Guide to Becoming a College Hockey Fanatic
When students talk about skating through school, they’re not usually talking about college hockey. However, the collegiate sibling of professional ice hockey “coolly” entertains plenty of students, faculty, and alumni. There are also student-athletes, dreaming of a career in the NHL and skating to earn a lucrative contract in addition to their degree. If you’re looking for an orientation to college hockey, our Guide to Becoming a College Hockey Fanatic will bring you up to speed. Class is now in session.
Chills & Thrills
Played throughout the United States, college ice hockey is governed, like every other college sport, by the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA). Sixty schools compete in Division I ice hockey, which is the highest level available to student-athletes. These 60 schools play in one of six conferences, usually based on geographical proximity to help coordinate their schedules. These conferences include the following: Atlantic Hockey Association, Big Ten Conference, ECAC Hockey, Hockey East Association, National Collegiate Hockey Conference, and Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
Each team hopes to end the season by making the playoffs, where 16 teams will then be whittled down to the “Frozen Four.” A team can make things easier by winning their conference, thus earning an automatic spot in the playoffs. The rest of the teams are selected by a committee. At the end of the season, only one team gets the ultimate bragging rights as winners of the NCAA’s Men’s Ice Hockey Championship.
Speedy Students on Skates
College ice hockey games consist of three 20-minute periods. Games progress quickly. There are very few stops in play except for a penalty, the puck leaving play, or a goalie “freezing” the puck (covering the puck with their glove as a defensive tactic). Possession changes frequently, with players assigned offensive and defensive roles.
If regulation time (three periods) ends with a tied game, an overtime period commences. This gives each team five minutes to break the deadlock. If neither team can score within that period, the game either ends in a tie or goes on to a shootout, depending on the conference. A shootout is composed of each team taking alternating penalty shots (one skater against the goalie for a chance to score). If the shootout is tied after three rounds, it continues in a sudden death format where the first team to score, without the other team scoring, wins.
Each team places six student-athletes on the ice.
- Goalie: Their home is between the posts of the goal, and their sole responsibility is to keep the puck out of the net. Two standouts from the 2015-2016 season are Boston College’s Thatcher Demko and Quinnipiac’s Michael Garteig.
- Defensemen: Assigned to patrol the left or right side of the ice, defensemen are more than just enforcers. They are responsible for helping their team to counter when they’ve stopped the opponent. Michigan’s Michael Downing and Boston University’s Matt Grzelcyk represent two astute defenders.
- Forwards: Responsible for leading the attack, these players are either on the wings – left or right – or playing in a center role. Michigan’s Kyle Connor, the leading scorer this past season, plays the position as well as anyone in college ice hockey right now.
Who is Icy-Hot?
So which schools should earn your attention in the world of college ice hockey? Here are a few:
- North Dakota: One of the most decorated college programs (eight titles, 17 conference championships), the Fighting Hawks are the 2015-2016 season’s overall winner. It’s always hardest to repeat, and with a 16-year gap between this most recent championship and their last, they’ll be trying their hardest to book a return trip to next season’s finals.
- Boston University: The Terriers are five-time champions and are frequently found in the “Frozen Four” at the end of the season. But when will they get their next championship?
- University of Michigan: The Wolverines, competing for over 90 years, have nine championships to their name. Their last tournament victory came in 1998. Will the drought end soon, or are they going to keep watching other teams lift the trophy?
Ice hockey is a great way to experience student athletics on college campuses. It’s a sport that moves fast and hits hard. These speedy students, skating all over the ice with incredible strength and pace, provide an exciting diversion from studying for that next test or final exam. If you want to stay warm while cheering on your school at the rink, head to Fanatics.com to get the best official licensed team merchandise and apparel.