June 4, 2008
Atlantic Hockey playoff format likely to change

Atlantic Hockey’s Final Five appears to be one-and-done.

The league’s coaches voted in April to scrap the playoff format that called for five opening-round matchups and the five survivors advancing to the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y.

The new format would be more in line with the other large leagues. The top six seeds would receive opening-round byes, with the seventh seed hosting the 10th seed and the eighth seed hosting the ninth seed in best-of-three series March 6-8.

The quarterfinals would take place March 13-15 would be a true eight-team format with four best-of-three series hosted by the higher seeds. Blue Cross Arena will host the tournament’s final rounds for the third year in a row. The semifinals will be Friday, March 20, and the final on Saturday, March 21.

Atlantic Hockey publicity director David Rourke said the athletic directors from the 10 league members must ratify the change at a June 18 meeting at Holy Cross, but some schools have already gone ahead with announcing the change.

The WCHA continues to utilize the Final Five format. In 2008, ECAC Hockey and CCHA granted four byes and had seeds five-through-12 compete in the first round. Hockey East allows only its top eight seeds to qualify for the postseason. College Hockey America had only five teams, so there was a play-in game held prior to the semifinals.

Atlantic Hockey has used five different playoff formats in five seasons.

The entire 2004 tourney was hosted by Army, with a first-round game (8-9), quarterfinals and semifinals played on the first weekend and the top two teams returning a week later for the final. Holy Cross beat Sacred Heart in the final.

The 2005 tourney featured a play-in game at Army (8-9) and four quarterfinal games at higher seeds three days later. The final four teams moved on to Quinnipiac’s old home rink in Northford, Conn., for the semifinals and finals. Mercyhurst prevailed in overtime over Quinnipiac in the final.

There were only eight league members in 2006 so there was no play-in game. The quarterfinals were hosted by higher seeds, and the remaining four teams headed to top-seed Holy Cross for the semifinals and finals. Holy Cross toppled Bentley in the final.

Air Force brought its playoff eligibility to Atlantic Hockey in 2006-07 but new Division I entry Rochester Institute of Technology had to sit out its first tourney. Again, a play-in game was utilized at Canisius, followed a week later by four quarterfinal games at higher seeds. The four survivors headed for the first neutral-site games at Blue Cross Arena. Air Force earned its first of two consecutive NCAA tourney berths with a win over Army.

Atlantic Hockey’s precursor — the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Hockey League — allowed only its top eight teams to advance to the quarterfinals, hosted by the higher seeds. The MAAC Final Four sites were predetermined, awarded to Connecticut in 2000 (UConn beat Iona in final) and 2001 (Mercyhurst beat Quinnipiac), to Holy Cross in 2002 (Quinnipiac beat Mercyhurst) and to Army in 2003 (Mercyhurst beat Quinnipiac).

— Ken McMillan

June 4, 2008
Ex-Husky Laplante returns to Northeastern as assistant

Former Northeastern standout Sebastien Laplante has been added to the Huskies' coaching staff as an assistant, head coach Greg Cronin announced.

Laplante, who starred for Northeastern from 1989-93, returns to his alma mater after spending the previous two seasons as an assistant coach with the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

June 3, 2008
Sabres sign Michigan State's Kennedy

Forward Tim Kennedy, Michigan State's leading scorer in each of the past two seasons, signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Buffalo Sabres, thereby forgoing his final year of college eligibility.

Kennedy, a Buffalo native, scored 105 points (42 goals, 63 assists) in 113 career games for the Spartans. In the 2006-07 season, he helped MSU to its third NCAA championship, most notably scoring the game-tying goal in his team's 3-1 win over Boston College in the title game in St. Louis. Kennedy was named to the all-tournament teams at both the NCAA Midwest Regional and the Frozen Four.

This past season, the 5-foot-10, 180-pound forward paced the Spartans in points (42) and shorthanded goals (three) and shared the team lead in goals (20), assists (23) and game-winning goals (five). For his efforts, Kennedy was named to the 2008 All-CCHA second team.

Kennedy was originally drafted in the sixth round (181st overall) of the 2005 Entry Draft by Washington, but his rights were acquired by Buffalo in a draft day trade with the Capitals.

June 3, 2008
Gerbe named USA Hockey college player of the year

Boston College forward Nathan Gerbe, the nation's leading scorer who this past season led the Eagles to the school's third NCAA championship, is USA Hockey's choice as college hockey player of the year for 2008.

The Oxford, Mich., native, scored 35 goals and added 33 assists for 68 points in 43 games during his junior season. The first-team All-American selection and 2008 Hobey Baker Award finalist earned Frozen Four Most Outstanding Player honors after scoring five goals and adding three assists in the Eagles' wins against North Dakota and Notre Dame. Last month, Gerbe opted to skip his final year at Boston College, opting to sign a contract with the Buffalo Sabres.

Gerbe will be feted at an awards dinner in Colorado Springs Wednesday (June 4) held in conjunction with the USA Hockey Annual Congress.

June 3, 2008
Hastings leaves USHL for Minnesota assistant post

Longtime junior coach Mike Hastings has been tabbed as assistant coach at Minnesota. Hastings takes the spot vacated by Mike Guentzel, who resigned in April.

The winningest coach in the history of the United States Hockey League, Hastings compiled 529-210-56 record in 14 seasons behind the Omaha Lancers' bench. He guided the team to three regular-season championships and three postseason titles and led the Lancers to both honors in 2007-08. Hastings was twice named USHL coach of the year and was the league's general manager of the year five times.

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