The basic components of economics -- supply and demand -- is behind the MIAC's switch to recruiting mostly junior hockey talent.
The recent coast-to-coast proliferation of junior teams in America, coupled with strong junior programs in Canada, has created a surplus of would-be college hockey players. The fact that juniors are more ready for college hockey in terms of experience, size and strength, creates a demand.
Consider these facts and figures:
• There are only 59 Division I hockey programs in America, and each can have a maximum of 18 scholarships, a total of 1,062 players. Compare that with Division I-A football, which has 120 members, with each school able to offer 85 full tenders, a total of 10,200 players.
• There is no Division II -- a scholarship classification -- college hockey, leaving those who miss out on Division I to try to find a landing spot with one of the 73 Division III programs. The rapid increase of junior teams in recent years -- more than 150 USA teams ranging from Tier I to Tier III -- plus dozens of Canadian and foreign players looking for a college home, has created many more 20-year-old college hockey candidates than there are college roster spots.
The biggest downside for MIAC coaches in this new world is that scouting juniors is much more difficult than it was to scout high school players. Since junior leagues are spread throughout the country, the key is developing contacts who can help direct top players to your school.
Another key: A healthy travel budget
St. Mary's coach Bill Moore already has traveled to Topeka, Winnipeg, plus Janesville and LaCrosse, Wis., this season. He's had assistants in Michigan (Flint, Kalamazoo and Port Huron) and Texas (Dallas, Amarillo and Wichita Falls), with trips to Ottawa and Las Vegas planned.
"Most of the coaches in our league are recruiting the North American Hockey League [closer to the MIAC]," Moore said. "But until we start becoming a perennial top-three MIAC program, we have to go further, to places where nobody knows the difference between St. Thomas or St. Mary's."