"They're on their feet in Pittsburgh" "Who let the dogs out?" and a few other highlights from today's WCHA coaches conference call ...
There seemed to be a lot of relief about the season actually starting and the new league getting underway 2 1/2 years after the big college hockey schism started. As you can read in my Thursday Free Press story, the coaches are happy together, even if they don't know each other's teams and players very well yet. Commissioner Bruce McLeod said now that a lot of the hard work of putting the conference back together again he "feels like a young kid with a new toy."
The league unveiled a conference-wide media package to broadcast games through America ONE sports. The subscription-based package, called WCHA TV, will be available on a variety of platforms through multiple websites, including the WCHA's and team sites. Games will be broadcast in high-definition live as well as on-demand, and subscribers will have the ability to watch multiple games at the same time. Pricing ($125 for a season pass if purchased before Oct. 1) can be found on the link above.
On the officiating front, Supervisor of Officials Greg Shepherd said this year's points of emphasis include: holding and pinning along the boards (they are trying open up the skating aspect of the game), protection of the puck carrier once he gets rid of the puck (defenders are allowed to hit that player right away but if he starts to make a move first, interference will be called), faceoff interference and, of course, checking from behind. On the CFB, Shepherd said there will be "no gray area" and referees will be held accountable. The penalty will be a 5-minute major and a game misconduct. Last year, he said, 47 CFBs were called in WCHA games. "Our job isn't to call penalties; our job is to protect the players," Shepherd said.
Another note about the officials, Shepherd is getting guidance and assistance from former Wisconsin coach Jeff Sauer, who has been an adviser to the WCHA for several years, as well as former CCHA supervisor Brent Rutherford.
There was lots of praise for the city of Grand Rapids, Mich., where the Final Five will be held next March. Underrated town with a bustling entertainment area with lots of good restaurants around the Van Andel Arena, they said.
A few comments on the transition to the new WCHA: Ferris State coach Bob Daniels called the move "seamless," thanks to the league staff. ... Lake Superior State coach Jim Roque said his program "never felt like a stepchild; we always felt like a good partner." ... Alabama Huntsville's Mike Corbett said there's a lot of excitement in Huntsville right now.
One player to watch who was left off all of the ballots was Michigan Tech's Blake Pietila. A junior forward who played on the U.S. World Junior Team and is a New Jersey Devils draft pick, Pietila has had a solid start to his career but got overshadowed a bit by Alex Petan (a preseason player of the year candidate) last year. Huskies coach Mel Person said Pietila is "ready for a breakout year."
MSU coach Mike Hastings said goalie Stephon Williams had offseason hip surgery and is 100 percent now. As good as Williams was last season as a freshman, the coach expects freshman Cole Huggins and senior Evan Karambelas to push him.
There will be more to come from the conference call on the individual WCHA teams and their outlooks for this season. Stay tuned ...