Summer In Review, 2009
by Joshua Berhow/CHN Writer
A lot has happened since Colby Cohen’s overtime game-winner gave Boston University the NCAA Championship in April. No college hockey games have been played, but a lot has happened off the ice to impact the start of the 2009-10 season.
If you're just checking back in, here’s what you missed.
The Dean is back
Dean Blais and Nebraska-Omaha made the biggest splash of the summer, when the pair joined forces for the biggest return to college hockey since Jeff Jackson went to Notre Dame.
Blais resigned from the USHL’s Fargo Force in June to head Nebraska-Omaha after Mike Kemp resigned to work in the Mavericks’ athletic department. Blais – who won two national titles in 10 seasons at North Dakota – becomes just the second coach in UNO’s history, and will soon be back in the WCHA; when the Mavericks and Bemidji State join the soon-to-be 12-team conference for the 2010-11 season. Mike Hastings, who left Minnesota after one year as an assistant coach, joined Blais as an associate head coach shortly after Blais was introduced.
With Blais at the helm the Mavericks could have a promising future in the WCHA, and his presence won’t hurt come recruiting time, either.
“Dean’s a great coach and he’s great for college hockey,” said Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore. “He allows a lot of name recognition to the college game and it’s great to see him back. He’s already been one of the best if not the best over the course of the last 15 or 20 years.”
Bemidji State and Nebraska-Omaha to join WCHA
The Beavers needed a home, with the CHA slowly becoming defunct, but the WCHA was hesitant to add a single team and make an 11-team conference. Their original application to the conference was stalled as the WCHA looked for another team, and hoped all along the UNO Mavericks were it.
The Beavers eventually got their wish and the two are set to join the WCHA for the 2010-11 season, although the conference was originally thought to expand a year later in 2011-12.
“Obviously this program was striving for that,” Serratore said. “We’re very fortunate that the WCHA voted us in and we’re very excited, but realize how difficult it will be when we get there.”
With the move, the Beavers’ new arena won’t go to waste, and all five Minnesota-based Division I teams will be in the WCHA.
Huntsville gets cold shoulder
Having an uneven 11-team conference didn’t seem to bother the CCHA that much, as it recently denied Alabama-Huntsville’s application for entry. This is the final year for CHA, and with Niagara and Robert Morris already finding a home next season in Atlantic Hockey, and Bemidji State’s recent acceptance into the WCHA, the Chargers’ future is a major concern. It sounds as if UNO leaving the CCHA after this season wasn’t a good enough reason to admit the Chargers.
Whatever the main reason behind the Chargers’ denial, they come away in a major dilemma.
“There are a lot of issues, but it’s a great school, a great hockey school and an arch rival for us over the last 15 or so years,” Serratore said. “You always like to see your friends getting taken care of and hopefully when the dust settles they’ll be in a league.”
New Hampshire probation
In July, the NCAA put the New Hampshire men’s team under two years of probation for recruiting violations. The report said an associate head coach — Scott Borek — sent e-mails to recruits on accident while using scouting software. UNH self-reported the incident when it realized the mistake.
A college player or college-bound player wasn’t selected until 16th overall in this summer’s NHL Draft, the latest the first college player’s been selected in just more than 10 years.
Recent high school graduate Nick Leddy was selected by the hometown Minnesota Wild. Leddy, a defenseman from Eden Prairie, Minn., is an incoming Gopher recruit and Minnesota’s most recent Mr. Hockey award recipient.
Four other incoming recruits who begin their college careers this season were selected in the first round (It was five, but John Moore, the 21st pick, will join Columbus instead of Colorado College). A total of 63 players with college ties were drafted.
Seventeen college players with remaining eligibility left their respective teams in the offseason to sign pro contracts. Notables include Minnesota’s Ryan Stoa, Wisconsin’s Jamie McBain, Colorado College’s Richard Bachman, Minnesota-Duluth’s Alex Stalock, Denver’s Tyler Bozak, Boston University’s Colin Wilson and Northeastern’s Brad Thiessen. No team took a huge hit from early departures, and only Colorado College and Minnesota-Duluth had more than one leave (two each).
Sweden ended the U.S. Men’s National Team’s run in the 2009 IIHF Men’s World Championship in Bern, Switzerland this summer with a 4-2 victory in the bronze-medal game. Twenty former college players were on Team USA’s roster. BU’s Colin Wilson was the youngest former collegian on the squad.
St. Cloud State senior-to-be and netminder Jase Weslosky was ruled academically ineligible for the upcoming season. Weslosky had a 2.43 goals against average and .920 save percentage in 69 games for the Huskies. Junior Dan Dunn and incoming freshman Mike Lee will compete for the starting spot. Lee was a third-round draft pick by Phoenix this summer.
A few notable contract extensions were signed by head coaches during the summer: Minnesota-Duluth’s Scott Sandelin (two years through 2011-12), Minnesota State’s Troy Jutting (four years through 2012-13) and Canisius’ Dave Smith (through 2012-13).
Other coaching moves
Former Boston University associate head coach David Quinn left his position with the Terriers to be the head coach of the AHL’s Lake Erie Monsters. ... Colorado College assistant Mike Guentzel left the Tigers as an assistant coach to be the head coach of the USHL’s Des Moines Buccaneers. ... Scott Paluch and Roger Grillo, head coaches of Bowling Green and Brown, respectively, have each stepped down this summer as well. Dennis Williams will be the interim replacement at Bowling Green, and Brendan Whittet will head the Bears.