Tuesday, March 25, 2008

2008 NCAA Hockey Previews: Midwest Regional

Here at HSR, this is our favorite time of the year. It's the start of the NCAA hockey tournament with Michigan in position to make a run to the Frozen Four. Throughout the week, we'll be posting capsule previews for the entire field that will only by accident give you any real knowledge about the team. For actual hockey info, head over to INCH's preview of this region. TV schedules can be found at CHN

Midwest Regional – Kohl Center, Madison, WI

University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux
26-10-4; At-large bid from the WCHA
North Dakota

The Fighting Sioux
Leading the country in penalty minutes, the Sioux haven't endeared themselves to the rest of the WCHA. Defenseman Joe Finley slashed Bucky Badger back in November, and later a fight broke out. Captain Ryan Kaip got in a fight at Minnesota State, Darcy Zajac fought Minnesota's Tony Lucia (the coach's son), and Kyle Radke earned himself a two-game suspension after fighting Denver's Brandon Vossberg and then continuing the fight with the back of Vossberg's head when he was lying on the ice. Even coach Dave Hakstol earned a two-game suspension for flipping off official Don Adam during a game against Minnesota, and star forward TJ Oshie was suspended for a game after an arrest for disorderly conduct.

The Sound of Settling
According to a settlement reached with the NCAA at the end of October 2007, the Fighting Sioux have three years to obtain permission from both Sioux tribes living in the state to continue using their mascot. The Spirit Lake tribe has yet to give a new opinion on the issue, but the Standing Rock tribe has already reaffirmed a council resolution opposing the nickname. If UND fails to convince both tribes to come around, it will have to change its mascot and logo or face NCAA sanctions barring its teams from hosting postseason play and competing in the postseason with any reference to Native American culture.

Ralph Engelstadt Loved His Hostile Or Abusive Mascot
Former North Dakota backup goalie and casino magnate Ralph Engelstadt funded construction of the arena that bears his name. A fanatical supporter of the Fighting Sioux name, Engelstadt threatened to halt construction when he learned the school was considering a name change. As a result of Engelstadt's devotion/spite, The Ralph bears over 2000 Fighting Sioux logos, including a 30' image in granite at the entrance, while every side of the building bears either "HOME OF THE FIGHTING SIOUX" or another 30' logo. With a nickname change, the university would also have to remove most of the Indian imagery from its campus; however, the Ralph is currently owned not by the university, but by an Engelstadt trust. In 2031 the arena will pass to the university; at that point, further action may be necessary. In the meantime, it's unclear what would have to be changed for the Ralph to host post-season play.

University of Denver Pioneers

26-10-4; WCHA Tournament winner

Soviet Relations Experts Are Surely in High Demand
One of Denver's most prominent alumni is current Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Dr. Rice graduated Phi Beta Kappa from DU in 1974 at age 19 with a BA in political science. She chose poli sci after realizing that she didn't quite have the talent for a career as a concert pianist.

When Murray Armstrong came to Denver, he loaded up his teams with players from his previous gig as head coach of the Regina Pats, a Montreal Canadiens farm team. His recruitment of 22-year-old Canadian freshmen didn't sit well with other coaches in the league, but Colorado College's Tony Frasca took it to absurd lengths. Frasca (age: 30) skated one Jack Smith (age: 36) from 1957-1960. Abuses like these led 7 teams to withdraw from the old WIHL and to later reconstitute as the much looser WCHA. The WCHA allowed teams to make their own conference schedules, allowing Minnesota to boycott Denver for over a decade.

Young Pioneers
DU carries 12 freshmen on its roster this year, along with 6 sophomores, 4 juniors, and 4 seniors. The seniors carry the dual distinction of being both the last Denver team to win a national championship and the last team to even appear in the tournament. Now-senior goaltender Peter Mannino was named Most Outstanding Player of the 2005 NCAA tournament.

University of Wisconsin Badgers

15-16-7; At-large bid from the WCHA

The Wisconsin Idea
Chartered as a part of the Wisconsin state constitution in 1848, the University of Wisconsin is known for "The Wisconsin Idea". Begun in 1904 by school president Charles Van Hise, his notion was that he would "never be content until the beneficent influence of the university was available to every home in the state." The basic premise of the Wisconsin Idea is that the university's boundaries are those of the state and that the primary goal of the university and the state university system should be the betterment of the state of Wisconsin in practical and pragmatic matters.

It's Not As Important As You Think
From the state that claims Vince Lombardi as one of its great heroes, with his oft-quoted (he didn't actually say it) maxim "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing.", the Badger hockey team has proven, in a mildly controversial fashion this season, that winning is perhaps not prerequisite for making the NCAA Tournament. Having won 11 PairWise comparisons to Minnesota State's 10, the Badgers earned the "last" at-large spot in the NCAA tournament as the committee adhered strictly to the PairWise standings. However, Wisconsin's role as host of the Midwest Regional at the Kohl Center has some conspiracy theorists thinking there were ulterior motives in play. For further reading, please follow this link to CHN.

Mushroom! Mushroom!
Known as the Badger State due to the early presence of lead miners in Wisconsin who lived in their mines until they could build an appropriate house, the university's first badger mascot was a live badger who was too difficult to deal with and was quickly retired (Early residents did not have access to WhatBadgersEat.com). Art Evans drew the cartoon version of the mascot in 1940, and he was named Buckingham U. Badger in 1949. On the internet, dancing badgers resemble the Camp Randall "Jump Around" tradition at badgerbadgerbadger.com.

Princeton University Tigers

21-13-0; ECAC Tournament winner

Not a Clown College
Founded in 1746, Princeton is the oldest university in this year's tournament. James Madison and Woodrow Wilson both graduated from Princeton, as did Aaron Burr (they're not as fond of mentioning that one). I could go on, but it's the fourth oldest university in the United States; a lot of famous people graduated from it. Princeton is rare among colonial colleges in that it never has had any religious affiliation.

Princeton's connection to college hockey is one of the most prominent. The namesake of Princeton's home arena as well as the award given annually since 1981 to college hockey's outstanding player is named for Hobart Amory Hare Baker, better known as Hobey Baker. A two-sport star at Princeton in the early 20th Century, Baker helped lead the Tigers to the national championship in football in 1911 and two in hockey (1912 and 1914). Penalized just once in his Princeton hockey career, Baker went to work for J.P Morgan before enlisting in the U.S. Army as the United States entered World War I. Baker then joined the Lafayette Escadrille, commanding the 103rd Aero Squadron and painting his Spad XIII orange and black in honor of his alma mater. Baker died weeks after the armistice while taking a newly repaired Spad for a test flight. He was immortalized by fellow Princeton man F. Scott Fitzgerald in his novel This Side of Paradise.

Dancing Days
Princeton makes just its second appearance in the NCAA tournament; in their first they played Michigan in the opening round of the 1998 West Regional at Ann Arbor's Yost Ice Arena. There the Tigers gave Michigan all they could handle before succumbing 2-1 to the eventual tournament champions. Their opening round match-up with North Dakota will mark just the third game between the two schools, with the Sioux having taken victories in both the 2000 and 2003 meetings. The Tigers will be paced by ECAC Tournament MOP Zane Kalemba. The sophomore netminder and New Jersey native posted three shutouts against Yale and Colgate before allowing just one goal to Harvard in the conference final.

College Hockey News

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