Season 2 Episode 18 of the Chasing MacNaughton Podcast from Tech Hockey Guide; “East vs West.” This week Tim Braun, Dustin Lindstrom, Rob Gilreath, and Matt Cavender were joined by Matt Wellens, who covers the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs for the Duluth News Tribune and has his own podcast (Bulldog Insider Podcast) and is a regular guest on The Rink Live. This week we discussed:
- The NCHC (2:35)
- College Hockey East vs West (12:47)
- The NCHC Pod (19:41)
- WCHA from the Outside (25:25)
- NMU vs MTU (Officiating) (33:28)
- WCHA Referees in General (41:14)
- WCHA Coaches (50:54)
The NCHC was extremely close to having every team playing a complete 24 game schedule. However, Denver and Colorado College were unable to complete their final series due to Colorado College having their third shutdown of the season, including their late arrival to the Pod. The NCHC is also handling their postseason by having all 8 teams play in a one-weekend single-elimination tournament at the Ralph Englestad Arena in Grand Forks, North Dakota. This strategy is very similar to what the Big 10 did with their tournament taking place at Notre Dame, and both conferences will get to enjoy a week off after their tournaments conclude before the NCAA tournament field is announced. There’s a good chance that this time off could benefit these conferences in the event one of the teams going to the tournament has a COVID outbreak.
Whether people like it or not, no matter the league, the 2020-2021 season will go down with an asterisk next to it. Between the shutdowns, mini-free agency of players transferring from schools that decided to forgo the year, the extra year of eligibility granted to players and more, this season is just too weird. This is certainly no different for our friends competing in the NCHC as well. “they’re the COVID NCAA winner,” “they’re the COVID Hobey Baker winner,” and more will be commonly uttered phrases because teams have played unbalanced schedules, have had to play by different rules depending on each state, and more variables. All of us would be shocked if all tournaments happen scot-free with no COVID shutdowns. It’s a weird year, but at this point all we can do is make the best of it.
College Hockey East vs West
College hockey and hockey in general for that matter is a sport that just hates change. For example, we have regular arguments in our discord server over how overtime should play out and what it should count for. That’s an argument that’s no different at the higher-up levels of every conference all the way up to the NCAA regulations. Team records at times might depend on who you’re asking, depending on how they count a tie or overtime loss. Wisconsin’s win percentage is listed differently between which site you’re visiting. This is a fact that might end up shaking up the eligibility of some teams. For example, one of the requirements to be eligible for this years NCAA tournament is to have a win percentage above .500. UConn’s record is by some calculations below .500, and in others below .500. Which statistic is the NCAA going to choose to use come tournament time, if we go far enough down the barrel for the potential for UConn to compete?
Things get even muddier when the extreme east-west divide in college hockey is taken into account. The East is set in their way of doing a lot of things and the same goes for the West. Sometimes, even the line between what’s “East” and what’s “West” is blurred, with teams like Air Force in Colorado playing in Atlantic Hockey. This is a sport that continues to fight about geography. The bottom line for us is that matchups like Minnesota vs UMD should not be happening in Manchester, New Hampshire, because nobody from that area is going to be interested enough to show up for it.
The NCHC Pod
During this segment we asked Matt what it was like to be able to follow along with the NCHC Pod as it was happening and to have a vested interest as it was going on. Like many reporters, Matt opted to stay home and watch the games on his own TV. He didn’t want to spend three weeks away from his family, and it’s tough to blame him for that when his quality of work wouldn’t suffer much by staying with them. He was also able to watch hockey in any free time he had in whatever location he felt like. At times it was exhausting, and it made him realize that he doesn’t have the endurance to be an NHL beat writer.
Matt said was a great time, but he thinks that it should be the model for abbreviated conference tournaments should have worked and how the NCAA tournament should have worked. All of their budget would shift from travel to hotel costs and they made some money on streaming, so overall nobody suffered, all teams finished up the minimum games to be tournament eligible. I’ll continue to look upon the NCHC’s time in the Pod with great envy.
WCHA from the Outside
One of the biggest reasons we decided to have Matt on was to get an outside perspective, especially from somebody who votes in the national polls, of how the WCHA is shaping up on the national scale. The WCHA currently has 5 teams eligible for the tournament under current criteria, and of those 5 teams, maybe 3 can realistically make the tournament. Matt thinks that they’ll be between Minnesota State (which is all but a guarantee), Bemidji, Michigan Tech, and Bowling Green. He’s been putting Lake State as his #20 pick the past few weeks just because he isn’t sure who else to even put there, and figures they’re all but out of the conversation.
We also took some time to discuss what it’s like to be a voting committee member and his methodology for picking teams, how members get selected and rarely leave, and much more. It was really cool to have that perspective on our league and on the voting process.
NMU vs MTU (Officiating)
It’s safe to say there were some bad hits this past weekend in Marquette, and we take the time to break them down here. Northern Michigan had 3 game misconducts, and here’s the video of them all. Special thanks to Andy Bordeau in the Tech Hockey Guide discord chat for editing these clips, all broadcasting rights belong to FloHockey.
… Yeah that’s a crosscheck to the head. Pretty cut and dry that Michigan Tech fan favorite Griffin Loughran deserved his ever-rare 7 minute penalty (2 minutes for slashing, 5 for crosschecking) and game misconduct. Moving on.
Looks like Northern Michigan’s Hank Sorensen was told before this game that he lost the NCAA lead in penalty minutes and he felt the need to go out and do something about it. Ugly hit on Misiak. Neither would return to the game, Sorensen for a game misconduct and Misiak due to injury.
When you see numbers, you just cannot finish that check. Mikey Colella didn’t follow that golden rule on this check to Brett Thorne and got to watch the game from the best seat in the house for 5 minutes.
Now that I’ve had my chance to get up on my high horse and address these bad plays, there is a play from last weekend that Northern fans are very upset wasn’t called. Northern’s fans allege that this play was a slew foot from Brian Halonen on Tyrell Boucher. We warn you, this clip is pretty gruesome, especially when you look at Boucher’s ankle.
This is a play that just sucks to talk about. The refs did take time to review this play when it happens, but it looks like the ruling was that Halonen was on a clear line to the puck, Boucher steps in front of that line, and the resulting play is just super unfortunate for Northern Michigan and Boucher. We take some time to discuss this play on the podcast, and our overwhelming opinion is that this is a hockey play that yielded an unfortunate result.
With that said, we here at Tech Hockey Guide sincerely wish Boucher a speedy recovery. It’s never fun to see a player’s foot point the wrong way.
WCHA Referees in General
From the perspective of somebody from the outside, Matt can confirm that the officiating is not great on the WCHA side of of things. Different leagues call things entirely differently, but the WCHA seems to be a much rougher league. On one hand it can be nice to see that the players are being allowed to play, but most violent hits seem to be coming out of the WCHA this year. It’s getting heated, it’s getting violent, and it’s getting unsafe. The league has alway been rough, but it’s the inconsistency that’s beginning to weigh on us.
An important thing to keep in mind is that NCAA officials are overwhelmingly there to keep the game safe and by the rules. They’re doing this as more or less a hobby on the weekends, pretty much all of these guys have day jobs away from the rink. However, we do need a bigger officiating pool from which to draw talent to make sure we really have the best guys calling games.
We also turn our attention to talking about how officiating works across the national landscape, as well as air more frustration about the direction of officiating in our league. We can only hope that the move to the CCHA will bring about some more consistency in calls.
WCHA coaches have kind of gotten a bad reputation with officiating staffs. While we’re sure many readers will catch a glance at that first statement and immediately go after Joe for his comments earlier this season, this goes far beyond that. Matt recalls a story about Mel Pearson early in going after an officiating staff which then riled up his players and resulted in the game getting out of control. After the game, he had to be prevented from going down the tunnel and into the official’s locker room. Things of this nature have been happing all the way up to recently, with Tom Serratore berating an official on his way off the ice after Minnesota State secured the MacNaughton cup.
Here’s the video. pic.twitter.com/8ayyN2ogYp— Nate Olsen (@coach_olsen) February 26, 2021
Cut For Time
We were really chatty this week and Matt was more than happy to go down every rabbit hole we brought up. Consequentially, we have a LOT of cut content this week, clocking in at over 67 minutes. Some of the topics we hit include what happens if a team gets shut down for the NCAA tournament, neutral site NCAA regional locations, how many teams should come from each conference and how they should be seeded, and much, much more. Subscribe to our Patreon today to hear more!
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