College Hockey:
TMQ: Building to a dramatic finish in league races

Jim: Depending on the league, we have either one or two weeks left in the regular season, and we here at Tuesday Morning Quarterback have a stand-in, our longtime CCHA Columnist Paula C. Weston.

So let’s jump right into it. Playoff races are tightening up and no place could it be any tighter than Hockey East. After Boston College defeated Merrimack in overtime on Sunday, there is a three-way tie for first in the league between BC, Providence and New Hampshire. In fourth place is Merrimack, one point behind, and in fifth (right now outside looking in on a home-ice spot) is Massachusetts-Lowell, though the River Hawks are just two points out of first. Is it me or is this race so tight you actually need a shoehorn to crack open this top five?

Paula: I have to say, Jim, that I love a photo finish when it comes to conference standings, so I’m really enjoying what’s happening in Hockey East. This kind of excitement — especially a race that challenges the status quo, with Providence in the mix — shines a spotlight on that league and provides real entertainment for the fans.

Given that BC has five remaining games to four for New Hampshire and Providence provides an interesting twist. At the start of the season, who could have predicted that BC’s series with Providence this weekend would be so pivotal? And that doesn’t even touch on Merrimack, Massachusetts-Lowell and Boston University. Exciting.

Jim: BC will play that game in hand on Tuesday night, and while it seems the Eagles should be licking their chops, that game is against Lowell, possibly the hottest team in Hockey East right now. The River Hawks shut down a talented BU team last weekend. If there is any issue for Lowell it remains goal scoring, but when you’re not allowing much that isn’t always a problem.

Another race to the wire is going on in the WCHA. What do you make of that race?

Paula: As usual, the WCHA appears to be a very, very solid league this season. Seven teams are still in the hunt for the regular-season title, at least according to the numbers. There are no gimme games remaining for any of those teams in the WCHA.

The potential for offense that each of these teams has makes each game and weekend interesting. I’m particularly intrigued by Minnesota State lately. The Mavericks are on a four-game win streak, outscoring two opponents 19-6 in their last four games, with freshman goaltender Stephon Williams looking pretty confident and consistent.

Jim: It also amazes me how series can turn so dramatically from one night to another. Look at the Denver-North Dakota series from last weekend. Denver got a 5-4 win on Friday but then lost 6-1 on Saturday. That’s a pretty dramatic difference.

Moving from the WCHA, the CCHA feels like it is all but decided. Miami has a five-point lead with just six available. So is it safe to assume that the RedHawks are the final CCHA champs? And which teams do you see getting first-round byes?

Paula: I definitely think the RedHawks will be the last-ever CCHA champions. Not to slight Ohio State, which is a pretty good team that was dealt two losses by archrival Michigan last weekend. The Buckeyes travel to Oxford, Ohio, for two games against Miami to end the season. All Miami needs is one point to clinch, and I don’t see OSU sweeping this weekend. The RedHawks are 5-1-1 versus the Buckeyes in their last seven meetings, including a 2-0-1 record against OSU this season.

The first-round byes are already locked up: Miami, Western Michigan, Notre Dame, Ferris State and Ohio State.

What remains interesting in the CCHA at this point is at the bottom of the standings. Sixth-place Alaska is done with league play; the Nanooks play Alaska-Anchorage twice this weekend. Regardless, the Nanooks can finish no lower than seventh and so will host a first-round playoff series. Michigan State can finish no higher than ninth and so is sure to travel in the first round.

Up for grabs are the last two first-round home ice positions, with Lake Superior, Bowling Green, Michigan and Northern Michigan each vying for one of those spots — and three points separating the eighth-place Lakers from the 10th-place Wildcats.

Jim: Let’s change the focus a bit and look at the PairWise Rankings. For a few hours on Sunday evening, Atlantic Hockey had one team solidly cemented in the PairWise (Niagara) as well as the team right outside the PWR bubble in Robert Morris. It led me to ponder that AHA could (admittedly a long shot) possibly get three teams in the NCAA tournament if Niagara and Robert Morris qualified as at-large teams and another club wins the AHA tournament.

If this were to happen, I feel like the NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Committee would find a way to change the criteria for selection for years to come so as to avoid this many AHA teams from qualifying. Do you agree?

Paula: That is a very interesting question, Jim. I haven’t heard anything along those lines out here — outside of the east, that is — so I’m curious as to whether that’s been discussed or speculated about in your neck of the woods.

I guess I’d counter that with a question of my own: Why would the NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Committee change the criteria to avoid such a circumstance? Inherent in your question is the idea that Atlantic Hockey is the red-headed stepchild of college hockey and somehow undeserving of as many as three teams in the NCAA tournament based on current selection criteria. Now, mind you, I’m not saying that you’re saying this and I can acknowledge the idea that there are probably many people who feel that the AHA doesn’t deserve three teams in the tournament.

Also inherent in the question is that there is something mistaken that needs to be fixed in the selection criteria to prevent this from happening again.

But here’s another question: What if three AHA teams (should that happen) in the NCAA tournament is an indication of both the improvement of that league in recent years and the overall parity that many coaches agree is affecting college hockey nationwide?

And I have another question: If Atlantic Hockey places three teams in the NCAA tournament, why would those teams be any less deserving of their berths than any other teams in the country? A dark horse can come out of any conference. I can say with confidence that any team in the CCHA that gets to Joe Louis Arena next month can win the playoff championship, even teams that aren’t even on the PWR radar.

I guess I can’t answer your original question, Jim, because I don’t really have my finger on the pulse of this issue outside of the proverbial west, where I’ve heard little grumbling about it. Would the NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Committee change criteria to prevent this from happening again? I don’t know. Should they? I don’t think so. How would the criteria change if they did? Your guess is as good as mine.

Jim: I agree with you that I don’t know how the NCAA could or would tweak things, but I know a lot of the purists of the game would be upset to see three teams from a “perceived” inferior league like Atlantic Hockey occupy spots in the 16-team field and might do anything possible to ensure that doesn’t happen again.

Looking ahead to this weekend, there are some critical end-of-season matchups. As we talked about earlier in Hockey East, every single game there matters, including two games coming up Tuesday night: Lowell at Boston College and Merrimack at Boston University. Those games along with BC’s series this weekend with Providence and Lowell’s with Merrimack stand out to me. What are some of the key games you’ll have your eye on?

Paula: Agreed about the perceived inferiority. You put it much better than I did.

This weekend, I find Wisconsin’s series at Nebraska-Omaha very intriguing. The Badgers have been inconsistent for much of the season but they have shown that they can play with anyone. It will be interesting to see if Wisconsin’s shortened week because of the Sunday-Monday series against Penn State affects the Badgers’ play at all.

In my own beloved CCHA — in the league’s final regular-season weekend of play — every series looks interesting to me but there are two that hold my interest the most. The first is Lake Superior at Northern Michigan. As I said, three points separate the teams, each is fighting for home ice in the first round of the playoffs and the rivalry between the teams is intense. The Lakers swept the Wildcats at home earlier this season, allowing just one goal in two games.

Then there’s the Ferris State-Michigan series. The Bulldogs had last weekend off, the Wolverines have a losing record at home (7-8), and in the first half of the season Michigan lost 5-0 to Ferris State in Big Rapids and tied 3-3 the following night. What if, however, the Wolverines really are as good as they looked last weekend in their road sweep of Ohio State? This will be a very telling series.

And in Atlantic Hockey, the home-and-home series between Mercyhurst and Robert Morris looks juicy. Robert Morris is tied for fourth place with Holy Cross; each team has 27 points and each is a single point ahead of sixth-place Mercyhurst. The top four teams in the AHA get a first-round playoff bye and this is the final weekend of regular-season play in that league.

Lots of drama here at the end of the season.

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  • http://twitter.com/HuskyHockey Roger Vogt

    Well, that was terrible… You talked about the WCHA for about a second, which has seven teams separate by six points with four games left. Nothing is even decided about home ice. Then you talk about the CCHA for longer than needed where four teams have clinched and there’s almost a certain league champion decided. Seriously!?! You don’t even mention the DU/UMN series (which will be the last between those two teams) and you barely mention the UNO/UW series. Those two series could open up or keep the race close in the WCHA depending on how SCSU does against MTU, how UND does against BSU, and how MSUM does against CC. There is so much you could’ve covered, but you could only spend three paragraphs on it. I get that the CCHA is ending and the WCHA technically isn’t, but who is anyone kidding? There will be more CCHA teams (5, although it should’ve been six becuase your terrible league should’ve brought in UAH for the good of the sport – Hey! Maybe then your league wouldn’t be ending…) in the new WCHA than WCHA teams (4) in the new WCHA.

    • http://www.facebook.com/mtelford Murle Telford

      If find it amusing that you are shocked that a guest writer (from the CCHA) would comment on the end of the CCHA season. i’m sorry, but … what?!

      I thought it more odd that the largest portion of the article was about the credibility (or lack thereof) of the AHA and the NCAA Selection Committee.

      Pick your battles. Next week, they’ll talk about how amazing the WCHA is and how it’s inevitable that a WCHA team will win the championship. Be patient.

  • http://www.facebook.com/matthew5168 Matt Forget

    Not a single blip about the ECAC, where there’s basically a crapshoot going on for effectively second through tenth place?

    • http://twitter.com/rbcarlisle Bruce Carlisle

      If they didn’t have the “unfairness” and anarchy of the possibility that three AHA teams might make the tournament to rage against, trust me they would have been raging over the technical possibility of five ECAC teams making the tournament. Three AHA teams made their heads explode to such a degree that they missed the second statistical outrage. You get the feeling these guys don’t get out much. Maybe the article was intended as satire. The rule changes required would be laughable.

  • Joseph Crowley

    I do not think the NCAA would be able to tweak anything if the AHA found a way to get three teams into the tournament. I recall Bemidji State getting to a Frozen Four from a now defunct league and RIT making it from the AHA. Would it really be so sad to make one of the big leagues’ fourth or fifth place teams not make the tournament if this is what the criteria determined?

    The real reason their will not be a change, however, is the coming changes to conference alignments. BTHC will have just six teams. NCHC will be a lot stronger on paper than the new WCHA. Notre Dame will join Hockey East, followed by UConn the next year. No league will want to implement a rule that might hurt them in the future. BTHC will be a top-heavy conference and the new WCHA will have to fight the perception of being AHA-West (not in my eyes) from many people.

  • ChuckGandCrew

    Re: 3 AHA teams in the tourney. Those teams would be less deserving because they don’t have the TUC weighting. The major conferences beat up on each other all season and for 3 AHA teams to glide in playing DII hockey would be an outrage.

    • Justin

      Pretty simple answer to the potential issue of this…expand the tourney to 24 teams. Or 20 and have a play-in round.

      • ChuckGandCrew

        I’d like to see an expansion, but first I’d like to see a TV contract to be able to watch the games. I think this article starts by explaining why there shouldn’t be three AHA teams in, the races are too close to call and some good teams will be on the outside looking in come mid March. Out of curiosity, how many AHA teams don’t have their own rinks? What’s the average attendance at their games? These need to be factors before picking a tournament team. If the schools don’t invest in the sport, why should the NCAA?

  • maxpercy

    This is interesting but most importantly, where will Paula be next season? Which league will she cover ?!?!?!

    • Joseph Crowley

      My money is Big Ten Hockey Conference.

  • Brian

    For the record, RMU is in 5th place in AHA with 27 points, UConn is 4th with 28, HC is 3rd with 29, AFA is 2nd, Niagara in 1st. With the HC win over Sacred Heart and the Penn State upset of Wisconsin, RMU and HC went up in the Pair wise.

    Niagara is 8th in the pairwise and RMU is 17 and they are combined 8-6-2 vs TUC. Nothing to sneeze at. Better than Lowell, Minny State, hallowed Notre Dame, St. Lawrence, Union, UNO, Merrimack, BU, Ferris State, Ohio State, Providence, Northern Michigan, Wisconsin, Colgate, and Colorado Coll.

    • fcc56

      Nothing against Niagara—at #8 in the PWR, they certainly deserve to be in. Nonetheless, the TUC is somewhat misleading. Niagara’s three TUC wins are all against AHA opponents, two against Robert Morris and one against Holy Cross. It is difficult to find any quality wins in Niagara’s resumé, while the record against weak major-conference teams in not good: a tie and a win against Clarkson, a tie and a loss against Bowling Green, a tie and a loss against Michigan State, and a 10-2 loss to Colgate.

      RMU’s TUC record is actually better: Of their five wins, one is against Quinnipiac, one against Miami, one against Niagara, and one against Ohio State (the fifth is against Holy Cross). The three loses are Niagara (2) and Quinnipiac, and the two ties are Ohio State and Holy Cross. At the same time RMU lost three of three to Air Force, and has also lost to Army, Bentley, AIU, and UConn.

      I don’t love KRACH, but it is interesting to see that Niagara’s strength of schedule is the sixth weakest in the nation at 56.51; compare this to Denver at 145.3, or, perhaps more to the point, BU at 135.1 and Providence at 125.0. RMU’s SoS is somewhat better at 66.99.

      BU is done for the season (they may not win another game this year) and Providence has no shot at an at-large bid even though they could win their regular-season championship (a good example of why the autobids should go to the season winners, not the conference tournament winners). Given the difference in quality of opponents, how do these AHA teams stack up against either of these HE teams (or Merrimack, or UMass-Lowell, or Notre Dame, or UNO)—teams whose TUC opponents are, collectively, considerably stronger than the TUC opponents of Niagara and RMU?

      • Joseph Crowley

        As a BU alum that knew Tuesday’s game against Merrimack was a must win, know that it only takes four wins in the next five games for BU to have a reasonable shot at an autobid.

        They are currently sitting tied for 17th in the Pairwise,with three other teams 17th and three teams are tied for 14th. Since all conference leaders are top 16 in Pairwise, only teams that are not current conference winners and not top 16 in Pairwise can knock out bubble teams at 14, 15 and 16. Robert Morris of AHA is also tied for 17th, so if they win their tournament, we can only assume their Pairwise would be top 16 at that point.

        BU will most likely be playing a TUC for the first round of the Hockey East playoff. It might even host the first round at Agganis. Win that series and BU will probably sit around 13th or 14th in the Pairwise. All of this, of course, depends on taking three of four points against Northeastern, if not all four, this weekend. This is a mighty tall order for this Terriers team. But it is definitely possible for BU to get an at-large bid just by getting to the TD Garden. Personally, I would expect them to have a hiccup and need to get to the finals.

        Finally, for all the bubble teams out there, know that the ECAC has 5 bubble teams, Dartmouth T-12, Yale T-14, Rensselaer T-14, St Lawrence T-17, Union 21. Someone has to lose.

        • fcc56

          Indeed; I was surprised by how far up BU moved with that single win; I guess predictions of their demise are premature!

          i was also rather surprised they won that game. With their recent results, it certainly looked liked they’d packed it in for the season. I guess Jack said something to get them moving. :) As you know, Coach Parker likes to call out his team in public for lack of effort, lack of discipline, etc., but this has to be one of his most disappointing teams in the time I’ve been watching HE (~20 years).

          If the Terriers can win out and then win at least one round in the HE tournament, It seems that they probably can get an at-large bid, but yesterday’s result certainly shows that it’s still too early to be making those kinds of predictions given how close things are in several of the conferences.

          One thing I wanted to mention regarding the AHA but forgot is that those three loses by RMU to Air Force suggest that, despite those early-season wins over Quinnipiac and Miami, this team is vulnerable to opponents that bring a lot of speed. I saw on TV some of Quinnipiac’s recent win against Yale, and while they did look like a solid team, they didn’t look especially fast (neither did Yale, unlike in previous seasons); and in any case early-season games don’t tell us much.

  • fcc56

    RE: AHA and autobids

    For what it’s worth (not much, I know—this is the Internet after all), i would like the NCAA to do away with the tournament winner autobids. I would really like to see no autobids at all—just take the sixteen best teams, as near as can be determined—but if there needs to be autobids, they should be for the regular-season champions.

    Invitation to the national tournament should be a reward for a team’s body of work over the entire season. A dark-horse tournament winner potentially excludes a more deserving team from the tournament. If AHA gets two teams in the top sixteen, they should absolutely be in the national tournament; but if a mid-pack AHA team wins the conference tournament and gets in the NCAA tournament, a team from some other conference will have an entire season’s work (against, let’s face it, generally tougher opponents) negated.

    The NCAA loves its tournaments and its autobids, which while sometimes enlivening the men’s basketball tournament also distorts the championship. How many of those major-conference “bubble” teams that don’t get in would be 16 seeds if they did get in? Right—virtually none. So are the mid-major autobids really fair in what is supposed to be a serious championship tournament? Of course not—better teams are excluded so that lesser teams can participate. But is this a legitimate championship tournament or a pay-and-play (and cash cow) entertainment? The NCAA tends toward the latter view.

    In men’s ice hockey, the small field of sixteen teams makes the tournament autobids potentially more distorting than the conference autobids in the 64-team men’s tournament.

    I say, take the best sixteen regardless of conference and let them play. :)

  • holter19

    Lets be honest. AHA is sub par hockey. Niagara who is in 1st place in the AHA lost 10-2 to Colgate? Couldn’t beat Michigan State in a 2 game series (who by the way is in LAST place in the CCHA)? Shut out by Bowling Green (another bottom tier team in CCHA). Having any more than one team from AHA into the Tourney takes away from the quality of the tournament itself. If AHA teams prove themselves against the best teams, then they deserve it. Until then, stay out of the way. When I played, AHA teams were used to see what our freshman and backup goalies could do as well as give them some experience and playing time. It hasn’t changed. That is all.

    • Joseph Crowley

      And then, if Niagara goes to the Frozen Four like Bemidji State or RIT did, coming from a “sub par” league, what shall be said?

      I have seen teams from “quality” leagues look absolutely terrible in every round of the NCAA tournament, including some epic 9-1 disasters.

      I think you might mistake the size and quality of the arenas, the history of the programs and the name recognition for the ability to play hockey as a team. Very few champions have seasons like Maine’s first championship, Cornell’s Ken Dryden run, etc. Do the name schools and leagues get the biggest prospects? It is safe to say yes. Does this mean they automatically win? It does not.

      It is easy to disparage a team or a league based on past history or a small sample size. It helps the “better” team not at all during a game tied going into the third period, even if the shot total is 45-10.

      Finally, some of the WORST hockey I have watched in the tournaments, NCAA, Hockey East or ECAC, is between two “storied” programs that had a middling season and underachieved all season long, only to slog their way through a 4-1 game filled with penalties.

    • ChuckGandCrew

      A very easy rule change could be that if a team has not played enough Teams Under Consideration, then the committee reserves the right to supersede the Pair Wise. The auto bids need to remain, I like seeing the small schools compete, and it’s good for the sport. But if the teams do not play the same level of talent they should not be rewarded. Ultimately a rule change like this could lead to more non-conference match ups (a plus in my book), and ensure that the AHA tournament stays competitive. As a proud Lowell alumni (undergrad) and Bentley grad student I’d like to see small rule changes that could long term bring the level of competition up in the AHA.

  • Brian

    well done fcc56. Great research. The KRACH is interesting. I think there is little doubt, despite the parity in HEA, BC and UNH are the most serious contenders in the conference. BC-UML should be interesting. The top of the WCHA is quite good.

    • fcc56

      Full disclosure: I got my graduate degree at BC and started going to the games in Jerry York’s first season there, so you can see where my interests lie. At the same time, I am a fan of the sport and not just of “my” team.

      Tonight’s UML game worries me, and this weekend’s games against Providence are going to be a challenge. BC has only two wins (UNH and Merrimack) and two ties (UNH and Yale) against teams with winning records since getting blasted by Minnesota in December. The defense has not been good and the offence has not been prolific except for nine and six goals against last-place Northeastern. If BC doesn’t start scoring more and cut down on penalties, they could easily end up in fourth place behind UNH, Providence, and either UML or Merrimack, and have a short run in the HE tournament.

      Teams on a role this time of year can be dangerous all the way into April regardless of how they played in the first half of the season. With the momentum they’re carrying, I wouldn’t be overly surprised to see UML in Pittsburgh this year (tournament experience is often a factor, though). It’s not just HE, either: Miami is 9-3 in its last 12, UND is 8-3-1, St. Lawrence is 8-2-2, and we won’t know how good Quinnipiac really is (or isn’t) until the NCAA regionals start.

      Sure, Miami and UND are probably NCAA locks, but what if St. Lawrence, Providence, and Robert Morris all roll through their conference tournaments and bounce the 14, 15, and 16 teams in the PWR (although as it stands now, tournament runs by St. Lawrence and RMU would likely move them into the top 15 anyway, so it would take a tournament win by a Merrimack or a Providence to bounce the 16 team).

      The top of the WCHA is often difficult to assess since they seem to beat each other on a regular basis most years. Despite Minnesota’s demolition of BC (minus Gaudreau and with blue-line injuries), it is not clear at this point if that team is markedly better than any of the other top teams, or better than last year’s team. Time will tell. . . .

  • Joe Bertagna

    To the person who suggested AQs go to regular season winner: each conference determines who gets its AQ. We have to complete a form about a year or so in advance of the following season’s tournaments. We all choose our tournament winner. (A conference could choose its regular season winner if it wanted.) The “we” refers to each conference’s athletic directors who vote on such things. The way we all do it adds excitement to the conference tournament and in most years, perhaps not this one, a regular season champion is likely to make the field as an at-large team. The tournament winner getting the AQ gives a conference a chance to get an extra team in the NCAA field who might not otherwise get in. But I believe the major attraction is that every conference tournament participant has that last shot to the NCAA’s by winning its tournament.

    • fcc56

      Hi Joe,

      Thanks for your insight into to the process. Indeed, I understand that giving the autobid to the tournament winner gives the teams that are unlikely to get an at-large bid an extra incentive to compete hard in the conference tournament; yet one would hope that teams would enter every game with an intention to play to win regardless of their chances of making the national tournament (even though we know that in real life this is not always the case). I should think Vermont, for example, would be happy to win the HE tournament given the season they’ve had even if it did not mean a trip to the national tournament.

      This is just my own view and I think it’s safe to say it’s not the general opinion; but with a national tournament of just sixteen teams, I’d like to see the best sixteen teams compete even if that means that one conference is “over-represented” and another one is “under-represented”.

      in the case of Providence, while their remaining schedule suggests they will not win the regular season championship, winning the regular season but not making the national tournament is, in my view, a good argument for the NCAA to allow the ice hockey selection committee some flexibility in setting the tournament field. For all its shortcomings, at least the basketball committee has, to the best of my knowledge, the discretion to invite a regular-season conference winner that would not otherwise qualify for one reason or another.

      • Joseph Crowley

        I remember Michigan getting to overtime of the championship game of the Frozen Four, where they lost to Minnesota-Duluth, after having to win the CCHA Playoffs and get the auto-bid. That is the strength of post-season tournaments. Winning a tournament as a lower-seed is a tough thing to do and it seems enough to be one of sixteen in the NCAAs.

    • Joseph Crowley

      Thank you, Joe, for that perspective.

      We look forward to next season’s tournament with Notre Dame added. Are there changes to the format of the tournament expected with Notre Dame’s addition next season and UConn’s addition the following season? Four teams sitting out each year looks like something the league would want to avoid. A single elimination Tuesday game between seeds 5-12, 6-11, 7-10 and 8-9 at the higher ranked school would be fun, with the winners reseeded and travelling to seed 1 through 4 for the weekend best-of-three.

      I know that would be a good amount of programming for NBC Sports!

  • tiger98

    First, as an RIT fan, I’m glad we have the auto bid for the conference tourney champion, cause we’re gonna need it this year.

    Second, I hate it when the AHA is referred to as “inferior”. Not that we generally aren’t, mind you, when looking at the numbers, but all the other conferences’ fans think theirs is “Holier than thou”. Say we don’t match up well on paper against your “better” conference, but don’t degrade us. Even when we beat those “big” teams, it’s not because we were better, it’s because we “got lucky”.

    Third, I wouldn’t mind it if the NCAA would, by whatever criteria, also recognize the best team in the nation for the entire year, not just the tourney champ. Or you could do away with the conferences all together, and just have every team play every other team once at home and away. Crown your champion at the end, based on the standings. That would make for one H-E-double hockey sticks of a season. How many’s that, 58-59 2-game weekends? Ok, make it a 3-game week, to get it in under a year. Who needs time off from hockey anyway? I know April comes way too soon for me.

    • Joseph Crowley

      There are fans of big conference teams that refuse to denigrate any team from any conference or denigrate any conference. There are fans happy that Alabama-Huntsville found a home, that small schools can compete with big schools, even in a league like Hockey East. There are fans of hockey in general that like seeing every team in hockey to get a shot at the sixteen slots in the NCAA. There are fans happy that schools have a path to grow into a Division I caliber hockey program, like RIT, Lowell, Merrimack, Bemidji, etc. There are fans happy that large schools have a path to develop programs where there were none, like Penn State.

      Those that think their school is better because of the league they play in, the number of fans that buy jerseys, the shiny new arena or the instant name recognition delude themselves about the true purpose of the tournament and the leagues that make up the sport. ECAC became ECAC and Hockey East because that league was too big and had too many differences in opinion about how many games to play. Both of these leagues, along with CCHA and WCHA, helped develop smaller schools and newer programs, especially those jumping to Division I. All of the leagues support AHA precisely because it grows the sport.

      Not every game is going to be BU-BC, Minnesota-North Dakota, Michigan-Michigan State, Harvard-Yale or even St Lawrence-Clarkson. But without growing the sport, we would not have BU-Maine, Minnesota-Minnesota Duluth and others to come.

      To those that want to chant the hockey equivalent of “SEC! SEC!” as the pat answer to why your team is on the bubble or why you do not want some leagues represented based on the rules ALL of the leagues agreed, I say this: The leagues know what they want for the sport and they want it to grow. The leagues want more teams to be able to participate and have more players in college hockey instead of playing major junior hockey. The leagues do not want to be an Original Six NHL, with small die-hard fan bases. If this means my BU Terriers get excluded from this year’s NCAA because of a number of terrible losses so that random Team X from League Y gets in by winning its tournament or having a better Pairwise, then sign me up right now. It is not a mystery how to get your team into the NCAA tournament.

  • http://twitter.com/21stCenturySkiz g heeman

    Anybody looking for the NCAA to make rules changes to guard against the AHA landing more than just a conference champion in the tournament might want to take a step back. It’s one year, the stars have aligned and this has happened (3 AHA teams in the PWR). How often does anybody really think that will happen? Having said that, if you’ve not been playing close attention the last couple of years, the quality of the teams has improved, the hockey has improved. It’s still not exactly on par with the other conferences, but that gap has really narrowed lately.

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