Oh yeah, baby, are you ready for it? The readers are clamoring for it, and who am I to deny my loyal public? Chris from Western College Hockey, after many months of counseling, was able to conquer his fear of me.
RWD: What made you want to write Western College Hockey?
WCH: When I first moved away from Michigan, I regularly checked about five or six different websites for information on Michigan sports. Then, Brian Cook created the site MGoBlog [yeah, like I'm going to link to him! He gets enough publicity!], and I was able to find all of that information in a single site. I thought it was a pretty cool idea, and decided to try and do it for college hockey. Technically, Western College Hockey Blog just started out as College Hockey Blog, but a) College Hockey Blog is an awful name [as opposed to the brilliant title of Western College Hockey?] and b) as I started brainstorming ideas for posts, I realized I had no clue what I was talking about when it came to conferences outside the CCHA and WCHA. [Interesting how he assumes he has a clue about the WCHA and CCHA. Hmm...]
RWD: But MGoBlog is a Michigan blog; what made you want to cover two conferences? [I used a semicolon! Yay punctuation!]
WCH: I grew up in CCHA country, and I now live in WCHA country, so I feel like I've got a pretty good handle on both conferences.
RWD: Do you ever feel like the scope is too broad?
WCH: It depends. Sometimes I feel like it's too broad. When I look at statistics, it's a lot easier to just run them for 10 teams as opposed to 22. [Another reason to keep Bemidji out! That would make 23 teams!] And sometimes I feel like it's not broad enough. Sometimes there is info that I feel is useful that I don't use because it relates more to eastern teams.
RWD: Well, personally, I was unaware there were teams outside of the WCHA.
WCH: There are... they just don't matter as much.
RWD: I just thought they conjured up non-conference opponents from, like, bums off the street. You know, how North Dakota picks their teams!
WCH: Actually, at North Dakota, the police pick the bums off the street, and then the bums get recruited after they're booked down at the station. [On a different note, did you see how HOTT TJ was in his mug shot?] It's much more efficient that way.
RWD: It's a time-honored tradition. So why would you move to Mankato?
WCH: Because I moved in with my beautiful girlfriend.
RWD: Ew, too sappy, I'm editing that out. [Ok, I didn't, but only because my response was funny.] This is HOCKEY. "Because I killed someone in Michigan" would be a good answer. [For reals, homey. I thought USCHO nerds were supposed to be single losers in their parents' basements. I guess using Dirty as the poster child might be misleading.]
WCH: Yeah, but I had to go with the sappy answer. Also, I was living in Poughkeepsie, New York at the time, which is like the [sphincter] of the world, so small-town Minnesota looked great in comparison. [I hope this doesn't turn into a Sienna Miller/Pittsburg incident!]
RWD: Have you found Mankato to be a thrilling and wonderful town?
WCH: I actually love it there. It's just big enough to have anything one would need, but small enough to avoid any big city problems. We moved away from there this summer, but I miss it, and always look forward to going back.
RWD: So if Minnesota State University-Mankato and Michigan were playing head to head for the National Championship...? [Explosion of laughter that impaired my typing ability] Okay, that would never happen, but hypothetically, who would you cheer for?
WCH: Definitely MSU.
RWD: Michigan State? [I've generally made it a point to cheer for a team that's PLAYING, but okay. Go North Stars! Plus, I've never heard of a UM fan cheering for Michigan State. I think that's a capital crime in Michigan.]
WCH: Clearly you don't read Minnesota State's weekly press releases, which always include this stern warning: According to official University guidelines, there are only three acceptable usages of the school name. The first is “Minnesota State University, Mankato”and this is only to be used in the first reference of the school. Following that, the only other acceptable usages of the school name are “Minnesota State” or “MSU” and no others. Minnesota State Athletic Communications appreciates all cooperation in this matter.
RWD: Oh, I like that last sentence. It's so snotty. [It's like they are trying to distance themselves from the city of Mankato. Which, I understand, but in their case it's really not an option.]
WCH: I don't think the hockey people have ever had a problem with it, but I seem to recall someone giving Ciskie a hard time about it at a football game. Does Ciskie do UMD football or am I thinking of someone else?
RWD: Um... UMD has football? [Never heard of it. Is it a new sport?]
WCH: Probably. Back to the question: honestly, I've seen Michigan win enough in my lifetime. [Sure, rub it in.] I was there when they won the national title in 1996, and it was incredible. I'd love to see the same thing happen for MSU. Plus, my brother goes to Michigan and I'd love to rub it in his face if Mankato beat Michigan. [Um, yeah, if UMDDogz did that to me, I'd probably kill him. But he'd never cheer for anyone but tDogs.]
RWD: You wouldn't be, like, disinherited?
RWD: You wouldn't be, like, disinherited?
WCH: I don't know, maybe. But it'd be worth it.
RWD: Well, as long as you're not from a family of oil barons or something, I suppose that's no big deal. I mean, who needs to inherit some old clock and an ugly statue, anyway? [I'm holding out for Gramps's golf cart and the speedboat motor in DA's garage!]
RWD: So what is the point of Maverick Hockey Nation? Cyber-squatting?
WCH: Nowadays, mainly to show off how lazy I am, since nothing ever gets posted there. But it's nice if I ever want to write something Mav-related that doesn't really fit in on WCH.
RWD: Fortunately, there's Let's Go Mavs to pick up the slack and cover the Mavs more regularly. [Hi, Amy!]
WCH: Shane Frederick's blog for the Free Press has been pretty great this year too.
RWD: Oh, I don't read that. I hope that doesn't make him cry or anything.
WCH: Shane is a really nice guy [So he probably is crying], and I think he does a great job covering the Mavs.
RWD: What other blogs do you read?
WCH: Runninwiththedogs, of course.
RWD: Suck-up. I don't need your pity!
WCH: I've got a whole bunch of blogs on my Bloglines reader, so I'll basically read anything by anyone. [You just made Charles Manson's day!]
RWD: It's a nice way to cheat. I use it as well. [Bloglines is a great way to get updates on your favorite blogs without checking them 300 times a day to see if they have been updated.]
WCH: All of the blogs by media-folk are top-notch. [ALL of them? LaP's blog sucks! And I heard Fat Dan Myers wasn't so fabulous, either.] Though it bugs me that some of the newspaper use crappy software that you can't get a feed from.
RWD: This is the most [badonkadonk]-kissing I've ever had in a Gauntlet! Meanwhile, those of us who are uncredential are being subtly oppressed.
WCH: Oppressed by whom?
RWD: The Man. And You.
WCH: Hey, I listed you first.
RWD: Because I am a genius, and none of those media [donkeys] ever wanted to interview you.
WCH: I've actually been surprised at how nice all of the media people have been to me. That's generally not the reaction bloggers get elsewhere in the sports world.
RWD: Well, they're just lucky to have jobs. I mean, hockey isn't exactly popular in the U.S.
RWD: Well, they're just lucky to have jobs. I mean, hockey isn't exactly popular in the U.S.
WCH: Very true. Anyway, among the other blogs I enjoy, I think everybody loves LetsGoDU [except those Fighting Sioux fans who got mad when Goddard made fun of that guy's funeral, and probably some CC fans, and Gwoz...]. I love Hockey in Wisconsin because they cover everything in Wisco so well [Is that the jerk who insulted me because I accurately referred to Wisconsin players, fans, and associates as communists, erased my comment on his site which merely said "Thanks for the link!" to show that I was a good sport, and then wouldn't own up to erasing it?], UAA Fan blog is always interesting to read [Go Donald, it's your birthday!], The Junior Hockey Blog always has really good info... there are a lot of great sites out there. [Chris, there are THREE PERIODS IN AN ELLIPSIS. Not FIVE, not SEVEN, not EIGHT HUNDRED MILLION.]
RWD: Do you have aspirations of being paid to write about hockey? [I think this wins the award for Most Obvious Question Ever, beating out the time I asked Donald why he was so angry and he denied, denied, denied.]
WCH: I'd love to get paid for writing about hockey. I've picked up a few freelance gigs here and there, but being able to do it full-time would be awesome. [Not before you correctly learn how to use ellipses!]
RWD: To switch gears a little bit, we should discuss some of your alternative viewpoints. You've taken some controversial stances on your site.
RWD: For example, your Pro-Jutting stance.
WCH: I suppose. Though that's looking a little less controversial lately.
RWD: In what way?
WCH: You just don't hear as much from the detractors now that the team is winning and playing good hockey.
RWD: But is winning the ONLY thing that matters?
WCH: To some people, it is. [I know I often wonder if winning matters at all to Juttz, or if it's all about when he can get his next Lucky Strike.]
RWD: What about some of the other Juttz-related issues? Isn't a coach who is respected by his players and who has respect for his players important as well? [Ooh, baby, this is some hard-hitting journalism. Fox 9, here I come!]
WCH: I think it depends on the situation. I can think of some great coaches that were hated by their players, and I can think of some lousy coaches that were hated by their players. I think the most important question is: Does a coach get the most out of the players that he has?
RWD: And you believe that's the case at Minnesota State?
WCH: I've seen a lot of games where MSU had less talent than their opponents, but very few where they were outworked by their opponents. That's a big reason why I love watching them so much. I've gone to some great lengths to see them play, and to me, it's always worth it, because I've never felt cheated by the effort they gave.
RWD: I guess being friends with the Emperor of the Anti-Jutting Alliance gives me quite a bit of negative information about him. Hearing inside information about how people close to the program perceive Juttz makes me wonder if the effort that is given by the players is a result of the players rather than the coach; if they are willing to work hard in spite of rather than because of coaching.
WCH: I guess I can't say for sure, but in any case, it works. [It does?]
RWD: When Juttz's contract was renewed last year, and the AD basically stated he was pleased with the performance within MSU's "peer group," didn't that bother you? Shouldn't the AD want the team to compete at a higher level?
WCH: I'm sure everyone involved would like to see MSU win every game. It's foolish to think otherwise. But honestly, how realistic is that? In the short term, if you're just measuring MSU against a Minnesota or North Dakota based on raw wins and losses, you're going to be disappointed more times than not, regardless of who is coaching the team.
RWD: But I think there's a level between where MSU is now and where UND or UMTC have been (as they are CLEARLY not there now!) And, in fact, this season demonstrates the perennial powers are and will continue to be more vulnerable.
WCH: On a year-to-year basis, I agree that anything can happen. Over the long-run though, those things tend to even out. I really think that all 10 teams in the WCHA are pretty well-coached, and with some historically great programs in the league, there's not a lot of room for upward mobility.
RWD: I see. [And that's the end of that chapter!] Probably the most talked-about issue with the Mavs is their tendency to take a lot of penalties, which is a fact, not an opinion, as they are usually at the top of the league in penalty minutes. Isn't that a coachable issue?
WCH: To some extent, yes. I know Jutting's philosophy is that he wants his team to play hard and aggressive, and he understands a certain amount of penalties will come from that. And that's understandable. He'd rather see a player make an error of comission than an error of omission. A certain number of penalties result just having a speed defecit against some of the other teams in the league. But, the penalty numbers have been better this year. For better or worse, the standard for what is or isn't a penalty in the WCHA is whether or not the attack[ed player] falls down. [Which left the door wide open for Rhett Rakhshani and Robbie Earl] So it doesn't make sense to have big defenseman that can really push people around, as it's more likely that when they push someone, the player will fall down. So MSU went out and got some smaller, faster defenseman, which is why I think you're seeing them take fewer penalties. Brian Kilburg still gets called for some ridiculous penalties because he's so big, but you don't see some of the other D going to the box as often.
RWD: Who's exciting for the Mavs right now?
WCH: Mike Zacharias is pretty exciting. [Rrrarrr!] After that..? To be honest, if I didn't have a rooting interest, some of their games would look pretty boring.
RWD: Wow, ouch.
WCH: It's just the style of hockey that they have to play to succeed. They're not going to beat many people in a high-scoring game, but they're pretty good at getting a one-goal lead and clinging to it.
RWD: That's every fan's dream description right there.
WCH: And they do have a lot of young kids that have really improved a lot in there time in Mankato, and that's always really fun to watch.
RWD: Do you think they will be successful against tUMD this weekend?
WCH: I got in trouble last time I tried to make a prediction in a MSU-UMD series, so I'm staying away from that this time. But last time, I gave MSU a slight edge because they were at home, and playing on Olympic-ice, which I thought favored them. This time around, neither of those are the case. It should be two very close hockey games where anything could happen, so I don't think I'd be surprised by any result. [That was a very nice statement, Senator. Now ANSWER THE QUESTION.]
RWD: You know what's weird about the Alltel is that the rink didn't seem that big.
WCH: It is a matter of perception. I didn't think the Alltel ice seemed that huge, until I went up to Bemidji and was like, 'So where is the rest of the ice?" And then two weeks ago when I was at Joe Louis, that seemed huge, when really, it's the same size as Bemidji. [Ugh, Bermidji.] The other weird thing about the rink is, the one endzone with the students feels so cramped, and the students are right on top of the ice, while the sidelines seem so spread out and far away from the action.
RWD: You can't judge rink size based on Bemidji. They have Timberlodge Steakhouse booths as their penalty boxes. [Mmmm... steak!] I wouldn't have been surprised if a basket of complimentary rolls had been brought out.
WCH: But it was funny to see guys sitting in the penalty box and chatting with teammates on the bench. The other nice thing Bemidji was that you could hear Jutting yelling from across the rink.
RWD: Could you smell the cigarette smoke, too?
WCH: Thankfully, no.
RWD: Is Tormey ever going to play again?
WCH: He probably will. It's been tough with Zacharias playing so well, and the Mavericks potentially having a shot at an at-large tournament bid. There just hasn't been enough margin for error to risk sitting Zacharias. It's nothing against Tormey, but Zach has played so well. Things can always change. Tormey played a bunch of games in a row at the end of the his freshman year and it looked like Zacharias wouldn't see much playing time. But Zach waited his turn and has ended up making the most out of his playing time.
RWD: Who's going to score goals this weekend?
WCH: I had been saying for a while that Jason Wiley was due to score some goals and he scored four two weekends ago [I saw two of them!], so hopefully he stays hot. I think Ben Youds is due for his first career goal too.
RWD: We give up a lot of first career goals.
WCH: I'm sure they'll take whatever UMD is willing to give.
RWD: Which could be zero, or could be many.
WCH: My fingers are crossed for many. [I hope a Stalock shutout doesn't break your heart, then, because great hockey minds like UMDBHIK are predicting one!]
RWD: Who are your favorite Mavs?
WCH: That is really tough to choose. I could make a case for just about anybody on the team. All-time though, I'd have to pick Travis Morin. I really enjoyed watching him play because he wasn't incredibly physically-gifted, but he did every single little thing so well that he turned himself into a great player.
RWD: So there isn't anyone that you find yourself especially drawn to?
WCH: Kalinski is definitely the most entertaining to watch because the kid is absolutely fearless. I'll always cheer for James Gaulrapp because honestly, there's probably no way he should have been playing D-I hockey based on his junior hockey career, but he's taken the opportunity and run with it, and has been an excellent player. And I'm finally getting to the point where I've been doing this long enough that I've seen a lot of the Minnesota kids come up through the high school ranks, so it's a little more special to see them play in college.
RWD: Who is the hottest Maverick?
WCH: Oh dear. I'd be like the worst gay man ever [Well, you said "Oh dear," so you're not doing as poorly as you think], because I honestly have no clue when it comes to this stuff.
RWD: Don't act like you're surprised. You knew this question was coming.
WCH: I look through these hot or not posts and I'm just mystified, like, "Wait, he's hot, but he's not? How does that work?" I honestly have no clue how hotness is judged. I'll play it safe though and pick Tormey, since I'm constantly reminded of how good-looking he is.
RWD: Well, he's no Hot RJ, but he'll do.
WCH: See, my girlfriend went to high school with RJ, so she's a little biased against him.
RWD: AGAINST??!?!!? [Excuse me, Hot RJ is just HOTT. AND, he totally answers to that when you call him.]
WCH: Oh, and I should add, with, as George Costanza would say, a staunch record of heterosexuality, Jon Kalinski is adorable. [The Aaaahj just died a little inside, as he hates Seinfeld.]
RWD: I guess, if you like video games. I have to apologize, as you're being Gauntletted at a very poor time.
RWD: Next week is a very highly anticipated Gauntlet.
WCH: Ooh, who is it?
RWD: Your vanquished nemesis from the WCHA Blog.
WCH: Ah, he'd be good. Though I was hoping it would be the Wooger.
RWD: I'm biding my time. I'm sure one day it will be. [And it will be the greatest day in the history of this blog. Sorry, Bruce.]
WCH: I don't really see him being the computer-type though.
RWD: I can dream. So do you have a weekend prediction?
WCH: A fun time will be had by all. Can I get away with that?
RWD: Um, no. Plus, that never happens.
WCH: I guess people in Duluth can't hate me any more [Oh, I don't know about that! Is that a challenge?]. I'll go optimistic and pick the same result as last time. A tie on Friday night and a Maverick win on Saturday.
RWD: What do the Mavs have to do to win this weekend?
WCH: Keep the game low-scoring, and find a way to get a lead. I think keeping the crowd out of the game will be a big factor. I'm always concerned about goal-scoring, so hopefully they'll catch a bounce or be efficient on the powerplay. [LGM is laughing her badonkadonk off about that.]
RWD: And how are they going to give it away?
WCH: Letting UMD score an early goal, and not getting out and blocking lanes on the penalty kill, which was their downfall in the disaster against Omaha.
RWD: A single goal? Wow.
WCH: Well, I think that if UMD scores early, it might be the first of many.
RWD: That's an interesting thought. [Which Bulldogs is he watching?]
WCH: And really, most games in the WCHA this year have been 'First team to 2 wins.'
RWD: And man, is it ever exciting! [All those icings and offsides are exhilarating!]
WCH: Like I said, if you have a rooting interest, it's absolutely gut-wrenching. If you don't, yeah, it's pretty boring.
Well, there you have it folks. Chris Dilks thinks WCHA hockey is boring. And kills kittens.