Saturday, April 20, 2013

NCAA Hockey: The more things change, the more they won't be the same

Photo from Brian Sullivan, USCHO

This morning, I was reading the Grand Forks Herald, when I came across another great article; Change may-or may not-be coming for college hockey, written by Hall of Fame sports writer Virg Foss. Check it out.
Virg Foss, Grand Forks Herald — Of course more change is already upon us as the Western Collegiate Hockey Association as we’ve known it all our lives breaks apart.
As Minnesota and Wisconsin head to the Big Ten and North Dakota, Duluth, St. Cloud State, Colorado College and Denver land in the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference, more change is coming, like it or not.
We’re already seen that college hockey’s most intense rivalry, that of North Dakota and Minnesota, won’t continue on a yearly basis, at least as long as Don Lucia is coaching the Gophers.
It’s Lucia’s decision to limit that rivalry, against the expressed wishes of past and current UND and Gopher players and fans of all ages. It’s a decision I do not understand and for reasons given by Lucia that are questionable at best.
I am with Virg, I’ve never really understood, why one team would kill a very popular and lucrative college hockey rivalry, but maybe college hockey will go on without it. I am sure that Ohio State and Penn State will fill the void though. Yeah right!  This past spring, when it seemed like there might be a chance to have a mulligan on this historic series, the hockey God’s didn’t allow the rivalry to happen, so maybe it wasn’t meant to be.
Maybe it’s time that we embrace change?
I am almost certain, that Miami and Western Michigan fans will soon hate the team from the University of North Dakota with no-name. Probably, after the second time, the two teams play on the ice.
Moving forward.
After watching 2012-13 college hockey season, nothing really made sense this season. The traditional “sexy” teams (Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, North Dakota, Boston College, Boston University) weren’t in the Frozen Four.  ECAC teams Yale and Quinnipiac proved that you don’t have to have a roster full of NHL first round draft choices to win the NCAA title either.
That doesn’t mean that these teams didn’t have talent, because they had some great talent. Yale had talented guys that bought into a system and played a great team game. Yale was a miserable team to play against, defensively. Yale also got hot at the right time and was the best team for the last four games of the season, when it mattered the most.
The list of teams the Yale Bulldogs beat was impressive, because they beat some of the best teams in the country, to win the NCAA title, erasing any doubts who the best team in the country was.
During that time frame, the Yale Bulldogs took down Minnesota no. 1 seed, North Dakota no. 2 seed, UMass-Lowell no. 1 seed and Quinnipiac no. 1 overall seed. That’s a pretty good hockey resume, it also proved that their season wasn’t a fluke.  If you’re still not a believer, Yale also went 4-0 against the WCHA, a league that sent six teams to the NCAA tourney.
What has happened is the college hockey world has changed, the other schools have found a way to persevere and they overcome some of the self-perceived advantages that the bigger schools thought they had. Apparently  big television contracts and cathedrals  posing as hockey arena’s doesn’t always equate to wins and NCAA titles.
Maybe these teams flew under the radar a bit, while other teams were patting themselves on the back. That being said, the rest of the college hockey world was put back on notice last weekend. There are no gimmes in college hockey, not any more.
Finally, I think what also caught people’s eye, was Yale head coach Keith Allain celebrating a win with his team and enjoying the moment.