Archive for the 'Regular Season' Category

Don Lucia’s Wrong on This One

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

Yes, I have broadcasted 128 Minnesota-Duluth men’s hockey games.

Yes, I am continuing to support the program as a season-ticket holder.

Yes, I despise the Minnesota Gophers with every fiber of my being.

However, I am not an idiot. My respect for Don Lucia’s work as a college hockey coach is as high as it gets. Evidence can be found here and here.

The fact that he is a great coach and a wonderful ambassador for the sport doesn’t change the fact that he is capable of being dead wrong.

Evidence of that can be found here.

“I have never discouraged or encouraged [playing football], but that may change now in light of what happened to Zach (Budish, Gopher hockey recruit who suffered a torn ACL playing football) and what happened to Garrett, too,” said Lucia, who also watched recruit Garrett Smaagaard of Eden Prairie miss his senior year of hockey after tearing his ACL in the 2000 Prep Bowl.

Budish’s injury and Lucia’s stance underscore a growing conflict between the two sports. Overlapping schedules, competition for varsity spots and the growing trend of specialization have the relationship between football and hockey, as Hill-Murray activities director and hockey coach Bill Lechner said, “at an uncertain point.”

Kim Nelson of Edina and Vince Conway of Hill-Murray, who coach football at schools where hockey is king, worry that Budish’s injury might make hockey players — particularly elite-level players — reconsider playing football.

Their concerns have merit. Just weeks after Budish’s injury, Lucia received a verbal commitment from an athlete who played both football and hockey.

“We had a talk,” Lucia said. “I said, ‘It’s time to be a hockey player, not a football player.’ He agreed and he’s not going to play football next year.”

I’m all for coaches advising their recruits. I’m not all for coaches telling their recruits not to play football. High school is a time for enjoyment, a time for hanging out with friends, and a not a time to be specializing in one sport over anything else.

To me, coaches who try to steer their recruits to a single sport are afraid. They’re afraid that the kid will start to like a different sport and want to play that instead.

Such fears didn’t overcome anyone in the Minnesota-Duluth program after Matt Niskanen committed there in 2004. Niskanen was a three-sport athlete in high school, playing hockey for the co-op Virginia/Mountain Iron-Buhl program, and playing football and baseball for Mountain Iron-Buhl. He continued to play football and baseball in his senior year, and was a top-notch player in all three sports.

Listen, I’m not trying to hold up Niskanen as some sort of evidence to a greater rule. And I’m not trying to make Scott Sandelin out to be automatically smarter or a better coach than Lucia because he didn’t try to keep Niskanen from playing those sports in his senior year.

But if you ask Niskanen, and I have, the fact that he played all three sports made him a better hockey player and a better person. And you can’t argue with the outcome in either realm. Not only is he one of the better young defensemen in the NHL, but he’s also one of the nicest people you could ever meet, and he truly hasn’t forgotten his roots.

And Lucia is not alone. Around the country, there are coaches trying to dissuade their kids from playing other sports as they grow older. For every Don Lucia, there is a college football coach practically begging his recruits to stop playing hockey or basketball or baseball. And there are high school coaches who go so far as to demand their star players not play any other sport.

These things happen. And they need to stop.

We can’t be in such a hurry to get kids through the developmental stages of sports that we don’t allow them to be kids. Yes, there will be kids like Aaron Ness, a Gophers freshman defenseman who accelerated his high-school education so he could graduate and join the Minnesota program as quickly as possible. But Ness didn’t do that because Lucia told him to. He did it because he wanted to.

And that’s how this should be done. Not with pressure, threats, or even subtle requests from college coaches. If a high-school kid wants to play three sports and star in all three, that should be his decision and no one else’s.

Yes, there is risk.

But there’s also risk in letting that same kid drive to school every day. You don’t see coaches banning their players from driving, do you?

Silly? Absolutely. So is a hockey coach worrying about a potential star recruit getting hurt while playing football, or any other sport.

Why Polls Don’t Matter and Shouldn’t

Monday, December 8th, 2008

I’ve always been pleased as punch with the fact that the NCAA doesn’t incorporate polls into the selection process for the NCAA Hockey Tournament.

Of course, it means that the polls are nothing but discussion fodder. But that’s a good thing. Polls should never be more than that. The opinions of human beings should mean nothing when you’re determining who the best hockey teams are. Same goes for football, basketball, baseball, tennis, volleyball, bowling, and any other sport.

We have tournaments and postseasons so we can decide these types of important things on the field of play.

This week, college hockey pollsters are faced with an interesting, difficult, and nearly-impossible dynamic when it comes to WCHA teams (and others, mind you, but I’m going to focus for a moment on the WCHA).

Minnesota State is now 8-5-3. They have impressive wins over Colorado College and North Dakota, but lost twice over the weekend to St. Cloud State, and they also have a loss and a tie against Minnesota.

St. Cloud State sits at 10-6, just swept MSU, but has lost twice to Minnesota-Duluth by matching 5-1 scores.

UMD is unbeaten in their last five. The Bulldogs, now 7-4-5 on the season, chased Colorado College star goalie Richard Bachman with a five-goal second period explosion Saturday. The 7-4 win follows a three-point weekend against North Dakota and a second four-goal win over St. Cloud State.

Who gets ranked where?

Thankfully, it doesn’t really matter. These three teams settle their differences and decide their rankings with their play on the ice. In January, various sites will start to publish their guesses on what the PWR looks like. CHN has already started publishing the KRACH ratings (waiting until everyone has lost one game).

The only day the PWR matters is on Selection Sunday, but it’s always interesting to watch the ebb and flow over the course of the season’s second half. While there are always quirks with logic involved, they aren’t nearly as bad as the quirks with logic that are involved in the polls.

Of course, it’s always easier to except the quirks when you realize the polls don’t matter one lick. It’s nothing but blog and message board fodder to keep us interested until another full slate of games on Friday night.

PUCK Rankings

Tuesday, January 16th, 2007

CHN Blog “PUCK” Rankings
January 16th, 2006

Rank Team Record Last Week
1 Minnesota 20-2-3 1
2 New Hampshire 17-3-1 2
3 Notre Dame 19-4-1 5
4 St. Cloud State 14-4-4 4
5 Maine 14-5-2 3
6 Denver 17-7-2 8
7 Clarkson 13-5-3 7
8 Boston College 12-6-1 11
9 Michigan State 14-8-1 10
10 Boston University 10-4-6 12
11 Miami 17-8-1 6
12 Colorado College 14-9-1 9
13 Michigan 15-9-5 12
14 Vermont 12-8-2 16
15 Cornell 9-6-2 15
16 North Dakota 11-11-2 NR

Bumped: Bemidji State

PUCK RANKINGS

Monday, January 8th, 2007

CHN Blog “PUCK” Rankings
January 8th, 2006

Rank Team Record Last Week
1 Minnesota 19-1-3 1
2 New Hampshire 16-3-1 2
3 Maine 14-3-2 4
4 St. Cloud State 14-3-3 5
5 Notre Dame 17-4-1 3
6 Miami 16-7-1 6
7 Clarkson 13-5-1 13
8 Denver 15-7-2 8
9 Colorado College 13-8-1 9
10 Michigan State 12-8-1 15
11 Boston College 10-6-1 7
12 Michigan 13-8-0 11
13 Boston University 8-4-6 12
14 Bemidji State University 12-5-3 NR
15 Cornell 9-5-1 15
16 Vermont 11-8-1 10

Bumped: University of Massachusettes – Amherst

PUCK Rankings for December 4th, 2006

Monday, December 4th, 2006

No movement in the top four of this week’s PUCK Rankings although Minnesota came dangerously close to seeing their 14 game unbeaten streak end on Friday. Denver takes a beating after being swept by archrival Colorado College dropping seven spots to #15. St. Cloud continues to impress rising up to the #6 position after sweeping a strong Michigan Tech squad, making it six in a row. Aside from that, not a lot of movement except at the bottom, where Clarkson, Cornell and UMass all return to the rankings after picking up points, along with Yale, Michigan State and Michigan Tech not being able to make it through the weekend unscathed.

CHN Blog “PUCK” Rankings
December 4th, 2006

Rank Team Record Last Week
1 Minnesota 13-1-3 1
2 New Hampshire 11-2-1 2
3 Maine 9-3-1 3
4 Notre Dame 12-3-1 4
5 Miami 13-5-0 6
6 St. Cloud State 8-3-3 8
7 Boston College 8-4-1 9
8 Michigan 12-5-0 5
9 Colorado College 10-5-1 13
10 North Dakota 7-6-1 11
11 Vermont 9-5-1 12
12 Boston University 5-3-5 10
13 Cornell 8-3-1 NR
14 University of Massachusetts-Amherst 7-3-2 NR
15 Denver 9-6-1 7
16 Clarkson 10-5-1 NR

Bumped: Michigan State, Michigan Tech, Yale

BC / BU Postponed due to fog?!

Friday, December 1st, 2006

mk2.jpgYep. You heard right. They called the Boston College / Boston University game due to fog after about nine minutes of play at Conte Forum this evening. The combination of the temperature being near 70 degrees in Boston ahead of the big storm, the air saturated with moisture, and the A/C failing being non-existent at Conte, it didn’t take long for rink to fill with fog once the players hit the ice. No word yet on rescheduling this one and if it’ll start from scratch or midway through the game. No the picture is not from the game, but you could understand why you might not want to play in the fog.

PUCK Rankings for November 20th, 2006

Monday, November 20th, 2006

If there’s one thing this season has proved week in and week out, it’s that parity is the name of the game. Minnesota ascends to the top spot this weekend after a sweep of Wisconsin, while Maine slides down to the #2 spot after a tough OT loss to Boston College. Nearly everyone in last week’s PUCK Rankings took home a W last week with the exception of North Dakota which is free-falling from #3 to #13 after being swept by UAA. Michigan Tech gets some tough love after losing to Denver 1-0, and tying the following evening. Dartmouth is also knocked off, still trying to find its stride along with the rest of the teams that were considered top contenders in the ECACHL at the beginning of the season. Welcome to the PUCK Rankings SCSU and Colorado College. SCSU had a convincing weekend series against Clarkson, sweeping the Golden Knights by a combined scored of 11-2, while CC swept Minnesota State by a wide margin.

CHN Blog “PUCK” Rankings
November 13th, 2006

Rank Team Record Last Week
1 Minnesota 10-1-2 2
2 Maine 8-2-1 1
3 Notre Dame 9-2-1 4
4 New Hampshire 7-2-1 5
5 Miami 10-4-0 10
6 Michigan 9-3-0 7
7 Boston College 7-3-1 8
8 Michigan State 6-3-1 9
9 Denver 7-4-1 13
10 UMass-Amherst 6-1-1 12
11 Yale 6-1-0 15
12 Cornell 6-2-0 6
13 North Dakota 6-5-1 3
14 Boston University 3-2-4 11
15 St. Cloud State 4-3-3 NR
16 Colorado College 7-4-1 NR

Bumped: Michigan Tech, Dartmouth

Is the TOTW Cursed?

Tuesday, November 14th, 2006

Clarkson, Boston College, Vermont… not Notre Dame.. but still, three out of four ain’t bad.wodonlasers.jpg We’re getting pretty certain over here that the TOTW is generally the kiss of death for the next weekend. My bet is on Denver for being next. I actually have no clue who the next TOTW is but sweeping Wisconsin who is a darling in the polls, seems to be the obvious choice. They’ll face Michigan Tech. Based on the past few weeks, I’m calling it: Michigan Tech 14, Denver 1 and Michigan Tech 2, Denver 1 (ot.) Sorry Damien and Pioneer fans, this isn’t about the team, this is about the curse (and me trying to jinx the curse that jinxes teams, lest you want Mr. Wodon to continue to shoot lasers out of his eyes at your squads.)

(edit: Denver IS CHN’s Team of the Week)

PUCK Rankings for November 13th, 2006

Monday, November 13th, 2006

Cornell and Maine both lost their first games of the season but it didn’t do much damage a as both solidly remain in the top half of this week’s PUCK Rankings. Clarkson couldn’t avoid the TOTW curse and was soundly ejected from the rankings after being swept off the rankings along with Wisconsin, giving way to new PUCK Ranking entry Denver. Michigan Tech and Dartmouth arrive back on the scene as well. The one team to avoid the TOTW curse, Notre Dame continues their big run and moves up to #4 this week. Hockey East leader UMass-Amherst also continues to climb the rankings after another solid week, and New Hampshire is rewarded for knocking off the #1 Black Bears in style by jumping six spots up to #5.

CHN Blog “PUCK” Rankings
November 13th, 2006

Rank Team Record Last Week
1 Maine 8-1-1 1
2 Minnesota 8-1-2 2
3 North Dakota 6-3-1 4
4 Notre Dame 8-1-1 6
5 New Hampshire 5-2-1 11
6 Cornell 5-1-0 5
7 Michigan 7-3-0 13
8 Boston College 6-3-0 3
9 Michigan State 5-2-1 8
10 Miami 8-4-0 7
11 Boston University 2-1-4 12
12 UMass-Amherst 5-1-1 14
13 Denver 6-4-0 NR
14 Dartmouth 4-2-0 NR
15 Yale 4-1-0 15
16 Michigan Tech 6-3-1 NR

Bumped: Clarkson, TAFKAF, Wisconsin

Hockey is for Weekends!

Tuesday, November 7th, 2006

If I was Boston College coach Jerry York, and I was creating a schedule for next year, aside from the Beanpot, I would avoid scheduling games on weekdays. For the second consecutive week, the Eagles have fallen, and fallen big, this time to Harvard at a sold out Bright Hockey Center 4-0 on Tuesday. I suspect a couple of the players tried to hop on the #86 and transfer over the Green Line instead of taking the team bus back to campus.

Freshman goalie Kyle Richter stood on his head in the victory stopping all 36 of BC’s shots in front of a sell-out crowd. Richter was initiated in his first collegiate game by Clarkson on Friday, but Coach Donato called his number on Tuesday and he obviously came through for the Crimson, helped along by a balanced scoring effort from the Harvard offense.

This opens up the Pandora’s Box once again. BC, where’s the consistency? Sweep Wisconsin, lose to Providence, shutout Vermont, lose to Harvard? And Harvard! Were you guys asleep at the wheel the first three games of the season? Can you make up the ground and still be a force in the ECAC? Three in the loss column is a lot to make up.

What are the Cornell fans thinking about this upcoming weekend now that Harvard has a notch in their belt? I suspect most were licking their chops, but suddenly it’s not so simple anymore.