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Tuesday @ The Rink

CHAT LIVE With USCHO's Jim Connelly

Welcome to the CSTV.com moderated chat room!

On Tuesday, January 3 at 2:00 p.m. ET, USCHO Atlantic Hockey Correspondent Jim Connelly stops by "Tuesday @ The Rink", presented by CSTV.com and USCHO.com. Jim will be taking all of your questions on college hockey.

** GET YOUR QUESTIONS IN NOW!!: Jim won't be stopping by until 2:00 p.m. EST on Tuesday, January 3rd, but feel free to submit your questions now and we'll save them for his arrival!
CSTV.com Moderator: Welcome back to "Tuesday @ The Rink". We are now joined by USCHO's Jim Connelly, who will be taking your questions on both Atlantic Hockey and Hockey East.
Jim Connelly: Big hello and Happy New Year to all of the college hockey fans out there! I'm really excited to talk college hockey with all of you!

Dan (Hadley, Mass.): Does Holy Cross have the inside track on the rest of the league since it will be hosting the AHA championship in March?
Jim Connelly: I think that any team that hosts the Atlantic Hockey championships has a big advantage. The fact that Holy Cross is a very good team amplifies that. All of that said, I think there are a lot of teams out there that will be motivated to try to knock the Crusaders off on home ice. Remember, the last team to win an Atlantic Hockey/MAAC championship on home ice was UConn in 2000.

Joe (Erie): Who would you rate as the best coach in Atlantic Hockey?
Jim Connelly: Wow, that's a tough question. I think that Rick Gotkin's proven track record, which now includes three NCAA Division I tournament appearances, gives him an edge. But coaches like Holy Cross' Paul Pearl and Sacred Heart's Shaun Hannah have both shown the ability to take programs from the bottom to the top. Truly, though, I have a lot of respect for all eight (and ten if you include next year's additions) coaches in Atlantic Hockey.

Pete, New York: What are RPI's chances for the second half? If RPI finishes poorly, is Fridgen finally gone?
Jim Connelly: RPI really seems like a Jekyll and Hyde team to me. I've seen them play only once, very early in the season at Lowell. In that game, a lot of the team impressed me but they were unable to hold a lead. The fact that they've had a tough time against Atlantic Hockey teams doesn't tell me that they're not a good team but that they have a problem getting up for the game regardless of the opponent. As far as Fridgen's future, I have no clue. I've always felt he's been given more rope than is necessary when it comes to his team's on ice performance, but that's a better question for the Athletic Director than me.

Chris (Boston): We saw a couple of shootouts in the holiday tournaments over the weekend, including one for BC out in Denver. With all the excitement the shootouts have created in the NHL, do you think we should see them on a regular basis in the college game?
Jim Connelly: Personally, I've liked the shootout in the NHL but hate it to decide the outcome of a tournament. I'm glad certain tournaments like the Beanpot keep the purity of sudden-death overtime. It adds edge of your seat excitement. If you're asking whether or not we should see a shootout in college hockey, that's a tough question. Hockey East used a shootout in the mid-80s and didn't have much success with it. I do remember games being very exciting down the stretch, but the coaches weren't very much in favor. With the NHL instituting it, though, it may become a topic of the coaches' convention in Naples this April.

Vince (Erie): Jim, big Atlantic game on CSTV Friday...what has to happen for the Lakers to lose this one? Can Army win without major mistakes by the Lakers, or is this one Mercyhurst's to lose?
Jim Connelly: The fact that the game is being played at Army keeps this one from being a walkover on paper. But if you look at the history between these two clubs, Mercyhurst hasn't exactly had their way with the Black Knights in the recent past. Many coaches have told me that Army is the most overlooked team in the league. Add the fact that goaltender Brad Roberts has played some decent hockey recently and I like Army's chances to make this a game. That said, I still think that Mercyhurst's firepower should be enough to pull out a win, even at a very tough Tate Rink.

C-Bone (Hamden): Jim, which team is the best you've seen in all your year's of covering the MAAC and Atlantic Hockey, and why?
Jim Connelly: C-Bone... interesting question. The fact of the matter is that as the MAAC and Atlantic Hockey have progressed, the talent level has developed tenfold along the way. I think that this year's players from even the bottom teams are better than those from the league's top teams three years ago. Last year's Mercyhurst and Quinnipiac teams stand out as two really evenly matched teams with a lot of good components. Mercyhurst could score goals, Quinnipiac was a great defensive club. The Lakers proved they were a great team by giving No. 1 seed Boston College everything it could handle in the first round of the NCAA tournament. I will say, though, that this year's players - from top to bottom - show a major increase in talent.

Ryan (Allston): Do you think we might see Joe Pearce get another chance with the way he's played in Cory Schneider's absence for World Juniors?
Jim Connelly: I do not. Jerry York said very distinctly at the beginning of the season that Cory is his man all year. I didn't see either of Pearce's games in Denver this past week but am sure he played well. He's a good goaltender. But in my opinion, the only way you're going to see him again is if Schneider gets hurt or the entire season is wrapped up early and York decides to give Cory a night off down the stretch.

Chris (Boston): Following up on your shootout answer, yes, there are some tournaments where tradition mandates full OTs, the Beanpot being one, but is it really worth the wear on players and additional risk of injury to win a not-so-meaningful piece of in-season hardware in double- or triple-overtime?
Jim Connelly: Chris, I personally think that it is. These kids want to decide the game in overtimes - not in some contest to see which team has five forwards who all can make fancy moves. Would you really want to see the Beanpot decided on an individual move? Last year's two Beanpot overtime games rank as some of the most exciting games I've ever seen. As a fan as well as a journalist, I want to see more of that.

jeff Grand Forks: how long will the freshman at UND stick around?
Jim Connelly: I don't think that there's an issue of how long UND's freshmen will stick around as much as how long young players with NHL skill will stick around college hockey. The new NHL collective bargaining agreement really puts a premium on teams signing kids early. The only thing that favors colleges is that signing bonus numbers (I believe) have been reduced. The WCHA, in particular, has some excellent young players who all will be bait for the NHL lures sooner than we'd like. It's hard for these kids to turn down the money, though.

Carl (Chestnut Hill): Jim, since you spend so much time at BC, how do you see the Eagles faring in the second half of the season?
Jim Connelly: BC seems to be turning the corner nicely heading into the second half. The areas of the game that have been a struggle - namely scoring goals and playing on special teams - seems to be improving. If the Eagles can continue to get contributions from the rookie class, I think they'll have an excellent shot at yet another Hockey East regular season title. Everything, though, hinges on key players (Collins, Schneider) staying healthy.

Pete, New York: What is going on at Canisius and how can they turn around that program?
Jim Connelly: Pete, I, for one, think that the program has begun to make a turnaround. Dave Smith is a coach who won't put up with a lot of crap. He comes from a very tight run ship at Mercyhurst and has coached at many top-notch collegiate programs. The fact that there were again discipline problems this season I don't think has to do as much with the players acting up as much as there being a zero tolerance policy at the school. This department can't afford any more screw ups. For the sake of the players and coaches, though, I hope that the program stays clean. There's nothing worse for trustees to see but the school's athletic teams mentioned negatively in the media.

Dwayne (Lowell): UMass Lowell has been somewhat of a disappointment this season. What's the best explanation for this?
Jim Connelly: Uggg... as a Lowell alum, Dwayne, it's such a disappointment to see the River Hawks struggling. I think more than anything for this year's Lowell team, it seems the expectations that were placed on it resulted in more pressure than all of the players could handle. The fact that Ben Walter signed with the Bruins just weeks before the season began really damaged this club's confidence. When you don't believe you can score, you won't. It's that simple. Add to that the fact that the goaltending hasn't been what coach Blaise MacDonald hoped for and you have a recipe for disaster. I was really impressed with the way Lowell played in the first period against Minnesota. If that effort becomes more consistent, look for the River Hawks to be a pesky team down the stretch.

Mike M. (Tunica, MS): It seems there have been more 10-minute misconducts handed out this year. Are there stricter rules this year about what players are allowed to say on the ice?
Jim Connelly: I think truly this has varied league to league. Some league's officials have indeed been tighter on misconducts than others. That, though, hasn't been the biggest inconsistency in officiating. The hit-from-behind penalty spiked incredibly at the beginning of the season as referees were told that hitting from behind along the boards was a no-gray-area 5-minute major and game misconduct. I noticed in late November and December, many referees instead deciding to call boarding, which can be a two-minute minor. That's a major inconsistency in my book.

Jennie (Boston): Who is better looking, you, or USCHO's Dave Hendrickson?
Jim Connelly: If you like the pencil necked geek types, Dave is probably your man. Otherwise, I'd have to give the nod to yours truly.

Justin (Buffalo): Navy's building a new rink...you think that means we can expect them to go D-I soon? Also, even though they're co-hosting the Frozen Four with Atlantic Hockey, you think AH would encourage them to go into the CHA at first to preserve the autobid?
Jim Connelly: I'd love to see Navy begin a program, Justin, and they've been long rumored to be one of Division I's next addition. If they come into Division I, they'll join Atlantic Hockey to align with fellow military schools Army and Air Force. I don't believe that Atlantic Hockey feels the responsibility to ship teams the way of the CHA. Since its inception, the CHA has done little to expand itself and now might have to pay the price. Losing an autobid hurts all of college hockey, but it's impossible to force teams into a situation they don't want to be and shouldn't be in.
CSTV.com Moderator: That is all of our time with Jim this afternoon.
Jim Connelly: This has been a blast! Thanks for all of your great questions! I look forward to seeing all of you around the rinks!
CSTV.com Moderator: Join us again next week for another eidition of "Tuesday @ The Rink". Check back to find out who our guests will be. See you then.

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