College Hockey Notebook: UNH rolling, WCHA's bad ref and more notes from the ice - Sports Illustrated

College Hockey Notebook

Publish date:

Dick Umile knows more than anyone that you don't win championships in January. He's brought many strong teams to the dance and has been to two national finals, but UNH has never won a national championship. So after his team's two-game sweep of Massachusetts and CHN Team of the Week status, you'll still only hear Umile say, "Things are good ... today."

"It's always about the weekend," Umile said. "It's always tough with the parity to win two games, especially against a team as good as UMass. So it was a good weekend for us."

UNH (13-6-1, 9-4-1 Hockey East) came back from down a 2-0 deficit on Friday, then rolled through the weekend. The play that kick-started things was a goal from freshman phenom James vanRiemsdyk, fresh from leading the World Juniors in scoring.

"Huge," Umile said of the freshman's performance. "Two-nothing, he comes out and makes a move one-on-one and gets a huge goal. And then he scored another highlight one on Saturday."

When vanRiemsdyk left for the World Juniors, Umile moved freshman Danny Dries into his spot, playing on the same line as seniors Matt Fornataro and Mike Radja. Then Radja was suspended for two games and Umile decided to reunite that unit with Dries, putting vanRiemsdyk at center with sophomore Bobby Butler and junior Jerry Pollastrone. The move definitely paid off.

"Just to put him [vanRiemsdyk] in the middle of the ice. He can play well defensively," Umile said. "Center is a lot of work defensively. He understands the game. He only practiced it a couple of days. But being in the middle of the ice, he sees the puck more often, and we thought it would be a good thing. It gives us more depth in the top two lines."

New Hampshire is fourth in the Pairwise, the objective system used by the NCAA to select and seed the NCAA tournament. The top four teams will receive No. 1 seeds in the respective regions.

Michigan forward Chad Kolarik had five goals, seven points and a plus-3 (5-2-7, +3) in a home and home sweep of Western Michigan last weekend, including a four-goal night in Saturday's 5-1 victory. The senior from Abington, Pa., was a seventh-round pick of the Phoenix Coyotes in the 2004 NHL Draft. Kolarik has 17 goals on the season, closing in on his career high of 18, which he achieved last year and his freshman year.

• Since we previously quoted scouts questioning the motivation of vanRiemsdyk, it's only fair to emphasize how well he's played since returning from the World Juniors. VanRiemsdyk was the No. 2 overall pick in last year's NHL Draft by Philadelphia, and it would be easy for him to coast through the year knowing a big payday awaited. And some accused him of that, but he looks like a force right now.

"People are entitled to their opinions, but I'm definitely here because I wanted to be here. I wasn't forced to be here. I was working my hardest to help the team," vanRiemsdyk said. "That's one of those things that's always something I wanted to do. It's not like someone was holding a gun to my head. I wanted to come here because I think it would help me as a hockey player in the long run, and to get an education, and I'm really happy with my decision to come here."

The Flyers, he said, have no intention of calling him up as the Islanders did with Minnesota's Kyle Okposo earlier this season. "They have been very supportive in my decision to come here, and they're still supportive. They told me whatever I decide to do, they'll be behind me."

• It took more than half a season, but Western Michigan finally had a game where it had more power-play opportunities than its opponent. That includes a game on Nov. 16 against Notre Dame in which the Irish had 11 opportunities while the Broncos only had one. Coach Jim Culhane has been on the hot seat at WMU with the fans, but the school awarded him a contract extension last year, coming off an 18-18-1 season. (hat tip on that stat to the Western College Hockey Blog).

It's hard to tell what's worse -- another mistake by a WCHA referee or another apology letter from the WCHA office. It's good that the league is being upfront about poor calls, but is it also making the league's officials look worse by continually apologizing for it?

Of course, in both cases this year where the WCHA sent out a letter of apology, it had to do with the same referee: Randy Schmidt. Earlier this season, he allowed a Denver goal to stand despite the video replay showing a clear case of goaltender interference. Denver won the game by one goal. This past weekend, a Wisconsin goal was disallowed upon video review when it was ruled time had expired. The goal would have tied the game and sent it into overtime. The play was ruled a goal on the ice and the red light came on before the green light (that signifies the end of a period) did.

The problem here is that Schmidt apparently got confused by a strange clock glitch at Denver's Magness Arena. The tape, if you looked at only a small piece, was confusing. And that's apparently what Schmidt did. Lots of blame to go around here.

First place in the CCHA conference is on the line this weekend when Notre Dame is visits Michigan for a pair of games. It's bigger for Notre Dame, which is coming off a one-point weekend against Michigan State. Also, Saturday's game is being played in The Palace at Auburn Hills, creating an even bigger setting.

It's not often that a Boston University-Boston College matchup (Saturday) isn't the highlight of a Hockey East weekend, but the bigger deal right now is BC's game on Friday at Massachusetts-Lowell, followed by Lowell's game Saturday against Massachusetts. Lowell is two points behind BC for third in the Hockey East dogfight.

Adam Wodon is the managing editor for College Hockey News. He has covered college hockey as a writer and broadcaster for 19 years.