The schedule is out, and the nonconference is meh: one-offs against Niagara, St. Lawrence, Northeastern, and Union and a home series against Bentley. The only marquee nonconference foe is Boston College in the opening round of the GLI.
Union was pretty good within the closed pond of the ECAC, going 17-3-2 en route to a two-seed in the NCAA tournament. They were jus 9-7-2 outside the ECAC, though, and lost to eventual national champion Minnesota-Duluth in the first round. Union returns the vast bulk of their team—the only notable losses are their #4 and #8 scorers—and will provide a young Michigan outfit a stiff test.
St. Lawrence and Northeastern were not good last year and Niagara was a good but still-fourth-place AH team; Bentley is turrible. So the most notable part of the nonconference schedule other than that is Northeastern's demonic dog mascot:
That gives me the willies.
BONUS UNFAIR MATH NOTE: If you're going to schedule games against the ECAC and Atlantic Hockey, you want to do it like Michigan does. Bentley and SLU were terrible last year, but if they're that bad again wins against those schools will get tossed out of the RPI calculations. You won't pay the full price for playing those terrible teams as long as you beat them.
Meanwhile, playing Union is going to get you a nice opponents' record in the RPI while largely insulating you from the negative effects of a loss (common opponents, mostly). Niagara also has a shot at being the AH champ, giving you a good return on your risk of a loss.
Michigan Hockey Net suggests that the weak NC schedule has a lot to do with Michigan's 2011 team, one that looks like it will struggle to score unless Zach Hyman comes in with a chainsaw attached to his arm; this is a year for canny exploitation of PWR vagaries, not getting Jack Johnson to shoot the goalie's face off.
Hospital of the Reconfiguration
These are old but it's college hockey realignment and therefore not a hot button issue. Notre Dame's AD on the possibility of a Hockey East move:
There are several important factors here. One is that we have to care about the broader industry. A solution that causes us to net out future hockey programs in the United States would not be a good solution. And so all of us – the Big Ten, and those of us who are thinking about this issue outside the Big Ten – we have to be mindful of the impact on all of the hockey programs.
Having said that, we are focused on several things. One is we want to maximize the exposure of our team from a broadcast perspective. We have a great new building, a great product, and we want to try and be on television more. We think it’s a pretty compelling hockey team that people will want to see. So we’re mindful of those issues.
Secondly, we want a good cultural fit. Athletic conferences work best when you’re with schools that are like you, that share your values. And so we talk a lot about that. And the there are a lot of sort of mechanical issues, like travel and scheduling, that you also have to factor into this.
(HT: BC Interruption.)
That sounds like friendly boilerplate followed by Real Talk™ that suggests the irritating Adam Wodon article about how Domers gonna Dome is an accurate representation of their viewpoint. The CCHA was all right if Michigan and Michigan State were in it, but once they're gone there's no reason to stick around with all these Protestants. I'm still doubtful increased revenue from playing HE teams will offset increased travel costs*, but money might not be the top priority for ND.
Miami's Brad Bates carefully said nothing about his school's position, but given Miami's lack of a Scrooge McDuck vault filled with football money travel is going to be a bigger issue with them.
If I had to bet on an outcome I would be very unhappy with my chances but I'd eventually settle on:
- Notre Dame and an ECAC or AH school move to Hockey East.
- Miami stays in the CCHA.
- The CCHA adds Niagara (in Buffalo), Robert Morris (in Pittsburgh), and Mercyhurst (in Erie, PA, just across the Ohio border) to return to ten teams.
The other scenario considered is Miami departing for HE and just Robert Morris and Mercyhurst leaving for a CCHA even more tightly focused on travel costs.
Without ND the financial status of the remaining CCHA schools would become even more precarious. Michigan and Michigan State should step in to offer help, hopefully in the form of Playing For Stuff. Nobody wins if the formation of the Big Ten causes college hockey to drop programs, and because of geography the two Michigan powers are best-positioned to help.
*[ND can bus to Ferris, Western, Miami, BG, and LSSU. NMU I'm not sure on. Either way that's five or six of their seven conference opponents—everyone except Alaska, which pays travel costs. Compare that to flying for literally every conference road series.]