College Hockey:
TMQ: When winning isn’t enough at a regular season tournament

Massachusetts-Lowell’s victories over Clarkson and Canisius weren’t enough to win a title last weekend (photo: Melissa Wade).

Here’s our weekly look at big events and big issues around Division I men’s college hockey.

Todd: In the last few days we’ve seen some teams crowned as champions of holiday tournaments, and most of those events did it the old-fashioned way by matching the first day’s winners in a championship game. In Vermont, however, Massachusetts-Lowell left the Catamount Cup with a pair of victories but without the trophy.

The host Catamounts didn’t have to play their Hockey East counterparts but took the title because they scored more goals in wins over Clarkson and Canisius than the River Hawks did. Is it too much to ask of a tournament to be decided in a tournament format?

Jim: I will say that I don’t really like predetermined matchups in tournaments. I totally understand why Vermont did as such — it didn’t want to face a Hockey East team that it’ll have to face again in the regular season. But it certainly made for a strange situation where Kevin Sneddon called timeout while leading 5-2, trying to figure out how to score goal No. 6.

Same, for me, goes for shootout in tournaments. I understand coaches don’t want to play extremely long overtime games in the regular season but there is just so much more excitement to me for overtime, double overtime, triple overtime, etc., games than shootouts provide. I’ve never been a fan of deciding a championship in an individual skills competition. Do you like or dislike shootouts used for regular-season tournaments?

Todd: I’m all for shootouts to decide the third-place game, but I think when you’re playing for a championship, even if it’s just a holiday tournament championship, you should play like they’re playoff games.

And that’s coming from someone who’s not against shootouts at all. I just think the championship of the Great Lakes Invitational, where Western Michigan beat Michigan Tech in overtime, was a better way to decide things than the Florida College Hockey Classic, in which Cornell beat Maine in a shootout.

Since I mentioned Western Michigan, it was a pretty impressive weekend for the Broncos, who beat then-No. 3 Michigan 3-2 in overtime in the semifinals (before the game could get to a shootout) and then outlasted Michigan Tech 1-0 in overtime in the championship game. Three of the four games in that tournament went beyond regulation time, giving all of those outside at Detroit’s Comerica Park a little extra to watch. The Broncos still have a lot of work to do to get back in the NCHC race, but it was a good start to the second half.

Jim: I admit I had pretty high expectations for Western Michigan this season that, to date, the team hasn’t lived up to at all. After being idle this weekend, the Broncos will get a strong NCHC test right away against Miami, so we’ll possibly have an indication whether this team is ready for a second-half run.

You mentioned the GLI and it being outdoors this year at Comerica Park. So continues the annual outdoor game season. I remember the day when these games were special. Last week, less than 4,000 people came out to watch Bentley and Holy Cross at 38,000-plus-seat Fenway Park. This weekend, Hockey East’s premier Frozen Fenway matchups may face up to 20 inches of snow. At the same time, rumors have it that ticket sales at Fenway for the Hockey East games (sellouts in the past) have been less than brisk. Are we at the point that maybe even the fans are ready to admit that these outdoor games have become passé? I got a lot of flak for saying that two years ago during the last Frozen Fenway. But at this point I just wish hockey would be played indoors. Maybe I am the college hockey Scrooge.

Todd: Hey, I’m right there with you. I can see the charm in a first-time location but the Fenway thing is a been-there, done-that kind of thing. And by playing outdoors on a temporary rink that’s probably going to need some repair work that’ll delay the game, what you’re telling me is that the spectacle is more important than the game. To me, that’s not the right approach.

Before we wrap up, I wanted to mention the World Junior Championship. The Americans are 3-0 heading into Tuesday’s game against Canada, a game that’ll decide which team wins the group. Are you surprised at the results so far for the U.S., which returned just three players from last year’s gold medal-winning team?

Jim: I don’t think any results ever surprise me in the World Juniors simply because you never know what type of chemistry that a team — even a team of talented, young superstars — will develop in such a short period of time.

I give Jim Johannson and the USA Hockey staff a lot of credit in identifying the talent and developing the chemistry that they have in recent years. This tournament was completely irrelevant in the U.S. less than a decade ago. Today, most college hockey fans follow the results closely (if not watch the games on NHL Network if their schedule allows). That is a significant stride not just for this tournament but for hockey in the United States.

Todd: As for hockey that’s being played back in the U.S. this week, there’s a chance we’ll see a No. 1-vs.-No. 2 matchup in the Mariucci Classic if No. 1 Minnesota and No. 2 Ferris State both get the same result in their semifinal games Friday. The Bulldogs held their own against Michigan a few weeks ago; I’ll be interested to see if they do the same against the Gophers. What stands out to you on this week’s schedule?

Jim: The other two teams in the Mariucci — Colgate and Rensselaer — makes this a good tournament field. One interesting series this week will take place in Lowell, where the River Hawks will play two against Clarkson. The two teams just played one another in the Vermont tournament, making this three straight these two top teams will play. And even though I have criticized the venue for Frozen Fenway, there is little doubt that the Boston College-Notre Dame rivalry with league points on the line will be a great game to watch.

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  • River Hawkey

    Did UMass lose a shootout to Quinnipiac in the first round of the UConn Tournament? The score was a 2-2 tie, but Quinnipiac advanced.

    • John

      Yes, there was a shootout to determine who would go to the tournament final.

      • River Hawkey

        Thank you John.

  • Spider Monkey 86

    That was still an awesome ending to the Catamount Cup. I’m pretty sure that just how Kevin drew it up

  • riverhawk02

    As a River Hawk fan, the only trophies I care about are awarded in March and April. Two more wins goes a long way towards that goal and would gladly give away the Catamount Cup for even the the chance to see that happen.

    • River Hawkey

      I felt the same way about the game. I was happy to see that UVM had a live video feed for all of the games. Thank you UVM. I was able to watch the Patriots game and UML v. Clarkson at the same time.

  • River Hawkey

    Jim and Todd, I am not sure you can compare a non-advertised game with two teams that average 400 people per game (HC Bentley) with the four advertised Hockey East matches with teams that average 4,000 per game. I could not get seats in the Lowell section for Frozen Fenway, so I will assume there will be about 15 to 20,000 at Fenway, which will be fantastic. Also, if the players had a choice, what do you think they would choose? Yes, 100% would choose to play at Fenway.

    • ChuckGandCrew

      Don’t worry, the whole place will be the Lowell section. NEU won’t get 2,000 fans to turn out in their backyard.

  • Catamounts

    UVM didn’t want to play Mass-Lowell as they probably would lose. Simple as that.

  • BigJackGoff

    Yeah – Maine lost their Tourney in a shootout: IN THE 9TH ROUND !!!!!!

  • ChuckGandCrew

    Nice conversation, a few points to be made. While Hockey East gets more press in general, the schools need to show their support for these events (tournaments, frozen Fenway etc) for their to be a decent turn out. This is why no one showed up to see Bentley v HC. It’s really too bad, Bentley has some real talent there and almost no one in the school cares about College Hockey. I can’t speak for HC. But this semester at Bentley there were no announcements, maybe A flier posted on a crowded message board, but that’s about it regarding Frozen Fenway. And they just beat BU. Too bad, really.

    The other point/question I had us why was Hellebuyck not picked for the jr’s?

    • Chris Lerch

      I think it’s relative. Holy Cross and Bentley have rinks that seat 1,400 and 1,200, respectively and typically draw between 500 and 800 fans per game. Considering those numbers, for a game played when both schools are on break, 4,000 looks pretty good.

      • River Hawkey

        I agree. 4,000 is great, especially since it was not advertised anywhere. Bentley is playing very well. I am glad that Lowell is not playing them this year.

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