If you turn on your television this weekend during the evening, there is a good chance you will stumble upon a college hockey game while flipping through the channels. There will be 17 games on television for your viewing pleasure just this weekend, in addition to the numerous games available on the computer via webcast.
“With the nature of television today and having to fill more than 500 channels, that really provides an opportunity for college hockey,” said Nate Ewell, the deputy executive director of College Hockey Inc. “When people see the product and realize how good it is, between the quality of players and the atmosphere of the buildings, it has created even more opportunities. People are now understanding that the players they are watching are future Olympians and NHL stars.”In fact, by the end of the season there will have been more than 175 games on national and regional sports networks, including ESPN, NBC Sports Network, Big Ten Network and CBS Sports Network. During the past few years, the number of games on television has skyrocketed.
“The number of youth players and the retention rate has continued to rise and the more players you have, typically the more fans you have,” said Dave Starman, who is in his 11th season as a college hockey broadcaster. “With the young players out there, college hockey is a realistic level that they can aspire to. When they are 12,13, 14 years old, they are a lot more likely to see themselves playing for St. Cloud State than they are to see themselves as an Islander or Ranger.”
The increase in the number of games isn’t the only thing that has changed during the years.
“I think the addition of the telestrator has been a great addition as it allows the announcers to help teach the game and better explain what is going on out on the ice,” said Starman. “But, without a doubt, the biggest addition in technology for hockey is high definition. Hockey in HD is really appealing to the eye and it really allows the viewer to feel like they are in the rink. In college hockey, because the buildings are smaller, it also allows us to have better camera angles closer to the action and not so high up. It really resonates to those people watching at home in their living room.”
For Ewell and the other members of College Hockey Inc., who travel the United States and Canada promoting the benefits of college hockey to potential players, there is no doubt that television has had a resounding impact on the sport.
“It’s now to the point where you can watch almost any college hockey game either on the web or on television,” Ewell said. “Given that we don’t have teams all over the country, television allows people to see with their own eyes how good the product of college hockey truly is. Ultimately it would be great to create enough of a following that potentially it would create a new program.”
With the increase in quantity of the broadcasts, there has also been an increase in the quality of the broadcast.
“When I watch games, I really like what I see,” Starman said. “There is a lot of good stuff that goes into the broadcast and it is obvious that the people doing the broadcasts care. The level of professionalism is very good and it is vital to the future that is continues to be that way. You can tell that the people who are producing the games are hockey people and really care about the product and that really makes a difference.”
Although it is difficult to tell what the future of college hockey broadcast holds, there is one area Starman, who has also coached at various levels of hockey, said would be a great addition to help the viewer at home.
“One thing I would love to see in the future would be a way to allow the viewer to watch a game the same way a coach watches a game,” Starman said. “Basically have a coaches-cam that would let the viewer see what the coaches are looking at during the game to be able to give them a different perception of what is going on. It would also let them understand what type of vantage point the coach has during the game.”
Crossing the blue line
Holy Cross is 6-15-2 on the year, but has only been defeated by more than three goals once all season. Offense has been the problem as the Crusaders have scored at least three goals only seven times all season. In fact, Holy Cross is 5-1-1 when scoring at least three goals and 1-14-1 when lighting the lamp less than that.
In typical fashion, North Dakota has upped its play after the Christmas break. In Dave Hakstol’s 10 years at the helm, North Dakota has a .583 winning percentage prior to the break and a .701 winning percentage after the break. This year has been no different as North Dakota was 9-7-2 (.555) before the break and is 3-0-1 (.875) since the break.
Boston College has been amazing on special teams this year. The Eagles lead the nation with a 90.4 penalty kill percentage. They have killed off 103 of 114 power play opportunities by its opponents, while also scoring five shorthanded goals of its own during the same period.
Michigan State has used its defense to help turn its season around. During its 3-7 start to the season, the Spartans allowed at least three goals seven times. Since that time, Michigan State is 5-3-3 and have only allowed three goals twice. Overall, the Spartans are 1-8 when allowing at least three goals and 7-2-3 when they don’t.
Minding the net
ECAC Hockey has had seven teams that have had a minimum five-game unbeaten streak. … Air Force has the nation’s longest winning streak at five games. … Boston College and Minnesota are tied for the nation’s longest winning streak at 10 games. … Union (N.Y.) is one of the hottest teams in the nation as it is 12-1-1 in its past 14 games. … Massachusetts-Lowell and Providence meet in a series this weekend which features two of the top three goalies in the nation in terms of save percentage. UML’s Connor Hellebuyck is first in Division I with a .946 save percentage, while PC’s Jon Gillies is third with a mark of .936. … Denver doesn’t have a short-handed goal in 114 chances. … Robert Morris has not allowed a short-handed goal in 99 chances on the season. … Massachusetts senior forward Conor Sheary has not been assessed a penalty in 24 games played this year, which is the most games played without a penalty among Hockey East skaters. … Notre Dame enters this weekend on a four-game winning streak, during which it has outscored its opponents 22-6. … Robert Morris is 11-0-1 when Jeff Jones has scored a goal in his career. … Massachusetts senior forward Michael Pereira is two goals shy of 50 for his career, two assists shy of 50 and four points shy of 100. … Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson’s next win will be his 200th behind the bench for the Irish (199-118-34 record). … Michigan Tech has a 5-3-4 record on Saturday, but just a 2-9-2 mark on Friday. … Quinnipiac’s Sam Anas leads all first-year players in with 32 points. … Wisconsin is 10-1 when Joel Rumpel starts in the net and 3-5-1 when he doesn’t.