As a lifelong hockey player and fan, I jumped at the chance to cover Niagara’s Division I hockey team this past season. I figured it would be fun, but I didn’t realize at the start how much I’d actually enjoy it. I’m also a Sabres season ticket holder, and I’d argue the best hockey I watched this year was in Dwyer Arena on Monteagle Ridge.
I completely fell in love with the college game, and it’s easy to see why. It’s fast, exciting, and competitive. Here’s what Niagara head coach Jason Lammers had to say about his team, and college hockey in general, and I think he sums it up well:
“So for me, why you would watch college hockey is because of the pace and how fast it is,” he said, noting that people also enjoy the physicality of the college game, and the fact that there is no fighting. “No matter what the score is, like everybody is still in the game. You could be up two goals or down three goals, and there’s a possibility that the team is going to come back.”
While the players are playing at a high level, they tend to make mistakes, Lammers said, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“Mistake sounds like a negative term, but it’s actually a positive term, because they create the energy and enthusiasm and the opportunities for building teams,” he said.
While the Purple Eagles’ season ended in overtime with a 1-0 loss against AIC in the Atlantic Hockey championship game, there still is college hockey yet to be played this season in the Frozen Four, and it starts tonight at KeyBank Center in Buffalo with the semifinals. At 5 p.m., Providence takes on Minnesota Duluth, while at 8:30 p.m., Denver takes on UMass. The national champion will be crowned Saturday, when the final game kicks off at 8 p.m. It promises to be an exciting event.
I’ll be watching Cale Makar from UMass. Makar, the probable Hobey Baker winning defenseman has been a treat to watch this season, and he should live up to expectations in the tournament. The 2017 Colorado Avalanche first round draftee has 16 goals and 48 points so far this season, and is a big reason the Minutemen are in the Frozen Four. The native of Calgary, Alberta is expected to sign with the Avalanche at the end of the tournament, and possibly join the team in the NHL playoffs.
I’ll also be keeping an eye on Jacob Bryson, from Providence. The junior defenseman with Providence College, Bryson was a fourth round pick for the Sabres in 2017. He’s participated in the Sabres’ last two development camps, and could sign an NHL deal after this summer’s development camp.
The London, Ontario native has four goals and 27 points in 41 games this season, and is worth keeping an eye, to see what the Sabres may have coming down the pipeline sooner than later.
For those attending the tournament or watching on TV, you can expect fast, fun and intense hockey, Afterall, in college hockey, every game is like the Super Bowl, Lammers said.
“The guys in college play hard every night,” he said. “We don’t have an 82-game schedule where we’re taking the night off, or we’re tired or we’re not fired up for the game.
The intensity, the drama, the passion is all there.”
And while the Frozen Four is this week, there will be plenty of good, exciting college hockey to watch next season at Dwyer.
With players like Ludwig Stenlund, Noah Delmas, Brian Wilson and Eric Cooley, among others, slated to come back next season, it should be a good one.
Contact Michael Canfield at email@example.com.