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Preparing For A Lockout: College Hockey 101 Cliff Notes

August 23, 2012, 6:16 PM ET [0 Comments]
Julie Robenhymer
We are three weeks away from a potential-yet-seeming-more-and-more-likely-every-passing-day lockout in the NHL. Last time this happened, I turned to college hockey to satisfy my addiction to all things puck. Made sense since, my beloved Minutemen from the University of Massachusetts were coming off their most successful season (at the time) in program history that ended in triple overtime heartbreak in the Hockey East Championship game. Freaking Maine….freaking Jimmy Howard….freaking toe-in-the-crease rule….

I'm not bitter….

Anyway…. While I believe in miracles and still hold out hope that the NHL season will start on time, I know for a fact that the NCAA season will start on Saturday, October 6th with three non-conference games. Apparently, so do you since I've been getting more and more emails asking about college hockey and which are the teams/players to watch. Therefore, over the next six weeks, I'll be talking a lot about prospects and programs to make sure you're on your college hockey game come October.

For now, many of your questions (so far) can be answered in my annual College Hockey 101 blog. Here are the Cliff Notes (….do they still have Cliff Notes??)

There are five conferences:

Atlantic Hockey Association
- Air Force
- American International
- Army
- Bentley
- Canisius
- Connecticut
- Holy Cross
- Mercyhurst
- Niagara
- Robert Morris
- Sacred Heart

- Alaska
- Bowling Green
- Ferris State
- Lake Superior
- Miami
- Michigan
- Michigan State
- Northern Michigan
- Notre Dame
- Ohio State
- Western Michigan

- Brown
- Clarkson
- Colgate
- Cornell
- Dartmouth
- Harvard
- Princeton
- Quinnipiac
- Rensselaer
- St Lawrence
- Union
- Yale

Hockey East
- Boston College
- Boston University
- Merrimack
- Maine
- Massachusetts
- Massachusetts-Lowell
- New Hampshire
- Northeastern
- Providence
- Vermont

- Alaska-Anchorage
- Bemidji State
- Colorado College
- Denver
- Michigan Tech
- Minnesota
- Minnesota Duluth
- Minnesota State
- Nebraska-Omaha
- North Dakota
- St Cloud State
- Wisconsin

…and Alabama-Huntsville (on life support) and Penn State (inaugural season), who are currently operating as independents.

Polls are fun to chat about (sometimes), but they don't mean anything…at all…not a blessed thing. I am positive they exist simply to make the people who vote feel important and to give you an indication of how a team is doing from week to week. The ranking that matters is called the Pairwise and basically compares teams over the entire season and makes sure that loss in a non-conference tournament in October actually does mean something because after the conference champions earn automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament in March, the Pairwise determines the at-large bids to complete the 16-team field.

You'll hear a lot about realignment which will happen at the end of this coming season. It will see the debut of the Big Ten Hockey Conference featuring the six Big Ten programs - Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin - as well as the debut of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference featuring Colorado College, Denver, Miami, Minnesota Duluth, Nebraska-Omaha, North Dakota, St Cloud State and Western Michigan. The remaining CCHA programs will join the WCHA with the exception of Notre Dame which will bring their brand spanking new exclusive TV deal with NBCSports to Hockey East, which will also add Connecticut for an even 12 teams leaving the door wide open for Alabama-Huntsville to either apply or be invited to join Atlantic Hockey.

If you need a diagram of the domino effect caused by Penn State joining the DI ranks, let me know….

In the meantime, enjoy this segment of the College Hockey Spotlight from last season and let me hear your college hockey questions in the comments, email, Twitter or Facebook.

Next time, I'll share my shortlist for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award for the best player in college hockey….

[email protected]

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