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TMQ: Handing out pluses and minuses from the conference tourneys

Todd: With so much to get to this week, it’s tough to figure out where to start. Let’s start with what we saw last weekend. A conference said goodbye, a legendary coach said goodbye and a few teams said hello to NCAA tournament spots that weren’t sealed until they won their conference tournament.

There were lots of pluses and minuses out of the weekend; what story deserves the biggest plus for you?

Jim: I know people may think I’m biased, but I think my alma mater, Massachusetts-Lowell, was the most impressive team of the weekend. They were the only team from last week’s top eight to not lose, and they captured their first league title, something that has been 29 years in the making.

In doing so, they also ended the career of one of the game’s top coaches, Jack Parker. So there is something to be spoken about such a legend who probably on Sunday felt like his team was a lot better than some of the teams that made the NCAA field.

But that is the system we work within and BU doesn’t move on. I heard a lot of flak for that in Boston this weekend, something people all over the country tend to complain about after Selection Sunday.

Todd: Keeping with the trend of picking the team that we personally saw win a conference title, my plus goes to Wisconsin. The Badgers hadn’t been in a WCHA championship game since 2000 and hadn’t won it since 1998. In a field that included St. Cloud State, Minnesota and North Dakota, the Badgers may not have been a popular choice to win the Broadmoor Trophy but they had to in order to make the NCAA tournament.

With a hot goaltender, scorers who are getting the job done and role players contributing to the score sheet, the Badgers are going to be a tough out in the NCAAs. But more on that later. Was there something deserving of a minus for you from the weekend?

Jim: Oh, yes. Both Quinnipiac and Yale were easy minuses. As much as been made of the Bobcats this season, they choked down the stretch and enter the NCAA tournament with a 5-4-1 record in their last 10 games. I feel like they are entering this tournament limping.

The other team that is struggling is Yale. The Bulldogs had two losses without scoring a goal in the ECAC Hockey Championship and are barely limping into the tournament, so I feel like they’re on a low right now and will struggle through the NCAA regionals.

Todd: You touched a little bit on my minus. Mine goes to Yale, but for shunning the postgame news conference after the third-place game loss to Quinnipiac. As our Brian Sullivan wrote in Monday’s ECAC Hockey blog entry, it created an uncomfortable situation for a lot of people who didn’t deserve it, and I’m talking about the ECAC staff running the event. Win with class, lose with class.

But Yale made the NCAA tournament along with 15 other teams, and that’s what we’ll be talking about the rest of the week. Were you surprised or concerned by the committee’s decision to move teams closer to home and alter what’s known as bracket integrity? (I know Jayson Moy wasn’t; he picked the bracket correctly for the third straight year.)

Jim: I personally agree with Jayson. The NCAA did everything it could to produce a fair tournament field but still ensure that there is a ton of atmosphere in every building.

I look at Manchester, N.H., where I will be covering. You have host New Hampshire about 50 minutes away but you also have Lowell, which is about 25 minutes away. Add in Denver and Wisconsin, two teams that have traveled well, and I feel this could be a region that sells out. Do you agree about the importance of making sure there is a tournament atmosphere?

Todd: I think in that situation, it works out. Lowell and New Hampshire are the higher seeds so you can justify them getting a bit of an advantage in the cheering section. And I don’t really have much of an issue with, say, Boston College getting brought back east and giving the No. 1 overall seed, Quinnipiac, a tougher potential second-round game.

I have an issue when a higher seed has to play in what could be construed as a home environment for another team. You could argue that, because of geography, the Eagles have a better chance at bringing a cheering section to Providence than Quinnipiac does, but from the buzz with the Bobcats this season I don’t know that would be the case if those teams met for a spot in the Frozen Four.

Maybe the bigger issue is whether anything close to a tournament atmosphere has existed at some of the regionals recently. We’ve seen some pretty empty buildings in the last few years. It’s nice to say you’re trying to get a better atmosphere but if it’s not happening even with bracket changes, should it still be a priority?

Jim: I personally dislike seeing the conference tournaments have incredible atmospheres only to have empty buildings at regionals. Would the NCAA be better served with on-campus games for the first two rounds, or is there a need to maybe go to smaller venues? I look at schools like Lowell, BU and UNH in the Hockey East market that all have new buildings and would attract solid crowds.

I guess unless you host in cities where four or five teams are easy to commute, it’s a moot point. And the desire to have a national tournament, where all the teams don’t come from the same league, far outweighs the desire to fill a building.

Todd: There’s really no great solution here. If you take it back to campus, you sacrifice competitive balance. If you leave it in neutral buildings, you risk losing attendance and atmosphere. That may be why calls for changes to the system haven’t really gone anywhere yet.

We almost exclusively stick to Division I men’s hockey in TMQ, but I think we’d be crazy not to recognize the accomplishment of the Minnesota women’s team, which on Sunday completed a perfect season, winning the national championship with a 41-0 record. Going back to last season, the Gophers have won 49 straight games. I could try to come up with superlatives but I don’t think it would do justice to the streak.

Jim: I think that Minnesota’s women accomplished something borderline unbelievable. I think of the days before the NCAA recognized women’s hockey and there were a number of teams to get to the postseason unbeaten, untied. All of those clubs lost tourney games, and that almost happened twice this season to Minnesota, which won two OT games in the NCAA tournament.

That team was hardly the only making history, though, this season as Parker ended a 40-year coaching career with a loss on Saturday. It is difficult to imagine how many players he influenced and taught. There is no doubt that as we head to some great weekends of national tournament hockey that Jack Parker may be on the mind of many.

Todd: It’s certainly not befitting Parker’s career to have him sitting out this NCAA tournament, but the show goes on. There are 12 games across four regionals this weekend, and while I think the Lowell-Wisconsin matchup stands out to me as possibly the best first-round contest, I’ll be interested to see how Canisius does against Quinnipiac. As you mentioned, the Bobcats aren’t exactly on a tear going into the tournament, while the Golden Griffins have won eight in a row. What first-round games do you like?

Jim: I wish I could see the Quinnipiac-Canisius game as I feel like this could be the upset of the tournament. But I am most interested in the defending national champ, Boston College, and how it does against an experienced Union team. So I guess I am saying I wish I was in Providence.


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  • http://twitter.com/QUAthletics Quinnipiac Athletics

    We agree with Jim’s comment on campus sites. I think all in the hockey world should discuss further

  • stod_2

    I would rather see some neutral but standing sites tried first. What if each year St. Paul hosted the west along with Boston garden in the east and then find two more site. Maybe it’s a total of 8 rotating sites. Going to campus sits just gives those host teams too much of an advantage for th national tournament in my opinion.

    The other idea that I have heard that I like is just two regional sites each year that host two regions each. You could do a Thursday/Saturday and Friday/Sunday thing and get plenty of atmosphere if you did them in the right locations.

    My point is there seems to alternatives to the idea of campus sites that I think should be tried first.

    • Joseph Crowley

      I would love to see regionals at TD Garden, but it is not happening anytime soon. This is because of the NCAA requirements about advertising. All advertising must be covered, to include NHL logos under the ice.

      The Garden cannot afford to tie up four-five days for a regional tournament, laying down TWO new sheets of ice and have 10,000 fans show up who are not able to drink alcohol due to THAT draconian and old-fashioned limitation. Why would they do that one week after selling out the Garden for the Hockey East semis and finals?

      The Bruins and Celtics need their dates, too, along with concerts and other events. Only the Frozen Four brings in enough revenue to shut out all other events for five days. The Hockey East Tournament is the equivalent of two Bruins games, with no changes to the building and plenty of watery beer to sell.

      • stod_2

        Didn’t know any of that being out in the west. But what if it were a super regional with a ton of hockey in 4 or 5 days. I would think that would have to be somewhat attractive. But again if Boston can’t host, fine, just find another location in the NorthEast that can. How about MSG in NY, NY? That would be great and help to draw fans.

        I guess my big point is that if the NCAA wants to grow hockey they need to look at some alternatives because this isn’t work for hard core fans so you know the average Joe looking to spend his hard earned $$$$ isnt even thinking about it.

        • Joseph Crowley

          The real issues are the four-five days to plan travel to a regional, the required removal of in-building advertisements and the prohibition on alcohol sales.

          The AHL-level arenas in New England/Upstate New York fit the crowds that can be attracted on short notice during Spring Break. An arena in a city like Buffalo/Pittsburgh might also work where there is only the NHL and not the NBA. Boston/New York/Philadelphia have way too many events to lose five days of advertising and beer sales. Only the names TD Garden, Madison Square Garden and Comcast Center can be advertised.

          Maybe Barclays Center in Brooklyn or Prudential in Jersey could be used, since one is NBA-only and the other is NHL-only. However, getting a room is really expensive.

          • stod_2

            I hear you. Just have to believe that if the NCAA really wanted to help grow hockey they could find a way to make something like this work But maybe not.

    • WCHA

      My argument about this would be (agreeing with Joseph’s comment earlier) and the fact that St. Paul being a host place every time would be the same as a campus site for Minnesota except even more Minnesota fans that could go to the game, granted the Gopher make it there. I think if you want the best atmosphere for a college sport, play at a college campus. Just because a team hosts a site doesn’t mean they will make the tournament, they still have to play the season.

      • stod_2

        Just cant agree with you and I have a pretty long list of reasons. A few of them are:

        1. UofM plays on larger ice than most so if they actually host a game at their rink it is even a larger advantage.

        2. The WCHA tourney is great atmosphere and played in St Paul so there is no reason to think that a regional would be any different.

        3. There is money at stake and if you can potentially sell out 18,000+ versus the 10,000 at the U then you have to take the larger arena.

        4. I have been to games at the UofM and the atmosphere is not that great in my opinion so I think you lose nothing by going to the larger arena that is at least a bit more balanced from a competitive stand point.

        I am not looking to make this a home ice game for anyone and now teams have the advantage of being a host team and potentially playing very close to home so this could be the next evolution of that but keep the regionals away from the Toledo’s where there probably won’t be that many people on any given year. They may get some turn out this year given the teams placed there but they could not (or should not) host a super regional if we were to go in that direction.

  • bronxbomberz41

    The problem of campus sites is more problematic out west, where hundreds of miles separate schools if you want to maintain some air of competitive balance, where as in the Northeast, its much more densely populated with schools. QU is small, but its close enough to the East and NE regionals where the fan base could make a day trip out of it for not a lot of cash. Merrimack College will bus their students around the area to get fans to the games. Orono is only a 3+ hour drive from Boston and there is a train that links from Brunswick and Portland to the basement of Boston Garden. You dont’ have that kind of ease out west. I don’t think the current regional system is perfect, but I don’t know if the alternative is better. If you truly want “regional” playoffs, then maybe for attendance purposes, you need to make the regionals and schools geographically tied. Only eastern teams in the East and NE, only teams Midwest teams in the midwest, and only western teams in the west.

    • Joseph Crowley

      Spot on. This is why the East and Northeast sites do well in the AHL-level buildings.I know that the Maine fans traveled well as far west as Albany for regionals.

      • http://www.facebook.com/jon.schaeffer Jon Schaeffer

        Did you see the X last year with UND and Minnesota there? The thing with most of the fans in the West we actually care, the east outside of Maine is a bunch of fair weather fans. BC’s first game of the HE playoffs was more then half empty at their own building… WCHA fans>HE+ECAC+AHA

        • andy

          I was going to call BS on you… but I checked the BC box score, and you’re right – 3k fans.

          EDIT- and I checked the WCHA quarterfinal the year before- 11,500 for a game between Denver and Michigan Tech in St Paul!

        • bronxbomberz41

          The BC fans aren’t fair weather fans, but for games against teams like Vermont or UMass, they don’t bring as many fans. But they average over 6000 per home game, and are the best draw around Hockey East for away games. Plus, UND and Minny are RIVALS, and rivalry games bring out more fans than usual. When BC and BU meet up in the Beanpot or in the HEA quarterfinals at the Garden, its usually packed. And when BC is playing another top ranked team like UNH, Notre Dame, or if they would actually come out and play, teams like UND or Minny, I’m sure it would be a packed house.

      • JakeB

        Maine always travels well here (Albany). So has Wisconsin, and Michigan. For Cornell, it’s like home ice here. BC and BU did once or twice in the in late 90s, early 2′s. Can’t remember anyone else standing out, though.

        • Joseph Crowley

          I was one of those people in a BU jersey at the Pepsi Arena. Good times!

          • JakeB

            5? period OT win vs St. Lawrence. DiPietro (both goalies actually) had 70+ saves. Maine fans stayed all night waiting for team to play next game. Great fans.

      • fightingsiouxforever

        There were 17,300 fans at the X on Thursday night, 18,900 on Friday night, and 18,300 on Saturday night for the WCHA tournament. This does not count the two afternoon games. It does not matter who plays during the tournament in St. Paul there is always better than 60,000 fans that attend the tournament. The Sioux and Gophers have fans that attend every game just because it is great hockey. Probably the best hockey to watch all year. There is not a tournament in the nation probably including the Frozen Four that even come close to the attendance of the WCHA Final Five. If the NCAA were concerned about attendance, and if they continue to put the Gophers and the Sioux in the same regional, they would put and keep the West regional at the X. Better yet, they would put and keep the Frozen Four there. I can guarantee you there would be a sellout every game and probably standing room only when the Sioux beat the Gophers. (Had to get that in somewhere). By the way, if the NCAA was concerned about attendance they would not be forcing the Gophers and Badgers to the Big Ten. As Lou Nanny said on the KFAN on Monday “the NCAA again has shown their stupidity”. He said this both about the move to the Big Ten and the placements and locations chosen for the tournament.

  • http://twitter.com/hipcheck1 hipcheck

    St. Paul should host every year. Attendance will be great and the fans actually want it. I don’t see why there has to be a host school that automatically gets placed. Have the X be the host and I guarantee that there will be at least one MN school or Wisco or ND that could be the anchor for the site and ensure attendance and atmosphere. I would drive from Madison every year if the Badgers were there. If you are concerned with MN getting home ice all of the time, make them go somewhere else to even it out.

    Then if you want to put a regional in Colorado every few years, St. Paul becomes the Midwest Regional.

    • jmsptrk

      Agreed. “If you are concerned with MN getting home ice all of the time….” then just seed the tournament and let the seeds fall where they may. (Even if that means, gasp!, Minnesota heads East or, gasp! gasp!, Boston College heads West.)

      • reardensteel

        Yeah, if we’re going to bother with seeds, then just seed it like a normal tournament.
        1-16, 2-15, etc. regardless of location or conference.

      • stod_2

        Totally agree. True hockey fans will show up no matter who is there. And if you just did two sites and hosted super regionals then it would give those fans even more great hockey to watch.

    • andy

      Have a Friday/Saturday morning regional in St Paul, and a late Saturday/Sunday regional in Grand Forks (or Fargo if you need to avoid “the rule”). Sell them both out.

      • stod_2

        Where would you do it in Fargo? In the dome? That would be a bad idea.

        • andy

          Scheels Arena has enough seats to accomodate the crowds from 3 out 4 regionals last year.

          • stod_2

            I hear what you are saying and have been there a couple of times. Nice place and i wish it had been there when I was playing hockey in the area. but the idea is to go to locations that can draw bigger crowds and help grow the sport in my eyes so that would not be an option in my opinion.

  • Joseph Crowley

    If the NCAA wants more attendance for the regionals, then two things must change.

    1) There should be 12-13 days between Selection Sunday and the first puck drop, not 5-6 days as it stands today.

    2) Find the “Western” solution that best fits the geography of the nWCHA, NCHC and BTHC.

    2a) West Regional – Minneapolis/St Paul, Denver, Milwaukee, The Ralph (yes make an exception for that building)

    2b) Midwest Regional – Detroit, Cleveland, Columbus, Pittsburgh

    With only five-six days to make travel plans, one should not be surprised that some teams travel less well to the regionals than to the Frozen Four. The Frozen Four has good attendance because there are people that make that their annual vacation.

    • Anti-NCAA

      No reason to make an exception for the Ralph anymore. The building has complied with all NCAA rulings and is eligible to host any venue. The NCAA-buttwipes just won’t let the facility be named as a site so they can continue to punish a school for standing up to them. REA could host a regional and have 10,000 fans in the stands each day!

      • Joseph Crowley

        The exception I was talking about was the host school on-campus rule. I, for one, look forward to games being played there in the NCAA. I hope to see BU play at the Ralph sometime in the future, in person. I think it will be a great experience, right up there with watching games at the Bell Centre in Montreal.

    • tape

      My biggest gripe: Friday first round games at 4:30pm aren’t helping anyone. It’s not like this is the basketball tournament and you have to break up 32 games + 16 games over four days. Just make the regionals Saturday and Sunday.

      • reardensteel

        Totally.
        8 games Sat; 4 games Sun; done.

  • andy

    Great post until the last paragraph! :)

    Canisius winning against Quinnipiac would be a modest upset. This is not a David versus Goliath matchup, this is a David versus slightly bigger David matchup. Now is either of those teams beat BC, that could be called an “upset of the tournament.”

    The only other “upset of the tournament” candidates I see are Yale vs MN and Niagra vs ND.

    • Nd

      Believe me the Atlantic League is way
      worse than the ECAC and yes, the Golden Griffins beating QU would be a
      MAJOR upset.

      Also, Union will beat BC on Saturday.First, they went to the Frozen Four last year, (Beating Hockey East UMass
      Lowell along the way) they actually WON their conference tournament this year! I saw Union play last weekend and they are right on track of where they were last year. Secondly, QU is playing better than BC this year too!

      BC is overrated this year and had a down season. Def. beatable. You forget Union was ranked 5 early this year, but had to adjust to a few players that left. Believe me this would be an even game with BC and Union and if Union wins it would be a slight upset.

      • reardensteel

        Every team is beatable.

  • DeWayne

    Have the entire tournament at a single (rotating) site each year instead of regionals. That way those who want to spend the $$ to travel can see all the games. Play for a week with the final four at the end of the weekend. Right now there’s too much time between the regionals and finals, not a great hockey tournament as it stands now.

    • reardensteel

      I’m not sure a single site would work all that well, but I have always disliked the weekend off between regionals and the FF.
      Seems like it destroys the momentum/rhythm.

      I suppose it does avoid direct competition w/ the b-ball Final Four.

  • reardensteel

    A lot of us have been going on about the pairings, including me.
    I still wish there were a WCHA team in each region.

    But the more I think about it, I keep coming back to the fact that you have to win 4 games in a row win the championship, no matter where or against whom.

    I know it’s kind of an accomplishment to make it to the FF, but it’s really just for bragging rights; there’s only one true prize at this tournament.

    So if you lose at any point before the end, you can’t complain.
    You have to beat the other team, no matter who they are.
    That’s what it means to be the champion – you won all four games.

    Is it disappointing to be one-and-done? Yes, of course.
    But it doesn’t mean you were cheated out of a championship.
    If you’d lost to that same team in the last game, you’d still have nothing.

    • andy

      While what you say has some truth to it, it’s a cop out response.

      To illistrate, look at #6 BC and #5 Miami. BC’s road to win is likely Union, Quinny, and then two competitive games. Putting probabilities on it, we’ll say they have an 80% chance to win the first two games, and the last two are coin flips. That means BC has a .8 * .8 * .5 * .5 = 16% chance to win. One seed BETTER than them, you find Miami with 4 cometitive games to win .5 * .5 * .5 * .5 = 6.25% chance. Why should BC get a nearly 3 times better probability to win than a team seeded better than them?

      At the end of the day, there’s not too much we can do about it. We have 5 conferences with vastly different abilities, and they don’t play eachother enough for a “true” picture of what their ranking should be. But hopefully this shows you why many people legitamately complain.

      • reardensteel

        Don’t get me wrong; I understand the complaints.
        And I see what you’re trying to illustrate with the math.
        Plus, it’s certainly harder to play two tough games in two days than to play one tough game and one easier game (which is why, btw, I completely agree that BC unfairly got by far the easiest draw).

        If it were up to me, the PWR would be used only to select the field. The seedings would be done with human brains. And the pairings would be set up accordingly, with no exceptions.

        All I was getting at was that if you lose, you can’t exactly argue that you shouldn’t have had to play that team.
        No matter which team you play, you have to beat them.
        The champion is not the best team; it’s the team that wins this tournament.

        I guess I’m just trying to get everyone to focus on their own team’s performance, esp. now that the brackets are set and we can’t change them.

        • JakeB

          ONLY a word of caution… From what I can gather (and I am no basketball fan), the NCAA human brain types did a wonderful job type seeding this year’s March Madness, right? Just saying, nothing is perfect, there will always be complaints. That said, no draw is easy this year… 1 or 2 major upsets are waiting to happen. I’ll let everyone “play Vegas”, I just want to see some great games. Only one 1st round matchup has two teams who have played this year, something can be said for that.

          • reardensteel

            I get you, and I agree that great hockey games are really what makes a good tournament.

            Honestly, if my team cruised through the whole thing, winning each game by a huge margin, it would not be as exciting as well played, closely matched contests.

            I still want my team to win, to be sure, but the beauty of sport is sort of lost in a blowout.

          • JakeB

            You seem to have consistently meaningful posts, so kudos, many on these blogs don’t get that. Outside of Minn, I don’t see a dominant team. I expect to see some great games because it is so wide open. Example: Everyone trashing BC for staying at home, and purposely being given an easy draw, is ridiculous. All the years Michigan, Minnesota, and UNH have benefited from being host schools, doesn’t warrant concern I suppose? 2 straight tournaments, an FF appearance, solid team D, an outstanding goalie… Union “should” give BC (or anyone) a hell of game. And It’s not just them. Notre Dame is playing well. UND is, well, UND! Lowell vs Wisconsin? Wow, the 1st round game I most want to see! The word is SCSU is very tough. Enough said… Enjoy it, let the games begin!

      • Nd

        No way!!! Union will beat BC on Saturday I promise you that. Secondly, they went to the Frozen Four last year, (Beating Hockey East UMass Lowell along the way) they actually WON their conference tournament this year! I saw Union play last weekend and they are right on track of where they were last year. Secondly, QU is playing better than BC this year too!

        This goes to Andy below too. Believe me the Atlantic League is way worse than the ECAC and yes, the Golden Griffins beating QU would be a MAJOR upset.

  • Nd

    How about stop putting the Regional rounds on EASTER weekend! Better yet, how about do a Saturday/ Sunday event because most people work on Fridays. Getting off to travel for a 3:00 game is not going to happen often.

    Also, 9:00 p.m. ET game time start for BC vs. Union before Easter weekend? Give me a break!!!

  • Dan

    Sorry to skip over all the other posts, but did this guy say Denver fans travel well? They don’t even travel to home games.

  • Joseph Crowley

    Some arena sizes for East/Northeast sites which are not home rinks for D-I programs:

    Verizon Wireless – Manchester NH 9.8k
    DCU Center – Worcester MA – 12.8k
    Dunkin Donuts Center – Providence RI – 12k
    XL Center – Hartford CT 16k
    Times Union Center – Albany NY – 17k
    Webster Bank Arena – Bridgeport CT – 10k
    Cumberland County Civic Center – Portland ME 6.7k
    MassMutual Center – Springfield MA 6.8k

    • bronxbomberz41

      I would love to see Portland/UMaine host a regional, its a great city and they love the Black Bears (and hockey in general). But I don’t think Portland meets the NCAA capacity requirements. Ditto for Springfield (though its definitely NOT a great city, but i’m sure UMass-Amherst would have loved to host there)

  • Snark_Week

    The NCAA Regionals should be held at fixed sites that are helpful geographically, and at smaller venues/AHL arenas that allow for easy travel for all teams in that region via plane, train or automobile.

    Each year you place a regional in the following areas.

    1) Boston

    2) Providence

    3) Minneapolis/St. Paul

    4) Omaha

    These places all have great “college-hockey” sized rinks that could be used as permanent sites. They’re used to hosting college hockey games, fans in those areas are used to making trips to those locations, and they’re easy to get to. You can plan ahead with tickets, and while it’s harder to satisfy the West due to it’s size, Denver or Colorado Springs could be another alternative (but is the altitude a problem?).

    With set sites (I’m indifferent to specifics, I think these are the easiest, but if you want an Albany or a Columbus knock yourself out) you see an increase of attendance, and even local people who “like hockey” can make a weekend out of it, if they know that each year there is a tournament game – not unlike Dayton for March Madness. They sell out (or come close) for the First Four games, why? Because they know it’s always there and they like it.

    That’s how you fix the NCAA attendance issues. It doesn’t effect the Frozen Four, because if one of those cities wants it, they move it into the NHL buildings.

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