Friday, March 31, 2006

The Best Boys Hockey Players at State

I saw part or all of every game in the State Tournament except for the first Boys Quarterfinal on Thursday between USM and Eau Claire North (which of course was the game I wanted to see the most!). I understand Derrick LaPoint played 49 1/2 of the 51 minutes of the game from people I've talked to. Sure he's a guy who's going to play in the WCHA for North Dakota in a year, but don't you think he needs a rest once in a while? It will be interesting to see if he can add some weight to his frame, and how things work out for him with the Sioux.

In the other games, players that were fun to watch included a trio from Stevens Point: Scott Pavelski, Travis Erstad and Brandon Busse. Erstad is a big (6'4") Junior forward that skates very well and can handle the puck. I think he could play D1 hockey after his Senior year and a year or two of Junior Hockey. Scott Pavelski is the brother of the Badger's leading scorer, Joe Pavelski. Like his brother, Scott doesn't blow you away with his size, skating or stickhandling, but he finds a way to score. Scott is a Junior and following his career will be interesting. Maybe he can make a Junior team and follow the path of his brother. Brandon Busse is a Senior D that really handles the puck well and has some wheels. He regularly took the puck coast to coast and got things set up offensively for Point.

Senior Cole Holmes of University School was very impressive, and there really hasn't been much talk about his future plans. I have heard that Boston College was interested, but he obviously needs some time in Juniors to show he is durable enough for that level. Andy Kuechler, the Senior from Fond du Lac is also quite a player who would like to play Juniors. The USHL draft and potential tenders from NAHL teams are probably possibilities for both of these guys. Finally, Sean Little from Fond du Lac is quite a player, and only a Freshman. He played on Fondy's first line, and has a brother, Ryan, who is a Senior in High School but left the Cardinals to play with the Green Bay Gamblers in the USHL. Sean has a high ceiling and it will be fun to watch his growth over the next 3 years.

Mike Davies

I had the opportunity to talk hockey with a scout for one of the high-level Division 3 college hockey programs here in Wisconsin. One of the guys I asked him about was Mike Davies, who is currently with the Lincoln Stars in the USHL but has verballed to play for Mike Eaves' Badger team next year. I asked what role Mike Davies might play immediately, and this scout felt he'd be a role player coming in, but would grow from there. While Davies has shown both a scoring touch and ability to distribute the puck in Junior Hockey, he is a smaller player. With the Badgers losing McMurchy, Burish, Degenhardt and Licari up front you have to figure both incoming recruits Zach Bearson and Blake Geoffrion are destined to play every game. Matt Ford and Tom Gorowsky are also potentially waiting in the wings for a shot at more playing time after playing some games this year but not playing full-time for the Badgers. Davies also has to contend with Ben Grotting, Aaron Bendickson and John Mitchell who are the other recruits arriving on campus with him next year. The only thing that might increase his role would be a player such as Earl or Skille getting on offer from their NHL clubs (Toronto and Chicago, respectively) and accepting that offer leaving early.

Wisconsin State Hockey Telecasts & Broadcasts

I've had the chance to watch parts of one Girls State Semifinal Telecast and parts of one Boys State Semifinal Telecast on FSN. They are being replayed on random evenings throughout the Spring. Both of the telecasts had different broadcast teams, and for the most part they were brutal. The play by play guys were especially horrific.

In the Girls Semifinal they talked about one of the team's backup goaltenders throughout the first period thinking she was in the game, when she was not. They also would get off on a tangent and not even bother to describe the action unless the puck suddenly was at the net or in the net. They had zero insight into the teams or their players, and they regularly pronounced the names incorrectly. The broadcaster's comments in the open were based solely on the interviews done with the coaches before the game. The coaches' interviews then followed the broadcaster's open, making the broadcasters appear to have a good handle on what viewers should expect.

In the Boys Semifinal the play by play guy mispronounced almost every player's name. When Vic Levine, who was doing color would add to what the play by play guy had said he would say the players name correctly. The play by play guy would then get the name correct the next time he said it, but go back to his own pronunciation after that. This happened many, many times throughout the telecast, with Levine even correctly saying THE SAME KID's name correctly several times, and the play by play guy reverting back to his own pronunciation over and over. The other nightmare with this broadcast team is that the play by play guy didn't seem to know hockey. He'd call a save a great save, and Vic Levine would call it routine 10 seconds later. The play by play guy would also regularly cut Levine off just a few seconds before he had a chance to complete a thought. It was maddening to listen to.

The crazy thing about mispronouncing everyone's name is that these same announcers visit with the coaches before they call the State Final Games and ask for name pronunciations. Why wouldn't you do that prior to the State Quarterfinals? Also, can't these guys get out and see a few hockey games during the year wherever they live? Fox Sports North and Prepfilms need to see if they can find some better announcers for next year.

Bill Scott did a decent job for the Wisconsin Radio Network in the little bit that I heard. He is a guy that has a great voice, is smooth, calls some hockey during the year and has kids in the sport furthering his knowledge of the game.

Before & After Teams

Before and After Teams have taken high school hockey by storm over the past several years. It started with the boys, and has now spread to girls hockey.

On the boys side of things, teams such as the Team Wisconsin, Badger Big 8, and Phoenix Force have shown they can play with the likes of Wisconsin AAA, the Madison Capitols as well as the Green Bay Jr. Gamblers. In the Tier I Midget U18 State Tournament this year the finalists were Wisconsin AAA and Team Wisconsin. Wisconsin AAA got the win by a score of 2-1. At the U16 Midget State Tournament this year the Badger Big 8 squad qualified for the finals against Team Wisconsin, with Team Wisconsin taking home the bacon by a score of 4-3.

The girls have just started to get into the before and after scene with the advent of the girls Team Wisconsin. In their first ever Tier 1 U19 playoff the girls did not qualify for the finals which featured the Wisconsin Wild and Madison Capitols. As girls high school hockey continues to grow, this team will undoubtedly improve.

Before and After teams, in my mind, really eliminate the need to play for a full-time AAA team. Why not play on a before and after team, and stay home during the season to represent your school? There's plenty of avenues for exposure via WAHA camps, the before and after team, and yes, even high school hockey. With the rise in popularity of before and after teams, I think you will continue to see a trend in Wisconsin away from Midget teams, and towards high school teams.

Wisconsin Boys High School Hockey Growth

The WIAA has said they will make boys hockey a two division sport when there are a total of 96 teams. I counted 87 this season with 4 reportedly on the way for the 2006-2007 season including 3 in the Green Bay area. Unfortunately there will also be 1 team lost as apparently Madison LaFollette and East will be forming a coop due to low numbers next year. That brings my rough count to 90 teams. I'm not sure where to find them, but 6 more teams to go if things shake out as expected for hockey to become a two division sport.

Wisconsin Girls High School Hockey Growth

Below is the All-State Team for Wisconsin's Girls High School Hockey as selected by the coaches. I've got a problem with a few of the picks.

To start with, Defenseman Jennifer Brown from the Central Wisconsin Storm scored 12-15-27 on the season and made Second-Team All-State. If you take a look at the Storm's record, they played a total of 7 of their 22 games versus quality opponents all season (2 Metro Lynx, 2 St. Croix Valley, 1 Fondy/Waupun, 1 Altoona & 1 Superior). The Storm scored 39 goals in 4 games against Tomahawk, 14 goals in two games versus Arrowhead, and 9 goals in 2 games with Baraboo's JV team. With that schedule, I just can't see putting anyone from the Storm on an All-State Team. You mean to tell me that teams that played tough schedules like Onalaska and Superior don't have a better defenseman than Jennifer Brown? I have to admit that I saw a game she played in versus one of those quality opponents (in which they lost by more than a touchdown) and nobody from the Storm jumped out at me as a high-end player including Brown.

Arika Krinke is another player that I just don't think is a great player at this point. I saw her play 2 games against quality opponents (they lost both by 5 goals or more) and she really didn't do much unless it involved leaving the zone early and getting behind the D. I don't think she is a complete player, and she certainly isn't better than some of the forwards on the All-
State Honorable Mention Team.

As far as any pick from the St. Croix Valley team, I can't argue as I never got to see them play. I understand they had a good crop of forwards this year. My question to them is if you have all these kids on the All-State Team, how come you couldn't get past Hudson in the Sectional Final?

Off the Honorable Mention team kids worthy of higher spots in my mind are both Van Dammes from Superior and all 3 Fondy/Waupun kids. They're all complete players that played tough schedules and may have deserved better.

As far as goaltenders are concerned, what a tough choice. Post from Fondy/Waupun was so clutch you had to put her on the First-Team, but Jondal and Vander Schaaf are both very, very good goaltenders that don't have as good a team around them as Post does. Both Jondal and Vander Schaaf are only Sophmores, so they'll both have a couple more shots at moving up the rankings over the next two years.

Lauren Post, G, sr., Fondy/Waupun
Amanda Finstad, D, sr., Fondy/Waupun
Megan Murphy, D, jr., St. Croix Valley
Maggie Bresser, F, sr., Fondy/Waupun
Rachel Dearth, F, sr., Metro Lynx
Nicole Hanson, F, jr., Onalaska

Lea Jondal, G, so., New Richmond
Jennifer Brown, D, jr., Central WI Storm
Margo Johnson, D, sr., Milw. North Shore
Arika Krinke, F, so., Hudson
Allison Lunzer, F, sr., St. Croix Valley
Jessica Rowe, F, jr., Arrowhead

Danielle Vander Schaaf, G, so., Baraboo
Jess Clary, D, sr., Baraboo
Emily Meier, D, jr., Metro Lynx
Amanda Robinson, D, so., St. Croix Valley
Brittany Schleicher, D, jr., Fondy/Waupun
Erica Van Damme, D, jr., Superior
Amber Cmejla, F, jr., Fondy/Waupun
Alisha Ellertson, F, sr., St. Croix Valley
Katy Johnson, F, sr., Milw. North Shore
Kaitlin Kernosky, F, sr., Central WI Storm
Amy Knutson, F, so., Fondy/Waupun
Alex Lankey, F, sr., Baraboo
Taylor Van Damme, F, jr., Superior

Rachel Dearth, Metro Lynx

Mike Cowan, Fondy/Waupun

Girls High School Hockey Growth

The growth of girls high school hockey continues in Wisconsin. The WIAA began girls hockey just 5 years ago with 7 original teams. Only one joined over the next 3 years, but 6 new programs joined for 2005-2006. With the April 1st deadline looming for new teams, there exists the possibility of around 8 new teams for 2006-2007 from what I'm hearing. The programs involved are predominantly in the Northern part of the state, and include Menominee, Northland Pines, Appleton, Eau Claire, Reedsburg/WI Dells and possibly another Madison team. Altoona was shot down by their school board last year so who knows if they may have better luck this year, should they decide to keep trying to join the WIAA.

Something Strange at State Tournament

On the girls side of the tournament, the qualifiers were Hudson, Onalaska, Superior and Fond du Lac/Waupun (F/W). Every team except F/W had almost no seniors on their rosters making significant contributions, meaning all of those teams are going to be improved next year. F/W graduates four seniors, three of which were voted 1st team All State (Lauren Post (G), Maggie Bresser (F), and Amanda Finstad (D). The fourth senior was Julia Stollfus who played a regular shift at defense for the Warbirds.

State Champions!

Congratulations to the Wisconsin High School Girls State Champions Fond du Lac/Waupun Warbirds and the Wisconsin High School Boys State Champions University School of Milwaukee Wildcats on their state titles this year. Congratulations as well to all the teams that qualified for the state tournament field of 8 boys teams and 4 girls teams.

The two Championship games were strange contrasts as the Fond du Lac/Waupun Girls finally got "over the hump" against Onalaska this season with a win after losing to them twice during the regular season. On the boys' side Fond du Lac had lost to USM twice in the regular season and then lost again in the State Title game.

On the girls side of the tournament, the qualifiers were Hudson, Onalaska, Superior and Fond du Lac/Waupun (F/W). Every team except F/W had almost no seniors on their rosters making significant contributions, meaning all of those teams are going to be improved next year. F/W graduates four seniors, three of which were voted 1st team All State (Lauren Post (G), Maggie Bresser (F), and Amanda Finstad (D). The fourth senior was Julia Stollfus who played a regular shift at defense for the Warbirds.


Strange to be starting a hockey website at the end of the hockey season, but you've got to start sometime. Besides, I've got more time available now!

My blog will deal mostly with high school hockey in Wisconsin, both boys and girls. I may also delve into the college hockey recruiting realm a bit.

Hopefully I'll find the time to keep this site up to date!