Mike Halford

TAMPA, FLORIDA - APRIL 09:  Keaton Thompson #4,Gage Ausmus #20,Christian Wolanin #24,Paul LaDue #6 and Troy Stecher #2 of the North Dakota Fighting Hawks pose with the championship trophy after the championship game of the 2016 NCAA Division I Men's Hockey Championships at Amalie Arena on April 9, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.The North Dakota Fighting Hawks defeated the Quinnipiac Bobcats 5-1 to win the national title.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Prized North Dakota d-man Stecher goes pro, signs with Canucks

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Troy Stecher, the University of North Dakota junior that helped the Fighting Hawks capture this year’s NCAA title, has opted to forgo his senior year and turn pro by signing with the Vancouver Canucks.

Stecher, 22, was named to the Frozen Four All-Tournament team following UND’s 5-1 win over Quinnipiac in the championship finale. That award came on the heels of a highly successful regular season, in Stecher finished sixth among NCAA d-men in scoring, with 29 points in 43 games.

Stecher, who went undrafted largely because of his diminutive (5-foot-10, 190-pound) frame, was listed as one of USA Today’s NCAA’s top potential free agents last March, at the end of his sophomore campaign.

He opted to return to school for one more year, and the move looks to have paid off. I

In addition to capturing the Frozen Four, Stecher also drew interest from the Canucks, his hometown team. A Richmond, B.C. native, he spent three years playing for BCHL Penticton before moving to North Dakota.

Report: Coyotes looking to move AHL affiliate to Tucson

PNI coyotes main 0102
AP
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From AZ Sports’ Craig Morgan:

The Coyotes will likely have an American Hockey League team playing in Tucson next season. Two sources familiar with the talks confirmed that officials with the City of Tucson had multiple meetings recently with the Coyotes to discuss an AHL team playing its games at the Tucson Convention Center beginning in the 2016-17 season.

The Rio Nuevo district, where the Tucson Convention Center sits, funded nearly $8 million in upgrades to restrooms, concession stands, new seats, lights, a sound system and a new entryway two years ago.

It’s roughly a two-hour drive between Tucson and Glendale — the (temporary) home of the Coyotes — so moving the team makes a lot of sense, especially considering Arizona’s current affiliate is across the country in Springfield, Massachusetts.

This move would also follow in the footsteps of other Pacific Division clubs. Last summer, the Kings moved their AHL affiliate from Manchester to Ontario (California), the Sharks moved theirs from Worcester to San Jose, and the Ducks moved theirs from Norfolk to San Diego.

In speaking with Morgan, Tucson’s city manager wouldn’t comment on reported meetings with the Coyotes.

“What I can tell you is we have looked at what it would take to renovate the facility,” Michael Ortega said. “There were some discussions on what it would take to potentially recruit or respond to a request from a potential pro sports team.”

Currently, the Arizona Wildcats — a Div. I of the American Collegiate Hockey Association — play their home games at the Tucson Arena, which, per Morgan’s report, seats around 6,700 for hockey.

 

Detroit confirms it’s Howard over Mrazek for Game 1

Steven Stamkos, Jimmy Howard
AP
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Same opponent, different starting goalie.

That’s the storyline for Detroit tonight as it opens its Stanley Cup playoff rematch in Tampa Bay — it’ll be Jimmy Howard, not Petr Mrazek, as the starter in goal.

Last year, of course, Mrazek was named the starter just prior to Detroit’s series with the Bolts, a decision that proved a jumping off point for the Czech ‘tender. Even though the Wings fell in seven games, Mrazek impressed onlookers and finished with a sparkling .925 save percentage, propelling him to the starting gig for most of this season.

Most of this season.

With Detroit in danger of losing its consecutive streak of playoff appearances, head coach Jeff Blashill turned to Howard late in the year, starting him in the final seven games.

Howard, to his credit, did enough to get the Red Wings into the dance, but it was hardly a lights-out performance.

In the final two games of the year, losses to Boston and the Rangers, the 32-year-old surrendered seven goals on just 45 shots, an .844 save percentage, and was hooked against the Bruins.

If there is optimism for Howard, though, it could come from his history against the Lightning. He went 2-1-0 with a 2.14 GAA and .925 save percentage versus the Bolts this season — granted, the two victories came in October and November.

Much has changed since then. Just ask Howard!

Longtime NHL coach Hartsburg announces retirement

OTTAWA - SEPTEMBER 20:  Head Coach Craig Hartsburg of the Ottawa Senators looks on from the bench area during a game against the New York Rangers on September 20, 2008 at the Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, Canada.  The Ottawa Senators defeated the New York Rangers 3-2.  (Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images)
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Craig Hartsburg, who coached nearly 500 games with Chicago, Anaheim and Ottawa, announced on Wednesday that his bench boss career had come to a close.

“I’ve been very fortunate to spend the past 30-plus years in the game as a player or coach and have enjoyed every minute of it, but my priority now is to spend more time with my wife, children and grandchildren,” Hartsburg said in a release from Columbus, where he spent the last four years as an associate coach. “I have really enjoyed my time in Columbus, working with both John Tortorella and Todd Richards, and appreciate the opportunity to continue to be part of the organization in a role that will also allow me to devote more time to my family.”

Hartsburg, 56, has been well-traveled since transitioning to coaching after a 10-year playing career — all of it spent with the Minnesota North Stars.

He spent one year in Minnesota as an assistant before moving to Philadelphia, Guelph (OHL), Chicago, Anaheim, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL), back to Philadelphia, back to Sault Ste. Marie, Ottawa, Everett (WHL), Calgary and, finally, Columbus.

Wild woe: Parise out indefinitely, will miss first two games against Dallas

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Remember when we ran down that huge list of key playoff injuries?

Well, you can add another one.

On Wednesday, the Wild announced that Zach Parise is out indefinitely with an upper-body injury, and will miss Games 1 and 2 of their opening-round playoff series against Dallas.

Parise, who hasn’t played since a 3-0 loss to the Sharks on Apr. 5, is reportedly dealing with a lingering back issue.

Per the Star-Tribune, he was at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester on Monday seeing a specialist.

It’s hard to convey just how huge a loss this is for Minnesota.

You can point to his regular-season numbers, his leadership qualities and his innate ability to win board battles, but those don’t really encompass all Parise brings to the table — especially in the postseason.

To wit: Minnesota has played 23 games in each of the last two playoffs combined. Over that time, Parise’s scored 24 points while averaging nearly 20 minutes per night.

With Parise out, the Wild look as though they’ll go with Charlie Coyle and Jason Zucker on the wings with center Mikko Koivu.