Bye in Hall of Fame, MBC coaching changes, local NFL news

While the start of the 2014 high school football season is getting everyone back into the sports mode, there are a number of other sports topics that are taking center stage this week.

Bye in Hall of Fame
River Falls native Karyn Bye Dietz was announced as a member of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame on Wednesday. Bye, who now lives in Hudson, helped the United States win its first Olympic gold medal in women’s hockey in 1998. She led that team with six goals. In 2002, Bye was part of the United States team that earned the silver medal in the Olympics.
Bye is part of a Hall of Fame class that has many Wisconsin ties. Former University of Wisconsin men’s hockey coach Craig Sauer is also an inductee. Sauer led the Badgers to two NCAA men’s hockey national championships.
Brian Rafalski is also an inductee. Rafalski was a standout defenseman for the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team. That was followed by a lengthy NHL career, mainly with the New Jersey Devils.
Lou Vairo, a longtime coach and a scout for the 1980 U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team, is the fourth inductee. The induction ceremony will be held on Dec. 4 in the Twin Cities.

MBC coaching changes
Two significant coaching changes around the Middle Border Conference occurred in recent days.
Former Ellsworth wrestling standout Mark Matzek is coming home. Matzek will take over as the Ellsworth wrestling coach, leaving his position as the Augsburg College head wrestling coach. Matzek has been Augsburg’s coach the past six years. In that time, he has maintained Augsburg’s reputation as one of the finest Division III wrestling programs in the country. Matzek was an assistant coach for the Auggies for three years before becoming head coach.
As a wrestler for the Auggies, Matzek won two national championships and he was accorded with All-American honors three times in his college wrestling career.
Matzek also has been hired as a middle school mathematics teacher in Ellsworth.
While Matzek is making the move from the college to the high school ranks, Somerset boys basketball coach Brent Larson is making the opposite move. Larson resigned late last week after accepting an offer to become an assistant coach in the UW-Eau Claire men’s basketball program.
It’s easy to argue that Larson has been the most successful boys basketball coach in Somerset history. In his six years leading the Spartans, Larson took his team to the sectional tournament three times. The Spartans were MBC co-champions in 2013-14, when the team set a school record with 21 wins in the season.

NFL news
Two offensive linemen from St. Croix County started the 2014 NFL season in training camp. One of them is flourishing as an NFL starter, but one has already seen his NFL season come to an end.
Hudson native Kraig Urbik returns as the starting right guard for the Buffalo Bills. Urbik moved into the Bills’ starting lineup in 2011 and has become one of the mainstays of the team’s offense. He signed a $15 million contract extension in December, 2012 that carries through the 2016 season.
Urbik grabbed some attention in one of the first Bills practices of the 2014 training camp. Because the Bills have several injuries at tight end, Urbik lined up at tight end for the team’s short-yardage blocking packages. Urbik, listed at 328 pounds, fulfilled every lineman’s dream in the series of eight plays. On the fifth play, Urbik was sent out on a pass pattern, catching a pass from quarterback E.J. Manuel in the end zone. Knowing it might be his only chance to do such a celebration, Urbik spiked the ball quite vigorously to cap his moment in the sun.
Somerset native Bryan Witzmann has apparently seen his first NFL season come to an early end. While the Houston Texans aren’t releasing many details, Witzmann has suffered an injury that caused him to be put on injured reserve for the 2014 season. The injury reportedly occurred during a collision in practice, where Witzmann suffered a right arm/shoulder injury.
There had been several reports that Witzmann had been impressing Houston coaches with his work in the early practices. Some reports had Witzmann in contention for playing time at right tackle, which was considered the weakest of the Texans’ offensive line positions.
Hopefully, Witzmann can make a full recovery and be back competing for a position on the Texans’ line in 2015.

An early look at WIAA playoff possibilities

The WIAA tournament season is coming up fast.
Wrestling will be the first of the area winter sports to begin its tournament season, with regional tournaments on Saturday, Feb. 15. The rest of the winter sports will play their opening tournament dates soon after.
Here’s a look at some of the tournament brackets involving teams from our area.

Boys Basketball – Division 1
Marshfield appears to have the inside track for the top seed in the Division 1 regional tournament bracket. Marshfield is 9-4 and 5-1 in the Wisconsin Valley Conference. Marshfield a win over Hudson, which right now has the strongest case for the second seed.
The bottom three seeds will likely be Chippewa Falls, Superior and Wausau West. That leaves Eau Claire Memorial, Eau Claire North and D.C. Everest to battle for the 3-5 seeds. Memorial already has a win posted against Everest, putting the Old Abes in a good position to lock up the third seed.

Boys Basketball – Division 2
This is another bracket where the top and bottom seeds are crystal clear. Big Rivers Conference leader Rice Lake (10-2 overall) is a lock for the top seed. New Richmond, after losing to River Falls on Monday, will take the bottom spot in the five-team configuration. Menomonie (9-4 overall) and Ashland (8-3 overall) are in a close battle for the second and third spots. River Falls would need a couple upsets in the next three weeks to move up from the fourth slot.

Boys Basketball – Division 3
Coaches better bring their coffee for this seeding meeting, it could get complicated. Prescott and Somerset, the two Middle Border Conference leaders, are in solid position for the top two spots. Which of them gets the top spot will likely be answered when they play on Feb. 4 in Somerset.
There are any number of teams who could fit in next. Barron is 6-1 in the Heart O’North Conference, but the Bears lost to St. Croix Falls. The Saints match Barron’s 8-4 overall record, but lost to Amery. Ellsworth has played well in the MBC with a 5-2 record, but outside the conference, the Panthers are 1-4. Amery is the exact opposite. Amery hasn’t beaten anyone in the MBC, but the Warriors are 5-1 outside the conference, including wins over Hayward, St. Croix Falls and Spooner. Amery is the team that could really muck up the bracketing.
Northwestern is another team that should squeeze into this pack somewhere. The Tigers are 7-4, but have already lost to Bloomer.
The teams in the next tier appear to be Baldwin-Woodville, Hayward and Spooner. Osceola and St. Croix Central will likely be the bottom two teams.

Girls Basketball – Division 1
This is a top-heavy bracket with three powerhouses at the top of the list. Superior (12-2), D.C. Everest (14-1) and Chippewa Falls (11-2) are all outstanding teams. Superior should get the top seed, with wins over Everest and Chippewa Falls. Superior’s only losses are to Minnesota schools. The tough call will be between Everest and CF, because they aren’t scheduled to face each other.
Eau Claire Memorial looks to have the inside track for the fourth seed at 8-3, with Eau Claire North, Marshfield and Wausau West closely packed behind them. Hudson looks locked into the eighth seed.

Girls Basketball – Division 2
New Richmond and Rice Lake should get the top two seeds in this bracket, but it will come down to the coaches’ interpretation as to which gets the top seed. New Richmond has the better record (8-1 in Middle Border, 12-2 overall), but Rice Lake (2-4 in Big Rivers, 6-7 overall) won the head-to-head matchup. New Richmond does have a win over Chippewa Falls, which none of the BRC teams in the bracket can claim. River Falls and Ashland appear to be the third and fourth best teams, though this is another tough call because Rice Lake is the only team in the bracket which Ashland faces. Menomonie (1-10) is a clear fifth seed.

Girls Basketball – Division 3
There should be an intriguing argument for the top spot in this bracket. Baldwin-Woodville and St. Croix Falls are both undefeated. Getting the top spot is critical, because Hayward (12-1) will likely be the third seed and the Hurricanes will be a much tougher semifinal opponent than whatever team gets the fourth seed.
Barron (5-2 in Heart O’North, 8-3 overall) has the edge for the fourth spot.
The battle for the fifth through ninth seeds will take some sorting out. Amery (5-3 in MBC, 6-5) has the best record. St. Croix Central (2-6 in Dunn-St. Croix, 5-7), Prescott (2-6 in MBC, 4-8) Somerset (2-6 in MBC, 3-10) and Northwestern (2-5 in Heart O’North, 3-8) all have hopes of a first-round home game.
Even deciding on the order of the bottom three teams will be interesting, with Ellsworth (0-7, 1-10), Spooner (1-6, 1-7) and Osceola (0-6, 0-12) having very little they can use to argue their case.

Boys Hockey
Hudson has clearly earned the top seed in this bracket with its 12-1-2 record. New Richmond and Somerset have moved ahead of the pack for the second and third seeds. Which one gets the top seed? This Thursday’s game in New Richmond should decide that.
Superior (9-10) is having an off year, but that still shouldn’t drop the Spartans anywhere lower than fourth in this bracket.
Menomonie and River Falls are the leading contenders for the fifth seed. They play on Saturday and that could answer which team gets the higher seed.
It’s hard to gauge the WSFLG (Siren co-op) and Northwest Icemen (Spooner co-op). WSFLG is 8-6 and Spooner is 9-4, but they have the two weakest schedules in the bracket. They should battle for the seventh and eighth seeds, with Baldwin-Woodville and Amery getting the final two slots in the bracket.

Girls Hockey
Arguments between the three top teams in this bracket should make for an interesting seeding process.
River Falls (13-6-1), Hayward (13-5) and Hudson (10-5-2) can all make strong cases that they deserve the top seed. To compound the issue, they’ve all got a loss against one of the other top contenders. River Falls beat Hayward, but lost to Hudson. Hudson lost to Hayward, but has a win against River Falls. Hayward beat Hudson, but lost to River Falls. What may prove the difference is that Hayward has two losses against teams in the sectional bracket. The Hurricanes also suffered a loss against New Richmond.
WSFLG, by virtue of a win over Superior, looks like the fourth seed, with Superior getting the next spot.
Sorting out the bottom three spots in this Feb. 9 seeding will be tricky too. New Richmond (5-10), Eau Claire (4-12-2) and Chippewa Falls-Menomonie (3-12) are in a similar situation as the top three, all with a win and loss against the other teams. New Richmond and Eau Claire are set to play next Monday. The winner of that game has solid footing for the sixth spot.

Wrestling – Division 1 sectional at Wausau West
The Wausau West sectional bracket is packed with top teams, including three in the top 10 of this week’s Wisconsin Wrestling Online state rankings. Merrill is currently ranked second in Division 1, Menomonie sixth and Hudson 10th. Add in Stevens Point, which is honorable mention, and the competition should be ferocious in this sectional meet. A number of teams that aren’t ranked (Chippewa Falls, New Richmond, River Falls, Marshfield, Wausau West, Eau Claire North) bring in wrestlers with state experience or are highly ranked this season.

Wrestling – Division 2 sectional at Amery
Talk about a stacked sectional meet. Ellsworth and Amery are the marquee teams, but it’s easy to argue that this is the deepest Division 2 sectional tournament in the state. That includes six wrestlers currently ranked first in the state at their weight (Hunter Marko, Amery at 120, Jens Lantz, Ellsworth at 126, Robert Csukker, Stanley-Boyd at 138, Johnny Chamberlain, Chetek at 152, Gable Frandsen, Ellsworth at 160 and Joe Rademacher, St. Croix Falls at 195). Ellsworth’s Logan Kemmerer at 170 and Somerset’s Max Praschak at 182 are ranked second in their weights. In many weights there are a handful of ranked wrestlers. Three of the top five wrestlers at 160 are in this sectional and four of the top wrestlers at 152 are in line to compete at the Amery sectional meet.

Wrestling – Division 3 sectional at Osseo-Fairchild
The Dunn-St. Croix Conference schools are our areas only Division 3 teams but they pack plenty of punch in Division 3. Spring Valley-Elmwood is the top-ranked Division 3 team in the state and Boyceville is ranked third.
This sectional is loaded with ranked wrestlers, especially in the lower weights. Three of the top five D3 106-pounders are in this sectional, so are four of the top seven 113-pounders.

MBC races ready to heat up in 2014

Action in the Middle Border Conference begins for 2014 with several boys basketball games this Friday.
Here is a look at where the teams stand in each of the MBC sports as 2014 gets underway and why the teams are in the position they now hold.

Boys Basketball
Prescott was the favorite heading into the season and the Cardinals’ sharp play has substantiated that belief. Clay Seifert is a difficult matchup for every team in the conference, but he’s hardly a one-man show. With Charlie Tayson, Michael Brookshaw, Ben Helmer and Marty Harris, the Cards have five players capable of scoring in double figures every night.
Ellsworth matches Prescott’s 4-0 MBC record heading into 2014. Everyone knew that Chrystian Kulow would rank among the leading scorers in the conference after he emerged as a top outside shooter last season. The biggest surprise in Ellsworth has been the improvement of post player Kyle Murphy. Murphy appears much more agile this season and he’s made himself into much more of a scoring threat. With Nick Taranto, Emery Whalen and Logan Armstrong, the Panthers have the athletes to stay among the contenders. Prescott plays at Ellsworth next Tuesday. It should be one of the most meaningful of these Pierce County clashes in many years.
Durand and Somerset are the only other teams heading into 2014 with an MBC record above .500. Both teams possess 2-1 records.
Durand produces quality teams year after year, with new players stepping up to be the leaders. This year it’s Jake Bauer and Tyler Gruber. The Panthers’ fortunes will depend on how the rest of the players can stand up to the demands of the MBC.
Somerset is in a similar situation. The Spartans have two of the best offensive players in the league in Gaelin Elmore and Jack Emmert. The Spartans need other players to be productive every game to keep the team in the running for a title.
Baldwin-Woodville, New Richmond, Osceola and Amery head into 2014 holding places in the bottom half of the conference. B-W has the most ability of those four teams to make a charge in the second half of the season. Logan Weyer is one of the most creative offensive players in the conference and the Hawks have other capable players like Gerad Gerrits and Nick Nilssen.
New Richmond, Osceola and Amery all have some players with skills, but they have struggled to find an identity they can build upon.

Girls Basketball
Baldwin-Woodville has made itself a clear favorite to repeat as MBC champions. The Blackhawks are already 9-0 this season. This is one of the most athletic teams to come through the MBC in years. Eric Harmon’s team plays hard, wearing down its opponents. Maddie Kulow is a skilled scorer and the Hawks have another half dozen players who are capable of scoring in double figures in any game.
New Richmond, Amery and Durand are one game behind the Blackhawks as 2014 begins.
New Richmond is led by Sydney Kannel, another of the standout senior guards in the conference. Mattie Kidder gives the Tigers a talented scorer and defender in the paint. The Tigers’ fortunes may rely on how quickly Hannah Simpson can bounce back from an elbow injury. When Simpson’s at the peak of her game, it opens up more scoring options for the rest of the Tigers.
Durand lost reigning conference MBC Lexi Harmon, but that hasn’t slowed down the Panthers. Very little will slow down the Panthers. Durand’s girls play a high intensity style. The Panthers have scored more than 52 points in six of their eight games.
Amery is the mystery contender. Molly Stewart has blossomed into a top level player and the Warriors are showing they can play defense well. It will take more contributions from the rest of the lineup to keep the Warriors among the contenders.
Prescott is 2-2 heading into 2014. The Cards rely on balanced scoring and defense, but they made need to up their offensive production if they want to move into the upper realm of the conference.
Somerset, Osceola and Ellsworth are winless in conference play thus far. Somerset is the youngest team in the conference, starting four freshmen in some games. Osceola relies heavily on point guard Alexis Boissy. Ellsworth gets the majority of its scoring from Kelsey Betthauser.

Wrestling
MBC wrestling fans, circle Jan. 30 on your calendar. That’s when Ellsworth will wrestle at Amery in the match that should decide the MBC dual match championship. Ellsworth is currently ranked second in Division 2 and Amery is ranked third, according to the Wisconsin Wrestling Online Rankings. Ellsworth was able to squeak past Amery last year in a tight battle and this year’s battle should be just as exciting.
Both teams have star power. Ellsworth is led by two defending state champions, Jens Lantz and Gable Frandsen. Lantz has already signed to continue his wrestling career with the Wisconsin Badgers. Other Panthers with state experience include Logan Kemmerer, Tristen Mueller and Brad Cain.
Amery also returns a state champion in Hunter Marko. The Warriors return state qualifiers Andrew Smith, Johnny Benitez and Kenny Gates.
Between the two teams, they have a wrestler who is ranked in the state in nearly every weight class. One of the dramas of the dual meet will be the chess match between the coaches to see who can lineup their wrestlers to get the maximum points.

Boys Hockey
New Richmond holds the upper hand in the race for the MBC hockey title after going through the first half of the season without a loss or a tie.
The Tigers have progressed more quickly than most people expected this season. They have two potent forward lines, and their defensemen and goaltenders have grown into their roles quickly.
Somerset is 2-2 after playing four MBC games. The Spartans are fully capable of taking down New Richmond and Eau Claire Regis, the teams that have already beaten them in conference play.
Regis has only played the Tigers and Spartans and will finish the first round against Amery and Baldwin-Woodville, where the Saints will be heavy favorites. The Saints don’t look to be quite as strong as last year, when they won the MBC championship, but they also can’t be overlooked. The Saints get their next shot at New Richmond on Jan. 28, at Eau Claire’s Hobbs Ice Arena.

Give the gift of sports books for Christmas

Sports fans are, by nature, inquisitive souls.
They want to know more about their teams, about their players, whether it’s from the present, past or future.
I always hear that it difficult to find Christmas present ideas for sports fans. So I’ve reviewed some of the sports books I’ve read over the past year, hoping that it gives readers some ideas for gifts for their favorite sports fan.
Most can be found through Amazon, Barnes and Noble or other book vendors.

“Burleigh Grimes, Baseball’s Last Legal Spitballer,” by Joe Niese. (McFarland and Company)
This book is my favorite of the year for several reasons. I got to know Burleigh late in his life. Though age had done its damage, it never lessened the intensity that burned in him. Burleigh was a rough-edged, straight-talking baseball legend.
The book does a thorough job of following the many stops Burleigh made through his career in baseball. His career traversed the country, starting in school ball in Clear Lake in 1908. He worked as a player, manager, and scout. It wasn’t until 1971 that Grimes retired to his home area.
The book is written by baseball historian Jon Niese of Chippewa Falls. A comprehensive telling of Grimes’ Hall of Fame career has long been needed. Niese gives us the consummate story of his life.

“Closing The Gap,” by Willie Davis, with Jim Martyka and Andrea Erickson Davis. (Triumph Books)
Willie Davis was not just a superbly gifted football player. The former Green Bay Packer Hall of Famer is also blessed with incredible business acumen that has led him to be a nationally respected leader.
Davis embodied everything that made Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers one of the greatest football teams to ever take the field. Work ethic, passion, intelligence, persistence, they were all attributes that led Davis to become of the greatest defensive ends in NFL history.
Those same attributes made Davis a giant in the business world, first in liquor distribution then the national radio market. The book shows why Davis was able to transfer those traits to the business world.
For long-time Packer fans, Davis gives incredible detail into the personalities on the team and what life was like for a black man in Wisconsin in the 1960s.

“I Did It My Way,” by Bud Grant and Jim Bruton. (Triumph Books)
Grant, the NFL Hall of Fame coach of the Minnesota Vikings, has ties to our area. In the 1940s and 1950s, he moonlighted as a hired arm for baseball teams like the Deer Park Deer and the Osceola Braves. There isn’t any mention of that in his book, only because there is so much other information that will be of interest to local readers.
Grant’s life-long involvement in sports will draw in readers because nearly all of it happens in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Grant grew up in Superior and played football and basketball for the University of Minnesota. He was a uniquely gifted athlete, playing pro football and basketball. He played in the NBA for the Minneapolis Lakers, the predecessor of the Los Angeles Lakers. Grant was a first round draft choice of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles in 1950. He led the Eagles with 56 receptions for 997 yards in 1952. Grant then jumped leagues, starting the next chapter of his career in the Canadian Football League. After several years as a standout player, he became a head coach, winning four CFL championships. That success led the Minnesota Vikings to hire him and his stoic, hard-edged coaching style took the Vikings to four Super Bowls.
The book is a great read, with incredible detail. The book isn’t just about Grant’s successes, it’s about what made him a success. His knowledge of sports, including hunting and fishing, is boundless.

“Orr, My Story,” by Bobby Orr. (Penguin Random House Publishing)
Bobby Orr is unquestioned as the best defenseman to ever lace up a pair of hockey skates. Orr revolutionized hockey. His swift rushes up ice changed the game. It was the stepping stone to defensemen taking a much larger role in the offensive end of the rink.
The book is a rather old-fashioned, refreshing recollection of his career. Orr is not a braggart, far from it. The self-critical side of him that pushed him to be such a splendid hockey player also shows in his writing. He gives an honest, complete recollection of his life and his hockey career, heaping praise on his family and teammates while deflecting it from himself. For hockey fans who always longed to know more about the greatest defenseman ever, you will never have a better chance to do so.

“Packers Pride, Green Bay Greats Share Their Favorite Memories,” by LeRoy Butler. (Triumph Books)
Green Bay Packer fans, this book is a treat. This book has more than 80 stories, mostly by Packer players and executives of the present and past, as they recount their favorite moments in the Green and Gold. It has the stars of this era like Aaron Rodgers, Brett Favre, Donald Driver, B.J. Raji and Charles Woodson. There are also tales from the stars of the Lombardi era like Bart Starr, Jim Taylor, Willie Davis, Paul Hornung and Max McGee. If you want to get wrapped up in Packers stories stretching from the 1940s to today, this will give you hours of enjoyment.

“North of Highway 8,” by Dan Woll. (Romeii LLC)
This is the second book from the former St. Croix Central School District administrator, following his novel “Death on Cache Lake.”
Woll’s “Highway 8” puts him in a comfortable situation, telling the stories about his many adventures as only he can. Woll is a cyclist, an adventurer and a tale teller. He often seems to end up in unique, sometimes poignant, sometimes colorful, situations. Some of his stories will make you laugh while others will make you wonder at the detail he finds in people’s character.

“100 Things Brewers Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die,” by Tom Haudricourt. (Triumph Books)
Haudricourt has covered the Milwaukee Brewers since 1985 for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and there is nobody more qualified to write about the Brew Crew and the team’s colorful history.
Haudricourt presents a broad cross section of the Brewers’ history in this compilation. It ranges from Bernie Brewer to Bud Selig, from the Sausage Races to Harvey’s Wallbangers. All the greats are here, Robin Yount, Hank Aaron, Paul Molitor, Bob Uecker and Ryan Braun.

“Dodgeville: Capturing Hearts” by Rick Birk (go5books.com).
Birk’s book tells the charming tale of the 1964 Dodgeville boys basketball state championship team and how those small town team captured the state title against immense odds.

“Why Not Wisconsin” by Matt LePay (Triumph Books).
LePay is the voice of Wisconsin Badger sports, primarily football and basketball. In his 25 years he’s seen Barry Alvarez and Dick Bennett and made the transitions to Bret Bielema and Bo Ryan. LePay’s book gives an eyewitness view of ups and downs of the Badgers’ signature programs and the rise to national prominence of both of them. LePay has studied the history of both programs to put the successes into context. He also goes into detail about the Badgers’ biggest rivalries and the greatest moments he’s seen in both programs.

My friend, Bob D’Angelo, is a sports copy editor at the Tampa Tribune in Florida. He is also one of the best I know at reviewing sports books. Here are some of the recent releases that he recommends:
“Clouds Over the Goalpost,” by Lew Freedman, which is about the NFL in 1963;
“Color Blind,” by Tom Dunkel, talks about an integrated baseball team in North Dakota during the 1930s that included Satchel Paige;
“The 34-Ton Bat,” by Steve Rushin, which is an offbeat book about things around the game of baseball, like concessions, promotions, bats, balls, uniforms. Fascinating stuff;
“Driven,” by Donald Driver. Packers former WR tells his candid and sometimes disturbing story about growing up poor in Houston and his later success in the NFL;
“Their Life’s Story,” by Gary Pomerantz, which is about the 1970s Steelers — then and now;
“The Cracker Jack Collection,” by Tom and Ellen Zappala. Talks about the 1914-15 Cracker Jack releases.
“Breaking the Line,” by Samuel Freedman, traces the FAMU and Grambling colleges during the turbulent 1967 season.

For more of Bob’s reviews, check his blog: http://www.tboblogs.com/index.php/sports/related/C938/

Ensign, Montpetit get national TV time

Kyle Ensign of New Richmond and Brock Montpetit of Somerset got significant time on national TV last Friday night.
Ensign and Montpetit skate for the University of Nebraska-Omaha men’s hockey team, which was playing Minnesota-Duluth, the top-ranked team in the country. The game was chosen for the Friday night national college hockey broadcast on the NBC Sports Network, formerly Versus.
UNO gave UMD all it could handle for two periods. The teams entered the third period tied 2-2, but UMD scored four unanswered goals in the third period to win 6-2.
UNO came close to an upset on Friday, but they did get it done on Saturday. The Mavericks upset UMD, ending the Bulldogs’ 17-game unbeaten string, 3-1.
In Friday’s game, I thought Montpetit was UNO’s best forward. He scored the team’s first goal and created several more scoring chances with attacking moves to the net. He also scored the Mavericks’ first goal in Saturday’s victory over UMD. Montpetit was dinged up for several weeks with an injury, but now he’s back at full strength. He’s skating on the Mavericks’ first line, injecting some badly needed fire into the offense. He’s also UNO’s best faceoff man.
Ensign is a goalie’s best friend as a savvy, stay-at-home defenseman. He made several key defensive plays in the first period of Friday’s game, when penalties had the Mavericks scrambling. Ensign broke up several plays in front of the net that easily could have turned into goals that would have buried UNO.