Long Distance Thoughts 9.26.2021

by Paul Hornstein

As I write the this, we are less than a week from the puck dropping on the 2021-2022 season. Some teams will open with exhibition games like Colorado College will play its first game in the brand spanking new Robson Arena (from long distance it looks great by the way) in an exhibition v Air Force, on Friday the 2nd & Denver will host a big exhibition game v Lindenwood, the next day. Okay, it really isn’t a big exhibition game for Denver. For Lindenwood, yes. That will be another column for another day. Suffice it to say that all of their exhibitions v NCAA teams are big. That same weekend, a short plane ride from Denver (I think, anyway), in Tempe, ASU will open regular season play with its official home games since spring of 2020, with a weekend series against Hockey East’s UMass-Lowell.

That first weekend in October will see the return of (in a weird way) the CCHA. The original CCHA (1971-72) started with four teams, including Ohio State & Saint Louis University. The final old version featured six of the seven Michigan schools and disbanded in 2012-13, when the Big Ten, due to its league constitution was mandated to form its own league when Penn State jumped to D1. That return will see the debut of University of St. Thomas, as a D1 team. St. Thomas will open their season with a game at last years’ national runner up, St. Cloud State, but will host their first D1 game, the next night against SCSU, at the Xcel Energy Center.

In one part of Colorado Springs, Alex Schilling will keep Air Force in most of the games he is in the nets, the question will be, can they get enough consistent offense from any of the forwards beyond Willie Reim & Will Gavin, or any of the defensemen besides Brandon Koch? With 21 freshmen & sophomores on the roster, the odds are this will likely be a typical Air Force team. Start slow and work their way into a legitimate threat to win the Atlantic Hockey tournament at the end of the season. I know, I know, I’m not exactly going out on a limb here, but heck, that is the formula the coach (Frank Serratore) himself talks about. Who am I to argue with The Czar?

In the other part of Colorado Springs, maybe no school that sponsors D1 hockey will go into the season with more changes than Colorado College. First and foremost, there is the new Robson Arena. I am very jealous of our icetimehockeysw.com colleague Joe Paisley, who has gotten a chance to see the building first hand. From afar it looks fabulous. I love the glass walls, the one level, the whole thing…

Then there is the new coaching staff led by Kris Mayotte, who comes from coaching stints at Michigan, Providence & USA Hockey, where he has been on the staff that has won a national championship & two world junior championship gold medals. His staff will have the task of taking over a team that lost its three leading scorers to the transfer portal & four seniors. This team will only have four seniors on its roster and will feature five freshmen & two transfers. And of course, an entire roster having to learn a new coach’s system.

The only change at Denver will be the bigger chip on their shoulders as they failed to win 20 games for the first time in forever as well as missing the NCAA tournament. Head Coach David Carle will have his usual assortment of top notch college talent, from Bobby Brink & Carter Savoie to potential members of the 2022 US National junior team, Shai Buium & Sean Behrens. The big question for the Pioneers is will number one goalie Magnus Chrona play like he did as a freshman, when he was all world or last year when he was not. Not that he was bad, he just did not play like he did as a freshman. In the NCHC, you are facing a top-notch goalie every night, even if you are facing the team picked seventh in the league, Miami…who have the man voted the preseason all-league goalie. There are no gimmies in the NCHC.

Finally, the team with the weirdest change of all of them. Home games. After being forced to play an all road schedule due to the pandemic, Arizona State will get to play home games again. As a matter of fact, they will play more home games than road games for the first time in program history. Bringing team like DU, Cornell & Clarkson to Tempe. They will bring in a revamped defense core as well as the highest draft pick in program history in Josh Doan, who was selected in the second round by the Coyotes. Coach Powers’ team looks to rebound from a tough year in 20-21 to get back into the NCAA tournament for the second time.

So get ready for the 2021-22 season. Get ready for icetimehockeysw.com’sbiggest season yet. Get ready for another season of changes in college hockey. Will Michigan and all of those first round picks cruise to a championship? Will the NCHC get a team back to the top of the mountain? Will ASU get its first NCAA tournament win? Will Air Force be Air Force and knock off another favorite in the tournament? Will UMASS repeat? Then get ready for more change next summer. Man, I can’t wait for next week. DROP THE PUCK!