So, here are my ten questions with Bruce Ciskie.
1. Tell us about yourself. What is your connection to UMD Hockey?
I've been the radio play-by-play announcer since the 2005-2006 season. Before that, my wife and I became season-ticket holders in 2002, and now my wife and son go to all the home games, along with road games when the kid's hockey schedule permits.
I actually left the job during the 2008-2009 season when the station that was carrying the games eliminated my position and didn't allow me to finish the season. As a result, this is actually the first time I've gotten to call a UMD game in the NCAA Tournament.
2. Tell us about The University of Minnesota-Duluth? Where is Duluth, Minnesota, what's it like, etc.?
Duluth, Minnesota, is on the western tip of Lake Superior. It's known as a shipping port and is a huge tourist town during the summer, largely centered around Lake Superior. It's home to one of the bigger marathons in the country, Grandma's Marathon, which runs every year on the third Saturday in June. UMD has over 11,000 students and has been around since 1947.
From a sports standpoint, UMD has been dominated lately by its football and hockey programs. Football won Division II national titles in 2008 and 2010, while women's hockey has five NCAA titles out of the 11 handed out. The men's hockey program has been around for 67 years, but has been to just one Frozen Four since the mid-1980s.
3. In short, how did UMD's season go? Was it good? Bad? Up and down?, etc.
UMD's season has gone well. They were No. 1 in the polls for a time, and they stayed in the upper half of the WCHA for the entire season. There was a bit of a dry spell down the stretch, but they played well in series against Nebraska-Omaha and St. Cloud State to get to the Final Five and clinch an NCAA Tournament spot.
Some would say it's Jack Connolly, and it's hard to argue with that when you consider he's an All-American, one of the league's top point producers, and a Hobey Baker finalist. However, Mike Connolly is on the ice in virtually every key situation imaginable. He has a goal-scoring touch, an unbelievable competitive fire, and a nose for the puck. You won't find anyone in the country as tenacious without the puck as Mike Connolly.
By the way, they're not related, in case anyone is wondering. Jack is from Duluth and Mike from Calgary.
5. Tell us about UMD's defensive corps.
UMD was hit with the mid-season departure of former Chicago first-rounder Dylan Olsen, who was going to be academically ineligible for the second half of the season. An injury to junior Brady Lamb made them quite thin for a time in February. They're better now, with senior captain Mike Montgomery and freshman sensation Justin Faulk (2010 second-round pick by Carolina) taking most of the big minutes. Lamb and sophomore Wade Bergman will see plenty of ice time. Sophomore Drew Olson needs to be more consistent, but he's been better while paired with fifth-year senior Trent Palm.
6. Who else should Union fans look out for on the ice? (maybe someone who's not on the FCC line)
Junior center Travis Oleksuk and freshman wing J.T. Brown have been very good together. Brown was one of the better rookies in the WCHA, and really impressed with his consistency. Another guy worth looking out for is sophomore center Jake Hendrickson, who has been playing very well over the last six weeks or so.
7. What is UMD's goaltending situation like (looks like 2 goalies got good amount of time)? Are the goaltenders any good?
Kenny Reiter has been getting the ball, so to speak, for a while now. The fourth-year junior was great in the playoffs for UMD last year, but seemed to struggle in the Final Five loss to Bemidji State Thursday. I'll freely admit I don't know much about goaltending, but it seems that Reiter's the best option because of his athleticism.
8. What type of team is UMD? Are they fast? Physical? Offensive? Defensive?, etc.
UMD likes to skate. They're at their best when they play aggressive and in the faces of opponents. There is an issue with this team in muck-and-grind type games, where teams take the action to the wall and try to win the little battles. UMD can get impatient sometimes, though they were generally improved in that area this year.
9. How are the UMD special teams?
They're dangerous on the power play, but in a hockey world where calls tend to get evened out over the course of a game, it might not be best for UMD to spend a lot of time on the power play, as it also means a lot of PK time. UMD is best when rolling four lines and playing five-on-five. The PK is probably better than the numbers might suggest, but I'd still rather take my chances in a five-on-five game.
10. Tell us about UMD hockey fans? Will they travel to Bridgeport?
UMD has a loyal following, and there will be fans in Bridgeport. I don't expect it to be a large number, especially considering that the Frozen Four is in St. Paul. I'm guessing a lot of people are going to gather and watch the game back home, hoping their team can win twice in Connecticut. If UMD makes the Frozen Four, it could end up practically being a home event for them depending on how the field shakes out.
Well, there you have it! I feel I know a lot more about UMD now. Look for my response to Mr. Ciskie's questions on his blog later in the day.