Thursday, November 18, 2010

It's Hockey Season (Finally)

Well, haven't been here in a while, and the 2010-11 college hockey season is now well underway. So much has happened since August, not the least of which was Penn State announcing a couple of months ago that it will move up to the NCAA Division I level for both men's and women's ice hockey in the next few years.

I don't know if I'm at all that crazy about a six-team Big Ten men's hockey conference, or any six-team league, for that matter; but if Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Wisconsin and now Penn State decided to form their own gang (with TV undoubtedly driving that possibility), it could open up opportunities in already-established conferences for other schools. That would be Alabama-Huntsville, primarily, but maybe some other schools such as North Dakota State would be tempted to make the jump to Division I if there were spots open in the CCHA and WCHA. Going it as an independent these days is tough, even though I do remember the good old days in the late '80s and early '90s when the indy ranks included UAH, Air Force, Army, Alaska Anchorage, Alaska Fairbanks, Kent State and even Notre Dame ...

Boston College has stumbled a bit after starting out of the gate strong last month, while Boston University and Maine both look resurgent after somewhat-down campaigns last season, as does Notre Dame in leading the CCHA. Yale is off to a solid start at 5-1-0, last week’s loss at Air Force notwithstanding, while Princeton is leading the ECAC in conference play (yes, I know it's only been four games). Nebraska-Omaha has been one of college hockey’s biggest surprises so far in starting off its WCHA tenure with eight wins in its first 10 outings, surpassed only by Minnesota-Duluth at 9-1-2 overall and tops in the polls this week. Michigan, Miami and Alaska (Fairbanks) all look strong so far this fall, after all made the NCAA Tournament last spring.

Locally, Princeton - league-leading Princeton - hosts its true home opener on Friday night against Harvard, followed by a visit from Dartmouth on Saturday afternoon. Hard to believe it's been eight months since the Tigers’ ECAC first-round playoff loss to the Crimson, but that's the beauty of a new season - you get to try all over again.