TMQ: Why it’s hard to picture another coach reaching 1,000 wins

Jerry York is in his 44th season as a college hockey head coach (photo: Melissa Wade).

Each week during the season we look at the big events and big games around Division I men’s college hockey in Tuesday Morning Quarterback.

Paula: The very first thing that comes to my mind this week, Jim, is Jerry York’s 1,000th victory, making him the first coach in NCAA hockey history to reach that mark, regardless of the division. We both know how humble York is. We both know he’s the type to point to his longevity in the business as a big part of the reason behind this milestone, but we both know, too, that longevity isn’t the reason behind his success. Instead, it’s his success that has guaranteed his longevity.

Looking just at active Division I coaches, the next guy behind York is Red Berenson, fourth on the overall list with 824 wins and all at Michigan, and then there are six more active D-I coaches with 400 or more wins: Minnesota’s Don Lucia (687), New Hampshire’s Dick Umile (568), Mercyhurst’s Rick Gotkin (504), Quinnipiac’s Rand Pecknold (433), Notre Dame’s Jeff Jackson (422) and Ferris State’s Bob Daniels (408).

You’ve seen more of the Boston College program than I have. What is the secret to York’s success? And what strikes you about the other names on that list?

Jim: I guess I will start with your second question first. What strikes me is that there isn’t much chance for any other coach to ever reach the 1,000-win plateau. Yes, I know that’s a strong statement, particularly given that Rand Pecknold has 433 wins and is still in his 40s. But let’s put York’s numbers in perspective.

For one, he became a head coach at age 26. Not counting this season, in the 43 full seasons prior, York’s teams won an average of 22 games per year. Pecknold’s teams have won, on average, almost 20 games per season for his first 21 years. At that pace, Pecknold would have to remain a head coach for another 29 seasons — into his late 70s — to eclipse 1,000 wins. And he is the best hope in the “next” generation to hit this milestone.

Now to your other question: Why is York so successful? A lot of it is his ability to keep up with the times. He has never let the times pass him by. He keeps up with technology, with the changes in the game, with his players’ generation. He also believes in his road map on how to build a team that can compete to win the national championship every year.

That, to me, is what makes York stand out. And having covered him and the BC beat for years at the beginning of my career, I’m proud and excited that he reached the 1,000-win mark. Can’t think of a better fellow.

Paula: You make some great points about York’s career. As I said, it’s not just longevity — it’s the quality of the coaching and the overall success. That average of 22 wins per season is amazing.

When I glanced at the list of active coaches with over 400 wins, I don’t know why I was surprised to see Pecknold’s name, but I was. I guess the relatively recent consistent success of the Quinnipiac program is still one of those things sneaking up on me.

Speaking of Quinnipiac, it says a lot for the Bobcats’ season that I’m looking at their overtime ties against Maine and Rensselaer as stumbles along their path. With a single loss this season, the Bobcats are very fine. Four of their five games in January have gone to overtime and they’re 2-0-3 in that span. Is that something of a concern? The Bobcats are still tops in the PairWise Rankings and still tops in the Division I Men’s Poll, but 20 of the 50 voters opted for someone else as No. 1.

Jim: Listen, going 2-0-3 is never bad. But for some reason with Quinnipiac, I may be a little bit concerned.

I recall the 2012-13 season when Quinnipiac became the No. 1 team in the country for the first time. The Bobcats followed that up with a 2-1 loss at home against St. Lawrence the following game. Last week, a day after becoming No. 1 again, Quinnipiac needed a third-period rally from two goals down to earn a 3-3 tie against a Maine team that is in last place in Hockey East.

Both of these events may be completely unrelated, but when I read Pecknold’s quote in last week’s ECAC Hockey column written by Josh Weinreb saying his team needs “passion” and has been “faking [passion] since Christmas,” I guess I am surprised.

The reality is this could be a bit of a wake-up call for the Bobcats. But I have seen mediocre play by teams, particularly this time of year, lead to a doldrums that can become costly. Let’s not forget, as good as Quinnipiac was in the 2012-13 season, losing to Yale in the national title game, the Bobcats never reached the ECAC title game that season. Regular seasons are great and finishing first in your league is a testament to consistency. But for Quinnipiac, that has never translated into an ECAC tournament title.

Quinnipiac isn’t alone as a top team that is having a tough going right now. Of the top 10 teams in last week’s poll, only two swept their weekend series last weekend — St. Cloud State and Harvard. Does that tell you anything?

Paula: Actually, it tells me a couple of things. First, there’s a difference between sweeping a single opponent in a weekend, as St. Cloud State did, and beating two different opponents on consecutive nights, as Harvard did. Not to diminish St. Cloud’s accomplishment, but prepping for two different, distinct opponents in a weekend is a tough thing to do, especially when one of them is ranked and each plays so differently, as do Colgate and Cornell.

Second, it tells me that some teams — like Colorado College, Dartmouth and Miami — may be finding their stride in the second half and the competition with an ever-shrinking number of regular season weeks remaining is getting tougher. CC and Miami, especially, have struck me as teams that were better than their records, and now the Tigers are 1-2-1 in their last four against St. Cloud and North Dakota, and the RedHawks have won three in a row and are 3-1-1 in their last five against ranked opponents.

Some teams need half a season, it seems, to jell. Minnesota is one of those teams. The Golden Gophers extended their win streak to five with their sweep of Wisconsin. The weekend before, Minnesota swept Michigan State. The argument can be made that the Gophers played two weaker opponents that they should have beaten, but Minnesota outscored Wisconsin 13-2 in two games and Michigan State 8-3, and they split with Penn State three weekends ago to begin this run. I think they’re coming together.

And I am still amazed by the number of games we are seeing with such high scores. In addition to Minnesota’s 9-2 win over Wisconsin Saturday, there was Minnesota State 8-0 over Lake Superior State, Bowling Green 6-2 over Alaska-Anchorage, St. Cloud 8-2 over Western Michigan — so many lopsided games with high scoring. In my column last week, I lamented the goaltending situation in the Big Ten. I’d like to think, though, that there’s more to it than that. What do you think is the reason behind so many high scores and such lopsided games?

Jim: I think we are actually seeing some pretty potent offenses around college hockey this season. Without a doubt, we’re seeing more teams reach marks in single-game goal scoring that I don’t remember in recent years. It seems almost every weekend, there are multiple teams posting six goals in a game and usually one or two that get to seven or eight. This despite the fact that goaltending numbers are still pretty solid.

Here is an interesting stat regarding goaltending: In order to be a top-20 goaltender in GAA, you need to be at 2.14 or less. With those six-, seven- and eight-goal outbursts that I just mentioned, it seems pretty darn easy to skew those stats.

So I guess in the end, my crackerjack analysis leads me to one thought: While there is plenty of offense at times, goaltending still leads the way.

Thumbs up

An obvious one — to Jerry York for becoming the first college hockey coach to reach 1,000 wins. Here’s to 1,000 more!

Thumbs down

To Alaska-Anchorage rookie Eric Roberts. College debuts are supposed to be memorable. For Roberts, his will be memorable for all the wrong reasons. Just 3:15 into the game last Friday at Bowling Green, he was called for hitting from behind and received a minor penalty. Just over three minutes after getting out of the box, Roberts was assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct for hitting from behind. The ensuing power play led to two Bowling Green goals. The Falcons won 6-2 to complete a sweep.

Coming up

There’s an exciting extended weekend of college hockey coming up, starting with No. 6 Michigan playing at No. 15 Penn State on Thursday. The teams then move to Madison Square Garden for a game Saturday.

No. 10 Notre Dame puts its 12-game unbeaten streak on the line Friday when it hosts No. 5 Boston College.

No. 17 Michigan Tech plays a series at No. 18 Bowling Green on Friday and Saturday, while No. 11 Yale hosts No. 16 Rensselaer on Saturday.

Saturday and Sunday brings the third North Star College Cup in St. Paul, Minn., where No. 3 St. Cloud State plays No. 19 Minnesota State and No. 20 Minnesota plays Bemidji State in the first round.

And the 64th Beanpot gets started on Monday, with No. 7 Harvard playing No. 5 Boston College in the early game, followed by Northeastern against No. 9 Boston University.