Minnesota Hockey Magazine http://minnesotahockeymag.com Minnesota's leading online hockey destination. Wed, 15 May 2019 19:09:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 http://minnesotahockeymag.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/cropped-IMG_8923-1-32x32.jpg Minnesota Hockey Magazine http://minnesotahockeymag.com 32 32 15th Annual Walleye Chop Tourney http://minnesotahockeymag.com/15th-annual-walleye-chop-tourney/ http://minnesotahockeymag.com/15th-annual-walleye-chop-tourney/#respond Wed, 15 May 2019 19:01:27 +0000 http://minnesotahockeymag.com/?p=31675 15th annual Walleye Chop adult hockey tournament crowns 15 champions

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(Article and photos provided by Eric Besse, National Sports Center/featured image – Chix with Stix, women’s A Division)

15th annual Walleye Chop adult hockey tournament crowns 15 champions

While there was plenty to do this past weekend given Mother’s Day and the fishing opener, many chose to play some tournament hockey.

Eric Besse, tournament director for the 15th annual Walleye Chop adult hockey tournament at Blaine’s Schwan Super Rick on the campus of the National Sports Center complex, gives us the results of this years tournament held this past weekend.  Photos included.  Enjoy!

Hockey, socializing and tailgating give this annual tournament its unique vibe

Blaine, Minn. (May 14, 2019) – The 15th annual Walleye Chop adult hockey tournament wrapped up three days of play on Sunday, May 12 by crowning 15 new champions at the Schwan Super Rink on the National Sports Center campus in Blaine.

This year, a full tournament of teams – 124 – competed in 15 different divisions for men and women. Teams represented seven different states and Canadian provinces: Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin and Ontario. Skill levels ran the gamut, from divisions for players with minimal experience, up to the Men’s and Women’s A Division, featuring multiple past collegiate players.

For most of the teams, however, the fun activities rival the hockey as the big draw. There was a fish fry, plenty of tailgating, and a few beers consumed.

“This is probably our tenth year,” said Scott Sahs, with The Buzz, a Rochester team playing in the Men’s D division. “It’s awesome competition, and we love hanging out in the parking lot. It’s a good party atmosphere.”

Michael Johnson of Bloomington, standing outside his motorhome with his team, Fireside, said his team has been playing in the tournament every year, and he said it’s their favorite event of the year.

“The parking lot, the camaraderie, the hockey, the whole deal,” he said. “You just can’t beat it. Hands down the best; they just go over the top. We’ve always had a great time playing here.”

The popularity of Walleye Chop, which is always held on the Minnesota walleye fishing opening weekend, proves that not all hockey players fish. But fish, and fishing, are a constant theme throughout the tournament. Divisions were named after fish species, such as the Muskie or Northern Pike Divisions.

Here are the 2019 Walleye Chop champions:

Women’s Divisions:

Bowfin Division (Women’s A): Chix with Stix, Minneapolis.  See featured image.
Bluegill Division (Women’s B): The Mighty Drunks, Minneapolis.  Photo Link.
Salmon Division (Women’s B): Hinote’s Heroes, St. Paul.  Photo Link.
Sunfish Division (Women’s C): SISU Warriors, Thunder Bay, Ontario.  Photo Link.
Sturgeon Division (Women’s C): Texas Stampede, Dallas, Texas.  Photo Link.

Men’s Divisions:

Muskie Division (Men’s A): Greasy Mitts, Andover, Minn.  Photo Link.
Northern Pike Division (Men’s B): Scoregasms, Minneapolis.  Photo Link.
Bass Division (Men’s C): Rice Street Rockers, St. Paul.  Photo Link.
Bullhead Division (Men’s C): The Loonatics, Rosemount, Minn.  Photo Link.
Catfish Division (Men’s C): Bearsox, Grand Forks, N.D.  Photo Link.
Whitefish Division (Men’s D): SHLers, Minneapolis.  Photo Link.
Steelhead Division (Men’s D): Hecktor’s Homies, New Hope, Minn.  Photo Link.
Eelpout Division (Men’s D): B.H. Three, St. Paul.   Photo Link.
Carp Division (Men’s Novice): Hat Trick Hockey, Princeton, Minn.  Photo Link.
Mooneye Division (Men’s Novice): Minnesota Meanies, Coon Rapids, Minn.  Photo Link.

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Minnesota Hockey Magazine Spring 2019 (volume 8, issue 4) http://minnesotahockeymag.com/minnesota-hockey-magazine-spring-2019-volume-8-issue-4/ http://minnesotahockeymag.com/minnesota-hockey-magazine-spring-2019-volume-8-issue-4/#respond Fri, 03 May 2019 01:37:09 +0000 http://minnesotahockeymag.com/?p=31670 Spring 2019 issue takes a look back

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Enjoy your FREE digital copy of our Spring 2019 Year in Review issue below. If you like what you see, and we know you will, you can have each monthly issue delivered directly to you inbox throughout the hockey season. 

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Enjoy!

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The Boss Is Back http://minnesotahockeymag.com/the-boss-is-back/ http://minnesotahockeymag.com/the-boss-is-back/#respond Thu, 11 Apr 2019 05:35:57 +0000 http://minnesotahockeymag.com/?p=31660 Bruce Boudreau is determined to lead Wild back to postseason

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Wild coach Bruce Boudreau watches Minnesota’s 2018-19 home-opening 2-1 shootout loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Oct. 6, 2018 at Xcel Energy Center. Boudreau is expected to be back for a fourth season behind the Wild bench despite the team’s failure to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in seven seasons. (MHM Photo / Rick Olson)

Bruce Boudreau is determined to lead Wild back to postseason

St. Paul — Bruce Boudreau is in an unfamiliar position. It’s left him wandering around his house. This Minnesota Wild coach, who wears his passion for the game on his sleeve, won’t be behind a bench coaching in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year.

 He said it sucks.

But don’t expect him to tune in to the wall-to-wall coverage of the Stanley Cup Playoffs games. Well, at least not right now. He’s done OK without hockey for the past few days, at least.

“I haven’t even turned on the NHL Network or anything,” Boudreau said Tuesday following a season-ending news conference. “I don’t want to hear anything about who’s favored, who is not favored in the playoffs.

“I hope it sits in everybody’s craw the way it’s sitting in mine because then you’ll be determined never to let it happen again.”

The Wild are missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in seven years after a 37-36-9 season that left them in last place in the Western Conference’s Central Division with 83 points and out of one of the two Wild Card spots. The Wild haven’t won a playoff series since 2015, getting ousted in the first round the past three seasons.

Who could blame Bruce Boudreau for looking to the heavens for divine intervention in the midst of what was his most trying season behind the Minnesota bench? (MHM Photo / Jeff Wegge)

The 2018-19 campaign saw some success for the Wild, even at the top of the standings for a bit, before they fell out of the playoff picture with a few weeks to go. They didn’t win two games in a row in the month of March through the end of the season. Looking at the fact that they were shut out in four of their final six contests, it’s not hard to see why things went off the rails. The Wild were shut out 11 times this season and finished with a below-.500 record at home (16-18-7).

The good news for Boudreau is that he’ll be retained for next season in the final year of his contract. Despite a new general manager coming in prior to this season, trading away core players like Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter, Boudreau was not one of NHL coaches to lose his job at the season’s end.

It was a tidbit he learned during Tuesday’s news conference at Xcel Energy Center with general manager Paul Fenton. Boudreau said he and Fenton hadn’t discussed it.

“I knew I had another year left on my contract, and my job is to coach until I’m told not to coach anymore,” Boudreau said.

Fenton made it clear that Boudreau will coach the Wild next season and that he’s the guy that will lead the team back to where they all want it to go.

“I have total confidence in him,” Fenton said. “You look at this track record for the number of years that he’s been an NHL coach, it’s amazing. So Bruce is our coach next year.”

Fenton added that he had not discussed the future of any other Wild coaches with owner Craig Leipold yet.

It’s understandable that Boudreau doesn’t know what to do this spring. This marks the first time in his NHL coaching career that he hasn’t made the playoffs, throwing out the 2011-12 season which he split between Washington and Anaheim.  He coached both of those teams, plus the last two seasons with the Wild, to playoff berths for a total of 90 games. Unfortunately, he also has a 43-47 record in the playoffs and no Stanley Cup to show for it.

The 37-36-9 Wild record this season is the lowest amount of wins for any NHL team he’s coached, again with 2011-12 and the lockout-shortened season in 2012-13 with Anaheim (30-12-6) as the exceptions. Those are also the only two seasons where his teams have failed to reach the 100-point mark in a season.

Despite the disappointment of this season, Boudreau still holds on to optimism for next year. Hitting the 100-points mark shouldn’t be insurmountable, in his mind.

“We had 101 points last year. One hundred points won the division this year,” Boudreau said. “I mean, if we can get a little bit better and a little healthier, I don’t see why we don’t get 100 points every year.”

How can the Wild make that happen? A simple formula is to take the nine points in the overtime/shootout losses column and convert those into wins. That would have given them an additional 18 points right there. Or think back to this season where games should have been won. It was head-scratching to see the Wild show up for solid victories over top opponents around the league like Tampa Bay, Calgary and Washington, and then lose to clubs like New Jersey, Florida and Chicago.

Off the top of his head on Tuesday, Boudreau already had at least 10 games where his squad was the better team or blew multi-goal leads in the final 20 minutes.

“So if you can escape those things and move forward and be a little more consistent, then I think in my mind, it’s not a hard problem to get to 100-plus points again,” Boudreau said.

After Tuesday’s NHL draft lottery, it was determined the Wild will pick 12th in this summer’s NHL Draft. Whatever moves Fenton makes with the draft and in the offseason, he referred to it not as a rebuild by a work in progress that he’s trying to do “on the fly.”

Fenton added that he’s happy with the young players that have come in from this year’s trades, players like Ryan Donato and Kevin Fiala.

Zach Parise, who confirmed to the media Tuesday that he played through a broken foot and knee injury toward the end of the season, also acknowledged there’s a lot of work to do for this team to get back to the postseason. There’s no sugarcoating that.

“It’s hard to sit here and say nothing needs to change when you miss the playoffs and, like I said, when you’re what, almost 30th in the league in scoring,” Parise said. “I’d sound like an idiot standing up here saying that nothing needs to change.”

As for Boudreau’s time this spring, he’ll likely still find a way to be around the game. It just won’t be at the NHL level for the moment.

“I’m going to Fort Wayne to watch my kid in the playoffs in the East Coast League, but that’s as close as I’m getting right now,” Boudreau said. 

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Keeping His Cool http://minnesotahockeymag.com/karson-keeps-his-cool/ http://minnesotahockeymag.com/karson-keeps-his-cool/#respond Fri, 05 Apr 2019 05:03:06 +0000 http://minnesotahockeymag.com/?p=31614 Ex-Bulldog Kuhlman turning heads in Boston but taking it day by day

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(MHM Photo / Rick Olson)

Ex-Bulldog Kuhlman turning heads in Boston but taking it day by day

St. Paul — With all eyes on Charlie Coyle’s first-ever road game at Xcel Energy Center for the Boston Bruins and Minnesota rookie Nico Sturm’s NHL debut, lost in all the hoopla was the return of a player who has experienced more success in the Wild’s home building than the two of them combined.

Esko, Minn. native and former Cloquet/Esko/Carlton High School star Karson Kuhlman skated for the Bruins on Xcel Energy Center ice for the first time since April 7 of last year in Boston’s 3-0 win over Minnesota in the Wild’s 2018-19 home schedule finale.

“A little different, obviously, but very exciting,” Kuhlman said when asked to compare his two most recent games in St. Paul. “To be in this situation, playing down the stretch here for such a great organization is pretty special.”

Former Minnesota Duluth captain Karson Kuhlman celebrates a goal in the Bulldogs’ 2018 West Regional semifinal win over Minnesota State. (MHM Photo / Jeff Wegge)

The 23-year-old Kuhlman played his first NHL game in his home state nearly a year to the day after he factored into both goals in Minnesota Duluth’s 2-1 win over Notre Dame to lift the Bulldogs to the 2018 Frozen Four title. Kuhlman, the team captain, scored the game’s first goal that night and later set up Jared Thomas’ game winner to give UMD its second national championship.

The performance earned Kuhlman the Frozen Four’s Most Outstanding Player honor, a distinction he shares with former Bulldog J.T. Brown who suited up for the Wild on Thursday night. Kuhlman said he has been keeping tabs on the Bulldogs who are making a third straight appearance in the Frozen Four next week.

“I’ve got a lot of a lot of good friends on that team, we had a lot of good memories and, obviously, won a championship together too,” Kuhlman said. “They’re poised to make a nice little run here in Buffalo next weekend.”

The undrafted Kuhlman, who finished with 38 goals and 40 assists in 165 career college games including 20 points (13-7–20) as a senior, helped lead a team featuring eight freshmen and five sophomores in the lineup to a national title.

“If I could have 25 guys like Karson, my job would be a lot easier,” Minnesota Duluth coach Scott Sandelin said after the championship game. “I can’t say enough about Karson. He’s a great kid, great captain for us.”

Kuhlman, who signed an ATO with Boston’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Providence Bruins, as a free agent just three days after his collegiate career ended, made his NHL debut for the Bruins on Feb. 16 in a 4-2 road win over the Los Angeles Kings. Two nights later, Kuhlman scored his first NHL goal in a 6-5 OT win over the Sharks in San Jose.

Currently in his fourth stint with the Bruins this season, Kuhlman has five points (3-2–5) in nine career games. He has spent most of his first pro season playing for Providence where he is a team-high plus-23 while recording 12 goals among his 30 points.

Kuhlman called the whole thing a whirlwind experience. 

“I’ve just been taking it day by day and really focusing on getting better, working on my game and just kind of watching all these guys who have done it for so long and taking little little notes from them,” Kuhlman said. “As a group, our leadership, of course, is unbelievable, second to none really.

“So they’ve just made me feel so comfortable and then that comfort kind of translates into confidence every day so it’s a pretty special group.”

(MHM Photo / Rick Olson)

The Bruins were coming off of a 6-2 win over Columbus on Tuesday which saw Kuhlman pick up his first career multi-point game with a goal and an assist earning him the game’s third star for his efforts. With Thursday’s win over Minnesota, the Bruins are now 6-2-1 with him in the lineup, primarily playing right wing on Boston’s second line centered by David Krejci with Jake DeBrusk on the left side.

“We’ve been looking for a winger on that right side and it’s been kind of a revolving door,” DeBrusk said. “Against Columbus he was, I think, the best player on our line and when he plays like that, he’s fun to play with.

“He grinds, he works really hard and brings energy and I feel like anytime you kind of have those intangibles, when you put them with some skill with Krec, I think that he can get some good looks.”

Kuhlman praised his linemates for making the game simple for him in his career’s early stages.

“I just try to go out there and work as hard as I can and get them the puck and, obviously, good things have happened here as of late,” Kuhlman said.

Saturday’s season finale in Boston against Stanley Cup favorite Tampa Bay will likely be NHL game No. 10 for Kuhlman who admits his brief tenure in the world’s best league has taught him a lot about what he needs to do differently this offseason.

“I think I think that’s one thing I really, really kind of hang my hat on is how in shape I come into camp every year so I work hard in the summers and take a lot of pride in that,”Kuhlman said. “This little end of the season here is as a good view of what I’ve got to work on and what I’ve got to get better at.”

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Strange Days Indeed http://minnesotahockeymag.com/strange-days-indeed/ http://minnesotahockeymag.com/strange-days-indeed/#respond Fri, 05 Apr 2019 05:02:47 +0000 http://minnesotahockeymag.com/?p=31649 Charlie Coyle plays catch-up in first post-trade visit to the 'X'

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Minnesota’s Jordan Greenway keeps tabs on good friend, and former teammate, Charlie Coyle of the Boston Bruins during what became a 3-0 loss to Boston in the Wild’s final home game of the 2018-19 season on Thursday night at Xcel Energy Center. (MHM Photo / Rick Olson)

Charlie Coyle plays catch-up in first post-trade visit to the ‘X’

St. Paul — When it comes to Boston slang, “wicked” is a word that might come to mind. But there’s a different “W” word that former Minnesota Wild and current Boston Bruins forward Charlie Coyle kept repeating the past couple of days: Weird.

“It’s just a weird thing,” Coyle said of his first game back at Xcel Energy Center since being traded in February. “The trade happened so fast, and you don’t get to say ‘bye’ to everyone. I had to just get up and go.

“So just to see everyone and catch up a little bit, it’s obviously a weird thing… playing against your old friends, teammates.”

(MHM Photo / Rick Olson)

Coyle made his first return to Minnesota to face the Wild as an opponent Thursday night. With a playoff spot already locked up for the Bruins (49-23-9) sitting with 107 points in second place in the Atlantic Division, they came in and shut out the Wild (37-35-9) by a 3-0 margin. It was the seventh shutout of the season on home ice for the Wild.

Though Coyle didn’t factor in to any of the scoring, he registered two shots on goal in the game and got the video-tribute treatment along with a warm ovation from Wild fans during the first period.

Coyle was traded to Boston on Feb. 20 for youngster Ryan Donato. Both are Massachusetts natives and have worked out together during summers, said Coyle, who added that Donato is “a great kid” with a lot of skill.

Simply looking at the small sample size of points during the rest of the 2018-19 season, the Wild came out ahead on the trade. Donato came into Minnesota firing on all cylinders with points in his first five games in a Wild sweater, including an overtime winner for a 2-1 victory over St. Louis in his Xcel Energy Center debut Feb. 24. Donato has 4 goals and 16 points with the Wild in 21 games (10-15—25 for the season).

Contrast that to Coyle’s slower start in Boston, skating pointless in his first seven games with the Bruins. However, he scored a nifty shootout goal in his Bruins debut, a 2-1 shootout loss to St. Louis. He has just 2 goals and 4 assists in 20 games with his new team (12-22—34 for the season). For the most part, he’s starting to find his groove with the playoff-bound Bruins, Coyle said.

“It’s a hard thing to play consistent every single night and do the same thing,” Coyle said. “Points will come. I don’t think you focus on points too much as long as the team’s winning.

“I just want to play my role, do my part.”

Wild coach Bruce Boudreau referred to Coyle’s on-ice performance as being “consistently inconsistent sometimes, offensively.”

“He’s a guy that you always wanted a little bit more from him,” Boudreau said. “You always thought there was more in him.”

Hockey minds know there’s a business aspect to running teams and making trades. No doubt there are all kinds of factors. It’s abundantly clear how much his teammates and Boudreau wanted to keep him around Minnesota.

“Charlie’s one of the best kids you’ll ever meet in your life,” Boudreau said. “He was perfect as far as personality.

“A solid person and a great player to have on your team.”

Said goaltender Alex Stalock: “He brought a lot to this room, a lot to this organization.”

Coyle appreciated the kind words but was also quick to throw credit toward the Wild organization.

“You’re in such a good environment,” Coyle said. “They kind of set the standard right away. I just follow suit.”

Coyle skated with a variety of teammates in Minnesota this season, including Zach Parise, Eric Staal, pal Jason Zucker and Jordan Greenway, another close friend.

(MHM Photo / Rick Olson)

“We had a pretty good relationship, so being able to play against him will be fun,” Greenway said after Thursday’s morning skate.

The two still talk and help each other with their games, Greenway said, adding that it was special being able to go out for dinner and hang out with his former teammate. Greenaway also declared he wasn’t “going to take it easy on him” once the game started.

“I’m going to give it to him,” Greenway said. “I told him that last night.

“He’s scared. He backed down a little bit.”

Coyle played in his 499th career NHL game Thursday. He has 93 goals and 248 points, playing six-plus seasons in Minnesota before the trade. After playing three straight ironman seasons of all 82 regular-season games, injury woes found Coyle last season. He played just 66 games, scoring 11 goals and 37 points.

He was part of the string of six straight playoff appearances for the Wild, with 15 points in 44 postseason games for the Wild. Now he finds himself in the playoffs for a seventh consecutive season, even though his old friends are out.

“It’s a weird thing,” Coyle said. “You start your year with them, and you always plan on finishing the year, you don’t plan on getting traded. You want to make sure you do what you can to help your team and get to the playoffs, and all of a sudden, you get taken from that.

“You always hope the best for (the Wild). I want them to succeed.” 

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Gallery: Wild vs. Boston http://minnesotahockeymag.com/gallery-wild-vs-boston/ http://minnesotahockeymag.com/gallery-wild-vs-boston/#respond Fri, 05 Apr 2019 04:15:03 +0000 http://minnesotahockeymag.com/?p=31612 Bruins blank Minnesota 3-0 in Coyle return, Sturm debut

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Bruins blank Minnesota 3-0 in Coyle return, Sturm debut [See image gallery at minnesotahockeymag.com]

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Welcome Back Zach http://minnesotahockeymag.com/welcome-back-zach/ http://minnesotahockeymag.com/welcome-back-zach/#respond Wed, 03 Apr 2019 04:00:27 +0000 http://minnesotahockeymag.com/?p=31575 Parise sparks Wild to must win in return to the lineup

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(MHM Photo / Jonny Watkins )

Parise sparks Wild to must win in return to the lineup

St. Paul — With the Minnesota Wild’s odds of making a seventh straight postseason appearance growing longer with each day as March came to a close, a four-game injury absence by its leading scorer could not have come at a worse time. The Wild scored a total of four goals in dropping three of four games as Parise nursed a lower body injury and faced a literal must-win game against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night at Xcel Energy Center.

Parise scored twice in the first period of his return to the lineup leading the Wild to a 4-1 win over the playoff-bound Jets, giving Minnesota fans a glimmer of hope. A loss would have officially eliminated Minnesota from playoff contention for the first time since the 2011-12 season, Mike Yeo’s first season behind the bench.

It was a brief respite from the inevitable, though, as the Colorado Avalanche came back from a two-goal deficit to the Edmonton Oilers with six unanswered goals for a 6-2 win about an hour after the Wild skated off the ice. The two points were all the Avalanche needed to clinch a playoff berth and essentially end Minnesota’s season.

“We were on the bench pretty excited when you see it’s see it’s 2-0 Edmonton and then next thing you look up and it’s 4-2, it’s kind of demoralizing,” Parise said before the final outcome was known. “It’s too bad we’re in that spot.”

On the bright side, it took all of 9:04 for Parise to give his team a one-goal lead when he scored one of the goofiest goals of his career when Wild defenseman Greg Pateryn fired a shot from along the goal line that bounced off Winnipeg goaltender Eric Comrie. The puck came right to the stick of Parise who deflected it high in the air where Comrie lost sight of it until it dropped between his back and the crossbar and into the net.

“Fluky, fluky goal I guess, but at the time, you know, you’ll take anything.”

Comrie, making just his fifth NHL start and first of the season, struggled mightily in making XX saves in his season debut for the Jets. 

Just over three minutes later, Parise jumped over the boards just in time to swat a loose puck with one hand ahead of Eric Staal as he entered the Winnipeg zone. Before Staal could reach it, however, he was tied up by Jets center Bryan Little but Parise chased down his own pass below the circles and buried a shot behind Comrie for his team-leading 28th goal and 60th point of the season.

Parise’s his first multi-goal game of the season and 48th in his career and gives him a point in his last five games he has played (4-2–6).

“We didn’t get a ton of zone time but we were able to score off the rush which hasn’t really been our strong suit all year,” Parise said “I thought our defensemen we’re getting a little more involved off the rush but I think that that that opened up in a few of the chances that we got.”

Later in the period, a sharp angle shot by Victor Rask beat Comrie giving rask his first goal in 15 games and Minnesota a 3-0 lead heading into the dressing room.

“It was three goals that, you know, I mean, shouldn’t have gone in; I think that haven’t gone in the past and I think that helped,” Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau said. “But, you know, hey listen, you’re not looking a gift horse in the mouth. When you get a chance to to score five it’s a good thing.”

The WIld’s Joel Eriksson Ek and Winnipeg’s Jacob Trouba traded second period goals making it 4-1 after two before Minnesota’s Marcus Foligno capped the scoring at 15:11 of the final period.

Foligno took J.T. Brown’s drop pass and fired a shot that squirted through Comrie and it trickled across the crease with a net-crashing brown in pursuit. Brown reached for the puck but pulled back at the last second and it crossed the line for Foligno’s 7th goal of the season. 

Foligno appreciated Brown’s gesture.

“I thought he touched it for sure. But no, that was a very nice, unselfish play by him,” Foligno said. “Assist or a goal, it wouldn’t have mattered to me but he was pretty smooth with seeing it was going across the line and I appreciate that heads-up play.”

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Gallery: Wild Ground Jets http://minnesotahockeymag.com/gallery-wild-ground-jets/ http://minnesotahockeymag.com/gallery-wild-ground-jets/#respond Wed, 03 Apr 2019 03:40:33 +0000 http://minnesotahockeymag.com/?p=31578 Minnesota briefly keeps playoff hopes alive with 5-1 win over Winnipeg

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Minnesota briefly keeps playoff hopes alive with 5-1 win over Winnipeg [See image gallery at minnesotahockeymag.com]

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A Night to Remember http://minnesotahockeymag.com/a-night-to-remember/ http://minnesotahockeymag.com/a-night-to-remember/#respond Tue, 26 Mar 2019 04:16:52 +0000 http://minnesotahockeymag.com/?p=31569 Ex-Gopher Pitlick keeps NHL debut close to home

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Former University of Minnesota forward Rem Pitlick made his NHL debut for Nashville in the Predators’ 1-0 win over his hometown Minnesota Wild on Monday night at Xcel Energy Center. (MHM Photo / Rick Olson)

Ex-Gopher Pitlick keeps NHL debut close to home

St. Paul — A little more than a week ago, Rem Pitlick saw his junior season with the Minnesota Gophers squad come to an abrupt and controversial end. The Gophers lost 2-1 in overtime to Notre Dame in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals, meaning there would also be no NCAA Tournament for the maroon and gold.

Turns out, Pitlick will still be part of a postseason club. It’s just on another level.

Pitlick made his NHL debut with the Nashville Predators Monday night and it just happened to be close to home at Xcel Energy Center as the Predators faced the division-rival Minnesota Wild. He skated 14 shifts for 9:43 on the ice as the Predators clinched a playoff spot with a 1-0 victory.

“That was crazy out there,” Pitlick said. “It was a lot of fun. Definitely some learning moments, but something I’ll never forget.”

Pitlick, a third-round (76th overall) Nashville pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, left the University of Minnesota early and signed a two-year, entry-level contract with Nashville on March 22 following the season-ending loss for the Gophers on March 16.

In three seasons with the Gophers, Pitlick skated in 112 games scoring 47 goals and 108 points. He set career highs in all three offensive categories this past junior season, scoring 21 goals, 24 assists and 45 points.

He turns 22 years old on April 2. Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said Pitlick looked good and played a smart game in his debut.

“It’s a big task to come in, a young player that is meeting a team for the first time and a coach and a system,” Laviolette said. “That could be a bit overwhelming, but our guys are pretty good in there. They’re good guys. They took care of him.”

Plymouth’s Rem Pitlick warms up on the Xcel Energy Center ice prior to his first game as a professional. (MHM Photo / Rick Olson)

Still, Pitlick was the one that had to get out there and play the game, Laviolette added. Pitlick was listed as the right wing of the second line on the lineup sheet, along with center Kyle Turris and a familiar face to Minnesota fans, Mikael Granlund.

The Predators (43-28-6) took a 1-0 lead with a shorthanded goal from Ryan Johansen 4 minutes, 32 seconds into the game. It was a lead that held up despite 29 shots from the Wild (35-33-9) on Nashville netminder Juuse Saros.

Though Pitlick didn’t register a shot on goal, he played a role in the victory and didn’t have any glaring mistakes either. Late in the first period, he chipped the puck into the Wild zone and got it to Granlund for a scoring chance that was broken up. Near the end of the second, Pitlick sent a neutral-ice pass to Granlund who fired a shot on Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk. Pitlick helped set up Granlund for another scoring chance early in the third, too.

He also took his first NHL penalty, for delay of game, when he sent the puck down the ice and up over the glass with 10:50 to play in the third period. It came as the Wild’s Marcus Foligno was going off for holding, so the result was 4-on-4 hockey rather than Pitlick putting his team on the penalty kill.

Pitlick said after the game that he was nervous out on the ice, jumping into a level of time and space that is a lot faster than what he’s played.

“But I think with more games and with just watching the game even more, you’re going to know that you have even more time than you really think you do out there,” Pitlick said. “Something I think I’ll gain with maturity as I continue playing.”

Pitlick did well jumping in for his first time, his coach said.

“There was a lot of wall play on breakouts in the defensive zone where I thought he won the battles,” Laviolette said. “He was in the right spot. He did the right things.”

He continues to follow in his father’s footsteps. Lance Pitlick was a defenseman for the Gophers from 1986-90 prior to an eight-year NHL career with Ottawa and Florida. A ninth-round (180th overall) NHL Draft pick, skated in 393 career NHL games, scoring 16 goals and 33 assists. Rem’s cousin, Tyler Pitlick, started in the NHL with Edmonton in 2013-14 and is currently with the Dallas organization.

During warm-ups Monday, there were some fans in Predators gear around the Nashville zone and bench area. Pitlick, a Plymouth native, took the ice first, skating around a bit and putting a puck in the net before his teammates joined him and the Wild skated out at the other end. At the end of warm-ups, Pitlick set up P.K. Subban for some slapshot practice before firing the puck into the net himself and was the last to leave the ice.

After the game, Pitlick was asked about the text messages he received throughout the day, and he said he’d get back to as many people as he could.

“There’s a lot of people that helped me get to this moment,” Pitlick said. “Those people know who they are, and I’m forever grateful for them.”

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Bulldogs Best Huskies http://minnesotahockeymag.com/bulldogs-best-huskies/ http://minnesotahockeymag.com/bulldogs-best-huskies/#respond Sun, 24 Mar 2019 06:56:15 +0000 http://minnesotahockeymag.com/?p=31540 Swaney's double-overtime winner lifts UMD to Frozen Faceoff title

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(MHM Photo / Rick Olson)

Swaney’s double-overtime winner lifts UMD to Frozen Faceoff title

St. Paul — With their NCAA tournament seeding secured and only Minnesota Duluth’s region placement fate to be determined there would not seem to be much to play for between St. Cloud State and UMD on a late March Saturday night in St. Paul. Don’t tell that to the Huskies and Bulldogs, though, as the two in-state, intra-conference rivals went at each other hard and fast in the first-ever NCHC Frozen Faceoff championship overtime game at Xcel Energy Center. 

“Anytime you get the top two teams in the country in the same building you know you’re going to have a good game,” UMD forward Billy Exell said. “When you get into these battles both teams are preparing and they don’t want to lose.”

But someone must lose and, in this battle between two NCAA tournament top seeds, Minnesota Wild prospect, and Lakeville native, Nick Swaney scored the game winner at 7:29 of overtime to give Minnesota Duluth a 3-2 win over the Huskies. The Bulldogs captured the school’s second Frozen Faceoff title overall and first since beating North Dakota 4-3 in the 2017 championship game.

“It’s certainly exciting to to win this championship again against a great team,” Minnesota Duluth coach Scott Sandelin said. “It didn’t look so good early but our guys just stuck with it and kind of grinded through it and found a way. We’ve played five times this year and we’ve had unbelievable games with them so I have a lot of respect for their team.”

Despite his team coming up short, first-year St. Cloud State coach Brett Larson, who until this season was an assistant under Sandelin at UMD, expressed what most observers of the game would say, regardless of the result.

“For me, being around college hockey for a long time, that was one hell of a hockey game,” St. Cloud State coach Brett Larson said. “Two unbelievable teams getting after it and if you’re a fan college hockey you like that one for sure.” 

The winning play began with UMD freshman forward Jesse Jacques blocking St. Cloud State Hobey Baker Award top 10 finalist Jimmy Schuldt’s shot which sparked a 2-0n-1 featuring fellow freshman Tanner Laderoute and Nick Swaney with SCSU freshman Spencer Meier the lone defenseman back. Laderoute picked the puck up at his own blue line, carried it into the Huskies’ zone and slid a pass to Swaney who lifted a short-side backhand shot past St. Cloud State goaltender David Hrenak.

“He made a great pass and I was fortunate to find the back of the net,” Swaney said of Laderoute. “It was all him.”

Swaney nearly did not get the opportunity to be the hero as the Bulldogs trailed the Huskies 2-1 with less than five minutes to play in regulation and Jacques in the penalty box serving a tripping penalty. But that’s when the UMD penalty kill, which limited SCSU to just one goal on six power-play chances, made its biggest play of the night.

Laderoute took advantage of a poor cross-ice pass by Jack Achan in his own zone, stole the puck and fed Exell between the circles who buried just his second of the year with 4:51 remaining to tie it up and eventually send the game to overtime. 

Even that goal may not have mattered had a bounce not gone UMD’s way in the third period.

After a scoreless second period, the Huskies started the third with 47 seconds of power-play time but only needed 28 seconds of it when Patrick Newell corralled a loose puck in the high slot, spun 180 degrees and fired a shot through traffic which beat Shepard for a 2-1 St. Cloud State lead. 

St. Cloud State nearly made it 3-1 midway through the final period when Blake Lizotte’s shot hit iron and the puck traveled post-to-post without going in. The official behind the net initially ruled it a goal but, after a lengthy review, the goal was overturned.

Newell said the Huskies, winners of 13 straight coming into the game, learned at the right time they are not invincible.

“We came with a 12 or 13 game win streak, two of those games were against that team and credit to them for for a hell of a battle,” Newell said. “Obviously, this one stings and it’s something that we really wanted to get done but, you know, luckily for us there’s more hockey to be played and that’s what we’re going to look forward to this week.”

The familiar foes were all square at 1-1 after 20 minutes with the Huskies applying heavy pressure to the tune of a 15-6 shots on goal advantage while the Bulldogs applied plenty of heavy hitting. Shepard stood tall in the opening period, keeping UMD close with 14 saves despite plenty of traffic in front of him.

“Well we didn’t have the puck in the first period so we had to do something,” Sandelin said of UMD’s physical opening period.

The Huskies struck first on a delayed tripping penalty on UMD’s Peter Krieger when Robby Jackson pounced on a rebound to tap in his 19th goal of the season at the 7:45 mark.

“We loved our jump, we were winning races to puck, we were getting there first.” Larson said.  “We had gone through four line changes before they had gone through two and hemmed them up in their zone pretty good.

“After that first 10, 12 minutes, I thought it was real even, really good hockey game but we really liked the momentum we created with the start.”

Per NCHC rules, Krieger still had to serve his time so SCSU was immediately a man up after Jackson’s goal. UMD’s physical play rolled on through the power play but it ultimately cost them when Louie Roehl was tagged for boarding with four seconds remaining on Krieger’s penalty. The officials reviewed Roehl’s hit but determined it not severe enough to be classified as a major.

With the teams skating 4-on-4 due to an Easton Brodzinski tripping call, St. Cloud State’s Nick Perbix nearly doubled his team’s lead when the freshman defenseman found a lane to the UMD net but was denied by Shepard. Just 14 seconds later, however, Minnesota Duluth picked up the equalizer on sophomore defenseman Mikey Anderson’s fifth of the season. 

UMD’s Parker Mackay banked a drop pass off the right wall in the SCSU zone to Scott Perunovich whose backhand pass found Anderson just off the bench and streaking across the blue line. Anderson quickly launched a blast from between the circles past Hrenak’s outstretched glove with 9:11 remaining in the period.

St. Cloud State and Minnesota Duluth head into the NCAA tournament next week as the top two overall seeds with Minnesota State right behind for a Minnesota top-3 sweep. The Mavericks rallied from a two goal deficit with under two minutes to play at home against Bowling Green on Saturday to win the WCHA championship in overtime as well.

“It was a big win for our guys,” Sandelin said. “It’s really exciting to move into the tournament after a win like this tonight.”

Note:

When the puck dropped to open  Saturday night’s game against St. Cloud State, 2018-19 ALL-NCHC first team goaltender Hunter Shepard made his 77th consecutive start for Minnesota Duluth dating back to Oct. 21, 2017. Shepard eclipses the mark set by current UMD volunteer goalie coach Brant Nicklin from Oct. 12, 1996 to March 15, 1998. 

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