Thursday, June 30, 2011

False Start, Trying Again

OK, so... about that petition...

Last week we brought up the idea of Michigan Tech and RPI playing each other in the near future, and, in league with Tech Hockey Guide, we put together a petition that would be sent to decision-makers at the two schools encouraging such an arrangement to be made.

Apparently, we should have done a little more research about where to host the petition. The site we chose, it turns out, not only sends an email out to the decision-makers every time someone signs the petition (we'd wanted to gather signatures and then deliver them... you know, like a regular petition), they also signed up everyone who signed to receive their emails, which we had been led to believe would not be the case.

Our most heartfelt apologies to everyone (including the decision-makers) who has been needlessly hassled by our poor choice of partnership with this particular site.

However, we do still want to do a petition, and after initial tests at a second site proved to be not much more than a huge joke, we decided that we'd have to do it in house, instead.

If you're interested in signing our petition - this time, 100% free from problems - surf on over to our new location right at Tech Hockey Guide and sign away.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Know Your Enemy: UConn

Today's Know Your Enemy is one of two this season that represents only a potential opponent, given that the Engineers are taking part in just one in-season tournament this year. The UConn Classic is designed to give the hosts an Atlantic Hockey league game in the first round, so the Engineers could only potentially meet up with the Huskies on the second day, either in the championship or consolation game.

Nickname: Huskies
Location: Storrs, CT
Founded: 1881
Conference: Atlantic Hockey
National Championships: 0
Last NCAA Appearance: None
Coach: Bruce Marshall (24th season)
2010-11 Record: 15-18-4 (13-12-2 AHA, 6th place)
Series: RPI leads, 3-0-2
First Game: January 18, 1930 (Troy, NY)
Last RPI win: November 26, 2010 (Troy, NY)
Last UConn win: Never

2010-11 game: December 30, 2011 (Storrs, CT) - potential

Key players: D Brad Cooper, sr.; F Marcello Ranallo, sr.; F Sean Ambrosie, jr.; G Garrett Bartus, jr.; D Alex Gerke, jr.; D Grant Scott, jr.; F Miles Winter, jr.; F Brant Harris, so.; F Billy Latta, so.; F Cole Schneider, so.; F Jordan Sims, so.; F Brad Smith, fr.

Previous KYE installment:
Last season's game against the Huskies was a roller-coaster to say the least. It was Bryce Merriam's first game action of the year, and he looked shaky at times but stuck it out to the end to pick up the victory despite giving up five goals in the opening round game of the final RPI Holiday Tournament. UConn led 1-0 after one period, and held two-goal leads on two separate occasions, though the Engineers did not stay down by two for more than a couple of minutes, both times scoring the game's next two goals in relatively rapid succession. Even after RPI took a late 5-4 lead, the Huskies came back to tie it before Chase Polacek's second goal of the game, on the power play, gave RPI a 6-5 win. It's worth noting that this was the game that the ECAC suspended Seth Appert for after the Schenectady Screwjob, so that may have also played a minor role in the game's outcome.

The next night, UConn dropped a 6-2 decision to Alabama-Huntsville, finshing the tournament in 4th place.

Thanksgiving weekend notwithstanding, UConn actually had a pretty decent season last year, defying the pre-season predictions from pretty much everyone and finishing not only in sixth, but as the second seed in the eastern "pod," earning themselves a preliminary round bye. The Huskies then dispatched Mercyhurst in two games, their season ending in the Atlantic Hockey semifinals with a 4-2 loss to RIT as the Tigers jumped on UConn early and finished strong.

That solid season has some reason for hope in Storrs for the first time in a long while, especially given how young the team was last season. Schneider led the team in scoring as a freshman, and four of the team's top six scorers were freshmen (Latta, Sims, and Harris). The only major loss for UConn is their top goalscorer, Andrew Olson, but offensively the Huskies seem to be doing OK by Atlantic Hockey standards.

Defensively, the team still needs a little work. The team's two games in Troy last year were pretty solid indicators of how rough the team was defensively, giving up 12 goals in two games. Bartus established himself as the team's top goaltender, and he's probably a little better individually than his middling numbers would indicate (for instance, he made 35 saves against RPI), because the blueliners in front of him were mostly a mess last year. If the Huskies are going to have success, this is their number one area of concern.

RPI is practically never in a position to take an opponent lightly, and UConn showed that in brilliant colors last year. If they meet on the second day of the tournament, the Engineers will need to exploit the Huskies' defense if they're going to ensure themselves the win. It's not a terrible drive from Troy, so if you're in the area between Christmas and New Year's, make the trip - UConn isn't exactly well known for its home fanbase, so it's a great opportunity to turn a road game into a home game.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Tsunami Watch: WCHA

The other conference due to lose teams to the Big Ten is the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. Minnesota and Wisconsin, right now, are a very important part of the WCHA's core, but unlike the CCHA, the WCHA seems to be in a fairly decent position before other chess pieces start moving. Why? Well, it's in part a numbers game and in part a strength game. The CCHA is losing 3 of their 11 teams, while the WCHA loses 2 of 12 - fewer of more. The CCHA teams that will form part of the Big Ten represent a solid chunk of the power teams of that conference. The WCHA teams still leave behind a number of strong programs.

So while we talked about an uncertain future for the CCHA, the WCHA seems poised to carry on reasonably well despite the loss of a charter member in Minnesota and a major player in Wisconsin.

Still, the WCHA is poised to have at least some significant change with the advent of the Big Ten. Whereas before, Hockey East has been their only real consistent adversary for the title of the nation's top league, they'll now have to contend with a Hockey East that will not be losing any of its top teams as well as the Big Ten itself. Will that weaken the position of some of the WCHA's programs? It could, but that would be a long-term effect. Here's what the short-term probably has in store for the schools of the WCHA.

Colorado College, Denver and North Dakota: The remaining heavy hitters of the WCHA, more or less. These schools will be the three remaining charter members of the league that have been there since the very start (Michigan Tech was also a charter member, but left for three seasons in the early 1980s). They've always given the WCHA a little more gravitas outside of Minnesota and Wisconsin, and they'll be the core of the new WCHA - precisely the reason that the conference itself will be OK.

Bemidji State, Minnesota State and St. Cloud State: Collectively, the MnSCU schools. Typically cast in the role of the little brother to the University of Minnesota system, they will sorely miss the revenue that the Gophers bring with them when they come into town. Bemidji State is still breathing a sigh of relief to be in the WCHA after the CHA collapsed, but the Mavericks and Huskies are sure to be extra disappointed - there's little assurance that the Gophers will come to Mankato and St. Cloud if they aren't required to. Regardless, they're very much set where they are and since the WCHA will easily be able to press on with the remaining programs, they're going to be pretty much untouched by the Big Ten with the exception of the revenue issue.

Minnesota-Duluth: The national champions finally emerged from the shadow of their cousins from the Twin Cities by raising the NCAA title for the first time, but they, like the MnSCU schools, enjoy some solid benefits from bringing the Gophers to town - though it's more likely that they'll still be able to schedule some non-conference games with them in the future given their historic and institutional links. In some ways, their championship this season makes them yet another player in keeping the WCHA vibrant after Minnesota and Wisconsin leave, though their history before that has always made them a key component of the league.

Nebraska-Omaha: The Mavericks moved from the CCHA to the WCHA last year in part because they saw the Big Ten coming down the pike - in some ways, their move was the real second move, simply taking place before the first move of the Big Ten. They're just thankful they were the ones that took the conference up on its membership offer, and they'll be just fine in the WCHA.

Alaska-Anchorage and Michigan Tech: Life's hard enough for the Seawolves and Huskies lately without having to find new accommodations. The departure of the two Big Ten schools is likely to have the least amount of real impact on these programs even though both Minnesota and Wisconsin were big draws no matter where they went. They'll be OK with the 10-team WCHA, though as mentioned in our discussion on the CCHA, the Huskies have ample reason to at the very least take a long, hard look at leaving, and the Seawolves don't have much incentive to bail to any other league because of the benefits of having the Alaska schools in separate conferences.

Unless Michigan Tech decides to fly the coop - or perhaps, even if they decide to leave - expansion really isn't going to be foremost on the WCHA's mind even in the wake of the Big Ten's formation, in part because the league has been reluctant in the past to expand. When everyone and their mother was clamoring for Bemidji State to be allowed into the WCHA as College Hockey America was collapsing in on itself, the league moved only slowly in the direction of bringing them (and ultimately, UNO) on board. Why? Because they haven't had much of a reason to expand. As one of the top leagues in the nation - especially in the last decade, where they won six of seven national championships in a row from 2000 to 2006 - they aren't going to bring just anyone aboard.

And yet, candidates exist - both of which we touched on earlier, but let's look at the league's perspective on them.

Notre Dame: The Irish would likely be a strong candidate from the league's perspective, because the notability of the school and the recent established strength of the program would both be instant boosts to the league's reputation, especially in the wake of the departure of two of its stalwarts in both of those categories. As mentioned, their new hockey facility will have a big enough capacity to fit into the league - at a capacity of roughly 5,000, they won't be above the league average but will have a larger facility than Minnesota State, Bemidji State, or Michigan Tech.

The one problem the league will have to overcome is its lack of "name" schools, which is the thing the Irish are chiefly expected to try to escape the CCHA over. Though the WCHA has some of the top hockey programs in the nation in its ranks, it has only two Division I schools after the Big Ten split - Denver and North Dakota. The Pioneers have only been a full D-I school since 1999, and the Sioux have only been D-I since 2008. Neither compete in a major conference in other D-I sports.

Miami: The Redhawks have a number of hurdles to get over before they would be accepted in the WCHA. First, as mentioned last week, their brand new arena, while awesome, would be the smallest in the WCHA. Second, Ohio stretches the footprint more than Indiana. Third, they don't have the "name" that Notre Dame has. And finally, the WCHA isn't going to be keen to rip both Notre Dame and Miami out of the CCHA (given that they probably wouldn't take Miami without the Irish leaving too - the CCHA minus just the Big Ten schools could probably hack it, but that seems fairly unlikely), since that would not be in the best interest of college hockey as a whole as it would only make the CCHA's situation all the more dire.

Northern Michigan: Another former WCHA program that could potentially come calling again. The Wildcats at least have this going for them - of the remaining CCHA teams, they'd probably have the best shot at getting in by far, but that's not really saying much.

It's worth noting here that the WCHA, now that they've brought in Bemidji State and Nebraska-Omaha, have established a pretty firm foothold on college hockey west of the Mississippi. If any major schools from the region - from the soon to be Pac-12, for instance - were to start a varsity program, the WCHA would in practical terms get the right of first refusal (minus, of course, the Big Ten's Nebraska-Lincoln).

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Look in the Mirror?

I want to tell you about a specific institution of higher learning out there, let's see if you can guess the one I'm talking about just by describing it.

It's a northern school with about 5,300 undergraduates, best known for two things: its engineering programs and hockey. On the former, the school has a number of distinguished alumni known the world over. On the latter, despite not being a "power school" when it comes to the NCAA, the school has won the national championship on more than one occasion (though recent history hasn't been easy). The male to female ratio there is terribly skewed. Winters are brutally cold and filled with snow, but the school does have a popular Winter Carnival.

I know you've already got the answer. It's Michigan Tech, of course.

What, you were thinking of another school? (I know it wasn't Clarkson, at least not after that national championship mention.)

Yes, the illustration on how Michigan Tech and RPI are schools with very similar backgrounds is pretty tough to deny. It even goes a step further - Michigan Tech is in Houghton, MI, named after Douglass Houghton, RPI Class of 1829 (born in Troy and trained by Amos Eaton himself), and one of the residence halls there is named after Houghton.

The schools have played a combined total of 182 hockey seasons. And yet, the Huskies and the Engineers have done battle on only three occasions:

December 29, 1956: The first meeting between the teams came just two seasons removed from RPI's first national championship and concluded an all-around disastrous 6th annual RPI Invitational for the Engineers while providing a big end to a big weekend for the Huskies as MTU picked up a 6-4 victory in Troy. The Engineers finished last in their own tournament for the first time, managing only a Thursday tie with Laval in the round-robin before losing to McGill and then Michigan Tech. The Huskies, meanwhile, became the second consecutive western team (following Minnesota) to win the RPI Tournament, as their win over the hosts preceded a tie with McGill and a 9-6 win over Laval.

December 30, 1967: Once again playing each other on the third night of the round-robin RPI Tournament, it was the Engineers turn to pick up a win (4-3) over Michigan Tech - in a stark coincidence, this game coming two seasons after a Tech national championship, though this was their second. The result left both teams with a 2-1 record in the tournament, as was McMaster, which skated off with the championship thanks in large part to a 10-6 victory over RPI the previous night. MTU had beaten McMaster 5-3 in the tournament's opening game, while all three teams beat up on Yale.

October 15, 2005: On the neutral ice of Sullivan Arena in Anchorage, Alaska for the Nye Frontier Classic, Michigan Tech jumps out to a 3-1 lead helped by Chris Conner's two goals, but the Engineers stage a comeback kickstarted by a Kevin Croxton goal just eight seconds after Conner's second tally, and win it by a 4-3 final with the game winner in the 3rd period on Andrei Uryadov's first career goal on a 5-on-3. The victory was also Mathias Lange's first career win in net.

And... that's all these two schools have to show against each other for 182 years of hockey - all three games, it should be pointed out, taking place during an in-season tournament.

Although there are three relatively storied college hockey programs in Michigan's Upper Peninsula (with 7 national championships between them), RPI has visited the region only once in their entire history - a two-game series with a then-unheralded Lake Superior State team in November 1974 (both wins for the Engineers). You may recall from our Know Your Enemy a few weeks back that RPI has never even faced MTU's U.P. rivals from Northern Michigan, a team that won a national championship some 20 years ago.

So here's what we're saying: why not a two-year engagement with the Huskies from Houghton? It wouldn't be the easiest of road-trips, it's true, but it would be a great opportunity for a pair of very similar schools to get to know each other a little better - some cultural exchange, if you will. A chance for Michigan Tech to see the Red Army from Troy, and a chance for RPI to embrace Mitch's Misfits from the U.P.

We're teaming up with the Tech Hockey Guide to offer... not so much a petition (well, OK, it IS technically a petition...) as much as a show of support for a future RPI-MTU game/series/whatever.

Better yet, sign it, and ask your friends what they think! We'll send our show of support off to decision-makers at both schools when we collect enough names.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Know Your Enemy: UMass-Lowell

Our next entry in the Know Your Enemy series is the first of four teams on the RPI schedule this year with a first year coach. During the Dan Fridgen era, UMass-Lowell was a regular fixture on the RPI non-conference schedule, as the Engineers and River Hawks did battle every year (with one exception) from 1992 through 2006. This season, the teams meet for the first time on a schedule assembled by Seth Appert - the last game took place in Appert's first season behind the bench - in the opening game of the UConn Hockey Classic.

Nickname: River Hawks
Location: Lowell, MA
Founded: 1894
Conference: Hockey East
National Championships: 3 (1979, 1981, 1982 - all Division II)
Last NCAA Appearance: 1996
Last Frozen Four: 1983 (Division II)
Coach: Norm Bazin (1st season)
2010-11 Record: 5-25-4 (4-21-2 HEA, 10th place)
Series: Tied, 10-10-1
First Game: December 30, 1982 (Troy, NY)
Last RPI win: December 16, 2006 (Troy, NY)
Last UML win: October 9, 2005 (Lowell, MA)

2011-12 game: December 29, 2011 (Storrs, CT)

Key players: F David Vallorani, sr., F Matt Ferreira, sr.; F Riley Wetmore, jr., G Doug Carr, so.; F Derek Arnold, so.; F Joseph Pendenza, so., D Chad Ruhwedel, so., F Tyler Brickler, fr.; F Mike Conderman, fr.; D Colton Saucerman, fr.; F Terrence Wallin, fr.; F Scott Wilson, fr.

Much has changed about Lowell since the school's hockey program got it's start in the early 1960s - the division, the name of the school, and the name of the team are all different from the day the Lowell Technological Institute Terriers first took to the ice in 1961 and started varsity hockey as a Division II squad in 1967. Lowell Technological Institute and Lowell State College merged in 1975, creating what was at the time known as the University of Lowell, and it was shortly after this merger that the school entered its heyday on the ice.

With the merger, coach Bill Riley's team became the Chiefs, and the team quickly became one of the powers of Division II just as the NCAA introduced the Division II national championship. Their rivals from Merrimack took the first national crown in 1978, but the Chiefs claimed the title the following season, bouncing back from a 3-4-0 start to finish up 24-2 the rest of the way, defeating Mankato State in the championship with a team that included future NHLer and four time Stanley Cup winner Craig MacTavish.

That victory arguably marked the beginning of the first Division II dynasty, as the Chiefs returned to the national tournament in each of the succeeding four seasons, winning three national championships in four years with twin victories over Plattsburgh State in 1981 and 1982.

In 1983, when the ECAC's East Division decided to break off from the rest of the conference and join Hockey East, Lowell signed on as well to become the league's seventh member, making the move to Division I the following season as part of Hockey East's inaugural season, finishing fifth just a point behind fourth place New Hampshire.

The Chiefs weren't just wallflowers in the league's early days - they proved their worth early on. By 1987, the league's third year, Lowell finished in second in the league standings, and the following season got their first taste of the NCAA tournament with an at-large bid. Following that bid, however, the team became mired in a funk, finishing last or next to last in Hockey East the next three years, and Riley departed in favor of Bruce Crowder. At about the same time, the school joined the University of Massachusetts system and became known as UMass-Lowell.

Crowder spent only five seasons in Lowell before leaving for Northeastern, but the team was generally successful under him. Three of those seasons were 20-win years, including a 25-win season in 1994 that saw the team reach the Hockey East championship (losing by one goal to BU) and a second NCAA tournament apperance, backstopped by Hobey Baker finalist Dwayne Roloson. That team came within a goal of the Frozen Four, earning their first NCAA win with a 4-3 victory over Michigan State (on the Spartans' home ice) before falling 2-1 in overtime to Minnesota.

Two years later it was almost deja vu for the team by then known as the River Hawks. With a 26-win season (most in Division I in the school's history), Lowell headed back to the NCAA tournament where they once again faced Michigan State in East Lansing, and once again shocked the home team (6-2), but fell to Colorado College, once more a game short of the Frozen Four.

Crowder's departure opened the door for the man who is now Maine's head coach, Tim Whitehead. The five years under Whitehead were fairly undistinguished in Lowell, and upon his departure in 2001 to replace the late Shawn Walsh at Maine, Blaise MacDonald came into the picture. Just a year removed from a shocking season at Niagara that saw the Purple Eagles come within a game of the Frozen Four, it was hoped that he would bring the River Hawks to that level and beyond.

Unfortunately for UMass-Lowell, that was not to be. Though he led the team to three 20-win seasons (2002, 2005, 2009) in his time behind the bench, those seasons merely punctuated losing campaigns for the most part. In 2007, the team faced an uncertain future with the UMass Board of Trustees threatening to axe the program over rental fees at Tsongas Arena, their home, and due to a perceived issue with the team competing against the system's flagship campus in Amherst, but the program survived those issues.

This past season, UML endured probably their worst season to date as a varsity program. They picked up only five wins all year (two against just-as-bad Providence and another against Atlantic Hockey's Bentley) and finished dead last in Hockey East with 21 losses in 27 league games. MacDonald stepped down at the end of the year, he will be replaced by Hamilton head coach and UML alumnus Norm Bazin.

Vallorani and Wetmore were productive for UML last season, but the team's production didn't go terribly far beyond them - the team was 45th in the nation offensively out of 58 teams. Ferriera and Pendenza return 10 goals each, so at the very least, most of the team's top scorers will be back from what was a very young team last season. Additionally, the River Hawks may be getting a shot in the arm from several talented young freshman forwards, especially Scott Wilson and Terrence Wallin, the latter of which had been highly coveted by the Engineers before he chose Lowell.

Defensively, Bazin may have even more work to do as last year's UML squad 54th in the nation on that metric, allowing 4 goals per game. Carr and classmate Doug Boulanger largely split time in net last season, with neither putting up numbers that would be considered remarkable by any stretch of the imagination. They will have to improve significantly in order for the River Hawks to have a shot this year.

This will be the first time the Engineers and River Hawks face each other on neutral ice. It's hard to say exactly how this game will play out since both teams have a good number of question marks heading into the year. It does seem like some of Lowell's best players will be young, but the same can be said of RPI. Both sides will have a good number of games under their belt by the time this game is played, but it's difficult to draw a bead on what to expect in this one at this point in time. If this game were played in a couple of years instead of this year, it could prove to be an exciting matchup between a pair of talented squads, but right now it could be anything from a solid game between two young, good teams, it could be a snoozer between two teams trying to refine that young talent, or a combination of the two.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Tsunami Watch: CCHA

In the words of Bob Dylan, "the times, they are a-changin'" and nowhere are the times changing more than in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.

A minor conference when it was created in the 1970s, the CCHA got a huge shot in the arm when Michigan and Michigan State joined the conference from the WCHA in 1981 and ever since, the league has been one of the major players on the national scene. But those schools, along with Ohio State, will be departing for the new Big Ten conference, and a league currently sitting at 11 programs will be down to eight, with two powerful programs that will almost certainly be looking for something more firm (and more prestigious) and six less powerful programs who face a difficult future.

It wasn't long ago that some were talking about the CCHA possibly being the first conference to stretch from coast to coast (from Alaska to New York), and that may yet be in the conference's future, but minus the Big Ten schools, there's an unsure future not only for many of the CCHA's D-II programs, but also for the conference itself.

Notre Dame: At the end of the day, the Fighting Irish are really the program most likely to be the one making the next move, and they are easily the program with the most options. Why? Because they're Notre Dame - the school with enough moxie when it comes to college athletics (specifically, college football) to command their own national television contract. As Adam Wodon has said, they're probably already looking around and realizing that without the Big 10 schools, they're in a conference with nothing but Mid-American Conference and D-II schools. That's not how the Fighting Irish roll.

If Notre Dame comes calling, what established conference in their right minds would turn them down? The two most likely destinations are the WCHA (where the Irish resided in the 1970s) and Hockey East (where an institutional rival in Boston College resides, not to mention that the league isn't totally geographically similar to the Big East's core). The WCHA is home of some large buildings, but Notre Dame's new digs will be big enough to fit in.

Expect the Fighting Irish to be the next team to make a decision on their future, probably within the next year. Will they look east? Will they look west? Or will they take a leading role in trying to attract new teams (and potentially, new programs) to the CCHA? The decision they make will likely set the rest of the carousel in motion.

Miami: Perhaps the single CCHA program with the most questions. They're quickly becoming one of the best programs in college hockey - like Notre Dame, missing only the national championship - but the uncertainty surrounding the CCHA could have lasting consequences on the Redhawks' immediate future. Consider Miami's position. They are, as soon as the Big Ten schools leave, one of two powers in a significantly weakened conference and, as we just mentioned, Notre Dame almost certainly isn't long for that weakened conference. What, then, is the solution?

The WCHA is unlikely to be interested in Miami for a couple of reasons. Their arena, while new (and, might I say, awesome), would be very small by their standards. It's also significantly outside of the league's footprint and, especially by comparison to Notre Dame, Miami doesn't bring with it much gravitas other than through their recently lofty position as a college hockey power.

Hockey East also probably wouldn't be terribly interested in Miami, even as a package with Notre Dame, given its status as a regional (yet powerful) conference. They might be willing to branch out for the Irish, but probably not so much for the Redhawks.

Miami's best route, therefore, is probably in bolstering the CCHA through adding additional programs - and yet, no matter what schools possibly get added, the Redhawks are still in the precarious position of being head and shoulders above the rest of the league. That might bode well for making the national tournament every year, but if the CCHA is significantly weakened, it might make for a tougher route to their goal of a national championship.

Bowling Green and Western Michigan: The other MAC schools, each with very different hockey histories but similar recent results. The Falcons won a national championship in 1984, but have had a rocky recent past, including a threat a few years back to have their program folded due to difficult economic times. The Broncos, meanwhile, have floundered for many years but are coming off a remarkable comeback season last year under their new coach despite the school's long-term commitment to the program slightly in question.

These are schools that, like Miami, are among in the top level Division I (as defined by the D-I split in college football), but unlike Miami are unattractive to other high end conferences - neither has a prayer of being invited to a currently existing league. They will certainly miss the effect that regular visits from Michigan and Michigan State have had on home turnout, and if the CCHA doesn't grow, they may find the quality (and stability) of their programs diminishing rapidly as time goes by, further imperiling the league and their own existence.

Ferris State, Lake Superior State and Northern Michigan: The CCHA's Division II schools in the Midwest. The latter two are also former national champions, with the Lakers enjoying a dynasty during the late 1980s and early 1990s. These programs have not been in trouble as BGSU and WMU have been, but they will be taking a big hit with the Big Ten schools leaving the conference. They are not currently in danger, but the longer the CCHA exists in a weakened state, the more their future in Division I could be in jeopardy. At the very least, their ability to field competitive teams could be in jeopardy.

NMU is a former WCHA program and they were rumored to be in the mix to jump back to the WCHA during its last expansion, a slot that eventually went to Nebraska-Omaha. They could try to spring back (maybe even with Notre Dame), but it's entirely possible that the WCHA ship has sailed. Ferris and LSSU have fewer reasonable options.

Alaska: The CCHA's lonely outpost in the Last Frontier. The Nanooks have had the appearance of being a serious outlier in the Great Lakes-centric CCHA since they joined the conference in 1995, but it has been a necessary matter for their program to be able to have a secure place in the college hockey world. It is difficult at best to schedule an independent schedule, and even more difficult to entice teams to come to Alaska, even with the schedule exemption that teams who do so receive (teams who travel to the 49th state don't have to count those games toward their schedule limit). So Alaska will also be looking to keep the CCHA soluble.

One thing that almost surely will not happen is a combination of the two Alaska schools into the same conference, whether that's the Nanooks moving the WCHA as has been suggested or Alaska-Anchorage moving to the CCHA (where it has been argued they could be more competitive). Both schools cherish the ability to play each other on a yearly basis to account for some of their non-conference games (taking up the remainder with pre-season tournaments). If they were forced to play each other within a conference schedule, it would make filling their schedule all the more difficult, perhaps requiring them to travel to the Lower 48 for some of their non-conference games, which neither team currently does.

The CCHA's path to survival as a conference almost certainly rests in adding new programs, since we've seen how tenuous survival can be with eight or fewer teams. Fortunately, there are a number of viable options out there, including the possibility of adding new programs (which again, we won't speculate on specific schools here).

Atlantic Hockey: We'll touch more on this when we get to discussing the growing divisions in college hockey's lone minor (but improving) conference, but there are a number of teams in Atlantic Hockey that would likely love to join the CCHA, even in a weakened condition, than stay in the cost-contained AHA. First and foremost, there's Niagara and Robert Morris, both dealing with scholarship restrictions they'd prefer not to have. There's also RIT, which has been dominant in AHA and is clearly yearning for a bigger challenge, though they'd prefer the ECAC. Mercyhurst wouldn't be too far away and has been trying to improve their position. The bottom line is, there are a number of opportunities for AHA teams, especially western AHA teams, who might be interested in improving their station through the CCHA if they're up for the challenge of competing with a full slate of scholarships.

Alabama-Huntsville: Let's not forget the lone current independent in hockey's southern outpost. The shuffling that the Big Ten's arrival represents is welcome news in Huntsville not because it opens an obvious spot for the Chargers, but because it breaks the status quo, which is what has left them on the outside looking in. Could there be a spot for them in the CCHA? Certainly. Is it a sure thing? Far from it. By all reports, the schools that were warm to the idea of the Chargers joining the conference the last time they looked to join were, by and large, the bigger schools, and most of them are leaving. UAH would help stabilize the league on numbers alone, but it would also increase travel costs for a league that is not going to have as much money to play with once the heavy hitters hit the road.

Michigan Tech: Here's an interesting possibility that's probably more rampant speculation than anything, but... what about Tech? They bolted the WCHA for three years in the early 1980s for the CCHA and their local rivals from NMU currently play there (with non-conference games between the schools continuing on a yearly basis). Tech is starting anew with a new coach next year and haven't finished in the top half of the WCHA since 1993 - since then, they've finished last nine times, including each of the last three years. Might the program be better suited to grow in what will be a weaker league, one in which they would lend a bit more gravitas to in the process? It's absolutely nothing but speculation since Tech seems to be happy in the WCHA (and the reverse is probably true, since they're the trustees of the MacNaughton Cup, the league's regular season championship trophy), but... maybe something to think about as a possibility.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Know Your Enemy: RIT

It's been a hectic week or so with each of your trusted, loyal, dedicated, and obnoxious WaP correspondents busy with life and other relative inconveniences, but with any luck we're back on the right path. Expect some additional updates later this week, including the continued tsunami watch.

For the second straight week, we talk about a game with a repeat non-conference opponent from last year, an Atlantic Hockey team which has, without question, earned the right to a visit from the Engineers, who make their very first visit to the Rochester area to take on the Tigers this coming season.

Rochester Institute of Technology
Nickname: Tigers
Location: Henrietta, NY
Founded: 1829
Conference: Atlantic Hockey
National Championships: 2 (Division II in 1983, Division III in 1985)
Last NCAA Appearance: 2010
Last Frozen Four: 2010
Coach: Wayne Wilson (13th season)
2010-11 Record: 19-11-8 (15-5-7 AHA, 1st place)
Series: RPI leads, 4-1-0
First Game: November 29, 1985 (Troy, NY)
Last RPI win: October 22, 2010 (Troy, NY)
Last RIT win: November 1, 1986 (Troy, NY)

2011-12 game: November 25, 2011 (Henrietta, NY)

Key players: F Cameron Burt, sr.; D Chris Haltigin, sr.; F Adam Hartley, jr.; G Shane Madolora, jr.; D Chris Saracino, jr.; F Ben Lynch, so.; F Adam Mitchell, so.; D Nolan Descoteaux, so.; D Greg Noyes, so.; D Stuart Brownell, fr.; F Brandon Thompson, fr.

Previous KYE installment:
Last year's game between the Engineers and Tigers was one of the best of the season for RPI, a very well rounded game highlighted by some of the most solidly physical play from the Tute that many observers can remember seeing in some time. Brock Higgs scored the first two goals of his collegiate career as RPI scored the game's final three goals on their way to a 4-1 victory.

Much as they did in their Frozen Four season, the RIT Tigers struggled through their early nonconference schedule - picking up only an upset in Ithaca over a similarly struggling Cornell team - but once the Atlantic Hockey schedule got underway, it was back to business. The Tigers put together another solid season with their fourth first place finish in their five years in the league.

Unfortunately, that doesn't mean much in Atlantic Hockey - only the team that wins their final game is going to ultimately get a bid to the NCAA Tournament, but that wasn't in the cards for the Tigers. After demolishing American International in two games and putting together a solid win over UConn in the AHA semifinals, the Tigers ran into goaltender Jason Torf and the Air Force Falcons. Despite 40 shots on goal in the championship game, the Tigers could not put one past Torf, and their season ended with a 1-0 loss to Air Force, the other team that has been dominant since joining Atlantic Hockey.

One of the signs of RIT's emergence on the Division I level is their loss, for the second straight year, of an underclassman to a professional contract. The first was defenseman Chris Tanev, who plays for the Stanley Cup tonight with the Vancouver Canucks. The second is forward Tyler Brenner, who led the Tigers in goals last year with 26, twice as many as senior Andrew Favot, who was second. He will be missed, but RIT still returns a gritty, experienced squad. Hartley and Mitchell are the team's top returning goal scorers with 11 each last year, while Lynch and Burt return as the team's top two scorers from last season with 30 and 28 points respectively.

With this game falling the day after Thanksgiving, chances are good that the renowned Ritter Arena crowd probably won't be at peak effectiveness, but it'll almost certainly be a solid, boisterous crowd nonetheless. RIT is replacing their long-time rink (with quite odd dimensions) with a new facility capable of holding a higher capacity in the near future, so if you want a chance to experience what is easily the best atmosphere in Atlantic Hockey and has frequently been cited as one of the best in the nation, it would behoove you to do it this season. Be sure to get tickets in advance.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Know Your Enemy: Colorado College

Today, we touch on our first "repeat offender" in the Know Your Enemy series. The Engineers and Tigers faced one another last season in a two-game series in Colorado Springs, and this year the Tigers return the favor by coming to Troy for a pair of games. This series, I'm sure, will mark a homecoming for CC athletic director Ken Ralph, who guided RPI athletics from 2002 through 2007 before leaving for the Centennial State.

Colorado College
Nickname: Tigers
Location: Colorado Springs, CO
Founded: 1874
Conference: WCHA
National Championships: 2 (1950, 1957)
Last NCAA Appearance: 2011
Last Frozen Four: 2005
Coach: Scott Owens (13th season)
2010-11 Record: 23-19-3 (13-13-2 WCHA, 6th place)
Series: Colorado College leads, 3-0-2
First Game: January 30, 1954 (Colorado Springs, CO)
Last RPI win: Never
Last CC win: October 8, 2010 (Colorado Springs, CO)

2011-12 games: October 28-29, 2011 (Troy, NY)

Key players: F Nick Dineen, sr.; D Gabe Guentzel, sr.; G Joe Howe, jr.; D Joe Marciano, jr.; F William Rapuzzi, jr.; F Rylan Schwartz, jr.; D Eamonn McDermott, so.; F Jaden Schwartz, so.; D Aaron Harstad, fr.; D Peter Stoykewich, fr.

Previous KYE installment:
There's no need to rehash Colorado College's history... if you want a full refresher, check out last year's version of Know Your Enemy. It is worth noting, however, that the omen we discussed last year came true - whenever the Engineers have made a trip to Colorado Springs, they made the NCAA tournament that season.

Expectations weren't exceptionally high in the Springs last year, but the Tigers certainly made do with what they had - including a super freshman who, if not for an injury and the play of T.J. Tynan at Notre Dame probably would have been the national rookie of the year. Jaden Schwartz scored his first career goal against the Engineers at the beginning of the season, and went on to lead the Tigers in scoring despite missing 15 of CC's 45 games due to the World Junior Championship (where he played for Team Canada) and an injury sustained in that tournament.

Schwartz, along with his older brother Rylan and a couple of seniors, lifted the Tigers to a respectable 6th place finish in the WCHA, a finish that ensured that they would be in the hunt for an NCAA tournament bid, especially if they could put together a strong run in the WCHA tournament. That's pretty much what they got, taking down Wisconsin in three games in the first round and defeating Alaska-Anchorage in the quarterfinals before falling to eventual champions North Dakota in a tight semifinal contest. That was enough deliver the NCAA bid, and the Tigers quite nearly put together a solid run straight to the Frozen Four.

They shocked the college hockey world in the West Regional with four first period goals against defending champions Boston College (after BC had scored just 19 seconds into the game). The Tigers continued putting pucks in the net in the second period with three more, jumping out to a 7-2 lead that became an 8-4 upset win. Against Michigan in the Western final, two first period goals sunk CC's Frozen Four hopes, but Joe Howe made 41 saves, including 30 in the final two periods, to give the Tigers a shot. A late goal by Rylan Schwartz put the Tigers down by just one, but they were unable to find the equalizer.

CC does lose 37 goals between graduated seniors Stephen Schultz and Tyler Johnson, but with both Schwartz brothers set to return, along with solid scorers Dineen and Rapuzzi, the power core of the Tigers does remain intact. Howe did not play as well last year as he did as a freshman, but he proved his worth in the national tournament and remains a top netminder. Although Jaden Schwartz is one of only two NHL draft picks on this team, it's still a team that could be quite dangerous, even in the WCHA. CC presents a solid home challenge for an Engineer squad with a young core that will conclude an October full of western challenges.

This will be Colorado College's first ever trip to Troy, with previous RPI-CC meetings having taken place in Colorado Springs (three), Providence, RI, and Tampa, FL. It's not like you really needed extra incentive to come out to the Field House to watch hockey, but that makes this trip semi-historic, one could say.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Big Ten Tsunami Watch

We've talked about the Big Ten rather obliquely off and on for the last year or so here at Without a Peer. First, we hinted that Penn State might be joining the Division I family. Then it happened. Then we told you to watch out that Seth Appert didn't slip out of town to become their coach. RPI locked him up for most of the rest of the decade (not that we're taking credit for that, of course).

The bottom line on the Big Ten, at least from the perspective of a well-established hockey program with a long history, right here and now in the summer of 2011, is that we, along with the entire college hockey world, needs to be ready for radical changes in the landscape not seen since the near-simultaneous formations of the ECAC and the WCHA in the early 1960s a half-century ago.

The most immediate changes, it must be underlined, probably won't be felt in Troy, not right away at least. The formation of the Big Ten hockey conference has the most immediate impact on the western leagues, where the existing five Big Ten hockey schools currently play: Minnesota and Wisconsin in the WCHA, Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State in the CCHA.

The WCHA will take a hit losing the Gophers and Badgers, to be sure, but they seem to be in a good position to weather the storm of the Big Ten, in part considering their overall strength, but also due to the rich history within: the remaining 10 teams have won a combined 20 NCAA championships (26 if you want to be a stickler and count Bemidji State's six crowns from D-II and D-III). They'll lose a bit of prestige with a pair of big time schools with 11 combined titles of their own, but they could manage. The WCHA survived for years with 10 teams, they could do it again.

The true question comes from the CCHA, which will see its already slightly diminished roster be cut even further, to eight teams, nearly all of which will be either Division II schools or Mid-American Conference schools. It is a difficult scenario for each of those remaining eight teams, all of whom will undoubtedly be searching for answers, especially Notre Dame and Miami, a pair of teams that have been on the cusp of the very top of the college hockey world in recent years.

It is that question that could ultimately have an impact on the three eastern conferences. Just what kind of impact is a topic of much debate, but it probably won't be any kind of wholesale change, especially for Hockey East and the ECAC... though it certainly could.

Over the next couple of weeks, be on the lookout for conference breakdowns by team or groups of teams that share a similar fate. Let's start off with the easiest conference to break down.

Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin: Collectively, the Big Ten. No questions here, they know what they're doing - in fact, it's because they know what they're doing that leads to all of this consternation in the first place. The only real question surrounding this group is whether they seek to bring in new blood, almost certainly via another Big Ten school if they do.

There aren't really too many options for expansion within existing programs. The Big Ten isn't just a D-I conference, they're a power conference - which means they aren't going to associate with schools from smaller conferences (to say nothing of associating with schools from outside of D-I). When you look around the rest of the college hockey world, there's only one program with even the outside possibility.

Notre Dame: The only geographically and historically close fit to the Big Ten is Notre Dame. The school typically competes against the Big Ten in a number of different sports, fits right into the geographic footprint between Pennsylvania and Nebraska in Indiana, and has frequently flirted with joining the Big Ten as a full member in all sports, even football. There simply is no other currently existing program with the possibility of joining the nascent conference. Ten years ago, it probably wouldn't have been possible given the state of the program, and today it's still probably highly unlikely, but the door is open at least a crack for the Irish, whereas it's shut tight for every other program out there.

Next: The mess in the CCHA.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The People's Choice

We couldn't decide on a winner for our caption contest, so we leave it to you... the loyal WaP readership, to decide which caption fits best for our goofy yet very real picture.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

2011-12 Women's Hockey Schedule

The women's schedule was released yesterday. Here it is in all its glory.

Of note, the national champions from Wisconsin will be coming into Troy in mid-November. There's not much reason to suspect that the games will be anything terribly different than they were in Madison last season, but... you never know, maybe we'll use some home cooking to get a goal or two, or shock the world. Regardless it should be a pretty good weekend to catch a game at the Field House.

The "series" with Syracuse, it appears, will continue for a third consecutive season, which is pretty nifty. A weekend with Niagara also appears on the schedule for a fourth straight year, while the Engineers head to Burlington this season in return for the Catamounts' appearance in Troy last year.

Friday games are at 7 p.m., Saturday games at 4 p.m. unless otherwise noted. ECAC league games have the little star next to them.

Fri. 23 - Toronto Aeros (Exhibition, Skate With The Engineers to follow)
Fri. 30 - at UConn

Sat. 1 - at UConn
Fri. 7 - at Vermont
Sat. 8 - at Vermont
Fri. 14 - at Niagara
Sat. 15 - at Niagara, 2 p.m.
Fri. 21 - Robert Morris (Homecoming)
Sat. 22 - Robert Morris (Homecoming)
Fri. 28 - Quinnipiac*, 3 p.m.
Sat. 29 - Princeton*, 3 p.m.

Fri. 4 - St. Lawrence*
Sat. 5 - Clarkson*
Fri. 11 - at Brown*
Sat. 12 - at Yale*
Fri. 18 - Wisconsin
Sat. 19 - Wisconsin
Fri. 25 - Syracuse
Sat. 26 - Syracuse

Fri. 2 - at Clarkson*
Sat. 3 - at St. Lawrence*

Fri. 6 - Colgate*, 3 p.m.
Sat. 7 - Cornell*, 3 p.m.
Fri. 13 - at Dartmouth*
Sat. 14 - at Harvard*
Fri. 20 - Yale*
Sat. 21 - Brown*
Fri. 27 - at Union*, 3 p.m.
Sat. 28 - Union, 3 p.m.

Fri. 3 - at Cornell*
Sat. 4 - at Colgate*
Fri. 10 - Harvard*
Sat. 11 - Dartmouth* (Senior Night)
Fri. 17 - at Princeton*
Sat. 18 - at Quinnipiac*
Fri. 24 - Sun. 26 - ECAC Quarterfinals (at higher seed, best of three)

Thu. 1 - ECAC Semifinals (at two highest remaining seeds)
Sat. 3 - ECAC Championship (at highest remaining seed)
Sat. 10 - NCAA Quarterfinals (at seeded teams)
Fri. 16 - NCAA Frozen Four (Duluth, MN)
Sun. 18 - NCAA Championship (Duluth, MN)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Know Your Enemy: Notre Dame

Part three of Know Your Enemy focuses on a school that's a traditional power in a number of sports, most notably among the most traditional powers there are in the biggest college sport of them all, football. In hockey, they're certainly not a traditional power, but they're absolutely a growing power - and as they showed this past season in making not just the NCAA tournament but also the Frozen Four during a season in which they were supposed to be rebuilding, they could be making the ascent to the top of the college hockey world in short order.

Notre Dame
Nickname: Fighting Irish
Location: South Bend, IN
Founded: 1842
Conference: CCHA
National Championships: 0
Last NCAA Appearance: 2011
Last Frozen Four: 2011
Coach: Jeff Jackson (7th season)
2010-11 Record: 25-14-5 (18-7-3-2 CCHA, 2nd place)
Series: Tied, 3-3-0
First Game: December 29, 1988 (Troy, NY)
Last RPI win: January 1, 2005 (South Bend, IN)
Last ND win: December 30, 2007 (Tampa, FL)

2011-12 game: October 21, 2011 (South Bend, IN)

Key players: D Sean Lorenz, sr.; F Billy Maday, sr.; D Sam Calabrese, jr.; G Mike Johnson, jr.; F Nick Larson, jr.; F Riley Sheahan, jr.; F Jeff Costello, so.; D Stephen Johns, so.; F Anders Lee, so; D Kevin Lind, so.; F Bryan Rust, so.; F T.J. Tynan, so.; F Mike Voran, so.; D Robbie Russo, fr.; D Andrew Ryan, fr.; F Peter Schneider, fr.; F Austin Wuthrich, fr.

Hockey at Notre Dame actually precedes Knute Rockne by a few years, as the Fighting Irish first put a team on ice in 1913, playing three games. That first season, however, was not followed by a second until 1920, when the earliest hockey in South Bend had its heyday for eight years.

This early incarnation of the Irish had its best year in 1922, when they won 8 of 9 games, including an undefeated record against other universities, including Michigan, Michigan State, and what is today Michigan Tech. The freshman goaltender on that team was Jim Crowley, one of the famed "Four Horsemen," but Rockne put an end to his hockey career when he was told to focus on football. The hockey program faded out after a 3-7-1 season in 1927.

Sporadic attempts to restart hockey in South Bend took place between the 1930s and the 1960s, but nothing stuck until a club team found footing in the early 1960s. That laid the foundation for a return to varsity hockey in 1968, when the team played the first of three seasons as an independent before joining the WCHA as the conference's 10th team in 1971.

In the WCHA, the Irish were never top dog, but they did put together a few decent seasons, finishing second on the conference table in 1973 and 1977. After 10 seasons in the conference, the Irish joined a breakoff faction that included Michigan, Michigan State, and Michigan Tech in joining the CCHA in 1981, a conference that had been a fairly minor group of programs to that point.

The move did not exactly propel hockey at Notre Dame to bigger and better things. After a fourth place finish in the 11-team league in 1982, the Irish tumbled to eighth in 1983 and following the season, the university announced that they would no longer be sponsoring varsity hockey, a decision that would put a growing program that had produced a Hobey Baker finalist just a year prior behind the eight ball for a good 20 years.

The Irish continued play in 1984 as a club team, and returned to varsity the next season as a non-scholarship independent team, still under the tutelage of Lefty Smith, the man who had been behind the bench in South Bend since the return of varsity hockey in the late 1960s. During their time as an independent program in the 1980s, the Irish were playing mostly club teams and lower division sides.

Ric Schafer became the program's second coach in 1987, immediately guiding the team to its best season it would see in the independent ranks, putting up a 27-4-2 record, but again, the team was playing schools like Arizona and Michigan-Dearborn. Following that season, however, Schafer began scheduling an increasing number of CCHA teams as he prepared the team to return to scholarships and, ultimately, the league itself, which they did in 1992.

The return to the CCHA was the first step, but the climb to the top was slow and difficult. Through most of the 1990s, the Irish struggled to stay out of the league's basement. Schafer stepped aside in favor of Irish alum Dave Poulin in 1995, but the team endured six straight losing seasons in their return to the CCHA, and 10 losing seasons in their first 11 through 2002.

Arguably, the first true rise of Notre Dame as any kind of college hockey power began in 2004, as the team reached 20 wins against a full D-I schedule for the first time since 1982, and earned an NCAA berth for the very first time, falling in the first round to Minnesota.

From that high, the drop to the valley was immediate - the Irish won just 5 games in the 2004-05 season, their lowest total in the program's modern history, which ended Poulin's tenure in South Bend. The school's choice of replacement left little doubt that the school intended to put a new emphasis on hockey: Jeff Jackson, who guided Lake Superior State to three consecutive national championship games in the early 1990s (winning two) took over, and the effect was almost immediate.

Jackson had the Irish back in the NCAA tournament in just his second season, as Notre Dame won a school-record 32 games in 2007 on their way to their first CCHA regular season and tournament titles. 24 wins in 2008 were enough to send the Irish to the NCAA tournament for a second straight year. Despite a low seed, the Irish blazed a trail through the tournament, making their first Frozen Four appearance with a 5-4 overtime victory over Michigan before falling 4-1 to traditional rivals Boston College in the national championship.

A second CCHA title came down in 2009, but the Irish fell victim to the mass upsets that swept the NCAA tournament that season, losing to Bemidji State in the first round.

After a step back in 2010 with a losing season, 2011 was expected to be a rebuilding year as the Irish roster was loaded with young players, but those expectations went out the door pretty quickly as the young talent proved more than capable of not only excelling on the ice, but leading the team to heights no one expected. Led by the freshman duo of T.J. Tynan (who went on to win the national rookie of the year award) and Anders Lee, the Irish lit up their schedule last season, losing back-to-back games only twice during the regular season en route to a second place finish. In the NCAA tournament, they successfully navigated a pair of tough Hockey East foes in Manchester, taking down a high-flying Merrimack team before defeating the homestanding UNH Wildcats for their second-ever trip to the Frozen Four. There, they gave eventual national champions Minnesota-Duluth a solid game before falling 4-3.

Notre Dame is still young, but the difference this year is that those young players played like veterans during their freshman years. Tynan and Lee were the team's top two scorers last season, both pumping in more than 20 goals and adding 20 assists, but the potential hardly ends there. Riley Sheahan was one of the final cuts from the Canadian World Junior Championship team last season. Billy Maday, Nick Larson, and Jeff Costello each added at least 10 goals last year as the Irish put up a Top 10 national showing offensively with only 3 games all season in which the team didn't score at least twice. 13 returning players had at least 10 points on the campaign, and they're joined by three freshmen coming from the renowned US Under-18 program in Russo, Ryan, and Wuthrich.

The Irish defense wasn't much to crow about last year, as games involving Notre Dame tended to be higher scoring affairs, but it was enough to get the job done more often than not given the way the offense was clicking. Mike Johnson was the man in net for the Irish and unless something radical happens, he should be the starter again this season. His numbers weren't standout - 2.62 GAA, .904 save percentage, but when your team's pumping pucks on the other team's net with frequency, the opposition isn't down there shooting on you as frequently.

Notre Dame may be one of the best, if not the best team on the Engineers' schedule this season. As a program, they have made serious strides in the last 10 years and are now only missing a national championship as the final step. Given the amazing talent seen in the class that will be entering their sophomore season in 2011-12, it's hard to see them not competing for one again during their stay in South Bend.

Unusual for a long trip, the Engineers will play Notre Dame just once in a Friday matchup at Notre Dame's Compton Family Ice Arena (which opens in October, meaning the Engineers will be one of the first opponents there). Why? Well, in part, because attention at Notre Dame is focused on one place in October: football. The Irish take on USC the next day at Notre Dame Stadium in one of the most historic college football rivalry games out there, the Battle for the Jeweled Shillelagh. For that reason, if you can make it out to South Bend for the game, it is highly recommended. You may not have a better chance to see a brand new hockey arena and a renowned college rivalry in the same weekend, even though the Engineers are sure to be solid underdogs in Indiana.