The WCHA Final Five teleconference has just ended after almost exactly an hour. Below are my notes and impressions. All the coaches were gracious in congratulating North Dakota for their McNaughton Cup and naturally all expressed they were excited to be going to the Final Five.
First up was Coach Dave Hakstol from UND. He was asked about defending his #1 ranking and answered that they not thinking about defending their ranking but instead are "focused on playing for the Broadmoor". Asked about Danny Kristo's availability he said he is practicing but availability is week to week and day to day.
Next was Georg Gwozdecky from DU. He said he feels fortunate to have gotten past Mankato in a tough series. Mentioned how the Mavericks really had them "on the ropes" at times. Happy to get the bye into the Final Five and says it was "ultra important" for them to secure one of the top two seeds through the regular season. When asked about seeding for the NCAA's and which regional they might end up in George laughed and said he "honestly doesn't care."
UMD Coach Scott Sandelin went third and said his team has had their ups and downs through the season. He included his goaltenders in that but added they've gotten consistent performances now. He said that hopefully the team is pointed in the right direction after a good playoffs. He added that he thinks playing well now and looks to "build off last weekend". He thinks it's gonna be a battle with Bemidji and expects a tight game because "Tommy Serratore coached teams always work hard".
Scott Owens says since last 10 games have essentially been 1 goal games that it makes him think his team "is battle tested". He said the program is "jacked" about being back at the Final Five. Asked about Jaden Schwartz, he said that he "makes good things happen when the puck is on his stick" and that he is a special player. He indicated that all 15 forwards being healthy has been important. He thinks that UAA game will be close as have all the previous five meetings. Expects nothing else but a close hard fought game.
Coach Shyiak was up next. He began by noting how the senior leadership has been important down the stretch thereby stealing my first question. He noted that with the series in Mankato and last weekend that he feels the team has matured and learned how to play on the road. He thinks he "knows what they are up against" with the game against CC. And that the guys are excited. When asked about Chris Kamal's play and if he can maintain that he said that both Rob and Chris have done the job well over the course of the season and are they "forutnate for having both of them".
I asked him about some of the activities the team might be doing with the extra days in Minneapolis after the Gopher series. He said that they're just trying to keep em busy and that they're skating and training at Mariucci thanks to the "good folks" at UofM. He emphasized that they were trying to keep the routine "as normal as possible" in order to make it feel a bit like it would at home.
He shared that he thought the "seniors are playing their best hockey of the year" right now. He talked about keeping the team goals simple and just to make small improvements each day; and he thinks they did that along the way ... but also they had getting to the Final Five as a larger goal. He gave credit to the guys for their "consistent compete level". And he added, "We still want more just like any other coach would tell ya about their team."
Last up was Coach Tom Serratore who talked about being able to "play well in this league and still lose" as an example of the leagues difficulty. He noted BSU's 11 OT games as an example. He reiterated the "fine line between winning and losing" in the WCHA. He praised the skills of each of his top three scorers but noted the team struggled with secondary scoring but also had a great compete level and and then he talked about how their top power play unit is "just very good". In summation he said that "as those guys go so goes the team". And apparently he'll be wearing a green jacket on Thursday.
So that's the long and short of it. I'll have a something (I honestly don't know exactly what yet) more closely related to the upcoming game against CC probably late tonight. This is without a doubt the busiest week I've had as a blogger since beginning this effort. But I'm not complaining.