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The committee (despite the outdated language on this page) is made up of one member from each of the six Division I men’s hockey conferences, and three of the representatives must be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

Strategic plan for college hockey growth gets results faster than expected

A strategic plan hatched about a year ago has produced results far earlier than expected.

College Hockey Inc. executive director Mike Snee appeared on the USCHO Live! talk show Tuesday from Arizona, where earlier in the day Arizona State announced it would launch a Division I varsity program starting next season.

On the program, Snee detailed a meeting about a year ago in Tampa, Fla., where the ownership group of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning called together representatives of College Hockey Inc., the NHL, USA Hockey, Penn State and others for a full-day meeting to set a course for developing more college hockey programs.

A subsequent get-together two months later at the NHL offices in New York gave further clarity.

“From that came a strategic plan on how we felt that we could affect the growth of college hockey and how we would go about that,” Snee said on USCHO Live! “I don’t think any of us thought that we would have a success story just 11-plus months into it. But it’s happened.”

Listen to the full episode, which includes appearances by Minnesota-Duluth coach Scott Sandelin and Michigan Tech coach Mel Pearson, here; Snee’s interview starts at about 9:15.

Snee talked about College Hockey Inc.’s role in the Arizona State decision.

“We introduced the idea to them and they saw the potential and they got excited about it,” he said. “Clearly here you have three important parts to it. One is a visionary for an athletic director. He’s bold. I don’t know if he wants to just have business as usual. He was involved and he was brand new. He started last January.

“We had a tremendous club hockey program, so that infrastructure was in place. And they have a number of people connected to the school, connected to the current hockey program that believe in it and have the financial resources to be part of the elevation to Division I.”

Snee said the group used as an example Penn State’s transformation from a successful club program to Division I varsity status.

There are similarities between Penn State and Arizona State — both situations involved a concept that was made possible by a large donation.

Still, Snee acknowledged that might not be the exact blueprint for all future growth in college hockey. The availability of facilities and the cost to maintain a hockey program are obvious reasons why a school would shy away from the sport, he said.

But after Tuesday there might be others who see that what once was just a dream is possible.

“All it takes is somebody to say, well, why not us?” Snee said. “I think tonight after this announcement, all of those Pac-12 schools as well as perhaps other schools feel that their school is actually a little closer to adding hockey than it was yesterday.”

Video: Minnesota-Duluth’s Kaskisuo makes a remarkable save look easy

It ended up coming in a losing effort, but Minnesota-Duluth’s Kasimir Kaskisuo made a behind-the-back glove save Friday that will be tough to beat as the best of the night.

Check it out via Minnesota-Duluth’s YouTube channel:

That stop of Cody Murphy was one of 35 made by Kaskisuo on Friday, but the RedHawks won 3-2 on a Sean Kuraly goal with the Bulldogs two skaters short in the final two minutes.

A team-by-team listing of USCHO’s season previews

In the last week, our Division I men’s conference columnists have previewed the six leagues and 59 teams for the 2014-15 season.

If you missed anything, here are links to all of our season previews:

Atlantic Hockey

League preview
Air Force
American International
Holy Cross
Robert Morris
Rochester Institute of Technology
Sacred Heart

Big Ten

League preview
Michigan State
Ohio State
Penn State

ECAC Hockey

League preview
St. Lawrence

Hockey East

League preview
Boston College
Boston University
New Hampshire
Notre Dame


League preview
Colorado College
North Dakota
St. Cloud State
Western Michigan


League preview
Bemidji State
Bowling Green
Ferris State
Lake Superior State
Michigan Tech
Minnesota State
Northern Michigan

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