With revenue losses projected throughout college athletics because of the coronavirus pandemic, schools are looking to trim costs. One of the solutions is playing more games closer to home.
That’s just fine with Gophers men’s hockey coach Bob Motzko, who’s used a Minnesota-centric approach to nonconference scheduling since being hired as coach in 2018.
“We need to be playing Bemidji, we need to be playing Mankato, St. Cloud and Duluth and North Dakota as much as we can,’’ he said. “We’re going to make every attempt.’’
Though the Gophers have yet to announce their 2020-21 schedule, other area schools have. The latest nugget came when Bemidji State revealed its schedule, which includes the Oct. 3 season opener against the Gophers at 3M Arena at Mariucci.
“The one thing I’ve learned is we can’t play everybody because we don’t have enough [nonconference] games, but it was a great time because we have two extra games with the Ice Breaker tournament,’’ Motzko said. “We have a way to play Bemidji and might have a way to play them another time [in 2020-21].’’
Along with at least one game against the Beavers this season, the Gophers will play Minnesota Duluth on Oct. 9 in the Ice Breaker in Duluth, plus either Minnesota State or Providence on Oct. 10. A visit to North Dakota is set for Oct. 23 and 24, and St. Cloud State will be one of the teams for Mariucci Classic.
“I think you’re going to see more regional scheduling in all sports. It makes a lot of sense,’’ Motzko said. “Here, we have to get on an airplane five times [in Big Ten play], and we have some pretty good teams in our back yard.
“I know we’re excited about going to North Dakota this year,’’ he added.
Working on overtime
College hockey is in a rule-change year, meaning coaches can suggest alterations to the NCAA Rule Committee. Once again, overtime is the hot topic, with NCHC making a push to streamline and standardize the extra session.
The NCHC, Big Ten, WCHA and Atlantic Hockey use a regular-season format in which teams play five minutes of NCAA-mandated 5-on-5 overtime, then if the score is still tied, those four conferences opt to use five minutes of sudden-death 3-on-3 OT, followed by a shootout if necessary. If the score is tied after the 5-on-5 OT, the game is considered a tie and the 3-on-3/shootout portion is used to award an extra point in the conference standings. Hockey East and the ECAC don’t use 3-on-3; both conferences play five minutes of sudden-death 5-on-5 OT, then declare the game a tie if neither team scores.
Under the NCHC proposal, the 5-on-5 OT would be eliminated, and tied regular-season games would go directly to five minutes of 3-on-3 OT followed by a shootout if necessary. There would be one twist: A win in 3-on-3 OT would be worth less than a win achieved in regulation when it comes to the Ratings Percentage Index, which is a component of the PairWise Ratings system the NCAA uses to fill its tournament field. RPI splits of 55/45 or 60/40 have been suggested for 3-on-3 OT games, while a shootout win would be worth less. For conference standings purposes, the system of three points for a regulation win, two for a 3-on-3/shootout win and one for a 3-on-3/shootout loss would remain.
Motzko just wants the matter settled once and for all and for every conference to use the same system.
“We really don’t care. Let’s just finally as coaches say, ‘How can we not be on the same page?’ ’’ he said. “We’re in agreement with the NCHC, if that’s what it takes.’’
Motzko has been consistent in saying he doesn’t want anything that doesn’t involve 5-on-5 hockey – meaning 3-on-3 OT and shootouts – impacting NCAA tournament selection. For the sake of compromise, he’s adjusted.
“Personally, most of us were against having PairWise count from the 3-on-3, but somewhere out East it was a big thing – 55/45,’’ he said. “OK, if that’s what it takes, you’ve got our vote. Let’s get on the same page. … We should all be in agreement.’’
Length of video reviews also was discussed among coaches, but don’t expect wholesale rule changes. “Because of what we’re going through, let’s put everything on hold a bit unless there are some major things we needed to look at,’’ Motzko said.
With recruiting in person suspended because of COVID-19, coaches have had to adjust, and that includes Motzko. The Gophers coach even has picked the brain of his unofficial fourth-string goalie from 2019-20.
Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck, who donned the goalie equipment during an October hockey practice and offered motivational words for Motzko’s team, has the nation’s seventh-ranked 2021 recruiting class, according to the 247Sports composite listing of major services. Motzko is impressed.
“I have talked to P.J., and I know he’s killing it in their world,’’ he said. “He’s got something really special going right now, but he’s being pretty tight-lipped about it. … We are sharing ideas. Our world is a lot different than their world because they recruit in such volume and big numbers. From where I follow it, P.J. is one of the best in the country right now, and that doesn’t surprise anybody, being how innovative he is and his energy and how he operates.’’
Surgery for Huglen
Former Roseau High School forward Aaron Huglen, who has committed to the Gophers, was slated to undergo surgery this week to repair a herniated disk in back, the Buffalo News reported. Huglen, a fourth-round draft pick of the Buffalo Sabres in 2019, suffered a back injury last May while lifting weights and missed the 2019-20 season with the USHL’s Fargo Force while trying to rehabilitate the injury.