Plandowski to Beaufait to Plandowski, 25 years later

Northern Michigan celebrates the 1991 national championship (photo: Northern Michigan Athletics).

Twenty-five years ago, one of the most memorable NCAA championship games ended with Plandowski to Beaufait to Plandowski to the back of the net.

On March 30, 1991, Northern Michigan defeated Boston University 8-7 in triple overtime on Darryl Plandowski’s memorable goal off that give-and-go with Mark Beaufait.

But that was only one of the moments that have made that night at the St. Paul Civic Center stick in our memories.

The Wildcats led 7-4 with eight minutes to play in regulation before Tony Amonte, Shawn McEachern and David Sacco scored for the Terriers, the final goal coming with 39 seconds remaining.

BU fans probably still curse the glove hand of Wildcats goaltender Bill Pye for denying Amonte what would have been the winning goal in the dying seconds of regulation.

The Terriers ran out to a 3-0 lead in the opening 9:26 of the game before Northern Michigan scored the next six goals, five of them in the second period.

Plandowski’s third-overtime winner was his third goal of the game, the 14th hat trick in a national championship game. (The 13th came earlier in the game when the Wildcats’ Scott Beattie scored three goals in 8:23.)

There have been only two championship game hat tricks since and none since current Denver coach Jim Montgomery scored three times in 4:35 for Maine to wrestle away the 1993 title game from Lake Superior State.

The 1991 game is in the championship game records in a few categories:

• Boston University’s seven goals is the most by a losing team.

• The three-goal deficit overcome to win is tied for the largest with Minnesota’s comeback from a 3-0 deficit for a 6-4 victory over Michigan Tech in 1976.

• It had the most assists awarded, 23 — 12 to Northern Michigan, 11 to Boston University.

• By playing time, it was the second-longest title game, at 81:51. (Overtimes in those days were 10 minutes.) Bowling Green’s four-overtime win over Minnesota-Duluth in 1984 is the longest, at 97:11.

I’m sure we’ll see another multiple-overtime championship game again, but it’ll be tough to top what the Wildcats and the Terriers did 25 years ago.

Here’s some of the coverage of that game from the archives:

New York Times: Boston U. Left Dazed in Finale

Sports Illustrated: Try, Try, Try Again

Associated Press: Northern Michigan wins title in three OTs

0.06 percent of brackets are perfect after 10 NCAA tournament games


Through 10 games of the 2016 NCAA tournament, there are five unblemished brackets remaining in College Hockey Pickem.

Ferris State’s overtime victory over West Regional top seed St. Cloud State on Saturday did in plenty of brackets — the Huskies were second-favorites to North Dakota, appearing as the champion on 17.32 percent of the 7,929 completed brackets.

That result, the fifth game completed in the tournament, took the number of perfect scores from 1,534 to 80. The other five games on Saturday further whittled down the number of unblemished entries.

Of the five that have correctly picked all 10 games so far, two have North Dakota as the eventual champion, two have Ferris State and one has Boston College.

Check out the standings here.

North Dakota the favorite in 2016 NCAA tournament, according to College Hockey Pickem brackets


Defending national champion Providence was one of the four No. 1 regional seeds but wasn’t one of the four favorites to make the Frozen Four in College Hockey Pickem 2016.

The Friars were picked to repeat on 4.69 percent of complete brackets submitted in the contest. That ranked sixth of 16 teams.

North Dakota was the favorite according to Pickem, appearing as the champion on just over a quarter of the 7,929 complete brackets.

Here’s the full rundown:

North Dakota1,98725.06%
St. Cloud State1,37317.32%
Boston College7299.19%
Boston University1451.83%
Notre Dame811.02%
Ferris State310.39%

With Notre Dame’s move to the Big Ten, the conference arms race is back on


As it stands, when Notre Dame leaves Hockey East for the Big Ten after next season the Big Ten will have seven teams, Hockey East will be left with 11, Atlantic Hockey will have 11 and Arizona State will still be sitting out there as an independent.

Anyone think that’s actually the way we’ll be seeing things when the 2017-18 season gets started?

Having an odd number of teams isn’t an impossible way of going about things — it’s happened quite a bit — but it’s certainly less than ideal. There’s never a night when all of your teams are playing conference games, which can make for some odd scenarios toward the end of the season.

So if Notre Dame’s move to the Big Ten is today’s equivalent of Penn State’s addition of a varsity program, buckle up, folks, because the conference arms race is back on.

You’ll probably remember that Penn State adding hockey formed the Big Ten, which depleted the WCHA and CCHA, which led Notre Dame to head to Hockey East and six schools to form the NCHC, where they were soon joined by two more. The CCHA packed up and everybody ran for their own corners.

It remains to be seen whether we’ll see as dramatic of a set of changes as we did at the start of the 2013-14 season, but it stands to reason that there’s more movement coming.

Here’s some off-the-cuff thoughts about what might be coming in the months and years ahead:

Don’t assume that Arizona State will be the Big Ten’s eighth team

Yes, Arizona State is looking for a conference and, as an institution, is of a size that would fit well with other Big Ten schools.

But sources have said that some in the Big Ten would prefer to have a more established college hockey program as a potential second affiliate member.

There are lingering questions about where Arizona State will play its home games in the long term — Oceanside Ice Arena seats just 747, but there have been reports of a potential partnership between the school and the Arizona Coyotes on a new arena in Tempe.

Arizona State probably is somewhere on the list for the Big Ten, but maybe not at the top.

And maybe we shouldn’t assume that the B1G will seek an eighth team

It’s entirely possible — and some in the Big Ten are pushing this — that the league will stand with seven for the time being and deal with the resulting imbalance issues.

Remember that the Big Ten had 11 schools for 20 years, so there’s some experience with the concept.

An NCHC team might fit in the Big Ten

But if the league does try to add one more team, would a school like Omaha or Denver or North Dakota fit better into the Big Ten’s future? Perhaps.

Now that the door has been opened for affiliate membership in the Big Ten, any number of schools could make a case for being a good fit. But NCHC schools might form the most likely group from which the Big Ten would pick.

From a fan standpoint, schools could stand to gain in attendance from resuming more regular series against teams their followers knew for years before the conference split.

North Dakota would be a coup for the Big Ten in terms of answering some of the loudest fan complaints and putting back together the league rivalries with Minnesota and Wisconsin, but we’re getting way ahead of ourselves here.

The Eastern leagues can expect some movement, too

If Hockey East wants to get back to 12 teams, it’ll surely have a few schools interested.

Within the league’s geographic footprint, Quinnipiac, Holy Cross and Bentley have been mentioned as among those that people could imagine in Hockey East.

An Atlantic Hockey school moving would give all of the Eastern leagues even numbers. If it’s Quinnipiac or another ECAC Hockey school, it could set off another set of dominoes, perhaps giving an Atlantic Hockey school like Rochester Institute of Technology an entry into the ECAC.

It’s too early to see how this will all shake out, but if you remember back to the summer of 2011, it seemed like things happened so quickly. Again, buckle up.

Call interference on prolonged dump-and-chase contact, officials reminded

A midseason memo tries to clear up some NCAA hockey rules questions (photo: Shelley M. Szwast).

College hockey officials recently got a reminder to call penalties on defenders who don’t immediately release an opponent on a dump-and-chase situation.

In a December conference call for national and conference supervisors of officials, it was mentioned that the standard of enforcement for that kind of interference may be slipping.

A four-page memo from Michigan State coach Tom Anastos, the chair of the NCAA ice hockey rules committee, and Steve Piotrowski, the secretary-rules editor went out earlier this month to clarify the rule on dump-and-chase contact.

The emphasis seems to be on penalizing the delayed contact with a player after he or she sends the puck deep into the zone.

The memo read, in part:

The committee’s consensus is that defenders should be allowed to engage/bump/contact an attacking player “immediately” after the puck is released on a dump in, but players are expected to release the attacker and pursue the puck or retreat following this initial contact. The same standard would be applied regardless of whether or not the attacking player was knocked down. However, it ultimately was decided that the “immediacy” of the contact continues to be a determination made by the officials on a case-by-case basis.

Therefore, as a reminder, immediate contact may be made against the attacking player who dumps the puck past a defender. The defender is obligated to release immediately so as not to be guilty of interference. The standard is no longer two seconds or two strides after releasing the puck. It should be noted that allowing offensive players more freedom here must not be taken as license to create collisions at higher speed.

We’ll see whether that results in more interference penalties in the final two-plus months of the season.

The midseason memo also addressed:

• When a whistle should blow and where a faceoff should take place when a puck is deliberately batted with the hand or a high stick into a goaltender.

• Helmet safety.

• Assessing a penalty when the offending player can’t be identified.

• And procedures for teams leaving the ice after a period.

Check out the full explanations for those here.

Weighing the long-term value of a stellar start to the season

Harvard’s Merrick Madsen (31) and Kyle Criscuolo are part of one of four Division I men’s teams to post a zero- or one-loss record at the break (photo: Shelley M. Szwast).

Here’s a philosophical question to ponder as we await the return of Division I men’s college hockey games on Dec. 28:

What’s the value of a great start to the season if it doesn’t come with a great finish?

Getting to the holiday break unbeaten or with one loss is a noteworthy accomplishment and puts a team on path for an NCAA tournament spot even if the second half is bumpy.

Four teams have made it to that point this season: defending national champion Providence, Quinnipiac, Cornell and Harvard. That’s the same number that had one loss or fewer at the break in the previous 12 seasons combined.

I was able to find full national standings at the holiday break for the 14 previous seasons, and there were a total of seven one-loss teams over that span.

All seven made the NCAA tournament, three of them as the No. 1 overall seed.

None of the seven won the national championship. Only one — Cornell in 2002-03 — made it to the Frozen Four.

Here’s the list of zero- or one-loss teams at the break since 2001, with this season’s quartet included:

20154Providence (12-0-3), Quinnipiac (15-1-2), Cornell (8-1-2), Harvard (6-1-3)
20141Harvard (9-1-2)
20101Yale (11-1)
20081Cornell (7-1-2)
20061Minnesota (15-1-3)
20023North Dakota (16-1-1), Cornell (10-1), Maine (13-1-2)

That being said, there have been some quality first halves recently by future national champions. Union and Minnesota-Duluth were 12-3-3 at the break before winning titles in 2013-14 and 2010-11, respectively. Boston College was 10-3-2 in 2009-10 and a somewhat more modest 12-6 in 2011-12.

Still, it’s probably true that if your best games of the season are in October, November and December, you’re not going to go far in March.

A note on our new look and that 20 in the logo


Last week, we changed some things around the site, and it’s just the beginning of a transformation around here.

We rolled out our new logo on the site and our social media channels, and if you’re wondering about the “20” on the right side, that’s a reference to this being our 20th season covering college hockey. (For more on the founding of USCHO and its precursor, check out this story.)

Some color changes came along with the new logo, and we’re using a new font in the menu bar.

It’s a first step in a process of remaking USCHO. We’re working on a new look for the site as a whole that we hope will be a better experience on desktop and mobile platforms. And there’s a lot of under-the-hood work going on to improve site performance.

It’s hard to put into words how appreciative we are of everyone following USCHO for all these years as we do our best to cover the game we all love. If you ever have questions, comments, suggestions, news tips or the like, drop me a line at or @ToddMilewski on Twitter.

The preseason poll’s 5.6 percent problem


This is the point each season where I get to trot out the historic futility that is the preseason No. 1 spot in the Division I Men’s Poll.

With Monday’s release of the 2015-16 version showing Boston College atop the rankings, we’ve had 19 preseason polls. Of the previous 18, only once has the preseason No. 1 gone on to win the national championship that season (Minnesota, 2003).

One for 18. That’s 5.6 percent. Even the worst power play in Division I men’s college hockey last season, owned by Lake Superior State, was better than that — 8.1 percent.

We all know that polls have no value beyond the peek at how those who coach, cover and work in college hockey perceive things. But we see how perception at one end of the season rarely matches reality at the other end.

Here’s a look at the preseason No. 1s in the 19 years of the Division I Men’s Poll:

SeasonPreseason No. 1National championChamp in
preseason poll
Teams getting
1997-98North DakotaMichigan91
1998-99Boston CollegeMaine85
1999-2000Boston CollegeNorth Dakota46
2000-01North DakotaBoston College44
2001-02Michigan StateMinnesota43
2006-07Wisconsin/Boston CollegeMichigan State58
2007-08North DakotaBoston College25
2008-09Boston CollegeBoston University95
2009-10DenverBoston College125
2010-11Boston CollegeMinnesota-Duluth83
2011-12Notre DameBoston College57
2012-13Boston CollegeYaleNR3
2015-16Boston College??????10

That last column on the right piqued my interest. This seemed like a season when there would be a number of different teams atop preseason ballots, and that was true more than ever before.

All of the teams that made the Frozen Four last year lost key parts of what got them to that point, be it a Hobey Baker Award winner or the starting goaltender. So Providence, Boston University, North Dakota and Omaha weren’t necessarily trendy picks this season, but they did combine for 13 of the 50 first-place votes.

The majority of voters looked elsewhere, and Boston College’s combination of returning experience and incoming talent apparently caught a lot of eyes.

Then again, having one-sixth of the Division I men’s teams get at least one first-place vote shows you that there’s no overwhelming favorite to be the last team standing in Tampa in April.

You could make a great case that it’ll be Boston College — it’s another even-numbered year, after all — but given the track record of the preseason No. 1s, I wouldn’t put the house on it.

Take a shot at predicting the order of the preseason Division I Men’s Poll


USCHO’s 20th season of covering Division I men’s hockey starts in earnest next week with previews of some players to watch this season, followed by team and conference previews starting Oct. 4.

But we’ll kick things off Monday with the preseason Division I Men’s Poll, and I’m not sure we’re going to have much of a consensus there.

This seems like a season where, going in, any number of teams could be predicted to win the national championship. You have strong contenders among the pack of schools that’s always in contention, and in recent years you’ve had a number of programs taking the final step toward championship status.

So let’s see if anyone can predict what the top 20 will look like on Monday. Fill in the form below with your picks (please avoid acronyms like MSU and UND that could represent two schools), and we’ll see if anyone matches the final result.

There’s no prize here, other than my deep respect for anyone who correctly picks all 20 spots. And I’ll mention your name and location in a follow-up post if you include it below.

The 2015-16 Division I men’s season gets a soft launch

The first regular season game of the 2015-16 season is Oct. 3 (photo: Melissa Wade).

On Tuesday, the 2015-16 season started to get real for Division I men’s teams.

When the calendar hits Sept. 15, coaches are allowed to direct full-squad practices for the first time, only in a limited capacity. Teams get two hours per week of skill instruction per week between Sept. 15 and the official start of the season, which this season is on Oct. 3.

(See the season’s composite schedule here.)

Here’s how Tuesday’s activities looked on Twitter:

At defending national champion Providence:

At Robert Morris:


At Western Michigan:

At Connecticut:


At Minnesota:

At Notre Dame:


At Michigan Tech:

At Michigan:


At Michigan State:

At Mercyhurst:




At Bowling Green:

Some coaches weighed in:




At Alaska-Anchorage, the players started getting used to their new locker room surroundings:

At Rochester Institute of Technology, workers added some noise:


And at home rinks around college hockey, new coats of paint were prepared: