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Predict the NCAA selections with “You Are the Committee”

Monday, March 17th, 2008

Once again this year, CHN presents John Whelan’s terrific tournament prognostication tool, “You Are the Committee”. Have some fun playing around with it and post anything interesting you find out. We’ll be keeping an eye on it throughout the week and as the weekend results come in here at YATC Central. Load it up on your iPhone when you’re at the rink Saturday and amaze your friends as you tell them who’s going to make it before the games are even over.

Of note, if all the favorites win this weekend — of course, that never happens — then you can take the current top 13 and they’re all in, along with Princeton, Niagara and Air Force.

Can you find a scenario where Wisconsin gets in? The Badgers presumably want all the favorites to win, but Notre Dame looks like their biggest rival for what could be the last at large bid. If all the favorites win, except Notre Dame loses the CCHA consolation, then the Badgers sneak in ahead of the Irish. I’m sure that’s not the only way they can get in, but it does look like it may come down to those two teams.

How about a scenario where Minnesota State does not get in? I’m thinking the Mavericks are sitting pretty right about now, but I’m not ready to write that in stone yet.

Aside: Get well Tom Pohl.

Long live the Rink Rat

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

We were very disappointed to learn that as part of its restructuring after being bought by CBS, CSTV made a significant reduction in staff which included the services of Elliot Olshansky, also known as the CSTV Rink Rat.

Elliot discussed recent happenings on Runnin’ With the Dogs, and it certainly sounds like what we feared from the CBS takeover is coming to pass with regard to its commitment to college hockey.

If you never got a chance to read Elliot’s blog, I encourage you to do so, before it disappears. He did a great job of covering the game from a national perspective, traveling long and wide to see virtually all the teams. It was a unique read, the likes of which we may not see again.

Hopefully Elliot will still be able to remain involved and covering the sport that he and we all love. As the subject says, long live the Rink Rat.

Table Set for Canadian Schools?

Monday, January 14th, 2008

The NCAA Division II Board of Directors green-lighted a proposal that allows Canadian schools to become members. The test program is apparently a pretty big deal for Division II where there is a significant gap between the number of schools in the East and West. Perhaps a bigger deal may be that schools like University of British Columbia have already expressed interest in joining the NCAA in the past, and this may be the opening they’ve been waiting for. With a precedent already set for traditional Division III schools to bump a sport to Division I, will we be seeing some Canadian independents in the future?

Mid-Season All-Americans

Wednesday, December 26th, 2007

We are just about at the halfway point of the college hockey season – the perfect time to start looking at early favorites for All-American honors.

Here are my mid-season All-American teams. If you take issue with one of my picks, comment on the blog.

What you’ll be able to tell is that Miami seems to dominate the first team. But, I can make a strong case for every one of them so far.

First Team:
F – Kevin Porter (Michigan)
F – Ryan Jones (Miami)
F – Tim Kennedy (Michigan State)
D – Matt Taormina (Providence)
D – Alec Martinez (Miami)
G – Jeff Zatkoff (Miami)

Second Team:
F – Nathan Gerbe (Boston College)
F – Derek Whitmore (Bowling Green)
F – Ryan Lasch (Miami)
D – Tyler Eckford (Alaska)
D – Brad Flaishans (New Hampshire)
G – Richard Bachman (Colorado College)

Rookie Team
F – Garret Roe (St. Cloud State)
F – Kyle Turris (Wisconsin)
F – James vanRiemsdyk (New Hampshire)
D – Jeff Petry (Michigan State)
D – Chad Langlais (Michigan)
G – Richard Bachman (Colorado College)

Gophers’ Lucia and Isles’ Snow At Odds Over Okposo

Friday, December 21st, 2007

Interesting article from the Star Tribune, where New York Islanders GM Garth Snow sheds some light on his club’s mid-season signing of Minnesota forward Kyle Okposo.

Snow minces no words in his criticism of Gopher coach Don Lucia, saying he and the NHL club’s brass “weren’t happy with the program there.” Snow went on to say, “They have a responsibility to coach, to make Kyle a better player, and they were not doing that.” And, “[Okposo] just wasn’t getting better — bottom line. And to me, that’s the frustrating part. We entrusted the coach there to turn him into a better hockey player, and it wasn’t happening. We feel more comfortable in him developing right under our watch.”

Lucia took the high road in response in a statement to the paper through the school’s sports information department, saying in part, “I am proud of all the success of our program,” and, “I believe our staff does an excellent job of developing our players on and off the ice.”

A few things baffle me about this. First, I look at the track record of the people involved. Lucia is widely recognized as one of the top college coaches — of all-time, not just today, given his tremendous success at Alaska-Fairbanks, Colorado College and now Minnesota, with two NCAA titles to his credit. The Islanders, on the other hand, don’t have a outstanding track record in recent times. Even though Snow was recognized as NHL Executive of the Year in his first season as GM last year by Sports Illustrated, he’s a newcomer to NHL management and doesn’t seem to me to have really proven himself yet. Simply put, I don’t see that he’s coming from such a position of authority as to be able to make those kinds of statements about Lucia and Minnesota program.

But also, this is the same Garth Snow who was a part-time goaltender at Maine under another highly regarded coach, Shawn Walsh. Snow would put up amazing numbers for the Black Bears and earn various honors — yet had to share time with fellow dufflebag Mike Dunham, playing only 23 games all year.

I wonder what would happen if Snow had a prospect playing today for a Walsh (and don’t forget Maine assistant coach Grant Standbrook, who developed those goaltenders), but not getting the kind of playing time, for instance, that most NHL execs like to see from a future player between the pipes.

Would he have pulled himself out of Maine 15 years ago?

Before you call me on this, I know it’s not exactly the same situation. Although I think you could question the developmental situation Snow was in too, he did have a terrific season that year, while Okposo has not met expectations this year. But is that the coach’s fault, or the player’s? That’s the big question here.

Maybe Snow just felt Okposo needed a change of scenery. It wouldn’t be the first time. But then I wouldn’t have expected him to say the things he did — and they are serious, because in one fell swoop he has called everything Lucia and the Gophers do into question. It has the potential to affect recruiting, depending on how much credibility recruits and the hockey community give to Snow’s remarks.

I just don’t see where it was justified, especially from a guy who has developed far fewer players than Lucia has. But I guess either way, in a couple years we’ll know whether or not Snow was right.

A look back at the Colorado College-New Hampshire series

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

Early-season battles like we had last weekend between No. 4 Colorado College and No. 6 New Hampshire don’t always live up to the billing, but this one sure did. After broadcasting the series for New Hampshire Public TV along with Dan Parkhurst, I decided to offer some quick thoughts on the two games, won by host UNH, 5-3 and 3-2.

First, these are two very similar teams with no glaring weaknesses. I’m not sure either is the best in the country, but both are very good and I expect to see them deep into March, if not April. Strong in goal, a solid defense and multiple lines that can threaten, and good special teams. I’ve always enjoyed watching (CC coach) Scott Owens’ teams play, and this weekend was no different.

At the same time, both teams had their highs and lows. CC had that great start Friday night, and then played as poorly in the third period in getting outshot 18-3 and giving up three goals. UNH didn’t play that great in the first half of either game, but got stronger as the night went on, coming up with three in the third period on Friday and Saturday.

Maybe it’s a sign of how early in the season it is, or a sign that these were two pretty good, evenly matched teams. I go with the latter.

For CC, besides their depth, two of the players who most impressed me were Eric Walsky and Jack Hillen. Walsky, a transfer from Alaska-Anchorage and a native of Anchorage, played with a lot of energy and it paid off with a goal the first night. He trailed the play and when the first shot by rookie linemate Tyler Johnson — who also stood out last weekend — didn’t get through, he beat the defense to take it in himself and make it 1-0. This guy is going to be a real fan favorite if he isn’t already.

Hillen led his club all weekend, playing terrific in his own end and quarterbacking the offense. Hard to believe that while leading his team in scoring with 1-4–5 in four games, he only had 39 career points in 110 games entering the season. His power play goal on Friday concluded a strong first period for the Tigers, and he nearly had another one on Saturday with teammate Bill Sweatt getting credit for the deflection to tie the game in the first.

But CC looked like a tired team in the third period both nights. I don’t know if it was the travel or the effects of playing four of these early season games against quick opponents in just over a week, but they did seem a bit gassed and UNH took advantage.

The big talk around UNH this year is about rookie James vanRiemsdyk, the 6-3, 190-pound No. 2 pick of the Philadelphia Flyers, and much has already been said about his combination of size and skill. But what I noticed last weekend was his work ethic and hockey sense. I don’t think he was outworked by anyone on the ice, and several times his extra effort helped him draw key penalties on the Tigers. When you see a guy who is that heralded working and working to get to the net until he gets taken down, that’s a player who’s going to go places. We also saw him on the ice near the end of the first game, killing time and preventing CC from getting Drew O’Connell out for the extra attacker, and another time, he didn’t have much of an angle to shoot at but rather than try to stuff it where there was no shot, he knocked the puck free to keep the play going with his team dominating a shift — a whistle and change would have given CC a break.

And while goaltender Kevin Regan figures to again be one of the nation’s best, backup Brian Foster seemed to have earned some more time in the near future with his play on Saturday. Last year, Regan played in all but four games and led the nation in save percentage, while Foster only made four starts as a rookie. Even though Foster came out with a bang — the only goaltender known to have posted shutouts in his first two games — Regan deservedly saw the brunt of the time and lived up to the billing. Again Saturday night, Foster came out strong and saved the Wildcats’ bacon several times as they could never get more than a one goal lead. But I think we’ll see more of him this season, mainly because he’s earned it. He played confidently and aggressively, and you certainly like to see that from your backup tender.

Well, this wasn’t meant to cover all the bases, just a few thoughts here and there. IMO, both teams’ fans have a lot to look forward to this season and will be fun teams to watch.

Random Thoughts

Friday, October 26th, 2007

- It’s good to see the North Dakota issue starting to get hammered out. The NCAA and the state reached a settlement that requires the University to get approval from the Sioux tribes in the state within three years. If that doesn’t happen, then they must find a new nickname. Seems to make sense to me, just why did it take this long and why all the pains with UND as opposed to schools playing in, more visible $port$ like football.

– For those of you who picked October 26th in the first mention of the Pairwise Rankings pool, congratulations. Had to laugh when I saw the front of USCHO today and saw that. It’s only a matter of time before people look at the system like they do the BCS where fans and journalists alike start sticking a fork in team’s seasons because of an early season loss or two.

– Good to see some of the pro arenas taking advantage of college hockey action in the regular season. Most notably this week (and personally) for me the RIT / Cornell matchup at the Blue Cross Arena, in Rochester, NY. RIT is Rochester’s only college with a Division I sport until you get out to Geneva to see Hobart’s lacrosse program. Rochester is turning into a hot bed for high school hockey, and the exposure to fans in the area is a big deal. In the past year they’ve now hosted NCAA regionals, Atlantic Hockey championships, and a few other tilts.
– Always fun to look at polls, where a writer felt UNH was the number one team in the country after the Wildcats first victory of the season. Beating an 0-2-1 BU team after a loss to New Brunswick must’ve been impressed the heck out of someone familiar with the Durham Area.

– Two times in two years a game has been postponed or cancelled at BC because of the foggy conditions due to unseasonably warm temperatures. I suspect a new bulletpoint in the next Al Gore movie is in order. Of course, if the BC people were like I am with television sets in electronics, I’d totally use this as an excuse to get a new arena…

Drop the puck!

Friday, October 12th, 2007

The first full weekend of college hockey is upon us. How fast time flies!

Many teams have already faced some Canadian counterparts, but I can’t help but be a little disappointed that D-I teams don’t regularly schedule any of their D-III counterparts as their warmup for the regular season, especially after the excitement in college football this season with Appalachian State defeating Michigan, it definitely would be fun to see some of the SUNYAC teams face Clarkson or St. Lawrence, maybe Wisconsin or Minnesota hosting a tilt. Certainly the D-III fans would travel, and it could ignite some local rivalries that once might have been before classification really took over. Also, because they’re NCAA teams, no more of this Canadian rough-housing that the NCAA teams can’t really retaliate against.

Loving the lineup of early season tournaments. All four that are kicking off look like they will be very competitive. The Nye in Alaska is always a wild-card with the travel schedule, but it must be an exceptional experience for the three visitng teams.

Michigan skated away with a big 4-3 OT victory earlier today in the Icebreaker, and Wisconsin took out Notre Dame 4-1 which is a pretty big statement considering consider Wisconsin’s off-season last year and Notre Dame’s huge breakout. Clarkson took revenge upon UMass in OT as well 2-1. Fortunately for the Minutemen their loss won’t end their season.

Enjoy the hockey and let the games begin!

Season Opening Shocker

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

Nope, it’s not a Canadian team destroying an American counterpart in the opening week of the season, it’s Wayne State suddenly announcing that they’re dropping hockey after this season.

After all of the hoopla surrounding Bemidji State throwing down the gauntlet to the WCHA last season, and the future of the CHA in jeopardy, this certainly puts the nail into the coffin.

A realistic scenario here is that other conferences take these teams in despite the fact there’s been an unwillingness to do so recently, now the situation has actually occured where it might be necessary. The bad news here is that there doesn’t appear to be any clear-fit for Alabama-Huntsville.

The best-case scenario would be a couple of schools announcing the move to Division I Hockey and rebuilding the CHA or a new conference. Worst-case would be a bunch of these CHA teams just calling it quits and being back down to a twelve team tournament in a couple of years. Lets hope something works out in the near future.

This is obviously not the way we all wanted to see the season start.

Biscuit in the Basket

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

I cover the Merrimack College Warriors for the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, and also run a blog to go along with that coverage. A few weeks back, I posted about  the percentage of goals lost among Hockey East teams.

It really is interesting, especially a team like Maine that loses almost 3/4 of their goals from last season. Take a look, and I’m interested in hearing people’s thoughts.