College Hockey:
Commentary: Some thoughts to wrap it all up

A last round of thoughts to some questions, comments, and opinions I heard at the Frozen Four:

St. Paul should be the permanent site of the Frozen Four. That might have been the best Frozen Four I had ever attended (Milwaukee was a close second). It was a hockey city, a hockey state, a hockey crowd, and the four teams that were there were all close enough to St. Paul to get there and support their team.

10 Apr 2011: The University of Minnesota-Duluth plays against the University of Michigan in the 2011 Men's Frozen Four Championship Game at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN. (Jim Rosvold)

Having home-state fans with a rooting interest helped the Frozen Four atmosphere (photo: Jim Rosvold).

The North Dakota faithful travel very well anywhere and the Minnesota-Duluth fans showed up in droves for the final. Michigan had a great group of fans, and Notre Dame had support.

The best line about the Sioux fans I heard was, “They are like Deadheads the way they follow the team everywhere; all that is missing is the tie dye.”

The Frozen Four should always be in a city that lives and breathes hockey — and preferably college hockey — like Boston, Detroit, Denver and Minneapolis/St. Paul. I still think Toronto should host one; what a marketing opportunity for college hockey in a ripe and fertile market for elite players.

This was a great pick to host this event and the city of St. Paul, the planning committee, the venue, the games and everything that went with it was tremendous. The atmosphere was electric, proving college hockey championships should be in hockey arenas. If any kid aged 10-16 was there, he had to have turned to his folks and said “I want to play college hockey.”

Great job!

Was Minnesota-Duluth really the best team at the Frozen Four? I’ll quote Jack O’Callahan on this one. I once asked O’Callahan about the 1980 Olympic team and whether it was among the best teams of all time for what it had accomplished. He said, “At the time we were the best in the world.” Good enough for me, so the answer is, yes, Duluth was the best team there. The Bulldogs beat two good teams to win it.

Did Michigan overachieve in beating North Dakota? In some ways yes and in some ways no. Michigan got outplayed and outshot but when you look at the game again the Wolverines weren’t as outplayed as one might think. They gave up a ton of shots but in their own end they were pretty responsible in front of Shawn Hunwick. That was about as pushed to the limit as I have seen Michigan in a long time and they responded. Their underclassmen got the hockey education of a lifetime this season.

You seem to be pretty high on Matt Rust of Michigan. These past four games that Michigan played reaffirmed what I have felt for two years: Matt Rust is as good a defensive player as there is in college hockey. That Duluth didn’t blow Michigan out with all those power plays had a lot to do with how well Rust kills penalties. The kid delivered for his team in the postseason.

North Dakota is overrated. No, it isn’t; that was a pretty dynamic and well-built team. For the first time in any Frozen Four I have seen them in since Dave Hakstol took over I felt their goalie didn’t let them down. I have often felt NoDak was a victim of a bad goal or two against in the Frozen Four. I thought Aaron Dell was as good as he needed to be and gave NoDak every opportunity to win the game. Hunwick was one save better, plain and simple.

Miami seems headed to the WCHA and Notre Dame to Hockey East. Have heard both; have not heard them from anyone I’d consider the authoritative source. Neither would shock me. If they went somewhere together it wouldn’t surprise me, either. It’s too early to tell. All talk seems pure speculation at this point.

College Hockey as a whole isn’t happy with the Big Ten situation. I have heard more people say this than the opposite. The prevailing sentiment I have gathered is that Penn State should have come in as a CCHA team and stayed there as the 12th team.

Notre Dame is back. I’m not sure it ever left despite a poor season in 2009-10. As long as the Jeff Jackson-Paul Pooley-Andy Slaggert trio is running that program, the Fighting Irish will be a force to reckon with. Add in the new building and Notre Dame is here to stay.

So, how do you really feel about the Tom Anastos to Michigan State hiring? This was asked tongue-in-cheek after the column I wrote a week or two ago but at least it gives me a chance to clear this up. I’m an Anastos guy. I like MSU hockey. My wife, cousin and uncle are alums. I think it is a curious hiring that might work. Who the assistants are will be a huge factor. I don’t like the entire picture that was painted for several reasons but I would like to see Anastos succeed. However, there is a part of me that feels what he brings to college hockey as a whole is severely hampered by him coaching Michigan State as opposed to having a bigger presence on the landscape.

Hockey East spit the bit in the regionals. Well … not so much. Boston College got beaten by a Colorado College team that showed up and wanted to win and was prepared to do what it took. BC looked like a team that knew how good it was and then couldn’t prove it. New Hampshire played very well against Miami but Notre Dame physically dominated it in Manchester. Merrimack was solid against Notre Dame but those kids were in uncharted waters.

The ECAC was unimpressive in the national tourney. That is a case you could make but there were reasons. Rensselaer had been sitting around away too long to be competitive. Union didn’t match up physically for what it faced in its regional and Yale was a pretty good team that ran into a much more battle-tested team in Duluth.

Matt Frattin got robbed in the Hobey voting. This was mostly a Sioux thing but I’m not sure that is accurate. He, Andy Miele and Cam Atkinson had terrific seasons. Of the three, there is a case that Miele did more with less around him than the other two did. Could any of the three have won? Absolutely. However, Frattin’s consolation prize was taking his first NHL shift for the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Center in Toronto on “Hockey Night In Canada” against the Montreal Canadiens with his family in attendance. For a Canadian kid, it doesn’t get much better than that.

The officiating was … . Going to be careful here because I have some good friends that wear the stripes across college hockey. I felt the officiating at the Frozen Four was average. I felt the officiating in the title game was not very good. That is said with no emotional attachment to any of the four teams. I do think that there are a lot of good officials that are somewhat handcuffed by the rigidity of the NCAA rules and the way they want games called.

Red Berenson mentioned his displeasure with the officiating after their loss in the title game and I don’t think it was sour grapes; he had a point. One NHL scout said to me, “Every time someone falls down in an NCAA game it is a penalty.” I think there is a need to let them play a bit more. However, there is also the safety factor and if an official feels that a player’s health gets compromised on a hit, that has to be respected. But there have been games with a slate of calls that have just made you shake your head.

Lastly … now that I’m home. There are so many people that deserve credit for making college hockey what it is. Fans read stories on websites and in newspapers, listen to radio and watch televised games and never realize the amount of effort that goes into it.

The most thankless job in college hockey is that of the sports information director. Those folks are the reason you get a lot of the info on your teams that you do. It doesn’t appear magically. They are vital for the print and electronic media. To the team SIDs and conference media relations folks, a huge thank you once again for a great season. The all-nighters and long hours and weekends you put in are appreciated.

Special thanks to those who officiate the officials: Frank Cole, Ty Halpin, Steve Piotrowski and Paul Stewart. The time you give to help us at CBS understand the rules and everything that goes into it is a huge help.

One more thank you. There are a lot of great senior classes out there and there isn’t enough room to mention all of them, but on a personal note a fond farewell to the senior classes at Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Miami and Notre Dame.

Those schools spent a lot of time on CBS College Sports (now CBS Sports Network) the past four years, probably more so than any other. I wish you luck in your future endeavors and hope to see you continue playing this great game. Thanks for the access, cooperation, and memories.

Congrats to the Bulldogs.

Is it October yet?

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  • jrod790

    Dave, enjoy listening/reading about you talking hockey.
    First of all the Frozen Four should indeed stay in good hockey towns like Boston, St.Paul, Detroit, etc. However, though playing in Toronto would be a great stage for ncaa hockey, fans would need passports to get there and that’s too much of a hassle for fans of the game.
    Second of all Andy Miele deserved the Hobey Baker. Matt Fratin and Cam Atkinson are great players and deserved to be finalists, but Miele by far and away led the country in points and was the biggest reason Miami did what it did in the second half of the season to get a number 1 seed.

    Third of all, Notre Dame does not belong in Hockey East. The western most school in the conference right now is UMass. The drive from Amherst to South Bend is at least 10 hours. That is not good for any schools involved. The current all-New England school theme in Hockey East also should be preserved. Having the Fighting Irish would without a doubt boost the level of play in the league and I would enjoy having them, but the location is not going to work.

    Lastly, yes the officiating was bad in Frozen Four. Jeff Bunyan and Tim Benedetto constantly call soft penalties. I watched well over ten games with these two officials this year and almost every game was the same story. It’s sad when a NHL scout says that about college hockey. The college game needs to mimic the NHL as much as possible, and it starts by eliminating soft calls and poor officiating. Would have liked to see John Gravallese in the championship game instead.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RDHBFOHTSDXZX7APZY26YILWMY Brian H

      I agree on the Notre Dame to Hockey East…do not want. Call me parochial, but I like the fact that its all New England schools. There aren’t many other D1 schools left that would fit with the New England theme, Uconn could join (already there for Womens) but they wouldn’t really increase the talent level at this point, just the number of teams. Dartmouth fits better with ECAC and the other Ivy schools Yale, Harvard, Princeton, and Brown. I guess it wouldn’t be out of the question for a small D3 school to make the leap up like RIT did in recent history and Merrimack also. But for now, I think HE is set.

  • Dogs

    great article. is kinda upsetting that the FROZEN four is in tampa next year. good warm vacation though for us that live in the northern states (being optimistic). ECAC was disappointing ill leave it at that, but that was a good thing. Go Dogs!

  • Dreamer

    Don’t forget Chicago area when discussing sites for Frozen Four. Two major airports, train hub, good public transportation around the whole area, good highway access, and they love hockey there too.

    • GeauxSioux

      Yes! Bring it here to Chicago!

  • CommittedEagle

    Thanks, Dave, for the comments. One note on St. Paul (and Tampa) – the hotels were scarce and expensive. The good news about St. Louis, Columbus, Milwaukee in past years have been affordability. Denver and Detroit were good with great transportation.
    Hockey East officials are the worst in the nation – we watch them all year and couldn’t believe Benedetto and Hanson got the honor of working the Frozen Four. The official’s officials need to get some consistency in their troops.
    Can’t wait for next year! It was a great Frozen Four, just as the last 13 I’ve been to (even without BC in it).

  • Cm10tas

    Dave, Thanks for all of your great work this season. It’s a pleasure watching you on CBS College Sports and the knowledge you bring to this great game. Enjoy your summer and can’t wait for October for a new season of college hockey. The best sport in the land!

  • Stargeek

    western bias. typical for USCHO

  • Irish Spectre

    Yes, I’ve been saying for years that the FF should be limited to Minn.-St. Paul, Denver, Chicago, Detroit and Boston. The FF going to Tampa next year is every bit as stupid as it going to Anaheim a few years ago, and no, it shouldn’t go to Toronto, either; college hockey is quintessentially American, and it shouldn’t go offshore.

    …interesting lead in to the HE schools’ tourney performance comments, suggesting that they didn’t spit the bit, and then defending that by explaining how they, well, spit the bit!! (UNH has honed bit spitting to a high art form, and BC very uncharacteristically spit it the furthest.)

  • Thericefamily

    I think the Frozen Four should rotate between Denver, St. Paul, and Boston. If people out east feel that favors the west, then have it every other year in Boston and every fourth year in Denver or St. Paul. (Milwaukee is great but from what I understand the Bradley Center’s seating capacity is now below the NCAA minimum, but I might be wrong about that). Bottom line the Frozen Four belongs in cities that are college hockey towns and where the local fans support college hockey no matter what teams are there. The Frozen Four has no business being in places like Washington, DC, Tampa, Pittsburgh, or Philadelphia.

    I don’t see Miami moving to the WCHA. They play in the MAC with Bowling Green and Western Michigan in all sports other than hockey, and with the exception of Alaska, they have a thirty year history of playing most of the schools in the CCHA. What would be the advantage of playing in the WCHA? Sure, the WCHA has some great programs, but the cost of travel as a member of the WCHA would be significantly higher than it is in the CCHA, and you are not going to draw any more fans at home than you are now because you already play to a full or nearly full house every night.

    I think Notre Dame is going to Hockey East. Notre Dame plays in the Big East in all sports other than hockey and football, so being in a conference that is on the east coast is apparently not a problem for the school, and Notre Dame has a lot more in common with schools like Boston College and Providence College than it does with any of the schools in the CCHA. Notre Dame has a huge alumni base in the northeast and playing in the Hockey East Tournament at the Fleet Center seems like a big step up than playing in the CCHA Tournament in Detroit.

    The WCHA will be just fine as a ten team league after Minnesota and Wisconsin leave for the Big Ten. I think the big question is can the CCHA survive with Alaska, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake State, Miami, Northern Michigan, and Western Michigan. Since the Big Ten schools will play a twenty game regular season schedule, that should leave some open dates for Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State to schedule some of the CCHA schools from Michigan and Ohio, but who will want to travel to Fairbanks for a non-conference regular season game?

    Lastly, I hope the Big Ten Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament lands in the United Center. And what are the prospects for Alabama-Hunstville and Bowling Green?

    • Anonymous

      We in Hockey East don’t want Notre Dame. Honestly I see no point to changing Hockey East unless we can get two more local (read within 2 hours of boston) schools in. UConn and Bentley might work under the right circumstances.

      • Spidermonkey86

        UConn or Bentley would be terrible. I am an avid HE fan who lives in Worcester MA, on my lazy days when I don’t feel like leaving the city; I go to Holy Cross games. I’ve seen UConn & Bentley play alot. The teams are terrible. You’d be adding another PC/UML minus the history, if you are to bring them into HE

        • Anonymous

          I don’t know if it’s reasonable to limit the pool of expansion candidates to awesome teams with history. If you do that, you have what, 10 teams nationally to possibly consider? (Might as well add Ala-Huntsville right now!!)

          I say any HE expansion should be more local teams with potential for growth in fanbase, that other HE fans would travel to. Holy Cross would be a welcome addition. Thinking further, maybe a Brandeis, URI or SNHU could bring a team to the table some day with a few angel alumni kicking in?

          As you can see, maintaining geography is my main concern. A lot of HEA fans travel to terrible in- and out-of-conference away games due to the convenient travel schedule.

          • Spidermonkey86

            Holy Cross wouldn’t work either….their arena is unbearable tiny; smaller than even Merrimack’s. With the exception of UConn, most AHA arena’s are too small. The only way I see HE expanding is if a school adds something to the conference.

            No offense to the AHA but HE doesn’t need more bottom feeding programs. Providence, UML, UMA, and Merrimack make four as it is.

            Why not split the EZ-AC up.
            Give the Ivy’s their own conference (They never fit into the EZ-AC).
            Push HC, RIT, RM, NU, MC into the ECAC.
            Push Air Force into WCHA
            The misfit teams don’t really belong in D1, but if they want to hang around let them go independent.
            Finally put UAH into CCHA

          • Spidermonkey86

            I understand the travel concern, however you need to factor in the facilities. Holy Cross, and Bentley’s arenas fit around 1,500 people (Note all seats general admission and to get to capacity you would need people to stand along the boards) Thom Lawler (Merrimack), which is the smallest HE arena fits 3,000.

            You can’t have BU, BC, UNH, UVM, and UNH (all who travel very well) bring their folks down, they just wouldn’t fit.

            The you have to also look at scholarships and league rules on those. HE allows far more scholarships than the AHA.

          • Spidermonkey86

            I meant UMaine not double UNH

  • Guest

    Regarding the officiating, maybe it has been talked about already but what is with the overzealous whistle blowing on every faceoff? I am a WCHA person so maybe it is common in the other conferences? Seems to me someone told them to “watch the faceoff obstruction” so they translated that into blowing their whistle at every skate lace out of place.

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