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In honor of USCHO’s 15th year of NCAA hockey coverage , Tuesday’s blog each week during the 2010-11 regular season was a notebook of 15 things about the CCHA – anything that struck my fancy.

As games decrease and interesting quasi-related notes become fewer in postseason, though, I’m re-purposing Tuesday’s blog to do what Monday’s doesn’t: talk more directly about happenings in and around the league. I knew when I launched “15 things” that I’d only be doing it for one season anyway. With the regular season over, now is the perfect time to move on. Sadly, I have no pithy title for Tuesday’s regular entries. I’ll work on that.

Rick Comley

As promised in yesterday’s blog, here are some thoughts about an incident involving MSU head coach Rick Comley and Nanooks fans in Fairbanks after Alaska’s 3-2 OT win over Michigan State Friday.

I had heard rumblings of a run-in before the Fairbanks News-Miner reported Sunday that a Nanooks fan and Fairbanks Superior Court judge, Robert Downes, had filed a report with the CCHA about an altercation between Comley, Downes, and Downes’ daughter, Amy Tallerico.

I have to tell you that, at this point, I don’t know much more than that. I wasn’t there. I cannot speculate on what happened – or, rather, I will not speculate on what happened.

However, I do have a few questions.

  • All reports I’m hearing – on and off the record – suggest that Downes confronted Comley. Why would a Fairbanks Superior Court judge confront someone who’s already visibly angry? Comley was hot about the game-winning goal and had just argued with officials about it. Comley was on his way to the post-game radio show. Downes has said that he just wanted to tell Comley that the coach’s behavior was inappropriate. Seriously, what’s the point of that?
  • How could Downes and Tallerico be anywhere within physical reach of a visiting coach? I’ve received explanations of the configuration of the space at the Carlson Center – mostly from Alaska fans, by way of justifying the proximity – and I can see absolutely no reason for any fan to have physical access to visiting coaches, players, and personnel in any rink in the league.
  • A related question: Where was security? MSU team personnel had to intervene and lead Comley away.
  • Why did the second News-Miner article give Downes’ age and not Comley’s? From the article: “Downes said Comley was close to him and Tallerico, an attorney, came to her 68-year-old father’s defense.” Rick Comley is 64 years old. No matter what transpired, this isn’t Pedro Martinez charging Don Zimmer.
  • Neither News-Miner article uses the word “assault,” but in each article, Tallerico alleges that Comley was the first to initiate physical contact. If that’s the case, why didn’t Tallerico file charges with the Fairbanks police? If Downes and Tallerico are so adamant that Comley in fact did shove first why wouldn’t they file?

The incident is being investigated by the CCHA league office and no one in that office will protect Comley if he was in the wrong – and “the wrong” here would be that he initiated physical contact, not the other way around. If someone put his or her hands on Comley first, the coach would have been completely justified in defending himself.

Michigan State has nothing to add until the investigation is complete.

I dislike the way in which the News-Miner originally handled this story. The first report’s headline reads, “Michigan State hockey coach allegedly shoved fan after Friday’s game.” Even with the “allegedly,” the onus is completely on Comley before the facts are known.

In fairness, the Lansing State Journal article about the game says that Comley was “reportedly” shoved by fans, but doesn’t name the fans or elaborate on the incident other than saying the MSU director of operations Adam Nightingale and volunteer coach Rob Woodward intervened to protect Comley. The tone of that report, however, doesn’t vilify the fans without the facts.

Then there’s the mention of Downes’ age, which I just can’t get past. What of Tallerico’s age and that of her husband? The mention of Downes’ age implies that a 68-year-old man had to be protected. Comley, however, is a contemporary of Downes – and Tallerico and her husband are much younger. It’s also clear that Comley never touched Downes.

This is just troubling, all the way around. The News-Miner did reach Comley on Sunday, but the coach wouldn’t comment.

If it turns out that Comley initiated physical contact in this incident, then he should be held accountable for that. If, however, Comley was not the aggressor, then a great effort has been made to smear a good man at the end of his remarkable career.

CCHA All-Rookie Team

Yesterday, the league announced its all-rookie team for 2010-11.

Chase Balisy (F, Western Michigan)
Anders Lee (F, Notre Dame)
T.J. Tynan (F, Notre Dame)
Dan DeKeyser (D, Western Michigan)
Jon Merrill (D, Michigan)
Kevin Kapalka (G, Lake Superior State)

Congratulations, gentlemen, on seasons well played.

More Girl-Reporter hardware

For two weeks now, I’ve been handing out the hardware for categories mostly of my own creation. Last week, I resolved the Best Offensive Goalie award, originally given to MSU’s Drew Palmisano but – upon further review – awarded to WMU’s Jerry Kuhn.

It took Kuhn himself, though, to remind me that he’d won the award in 2009-10 as well (and I do admire self-promotion). Last season, he averaged .167 points per game, having registered one assist in his six games. This year, it was .043 points per game – slacker – for his single assist in 23 games.

There is other hardware to be tossed about, though, as the CCHA’s All-Rookie Team release reminded me yesterday. (Yes, I’m the slacker now.) As it’s no fun to blog about what the league has already named, I’ll skip my rookie team (mine would have been the same as what the CCHA announced anyway) and head right to the All-CCHA team.

The 2010-11 Girl Reporter All-CCHA Team

Carl Hagelin (F, Michigan)
Andy Miele (F, Miami)
Reilly Smith (F, Miami)
Sam Calabrese (D, Notre Dame)
Zach Redmond (D, Ferris State)
Pat Nagle (G, Ferris State)

I realize there is some controversy here, completely unintended. No Carter Camper, for example – and he is worthy. Several defenseman for whom arguments can be made. Nagle instead of Alaska’s Scott Greenham.

I chose Hagelin – rather than an all-Miami roster of forwards – because of his intangibles as well as his numbers and his singular significance to the Michigan team. Calabrese? I love stay-at-home defensemen, and I think Calabrese’s the best in the league. Nagle and not Greenham? Well, each was the workhorse for his team – and Greenham has played every single minute in net for Alaska this season – but I think Nagle’s the better goaltender. I could be proved wrong. I often am.

The 2010-11 Girl Reporter All-Goon Squad

Sadly, as I have only two candidates – Notre Dame freshman defenseman Stephen Johns and Bowling Green sophomore blueliner Max Grover – I’m foregoing the entire Goon Squad this season.

There were some good scraps in the CCHA this season, but I have to say that the majority of what I saw in person and televised was pretty passionless. It felt like a down year in most respects for the entire CCHA, including in the intentional physicality of play.

Now, I like a good reactionist as much as the next hockey fan, but where was the artful instigation? Conversely, where was the sustained sheer stupidity?

Maybe it’s just me, but the lack of passion in this year’s league play seems worrisome as we approach the NCAA second season. I’m not advocating out-and-out violence (although I think that keeps fans in seats as much as, say, shootouts), but passion – especially controlled, thoughtful passion – is a real asset.

Maybe next year.