At Tuesday's practice, which was sparsely attended because the Tigers are ending their first block of classes this week, strength and conditioning coach Mark Stephenson made a point to address those five penalties.
The players, listed below, started practice with no sticks, which I took as an ominous sign. I was right. Just 15 minutes long, the workout had most of the team doubled over.
Defensemen Hillen, Lowery, Gannon
Goalies O'Connell, Bachman
It began with a series of sprints from the goal line through the blue line. Then came the bench drills. For the first one, Stephenson divided the team in two and put each group in a box. The players had to clear the boards, skate from goal line to goal line and get back over the boards as fast as possible. The other team would go once the first team had finished and the Tigers did two sets of four or five "suicides." Then, Stephenson had the players jump over the boards, touch the opposite wall, and get back in the box as quick as possible. Each set took about two minutes, but to the players it was probably an eternity.
After Stephenson was done with the Tigers, they did a few shooting drills and played 3-on-3 in the north end of the rink. In one sequence, goaltender Richard Bachman got caught out of position on the right side of the net and managed to come across the entire face of the goal to rob Bill Sweatt on a wrist shot. Goaltender Drew O'Connell made a nice save of his own less than a minute later, when Jack Hillen skated around the back of the net, planning on stuffing it inside the left post. But O'Connell made a backhanded snag to thwart the score. With the defensemen-plus-red-line team up 2-1, Hillen yelled, "Next goal wins" and Derek Patrosso scored the game-winner, beating Bachman over his right shoulder.
I chatted with Stephenson after practice and he said, of the four CC teams he has coached, this season's squad is the fittest and also the most focused. Stephenson coached for seven years at Providence College before joining the staff at the National Strength and Conditioning Association's headquarters next to World Arena.
The Grand Forks Herald released its annual preseason coaches' poll and the Tigers were picked no. 3. A closer look at the votes shows that Denver and Wisconsin were just two and three votes behind, respectively, meaning that the Western Collegiate Hockey Association coaches think it will be a dogfight for spots 3-5. A little research by Herald reporter Brad Elliott Schlossman shows that, in the five times CC has won the MacNaughton Cup since the 1990-91 season, the Tigers were not tabbed to finish first place. Look for more in tomorrow's Gazette.
37th Annual Grand Forks Herald WCHA preseason coaches poll
Rank School Points
1 UND (7) 79
2 Minnesota (3) 74
3 Colorado College 55
4 Denver 53
5 Wisconsin 52
6 St. Cloud St. 43
7 Michigan Tech 41
8 Minn.-Duluth 23
9 MSU-Mankato 19
10 Anchorage 11
Preseason rookie of the year Kyle Turris, UW, 9; Evan Trupp, UND 1
Preseason player of the year Ryan Duncan, UND, 5; T.J. Oshie, UND, 3; Taylor Chorney, UND, 1; Kyle Okposo, Minn., 1
Former CC defenseman Brandon Straub began training camp Tuesday with the Lake Erie Monsters (AHL) this week and encountered a familiar face among the defensive corps: Colorado Springs native Preston Briggs, older brother of former Minnesota goaltender Kellen Briggs (who has landed with the Idaho Steelheads (ECHL), by the way).
What are the odds? The Briggs', Straub and former CC player Scott Polaski are the only Colorado Springs natives I'm aware of who are playing professionally. If you know of more, please drop me a comment or an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
UPDATE: Colorado Springs native Luke Fulghum, a former Denver player, agreed to terms with the Stockton Thunder (ECHL). Another Springs product, former Mitchell High student David Hale is a near-lock to make the Calgary Flames' roster. That brings the grand total of Colorado Springs natives in professional hockey to six players, but please contact me if there are others I am missing.