Jason Gonzalez has covered an array of sports at all levels over the last nine years. He learned ice hockey, however, long before — during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah (his hometown). He got a close up look of legendary Gophers alum Herb Brooks and other Minnesota hockey greats. Jason has been with the Star Tribune since 2012.
Follow Jason on Twitter @JGonStrib
Email to talk Gophers.
A few tidbits as we get ready for Big Ten media day on Thursday:
•It's early, but the Gophers are being tabbed as the sixth-best team in the country in two preseason polls. College Hockey News and Let's Play Hockey both placed the Gophers behind new Big Ten rival Wisconsin. The Badgers are ranked No. 3 and No. 5, respectively.
Miami (Ohio) and Massachusetts-Lowell claimed the top two spots in each poll. Massachusetts-Lowell is College Hockey News' No. 1 and Miami is Let's Play Hockey's top team.
We'll get another poll at Thursday's Big Ten hockey media day. Expect the Gophers to be No. 1 or 2 in the inaugural season of the six-team conference.
•The Big Ten showed off its hockey hardware via its Twitter account on Wednesday. The regular season conference champion and conference tournament champion will be awarded new trophies. The tournament hardware is a cup.
•According to College Hockey News, the NCAA cabinet approved changes to the NCAA Tournament process. "Quality wins bonus" and "weighting for home and away games" will be factored into the tournament selection criteria. The NCAA Board of Directors still needs to sign off on the change.
The tournament selection process is determined by an algorithm, often referred to as PairWise.
Many coaches have been clamoring for changes in recent years, but, in light of the impending major conference re-alignment coming this season, the issue got particular attention at this year's coach's convention and Men's Ice Hockey Committee meetings.
The concern has been that a big difference in the amount of home and away games, puts teams from the smaller conferences — who, on average, play more road non-conference games — at a disadvantage in the selection criteria.
For example, among teams in the new Big Ten, Wisconsin has 14 non-league games, 10 home and four away; Ohio State has 14 non-league games, 11 home and three away; and Minnesota has 16 non-league games, 12 at home (including a tournament at the Xcel Center) and four away.
The details are still unknown, but there were a number of proposals on the table when the issue was being discussed over the summer. One proposal, for example, would re-balance the RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) evenly among home and road games — removing the advantage.
It's not yet known, however, which form the changes will take.
•The Big Ten will hold its inaugural hockey media day Thursday at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. I know fans are eager to see how the new hockey conference will change the college hockey landscape. If any of you have questions for the six Big Ten teams or other questions about college hockey in general, email them to me and I'll consider asking some while I'm at the event.
The event can be tracked live here.
Across town in Minneapolis, another new hockey conference will be hosting its media day. The National College Hockey Conference, regarded by many as the best in the country, will be introduced at Target Center. I hope to make it back to Minneapolis for a tail end of the event. Question about these teams and conference, send here.
Players attending Big Ten media day:
Michigan: Mac Bennett
Michigan State: Jake Hildebrand, Greg Wolfe
Gophers: Nate Condon, Kyle Rau
Ohio State: Curtis Gedig
Penn State: Nate Jensen, Tommy Olczyk
Wisconsin: Frankie Simonelli