College Hockey:
Where Have All The Goal Scorers Gone?

Goal scoring in men’s Division I ice hockey has experienced a steady and significant decline over the last ten seasons and, based on scores of games played in 1997-98, this season could see fewer goals per game than any of the previous ten.

During the ten full seasons starting in 1987-88, an average of 7.92 goals were scored in each game. Through the first 327 games this season, the average is down by 1.31 goals to 6.61. This season’s average is 0.70 goals per game lower than the previous low, 7.31, last season.

The findings are part of a U.S. College Hockey Online analysis of scores from 8,781 Division I games since the 1987-88 season.

The number of goals per game is dramatically lower than the ten-year high of 8.52 during the 1989-90 season. Between 1987 and 1992, even though scoring was in a decline, the average number of goals remained above eight per game.

Since 1988-89 scoring from one season to the next has dropped in all but two. The only increases came during the most productive season of the period, 1989-90, when scoring was up one-half goal per game. It was also up slightly, 0.18 goals, in 1994-95.

From the first year studied through last season, the average dropped a full goal per game, 8.31 to 7.31.

This study includes only conference and non-conference games. Games deemed exhibitions by the NCAA and those involving non-Division I teams are not included.

A closer examination of nearly 6,000 regular season conference games shows one of the four major hockey associations, Hockey East, is bucking the downward trend.

HEA games have produced an average of 8.22 goals per game during the last ten, full seasons. This season, through 43 games, the average is 7.74, down only 0.48. HEA games have averaged more than eight goals per game in all but two seasons. In 1994 the average was 7.53; two seasons later is was 7.98. The HEA high-water mark came in the first year of the study, 8.81 goals per game. (The averages include interlocking conference games between HEA and WCHA teams from 1987-89.)

The three other major conferences are on pace to set new season lows.

The biggest decline is in the WCHA, where production through 56 games this season is only 6.02 goals per game. That’s down 1.90 from its average of 7.92 during the period and down from a decade-low 6.91 last season. The high for the period, 9.16, was in 1989-90.

This season the CCHA is down 1.60 goals per game from its average for the period of 7.98 to 6.38. That circuit experienced a high of 8.97 in 1990-91 and a low of 7.39 in 1994.

In the ECAC, goals per game are at 5.95 this season, a decline of 1.57 from its average of 7.52. The conference’s low for the period was last season, 6.78. The high was 8.22 in 1990-91.

      Season                All
1988 8.89 7.50 8.81 8.62 8.31
1989 8.10 7.86 8.43 7.54 8.01
1990 8.97 7.90 8.05 9.16 8.52
1991 7.94 8.22 8.56 8.06 8.26
1992 7.94 7.60 8.02 8.47 8.08
1993 8.04 7.51 8.70 8.10 7.95
1994 7.39 7.61 7.53 7.34 7.59
1995 7.64 7.44 8.12 7.69 7.77
1996 7.41 6.80 7.98 7.31 7.35
1997 7.44 6.78 8.05 6.91 7.31
Ten Year High 8.97 8.22 8.81 9.16 8.52
Ten Year Average 7.98 7.52 8.22 7.92 7.92
Ten Year Low 7.39 6.78 7.53 6.91 7.31
This Season To Date 6.38  5.95  7.74  6.02  6.61 
Below Average -1.60 -1.57 -0.48 -1.90 -1.31
Below Maximum -2.59 -2.27 -1.06 -3.14 -1.91
Below Previous Low -1.01 -0.83 0.21 -0.89 -0.70

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