Looks like I'm not alone
I've been pretty worked up about how much the refereeing and rule changes have affected college hockey thus far this season. Thankfully, I'm not the only one. Even coach Mike Eaves is upset by the situation - so much so that he sent clips and his comments to the league.
GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- It was no secret that there were going to be more penalties called in college hockey this season, what with the emphasis on punishing crimes that previously went without a whistle.
Wisconsin Badgers coach Mike Eaves was one of those who said the game would be better if players didn't have to fight through holding and interference -- a change the NHL had already successfully made, albeit with growing pains.
Eaves didn't know the pains at his level would be quite like this.
As the Badgers open a Western Collegiate Hockey Association series at North Dakota Friday, they are no different than any other college hockey team -- trying to adjust to the new way that things are being done.
But Eaves is concerned that referees, in an effort to push the NCAA rules emphasis, have gone a little overboard.
He sent WCHA supervisor of officials Greg Shepherd a series of video clips from last weekend's series against Minnesota to illustrate his concerns about the officiating.
"They're going through a learning process, too," Eaves said. "The comments that I had on my clips were along those lines: Let's not make up penalties here. We want to make calls, but there were a couple calls that were ghost calls."
Eaves heard back from Shepherd, who said he had a conference call this week with all league referees to point out some of the concerns.
After last Friday's 2-2 tie with Minnesota, which featured 10 power plays for the Gophers and nine for the Badgers, accounting for nearly 28 of the 65 minutes, Eaves said he understood there would be an adjustment period, but that "it's not fun coaching" right now.
Imagine how it is playing.
"These first couple of weeks are going to be tough because the players are adjusting, the coaches are adjusting, the refs are adjusting," Wisconsin freshman forward Derek Stepan said.
Through 12 league games, power plays are up 3.5 per game over the same span last season. Penalty minutes are up 11.5 per game.
That may not sound like much, but 3.5 power plays, taken at the full two minutes, is the equivalent of seven more minutes of special teams time, which puts more of a strain on those players who are asked to play on the power play and penalty kill in addition to their normal 5-on-5 shifts.
Eaves said he'd like to see all sides develop to the point where, by Christmas, teams are down to seven or eight penalties per game. That, he said, would allow for the kind of flow to the game that allows for quality play.
Is that possible? Eaves is keeping hope alive.
"I'm hoping that Greg Shepherd has the wherewithal and leadership to hold guys accountable," Eaves said. "And the referees know that we all want to get better. We're trying to coach our players better. We want them to make the calls that are there better.
"Hope runs eternal, and let's see what happens here. Because if it does work out, in the long run, we're going to have a better game."