Let’s face it. If your job called for you to sit in your office on a Friday night and watch college hockey on a big-screen TV while two different computer monitors played other college hockey games, you might think of it as a dream.
Such is the life for Hockey East Coordinator of Officials Dan Schachte, but while he certainly seems to enjoy his profession, you would hardly call his job a dream.
For sitting and watching hour of college hockey is often followed with phone calls from coaches unhappy about a call or an official. It includes needing to recruit, manage and maintain a core base of referees and linesmen that need to travel anywhere from South Bend, Ind., to Orono, Maine.
And most importantly, the job requires mentoring and teaching officials how to call games in a way that provides a balance of fairness and player safety, each of which sit on a razor’s edge.
Now in his third year in the position, the retired NHL linesman masterfully manages his craft from Madison, Wis., occasionally traveling to each of the Hockey East venues throughout the season. In his three years, Schachte said he believes things have improved among Hockey East officials, but he also sees room to grow.
The biggest area of improvement since Schachte’s arrival, he believes, is reducing the amount of embellishment and diving around the league. Although there are penalties to address the issue, it often can be difficult for a referee on the ice to successfully sniff out a dive. Thus, Schachte and his staff have been aggressive in using postgame video review to identify when players dive and embellish with appropriate protocol in place to deal with the offenders.
“After my first year, I went to the Hockey East directors, I laid the numbers out on the table and told them we have an epidemic,” Schachte said of the amount of diving that existed when he first came to the league. “I showed them some video. I had an idea of how we could try to clean it up. It involved tracking [diving].
“I proposed after [a player’s] fifth contact with me for diving/embellishment you would sit for a game and after that it would be incremental. [The directors] came back to me and said [suspend them] after three.”
While Schachte hasn’t yet issued a suspension for such violations, that doesn’t mean he has yet to contact numerous players.
“I wrote an awful lot of letters and made an awful lot of phone calls to coaches and kids, but this year, not so much,” Schachte said. “Last year, I’d say we cut [the number of infractions] in half. This year it’s maybe a third or a quarter of what it was last year. A lot of that credit goes to the coaches.
“Flopping is not allowed. I think that’s a buzzword in our league. It cheapens the game. It disturbs the competitive balance and I think we’re really making some good inroads. I see kids telling guys on their own team, ‘Get up. Don’t flop.’ I think we’re moving in the right direction.”
One area where Schachte still believes there needs to be significant improvement is the reduction and elimination of blows to the head. Concussion awareness over the past decade has significantly increased across all sports. And while treating concussions has taken major steps forward, Schachte still struggles with the amount of fouls that result in head contact across all of college hockey.
“It’s still a major problem in college hockey, not just Hockey East,” Schachte said of head contact. “It’s something that a player just does instinctively.
“Until we can get into their heads and make it so that they don’t do it, we can call penalties all night long and we’ll still see it. It’s just something that’s in their blood and it’s a dangerous play that we need to get out of the game.”
Another major portion of Schachte’s job involves recruitment and retention of officials. Living in Madison, he is geographically in the middle of the United States Hockey League, a league that doesn’t just develop some of the best college players but also many officials that make the jump to the college ranks.
Twenty of the 51 current Hockey East officials have been hired under Schachte’s watch, one of the most aggressive recruiting cycles of officials in the league’s history. Part of that was dictated by the geographic move to the Midwest with the addition of Notre Dame.
But there is an obvious sense that Schachte takes interest in developing new, young officials. You can hear the enthusiasm in his voice when he talks of them.
“Geoff Miller and Ryan Hersey worked the national final last year. It was their second year with [Hockey East]. They’re back this year for the third year,” said Schachte. “Another young fellow from the Twin Cities who I picked up [from the USHL], Cam Voss, he and his wife decided to move out and live in Worcester, [Mass.] right now. He wanted to be in our league and he just got hired full time by the American Hockey League and the National Hockey League has their fingerprints all over him.”
Certainly, and for good reason, you realize when he talks about his officials, Schachte speaks like a proud father.
It’s tough at the top
Last Friday and Saturday, Michigan Tech learned that life at the top ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.
The Huskies made their first appearance at the top of the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll the previous Monday but lost twice to then-No. 9 Minnesota State.
That opened the door for Boston University to rise to the top spot for the first time since the final poll of the 2008-09 season, when BU was also the national champion.
BU’s ascent to No. 1 will last at least a week, but it took just 24 hours for the Terriers to fall, dropping a 3-2 overtime decision to Harvard on Tuesday.
The loss wasn’t about BU players getting caught up in being No. 1, according to coach David Quinn. Instead, it was about facing a very good Harvard team that was able to be opportunistic.
Quinn said that he felt his team played better in Tuesday’s loss than it did in its previous two wins last weekend against Maine and Connecticut.
BU put 42 shots on goal against Harvard and attempted an incredible 87 shots in the game. With numbers like that, Quinn likes his team’s chances going forward.
“I’d like to see more [chances] get through. I thought we missed the net on some golden opportunities,” Quinn said about Tuesday’s loss. “If you’re not having the chances, that’s a concern. We had chances. We just need to be more opportunistic.”
Quinn is also ever the realist and understands his team has come out on the right side of a lot of tight decisions. Tuesday, that wasn’t the case.
“I’ve said this all along: We were 8-1-1 going into [Tuesday’s game] and we’re about 15 plays from being 4-6,” said Quinn. “That’s college hockey.
“But if we play like [we played Tuesday], we’ll get rewarded.”
Inside the numbers
Every now and again, I like to look deeper into some interesting statistics. And thanks to our good friends at College Hockey Inc. (I call them the Elias Sports Bureau of college hockey), we can do just that:
In Monday’s blog, I had examined where BU’s Jack Eichel stacked up against the top freshmen in Hockey East history. I found only one person, Paul Kariya, to have a rookie season ahead of Eichel’s scoring pace. At the time, Eichel was averaging 1.90 points per game; that has since dropped to 1.73 PPG.
Even with that drop, only Kariya in Hockey East had better numbers (2.56 PPG). And only one other player, 21-year-old freshman Ryan Carter, who played with now-defunct Iona in the early seasons of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, had numbers in the same hemisphere when he averaged 1.91 points per game in the 1998-99 season.
Coaches absolutely love to score in the first and last minutes of a period. Hockey East teams are tied for the lead in each category. Boston University is tied for the most goals in the first minute of a period with four. Maine is tied for the most goals in the final minute of a period with five.
Massachusetts-Lowell goaltender Kevin Boyle likes playing away from the Tsongas Center. The redshirt junior transfer from Massachusetts holds a .950 save percentage and a 1.45 GAA in road games, both tops in Hockey East.
Jake Fallon leads all Hockey East players with 151 faceoffs won, but his 53.7 faceoff win percentage pales in comparison to Northeastern’s Mike McMurtry’s 79.3 success rate. Granted, McMurtry has taken only 29 draws compared to Fallon’s 281 draws. If you want to find the “best” faceoff man in Hockey East, you have to look to Merrimack’s Hampus Gustafsson, who owns a 61.2 winning percentage with 232 total draws.
Notre Dame’s Mario Lucia leads Hockey East in shooting percentage, scoring 31 percent of the time. Pretty good for a guy who averages a little more than two shots on goal per game.
You usually think of defensemen as being the top shot blockers, but Connecticut forward Patrick Kirtland is the league leader in blocked shots with 28.
Youth (well, underclassmen, at least) is serving Hockey East well as not a single Hockey East team appears on the list of top-five scoring senior classes.