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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Blog has been moved

This blog has a new home.

The new address is: www.areavoices.com/undhockey.

The move is part of the transition to the Herald's new owner, Forum Communications Company. FCC owns the blog host areavoices.com, therefore, that's where the blog will be out of now.

Other FCC employees already have blogs on areavoices, such as the Forum's Jeff Kolpack and Mike McFeely and WDAZ's Terry Dullum.

Soon, you will likely see a change in the look of the Herald's Web site, too. Hopefully it is easier to navigate.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Analysis: Take a lesson from Toews

The Phil Kessel saga has ended. As expected, he will leave Minnesota after one year and sign a three-year contract with the Boston Bruins.

Now, more WCHA players have left school early this offseason than the total number of college players a year ago. Whether or not this trend continues, top-end players who will have opportunities to sign should take a lesson from UND's Jonathan Toews.

This isn't because Toews decided to stick around. There are times players are ready to leave and should do so. Matt Greene proved that when he left UND after his junior year and ended up being a key component in Edmonton's Stanley Cup Finals team.

Top draft picks will continue to have chances to bolt to the NHL and many will do so.

It puts these players in a difficult position at the end of their college seasons. Questions will come from media members. Are you going to sign, or are you going to come back?

With all the pro signings this offseason, I've seen just about every possible way players deal with it. In my opinion, the youngest one -- the 18-year-old Toews -- handled it the best.

When hit with the often-asked question, Toews continually responded, "My dream is to play in the NHL, so if I think I can be an impact player, I'd like to sign. But if not, I have a great place to go back to in North Dakota, where I can continue to develop my game. I want to be in North Dakota if I can't be an impact player in the NHL."

Toews didn't hide the fact that he wants to play in the NHL. He was honest and upfront about it. And I think everyone appreciated that. Fans aren't stupid, especially WCHA fans. They know who will have an opportunity to sign, and denying it doesn't do any good if the chance will obviously be there.

At the same time, Toews didn't alienate his teammates by making comments like Kessel's draft day: "I didn't dream about playing college hockey, I dreamed of playing pro hockey." Kessel's comments left some Gopher fans wondering if they even wanted him to come back.

When Toews announced he was returning to UND, two things happened. First, fans believed him. In his only year at UND, Toews has made a reputation of being honest and everyone knew when he said "I'm coming back," it meant exactly that. Secondly, fans, teammates and coaches were excited to have him back.

I wonder if some Minnesota fans almost feel a relief that Kessel has signed. Especially after initially signaling he was ready to go.... then telling his coaches that he is returning.... then leaning toward signing again.

Kessel, among others, could have taken a lesson from Toews and Minnesota recruit Erik Johnson. They both were respectful and always had good things to say about their schools. But at the same time, they didn't try to hide the opportunity that was in front of them. When they made their decisions, they made it clear what they were.

I think fans respect both players for that.

Hopefully future first-round draft picks are taking notes.

Briefly: Walk-on defenseman Todd Alexander will be transferring to St. Thomas. I think earlier I may have said St. John's.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Two more join pool

The names came up almost as soon as Brad Berry left UND for an assistant spot with the Manitoba Moose (AHL) -- Ian Kallay and Dane Litke. Now, it's official. They applied. They are likely the last two candidates... unless some come in Tuesday that were postmarked Friday. The human resource office began screening candidates Monday afternoon, I believe.

UND coach Dave Hakstol thought the timing of the opening might prevent a few people from applying, but it seems that a strong field of candidates has been formed. Nearly every name that was thrown out as a possible applicant, ended up responding to the open position.

Profiles of the latest applicants are:

IAN KALLAY
Age: 32.
Hometown: Calgary.
College: UND (1995-97).
Position: Forward.
Professional playing career: 1997 (cut short by injury).
Coaching career: 2000-01 -- Assistant at Green Bay Gamblers (USHL); 2001-02 -- Head coach at Drayton Valley (AJHL); 2003-06 -- Assistant at Michigan Tech.

-------------------------------------------------
DANE LITKE
Age: 34.
Hometown: Beausejour, Man.
College: UND (1993-97).
Position: Defenseman.
Professional playing career: 1997-2002.
Coaching career: 2000-01 -- Player/assistant with Baton Rouge Kingfish (ECHL); 2002-05 -- Assistant at Bismarck Bobcats (NAHL); 2006-present -- Head coach at Bismarck Bobcats.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Mark the calendar: August 22nd at 7 p.m.

Mike Commodore will be hosting the Stanley Cup at Ralph Engelstad Arena at 7 p.m. on August 22nd.

There are still some final details being worked out, but the time has been set.

REA's director of media relations, Chris Semrau, said former UND hockey notables will be around for the event, which will highlight Commodore's UND and pro career.

There will be a photo opportunity with the Cup following the main presentation. Bring your own cameras.

A free Commie and the Cup poster will be given out to the first 500 children.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Seventh application hits UND

As of about 3 p.m. Friday, there were seven applications in the UND human resource office. The deadline was Friday, however they will still accept applications postmarked by the deadline. On either Monday or Tuesday, we should know the entire field. The latest applicant:

GAVIN MORGAN
Age: 30.
Hometown: Scarborough, Ont.
College: University of Denver.
Position: Forward.
Professional playing career: 1999-2006.
Coaching career: 2005-06 -- Volunteer coach of Peoria Mustangs Junior B team.

For previous applicants, check earlier posts.

Quick hits:

USA World Junior evaluation camp update: UND defenseman Taylor Chorney scored a power-play goal to help lead USA Blue to a 4-1 win over Finland on Friday.

Article of note: A newspaper in Fayetteville, N.C., recently did a story on former UND All-American John Marks, who took a head coaching job with the Fayetteville FireAntz of the Southern Professional Hockey League. Marks became the all-time winningest coach in the ECHL last season, but the team he coached (Greenville Grrrowl) folded this summer. Check it out here.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Two new applicants join field

Two-thirds of the Hrkac Circus have applied for the vacant assistant coaching position. Bob Joyce was one of two new applications received by the UND human resource office Thursday. The newest applicants' profiles:

BOB JOYCE
Age: 40.
Hometown: Saint John, New Brunswick.
College: UND (1984-87).
Position: Forward.
Professional playing career: 1987-2000.
Coaching career: None listed on application.

-------------------------------------------------
GARY SHUCHUK
Age: 39.
Hometown: Edmonton.
College: Wisconsin.
Position: Forward.
Professional playing career: 1990-2004.
Coaching career: 2003-04 -- Player/assistant coach of Springfield Falcons (AHL); 2006-present -- Coach of Wisconsin Elite U-16, U-18 teams.

Also in the field are: Jason Herter, Dane Jackson, Steve Johnson and Keith Morris (See previous post for their profiles). The UND Web site still lists today as the deadline.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Sioux nab top prospect

UND received a commitment from one of the top 2009 prospects Tuesday when Eden Prairie's Danny Kristo verballed [read story here].

Many seemed to think that Kristo would pick Minnesota, but after talking with Danny and his father, Mark, I'm not sure why that was the prevailing wisdom.

Mark, a standout for Bemidji State during the 70s, has several ties to UND. The most notable being that he's very good friends with Tim O'Keefe, the executive vice president of the UND Alumni Association. Also, Mark's high school coach was Dudley Otto, a former Sioux goaltender.

Apparently Danny has been a Sioux fan all his life, too, and wears UND merchandise all the time. I asked the Kristos if they could track down a photo of Danny for the paper, and they found a family picture. In it, sure enough, Danny is wearing a Sioux hat.

Because Danny goes to school in the Cities area, I'm guessing, many assumed he grew up a Gopher fan as most Minnesota kids do. But Danny's experience was different. His family moved from Minnesota to Indiana shortly after he was born, and Danny grew up there until he was 13.

When he moved back to Minnesota in seventh grade, he said he found himself idolizing the Parises and Drew Stafford.

He took his first unofficial visit to UND during the Michigan Tech series and made a return visit in late July. He visited Minnesota on Monday.

Kristo said he wants to work on becoming more physical while he's playing with the U.S. National Team Development Program. The 5-foot-11 forward might be even bigger when he gets to UND. Kristo said he grew about three inches in the past year.

With three years left until he puts on a Sioux jersey, there is lots of time for him to grow.

Assistant coach application update: No new applicants Wednesday. Still four on file. Deadline is Friday.

World Junior evaluation camp update: Michael Forney scored a goal in USA Blue's 8-5 win over Finland on Wednesday.

WCHA update: Michigan Tech named former Wisconsin defenseman Chris Tok an assistant coach Wednesday. He replaces former UND player Ian Kallay, who left to pursue a business opportunity.