutes after that, Nino Niederreiter had Ryan Garbutt wanting to get into his face but Kyle Brodziak and Matt Cooke would have nothing of it as they rallied to the defense of their teammate. It was around this time the Wild would start turn the tide as the top line had an outstanding shift where Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville really went to work deep in the Dallas zone. With some strong play along the wall, Granlund and Pominville started setting up Parise for 3 or 4 quality shots on goal that we denied by some great work by Kari Lehtonen. Included in that was a sick display of hands as Parise batted a pass out of the air backhanded that just missed wide of the goal. Parise was playing like a man possessed until Dallas was finally able to get a whistle. The Stars would draw a Wild penalty as Clayton Stoner cleared a puck up into the stands. It was an important penalty kill late in the period but the Wild would use it to counterattack. Mikko Koivu would be aggressive and force a turnover near the blueline and he'd track the puck down near the Stars' blueline and he'd turn and swing a pass to a racing Erik Haula who had a step on Jordie Benn and he'd race in and rip a wrist shot glove side to tie the game 1-1, it was Haula's first shorthanded goal and it killed the boisterous American Airlines' crowd. Minnesota had turned the tide and seemed to be playing with a little dose of ornery and in the minutes afterwards the Wild started dishing out some hits of their own as Nino Niederreiter stapled Roussel to the boards with a nice hit. The Wild outshot the Stars 9 to 7. Not a bad period, but it was a very sluggish start. Matt Moulson was ok, but clearly not completely sure how to work with his linemates.
2nd Period Thoughts: Another slow start and a another early goal for the Stars. It started with a lazy trip by Brodziak on Dallas Eakin to give the Stars an early power play and they would not wait long to strike. Dallas would win the draw and they'd set up Seguin for a heavy shot that Kuemper thought he stopped but it trickled through and an alert Alex Chiasson would tap it home before Marco Scandella could sweep it away, 2-1 Stars. The Wild were having all kinds of issues with its top pairing of defenseman in Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon who were both indecisive with the puck, guilty of lazy passes in their own end. This meant the Stars were able to put Minnesota on its heels, being bottled up in its own zone. The only thing that helped the Wild alleviate some of the pressure were Dallas penalties. Yet, Darcy Kuemper had to stay sharp to keep his team in the game as a bad turnover at the blueline by Ryan Suter turned into a shorthanded breakaway for Ryan Garbutt and Kuemper came up with a huge save. The Wild's power play looked disorganized and they failed to register a shot. Wild head coach sensed his team needed a kick to the ass, so he called a timeout and gave his team a pretty thorough tongue lashing, so how would they respond? With better hustle and focus. The team would draw another penalty as Matt Moulson was hooked by Shawn Horcoff. Minnesota would finally make Dallas' pay for its lack of discipline as Moulson gathered up a puck and fed it back to Jonas Brodin who fired a wrist shot that was stopped by Lehtonen but he'd give up a rebound that was shoveled home by Moulson and Coyle. Coyle would get credit for the goal and the game was now tied 2-2. The Wild's best line in the 2nd was the line of Koivu, Moulson and Coyle. They showed reasonable chemistry, somewhat questionable speed but good overall instincts. Moulson and Coyle connected on a pretty diagonal pass towards the goal that Lehtonen fought off. Minnesota continued to hustle well both on the backcheck and on the counter attack which continued to draw penalties on the Stars. The Wild were unable to capitalize on its 4th power play of the period but had to feel fairly good about where it was at. Minnesota must stay disciplined because you know the officials are going to look to even the calls a bit. I liked how Minnesota was crashing the net but they need to start bury some of those in-close chances. Dany Heatley looks amazingly slow and uninspired.
3rd Period Thoughts: The Wild would strike early in the 3rd period as Brendan Dillon made a poor lazy diagonal pass from deep in his zone that was intercepted by Brodziak who settled the puck and then fire a wrist shot by Lehtonen who was partially screened by a clever play by Matt Cooke to put Minnesota up 3-2. The Wild was outhustling the Stars, but that was going to come to an end in dramatic fashion. It all started on a nice individual rush by Erik Haula who had a half step on Dallas Eakin and as he was about to pull ahead of him Eakin would trip him up with his stick and his leg and Haula would go barreling into Lehtonen whose helmet popped off immediately and his head would hit the goal post as they both fell to the ice. From the initial look it looked as though Haula just ran Lehtonen, but he really had no ability to stop or adjust his path at all to mitigate the collision and Lehtonen was clearly hurting bad. The Dallas training staff went out to check on their ailing goaltender, meanwhile the officials escorted Haula off the ice and to the Wild locker room as they tagged him with a 5-minute major for charging on top of 10-minute game misconduct. It was a predictable over reaction from the officials but the Wild were going to have to kill off a 5-minute Dallas power play. Lehtonen was out, and Tim Thomas would make his Dallas debut. Initiallly the Wild's penalty kill was doing a great job, getting sticks into passing lanes and was able to clear the offensive zone a number of times. You could sense the anxiety level of the home crowd rising as Minnesota's penalty killers kept forcing turnovers. Cody McCormick played well on the penalty kill. Unforutantely, with just 26 seconds left in the five minute major the Stars would strike as Erik Cole found Tyler Seguin moving into the slot and he'd race in and backhand a shot that Kuemper stopped but he'd bang home the rebound to tie the game at 3-3. With the sellout crowd roaring, the Wild tried to answer back. The 3rd line of Kyle Brodziak, Matt Cooke and Nino Niederreiter put on a clinic on the forecheck, working hard along the wall and controlling the puck but as they worked it out to the point disaster would strike. Keith Ballard would try one extra pass to his other point man but it was intercepted by Cole who raced down the ice for a breakaway and he'd beat Kuemper with a toe drag and shot to the stick side to make it 4-3 Dallas. The Wild tried to regroup in the closing minutes as Dallas played rope-a-dope, Minnesota was only able to get a few shots from the perimeter but they just couldn't find another goal despite a furious effort and they'd fall 4-3.
Darcy Kuemper for the most part was pretty solid. The lone softy was the 2nd goal, but beyond that I thought he bailed out the Wild enough times for the team to have had a chance to win the game. Unfortuntely, I felt he did not get the best effort in front of him; especially from his defenseman. Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon were pretty atrocious and fighting the puck all night. Keith Ballard's big mistake basically gave Dallas the game winner, but if you're looking for a silver lining I thought Minnesota had a decent game from Marco Scandella and Jonas Brodin but that was about it.
Offensively the Wild got some goals from some unlikely suspects in Haula's beauty of a shorthanded tally and Kyle Brodziak's goal where he actually shot a puck by a goaltender who was in the crease for a change. I liked what we saw for the most part out of its top two lines. Matt Moulson made good things happen and drew some penalties as well as registering an assist. It was good to see Coyle get a goal tonight since its been quite a while since he last scored (January 11th). The Wild need find some kind of consistency on the power play, which still seems to be a bit of a jumble.
Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo, "Its a disappointing way to lose a hockey game, kept battling back, get the lead and take a 5-minute major and then you were down, but you could see it coming, we were turning way too many pucks over all night long." He felt the team battled hard, but made too many mental mistakes to win the game. This is the first sort of 'collapse' type game of the season where Minnesota blew what looked to be potential victory so it will be interesting to see how this team will move on from this. Its tough to argue with that, but they can't dwell on this loss too long as they have to return home to play the super tough St. Louis Blues tomorrow.
~ Wild roster tonight is as follows: Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund, Jason Pominville, Mikko Koivu, Charlie Coyle, Matt Moulson, Kyle Brodziak, Matt Cooke, Nino Niederreiter, Dany Heatley, Erik Haula, Cody McCormick, Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella, Jared Spurgeon, Keith Ballard and Clayton Stoner. Ilya Bryzgalov backed up Darcy Kuemper. Justin Fontaine, Mike Rupp, and Nate Prosser were the healthy scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game as selected by Mike Heika were: 1st Star Tyler Seguin, 2nd Star Erik Cole, 3rd Star Zach Parise
~ Attendance at American Airlines Arena was 19,109.
~ Matt Moulson is wearing #26, joining Wild players such as Kurtis Foster, Erik Christensen, Jamie Sifers, Christoph Brandner, Tony Virta and Christan Matte to have wore the number. Meanwhile, Ilya Bryzgalov is wearing #30, joining Dwayne Roloson and Derek Gustafsson to have wore the number.
~ The State of Hockey News would like to congratulate the University of Minnesota Women's hockey team on winning the WCHA title with a 3-1 win over North Dakota!
Iowa Wild Report:
Recent Score: Iowa 0, Grand Rapids 4
While Minnesota has managed to put itself in a good position for a run to the playoffs, its a very different story in Iowa where the team seems to be in a total death spiral. The Wild has lost its last 6 games, and the root cause is easy to identify. They can't buy a goal these days as they've gone 185 minutes (and counting) without a goal. Just in case you don't know, they play 20-minute periods in the AHL. So they've gone over four games without a goal. Impossible to create any kind of success that way. The Wild haven't had horrible goaltending as Johan Gustafsson and John Curry have played well enough. The frustrating part is Iowa has had a few key offensive players return in Tyler Graovac and Brett Bulmer. After getting shutout a 4th straight game, the players are gripping their sticks a bit tighter and feeling the pressure. Hopefully they'll figure out a way to light the lamp soon.
Wild Prospect Report:
RW – Kurtis Gabriel (Owen Sound, OHL) ~ The rugged forward was a wanted commodity at the NHL's trade deadline, but Minnesota would not entertain offers after having signed him just a few days earlier. Gabriel had a goal and an assist in the Attacks' 5-4 loss to the Barrie Colts on Thursday night. The Newmarket, Ontario-native has 14 goals, 47 points, 95 PIM's and a +2 in 57 games played this season.
D – Dylan Labbe (Shawinigan, QMJHL) ~ Its been a long, painful season as his Shawinigan team gets on the bad side of more than its fair share of routs, including a 7-2 loss at the hands of Quebec. Labbe had an assist and was a -3 with one hit to his credit. The St. Benjamin, Quebec-native has 9 goals, 27 points, with 18 PIM's and is a -33 in 60 games played this season.
D – Carson Soucy (Minnesota-Duluth, NCHC) ~ It has been a far different experience for 6'4" stay-at-home defenseman is enjoying a solid freshman season with the Bulldogs where he's playing on the top pairing. Soucy had an assist and was a mammoth +4 in UMD's 8-2 thrashing of Nebraska-Omaha on Friday night. The Irma, Alberta-native has no goals and 6 assists to go with 56 PIM's in 31 games played.
D – Mathew Dumba (Portland, WHL) ~ Dumba has the ability to bring people out of their seats, but since joining the Winterhawks he has been kind of a feast or famine player with a multi-point game and then a bunch with nothing to show for it. Friday was one of those 'feast' type games where he had two goals and an assist in the Winterhawks' 7-3 win over Seattle. The Calgary-native has 5 goals, 17 points, 37 PIM's and is a +23 in 22 games played this season.
Boys High School Hockey Report:
The State Tournament has been providing great hockey moments all week, here are your ultimate results of 'the Tourney'. The State of Hockey News would like to congratulate all of the teams that qualified for the tournament an would like to issue an extra stick tap for those clubs that brought home hardware to their respective schools.
I also have a special shoutout for my mentor, and good friend Mike Taylor on being awarded the Class AA John Mariucci Award as Coach of the Year. Congratulations Mike, you certainly deserve it! Also another stick tap to Luverne's Derrick Brown on being named the Class A Coach of the Year. Coach Brown, and his Cardinals really were the talk of the tournament, and I think they opened a lot of eyes and gained a ton of respect for Southwestern Minnesota high school hockey.
Class A Consolation: Totino-Grace def. Luverne ~ 4-3 2OT
Class A 3rd Place: New Prague def. St. Cloud Cathedral ~ 5-2
Class A Championship: East Grand Forks def. Hermantown ~ 7-3
Class AA Consolation: Roseau def. Duluth East ~ 3-2
Class AA 3rd Place: Eagan def. Eden Prairie ~ 6-4
Class AA Championship: Edina def. Lakeville North ~ 8-2
Class A All-Tournament Team: D- Dan Bailey (St. Cloud Cathedral), D- Tye Ausmus (East Grand Forks), F- Will Hammer (St. Cloud Cathedral), F- Ben Henderson (Totino-Grace), F- Gunnar Olson (Luverne) F- Nate Pionk (Hermantown), F- Austin Isaacson (New Prague), F- Tanner Tweten (East Grand Forks), G- Zach Fritz (St. Cloud Cathedral), F- Zach Kramer (Hermantown), G – Josh Weber (East Grand Forks)
Class A Herb Brooks Award Winner: Logan Norman (Luverne)
Class AA Herb Brooks Award Winner: Zach Yon (Roseau)
Class AA All-Tournament Team: D – Nick Wolff (Eagan), G – Andrew Lindgren (Eagan), F – Zach Yon (Roseau), F – Alex Strand (Roseau), D – Philip Beaulieu (Duluth East), F – Jack Poehling (Lakeville North), F – Nick Poehling (Lakeville North), F – Jack Poehling (Lakeville North), F – Miguel Fidler (Edina), D – Tyler Nanne (Edina), G – Andrew Rohkohl (Edina), F – Dylan Malmquist (Edina), D – Luc Snuggerud (Eden Prairie)