This Week in Division III: Jan. 22, 2004

Change Is Good

In my last two columns, I outlined proposed changes that would negatively affect Division III hockey. But not all change is bad, of course.

Case in point — the NCAA has modified its tournament selection process for this and future seasons, and the changes should eliminate some of the issues that have traditionally been raised in March. The process is still not perfect (out of region games are still de-emphasized), but the strength of schedule measurement is highly improved.

“We think it’s a fairer representation,” said Chris Schneider, NCAA Staff Liaison for the Division III Men’s Hockey Championships. “Now instead of merely looking at the winning percentage of the teams you play, we’re also looking at the results against those teams.”

The formula used to be an aggregate winning percentage of a team’s in-region opponents. Now it’s a point system where teams get a certain number of points for a win, loss or tie, based on the winning percentage of their opponent.

Here are some examples:

A win on the road against a team with a winning percentage at or above .667 is worth 15 points.
A loss in the same situation is worth only seven points.
A tie in that same situation is worth 11 points.

The categories for winning percentages are:

.667 and above
between .500 and .666
between .333 and .499
less than .333

You get an extra point for a road game vs. a home game. These winning percentages are calculated by an opponent’s final record, not their record when the game is played. So, like the old system, teams root for their opponents to do well in future games.

At the end of the season, each team’s point total will be divided by the number of games played, and that result will be their SOS ratio, which can be compared to other teams under consideration. If this method sounds familiar, it’s because it’s been used by several Division III sports, including basketball, for several years. It’s now been standardized across Division III.

Besides the change in the SOS formula, another primary criterion has been added: In-region winning percentage against ranked opponents. Ranked opponents? Who’s doing the ranking?

“We’re bringing back regional rankings,” said Schneider. The NCAA used to do a regional ranking/poll for the Eastern and Western regions, but abandoned it several years ago. Since then, the national coaches/media poll has been the only D-III ranking.

Rather than a poll, committees in the Eastern and Western regions will apply the NCAA selection criteria as if selecting teams for the NCAA tournament.

“We’re going to start with the top 15 in the East, and the top seven in the West,” said Schneider. “That’s a third of the teams in each region. Once you are ranked, you will stay ranked until the end of the season.”

That means the rankings could expand in size, but once a team is ranked, it will stay that way, so games played against it will continue to count in the criteria.

The first rankings will be published on February 11, and then for the next three Wednesdays after that. The final ranking, issued Sunday, March 7, will be the actual NCAA field.

“It will give teams an idea of where they stand,” Schneider said.

It will also remove some of the mystery about the process and allow fans to see where their team stacks up in those critical last few weeks of the season.

Humanitarian Update

When the nominees for the 2004 Hockey Humanitarian award were announced in December, I was disappointed to see no Division III players mentioned. Division III has been well represented in the past, with at least two or three nominees and at least one finalist every year. RIT’s Kristine Pierce and Buffalo State’s Rocky Reeves have won the award.

Fortunately, it was an oversight.

“We actually did receive a D-III nomination from Babson College,” said Founding Director John Greenhalgh. “The nomination was mailed in plenty of time but somehow got lost in the system. We voted to accept it late as it was no fault of Babson or the nominee. Babson captain Derek Nisula is in fact one of our five finalists.”

Nisula, a senior, has been involved in Habitat for Humanity throughout his college career. The Gardner, Mass., native is also active in food projects and summer camps for underprivileged children.

That’s good news. The bad news is that Nisula’s was the only application received this season from a Division III school, men’s or women’s.

Greenhalgh has some ideas as to why.

“Each year we add, change or delete Sports Information Directors and coaches names to try to keep our mailing list up to date,” he said. “This year we made over fifty changes from information derived from USCHO and mailing lists from both coaches and SIDs. Most changes are from D-III schools’ SIDs and coaches, many who have never heard of the award.”

On top of that, many schools don’t have the resources to complete what is now a large amount if paperwork.

“Two of our past eight award recipients were D-III players. However, when you count the number of D-III schools playing hockey, we should have many more nominations than those we receive,” Greenhalgh said.

“All nominations are treated equally whether D-I or D-III. However, this year’s form required more information than in years past. I can understand a potential D-III nominator looking at our form and deciding that it may just be too much work.

“Small D-III schools and even some of the D-I programs are just incredibly busy and have to make decisions on what gets done.”

Things will change next time, according to Greenhalgh.

“Next year’s nomination process directed primarily at D-III schools will be changed to include a new, easier nomination form, increased mailings and phone contacts,” he said. “We will also be certain to increase coordination and award information with each conference.

“We would appreciate hearing from any D-III people with ideas to help.”

Greenhalgh can be reached at: [email protected].

Strange Streaks

A couple of interesting streaks are on the line this weekend. Out West, Augsburg looks to extend its dominance over St. Mary’s. The Auggies are 13-0-1 against the Cardinals over the past seven seasons, unusual considering the teams are fairly evenly matched from year to year. Augsburg’s last loss to SMU was a 4-1 setback at Augsburg on Feb. 21, 1997.

In the East, Trinity and Norwich will square off on Friday. The Bantams have won the last three conference meetings against the Cadets, quite an accomplishment since Norwich has lost just 10 league games in three and a half years (55-10-1). But the Cadets have won the matchups that counted the most. Besides defeating Trinity in the championship game of the Times-Argus tournament in January , 2003, Norwich also beat the Bantams in the NCAA quarterfinals last season, with a four-goal third period rally.

Another Loss

College hockey suffered another loss on Monday when longtime Wisconsin-River Falls assistant coach Mickey Keating passed away. He was 72.

Keating assisted both George Gwozdecky and Dean Talafous as well as current coach Steve Freeman in his tenure at UWRF, which included several years in the 1980’s as well as the previous 10 seasons.

Keating was active in hockey his entire life, playing for 12 seasons in the Montreal Canadiens organization and later serving as a scout in the NHL. He was the general manager and coach of the Flin Flon Bombers in the Western Hockey League and was a referee in the International Hockey League.

Keating also wrote several books and articles on subjects like rating player’s skills, hockey equipment and arena management. He was inducted into the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame in September, 1997, recognizing his long and remarkable hockey career.