Tag: Western Michigan University

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: Forget the polls, Pairwise is your master now

Jeremy Langlois

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 at 8:30 p.m. ET as No. 7 North Dakota takes on No. 14 Nebraska-Omaha.

The college season is beginning to wind down and when match-ups come up, most college sports fans will judge the games based on where each team is ranked in the polls. I’m here to tell you that at this point of the year, you’re being lied to.

Watching the polls in February and March, whether it’s the USA Hockey/USA Today poll or the USCHO.com poll, is a pointless process and proof you’ve been conditioned by college football or basketball to buy into these arbitrary rankings. Since the season is winding down, it’s time for college hockey fans to put those voted-on rankings away and focus all attention on the Pairwise Rankings (PWR).

The Pairwise is what the NCAA uses to pick the at-large teams for the NCAA tournament. If your team is amongst the top 16 teams, you’ve got a chance. If they’re in the top 11, you’re virtually guaranteed a spot in the tourney. Unlike the BCS in college football, Pairwise uses all math and no polls to determine how teams shake out. Eliminating the human element, aside from the players on the ice actually winning and losing and tying games, helps makes the process virtually inarguable.

Take a look at how the Top 20 would be right now if you went by PWR according to CHN (USCHO.com also does their own):

1.    Quinnipiac
2.    Minnesota
3.    Miami
4.    Boston College
5.    New Hampshire
6.    Western Michigan
7.   Yale
8.    St. Cloud State
9.    Niagara
10.   North Dakota
11.   Boston University
12.   Denver
13.   Minnesota State
14.   Alaska-Fairbanks
15.   Dartmouth
16.   Notre Dame
17.   Colgate
18.   UMass-Lowell
19.   Union College
20.   Northern Michigan

When you compare that to how the polls look when they come out later today, you’ll likely see some big differences and that’s because people are who they are.

Polls are based on human opinions and often times those voting in the polls don’t see everyone they’re casting (or not casting) votes for. PWR, thankfully, eliminates that and focuses on whether or not teams are under consideration (TUC) and what a team’s record is against TUCs. Check out College Hockey News’ explanation of the whole thing if you’re feeling lost, it’s worth your time.


Games to look out for this weekend: Aside from our Friday night game which shapes up to be a great WCHA battle, that conference has another killer tilt with Minnesota facing conference-leading St. Cloud State. Their weekend battle is one not to be missed. In the CCHA, Miami and Western Michigan face off for a pair in Kalamazoo to see who can take charge there.

Quinnipiac owns the ECAC: The Bobcats ran their unbeaten streak to 19 games after tying Brown and handing rival Yale their lunch on their ice to the tune of 6-2. Quinnipiac was down 2-0 right off the bat but came romping back through to turn it into a laugher. QU is now seven points up on second-place Yale and 10 up on Dartmouth and Union.

The Niagara situation: The Purple Eagles are the best team in Atlantic Hockey. At 17-4-5 they’re taking care of their business and they’ve got a heck of a goalie leading the way for them. They’re now also up to ninth in the PWR which puts the whole Pairwise situation in a different place.

In the past, teams had to try and aim for at least 15th in the PWR because a less-than great Atlantic team would get one of the spots in the tourney. If Niagara stays strong and rolls through the conference tourney on their way to an auto-bid, it’s possible that winding up 16th in PWR might just land you a spot in the NCAA tournament.

(Photo: ECAC Hockey)

Back To Class: When surprise results aren’t exactly upsetting

Jon Swavely

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 at 7:30 p.m. ET as No. 12 Dartmouth takes on No. 19 Union College.

This weekend turned out to be a bad one if your favorite team was a Top 5 team in the polls. Friday night in particular was brutal as No. 1 Minnesota, No. 3 Boston College, No. 4 New Hampshire, and No. 5 North Dakota all suffered losses. BC wound up being swept by Maine while the others recovered to win or tie to salvage points.

Is that a sign of trouble to come? Not a chance.

As Joe Meloni at College Hockey News put it perfectly, there are no upsets in January. Surprise results, sure, but the grind of the college hockey season is all about getting things right for the run towards the NCAA tournament in March. Working through the bulk of the conference schedule can get, for the lack of a better word, boring for top programs. For those chasing them, they will take full advantage of gunning for the top dogs. That kind of situation makes surprise results more likely.

Think about it: Would you believe Boston College is in trouble while they’ve got some injuries on defense mid-season and coach Jerry York missed a handful of games after having eye surgery? If you’ve seen them steamroll through the Hockey East tournament and NCAAs in recent years, you know what the right answer is.

It’s all about being ready for the stretch run and getting the team in prime shape for the conference tournament and beyond. Dropping a game here or there mid-season is only a big problem for a team if they’re thinking short-term.


Likely No. 1 with a bullet: I’ve been tracking Quinnipiac and their red-hot play here almost every week and after this weekend’s results through the Top 5, they’re more than likely going to be the new No. 1 in the polls. Fans in the WCHA won’t like seeing an ECAC team atop the pile but keep in mind a couple things: A) Polls are pointless and crying about them is a waste of time. B) Go double-check the Pairwise Rankings and settle down. They’re at the top for a reason.

Penn State winning to get noticed: The Nittany Lions’ first season in Division I has been bumpy. They’ve had some awkward losses to the likes of Arizona State’s club team as well as to Division-III Buffalo State and Neumann College but they’ve shown progress by knocking off some big name schools. This weekend they took out Michigan State and they’ve also earned wins against Vermont, Ohio State, Air Force, and RIT. No one said making the jump to D-I would be easy, but coach Guy Gadowski will get that program rolling sooner than you think.

Bucking Broncos: Western Michigan isn’t a team you think about right away when it comes to college hockey, but Andy Murray’s team is on fire. Over their last 17 games, WMU is 11-3-3. Over the weekend they swept Red Berenson’s Michigan Wolverines sending them spiraling further down in the CCHA. With Notre Dame struggling lately, Western Michigan and Miami University are setting up for quite the rumble down the stretch. That is if the Alaska Nanooks and their polar bear of doom don’t take them all out.

(Photo: Hockey East Online)

St. Cloud State and Western Michigan invited to join new college hockey conference

Tony Mosey

When the National Collegiate Hockey Conference was formed this summer, it was viewed as a brutal blow to the setup of college hockey. With teams from the WCHA and CCHA getting the call to join the new start-up conference beginning in 2013-2014, those two long-standing conferences were left scrambling to make plans with the formation of the NCHC and the Big Ten Conference.

With teams looking for new homes all over the college hockey landscape, the NCHC is trying to fill up their own ranks again. The NCHC has extended invitations to St. Cloud State (WCHA) and Western Michigan University (CCHA) to join their new alliance.

The NCHC explained why they’re giving out invitations to these two schools.

“After a thorough and deliberate evaluation process, the National Collegiate Hockey Conference is delighted to extend invitations to St. Cloud State and Western Michigan to become members of what we believe will be the premier college hockey conference in the United States,” said Brian Faison, director of athletics at North Dakota and spokesperson for The National’s Athletic Directors Committee.

“Both universities fit perfectly with the established goals of our conference membership,” said Faison. “Their programs are highly competitive and produce quality student-athletes. Each institution has made significant commitments to the continued success of their hockey programs and they are both located in tradition-rich hockey states. St. Cloud State and Western Michigan, with their passionate fans, will add a great deal to The National and we look forward to welcoming them.”

“With the launch of the inaugural season for The National just two years away, and with greaterclarity regarding membership, we are confident the strength of our schedules and the success of our teams will produce outstanding hockey with regional and national appeal, and strong contenders for the national championship on an annual basis,” Faison added.

St. Cloud and WMU would join North Dakota, Denver University, Colorado College, Miami University, Minnesota-Duluth, and Nebraska-Omaha in the new conference. St. Cloud State said they will announce tomorrow afternoon what their intentions are. Both schools are expected to say “yes” to the NCHC. St. Cloud comes with a history of success in the WCHA while WMU is on the rebound after making the NCAA tournament last year and now have former NHL bench boss Andy Murray as head coach.

With St. Cloud and WMU expected to join the new conference, it leaves the WCHA and CCHA left to scramble even more to find a way to make things work out once the 2013-2014 season rolls around. One possibility is that the teams left over after everyone goes their separate ways will team up together to form a new WCHA. One way or another, change is coming and the college hockey landscape is going to be vastly different because of it.

Former Kings, Blues coach Andy Murray lands head coaching job at Western Michigan University

Andy Murray

The last we’ve heard from Andy Murray, he was fired by the St. Louis Blues after 40 games of the 2009-2010 season. That year, Murray had a record of 17-17-6 and after coming off a season that saw the Blues rally to make the playoffs, the disappointment and frustration with the younger players finally had him sent out of town.

After a coaching career that saw him spend six years with the L.A. Kings and parts of four seasons with the Blues, Murray is taking his coaching style and big time NHL name to the college ranks and will be accepting the head coaching job at Western Michigan. The Broncos made the NCAA Tournament last season under Jeff Blashill, but Blashill left WMU to take a job as an assistant coach with Detroit and become part of Mike Babcock’s staff.

At Western Michigan, Murray will look to keep the positive momentum going as the Broncos’ NCAA Tourney appearance last season was the school’s first since the 1995-1996 season. With that setting the table for Murray’s arrival in Kalamazoo, Murray’s big name will be a boon for them in recruiting and may potentially help sell them as a team to move to the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference that starts play in 2013-2014.

That new conference will feature schools jumping ship from both the WCHA and CCHA in North Dakota, Nebraska-Omaha, Denver, Colorado College,  Miami University, and Minnesota-Duluth. With Notre Dame potentially also jumping to that conference out of the CCHA, to keep an even number of teams, Western Michigan could join them. Having a big name coach and a program on the rise would make WMU a very attractive option.

As it is, Murray’s got success to build on at WMU and he’ll need to keep the good things going. This isn’t Murray’s first dalliance with college hockey as he was a candidate for the RPI head coaching job back in 2006 that eventually went to Seth Appert. Instead of landing at RPI, Murray took the head coaching job with the Blues. That wasn’t such a bad consolation prize for him in the end. Seeing pro coaches move on to college is rare to see and how Murray handles things at Western Michigan will be worth watching.