The college hockey world will gather in Naples, Fla., this week for its annual meetings, where issues are frequently debated and changes are sometimes enacted.
This is not a rules-change year in college hockey -- they’re allowed every other year -- so don’t expect anything major on that front, but several other issues figure to be raised.
In the National Collegiate Hockey Conference meetings, which begin at 7 a.m. Central today and conclude Tuesday, the fate of the NCHC Frozen Faceoff’s third-place game will be one topic.
In the national meetings, which begin Wednesday and run through Saturday, the future of NCAA regionals will likely be a topic. The NCAA recently only awarded two years of regionals, despite asking for bids for three years, because it wanted to leave the door open for future change. In the past, coaches haven’t been receptive to changing the regional format or opening the door for home sites to host.
But, perhaps, the most interesting thing to watch will be whether any of the three Eastern-based leagues -- Atlantic Hockey, the ECAC or Hockey East -- show any signs that they’re willing to adopt the three-on-three overtime to break ties for conference points only.
This is already done in all three Western-based leagues -- the NCHC, the Big Ten and the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
The NCHC has won four consecutive NCAA national championships and has almost annually had the best out-of-conference record of any of the leagues. While the three-on-three has not impacted that directly, it’s worth pondering whether small things like that add up in attracting fans and top recruits to the league.
Air Force coach Frank Serratore, whose team plays in Atlantic Hockey, has been outspoken about wanting his conference and the rest of college hockey to adopt the three-on-three.
Also, don’t be surprised if some coaches pitch ideas for tweaking the Pairwise Rankings formula. It seems to be a nearly annual exercise.
- The NCHC (@TheNCHC) April 28, 2019
Andy Murray's contract situation
Western Michigan men’s hockey coach Andy Murray has 33 days left on his contract. It is set to expire on May 31.
It is highly unusual for a school to let a contract of a prominent coach get this close to expiring without a new one, because it leaves uncertainty for players and recruits.
But a source says Murray’s new deal is imminent.
Murray, 68, and the school are in the process of finalizing a multi-year deal that could be as long as five years.
Western Michigan could have one of its best teams this season. Several standout forwards appear to be headed back to Kalamazoo, including Philadelphia Flyers draft pick Wade Allison, St. Louis Blues draft pick Hugh McGing and free-agent forwards Dawson DiPietro, Josh Passolt and Austin Rueschhoff. On the blue line, the Broncos return Mattias Samuelsson, a Buffalo Sabres draft pick, and bring in the United States Hockey League’s top defenseman, Ronnie Attard.
Western Michigan finished in third place in the NCHC last season.
Is Illinois getting close?
In adding to keeping an eye on Naples, the college hockey world also should be watching Champaign, Illinois, this week and in the near future.
According to the News-Gazette, the city of Champaign will consider contributing $35 million over 18 years toward a project that will include a 5,000-seat hockey arena. A “preliminary negotiated incentive package” will be presented Tuesday.
If Illinois decides to start a Division-I program, it would immediately have a home in the Big Ten and there’s reason to think it could be successful right away.
Only three states -- Minnesota, Michigan and Massachusetts -- produced more college hockey players this season than Illinois. There are no current D-I teams in Illinois.
Caulfield wins bronze
Former Grand Forks Central standout and UND commit Judd Caulfield won a bronze medal with Team USA at the IIHF World Under-18 Tournament in Sweden on Sunday morning.
The Americans went 6-1 at the event, losing to Russia in an overtime shootout in the semifinals. Caulfield didn’t register any points and was a plus-1.
Caulfield had 36 points in 64 games for Team USA this season.
UND looking for assistant
For just the second time in the last 13 years, UND is looking for a new assistant coach after parting ways with Matt Shaw.
One thing is clear: The Fighting Hawks do not have a predetermined choice to replace Shaw. UND is expected to field interest from a wide range of candidates, including numerous former players.
As of Sunday night, UND had not posted the job on its website.
Another star defenseman returning
Another standout defenseman is returning to school.
Arizona State star Brinson Pasichnuk will be back for his senior season, according to Greg Cameron of College Hockey News.
Pasichnuk was regarded as Arizona State’s second-best pro prospect behind goalie Joey Daccord, who signed with the Ottawa Senators and gave up his final year of college eligibility. Pasichnuk was Arizona State’s second-leading scorer with 13 goals and 30 points in 35 games.
ASU's Brinson & Steenn Pasichnuk are expected to confirm their return for their senior seasons today, per sources. Defenseman/co-captain Brinson attracted NHL interest as one of the higher touted NCAA free agents this spring. One source: "They want to finish what they started."
- Greg Cameron (@gregdcam) April 27, 2019
Pasichnuk’s return continued a theme this offseason: A lot of really good defensemen in college hockey have turned down opportunities to sign NHL deals and have opted to return to school.
Other blue liners who have pledged their return next season include UND’s Colton Poolman, Denver’s Ian Mitchell, MSU-Mankato’s Connor Mackey, St. Cloud State’s Jack Ahcan, Wisconsin’s Wyatt Kalynuk and Bowling Green’s Alec Rauhauser. Minnesota Duluth’s Scott Perunovich and Dylan Samberg appear to be leaning toward returning to school, while Harvard’s Adam Fox, a Hobey Baker Award finalist, still could return.
Rauhauser named captain
Speaking of Rauhauser, the former Bismarck Century standout was named captain at Bowling Green next season.
New coach Ty Eigner used his introductory press conference last week to introduce Rauhauser as the team’s captain.
This was a really cool moment at the end of Ty Eigner's introductory press conference. He wanted to announce the 2019-20 team captains. Alec Rauhauser gets to wear the "C" -- Connor Ford & Frederic Letourneau will wear the "A" pic.twitter.com/MNtLiIDmvK
- Jordan Strack (@JordanStrack) April 23, 2019
Rauhauser has been one of college hockey’s most prolific defenseman scorers in the past three years. He has racked up 87 points in three seasons with the Falcons.
The only junior defensemen with more career points than Rauhuser are Fox, Mercyhurst’s Joe Duszak (who signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs), Northern Michigan’s Philip Beaulieu and Northeastern’s Jeremy Davies (who signed with the New Jersey Devils).
Rauhauser helped Bowling Green to its first NCAA appearance since 1990 this spring. The Falcons lost to eventual champ Minnesota Duluth in overtime in the first round.
Stecher, Hakstol to team up at Worlds
Former UND star Troy Stecher, a member of the 2016 NCAA national championship team, will be teaming up with the coach who recruited him to UND once again.
Stecher is joining Team Canada for the Men’s World Championships, which are scheduled for May 10-May 26 in Slovakia. Dave Hakstol will be an assistant coach for the Canadian squad. Stecher played two years under Hakstol from 2013-15.
Stecher had a breakout year with the Vancouver Canucks, scoring two goals and 21 points, while playing increased minutes. His plus-9 rating was the best on the team.
Hearing Troy Stecher will represent Canada at the upcoming Wotld Hockey Championships.
The hard working Richmond native got the call last night from team Canada management.
- Rick Dhaliwal (@DhaliwalSports) April 27, 2019
This will be Stecher’s first World Championship. His only other Hockey Canada experience was at the World Junior A Challenge while he was in junior hockey.
Hakstol won a silver medal with Canada in 2017.
The last UND players to win medals were Brock Nelson with Team USA in 2015 and T.J. Oshie and Danny Kristo with the Americans in 2013.
The last former UND players to win gold at Men’s Worlds were Mike Commodore and Jonathan Toews with Canada in 2007.
AIC retains Lang
American International, which stunned the college hockey world by knocking off No. 1 St. Cloud State in the first round of the NCAA tournament, is retaining its head coach.
Eric Lang, who was pursued by St. Lawrence for its head coaching job, opted to stay at his alma mater and sign a new multi-year deal. Previously, Lang was on year-to-year deals at AIC.
The upset of St. Cloud was the culmination of a historic season for the little-before known program, which won Atlantic Hockey’s regular-season title for the first time ever, won the league’s postseason tournament for the first time and came within a game of the NCAA Frozen Four.
American International could be even better next season. It only lost two players to graduation.
In the three years Lang has been in Springfield, Mass., American International has increased its win total annually from eight to 15 to 23.
Miami loses top recruit
Miami took its first major hit on the recruiting trail since firing coach Rico Blasi and his staff last month.
First-team all-USHL forward Brett Murray, who led the league with 41 goals this season, won’t be going to Miami, according to Mike McMahon of College Hockey News. Murray previously played two seasons at Penn State.
Murray’s destination for this upcoming season is still in question, but there’s a chance he won’t end up in college hockey at all.
Told that Miami recruit and Buffalo Sabres 4th round pick Brett Murray will not play for the Redhawks next season. Murray finished 2nd in the USHL with 76 points (led USHL w/ 41 goals) for Youngstown. Murray is a transfer from Penn State and has 2 years of eligibility remaining.
- Mike McMahon (@MikeMcMahonCHN) April 25, 2019
- Humboldt Broncos forward Brayden Camrud, a survivor of the 2018 bus crash that killed 16 people, has committed to Alaska Anchorage. He’ll play for the Seawolves next season. Camrud is one of three crash survivors who played for the Broncos this season. He had 55 points in 48 games this season.