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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.

An update as leagues, teams start releasing schedules for the 2015-16 season

By the time the 2015-16 season rolls around, we’ll have all of the schedules in our database to populate our scoreboard and team schedule pages.

Until then, here are links to the conference and team schedules that have been announced to date. It’s probably a good idea to consider things tentative until closer to October; dates and especially times have been known to shift for TV and arena usage purposes.

Know of other schedules that have been released? Email us with a link.

Division I men

Atlantic Hockey

Air Force

American International

Army West Point

Bentley

Canisius

Holy Cross

Mercyhurst

Niagara

Robert Morris

Rochester Institute of Technology

Big Ten

League composite (conference games only)

Michigan

Michigan State

Minnesota

Ohio State

Penn State

Wisconsin

ECAC Hockey

Brown

Clarkson

Colgate

Cornell

Dartmouth

Princeton

Rensselaer

St. Lawrence

Union

Yale

Hockey East

Boston University

Maine

Massachusetts

Merrimack

New Hampshire

Northeastern

Notre Dame

UMass-Lowell

Vermont

NCHC

League composite

Colorado College

Denver

Miami

Minnesota-Duluth

Omaha

North Dakota

St. Cloud State

Western Michigan

WCHA

League composite

Alaska

Alaska-Anchorage

Alabama-Huntsville

Bemidji State

Bowling Green

Ferris State

Lake Superior State

Michigan Tech

Minnesota State

Northern Michigan

Independent

Arizona State

Division I women

CHA

Lindenwood

Mercyhurst

Penn State

Rochester Institute of Technology

Syracuse

ECAC Hockey

Brown

Clarkson

Colgate

Dartmouth

Harvard

Princeton

Rensselaer

St. Lawrence

Union

Yale

Hockey East

Connecticut

Maine

Merrimack

New Hampshire

Providence

Vermont

WCHA

League composite

Bemidji State

Minnesota

Minnesota-Duluth

Minnesota State

North Dakota

St. Cloud State

Wisconsin

Division III men

ECAC East

Babson

University of New England

Norwich

St. Michaels

ECAC Northeast

Curry

Endicott

Nichols

ECAC West

Hobart

Nazareth

Neumann

MASCAC

Fitchburg State

Massachusetts-Dartmouth

Salem State

MIAC

Augsburg

Bethel

Concordia (Minn.)

Gustavus Adolphus

Hamline

St. John’s

St. Mary’s

St. Olaf

St. Thomas

NCHA

Adrian

Aurora

Concordia (Wis.)

Finlandia

Lake Forest

Lawrence

Marian

Milwaukee School of Engineering

Northland

St. Norbert

St. Scholastica

NESCAC

Colby

SUNYAC

Brockport

Buffalo State

Canton

Fredonia

Geneseo

Morrisville

Oswego

Plattsburgh

Potsdam

WIAC

Wisconsin-Eau Claire

Wisconsin-River Falls

Wisconsin-Stevens Point

Wisconsin-Stout

Wisconsin-Superior

Division III women

ECAC East

University of New England

ECAC North Atlantic

Canton

Endicott

Morrisville

Salem State

ECAC West

Nazareth

Neumann

Plattsburgh

Potsdam

William Smith

MIAC

Augsburg

Bethel

Concordia (Minn.)

Hamline

St. Mary’s

St. Thomas

NCHA

Adrian

Concordia (Wis.)

Finlandia

Lake Forest

Marian

St. Norbert

St. Scholastica

NESCAC

Colby

WIAC

Wisconsin-River Falls

Wisconsin-Stevens Point

Wisconsin-Superior

Boston University, North Dakota the favorites in College Hockey Pickem 2015

Over a quarter of the entries in College Hockey Pickem 2015 almost went splat in the first game.

But Boston University beat Yale in overtime to advance to the second round, which was good news for the 27 percent of completed brackets that have the Terriers as the predicted champion.

BU was the favorite according to the 11,658 completed brackets entered in the contest, with North Dakota in second. Over half of the entries picked either the Terriers or UND as the champion.

Here’s the breakdown of predicted champions:

Team
Brackets with team as winner
Percentage
Boston University3,16327.1%
North Dakota2,67222.9%
Minnesota State1,63514.0%
Minnesota1,55913.4%
Miami5494.7%
Boston College4774.1%
Minnesota-Duluth3362.9%
Denver3222.8%
Michigan Tech2812.4%
St. Cloud State1871.6%
Harvard1501.3%
Omaha1121.0%
Yale700.6%
Quinnipiac670.6%
Providence410.4%
Rochester Institute of Technology370.3%

If you’ve entered the contest, remember to check your brackets here.

Join USCHO for a selection show watch event at Campus Pizza & Pasta in Minneapolis

If you’re in the Twin Cities on Sunday, join us for a NCAA tournament selection show watch event at Campus Pizza & Pasta, 825 Washington Ave. SE in Minneapolis.

Doors open at 10:30 a.m. CDT, with the show on ESPNU scheduled to start a half-hour later.

We’ll have some USCHO giveaways available and we’ll be around to talk college hockey and the NCAA tournament.

With the women’s Frozen Four championship game on Sunday afternoon and the NCHC and WCHA tournaments wrapping up Saturday night, it’ll be a toast to a great weekend of college hockey in the Twin Cities.

Graphic: Division I men’s scoring heading toward another record low

Picking the puck out of the back of the net has become a less-frequent occurrence (photo: Jim Rosvold).

There was a stretch recently where on three consecutive Saturdays, a Division I men’s college hockey team scored 10 goals or more.

Since Jan. 30, there has been a 9-5 result, a 7-5 score, a 6-5 final and three 6-4 games.

Through it all, the season scoring average kept falling.

That’s because in that same span, 23 games finished scoreless or with one or two total goals scored.

No surprise here: Lower-scoring games are far more prevalent, sinking the average number of goals per game this season to a level that might set an all-time low.

Two seasons ago, there was an average of 5.48 goals scored per game, the lowest level recorded.

Through the end of February this season, the scoring average is 5.41 goals per game. Through the same number of days of the season in 2013-14, it was 5.64; in 2012-13, when the record low was set, it was 5.49.

Check out the trends here:

Knowlton’s move to Air Force raises question about his spot on NCAA committee

When the NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey committee convenes for selection Sunday in 10 weeks, who will be its chair?

Rensselaer athletic director Jim Knowlton has been the committee chair since September 2013, but news Tuesday of his impending move to the athletic director position at Air Force raised the question of his assignment.

The committee (despite the outdated language on this page) is made up of one member from each of the six Division I men’s hockey conferences, and three of the representatives must be administrators.

With Knowlton moving from an ECAC Hockey school to an Atlantic Hockey school, the ECAC has to decide what it wants to do with its spot on the committee if the move happens on its announced date of March 1, 21 days before selection Sunday.

ECAC Hockey associate commissioner Ed Krajewski said the league is looking into the situation and will discuss it on an administrator call next month.

The committee has virtually no input on which teams are picked for at-large spots in the NCAA tournament — that’s what the PairWise Rankings are for — but it has plenty of say on bracketing and the selection criteria.

So the committee membership is important, and the ECAC administrators should be protective of their interests in having one of their own among the body.

I wonder, however, whether the timing in this instance could push any transition into the offseason. Stay tuned on that.

2014′s top 20: The year’s most-read stories on USCHO.com

Union coach Rick Bennett holds the national championship trophy after the Dutchmen’s win over Minnesota on April 12 (photo: Jim Rosvold).

As we prepare to welcome 2015, let’s take a look back at college hockey’s biggest stories of 2014.

You can debate whether Union’s win over Minnesota for the Division I men’s national championship was the top story, or whether Arizona State’s announcement that it’s elevating its program to varsity status had a bigger impact.

For our purposes here, we’re looking at the 20 most-read stories on USCHO.com during 2014. Here’s that list:

1. Bracketology: Here’s our final prediction for the NCAA tournament brackets (March 22)

2. Here’s the TV schedule for the NCAA Division I men’s tournament (March 23)

3. An early look at the 2014 Frozen Four after Boston College, Minnesota, North Dakota, Union claim spots (March 30)

4. ECAC Hockey studying video of brawl after Rensselaer-Union game (Jan. 26)

5. Ten to watch: Meet some of college hockey’s impact forwards for 2014-15 (Sept. 30)

6. Minnesota lands No. 1 seed in 2014 NCAA tournament (March 23)

7. Bracketology: One week out, and the No. 3 seeds pose some challenges (March 12)

8. Ten to watch: Meet some of college hockey’s impact defensemen for 2014-15 (Oct. 1)

9. Departures don’t equal weakness for ECAC Hockey in 2014-15 (Oct. 6)

10. Overtime, visors among topics for rules committee in Naples meetings (April 28)

11. Recruiting: Highly touted Matthews has five colleges and major juniors as options, but he’s in no hurry (Oct. 29)

12. Coaches see importance of early nonconference games as Big Ten enters year two (Oct. 8)

13. Another season, another change for talent-laden Hockey East (Oct. 9)

14. Balance could make NCHC as unpredictable in 2014-15 as in its opening act (Oct. 7)

15. NCAA Division III men’s tournament field of 11 announced (March 9)

16. The sound of victory: The tunes that get cranked up in winning locker rooms (March 4)

17. Bracketology: Just days out, and moving around the third band could solve some attendance issues (March 19)

18. Bracketology: Three weeks out, and we can build a better West Regional (Feb. 26)

19. Ten to watch: Meet some of college hockey’s impact goaltenders for 2014-15 (Oct. 2)

20. Bracketology: Two weeks out, and one swap creates a regional of familiar foes (March 5)

A truck, a border crossing and a giant teddy bear

Cornell’s Christian Hilbrich (9) gave his stick to help fans get a giant teddy bear over the glass after Saturday’s game (photo: Ned Dykes/Cornell Hockey Association).

You may have seen the footage from Saturday night’s efforts to launch a giant teddy bear over the glass at Lynah Rink after Cornell’s game against Denver.

Here’s one more key piece of that story.

It seems that it was Bill Gillam, father of Cornell goaltender Mitch Gillam, who brought the bear from the family home in Peterborough, Ontario, in the back of his truck for Teddy Bear Toss night.

(An aside: Picture, for a moment, the border crossing agent catching a glimpse of a giant teddy bear. You don’t see that every day.)

If you’ve missed it, here’s the video that’s gone viral since Saturday night:

Ned Dykes of the Cornell Hockey Association was taking photos Saturday night and came up with some tremendous shots. The one at the top of this post shows the crowd’s reaction as the bear finally gets over the top of the glass.

Here are a few of Dykes’ photos:

And on Monday, ESPN’s Keith Olbermann (Cornell Agriculture and Life Sciences, 1979) had the video and some of his own brand of commentary during his “Worst Persons in the Sports World” segment:

Former Hobey winner Geoffrion ready to get in front of the TV camera

Wisconsin’s only Hobey Baker Award winner, Blake Geoffrion, is back in Madison to make his TV broadcasting debut in Friday’s Badgers-Penn State game on ESPNews.

Blake Geoffrion’s memory is a little hazy when it comes to the whens and wheres surrounding his first collegiate game, but it is crystal clear about his first shift for Wisconsin at the Kohl Center.

“Joe Piskula passed me the puck up the left wing and I came down and ripped a slapper, and it went barely off the goalie, off the crossbar and out,” Geoffrion said. “I could have scored on my first shift, but I didn’t.”

Eight years later, Geoffrion is ready for another career first, and again it’ll take place at Wisconsin’s Kohl Center.

He’s teaming up with John Buccigross to call Friday night’s Wisconsin-Penn State game on ESPNews.

It’s a uniting of passions for Geoffrion, the 2010 Hobey Baker Award winner who loves hockey and, as you quickly find out, loves to talk.

There he was Thursday night, sitting alongside Buccigross in a corner of the upstairs room at Madison’s iconic Nitty Gritty restaurant, answering questions from a crowd of dozens of hockey fans who showed up to talk college hockey with the duo in an event organized by ESPN.

TV announcing may be new to Geoffrion, but talking about hockey is certainly not. That’s why he said he’s not too nervous about what’ll happen once the lights go on Friday night.

“A lot of the questions that we’re going to have early on and the interviews that I’m doing and talking about the game, that’s about the game of hockey,” Geoffrion said. “Once the game starts, I’m dissecting plays which — you know how I am — I do that all day long.”

Geoffrion, 26, is getting his introduction to TV analysis — he did some radio color commentary for Badgers games while injured in his sophomore year — through a series of links going back to the injury that ended his playing career.

On Nov. 9, 2012, during the NHL lockout, Geoffrion was playing in Montreal’s Bell Centre for the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs when he absorbed a check from Jean-Philippe Cote of the Syracuse Crunch.

Geoffrion’s helmeted head hit Cote’s skate blade, then the ice. Once doctors realized the severity of the injury, he was rushed to a hospital, where he underwent emergency brain surgery to repair a fractured skull.

He said it took about eight months to recover from the injury, and through tears he told Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin that he was going to have to give up playing hockey.

Along the way, Geoffrion reached out to Buccigross, an ESPN “SportsCenter” anchor whose passion for hockey comes through on air and in his celebrated social media presence, about telling his story.

Buccigross did that in July 2013 with a nearly-5,000-word feature for ESPN.com that chronicled the injury but also the family that has meant so much for Geoffrion.

At some point, Buccigross asked Geoffrion whether he’d like to be an analyst for an ESPN broadcast, and that’s what launched Friday night’s appearance in the television booth.

“The guy won the Hobey Baker, he’s a younger guy. Let’s bring him in,” Buccigross said in recalling how he made a pitch to his ESPN bosses for Geoffrion. “Those are the kind of guys we should go for.”

Blake Geoffrion (left) and ESPN’s John Buccigross do a Q&A with a crowd in Madison on Thursday (photo: Derek Volner/ESPN).

It’s a natural fit for it to take place at Wisconsin, where Geoffrion grew from being, in his words, “a complete jerk” during a two-goal freshman season to a 28-goal scorer as a senior captain.

And even though it’s still hockey, it’s another stretch of the comfort zone for Geoffrion, who after his retirement from the game took a job with executive recruiting firm Korn Ferry in Chicago.

He wanted to do something that he would be passionate about, and so far he said he’s enjoying it.

Being out of the hockey-playing lifestyle has changed Geoffrion, and not in a bad way.

“I’m very, very happy,” he said. “I love what I do. I have more of a life now. I’m able to spend a lot of time with my wife and learn more about her passions and what she likes.

“I’m going to ‘The Nutcracker’ next weekend, which is not particularly my passion, I would say, but we’re going to try it out and see how it goes.”

First, he’ll try TV and see how that goes.

BNY Mellon Wealth Management