Michael Mersch

Back to Class: Bad time to be a bubble team


We’re taking you “Back To Class” for our roundup of the weekend’s action in college hockey. The NCAA tournament field of 16 will be settled this Sunday. 

Part of the fun of conference tournament time is seeing which bubble teams can master their destiny and which others see their chances dissolve away. The last two weekends saw things go very poorly for the likes of Alaska, Western Michigan, Rensselaer, and Robert Morris. Meanwhile, schools like Providence, Union, and Wisconsin saw things get much better.

Alaska was knocked out of the first round of the CCHA tournament by last-place Michigan St. while Western Michigan bowed out to Michigan last weekend. Rensselaer was upset in three games by seeming perpetual playoff nemesis Brown. In Atlantic Hockey,  Robert Morris was bumped off by Connecticut.

Out of these teams, the one still sitting well in the Pairwise is Western Michigan. Their run through the CCHA regular season and strong out of conference schedule hasn’t totally ruined their hope of making the NCAAs. The Broncos are 14th in PWR while Union is up to 15th after deposing Dartmouth and Wisconsin is in a logjam at 16th with Boston University, Providence, Rensselaer, and Alaska. Ties are broken by the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) and that would put Wisconsin at 16th with the final spot in the tournament.

Jayson Moy of USCHO.com does a great job breaking down the “bracketology” of how things stand right now. That said, if you’re rooting for a bubble team this weekend you’re rooting for all favorites to win every game, even the consolation games. Above all, however, you’re rooting for Niagara to win Atlantic Hockey.

If the Purple Eagles take home their tourney and that means the top 16 in Pairwise all make the big dance. Should any other team bump them off, however, we could be looking at two Atlantic Hockey teams making NCAAs and therefore bumping out whoever is sitting in 16th. For those schools all vying to get in, that’s bad and for WMU, Rensselaer, and Alaska who aren’t playing another game to help themselves out, it’d be a virtual death blow.

If you’re looking for ways to find out if your school can still make the tournament, both College Hockey News and USCHO.com have ways for you to be the committee and find the right combination of wins and losses to finagle your team into the field of 16.


Here are your conference match-ups going into the final weekend before the NCAAs. All games from here on out are single-elimination.

WCHA: St. Cloud State faces the winner of Colorado College vs. North Dakota while Minnesota gets the winner of Minnesota St. vs. Wisconsin. The Final Six Five starts tomorrow in St. Paul, MN.

CCHA: Top-seeded Miami faces tournament Cinderella and seventh-seeded Michigan while Ohio St. and Notre Dame square off in a game that would be great for football purposes. The semis start on Saturday at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.

Hockey East: It’s a loaded foursome in Boston as the top four teams in the conference all advanced. Top-seeded UMass-Lowell draws Providence while the No. 2 team, Boston College, draws their archrivals from Boston University. There’s nothing BC would want more than to put a bullet in BU’s season. Can they do it without Jerry York behind the bench?

ECAC: The top four seeds almost all made it to Atlantic City but second seeded Rensselaer was upset by Brown. The Bears’ reward? They get top seeded Quinnipiac. Union and Yale meet in the other semifinal match-up.

Atlantic Hockey: Niagara cruised to the semifinals and they’ll get the seventh seeded Canisius Golden Griffins in the semifinals. Mercyhurst and their Hartford Whalers-lookalike uniforms will face Connecticut in the other semifinal.

(Photo: The Scouting Report)

Back to Class: Jack Parker calls it a career at Boston University

Jack Parker, 2009 Boston University

We’re taking you “Back To Class” for our roundup of the weekend’s action in college hockey. You can catch Game 1 of the Hockey East quarterfinals between Vermont and Boston College this Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

The college hockey world was turned on its ear at the revelation that legendary Boston University coach Jack Parker will be announcing his retirement at a 3 p.m. press conference today.

For the last 40 years, Parker has been a fixture behind the bench on Commonwealth Avenue. He spent two years as an assistant in 1969-70 and 1972-73 before being hired as the head coach midway through the 1973-74 season. He even played hockey at BU for three years as a student. Simply put, Jack Parker is BU hockey.

In that time, he’s taken the Terriers to three national championships (1978, 1995, 2009) and six overall national championship finals (runner-up in 1991, 1994, 1997). His record at BU is the stuff of legends.

894 career wins, a career winning percentage of .694, 12 regular-season titles in the ECAC and Hockey East, 11 conference tournament titles, 21 Beanpot Tournament titles and 24 NCAA tournament appearances. He’s also a Lester Patrick Award winner in 2010. When it comes to hockey in the United States, Boston especially, he’s an icon.

From the countless number of players he’s put in the NHL to members of the 1980 Miracle On Ice team (Jim Craig, Dave Silk, Jack O’Callahan, and Mike Eruzione), Parker’s mark on the game is well pronounced. His 2009 championship team won perhaps the greatest title game ever to be played.

His record as a coach and a leader is almost clear. The blemishes in recent years thanks to two different players (Max Nicastro and Corey Trivino) being accused of sexual assault and shortly thereafter kicked off the team. Their problems led to a probe into what was going on with the program that shined a lascivious light on what was happening off the ice. The report didn’t look kindly on the players and questions over Parker’s control of them arose. The bad seeds are gone, some questions and debate will remain but now the legendary coach is calling it a career.

At 68 years of age, coincidentally his birthday is today, Parker will finish out this season and ride off into the sunset as the king of Boston University hockey. Filling coaching shoes the size of Boston will be almost impossible to do.


I’ll go quick updating you on the conference tournaments.

source: APWCHA: St. Cloud State and Minnesota finished tied atop the conference to share the McNaughton Cup, but SCSU will be the top seed hosting Alaska-Anchorage in the first round while Minnesota hosts Bemidji State. Other matchups: Michigan Tech goes to North Dakota, Minnesota-Duluth heads to Wisconsin, Colorado College meets up with archrival Denver, and Nebraksa-Omaha takes on Minnesota St. in the battle of Mavericks.

Hockey East: UMass-Lowell locked up their first ever regular season title and the No. 1 spot in the tournament. Their reward? A Maine team that went 2-1-0 against them this year. Other matchups: Vermont faces Boston College, Merrimack faces Parker’s Boston University team at Agganis, and New Hampshire hits the road to face Providence

CCHA: The opening round saw bottom seeded Michigan St upset Alaska in three games while Michigan took out NMU and Bowling Green beating Lake Superior State. Your quarterfinals matchups are: Ferris State heading to Ohio State, Michigan St. taking on top-seeded Miami, Michigan facing Andy Murray’s Western Michigan squad, and Bowling Green taking off to Notre Dame.

ECAC: Dartmouth avoided getting bounced by bottom-seeded Harvard winning Game 3 on Sunday 6-3. That earns them a date in Schenectady against defending champs Union College. Everything else held mostly steady. Cornell heads to Quinnipiac, Brown goes to Troy to face RPI, and St. Lawrence moves on to Yale in the quarters.

Atlantic Hockey: Ho-hum, no first round upsets here as the seeds hold. The quarterfinal pairings see top-seed Niagara hosting RIT, Air Force hosts Canisius, Holy Cross gets Mercyhurst, and Connecticut faces Robert Morris.

Back to Class: Where March Madness is already underway

Connor Hellebuyck

We’re taking you “Back To Class” for our roundup of the weekend’s action in college hockey. Look for more college hockey on NBCSN this Friday night as Maine host No. 4 New Hampshire at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Hockey East and the WCHA will wrap up their final weekend of conference action this weekend while Atlantic Hockey, CCHA, and ECAC all start their conference playoffs. It’s a veritable full weekend of playoffs for everyone if you want to look at it that way as even those who aren’t yet in their postseason are still jockeying for position.

In Hockey East, the battle for the top spot is on between UMass-Lowell, Providence, New Hampshire, and Boston College. Any of those four teams could wind up in first, while Boston University and Merrimack are just outside the top four. Landing in the top four means getting home ice in the first round of the conference playoffs.

In the race for the No. 1 seed, the series to watch is between Lowell and Providence as they’ll have two games to see if they can figure things out. Lowell, thanks to freshman standout and Winnipeg Jets prospect goalie Connor Hellebuyck, lead Hockey East but Providence sits two points back. BC and New Hampshire are each one point out and they’ve got teams from the bottom end of the conference to deal with.

Boston College faces 7th place Vermont while UNH faces a Maine team trying to solidify their spot in the conference playoffs. Only the top eight move on and Maine is trying to keep UMass out. The Minutemen have a pair of games with Merrimack to contend with. Only Northeastern won’t be making the playoffs.

In the WCHA, there’s no threat of missing the playoffs as all 12 teams make it. Figuring out who wins the MacNaughton Cup (first place in the regular season) isn’t quite so easy. St. Cloud State could’ve wrapped it up last Saturday, but were humbled by Michigan Tech. Now, any one of five teams could win the regular season title.

SCSU has a two-point lead on Minnesota and North Dakota and are four up on Minnesota State and Wisconsin. The two weekend match-ups to watch here feature St. Cloud against Wisconsin and Minnesota St. facing North Dakota. Earning the top spot at the end of the season means getting to face a bad Alaska-Anchorage team in the opening round of the conference tourney.

If that’s not enough to get you juiced up, three conferences have their playoffs getting started on Friday night. Here’s how things shape up for them:

CCHA: The top-five teams here all get byes into the quarterfinals. Only difference being that No. 4 Ohio State gets No. 5 Ferris State there. Miami, Notre Dame, and Western Michigan are the top three teams here. Your first-round best of three matchups see the winners re-seeded. Alaska hosts Michigan State, Michigan hosts Northern Michigan, and Lake Superior State gets Bowling Green.

ECAC: All 12 teams make the playoffs and the top four get byes in the first round. Quinnipiac, Rensselaer, Yale, and Union can rest easy this weekend and wait to see what carnage is unleashed with the other eight teams in their best of three series. Dartmouth hosts Harvard, St. Lawrence faces Colgate, Brown hosts Clarkson, and Princeton takes on Cornell in New Jersey. Winning teams are reseeded for the second round. RPI blog Without A Peer shows off how the second round could play out.

Atlantic Hockey: Top four teams have byes (Niagara, Air Force, Holy Cross, UConn). Winners of the first round are re-seeded. The first-round best of three pairings are: Robert Morris-Sacred Heart, Mercyhurst-Army, Canisius-Bentley, and RIT-American International. Anyone on the NCAA tournament bubble (16th in Pairwise) is rooting for Niagara to steamroll through here without issue.

If, somehow, that’s not all enough for you the Division III NCAA tournament gets underway tonight and winds up on March 16 with the national championship game. St. Norbert will be looking for their third title in a row but this writer would like to see Oswego State take it all. That’s called an “alumni plug.”

(Photo: Lowell Sun)

Tonight on NBCSN: No. 14 Nebraska-Omaha hosts No. 7 North Dakota


Two top coaches have their programs neck-and-neck in the WCHA race.

No. 14 Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks (16-10-2) vs. No. 7 University of North Dakota (14-8-6) — 8:30 p.m. ET

The battle to earn the top spot in the WCHA is raging on and tonight’s game features two teams trying to keep pace with St. Cloud State to earn the crown. For homestanding Nebraska-Omaha, it’s been a good run of late. They’ve won five of their last eight and only have losses to Michigan Tech and Denver in that span.

We’ve seen UNO a couple times this season and we’ve seen all shades of what they can do. From steamrolling the likes of Army and Colorado College, losing a nailbiter to Notre Dame and getting blown away by Denver. They’ve been tough in conference but handling North Dakota presents one huge line of issues for coach Dean Blais’ team to contend with.

For the former Fighting Sioux, they have a dynamic duo of scorers in Danny Kristo and Corban Knight (pictured) for the UNO defense to contend with. They’ve been getting points aplenty over the last couple months, but lately wins have escaped them. In their past eight games, North Dakota is just 2-3-3.  On the upside, they’re 1-0-2 in their last three. Hey, a tie is better than a loss… Right? By the way, North Dakota has 14 NHL-drafted players on their roster. Not a bad job of recruiting there by Dave Hakstol.

NHL prospects to watch

UND has a veritable army of players to keep an eye on. The big two are both seniors in Knight (Florida) and Kristo (Montreal). They’re supported by a few others that you may have heard of. Freshman forward and Team USA WJC gold medalist Rocco Grimaldi (Florida) and sophomore forward Mark MacMillan (Montreal) have provided them with a solid secondary attack. There’s a lot to work with here for North Dakota including undrafted guys like senior forward Carter Rowney and junior goalie Clarke Saunders.

Others: Dillon Simpson (JR – D – Edmonton), Joe Gleason (SR – D – Chicago), Derek Forbort (JR – D – Los Angeles), Nick Mattson (SO – D – Chicago), Jordan Schmaltz (FR – D – St. Louis), Michael Parks (SO – F – Philadelphia), Brendan O’Donnell (SO – F – Tampa Bay), Andrew MacWilliam (SR – D – Toronto), Derek Rodwell (JR – F – New Jersey), Zane Gothberg (G – FR – Boston)

UNO’s top players are more or less undrafted players. Senior forward Ryan Walters leads the team in points and is a likely free agent signing after his season is over. Sophomore forward Josh Archibald (Pittsburgh) is Walters’ go-to guy on the attack. Sophomore Dominic Zombo and junior Matt White follow up as other undrafted players leading the charge.

Others: Bryce Aneloski (SR – D – Ottawa), Brent Gwidt (SR – F – Washington), Nick Seeler (FR – D – Minnesota), Tanner Lane (FR – F – Winnipeg), Brian Cooper (FR – D – Anaheim)

(Picture: UND Sports)

Back To Class: The WCHA did the right thing for Alabama-Huntsville

UAH-Jim Rosvold-USCHO

We’re taking you “Back To Class” for our roundup of the weekend’s action in college hockey. Look for more college hockey on NBCSN this Friday night as No. 12 Yale takes on No. 16 Cornell. 

Back in the fall of 2011, the University of Alabama-Huntsville interim president was set to cut the hockey program entirely only to see it saved by alumni and fans of the program alike. Their only problem was they didn’t have a conference to play in. They were the only school to play as an independent the past  few seasons. They wanted into the CCHA after the CHA closed up shop only to see that conference vote to keep them out.

Fast-forward to today and we see the CCHA will no longer exist thanks to the creation of the Big Ten Hockey Conference as well as the NCHC and those left behind there are joining the new WCHA. Funny thing about the WCHA is they had an odd number of teams and it made too much sense not to approve bringing UAH aboard. That’s precisely what they voted to do last week, saving the program.

It was the right move by the WCHA to extend the invite and while it comes with some big risks, making the effort to save a program in desperate need of partnership was needed. College hockey is as niche as it gets amongst big time NCAA sports. With 58 programs participating, losing teams does the sport no favors and allowing one to wither and die would’ve been egregious.

Yes, the travel will be rough in the new WCHA with not just UAH but also both Alaska schools there. The costs will be high and that’s where the risk comes into play. But they had to try and make it work. The travel costs can and will be covered and college hockey saves a supported program in need. It’s the feel-good story folks in Huntsville have been praying for, now we can just hope it all turns out for the best.


Minnesota-North Dakota rivalry ends in a thrill: The Golden Gophers and formerly Fighting Sioux duked it out in classic fashion in the Twin Cities as the Gophers came away with a big win Friday and a classic 4-4 draw on Saturday. With each team heading to different conferences next season, they won’t see each other for at least the next three seasons putting a sad end to a classic rivalry. Here’s to hoping they’ll meet in the NCAA tournament the next three seasons instead and save Don Lucia a bit of grief.

River Hawks are flying: Look out for UMass-Lowell in Hockey East. They’re winners of nine in a row including a big win over BU on Saturday night. They were an NCAA tournament team last year losing to Union in the East Region final. Sophomore forward Scott Wilson has been lighting it up and goalies Connor Hellebuyck and Doug Carr have buckled down. With UNH cooling off and BU riding a roller coaster of sorts, Lowell is poised to shake things up.

Speaking of roller coasters, the ECAC: What a wild weekend in the ECAC. Yale continues to play strong sweeping Harvard and Dartmouth. Cornell dealt Union a harsh blow to their hopes of making a run at first place beating them on Friday, but then stumbled themselves losing 3-2 to RPI on Saturday. RPI’s weekend sweep over Colgate and Cornell got them up to 7th in the standings. Meanwhile, Quinnipiac is in first by eight points with Yale lurking behind them.

Remember how I said this conference would cannibalize itself? It’s dinner time now.

(Photo: Jim Rosvold – USCHO.com)