Improvement may stall unless UAH boosts program support

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Mar 252018

It’s been five years since the UAH hockey program found new life in the WCHA.

The program continues to improve on the ice. UAH had 12 overall wins this season, the best in eight years, and a program-high 10 wins in the WCHA. Since joining the league, the Chargers have improved their record each season, even if incrementally.

But there is a problem, and it starts at home.

UAH Avg. Home Attendance
2013-14 2,007
2014-15 1,921
2015-16 1,835
2016-17 1,601
2017-18 1,684

The Chargers’ average home attendance this season was 1,684, which was a slight increase from last season (1,601), but the second-lowest in the five seasons UAH has been a member of the WCHA. Attendance has not kept in line with the performance on the ice, as one might expect, but instead has slowly gone the other way.

The best weekend was the first against Alaska Anchorage on Nov. 10-11, when the Chargers drew 3,128 and 3,072. That weekend was a combination of opening night, homecoming, and the popular Military Appreciation Weekend.

The Chargers won the first game handily 5-1, and needed a goal in the final second of regulation in a 3-3 tie. I noted at the time that it was entertaining hockey that could boost crowds for the rest of the season. But it didn’t happen.

After that first series, UAH drew above 2,000 only once, and barely at that (2,071 against Bemidji State on Jan. 26). That weekend against Bemidji was the 20th anniversary celebration of the 1998 NCAA Division II national champions, and it was the second best series attendance-wise this season. The Chargers had 1,989 the second night, when the players from the ’98 squad were honored.

The Chargers had six home games to finish the regular season, and only twice did they get above 1,500. The other home games from the first half of the season supposedly have to go up against college football, but the rest of the second half home games didn’t fare much better.

It’s not like the Chargers were playing badly at the VBC. They went 6-7-1 at home this season, one of their best home marks in a decade. UAH was able to take some wins against three of the top teams in the WCHA as well (and was 2:10 away from beating the best in Minnesota State).

It doesn’t have to be like this. Those 3,000-plus crowds against Anchorage? That should be the average, not the season high.

The average crowd at a Havoc game this season would be in the top 15 all-time for a UAH game.

Meanwhile, the Havoc shows that the market for hockey is good in Huntsville, drawing over 4,700 per game and setting the single-season SPHL attendance record. They are engaging the community at a pace that is leaving UAH in the dust. I don’t think UAH has to necessarily compete with the Havoc for fans, but UAH could do more to get a better share of hockey lovers among the half-million people in the Huntsville metro area.

To be clear, the hockey program is not in danger of being cut again. But now that UAH has re-established itself in Division I, it needs to take the next step, which is putting in the framework that will make the Chargers serious contenders for WCHA championships.

These are the things that the UAH administration, including athletic director Dr. E.J. Brophy and president Dr. Robert Altenkirch, need to figure out. (I offer some possible ideas, but there may be better ones offered by people more qualified than me.)

  • We need a better marketing plan. The only promotion that I know of is getting Blue Line Club members to post about an upcoming home series on Facebook, which is what has been doing. How visible is the team on local TV and radio? Or targeted online ads? UAH did commission a fan survey for hockey. I urge every Charger fan to partake in the survey if you haven’t already.
  • We need better promotions. This season appeared to take a step back compared to previous years. Most of the giveaways were hockey trading card sets, which doesn’t seem to be a good hook. The free general admission to kids 12 and under by Huntsville International Airport is always nice, but won’t matter much if parents aren’t drawn.
  • We need more variety in ticket plans. We need Friday-only and Saturday-only partial season ticket plans. Offer season tickets for general admission as well as reserved with a discount off the per game rate.
  • We need to expand the Blue Line Club. We need to reduce the minimum donation to join from $1,000, which appears to be by far the highest among WCHA booster clubs. Create a level for all season ticket holders. Perhaps add a special level for UAH students. Enrollment should be made online a la UAH’s current online giving program.
  • We need more student involvement beyond homecoming and the UAH Pep Band. We need the Blue Crew to put as much energy into getting students at and involved in hockey games as they put in for basketball.
  • We need our hockey games on the radio, just like our basketball games, which have been on WZZN (97.7 The Zone) for several years now. How does the university’s Division I sport not have this? It feels like a missed opportunity that the Havoc is getting some games on The Zone and not UAH.
  • We need better production value on WCHA TV. We need our primary camera better focused on the action and our second camera not just fixated on the UAH bench. We don’t need all the bells and whistles of a major TV network, but compared to the rest of the WCHA, the current production looks amateur.
  • We still need new banners, including our CHA titles and NCAA tournament appearances in Division I. We also need banners of Jared Ross and Cam Talbot, the two Chargers who have played in the NHL, at the VBC. These are things recruits look for and fans show pride in.

This is just for what we see on the surface. The program also needs boosts in its recruiting budget, academic support, and facility upgrades. These are things UAH is falling behind in compared to the rest of the WCHA.

Some strides are being made. The Doug Ross Suite at Spragins Hall is in planning and is expected to be ready by the fall, as well as a redesigned weight room. These projects were possible with the generosity of Charger hockey supporters.

Of course, extra financial investment will be needed. This is why growing the Blue Line Club, or season ticket base, and attendance is so important. This is where the fundraising prowess of Dr. Brophy and his team must come through.

If UAH is serious about calling itself the Hockey Capital of the South, it must find these solutions.

Weekend shows how fun UAH hockey can be at the VBC

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Nov 132017
Josh Kestner, Connor Merkley, Tyler Poulsen

Josh Kestner, left, celebrates a goal with Connor Merkley and Tyler Poulsen on Saturday. (Photo by Todd Thompson)

Well, that was fun.

UAH’s homecoming, home-opening series against Alaska Anchorage drew a combined attendance of 6,200 at the Von Braun Center. It was the largest two-game crowd for UAH since January 17-18, 2014, which coincidentally was also against UAA and also military appreciation weekend.

In that 2014 series, the first game ended in a 1-1 tie and UAA won the second game handily 4-1. The tie was the best result the Chargers had at the VBC in all of the 2013-14 season.

Since joining the WCHA in 2013, UAH has been struggling to find its home-ice advantage. Part of that is natural as the program has been trying to rebuild the team almost entirely from scratch following its near-death experience. But even as the team has improved on its record every year, the Chargers have had trouble not just winning at home but playing consistently well enough for the home fans.

Last season, UAH won nine games, but only two were at home. In 2015-16, UAH was 4-10-4 at home.

Head coach Mike Corbett said during Friday’s Blue Line Club luncheon that the problem was the Chargers would tighten up and try to play perfect in front of the crowd (or, perhaps more specifically, “their girlfriends”), which would lead to the wrong play and a wrong result.

That’s why this past weekend against Alaska Anchorage was so encouraging as the Chargers continue their six-game home stand this weekend against Lake Superior State.

On Friday, the Chargers were dominant, posting a 5-1 victory. The Chargers showcased their speed and stayed on their game plan. Even when it didn’t result in a goal, players such as Brennan Saulnier, who scored twice in the game, Tyler Poulsen, Josh Kestner, and Kurt Gosselin were causing the crowd to audibly ooh and ahh with their agile skating and puck work, getting around defenders and setting up solid scoring chances for themselves and their teammates.

The announced attendance of 3,128 was larger than any home game last season.

It was entertaining.

Jordan Uhelski and Cam Knight

Jordan Uhelski makes a save while Cam Knight defends during Saturday’s game. (Photo by Todd Thompson)

Saturday’s game started the same way, but problems came late in the second period. A fracas broke out in the UAH end, resulting in numerous penalties on both sides but a big one on Saulnier, who got a five-minute major for roughing and a game misconduct. The Seawolves pounced with two power play goals and took a 3-1 lead into the second intermission.

Recent history would have suggested that UAH would not have responded well to that adversity. But this time, the Chargers got back on their game plan, stayed composed in the third period, and let their play do the talking.

UAH capitalized on two power-play chances and tied the game. Kestner scored early in the third period (his second goal of the game), and Connor Merkley gets his first collegiate goal at the buzzer (for added effect). The crowd went wild twice: On the goal itself, and again after video replay confirmed it.

The game would officially result in a 3-3 tie. Even though Anchorage got the extra WCHA point in the shootout, memories were made for yet another 3,000-plus group in attendance, which is great for a college football Saturday.

It was entertaining.

Will Sterrett was in Huntsville on Saturday as he attempts to visit every WCHA rink for a game this season, including Fairbanks and Anchorage. You can follow his odyssey with the hashtag #ChasingMacNaughton. He’ll get to see UAH and UAA meet again in Anchorage on January 12.

Sterrett has already seen some amazing games already on his journey, and Saturday’s crazy finish was no different. During the delirium of the buzzer-beating, game-tying goal, he tweeted: “I am legit in tears right now.

But more importantly:

Corbett said as much following Saturday’s game: “Homecoming weekend, a lot of fans, a lot of kids and their parents coming to a game for the first time — I don’t think anybody was let down. Anybody who stayed to the end both nights was not let down. Hopefully we’ll build on it.”

The Chargers still have issues to figure out as the season progresses, especially with a monster 12-game road swing following this home stand. But if this weekend was any indication, we’ve got a fun team to watch this season, win or lose.

The Chargers host Lake Superior State this Friday and Saturday, then Ferris State next week. Then they don’t return home until Jan. 26-27 against rival Bemidji State, the first of four home series over the last five weeks of the regular season. They’ll need that last home stand for the playoff push, which should make for some more entertaining hockey.

So come on down to the Von Braun Center this weekend. You might be surprised at the fun you’ll have.

Promotions this week: Free general admission for kids 12 and under, courtesy of Huntsville International Airport. On Friday, the first 500 fans receive the next set of UAH hockey trading cards, courtesy of Wells Fargo.

Blue Line Club lunch: The first Blue Line Club luncheon is Friday at noon in the Varsity Room at Spragins Hall on the UAH campus. Lawlers Barbecue will be catering an it is free to Blue Line Club members. Lake Superior State coach Damon Whitten and UAH coach Mike Corbett will be on hand to talk about this weekend’s series.

Arizona State, realignment and how it could affect UAH

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Apr 292016

College hockey realignment is heating up again. Fortunately, this time UAH hockey isn’t looking for a conference slot to save its life, but could it find itself in a better deal than it is now?

The first move in this round of conference shuffling started a month ago when the Big Ten accepted Notre Dame as a hockey affiliate member starting in the 2017-18 season, bringing the conference’s hockey membership up to seven.

Now the question is where will the Big Ten get an eighth hockey member (because leagues love even numbers). It was speculated that they could get Division I-newcomer Arizona State.

That’s not going to happen, according to reports on Monday, cutting the Sun Devils’ options between the WCHA and the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. Reports from College Hockey News and on Friday have the NCHC trending toward a deal with Arizona State, although NCHC commissioner Josh Fenton said nothing was imminent, while WCHA commissioner Bill Robertson has reiterated openly that they are pursuing the Sun Devils.

Arizona State is an interesting prospect. It just finished its first season as a varsity program, playing a mix of Division I, III, and club teams. The Sun Devils went 5-22-2 against NCAA opponents — three of those against WCHA opponents (one against Alaska-Fairbanks in Anchorage, and two in a sweep at Lake Superior State). They will play a full Division I independent schedule this coming season, and have been intending to play in a conference starting in 2017-18.

In the WCHA, ASU would hands down be the largest university in terms of attendance, with over 69,000 students, over four times more than the league’s current leader, Bowling Green. Arizona State would also join Bowling Green as the only full Division I athletic programs in the WCHA.

But there are questions. A big one is where ASU plays, or will play. The Sun Devils’ primary home has been Oceanside Ice Arena, which was renovated to a capacity of only 840, which would be the smallest in the WCHA. ASU played four games this season at Gila Bend Arena, home of the Arizona Coyotes, drawing over 5,000 twice. The Coyotes could partner with ASU on a new arena.

Then there’s travel. Arizona State would be added to a conference that’s primarily in the Midwest but already has two teams in Alaska and one in Alabama. ASU should be good with chipping in on the subsidies UAH and the Alaska schools provide to the rest of the league to cover the additional costs of visiting those areas, but how much extra mileage can the WCHA handle?

The current membership must be OK with the answers to these questions if Robertson is this public about pursuing them.

But if the WCHA adds Arizona State, where will it go to find a 12th member? (Again, leagues love even numbers.) Does it try to get Robert Morris or Niagara from Atlantic Hockey?

We’ll continue to monitor this during the summer. Meanwhile, there are a couple of realignment ideas that would be interesting from a UAH point of view.

Modest proposal: Fixing the WCHA

Drew Evans at wrote a column last week about fixing the WCHA in three steps. The second step was the conference expanding to 12 and going into divisions. Arizona State wasn’t one of the two teams he’d add, which is understandable given the questions above and, at the time, how unlikely ASU joining would be.

Evans suggests adding Robert Morris and either Mercyhurst or Niagara from Atlantic Hockey, and splitting the league into Western and Central divisions. Each division would have one Alaska school to spread the travel there, and UAH would be in the Central with Alaska, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Robert Morris, and Mercyhurst/Niagara.

The primary reason for this suggestion is travel management. Save for the Alaska team, most of a club’s travel within the division would be bus rides of no more than 12 hours (between Ferris State and Huntsville).

It’s an interesting idea, especially if the WCHA fails to get Arizona State.

More modest proposal: Return of the CCHA?

Chris Dilks at SBN College Hockey goes further, going beyond the WCHA. His plan to fix the Western conferences includes the formation of an 8-team conference with many members from the old CCHA, plus UAH:

  • UAH
  • Bowling Green
  • Ferris State
  • Lake Superior State
  • Miami
  • Michigan Tech
  • Northern Michigan
  • Western Michigan

There are few scenarios that would benefit UAH more than this setup, particularly in terms of travel. Sure, we’d lose rival Bemidji State as a conference foe, but to help the Chargers’ bottom line, it would be crazy for UAH not to accept this if it were presented.

With eight teams, this conference could play a 28-game schedule with every team playing each other home and away. It also leaves the door open for future expansion, perhaps including Robert Morris, Niagara, and/or Mercyhurst as Evans suggested. (Any of those three would still not be the furthest away from UAH in such a league.)

Dilks’s plan hinges on North Dakota joining the Big Ten as a hockey-only member, and the rest of the WCHA/NCHC and Arizona State coming together in a 10-team, two-division league. I don’t know if UND would go for joining the Big Ten, although North Dakota as a hockey-only Big Ten member makes more since than Rutgers and Maryland as full-time Big Ten members.

Realignment has been rumored to return from the moment the current league setup was agreed upon. Now we see if that time has come, and whether UAH can be all the better for it.

Dec 042015

[Note: This originally appeared on the USCHO Fan Forum, and I’ve modified it slightly for publication here.  —GFM]

I’ve gotta admit that I’m going into this weekend’s series with Northern Michigan with equal parts anticipation and dread. Which UAH team is this, really? Is it the team that started 3-2-1, or is it the team that’s run 0-6-0?

Well, let’s look at it:
· Home split with Connecticut: currently 53rd in CHN’s KRACH at 21.1 (UAH is 51st at 23.5)
· Home loss and tie to Anchorage: 30th at 98.3 (essentially NCAA average)
· Road sweep at Lake Superior: 48th at 31.4

· Home swept by Tech: 22nd at 149.9
· Road swept at BG: 26th at 128.8
· Home swept by Bemidji: 41st at 51.8

While it’s a little reductive to say that we’ve had success against the teams that are roughly on our level (per KRACH) and, well, nada against teams above us, the thing is this: is Bemidji really that much better than UAH? They came into town without a defined #1 goalie, weren’t scoring outside of Gerry Fitzgerald, and are still struggling with the loss of their three top D. And the UAH team that started out scoring 3.0 goals/game —*remember, last year’s team was 1.63 G/GM, and 2013-14 was 1.08 — scored two goals on Bemidji.

Then there’s the fact that Carmine isn’t at the level he was last year and Matty Larose has rounded into a solid 1B, shedding nearly 1.5 GAA in this his junior season.  Last year’s team knew that Carmine was their guy, and that they could trust him to handle the 35+ shots a night.  Now that they’re not giving up that many, things have changed.  Why?  I do not know.

Shots on goal against are down from 41.1 a game (!!!) two years ago and 37.6 last year (!!!) to just 28.9 this year, and the margin is just 4.4 a game. But again, UAH has been outshot 40-18, 30-18, 28-18, 24-20, and 26-17 in five of their last six games (out-shooting BG 36-28 in the second contest).

After starting off the 2015-16 season as a disciplined team (less Saulnier, who’s pretty much still good for one head-shaker a game), the penalties are piling up. UAH has been near the top in penalty minutes per game for their entire time in D-I, and we’re earning that reputation again this season (14.1 PIM/GM, 11th nationally). It’s come lately, too: 27, 23, 10, 33, 4, and 8 in their last six games.

(Hey, if you want one nice takeaway from the Bemidji series, it’s that we took six penalties all weekend.)

So what team shows up this weekend? Is it the team that plays within itself, trusts the system and the people in it, and tries to play smart hockey? Or is it the team that lacks discipline and can’t maintain possession?

I think that they need smart hockey, short passes, good pressure, and being willing to take the shot when it’s even sorta there.

This team is too damn good to be 3-8-1. Are they as good as they were in those first six games? Maybe not. Are they as bad as they have been in the last six? I don’t think so. As I harp on those six games, it’s important to note that the second Tech game and both BG games were one-goal losses, including an OT on Friday night in Ohio.

But the results just aren’t there, and my enthusiasm after that emphatic effort in the Soo — and from the beginning of the season — has really waned.  Split with BSU and the Chargers are 4-7-1, and sweeping the Environmental Terrorists would’ve made the boys 5-6-1.  In this WCHA, .500 hockey is enough to scrap for home ice.  I thought that we were there. Maybe we’ll get there, but man, it has to start tonight.

Dec 102014

Western College Hockey (thanks to Chris Dilks for popularizing the term) is dying because it has failed to recognize and embrace its own lot in life. In what world does a sport, already extremely regional, think it’s a good idea to take two perfectly good conferences, throw them in a blender and see what happens?

College hockey used to be great, because every fan felt like they had a stake in things. As a Minnesota State guy, I hated St. Cloud State. Hated UMD. Hated NoDak.

— Dan Myers, writer for the Minnesota Wild, “College hockey is dying, but the fix is simple”.

Myers’s point — and it’s worth reading the full piece, I assure you — is that the changes out west have harmed the sport because a lot of great rivalries are dead.  The key clause in the quote I pulled from his piece is this: “As a Minnesota State guy”.

As a UAH guy, I have a different perspective.  For one, my school wasn’t part of the old WCHA or the CCHA (though we tried to get into both).  As I noted in a post on the USCHO message board last night,

Through 1.5 seasons in the league, UAH has played Bemidji 74 times, Mankato 47, the Alaska schools 21 each (thanks to the early ’90s independent days), BG 14 times, Ferris 11 (four of those in 10-11), Lake and Northern eight times, and Tech just four times. Most UAH fans understand the rivalry with the Beavs, but you have to go back to the D-II days for fans to get the Mankato and Alaska rivalries.

I mean, really: the four teams we’ve played the most are rivalries from 15-20 years ago.  BG is pretty close and has been willing to schedule us in non-conference games. The Michigan schools have mainly played us in the last six years, and Tech has only in WCHA play.  The only real rival that we have is Bemidji — just revisit the #hateweek shenanigans from last year — and we went two years without playing them thanks to the Beavs’ busy WCHA schedule (soaking up eight games a year that had been free during the CHA) and UAH living the independent thug life.

But I think that the Chargers’ history in the CHA is instructive.  College Hockey America was, well, a collection of teams wanting to play Division I hockey in a quasi-Western league.  Let’s look at the membership of the league:

  • Air Force.  Prior to the CHA, the Falcons played 31 years as an independent.  Air Force saw the writing on the wall that the landscape wouldn’t support independents (no joke).  The Falcons had just one season above .500, going 19-18-2 in their first season in the league.  The Zoomies would head to Atlantic Hockey for the 2006-07 season, the real linchpin for the failure of the league.
  • UAH.  As we’ve talked about before, UAH started in Division II, moved to Division I, moved back down, and moved back up after the NCAA stopped sponsoring a D-II championship, an event that seems to hold the Chargers as the last D-II titlist ever.*  You could say that our Chargers were first in and last out, as they were one of just three founding teams to stay with the league for its entirety, and they didn’t find a new home prior to dissolution.
  • Army.  The Cadets bailed after one season for the MAAC, which would become Atlantic Hockey.  Prior to that, West Point had two stints in the ECAC (1962-1973 and 1984-1991) and otherwise played as an independent.
  • Bemidji State.  Like UAH, the Beavers had been a D-II power before getting swept up in the push to D-I in 1998.  BSU played as low as NAIA and as high as D-I, starting at the top before jumping to the bottom in the NCHA, which is now a D-III league.
  • Findlay.  Oh, what a story.  The Oilers were a from-scratch program, built by Craig Ford to move up quickly in the standings, but they never escaped the bottom half of the league before the program was axed after new University leadership came in.  This after the MAAC forbade all of its member schools from playing the Oilers in 2000-01, as the new team was still a provision D-I member.  That was dirty pool, y’all.
  • Niagara.  The Purple Eagles played their first two seasons (1996-98) as independents and joined the CHA in its inaugural campaign, presumably because the league offered the full 18 scholarships, allowing the men from Monteagle Ridge to fire on all cylinders.  The Purps were the league’s first ever NCAA tournament team, going a stunning 30-8-4 on the season.  After Greg Gardner kicked the net off of its moorings to invalidate a would-be-tying UAH goal late in the first CHA championship, Blaise McDonald’s squad would go on to knock off UNH in the first round of the NCAA tournament.  I mean, go look at the firepower on that team: six 15-goal scorers, three 20-goal scorers, and a senior goaltender who’d been the plow horse all season.  Niagara would leave for Atlantic Hockey when the lights went out, having tried to get into the ECAC (and probably Hockey East) for most of their time in the league.
  • Robert Morris.  Now, depending on who you talk to, the upstart Colonials were either set to play 2004-05 as an independent or as a member of Atlantic Hockey.  Also depending on who you talk to, the Colonials either chose to play in the CHA given an open spot with Findlay’s departure or were shoved there “for the good of the sport”.
  • Wayne State.  The Warriors were an upstart program that, from the outset, was trying to get into the CCHA with the other Michigan schools (less Tech).  They built momentum over four years, finally reaching full form in 2002-03 with a team that CHA old-heads still talk about.  Sadly, the team came to an end in 2007-08 after a long series of failed promises and tough “home” venues to draw fans into. #TartarsForever

Now you can say this: “Geof, if your frustration with Dan Myers’s piece is that he uses the concept that new rivalries hadn’t shown any glimpses of formation, why are you listing the CHA’s rivalries?”  I write this to expose the following:

  1. Air Force and Army had an extant relationship because of their status as national service academies.  Being in a league together made sense, although not enough for West Point officials, who probably sought a conference with lower travel costs and a shorter scholarship outlay (limiting the pool of talent) over one with a national reach (Colorado to the NYC area) that had just one league city near a major metropolitan airport (WSU; RMU wouldn’t join for four more years).  It seems that Air Force, sensing the end of the CHA, chose Atlantic Hockey for all the same reasons that the Black Knights did, with the added benefit of joining Army.
  2. UAH and BSU had their extant rivalry.  Until things picked up, it was the driver of the league.
  3. Findlay and Wayne State were cut from whole cloth; Robert Morris would join in the same condition.
  4. Niagara had only two years under its belt as an independent.

The point is this: there were next-to-no rivalries in the original CHA.  Like the new WCHA, it was mainly a group of teams thrown together in a general arrangement “for the best”.  The WCHA has extant rivalries: 1) Tech, Bemidji, Mankato, and Anchorage were all WCHA members; 2) BG, Northern, Ferris, Alaska, and Lake State were all CCHA members; 3) Fairbanks and Anchorage hate each other; 4) Tech and Northern hate each other; 5) Bemidji and Huntsville hate each other.  That’s a lot more than the CHA started with.

But the CHA built rivalries over time.  Plenty of people hated UAH for all the penalties they took (and those that they should’ve).  Bemidji’s trap was loathed.  Everyone hated playing at Air Force because of the altitude and the relentless nature of Frank’s teams.  Dave Burkholder’s shrill whistling drove everyone crazy.  Findlay … well, I still hate Mark Bastl for dropping four goals on us that one game at home (he had just one other marker all season).  Robert Morris and Wayne State played from the same playbook: build from the net out, check hard, and apply pressure.  I once rode the Warriors’ David Guerrera so hard that he flipped me off as he walked off the ice on Friday night (bro, don’t let me know that I got into your head!).  And Bemidji … I loved seeing them lose 26 games in Bob Peters’s last year.  Also, Says Phrakonkham … say no more.


Just as Dan can ply you with his wife’s disappointment with the new league being “boring”, I say, “Give it time.”  The league has played just nine months in this configuration, and with the big names gone and the leagues mashed together, the rivalries aren’t ready just yet.  And to quote parch on USCHO:

Anyone post here who experienced the great rift that formed when Michigan, Michigan State, Michigan Tech, and Notre Dame left to join the CCHA? Was there anywhere near the vocal outcry of losing those schools? What about the ECAC/Hockey East split that took place? Were fans in the ECAC just as hurt?

I think the B1G and NCHC were such a dramatic shift that it over shadows the WCHA/CCHA alignment and the ECAC/HE split. So many moving pieces changed at once that hockey fans weren’t able to take it all in. Considering B1G fans miss seeing the other schools, fans in both the NCHC and WCHA have their gripes. It’s just a lot to take in.

If things ride stay how they are now, this will be normal to the current fans of these schools, and us that remember the old ways can wax poetic about it like older fans reminisce about the “Old Old WCHA” or 17 team ECAC.

Barring injuries, Tech and Mankato look like locks for the NCAAs, and BG definitely looks to make that a trio if they can keep their stride.  If they fall, Ferris could ride Motte or Northern with Dahlströhm to make the NCAAs in the “low scoring, good D, terrific goaltending” formula that works from time to time (see UAH, 2006-07 and 2009-10, although both the Bulldogs and Wildcats are better squads than those Charger editions).  Rivalries are going to be built in March, and we’ve only had the one March.


As for Myers’s actual prescription for realignment, it seems fair, generally restoring the old WCHA, lumping in ASU, and booting Tech.  The new CCHA would have the usual non-BTHC suspects plus UAH and an Atlantic Hockey team of choice (hopefully RMU, because they don’t suck).  Would we at UAH like that from a travel perspective?  Sure!  But it’s a league split that definitely favors the WCHA side of things, having more marquee college hockey names than the CCHA, which also has to deal with travel to both Fairbanks and Huntsville.

The real potential here is for some kind of interlock between the two leagues.  If non-BTHC western college hockey is going to thrive, it’s going to have to be because we pummel the hell out of each other every weekend.  More on that someday, perhaps.


* Actually, the last Division II championship was won by St. Michael’s College, which defeated New Hampshire College in 1999, the year after UAH and Bemidji State declared they were leaving for Division I. — Michael Napier