New Season Primer
What to Watch For as 2012-13 Begins
by Scott McLaughlin/CHN Writer
A college hockey season is always filled with an assortment of great moments. The beauty of sports is, you often don't know how or when they're going to happen. But there are some things to look out for as the new season approaches.
The change you'll probably notice most is that hand passes are no longer allowed in any zone. Before, hand passes had been allowed in the defensive zone. As has been the case with hand passes in the offensive and neutral zones, hand passes in the defensive zone will now result in a stop in play. The ensuing faceoff after all hand passes will take place in the guilty team's defensive zone. If the hand pass occurs in the guilty team's defensive zone, that team will not be able to change lines before the faceoff.
Goals will now be allowed even if the net has been dislodged a little. As long as the posts are still in contact with the pegs or pins, and as long as it wasn't an offensive player who knocked the net loose, the goal will be allowed — assuming the puck would have gone in anyways (i.e. it doesn't slide under an elevated post). In the past, any net movement meant an automatic no-goal. The old rule cost Michigan State a goal in its NCAA first-round loss to Union last season.
Similarly, the rule for goals going in off skates has been relaxed. Under the old rule, any goal that went in off a skate moving toward the net was disallowed. Now, as is the case in the NHL, goals will only be disallowed if there is a "distinct kicking motion." So if a player is simply trying to stop or slow down and the puck happens to go in off his skate, the goal will be allowed.
For non-conference games, teams will have the option to play 4-on-4 in overtime if both sides agree on it. If the two teams can't agree, the default 5-on-5 overtime will be used. Maine and Quinnipiac will be the first to try it when they meet each other for their opening game this Saturday.
Big Holes to Fill
Boston College should be one of the top teams in the country again, but the Eagles aren't without holes to fill. Leading scorer Chris Kreider left for the NHL, where he made an immediate impact with the Rangers in the playoffs. Top defenseman Brian Dumoulin also elected to forgo his senior season. Captain Tommy Cross and 40-point scorer Barry Almeida won't be easily replaced either. The Eagles still have plenty of talent on their top two lines, but they'll need some younger guys to step up on the bottom two. They'll also need their freshman defensemen — a talented group for sure — to get acclimated quickly, as at least three of them will be in the lineup every game.
Last year's national runner-ups lose a few key players as well. Ferris State's leading scorer, Jordie Johnston, is gone, as are All-American defenseman Chad Billins and All-American goalie Taylor Nelson. Sophomore C.J. Motte, who was excellent in 12 starts last season, is expected to take over in goal. Scott Czarnowczan is poised to be the leader on defense, while Kyle Bonis, who had a big postseason, should excel up front.
Continuing with Bulldogs, Minnesota-Duluth loses as much as anyone. Hobey Baker winner Jack Connolly is gone, as are fellow 20-goal scorers Travis Oleksuk and J.T. Brown. If that wasn't enough, starting goalie Kenny Reiter graduated as well. Considering that the Bulldogs lost more than half of their scoring from last season, it wouldn't be fair to pick just two or three guys who need to step up. UMD is going to need everyone to contribute more if it hopes to earn a third straight NCAA tournament berth.
Maine made the NCAA tournament for the first time in five years last season, but the Black Bears will have to overcome some big losses if they're going to get back there. Hobey Baker finalist Spencer Abbott graduated, as did dynamic linemate Brian Flynn. Thirty-point scorers Matt Mangene and Will O'Neill are gone as well. Joey Diamond (25 goals last season) is back, but after that, the Black Bears have just three forwards who registered double-digit points last season. Needless to say, they'll need more.
Denver loses its top two scorers in Drew Shore and Jason Zucker. Forty-point scorer Nick Shore will be counted on to take charge up front, while guys like Shawn Ostrow, Chris Knowlton and Ty Loney will be expected take on bigger scoring roles.
Much to the relief of its CCHA opponents, Miami graduated the goaltending duo of Connor Knapp and Cody Reichard, which had been one of the best tandems in the country throughout their four years. Freshmen Ryan McKay and Jay Williams will battle for the job this season, with McKay having the edge on paper going in. The RedHawks also lose 30-goal scorer Reilly Smith. They will rely on a sophomore class that is still strong despite losing Tyler Biggs, as well as some highly touted freshmen, to pick up the slack.
Wisconsin returns all of its forwards from last season, but it loses star defenseman Justin Schultz, who led the team in goals. The Badgers won't be able to depend on that kind of production from the blue line this season, so they will need their forwards to put the puck in the net more on their own.
Michigan State also loses an elite defenseman in Torey Krug, who led the Spartans in goals and points. Krug was arguably more important to his team than anyone in the country, so the Spartans will need a lot more from other guys if they hope to return to the NCAA tournament.
After winning the ECAC and making a run to the Frozen Four, Union loses its top two scorers in Jeremy Welsh and Kelly Zajac. There is still a lot to like about the Dutchmen, though. They return pretty much everyone else from last year's team, including All-American goalie Troy Grosenick.
Several other ECAC teams lose elite scorers as well. Colgate loses Hobey Baker finalist Austin Smith, while Harvard loses All-American Alex Killorn and Yale loses Brian O'Neill. Killorn and O'Neill both put up 46 points last season, while Smith led the country with 36 goals.
Minnesota and North Dakota were ranked 1-2 in the WCHA preseason media poll, but both have holes to fill in net. The Gophers lose Kent Patterson, who started all 43 games last season. North Dakota loses both Brad Eidsness and Aaron Dell, who were the only two goalies UND used last year. Adam Wilcox at Minnesota and Zane Gothberg at North Dakota will both get a chance to start as freshmen.
Speaking of goalies, Hockey East opponents will be happy to see two of the league's best moving on. Boston University's Kieran Millan and Merrimack's Joe Cannata rewrote the record books at their respective schools, but both are gone now. BU will turn to freshmen Sean Maguire and Matthew O'Connor, while Merrimack will rely on junior Sam Marotta and sophomore Rasmus Tirronen.
Last, but certainly not least, Michigan loses Hobey Baker finalist Shawn Hunwick, who was arguably the best goalie in the country last year. The Wolverines have a deep team coming back and a strong freshman class coming in, but they will need someone to plug the hole in net. Expect freshman Jared Rutledge, a product of the U.S. National Team Development Program, to get first shot at taking over the reins.
Milestones on the Horizon
It will be a bittersweet year for everyone in the CCHA. After 42 years, the conference will disband following this season. Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State will head to the Big Ten, Notre Dame will go to Hockey East, Miami and Western Michigan will head to the NCHC, and the rest are off to the WCHA. The league's going-away party will be the final CCHA tournament, which will culminate at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena on Sunday, March 24 (the NCAA granted the league's request for a special Sunday final).
The WCHA will carry on unlike the CCHA, but it will never be the same. Only Alaska-Anchorage, Bemidji State, Michigan Tech and Minnesota State will remain next season, as the other eight will be leaving for either the Big Ten or the NCHC. In fact, there will actually be more current CCHA teams than current WCHA teams in next year's WCHA. The end of the WCHA as we know it will take place at this year's Final Five from March 21-23 at St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center. Future locations of the Final Five are still undecided.
Jerry York will become the winningest coach in college hockey history. His 913 career victories are 11 shy of Ron Mason's all-time record, which has stood since 2002. York will likely get there by early January.
It will take a pretty good season, but BU's Jack Parker could join York and Mason as the third member of the 900-win club. He enters the season at 876. BU won 23 games last season, so a one-game improvement would get him there.
Minnesota's Don Lucia will join the 600-win club, as he is currently three away. He will join York, Parker and Michigan's Red Berenson as the fourth active coach and eighth overall to reach that milestone.
New Hampshire's Dick Umile is one win away from 500 for his career. He will become the 12th coach (sixth active) to join that club.