The Donnybrook - December 17, 2019
Updated: Jan 13
Facts, Gossip & Rumors From College-Bound Hockey
A Weekly TJHP Feature
Western States Hockey League
The Western States Shootout starts today in Las Vegas, featuring all WSHL teams competing for the next four days at the Las Vegas Ice Center and Sobe Ice Arena. Like most leagues have started doing over the past five years, the WSHL showcase games are used for non-divisional match-ups that attempt to bring the farthest geographical teams against each other.
Other leagues have a delayed Showcase scheduling process so the top teams in the standings play the other top teams, and the same philosophy applies down the standings. This is done to create as much parity in Showcase games as possible and provide a better platform for scouts.
WSHL commissioner Ron White and the rest of the league should be given the "Best Idea Of The Year" award each season for pulling off the Las Vegas event. For starters, what better city to try and lure scouts, college coaches, and fans? In general, geography works hard against the WSHL in terms of NCAA advancement because almost 100 percent of the NCAA varsity programs are located hundreds of miles east of the WSHL footprint. This event uses that disadvantage as an asset for at least four days out of the year.
As an added bonus Air Force head coach Frank Serratore will be the guest speaker at two seminars covering college hockey opportunity during this event. Any time you can get in front of an NCAA varsity coach, to listen and ask questions, is a major plus.
Eastern Hockey League
More franchise news as TJHP has confirmed with two sources that both the Philadelphia Revolution and the Philadelphia Junior Flyers have are close to being sold, and are moving to New Jersey and the greater Boston area, respectively. Protec Ponds Ice Center in Somerset, N.J., is reportedly one ownership group, with Terry Watt penciled in as the head coach. Information is sealed up regarding the Boston area ownership group and head coach.
If these sales are executed it will leave the Philadelphia area with only the Little Flyers, who were a founding member of the Atlantic Junior Hockey League (the precursor to the EHL). It also may throw the EHL's divisional alignment a bit out of whack as eight of 19 teams are currently in the Mid-Atlantic Division, which is made up of teams south of the New England Division. With one team moving to Boston area and the North Carolina Golden Bears not returning it leaves six Mid-Atlantic teams and 12 New England teams on the board for 2020-21.
Not to worry, there are few things more regular than a Junior hockey league adjusting its divisional and conference alignment each spring.
The Milwaukee Power promoted assistant coach Nate Eminger to head coach and assistant general manager. A former player for nearby Concordia (Wisc.) University, Eminger is in his first season with the Power. Early returns are good as the Power have posted a 3-2 record in the last five games.
Former head coach Chase Ernst remains with the Power as president and general manager.
Parity is the name of the game at the NA3HL Showcase, which winds down today in Blaine, Minn. In the first two days of the event, 27 games were decided by a four-goal margin or less, and 14 games were decided by fewer than two goals. The NA3HL sets up its schedule according to divisional standings based upon an arbitrary calendar deadline after the season has begun.
December 14 was the day the Jersey Hitmen were finally defeated in regulation play, meaning the first time all year they failed to garner a point in the standings. The expansion Twin City Thunder toppled the first-place Hitmen by a 3-2 margin in the second game of a two-game homestand in Maine. The Connecticut Junior Rangers defeated the Hitmen in overtime on Nov. 9, while twice the Hitmen have been defeated in a shootout. As impressive as that 28-game run was, they are only three points ahead of the second-place Junior Bruins.
Former St. Paul Vulcans head coach and longtime University of Minnesota head coach Doug Woog passed away this past weekend at age 75. The Vulcans played in the Midwest Junior Hockey League, which failed about the same time in the late 1970s as the original USHL, which was a senior league. The surviving franchises got together to form today's version of the USHL.
Woog is best known for his 14-year tenure with the Gophers where his teams won 25 or more games 10 times and 30 or more games seven times. Minnesota also advanced to 12 NCAA tournaments and six Frozen Four championships during his era. Woog was inducted into the University of Minnesota (2000) and the U.S. Hockey Halls of Fame (2002).
The second best showcase idea on the planet -- behind the WSHL's Las Vegas Showcase noted above -- is the USPHL's Florida Showcase held each year in mid-December. If I Were an owner or head coach of a northern team I would find a way to make this Showcase simply for the sunshine and word-of-mouth advertising you get from the current players. Who doesn't want to go to Florida in the winter? And throw in some ice hockey for good measure?
In addition to the saltwater air and warm temps, there are actually college scouts at this event because ... well ... it's in Florida and many schools are on break for finals or for Christmas.
The three-day event, held this year at AdventHealth Center Ice in the Tampa area, saw the upstart Potomac Patriots claim four wins in three days to even their record at 14-14 to go with two overtime losses. The Patriots, who started the season 3-9, have roared back this year with the help of a three-for-three record in shootouts. Included in the 14 victory total are three wins over traditional USPHL and nearby divisional rival Hampton Roads.
Jeff Nygaard is the editor of The Junior Hockey Podcast. He covers Junior and college-bound hockey as a traditional “beat,” in addition to breaking news stories during the course of the year.
He has a vast amount of experience on the business and organizational side of the sport as a former owner-operator of two Junior organizations and two youth clubs and has served as executive director or commissioner of the Eastern Hockey League and the United States Premier Hockey League.
A Fergus Falls, Minn., native, Nygaard grew up playing for the Fergus Falls Youth Hockey Association, Fergus Falls High School, Fergus Falls Community College and North Dakota State University programs. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for questions, story ideas, and anonymous tips.