Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goodnight, USA

The goal of medaling three straight years in the World Junior Championship is over for the United States.

A 5-2 loss to the Czech Republic in Edmonton yesterday left the U.S with one win and two losses in three group games in the 2012 IIHF U20 WJC. Coupled with Finland's 9-1 win over Denmark last night, the Americans have been eliminated from medal contention.

T.J. Tynan (Notre Dame) and Bill Arnold (Boston College) scored power-play goals for the U.S., which saw Czech goaltender Petr Mrazek make 52 saves, including a penalty-shot attempt by Josh Archibald in the third period. The Czechs then scored three unanswered goals to break a 2-2 tie, with Petr Holik getting the game-winner off a rebound with 7:34 remaining in regulation time. Jack Campbell made 24 saves for the U.S. in defeat.

The U.S. faces Canada tonight at Rexall Place in its final preliminary-round contest to close out the 2011 calendar year.

ADDENDUM: Despite 32 saves by Campbell, and third-period goals by Charlie Coyle and Jason Zucker (Denver), the U.S. fell to Canada, 3-2.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Michigan vs. Michigan State for 2011 GLI Title

College hockey's most-played rivalry will take center ice at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit on Friday when No. 14 Michigan State faces No. 20 Michigan in the championship game of the 2011 Great Lakes Invitational.

MSU (11-6-2 overall) advanced to tonight's game with a 3-1 victory over Michigan Tech, on the strength of 45 saves by Drew Palmisano. Michigan (10-8-3) topped No. 3 Boston College by a 4-2 count, as Luke Glendening tallied a goal and an assist, including an empty-netter to ice the contest with 14 seconds remaining in regulation.

The Spartans and Wolverines last met on Dec. 9-10. Michigan won the first contest, 4-3, in Ann Arbor before the two schools skated to a 3-3 tie the following night in East Lansing (with MSU winning the ensuing shootout, 1-0).

ADDENDUM: Michigan won, 3-2 in overtime, on a goal by Kevin Clare to earn its 15th GLI title all-time. Palmisano had 45 saves for MSU and set a GLI record with 90 stops in two games.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Gibson, U.S. Falter in Loss to Finland

And to think John Gibson could have been suiting up for the Great Lakes Invitational in Detroit this week instead.

The Pittsburgh-born goaltender, who spurned Michigan earlier this year to play major junior hockey with Kitchener (OHL) instead, made his World Junior Championship debut against Finland on Wednesday night in Edmonton. It’s very likely he won’t want to remember this one.

Gibson, 18, surrendered three third-period goals in a 4-1 loss at Rexall Place that left the U.S. with a win and a loss in WJC play, and an absolute must-win situation against the Czech Republic on Friday afternoon. Finland rebounded from an 8-1 loss to host Canada on Monday, the same day that the Americans had pounded Denmark, 11-3, to open the tournament.

The beginning of the end for both Gibson and the U.S. against Finland happened when he took an interference penalty midway through the third period with the score tied, 1-1, and the Americans on a power play at the time. Finland proceeded to tally three unanswered goals, including two that Gibson, who was drafted 39th overall by Anaheim (NHL) this year, had at least a chance of stopping.

Joel Armia fanned on a semi-breakaway with 9:07 remaining in regulation, but the puck slid between a sprawling Gibson’s pads and into the net to give Finland the lead for good. Just 19 seconds later, Mikael Granlund’s shot from the right side deflected off Jon Merrill’s skate and inside the far post to make it a 3-1 affair.

Armia then closed out the scoring with 3:33 left when he evaded Gibson’s poke-check attempt and put the puck home to complete Finland’s first U20 win against the U.S. in six years. The U.S. outshot Finland, 39-27, but couldn’t get anything more than an early third-period shot by Brandon Saad past Finnish goaltender Sami Aittokalli.

Canada later defeated the Czech Republic, 5-0, on Wednesday night for its second WJC win in two games. The U.S. and Canada are scheduled to meet on Saturday night in Edmonton in the final group game for both teams.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Team USA Off to Solid Start at World Juniors

Former Boston University forward Charlie Coyle scored three goals as the U.S. National Junior Team blistered Denmark, 11-3, on Monday evening to open the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship in Edmonton.

Coyle, who left BU earlier this month to sign with Saint John (QMJHL), scored the Americans' first goal of the tournament. He was also a member of last year's squad that earned a bronze medal at the WJC in Buffalo.

Coyle's former BU teammate Adam Clendening posted two assists against Denmark, while USA team captain Jason Zucker of Denver University added a goal and two assists in Monday night's win. University of Minnesota forward Nick Bjugstad also scored a goal for the U.S., as did Gophers teammate Kyle Rau and Boston College's Bill Arnold. Stephen Johns of Notre Dame tallied the final goal for the U.S.

Former Michigan recruit Jack Campbell, who is now with Windsor (OHL), made 21 saves in net for the Americans, who are headed by Dean Blais, head coach at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Blais guided the U.S. to a gold medal at the 2010 WJC in Saskatchewan, the last time the tournament was held in Canada.

The Canadians, who earned a silver medal at the WJC last year, opened this year's tournament with an 8-1 pasting of Finland, which will face the U.S. on Wednesday. Colorado College forward Jaden Schwartz had two assists for Canada in Monday's win in Edmonton.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Holidays

With only a pair of Russian Red Stars games at Vermont and Yale, respectively, next week in upcoming NCAA Division I men's action, it's a quiet time in college hockey. At least until the holiday tournaments like the GLI start.

Congrats to Minnesota-Duluth (Men's Division I), Wisconsin (Women's Division I), Norwich (Men's Division III) and RIT (Women's Division III) for currently being top-ranked in their respective polls. We'll see how things shake out as spring approaches, and who will ultimately be left standing in March and April.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy New Year!

Friday, December 16, 2011

... And Another One Gone ...

Boston University sophomore forward Charlie Coyle, who won a bronze medal with the U.S. in last season's IIHF World Junior Championship held in Buffalo, has left school to play for the defending Memorial Cup champion St. John's Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, according to the Patriot Ledger.

A native of East Weymouth, Mass., Coyle played for the South Shore Kings of the Eastern Junior Hockey League before enrolling at BU in the fall of 2010. He also played for both Thayer Academy and Weymouth High School in the Massachusetts scholastic ranks.

Coyle tallied seven goals and 19 assists for 26 points in 37 games a year ago with BU, and had posted three goals and eight assists for 11 points in 13 outings so far this fall. He played his last game for the Terriers in a 5-1 win at Maine on Dec. 10, notching one assist, and finished with 10-27—37 points in 50 collegiate contests.

A first-round draft choice of the NHL's San Jose Sharks in 2010, Coyle's rights were traded to the Minnesota Wild in June. He was named to the preliminary roster for the 2012 U.S National Junior Team earlier this month, and that team will compete in the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship in Alberta from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5. According to the St. John's web site, Coyle is expected to join the Sea Dogs following the tournament.

BU (10-5-1 overall, 8-4-1 Hockey East) is second in its conference, and is also ranked ninth in the nation by The Terriers will return to action on Dec. 31 in a nationally-televised game at Notre Dame.

And Another One Gone ...

Less than a week after senior forward Corey Trivino was dismissed from the Boston University hockey team following his arrest on multiple charges, another senior forward elsewhere has been let go by an NCAA Division I school for again not complying with team rules.

Alex Hudson is no longer with Nebraska-Omaha, according to a report at Hudson, a six-foot, 209-pound California native who was suspended earlier this season for violating team rules, supposedly did so again and has been dismissed altogether by UNO head coach Dean Blais.

"Obviously a guy who was a senior captain at the start of the year … a leader, is now not on the team," said Blais at "We’ll move forward."

Hudson, who was not drafted by an NHL club, played junior hockey with Tri-City (USHL) before joining the Mavericks in 2008. He leaves with 32 goals and 87 points in three-plus seasons, including four goals and ten points this fall.

UNO is currently 9-8-3 overall (7-4-3 WCHA) and in third place in its conference. The Mavericks will host Quinnipiac on Dec. 30-31 in their next action.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Trivino Booted from BU After Arrest

Boston University senior forward Corey Trivino has been removed from the Terrier hockey team in connection with an incident that occurred on Sunday night that resulted in his subsequent arrest.

"He is no longer associated with the BU hockey team,” said Terrier head coach Jack Parker on the university web site.

Trivino, who hails from Toronto, was charged with three counts of indecent assault and battery, two counts of breaking and entering in the nighttime, and one count of assault with attempt to rape after entering a female student's room without permission and kissing and groping her without her consent. Alcohol is believed to have been involved.

Trivino, who was leading Hockey East with 13 goals through his first 15 games this season, has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him, although he was forced to surrender his passport.

I've written here before about college hockey players getting in trouble with the law. We'll see what happens with Trivino, who's had problems with alcohol in the past, according to the Daily Free Press, and whether he's exonerated or not. Assuming he's not incarcerated, expect him to sign with the New York Islanders, who drafted him in 2008.

Trivino, who played on BU's 2009 NCAA title team, ends his college career with 31-42—73 scoring totals in 112 contests. He scored two goals in a 5-1 win over Maine in his final appearance on Dec. 10.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Reprieve for Alabama-Huntsville?

Don't bury the UAH Chargers just yet.

A story in the Huntsville Times on Tuesday explained that the new president at the University of Alabama-Huntsville, Robert Altenkirch, sat down with members of the Save UAH Hockey group—and a plan is now supposedly underway to possibly save the school's long running NCAA Division I hockey program, which was to be dropped as a varsity sport next year.

University chancellor Malcolm Portera had said in October that the Charger hockey team would be disbanded at the close of the current season due to financial constraints and likely reduced to club status. UAH, which will host the 2012 NCAA Frozen Four in Tampa, has also been without a league home since the College Hockey America conference dissolved in 2010.

The Chargers applied to the Central Collegiate Hockey Association for membership afterwards, but were rejected. The CCHA itself will cease to exist in the fall of 2013 when the new Big Ten Conference and the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, which both absorbed several CCHA teams, begin play. The remaining CCHA schools have been accepted into the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

Financial details of the plan(s) to save the UAH hockey program are expected to be released over the next few days. UAH goaltender Clarke Saunders has apparently committed to North Dakota for the 2012-13 campaign, since it was believed there would be no varsity UAH team after this year. Generally, transfer students do not have to sit out a year of NCAA competition when a program folds; but whether Saunders returns to UAH if the program does, has yet to be revealed.

Monday, December 5, 2011

BC Bounces Back to Split with BU

Boston University visited Boston College at a sold-out Kelley Rink for a Hockey East Conference matchup on Friday night. And for the second time in three weeks, the visiting Terriers defeated the host Eagles, this time by a 5-3 count. BU had earlier shut out BC, 5-0, on Nov. 19, their first whitewash of the Eagles since 1983.

Kieran Millan made 42 stops for the No. 13 Terriers (8-4-1 overall, 6-3-1 Hockey East), who were outshot by a 45-15 margin before 7,884 fans. Yasin Ciss and Casey Hohmann scored their first-ever collegiate goals in helping BU build a 4-1 lead midway through the third period, before No. 3 BC scored two of the game's final three goals. The Terriers led 2-0 after one period, and 3-1 after two stanzas.

"The only reason why that game wasn't ... a lot closer is that [Millan] played unbelievable," said BU coach Jack Parker at "He was fabulous tonight."

BC, which had lost three of its previous four games, rebounded the following night up the MBTA Green Line at Agannis Arena, and scored four times in the second period en route to a 6-1 win. The Eagles got goals from six different skaters, including the game-winner from senior captain Tommy Cross, and 40 saves from freshman netminder Brian Billett in besting the Terriers for the first time this season. The Maine native, who was making just his second career start, made 22 stops in the second period alone.

"It was unimaginable," said Billett at The Heights about getting the start . "Going into the game I was just as relaxed as usual and I knew I had a great team in front of me. I felt comfortable that we were going to get a win out of it."

The two schools could possibly meet again in the Beanpot Tournament on Feb. 13 at TD North Garden. BC is currently ranked third in the nation by, while BU checks in at No. 11.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What's Wrong with Michigan?

Last season, the University of Michigan was an overtime goal away from its 10th national hockey championship, and first since 1998. This fall, the Wolverines started off with four consecutive victories, including a 10-3 pasting of visiting St. Lawrence, and by Halloween they were ranked third in the nation.

Fast forward four weeks—and not only is Michigan barely ranked in the top 20 teams in NCAA Division I, but has lost four straight games and is just 7-7-2 overall.

The Wolverines suffered their first setback of the season with a 5-3 loss at Northern Michigan on Oct. 21, but rebounded the next weekend to sweep CCHA front-runner Ferris State. Then the bottom fell out for the Maize and Blue.

Following a split with Western Michigan in early November, the Wolverines have gone winless in six straight games, including a current streak of four consecutive losses. They haven't won a game since Nov. 5, and even suffered an ignominious home sweep to Ohio State.

This past weekend, Michigan suffered back-to-back home losses to a pair of Eastern squads from Northeastern (4-1) and Union (6-3). This upcoming weekend, the Wolverines will trek almost 3,700 miles one-way to the 49th State, to face-off with CCHA foe Alaska Fairbanks for two key conference games.

If there's a finger to point collectively, it could very well be at U-M's special teams units. The power play has converted just 12-of-66 opportunities (18.2 percent), putting it 29th in the nation. The penalty killing has been even worse, stopping just 61-of-76 attempts (80.3 percent) to rank 35th in Division I.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Merrimack is No. 1 in the Nation

Fresh off its first NCAA Tournament appearance in nearly two decades, Merrimack College was ranked No. 1 in the poll this week. It's the first time the Warriors have held the top spot, and they may well retain that ranking following last night's 6-0 win over winless Alabama-Huntsville.

“You always worry about mentality coming into a game like tonight, but I thought the guys were very business-like tonight and they put their hard hats on,” said Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy at

Merrimack (9-0-1 overall, 6-0-1 Hockey East) will return to action with a home-and-home series against Providence on Dec. 2-3.

Happy Thanksgiving!

ADDENDUM: The Warriors made it two weeks in a row at number one, as they were also ranked first in the nation in the poll for Nov. 28.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Break up the Buckeyes

Six straight wins and a road sweep of arch-rival Michigan later, Ohio State is 10-3-1 overall and 7-2-1 in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, where the Buckeyes currently reside in first place.

OSU goaltender Cal Heeter keyed Friday night's 2-1 win at U-M's Yost Arena with 29 saves. Darik Angeli scored both goals for the Buckeyes, including the game-winner with just under 12 minutes remaining in regulation to break a 1-1 tie. Mac Bennett had Michigan's only goal, while Shawn Hunwick took the loss despite 31 saves.

The Buckeyes outlasted the host Wolverines, 6-5, on Saturday to complete the two-step sweep. Alex Lippincott and Ryan Dzingel each tallied two goals and two assists for the visitors, while Chris Crane scored one goal and set up two others. Heeter finished with 26 saves to improve to 9-1-1 on the season, and made Lipincott's goal early in the third period stand up as the game-winner when Michigan's Alex Guptill scored with 1:40 left.

Guptill scored twice for the Wolverines, while Mike Chiasson had a goal and two assists, and Hunwick (7-4-2) made 31 saves. Three of OSU's goals came on the power play, while Michigan struck twice with the man advantage, one night after the two teams went a combined 0-for-9 while skating a man up.

OSU's nine-game unbeaten streak began on Oct. 17 with a 2-2 tie against Alaska. Since then the Buckeyes have posted a win against Alaska, followed by sweeps of Alabama-Huntsville, Northern Michigan, and now U-M. Next up is Lake Superior on Dec. 2-3 in Columbus, where the Buckeyes are 4-1-1 so far this season.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Will Parise Return to Devils to 2012?

Former North Dakota star Zach Parise, who has spent his entire NHL career with the New Jersey Devils, will be an unrestricted free agent in 2012. Over at Bleacher Report, I took a look at 10 reasons why he might not possibly be back in Newark after this season:

Parise, 27, played two seasons with the Fighting Sioux (2002-03, 2003-04). In 76 NCAA games, he tallied 49 goals and 67 assists for 116 points, and was a two-time Hobey Baker Award finalist.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

BU Blanks BC, 5-0

It was shocking, it was ugly, it was depressing.

Unless you're a Boston University fan, that is - then Sunday's 5-0 road win by the No. 16 Terriers at No. 2 Boston College probably made your weekend.

It was the first time BU has shut out BC in over 28 years, in an arena that no longer exists, back when both schools were members of the ECAC.

Wade Megan scored two goals for the visitors (4-4-1 overall, 3-3-1 Hockey East), including a power play tally and a shorthanded marker. Three other Terriers also posted two points apiece, while Kieran Millan made 21 saves for the shutout.

The Eagles (9-3-0, 7-2-0 HEA), who went scoreless in eight power plays, now have 19 days to get their act together before their home-and-home with the Terriers on Dec. 2-3. After today, there should certainly be no lack of incentive.

Friday, November 11, 2011

10 Teams That Should Contend for the 2012 NCAA Men's Hockey National Title

Only 16 of the 58 schools playing NCAA Division I men's ice hockey will make it to the NCAA Tournament. Here are 10 teams (okay, 11) that could be there when the selections are announced in March, while the 2012 NCAA Frozen Four will be contested in Tampa this April.

In short order, keep your eyes on Minnesota, Boston College, Michigan, Merrimack, Notre Dame, Western Michigan, Colorado College, Minnesota-Duluth, Yale, Ferris State and Lake Superior - plus seven other schools that could surprise. (And it wouldn't be surprising to see both Miami and North Dakota bounce back after slow starts so far this season.)

Only five months until it's all settled in Florida.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Former NCAA Goalies Who Could Succeed Martin Brodeur

Just did a story/slideshow for on 15 free-agent NHL goalies for next year who could potentially replace Martin Brodeur with the New Jersey Devils. Former NCAA goaltenders who made my cut included Al Montoya (Michigan), Scott Clemmensen (Boston College), Dan Ellis (Nebraska-Omaha), Ty Conklin (New Hampshire), Brian Elliott (Wisconsin), and Cory Schneider (BC).

We'll see what happens - assuming Brodeur retires, goes to another team, or there's another NHL work stoppage in 2012, all of which would leave the New Jersey net vacant.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Sioux Name Story Not Over Just Yet

Looks like proponents of the Fighting Sioux nickname at the University of North Dakota aren't going away just yet. The Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe and Archie Fool Bear recently filed a federal lawsuit against the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which had previously ruled that North Dakota had to retire the Fighting Sioux logo and nickname if it wanted the ability to host any NCAA Championships.

Many people want the name to stay. Others want it gone. I'd personally like it to remain, although I can also see how some could be offended by it. The NCAA still looks hypocritical in chastising UND for its nickname and logo, when Florida State employs a white actor in war paint riding a horse into Doak Campbell Stadium before Seminole football home games, who then hurls a flaming spear into the turf in Tallahassee, Fla. Not that it has anything to do with FSU making (lots of) money for the NCAA, I'm sure.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Dennehy Story Now Up at

My profile story about current Merrimack College head coach, and former Boston College defenseman (and classmate) Mark Dennehy, is now up at

Mark has done some great things so far with the Warrior program, including last season's trips to the Hockey East championship game and the NCAA Tournament, and the future definitely looks bright in North Andover, Mass.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Boston College: Top 10 Reasons to Stay No. 1

Have started writing for Bleacher Report, and recently weighed in with my two cents worth on how the alma mater can stay at the top of college hockey this season:

Of course, it's a long way between now and April for the Eagles.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Goodbye, UAH

Media sources in Alabama have been saying that the University of Alabama-Huntsville is all but ready to announce on Monday that it will be dropping men's ice hockey as an NCAA Division I sport at the end of the 2011-12 campaign:

Thirty years of tradition down the proverbial drain. A sad day for UAH and especially for college hockey.

I wrote about the Chargers' predicament for back in August when the program was on the chopping block. I wasn't able to talk with UAH interim president Malcolm Portera on the phone, but he did send me the following e-mail message:

"I have no comment to make about the hockey program at UAH. The harsh economic realities that face all of higher education have motivated us to look at our entire athletic program. We are in the process of doing this. I am sorry, but this isn't an appropriate time to be commenting."

Two months later, and just one week before Portera steps down, and the UAH hockey program is gone - or at least, downgraded from varsity to club status. For all intents and purposes, that's being dropped.

I was working at Montclair State University several years ago when several NCAA Division III sports were (temporarily) downgraded to club status, including wrestling and men's lacrosse. Practically none of the MSU student-athletes welcomed the change in status - no one looked forward to competing against club teams, after facing off with other schools at the intercollegiate level.

It won't be any different at UAH, despite what some administrators are saying or even believing. Playing Alabama or Tennessee at the club hockey level will be nowhere near the same as facing off against Michigan or Michigan State in an NCAA Division I contest.

Division I hockey isn't an inexpensive endeavor, and the Chargers didn't draw huge crowds to the Von Braun Center, which was a neat facility when I visited it many years ago for a two-game series as a part of the Alaska Fairbanks entourage. The Huntsville fans were very much into the games, too, and UAH really had something unique going as the self-proclaimed "Hockey Capital of the South."

For a few more months, anyway. Like Fairfield, Findlay, Iona, Illinois-Chicago, Kent and Wayne State before it, Alabama-Huntsville (1979-2012) deserved a better fate.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Michigan State Struggling at Start

Michigan State Football is off to a good start so far in 2011, having just bested rival Michigan for the fourth straight year.

MSU Hockey? Less so, as the Spartans are now 1-3 overall and 0-2 in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (itself in its penultimate campaign) following a two-step sweep at Lake Superior State this past weekend. Both losses were by one goal (5-4, 3-2), the first one coming on a late tally by Domenic Monardo of the host Lakers, who are off to a 4-0 start for the first time in forever (okay, since 1995-96).

MSU returned three of its leading five scorers from last season, including captain and top-scoring blueliner Torey Krug. It did lose its No. 1 point-producer Derek Grant, who left East Lansing after just two college seasons to join Binghamton (AHL) last spring. The Spartans also returned both their netminders from last year in Drew Palmisano and Will Yanakeff.

The Spartan power play has connected three times in nine chances in the first four games this fall, and the penalty-killing unit has surrendered just one goal so far. So why just the one win to date?

It could just be a question of youth, with four freshmen and five sophomores having already skated this season for the Spartans. It could also be the fact that it's a new start for the program, with new systems and a new approach under a new head coach.

Former Spartan skater and CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos picked up his first win as MSU's new head coach with State's 3-2 overtime victory over Air Force at the Ice Breaker Tournament on Oct. 8 in North Dakota, with sophomore forward Lee Reimer scoring the tying and winning goals, and Yanakeff making 26 saves. Anastos will be looking for his first official victory at MSU's Munn Ice Arena this Thursday and Friday as the Spartans try to get back on track against CCHA (and future Big Ten Conference) rival Ohio State (2-2 overall, 1-1 CCHA), which just split a two-game series with Notre Dame.

The Spartans will then finish up the month at home against Robert Morris. Time for MSU to go right through, as its fight song says - or at least, get going with some wins.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Boston College Starts Season Strong

As badly as last season ended for Boston College, with a stunning loss to Colorado College in the 2011 NCAA West Regional, things started off exactly the opposite to begin the 2011-12 campaign. The fifth-ranked Eagles topped Michigan State, 5-2, and then battered tournament host and No. 3 North Dakota, 6-2, to claim the 2011 IceBreaker Tournament on Oct. 7-8 in Grand Forks, N.D. It's the third time ever that BC has claimed the traditional season-opening tourney, and it did so this time without the benefit of any sort of exhibition warm-up game.

Bill Arnold topped the BC scoring scroll with a goal and four assists in the two victories, while Pat Mullane tallied two goals and set up two others. Chris Kreider and Stephen Whitney had two goals and an assist apiece, with Kreider also copping tournament MVP accolades. Kreider also scored the game-winner against MSU in the third period on Friday to break a 2-2 tie, before Whitney and Barry Almeida added insurance tallies.

Eagles newcomer Johnny Gaudreau scored his first career collegiate goal in the win over UND, and also added three assists for his first four career points. BC overcame a 2-1 second-period deficit against the Fighting Sioux by scoring five unanswered goals, which came from Kreider, Gaudreau, Mullane, Arnold and Whitney.

In the other Ice Breaker games at Ralph Engelstad Arena, North Dakota edged Air Force, 4-3, on Friday night. MSU then edged Air Force, 3-2, in overtime in the consolation game on Saturday afternoon.

Parker Milner, now BC's No. 1 netminder, stopped 39 of 43 shots, while the Eagles' penalty-killing unit blanked nine of 10 man-advantage attempts. Milner also joined Kreider and Arnold on the All-Tournament Team along with BC blueliners Patch Alber and Tommy Cross. Rounding out the all-tournament lineup was Michigan State forward Lee Reimer and North Dakota winger Brock Nelson.

If there's something that BC needs to work on, it's the Eagle power play, which connected just once in eight tries in the two Ice breaker outings. North Dakota also won 35 of the 63 faceoffs contested between the two squads on Saturday, so there's room for improvement in the red circle.

Things won't get any easier for the Eagles, not with Denver coming to BC's Conte Forum on Friday, and the Eagles traveling to Hockey East rival New Hampshire on Saturday to open the conference slate. But hey, it's a long way from now to April.

Two games down, 30-plus more to go.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Hometown Haczyk Seeking to Make NHL Devils

Originally published in the Nutley Journal on Aug. 24, 2011. Haczyk has been assigned to Albany (AHL) to start the 2011-12 season.

By Roman J. Uschak

A Jersey Devil is seeking to come home for good.

Bryan Haczyk, a Nutley native who starred for the Niagara University hockey team the past four seasons, recently attended his second prospects camp with the National Hockey League’s New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center in Newark.

"It was pretty awesome," he said earlier this month. "It's really nice to be a part of the organization again."

He is hoping to become just the second Garden State native ever to skate for his home state NHL team. Brick native Jim Dowd, a former college star himself at Lake Superior State in Michigan, helped the Devils to their first-ever Stanley Cup title in 1995.

Haczyk (pronounced HA-chek) took part in his first prospects camp with the Devils last summer, but said the second time around was much more comfortable.

"It was easier to just play my game, and I thought I did well," he said. "There was a lot of talent out there, and I held my own and worked hard."

Haczyk, who was born in Secaucus and then moved to Jersey City, got his start skating at the Mud Hole in Nutley before playing his formative hockey with the New Jersey Devils Youth Hockey Club in West Orange. He then starred for Seton Hall Prep before going on to play three years of junior hockey, first with the New Jersey Hitmen, and then with the Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League.

Haczyk, 24, then skated for Niagara from 2007 to 2011, helping the Purple Eagles to an NCAA Tournament berth as a freshman, before exploding for career scoring highs as a senior team captain with 28 goals and 17 assists for 45 points. He finished his college career with 46 goals and 49 assists for 95 points, while also fashioning a 3.9 grade-point average and earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting.

Now he's trying to fashion a professional hockey career in what is practically his own backyard, after playing away from home the past six or seven years.

"It's been awhile, but it feels great," said Haczyk of playing in New Jersey again.

The 5-9, 175-pound forward actually made his professional debut at the tail end of the 2010-11 campaign when he played three games with the ECHL’s Trenton Devils, where he registered one assist.

"My family only had to drive one hour to see me play," he laughed, as opposed to a seven-hour sojourn up to Niagara in Lewiston, NY. "It was pretty awesome being back home again."

He also said it's nice to be able to just focus on playing hockey and not having to worry about combining athletics with academics anymore, although he did admit to missing his friends at Niagara.

"I do miss that part of college," he said. "I definitely wouldn't change a thing, and it was a fun four years."

Haczyk will most likely continue his career for now in the minor leagues, as he has signed a one-year contract with the Devils' Triple-A level affiliate in Albany of the American Hockey League. He already has an agent, and has been working out on daily basis at the Prudential Center while also skating with some of the other Devils.

“He will play at the next level,” said Niagara head coach Dave Burkholder of Haczyk last spring. “He has national league speed for sure. Someone will give him a chance at the AHL level, and then it’s where does he go from there.”

One adaptation Haczyk said he has had to make was to the playing style of pro hockey, which he explained is more weighted towards puck possession than the run-and-gun approach of college.

"It's been a bit of an adjustment, but I've felt I've gotten the hang of it," he said.

He also said that the Devils' blue-collar style of hockey, which emphasizes hard work and defense, suits him well.

"It's always been my game," said Haczyk. "My goal is to outwork my opponents on every shift, and I hope I'll fit in well and be successful in the organization."

He's also gotten a little used to seeing his equipment on display inside an NHL locker room.

"It's pretty cool to go to the building and see your gear hanging up," he admitted. "You take a step back, and it's pretty cool to think about the big picture."

The club wasn't simply attracted to Haczyk because he was born and raised in New Jersey, which the Devils have called home since moving from Colorado in 1982. It may have been that way at his first prospects camp last year, which was filled out with local players. The second time, though, was on his own merit.

"It was his senior season at Niagara, in particular," said David Conte, the Devils' long-time Executive Vice-President of Hockey Operations and Director of Scouting. "He had a very good year, and he's carried on with no guarantees. He has a certain character we like and respect."

Conte couldn't speculate on whether or not Haczyk would take part in the Devils' main training camp in Newark in September. He did say that, like all prospects, Haczyk's road ahead was full of potential, and would require some dedication, opportunity and luck.

"He's going to have a chance to start his journey, and see how it unfolds," said Conte.

One that could culminate less than 10 miles from home, at hockey's highest level.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Irish Make it Eleven

The University of Notre Dame will become the eleventh member of the Hockey East Association starting in 2013-14, the latest conference switch to occur at the NCAA Division I level this year.

The Irish had supposedly been seeking to stay out west, be it by joining the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, or perhaps even the revamped Western Collegiate Hockey Conference that will also take in current fellow CCHA member Bowling Green. The nascent NCHC seemed to content to remain at eight schools, however, and the Irish looked (to Hockey) East, where the rest of their athletic teams (except football) already compete. Notre Dame will continue what has already been an annual rivalry with fellow Catholic institution Boston College, while forging new ones with Boston University, Maine, New Hampshire, and the rest of the New England-based conference, which seems to put at least one school in the NCAA Frozen Four almost every season. Plus, UND is supposed to bring along NBC to televise its games, just like it has been doing for Notre Dame football for years.

Hockey East will likely add a 12th team in the future to balance things out; but whether that's Rensselear or Connecticut or even Alabama-Huntsville remains to be seen. Personally I'm hoping it's UAH, since neither the NCHC or WCHA seems keen on extending an invitation to the Chargers anytime soon, and Atlantic Hockey doesn't seem to have the financial backing to stretch itself that far geographically (unless UAH possibly agrees to pay for all opposing teams' travel to Huntsville and back).

But that's a story for another day in what has already been a wild 2011.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Former Princeton Tiger Taylor Fedun Injured on Icing Play

Former Princeton defenseman Taylor Fedun was hospitalized with a broken right leg suffered on Friday night in a preseason NHL game between Edmonton and Minnesota.

Fedun, who patrolled the Princeton blueline from 2007 to 2011, was racing back to touch up a puck for icing at the XCel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. when he got tangled up with former University of Michigan and current Minnesota Wild forward Eric Nystrom, who was reaching in with his stick to try and get the puck. Fedun, who signed as a free agent with his hometown Edmonton Oilers earlier this year, went awkwardly into the endboards, was taken off the ice on a stretcher, and will now have to recover from a major broken bone.

I saw Fedun play many times at Hobey Baker Rink when I covered Princeton for, and he was a steady, exciting player who always seemed to score key goals. Hockey fans, coaches, players and pundits alike have been up in arms about his injury last night being the latest evidence for introducing no-touch icing to the NHL level.

Count me among them.

If the NHL wants to speed up its game, this is one way to help that along. More importantly, it will help to prevent injuries like the one suffered by Fedun, who now may need a metal rod in his leg and who may never completely recover from this incident.

That's not to say I blame Nystrom for what happened. I knew his dad, former New York Islanders star Bob Nystrom, from when I interned with the NHL 17 years ago and he helped me with some on-ice clinics. I also watched him many times on TV and in person as a player when I was growing up, and he was tough but clean. His son has likewise never struck me as a dirty player; and I believe Eric Nystrom, who has played almost 300 career NHL games, was simply going for the puck and had no intent to injure Fedun last night. He's still being vilified for what happened, though, rightly or wrongly:;_ylt=AsKULGVGvZtOSn4nxzc.QPBivLYF?urn=nhl-wp13813

There are players in the game who wouldn't bat an eye about doing such a thing to someone else in such a situation. If they saw another player ahead of them in a race for the puck on an icing, some players wouldn't hesitate to give the other player a not-so-little nudge into the boards, whether or not that player could get his arms up in time to shield himself - and the boards and the puck are no one's friends in certain instances.

There's been enough questionable and even over-the-line happenings occurring in the NHL preseason this fall, such as former University of Wisconsin and current Detroit Red Wing defenseman Brendan Smith recently earning a five-game suspension for a shoulder to the head of former Boston College and current Chicago Blackhawk forward Ben Smith. (Repercussions from the 2010 NCAA title game in Detroit? Doubt it.)

The NHL still has to do more policing of high hits, but there's enough races that can be contested during the course of a modern professional hockey game to keep the fans interested. Icings don't need to be one of those races anymore.

Friday, September 23, 2011

And On and On ...

The college hockey shuffle continues. Now Western Michigan and St. Cloud State have been extended invitations to join the nascent National Collegiate Hockey Conference starting in 2013-14, and both the Broncos and Huskies have accepted:

SCSU was expected to stay with what remained of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, but guess not. WMU seemed to be hedging its bets upon what still-undecided Notre Dame did, but apparently the Broncos got the invite they supposedly coveted all along. The Irish could still go to the NCHC, the WCHA, the Big Ten, or even Hockey East, but they're in no rush.

Bowling Green has yet to decide where it will end up, or whether it will try to somehow keep the vanishing CCHA going, while independent Alabama-Huntsville is still awaiting an invitation to anywhere.

The merry go-round continues less than two weeks before the 2011-12 campaign kicks off, and two years before all the recent Division I reconfiguration officially goes into effect. Almost makes me long for the Hockey East-WCHA interlocking schedule agreement during my undergraduate days at BC. Almost.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Not Long Now

Just over two weeks until the 2011-12 college hockey campaign (un)officially kicks off with Alaska Anchorage hosting No. Alberta IT in Wasilla, AK on Sept. 30, and then a slate of exhibitions the following evening, including still-seeking-a-home independent Alabama-Huntsville hosting Lake Superior State. Then it'll be just under seven months until a new NCAA Division I men's champion is crowned at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Fla.

That was one short off-season.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years After 9/11: Remembering Mark Bavis

I remember when I met Mark Bavis during my one and only year with the North American Hockey League. He was an assistant coach with the Chicago Freeze franchise, while I was working in the league office in Michigan. I immediately took a liking to him, even though I was a Boston College graduate and he had attended rival Boston University. (He was a real hockey player, mind you, while I was and still remain a recreational one.)

I once told him I remembered the name "Bavis" from the 1991 Beanpot Tournament championship game at the old Boston Garden, which BU won by an 8-4 score. BC had taken an early lead and then fell behind, but was just two goals down late in the second period. The next goal would be huge, and BU got it with just one second left before intermission to effectively put the game away. I asked Mark who exactly was the Terrier player who got that goal, and he replied with a sheepish grin "me".

Mark was a genuinely good, down-to-earth guy, right down to his Boston accent as a native of Roslindale, Mass. I saw him again at the 2000 NAHL All-Star Game outside Chicago that season, and once more at the league office later that year before I returned to New Jersey in August 2000. I didn't know when I'd see Mark again, but I'd figured I'd cross paths with him again at a rink somewhere along the way.

After graduating from BU in 1993, Mark played professional hockey for three seasons in two different leagues in Fredericton, Providence and South Carolina. After he retired as an active player in 1996, he tried his hand at coaching, and worked at Brown University and then Harvard University before joining the Freeze. It was as a scout soon after, however, that he found his true calling, scouring the globe for up-and-coming hockey talent. By 2001, he had quickly become one of the rising stars in the scouting department of the National Hockey League's Los Angeles Kings.

He was 31 years old, single, and succeeding at hockey's top level. He had his whole life ahead of him - and then he boarded United Airlines Flight 175 at Boston's Logan Airport the morning of Sept. 11. That was the second hijacked jetliner to strike the World Trade Center, as it collided with the South Tower at 9:03 a.m. All 65 people on board, including both Mark and Wayne Gretzky's former mentor, Garnet "Ace" Bailey, the Kings' Director of Scouting, were lost.

It was certainly a surreal day, especially for all of us here in the greater New York City area. I remember my father telling me before he went off to Princeton that a plane had struck the World Trade Center, and I didn't think too much of it at that time. Like many people probably did, I thought it was a small piston-powered prop job that had somehow gotten off course and collided with one of the towers, not a commercial jumbo jet commandeered by terrorists.

The first thing I did after getting out of the house was drive over to the Union Public Library on Morris Avenue, from where you could always see the Twin Towers on a clear day. On 9/11, however, the sky was choked with billowing black clouds of smoke that looked as if they'd never dissipate, the Towers never again to be seen from that or any other vantage point.

I was on my way to work in the athletic department at Montclair State University not long after, listening to the radio as I made my way up the Garden State Parkway, when the towers crumbled. I still remember the shock and horror in the voices of the broadcasters, as if what was happening before them could not possibly be real.

My office at the time was in a house just off-campus, which itself was largely barren that day. So was Willowbrook Mall in nearby Wayne - recently it's been known as a flood zone, but that day its doors were open. It's just that no one was there, everyone having closed up shop to go home and be with their loved ones in the wake of the terrorist attacks. I've never seen a mall like that, so eerie in its stillness and emptiness, and I hope to never see one like that again.

I didn't really get much, if anything, done at work that day, as I was still trying to comprehend what had taken place across the Hudson River, in Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon. The hardest jolt of all was yet to come that evening, though, when I saw the crawl at the bottom of the screen while watching ESPN. It confirmed in bold white letters that Mark Bavis and Ace Bailey had indeed been passengers on United 175.

I was a zombie for the next two days straight.

I've tried to contemplate what Mark must have seen or felt that morning. Did he know right after takeoff that his flight had been hijacked? Did he know his Boeing 767 was on a collision course with the World Trade Center? Who or what did he think of just before the plane's impact with the South Tower? Sadly, no one will ever know.

I got another jolt months later when I accompanied the MSU women's basketball team to a tournament at Emmanuel College in Boston in November. We had already played our first round game (a win) when I snuck off to Boston College (with permission) a few miles away to watch the Eagles play BU in men's ice hockey at Kelley Rink. It was the first time I had gotten to see a game at BC in more than seven years, having spent most of the time in-between working in Michigan, and I remember I was downright giddy at the prospect of seeing the two rivals face off again like I did many times before when I was an undergrad.

That euphoria lasted about as long as it took me to climb the stairs to the second level of stands at Kelley Rink, where I turned to see Mark's brother, Mike, an assistant coach with BU - and his twin. He looked exactly like Mark, of course, and I'm sure I stared at him like an abject moron for a few seconds. If he noticed me, though, he didn't acknowledge it.

To this day I still feel guilty I didn't say anything or offer any words of condolence to Mike on Mark's loss, but in truth I'm still not sure I would have found the right words. Maybe one day I will. I hope to.

Ten years later, it's still hard to believe that Mark is really gone. He might have been a husband and a father by now, might have helped the Kings to a Stanley Cup or two with players that he recommended they draft into their system. For a while I even wore a BU Hockey t-shirt under my gear when I played, to honor Mark, until it just got too beat up. I may bring it out again for a special appearance one day soon, though.

Mark's family has refused to settle their legal case for any monetary gain, as they want United Airlines and other involved parties to admit they made mistakes and were generally lax in their screening procedures, even before 9/11. That may drag on for a while longer, but they believe it's worth fighting for. So do I.

Mark's memory still lives on, primarily in the Mark Bavis Scholarship Foundation at his prep school alma mater, Catholic Memorial. He and Bailey have also both been immortalized in the lyrics of "Your Spirit's Alive" by Massachusetts' own Dropkick Murphys.

As I've have every year since, except when I vacationed in Michigan four years ago, I will be home in New Jersey for 9/11. I will also wear the commemorative badge I made for that day, which showcases Mark in his BU uniform, a badge I've worn for every 9/11 except when I was away in 2007, to honor his memory. This year I plan on pinning it to a BC polo shirt while I attend several 9/11 remembrance gatherings.

I think Mark might even approve.

Friday, August 26, 2011

WCHA to Absorb CCHA Teams

The Western Collegiate Hockey Association extended invitations to the remaining Central Collegiate Hockey Association schools this week, and three have already accepted - Alaska (Fairbanks), Ferris State, and Lake Superior State.

The Nanooks, Bulldogs and Lakers will all join the "new" WCHA in 2013-14 and play against Alaska Anchorage, Bemidji State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State, and St. Cloud State. Northern Michigan previously rejoined the WCHA earlier this summer after spending the last 15 seasons in the CCHA. Colorado College, Denver, North Dakota, Minnesota-Duluth and former CCHA member Nebraska-Omaha are all leaving the WCHA to help make up the nascent National College Hockey Conference.

Bowling Green is undecided so far about joining the WCHA, while Notre Dame and Western Michigan still seem to be weighing joining the NCHC, which also boasts current CCHA member Miami. That league will begin play two years from now, at the same time that CCHA schools Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State begin formal play in the Big Ten along with WCHA schools Minnesota and Wisconsin, and varsity newcomer Penn State.

It's still not known where current independent Alabama-Huntsville will wind up; but all these moves will definitely spell the end of the CCHA, which got its start back in 1971 with Bowling Green, Ohio, Ohio State and St. Louis. The league has crowned eight national champions since 1984, but will pass into memory after two more seasons.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Alabama-Huntsville Still Seeking New League of its Own

With all the recent upheaval in the NCAA Division I college hockey ranks, Alabama-Huntsville is still seeking a new conference to call home after College Hockey America dissolved last year and the Chargers were subsequently spurned by the CCHA.

With Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State off to the Big Ten in 2013, and Miami (and possibly Notre Dame and Western Michigan) headed to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, might UAH be a good fit for what remains of the CCHA? That remains to be seen, or if the Chargers would be admitted to a reconstituted WCHA that absorbs the remaining CCHA survivors. Not sure if Atlantic Hockey would be a fit for UAH with its 12 scholarship limit, but the Chargers do need to find a new league within the next few years to remain viable.

Twenty years ago it wasn't a problem being an independent, with UAH playing the likes of the two Alaska schools, Air Force, Army and Notre Dame on a regular basis, sort of like a de facto league with its own NCAA Tournament berth. Going it solo on the independent route today, with everyone else carrying some sort of conference affiliation, is tough, especially after New Year's when conference schools are all tied up playing each other.

You can read more about the UAH program and some possibilities for it here:

Friday, July 29, 2011

Gibson Spurns Michigan for OHL

Another Michigan goaltending recruit has decided to leave the CCHA school without ever suiting up for the Wolverines.

John Gibson, who signed a letter of intent to attend U-M this fall after backstopping the U.S. National Development Team, will instead join the OHL's Kitchener Rangers after being drafted 39th overall by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Gibson follows former NTDP netminder Jack Campbell, who also committed to Michigan, got drafted in the first round by the Dallas Stars last year, and then jumped to the OHL's Windsor Spitfires without ever making a start at Yost Arena.

Michigan has long been a top program that has seen more than its share of players jump early to the professional ranks. Now those players are not even bothering to enroll in school, much less play in any college games. At least Shawn Hunwick is coming back to Ann Arbor for his fifth year after backing the Wolverines to within an overtime tally of a national title in April.

It's the same old adage of major junior plays more games and will get you to the pros faster. Well, you get to play more games, but doing well in juniors is no guarantee that you'll be ever be a star in the NHL itself - especially for goaltenders, since there are so few positions to go around at the top level. Martin Brodeur may be in the twilight of his career in New Jersey; but Jonas Hiller is still going strong in Anaheim, and Kari Lehtonen isn't looking to leave Dallas any time soon after escaping Atlanta. Not only would Gibson and Campbell have to shine in the OHL, they'd have to play well enough to supplant two veteran NHL netminders - easier said than done, especially if they have to apprentice in the minors first.

There are simply no guarantees when it comes to the NHL, no matter how highly you are drafted. I saw Jason Bacashihua win 20 games for the NAHL's Chicago Freeze in 1999-2000, then go to the OHL's Plymouth Whalers after not being eligible to play at Michigan. He won 26 games for the Whalers in 2000-01, then was drafted 26th overall by Dallas. He went to the AHL the next season and a decade later has played grand total of 38 NHL games, all with the St. Louis Blues, and none since 2006-07.

College hockey itself is no guarantee of NHL stardom - Scott Clemmensen won 99 career games and a national title in 2001 with Boston College. Since then he's appeared in 122 NHL contests with New Jersey, Toronto and Florida - granted, he was stuck as Martin Brodeur's backup with the Devils and never really got a chance to play until 2008-09. Brodeur was injured that year and missed most of the campaign, while Clemmensen went on to win 25 games before later going to the Panthers. That's about as big as it's gotten for him in his NHL career - quite serviceable, but admittedly nowhere near superstardom.

Gibson and Campbell may have been drafted higher than Clemmensen, but there's absolutely no guarantee they'll have it any better when they're ready to move on to the next level, which may or may not include the NHL itself.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

NCHC Now a Done Deal

Say hello to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.

It was formally announced on Wednesday in the state of Colorado that five WCHA schools and one CCHA club will make up the newest college ice hockey league in the NCAA Men's Division I ranks. Starting conference play as a unit in 2013-14 will be Colorado College, Denver, Miami, Minnesota-Duluth, Nebraska Omaha and North Dakota. That same season will also see the nascent Big Ten Conference (Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin) step onto the ice as a group for the first time.

More changes at college hockey's highest level are still in the offing, as Notre Dame and perhaps Western Michigan will be extended invitations to join the NCHC. Rumors have it that Northern Michigan and Alaska Fairbanks may soon jump to what's left of the WCHA and join Alaska Anchorage, Bemidji State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State and St. Cloud State.

If the defection of NMU and UAF does comes to pass, then the CCHA will be left with only Bowling Green, Ferris State and Lake Superior State. The Michigan-based association could then try to survive by adding current independent Alabama-Huntsville, which was rejected by the CCHA last year. It could then perhaps add two or more teams from Atlantic Hockey - such as Canisius, Mercyhurst, Niagara and Robert Morris - that would like to offer 18 hockey scholarships instead of the dozen they annually award now.

What happens with Hockey East and the ECAC could be two whole other stories. Hopefully this is the end of the college hockey conference upheaval for the time being, but no one can say it's been a boring summer so far.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Blashill Leaves WMU for NHL

One and done indeed.

Jeff Blashill, who led Western Michigan to 19 wins and the national tournament in 2010-11, won't be returning behind the bench in Kalamazoo this fall. The former Ferris State goaltender and assistant coach just accepted an assistant coaching position with the NHL's Detroit Red Wings, who seemed to have been seeking new blood on the bench commanded by head coach Mike Babcock.

The timing is not great for Western, just two months before the start of school, and three months before the start of a much-anticipated hockey season under a coach who led the Broncos to perhaps the best turnaround in all of college hockey last year. It was WMU's first winning campaign since a 19-15-4 mark in 2001-02, and included its first appearance in the CCHA title game since 1986, and its first NCAA Tournament berth since 1996. The Broncos ultimately finished 19-10-3 after falling to Denver by a goal in the NCAA Midwest Regional.

There's also been a ton of upheaval in Division I lately, with both the CCHA and WCHA set to lose multiple schools to both the new Big Ten Conference and a newly-announced six-team super league that will both begin play in 2013. Where Western will eventually wind up is anyone's guess.

Still, you can't blame Blashill for leaving to join the Wings, the timing notwithstanding. Critics may rail on his lack of NHL experience; but Detroit reached out to him, and the Red Wings have seemed to know what they've been doing for the last 20 years or so. There was no guarantee that Blashill would have had this opportunity next year, or possibly ever again, so he had to take the chance. At least the results he helped WMU attain last season after so many futile winters should make Western a more attractive destination; especially with the bump in pay up to $275,000 he was set to receive, and which will allegedly go to the new coach as well.

Onward and upward now, for both the Broncos and the Red Wings.

New Six-Team Super League on Its Way?

Well, that sure didn't take long.

Multiple outlets this week detailed the impending establishment of a new six-team "super league" that would consist of current WCHA members Colorado College, Denver, Minnesota-Duluth, Nebraska-Omaha and North Dakota, along with CCHA school Miami and possibly Western Michigan. Those schools supposedly felt they had to take (knee-jerk) action in light of the future loss of WCHA members Minnesota and Wisconsin to the new Big Ten Conference in 2013, along with CCHA constituents Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State, and newcomer Penn State.

Where that leaves the remaining schools is anyone's guess if this new conference does indeed come to fruition in two years' time. Assuming WMU (and possibly Notre Dame) also leaves the CCHA, that league would then be left with Alaska Fairbanks, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State and Northern Michigan. What's left of the older WCHA would consist of Alaska Anchorage, Bemidji State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State and St. Cloud State.

The two five-member leagues wouldn't subsequently choose to go it alone, as you need at least six teams in a conference to be eligible for the biggest prize of all, an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament. Would those circuits each attempt to woo a sixth member from somewhere else, possibly Air Force from Atlantic Hockey, or current Division I independent Alabama Huntsville? Would the two outlets join forces and instead fashion a new 10-team league that would include both Alaska schools, and necessitate that the other eight travel to the 49th State at least once each every season?

Current CCHA member Notre Dame, which opens a new on-campus arena this fall, is still mulling its options, It could join the proposed new super league; sign on with the Big Ten as an affiliate, or; even jump to Hockey East, which itself would then likely pursue another school such as UConn in order to ice an even number of teams.

The new six/seven-school league is slated to host a press conference next week, at which time the upheaval of the once more or less staid landscape of NCAA Division I men's college hockey will continue. Who knew that one day bringing Penn State into the D-I fold could have possibly caused such cataclysm?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Oleksiak First NCAA Player Drafted in 2011

To little surprise, Northeastern rising freshman defenseman Jamie Oleksiak was the first (and only) current college hockey player taken in the first round of tonight's 2011 NHL Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minn. The Toronto native went 14th overall to the Dallas Stars, where his selection was announced by Dallas GM and former Cornell and NHL standout Joe Nieuwendyk.

Oleksiak won't be the last collegian selected this year, either, although at 6-7 and 240 lbs., he's sure to be the biggest. The question now is does he return to Huntington Avenue in the fall, especially since Northeastern head coach Greg Cronin resigned to take an assistant coaching position with the Toronto Maple Leafs earlier this week. The Versus telecast tonight mentioned that Oleksiak's major junior rights are held by Saginaw (OHL), and it's a sure bet the Spirit will be trying to pry the first rounder away from the Huskies and Hockey East between now and the start of the 2011-12 season.

Prior to Oleksiak's selection, John-Michael Liles was dealt from Colorado to Toronto for a second-round choice. The former Michigan State standout had spent his entire professional career to date on the Avalanche blueline. The Indianapolis native has tallied 68 goals and 207 assists in 523 career NHL regular-season games since 2003, and posted 4-7--11 points so far in 36 Stanley Cup Playoff contests.

North Dakota recruit J.T. Miller, a center, was drafted 15th overall by the New York Rangers, while a pair of incoming Miami freshmen also went in the first round. Connor Murphy, a defenseman, was claimed 20th overall by the Phoenix Coyotes, while future classmate and right wing Tyler Biggs went to Toronto two picks later.

Friday, June 17, 2011

That's All, Folks

Congratulations to the 2011 Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins, who took home hockey's biggest prize for the first time in 39 years with their 4-0 victory in Vancouver in Game 7 on Wedenesday night.

And congrats also to Conn Smythe Trophy winner Tim Thomas (Vermont) and forward Rich Peverley (St. Lawrence) in getting their names inscribed on the Cup - they did both the ECAC and college hockey proud in the playoffs.

Also out on the ice at Rogers Arena following the deciding game clincher on June 15 was Steve Kampfer (Michigan), who played in 38 regular-season games for Boston this winter, while also on the Bruins roster was Matt Bartkowski (Ohio State). Blake Wheeler (Minnesota) and Mark Stuart (Colorado College) also toiled in Beantown this season, but were dispatched by the trade deadline to the Atlanta Thrashers, soon to be the Winnipeg Whatevers.

Now it's on to the NHL Awards, the Entry Draft - and waiting for those 2011-12 college and pro schedules to be finalized ...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

One Last Game to Go

Several hours from now the 2010-11 NHL season will have come to a close, and either the Boston Bruins or the Vancouver Canucks will have won the Stanley Cup. The puck drops in just two hours time in British Columbia for Game Seven, but whatever ultimately occurs tonight will be remembered for all time.

Who'll win and who'll be the hero has yet to be determined in this back-and-forth, sometimes nasty best-of-seven series that has been dominated by the home-ice advantage. It may take one goal, it may take several, it may even take overtime to decide matters once and for all between the Bruins and Canucks. We'll all know soon enough.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

ECAC Alums Leading Bruins

The Vancouver Canucks may have more former NCAA players on their roster; but it's the Boston Bruins' two former collegians, both from the Eastern College Athletic Conference, who came up big in Game Four of the NHL's Stanley Cup Finals at TD Garden last night in Beantown.

Former St. Lawrence forward Rich Peverley, who tallied 116 points in four seasons with the Saints from 2000 to 2004, scored twice in the Bruins' 4-0 win that tied the series for Boston at two games apiece. All-World goalkeeper and former Vermont Catamount backstop Tim Thomas picked up the shutout yesterday with 38 saves, two nights after he registered 40 stops in an 8-1 Boston rout in Game Three.

On the other side, former Dartmouth skater Tanner Glass made his Finals debut, blocking three shots for the Canucks while going minus-1. Former Boston College All-America netminder Cory Schneider stopped all nine shots he faced in mop-up duty in the third period for the Canucks, who have scored all of one goal in their last two outings. It was Schneider's first playoff action since a start in Chicago back on April 24 in the first round, and his first game back in Boston since the Eagles won the 2007 Hockey East championship game over UNH.

Now it remains to be seen if Schneider gets the start tomorrow night in Vancouver for Game Five - or gets ready to come on in relief again in what is now a best-of-three series.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Wayne State Eliminates Women's Hockey

Sorry to see that Wayne State University in Detroit is dropping its women's hockey program, the only such Division I program in the state of Michigan, just three years after the death knell sounded for the Warrior's men's hockey program. Cost was cited as the overriding factor - and securing a consistent home arena was always a problem for both Warrior programs over the years - but this latest move is still a blow to college hockey, nonetheless.

An online petition has been inaugurated in an effort to save the program:

I was living in Michigan when both WSU hockey programs got their respective starts in the fall of 1999, and remember all the excitement and anticipation that surrounded their additions to the Division I ranks at the old Michigan Fairgrounds. Just a dozen years later and they're both gone, like the University of Findlay programs before them.

So long, Green and Gold.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Rafalski and Weight Retire from NHL

Hail and farewell to former Wisconsin All-America defenseman Brian Rafalski, who retired on Wednesday after 11 NHL seasons and three Stanley Cup rings between the New Jersey Devils and the Detroit Red Wings. He registered 79 goals and 515 points in 833 regular-season outings, and added another 29-71--100 points in 165 post-season contests that included four trips to the Stanley Cup Final. He also made three appearances for the U.S. in the Olympic Winter Games, earning silver medals in both 2002 and 2010.

So long also to former Lake Superior State star Doug Weight, who hung up his own skates Thursday after 19 NHL campaigns with the New York Rangers, Edmonton Oilers, St. Louis Blues , Carolina Hurricanes, Anaheim Ducks and New York Islanders. He posted 278 goals and 1,033 points in 1,238 regular-season games, and collected another 23-49--72 points in 97 playoff contests while claiming a Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006. He also earned an Olympic silver medal with the U.S. in 2002 in Salt Lake City, plus he was a member of America's 1996 World Cup title team.

Rafalski wasn't drafted, and followed up four years at Wisconsin with four seasons in Europe before breaking into the NHL with New Jersey in 1999. Weight was claimed in the second round in 1990 by the Rangers, and made his NHL debut the following spring after two high-scoring NCAA seasons with the Lakers. Both were ultimately undone, at least partially, by injuries; but both also made their mark as American-born, college-trained players who competed - and competed well - at the highest levels of hockey.

Best of luck to them in their retirements, and to today's young guns who can hopefully achieve similar success in their own careers.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

College Players Keep Coming Up Big in NHL Playoffs

The stakes are getting bigger in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and it's more than a few former NCAA skaters who keep coming through for their respective teams.

Kevin Bieksa propelled Vancouver to its first Stanley Cup Final in 17 years with his double-overtime goal on Tuesday night that ousted San Jose in five games. The former Bowling Green blueliner (2000-2004) had four goals in the series, and five goals in the playoffs after scoring six times during the regular season. Ohio State's Ryan Kesler preceded Bieksa's bizarre game-winner with his own game-tying deflection in the last minute of regulation in Vancouver's 3-2 victory.

Yale product Chris Higgins had a chance to win it in OT for the Canucks in the clincher on a semi-breakaway that was stopped, although he did contribute a goal and two assists in a 7-3 triumph in Game Two against the Sharks. Dartmouth alumnus Tanner Glass has yet to pick up a point for Vancouver, but has skated in 16 playoff games, while Minnesota's Keith Ballard has seen action in nine postseason contests this spring.

San Jose again fell short of an appearance in the Final, but it wasn't for lack of trying on the parts of Miami's Dan Boyle (3-13--16 points in 18 games) or Wisconsin's Joe Pavelski (5-5--10 points in 18 games) or Cornell's Doug Murray. Other former collegians who suited up for the Sharks in this year's playoffs included Torrey Mitchell (Vermont), Kent Huskins (Clarkson), Jamal Mayers (Western Michigan) and Benn Ferriero (Boston College).

Tampa Bay's timeless Martin St. Louis showed he still has something left in the tank with his two-goal, three-point performance tonight in the Lightning's season-saving 5-4 win over Boston, even if it came at the expense of former Vermont teammate Tim Thomas, who made 21 saves for the visiting Bruins. Of course, it was equally ageless wonder Dwayne Roloson who helped make it possible down the other end, as the former UMass Lowell netminder shook off a pair of forgettable outings in Games Three and Four with 19 stops tonight to lift the Lightning to a Game Seven on Friday in Beantown.

Teddy Purcell (Maine) also contributed two goals for Tampa Bay tonight, and has four goals in the series so far, while also assisting the Lightning's effort this spring have been Ryan Malone (St. Cloud State), Dominic Moore (Harvard), Adam Hall (Michigan State) and Mike Lundin (Maine).

Besides Thomas, the Bruins, who are looking to get back into the Finals for the first time since I was a junior at BC, only boast Rich Peverley (St. Lawrence) from the college ranks. We’ll see on Friday night if that's enough to send them on to Vancouver.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Derek Boogaard 1982-2011

He didn't play in college, but the recent passing of New York Rangers forward Derek Boogaard has shaken up the entire hockey world. He touched a lot of people in his short time on earth, through his charity work as much as his on-ice contributions, fistic or otherwise; and 28 is much too young to go.

I'll always remember the lone goal he scored for the Rangers, when he slapped a puck past Michal Neuvirth of Washington back in November at Madison Square Garden. It was Boogaard's first goal in 234 games and the third of his NHL career. Sadly, there won't be any more.

My condolences and prayers go out to his family. Rest in peace, Boogeyman.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Coaching Carousel: Good Luck, Gads

The coaching carousel in NCAA Division I hockey has been a veritable merry-go-round the last few weeks, especially where the ECAC is concerned. Clarkson recently released George Roll, while Nate Leaman shifted from Union to Providence, and was replaced on the Dutchmen bench by assistant and former Friar skater Rick Bennett. Speaking of Hockey East, UMass Lowell alum Norm Bazin is now in charge of his alma mater.

The nascent program at Penn State, though, which will (finally) start intercollegiate play in late 2012, made perhaps the biggest splash of all by hiring Princeton's Guy Gadowsky over the weekend to be its first-ever varsity head coach. Gadowsky led the Tigers to both ECAC and Ivy League titles and their first-ever back-to-back NCAA Tournament berths in his tenure, along with consistent Top-20 recognition, after inheriting a team that had won just five games the season prior to his arrival from Alaska Fairbanks. He also oversaw a similar reclamation effort during his time at UAF, and led the Nanooks to the brink of the big dance.

Having regularly covered Princeton from Gadowsky's second season on up until this past winter, I'll admit I have some mixed feelings on this one. On the one hand, I'm genuinely happy for him. He's paid his dues and brought the Tigers some success, and deserves to have an opportunity like this at a big-name, Big Ten school. I'm sure he's gotten a bump in pay and will have more resources to work with, including a new 6,000-seat arena. Plus, how many coaches could resist the lure of being able to start a Division I program from scratch? (Although according to Monday's press conference that officially introduced him at Penn State, he doesn't consider it to be starting from scratch.)

Selfishly, more than a small part of me wishes that he was staying at Princeton. I'm sure a lot of Tiger fans do, after what he was able to accomplish there the last seven seasons. He's always been a class act, and always been gracious with his time for post-game interviews. Heck, sometimes he'd even apologize to me if I was waiting to get a quote or two because he was busy talking to a recruit or something along those lines. Not that a D-I coach had to apologize to me, but that's the kind of person he is.

He really is a genuinely nice Guy, and having a common link to UAF was neat, even if our respective tenures in Fairbanks were about a decade apart. Most people probably wondered what we were talking about when we discussed the Governor's Cup, which took place more than 4,000 miles away from central New Jersey, but it was nice to have that kind of rapport with him. It will be weird next year to walk into Baker Rink and not see him standing on the Princeton bench anymore; but rationally, I realize he's doing what he has to do, and as I said before, he deserves this opportunity. I hope his successor at Old Nassau can do half as well.

Onward and upward, then. I wish him and the Nittany Lions much success, and hope that sometime over its first couple of seasons, Penn State can make the trek from Happy Valley to Baker Rink for a two-game set. Thanks, Gads, and good luck out there.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Second Most Wonderful Time of the Year

After the NCAA Hockey Tournament and the Frozen Four, it's the Stanley Cup Playoffs. No, I won't say that claiming the national championship trophy is as storied as picking up Lord Stanley's prize - it's just that college hockey is as sudden death as you can get. Win four and you're number one; lose one and you're done.

The Stanley Cup champion, meanwhile, will have slogged through four rounds of attrition, and as many as 28 games in all before getting the chance to hoist the celebrated 35-pound silver chalice. The first round is arguably the best, with eight series going on in all, and as many as four games on TV a night.

I've still got college players on the cranium watching the pros play in the post-season, though. San Jose beat Los Angeles in the opener of their Western Conference series on Thursday night as Joe Pavelski wristed a shot past Jon Quick in overtime. The first thought that came to my mind was that Wisconsin just put the puck past Massachusetts - and they won't be the last former college skaters in the spotlight as the first round turns into the second, and third and fourth. Perhaps another former NCAA player a la Jonathan Toews will again be the very first player to hold the Cup high when everything is finally sorted out sometime in June.

The only bad thing about the playoffs, NHL or AHL or ECHL, is as the number of participating teams dwindles and you finally get down to the last two, you know another hockey season is almost over and then it's going to be wait until October again.

Luckily that's not for almost another two months.