Another round of taking aim at head contact starts in WCHA

We’re in another year and we’ve got a new-look everything. New-look league, new-look USCHO and new-look WCHA coverage.

This year, we’re following Hockey East’s lead and splitting the duties. Much like Jim Connelly and Dave Hendrickson have been sharing things over there, this year, I’ll be sharing this space with Tyler Buckentine. You’ve already read some of Tyler’s stuff in the previews and already on the brand-spanking-new WCHA blog. I think he’ll be a good breath of fresh air — he’s younger, closer to the college scene and right in the heart of the league there in Mankato.

Starting next week, we’re doing weekend recap blog posts — I’ll be doing those. Tyler, as you’ve seen, will be doing the early week “column” blog. We’ll be splitting this space right here, the traditional column, if you will. Then, before the weekend action goes down, one of us will post our separate game predictions.

So, welcome Tyler, and I hope that y’all show him the same niceness and courtesy that you’ve shown me. …

On second thought, just say hi and leave it at that.

That hit’s a doozy

Hits to the head have garnered a lot of attention in the league over the last few years (see Aaron Marvin/Chay Genoway, for the best example). Last year, the NCAA put an emphasis on contact-to-the-head penalties, making each one warrant at least two minutes, sometimes more given the referee’s discretion. Obviously that didn’t always work out (see Aaron Marvin/Blake Geoffrion, Corbin Knight/Mike Connolly).

This year, they’re trying it again.

“Contact to the head, the way it reads [this year] is any direct blow to the head or shoulder area, [and] is an automatic five-minute major and a game over [misconduct] or a game disqualification,” WCHA supervisor of officials Greg Shepherd in this year’s media teleconference call. “Now again, the referees do have a judgment; it’s not zero-tolerance. The referees do have a judgment so if a player ducks and gets hit in the head with an elbow, they can still call that too or a good check where he slides up in the head area.

“But any stick, elbow, forearm, shoulder — anything of that nature that’s directed at the head area is going to be a five-minute major and a game misconduct.”

He goes on saying the referees are going to call this tight, something which we can only hope. Of course, this year they’re saying that there isn’t a zero-tolerance policy … a policy that was supposedly in place last year. And even though they did institute harsher penalties, I can’t help but think we’ll still see some ugly, dangerous hits this year anyway. However, Shepherd did mention something interesting that may make the players stay in line:

“We talk about half-shields; well, as long as this happens, we’re not going to get half-shields in,” he said.

That whole discussion, however, is talk for another day.

Welcome to our world

This weekend, the league’s two newest members start their first weekend of conference play. Bemidji State opens its new arena, the Bemidji Regional Event Center, against preseason league favorite North Dakota. Nebraska-Omaha starts on the road against Minnesota at Mariucci Arena.

Nebraska-Omaha celebrates Johnnie Searfoss' goal against Clarkson last Friday (photo: Michelle Bishop).

For both programs, it’s a return to familiarity in terms of the coaches. From there, though, it’s a little different.

The Beavers face the biggest transition, coming from a league of four teams to one of 12.

“It’s always been a league that you better be ready to play every night,” coach Tom Serratore said. “That’s going to be the key for us; every Friday and Saturday night now, 28 games, we’re going to have to prepare ourselves.”

Not that the preparation will be the worst thing; from the sounds of things, it seems like Serratore is looking forward to a wider range of opponents.

“We were playing teams in the CHA six times, each team six times the last couple years and that gets extremely old,” he said. “We’re going to have to be prepared to grind it out week in and week out, and that’s going to be the telltale sign of our hockey team.”

He mentioned that the transition was going to be easier for the Mavericks (yes, we now have two Mavericks to go along with the two Huskies), given that they played a 28-game CCHA schedule.

It’s still early, but the transition is already off to a nice start, as two Mavericks (the UNO kind) already have been named WCHA players of the week — Matt White shared rookie honors with Michigan Tech’s Milos Gordic while goaltender John Faulkner got the nod for top defensive player.

So, what should Minnesota fans look out for? Here’s how Dean Blais describes his team.

“I hope [we’re] fast and furious. We try to play with a lot of speed and with all the rules. It’s hard to get into a real physical game,” he said. “I think the forwards and their speed are going to be the real success of the team. We have good size on defense, the good size maybe goes with a lack of mobility, so we’ve got a lot of work to do with our defensemen.”

Take note, Don Lucia; that almost sounds like a scouting report for you.


  1. Hits to the head are going to happen when D-men are 6’3 & bigger and many WCHA forwards are 5’6. Not sure what can be done to prevent concussions as long as these size disparities exist.

          • Aaron Marvin is a great player and asking people to name teams that would or would not want him is getting off topic. It is obvious to anyone with a hockey brain on their shoulders that it was not a clean hit. However, jumping on him exclusively for being the cause of this rule change, intentionally hurting Genoway, or not being a class act is asinine.

          • aaron marvin is a great player… waaaaahhhh

            hey chief, lighten up and take a joke – you’re scaring the kids.

            and just for the record, you’re not the boss of the rest of us – we can talk about whatever, and the take the conversation wherever, we want. YOU don’t get to dictate that to the rest of the people on here. don’t like it? well, that’s ok, because we don’t care.

  2. Theresa,

    At the annual MSU-UNO hockey game, we MSU fans refer to the opposing team as the Red Mavs, while we cheer for the Purple Mavs. Maybe this would be helpful in your future columns?

  3. Any direct blow to the head or SHOULDER area??? I agree with Goddard, concussions are going to happen in hockey. The sheer speed of the game sometimes will make it impossible to avoid these kinds of injuries.

    What bothers me is the quote of “Head or SHOULDER” area….anyone else catch that? Since when is a shoulder hit illegal??? Was that a misquote?

    • yeah, saw that too. i don’t suspect it’s anything more than shepherd just being a duffus, and simply unable to clearly explain the rule change.

      especially considering the very next thing he said, quoted in the next paragraph, seems like an attemot to clarify the rule by leaving out the “shoulder” part of his previous explanation by saying :

      “But any stick, elbow, forearm, shoulder — anything of that nature that’s directed at the head area is going to be a five-minute major and a game misconduct.”

      whatever. he’s a goof. crux = hits to the head of any kind, bad.

      • That’s what it seems. Anyone who knows me well, knows I have had concussion issues and this is a VERY serious issue.

        Anyone who has had problems with concussions knows that it effects daily life. The concussion problems I had forced me to quit playing hockey for good. I was never all the great, but I loved to play.

        That being said however, Hockey is not a contact sport….it is a COLLISION sport. Referees need to have the power to decide between intentional and incidental.

        We cannot be suspending players for hits that they were powerless to stop. If a player is about to hit an opponent and that opponent suddenly lowers his head, the hitting player has no chance to avoid the hit.

        I sympathize with anyone who has had concussion problems, but we cannot turn every concussion into a witch-hunt.

  4. Nice Fluff piece… Nothing new Here.

    Here’s your double non-fat, mocha frappacino, Would you like a cookie wuth that?

    Do us all a favor, and bring back Milewski – unbiased, and good writing.

  5. Marvin’s hit to Genoway, no doubt was not clean. It deserved a penalty, and yes as an SCSU fan/alumn even I can say deserved the suspension. Let’s be honest though, if Genoway is not out for the season this would not even be an issue or talked about anymore like Marvin is some goon. Let’s take a step back folks…this was not a Donald Brashear stick swing…dirty hit deserving of a penalty, yes. Malicious, no. Watch the reply too…Genoway turns himself with his back to Marvin.

    It should be noted the hit on Geoffrion, even his coach stated “Blake got caught with his head down.” A 6’3″ dude, hitting someone cleanly who had his head down…C’mon that was NOT dirty. Again, with the contact to the head rules, I’m all for it was a penalty. BUT…it was not dirty, and bro got cleaned because he did not have his head up. If the league is going with calling these penalties so tight now…excellent…but then let’s put a stop to the pointless little jabs to the head after the whistle during a scuffle.

  6. Is this really the type of column we can expect before each week’s games? League play is opening this weekend with some great games and we get a hits to the head piece? Can we please get a writer who can contribute insight and analysis, perhaps breakdown the key matchups? This space has been wasted for 2 seasons now.

  7. Perhaps Bemidji’s transition is easier since they’ve played some of these teams every year. And Bemidji still played a lot games, just less conference games but still played. Go Red Mavs!

  8. Perhaps Bemidji’s transition is easier since they’ve played some of these teams every year. And Bemidji still played a lot games, just less conference games but still played. Go Red Mavs!

  9. The Marvin/Genoway hit was no doubt a dirty hit and it resulted in an injury and a penalty. The issue is more the countless hits that go unnoticed by the referees and unpenalized, such as the hit on Nick Leddy last year that broke his jaw. As he crossed the hit he was given a forearm with such force it broke his jaw. It happened in the middle of the offensive zone with no other players obstructing the view of the referees.

    We can always cite the most blatant examples of hits to the head and those generally get called. It is the other ones that seem to go unnoticed, of which there are many, that are the real problem and what accountability will be in place for calls that do not get made? Without that all we will see is a bearing down on the hits to the head for a month or so and then back to business as usual, as it has happened so many times before with so many “hot button penalties”.

  10. For years I lamented the obvious Wisconsin slant to the articles here and wished for a different writer. Well, my wish came true. Now this WCHA section is god awful!!!. I used to religiously follow the writing here, but rarely come back at all now. I thought that I might come back and check out the writing since it was opening weekend. I see it is the same. Now, there are two writers that provide no information that you couldn’t get from a newspaper and no insight whatsoever. No picks, no breakdown of the games, nothing. It was like it was put together in 5 minutes or something.

    Take note USCHO, your WCHA coverage stinks and your losing viewership!

  11. We’ll be nice to Tyler … as long as he doesn’t suck at writing and developing coherent thoughts, stories as much as you do


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