College Hockey Roundup: B1G Tournament Update; Smith Scores 30th; Links

It’s been a pretty busy weekend for college hockey. Plenty of big news, new developments and other bits to report.

There have been some new developments in the Big Ten Hockey Conference, regarding the league’s postseason tournament. There was a bit of a dust-up in the Michigan-Miami series. Colgate’s Austin Smith scored his 30th goal of the season, while Michigan State’s A.J. Sturges scored his first, both significant moments for each player. There’s been another week of major movements in the college hockey polls, as well. The wackiness of this college hockey season truly knows no bounds.

All that and more after the jump…

One of the bigger bits of news in college hockey came via Andy Baggot of the Wisconsin State Journal. Baggot writes that the six schools that will sponsor hockey as a Big Ten sport beginning in 2013-14, are close to agreeing on hosting the new conference’s postseason tournament at a neutral site, likely St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center.

It also sounds as though the tournament format will include all six conference teams playing over a three-day period. Conceivably, the sixth-place team could get hot at the right time and play their way into an auto-bid for the NCAA tournament. How basketball of you, Big Ten.

I don’t really have a problem with the format, but for a differing take, the always entertaining Chris Dilks has you covered at Western College Hockey Blog.

The neutral site, I felt was always a solid way to go, but as Baggot reports, the neutral site sounds as though it’s more of a necessity due to buildings hosting local high school state tournament events.

Hopefully it’s a rotating site. As good as the X has been for college hockey over the years, Minneapolis-St. Paul is the western-most city in the Big Ten. Not sure how many folks will be making the trip from Happy Valley, Pa.

It is unclear how much weight the Big Ten name will carry when it comes to hockey, but I wouldn’t mind seeing the conference make the conference tournament a traveling event. There are many NHL buildings near (or at least in the same state as) these Big Ten teams. The X in St. Paul (Minnesota), Joe Louis Arena in Detroit (Michigan, Michigan State), Nationwide Arena in Columbus (Ohio State), Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh and Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia (Penn State). Then Wisconsin has either the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, home of the AHL’s Admirals, or is close enough to the United Center in Chicago.

Exposing college hockey to those huge media markets, even if local attendance takes a while to build, could be a big success for the long-term growth of the Big Ten as a hockey brand.

No matter what, the Big Ten, as a conference, has many of the most attractive names in college athletics. The conference undoubtedly has many options.

Austin Smith Scores 30

Austin Smith of Colgate University is the first player in college hockey to reach the 30-goal mark, after potting a hat trick against RPI Saturday.

Some might say that it’s easy to score 30 in the unaffectionately dubbed “EZAC.” If that were true, don’t you think there’d be a 30-goal scorer in ECAC Hockey annually?

Smith is the first ECAC player to eclipse 30 goals since Brad Tapper did it for RPI in the 1999-2000 season. Yup, more than a decade since someone from the conference poked home 30-plus. EZAC? Perhaps not when it comes to scoring goals.

Fact of the matter is, scoring 30 goals in any league in college hockey is pretty significant. Only eight players in the last five seasons have met the 30-goal mark in college hockey.

The most goals in a single college season over the last decade came off the stick of Ryan Potulny, who scored 38 for Minnesota in 2005-06. With six regular-season games remaining and the ECAC tournament looming, Smith may have a chance at catching, or even surpassing Potulny, who reached his total in 41 games.

Smith not only has solidified himself as a Hobey Baker finalist, he may be creeping towards being the favorite to win the trophy.

The turnaround at Colgate has been nothing short of incredible. Having won just four games a season ago, Colgate has rattled off 15 wins this year. Those 15 wins include a home-and-home sweep two weeks ago against Cornell, a team that currently sits ninth on the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men’s College Hockey Poll.

It is likely none of that is possible without Smith, who has scored literally a third of Colgate’s 90 goals this year.

The Dallas native and Stars draft pick has made an indelible mark on this most ridiculous college hockey season. What a story he has become.

Pairwise

Yet another wacky weekend in college hockey that saw teams rise and fall in the rankings, had more movement in the only rankings that matter, the Pairwise. If you’re unfamiliar with the Pairwise, check out College Hockey News’ NCAA Tournament Primer for a comprehensive explanation.

So here’s the latest… Boston University, which plays Boston College Harvard in the Beanpot tonight (one of the great traditions in college hockey), is No. 1 in the Pairwise. Michigan and UMass-Lowell are tied for second and Ferris State is slotted in fourth. Minnesota, which is No. 1 in both major college hockey polls the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine College Hockey Poll this week is tied for seventh in the Pairwise.

See what I mean? Wacky.

Now, the latest polls in which people vote:

USCHO
USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine 

LINKS

If you’re a college hockey fan, you will absolutely flip out over College Hockey, Inc.’s new page, which documents every college connection to current NHL teams. One click on a team and you can find out which members of that team, from current players to coaches to front-office staff, draft picks and minor-league players have connections to college hockey.

It’s an incredible resource for fans and media alike. There’s also brief notes on select players about their college days including accolades and collegiate teammates. Honestly, you could spend hours just clicking through it. Great addition to an already spectacular college hockey site. Special kudos to CHI’s chief PR man, Nate Ewell.

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There are a ton of great nuggets in Brad Schlossman’s piece in the Grand Forks Herald today regarding recruitment of players and protecting college hockey from the poaching hands of the Canadian Hockey League. One of the more interesting points in the story, which hasn’t been a secret, but not covered to great extent was that College Hockey, Inc., is working on finding a way to make Letters of Intent more binding, even outside of college hockey:

College Hockey Inc., is working to enact legislation — either with the oversight of the NHL or through the transfer agreement between USA Hockey and Hockey Canada — to bar Canadian major junior teams from stealing a player who has signed a letter of intent until after the player’s freshman year.

Schlossman also chats with UND head coach Dave Hakstol about the potential of opening the college ranks to former CHL players (which I still think is a bad idea). Hakstol also goes into whether or not keeping the current gentleman’s agreement among college coaches to not recruit verbally committed players is good for the college game. Very interesting stuff.

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Chris Dilks has been bringing it over at Western College Hockey Blog over the last 24 hours.

Dilks takes a look at the significant dust-up in the Miami-Michigan series. It appears there’s plenty of blame to go around, but the officiating could have played a significant role in the game getting a bit out of hand.

Another must-read piece from Chris is about Michigan State defenseman A.J. Sturges. The Spartan senior scored his first goal since suffering a career-threatening, or perhaps more accurately, life-threatening skull fracture. Sturges was brutally beaten by a Michigan State football player, in the incident in which he fractured his skull. It’s been a long, long road to recovery for Sturges, who was injured in 2008, so this goal was an absolutely huge one for him.

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This isn’t entirely college hockey related, but is somewhat indirectly related. The USHL’s trading deadline is at 11:59 p.m. tonight. Ryan Clark has a USHL trade tracker over at Slightly Chilled. Be sure to follow that blog for all your USHL trades. Ryan’s got you covered.

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As we approach the postseason, things should be heating up. Expect this insane college hockey season to get a little more nuts in these next few weeks. Should be fun.

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About Chris Peters

Editor of The United States of Hockey. Contributor to CBSSports.com, USA Hockey Magazine and more. Former USA Hockey PR guy. Current Iowan.
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3 Responses to College Hockey Roundup: B1G Tournament Update; Smith Scores 30th; Links

  1. Pingback: North Dakota is next; NCAA favorites; marathon popularity | Rink and Run

  2. I was “all in” originally with the idea of a B1G Ten hockey Conference, now that it’s becoming a reality I’m not so sure… As a WCHA (Minnesota) fan it’s sad to see all those rivalries go away. Minnesota vs. Michigan or Minnesota vs. Ohio State will take some getting used to that’s for sure – they’re definately wont hold the same significance TO ME as Minnesota vs. UND, or UMD, or CC, or Denver, or SCSU. For the “greater good” of college hockey it’s good, but for me it’s a step backwards.

  3. Being an Arizona resident now, it is only on extremely rare occassions that I get to watch my Spartans take the ice. Knowing that they will be covered consistently on the BTN makes me very happy. However, I do wonder what impact playing strong programs like Minnesota, Wisconsin and UM several times a season will have on Big Ten representation in the NCAA tounament.

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