Wednesday reading: Prospects game, WMU, SCSU, Tech, Miami

The days when the NHL ignored American players are over judging from the 100 scouts in Buffalo this week for Saturday’s All-American Prospects Game on Saturday.

Western Michigan players received their CCHA tournament championship rings.

St. Cloud State added two defenseman recruits as did Michigan Tech and Miami.

From Colorado Springs Corp. …

It’s a tradition at the annual Sports Corp College Ice Hockey Face Off Luncheon that the two coaches, Frank Serratore of Air Force and Scott Owens of Colorado College, alternate going first and second with their presentations about the upcoming season.

Serratore will lead off this year at the Thursday, Oct. 4 Noon luncheon at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort, and though he may not reveal everything about his 2012-2013 Falcons, he has a team returning that should be another power to be reckoned with nationally.

Serratore enters his 16th season at Air Force with a 255-250-51 record at the Academy. He has an overall mark of 304-342-60 in 19 seasons as a college head coach.

Not only has Serratore turned the Falcon program around, he has turned it into a legitimate national contender with five conference championships and five NCAA appearances in the last six years.

National Collegiate Hockey Conference Commissioner Jim Scherr will open the program with a look at the new league that opens play in the 2013-2014 season. Scherr and his staff being assembled are in place in their new headquarters offices adjacent to the Sports Corp at the Copper Building on the grounds of El Pomar’s Penrose House.

Both squads open at home right after the lunch with exhibition games against the University of British Columbia. The Tigers face UBC at the Colorado Springs World Arena on Sunday, Oct. 7 at 6:07 p.m. and the Falcons host the Thunderbirds on Monday, Oct. 8 at the Cadet Ice Arena.

The two local foes get to know each other early this year, with Air Force hosting the Tigers on Friday night, October 19 at the Cadet Ice Arena. The teams play only once this season.

Both coaches have a lot to talk about related to tough schedules and their top returning players, mixed in with a few outstanding freshmen who will play.

The Tigers finished 18-16-2 last season (5th in the WCHA), while the Falcons went 21-11-7, won their conference title, then lost to eventual NCAA Champion Boston College, 2-0, in the regional.

It’s the final season for the Tigers in the WCHA, with CC entering the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) in the 2013-2014 season with Nebraska-Omaha, Denver, Miami (O), North Dakota, Minnesota-Duluth, St. Cloud State and Western Michigan.

TICKETS: $25.00 for Sports Corp Members and AFA or CC Booster Club Members with ID. $35.00 for all others.

TABLES (10 Seats): $250.00 for Sports Corp Members or AFA/CC Boosters; $350.00 for all others.

RESERVATIONS: Contact Cara Jorgensen at the Sports Corp (719) 634-7333, ext. 1007, or by e-mail: cara@thesportscorp.org

NCHC hires Adam, current WCHA referee, as director of officials

Louisville Police Officer Don Adam is also a WCHA hockey referee. Adam was photographed at work Tuesday afternoon, June 12, 2012. Karl Gehring/The Denver Post

From NCHC media relations …

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) has announced that Don Adam will assume the role of Director of Officiating for the conference at the conclusion of the 2012-13 college hockey season.

NCHC men’s ice hockey will make its debut during the 2013-14 season with eight successful Division 1 programs- Colorado College, University of Denver, Miami University (Ohio), University of Minnesota Duluth, University of Nebraska at Omaha, University of North Dakota, St Cloud State University and Western Michigan University.

“We are excited about having Don Adam join the NCHC staff and look forward to having him assist us in overseeing the important officiating program,” said NCHC Commissioner Jim Scherr. “Don brings a proven level of on-ice and supervisory officiating expertise and his long term commitment to the college game is invaluable to our goals. Don’s hiring is another significant step for our conference as we move towards a new era in college hockey and the start of our new conference playing in 2013-14.”

Adam has served as one of the top NCAA Division I Ice Hockey officials in the nation for 24 seasons. As an on-ice official he has worked numerous WCHA championships, NCAA tournaments, and NCAA national championships. He was also selected by the International Ice Hockey Federation to officiate an impressive list of key international competitions which includes five World Championships, as well as the 1992 and 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Albertville, France, and Nagano, Japan. Adam was also an NHL referee trainee for three seasons, as well as an NHL-contracted official for one season. He brings additional prior experience as the Director of Officiating for both the West Coast Hockey League and Roller Hockey International.  His reputation and involvement as a supervisor of officials for USA Hockey’s Officials Development Program to the professional hockey ranks reflects his commitment to ice hockey officiating at all levels for over 25 years.

“I am excited to join the staff of the NCHC and recognize this as a unique opportunity to positively contribute to what I believe will become one of the top conferences in the nation,” Adam said.  “I’ve had the good fortune to work with many of the NCHC’s coaches and administrators over the course of many seasons and, based upon my respect for them both personally and professionally, I look forward to continuing those relationships in the future.  Under the leadership of both Jim Scherr and Joe Novak, this opportunity will allow me to implement and develop an officiating staff that the NCHC will be proud of.”

Adam currently resides in Denver and is employed by the city of Louisville (CO) as a police officer, where he has served the public for the last nine years. Adam compares his two current professions and looks forward to applying his experiences to his new position: “Both professions require a lot of quick decisions in pressure-filled situations. Experience, judgment, common sense and clear communication are all huge factors in achieving success, and I’m excited to face the challenges that this new position will present me with.”

NCHC coaches are enthusiastic about the new conference executive:

George Gwozdecky- University of Denver– “For over two decades, Don Adam has been regarded as one of the top hockey officials in the NCAA. His leadership skills, organizational ability along with his experience will be a valuable asset to the conference and will assure that, under his direction, the league will receive the finest collegiate officiating available.”

Rico Blasi  – Miami University Ohio “It’s very exciting to have someone like Don with the knowledge and experience leading our on-ice officials.  Along with his experience, his communication skills make Don a great asset.”

Dean Blais – University Nebraska at Omaha- “Don Adam brings a wealth of experience in officiating to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.  Don, as Director of Officiating, will be active in evaluating, recruiting, coaching and directing our conference officiating staff according to NCAA rules and regulations. He is a great communicator and will have a lot of significant responsibilities with our new conference. We are all looking forward to his role and leadership with our officiating program.”

Dave Hakstol/ University of North Dakota– “Don is very well respected throughout college hockey. Over the years his officiating style has constantly evolved as changes have come to the way the game is played and he is very well equipped to build a quality staff of officials for the NCHC.”

And: “Don has always been the personification of an honest, well-prepared and knowledgeable official. What more can you ask for?”  – Lou Vairo 1984 United States Olympic Hockey Coach • Former Assistant Coach; New Jersey Devils (NHL) • Currently: Director, Special Projects; USA Hockey

Summary of Don Adam’s officiating career

 One year under contract as an NHL referee (1993-94).

Two Olympic Winter Games as a referee (1992 in Albertville, 1998 in Nagano).

Two NCAA Frozen Fours as a referee (1997 in Milwaukee, 2003 in Buffalo, N.Y.).

Director of Officiating for both the West Coast Hockey League and Roller Hockey International

USA Hockey Officiating Development Program staff member

22 years as a Western Collegiate Hockey Association referee (plus two as a linesman).

NCHC postseason announcement set for Monday

It looks like the long wait is over for some NCHC news.

Goal Gophers is reporting that the National Collegiate Hockey Conference and the Target Center have scheduled a press conference for the main lobby of the arena at 12:30 p.m. Mountain on Monday.

According to Gophers beat writer Roman Augustovitz, here are the folks expected to attend: Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak; NCHC Commissioner Jim Scherr; Target Center Vice President and General Manager Steve Mattson; Minnesota-Duluth Athletic Director Bob Nielsen; North Dakota Athletic Director Brian Faison; Representatives from some of the other member institutions in the new conference: Colorado College,  Denver, Miami,  Nebraska Omaha, St. Cloud State and Western Michigan.

There will be a live video stream of the event on the Internet at nchcmedia.ngin.com.

NCHC commissioner Jim Scherr said last month that a site for the conference tournament was “very, very close to having an agreement.”

The Big Ten Conference men’s hockey tournament will alternate between Xcel Energy Center (2014 and 2016) and Detroit (2015 and 2017) for at least four seasons.

NCHC names Novak as operations director (updated with quotes)

Joe Novak could hardly contain his excitement this February while he read the job advertisement for the director of hockey operations at the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
“As I read the description I saw it was a perfect fit,” he said. “I jumped on it right away. This position is both a great challenge and a great opportunity and, with so much to do, I look forward to working
closely with the conference athletic directors and coaches and to getting to work.”
Commissioner Jim Scherr and the search committee that provided the commissioner with a list of three finalists out of the 160-plus applicants,  saw Novak as a perfect fit as well. Of those applicants, about 20 were discussed, and 12 were vetted before a final three emerged, said Colorado College athletic director Ken Ralph, who served on the committee.
The hire of the veteran sports management executive, currently an Air Force Academy assistant
athletic director, USA Hockey supervisor of officials and NHL off-ice official, was announced on Tuesday.
“It’s a great hire by them,” said Air Force head coach Frank Serratore. “Joe is going to go in and do a great job setting up the league. He has the passion, connections in the hockey community and knowledge to excel in that position. It is a huge loss (for the academy) but Joe has done a good job preparing whoever his successor will be.”
Novak will be responsible for the internal hockey operations and administration of the Division I conference, which begins play in October 2013. Among his immediate tasks will be developing a
comprehensive league schedule; implementing a system for overseeing on-ice officials; developing and implementing league rules, playing standards, statistical programs and a discipline program; and serving as the hockey operations liaison with coaches and others in the hockey community.
“Joe’s officiating and operations background really set him apart,”  Ralph said. “He just had the background that best fit the job the league needed filled.”
Novak, a Colorado Springs resident, has more than 30 years of experience in sports management, the last 15 of them with Division I Air Force, including roles in athletic operations, events management and scheduling, athletic facilities management, contract management, and tournament and special events director.
He also has worked as an on-ice official, and as an off-ice official at the 2010 Vancouver Games; game operations manager for the Torino 2006 Olympic Committee/International Ice Hockey Federation; and managing athletic programs for the New York Military Army Command at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, NY, and the United States Army Europe Headquarters/Heidelberg Military Community in Germany.
“Being able to bring to the Conference a proven and imaginative executive with outstanding hockey credentials like Joe to serve as our Director of Hockey Operations is tremendous for our members and for me personally,” Scherr said in a press release. “The Conference’s inaugural season begins in about 18 months and there are many tasks to complete in advance of dropping the first puck. I will be relying on Joe to ensure that everything relating to hockey operations will be the best in intercollegiate athletics.”
Novak said he will begin working part-time for The National on May 15 while fulfilling his contract with the academy, which ends July 1. He begins work full-time for the league on July 15. He has not been involved with the league’s search for a postseason venue, which is being negotiated by Scherr.
Novak’s officiating background makes him a good hire, said Colorado College head coach Scott Owens.
“From a coach’s perspective, officiating is a huge part of the game,” he said. “Joe’s background and his contacts will help the league a lot in that way.”
Novak’s enthusiasm for the job was apparent, even in a telephone interview. He first heard some details about the job from Ralph before the Air Force-CC game in late December. He was interested and once he saw the ad, he was hooked.
“Getting this job is a culmination of all the work I have done up to this moment in a sport I love,” he said. “I have known and respected Jim Scherr since I first met when he was with the (United States Olympic Committee). The quality of the people involved, the coaches and the programs make this a great position to step into. I am very fortunate to leave one great job for another that allows me to focus on college hockey; a sport I love. How can you beat that?”
The league was formed in July 2011 by six founding members; Colorado College, Denver, Miami, Minnesota Duluth, Nebraska Omaha, and North Dakota. St. Cloud State and Western Michigan joined on Sept. 22.
The recent conference realignments started with the announcement of Penn State’s new Division 1 program, which prompted the other Big Ten schools to form a six-team conference that starts play in 2013. The Big Ten has since signed a postseason tournament deal rotating the site between St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center and Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena.
That league will include PSU and current Central Collegiate Hockey Association schools Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State and Western Collegiate Hockey Association members Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Those schools’ departure and concern over losing ground in recruiting and prestige prompted the original six members to form the NCHC in Colorado Springs, where the league is headquartered in the Copper Building near the Broadmoor Hotel.
After Notre Dame left the CCHA for Hockey East, the remaining members of the WCHA absorbed the depleted CCHA, which will cease operations after the 2012-13 season.

NCHC signs multi-year TV deal with CBS SN

Here’s the press release …

CBS Sports Network has agreed to a multi-year agreement with the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference, beginning in the 2013-2014 season. 

CBS Sports Network will be the exclusive national television partner for the conference, which will feature eight of the nation’s top college hockey programs.  The announcement was made today by Dan Weinberg, Senior Vice President, Programming, CBS Sports Network, and Jim Scherr, Commissioner of the National.

The agreement calls for a minimum of 18 conference games, including the National’s semifinal and championship contests. Currently six teams that will be in the new conference are ranked in the USCHO.com Top 20 poll. 

“With top teams and passionate fan bases, the National is poised to be an elite college hockey conference, and we’re thrilled to be the national television partner,” said Weinberg.  “College hockey has been a staple of our programming and we’re pleased to expand our coverage and further serve fans with compelling and competitive conference action.” 

“We are delighted to be associated with the preeminent national broadcaster of college hockey,” said Scherr.  “It is our goal to be the premier single-sport conference in intercollegiate athletics and the unmatched exposure and production quality that will be provided by CBS Sports Network will contribute significantly to realizing that vision.”

Currently, CBS Sports Network’s comprehensive college hockey coverage includes action from Hockey East, ECAC, CCHA, WCHA and Atlantic Hockey.

Saturday reading: WCHA roundup, features

Michigan Tech's Jordan Baker recorded a goal and an assist to spark the visiting Huskies to a four-goal third period in a 4-4 tie at No. 1 Minnesota Duluth.

Here’s an update on the progress NCHC commissioner Jim Scherr has made in the first three weeks of his tenure. He’s really hit the ground running.

CC’s Chad Rau was one of four former Tigers playing in an NHL last Saturday. Here’s a feature on him, Nate Prosser and a list of how former CC players are doing in the AHL and NHL.

Air Force standout Jacques Lamoureux is the 13th former Falcon to play part-time pro hockey. He’s teammates with former Tigers Drew O’Connell and Brian Swanson for the ECHL’s Alaska Aces.

Brian Connelly was traded to Calgary on Friday. Hopefully he’ll get a better shot at making his NHL debut with the Flames organization.

Compiled from WCHA.com and school web sites …

Michigan Tech 4, No. 1 Minnesota Duluth 4

DULUTH — It took 10 shots and a 10-minute span for the University of Minnesota Duluth to build what appeared to be a comfortable 4-0 first-period lead Friday in its Western Collegiate Hockey Association series opener with Michigan Tech University.

Maybe a bit too comfortable of lead.

After freshman left winger Caleb Herbert potted his second goal of the night to put UMD up by four with 4:47 to go before the first intermission, the top-ranked Bulldogs (17-4-4 overall and 11-3-3 WCHA) looked like they were well on their way to a ninth straight home win and an eighth consecutive victory over their long-time rivals. But that’s when the UMD scoring burst stopped and the Michigan Tech rally began.

The Huskies (11-12-2 ; 8-7-2) struck for four unanswered goals, including three in the third period – a period UMD has more or less owned this season – to gain a 4-4 overtime tie with the defending NCAA champions before a near-capacity crowd of 6,670 at AMSOIL Arena.

“It’s tough to come out of tonight with just a tie,” said Herbert, who also picked up one assist. “We have to come together tomorrow night and outwork them because they are going to be hungry for a win.”

Herbert’s two scores and goals by senior right winger David Grun (just under six minutes after the opening faceoff) and defenseman Brady Lamb (at 10:58 of the first) came on the first 10 shots the Bulldogs put on Michigan Tech goaltender Josh Robinson. He stopped the last 27 shots he faced to finish with 33 saves while helping hold the Bulldogs scoreless on all four of their power play chances. He and the Huskies also did something no team has been able to do in 23 games – keep two-time All-American center and the nation’s number one point getter Jack Connolly off the scoresheet.

No. 15 Denver 4, Alaska Anchorage 2

ANCHORAGE — Playing their first home game in almost two months, the Alaska Anchorage Seawolves could not overcome an early deficit as they fell 4-2 to the 15th-ranked Denver Pioneers in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association game at Sullivan Arena.

The Seawolves (6-15-2, 3-15-1 WCHA) got goals from first- and second-line centers Matt Bailey and Eric Scheid, while winger Daniel Naslund tied for the team lead with his seventh assist of the season.

The Pioneers (14-8-3, 9-5-3) received goals from four different players as they improved their season-best winning streak to four games.

DU struck first when freshman winger Ty Loney scored even-strength at 8:13 of the first period. Sophomore center Nick Shore gave the visitors a 2-0 advantage at the 16:16 mark, slamming home a power-play tally.

Bailey quickly cut the deficit in half, however, as the sophomore from Winnipeg scored his fourth goal of the season just 96 seconds later, corralling a centering pass from Naslund and beating DU goalie Adam Murray (30 saves).

Pioneers leading scorer Drew Shore would pick up his 16th goal only 89 seconds into the second period for the eventual game-winner and to extend the visitors’ lead to 3-1, and the junior added his 37th point on linemate Luke Salazar’s goal with seven minutes left in the second.

The Seawolves outshot the Pioneers 32-26 overall, including 10-6 in the third period, breaking through for the game’s finally score on Scheid’s goal with 3:47 on the clock on a goal by Scheid.

No. 3 Minnesota 2, St. Cloud State 1

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – For the first time since Dec. 30, the third-ranked Minnesota men’s hockey team won on a Friday night, topping in-state rival St. Cloud State 2-1 in the first game of a home-and-home series at Mariucci Arena. The Gophers received goals from senior Jake Hansen and sophomore Nick Bjugstad and held the Huskies to a season-low 13 shots on goal on the night, proving that the Gophers’ defense is as tough as CC coach Scott Owens said it was last weekend. It was the third 2-1 game in a row for the Gophers.

No. 18 North Dakota 5, Wisconsin 3

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Freshman Stephane Pattyn picked a fine time to score the first goal of his college career at the University of North Dakota.

His tally with just under two minutes left in the third period not only proved to be the game-winner in an important WCHA contest with Wisconsin, but it also came on his 21st birthday.

“It’s probably my best present, for sure,” a smiling Pattyn said. “It’s definitely a good feeling to get that one out of the way. Hopefully they keep coming.”

UND’s 5-3 victory before 11,769 fans at Ralph Engelstad Arena improved the team to 14-10-2 overall and 10-9-0 in league play. The Badgers fell to 12-11-2 overall and 7-10-2 in the WCHA, four points behind UND in the battle for home ice during the playoffs.

Sophomore defenseman Dillon Simpson, who notched his first goal since last February, also felt a sense of relief.

“Hopefully the floodgates open a little bit here for me scoring-wise,” he said. “It was great to get that goal and just get the confidence to shoot the puck.”

UND coach Dave Hakstol noted the importance of the team getting scoring contributions across the lineup.

“We need contributions at different times from different people,” he explained. “For Steph Pattyn to step up tonight with his linemates and come up with game-winning goal, that was the separation in a real close hockey game tonight. It’s very important for us.”

Bemidji State 2, Minnesota State Mankato 1

BEMIDJI  — On a night when Bemidji State was out shot 40-26, senior goaltender Dan Bakala stood tall turning aside 39  Mankato shots to open the Western Collegiate Hockey Association series with a 2-1 victory Friday at Sanford Center.

Tied 1-1 midway through the third period, Jordan George potted his team-leading 13th goal of the season to provide BSU with the offense it needed to break the stalemate, gain two points in the league standings and improve to 12-11-2 overall and 6-9-2 in WCHA play.

Minnesota State took the first lead of the game at 8:58 of the opening period when Max Gaede buried his own rebound. Bemidji State clawed its way back into the game before a back-and-fourth second period came to an end.

With 4:40 to play in the period, Jake Areshenko found Danny Mattson  at center ice with an outlet pass. Mattson skated into the zone and capped the play a wrist shot placed just over the glove hand of the MSU goaltender Phil Cook from the right face off circle. The goal was the second of the season for Mattson and stretched his current scoring streak to a career-best five games.

No. 10/12 Colorado College and Nebraska Omaha were idle.

Radio show highlights: UMD; No Need to Panic; NCHC work

Minnesota-Duluth poised to pull away

With a 16-game unbeaten streak (13-0-3), the defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs (15-7-1, 11-3-0 WCHA) look ready to pull away for the WCHA regular-season title.

“It’s amazing considering their schedule,” Tigers coach Scott Owens said during the monthly radio show on 103.9 FM KRXP.  “They have that champion’s swagger. They have difference-makers like J.T. Brown and Jack Connolly. They’re a little scary.”

Games against Alabama-Huntsville and the bottom two WCHA teams suggest the second half may be easier, making it likely the Bulldogs could continue to be the hottest team in Division I for some time.

Don’t press the panic button just yet

A 1-2-1 nonconference record since Christmas may have some Tiger fans wringing their hands, but coach Scott Owens was quick to point out that the parity in college hockey is best illustrated by the fact that CC has dropped from No. 6 to No. 8 – not exactly a rankings freefall.

“Rankings don’t mean much,” he said. “They’re mostly for discussion but it showed we’re not the only ones losing.”

The focus is to keep getting better and get on a roll by late season.

“I want to make sure we get some things right and corrected,” Owens said, referring to recent struggles in 5-on-5 offense. “If we get things going in February as we did last year we can make a run.”

TV deal, other details looming

New National Collegiate Hockey Conference commissioner Jim Scherr said that a significant TV deal for the new league will be announced in 2-3 weeks.

“One of the exciting things for The National and college hockey in general is NBC (formerly Versus) aggressively seeking college hockey hockey games along with CBS (Sports Network) and Fox,” he said.  “I think we will be able to make an announcement soon.  Certainly within next 2-3 weeks.”

Scherr added that the league is leaning towards “a slimmer schedule to give the teams a chance to play other teams to help their RPI.” That suggests the rumored 24-game league schedule is likely.

In addition to the TV deal, the league management, office, schedule and other details need to be done fairly quickly.

The league will also focus on developing the best officials possible and have a system that coaches and school officials can be comfortable with dealing with those officials.

“It’s 21 months but I expect it will pass before we know it,” Scherr said.