Men's WCHA Hockey

NCAA Hockey Transfer Portal Chaos For Lake Superior State & The CCHA

NCAA Hockey Transfer Portal Chaos For Lake Superior State & The CCHA

With the onset of the new NCAA Transfer Portal, things are getting crazy for Lake Superior State and other teams in the CCHA.

Apr 28, 2021 by Tim Rappleye
NCAA Hockey Transfer Portal Chaos For Lake Superior State & The CCHA

The era of NCAA free agency has swept through college hockey like a thunderclap. Also known as the “Transfer Portal,” it has delivered both pain and pleasure to Division I teams, depending on what side of the portal you are on.

The big winners appear to be brand-name schools like North Dakota and Boston College; the victims are smaller institutions without national followings: WCHA clubs in general, Lake Superior State in particular. 

Five of LSSU’s top six scorers will be playing in enemy uniforms next year: Ashton Calder (North Dakota); Pete Veillette (portal); Hampus Erickson (portal); Will Reidell (Ohio State); and Lukas Kailble (Clarkson) are the notable departures from the WCHA playoff champs. It leaves former Laker AD and current team broadcaster Bill Crawford shaking his head. 

“Can LSSU continue to finance a program that faces raiding every time it builds a winner?” said Crawford. “I knew the transfer rule changes were going to hurt the little guys.”

Perhaps the most painful Laker loss was Soo native Ashton Calder, the NCAA’s second-leading returning goal scorer (16). In an interview with the Grand Forks Herald, Calder appeared elated at his newfound freedom. 

“It felt a little more like free agency than college recruiting,” said Calder, “but it was definitely cool.”

Many of the WCHA’s premier players left for greener pastures, including most of Bowling Green’s Murderer’s Row of Brandon Kruse (Boston College), Max Johnson (Wisconsin), and Will Cullen (Miami). Northern Michigan’s rambunctious sniper Griffin Loughran just jumped into the portal as well. 

The CCHA’s new commissioner Don Lucia takes the long view of all the star players abandoning his new circuit. 

“It’s going to take a few years to sort itself out,” said Lucia. “You’re going to have kids that end up in the portal with nowhere to go, kids that transfer to another school and find out the grass isn’t greener, their playing time isn’t the same where they left.”

In the short term, however, the schools victimized by the fleeing players will have to rely on college hockey’s tried and true remedy — next man up.

“It’s disappointing (the mass player exit), but at the same time, it opens the door for another player,” said Lucia, who coached both Minnesota and Colorado College to NCAA title games. “I’ve always maintained that your points are dictated by your ice time: you’re on the power play, or you’re not on the power play.”

That will provide little consolation to Crawford and the rest of Laker nation, who find themselves atop scorched earth in their bid to repeat at conference tourney champs. What riles Lucia is the sense that many of these transfers are being orchestrated beforehand by third parties. 

“My biggest fear is the tampering issue,” said Lucia, using the dreaded “T” word. “If they find out that something like that does happen, hopefully the NCAA will come down very hard on the school or person that does that.”

Nailing a “family advisor” for arranging a player to fill a gap at another school before jumping into the portal will be nearly impossible based on the resources available to the NCAA to police such acts. Hockey, and other NCAA sports like basketball, faces a fresh new paradigm, one in which the players have freedom to jettison out of negative situations and maximize their four years of eligibility (five for players in the time of COVID-19).

It’s important to keep in mind that prior to this year, players had to pay serious dues to get a chance to play where they are appreciated. Gavin Gould had to spend an entire season as a practice player at Bowling Green after exiting Michigan Tech, and returning to junior hockey between NCAA teams puts a tremendous academic burden on the player.

The new world order is player-centric, and for now, the high-profile schools and conferences with big TV exposure are the winners. The landscape is tilting towards the “haves” and away from the “have nots.”

“The bogeyman is under the bed,” said Lucia. “We don’t really know what’s under. We’ll have a better understanding in two or three years.”

CCHA Schools Transfer Portal: Gains & Losses

*NOTE: Due to COVID-19, all participants in the 2020-21 season were granted an extra year of NCAA eligibility. Graduating seniors at schools without graduate programs (e.g. Lake Superior State) would have no academic incentive to remain at the school. 

Below is a list of recorded transfers to this point, outgoing and incoming, in the CCHA.

Data courtesy of the Grand Forks Herald.

Outgoing CCHA Transfers

NAMESCHOOL DEPARTINGYEARSCHOOL JOINING
Ashton CalderLake Superior StateJr.North Dakota
Pete VeilletteLake Superior StateJr.Transfer Portal
Lukas KaelbleLake Superior StateSr.*Clarkson
Will ReidellLake Superior StateSr.*Ohio State
Hampus ErikssonLake Superior StateSr.*Transfer Portal
Alexandro AmbrosioLake Superior StateSr.*Transfer Portal
Will CullenBowling GreenJr.Miami
Tim TheocharidisBowling GreenJr.Arizona State
Connor FordBowling GreenSr.*North Dakota
Cameron WrightBowling GreenSr.*Denver
Max JohnsonBowling GreenSr.*Wisconsin
Eric DopBowling GreenSr.*Boston College
Brandon KruseBowling GreenSr.*Boston College
Justin WellsBowling GreenSr.*Boston College
Carson MusserBowling GreenSr.*Transfer Portal
Griffin LoughranNorthern MichiganJr.Transfer Portal
Ty ReadmanNorthern MichiganJr.Transfer Portal
John HawthorneNorthern MichiganSo.Transfer Portal
John RobertsNorthern MichiganSo.Transfer Portal
Mason PalmerNorthern MichiganSo.Transfer Portal
Noah GanskeNorthern MichiganFr.Transfer Portal
Zach DriscollBemidji StateSr.*North Dakota
Darby GulaBemidji StateJr.Transfer Portal
Ethan GauerBemidji StateFr.Transfer Portal
Carson BantleMichigan TechFr.Wisconsin
T.J. PolglazeMichigan TechJr.St. Thomas
Cooper WatsonMichigan TechSr.*Transfer Portal
Chris Van Os-ShawMinnesota StateJr.AIC
Colby BukesMinnesota StateSo.Merrimack
Coale NorrisFerris StateSr.*Bowling Green
Lucas FinnerFerris StateSr.*Transfer Portal
Jake WilletsFerris StateSo.Lake Superior State
Hunter WendtFerris StateJr.Transfer Portal
Carter McPhailFerris StateSo.Transfer Portal


Incoming CCHA Transfers

NAMESCHOOL JOININGYEARSCHOOL DEPARTING
Coale NorrisBowling GreenSr.*Ferris State
Nathan BurkeBowling GreenJr.Minnesota
Gabriel ChicoineBowling GreenJr.Norwich (Division III)
Jake WilletsLake Superior StateSo.Ferris State
Matt QuerciaMichigan TechJr.Boston
Trevor CosgroveNorthern MichiganSr.*Colgate
Zach KrajnickMinnesota StateFr.Alaskas Anchorage
T.J. PolglazeSt. ThomasJr.Michigan Tech
Nolan SawchukSt. ThomasJr.Mass. Lowell
John SchmidtSt. ThomasJr.Omaha
Peter ThomeSt. ThomasSr.*North Dakota

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