Is it over?
Are we done? Was that it?
Following last week's announcement that Robert Morris
intends to join College Hockey America next season, some people
are saying that the college hockey landscape is set for 2004-05.
No mass conference
swapping. No chaotic upheaval. Just a clean replacement: Robert
Morris for Findlay.
this is how it'll look (next year)," said Air Force coach
Frank Serratore, who has been vocal in predicting a significant
conference restructuring. "Robert Morris is the Band-Aid
on the situation right now — something that needed to happen
for the CHA. I think this alignment will stand pat for the
of Robert Morris preserves the CHA's automatic bid to the NCAA
Tournament because the league will keep its bid-minimum six-team
enrollment. Likewise, Atlantic Hockey hasn't been raided by the
CHA or ECAC (yet), so it still has its automatic bid with six
core Division I schools.
a team folds or jumps ship for another league between now and
next season, everything appears settled. Of course, it's far from
a sure thing that everybody will stay where they are, what with
rumors about Holy Cross (to the ECAC), Canisius (to the CHA),
Quinnipiac (to the CHA or ECAC) and Connecticut (to Hockey East)
continuously circulating. But the sea is much calmer than it was
two weeks ago.
In Atlantic Hockey now, but moving in the future?
the million-dollar question is whether things will be set through
next year," Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin said. "It seems
that way. Who knows? No one would be surprised if Holy Cross did
go to the ECAC and no one would be surprised if they didn't. We're
watching before our eyes the landscape of college hockey change,
but I don't think it will change quickly. Hopefully, at the end
of all of this, our sport will emerge bigger and better than before."
members of Atlantic Hockey, have themselves been rumored to potentially
be looking elsewhere — most likely to the CHA. Mercyhurst's
women's hockey program will join the league next year, and the
men's program has made no secret it would like to escape Atlantic
Hockey's limit of 11 scholarships. And with geographic rival Robert
Morris (120 miles away in Moon Township, Pa.) joining the CHA,
it seems the Lakers would have even more incentive to consider
a switch. But that's not necessarily the case, Gotkin said.
stand hasn't really changed," he said. "We're happy
where we are, unless the complexion of college hockey were to
change dramatically. We're looking forward to starting a good
rivalry with Robert Morris. We have them on our schedule next
year. But we haven't even thought about (switching to the CHA
because they joined)."
believes the biggest changes lie ahead, perhaps after legislation
passes allowing single-sport conferences to be exempt from the
NCAA rule stipulating that leagues must have at least six full-time
Division I institutions to get an automatic bid into the national
tournament. Apparently, the ball is rolling in that direction
the ADs and conference commissioners could look at realigning
for geographic sense," Serratore said. "You can't realign
conferences if you lose the automatic qualifier in the process.
What good would that do?"
So maybe the
major shakeup is still a year away. Any wagers?
AND HEARD IN THE LEAGUES
The Billy Goat lives at INCH World Headquarters —
Hey, this isn't fair! INCH
certainly seemed to be cursed last week, but we never got the
prestige of being on the cover of SI first! I demand a recount.
Here's a partial list of the missteps in last week's AHA/CHA notebook,
as exposed by the ensuing games:
• We trashed Army for not being able to score, and the Black
Knights responded with nine goals in a weekend sweep of Canisius
— the same team we lauded for sneaking back into Atlantic
Hockey's upper echelon. Ugh.
We also ragged on Sacred Heart for its 10-game winless streak
(0-7-3), but the Pioneers then came out and took a pair from Connecticut.
Kudos to us, eh?
As an aside, we really did believe Auburn was going to claim the
national title in football last year and Howard Dean would win
the Democratic nomination. But that's neither here nor there.
It's Tricky — There was no shortage of
individual standouts on the ice last weekend, as Bemidji State's
Brendan Cook, Sacred Heart's Garret Larson and Holy Cross's Jeff
Dams each registered a hat trick and more.
Cook, a junior
with 18-11—29 this season, had a hattie Friday and added
another goal Saturday. One goal each night was short-handed, giving
him five SHGs this year. That ties the CHA single-season record
set by Wayne State's Billy Collins last season.
junior, notched a pair of tallies Friday and then a hat trick
Saturday against UConn. The five goals bumped his season total
from four to nine.
a senior, picked up a hat trick Friday and tacked on an assist
on the game-winner against Bentley on Saturday. Dams leads the
Crusaders with 10-16—26 this season.
AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
Great Weekend Getaway
State at Minnesota (Fri-Sat.):
Not only does this intrastate tussle pit two of
the hottest teams in the nation, but it might not be as
lopsided as people think. The Beavers have won 11 of their
last 13 games (including five in a row) in opening up an
eight-point lead in the College Hockey America standings.
It's the biggest lead of any first-place team in the nation,
although second-place Niagara (four) and Alabama-Huntsville
(two) do have games in hand.
the Golden Gophers have emphatically bounced back from a
snail-paced start, going 14-2-2 in their last 18 games and
climbing into a third-place tie in the WCHA. Having played
(and split with) Minnesota Duluth already this season, the
Beavers have an idea of what Minnesota's speed and talent
level will be like. But unlike against the Bulldogs, Bemidji
must play on enemy ice both nights this weekend, which will
be difficult to
overcome. The Gophers have won all four of the teams' previous
meetings (by a combined score of 28-7, no less).
you're there: When Beavers fans think NHL, they envision
Otto hoisting the Stanley Cup with the Flames in 1989. When
fans think NHL, they think of Neal Broten hoisting the Cup
Devils in 1995. Either way, the Cup and the best of the
NHL will be on display this weekend in St. Paul as part of the NHL All-Star
Weekend festivities. Sounds like the perfect Saturday afternoon
distraction for the hockey die-hard. And if you have REALLY
good connections, or lots of money for the scalpers, the
All-Star Game is Sunday afternoon. My colleague Jess Myers
will be there. If you see him, give him a hug.
will tell you that the only criterion for admittance into
Bemidji State is a pulse. But the Beavers took a step toward
dispelling that notion with a solid academic semester this
past fall. Bemidji posted a team grade-point average
of 3.38, with 19 of 25 skaters finishing at 3.0 or above.
Defensemen Peter Jonsson and Bryce Methven and forward Bill
Methven coasted along at a perfect 4.0. Assistant coach
Bert Gilling oversees the team's academic performance, and
under his guidance the last five years, the Beavers have
raised their team GPA from a laughable 2.58 to the current
is quite a feat for our players, and I'm proud of them,"
coach Tom Serratore said. "It is indicative of the
character of the people on this hockey team. They're consummate
student-athletes." Take that, major juniors!
last week was any indication, whoever or whatever I would
criticize in this space would probably go on to their best
weekend of the season. So, in the interest of not playing
favorites, I'll bypass Atlantic Hockey and the CHA to take
a shot at the NHL (and the CCHA and whoever else is in on
this): I don't like teams wearing their dark jerseys
at home and their white ones on the road. Maybe
I'm closed-minded. Maybe I'm a stick in the mud. But I think
fans in Edmonton should get to enjoy the Oilers' lovely
whites and fans in Ottawa and Atlanta should be spared of
seeing those ugly darks in person.
the Hobey Baker Award winds up in either Atlantic Hockey or College
Hockey America this year, it will likely be under the arm of Alabama-Huntsville
junior forward Jared Ross or Niagara junior
forward Barret Ehgoetz. Ross is currently second and
Ehgoetz 11th in the online vote for the Hobey at hobeybaker.com.
their candidacies, Ehgoetz ranks second in the nation with 38
points (18-20) and Ross is tied for third with 37 (14-23). Ross
continues to lead the country in points per game with 1.85, even
after a slow two-point weekend against Northern Michigan.
have to assume Rand Pecknold is petitioning Atlantic Hockey
to switch the league tournament site from West Point to the Hamden
area as soon as possible. It would be worth Pecknold's effort,
seeing as his Bobcats would almost be a shoo-in for the Big Dance
if he were successful. Quinnipiac is 8-0-0 at home this season,
but is just 2-10-3 on the road after taking one point from a series
at Mercyhurst last weekend.
Fortunately for the Bobcats, they have a home date Friday —
a rescheduled game against Canisius. The original contest was
snowed out on Dec. 6. To make room on the schedule, Quinnipiac
bumped a home game vs. American International from Friday to Tuesday.
So now, the Bobcats-Yellow Jackets home-and-home series will be
Saturday-Tuesday starting in Springfield.
to Bemidji State's sports information department, the
Beavers are tied with Minnesota and Wisconsin for the
most road wins (eight) in the nation this year. So you would have
to think Bemidji is the prohibitive favorite at Mariucci this
weekend, right? Right?
must have taken a page out of the Michigan State basketball scheduling
textbook. A week after hosting Northern Michigan for a pair down
south, the Chargers are headed to Orono for a
deuce this weekend. After finishing up against Maine, back-to-back
conference series against Bemidji State and Niagara await. Sounds
like fun, don't it? To their credit, the Chargers managed a tie against
the Wildcats last weekend, and nearly had another before a last-minute
goal was waved off in a 3-2 defeat Friday.
If the Chargers are to have a chance in Maine this weekend, they
will likely have to rely on the top line of Ross, Craig Bushey
and Bruce Mulherin. The trio has posted 30 points in its last
are a few more tales of woe from Detroit (it's
been this way all season): Wayne State has lost 59 man-games to
injury this year. The Warriors are also 0-7-0 in conference home
Heart coach Shaun Hannah reached career win No. 100
with a 4-2 triumph over UConn on Friday. The eighth-year bench
boss from Cornell recorded No. 101 the following night.
senior defenseman Mike McLean tied a school record
by playing in his 127th-straight game for the Black Knights on
Saturday. Former cadet Leif Hansen set the mark in 1997. McLean
(0-1-1) will look to break Hansen's record Saturday in the Black
Knights' annual grudge match against Canada's Royal Military College
(Army counts exhibition games in its records).
confirmed that Air Force will play in next year's Q-Cup
along with host Quinnipiac, Bentley and American International.
of the major stories at Sacred Heart this year has been the stranglehold
junior goalie Kevin LaPointe has had on the starting job.
Many thought that freshman Jason Smith, a New Jersey Devils draft
pick, would be the Pioneers' No. 1 tender by this time of the
year, but he has played just four games so far. LaPointe has played
19, and his goals-against average is more than a full goal better
than Smith's (3.27 to 4.47).
"It's a combination of experience and us having young defensemen
this year," Hannah said. "Kevin came in and played very
well for us at the beginning of the year. We've given Jason an
opportunity to see some action, and he's made a lot of progress.
We feel we have a good tandem in net."