Constructive Summer: General Beaver Hockey Update

It’s been a while since I’ve updated, so I thought I’d just give a general update of what has happened in the world of BSU hockey since my last update.

I’m guessing the most important news regarding BSU hockey came last week, while I was on vacation. Lakeland Public Television announced last week that it would no longer be airing Beaver men’s hockey games in 2017-18. This is something that many had suspected would happen after the playoffs this past season, when BSU decided not to let Lakeland air the five home playoff games the Beavers ultimately played in.

According to Lakeland CEO Bill Sanford, BSU was asking for a rights fee that the public TV station couldn’t pay, so they mutually decided to no longer air the games.

While I can see BSU’s reasoning behind doing that — the university needs to make revenue, and they likely figure they can save money by making all the games student-run affairs — in my opinion it’s a biog blow for college hockey in general. Lakeland’s broadcast was the best in the WCHA and one of the best in the country. They did it without the kinds of resources of the big regional sports networks that other teams games are broadcast on.

And because the games were aired TV throughout the state of Minnesota as well as parts of North and South Dakota and Wisconsin, it gave the Beavers a bigger potential audience than they might otherwise have.

That being said, the Beavers want more fans in the seats on game days. In an ideal world, this experiment works and the Sanford Center is full for every game this season as the Beavers try and defend their MacNaughton Cup championship. Realistically, though…? I’m not sure that will happen. At least not right away. But I suppose that’s the gamble they take.

BSU women announce schedule

I also wrote about this a few weeks ago, but the Beaver women’s team finally announced the 2017-18 schedule after some delays. It took a little longer than normal due to North Dakota unceremoniously cutting its program, but it appears the Beavers were able to full some of the holes in the schedule.

Instead of the previous WCHA schedule of 28 games, the Beavers will play 24 league games.

The Beavers made up for it with one more nonconference league series plus two single non-league games against league foes. BSU was able to schedule a home series with Mercyhurst, in addition to home series against RIT and Syracuse and a road series with defending national champions Clarkson. The Beavers will also play in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame game against Minnesota Duluth on Nov. 6 in Cambridge and another single game at St. Cloud State on Nov. 22.

The women’s season kicks off Sept. 20 with an  exhibition game against the South Korea national team. That’s less than three months, if you’re counting….

Men land defense commitment

The Beaver men’s team nabbed a solid commitment on Thursday when defenseman Will Zmolek announced he had verbally committed to play for the Beavers, likely in 2019.

Zmolek, from Rochester, played for Rochester Century high school last season, where he led the team in scoring with 42 points from the blue line as a senior. He scored 42 goals and 31 assists in three high school seasons.

The 6-foot-2, 194-pound blueliner spent the rest of his season playing for the Minnesota Wilderness of the NAHL, alongside another future BSU recruit in defenseman Tyler Vold. Zmolek suited up in 24 games for the Wilderness and had three points for the Cloquet-based team.

Jason Feldman of the Rochester Post- Bulletin reported that Zmolek was drafted by the Cedar Rapids Roughriders of the USHL and expects to report to the Iowa team next season. Coincidentally, former BSU captain Ben Kinne is an assistant coach for Cedar Rapids.

Expansion news, sorta

Two quick things on the WCHA expansion front that may be of note.

First, on Thursday College Hockey News reported that Arizona State had withdrawn from talks to join the WCHA. Ever since last summer, when both ASU and Minnesota State were rejected by the NCHC, it was unsure if the Sun Devils would be forced to join the WCHA because they didn’t have any other options.

Apparently, that’s not the case. They’re going to hold out for as long as they can until they can join the NCHC or the B1G. According to the CHN report, the WCHA was asking ASU for a lot of money to help offset travel costs. The Sun Devils balked at that. They also seem to fear that joining the WCHA will be a blow to their strength of schedule. Which I guess makes sense but you have to make the playoffs first so….

ANYWAY, the other potential expansion news doesn’t directly apply to the WCHA but does to college hockey in general: The University of Illinois held a press conference Friday ahead of the draft in Chicago announcing they “will partner with the National Hockey League and National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA) to evaluate the possible addition of hockey as a varsity sport.”

I read that as: “We might add varsity hockey if we have someone who can fork over the dough.”

Assuming the Illini ever do start hockey, they would obviously join the B1G. They’d have some fertile recruiting grounds as the only college hockey program in Illinois.

But it’s still a big “if.” The Illini athletic director said he’s only interested in adding more programs if they “can enhance the brand and reputation of the Fighting Illini by being nationally competitive.” Here’s the story from my old colleague Scott Richey of the Champaign News-Gazette.