COVID Changes: D1 Hockey Loses One Program, Gains Another

According to reports out of Long Island University and University of Alabama-Huntsville, there are two major Division 1 Hockey program changes coming next season. 

As of the premature end of the 2020 season, the NCAA had 60 registered teams competing in Division 1, consisting of six conferences and one independent team (Arizona State). That number looks to be remaining the same, but with a twist. The Long Island University announced that they are adding a Division one hockey program in the fall, starting with an immediate recruiting. The shocking news comes out of University of Alabama-Huntsville, as they have announced they will be cutting their program, along with men’s and women’s tennis, due to budget constraints from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Long Island University’s announcement will throw a wrinkle into many proceedings. It is unclear whether they will join a conference or remain independent, but it is presumed that they will remain independent with a shortened schedule for the year, as it will be very difficult for them to find a fitting conference out of the gate. The Hockey East and ECAC are already out of the picture as perennial powerhouses and not in need of new teams; also, the Hockey East requires a facility that seats 4,000 – minimum – for expansion teams. Games will also be hard to come by on a limited time basis – it will be hard to schedule games for 2021-22, let alone this coming season. It is difficult to see how they will have success when forming a team this late and dealing with fast-approaching deadlines. Their one golden opportunity might be to steal some games from teams that were to play the now-cut UAH program. 

University of Alabama-Huntsville (2-26-6 in 2019-20)  leaves the WCHA down a team, as they announced they will be cutting their program. The first D1 hockey team to cut its program in 12 years, UAH has been receiving support from alumni, including Cam Talbot, a goalie in the Calgary Flames organization who played and attended UAH from 2007-10. The administration made the announcement, claiming budget constraints inflicted by the pandemic to be the reason. However, the door has stayed open because $1 million could save the program, if raised in time, but it will likely do little to no good, as many players have already begun transferring. If they are unable to come up with the funds, it will leave Alabama State as the lone team in the Sunbelt.

Ultimately, it is sad to see a program go, especially at the D1 level, as it potentially could contain some future pro level talent, but change is necessary. It’s bittersweet to be losing a program but also exciting to get to watch the beginnings of a new one. I look forward to seeing what else the 2020-21 season will bring us, assuming we get one.

January 20, 2020: NCAA Hockey Power Rankings

It’s the first edition of the NCAA Hockey Power Rankings! Here are the College Kids Talking College Sports rankings for the college hockey season, with our Top 10 listed, as well as a couple of honorable mentions.

Honorable Mentions

  • Ohio State
  • Minnesota Duluth
  • Bemidji State

#10 – Providence Friars 

  • The Friars have been difficult team to figure out, as they opened up their season impressively, with a 7-0 win versus the University of Maine, and then thumping BC on the road later that month, 6-2, before muddling through an 11-game stretch that saw them go 4-4-3. But the Friars are streaking again, with a 6-1-2 record since December 7, including an impressive tournament victory in the Fortress Invitational. Their next three games are against Northeastern and UMass (2 games) which should show where Providence stands. 

#9 – Harvard Crimson

  • I might be a little high on this Harvard team, but I really like what the Crimson are doing. The results aren’t always apparent, but statistically, this is a very good hockey team. After starting 6-0 on the year, Harvard has cooled off a little bit, but they recently took a series from #14 Arizona State and cracked the whip on Yale, throttling them 7-0. The Beanpot tournament in early February will give them a clearer idea of where they stand.

#8 – UMass Minutemen

  • Last year’s national runner-up, the Minutemen have shown the ability to beat elite teams, but they have not quite established consistency. At times, their defense has seemed a problem, but they seemed to handle it just fine in whipping Vermont in a two-game sweep this past weekend. They’ve beaten Boston College and Northeastern, but they were also swept by Denver. Consistency will be key for this team in unlocking the potential for a deep run. 
DENVER, CO – JANUARY 03: forward Brett Stapley (7) of the Denver Pioneers tries a wrap around shot on goaltender Filip Lindberg (35) of the Massachusetts Minutemen against the defense of defenseman Marc Del Gaizo (2) of the Massachusetts Minutemen in the first period at Magness Arena January 03, 2020. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

#7 – Denver Pioneers

  • Statistically, Denver should not be doing what they’re doing. They don’t rank in the top 10 in scoring offense, defense, or scoring margin. They are pretty solid on the penalty kill and powerplay, but it doesn’t really explain their stellar 15-4-5 record. However, this team did start 8-0, so maybe those statistics are starting to catch up to them. They just lost a series to Omaha, snapping a six-game winning streak. Denver is in the rankings largely due to record and national standing (#4 in the last poll), but I’m not too optimistic about them right now. 

#6 – Penn State Nittany Lions

  • Penn State has been impressive, and they may be the Big 10 favorite, but one has to wonder if they peaked too soon. The Nittany Lions are just 6-5-1 since a 10-2 start to their season. They just lost a home series to Michigan, including a demoralizing 6-0 loss. Their offense and defense have both been really good at times, but they ultimately haven’t put it all together in the same game very often. The pieces are there, the results are inconsistent. 

#5 – Clarkson Golden Knights

  • Clarkson is one of the hotter teams on this list, with a 9-2-1 record since mid-November. They boast a recent win at Harvard and a series victory over Michigan Tech. They made a statement by opening the year with a series victory at Michigan, and the Golden Knights have been a pinnacle of consistency, having not had a losing streak all year; only once have they followed a loss or tie with less than two wins in a row. 
Photo Courtesy of Boston College Athletics

#4 – Boston College Eagles

  • A four-game slide in late October and early November took the Eagles off the national radar, but BC is 12-1 since that slide, and they are absolutely cooking right now. They outscored Notre Dame in a home and home series 10-1, They split with UMass, and they have another road date with the Minutemen upcoming, as well as the Beanpot tournament. But ladies and gentlemen…BC hockey is back…and really scare to play right now. 

#3 – North Dakota Fighting Hawks

  • Although BC is fighting for their inclusion, the top 3 are remaining the same, as it has been for much of the year. Their ‘hot streak’ has basically been the whole season, as the Fighting Hawks have amazed to the tune of an 18-2-3 record. They are, 16-1-2 since October 19. They’ve scored 29 goals in their last 6 games and are in direct opposition to the two defensive stalwarts that top this week’s rankings. A road series against Minnesota-Duluth will test this team’s season-long hot streak. 

#2 – Cornell Big Red

  • Cornell has been muddled in a bit of a weird stretch. They’re not losing games…but they lack the killing stroke they had for the beginning portion of the year. After winning their first eleven, the Big Red finally stumbled at Dartmouth. They followed that up with a second-place finish in the Fortress Invitational, losing via shootout, and then a 2-0-2 record in four games. Overall, since their 11-0 start, the Big Red are 2-1-3. Again, that’s not bad, it’s just strange for a team that was so proficient at putting away opponents earlier in the year. The defense is still elite, having given up 3 goals in a game just once, so the offense may need to step it up so Cornell can keep recording victories. 

#1 – Minnesota State Mavericks

  • The Mavericks were my clear choice for #1. They lead the nation in power-play efficiency, goals allowed, scoring margin, and winning percentage. They are 6th in goals scored and 2nd in penalty kill percentage. All-in-all, I felt Minnesota State was the obvious pick for #1 this week. The Mavericks doubled down on this feeling by earning another impressive sweep this weekend, going on the road and taking down #18 Bowling Green twice. They’ve won seven straight games, outscoring their opponents 28-7 in the process.