• Check out the Free Press founder's new Rhode Island/New England sports blog
  • http://providencesportsscribe.blogspot.com/

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Hockey Log: Sunday Edition

Regional revisions? Please do

Only this year are we a full collegiate generation removed from the indulgent peak of the WCHA’s Men’s Frozen Four hegemony. In 2005, the Colorado College, the University of Denver, Minnesota, and North Dakota all prevailed in their respective regionals to converge on Columbus, Ohio’s Value City Arena.

The conference-by-conference distribution of those falling short: four Hockey East inhabitants (Boston College, Boston University, Maine, New Hampshire); three ECAC satellites (Colgate, Cornell, Harvard); two CCHA tenants (Michigan, Ohio State); the borderline free rides that were Mercyhurst (Atlantic Hockey champion) and Bemidji State (CHA); and even the WCHA’s Wisconsin Badgers.

All spring fevered, league-centric loyalties aside, all have to admit that sort of twist is not what cooks in a college hockey fan’s dreamful noggin. Even eastern zealots have to admit that the 1999 championship, wherein Maine overthrew BC and UNH en route to triumph in Anaheim, wasn’t the way to score a sweeping TV audience.

Come on now. This is hockey. Not Major League Baseball, where any number of cross-town or cross-state grudge matches is possible in October, and not the NFL, where New England and New York can convene with a stake in the Lombardi Trophy.

In this sport, civic clashes like BC-BU, intrastate enmities like Michigan-Michigan State, and “Border Battles” like Minnesota-Wisconsin have no place in April action. It should be the fittest of the east, central, and west standing alone in their leagues/regions, then promptly converging on the final frontier.

By now, every high-profile program has broken in its new skates (apologies to the folks at Brown, who still have to wait another four days for so much as an exhibition). And with the traditional mixed autumn bag of conference and nonconference interaction, fan bases are sharpening their appetite for yet another postseason installment of the lock-n-load BC-UND matchup. Or a refurbish of the old BU-Minnesota animosities historically touched on in Miracle.

Cutting to the net now, it’s fitting that an NCAA memo specific to the implicit intent to regionalize its tournament bracket should have been leaked this past Tuesday. Inside College Hockey (INCH) pasted the gist of the Division I Championship Cabinet’s step-by-step process, explaining that it may culminate in a stay-within-your-league’s-vicinity policy effective in time for the 2009 selection.

No later than tomorrow, coaches must submit their two cents to the cabinet. Over the next three months, the report indicates, the NCAA will mull over everyone’s collective opinion.

As of right now, though, the expressed principal incentive is to reduce travel costs for regional-bound programs. And, naturally, that cause all but speaks for itself what with one airline after another divulging its intent to charge for baggage that once got a free pass.

As INCH reports, the ideal upshot would have all tournament entries “travel by ground transportation within a 400-mile radius from the site of competition instead of 350 miles. Also, participating teams would be flown to the most cost-reasonable airport within 150 miles of the site, as opposed to within a 120-mile radius.”

Understood. But as a byproduct, this should also whitewash and salt the chances of repeating the general embarrassment from 1999 or 2005.

If their paths are to cross sometime after TD Banknorth Garden cleans up after the HEA championship party, let the Hub Hunks keep their hostilities within New England boundaries. It’s not as though the intensity still wouldn’t spike. After all, only one would ultimately prove fitter for the Frozen Four and neither side would want to relinquish that claim, let alone to their loathed neighbor.

Another diamond cutter on HEA ice
Jon Quick makes like his name for the pros after but two seasons (2005-07). His first presumptive successor, current junior Dan Meyers, is ambushed in his endeavor for the distinction of #1 crease custodian by Paul Dainton, who logged a respectable 12-14-6 transcript with the shoddy UMass program as a freshman last year. And then, to the understandable winces of coach Don Cahoon, Dainton is injured before last weekend’s Icebreaker tournament, leaving it to Meyers to state his belated case. But, for the moment, Meyers has produced roughly the same results: a .914 save percentage and a 1-1 record courtesy a 3-2 falter to Michigan State and 3-2 third-place triumph over North Dakota.

But here’s where it gets quirky: the reported emergency backup is Matthew Gedmen –the Minutemen baseball catcher and son of former Red Sox backstopper Rich Gedman. And this coming only one year after human interest ripples ran through Maine’s Alfond Arena, where southpaw hurler Nolan Boike walked on to pick up 19 games and two points worth of experience playing under Tim Whitehead.

Motherwell comes home to Baby Bs
BC dropout Brett Motherwell –who last season consumed 16 points and 59 penalty minutes in 50 bus league games upon departing his syrupy saga at The Heights early in his junior year- was latched on to the P-Bruins roster through a strictly minor league Professional Tryout Agreement. Motherwell had yet to see any game action with either the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch or ECHL’s Elmira Jackals in the small hours of his first pro season. His debut, whenever that may come, will be his first bright-light skate in the Divine City since he packed an equalizer en route to a 2-1 Eagle triumph of the Friars on February 9, 2007. Since converting to the bus-and-bar lifestyle, though, Motherwell seems to have refurbished the knuckles he once brandished in the USHL while toning down his twig a tad. Think Jeremy Reich should prepare to split the Spoked-Ps fan favorite pie?

Going grey in the head
It seems the PC men’s program has to do something or other to tweak its overall uniform scheme every year. The latest innovation: standout, fashionable grey helmets. Hey, the rationale behind schools like Michigan and Notre Dame, who adopt the same lid look as their football peers, is self-explanatory. But why this move for the Friars? Perhaps it’s an attempt to model their look after the accomplished lacrosse program, a perennial contender for the MAAC championship with a promotion to the newfangled Big East lax league on the horizon? In any case, the gold-helmeted Irish have an engagement with PC here on November 8. Can you take all the eccentricity on everyone’s head?

Spot-lighting it up
Branching off that previous note, the Schneider Arena game night crew seems to have enacted its own upgrade element with a full-time spotlight custom in place this season. About midway through the Zamboni’s post-warmup/pre-game shift, the inner lights watching over the ice surface dim and within moments, you have the crescendo of the intro song of the year -Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”- brewing and the solo spotlight drawing attention to PC’s bench threshold. Well, it may not be nearly as stimulating as the past-to-present montages you see at Friar hoops or Bruins games, but the petite rink should get credit for doing all it can to bring its atmosphere as up to modern par as it can.

Michigan Chillers
A vaguely publicized crossover confrontation on Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus left Wolverines’ junior defenseman Steve Kampfer unconscious and hospitalized. The assailant: a Maize and Blue wrestler-turned-football-running-back by the name of Mike Milano. Though expected to recover and ultimately resume action before the season is up, Kampfer –who charged up two quick assists in as many regular season games before the misfortune- joins his captain and fellow Anaheim Ducks draftee Mark Mitera on the IR.

Quick Feeds: A little known fact about a fast-becoming-known PC women’s forward: Laura Veharanta carries a dual citizenship between the United States and Finland…Was there a recent spike in New England Hockey Journal readership amongst Friartownies? The Journal’s recent online poll asking which Hockey East player is most “worth watching” saw PC senior blueliner Matt Taormina pole-vault from fifth (and last) place to a runaway lead –ahead of BU’s Colin Wilson, UNH’s James vanRiemsdyk, BC’s John Muse, and Northeastern’s Brad Thiessen, in order of finish…Going into this weekend’s action, the WHEA hit a notable 2-for-2 rate as far as pushing its games to the newly sanctioned shootout. Monique Weber tipped the scale in the fifth round to boost host Connecticut over New Hampshire, victors in the bonus one week prior at the expense of BC…The PC men’s royal rooters from the student section are calling for all of their fellow Friar Fanatics to get in the habit of wearing white to all home games as a supplement to the men’s basketball fan base’s “Black Out The Dunk” tradition…Speaking of fanfare, members of the PC men’s team made respectable use of their extended down time over the past two weekends by attending and lending substantial vocal support during the women’s four-game homestand. This author can tell you he never saw that kind of player-to-player respect while at Shattuck-St. Mary’s. Guess some folks do grow up once in college…This author’s pick for the out-of-market game of the week: The Minnesota men rekindle the Border Battle with a two-game overnight stay at Wisconsin. And at no extra charge (figuratively speaking, for all Badger teams charge admission) the women’s sects of those programs also clash at the Kohl Center on Friday afternoon, effectively slating a double-header.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

No comments: