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Sunday, September 7, 2008

Hockey Log: Sunday Edition

Shooting and dragging it out

Overtime is looming for those college hockey conferences who have not yet openly cemented a decision to exercise the new option to use a shootout this season. They’ll have to speak soon, or hold their peace until at least next spring.

Hockey East is right in that mix, and surely opinionated fans want to know: are they trying something new or not?

Recently contacted by e-mail, Dan Parkhurst –the league’s web site coordinator- filtered a response equally brief and blunt to the question on behalf of Commissioner Joe Bertagna.

“No decision has been made at this time,” he wrote to this author Thursday. “I would point out that only the WCHA women are using the shootout. Their men’s teams voted down the shootout.”

Parkhurst forgivably neglected to mention that the men-exclusive CCHA has also made the adventurous change. But back here, one of two feasible conclusions can be immediately excavated from Parkhurst’s offerings.

As aptly noted, there was an intriguing twist of self-rule in the dual-gendered WCHA late last week when only the women’s sect elected to, in the event of a 65-minute deadlock, summon three skaters per side to decide a winner, the exact same format that the post-lockout NHL has practiced. From that angle, there is a chance that the likes of Hockey East, the ECAC, and College Hockey America, could all offer the same loosey-goosey ballot to their individual tenants.

Either that, or the HEA would prefer uphold the status quo altogether. After all, if Bertagna and his citizens are still contemplating, they sure are letting fans hang by the moment until the eleventh hour. Only 41 days remain until the league schedule breaks in.

Between the 1994-95 and 1995-96 seasons, Hockey East was the first collegiate conference to fiddle with a shootout, albeit bounded with a metric-system-messy format that folded within two years. The rubric for those seasons -5 points for a regulation win, three for finishing the job in the shootout, and two for falling short- forever set the record books askew, with the 95-96 BU Terriers gobbling an unsurpassable 90 points.

Incidentally, the HEA commissioner at that time, Robert M. DeGregorio, also has yet to make any news ripples on this issue with his current firm –Atlantic Hockey. But if he or anybody else decides to give in to their adventurous side, the points system is bound to be more orderly.

The WCHA women, for one, have established that they will assure one point to all teams stretching the game to a shootout with simply an extra notch at stake. They thus echo the CCHA’s plot, and at that rate, at least somebody is a stride closer to realizing the NHL’s logic of a “regulation tie.” Those leagues who embrace the status quo, conversely, will likely continue to send their OT casualties to the dressing room with no benefits whatsoever –as the two shootout leagues will as well.

But back to matter of benefits. Shootout advocates in the collegiate game have offered little beyond the notion of enhanced entertainment value as the root of their cause, though that might be all they need to argue.

In an August 28 press release, the WCHA’s associate commissioner Sara Martin underlined the unanimous thumbs-up sentiment amongst women’s coaches. “Collectively we think the adoption of the shootout,” she wrote, “will add an extra element of drama to our games for student-athletes, coaches, fans, and media.”

The subtle gender factor is worth excavating here. On the NCAA landscape, the publicity ratio between women’s and men’s hockey flashes a disproportion similar to the NBA’s general winter regality over the NHL. If east coast philosophy is not completely alien from that of the Midwest, there’s still a chance the WHEA could strike out on its own.

The reiterate Parkhurst’s reasoning, “I would point out that only the WCHA women are using the shootout.” Emphasis on only, perhaps?

Differences in gender and levels of publicity hunger aside, why not give it a whirl? After all, this is the region where Phil Kessel has taken two short years to sculpt a Big Papi-like clutch reputation, reminding everyone that the Bruins exist.

Regardless, an official verdict from Bertagna would be ideal in the very near future.

Lightning strike not so pleasant
No repeat trip to Florida for the UMass-Lowell Riverhawks, champions of last year’s Everblades College Classic, it suddenly turns out. The Notre Dame-hosted Lightning College Classic –scheduled to include Lowell, Union and Minnesota-Duluth this holiday season- was zapped by Tampa Bay management, reportedly behind the backs of the Irish.

Ken Schott, the tireless blogger and reporter for the Schenectady (N.Y.) Daily Gazette, and Adam Wodon, the supervising scribe of collegehockeynews.com, have led a prompt rain of rebuke against the franchise that still appears primed to host the 2012 Frozen Four and, on its website, proclaims itself as “Hockey Bay, USA.”

Schott: “The NCAA should hand out the ultimate punishment to Tampa. It doesn’t deserve to host the 2012 Frozen Four anymore. The city can thank the Lightning’s new owners for that.”

Wodon: “I’m not sure I’ll go as far as Ken here. But I share his puzzlement, and the decision was just as perplexing to everyone we spoke to.”

To be fair, it’s also perplexing that a program in Indiana would opt to set up hosting grounds nearly a thousand miles south of home or that an Alaska-based program would set up shop in southern California –as was the case in 1999 when Hockey East famously constituted three-quarters of the Frozen Four participants in Anaheim.

Come what may, the Irish, who didn’t stamp their schedule for the public eye to see until this past Monday, will instead entertain their nonconference guests shortly after New Year’s at something called the “Shillelagh Tournament” in Hoffman Estates, Ill. The presumed venue will be the 11,000-seat Sears Center, which has been thirsting for ice activity since the short-lived Chicago Hounds (UHL) fizzled in 2007.

Taormina works overtime with Lavin
In a nod to the current edition of The Hockey News (press date: September 16), wherein you “See what one player from each club did during the summer in our Team Reports,” the Free Press offers the same angle at PC:

Reigning men’s hockey team MVP Matt Taormina was one of 17 undrafted walk-ons admitted to the Chicago Blackhawks prospect camp this past July, opposite familiar foes Bryan Ewing (BU), Pete MacArthur (BU), Tyler McNeely (Northeastern), and Mike Radja (UNH). It is worth noting –if only for cute speculative purposes- that Taormina partnered with fellow Chicago camper Joe Lavin –a 2007 draftee by the Original 6 franchise- on the PC blue line twice last season and is in obvious need of a replacement associate what with the early departure of Cody Wild. Then again, if head coach Tim Army decides that the top pairing of Lavin and Mark Fayne that graced the latter half of last year has run dry, he may take early comfort in the bonus familiarity between Taormina and Lavin. One other trivial tidbit: Lavin’s Team Red claimed three of four scrimmages against Taormina and Team White.

Juggling balls and pucks
The PC men’s basketball schedule, released this past week, has the Late Night Madness fiesta lined up for Friday, October 17, primed to commence at 9:30, which ought to be a few precious minutes after the final whistle of Friar Puck’s home opener against Northeastern. And later on, granting that most of the Keno Kagers’ games have yet to cement a tipoff time, crossover Friar Fanatics could have up to five dilemmas over the college’s two regal programs this season:

Saturday, November 1: Hockey vs. Massachusetts and Basketball vs. Ottawa
Saturday, November 8: Hockey vs. Notre Dame and Basketball vs. Slippery Rock
Saturday, November 15: Hockey vs. Maine and Basketball vs. Northeastern
Saturday, January 31: Hockey vs. Merrimack and Basketball @ Connecticut (there’s bound to be a student party bus in store for that one)
Saturday, February 14: Hockey vs. New Hampshire and Basketball vs. Rutgers

Quick Feeds: Former PC women’s captain Kerstin Matthews –a 2000 graduate- relinquished her position as an assistant coach at Boston University to assume the head skipper role at St. Anselm, thus filling the gap left there by new Northeastern foreman Dave Flint earlier this summer…Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy bestowed his 2008-09 Cs to his reigning top scorer Rob Ricci –who rang up a level point-per-game mean last season- and Joe Loprieno –fresh with seasoning from the Bruins prospect camp in July…RIP Ted Daniel, Sr., my great uncle and a noted hockey fan who could recall days when he saw the legendary likes of Maurice Richard play in person. My last chance to catch up with Ted was last December in his hometown of Detroit while I was covering the Friars in the Great Lakes Invitational. Something tells me he is now watching his old friend –Hall of Famer Sid Abel- gear up a friendly Heaven’s League game.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

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