We’re about a month into the Hockey East season, which means that new league coordinator of officials Dan Schachte has had equally as much time to evaluate the league.
And while he certainly likes what he sees from his crew of officials, saying he “couldn’t be happier with what these guys bring” to the table, there is one serious concern that has stood out since the first game he saw four weeks ago.
“I spend a lot of time watching the game, I’ve been to a lot of games, and diving is a problem,” Schachte said.
Schachte, who recently completed a 30-year career as an NHL linesman, said that right out of the gate, the one thing his office needs to address is a player’s feeling that he needs to embellish penalties by flopping around much like a fish that has fallen out of its fish bowl.
“It’s an issue,” Schachte said. “About 70 percent of the time when I see it happen, it’s a new kid … it’s a freshman. It’s early in the season and if the kid played like that [diving] last year, it’s going to take some time to adjust.”
Schachte didn’t want to give specifics on how he plans to address diving and embellishment. He said that he has various ideas that he is working on, and could even go to the extreme of what the NHL did to curb a similar problem a few seasons ago.
“What the [NHL] did was publish a list of [offenders] that was public knowledge around the league among the officials, among the general managers, among the coaches and other players,” Schachte said.
That solution, according to Schachte, created peer pressure among the players to keep teammates from diving and, thus, appearing on the list.
Schachte didn’t say that he specifically will go to that extreme, but if he did, you almost couldn’t blame him.
“The rules are set up right now that if a penalty isn’t called and a kid flops, you can give him a diving penalty, but generally that’s not where it happens,” Schachte said. “Where it happens, a player puts a stick on a player or hooks or holds or impedes a kid and the kid embellishes it.
“At the end of the day, matching minors doesn’t really do much. That’s not a huge deterrent.”
It also puts the officials in a tough spot.
“They lose credibility because if they give, say, two for hooking and two for embellishing, one side will say, ‘He hardly touched him,’ and the other will say, ‘He put the hook on him, why are you calling a dive?’
“So our guys are in a tough spot. It’s hard to keep credibility with that kind of a setup.”
Schachte said that options such as giving an additional 10-minute misconduct or suspending repeat offenders are appealing, but neither is supported in the current rules. “If we suspended a kid for diving, we’d have every administrator at a school right down our throat,” Schachte said.
While calling the issue complicated, Schachte also said there needs to be something done to curb diving before it becomes a true epidemic.
“It’s embarrassing,” Schachte said, summing up the issue in the most simple way.
Northeastern emerging Mountain
When the season began, Northeastern coach Jim Madigan was pleased to be able to coach a team that he had worked with for an entire season, as opposed to just a few days last season after he was appointed head coach late in the summer.
One position where Madigan felt most secure was goaltending. Chris Rawlings, one of Northeastern’s best players for the past three seasons, returned in net, offering a level of stability in a critical element of the game.
That stability, though, crumbled last Friday night when Madigan pulled Rawlings, who was fighting the puck against New Hampshire. After Rawlings allowed two goals early in the second period to erase a 3-1 Northeastern lead, Madigan put senior Bryan Mountain in the game.
Though Mountain surrendered the winner in the final minute of regulation, Madigan said handled the situation well.
“He played really well and I thought he gave us a chance to win the game,” Madigan said after the loss.
So the next night, when the two teams rematched at Matthews Arena, the question on everyone’s mind was who would be in net: Rawlings or Mountain?
The decision was made well before Saturday’s game ever arrived.
“We told Bryan [on Friday] he was going to play on Saturday,” Madigan said. “The way he played in the last 33 minutes [on Friday], he was in rhythm. It was a fluky break [on the winning goal], but he played very well so it was an easy decision.”
Opting for the inexperienced senior, Madigan probably couldn’t have predicted the outcome: a 44-save shutout that, almost unfair to Mountain, earned the team only a scoreless tie.
“I can’t say enough about Bryan Mountain in his first start in a long time,” Madigan said.
While Mountain’s emergence may surprise the outside fan, Madigan said he’s been impressed with the backup goaltender’s work ethic, something that may earn him additional starts this weekend. “He works very hard in practice,” Madigan said.
The question for Northeastern is what to do moving forward. While Rawlings has played in a number of big games for the Huskies, don’t be surprised if Madigan chooses to ride Mountain in the coming weeks.
‘Hawks still looking to fly
Coming off the best season in nearly two decades, there have been high expectations for Massachusetts-Lowell early this year.
But a 1-3-1 beginning isn’t exactly what most drew up for this club.
The biggest question people are asking about this Lowell team relates to its early-season schedule.
The River Hawks have played four of their first five games against nationally ranked opponents, the only win coming against then-No. 19 Colorado College. A road loss against Denver and two losses last weekend against No. 1 Boston College left Lowell at 1-3-1 through five games.
Voters in this week’s USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll seem to be giving the River Hawks the benefit of the doubt, ranking them 14th. And even their head coach, though concerned, seems to be understanding of just how difficult this early-season schedule has been, particularly last weekend’s series against the defending national champions.
“You’re playing good hockey clubs, and that’s the thing I sometimes have to remind myself as a coach, that [we just played] the No. 1 team in the country,” second-year coach Norm Bazin said. “They’re going to make you make mistakes and they’re going to force mistakes.”
If any positive came out of last Sunday’s 6-3 loss to the Eagles it was the ability of the River Hawks to find the back of the net. Lowell scored just five goals in its first four games before potting three on the Eagles on Sunday.
“You’ve got to find positives in every game and getting three [goals] is better than getting one or two that we’ve been getting,” Bazin said. “Hopefully it’s not the quota. Hopefully we can come up with five or six in the next little while here.”
Still, Bazin isn’t all flowers and bubbles with his team’s assessment. He realizes this team has a long way to go if it wants to return to the level it was at last year when the River Hawks were a game away from the Frozen Four.
“We certainly haven’t shown the same level and we have to come back to that,” Bazin said.
• You’re not going to find a lot of Hockey East players tearing things up among the national scoring leaders. With eight points, Boston College’s Pat Mullane is the only Hockey East player in the top 10 nationally, ranked tied for seventh.
• The same goes for goaltending as the top-rated goals against average among Hockey East goalies is Providence rookie Jon Gillies, who has posted a 1.72 GAA in the early going but still ranks 14th nationally among goalies playing at least 33 percent of their team’s minutes).
• If you’re looking for one statistical category that a Hockey East player leads, look to shutouts. BC’s Parker Milner is the only goaltender to post two shutouts this season, doing so in back-to-back games against Northeastern and Lowell. When the River Hawks scored at 7:40 of the second period on Sunday, it broke a 158:05 shutout streak for the senior.
USCHO covers Hockey East all week long on the Hockey East Blog, with weekend recaps on Monday, picks on Friday, and updates during the week.