32 NCAA tournament events up for bid soon around college hockey

If you’re waiting to hear where the 2015 Frozen Four will be, you’re in for quite a wait.

Site selection announcements for NCAA events from 2015 to 2018 are scheduled for December, according to the web site for the coordinated, NCAA-wide bid process.

That means the 2015 regional and Frozen Four hosts will have only 15 to 16 months before players are taking the ice for those events. To me, that suggests a greater likelihood of familiar venues that season, places that have been already seen successful weekends.

More information about what the NCAA is looking for will come out June 17, when bid specifications are released. Bids are accepted from July 15 to Sept. 16.

The NCAA is advertising for four seasons of postseason sites in men’s and women’s hockey, Division I and Division III. That means there are 32 openings to be filled across NCAA hockey.

In Division I men’s hockey, some issues connected to the future of the regionals need to be addressed first.

Earlier this month, the NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Committee heard ideas from coaches on changes to improve the regional atmosphere, but there was no consensus. The movement to return NCAA games to campus sites has its supporters but there also has been a good amount of pushback.

The 2014 men’s Frozen Four is in Philadelphia, with regionals in Bridgeport, Conn.; Worcester, Mass.; Cincinnati; and St. Paul, Minn.

While we wait to see which venues step forward as bidders, here are some of the details that the NCAA has already posted:

• The minimum venue capacity for Division I regionals is 5,000, while it is 3,500 for the women’s Frozen Four and 3,000 for the Division III men’s championship. The men’s Frozen Four also will have a minimum (it has been 15,000) but that detail isn’t part of the bid brochure.

• The men’s Frozen Four bid requires a minimum of 2,454 hotel room nights, 573 on the peak night. The women’s Frozen Four needs 682 room nights (168 at peak), while the D-III men’s championship needs 296 (85 at peak) and the D-III women’s championship needs 305 (85 at peak).

• The men’s Frozen Four is scheduled for April 9 and 11 in 2015, April 7 and 9 in 2016, April 6 and 8 in 2017 and April 5 and 7 in 2018.

• The women’s Frozen Four and the Division III championships all are scheduled for the same weekend in the four years covered by the bid process: March 20-22, 2015; March 18-20, 2016; March 17-19, 2017; and March 16-18, 2018. Women’s Frozen Four games are Friday and Sunday; D-III games are Friday and Saturday.

Where would you like to see these tournaments go? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Digging through the history books after two days of the 2013 NCAA tournament

A few interesting notes have surfaced so far in the 2013 NCAA tournament. Here are some that stand out:

• For only the second time in 65 tournaments (not counting the first), and for the first time since 1958, the Frozen Four will not include a team that previously won an NCAA Division I championship. (The first tournament doesn’t count, obviously, because there was no defending champion.) Denver, Clarkson, North Dakota and Harvard took part in the four-team tournament in Minneapolis in 1958, with the Pioneers coming out on top.

• There will be two teams from ECAC Hockey in the Frozen Four for the first time in 30 years. Harvard and Providence played in the 1983 tournament in Grand Forks, N.D., before the formation of Hockey East took the Friars to that league. To find the last time two current ECAC members were in the national semifinals, you have to go back to 1980, when Cornell and Dartmouth made it in a five-team tournament.

• Jesse Root’s goal for Yale nine seconds into overtime on Friday was the fastest overtime goal in NCAA tournament history. That broke the record of 15 seconds set by Lake Superior State in a 6-5 victory over Northeastern in the 1994 West Regional first round. The Lakers won two more overtime games that year before blowing out Boston University 9-1 in the national championship game.

• Of 10,648 completed entries in College Hockey Pickem 2013, only two perfect brackets remain. You can see their brackets on the standings page.

Bracket busted yet? Only 1 percent of entries still have chance at perfection

So, how’s your bracket doing?

Sorry. Judging from the statistics we’re seeing in College Hockey Pickem 2013, that might be a sore subject.

The first game of the 2013 NCAA tournament eliminated the team predicted as the national champion on 39 percent of the brackets. Yale’s overtime win over Minnesota also took out 10,339 of 10,648 completed entries from a run at a perfect bracket.

After the wins by Yale, Massachusetts-Lowell, North Dakota and New Hampshire on Friday, there are only 112 brackets (1 percent) that have a chance to go 15-for-15.

Here’s the rundown of which teams were favored to win it all:

Minnesota: 4,117 (38.66%)
North Dakota: 1,375 (12.91%)
Boston College: 1,298 (12.19%)
Notre Dame: 715 (6.71%)
Massachusetts-Lowell: 664 (6.24%)
Quinnipiac: 620 (5.82%)
Wisconsin: 554 (5.20%)
Miami: 483 (4.54%)
Denver: 223 (2.09%)
St. Cloud State: 212 (1.99%)
New Hampshire: 202 (1.90%)
Union: 81 (0.76%)
Minnesota State: 57 (0.54%)
Canisius: 19 (0.18%)
Niagara: 14 (0.13%)
Yale: 14 (0.13%)

We asked: Are ticket prices keeping you away from the regionals?

The issue of the so-called tournament atmosphere surfaces in college hockey around this time every season as we head into NCAA regional weekend. The selection committee switches some matchups, in part, to generate more attendance and, therefore, more buzz in the buildings.

But are ticket prices holding some would-be attendees back? If you’re buying through Ticketmaster, where fees are added to the base price, a two-day adult regional ticket package costs $72.70 in Grand Rapids, $86.30 in Toledo and $87.30 in Providence and Manchester. A single-day ticket costs $42.05 in Grand Rapids, $53.85 in Toledo and $54.50 in Providence.

So we asked our Twitter followers a question:

Are ticket prices keeping you from attending regional games this weekend? Let us know, and let us know what price would get you in the door.

Here are some of the responses we got with price suggestions:

@ $25 per game seems reasonable. It's about what it costs per game for season tickets at UNH #cawlidgehawkey
Colin Thorner
@ I think $25-30 would be fair. I would defiantly consider going then
Ryan Haley
@ $45 for the weekend. You're going to have to open the wallet to attend the Frozen Four. Don't do it twice.
Joe LaCour
“@: Are ticket prices keeping you" $35-$45 should be reasonable for regionals. Reg season is $12-$18. $77 is ridiculous!!
Jim Pickens
@ $30 is the max for a game that is 50% full, especially with teams I don't care about. $50 is ridiculous even for Gophers-UND.
Kyle Shiely
@ $25 would have been nice. Paying $45 each for 2 games Saturday and $75 each for Hawks/Wings Sunday. #hockey #GoHawks #twice
Douglas Cutler
@ Over $50 with charges just to attend Sat in Prov. For $25-30, sure. But going to watch on ESPNU.

And we couldn’t help but notice these responses, too:

@ its a joke! 45$ for single game tickets. This isn't the NHL. Not to mention a "casual" fan won't pay that let alone some real fans
Stephen Minnesota
@ bad regional choices too. All are in the EASTERN time zone. You wonder why attendance is down. Seriously, take a look around.
Stephen Minnesota
@ how about a site in a time zone that's not eastern.
Justin Lewis
@ Wow. I haven't had to buy tickets in a while. $87 is a LOT. And it's a pain to get to the point where the site tells you the prices.
Mark H. Anbinder
@ Put them in cities that are easy to get to by air. G-Rap, Toledo, Worcester, Manchester? Come ON. Dont make me rent a car AND fly in.
Adam Chappelle
@ Ohio State and their insistence on producing losing teams is keeping me away
Casey Todt
@ only want 1 game. Don't want to pay for a game I'm not into. I'll get em out front on gameday for less
@ Absolutely! $75 for Toledo/3 games. Thats equal to 5 Walleye games and at least 7 #BGSU_Hockey games. Add concessions on top of that?
Ian Hoadley
@ Nope.. Terrible locations are keeping me away!
N. Teele Schneider
@ No, the 12 hour trip is keeping me from going. But next year at the X I will be buying upper deck and sitting in all the empty lowers
Kyle Shiely
@ @ & single games in Toledo @ $45 will scare off everyone but the most ardent supporters. hope Cincinnati prices better nxt yr.
Brandon Gee
@ Midwest 2-day tickets on StubHub ON THE GLASS are below face value.
Drew Hewett

Coaches, conference titles and the national championship

Wisconsin’s win in the WCHA championship game Saturday not only put the Badgers into the NCAA tournament, it made one short list even shorter.

Badgers coach Mike Eaves won the national championship in 2006, but until last weekend he didn’t have a conference title on his coaching resume.

The only other name on the list of national championship-winning coaches without a league title was Amo Bessone, who led Michigan State to the 1966 NCAA crown but never took the Spartans or Michigan Tech to the top of their league.

(Well, unless you count Big Ten championships that Michigan State has from 1958-59, 1966-67, 1970-71, 1972-73 and 1975-76, but those were determined by the results of regular season games played between league schools while they were members of other conferences.)

Turning to this year’s NCAA tournament, there are 11 coaches looking for a first national championship, but only Minnesota State’s Mike Hastings (the only first-year college head coach in the field) doesn’t have a conference title on his resume.

Keith Allain, Yale
Norm Bazin, Massachusetts-Lowell
Rick Bennett, Union
Rico Blasi, Miami
Dave Burkholder, Niagara
Dave Hakstol, North Dakota
Mike Hastings, Minnesota State
Bob Motzko, St. Cloud State
Rand Pecknold, Quinnipiac
Dave Smith, Canisius
Dick Umile, New Hampshire

The other five coaches in the tournament have combined for 12 of the 65 national championships that have been awarded.

Boston College’s Jerry York has five (1984 with Bowling Green; 2001, 2008, 2010 and 2012 with BC); Denver’s George Gwozdecky (2004, 2005), Notre Dame’s Jeff Jackson (1992 and 1994 with Lake Superior State) and Minnesota’s Don Lucia (2002, 2003) each have two; and Wisconsin’s Eaves has one (2006).

After leagues disappear or change, how will we remember them?

Please excuse the temporary bout of morbidity I’m about to throw into one of the most exciting times in the college hockey season.

At some point or another, we all wonder how we’ll be remembered after we’re gone. Some of us would like to be known for having been kind to others. Some of us, for having made a lasting impact on our world.

What will the CCHA be remembered for? What about this incarnation of the WCHA? And the NCHA?

When the CCHA Championship wraps up on Sunday, the league will essentially be gone. Yes, some of its teams will move on to the NCAA tournament wearing CCHA patches on their sweaters and, yes, the trophies will go on display sometime down the road at Bowling Green, an original member.

But this week is the last hurrah for the league, aged 42, and longtime friends of the league will be offering up their memories.

Fred Pletsch has been with the CCHA since 2001, first as director of communications, then as associate commissioner and, since 2011, as commissioner.

When I asked him this week how he’d like the league to be remembered after it’s gone, he brought up four areas.

• For being inclusive.

Pletsch offered a reminder that the league formed in 1971 because its charter members couldn’t get into the WCHA.

“Throughout its history, I think the CCHA opened up to anybody that showed interest in starting a program and committing to hockey,” Pletsch said.

• For its talent.

Beyond seven Hobey Baker Award winners, Pletsch argues that the league set the tone for high-profile college players in the mid-1980s, when Michigan State’s Craig Simpson was the No. 2 overall pick in the 1985 NHL Entry Draft and the Spartans’ Joe Murphy went at No. 1 overall a year later.

“That had NHL people sit up and take notice,” Pletsch said. “And it was good for all the other players of the league because as the scouts went to watch the Simpsons and Murphys, they were seeing that there were a lot of other good players in the league.”

• For a pioneering spirit.

Fred Jacoby, the CCHA’s first commissioner, got the league a spot in the NCAA tournament.

Bill Beagan, who succeeded Jacoby, put together national television deals that made CCHA games available in more than 50 million homes, Pletsch said.

And Pletsch credited his predecessor, Tom Anastos, with pushing to eliminate obstruction even before the NHL’s post-lockout crackdown.

• For a sense of united purpose.

Pletsch related that at one point, Michigan and Michigan State gave up lucrative TV contracts of their own so the league could put together a deal.

“Obviously, the ultimate demise of the CCHA was the result of decisions made that were out of the control of the coaches and the administrators that are in the trenches,” he said. “There was always such a cooperative spirit in the room to do what’s best for the sport nationally.”

My experience with the CCHA has been from a distance, but I’ve always thought that, as a whole, it was an underappreciated, misunderstood entity.

It has lived in the shadow of the WCHA for a lot of its existence despite producing great players and featuring some of the game’s iconic coaches.

It has been lampooned in some parts for instituting the shootout and for denying admission to Alabama-Huntsville when the Chargers were becoming homeless. Those, however, were administrative decisions made by schools facing severe financial crunches — an element to the stories that I’m not sure ever was fully understood.

My hockey-covering career has been based in two other conferences, both of which also are undergoing major changes this offseason.

The Division III NCHA men’s league, which has produced the last three national champions, is crumbling as the Wisconsin state schools reorganize under their Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference umbrella.

St. Norbert and St. Scholastica are moving to the MCHA, and the dynamics of western D-III hockey are getting a big jolt.

I’ll remember the NCHA as featuring some pretty intense rivalries and great characters. I’m sure those rivalries will realign but the old ones were pretty good.

And while the CCHA prepares to close up shop after this weekend, the WCHA Final Five will be a farewell gathering of sorts, too.

Partisan fans that have sat next to each other for years at the Xcel Energy Center will go their separate ways next season, when the WCHA loses two schools to the Big Ten and six others to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.

The five teams that were left in the CCHA after the moves to the Big Ten, NCHC and Hockey East (Notre Dame) are headed for the new-look WCHA so, again, new rivalries will form.

But for those of us who grew up watching the WCHA of Wisconsin and Minnesota, of Minnesota-Duluth and North Dakota, it might be too different to recognize.

How will we remember the WCHA as it stands today? I think for me, it’ll be in the atmosphere of a Final Five. We all know that the league has its blemishes and has made us shake our heads more times than we care to count, but it sure can put on a good show.

So with the CCHA and the WCHA of today, it’s time to enjoy what little is left. Soon enough, memories are all we’ll have to go by.

How will you remember these leagues that are changing or disappearing? Leave a comment below.

Rare combination of absences possible in this season’s NCAA tournament

Even with an expanded NCAA tournament field in the last decade, college hockey’s historical powers haven’t necessarily been sure things to make the national tournament.

Minnesota (33 all-time appearances, second all-time) missed out in three straight seasons. Wisconsin (24, seventh) has been part in only five of the 10 tournaments since the field expanded to 16 teams.

Boston University (32, third) and Boston College (31, fourth) weren’t both in the same tournament from 2008 to 2011.

This season, however, could produce a rare result in terms of which combination of teams sits out when the tournament starts.

It was recently pointed out by a reader who follows our @USCHO Twitter account that some of the traditional college hockey powers aren’t in line for at-large berths to the NCAA tournament as it stands.

@ how bout BU, Wisconsin, Mich and. Mich State potentially all out if tournament?

The last time Boston University, Wisconsin, Michigan and Michigan State all missed the NCAA tournament in the same season, you ask? It was 1980, when the field was just five teams.

In 65 NCAA tournaments, only eight have been played without any of those four schools: 1958, 1961, 1963, 1965, 1968, 1969, 1979 and 1980. The first six of those tournaments were four-team fields; like 1980, the 1979 tournament was made up of five teams.

Michigan, of course, has a 22-season NCAA tournament streak that will come to an end unless the Wolverines win the CCHA playoff title and the automatic bid that comes with it.

Michigan State also needs a CCHA title and will have to do it from the 11th and final playoff seed.

Wisconsin is 20th in the PairWise Rankings, so it has an outside shot at an at-large bid with a lot of wins before the field is selected.

Boston University is in the best position to put one team from this quartet into the tournament. The Terriers go into the final weekend of the Hockey East regular season tied for 17th in the PairWise.

For more looks at the potential NCAA tournament field, keep following the Bracketology Blog.

A quick update from a bright day at Soldier Field (with video)

CHICAGO — Greetings from Soldier Field, where today we’ll see games that are pretty important to the CCHA and WCHA standings.

Let’s hope that playing outside in what is right now a pretty blinding sunshine doesn’t negatively impact No. 3 Miami against No. 12 Notre Dame or No. 2 Minnesota against No. 18 Wisconsin. Both games are part of the Hockey City Classic, and by the time the day is done the race for first place in both leagues could have a very different look.

Miami leads Western Michigan by two points and Notre Dame by six in the CCHA, where wins are worth three points. After today, everyone has four games remaining so the RedHawks could build themselves a fairly solid lead. The Irish could keep themselves in the mix with a win.

In the late game, a Minnesota win would pull the Golden Gophers within one point of WCHA front-runner St. Cloud State with three weeks to play.

Wisconsin is battling for one of six home-ice spots for the first round of the WCHA playoffs and needs a point to pull ahead of Denver, with which it is tied for sixth. The Badgers, however, have just four league games remaining after Sunday; Denver has six.

Here are a couple of videos from around Soldier Field before Sunday’s game. First is a look around the parking lot where tailgating was in full swing two hours before the first game:

And here’s how it looks from field level:

The meaning and the messages from the WCHA’s addition of Alabama-Huntsville

The news got back to Alabama-Huntsville while the school was closed because of a snowstorm.

Maybe it was a sign.

“Somebody called me and said Huntsville got in because hell froze over,” UAH athletic director E.J. Brophy said Thursday night.

He was in a mood to joke after getting the result the school has been waiting for since being part of the dissolution of College Hockey America after the 2009-10 season.

UAH was denied by the CCHA in 2009. It was kicked to the curb by an interim school president last season, only to be revived before the season was done.

Conference affiliation was the only thing that would save the Chargers’ future, though, so you can understand the relief and satisfaction in the WCHA voting to admit them for next season.

“It’s a red-letter day for us, there’s no doubt,” Brophy said. “I’m happiest for so many people: our players, our former players, our fans, our friends, our alums. I’m so happy for those people that kept on putting on that blue shirt and that blue hat and coming to the rink even when things were bleak.

“It’s just a really big day for everybody that is involved now or has ever been involved with our hockey program. For us to be admitted into the WCHA is just a real windfall for us.”

WCHA presidents sent a message in unanimously approving the Chargers’ application for admission on Thursday.

It’s no secret that some left behind in the fracture of the WCHA that will come about this summer felt like schools had started to look out for themselves instead of the overall good of college hockey.

Don’t be naive and think that the WCHA adding UAH was purely a kind gesture. There is business involved and the Chargers will have to foot a lot of the bill for their entry to the league in terms of a travel subsidy.

But the WCHA could have given some good reasons to say no and leave UAH to fend for itself.

“We do worry about one another and we do hopefully take a broader look at this collegiate hockey world. I guess we’re really putting our words and our actions together,” WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod said. “The presidents were very sincere about that we have to worry about all of these programs and get ourselves back on track here a little bit as a collegiate hockey group.”

Here are some more thoughts from Brophy and McLeod on Thursday’s developments:

Brophy, on subsidizing visiting teams’ travel to Huntsville for league games:

“We were asked to provide a subsidy to schools. We felt that was very fair. We came up with a range after visiting with Commissioner McLeod and the presidents and ADs of the WCHA. We came up with a range that everyone thought was fair and good. We used the Alaska formula for that. Those schools have subsidies that they provide. We used that formula as a guide and came up with a range that everyone was happy with. And once we got over that hurdle, that really sent us on our way.”

McLeod, on the unanimous vote:

“That was one of the concerns I had, that we don’t need something that’s divisive for the group right now. The important thing for us is to get on the same page and moving in the same direction.”

Brophy, on competing in the WCHA:

“One thing’s for sure: We don’t want to just be the last little boy in the schoolyard who gets picked last for the pickup basketball game for the next 20 years. We have been playing hockey in Huntsville 34 years. Five national championships at different levels. Have been to the NCAA tournament, have won our league championships. In fact, the last time we were in a conference we won that conference.

“So while we realize it’s going to be very difficult and very challenging, we want to win the WCHA. We want to go to the NCAA tournament. We want to go deep into the NCAA tournament. I don’t really believe in five-year plans or three-year plans. I believe in winning now.”

McLeod, on the league’s discussions:

“I really didn’t have a good handle on what was going to happen prior to [the meeting]. I was quite surprised how the conversation went in a positive way right from the get-go. There was very little opposition. I was a little bit surprised at that.”

Brophy, on UAH president Robert Altenkirch’s efforts:

“Without our phenomenal president, Bob Altenkirch, this would not have happened. He is a tremendous leader and he got the train on the track and he made it happen. Without him, it would not have happened. As far as I’m concerned when he flies back to Huntsville [Friday], they ought to carry him down the street like Cleopatra.”

At long last, Minnesota gives a No. 1 team upper hand over a No. 2 team

The numbers were stacked against No. 1 Minnesota on Tuesday in its non-conference showdown with No. 2 Notre Dame at Mariucci Arena.

Only certain numbers, though.

In the 15-plus seasons of the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll, a No. 1 team had never won a home game against a No. 2 team.

In the last 10 games between the top two teams in the rankings, the No. 1 team was winless.

Minnesota was winless in five appearances in a 1-versus-2 game.

The Golden Gophers took care of business with a 4-1 victory over the Fighting Irish, and they took care of those three trends, too.

A home No. 1 team improved to 1-6-1 against the No. 2. The last time No. 1 beat No. 2 in any game was Dec. 29, 2000, when Michigan State beat Boston College in the Great Lakes Invitational.

The Gophers finally got in the win column in games matching the top two teams in the rankings at 1-4-1.

In 17 overall games between the top two teams since the start of the 1997-98 season, No. 1 improved to 5-8-4.

Before Tuesday, it had been almost five years since we’ve seen a game of this rankings magnitude. We’ve started a page listing all of those games, and you can find it here.

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