College Hockey:
Committee hears coaches’ ideas on regionals, NCAA selection, but consensus lacking

As the saying goes, everything old is new again.

When the Division I men’s coaching body met last week during the annual American Hockey Coaches Association convention to discuss the hot topics in college hockey, two of the major themes centered around moving NCAA regional games back to campus sites and tweaking the selection criteria to reward teams for non-conference road wins.

Bonuses for road wins were a part of the formula as recently as 2007, and before the advent of regional play in 1992, all NCAA tournament games leading into the Frozen Four were played in home rinks. Since 2010, the NCAA regionals have been exclusively at neutral sites after 18 years of mixed campus and off-campus venues.

While those were major threads at the convention in Naples, Fla., trying to get 59 college hockey coaches to agree on anything can be an exercise in futility.

“There’s no consensus. There’s definitely a split in what people are thinking,” Michigan State coach Tom Anastos said. “I think the committee will have to decide what they’re going to prioritize.”

Changes to the selection criteria and regional sites were never going to be decided at the coaches’ meetings, but NCAA committee members were listening and have some more information to take into their sessions next month.

Some in the coaching fraternity have argued that it’s time to take first-round games back to campus sites, where fans of at least one of the teams can attend without significant travel.

This season, the combined attendance for the four regionals was 37,321, down 48 percent from 2012. The Yale-North Dakota regional final in Grand Rapids, Mich., drew only an announced 1,918 fans.

Other coaches are uncomfortable with the idea of giving an advantage to schools that would host opening-round games.

One proposed format included eight best-of-three series feeding into two regional sites.

Regionals have already been selected for the 2014 tournament, so any changes in tournament format that the NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey committee wouldn’t take effect for two seasons.

“What we’re trying to do as a committee is trying to think of what’s the best format for the tournament, what makes the tournament the best,” outgoing committee chair and Notre Dame senior associate athletic director Tom Nevala said. “And so that’s what we have to continue to debate. I think if we look at whether it’s our options for locations for regionals, ticket pricing, attendance, all the things over time, we’d realize that it can be better than it is today. And we’ve got to figure out how to make it better.”

Revamping the criteria?

At the same time, they might be looking at ways to make the formula that picks at-large teams for the tournament better.

The coaches talked about the concept of rewarding teams for road non-conference victories, which was one component of the selection criteria from 2003 to 2007.

The idea has new legs now because of concerns with the imbalance of hosting non-conference games. Last season, the 12 Atlantic Hockey teams hosted an average of only two non-conference games per team in their home rink; in the WCHA, the average was over four and a half games.

Bonus points toward a team’s Ratings Percentage Index for road victories could entice the bigger programs to schedule more road games, but it was a controversial piece of the selection criteria in the five years that it was in place.

Nevala said that the committee will see how some potential changes would have impacted past tournament selections, but the upcoming conference realignment makes those comparisons tricky.

“From our committee’s standpoint, we have to be very careful on that or any criteria change at this point using the current math,” Nevala said. “With the new conference alignment and varying the levels of non-conference games, we don’t know what the impact of that math will be.”

Among the outside-the-box ways to get more of a balance in scheduling was this idea: Disqualify any teams that play more than 60 percent of their non-conference games at home from NCAA tournament consideration. That concept, however, was a non-starter among the coaching body as a whole.

Minor discussions on rules

The rules committee is in the middle of a two-year rule book cycle, so no changes can be made this offseason.

There were some small discussions, however, on giving on-ice officials the ability to use video to review major penalties and ways to increase offense.

Anastos, the rules committee chair, said the most prominent idea presented to increase scoring opportunities was to not allow players to intentionally leave a skating position (i.e., kneel or lay down) to block shots.

Potential recruiting change opposed

The coaches also got an update on potential NCAA legislation changes, including one that could impact the recruiting competition with major junior teams.

Joe Bertagna, the Hockey East commissioner and AHCA executive director, said the NCAA could institute a 100-day limit on recruiting for college coaches. In that scenario, two of a team’s coaches recruiting on the same day would count as two of the 100 allowable days per season.

“We don’t want a recruiting calendar,” Bertagna said. “We certainly feel that our needs in recruiting against Canadian junior hockey are so unique that we can make a case that we shouldn’t be lumped in with everybody else.”

Bertagna emphasized that not only is hockey different from other Division I sports in recruiting, men’s hockey has a vastly different landscape than women’s hockey does.

Division I men’s college hockey teams have a lot of ground to make up by the time they’re able to contact recruits that may have been talking to major junior teams since the age of 13, Bertagna said.

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  • huckyfan

    If they want to increase offense in the game go to Olympic sized ice. I realize that out east there are very few rinks with Olympic sized ice, but the game is so much more fun to watch on the bigger ice. More up and down hockey and more room for skill players to make plays.

    • bronxbomberz41

      UNH games were always great on the oly sheet. Then they “pared down” the corners to make it less like an Olympic rink… I liked that wide-open feel.

      • Joe Crowley

        Which made it hard for UNH if they made it to the old Garden for HE playoffs, with the smaller than NHL-standard rink. Smaller rinks favor bigger, slower teams.

        • tape

          Granted they still play all of their road games on NHL-sized ice, so it’s not like they’re unfamiliar.

    • http://ndgoon.blogspot.com Goon

      if anything Olympic ice actually takes hitting out of the game and also takes seats out of the arenas, meaning less money. Not going to happen and NHL Ice is where it’s at.

  • A Shot and a Goal

    Trying to get more teams to play more non-conference games on the road becomes financially problematic. It costs money to take a team on the road and the financial reward for doing so–even if a team wins such a road game–may outweigh the benefit of going on the road.

    As for relocating NCAA playoff games to college campuses, I say “it’s about time.” I enthusiastically support that move and hope such a step is taken.

    I disagree with the proposal not to allow players “to leave a skating position” to block shots. For so-called “defensive defensemen” and forwards covering the points while trying to kill penalties, leaving their feet to block shots is a part of their defensive arsenal. If a defender leaves his feet in an attempt to block a shot the opposing player with the puck should seize the opportunity to skate around the “fallen” defender and then launch a shot or make a pass.

    • Joe Crowley

      Absolutely agree about shot-blocking. Also, I am sure the QMJHL, OHL and WHL would love the NCAA to institute a rule limiting the amount of shot-blocking experience a defensive forward or defenseman can gain. Think Kevin Shattenkirk from BU playing in St Louis. He recently scored his first playoff goal and the announcers were remarking how he is a defensive defenceman. If the NCAA pushes this rule in, will a player with similar talent go north of the border, knowing it might make a difference in his pro aspirations.

      Does the NCAA only want NHL caliber offensive players and goaltenders? Because that will be the selection process.

  • JamJam

    Multi-use buildings can’t commit to the small chance they will host a NCAA game; it’s basically lost revenue if that team doesn’t host a game.

    • Joe Crowley

      This is why the regionals, except for the XCEL, at held in large AHL rinks. Only the Frozen Four can guarantee enough paying customers to offset the costs of losing 5 nights at an NHL arena, with or without the NBA.

      As I am sure JamJam knows, the ice must be taken up so the advertisements can be removed. This includes the NHL team logo and the arena’s primary sponsor. Examples would be United Center/Chicago Blackhawks and TD Garden/Boston Bruins. Then the ice is remade. After the regionals, the ice must be taken back up again to repaint the ads.

      All other advertisements must be covered, including NBA, NHL and other banners, plus Beanpot banners at the Garden. No beer/alcohol can be sold, except in the high-powered luxury boxes.

      In a building that hosts 300+ events a year, it is economic waste to lose 5-6 straight nights for a limited attendance event where half of the concessions revenue is lost because the taps can be attached. Especially when there are NHL/NBA games to be played, along with concerts.

      • JamJam

        Apologies, should have been more specific. *Campus* multi-use arenas is what I meant, but you have valid points as well. In the case of the Badgers, the end of the hockey season also coincides with high school state championship time for which the Kohl Center is heavily used. Wisconsin is not going to forgo that guaranteed revenue just to hold an open weekend for a potential regional.

  • Powers

    Why this obsession with increasing offense? It’s not like there are 0-0 ties happening all the time like soccer.

  • Richard

    100 day limit on recruiting is more than enough, these coaches are watching these guys from the age of 14 and not like other sports many of these young men don’t start there hockey career until they reach the age of 20 or 21. Its all about the money, how about taking away scholarships from those teams that is not graduating players. I bet if you take a look at Hockey its the lowest NCAA major sports with the lowest graduation rate.

  • Minny

    Take the entire tournament and move it to Minnesota. Sell out the Xcel Energy Center for two consecutive weekends. Everyone wins

    • bronxbomberz41

      except all the fans in the northeast of course.

    • Joe Crowley

      There seem to be enough people watching in Manchester, Providence, Worcester and New Haven to make for a decent crowd. The real problem is geography.

    • GopherBulldogHockey

      The X is a good idea for us fans out west because it’s in the middle of west and fans will come to watch anyone that is playing because it is hockey. A big problem seemed to be in the Ohio, Michigan area where attended was not as great as it was expected, maybe because Michigan shouldn’t count as a western site, but the NCAA assumes that teams like Minny and NoDak are just gonna drop everything and run wherever their playing, it doesn’t work that way. The NCAA really needs to consider where hockey is big enough to draw attendance to fill a rink and fast because watching these regional games and seeing all these open seats is a joke.

  • matt

    Putting in some kind of bonus for OOC road wins is a solid idea. The current problem is that teams are rewarded with tourney spots not so much for being better, but for playing more at home. Thus the obvious disconnect this year between teams that qualified for the tournament, and teams that won games once there.

    • lmg6841

      If you weighed OOC wins more favorably then you could have seen three Atlantic Hockey teams in the NCAA tournament this year. OH NOES.

      • matt

        Considering that both AHA teams in the tourney this year lost by a single goal on third period comebacks, I’m not so sure that would have been a bad thing…

        Certainly we would not have had 6 WCHA teams, and teams like the eventual NC would have gotten a bit more credit.

    • http://www.facebook.com/sean.cosgrove.104 Sean Cosgrove

      I mean, let’s get real for a second. Just because teams with lower seeds advanced, doesn’t mean that they weren’t given the appropriate seed. Lots of things can happen in a single elimination tournament. Yale made a hell of a run, and played very well in that tournament, but I don’t think they win a best of seven series vs any of the teams that they defeated on the way to the national championship.

      • matt

        You clearly didn’t watch the games, then. Yale cleanly outplayed all of its opponents in the tournament, especially North Dakota and Lowell. Did you not notice them outshooting Lowell 23-3 in the last 27 minutes of that game?

        Considering that Yale went 5-0-1 against the WCHA and Hockey East this season without a home game in the bunch, the idea that they wouldn’t win a best of 7 against any of the teams that they defeated in the tourney, is self-evidently silly.

        But it wasn’t just Yale: Several other teams that also have to play most of their OOC games on the road also outplayed their seeding, while teams that feasted at home didn’t do quite so well on neutral ice.

        IMHO, if there’s a bit of sugar in there to enhance road OOC wins, it’s a win-win. The tourney will likely get better selections, and there’ll be more interesting in-season OOC matchups — including more where the big “name” teams actually travel. I’d think that that is good for the game.

        • http://www.facebook.com/sean.cosgrove.104 Sean Cosgrove

          I went to Bemidji State, and they went on a run to the frozen four a few years ago. It doesn’t mean they were one of the best four teams even though they beat #1 seed Notre Dame 5-1 and Cornell 4-1. Bemidji State had Miami’s number for a few years winning 4 out of 5 when Miami was ranked in the top 5. It doesn’t mean they were a better team.

          Yale went 12-9-1 in a conference which was extremely top heavy. They also lost two out of three in the conference tournament which they felt they needed to win to lock up a playoff spot. Their strength of schedule definitely helped them get in, but to say that since they had a good run against decent teams, and a bad run against mediocre/bad teams means that they’re one of the best teams in the country is a little silly. And according to the power rankings they went 10-10-3 vs teams in the top 30 and lost 3 times vs the team they beat in the national championship. Did something happen between mid-March and mid-April that made Yale a much better team? Maybe, but probably not. I would chalk it up to a good run considering they did win 2 games in overtime which if you figure is a coin flip, Yale is only going to win both 1/4 of the time.

          So, do you think the University of Minnesota should get bonus points if they schedule away games vs Bemidji State, Michigan Tech the Alaska teams and Alabama Huntsville just because they’re playing on the road out of their conference? It would be nice if the big schools would travel more outside of their conference but I think the intent of giving smaller programs more credit for winning on the road will also give an incentive for big programs to schedule cupcake road games where they’re pretty sure they’ll get at least 3 points in a weekend. Also, college hockey is only a money maker at a handful of schools. Most teams break even or lose money so only schools willing to lose more money will travel when they don’t have to. This is especially true for teams out west who have to make long trips to play a lot of their conference games.

          • matt

            The ECAC wasn’t especially top-heavy (with the exception of Quinnipiac), that’s a jaded perspective of Westerners who gave no respect, and a bit of a result of the scheduling imbalances. Cornell, the 9th place team, easily took out Colorado College at home, and won two more against CCHA teams (one of which, as I recall, ended up in the CCHA final). Harvard — the last place team in the ECAC — took out BU twice. And there are plenty more examples from teams not at the top of the ECAC.

            Evidence was that the ECAC was every bit as strong as WCHA this year.Considering that the ECAC finished 10-7-1 against the WCHA straight up, despite having only 2 home games among the 18 total played, that’s hardly overstating it. But WCHA had 6 teams in, while ECAC was fortunate to get 3. Even now, to read comments here, you’d think that reality were somehow flipped on its head.

            So long as the TUC element remains intact, it’s easy to overcome any worries about cupcakes, anyway.

          • http://www.facebook.com/sean.cosgrove.104 Sean Cosgrove

            Yeah, I suppose you’re right about the TUC. And the Gophers will have to schedule more challenging non conference games, just in case 4 of the 6 teams in the Big Ten are mediocre like they were this last year where Minnesota and Wisconsin were the only ones ranked in the top 15. But, the Gophers also have a significant TV contract, a fan base which brings almost 10k to the arena every game and teams that want to travel to play there. It doesn’t make much sense for them to travel out East, to play in a rink which holds 3,000 fans and the school doesn’t get paid any TV money. The only schools where that makes sense are Boston, Boston College, Maine and New Hampshire. What would you do if you were doing business for North Dakota or Minnesota?

          • matt

            North Dakota played at Cornell not too long ago, so I don’t necessarily think they’d be opposed to occasional travel. It might even become a bit more necessary for the teams in the new conference, now that the B1G teams have split.

            Neutral site games are always possible (and could be perhaps considered similarly to road games), too. Yale has two games at Prudential Center and one at MSG next year… all against Ivy teams. I kinda think that some Western teams might be interested in having a date at one of those venues (or a spot in a 4-team tourney).

          • http://www.facebook.com/sean.cosgrove.104 Sean Cosgrove

            Minnesota has had a history of hosting at least one 4 team tourney every year at Mariucci. They are however starting a 4 team tourney at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul vs 3 of the 4 other Minnesota teams, but that’s not exactly neutral when it’s 10 miles from campus. And then they schedule a series vs the team which was excluded. This year they travel to Bemidji. So, I don’t know how much room is on the schedule for another away series when they have those three weekends locked up, a few series vs Minnesota teams in the NCHC and WCHA and 20 conference games. They are traveling to Notre Dame this year and I assume BC next year since they came to Minnesota for one game last year and they’re coming for a series this year. I just don’t see much room on the schedule to play some of the smaller programs out east when they couldn’t even pencil in North Dakota this year which is pretty lame.

        • tape

          The Lowell-Yale Frozen Four game was the first time in well over a month that I felt as if Lowell had no chance to win. Aside from that minute-long stretch when Lowell did all of their scoring, Yale completely dominated every aspect of the game.

  • Joe Crowley

    If the NCAA were SERIOUS about attendance, then there would be an additional week between conclusion of the regular season and the regionals. If they did that and scrapped the two week delay between regional finals and Frozen Four, attendance would improve.

    The conference tournaments, in general, have excellent attendance because you know where they will be, you can have a good idea who will be playing and you will see good hockey with a good crowd, even if you team does not make the conference semis.

    As it stands today, conferences crown their champion Saturday or Sunday, then the tournament selection committee places the sixteen teams late Sunday night. The first puck drop is Thursday afternoon. How many hockey fans can find out they need to go east to Manchester/Providence/Worcester/New Haven on four days notice and make good travel plans that do not break the bank? Same for eastern fans having to get to Minneapolis/Grand Rapids/Green Bay/St Louis/etc.

    Frozen Four attendance does just fine because it is destination travel for many fans. Conference tournament attendance does just fine because it is “local”, depending on your geographic identity and because it is destination travel.

    If one has to fly, short notice means an extra $500/person. Rational fans would stay home and buy a new TV, splurging for a trip to the Frozen Four if your team makes it there.

    There is a reason the NCAA Basketball tournament has sub-regionals in North Carolina just far away enough from UNC and Duke to allow them by rule to go there. Attendance.

    • atlsioux

      Not a bad idea. But I also like the No. 1 seed in each regional hosting that regional. Yes, it gives them an advantage but they earned home ice by being the No. 1 seed. Sell only 3-game package tickets and you’re almost guaranteed a sellout for every regional.

      • reardensteel

        I think they already sell only 3-game ticket packages. Can anyone confirm?

        • tape

          The Manchester regional this year was only sold as the full 3-game package. I can only assume the other regionals were sold the same way as the NCAA sets the whole thing up.

  • lmg6841

    Hmmm, if you bump up OOC win favoring it looks like we may be getting more big-named teams coming to Rochester. Heck, even AIC may get some more visits >.< hahaha

  • Joe Crowley

    Trying to get a consensus about on-campus versus neutral sites is a hard thing to do, especially with the school host rule. If I had the power, I would do the following:
    1) Have the Northeast and East regional hosts rotate between Hockey East, ECAC and AHA, in a manner that suits these three leagues best.
    2) Have the Midwest and West regional hosts rotate between WCHA, BTHC and NCHC.
    3) Have the six leagues submit there criteria for placing the seeds from their league based on a simple formula submitted before the season starts. For example, if NCHC hosts at the Ralph, they determine whether North Dakota gets place there in the 2nd, 3rd or 4th bands. Of course, if they are the 1st band, they would get placed there. Imagine the chaos this year if Brown won the ECAC tournament and hosted in Providence.
    4) Have the two pods of leagues determine whether they desire neutral ice, campus sites or both. In the Northeast/East, only BC has a suitable rink, if you discount the fog that sometimes occurs.
    4a) Northeast/East probably will maintain Manchester NH, Worcester MA, Providence RI, Bridgeport CT, Albany NY in their inventory, and should add Hartford CT, Buffalo NY and Pittsburgh PA to the mix.
    4b) I do not know the proper rinks for Midwest/West, but suspect XCEL, Ralph, U Wisconsin would be a good inventory, possibly with Denver, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Columbus. Others can give a better list, since I do not know the lay of the land out west.
    5) The long-term goal should be TD Garden, Madison Square Garden and Buffalo NY for Northeast/East, Joe Louis Arena, XCEL, Ralph, United Center and Pepsi Center for Midwest/West in no particular order. This would meet the attendance that basketball has. It might take 20 years to get there, but that should be the goal. We know that the Beanpot, Hockey East championships, WCHA and CCHA championships fill large buildings. We know the Frozen Four fills large buildings, even far away from any campus.

    • tape

      “In the Northeast/East, only BC has a suitable rink”

      huh? what is your definition of “suitable”?

  • Ed Mulrenan

    Drop cities like the Wisconsin’s cities whose fans that stayed home in the regionals where Univ. Of Wisc. failed to make the regional a few years ago. Obviously reward cities like Bridgeport Ct. with yearly hosting rights when a lot of fans show up no matter who is in the Bpt. Ct. and other regionals. As much as I like Yale winning the Western regional by beating such Midwest powerhouses as Minn. Univ. and North Dakota , Yale should have been in the eastern based regionals.

  • dcSIOUXfan

    Is the link in this sentence supposed to go to an example of the proposed 2 regional format “One proposed format included eight best-of-three series feeding into two regional sites.”? It does not work.

  • http://twitter.com/Johndhjr john holt

    and so the big ten begins its move to destroy the fairness and equality shared by all D1 hockey confernces, where the coveted National Title is at stake, The current system, aside from and I agree with returning to team hosted venues, is other wise fine. The Big ten elected to invest in having all of their teams in single, SMALL confernce. This is an attmept by the Big Ten to use a none confernce shcedual to block out other schools. Therefore it should be proposed that any confernce with fewer than 9 member teams be allowed but ONE team and ONE team only post season play. That team bieng the confernce champion. All confernces should have their champions advance, thus keeping confernce play as the focus and most coveted way to enter the post season. Those confernce with 10 or members shall have their membership vote on which second team to advance. Leaving other open slots to a selection comitte.
    We can not allow Hockey and the ingeratiy of the championship to be degraded by so few.

    • Anti-NCAA

      Already is that way, John. NCAA rules state that leagues with less than 8 teams do not automatically advance to the national tournament as their league champion unless the team also makes the RPI/Pairwise.

      So it seems that Minnesota, Michigan, or Wisconsin can lose out to Penn State in the league championship and the Big Ten would not have representation at the national tourney unless Penn State was already a ranked team.

      • Joe Crowley

        I assume that if BTHC existed this year and Michigan against Minnesota or Wisconsin was the championship game, with the same Pairwise rankings, the following would happen with a Michigan win
        1) BTHC would lose the autobid for the conference tournament
        2) Minnesota would make the tournament as an at-large bid
        3) Wisconsin would make the tournament as an at-large bid
        4) Michigan would not qualify for the tournament if it was not top-16 in the Pairwise
        5) It would not matter about lower autobids making the tournament from other leagues, e.g. the BTHC Conference Champion would only need to be top-16 Pairwise
        6) Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State would not qualify due to Pairwise.

        Given this, it sounds like the BTHC autobid should be awarded to regular season champion until two more Big Ten programs field a D-I hockey program. BTHC Conference Tournament seems to have little meaning other than moving up or down in the pairwise at the conclusion of the regular season and handing out a pretty trophy.

        It is beyond the pale that something like a Minnesota/Wisconsin or Michigan/Michigan State final might make no difference to getting invited to the NCAA if one or both teams are below top-16 in Pairwise.

    • reardensteel

      I think you over-estimate the influence the Big Ten has in college hockey.

  • reardensteel

    “…not allow players to intentionally leave a skating position (i.e., kneel or lay down) to block shots.”

    Are you kidding?
    That’s just dumb.

    Aside from the silliness of not being able to block a shot, can you imagine the endless outrage over the subjectivity in determining whether a defenseman had fully left a “skating position” or whether it was done intentionally?
    It’s bad enough that a goal may be scored off an offensive player’s skate, but not intentionally, only incidentally.

    How ’bout we just make the goalie’s pads a more reasonable size, like they used to be?
    There are lots of better things to tweak than that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joe.brock.370 Joe Brock

    Play a Regional in the State of Maine! They are worried about empty arenas but Maine seems to be on a permanent “ban list” or something.

    • Joe Crowley

      Cumberland County Civic Center is a nice (older) building where I watched many Mariners/Pirates games, but it does not have the seating capacity required by the NCAA.

      Androscoggin Bank Collisee in Lewiston will be hosting the D-III Championships in 2014, which is probably the max event it should host, along with the Maine HS Championships.

      Portland as a regional host city would be quite awesome, but unfortunately, the CCCC is not up to the task of actually holding the games. It would be a lively crowd of ~6700 with decent sight lines but the powers that be will not make it happen.

      If the CCCC were replaced with a 12,000-seat state of the art arena, Portland would be in the mix with Manchester, Worcester, Providence and Bridgeport.

  • http://ndgoon.blogspot.com Goon

    The Shot blocking idea is stupid.

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