NCAA

PHT Morning Skate: Babcock betting on himself; impact of Fabbri trade

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Mike Babcock on the pressures he’s currently facing with the Maple Leafs struggling: “I’m going to do (the job) as hard as I can for as long as I can. I’ve always bet on Mike Babcock. I’m going to continue to bet on him.” [Toronto Star]

• It’s not been a fun season if you’re employed as a Maple Leafs backup goaltender. [One Puck Short]

• Brady and Matthew Tkachuk have turned into phenomenal NHLers. [TSN]

• It’s been a pretty good first 20 games for the Panthers under Joel Quenneville. [Miami Herald]

• ‘Scrappy’ Jets gaining an identity at season’s quarter-mark. [Winnipeg Free Press]

• Morgan Frost, one of the Flyers’ top prospects, has been recalled. [NBC Sports Philadelphia]

• How Barry Trotz went from 50/50 sales to winning the Stanley Cup. [Sportsnet]

• What’s bugging the Predators of late? [A to Z Sports Nashville]

• The Bruins are eager to see Charlie McAvoy reached another level. [Boston Herald]

• Fun story from the NCAA over the weekend: Nine minutes before pregame warmups started, North Dakota’s Josh Rieger was eating a pound of buffalo wings. He got the call, rushed to the rink and scored his first goal. [Grand Forks Herald]

• How Robby Fabbri trade impacts Detroit Red Wings, Andreas Athanasiou. [Detroit Free Press]

• Five women who should be inducted next into the Hockey Hall of Fame. [Sporting News]

• Kris Versteeg asked to be released from his contract with the AHL’s Rockford Ice Hogs. [NBC Sports Chicago]

Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Coyotes are benefitting from the addition of assistant coach Phil Housley. [NHL.com]

• Looking at the best and worst in the history of Flyers jerseys. [Hockey by Design]

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Four-time Stanley Cup winner Chris Kunitz announces retirement

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Chris Kunitz announced his retirement on Tuesday after a 1,022-game NHL career that saw him win four Stanley Cups and Olympic gold in 2014. He finishes with 268 goals and 619 points

In retirement, the 39-year-old Kunitz will join the Chicago Blackhawks hockey operations department as a player development adviser role which will see him helping the the organization’s coaching staffs at both the NHL and AHL levels.

Kunitz released a statement via the Blackhawks:

“I feel very fortunate to have been a part of four amazing organizations over the last 15 years. First and foremost, I’d like to sincerely thank the Anaheim Ducks, the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Chicago Blackhawks. Every one of these organizations was the ultimate example, not only to me, but to my children, on what true professionalism should be.

Secondly, I’d like to thank the owners, coaches, trainers, management. Your love for the game, the team and the community was exemplified daily. I am very fortunate to have worked with every one of you.

Finally, to my teammates, thank you for everything. As a young player you taught me to give my very best. Your leadership helped mold me into the player I knew I could be. I was given the opportunity to play with the very best teams and the very best players and I’m grateful for the laughs and the friendships that we shared together. Thank you for making my childhood dream come true.”

Undrafted out of Ferris State, Kunitz signed as a free agent with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2003 and four years later won his first Cup. In 2009, he was dealt to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009 where he would capture his second championship in three seasons. It was with the Penguins where he would spend most of his career playing 569 games and recording 388 points. The 2013-14 season would be his most productive with 35 goals and 68 points, both career highs. That success would see him be named to Canada’s Olympic team where they would win gold in Sochi.

The titles would continue a few years later when the Penguins won back-to-back Cups in 2016 and 2017. It was Kunitz’s goal in overtime of Game 7 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Final against the Ottawa Senators that would send Pittsburgh to another Cup Final.

That goal would be his last with the Penguins. Following the 2016-17 season, Kunitz moved on to the Tampa Bay Lightning and then joined up with the Blackhawks this past season.

“Chris had an outstanding professional career,” said Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton. “His four Stanley Cups and Olympic gold medal speak for themselves. While coaching him last year, I recognized what an asset he would be for our staff and the organization. I’m very pleased to have him a part of our coaching group and, also, use him as a development resource for our young players in Rockford.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Penn State goaltender robs opponent with incredible stick save (Video)

Penn State Athletics / YouTube

Penn State’s men’s hockey team won their fourth straight Big Ten conference opener thanks to a strong power play and the goaltending of Peyton Jones, who will find himself on many highlight reels this weekend.

With the Nittany Lions up 3-0 on the Minnesota Golden Gophers late in the second period, Jones, who stopped 20 of 21 shots faced, kept his shutout alive with this dazzling stick save on Mike Szmatula:

“I’ve obviously seen saves like that before on SportsCenter, but I’ve never seen one live,” Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky said via USCHO. “It was pretty incredible.”

Jones, a sophomore who was making his 19th consecutive start, did find himself on SportsCenter’s top 10 plays of the night Friday, landing at No. 3.

The Nittany Lions, with help from two power play goals, would hold on to win 3-1 to improve to 2-1-0 on the season.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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It might be time to say goodbye to the “Fighting Sioux” moniker

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The University of North Dakota will be looking for a new nickname for their sports teams.

Voters in North Dakota chose to retire the Fighting Sioux moniker the university’s sports teams have had for year by a 67.35 percent to 32.65 percent margin according to the Grand Forks Herald.

The Fighting Sioux name has come under fire in recent years thanks to the NCAA looking to move away from “hostile and abusive” nicknames and mascots for schools. North Dakota’s men’s hockey team fought hard to keep the name, but the NCAA and member conferences in other sports put the squeeze on the university by threatening to ban the school from playoffs because of the name.

University president Robert Kelley sounds resigned to giving up the name in a statement after the vote.

We are appreciative that voters took the time to listen and to understand the issues and the importance of allowing the University to move forward.  We also understand how deeply this has affected all of us.

Tuesday’s vote allows us to focus our attention on our students as we continue to build exceptional programs in all areas of the University.  We appreciate the support that has been expressed for the University of North Dakota over the past several weeks, and especially for UND Athletics.  It is support that will continue to be important as we build a great future for the University and for UND Athletics.

We will continue to work with the State Board of Higher Education, the North Dakota University System, and the leadership in athletics as we move forward.

The school has fought hard to keep the name and while they’ve been respectful of the Sioux name, it appears change is coming for North Dakota.

(h/t Jennifer Conway on UND statement)