Auvenshine Update; Westward Expansion

Though I was born on the North Shore, went to high school in the Rockies, and now live on the South Shore, I consider and will always consider Western Mass to be my home.  So to see the footage of a tornados rolling past landmarks I know well and the devastation they brought to the WMass and CMass towns was heartbreaking.  The UMass hockey community ranges near and far and certainly a good number of fans come from the areas affected.  Please know that my thoughts are certainly with all of you in this time of recovery and rebuilding.

Sorry for the lack of posting recently.  I’ve been busy with brewing and Bruins.  My first foray into homebrewing and several top notch beer events have kept my busy during the offseason as well as the Bruins spectacular run to the Stanley Cup.  I was lucky enough to be at last night’s game and have to say that it may have usurped UMass’ Hockey East Semifinal win over UNH in 2004 as my favorite memory in the new Garden.

While, rightfully so, the Bruins are dominating the local hockey landscape, there are some UMass and other related topics to discuss however.

First up are a couple of stories on UMass’ newest commit, Emerson Auvenshine, who will be at UMass this fall.  First is this piece from the website of the Bismarck Bobcats where he played juniors.  The piece expands upon some of the information that was shared to me when he first committed last month.  Dick Baker also checks in with a blog entry on Auvenshine.  Overall looks like the coaching staff has added a high energy player who is really happy about the opportunity to play in Hockey East.  He could end up being a valuable addition to next year’s roster.

Baker also has a short piece on next week’s golf tournament.  There’s still time to sign up, folks!  Click on the logo to the right for more info.  Your time on the links will help the UMass team on the ice.

Paul Dainton, Lord of the Ring. (Stick tap to reader Adam for passing this along).

Casey Wellman and his Houston Aeros fell short of the Calder Cup as the Binghamton Senators took the AHL championship in six games.

Former Providence player Alex Velischeck who left the Friars midseason to play in the USHL has found a college team to play for.  His old team.  The talented defenseman is returning to play in the Coffin for new coach Nate Leaman.

The Bangor Daily News is reporting that Notre Dame is considering joining Hockey East in the wake of a number of CCHA programs jumping ship to help form Big Ten Hockey.  The article also states that the league’s reluctance to have an odd number of teams could lead to an invitation to Miami as well.

Notre Dame has established itself as one of the best programs in the country.  Jeff Jackson has taken the team to great heights and as a result the school will be opening a brand new arena this fall.  Miami recently opened a new barn for their hockey program which has made it to the national championship game under coach Enrico Blasi.  Both these teams already share traits with current Hockey East schools.  Notre Dame is of course a catholic rival with Boston College while  Miami and UMass will soon be meeting each other regularly on the MAC gridiron.  Either one of these programs would be a huge addition for a hockey conference.  Adding both would solidify Hockey East as the far and away best conference in the country.

Yet, I personally would not want Hockey East to add either of these teams.  There are a lot of aspects of Hockey East that makes it great like the rivalries, the success, and traditions.  But one of the things that I really think makes Hockey East unique is the geography.  The conference’s footprint sits entirely within New England.  As a fan, the fact that it’s possible to jump in the car every weekend, drive a few hours, and watch them play each of their conference foes in enemy barns is priceless.  Only the ECAC can claim this benefit as well, and that drive from the North Country to Princeton is a lot longer than even Amherst to Orono.  Hockey East is unique in its current formation and I hate to have a couple of Midwest programs disrupt that, even if they are two very worthy programs.  Call me provincial, call me shortsighted, but that’s how I feel.  In a day and time where the Big East extends to Texas and the Atlantic 10 reaches to the banks of the Mississippi, Hockey East is a reminder of how college conferences should be.  Plus, in an era of skyrocketing costs, a bus ride cost structure helps keep DII schools like Lowell within arms reach of a Boston College.  Start adding in plane fares and its unknown if the smaller Hockey East schools would be able to absorb the higher overhead to their programs.

That’s not to say I’m anti-expansion.  I just think that expansion should be limited to the current footprint.  There are a few schools out there that could be worthy additions down the road, though none are ready to join anytime soon.  Quinnipiac could be an intriguing addition.  As would Holy Cross with a lot of effort put in to upgrade the profile of their program.  Hell, even UConn may make for a good rivalry for UMass if they ever decide to start a invest in their hockey program.  Perhaps future schools are not even on the radar as of yet.  Maybe old friend Thorr Bjorn down at Rhode Island decides to drop Ram football altogether in favor of Ram hockey.  Maybe that geographic footprint could be extended west to include a prospective program at Syracuse.  While none of these schools are a Miami or a Notre Dame, I think in the long run they’d be a better fit for the existing schools.

UMass alums should fill out this survey from the Alumni Association on the license plate project.  I’m ecstatic to see they’re reviving this idea with the survey being the first step in what will hopefully be a successful result.  I honestly don’t care how many plates are out there on the road at the end of it all, I just want one.  So I guess I’m being selfish.  But hey, I don’t charge for this site and you only rarely have to deal with advertisers and all that mess.  So do me this favor and just fill out the survey so I can roll in the Mullins lot with the maroon and white on the back of my car.