Wednesday, October 9, 2013

First Impressions
Well Sioux hockey is officially among us (the beauty of being an independent blogger is that I can still refer to them in a hostile and abusive manner)!  As always, the exhibition game was sloppy.  The NCAA only allows one official practice before the exhibition, so that is to be expected.  However, it's still fun to see what the freshmen bring to the table as well as which returners took a step forward over the offseason.  These are my first impressions for the season ahead of us.
The Old:
- Parks looks great!  After a solid freshman campaign, he struggled with injuries and consistency last year.  He looks stronger, faster and ready to make some noise this year.  He completely owned the boards as usual, but he also drove the net hard (which resulted in a goal on one play). 
-Grimaldi looked even faster than a year ago.  I know Manitoba isn't the quickest team, but it seriously looks like everybody is standing still when he gets going.  He needs to shoot more instead of always looking for the pretty pass, but that will come.  In the shootout he showed his crazy skill with a beauty move.
-Cagguila looks like he had a good offseason.  He looks stronger and much more confident with the puck.  He had a goal (with huge credit to Mark MacMillan for the slick set-up) and could have had another.  Look for him to take a big step forward this year
Chyzyk - Looks like a guy that wants to stay in the line-up this season.  He has gained a step or two from last season.  He didn't generate a lot of offense this game, but showed he is capable of it if put in that type of a role.
Defense:  Simpson looked solid as expected.  Schmaltz looks like he took the necessary steps in the offseason and looks to be a big-time D for us this year.  Mattson had some flashes, but still looked a bit shaky.  He could be fighting for a spot this season if the freshman adjust quickly.
Goalies:  Both looked solid.  Gothberg was tested more with a few more shots and getting to participate in the shootout, but both looked capable.
The New:
- Johnson is a STUD...he looked like a veteran from the get-go.  He wins face-offs, is defensively responsible, blocks shots, finishes checks, makes great passes and has an ultra-quick release.  He had a beautiful short-handed goal.
- Tambellini has a knack for being in the right spots and, like Johnson, has a great, quick shot.  He will need to get stronger to win the board battles, but when he gets the puck in open ice he will be dangerous.
- Ausmus looked very comfortable for the first game as a freshman.  He plays a great shutdown game and isn't afraid to play physical.
- Stecher has good offensive skills and instincts which could make him a big factor on the power play.  With only one practice before this game, the power play was out of sync, but when he gets comfortable out there he could be a big factor.
- Both Ladue and Thompson looked pretty poised for their first games.  Ladue will see a lot of ice time this year.  Thompson will have to compete hard against Stecher, Panzarella and Mattson for ice time.
- Muphy looked like he might need some time to adjust to the D1 level.  Very apparent he has great offensive skill, but not as college ready as Johnson.
Uniforms:  At home, the team will be wearing green breezers and helmets (pants and buckets for you Canadiens out there).  If you haven't seen them yet, you are in for a treat this season.  They have a throwback appeal to them and really pop with the white jerseys.
Shootouts- Since the NCHC will utilize shootouts, the exhibition featured a dress rehearsal at the end.  I, like many conservative hockey fans, was hesitate about a game being decided in a shootout.  However, I'm getting really excited about it now.  We will no longer be leaving the rink with that strange feeling of no winner.  Also, they are extremely entertaining to watch.  Seeing Rocco's move has to get anybody excited for the new element to the games.
Well Sioux fans, here's to another great year of hockey!  We will obviously all miss last year's senior class, but there is plenty to excited about this season!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Coming Home!

We lost to Neuchatel 4-3 last night in a fun, fast-paced game. Bre Julius, Abby Kratske and Britt Colucci had the goals. We are in a quick layover in the Paris airport and will be heading home soon! 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Europe Update

Sorry I haven't gotten a chance to blog much, but here is an update on our week. 

Saturday we had a great guided tour of Como and a welcome meal at our hotel. We met our guides Paul and Danyella and had a nice swim in the pool at the hotel. We caught out second wind so we went across the lake to a "disco" on the beach on Bellagio. 

Sunday we went to Bellagio which was just a 5 minute Ferry ride across Lake Como. We had a free day to shop, eat, swim or anything else we could find. We found their "beaches" are rocks so we didn't do much sunbathing, but plenty of swimming!

Monday we went to Milan and had a short tour and a day to do what we wanted. Most of us went to the Duomo (the 3rd largest cathedral in the world). Some went shopping, but most of us just looked around at the Prada, Gucci, and Armani shops.

Tuesday we had our first game. We drove to Zurich, Switzerland and the other teams bus driver have us a tour. We got to see the International Ice Hockey Feseration which was awesome! We played Zurich, who were the champions of the Swiss Professional league and lost 6-1. 

Wednesday we rented a private boat and took a tour of the Ligurian Coast. We stopped in Camogli for swimming, shopping, etc. It was raining a bit, but that didn't stop us from swimming in the Mediterranean Sea. All of us Midwest folk were excited to float around in the salt water.

Today we had a free day and there was no shortage of options. Some went golfing in Mennagio, some went to Lugano for the day, some went hiking, and my family rented a car service and went to Venice for the day. It was absolutely beautiful! 

That's it for now! We are heading to Neufch√Ętel (sp?) Switzerland tomorrow to play our second game. I'll let you all know how it goes. We are looking to come back with a win!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Hello everybody! The Internet at the hotel is tough to get on so we weren't able to post the past couple days. Lugano forfeited so we won our first game by default. We played the Swiss national champions for the professional league tonight (Zurich) and we lost 6-1. We started to play a lot better in the second and third so we are really looking forward to our next game on Friday!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Hello From Europe!
We are officially  in Italy after a long, but fun day in Paris!  Brad from Eurosport Tours picked us up and all of our bags had arrived so all was well.  We had a wonderful first dinner and the breakfast this morning was superb as well.  We will be heading over to Como this morning where we will spend out next week.  Here's a recap of our first day!
We departed from Minneapolis last night at 8 pm and landed in Paris at 11 AM (4 AM our time) and hit the ground running.  We had an eight hour layover so we figured instead of hanging out in the airport we would visit a few of Paris’s wonderful sights.  We were picked up by Jacques (our bus driver) and Ann (our tour guide) and they did a great job showing us the must-see sights in a short 4 hour span.  We had a quick lunch and a bus tour of the historical side of Paris.  Ann let us stop at the Eiffel Tower so we could take pictures and buy a couple souvenirs (I bought 10 Eiffel Tower Keychains because they were 5 for a euro…I’m having a bit of buyer’s remorse wondering what I’m going to do with all of them).  We ended the tour by stopping at Notre Dame Cathedral which was absolutely stunning on the outside and in.  I’ve heard so many things about it, but you really can’t find words to describe how magnificent it is.
Jacques got us back to the airport with plenty of time to spare.  We were happy about this because having 41 English speaking tourists trying to figure out how to print off our boarding passes proved to be a bit more difficult than we were expecting. We did find a very helpful English-speaking employee that got us situated so all was well.
 If the first day is any foreshadowing, this is going to be a great group to tour with.  Everybody warned me about how hard this first day would be.  Between a night flight, jet lag, culture shock and having 41 different personalities, I was warned to prepare for the worst.  However, today was a pleasant surprise.  Everyone seemed to adjust to any stress or any curve balls we were thrown and we just soaked up Paris and made the most of it.  Can’t wait to see what Italy has in store for us!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Mother's Day Weekend Reflection

It was a pretty hectic weekend here in Fargo since my parents and some of my former hockey and tennis players were in town.  It was great to see them all, but what was more moving was the reflection I had afterwards.

Friday after work I went over to take in some tennis.  The girls had played the day before in Jamestown, had two matches on Friday, and would be competing in a tournament on Saturday.  I went over to watch them and it didn't surprise me to see a number of parents there to watch their kids play.  It's a six hour drive from Williston and they were taking vacation time to be there.  Not to mention it was Mother's Day weekend.  The funny thing about it is I didn't think anything of it.  My parents made that exact same trip for five years straight when I was playing high school tennis and didn't think twice about it.  My mom's special day revolved around me (or my brothers when they were in sports) just like so many of these mothers that were here.

After the tennis match I went to have dinner with four of my former hockey players and one of their mothers whose turn it was to take them.  Not only did she devote her time and money to these players during season, but now she was devoting her time and money in the off-season to help them improve.  She inevitably spent her Mother's Day watching hockey and traveling six hours with four chatty Junior High girls.  Once again, I thought back to the days that we would be up in Canada where I was playing in some off-season tournament on my mom's special day.  Not once did my mother complain about this.  In fact, she was actually pretty good at acting like it was her idea of a Mother's Day vacation.

Since I'm retired from hockey and tennis now (playing anyways), this Mother's Day weekend was spent with sleeping in, pedicures, and brunch.  However, something struck me again on the way to brunch.  As I was driving past the softball fields I saw all of the fields occupied with what looked like 100 little leaguers and, you guessed it, 100 cheering mothers.  These women weren't getting breakfast in bed or spa days.  They were out in their lawn chairs cheering their kids on when winning and consoling when they didn't.

Sports always have a way of illustrating the big picture in life and this weekend was no different.  It showed me the incredible selflessness of a mother.  They have one day set aside for them and many of them refuse to take that one day off from being a mother, a coach, a fan, a chauffeur.  What's probably the most intriguing is that it's exactly how they want to spend it.  This is the unconditional love of a mother and something we should never take for granted.  Thank you to my own mother for all the sacrifices she made for my brothers and me growing up.  The rest of you, I hope your kids all come to the realization and appreciation of what you have done and continue to do for them.  Here's a special shout-out to you!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Why Ryan Suter Will Win the Norris
The Norris candidates have officially been announced.  Ryan Suter, PK Subban, and Kris Letang make up the hattrick of finalists.  As a Wild fan, I'm obviously biased and want Suter to win it.  Let's take a look at why that's a very real possibility.
In my opinion, Letang is going to be the number 3 man in this race.  He does have impressive offensive numbers (averaging a point per game) and led the NHL in assists by a defenseman despite missing 13 games.  It's not fair, but Letang is going to be handicapped by his shortened season.  People didn't get to see him quite as often as the other two.  He also benefits from an offensive team that strengthens his numbers a little bit.
Next up is PK Subban.  Is Subban deserving of a Norris this season?  Maybe.  Will he win it?  Doubtful.  Subban is a fantastic player, but he is also a disliked player.  From showing up late to camp becuase he was holding out for a better contract to his on-ice antics, Subban isn't the most liked or respected guy in the game.  While the Norris isn't a sportsmanship award (we've got the Lady Byng for that), the few voters that despise Subban may be what cost him the trophy in a tight race.
So has Suter's season justified a Norris trophy?  You have to look at the whole picture.  Production-wise, he is 2nd in assists and 3rd in points for defensemen.  What sets Suter apart is the circumstances and his impact, though.  He adjusted to a new defensive system, a new D-partner, and he did this without the benefit of a full training camp and full season.  He took nineteen year old Jonas Brodin under his wing to fill out the top pairing and he's played in all situations for the Wild.  He's been the anchor on a young and inexperienced blue line while averaging  over 27 minutes per game (most in the NHL).  The voters are going to have to look really hard to find a player that has done more for his team's success than Suter this season.