There is a saying that “life is hard.” It may be a saying that is used far too loosely in our society as people say that when they can’t get cellular phone reception while others use that describe rather simply a loved-one’s struggle with a terminal disease. Obviously, the latter is far more worthy of that phrase and if you’ve ever lost anyone to any sort of terminal disease like cancer you have an idea of just how hard life can be. Some people might use such a phrase to talk about the difficulties someone faces if they’re unemployed and trying to raise a family. No doubt its tough to tell your kids “sorry I can’t” during the holiday season. For others, when they say life is hard they may be trying to comfort someone that is going through a break up in a relationship. Depending on how deep the feelings are for that person, or the extenuated circumstances of that break up it can be very difficult to deal with emotionally. In fact, it may be extremely difficult to move on and the feelings of loss and pain can be quite stressful. Speaking of relationships, I wonder as a whole where the Wild’s relationship is with its fans. It certainly isn’t on real good terms at this point. Not quite to the point where most of them (the fans) are seeing other people (teams) but certainly they’re unhappy with what they’ve been receiving in this relationship at this point in the 2010-11 season.
Would it be described as “being short with one another”, “disatisfied”, “feeling unappreciated” perhaps? No I am not going to recommend Cialis or Viagra for the Wild (besides the Wild can’t afford it), but they need to have some sort of shakeup if things don’t improve soon. No matter what, losing 5 of their last 6 and currently mired in a 4-game losing streak isn’t helping the relationship any. If the Wild were a significant other they may be sleeping on the couch at this point. So will Minnesota bring flowers (wins) for the fans and start the healing process or will they stay in the relationship doghouse against Dallas, who has won their last 5 games.
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Minnesota was moving well to start the 1st period in a vacuous American Airlines Arena, but the Wild would also demonstrate a lack of discipline early as Nick Schultz was tagged with an early tripping penalty. The Wild’s penalty kill was challenging well, forcing the Stars to work the perimeter and settle for long range shots. Dallas would adjust trying to use wrist shots to create rebounds and redirection opportunities but their few attempts luckily failed to connect. Just as the power play expired, Steve Ott would win a battle for a puck along the boards and then dish it back to Karlis Skrastins who fired a quick shot that surprised Jose Theodore to give Dallas a 1-0 lead. The Stars were making things difficult for the Wild as their defense was able to pick up the loose puck and then quickly lifting the puck to not only clear the zone but place it deep into Minnesota zone and then forcing the play through the neutral zone which the State of Hockey struggled to handle. Minnesota was finally able to register a shot on a wrister by John Madden that was held onto with ease by Dallas’ Kari Lehtonen. The Stars were also playing well positionally to start the game as they were blocking shots and denying shooting lanes. The Stars had another great scoring chance after some great work down low by the Stars’ Brad Richards who delivered a wicked pass from between the legs to a crashing Matt Niskanen that was stopped by a sprawling save by Theodore. Minnesota was showing a little toughness and some frustration when Martin Havlat got into a skirmish with Steve Ott who looked as though he wanted to punch the Wild’s leading scorer in the face after getting a few little jabs to the face. Both players would head to the sin bin with coincidental roughing minors. With the ice a little more open at 4-on-4 the game would have a little more back and forth type of play as Dallas and Minnesota began to trade rushes with one another with neither team coming all that close to scoring; with the possible exception of a cannon from the point by the Stars’ Phillip Larsen that did not miss by much. The Wild would earn its 1st power play of the game when Matt Niskanen held up Cal Clutterbuck. On the power play, the Wild won the faceoff and put some good pressure on the Stars early as Matt Cullen spun and gained some time and space before firing a shot on goal that was absorbed by Lehtonen. The Wild continued to attack and a rocket from the point by Zidlicky struck the left post, but Minnesota would gather up the loose biscuit setting up another scoring chance near the crease as Andrew Brunette was lurking near the top of the blue paint. Minnesota would come up empty on the man advantage and adding insult to injury the Wild would go on the penalty kill after Antti Miettinen‘s lazy hooking penalty. On the Stars power play, Brad Richards flung a backhander on goal that Theodore stopped and Brendan Morrow backhanded the rebound just wide of the mark. The Wild would managed to kill off the penalty with some well timed physicality as Greg Zanon stepped in to deliver a few nice hits to break up the play. Minnesota started to show a bit more grit, as Kyle Brodziak skated in and he wound up and unloaded a slapper that Lehtonen struggled to knock down and it was Eric Nystrom that tried to dive in to shovel home the rebound he was hauled down by Brandon Segal for an obvious interference penalty. Minnesota had difficulty getting established in the Stars’ zone, as it took nearly a minute before they were finally able to get much of anything going offensively. Minnesota was able to attempt a few wrist shots but nothing real threatening as they trailed 1-0 going into the 2nd period.
In the 2nd period, the Wild had an excellent scoring chance shorthanded as Cal Clutterbuck raced in on the break away but he was stonewalled by a nice save by Lehtonen. The Stars would counter attack and it was Steve Ott moving in all alone himself as he tried to wrist a shot by Theodore who held on as Ott collided into him for no call. Moments later the Stars had another fantastic chance when Eriksson, Ott made a nice play but Ott dished it back to a crashing James Neal who drove a shot wide. After the Wild killed off the power play, Minnesota’s 2nd line had a terrific shift controlling the puck and Martin Havlat set up Brent Burns for a few one-timers that missed high and wide. Matt Cullen would race into the Dallas zone where he fired a hard backhand shot that was directed to the corner by Lehtonen and he followed up his shot by gathering the puck and feathering a pass towards the crease that was pounced upon by Chuck Kobasew that was denied by the Stars goalie. The Wild’s 4th line would create some offense as Eric Nystrom would carry it into the Dallas zone where he dropped a pass back to John Madden who hammered a slapper on goal and it was Brad Staubitz charging to the crease but he couldn’t get a stick on the loose puck. The Wild continued to attack, as Kyle Brodziak would lower his shoulder and take the puck to the net and Lehtonen would be ran over by Larsen and Minnesota would go on the power play as Karlis Skrastins was tagged with a delay of game penalty. The power play would be short lived, as Martin Havlat was shoved into Lehtonen by Steve Ott but the officials were not interested in hearing Havlat out and the man advantage came to an end. The game would open up a bit more with both teams at 4-on-4 and James Neal would use his speed to get around Zanon and he nearly managed to slide a shot through 5-hole and the puck would sit in the crease by itself for a moment before Zanon was able to sweep it out of danger. A few minutes later, Mikko Koivu would take an undisciplined high sticking penalty when he lifted his stick into the face of Brian Sutherby for an easy call. Minnesota again would have a quick shorthanded chance to start the penalty kill as Kyle Brodziak raced into the Dallas zone where he fired a wrister that was gloved out of the air nicely by Lehtonen. The Wild’s penalty kill was strong and supporting its goaltender well and was able to clear the zone. However the Stars were persistent and a little drop pass by Neal to Ott who fired a shot high glove side and over the shoulder of Theodore to give Dallas a 2-0 lead. The Wild tried to turn the tables on the Stars as they begin to get more physical as Brad Staubitz was throwing big hits all over the ice. Minnesota would score late in the period when Mikko Koivu made an strong power move towards the crease where he tried to jam it through Lehtonen who dropped to try to cover the puck and the biscuit would pop up and bounce off the shaft of one of the flailing sticks and into the back of the net for a goal. The goal was reviewed and it was Antti Miettinen who was given credit for the tally and Minnesota had cut the lead to one, 2-1 going into the 3rd period.
Minnesota had good hustle to start the 3rd period as the Wild would move the puck down low, where Pierre-Marc Bouchard won a battle for the biscuit along the boards and this allowed Havlat to try a wrap around that skittered through the Dallas crease. The Wild followed up that solid first shift of the period with some more hard work as Cal Clutterbuck made a nice hit on Phillip Larsen, and then got a pass from Cullen and he fired a shot on goal that was stopped by Lehtonen but he gave up a rebound and Chuck Kobasew was there to tap it in to tie the game at 2-2. The Stars would try to respond, with some great offensive pressure of their own as James Neal stole a weak pass in the Minnesota zone and he lifted a wrist shot just up and over the Wild goal. Minnesota scrambled to finally clear the zone. Both teams were really moving well, as the Wild tried to ramp up their game physically. Perhaps a little too much emphasis on being physical and the Wild would get caught chasing a bit in its own zone and Trevor Daley threaded a pass to Adam Burish who was parked near the crease and he beat Theodore cleanly with a backhand shot to allow the Stars to re-take the lead 3-2. Dallas started to dominate the play with some great forechecking that kept Minnesota bottled up in its own zone. The swarming Stars were looking to pad their lead and they were coming closer and closer to doing so as Steve Ott fired a shot that struck Theodore in the mask and he fell to the ice as he had Burish looking for a loose puck but it would be swept away by the Wild’s defense. Dallas’ quality scoring chances kept piling up as Jamie Benn set up Brendan Morrow on a pretty cross-ice pass but his quick one timed shot was kicked aside by Theodore. The ice was definitely tilted in favor of Dallas, but Minnesota would try to alleviate that pressure by flipping it into the Stars’ zone and it worked a little as the Wild’s Antti Miettinen managed to work a puck to Koivu who fired a wrist shot that was steered wide by Lehtonen. The Stars were still taking every chance they could to try to drive to the Wild crease as Loui Eriksson made a strong move towards Theodore who stymied his attempt poke checking the shot to the corner. Minnesota then had perhaps its best shift of the game in terms of sustained effort as the top line of Brunette, Koivu and Miettinen cycled well down low in the Dallas zone, creating multiple shooting opportunities but unfortunately not many of those shots were on goal to force Lehtonen to at least to have to make a save. Minnesota was pinching its defense as Brent Burns had moved in down low to keep the cycle going, and eventually the pressure would end with a poitn shot by Zanon whose shot was deflected up into the netting above the glass drawing a whistle. The Wild were really pouring it on, looking as though if they were on the power play working the points until Zidlicky uncorked a slapper that was blocked and the puck was picked up by Havlat who got a weak shot towards the crease which was punched out by a reaching Lehtonen and the puck went back to Havlat who fired it by Lehtonen to tie the game 3-3. Minnesota and Dallas would play a bit more conservatively through the closing few minutes and the game would go to overtime.
Minnesota would start overtime with Kyle Brodziak, Martin Havlat, Brent Burns and Nick Schultz and it was Havlat tried to saucer a pass to Burns who was looking to help out offensively but it was intercepted. The Stars would counter as James Neal attempted to feed a shot towards the top of the crease but it failed to connect and it would clear the zone. Steadily the pace of the game would increase and Brent Burns would trip up Jamie Benn who was charging into the Wild zone giving Dallas a power play with just 2:24 left in overtime. Minnesota would call a timeout to talk things over. Dallas’ power play went right to work as they moved it out to the point to Larsen for a quick point shot that was knocked down by Theodore and he would stop Ribeiro’s bid from point-blank range. Dallas would not be denied as they worked a similar play as the puck went out to the point where Stephane Robidas flung a wrist shot that beat a well-screened Theodore to give Minnesota a 4-3 loss.
Jose Theodore had 28 saves in the loss. Theodore gave the Wild a chance to win this game, making several big stops on shots taken near his crease. Defensively, it was a lack of discipline and a few breakdowns that proved to be most costly. Burish’s goal in the 3rd was the result of a blown defensive assignment that gave him an uncontested chance from in front of the crease. Brent Burns was not very good tonight defensively, and was flat footed most of the night but penalties also hurt the Wild as well as the Stars managed to score twice on the man advantage. The Wild are a team that cannot afford to make things easier for their opponents by taking unnecessary penalties.
Offensively, Minnesota has shown an ability to create some pressure at even strength which was not the case early in the season. I must admit, Pierre-Marc Bouchard has shown some great chemistry with Martin Havlat who has been playing with tremendous desire as of late. Having Kobasew back adds speed and a little more offense to the energy line and the Wild sorely need offense wherever they can get it. On the other end of it, the Wild’s power play is certainly struggling. It was slightly better at creating some offensive pressure as the team was taking its opportunities to shoot the puck, but still it is taking far too much time just entering the offensive zone where they often burn 1/2 of their power play just trying to get set up.
This loss does hurt as much as the last one did. The effort was clearly better and I never really felt as if the team had given up. Sure, the team could have had better performances from guys like Brent Burns and Antti Miettinen who had some undisciplined penalties but everyone else was really playing like a desperate hockey team. The team had a much better 2nd period and managed to battle back after a small 3rd period lapse. It still wasn’t the full 60-minute effort the team’s coaches and management have been talking about but it is greatly improved from where it used to be. I would not predict that Wild Head Coach Todd Richards will get fired during this latest lull in the action as Minnesota has 4 days off before its next game. The Wild have lost their 5th straight but all the team can do is to try to forget about it and focus on beating Phoenix on Thursday. So for the Wild, life has been hard as of late, but it doesn’t mean its over either.
~ The Wild roster tonight is as follows: Mikko Koivu, Andrew Brunette, Antti Miettinen, Kyle Brodziak, John Madden, Martin Havlat, Cal Clutterbuck, Matt Cullen, Chuck Kobasew, Brad Staubitz, Eric Nystrom, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Marek Zidlicky, Cam Barker, Greg Zanon, Jared Spurgeon, Nick Schultz and Brent Burns. Niklas Backstrom backed up Jose Theodore. Patrick O’Sullivan, Justin Falk and Clayton Stoner were the healthy scratches. Guillaume Latendresse is still busy recovering from groin and sports hernia surgery he received a few weeks ago.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game as selected by Dallasstars.com were: 1st Star Steve Ott, 2nd Star Adam Burish, 3rd Star Stephane Robidas
~ Attendance at tonight’s game was 14,344 at American Airlines Arena. I highly doubt there was that many at the game.
~ The Houston Aeros lost Friday night, 2-1 to the Rockford Ice Hogs after have defeated them the night before. The Aeros jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead on a pretty goal in transition by Robbie Earl after a nice pass from Warren Peters. In what was a very rough game with 6 roughing majors, 2 fighting majors and 2 game misconducts and numerous other penalties the Aeros just couldn’t stave off the veteran laden Ice Hogs attack as goals by Ivan Vishnevskiy and former Golden Gophers star Ryan Potulny‘s tally with just over 5 minutes left to play in the 2nd period would hold up as the game winner. Matthew Hackett cannot be blamed for the outcome having stopped 27 of 29 in the losing effort.
~ The Aeros would redeem themselves Saturday night in a game eerie for many reasons against its new in-state rival the Texas Stars. The Aeros would get on the scoreboard first as Elk River, Minnesota’s Nate Prosser scored on the power play to go up 1-0 at the end of 1 period of play. Houston would add to its lead as Colton Gillies found the back of the net after a nice pass by Casey Wellman. The Stars would answer back with two goals of their own as Travis Morin and Colten Scevior managed to beat Anton Khudobin to tie the game at 2-2 just a 1:13 into the 3rd period. The Aeros would respond with another goal as Warren Peters took a pass from Brandon Buck to re-take the lead 3-2. The Stars would play the role of the Wild, scoring late in the 3rd as Cody Chupp found the twine behind Khudobin to tie the game to send it to overtime. In overtime, the Aeros would draw a high sticking penalty on Fabian Brunnstrom and Houston would make the Stars play for their lack of discipline. On the man advantage, the Aeros would bury the game winner after a point shot by Marco Scandella was stopped by Richard Backman but as the puck bounced aroun the crease the puck would gathered up by Jean-Michel Daoust who dished it over to Cody Almond who slammed it home to give Houston a 4-3 overtime victory. Khudobin made 21 saves in the victory.
Wild Prospect Report:
LW – Brett Bulmer ~ Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
2010-11 Stats: 26GP 10G 8A = 18pts 46 PIM’s -10
Brett Bulmer is starting to heat up offensively, after scoring twice in a losing effort as the Rockets fell 3-2 to the Chilliwack Bruins.
LW – Kris Foucault ~ Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
2010-11 Stats: 23GP 9G 9A = 18pts 23 PIM’s -5
Kris Foucault has also been playing better as of late, being more assertive offensively as he tallied a goal and an assist in a 4-3 Hitmen win over the Vancouver Giants.
WCHA Men’s Hockey Report:
St. Cloud State vs. North Dakota (Series 2-0 for ND) – In game 1, the Huskies would jump out to a 1-0 lead off a goal by Hermantown, Minnesota’s Drew Leblanc but the Fighting Sioux would rally back with a goal in the 2nd and two more in the 3rd period to roll to a 3-1 victory. Senior Matt Frattin continues his torrid start scoring his 14th goal of the season while Brad Malone added two goals in the North Dakota game 1 victory. Game 2 was a lot more one sided as the Fighting Sioux jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first on goals from Evan Trupp, Eau Claire, Wisconsin’s Derrick LaPoint, Brent Davidson, Frattin, and Corban Knight. The 2nd period would get a little rough, but the Fighting Sioux would carry their 5-goal lead going into the 3rd. St. Cloud finally managed to solve Aaron Dell when Mitch MacMillan found the back of the net to cut the North Dakota lead to four, but the Sioux would answer with another goal as Mario Lamoreaux scored his first of the season. The Huskies added one more goal late, but it did little to soften the 6-2 rout and series sweep by North Dakota.
Omaha-Nebraska vs. Bemidji State (Series 2-0 for BSU) – In perhaps the surprise game of Friday night, the Bemidji State Beavers who are at the bottom of the WCHA standings managed to defeat the red hot Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks 3-0. Fittingly, the first Beavers’ goal came from an unlikely source as Jake Areshenko made it 1-0 in the 1st period. The next two Beaver tallies came from far more likely sources in Ian Lowe and Emil Billberg lighting the lamp while Dan Bakala had 23 saves in the shutout. In game two, the Mavericks got on the scoreboard first when Johnnie Seafross lit the lamp just prior to the halfway point of the first and little did Dean Blais‘ squad know that would be the last time they would score as the Beavers responded with 3 goals by Lowe, Aaron MacLeod and Verona, Wisconsin’s Jordan George split over the next two periods to earn the victory and a series sweep against Nebraska-Omaha which has more than held its own against many of the other teams in the WCHA. Bakala was again brilliant for Bemidji State, making 39 saves in the victory.
Minnesota vs. Minnesota State (Series 2-0 for MSU) – There is no doubt about it, there is a strong rivalry between the Gophers and Minnesota State Mavericks and the game always seems to bring out the best and at times worst in both teams. The Mavericks jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a goal by Ben Youds, but the Gophers answered back as Florida Panthers’ 1st rounder Nick Bjugstad scored his 2nd collegiate goal. However the Mavericks would re-take the lead late in the 1st on a goal by former St. Paul Johnson star Michael Dorr. The Mavericks extended their lead in the 2nd period on a goal by Adam Mueller, which really put Minnesota in a tough spot. The Gophers would cut the lead to one on a blast by Nick Larson, but it wasn’t enough as Phil Cook shut the door making 33 saves to give Minnesota State the upset in game 1. Atlanta Thrashers’ prospect Alex Kangas had 21 saves in the loss. Game 2 would have a much slower approach as the first period would end with both teams scoreless at the end of one. The Mavericks would finally find the back of the net behind Kent Patterson on the power play as Rylan Galiardi poked home a rebound to give Minnesota State a 1-0 lead going into the 3rd. Kurt Davis would find the twine almost mid-way through the 3rd to give Minnesota State a 2-0 lead until Cade Fairchild scored about a minute later on the man advantage to cut the lead back to one but it wasn’t meant to be. The Gophers poured it on in the 3rd, outshooting the Mavericks 23 to 10 but they couldn’t beat Phil Cook and Minnesota State earned a 2-1 win an a series sweep of in-state rival Minnesota.
Denver vs. University of Minnesota-Duluth (Series split 1-1) – Easily the highest profile showdown of the night was between the Denver University Pioneers and the UMD Bulldogs. Wild prospect Jason Zucker continues his red-hot freshman season, scoring just 54 seconds into the game, and Anthony Maiani added another to give the Pioneers an early 1-0 lead going into the 2nd period. Zucker would again find the twine early to start the 2nd period, but it was at this point that the Bulldogs would rally back with 3 goals of its own from Jack Connolly, Wade Bergman, and Mike Connolly to have the game knotted at three apiece to start the 3rd period. With just under 5 minutes left in the 3rd period, Kyle Schmidt scored for the Bulldogs to give them a 4-3 lead but their good feelings would be short-lived as Zucker rifled a shot by Kenny Reiter to complete the hat trick and send the game to overtime. In overtime it was Drew Shore lighting the lamp for the 13th time this season, with Zucker collecting an assist as the Pioneers’ Sam Brittain stopped 29 shots in a 5-4 OT thriller. In game two, both teams were showing good poise early and it was freshman phenom Justin Faulk blistering a slapper by Brittain to lift UMD to a 1-0 lead. In the 2nd period Mike Connolly beat Sam Brittain shorthanded to extend the lead to 2-0. The Pioneers tried to rally back as Maiani scored on the power play in the 3rd period but the Bulldogs and Reiter would hold off Denver’s assault to win 2-1 and earn a series split.
Wisconsin vs. Alaska-Anchorage (Series 1-0 for A-A) – After a fairly quiet and scoreless first period the Seawolves gave their home crowd something to cheer about as Craig Parkinson scored shorthanded to give Alaska-Anchorage a 1-0 lead. Wisconsin would be better on the power play the 2nd time as leading goal scorer Jordy Murray fired a shot by Rob Gunderson to tie the game at 1-1. The Seawolves would stun the Badgers late in the 3rd as Tommy Grant scored with just 9 seconds left in regulation to earn the 2-1 victory.
Colorado College vs. Michigan Tech (Series 2-0 for CC) – The Colorado College Tigers would get out to a 1-0 lead in the 1st period on a goal by Andrew Hamburg. The Tigers would add another early in the 3rd when Rylan Schwartz found the twine behind Joe Howe, but Michigan Tech would strike back as Jacob Johnstone and Milos Gordic scored two goals just 40 seconds apart to tie the game at 2-2. Rylan Schwartz would score another with just 9 seconds left in the 2nd period to give the Tigers a 3-2 lead going into the 3rd. Hamburg would score again in the 3rd to extend the lead to two, while Ryan Furne cut the lead back to one to make it 4-3 with just 12 minutes left in the 3rd. It was at this point the wheels would come off for hometown Huskies, as Colorado College scored 3 more times on goals from Cloquet’s Tyler Johnson, Ryan Lowery and Nick Dineen to produce a 7-3 blowout. St. Louis Blues’ 1st rounder had Jaden Schwartz had 4 assists in the victory. Game two was equally one sided as the Colorado College Tigers had to just lie in wait one period before turning it on in the 2nd and 3rd period to blitz the Huskies for 5 goals to earn a 5-0 victory and series sweep. Jaden Schwartz had 2 goals and an assist to stay amongst the top freshman forwards in the nation and Hopkins, Minnesota’s Archie Skalbeck fired home two goals himself in the rout.