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What’s in a number? If it’s 1, be careful

It’s no surprise that Boston College is going to be the target for a lot of teams this season. It comes with the national championship trophy, and it comes with the level of success that the Eagles have reached.

Here’s what might surprise you: Being No. 1 in the preseason poll, as BC was anointed Monday in the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll, has recently meant an early end to that team’s season.

Four of the previous seven No. 1 picks in the preseason poll have then missed the NCAA tournament. Boston College is part of it, picked for glory before the 2008-09 season but ending up on the outside of the NCAA field. The others: Denver in 2005-06, Wisconsin in 2006-07 and Notre Dame last season.

Of the 15 previous No. 1 picks:

• Only one has ended up as the national champion (Minnesota in 2002-03).

• Five have made it to the Frozen Four, but none since North Dakota in 2007-08.

• The average record posted by the teams was 26 wins, 11.53 losses and 3.93 ties.

Things are a little better for majority No. 1 picks (those who earned more than 50 percent of the first-place votes cast), as Boston College is this season.

Eight of the 15 preseason No. 1s have fallen into that category, and of that eight, only one missed the NCAA tournament (BC in 2008-09) and three made the Frozen Four.

This is Boston College’s fifth time as No. 1 in the preseason poll. North Dakota is next with three, followed by Denver and Minnesota with two apiece. Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame and Wisconsin each have been the preseason No. 1 once.

Here’s the rundown on the No. 1 teams in the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll and how they have fared (first-place votes in parentheses):

1997-98: North Dakota (30/30); 30-8-1, won WCHA regular season title, lost in NCAA quarterfinals

1998-99: Boston College (6/30); 27-12-4, won Hockey East playoff title, lost in NCAA semifinals

1999-2000: Boston College (26/40); 29-12-1, lost in NCAA championship game

2000-01: North Dakota (24/40); 29-8-9, won WCHA regular season title, lost in NCAA championship game

2001-02: Michigan State (33/40); 27-9-5, lost in NCAA first round

2002-03: Minnesota (22/40); 28-8-9, won WCHA playoff title, won NCAA title

2003-04: Minnesota (25/30); 27-14-3, won WCHA playoff title, lost in NCAA quarterfinals

2004-05: Michigan (17/40); 31-8-3, won CCHA regular season and playoff titles, lost in NCAA quarterfinals

2005-06: Denver (17/36); 21-15-3, missed NCAA tournament

2006-07: Wisconsin (17/40); 19-18-4, missed NCAA tournament

2007-08: North Dakota (13/29); 28-11-4, lost in NCAA semifinals

2008-09: Boston College (36/50); 18-14-5, missed NCAA tournament

2009-10: Denver (20/46); 27-10-4, won WCHA regular season title, lost in NCAA first round

2010-11: Boston College (45/50); 30-8-1, won Hockey East regular season and playoff titles, lost in NCAA first round

2011-12: Notre Dame (11/43); 19-18-3, missed NCAA tournament

As Penn State debuts its sweaters, we ask who needs a new design

Hockey fans love their sweaters (you may call them jerseys or uniforms; I consider the words interchangeable in hockey but know that’s not a universal feeling). Just take a look around the seating bowl at a Frozen Four and you’ll get the idea.

So for fans of a new team, getting a glimpse of the team’s sweater has to make things feel a little more real.

Penn State fans got that experience Tuesday, when the men’s and women’s sweaters were unveiled. Here are some pictures courtesy Penn State Athletic Communications and photographer Mark Selders:

 As Penn State debuts its sweaters, we ask who needs a new design

The Division I debuts for the Nittany Lions teams are just weeks away; the women open Oct. 6 at Vermont while the men host American International on Oct. 12.

What do you think about their sweaters? Which team in college hockey is due — or overdue — for a new design? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Don’t expect decisions on Frozen Four sites, shields this summer

This offseason started with the belief, at least on this end, that by the time the 2012-13 season came around we’d have knowledge of the locations of more upcoming Frozen Fours and clarity on the future of face shields.

Not so much, it appears.

Talk from some members of the Division I men’s ice hockey committee in Tampa in April was that the group was looking to select the venues for the 2015, 2016 and 2017 Frozen Fours this summer.

That may have been a stretch to begin with, and with new NCAA executive vice president for championships and alliances Mark Lewis just coming on board in April, the bidding process was never opened.

Pushing the bidding back means that it’s likely that when we gather in Pittsburgh for the 2013 Frozen Four, we will know the location of only one future event — Philadelphia in 2014.

That goes against a recent trend. Site selections were made at least four years out in 2000, 2003 and 2005, and Pittsburgh got three years advance notice.

But it appears the 2015 host will have just two years to get ready. It sounds like plenty of time, but remember that advances in Frozen Four player and fan experiences often get sparked by future hosts gathering info at the event. In the likely case that the announcement is made after the Pittsburgh Frozen Four, the 2015 host will have just one such opportunity.

That makes the job of the committee in finding the right 2015 host all the more critical. It’ll be an interesting welcome to the job for Tom Nevala, a Notre Dame senior associate athletic director who takes over as committee chair on Sept. 1.

As for the face shields, expect to see either the full shields or the full cages on men’s hockey players for at least the next two seasons.

In June, the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports said it would need “significant safety data” on three-quarters face shields before it can sign off on allowing them to be used.

That wasn’t unexpected, and the rules committee has already started to accumulate that data. The USHL started using three-quarters shields last season, so that information will go into consideration.

But because no change is being made this season and the NCAA works on a two-year rules cycle, the next chance for a proposal is in 2014, said rules committee chair Ed McLaughlin, also the athletic director at Niagara.

The push for less facial protection is rooted in the belief that it would make players more aware of their vulnerability and, in the end, decrease major injuries. You can imagine how it could be difficult to convince safety committee members that less protective equipment equals more protection.

That’s the challenge for the committee and the hockey community over the next two seasons. Stay tuned.

Why the Hobey Baker Award ceremony is at an Air Force base

For the last six years, the Hobey Baker Award has been presented in a ceremony that was part of a larger Friday night event at the Frozen Four host arena.

Next week, it’s heading to a smaller, off-site location, and some have asked why.

My first thought was that you only had to point to all the empty seats in the arenas that have hosted the Friday night event. The atmosphere wasn’t really there, even if you had a couple thousand people in the crowd. In a 18,000-seat venue, that doesn’t get the kind of buzz you’re looking for, and thousands of empty seats don’t look good on TV.

This year’s event is in the Davis Conference Center at MacDill Air Force Base. It seats about 250 people, so fan access will be extremely limited.

The ceremony will be simulcast at an event at Channelside Bay Plaza, a retail and entertainment complex near the Tampa Bay Times Forum that is hosting the other Friday night events, including autograph sessions, the announcement of the Hockey Humanitarian Award recipient and the All-Americans, and concerts by the bands of the two remaining teams. It’s also scheduled for a live broadcast on NHL Network starting at 6 p.m. EDT on Friday, April 6.

How many (if any) fans will be able to attend the ceremony in person? That’s not yet known, but certainly not as many as have in years past.

A smaller venue doesn’t sound like a bad idea when you’ve seen the number of empty seats for the ceremony in recent years, but how small is too small?

Jon Doehr of the Hobey Baker Memorial Award Foundation said the group worked with the Tampa Bay Sports Commission to find a suitable location, and the Air Force base was a intriguing site because it connects to Hobey Baker’s life. Baker was a decorated U.S. Army fighter pilot in World War I.

“We’re looking forward to a special ceremony at MacDill Air Force Base next week that will create an unforgettable experience for the Hobey finalists, while also celebrating Hobey Baker’s heritage and accomplishments both on and off the ice,” Rob Higgins, executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission, wrote in an email. “Our hats off to the fine men and women at MacDill for helping create memories with this event that will last a lifetime.”

It’s hard to argue with the military connection, especially considering that there’s a special component being planned involving Hobey Baker’s military service.

And it was probably time to bring the event into a smaller setting after the demise of the Frozen Four Skills Challenge, which wasn’t part of the program last season.

We’ll see how it turns out. Where do you think the ceremony should be held? Leave a comment below.

Alabama-Huntsville and the NCAA’s transfer-rule exemption

Over the years, we’ve become all-too-familiar with NCAA bylaw 14.5.5.2.6, for some unfortunate reasons.

That line in the NCAA’s Division I manual is better known as the Discontinued/Nonsponsored Sport Exception, and it comes into play when a school drops a sport. So it has come up a few times in the last decade — Wayne State in 2008, Findlay in 2004 and Fairfield and Iona in 2003.

The provision allows for players to avoid having to sit out a season when transferring from a school that drops its program. But what about when a school announces it will drop its program then reverses course, as Alabama-Huntsville has done?

The language of the rule says that once a school publicly announces that it’s canceling a program’s varsity status, players have the right to play at another school in the next season, as long as they make the move before the start of the next academic year. Alabama-Huntsville announced in October that this season would be the last for the program at the varsity level, which started the clock for the current players to find another team for next season.

Even when that decision changed and UAH gave coach Chris Luongo the green light to resume scheduling for next season as a varsity program, the NCAA confirmed that Chargers players still have the opportunity to go elsewhere for 2012-13 without a transfer penalty.

Luongo said three players committed to other schools in the time that the Chargers program appeared to be folding.

“They were recruited, which we had encouraged and facilitated, they committed to those programs and if we were in the same position, we would expect the young men to honor their commitment,” Luongo said in an email. “We were happy when the young men found a home and we wish them the very best.

Goaltender Clarke Saunders is transferring to North Dakota, while forward Mac Roy is headed to Robert Morris and defenseman Nickolas Gatt will move to Michigan State. All are sophomores this season, meaning they’ll have two years of eligibility remaining starting next season.

Will there be others, since the door is still open? Luongo said he hasn’t felt the need to put on any recruiting pitch to players already in the program.

“They are well aware of what we have to offer and I am confident that they love playing hockey and going to school at the University of Alabama in Huntsville,” Luongo said.

Pegula tells Penn State officials he’s committed to new arena, programs

It stands to reason that the new Penn State men’s and women’s hockey programs will be affected in at least some way by the sex abuse scandal that has enveloped the school and athletic department.

The school’s president, Graham Spanier, who appeared at the introductory press conference for the program last September, is out. Athletic director Tim Curley is on leave and facing perjury charges. So a new-look administration awaits the hockey programs when they start Division I play next fall.

But it appears the development of the programs and the arena they will share will not be halted. Terry Pegula, whose $88 million donation is funding the men’s program and the arena, to be named the Pegula Ice Arena, has told Penn State officials that his family’s commitment is “as strong as ever.”

That’s according to Joe Battista, the associate athletic director for ice arena and hockey development, who responded to an email by first acknowledging that hearts are heavy for the victims and their families.

The Penn State men’s program is scheduled to start varsity play next season before joining what will be a six-team Big Ten league in 2013-14. The women’s team also is ready to start next season as a member of the CHA.

Pegula Ice Arena is scheduled to open in the fall of 2013.

UPDATE: Pegula released a statement through the Buffalo Sabres, which he owns. Here is the full text:

The events that are unfolding at Penn State University are deeply troubling and a matter of great concern to me and my wife Kim. As many have expressed, our primary concern is for the individuals and families who may have been victimized.

Penn State’s reputation has been severely tarnished. We are encouraged to see the University trustees have begun the process of restoring integrity and trust in the institution. This process will take a period of time and trust will need to be re-earned as a result of these recent disclosures.

Penn State is supported by millions of students, alumni, faculty, staff and administrators. Our own support for Penn State and its hockey program is well known and will continue. We expect the University will carry out its educational mission with high standards and integrity.

How the conferences look with Bowling Green, Notre Dame moving

Here’s your latest look at what the Division I men’s college hockey conferences will look like in 2013-14, when realignment comes around. Bowling Green has committed to the WCHA and Notre Dame has said it’s going to Hockey East, which gives everyone from the current CCHA a new home.

ATLANTIC HOCKEY (12 teams, unchanged)
Air Force *
American International #
Army *
Bentley #
Canisius *
Connecticut *
Holy Cross *
Mercyhurst #
Niagara *
Rochester Institute of Technology ^
Robert Morris *
Sacred Heart *

BIG TEN (6 teams, new)
Michigan (from CCHA) *
Michigan State (from CCHA) *
Minnesota (from WCHA) *
Ohio State (from CCHA) *
Penn State (from independent) *
Wisconsin (from WCHA) *

ECAC HOCKEY (12 teams, unchanged)
Brown *
Clarkson ^
Colgate *
Cornell *
Dartmouth *
Harvard *
Princeton *
Quinnipiac *
Rensselaer ^
St. Lawrence ^
Union ^
Yale *

HOCKEY EAST (11 teams, adds 1)
Boston College *
Boston University *
Maine *
Massachusetts *
Massachusetts-Lowell #
Merrimack #
New Hampshire *
Northeastern *
Notre Dame * (from CCHA)
Providence *
Vermont *

NCHC (8 teams, new)
Colorado College (from WCHA) ^
Denver (from WCHA) *
Miami (from CCHA) *
Minnesota-Duluth (from WCHA) #
Nebraska-Omaha (from WCHA) *
North Dakota (from WCHA) *
St. Cloud State (from WCHA) #
Western Michigan (from CCHA) *

WCHA (9 teams, loses 8, adds 5)
Alaska (from CCHA) #
Alaska-Anchorage #
Bemidji State #
Bowling Green * (from CCHA)
Ferris State (from CCHA) #
Lake Superior State (from CCHA) #
Michigan Tech #
Minnesota State #
Northern Michigan (from CCHA) #

INDEPENDENT (1 team)
Alabama-Huntsville #

* – Schools at Division I level in all sports (38, 64 percent)
# – Schools at Division II level in most sports but Division I for hockey (15, 25 percent)
^ – Schools at Division III level in most sports but Division I for hockey (6, 10 percent)

Now we’re on the lookout for the next moves. Does Hockey East find a 12th member? Does Alabama-Huntsville survive its internal battle and find a conference home? What of Minnesota State-Moorhead and Buffalo, two schools that have indicated an interest in playing Division I hockey?

Stay tuned.

How the 2013-14 conferences look after NCHC goes to 8

Following up on an earlier post on how the conferences will look in 2013-14, when the Big Ten and National Collegiate Hockey Conference form, here’s the breakdown after the NCHC’s addition of St. Cloud State and Western Michigan:

ATLANTIC HOCKEY (12 teams, unchanged)
Air Force *
American International #
Army *
Bentley #
Canisius *
Connecticut *
Holy Cross *
Mercyhurst #
Niagara *
Rochester Institute of Technology ^
Robert Morris *
Sacred Heart *

BIG TEN (6 teams, new)
Michigan (from CCHA) *
Michigan State (from CCHA) *
Minnesota (from WCHA) *
Ohio State (from CCHA) *
Penn State (from independent) *
Wisconsin (from WCHA) *

CCHA (2 teams, loses 9)
Bowling Green *
Notre Dame *

ECAC HOCKEY (12 teams, unchanged)
Brown *
Clarkson ^
Colgate *
Cornell *
Dartmouth *
Harvard *
Princeton *
Quinnipiac *
Rensselaer ^
St. Lawrence ^
Union ^
Yale *

HOCKEY EAST (10 teams, unchanged)
Boston College *
Boston University *
Maine *
Massachusetts *
Massachusetts-Lowell #
Merrimack #
New Hampshire *
Northeastern *
Providence *
Vermont *

NCHC (8 teams, new)
Colorado College (from WCHA) ^
Denver (from WCHA) *
Miami (from CCHA) *
Minnesota-Duluth (from WCHA) #
Nebraska-Omaha (from WCHA) *
North Dakota (from WCHA) *
St. Cloud State (from WCHA) #
Western Michigan (from CCHA) *

WCHA (8 teams, loses 8, adds 4)
Alaska (from CCHA) #
Alaska-Anchorage #
Bemidji State #
Ferris State (from CCHA) #
Lake Superior State (from CCHA) #
Michigan Tech #
Minnesota State #
Northern Michigan (from CCHA) #

INDEPENDENT (1 team)
Alabama-Huntsville #

* – Schools at Division I level in all sports (38, 64 percent)
# – Schools at Division II level in most sports but Division I for hockey (15, 25 percent)
^ – Schools at Division III level in most sports but Division I for hockey (6, 10 percent)

As before, Bowling Green and Notre Dame are listed under the CCHA banner because they haven’t yet announced where they’re headed. The WCHA’s deadline for Bowling Green to act on an invitation was set to come up this week, but now it appears that has been extended to Oct. 7, according to Kevin Gordon of the Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune.

And as for Notre Dame, you have to think that the tumult in the Big East Conference, in which the Irish are members for many sports, could further push back a decision from South Bend. Every time there’s a conference change, the Notre Dame-to-the-Big Ten machine gets going again, and this week has been no different.

By now, I’m just hoping we have a picture of how this thing is going to look by sometime in 2013.

Hope continues for new RIT arena

ritarena Hope continues for new RIT arena

An artist's rendering of a proposed new arena for Rochester Institute of Technology's hockey teams (photo: RIT Athletics).

In November, Rochester Institute of Technology launched a fundraising effort designed to secure $15 million needed to fund a new hockey arena for its men’s and women’s teams.

So when school president William W. Destler got to the part of his annual President’s Address about building projects on campus, naturally, the potential for a new home for the Tigers came up.

“I’m hoping against hope to have a significant announcement related to this effort soon,” Destler said.

A tip, or just hope? We’ll see.

Here’s the video. The line about the new arena starts at 38:47.

A look at how the conferences shape up for 2013-14 (today, anyway)

We got a request via email the other day to publish what the conference structure will look like in 2013-14, when the Big Ten and National Collegiate Hockey Conference begin play. The situation is still fluid, of course, but let’s take a look at what we have at the moment.

One caveat: I left the CCHA as it stands even though you have to think the likelihood that the league exists in 2013-14 is smaller than small. I did that because I don’t want to assume anything with the three CCHA teams that have yet to announce their intention. (We all know that Notre Dame won’t be there, but bear with me.)

So here it is:

ATLANTIC HOCKEY (12 teams, unchanged)
Air Force *
American International #
Army *
Bentley #
Canisius *
Connecticut *
Holy Cross *
Mercyhurst #
Niagara *
Rochester Institute of Technology ^
Robert Morris *
Sacred Heart *

BIG TEN (6 teams, new)
Michigan (from CCHA) *
Michigan State (from CCHA) *
Minnesota (from WCHA) *
Ohio State (from CCHA) *
Penn State (from independent) *
Wisconsin (from WCHA) *

CCHA (3 teams, loses 8)
Bowling Green *
Notre Dame *
Western Michigan *

ECAC HOCKEY (12 teams, unchanged)
Brown *
Clarkson ^
Colgate *
Cornell *
Dartmouth *
Harvard *
Princeton *
Quinnipiac *
Rensselaer ^
St. Lawrence ^
Union ^
Yale *

HOCKEY EAST (10 teams, unchanged)
Boston College *
Boston University *
Maine *
Massachusetts *
Massachusetts-Lowell #
Merrimack #
New Hampshire *
Northeastern *
Providence *
Vermont *

NCHC (6 teams, new)
Colorado College (from WCHA) ^
Denver (from WCHA) *
Miami (from CCHA) *
Minnesota-Duluth (from WCHA) #
Nebraska-Omaha (from WCHA) *
North Dakota (from WCHA) *

WCHA (9 teams, loses 7, adds 4)
Alaska (from CCHA) #
Alaska-Anchorage #
Bemidji State #
Ferris State (from CCHA) #
Lake Superior State (from CCHA) #
Michigan Tech #
Minnesota State #
Northern Michigan (from CCHA) #
St. Cloud State #

INDEPENDENT (1 team)
Alabama-Huntsville #

* – Schools at Division I level in all sports (38, 64 percent)
# – Schools at Division II level in most sports but Division I for hockey (15, 25 percent)
^ – Schools at Division III level in most sports but Division I for hockey (6, 10 percent)

Something jumped out to me in compiling the NCAA divisions for the schools, and that’s the remarkable change in structure that the WCHA is facing. As it stands today, it has five Division I teams, six Division II teams and one Division III team. All nine of the schools that have to date confirmed their place in the WCHA of the future are Division II members that play Division I men’s hockey. My friend Shane Frederick of the Mankato Free Press wrote about that here, and it’s pointed out that the WCHA needs Division I members Bowling Green or Western Michigan to keep its vote at the Division I table.

There’s no sense using concrete terms yet, though. This summer is bound to give us another twist or two.

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