Friday, June 26, 2009

WCHA Expands to Twelve

The WCHA announced today that the conference will expand to 12 teams starting the fall of 2011 adding Bemidji State and University of Nebraska – Omaha. As much as I wanted to believe that Northern Michigan would rejoin the WCHA, the writing was on the wall when Dean Blais took the head coaching job at UNO. The speed of the decision is impressive as Blais just was announced two weeks ago today.

The New Look WCHA. The next big question to solve, and the league has plenty of time to decide, is to create a rotation for conference schedules. As of last year, the WCHA teams (10) each played 28 conference games, the same number as the 12 team CCHA. Assuming that the number of conference games stays the same, the likely rotation according to commissioner Bruce McLeod is breaking into three “pods.” Each pod would be comprised of two “rival” teams and another set of rival teams that rotate in each year. Currently in the WCHA two pod system, UMD’s rival is Michigan Tech. In the new system, each team in the pod would play the other three in their group four times, one series at home and one on the road. That takes care of 12 games. Of the remaining 8 teams, UMD would play each of them for one series for a total of 4 home series and four away. That gives us 16 more games for the 28 that we are looking for. Currently it take s the 10 team WCHA two years to complete a full cycle of the schedule and in the new system proposed, it would take five years.

Rivals? Currently this is what the rivals are in the WCHA:
UMTC – Wisconsin
Saint Cloud State – NoDak
Colorado College – Denver
Mankato – Alaska Anchorage
Where do BSU and UNO fit into the rival scheme? My theory is that all rival will stay the same except that the two Maverick squads, Mankato and UNO, will become rivals leaving Bemidji to make the long trip to Anchorage every year.

All in all, the WCHA will be much different (final Final Five March 2010?), but this move will be heralded as the savior of Bemidji hockey and the great return of Dean Blais to the WCHA.

This has been a busy summer for college hockey, but at least I have a good view from my HighHorse.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Season Schedule Released

In a press release late Friday afternoon, the University of Minnesota – Duluth announced their 09-10 hockey schedule. The squad starts with an exhibition game on October 3 followed by the start of season hosting home games in the third year of the Superior Cup. UMD starts their WCHA portion of the schedule the next weekend, October 16-17, hosting Mankato State. The Bulldogs start with six of eight games at home and extend that to the winter holiday break with a streak of 12 of 18 games at the DECC. Coach Sandelin has already stated that the team must come out strong and take advantage of the home games in the first half of the season because the road games will be plentiful after the new year.

Some highlights of the schedule are: at Michigan Tech for Winter Carnival, both home and away series with UMTC, a home and home series with Frozen Four participant Bemidji State, and non-conference home games against Clarkson.

Friday, June 19, 2009

McLeod Comments on UNO into WCHA

WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod stated that the University of Nebraska - Omaha is talking about joining the WCHA. To recap, Bemidji is a sure bet to enter the WCHA, but 11 won't do; it has to be twelve. UNO would be that twelfth and the recent hire of Dean Blais urged me to say that UNO would join. Here we are getting closer as we speak.

On the 09-10 schedule, most schools in the WCHA have released theirs. We are just waiting on CC and our UMD Bulldogs to finalize their schedules. We do ave a sneak peek of UMD's 09-10 schedule from Kevin Pates of the Duluth News Tribune. Of note is UMD will be at Michigan Technological University for next year's Winter Carnival. Start planning soon, it should be a great road trip!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Blais UNO Coach

As announced Friday, June 12, Dean Blais, the same that lead the Flickertails of North Dakota to two National Championships, is the new coach of the University of Nebraska - Omaha hockey squad. Good deal for UNO to get the big name and pedigry. Good luck to Blais to build a power house like in Grand Forks. Here is the real reason that I think taht this is news, Blais' entrance will open the door for UNO to join the WCHA. With a reputable ex-WCHA coach, I believe that this move will ultimately complete the WCHA expansion by givignt he Beavers of BSU their partner to make it a twelve team league. The question that is then left is what will the CCHA do with 11 teams?

I was pulling for NMU, but this seems to be the deal sealer for UNO to enter. What about 14 teams and we bring in Alaska too. Heck, let the WCHA take over the CCHA and make it a 23 team league. It must be late and summer, because that is a stupid idea, but it does beg the question of how the CCHA will counter when the UNO deal I believe is very close to happening, occurs. We can only wait now.

Keep an eye on the HighHorse for next season's Bulldog schedule that should be announced soon. WCHA teams that have already announced their 09-10 schedules are MTU, MSU Purple Cows, and Bucky Badger's squad.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Rohlik is a Candidate for UNO Head Coach

I have heard from a very reliable source that Steve Rohlik, the current UMD assistant coach and former UNO assistant coach, is in the running for the head coaching job for the Mavericks. Rohlik was an assist at Omaha for 3 years starting in 1997. Steve has been an assistant as UMD since Sandelin became the head coach. If Rohlik does leave he will certainly be missed at UMD.