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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Hockey Log: Sunday Edition

Beaver peeves
WCHA leader stalls admissions process in ho-hum fashion


As early as April 28, nearly three weeks to date, the homeless Bemidji State hockey program formally made its pitch to the WCHA in hopes of supplementing its soon-to-be-disintegrated College Hockey America auspices. It was a pitch no one didn’t see coming, for the surprise 2009 Frozen Four participants are promised one more season in their original lodge and have no choice but to pursue conference cohabitation with the rest of Minnesota’s D-I programs starting no later than fall 2010.

If, by chance, anybody has craved a Brett Favre-esque tale in the college hockey realm, here you go.

As more tumbleweeds sift across the bottom of all the paperwork while no mighty pens follow suit, WCHA chieftain Bruce McLeod looks more rigidly goalie-like by the second. He is certainly standing on his head to keep everything status quo the same way a dynamic cage custodian preserves a zero on the scoreboard. But all this time, his self-proclaimed rationale for holding out on the Beavers has practically cemented his place on the Masked Mount Rushmore of Kookiness with Jacques Plante, Gump Worsley, and Glenn Hall.

The startling fact in that regard: upon further review of his backstory, McLeod was actually a winger for Minnesota-Duluth in the mid-to-late 1960s.

Over here on this coast, one can’t help but feel sympathetically concerned. After all, Hockey East’s own commissioner, Joe Bertagna, is not nearly as fidgety about formatting. Recall how, leading up to the admission of Vermont in 2005, the one-time Harvard stopper and seasoned goaltending instructor voiced no objections to a nine-team field.

Yet MacLeod will not even size up Bemidji’s competitive track record until he confirms interest from at least one other program, for an 11-team league –or, for that matter, any odd number of teams- is too far out of whack.

It sounds as though McLeod is saying this could all be solved in a nanosecond if he could so much as strike a satisfactory deal with Wossamotta U., but the same simple question lies on the boss himself.

Does making like a Squirt A parents’ alliance and rewarding all of your teams with postseason play mean that much to you, Bruce?

Everyone knows about the WCHA’s eccentric Final Five championship event. Apparently, McLeod must either keep it that way or amend it to a Super Six, an approach that the CCHA fiddled with temporarily starting in 2002, only to purge it after 2005, though that league still practices a 5-through-12 wild card format.

In any case, McLeod’s persistent stalling is best explained by that. He must somehow work all of his tenants into a schedule that guarantees more than 34 meaningful contests per season.

Either that, or he might just not trust the Beavers’ competitive consistency. That theory hasn’t been tossed out for much public discussion, but now it has. And it would easily explain why McLeod has kept mum on some superficially logical options to round out the desirable dozen.

CCHA tenants Northern Michigan and Alaska-Fairbanks would amount to solid rivalries with Michigan Tech and Alaska-Anchorage, respectively, especially seeing how they already do even under their interleague billing. But Tom Anastos implicitly craves to keep his conference intact and likewise retain an even-numbered field for his unusual no-cut playoff bracket.

Then, of course, there is Alabama-Huntsville, slated for eviction a la Bemidji once the CHA fizzles. One would think there’d be no problem plugging in the Chargers, especially since the league’s nine continental tenants would, compared to an excursion to Anchorage, would hardly have a taxing trip there. Even the Denver Pioneers would need about half the time it would take to reach the Land of the Palin Pit Bulls to visit Huntsville.

The biggest and boldest no-duh candidate, however, must be Air Force. They would round out a trifecta of Colorado teams and they have already joined in on the NCAA bracket in each of the last three seasons.

Three plain prospective explanations as to why the Falcons are not therefore flying into a WCHA perch: either Atlantic Hockey is desperate to retain its official Mountain Time Zone representative and the service academy rivalry with Army that comes with it; the stingily selective McLeod still does not trust their compete level; or this has nothing to do with Air Force or any other expansion prospects and McLeod simply frowns upon the Beavers as a one-year wonder who would embarrass his league’s tradition of supposed top-to-bottom national superiority.

The boss needn’t say it forthrightly. It just keeps coming back to that factor on account of his apparent puck dodging everywhere else. The Beavers and at least one fellow candidate will essentially have to utilize every ounce of opportunity they still have to woo McLeod between now and the unofficial confirmation deadline.

And right now, team schedules for 2009-2010 are being discharged for public viewing little by little. Translation: t-minus 12 months and counting, and no progress to speak of.

With but one more season of shrouded togetherness left for the four CHA constituents –Robert Morris and Niagara have expectably reserved refuge in Atlantic Hockey- Bemidji and Huntsville alike should probably just resort to better-than-nothing independence.

Don’t believe the hype
This from one of the tireless College Hockey News bloggers after word leaked that Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Omaha are all locking twigs for a chance to host a future Frozen Four. In the eyes of the author “realet,” such AHL-sized markets as Providence and Albany should filed under “never again” as far as these hospitality privileges are concerned:

“The party’s over for both of these cities. The Times Union Center in Albany seems to submit a bid practically every time they are requested, and Providence is one of those true college hockey destinations, but neither the Dunkin’ Donuts Center nor the TUC are big enough for what the Frozen Four has become since they last hosted the event in 2000 and 2001 respectively.”

Now for this author’s take. Don’t get all melancholy just yet, Friartownies. After all, the men’s hoops regionals are snapping a protracted hiatus at the Dunk next winter, so you never know. And maybe when or if the Ford Field experiment surfaces as just too bloated and goofy for a championship event, the NCAA championship committees will pine for a retraction to genuine hockey venues in genuine college hockey localities. If nothing else, this city/school is sure to gain more hospitality rights for the first and second rounds down the road.

Not to mention, there is also a women’s version of this event that happened to drop in on the Divine City in 2004, making the Dunk still the 9-year-old event’s largest host venue to date. The party around here should be far from over in that regard.

Eagles’ wing, broader outlook, clipped
USCHO’s Jim Connelly broke the news Wednesday that Boston College men’s cornerstone John Muse underwent hip surgery, as told by program spokespersons some two weeks after the fact. There remains a sheer famine of reliable details as to the origin of the ailment or how swiftly the tireless goaltender can recover, though Connelly projects the return will be “no earlier than November.” In any case, may this be a lesson to all those professional, budding, and recreational analysts who try to project the course of next season some four months before captain’s practices. A key player like Muse can go down, turn pro, or transfer at any time during the protracted offseason, drastically shapeshifting the landscape. There are still four long months for more unforeseen developments.

Chance for a Maverick move
Friar alumnus and career sidekick skipper David Lassonde (class of 1984) was cited as a prospective replacement for Mike Kemp, who has relinquished his coaching post at Nebraska-Omaha. Kemp, who himself flooded the Mavericks’ first pond in 1997, ascended to a position in the school’s athletic office and, according to local sources, will mull over at least eight named candidates. Lately, Lassonde’s blades have been rigidly fixed into New Hampshire ice as a second-term, 12th-year assistant professor in Dick Umile’s capstone class. Although, if he conquers the odds and beats such competitors as ring-bearing former North Dakota foreman Dean Blais for his first head coaching gig, he could be a second-time Midwesterner after early 1990s stints at Wisconsin and Miami.

Quick feeds: The Maine women, who last weekend bid formal adieu to graduating goaltender Genevieve Turgeon –their one and only reliable asset in recent memory- have brought on Kylie Smith, who like new PC grad Danielle Ciarletta once trained with the Minnesota Thoroughbreds, to go with Brittany Ott, who teamed up with Genevieve Lacasse in the Detroit Little Caesar’s U19 crease…According to their freshly release 2009-2010 itinerary, the New Hampshire men will drop in on Schneider Arena on both Friday, December 11 and Friday, January 22 next season. The Friars will put in their lone appearance at the oft-treacherous Whittemore Center on February 12…Before anybody asks, it should probably be noted that the Free Press will not be caught dead following suit on friars.com and countless other media outlets by latching on to any Twitter tentacles. The founder/manager/hockey scribe just sees those kinds of “social networking” outlets as a nasty vocabicide, among other things.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

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