Men’s Hockey: NCAA travel restrictions, Hastings honored

by Brian Deutsch

NCAA Travel Restrictions

          The NCAA Championships/Sports Management Cabinet will look at re-establishing travel restrictions for NCAA tournaments this year after expenses jumped 58 percent in the last three years. The restrictions, which in laymen’s terms will only seed the top four teams and place the remaining twelve as close to home as possible, have college hockey commissioners in uproar. (CHN)
          The restrictions have big implications for the WCHA and Minnesota in particular this year. Named as a host site in 2009, Minneapolis is all but guaranteed to see conference opponents at the Western Regional. CHN breaks down a similar situation for what would have happened to East coast conferences in last season’s tournament.
Here’s my temporary breakdown using only the College Sports Division I Poll since PairWise Rankings aren’t out yet. If the season ended today, Minnesota would be a No. 1 seed (the Gophers would pretty much be locked in to playing at Mariucci anyway, but as a No. 1 seed they take away the opportunity for a non-conference opponent to fill that slot) and it’s an extremely light estimate that at least three other WCHA schools make the tournament. Right now, four would, including Minnesota (Denver at 5, CC at 9 and Wisconsin at 14). Right now, the system would work because Denver and Colorado College are farther away from Minnesota than Michigan and UNO. The Gophers would seemingly take on the Mavericks while Wisconsin and Michigan faceoff thus protecting the rule of no first-round games between conference foes.
But things go south if North Dakota (T-18) and Minnesota State (17) make the slightest improvements and bump UNO out of the race. Then you have four WCHA schools playing at the same regional. Remember after the first four overall seeds, the NCAA would disregard the PWR rankings and instead use proximity to determine placement.
          Here’s the Minnesota camp’s response to the potential restrictions:
“The new restrictions will likely result in WCHA teams meeting earlier in the postseason than we’re used to. It’s safe to say a situation like 2005 when four WCHA teams reached the Frozen Four will never happen again…The chances of at least one WCHA team joining Minnesota at Mariucci Arnea for this year’s NCAA West Regional are very likely with the new policies in place. It’s a shame that teams who battle four times during the regular and again during the WCHA Final Five may have to play again for a spot in the Frozen Four, but it’s the reality of the current state of college sports.”
In 2005, Denver defeated North Dakota for the title (Minnesota and CC lost in the semifinals).
Other News
          Gophers assistant coach Mike Hastings was back in Omaha this weekend to celebrate the Lancers’ Clark Cup last year. Hastings, who still scouts the USHL for recruits, is the league’s all-time leader in wins with 529 career wins. (Omaha World-Herald)
          Gopher killer Tyler Bozak of the Denver Pioneers will miss the remainder of the regular season with a torn meniscus in his left knee. Minnesota fans rejoice until hearing that Bozak may be back for the postseason. (CHN)