Are third-place games a thing of the past in the NCHC?

North Dakota's Austin Poganski (14) and Shane Gersich (19) celebrate Polanski's winning goal in the third period the 2017 NCHC Frozen Faceoff between the Fighting Hawks and Pioneers, March 17, 2017 at the Target Center in Minneapolis. (Eric Hylden / Forum News Service)

GRAND FORKS -- By all accounts, last weekend’s national meetings in Florida didn’t cause much upheaval.

That, in part, was due to the fact that 2019 is not a rules change year. College hockey can only release new points of emphasis but not wholesale rules changes for the upcoming season.

But there may be one big procedural change in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.

Multiple sources said they left the convention in Naples, Fla., believing that the third-place game will be eliminated from the NCHC Frozen Faceoff in St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center. The NCHC is the only league in college hockey that still has a third-place game at its conference tournament.

No official decision has been announced yet by the league.


Two months ago, NCHC commissioner Josh Fenton told the Herald that if the league gets rid of the third-place game, its hope is that the Minnesota Wild will host a home game Saturday afternoon before the NCHC title game.

That’s the way it was done in the final three years of the old Western Collegiate Hockey Association Final Five (2011, 2012, 2013) at Xcel Energy Center.

In March, Fenton told the Herald: “We’re having discussions, and have had discussions, amongst our members and also with the Xcel Energy Center. The Xcel Energy Center and the Minnesota Wild would like to see if there’s a model where we could get to where it’s potentially semifinals Friday, a Wild game in the middle of the day or early afternoon Saturday and the NCHC championship game Saturday night. That model may play out in the future. We’re not there yet. But it could play out.

“We think if it does play out that way, the experience for the fan, which is most important when we have these types of discussions, will be even more enhanced, because we’re going to look at ways in which we could have opportunities for Wild tickets available for sale for people coming down for the weekend. I know a Wild ticket is hard to get and we’re not going to have thousands of tickets available, but we’ll have enough, I think, to accommodate those who want to come down and make it a weekend experience. We’re not all the way there yet on that one. It may take a little bit of time and we may ultimately not get there, but it is being discussed.”

Third-place games, once a staple, are becoming a thing of the past in college hockey playoffs. They were eliminated from the NCAA Frozen Four after the 1989 tournament. League tournaments have been getting rid of them, too.

Hockey East eliminated its third-place game after the 1997 tournament. The WCHA’s last third-place game was 2010. The now-defunct Central Collegiate Hockey Association eliminated its third-place game after 2012, one year before the league folded. The ECAC got rid of its third-place game after 2013. The Big Ten, which began in 2013-14, never had a third-place game. Neither did Atlantic Hockey.

St. Clair to USHL

Former UND forward Colten St. Clair, a member of UND’s 2016 NCAA national championship team, is quickly climbing the ladder in his coaching career.

St. Clair will soon become an assistant coach with the Omaha Lancers in the USHL, according to two sources. St. Clair served as a volunteer assistant at Maine last season. Prior to that, he spent a year coaching a junior team in his native Arizona.


The Lancers are coached by David Wilkie, whose son, Chris, played at UND for a season alongside St. Clair.

St. Clair spent five years in Grand Forks from 2011-16, redshirting his first season and winning a national championship in his final collegiate game. While he was out with injuries during his senior season, St. Clair shadowed the coaching staff to learn.

Costello to Trail

Former Grand Forks Red River state champion and UND commit Braden Costello is headed to the British Columbia Hockey League next season.

Costello, who spent the last two seasons in the USHL, has committed to play for the Trail Smoke Eaters.

Costello will look to find his offensive game in the BCHL after tallying three goals and seven points last season for the Des Moines Buccaneers and the Green Bay Gamblers.

Rick Wilson out in Philly

Former UND defenseman and assistant coach Rick Wilson is out with the Philadelphia Flyers.

Wilson initially announced his retirement last spring, but former UND player and coach Dave Hakstol, then behind the bench in Philly, hired Wilson in early December to replace Gord Murphy, who was fired midseason.

Hakstol was let go a few weeks later, but Wilson remained for the rest of the season.


Wilson, 68, has coached in the NHL for 30 years for the New York Islanders, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota North Stars, Dallas Stars, Tampa Bay Lightning, Minnesota Wild, St. Louis Blues and Philadelphia Flyers.

Miami close to making hire

Miami is close to rounding out its full-time coaching staff under new head coach Chris Bergeron.

The RedHawks are closing in on hiring St. Cloud State head women’s hockey coach Eric Rud, according to multiple sources. The hire could be done as soon as this week.

A source says that Bergeron met with Rud in Naples, Fla., last week during the national coaching convention.

Rud previously served as an assistant coach with two other National Collegiate Hockey Conference men’s programs -- St. Cloud State and Colorado College. Rud served as an assistant for the Husky men from 2005-10 and worked as a Tiger assistant from 2004-05 and 2011-14. He spent the last five seasons as the head coach of the St. Cloud State women.

Bergeron’s first coaching hire was adding Barry Schutte, who assisted Bergeron for the previous nine years at Bowling Green.

How close is Illinois?

College hockey administrators are becoming more and more optimistic that Illinois will eventually decide to add Division I men’s hockey.

Although there is no imminent announcement, the Big Ten is hosting a fundraising event next week on May 14 for Illinois. There are still several steps to go to make it a reality, but if it happens, it would be another big, positive step for college hockey.


Two prominent Division-I schools have added the sport in the last eight years -- Penn State added in 2012, while Arizona State did in 2015.

Illinois also could give the Big Ten an even eight teams in the league. The Big Ten is currently at seven after adding Notre Dame as an affiliate member.

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