Friday, December 23, 2011

UConn reevaluating its program

Earlier this week, UConn announced the hiring of a consulting firm to evaluate the men's hockey program. Mike Enright, the associate athletic director for communications, said today the reasoning is two-fold. The school wants to become more competitive in the sport, either in Atlantic Hockey or, perhaps, in another conference. The firm will help determine how to get there.

UConn has no scholarships for men's hockey, which puts it behind the 8-ball in the rapidly-changing world of college hockey.

"As realignment goes, Atlantic Hockey is getting more and more competitive," Enright said. "They're allowed up to 14 scholarships now; we're operating with none."

UConn has purposely left the phrase "Hockey East" out of any official press releases and statements. But it's no secret Hockey East, which recently landed Notre Dame, is interested in UConn as its 12th member. The conference has more or less extended an open invitation to the Huskies, should they choose to upgrade the program. UConn is definitely interested. Earlier this fall, the school ran informal financials to gauge the costs for getting to and maintaining a level consistent with Hockey East. The start-up cost was roughly an additional $2 million a year to the budget, with games played at Hartford's XL Center. Renovating the Freitas Ice Forum on campus is an option, something the consulting firm may explore.

Should an elevation to Hockey East be too much to support, UConn will remain in Atlantic Hockey. Enright said speculation that the school may decide to terminate the program is off base. "That's not an option," Enright said.

Here's the official statement from UConn:

STORRS, Conn. -- The University of Connecticut Division of Athletics has named Stafford Sports, LLC, a nationally recognized sports consulting firm, to conduct a complete evaluation of its men’s ice hockey program. The purpose of the evaluation is to assess the program’s current level of support to that of Atlantic Hockey league members and other programs in the region. The assessment will include financial support, staffing, facilities and potential revenue sources.

Stafford Sports, of Medford, NJ, provides strategic planning, negotiation services and operational consulting for the public and private sector in the development of sports and entertainment properties and facilities. Collegiate clients in the past have included UMass-Lowell, Georgetown, Villanova and Wake Forest. The firm currently is providing consulting and strategic services to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, a newly formed, eight-team Division I men’s hockey conference that will commence play in the 2013-14 season.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Tie looks good on Quinnipiac

Still don’t understand why the wireless at Quinnipiac won’t allow me to publish the blog. So, here’s a few belated thoughts filed from home.

There were some mixed emotions from Rand Pecknold, who was disappointed the Bobcats blew a 2-0 lead but pleased with his power play and penalty kill units. A tie against Union, especially given Quinnipiac’s inability to find wins in the early season, has the players feeling confident heading into the RPI game Saturday.

There were two pucks that sure looked in to me, one which was reviewed by the officials and upheld in the second period, and another in the third that didn’t go to the video review. It was the one in the third, which would have given the Bobcats a 3-1 lead, that really looked like a goal. In fact, the game-day staff in the press box had the scorer and the assists ready to be entered.

Just seconds later, Union got the tying goal on a puck that deflected off Quinnipiac forward Connor Jones’ skate in front and past goalie Eric Hartzell.

“For the most part, I had the entire play read,” Hartzell said. “They didn’t have too much pressure; they had a guy backdoor and the other guy was trying to feed him the pass. He had a nice rip to his pass, and unfortunately it bounced off Conner’s skate. Sometimes the puck just finds the back of the net.”

Hartzell is in a groove, essentially wresting the No. 1 job from Dan Clarke. He said a film study of game film from last season has helped him get back to what works after a slow start.

“I wasn’t lackadaisical, but I wasn’t challenging quite as much as I normally do,” Hartzell said. “Watching film from last year, I’m out on top of my crease, I’m a foot outside, and the shooter isn’t seeing as much net. We got back to that, as it worked out well. There was one play in particular in the first period tonight. We got caught off-guard with a change, and the guy came down. Fortunatley, he didn’t try to roof it on me, but I was about three or four feet outside the crease and made a left pad save.”