Practices officially open on Saturday, which means college hockey is back this weekend. In Hockey East, 10 teams will host exhibitions with CIS programs Saturday and Sunday. Let’s take a look at them:
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BOSTON — Hockey East officially announced its agreement with American Sports Network to produce its league television slate. It’s a two-year contract and will consist of 14 games for this upcoming season.
ASN is a production company, and will produce the games for its series of networks. Locally, it’s likely that games will continue to air on NESN, though that portion of the deal was not formally announced by the league on Monday.
BOSTON — With just two weeks to go before the exhibition season officially kicks off, a trio of Hockey East teams are entering the year with question marks thanks to some injuries to top players.
On Monday at the league’s media day, held at TD Garden, Boston College head coach Jerry York confirmed to WEEI.com’s Scott McLaughlin that goaltender Thatcher Demko could miss the start of the upcoming season. That’s certainly not what the favorited Eagles need heading into the season, though BC doesn’t play a league game until Nov. 3 when it hosts a UMass team that was picked to finish last in Hockey East.
Demko had surgery on his hips in the offseason. It’s the type of surgery that’s becoming more common for players at that position.
Down the road, Boston University defenseman Matt Grzelcyk is also unlikely to be ready for the start of the season after undergoing knee surgery over the summer. The BU captain is a key piece for the Terriers this season, who last Jack Eichel, Evan Rodrigues, Matt O’Connor and others off a team that won the Hockey East Championship last March.
Grzelcyk has been skating, but BU head coach David Quinn said on Monday that the Terriers will likely err on the side of caution and not rush him back into action.
UConn goaltender Rob Nichols had similar surgery to Demko, and according to a report in last week’s Hartford Courant, he might also not be ready for the start of the season. Nichols reportedly just got back on the ice last week and still hasn’t skated in back-to-back days, nor has he been cleared for game action.
BOSTON — You hardly see a National Hockey League player cry after a crushing loss. Last night, after a 4-3 loss to Providence in the national championship game, there wasn’t a dry eye in the Boston University dressing room.
That’s because in college hockey, at places like Boston University and everywhere else, you’re playing for something bigger than you, and you know it.
Players like Cason Hohmann, Evan Rodrigues and Anthony Moccia might play hockey beyond this season, but it will never be the same. Never.
In a blog post earlier this week on the website for The Lowell Sun, which covers UMass Lowell, a writer admitted that he didn’t “know squat” about the Pairwise. That’s fine. Unless you’re a college hockey diehard, you probably wouldn’t know the difference between the Pairwise and a pair a shoes.
But that didn’t stop the newspaper from publishing a front-page column on Tuesday, where the lede was “The UMass Lowell hockey team got screwed,” and calling the River Hawks “victims of a computer” in its headline.
Before I sat down to write this blog post, I asked my laptop if it had any bias against any particular college hockey programs. It didn’t answer me.
With the Big Ten programs so spread out, attendance may never be as great as we want it to be. But the attendance from the Big Ten tournament in Detroit were embarrassing.
Michigan played in all three games this weekend, including two weekend nights. Despite the local program’s presence, fans didn’t come out the Joe Louis Arena. Not even when Michigan and Michigan State faced off on Friday night.
If two local teams, featuring players like Zach Hyman, Dylan Larkin (a Red Wings prospect), Zach Werenski, Jake Hildebrand, Josh Jacobs, can’t draw fans of teams in their own state, there’s a problem.
Attendance was much better last year in St. Paul, with Minnesota as the local team. Wisconsin is a little further away, but Badgers fans still came out to support their team. And some Gophers fans took the trip to see the championship game on Saturday.
After this weekend, I assume the Big Ten tournament will not draw well outside of St. Paul. I loved last year’s tournament, from Minneapolis to the X. But having the tournament in MSP each year isn’t fair to the other four teams that have to travel.
Which is why they should move it to Chicago.
I’m biased towards Chicago because I love that city. But it’s central to the core of the conference (sorry, Penn State). It has easy-to-use public transportation, is a great city, provides opportunities for fan engagement and it’s where the conference is headquartered. There’s more to do in Chicago on a Saturday than there is in Detroit or Minneapolis, giving fans an added reason to travel (Most fans, would have to travel anyway).
Honestly, I’m not sure if the attendance issue can ever be fixed. But there are steps the conference can take to make the tournament more fan-friendly, easier to get to, and more fun to attend. Because right now, there’s not much incentive to go.
The B1G has to work for it
When the conference was founded for hockey, it threw a bunch of brand-name programs together. But having historic, winning schools doesn’t equal attendance success – especially if the conference is having a down year. The conference can’t expect fans to spend money and time on travel to see Big Ten hockey. It’s expensive as is, but especially for college students. If fans are going to go, it needs to be worth their time.
Take the Frozen Four. Yes, it’s a more important event, but they do a great job of keeping fans entertained with a fun atmosphere before the games. This would be great for the Big Ten – hosting an event or two around the city for fans to attend.
And then there’s marketing. Last year I didn’t see much advertising around the city, and this year all I saw were sporadic posters with the conference colors and logo. This is a conference that’s shown hockey isn’t a big priority, but they need to make it one. Spend some money on advertising. Draw in the local crowd.
(Side note: I saw more advertising from the Red Wings for the Big Ten tournament than I saw from the conference.)
Take away the Thursday game
Both years the Big Ten has drawn poor attendance for the Thursday game. Traveling for a first-round game is a low priority for fans, especially when they’re traveling far. But even when they’re not traveling far. Michigan fans didn’t show up on Thursday. But I don’t blame them, since they were almost a lock to beat Wisconsin.
I said this before the tournament, and it seems others have similar opinions. The Thursday game, featuring the four lower seeds, is better suited to a best-of-three series played at the home of the higher seed a week before the actual tournament. The schools, as hosts, have a much better chance of drawing attendance for that game than an NHL arena does, especially when it’s far away.
Follow this live blog all weekend as we discuss the up-to-the-minute ramifications every game has on the Pairwise.
The Pairwise is the system used by the NCAA to select and seed the NCAA Tournament. For more on how it works, check out our Pairwise Primer. Also, check out our You Are the Committee tool, which allows you to plug in projected winners of every game this weekend and see how it would affect the Pairwise.
To see live analysis of the Pairwise, click the “read more” jump below and follow along.
You will NOT have to refresh this page to see the latest updates. The newest updates will appear at the top of the window below:
With the conference tournaments approaching, I’ve been running a lot of scenarios through CHN’s PairWise calculator. It started with my interest in Minnesota’s chances (since I cover Big Ten hockey) but has expanded since then.
According to the Pairwise Probability Matrix, there are about nine teams that are locked into the NCAA tournament, and two others (Providence and Quinnipiac) that have very high chances of making it. North Dakota, Minnesota State, Boston University, Denver, Michigan Tech, Minnesota-Duluth, Miami, Nebraska-Omaha and Boston College are all most likely making the NCAA tournament.
Regardless of the results this weekend, the NCHC will have five teams make the NCAA tournament -North Dakota, Denver, Minnesota-Duluth, Miami and Nebraska-Omaha. Very few scenarios have Nebraska-Omaha – the lowest-ranked NCHC team – moving to ninth on the PWR list. I’ve encountered none that have the Mavericks dropping below ninth.
So below I ran through some points of interest, different scenarios, the likelihood of certain teams making it and what they need for that to happen. I will periodically add to this as I calculate more scenarios. (more…)
After a crazy final weekend in the regular season, the Gophers swept Penn State to claim the Big Ten regular season title. Michigan State split its series with Michigan, securing the No. 2 seed and a very important bye day. Michigan is the No. 3 seed and Penn State is No. 4.
The Buckeyes and Badgers were cemented to the fifth and sixth seeds, so their series didn’t factor into the standings. Ohio State swept Wisconsin, and the Badgers have now been shut out in five of their last seven games.
On Thursday, Penn State will face Ohio State and Michigan will play Wisconsin. The winner of the Penn State-Ohio State will play Minnesota in the semifinals, while the other game’s victor will face Michigan State.
With the conference tournament fields set and CHN’s You Are The Committee tool, I’ve been messing around with scenarios. Michigan can only make the NCAA tournament if they win, but things are different for Minnesota. The Gophers could lose on Friday and still make the NCAA tournament, but there are scenarios where the Gophers can win on Friday and still miss the NCAA tournament. So, it’s in Minnesota’s best interest to take the Big Ten championship.
If Minnesota doesn’t make the NCAA tournament, both teams who played in last year’s championship game will be out.
(After the jump: The bye day is very important, Michigan State will win the tournament, Michigan’s season is very close to being over.)
The last weekend of Big Ten play features the top four teams fighting for the regular season championship and a bye. Michigan State is first, but just by one point over Michigan and Minnesota. The Nittany Lions are in fourth with 31 points.
Two series this weekend features those four teams, as Michigan and Michigan State will spar, while Minnesota hosts Penn State for two games. This weekend has huge PairWise implications for both Michigan and Minnesota, who may not be able to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
Penn State hasn’t been hampered from the loss of Taylor Holstrom, and just swept Michigan. It’ll be a big matchup for Minnesota, which has to win both games to help its PairWise position.
The last series features Wisconsin and Ohio State. Both teams will finish fifth and sixth, regardless of their results. The Buckeyes may be fifth, but they’ve been one of the better teams in the conference lately.
With four teams so close and six points at stake in each series, there are a number of scenarios that could happen. I delved into some tie-breaking scenarios here, along with thoughts from some of the coaches.
While a bye day is different than a bye week, it could bode well for the inconsistent Big Ten teams. Especially because Michigan State is the only team with goalkeeping that’s consistent enough to win three games in three days.