Roman Augustoviz spends Minnesota's winters covering college hockey, specifically the Gophers, and other University of Minnesota sports. During the summer, he writes about the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx, with a dose of U sports sprinkled in. Follow him on Twitter @RomanStrib.
This year’s 16-team field for the NCAA Division I men’s hockey tournament will be revealed on ESPNU at 8 p.m. Sunday. Host Anish Shroff will be joined by hockey analysts Barry Melrose and Dave Starman to discuss the five automatic qualifiers and 11 at-large teams that will play in the four regionals which will air on ESPNU.
The show will also feature a special on Quinnipiac as the Bobcats look to secure a No. 1 seed and make only their second appearance in the NCAA championship since becoming a Division I team in 1998-99.
Usually this show is on a Sunday morning, but the CCHA tournament, because of a schedule conflict, has its championship game on Sunday afternoon.
LUCIA TO BE JUNIORS COACH?
A joint press conference featuring a special announcements from the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, USA Hockey, Inc., and University of Minnesota has been scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Saturday at the X. At least one usually reliable media source is saying Gophers coach Don Lucia will be named the heade coach of the U.S. team for the 2014 World Junior Championships.
The U.S. team, led by South St. Paul High School coach Phil Housley, won the gold medal in Russia this year. Lucia helped with the national evaluation camp last summer, which was used to help determine the roster. His son, Mario, played on the U.S. team and Grant Potulny, one of Lucia's assistants, was one of Housley's assistants.
So Lucia has a pretty good idea how the team was put together and why it succeeded.
HONORS FOR U WOMEN'S TEAM
Megan Bozek, Amanda Kessel and Noora Raty of the Gophers' No. 1-rated women's hockey team were named to the American Hockey Coaches Association's Division I all-american first team on Thursday night. Brad Frost, their coach, was picked coach of the year for 2012-13.
Bozek is second among defenseman in scoring this season and is a repeat first team pick. The senior from Buffalo Grove, Ill., own nearly every season and career scoring record for a Gophers defenseman.
Kessel leads the nation in scoring with 97 points. She was a second team honoree last season. The junior forward is the 24th player in NCAA history to reach the 200-career point mark and the ninth for do so in three seasons. If Kessel tallies three more points this season, she will become only the fourth player in NCAA history to record 100 points in a single season.
Räty leads the nation in goals-against average and save percentage. She was a first team all-american in 2010 and a second team in 2011. The Finnish native is only the second player in Minnesota history to receive three all-america honors during her career. This season she has broken NCAA records for career wins and shutouts and shutouts in a season.
Minnesota has now had 27 players in program history named to an All-American team. This is only the second time that the Maroon & Gold have had three players receive the honor in a season.
This is Frost's first National Coach of the Year honor and the fourth in program history (Laura Halldorson – 1998, 2002 and 2004). The Gophers are 39-0-0 and play in the Frozen Four this weekend.
The last Fiinal Five of its kind -- with big names teams like the Gophers, North Dakota and Wisconsin -- will be played this week at the X. Crowds should be huge. And the tournament looks pretty hard to handicap.
"With this field, if you played this tournament three. four times in a row, you would have three, four different winners," Gophers coach Don Lucia said. "It will be interesting to see how it all plays out." Thanks for the tip Don.
Remember, five of these six teams were in the closest WCHA race ever. Four points separated the top six teams. And five of these teams will be in different conferences next season.
So without further adieu, here is how Joe the Lawyer and I view this weekend's games:
#5 seed Minnesota State (24-12-3) vs. #4 Wisconsin (19-12-7), 2 pm
Joe says: Mankato makes it's first trip to the Final Five in 10 years, and while things have seemed relatively rosy for the Mavs down the stretch (i.e. league awards, big wins, home-ice), the team's PairWise position is "subject-to-change." In fact, I've been playing with USCHO.com's PairWise Predictor tool (don't do it, trust me), and without anything else happening, a loss for the Mavs drops them from a tie for 9th to 12th. With 20-plus other games left to be played around the country, a lot will happen and the bottom-line is that the Mavs need to win on Thursday. It will be the first Final Five for the entire squad though, including the underclass that's been so vital to Minnesota State's success. You have to wonder: Will the Mavs get that "cow in the headlights" look under the big lights of the X?
Their opponent is a familiar Wisconsin team, who's been to St. Paul four out of the last six years, counting this year. The Badgers and Mavs split the season series (2-2), playing four games with none decided by more than two goals. Wisconsin has been the most consistent team over the latter half of the year, but an awful start leaves them tied for 16th in the PairWise, which of course means that the Badgers can't afford to lose either. Wisconsin has found some offense down the stretch, with leading scorers Michael Mersch, Mark Zengerle and Nic Kerdiles combining for 36 points in the last eight games. The Badgers were swept by the Mavs early in the year, but Wisconsin returned the favor with a road sweep in Mankato to start the second-half schedule. This might be the toughest call of the Final Five, but I think Wisconsin's playing too well and has more on the line.
The PICK: Wisconsin wins
Roman says: This game could turn into a goalie duel. The Mavericks have Stephon Williams who was the WCHA's rookie of the year and had a 1.84 goals-against average. Wisconsin has been going with sophomore Joel Rumpel in the nets and his GAA is 1.87. The Badgers don't score much anyway, but if either teams gets two, three goals, that might be enough. "Stephon Williams has been special for us," Mavericks coach Mike Hastings said. " ... and we need him to be good against Wisconsin. We're playing one of top teams in country the last three, four months. They've done a great job there. It will be an incredible challenge for us." But Hastings might be up for it. He was the WCHA coach of the year and has his team back in the Final Five for the first time since 2003. The Mavericks are the only team in the field that will remain in the WCHA next season. ... The Mavericks are 0-2 in their two previous WCHA trips, losing both times to the Gophers, 6-4 in 2000 and 3-2 in 2003.
The Badgers started incredibly slow, 1-7-2, but finished strong, 18-5-5. "It's been an interesting journey with the start we had," UW coach Mike Eaves said. "We got healthy, and we got some people back. ...It should be whale of a game." Freshman Nic Kerdiles has an eight-game point streak; he was suspended for the first 10 games by the NCAA for rules violations. Something about a hotel room provided by his family advisor for the NHL draft. ... Defenseman John Ramage scored overtime goals on consecutive nights in Mankato as the Badgers beat the Mavs 4-3 and 2-1 in mid-January. ... Wisconsin has won 11 WCHA playoff titles, but the last one was in 1998.
The PICK: Mavericks win for the pride of WCHA and commish Bruce McLeod does a cartwheel
#6 Colorado College (16-18-5) vs. #3 North Dakota (21-11-7), 7 pm
Joe says: Remember a while back when I said that Joe Howe was a big part of the problem in Colorado Springs? No? (Follow us each week, maybe you'll learn something, kid). Well, I'm not prepared to go back on that blanket statement, but I will give credit when it's due. The senior goaltender was the biggest reason the Tigers were able to get past rival Denver last week. The series went to three games, and Howe walked away with 112 saves, including a stellar Saturday night (41 saves, 1 GA). CC is 2-2 in the season series with North Dakota, having won the Friday night game both weekends. The Tigers certainly have much more to play for, as realistically, only a Broadmoor Trophy punches their ticket to the NCAA tournament.
North Dakota took a nap on Saturday night vs. Michigan Tech, but otherwise waltzed into the Final Five as the second safest WCHA team in terms of PairWise standing. Tied for 6th (7th), UND is safely in the tournament, regardless of what happens this weekend. That doesn't mean the Mayors of Whioux-Ville don't have something to play for. UND, winner of three straight Broadmoor Trophies, might want to leave the league with a trophy and a record (no team has won four straight). But the path isn't as clear as it may have been in past years. North Dakota's a good team and has continued to win games, but has not been dominant (9-6-4 in WCHA second half). Dave Hakstol has two decent goalies, but no clear No. 1, which can be a psychological problem for netminders heading into the playoffs. Go with Clarke Saunders? He played three of the four against Colorado College this year, giving up 11 goals (1-2 record; 5 GA, 2 GA, 4 GA). Freshmen Zane Gothberg? His numbers on the year aren't any better. Is this the soft spot in the armor for a North Dakota team that has no trouble scoring goals? Speaking of goals and goalies, UND has run into a few hot ones lately (BSU's Andrew Walsh, MSU's Stephon Williams), and could also end up hitting Joe Howe at the wrong time. I don't see a Final Five 4-peat for UND, so I'll take the upset.
The PICK: Colorado College wins
Roman says: Tigers coach Scott Owens on playing UND, "We've had four really good games with them, close games, back and forth." The season series stands at 2-2 and each team has scored 14 goals against the other. "They'll have seven, eight thousand people cheering for them, we will have the other four, five thousand cheering again them. North Dakota is good. We respect them a lot." But CC just upset Denver on its home ice in three games. Goalie Joe Howe, the senior from Plymouth, is playing well. CC can score goals. Six players have at least 10 goals, led by senior Rylan Schwartz with 17. CC has appeared in 13 previous Final Fives or Fours and never won it, but the Tigers have to win the Broadmoor Trophy this year to make the NCAA field. They have lost in the title game three times.
UND had a 14-game winning streak in the WCHA playoffs snapped on Saturday when Michigan Tech won 2-1 at the Ralph but that seemed to wake coach Dave Hakstol's team up. UND won 6-0 in deciding Game 3 on Sunday. Six different players scored goals. A feel-good win. This is UND's 11th trip in a row to this tournament, tying the Gophers' record for most consecutive. North Dakota has a lot of firepower in its top line of Rocco Grimaldi, Corban Knight and Danny Kristo. UND beat CC 4-2 in the Final Five semifinals two years ago.
The PICK: North Dakota
#4 Wisconsin vs. #1 St. Cloud State (23-14-1), 2 pm
Joe says: There were no MacNaughton hangovers reported by the St. Cloud Times on Sunday (although I did hear Nick Jensen washed his hair in the Cup), and that's probably because Coach Motzko has made clear how precarious the Huskies' NCAA aspirations really are. SCSU faced an Anchorage team that was tough for about five minutes last weekend and easily swept it's way to the Final Five. But St. Cloud sits just 12th in the Pairwise - a loss and a few upsets away from watching the Brady Bunch reruns at Atwood Student Center instead of playing in the NCAA tournament. The Huskies and Badgers both need wins, so it comes down to who's got the better horses. The Badgers upset St. Cloud just two weeks ago - denying the Huskies the league title outright. Can it happen again? St. Cloud may not be used to the favorite status they currently enjoy and no one's been grittier than Wisconsin lately. But in a one-off matchup, I think St. Cloud has too many weapons.
The PICK: St. Cloud State wins
#5 Minnesota State vs. #1 St. Cloud State (23-14-1), 2 pm
Roman says: SCSU, as the tournament's top seed, had the luxury of watching and waiting for its opponent. "We've all shortened things up, just fine-tuning things," Huskies coach Bob Motzko said. "We just playes Wisonsin a week ago [a split in Madison]. We have not played Mankato since the opening weekend of year. ... So we spent more time on film [on the Mavericks]. ... But we're concenntrating on our own team and things [we] got going." Which is a lot. The Huskies have blended veterans like Drew Leblanc, Ben Hanowski and Nic Dowd with freshman like Kalle Kossila and Jonny Brodzinski. Nic Jensen and Andrew Prochno lead the defense and in the net is Ryan Faragher. It's a solid team that stumbled in nonconference games, hence its lower PairWise ranking.
MSU lost 5-1 twice at SCSU, but that was Oct. 26-27. But Mavs coach Mike Hastings said his team has earned its spot in the Final Five. Its led by sophomore Matt Leitner, who is a roll. He has 17 goals and 28 assists for 45 points. "Matt Leitner made a real serious commitment, and he's handling everything he can control. ... He make other people around him better." He is in elite shape, so is captain Eriah Hayes, who has 19 goals.
The PICK: Huskies win
#6 Colorado College vs. #2 Minnesota (26-7-5), 7 pm
Joe says: The Gophers showed guts and moxie in two gritty home wins vs. Bemidji State last weekend (only their second WCHA sweep all year). Goldy took 95 shots in the two games, playing very well at times, and very sloppy at others. Minnesota still struggles to clear the puck out of it's defensive end, and a good team will capitalize on those extended offensive zone minutes. Against CC, the Gophers took the season series (1-0-1), which would have been a road sweep, if not for a third period meltdown in the Saturday night game. Since that weekend, CC has tallied an 8-10-3 record, while Minnesota has gone 15-4-2. It will be interesting to see if the Tigers can string together two wins on back-to-back nights, something they've done just once since November 10 (last weekend). The other question will be whether the Gophers can assert themselves for three periods and avoid getting lulled into their opponent's style of play, something that's happened often in 2013. The answer to that second question may be the key to this one, because I just don't see an erratic CC squad winning twice in a row.
The PICK: Minnesota wins
#3 North Dakota vs. #2 Minnesota (26-7-5), 7 pm
Roman says: The matchup UND and Gophers fans love to see, especially since the teams won't play each other in the regular season for the next few years. Remember last year in the Final Five? The Gophers were up 3-0 and dominating halfway through the second period, then UND scored one goal in the middle period and five unanswered in the third to win? Strange game. Obviously, Gophers coach Don Lucia doesn't say who he wants to play. "We try to worry about ourselves, we want to make sure we are as physically and mentally ready to go as we can be," Lucia said. "Both CC and North Dakota want to get up and down the rink, so we will see a similar type of team. The reality is, we have kind of seen it all come this time of year, it's more how you prepare your guys."
North Dakota lost 5-1 and tied the Gophers 4-4 at Mariucci in mid-January. Coach Dave Hakstol has probably reminded his players of that. He knows how to win at this tournament. And twice in the last three years, UND has won three games on three nights, a tough feat.
The PICK: Gophers win ... but some bracketologists have the U and North Dakota in the same NCAA region like last year, so this could be just a warmup
Saturday's Final Five Championship Game
#2 Minnesota vs. #1 St. Cloud State
Joe says: All year, Roman and I have picked WCHA games based on numbers, facts, guts, beards, haircuts, and whole myriad of other intangibles, all with the goal of figuring out just who will walk away with the hardware in what will be the final WCHA season for many of these teams. If I've learned anything, it's that in many games, none of those things matter. Teams like Minnesota, St. Cloud State or North Dakota relish the opportunity to beat each other up, and in the end, play more for pride than anything else. I make this final WCHA pick with a touch of somberness, not because I have any particular attachment to the league organization itself, but because I am going to miss the in-state rivalries, the small rinks (thank you Houghton, Mankato and Bemidji), the history that developed within the close confines of a regional league, and watching how those annual battles made for some very special weekends. The sheer drivability of this league made it fun, and makes the farewell so disappointing. This may end up being the last meeting between these teams - outside of an NCAA tournament game - for quite some time, and that's the real story in this one. Who wins the last Broadmoor Trophy awarded with this current roster of teams? Sentiment aside, a celebrity puck-drop by Eve Plumb (Anyone? Anyone?) pumps up the Huskies, who, with their NCAA tournament berth in question, are tired of being second-sister to the Gophers. Minnesota, safely in the NCAA field, will rally and keep things close, but their inconsistent effort of late finally catches up to them. See? This one isn't about numbers.
The PICK: St. Cloud State wins 4-3
Roman says: Joe, I'm shocked. You picked against your beloved Gophers? Is that the first time this season? And you had me in tears with your eloquent ode to the WCHA as we know it. Yes, we will all miss it. But it had a nice run, 61 years. Huskies fans will get pumped up for this one. Many were upset the Gophers hung on to the MacNaughton Cup and took it with them to Bemidji for the final series of the season when it looked like SCSU had a chance to clinch it outright in Madison. But that's old history.
These teams split their one series in St. Cloud this season. The Gophers won 4-2, the lost 4-3. Whoever gets to four first wins in this game, too. The Gophers made a nice run to the Frozen Four a year ago and should have their playoff faces on. Nick Bjugstad stuck around for games like this. Erik Haula is as intense as any player in this tournament. Goalie Adam Wilcox is a freshman only academically. He's been in the net all season and gives the U a chance to win every game. Kyle Rau is a clutch player -- and an agitator.
The PICK: Gophers -- had to go against you Joe
Denver outshot Colorado College 42-22, but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers edged the Pioneers 2-1 on Saturday night in the second game of a best-of-three WCHA playoff series at Magness Arena.
Game 3 is 8:07 p.m. Sunday night. CC (15-18-5) is the eighth seed, DU (20-12-5) the fifth, but that doesn't matter in a matchup of archrivals.
Saturday's loss for the Pioneers was only their second at home in the past 10 games.
The Tigers scored first midway through the opening period. Charlie Taft, of Edina, picked up a loose puck in the Pioneers' zone and found teammate Rylan Schwartz with a cross for a one-timer which beat Denver goalie Sam Brittain low on his glove side.
Du freshman Quentin Shore streaked up the left side and beat Tigers’ goalie Joe Howe, of Plymouth, with a wrist shot on his glove side 33 seconds into the second period.
CC took the lead at 5:58 of the middle period after a Pios' turnover deep in their zone. Andrew Hamburg found junior forward Archie Skalbeck a foot in front of the crease for a quick tap in. Skalbeck, of Hopkins, had 12 goals this season, including a team-high four game-winners.
Brittain had 20 saves, Howe 41 to improve his career record to 51-49-10.
"We did everything but score," DU coach George Gwozdecky was quoted as saying. That's kinda important in hockey.
The game will be on PioneerVision and Denver's 102.3 FM ESPN Radio.
The Denver Post story is here.
The Colorado Springs Gazette story is here.
Notes: DU is 11-7 all-time in playoff games against the Tigers. .... Howe has 3,068 career saves, third most in CC history. ... Headline on CC web side: And Howe! CC forces Game 3. ... Howe played high school hockey at Wayzata.
One pairing is certain next weekend in the first-round of the WCHA playoffs, who the first and 12th seeds are. Not much else is.
Here is a look at the WCHA playoffs with six regular-season games left over two days:
12th seed vs. first seed: Alaska Anchorage (12th seed) at St. Cloud State (first seed). ... The Seawolves are locked into the bottom spot. The Huskies won at least a share of the MacNaughton Cup for the first time in the 23 seasons they have been in the WCHA. They can clinch an outright title with either a tie or victory at Wisconsin on Saturday.
11th seed vs. second seed: The Gophers are tied for second place with North Dakota; both have 35 points. The Gophers will be the second seed if they remain tied or finish ahead of UND. In that case, they will play Bemidji State, locked into being the 11th seed.
Or Bemidji State will play at North Dakota if UND overtakes the Gophers for sole possession of second place.
10th seed vs. third seed: Michigan Tech will play at either the Gophers or UND. It will most likely be UND, which has a tougher road game at Minnesota State Mankato on Saturday night.
Ninth seed vs. fourth seed: This is where it starts getting confusing. Minnesota Duluth is the ninth seed now. But if UMD overtakes Nebraska Omaha, which is one point ahead, or ties the Mavericks and improves its conference goal differential by four more goals than Colorado College, it would more up to the eighth seed.
The fourth seed will be Denver, Minnesota State or Wisconsin. All are tied for fourth place. All three could be as high as the fourth seed or as low as the seventh seed, thereby having to go on the road for the playoffs.
Eighth seed vs. fifth seed: Colorado College is the eighth seed now, but could drop to ninth.
Enough already, my head is throbbing. ... Here is what the WCHA has to say about the pairings. Maybe they can make more sense out of all of this:
Heading into Saturday’s WCHA games, we are able to spell out scenarios for:
* Minnesota/North Dakota (seeds #2 and #3)
* and Colorado College/Minnesota Duluth (seeds #8 and #9)
* .seeds #1, #10, #11, and #12 are locked
* . remaining block (seeds #4–#7) is a big pileup and there are too many scenarios to fully list out. We have listed out the possible 2-way, 3-way, and 4-way tiebreakers that can be involved there.
We will easily be able to do scenarios Saturday night for the three possible remaining outcomes pending Sunday's game between Alaska Anchorage and Denver.
WHAT WCHA KNOWS
St. Cloud State (37 points, at Wisconsin):
- Seeded 1st.
Minnesota (35 points, at Bemidji State):
- Seeded 2nd with a win.
- Seeded 2nd with a tie and a North Dakota tie or loss.
- Seeded 2nd with a loss and a North Dakota loss.
- Seeded 3rd with a tie and a North Dakota win.
- Seeded 3rd with a loss and a North Dakota win or tie.
North Dakota (35 points, at Minnesota State):
- Seeded 2nd with a win and a Minnesota tie or loss.
- Seeded 2nd with a tie and a Minnesota loss.
- Seeded 3rd with a win and a Minnesota win.
- Seeded 3rd with a tie and a Minnesota win or tie.
- Seeded 3rd with a loss.
Minnesota State (31 points, vs North Dakota):
Wisconsin (31 points, vs St. Cloud State):
Denver (31 points, vs Alaska Anchorage Sunday):.
Nebraska Omaha (30 points, at Minnesota Duluth):
- All four will be seeded between 4th-7th (see below).
Colorado College (24 points, at Michigan Tech):
- Seeded 8th with a win.
- Seeded 8th with a tie and a Minnesota Duluth tie or loss.
- Seeded 8th with a tie and a Minnesota Duluth win by one or two goals.
- Seeded 8th with a loss and a Minnesota Duluth tie or loss.
- Seeded 8th/9th with a tie and a Minnesota Duluth win by three goals.
- Seeded 9th with a tie and Minnesota Duluth win by four or more goals.
- Seeded 9th with a loss and a Minnesota Duluth win.
Minnesota Duluth (23 points, vs Nebraska Omaha):
- Seeded 8th with a win and a Colorado College loss.
- Seeded 8th with a win by four or more goals and a Colorado College tie.
- Seeded 8th/9th with a win by three goals and a Colorado College tie.
- Seeded 9th with a win by one or two goals and a Colorado College tie.
- Seeded 9th with a win and a Colorado College win.
- Seeded 9th with a tie or a loss.
Michigan Tech (20 points, vs Colorado College):
- Seeded 10th.
Bemidji State (17 points, vs Minnesota):
- Seeded 11th.
Alaska Anchorage (10 points, at Denver Sunday):
- Seeded 12th.
4TH-7TH SEED SCENARIOS OUTLINED
Two-way Tiebreakers for 4th-7th places:
- Minnesota State over Wisconsin: More league wins.
- Denver over Minnesota State: 2-0-0 head-to-head.
- Minnesota State leads Nebraska Omaha at 32 points (Minnesota State tie, Nebraska Omaha win): WCHA Goal Differential - Minnesota State currently leads (+21 to +7).
- Minnesota State over Nebraska Omaha at 31 points (Minnesota State loss, Nebraska Omaha tie): More league wins.
- Wisconsin over Denver: 1-0-1 head-to-head.
- Wisconsin over Nebraska Omaha: 2-0-0 head-to-head.
- Denver over Nebraska Omaha: 1-0-1 head-to-head.
Three-way Tiebreakers for 4th-7th places:
- Wisconsin over Denver over Minnesota State.
- Denver over Minnesota State and Nebraska Omaha (then 2-way tie above for Minnesota State and Nebraska Omaha).
- Wisconsin over Minnesota State and Nebraska Omaha (then 2-way tie above for Minnesota State and Nebraska Omaha).
Four-way Tiebreakers for 4th-7th places
- Wisconsin over Denver over Minnesota State and Nebraska Omaha (then 2-way tie above for Minnesota State and Nebraska Omaha).
GOALIE RACE TIGHT
Going into his final regular-season game, Stephon Williams of Minnesota State Mankato leads the WCHA with a 1.86 goals-against average in conference games. One-hundreth of a percentage point behind him is Adam Wilcox of the Gophers at 1.87.
Both are freshmen.
The spread in the scoring race is bigger. Junior Ryan Walters of Nebraska Omaha -- who decommitted to the U when the Gophers asked hm to play another season of juniors -- has 16 goals and 24 assists for 40 points. That gives him four- and five-point leads over the next two players.
Junior Danny Kristo of UND has 16 goals and 20 assists for 36 points while senior Drew LeBlanc had 10 goals and 25 assists for 35 points.
All three are Minnesotans. Walters is from Rosemount, Kristo from Eden Prairie and LeBlanc from Hermantown.
Junior Erik Haula is tied for fourth in the WCHA scoring race with 12 goals and 22 assists for 34 points.
* The Gophers will play either Bemidji State or Michigan Tech in the first-round of the WCHA playoffs next weekend at Mariucci Arena. The best-of-three series will open on Friday. Games will all start at 7:07 p.m. ... Beavers coach Tom Serratore predicted his team would probably finish 11th and face Minnesota in what would be a four- or five-game series.
Can't fall asleep? You can go through every game of the WCHA schedule for next season, 140 games in all.
Seriously, though, with three new or vastly different leagues -- the WCHA, the National Collegiate Hockey Conference and the Big Ten -- all debuting next season, their publicity machines are already ramping up.
The WCHA, for instance, already has its schedule out. Unbelievable. Critics of the WCHA say it is classy on the ice, but a ma and pa operation at the top.
Maybe that is changing a little, at least.
Also like WCHA's little dig on Big Ten in its news release: "All league series being played on the traditional hockey nights of Fridays and Saturdays."
The Big Ten will be playing some games on different nights -- Thursdays, Sundays and Mondays probably -- because the Big Ten Network needs programming on those nights.
The NCHC, meanwhile, has a web site up and running and a new logo it trumpeted this week.
“We are truly looking forward to a tremendous season in 2013-14 and all the excitement and interest that the new-look WCHA will generate,” Commissioner Bruce M. McLeod said in a news release this week. “We are extremely pleased with the 28 games per team schedule that will give our fans what they most want, and that’s a majority of league games.
”The WCHA promises to be as intense and competitive as ever across the board and with the addition of new and compelling rivalries to those we maintain, our fans across the country are in for a real treat. We also want to extend a warm welcome to all the fans, family, staff, friends and communities of our six newest teams and know they will enjoy the spirit of pride, passion and commitment that has always been a hallmark of the WCHA.”
The league will announce its postseason tournament sites, dates and details at a news conference at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday, March 23.
GIDDY ABOUT THE WCHA
Alabama Huntsville, an independent, is thrilled to be the last member added to the WCHA for next season. That happened Jan. 17
Said Chargers AD E.J. Brophy: "We were the last team that didn't have a chair when the music stopped."
And more Brophy, discussing the renewal of the Alabama Huntsville vs. Bemidji State rivalry -- they were both in the defunct College Hockey America conference: "It is Alabama-Auburn football on ice."
That's a little preposterous, but he trying to build up the league. Get that.
Kurt Kleinendorst, the Grand Rapids, Minn., native who is UAH's coach, on his excitement in being in the WCHA: "We now have student-athletes who are calling us, asking if they can play for us."
2013-14 WCHA Men’s Conference Schedule
note: start times will be released as soon as possible, with 7:07 pm and 7:37 pm remaining the norm for league games.)
Friday-Saturday, October 25-26
Bemidji State @ Alabama Huntsville
Michigan Tech @ Northern Michigan
Friday-Saturday, November 1-2
Ferris State @ Alabama Huntsville
Alaska Anchorage @ Bowling Green
Northern Michigan @ Alaska
Minnesota State @ Bemidji State
Friday-Saturday, November 8-9
Alabama Huntsville @ Alaska Anchorage
Alaska @ Lake Superior
Bemidji State @ Ferris State
Bowling Green @ Minnesota State
Friday-Saturday, November 15-16
Alaska Anchorage @ Bemidji State
Bowling Green @ Ferris State
Lake Superior @ Michigan Tech
Friday-Saturday, November 22-23
Alabama Huntsville @ Northern Michigan
Michigan Tech @ Alaska Anchorage
Alaska @ Ferris State
Lake Superior @ Bemidji State
Minnesota State @ Bowling Green
Friday-Saturday, November 29-30
Alaska Anchorage @ Minnesota State
Michigan Tech @ Alaska
Bowling Green @ Lake Superior
Ferris State @ Northern Michigan
Friday-Saturday, December 6-7
Alabama Huntsville @ Bowling Green
Alaska @ Alaska Anchorage
Bemidji State @ Michigan Tech
Ferris State @ Lake Superior
Northern Michigan @ Minnesota State
Friday-Saturday, December 13-14
Minnesota State @ Alabama Huntsville
Lake Superior @ Alaska Anchorage
Alaska @ Bemidji State
Bowling Green @ Michigan Tech
Friday-Saturday, January 3-4
Bowling Green @ Alabama Huntsville
Minnesota State @ Alaska
Northern Michigan @ Bemidji State
Michigan Tech @ Lake Superior
Friday-Saturday, January 10-11
Minnesota State @ Alaska Anchorage
Alaska @ Bowling Green
Bemidji State @ Lake Superior
Michigan Tech @ Ferris State
Friday-Saturday, January 17-18
Alaska Anchorage @ Alabama Huntsville
Alaska @ Northern Michigan
Ferris State @ Minnesota State
Friday-Saturday, January 24-25
Northern Michigan @ Alaska Anchorage
Bemidji State @ Alaska
Lake Superior @ Bowling Green
Ferris State @ Michigan Tech
Friday-Saturday, January 31-Feb. 1
Alabama Huntsville @ Alaska
Michigan Tech @ Bowling Green
Minnesota State @ Northern Michigan
Friday-Saturday, February 7-8
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Friday-Saturday, February 14-15
Alabama Huntsville @ Minnesota State
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Friday-Saturday, February 21-22
Lake Superior @ Alabama Huntsville
Alaska Anchorage @ Ferris State
Northern Michigan @ Michigan Tech
Friday-Saturday, February 28-March 1
Alabama Huntsville @ Bemidji State
Ferris State @ Alaska
Bowling Green @ Northern Michigan
Minnesota State @ Lake Superior
Friday-Saturday, March 7-8
Northern Michigan @ Alabama Huntsville
Alaska Anchorage @ Alaska
Bemidji State @ Bowling Green
Lake Superior @ Ferris State
Michigan Tech @ Minnesota State
WCHA First Round Playoffs
WCHA Final Five Playoff Championship
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