The 2013-14 college hockey season brought with it massive changes with regards to conference alignment and a new chapter was begun. The Central Collegiate Hockey Association ceased operations, while the Big Ten and National Collegiate Hockey Conference opened for business.
With the season at its halfway point, and a majority of the non-conference games played, Hockey East has risen to the top during this time of transition. Hockey East has compiled a 62-33-13 record in non-conference games, a winning percentage of .634, best of the six college hockey conferences. In addition, Hockey East has a winning percentage of at least .551 against every other conference. The Big Ten is second with a .604 overall non-conference winning percentage, while ECAC Hockey (.559) is third and the NCHC (.533) is fourth.With the success his conference has seen this season, Joe Bertagna, who is in his 17th year as the commissioner of Hockey East and 32nd season as a college hockey administrator, said that while it is great to see the success of the league so far this year, there is not one specific reason for it.
"These things go in cycles, in my experience, so I am not sure there is any single reason for our success,” Bertagna said.
While some leagues had major changes prior to the start of the season, the only change for Hockey East was the addition of Notre Dame. Connecticut will start play in Hockey East in 2014-15.
"Notre Dame has not only brought its on-ice talent to our conference, its brand has spiked attendance when they have traveled,” Bertagna said. “Their two-game weekend at Lowell earlier in the year resulted in two sellouts and they were a big reason that our paid attendance for the first of our two Fenway Park weekends topped 30,000 fans, despite sub-freezing temperatures. They have also brought with them some extra television exposure for Hockey East.”
Hockey East has a long and storied history of success in the NCAA tournament as it has had at least one team in the Frozen Four in seven of the past eight years with four national championships in that time. Since its start of play in the 1984-85 season, Hockey East has had 29 teams reach the Frozen Four and eight teams claim national titles. Its best non-conference slate came in 2002-03 when the Hockey East teams combined for a .705 winning percentage.
While Hockey East continues its perch as one of college hockey’s elite conferences, Bertagna said it is way too early to tell exactly what impact the new conference alignments will ultimately have on the college hockey landscape.
"So far, everything has gone well but I believe that we need to wait until a full season has been completed and the programs who have made major moves get the opportunity to assess what the change has meant to them,” Bertagna said. “I have always felt that there would be some sort of ‘market adjustment’, so to speak, after everyone assesses what was a good thing and what wasn't. We'll have to wait and see."
Crossing the blue line
Of its 24 games played this season, Michigan Tech has been involved in 18 games decided either by one goal or tied. They are 5-7-6 in those games. In fact, its past 11 games have all been decided by one goal or been tied, with the Huskies coming out with a 3-3-5 record in those games. Michigan Tech has not played more than three games in a row this season without having one finish in a tie or a one-goal game.
Denver has only been defeated once since Nov. 8 -- as the Pioneers have posted an overall mark of 7-1-4 in their past 12 games and has outscored their opponents 31-22 during that span. The only blemish during the stretch was a 4-2 loss at Miami (Ohio) on Dec. 7. The Pioneers face St. Cloud State in a two-game series this weekend, a team which has only lost twice all season.
After starting the season 1-3, which includes a season-opening loss to Sacred Heart as the No. 1 team in the nation, Massachusetts-Lowell has rebounded nicely and is currently 14-5-1. Since the poor start, it is 13-2-1. The key for the Riverhawks has been offense as they are 3-5-1 when scoring two goals or less and are 11-0 when lighting the lamp at least three times.
Boston College has an impressive string of unbeaten streaks heading into its Frozen Fenway game against Providence this weekend. The Eagles are 9-0 when scoring first, 11-0-1 when leading after two periods, 5-0-1 when scoring a power-play goal and 13-0-1 when junior forward Johnny Gaudreau scores a goal.
Minding the net
North Dakota has scored exactly three goals in its past five regular-season games, four of which were 3-2, while going 5-0 in those contests. … North Dakota’s Derek Rodwell will likely reach his 100th game played Friday against Colorado College, while Mark MacMillan should hit the century mark in Saturday’s second game of the series. … Michigan Tech and Ferris State, now WCHA conference opponents, play this weekend for the first time since 1995. … Colgate is 5-2-3 away from Starr Rink, but just 3-7 at home. … Bentley has scored at least two goals in each of its past 12 games and is 8-2-2 in those games. … Colorado College has scored only one short-handed goal in its 18 games this season, but has not allowed a short-handed goal all year. … Niagara plays American International this weekend, a team it has never lost to despite being in the same conference. … Former Rensselaer student-athlete Jerry Knightley has been chosen to be the seventh inductee into its prestigious Hockey Ring of Honor. … Rensselaer travels to Princeton this weekend looking to post a shutout against the Tigers in New Jersey for the first time in the series, which has been played 106 times. … Bowling Green is undefeated in its past three games, outscoring its opponents 14-3. … Yale and Harvard will meet Saturday night in Madison Square Garden. … Mercyhurst goalie Jimmy Sarjeant is 9-0-1 in conference play with a 1.89 goals-against average and .942 save percentage. … Boston College forward Kevin Hayes is just three points away from the century mark for his career. He currently has 28 goals and 69 assists.