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Call interference on prolonged dump-and-chase contact, officials reminded

A midseason memo tries to clear up some NCAA hockey rules questions (photo: Shelley M. Szwast).

College hockey officials recently got a reminder to call penalties on defenders who don’t immediately release an opponent on a dump-and-chase situation.

In a December conference call for national and conference supervisors of officials, it was mentioned that the standard of enforcement for that kind of interference may be slipping.

A four-page memo from Michigan State coach Tom Anastos, the chair of the NCAA ice hockey rules committee, and Steve Piotrowski, the secretary-rules editor went out earlier this month to clarify the rule on dump-and-chase contact.

The emphasis seems to be on penalizing the delayed contact with a player after he or she sends the puck deep into the zone.

The memo read, in part:

The committee’s consensus is that defenders should be allowed to engage/bump/contact an attacking player “immediately” after the puck is released on a dump in, but players are expected to release the attacker and pursue the puck or retreat following this initial contact. The same standard would be applied regardless of whether or not the attacking player was knocked down. However, it ultimately was decided that the “immediacy” of the contact continues to be a determination made by the officials on a case-by-case basis.

Therefore, as a reminder, immediate contact may be made against the attacking player who dumps the puck past a defender. The defender is obligated to release immediately so as not to be guilty of interference. The standard is no longer two seconds or two strides after releasing the puck. It should be noted that allowing offensive players more freedom here must not be taken as license to create collisions at higher speed.

We’ll see whether that results in more interference penalties in the final two-plus months of the season.

The midseason memo also addressed:

• When a whistle should blow and where a faceoff should take place when a puck is deliberately batted with the hand or a high stick into a goaltender.

• Helmet safety.

• Assessing a penalty when the offending player can’t be identified.

• And procedures for teams leaving the ice after a period.

Check out the full explanations for those here.

Weighing the long-term value of a stellar start to the season

Harvard’s Merrick Madsen (31) and Kyle Criscuolo are part of one of four Division I men’s teams to post a zero- or one-loss record at the break (photo: Shelley M. Szwast).

Here’s a philosophical question to ponder as we await the return of Division I men’s college hockey games on Dec. 28:

What’s the value of a great start to the season if it doesn’t come with a great finish?

Getting to the holiday break unbeaten or with one loss is a noteworthy accomplishment and puts a team on path for an NCAA tournament spot even if the second half is bumpy.

Four teams have made it to that point this season: defending national champion Providence, Quinnipiac, Cornell and Harvard. That’s the same number that had one loss or fewer at the break in the previous 12 seasons combined.

I was able to find full national standings at the holiday break for the 14 previous seasons, and there were a total of seven one-loss teams over that span.

All seven made the NCAA tournament, three of them as the No. 1 overall seed.

None of the seven won the national championship. Only one — Cornell in 2002-03 — made it to the Frozen Four.

Here’s the list of zero- or one-loss teams at the break since 2001, with this season’s quartet included:

Year
Count
Teams
20154Providence (12-0-3), Quinnipiac (15-1-2), Cornell (8-1-2), Harvard (6-1-3)
20141Harvard (9-1-2)
20130
20120
20110
20101Yale (11-1)
20090
20081Cornell (7-1-2)
20070
20061Minnesota (15-1-3)
20050
20040
20030
20023North Dakota (16-1-1), Cornell (10-1), Maine (13-1-2)
20010

That being said, there have been some quality first halves recently by future national champions. Union and Minnesota-Duluth were 12-3-3 at the break before winning titles in 2013-14 and 2010-11, respectively. Boston College was 10-3-2 in 2009-10 and a somewhat more modest 12-6 in 2011-12.

Still, it’s probably true that if your best games of the season are in October, November and December, you’re not going to go far in March.

A note on our new look and that 20 in the logo

Last week, we changed some things around the site, and it’s just the beginning of a transformation around here.

We rolled out our new logo on the site and our social media channels, and if you’re wondering about the “20″ on the right side, that’s a reference to this being our 20th season covering college hockey. (For more on the founding of USCHO and its precursor, check out this story.)

Some color changes came along with the new logo, and we’re using a new font in the menu bar.

It’s a first step in a process of remaking USCHO. We’re working on a new look for the site as a whole that we hope will be a better experience on desktop and mobile platforms. And there’s a lot of under-the-hood work going on to improve site performance.

It’s hard to put into words how appreciative we are of everyone following USCHO for all these years as we do our best to cover the game we all love. If you ever have questions, comments, suggestions, news tips or the like, drop me a line at todd.milewski@uscho.com or @ToddMilewski on Twitter.

The preseason poll’s 5.6 percent problem

This is the point each season where I get to trot out the historic futility that is the preseason No. 1 spot in the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll.

With Monday’s release of the 2015-16 version showing Boston College atop the rankings, we’ve had 19 preseason polls. Of the previous 18, only once has the preseason No. 1 gone on to win the national championship that season (Minnesota, 2003).

One for 18. That’s 5.6 percent. Even the worst power play in Division I men’s college hockey last season, owned by Lake Superior State, was better than that — 8.1 percent.

We all know that polls have no value beyond the peek at how those who coach, cover and work in college hockey perceive things. But we see how perception at one end of the season rarely matches reality at the other end.

Here’s a look at the preseason No. 1s in the 19 years of the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll:

Season
Preseason No. 1
National champion
Champ in
preseason poll
Teams getting
first-place
votes
1997-98North DakotaMichigan91
1998-99Boston CollegeMaine85
1999-2000Boston CollegeNorth Dakota46
2000-01North DakotaBoston College44
2001-02Michigan StateMinnesota43
2002-03MinnesotaMinnesota15
2003-04MinnesotaDenver134
2004-05MichiganDenver78
2005-06DenverWisconsin106
2006-07Wisconsin/Boston CollegeMichigan State58
2007-08North DakotaBoston College25
2008-09Boston CollegeBoston University95
2009-10DenverBoston College125
2010-11Boston CollegeMinnesota-Duluth83
2011-12Notre DameBoston College57
2012-13Boston CollegeYaleNR3
2013-14UMass-LowellUnion166
2014-15MinnesotaProvidence35
2015-16Boston College??????10

That last column on the right piqued my interest. This seemed like a season when there would be a number of different teams atop preseason ballots, and that was true more than ever before.

All of the teams that made the Frozen Four last year lost key parts of what got them to that point, be it a Hobey Baker Award winner or the starting goaltender. So Providence, Boston University, North Dakota and Omaha weren’t necessarily trendy picks this season, but they did combine for 13 of the 50 first-place votes.

The majority of voters looked elsewhere, and Boston College’s combination of returning experience and incoming talent apparently caught a lot of eyes.

Then again, having one-sixth of the Division I men’s teams get at least one first-place vote shows you that there’s no overwhelming favorite to be the last team standing in Tampa in April.

You could make a great case that it’ll be Boston College — it’s another even-numbered year, after all — but given the track record of the preseason No. 1s, I wouldn’t put the house on it.

Take a shot at predicting the order of the preseason USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll

USCHO’s 20th season of covering Division I men’s hockey starts in earnest next week with previews of some players to watch this season, followed by team and conference previews starting Oct. 4.

But we’ll kick things off Monday with the preseason USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll, and I’m not sure we’re going to have much of a consensus there.

This seems like a season where, going in, any number of teams could be predicted to win the national championship. You have strong contenders among the pack of schools that’s always in contention, and in recent years you’ve had a number of programs taking the final step toward championship status.

So let’s see if anyone can predict what the top 20 will look like on Monday. Fill in the form below with your picks (please avoid acronyms like MSU and UND that could represent two schools), and we’ll see if anyone matches the final result.

There’s no prize here, other than my deep respect for anyone who correctly picks all 20 spots. And I’ll mention your name and location in a follow-up post if you include it below.

The 2015-16 Division I men’s season gets a soft launch

The first regular season game of the 2015-16 season is Oct. 3 (photo: Melissa Wade).

On Tuesday, the 2015-16 season started to get real for Division I men’s teams.

When the calendar hits Sept. 15, coaches are allowed to direct full-squad practices for the first time, only in a limited capacity. Teams get two hours per week of skill instruction per week between Sept. 15 and the official start of the season, which this season is on Oct. 3.

(See the season’s composite schedule here.)

Here’s how Tuesday’s activities looked on Twitter:

At defending national champion Providence:

At Robert Morris:

 

At Western Michigan:

At Connecticut:

 

At Minnesota:

At Notre Dame:

 

At Michigan Tech:

At Michigan:

 

At Michigan State:

At Mercyhurst:

 

 

 

At Bowling Green:

Some coaches weighed in:

 

 

 

At Alaska-Anchorage, the players started getting used to their new locker room surroundings:

At Rochester Institute of Technology, workers added some noise:

 

And at home rinks around college hockey, new coats of paint were prepared:

 

With NCAA seeking 2017 regional hosts, is push for change stalled?

Providence made it to the 2015 Frozen Four by winning the East Regional in Providence (photo: Matt Eisenberg).

When the NCAA last awarded Frozen Fours and regionals nearly two years ago, it deliberately avoided the 2017 and 2018 regionals, thinking there might be a new tournament system in place by then.

Calls for on-campus NCAA tournament games were getting louder, fueled by small crowds and unmemorable atmospheres for regionals at predetermined neutral sites.

An “overwhelming majority” of coaches, however, said this offseason that they didn’t want to see any changes to the regional format.

So we’re back to a bidding process for the 2017 regionals, with the window for proposals to be submitted by host sites closing last Friday. The winning sites are expected to be announced in September. (Bid documents can be found here and here.) The NCAA still has neutral-site venues with NHL-sized ice surfaces as priorities.

North Dakota athletic director Brian Faison, the chair of the NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Committee, said in March that he would push for the tournament to include games at home sites. But it became clear in the weeks following that it wasn’t as clear-cut as that.

Before the Northeast Regional in Manchester, N.H., Yale coach Keith Allain made an emphatic case for keeping things as they are.

“I think it would be a terrible thing to move these games to campus sites,” said Allain, whose school has hosted multiple regionals in Bridgeport, Conn., but has never come away from those as regional champion. “It’s exciting to come to these venues that we don’t get the chance to play in often.

“If you put it on a campus site, it’s a tremendous advantage for the team that is hosting. They’re in their own locker room, they’ve got their own fans. I think it takes away from the national feel of a national tournament. It becomes just a regular college hockey tournament. So I would be totally against it.”

The 2016 regionals are already set for Albany, N.Y., Worcester, Mass., Cincinnati and St. Paul, Minn. — all familiar venues for the tournament. But familiar hasn’t necessarily meant successful in attendance or atmosphere in recent years, and that’s why some have called for a new look.

But that idea, it seems, is at least temporarily on the back burner.

With cost of attendance stipend in place (in some places), we wait to see impact

Bowling Green is one of the schools giving its players full cost of attendance stipends in the 2015-16 season (photo: Tim Brule).

There have been some rumblings around college hockey about how the ability for schools to provide a stipend beyond a scholarship to cover the full cost of attendance will affect the landscape.

In reality, it’s probably too soon to tell how much of a change that will be, but we’re starting to get a sense of how widespread the utilization will be.

Of the 60 schools playing Division I men’s college hockey this upcoming season, 50 give athletic scholarships that now can be supplemented with the stipend to cover things beyond tuition, books, and room and board.

According to an anonymous survey coordinated earlier this month by Joe Bertagna, the American Hockey Coaches Association executive director and Hockey East commissioner, 22 schools were planning to provide the cost-of-attendance supplement in the 2015-16 season.

That’s just more than the 21 schools that said they weren’t planning to give the aid, while seven hadn’t yet made a final decision.

The gap between what schools provide as a full scholarship and the total cost of attendance has been estimated at between $2,000 and $5,000, with the cost higher at some schools because of differences in cost-of-living and travel expenses. For sports like hockey that also offer partial scholarships, the schools can decide how much of a stipend to give to those who don’t get a full grant-in-aid.

One could view the change as another way to separate the financial haves and have-nots in college hockey. Yet some say it’s not going to be that big of an alteration to what already goes on in the sport, with the bigger schools by and large having more resources than the smaller ones.

Some around college hockey have said it will be a definite recruiting advantage for those who offer the stipend over those who don’t. It’s not hard to imagine that being the case in a recruiting game that already has its unsavory points.

One coach mentioned that there are stories going around of the existence of the stipend at one school being a difference-maker in a player’s recruitment.

The Big Ten and the other “Power 5″ autonomy conferences (Boston College of the ACC and Arizona State of the Pac-12 are the other men’s college hockey schools involved) passed the full-cost-of-attendance measure in January, leaving adoption beyond their borders up to individual conferences.

Last month, the WCHA’s board of directors voted to support the addition of stipends, pushing the decision onto individual schools. The league had the option to limit the amount of money schools can spend on the stipend, which would have impacted the full Division I schools — Bowling Green on the men’s side and Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio State and Wisconsin on the women’s side. For hockey, they would have been bound by what the WCHA dictated, not what the school’s multi-sport conference said.

Schools that are mainly in Division II or III but play in Division I for hockey can offer the stipends, and it’s clear from the numbers that some will.

Regardless of division, expect the stipend to be an ongoing cause for fundraising appeals to allow schools to stay on a more level footing with others in recruiting. That’s how Bowling Green put it in a call for renewals for its Falcon Club. The Falcons are one of the schools awarding the stipend this season.

Minnesota State last week announced the first gift toward a private donor campaign directed in part toward funding full cost of attendance scholarships. A spokesperson said the school doesn’t have anyone receiving the stipend this coming season.

Other schools just don’t have the money in their budget. Alaska-Anchorage made it known near the bottom of a press release that mirrored the WCHA’s announcement that it isn’t paying the stipend right away:

At this juncture, the University of Alaska Anchorage will be unable to make any further contributions.

“Due to the current fiscal circumstance of the University of Alaska system, we are unfortunately unable to provide additional Cost of Attendance support to our scholarship Student-Athletes,” said UAA athletic director Keith Hackett. “We will continue to monitor the situation in hopes that we can increase our financial assistance to our Student-Athletes in the future.”

Don’t doubt that there’s some peer pressure involved for schools in offering the stipends. It’s going to be a checkbox for some recruits and families in the process of finding a school, and some teams that don’t have the funds to pay more could get left behind.

The stipends are certain to prove popular for those who previously have had to pay out of their own pocket to fly to and from school. It’s hard to argue that shouldn’t be part of scholarship money.

But how much will it change college hockey? That won’t be fully judged until we see some more concrete results.

Why an online petition could be key to Rutgers’ hope for a varsity hockey program

Rutgers has club hockey teams at the ACHA Division 1 and 2 levels (photo: David Siegrist).

Those who dream of taking Rutgers’ men’s hockey team from club to varsity status are likely a few weeks away from knowing where they stand.

Later this month, the school’s president is set to deliver a master plan for upgrades to Rutgers’ athletics facilities. Hockey supporters hope that renovations to the basketball arena or a new venue will include the potential for hockey in mind.

That’s why you may have seen mention around the Internet of an online petition to show support for moving Rutgers hockey to the NCAA level. As of Wednesday night, it had the backing of just under 1,900 people.

Let’s get this out of the way: There’s no indication that Rutgers is anywhere close to becoming the 61st NCAA Division I men’s college hockey team.

But was there for Arizona State two years ago? Things can happen fast if the right person with the right checkbook gets involved, and people connected to Rutgers’ club hockey program want to make it known to school officials that they’re serious about elevating the program.

Adriaan Klaassen, the club team’s assistant coach and a former player, has been one of the primary forces behind the effort, and he pointed toward the introduction of the two most recent D-I entries as signs of what might be to come.

When Penn State did it everyone was super happy for them and said it’s a rarity. Another [Terry] Pegula will never happen,” Klaassen said. “But when Arizona State did it with about a third of the money raised, it raised a lot of eyebrows and started tipping the dominos with other people having the same mindset as myself, saying if they can do it, surely we can do it.”

He said top members of Rutgers’ athletic department “get it,” but everything’s tied to the athletics facilities master plan.

“We’ve shown them that it can be a revenue sport if you do it correctly,” Klaassen said. “Those figures that came out of Penn State after their first year at Pegula [Ice Arena], that really was an eye-opener to a lot of other schools that want to do this that it can be a profitable sport and help support the rest of the athletic department just like football and basketball if you do it correctly.”

There’s the key phrase here: if you do it correctly.

“You can’t do half-measures in this,” Klaassen said. “If you don’t ramp up quickly enough, you’re just going to die.”

Rutgers joined the Big Ten last year, giving the conference a coveted presence in the New York media market. In hockey, the Big Ten naturally would like to grow from its original, six-team format, with Nebraska, Illinois and Northwestern often floated as possibilities for expansion.

Rutgers? It could be a popular destination each season for Big Ten hockey schools, who could plan for yearly New York City-area alumni outings at the New Jersey school that’s 40 miles away from Manhattan.

Having Rutgers administrators give hockey supporters something of a nod in their direction in the facilities master plan is the first step.

“There’s a lot of reasons that we’ve come up that we can see why it should happen,” Klaassen said. “We’ve got to see what happens in a couple weeks here.”

Dave Hakstol’s route to the NHL: An anomaly or the start of something bigger?

Dave Hakstol coached 20 future NHL players in 11 seasons at North Dakota (photo: Jim Rosvold).

Over the last few years, College Hockey Inc. has advertised the rise in percentage of NHL players that made their way there through college hockey.

Quite justifiably so, given that the college representation grew from 20 percent in 2000 to 31 percent in the 2013-14 season before falling slightly to 30 percent this season.

The NHL also has its share of coaches with a college hockey background, but until Monday it had been quite a while since the pro level plucked a head coach directly from college.

So long, in fact, that it became a noteworthy part of the transition at North Dakota.

“Whenever you get a guy from college hockey that goes directly to be a head coach in the NHL, that’s something to be said,” new UND coach Brad Berry said in his introductory news conference Monday.

It was 28 years between Herb Brooks leaving St. Cloud State for the Minnesota North Stars and Monday’s announcement that Dave Hakstol was leaving North Dakota for the Philadelphia Flyers.

You have to go back another five years, to Wisconsin’s Bob Johnson departing for the Calgary Flames in 1982, to find an instance of someone getting his first NHL head coaching opportunity directly out of college; Brooks had earlier NHL experience before returning to college to help St. Cloud State’s transition to Division I.

Brooks, Johnson and Cornell’s Ned Harkness, who left for a brief stint leading the Detroit Red Wings after the Big Red’s perfect 1969-70 season, were the only members of that college-to-NHL coaching group until Monday.

“It is surprising that it hasn’t happened more often given the success that NCAA coaches are having in helping prepare so many players for careers in the NHL,” College Hockey Inc. executive director Mike Snee said. “In Dave’s 11 seasons at North Dakota, he has coached 20 NHL players, including some of the top players in the league today. Many other college coaches have had an impact very similar to Dave’s so I don’t think it will be another 28 years before it happens again.”

It remains to be seen whether Hakstol’s hiring will crack open the door for other college coaches, several of whom seem to have the kind of coaching style and personality that would fit in the top level.

Hakstol, it needs to be noted, had a connection with Flyers general manager Ron Hextall, whose son Brett played three seasons for Hakstol at North Dakota. So there are some different circumstances with this hire.

There are some like former Western Michigan coach Jeff Blashill who are taking what might be considered the more traditional route of leaving college hockey for a minor league position that, in Blashill’s case at least, will undoubtedly lead to a shot in the NHL at some point.

In the meantime, maybe a few more NHL teams will take a look at some of the talent in the college coaching ranks. It’s a marketable part of the college game, something that College Hockey Inc. has also highlighted in the past in its efforts to get top recruits to consider the college route.

Maybe more marketable today than it was before.

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