Between the Lines: Nov. 18, 2005
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
It will be nice to get back on the ice after a couple weeks in which a lot of weird and unfortunate revelations have occured. But some teams will still be dealing with those.
Things had been so tranquil this season. But consider what the heck has been going on:
• Minnesota and the local Fox station going "undercover" to discover — GASP! — underage drinking by hockey players. Despite the yellow journalism of it all, it's still something the Gophers have to deal with.
• The hit by Wisconsin's Adam Burish, and the aftermath, on CC's Scott Thauwald, ending his season again.
• Two Maine players get in a fight with a baseball player, get arrested, and get suspended indefinitely.
• Lake Superior State is handling the repercussions of two supposed recruiting violations that took place under Frank Anzalone's watch. He's denying it.
On the Ice
Michigan State is a team reeling after a quick start. The Spartans have dropped three in a row following Tuesday's 3-2 loss at Ohio State (another team that had been mysteriously reeling). At one point, MSU had eight scholarship players injured, but has slowly gotten them back. But as they've come back, the team has been losing. Someone explain. So this weekend, they have a home-and-home with another team in the dumps, Western Michigan. After being the CHN Team of the Week two weeks ago, the Broncos lost to LSSU 10-0 and then things got worse from there. They've dropped four in a row and are searching for answers.
Like MSU, Denver is now reeling with injuries. Brock Trotter is out for the year, and last weekend, three more players went down. Thankfully, none appear season-threatening, but the loss of Gabe Gauthier, whose status is questionable, leaves a huge void. Matt Carle has been helping to carry the team in the mean time, and sophomore Ryan Dingle has nine goals. Denver tied last Friday in Mankato — a place where these teams have played weird games in the recent past — then the Mavericks shut out Denver on Saturday. In that game, Mankato players were quoted as saying the Pioneers appeared to have "no life." Perhaps it was the after-effects of losing all those players with injury, and being demoralized, but they better get it in gear quick this weekend against Minnesota.
Of course, the Gophers are dealing with their own stuff. Their schedule is very favorable straight through the New Year, and that should help them right the ship a bit. Last weekend, they got their legs with two wins over Anchorage. But of course there are those lingering underage drinking issues to deal with. Coach Don Lucia poo-poohed it a bit in a recent interview, which raised eyebrows. Most people agree that the TV report was unnecessary, and the transcript of it resembles a Saturday Night Live parody. But the underage drinking issue as a whole is pretty serious on college campuses — USA Today devoted a large portion of its sports section to the issue on Thursday — and Minnesota cannot just let the issue pass without some discipline. Sure, everyone is doing it, but if you're caught — no matter how — something needs to be done. So that is still looming out there for the Gophers, never minding their injury situation, still without Danny Irmen and Nate Hagemo.
No offense to Michigan Tech, but CC should have a little bit of a welcome breather with two home games against the Huskies this weekend. Last weekend, CC was physically punished by Wisconsin, and we're not even talking about the play at the end of the weekend that ended Scott Thauwald's season. That play was strange enough, with Wisconsin captain trying to run interference for teammate Robbie Earl, thinking Thauwald might run him, so he got in between, upended Thauwald, and Thauwald wound up re-tearing the ACL in his knee; he had just recuperated from reconstructive surgery he had last January, and scored in his first game back on Friday. Now he's done for the year again.
Burish escaped further discipline. His coach Mike Eaves said it was because the league compared his case to that of Geoff Paukovich's from last spring. Paukovich received a one-game suspension for his hit from behind on Robbie Bina during the Final Five that broke Bina's neck. Since the Burish hit did not measure up to that, he was not further suspended beyond his automatic for getting a DQ. That seems like a bizarre comparison, though, if that's what was actually used. Paukovich never got a DQ, so was given a one-gamer by the league, which Denver coach George Gwozdecky then tacked onto. Are we saying that a vicious hit from behind is the standard required to getting a one-game suspension? Burish might not have deserved it, but that's not the standard to use.
In any event, the Badgers are the only team in any D-I league to have zero losses still in conference play. How about that? That's pretty early in the season for there to be only one team like that. Miami and Cornell were the other hold outs, but lost last Saturday. But how about Miami, still? They host Notre Dame this weekend and we'll see if the Red Hawks can keep it going.
But even crazier, other than Michigan, the only other CCHA teams at .500 or better in the league are Ferris State, Lake Superior State and Alaska-Fairbanks. Whoa!
Other games to look at: Union at Cornell. Cornell comes off a win at Harvard last Friday, while Union swept its weekend, beating Princeton and Quinnipiac. The Big Red were demolished by Dartmouth, 6-1, on Saturday, the Big Green's only win this season.
BU is at Providence. Big test for the Terriers, and Providence, at 6-2, is playing well. BU has been completely Jekyll and Hyde. No idea what to make of the Terriers.
North Dakota at St. Cloud. The Sioux swept Duluth, and the Huskies split with Michigan Tech. North Dakota is young but extremely talented. Can the Sioux stay afloat in a tough conference with such a young defense? Will they hit the wall, mentally or physically?
If nothing else, Moncton of Quebec Major Junior League team has some world class sh*t disturbers on their payroll. Especially when it comes to NCAA teams.
Last year, I railed against Moncton officials for planting rumors that Chris Bourque was interested in leaving Boston University to play major junior in Moncton, which owned his CHL rights. And he used as evidence the fact that Bourque had showed up for a game. I thought it was a bunch of nonsense.
Certainly, I appeared to have egg on my face when, after BU's season ended, Bourque bolted on school and appeared headed for Moncton. But in reality, Bourque used Moncton as little more than leverage to get a deal with the Washington Capitals, who had drafted him the previous summer. He's now playing for Portland, the Caps' American Hockey League affiliate.
Now, Moncton is at it again, throwing out quotes to the local papers that Maine freshman Simon Danis-Pepin is thinking of leaving the Black Bears. Danis-Pepin is 6-foot-7, and some people think he could be a high-round NHL pick next summer. He is ranked ninth among NCAA skaters by the Central Scouting Service on its Preliminary Rankings list.
The article quotes Moncton coach and director of hockey operations, Ted Nolan, as saying that Danis-Pepin was at a recent game, and the two spoke. Danis-Pepin has played in only three games so far for Maine, and Nolan believes he needs to play more games in order to get noticed for the NHL Draft. He claims he didn't try to persuade Danis-Pepin, yet he's laced the article with a series of hard sells to the reporter on why Danis-Pepin should leave Maine, even if he didn't tell the player directly.
First of all, Danis-Pepin was at the game in Lewiston, Maine. He was there with teammate Billy Ryan to see Ryan's former Cushing teammate, Keith Yandle, play.
But regardless of whether Danis-Pepin really spoke to Moncton, or how interested he is, or whether he really does leave — none of that matters. The point here is, why does this stuff only happen with Moncton? No one else is continually floating rumors to the local papers, as a way of pressuring NCAA players to skip out. It's like an indirect hard sell, something that gets the wheels spinning.
It's bush league.