WCHA Round-Up: Alabama Huntsville's Victory, COVID Protocol & The NCAAs

Alabama Huntsville

The WCHA’s men’s media day on Wednesday was business as usual in the new world order of COVID-19, meaning that it was unlike any in the eight-year history of the league’s rebirth. It was two months delayed, took place via Zoom, and was bursting with short-term and long-term news headlines.

The lead story was teased by none other than ESPN’s John Buccigross, who waived a WCHA member jersey to his social media posse of 400,000 Tuesday night. 

By lunchtime on Wednesday, Alabama Huntsville first-year coach Lance West was taking a victory lap for his alma mater’s program, the beneficiary of a relief package worth $17M over 10 years, which includes preliminary funding for an on-campus arena. The individual getting most of the credit was current Minnesota Wild goaltender Cam Talbot, the man who led UAH to their lone NCAA Division I tournament appearance back in 2010. But according to West, donations came from a broad range of hockey people throughout the U.S. and Canada.

“We had such a huge amount of support from the hockey community all over North America,” said West, who played for UAH when they were a Division II power in the mid-1990s. “I had an opportunity to look at a lot of the names. It was very impressive and humbling to see the amount of people that supported us in our comeback bid. We hope this year we can make them proud.”

There was a great deal of backchannel support responsible for the concerted effort: NHL club executives from Tampa, Nashville, and the advocacy group College Hockey, Inc. The underlying logic is that Division I NCAA hockey in the southeast is an important component to hockey’s national footprint, from the youth programs all the way to the NHL. Hockey people who shared that belief opened their checkbooks, and as a result of this effort and the initial Chargers GoFundMe campaign in May, the WCHA will have all 10 members vying for their 2020-21 championship.

New Protocol for the MacNaughton Cup

Due to the volatility of sports during the pandemic, commissioner Bill Robertson conceded that it was very unlikely that each team would play the same amount of games. Thus, the famed MacNaughton Cup will be determined by winning percentage for the first time in its history, not total points acquired. It’s now possible that a team with fewer wins and ties will finish higher in the standings than its counterparts with more losses, due to potential differences in games played. As of now, each team has 18 official league games scheduled — each team playing every member school twice — beginning in late December and early January. Due to the compact schedule, there will only make up games lost to unanticipated COVID travel bans.

Out-of-Conference Games & the NCAA Tournament

The vast majority of out of conference games, both in the WCHA and the rest of the country, will remain in conference. For example, Minnesota State and Bemidji State open the season playing each other four times to close out November, but none of the games count in the WCHA standings until league play officially commences. As a result, the RPI index and the Pairwise Rankings — the primary tools used by the NCAA tournament committee — are obsolete in this season of COVID. College hockey returns to the day of opinions and “eye tests” to determine the at-large entries into the NHL tournament. Suddenly the weekly polls will have much more significance than they have in the past. Passionate debates will rule the day come Sunday, March 21, tournament selection day for NCAA hockey.

Streamlining Games, Overtime & Beyond

In an effort to shorten the length of games, the WCHA has eliminated five-on-five overtime. After a tie in regulation, each team will be awarded one point in the standings. The ensuing three-on-three five-minute overtime session, and the ensuing shootout (if necessary), will give the successful team an additional point in the standings. Teams can no longer “win” games in overtime, just add a point to the previously earned tie. 

Other new game-shortening methods include no more tossing players out of the face-off circle for violations. This season, referees will simply point to the offender which will serve as a warning. A second violation will result in a minor penalty, which is standard procedure from prior years.

And finally, no more lengthy replay reviews for on-ice infractions. 

“We don’t want our officials using replay as a crutch,” said WCHA director of officials Greg Shepherd. The one exception is head contact penalties. When it comes to brain safety, it is imperative to Shepherd, “that we get it right.”

Tim Rappleye is the author of two books: Jack Parker's Wiseguys and Hobey Baker, Upon Further Review. You can find him on Twitter.

Game 2 Of Minnesota State-Bemidji State Series Postponed

Minnesota State Athletics

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Monday’s scheduled Minnesota State-Bemidji State non-conference game has been postponed due to positive COVID-19 tests within the Minnesota State program. No make-up date for today’s contest has been announced.

1-On-1 With Don Lucia After Alaska Anchorage Shutters Hockey Program

Alaska Anchorage

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Loh Of The Adirondack Thunder Prepares For The 'Upside-Down' Hockey Season

Alex Loh

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Spiros Anastas Prepares The Brampton Beast After Losses & During COVID-19

Anastas / Brampton Beast

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The Mavericks & Beavers Are On A Superstar Goaltender Collision Course

McKay / Driscoll


It is by far the most important position in hockey. A star goalie carries significance comparable to an entire baseball pitching staff. The WCHA has two such aces: Minnesota State’s Dryden McKay and Zach Driscoll of Bemidji. McKay had the best statistics in college hockey last season, and he was a finalist for the Richter Award as well as a semifinalist for the Hobey Baker Award. Driscoll, a star in his own right, finished as a second-team All-WCHA selection behind McKay. McKay is this year’s projected WCHA player of the year; Driscoll finished fourth in the voting. 

Pretenders, Contenders & Rear-Enders: The WCHA Squads Of Michigan

Mitens, Lake Superior State

Northern Michigan, Lake Superior State, and Ferris State have all enjoyed degrees of success this past decade: Ferris with three trips to the NCAAs (including a competitive NCAA title game in 2012); Northern Michigan with a return to 20-win seasons under Grant Potulny; and Lake Superior waking its echoes of dominance with a Great Lakes Invitational title and a 23-win season in 2019. 

Scoring Threat Ross Olsson Plays 'In Your Face' For The Worcester Railers

Ross Olsson / Worcester Railers

Ross Olsson would seemingly be one of the last guys you’d expect to have a rather well-populated page on HockeyFights.com.

Atlantic Hockey Previews: AIC Loses Historic Group, Robert Morris Reloads

AIC Hockey

AIC has been crowned Atlantic Hockey regular season champions in each of the past two seasons and endured an incredible run into the second round of the NCAA tournament two years ago. This season, the Yellow Jackets look to replace players that have solidified their name in AIC history books. While there are large skates to fill, the Yellow Jackets return talent and depth from their 20-win season in 2019-20. 

Atlantic Hockey Team Previews: Bentley, Canisius, & West Point's Depth

Army coach

For 2020-21, Army West Point and Bentley welcome back much of their scoring depth from last year. Both teams return several double-digit scorers and are poised for successful seasons this year. As West Point returns their starting goaltender from last season, Bentley searches for consistency between the pipes. Canisius returns several key scorers from last year, but look for new members to step up after losing three All-Conference team members.