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Minnesota, North Dakota, BC and Union vie for NCAA title at Frozen Four

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BC's Thatcher Demko was named the top amateur goalie by the NHL's Central Scouting. (Fred Kfoury/Icon SMI)

BC’s Thatcher Demko was named the top undrafted North American goalie by the NHL’s Central Scouting. (Fred Kfoury/Icon SMI)

By Michael Blinn

The road to this year’s national championship has delivered two distinctly different matchups headed for the Wells Fargo Center in Philly. On one side of the bracket, a longtime power is going head to head with a rising force while the other side features one of college hockey’s most storied rivalries adding another chapter to its growing volume.

To say that North Dakota and Minnesota are familiar with one another is like saying the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens are just friendly acquaintances. The two schools have met on the ice 283 times, the NCAA’s third highest total, and up until this season they were Western Collegiate Hockey Association combatants before Minnesota joined the newly formed Big 10 while North Dakota, the last at-large bid to make it into this year’s tourney, jumped over to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference in its first season.

Despite their new homes, don’t expect any of the heat to come off the hostility between the teams. The two schools have long been among the best in the collegiate game and perennial national championship contenders. Some of the biggest names in hockey history have graced their respective ranks, including Herb Brooks and Neal Broten (Minnesota) as well Ed Belfour (North Dakota) and Dean Blais (both), while many current NHLers such as Thomas Vanek (Minnesota) and Zach Parise (North Dakota) have played a part in the teams’ histories.

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  • Published On Apr 10, 2014
  • Jamming the Crease: Isles fans putting bag on; Quebec can wait; more notes

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    New York Islanders fans

    Islanders fans have been driven crazy by the team’s ongoing ineptitude and misfortune. (Getty Images)

    By Allan Muir

    Let’s warm up with a few quick notes before we hit a couple of meatier items:

    • Islanders fans are brown-bagging it for Saturday’s game against the Sabres at Nassau Coliseum. A group that originally hoped to orchestrate a walkout now plans on wearing bags over their heads and organizing chants of “Wang must sell!” and “Snow must go!” among other catchy slogans. This, no doubt, will end well.

    GALLERY: Islanders follies | GM Snow is Charlie Brown of NHL

    • If Jarome Iginla wants to remain with the Bruins past this season, he’ll have to take a significant pay cut to make it work. The B’s already have more than $62 million committed to 17 players for 2014-15 and RFAs Reilly Smith and Torey Krug are due hefty raises that will eat up a good part of what’s left. If the cap only goes up to $68 million or so, that won’t leave much room for Iggy and a backup goalie. Depth defender Matt Bartkowski might be on the way out and Boston won’t re-sign ’09 first rounder Jordan Caron. His size (6-foot-3, 204 pounds) and pedigree will earn him another shot elsewhere, but he has nothing of consequence to contribute at the NHL level.

    • I dug up some old transcriptions while doing some research and found this 2011 quote from an OHL executive about soon-to-be-drafted forward Boone Jenner: “Heart of a lion. Fearless … relentless … makes others around him better. He’ll make a team into a winner someday.” Jenner is doing a good job of that right now for the Blue Jackets.

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  • Published On Mar 13, 2014
  • Tampa Bay Lightning prospects rated tops in NHL; St. Louis Blues last

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    The Tampa Bay Lightning drafted winger Jonathan Drouin third overall in the 2013 NHL Draft.

    Jonathan Drouin, the third pick in the 2013 draft, joins GM Steve Yzerman’s formidable pile of prospects. (Getty)

    By Allan Muir

    Over the weekend, a columnist in the Tampa Tribune considered Steve Yzerman’s brief tenure as general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning and said the time has come for him “to deliver.”

    Fair enough. A couple of years on the playoff sidelines has a way of making folks antsy. And Lightning fans have had their fill of hope-and-change talk from the past few administrations that promised much and delivered little.

    But the Bolts, like Rome, can’t be built overnight. It’s a process, and Yzerman has taken considerable strides in the right direction.

    Need proof? Take a look at the talent pipeline.

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  • Published On Jul 09, 2013
  • Avalanche select MacKinnon at No. 1, Jones falls to Predators at No. 4

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    Seth Jones was chosen fourth overall by the Nashville Predators at the 2013 NHL Draft.

    Seth Jones should be a good fit on the Predators as one of their new cornerstone defensemen. (AP Photos)

    By Sarah Kwak

    NEWARK, N.J. — With a full 1:30 left on the three-minute countdown clock on the stage of the Prudential Center, the Colorado Avalanche weren’t trying to delay their new start any longer. With the first pick at Sunday’s 2013 NHL Entry Draft, the Avs selected Nathan MacKinnon from the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

    HACKEL: Scouts are draft day’s hidden heroes

    The selection did not come as a total surprise. Colorado’s choice has been hotly discussed since Joe Sakic, the Avs’ vice president of hockey operations, began floating the idea that the team was keen on taking a forward over defenseman Seth Jones, the top-ranked prospect. In the days before the draft, Sakic and new Colorado coach Patrick Roy gushed about MacKinnon, believing the 5’-11”, 179-pound forward would end up being the best player in the draft. But it was a bit difficult to believe only because of the glaring hole that Colorado has on its back end and the unique qualities that Jones brings. Plenty of people believed it was posturing by the relatively new management team, perhaps to get trade talks moving, but in the end, they weren’t bluffing, and MacKinnon took the stage first.

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  • Published On Jun 30, 2013
  • NHL Draft buzz: Eastern Conference

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    Penguins defenseman Kris Letang

    Defenseman Kris Letang could be this year’s big draft day trade story. (Michael Tureski/Icon SMI)

    By Allan Muir

    A look at the buzz surrounding Eastern Conference teams heading into Sunday’s NHL Draft in New Jersey:

    Boston Bruins: Nothing like giving up a first rounder in the deepest draft in a decade for a player who goes the entire playoffs without scoring one lousy goal. Barring a trade, Boston’s first selection will be 60th overall. They’re unlikely to move up from that spot.

    Buffalo Sabres: GM Darcy Regier holds two first rounders (his own at 8 and Minnesota’s at 16) and is hoping to make a big splash on Sunday, but says it will be “extremely difficult, if not impossible for the Sabres to move up in the draft. There are some quiet whispers that they might consider Zachary Fucale at 16.

    Carolina Hurricanes: Amid rumors that the Canes might swap the fifth-overall pick comes talk that they are intrigued by Valeri Nichuschkin. “We will have a very good dialogue with the player,” GM Jim Rutherford said.

    Columbus Blue Jackets: Aaron Portzline calls it very unlikely that the Jackets will use all three of their first rounders on Sunday. He says Columbus would like to come out of the draft with at least one player who can help the team immediately, so trading one or two of their selections is a strong bet.

    Detroit Red Wings: Standing at 18, the Wings will be making their highest pick since 1991 (!). They’re looking for “a decent-size forward with skill,” according to director of amateur scouting, Joe McDonell.

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  • Published On Jun 28, 2013
  • 2013 Memorial Cup viewing preview

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    Seth Jones of the Portland Winterhawks

    Portland defenseman Seth Jones is the top rated prospect in the 2013 NHL Draft. (Marissa Baecker/Getty Images))

    By Allan Muir

    The 2013 NHL Draft sets up as showdown between Seth Jones, Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin.

    Fortunately, so does the 2013 Memorial Cup.

    The four-team tournament, emblematic of Canada’s major junior hockey championship, gets underway this weekend and features Jones’ Portland Winterhawks and the Drouin and MacKinnon-led Halifax Moosheads as the co-favorites. Games will be shown on Sporstnet in Canada and on the NHL Network in the United States, giving draftniks, prospectors and hopeful fans of the Avalanche, Panthers and Lightning something to look forward to.

    Here’s your guide to the teams, the elite players and the must-watch games.

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  • Published On May 17, 2013