They Say You Want A Resolution
As we prepare to leave this calendar year behind, our thoughts naturally return to the events of the previous 12 months. After we reflect on the good, bad, ugly, and otherwise, who among us hasn’t made a resolution or two?
We resolve to work better, play better, pray better, cope. We want to get fit, call Mom more often, volunteer, save money, learn something new, kick the habit, find the meaning of life, play more hockey.
Behind every pledge is the desire to improve, and behind every successful change is the determination to see something through. And we all know, it’s never easy.
If you think changing your own mind about something is difficult, imagine the job facing Tom Anastos. The league’s newish commissioner has vowed to be tough on penalties, stick to the cluster system, and generally help the CCHA establish itself as a league whose credibility is never questioned.
Good thing Anastos knows a thing or two about resolve.
Now in his second year as the league’s chief, Anastos acknowledges that change hasn’t come without challenge. “Last year we went through growing pains. We had a lot of coaches complaining that the games weren’t five-on-five and that there were too many power plays, too many penalty kills, too many five-on-threes, and we said, ‘Listen guys, if we’re going to make a commitment to this, we’re going to go with it.'”
Beginning with the 1999-2000 season, the league emphasized specific penalties to attempt to make CCHA contests cleaner. Last year saw a marked increase in the number of obstruction penalties called. This season, it’s unsportsmanlike conduct for any unnecessary “business” away from a play, including smack talk. The strategy has received mixed reviews from coaches, players, fans, and the media.
“A penalty is a penalty,” says Anastos. “Are the guys [officials] going to make mistakes? Absolutely, like the players make mistakes. The bottom line is we’re going to stay with it, so we’re going to have to work on changing behavior, make sure the players know they’re not going to get away with this all the time, so coaches need to make sure they’re coaching it out of their players.”
At just 37 years old, Anastos remembers well his days in a Spartan uniform, and he knows what happens on the ice. “Hey, I played the game, I’m going to get away with as much as I can. I’m pretty pleased with the way [the policy] showing. It looks like the power plays are down from last year at this time, and I don’t think our guys are backing down from that directive.”
That’s CCHA Resolution No. 1.
Another change that caused quite a buzz is the cluster scheduling. With the addition of Nebraska-Omaha at the start of the 1999-2000 season, the league increased to 12 members, and a schedule that had each team playing every league opponent three times was no longer an option. The clusters were adopted as a way to allow each team to play every league squad at least twice; clustermates play each other four times.
In the past, the grousing about clusters focused on how the system hurt the league’s chances for postseason tournament invitations, but Anastos says that the coaches are now behind the scheduling.
“When we met in September, they unanimously endorsed extending the cluster schedule for two more years. We’re going to carry it through.
“When you really analyze scheduling, there is no perfect system, particularly with 12 teams. In our league, there are some teams who want to play fewer league games because they can have more nonconference games that would bring more people into their buildings. There are other teams who have difficulties bringing in nonconference teams into their buildings, so they have to go on the road. That does have significant bearing on your strength of schedule and your ability to win enough games. There’s not necessarily one way to do it.
“Then you go a step further, and the other alternative you have is eventually to play the conference in divisions, and I don’t think there’s much support for that. As far as a balanced schedule, which I think is the best way to go, we have to play either way more games — to play every game twice, a 22-game schedule, or three times, a 33-game schedule — it’s just not feasible.
“I think the year the cluster schedule came out, there were a lot of complaints about it, but when people started to understand that we can’t have everything that we want in relation to the schedule, people started to grow accustomed to it. I don’t think there’s any perfect system, but I don’t find any fault with what we’re doing now.”
Which brings us to CCHA Resolution No. 2. Says Anastos, “The CCHA has never through the years said, ‘We’re going to try a scheduling format,’ and seen it through. We’re going to do that, and we’re going to evaluate it again.’ Obviously, if the coaches are unanimously endorsing it, I’m not saying they all love it, but they see it as the best alternative right now.”
Next week, more from Tom Anastos on the ECAC’s push for more uniform scheduling all through D-I men’s ice hockey, the strength of the league, and the nature of polls.
Happy Hockey To All, And To All A Good Night
‘Twas the week before New Year and all through the league
Every creature was stirring, in spite of fatigue.
With Mom in the kitchen and Dad in his chair,
I faced the TV with a holiday stare.
While visions of power plays danced in my head,
I felt out of sorts and was heading for bed,
When deep in my brain there arose such a clatter;
I flew to the keyboard — I knew what was the matter!
There on the screen was a vision ethereal:
The holiday ice hockey tournament schedule!
Fairbanks is off; so is Northern, it’s true,
But ten other teams have plenty to do.
Bowling Green heads East to my old stomping grounds,
While the Lakers and Spartans and Mavs make the rounds.
On Broncos! On RedHawks! On Bulldogs and Buckeyes,
Who travel to Florida 936 miles as the crow flies!
On Michigan, traveling just down the road!
On Notre Dame! Steal RPI’s mother lode!
Now dash away, dash away, dash away all,
Bring us titles and cups — beat them all, beat them all!
And wherever you travel, by bus or by flight,
Happy hockey to all, and to all a good night.
There are 10 league teams facing nonconference action this week in eight tournaments around the country. Some teams just skip down the road for their annual holiday festivities, while two teams travel far afield to bring the message of peace, love, and hockey to the good little boys and girls of the sunny South.
Here’s a rundown of this week’s action, as well as notes for each team. For specific matches and my picks, check out the sidebar to the right of the column.
Everblades College Classic
A holiday tourney in Florida? Why not, when Cornell hockey alumnus Craig Brush is the president and owner of the East Coast Hockey League’s Florida Everblades?
This new tournament features No. 12 Ohio State, Clarkson, Cornell, and Maine. The games will be played in the TECO Arena in Estero, Fla., Dec. 27-28.
All time, Ohio State is 3-2-0 against Cornell, 4-5-1 against Clarkson, and 1-9-0 against Maine. Last season, Cornell beat the Buckeyes 5-2 in Value City Arena. Clarkson has won three of the last five games against Ohio State. Maine owns the Buckeyes, but Ohio State spoiled Shawn Walsh’s return to the bench in Orono earlier this season.
Ohio State assistant coach Casey Jones was a four-year letterwinner for Cornell, and has served as an assistant for both Cornell and Clarkson. Buckeye head coach John Markell and Maine head coach Shawn Walsh were teammates for a season at Bowling Green.
The Buckeyes are 12-8-2 in holiday tournament games since 1980, including a 1-0-1 showing in the Sheraton/Howard Bank Hockey Classic in Vermont last season.
No. 7 Western Michigan heads to the Duluth Convention and Entertainment Center for the Silverado Shootout Dec. 28-29, along with hosts Minnesota-Duluth, Merrimack, and Colgate.
With half the season remaining, Western Michigan has already equaled its win total from last year, but the Broncos are on the road for 10 of their next 12 games.
The Broncos are in the running for status as this year’s Defenders of the Realm, with a 5-1-0 record against nonconference opponents.
All time, the Broncos are 5-2-0 against Colgate, and 3-2-0 against Merrimack.
Dave Gove (16-21–37) and Mike Bishai (10-27–37) lead the league in points.
Alabama Faceoff Classic
Nebraska-Omaha is the league’s representative at the Alabama Faceoff Classic, hosted by none other than the CCHA-slaying Alabama-Huntsville Chargers.
UNO plays UMass-Lowell early the first day, while host UAH plays Canisius late. The consolation and championship games follow the next day.
The Mavericks are 2-0-2 against Alabama-Huntsville, and this is UNO’s first trip to Huntsville since Jan. 24-25, 1998.
UNO has never played UMass-Lowell or Canisius.
Ledyard Bank/Auld Lang Syne Classic
The red-hot RedHawks face Vermont while New Hampshire and Dartmouth tangle in the first round of the Auld Lang Syne in Thompson Arena in Hanover, NH, Dec. 29. A consolation and championship game follow on Dec. 30.
Miami is winless against Vermont in their last four meetings. Miami and Vermont last met during the 1996-97 season, a game that Vermont won 5-3.
Earlier this season, New Hampshire thumped the RedHawks 7-2, and Miami has never played Dartmouth.
The RedHawks haven’t won a holiday tournament since 1997-98, when Miami won the Denver Cup. That title game pitted the RedHawks against New Hampshire.
Wells Fargo Denver Cup
The once-and-future Defenders of the Realm, the Ferris State Bulldogs, head west to face Providence before Denver and Air Force tangle in the first round of the Norwest Denver Cup in Magness Arena on Dec. 29.
A championship and consolation game will be played on Dec. 30.
Ferris State and Providence are meeting for the first time ever in the opening game of the tourney.
The Bulldogs have also never played Denver, but are 3-3-0 against Air Force, whom they last met in 1991.
Ferris State is 9-10-2 all-time in regular-season tournament contests. The Bulldogs were the 1999 Silverado Shoutout Champions with their 4-0 win over Northeastern.
The Bulldogs have scored five shorthanded goals in 18 games this season after recording seven shorthanders in 39 contests last season. Ferris State’s penalty-killing unit has been successful 93.3% of the time during the Bulldogs’ last five outings.
Great Lakes Invitational
In the tournament that CCHA fans believe to be all their own, but which in reality Michigan Tech began, No. 1 Michigan State faces off against No. 2 Boston College, while No. 4 Michigan plays Michigan Tech on Dec. 29 in Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. The consolation and championship games are played the following day.
The Wolverines won a tournament-record nine straight GLI titles from 1988-96, and Michigan has more GLI titles (11) than any other team in the tourney’s history, two more than Michigan Tech.
Michigan is 22-3-0 in its last 25 GLI games, and have outscored GLI opponents 126-57 all time.
The Spartans have beaten the Wolverines just five times at the GLI, including each of the last three years.
Michigan State’s first-round game against Boston College is a rematch of last year’s NCAA tournament contest, which BC won in overtime 6-5.
The Spartan senior class is hoping to secure their fourth consecutive GLI title. MSU won the GLI four times in a row once before, from 1982-85.
This will be Adam Hall’s first ever GLI with the Spartans. The junior missed his first two as a member of the U.S. National Junior Team.
Lake Superior State travels to Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis for the Mariucci Classic. Rounding out the field are Bemidji State, Union, and host Minnesota.
In the first round on Dec. 29, the Lakers take on Bemidji, while Minnesota and Union play the late game. A consolation and championship game follow Dec. 30.
Lake State last faced Bemidji State Mar. 3, 1974, a game the Lakers won 4-1. To put that in perspective, that’s the year Richard Nixon resigned, The Godfather (Part II) was a box-office smash, Olivia Newton-John’s “I Honestly Love You” won the Grammy for Record of the Year, and I was a fourth-grader at St. Margaret’s school in Mattydale, N.Y.
The Lakers won the Mariucci Classic in the 1993-94 season, beating Maine 2-1 in the first game, then dropping host Minnesota 4-3 in the overtime title match. The Lakers went on to win the NCAA Men’s D-I National Championship that season.
Rensselaer/HSBC Holiday Tournament
Notre Dame heads to Troy, N.Y., to face St. Lawrence on Dec. 29 in the early game, while Rensselaer plays Northeastern in the nightcap. The consolation and championship games will take place on Dec. 30.
This is Notre Dame’s second appearance in the Rensselaer/HSBC, the longest-running in-season college hockey tournament. The Irish finished fourth in 1988-89, losing 6-0 to Rensselaer in the first round and 7-5 to Air Force in the consolation game. That loss to Rensselaer is the only game the Irish have ever played against the Engineers.
Notre Dame is 2-2-0 against the Saints all-time, but haven’t faced them since the Irish beat the Saints 8-5 on Dec. 19, 1972 in the ECAC Holiday Tournament in Madison Square Garden. To put that in perspective, I was six months shy of my ninth birthday.
The Irish and Northeastern met earlier this season, splitting a series in South Bend with Notre Dame winning 6-4 Oct. 20 and the Huskies taking the closer 5-3 the next night. Notre Dame is 3-2-0 against Northeastern all-time.
If They Don’t Call It A Tourney, Can We Still Play?
Bowling Green heads East to play Mercyhurst Dec. 28 and Niagara Dec. 30, two opponents the Falcons have never faced.
As head coach of RIT, current Falcon skipper Buddy Powers beat Mercyhurst twice during the 1988-89 season, but has never coached against Niagara.
The Falcons will play eight of their next 10 games on the road, including six straight after the Christmas break. This is BG’s second six-game road trip this season. The Falcons complete the regular season with six of 10 at home.
Junior forward Greg Day has a team-leading 11 goals in 16 games this season, a number one shy of half of his goal production for his entire rookie and sophomore seasons. Day has three multi-goal games this year after recording four in his first 75 collegiate contests.
Sophomore goaltender Tyler Masters is on pace to record the second-highest single- season save percentage in Falcon history. The record of .914 was set by Wally Charko in the 1978-79 campaign. Masters’ current save percentage is .910.
Do They Think This Is A Holiday Or Something?
Two CCHA teams are idle this week, the Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks (4-8-4, 4-6-4 CCHA) and the Northern Michigan Wildcats (9-5-5, 5-5-4 CCHA).
The Nanooks finished the first half of the season with 12 league points, equaling their total from 1995, their first season in the CCHA, and the improved Nanooks have registered a point in every series they’ve played so far this season.
UAF has four conference ties, two short of the Nanooks’ total (6) from their first five seasons in the league.
If the Nanooks continue on paced and earn 24 conference points, they will surpass their previous league high of 17 set in 1997-98.
Junior defender Daniel Carriere leads all conference blueliners in league scoring with four goals and seven assists.
The Nanooks are off until they host Iona (N.Y.) in a two-game nonconference series Jan. 5-6 at the Carlson Center. Coach: Rick Comley (25th season)
The Wildcats will meet Yooper rival Michigan Tech for the 96th time on Jan. 5. NMU holds a 49-39-7 advantage in that all-time series. Northern is unbeaten (9-0-1) in its last 10 meetings with the Huskies, and is 12-1-2 in the last 15 matches.
After the single game against Michigan Tech, Northern hosts York University in an exhibition game on Jan. 7.
The Wildcats have allowed their opponent to score first in seven of the last nine games, including four straight. In addition, Northern has trailed or been tied after 20 minutes in six of the last seven games, including the last four outings. The ‘Cats are 5-3-1 when their opponent scores first and 5-4-3 when trailing or tied after the first period.