Shyiak headed to WMU

Former Alaska Anchorage coach Dave Shyiak is the new associate head coach at Western Michigan. An official announcement is expected this week.

Both of Andy Murray’s assistants left this offseason. The Broncos previously hired Ben Barr from Providence College.

Shyiak spent eight years as head coach of the Seawolves, his last coming in 2012-13. Prior to that, Shyiak was an assistant coach at his alma mater, Northern Michigan, for a decade.

Shyiak, of Brandon, Man., has family ties to the Devils Lake area.

CC hires Haviland

Colorado College has hired longtime pro coach Mike Haviland to succeed Scott Owens at the helm.

Haviland comes from the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears, where he was the head coach for one season.

Most notably, Haviland served as an assistant coach for the Chicago Blackhawks during their 2010 Stanley Cup season. He also won two championships as a head coach in the East Coast Hockey League.

Haviland, who played at Elmira College, will have a rebuilding project on his hands as Colorado College finished seventh place in the NCHC last season.

The Tigers have a promising young defensive corps but will need to re-discover some dynamic threats up front, which was CC’s method of operation when it had successful teams in the WCHA during the last decade.

NCHC to discuss playoff formats

The Colorado Springs Gazette’s Joe Paisley reported this week that the NCHC will talk about possible adjustments to the league’s postseason format at the annual meetings, which begin next week in Florida.

There seems to be two alternatives to the current setup (four best-of-three, first-round series with the winners going to the Frozen Faceoff at the Target Center):

1. All eight teams make it to the Target Center.

The good: Fans could buy tickets to it each year knowing that their team will make it there. The league could book travel for all teams before the season started and not have problems getting last-minute tickets. The bad: You go from 12-16 games in the tournament with first-round series, to eight-10 games. Fewer games probably means less revenue. It also would take away two home games for successful teams. The schools don’t make tons of money on first-round series, but they do benefit a little bit financially. Fans also enjoy seeing two more home games at the end of the season and that would take away from that opportunity.

2. The bottom four teams are forced to play best-of-three series to get to Target Center. The top four make it automatically. This means only two teams miss the Frozen Faceoff.

The good: More teams make it, more fan bases make it to fill up the seats. The controversy: Do top teams want to take a week off at that time of year? I’m not sure. Maybe some do, so they can rest up. Maybe some don’t. The bad: Once again, it takes away two home games from successful teams.

Why the possible change?

Let’s read between the lines here, though. Nobody is going to come out and say it, but the league has got to be terrified of the possibility of North Dakota not making it to the Target Center.

This year, North Dakota fans saved the event. It ended up being a solid crowd in Minneapolis. But if Colorado College won that first-round series Game 3 against UND, it would have been a disaster. There would have been 400 people there.

It didn’t help that Minnesota Duluth and St. Cloud State missed out on the tournament, either. But I think the league knows that if UND gets beat first round — and it’s going to happen some time — it’s probably going to end up in the red.

I think the league also realized that if UND’s fan base would have been supplemented by Bulldog and Husky fans, there could have been a really, really good crowd at the Target Center. That’s likely the driving factor in these talks. The league rightfully won’t come out and say they need those teams in Minneapolis, but that’s the truth.

Because of the NCHC’s depth, it’s going to be even more difficult for teams to make the Frozen Faceoff. UND is in the midst of a staggering 12-year run of first-round playoff victories. Outside of Michigan, no other program has a streak longer than five years.

Assuming UND will make it every year is not realistic. The league is trying to put itself in position to have a successful and profitable postseason, even if UND (and SCSU/Duluth) does not make it to Minneapolis.

That’s also another reason why I think we will see another round of realignment in the last five to 10 years with Minnesota State-Mankato ending up in the NCHC. But that’s another story.

I know that UND coach Dave Hakstol said he would like to see the NCHC postseason remain the same about a month ago. What do you all think?

Faragher signs with Ducks

St. Cloud State goalie Ryan Faragher, who led the Huskies to a pair of conference titles in the last two seasons, has signed with the Anaheim Ducks.

Faragher is the sixth NCHC player to turn pro early this offseason and the first from the Huskies.

Faragher was 20-9-4 with a 2.79 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage. For his career, he played 98 games for the Huskies and had a 53-34-8 with a 2.58 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage.

With his departure, Charlie Lindgren will become the No. 1 goalie for the Huskies next season.

NCHC early signings

Colorado College (1)
Gustav Olofsson, fr, d, Minnesota Wild

Minnesota Duluth (1)
Caleb Herbert, jr, f, Washington Capitals

Nebraska Omaha (2)
Josh Archibald, jr, f, Pittsburgh Penguins
Jaycob Megna, jr, d, Anaheim Ducks

St. Cloud State (1)
Ryan Faragher, jr, g, Anaheim Ducks

Western Michigan (1)
Jordan Oesterle, jr, d, Edmonton Oilers

Megna leaves Omaha

Nebraska Omaha 6-foot-6 defenseman Jaycob Megna is the second player to turn pro early from the Mavericks this offseason, signing a three-year contract with the Anaheim Ducks, according to the Orange County Register.

Megna was one of Omaha’s top defensemen, playing 32 games and registering 10 assists. He played 105 career games.

Megna’s brother, Jayson, previously played for the Mavs, but signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins after one season. Jayson currently is up with the Pens.

Omaha will have to replace two of its minute-eating defensemen in Megna and senior Michael Young.

NCHC early signings

Colorado College (1)
Gustav Olofsson, fr, d, Minnesota Wild

Minnesota Duluth (1)
Caleb Herbert, jr, f, Washington Capitals

Nebraska Omaha (2)
Josh Archibald, jr, f, Pittsburgh Penguins
Jaycob Megna, jr, d, Anaheim Ducks

Western Michigan (1)
Jordan Oesterle, jr, d, Edmonton Oilers

WMU’s Oesterle signs

Western Michigan junior defenseman Jordan Oesterle is the fourth NCHC player to turn pro early this offseason from the fourth different team.

Oesterle, a streaky defenseman, had two goals and 17 points this season for the Broncos, who finished fifth in the NCHC and reached the inaugural Frozen Faceoff.

Oesterle was an undrafted player. The Broncos will now lose two regulars on defense in Oesterle and senior Dennis Brown.

NCHC early signings

Colorado College (1)
Gustav Olofsson, fr, d, Minnesota Wild

Minnesota Duluth (1)
Caleb Herbert, jr, f, Washington Capitals

Nebraska Omaha (1)
Josh Archibald, jr, f, Pittsburgh Penguins

Western Michigan (1)
Jordan Oesterle, jr, d, Edmonton Oilers

Three leave NCHC early

With teams’ seasons starting to end, the signing season is heating up in college hockey and the NCHC has already bid farewell to three standouts.

Over the weekend, Minnesota Duluth’s Caleb Herbert signed with the Washington Capitals and Nebraska Omaha’s Josh Archibald signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins. On Monday, Colorado College rookie defenseman Gustav Olofsson signed with the Minnesota Wild.

Archibald, the son of former UND great Jim Archibald, was the NCHC player of the year, scoring 29 goals this season — a whopping 15 more than anyone else on his team. Omaha loses a lot of offense and speed with his signing. Omaha has another player that could sign early in defenseman Jaycob Megna.

Herbert was probably the most skilled of Duluth’s very talented forward group. He led the team in scoring with 31 points. Even with his signing, the Bulldogs still have a very skilled group coming back up front.

Olofsson was one of the key pieces to Colorado College’s strong, young defensive corps. It’s a tough hit for the Tigers, who were hoping to watch that group grow and continue to be the team’s strength. The Wild reportedly tried to get Olofsson to leave Colorado College after the World Juniors and go to the WHL. Olofsson declined. So, it’s no surprise the Wild came after him.

NCHC early signings

Colorado College (1)
Gustav Olofsson, fr, d, Minnesota Wild

Minnesota Duluth (1)
Caleb Herbert, jr, f, Washington Capitals

Nebraska Omaha (1)
Josh Archibald, jr, f, Pittsburgh Penguins

Coaches talk tourney formats

MINNEAPOLIS — The NCHC and Big Ten hockey tournaments are both going on in the Twin Cities this weekend.

Both leagues use different formats — the Big Ten sends everyone to the tournament, the NCHC sends only the first-round winners — and some coaches sounded off about those formats this week.

Some like their league’s setup. Others don’t.

Since this is the first year of the new leagues, changes could be made in the future, though there doesn’t seem to be anything imminent. Both the Big Ten and the NCHC have deals signed with arenas for postseason tournaments for a few years.

UND coach Dave Hakstol:

“Absolutely I feel we have the right setup the way it is right now. You earn your way to our league championship tournament.”

Michigan coach Red Berenson:

“We’re used to playing on campus sites. I think it’s really good for those fans on those campuses. That will be something, I’m sure, they will discuss at the Big Ten after this first year. I’m a big fan of a series before you go to a major final four type of rink.”

Minnesota coach Don Lucia:

“The good thing is that with the way the league is — we’re more spread out — it gives fans the opportunity to know that when the year begins, if they want to go to St. Paul, they know their team is going to be there. Hopefully this can grow and fans will make arrangements. If we were on a campus site and we didn’t make it (to St. Paul), it would be a tough draw. Same thing if Michigan or Michigan State didn’t make it to Detroit. I understand the big picture.”

Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky:

“I like the setup because it mirrors what we try to do in the NCAA tournament. That’s the way it goes in the tournament. That’s the ultimate goal. I think to have a similar situation in the league championship is fitting. To win the national tournament, you have to win each game, no matter who you are up against. This mirrors that situation. So, I think it’s a good fit.”

NCHC hands out major awards

UND was shut out of major awards on Thursday night at the Muse Event Center in downtown Minneapolis.

UND’s Dillon Simpson was a finalist for the league’s offensive defenseman award, the league’s defenseman of the year award and the league’s player of the year award. Both defenseman awards went to DU’s Joey LaLeggia. The player of the year award went to Omaha’s Josh Archibald.

Below is a list of all the major award winners.

Player of the Year — Josh Archibald, Nebraska Omaha
Forward of the Year — Josh Archibald, Nebraska Omaha
Defenseman of the Year — Joey LaLeggia, Denver
Rookie of the Year — Jaccob Slavin, Colorado College
Coach of the Year — Bob Motzko, St. Cloud State
Goaltender of the Year — Sam Brittain, Denver
Defensive Forward of the Year — Nic Dowd, St. Cloud State
Offensive Defenseman of the Year — Joey LaLeggia, Denver
Sportsmanship Award — Eamonn McDermott, Colorado College
Student-athlete of the Year — Nic Dowd, St. Cloud State

The conference tourney streak

A lot of UND fans are expected to descend upon Minneapolis this weekend for the NCHC Frozen Faceoff.

UND getting out of the first round of the conference playoffs and making it to the conference tournament seems like an annual assumption at this point. But when I looked up other teams’ streaks, it is clear that not every program is able to do that.

UND’s run of 12 consecutive conference tournaments quadruples every other team in the nation outside of Michigan and Miami.

Longest conference tourney streaks

25 — Michigan*
12 — North Dakota
5 — Miami
3 — Providence
3 — Mercyhurst
3 — Niagara
3 — Union
3 — Minnesota*
2 — MSU-Mankato
2 — Notre Dame
2 — Canisius
2 — Quinnipiac
2 — UMass-Lowell
2 — Wisconsin*
2 — Ohio State*
1 — Colgate
1 — Cornell
1 — Robert Morris
1 — Anchorage
1 — Denver
1 — Western Michigan
1 — New Hampshire
1 — Ferris State
1 — Bowling Green
1 — Michigan State*
1 — Penn State*

*Big Ten member, received automatic entry this season

As you can see, Michigan has an absolutely absurd run going of 25 years, dating back to 1989, when it was bounced by Bowling Green. Then, it’s UND, Miami and everybody else.

It’s not easy in playoff time to consistently advance like UND and Michigan have been able to. I think the consistency is reason No. 1 why UND has built the crowds it has been able to during the past few years at the Final Five.

Fans started assuming that UND would be in the Twin Cities. They attended the tournament, had fun, and made plans to do it the following year, figuring the team would be back. It certainly helped the cause that UND won it four times in seven years.

This time, the tournament is on the other side of the river, but once again, expect a strong showing from UND fans. Many have planned to be there since the start of the season, and once again, the team delivered.