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VIP Mailbag: NCAA Poaching, HEA Teams Traveling to AHA Teams

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Mike – Am I to believe that it is a coincidence that our last two transfers, Evan Bell and Ludwig Larson, both went to Penn State?  What is the deal with this?  I see scouts in the stands.  I thought they were all NHL scouts. Are some of them from bigger D1 programs?  A little tongue in cheek but you do have to wonder – what better indicator that a kid can play D1 than he actually is already playing D1.

This could be a coincidence … or maybe it’s not. Honestly, I’m not sure. The situation with Bell was a little different only because he left the school on his own and, as far as I understand it, actually went through a formal recruiting process again. Larsson chose Penn State over BU and Northeastern, so he had some other options as well.

That being said, Penn State doesn’t have the cleanest of reputations when it comes to “poaching” players from other teams, whether it’s recruiting other program’s recruits or accepting transfer players.

I don’t believe there are any coaches out there actually scouting NCAA games in order to go after transfer players, but that’s only because most of these coaches already know the players. They coach against them and video is readily available. Plus, like you said, there is some statistical evidence as far as whether or not someone is a suitable Division I player.

So to answer your question … poaching happens. I don’t think there is necessarily any evidence of it here, but it wouldn’t shock me to learn that there was something going on here, either. Even with a situation like Bell, where a player leaves a team and goes back to junior hockey, I’ve heard stories in the past where coaches from other teams nudge a player to leave and go back to the USHL. Again, there’s no evidence that was the case with Bell, but I know many coaches have suspected it in other past cases.

Do you think we’ll see more teams from Hockey East go to Atlantic Hockey arenas now that some are playing in AHL arenas and Bentley has built a new arena?

We’re already seeing it, and I think we’ll see more of it. If you study the Pairwise, it’s always better to win games than to lose games. And, it’s better to win games on the road. Historically, Hockey East teams have a favorable winning percentage against Atlantic Hockey teams — that’s no disrespect, it’s just the facts — so it would benefit Hockey East teams to play Atlantic teams, and to play those games on the road.

For example … beating Bentley on the road is better for your Pairwise than losing to North Dakota at home.

Of course, you have to win those games, but I think it makes more sense for teams to schedule winnable games (and then win those games … that’s important).

If you look at Merrimack’s non-conference schedule from 2010-11, the opponents were not very strong. But, Merrimack beat them all. They were a fourth-place team in their league and finished as a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. We’ve seen teams from Hockey East who were road teams in the quarterfinals (seeds 5-8) earn at-large bids because of strong non-conference records.

Sure, it’s fun to have some “big” teams come into your building, but the smart play is to schedule opponents you think you can beat, and then beat them all.

What are you hearing on Harvard as they try to replace Pearl? Jeff Cox reported Curtis Carr could get that job. Where do you think Merrimack could go to replace him if you lose a guy this late?

Carr and Jim Tortorella are both in the mix at Harvard, but the Crimson haven’t hired anyone yet. It wouldn’t be that unorthodox to lose an assistant coach in July. Vermont just lost Kyle Wallack to a D3 job and when Bill Gilligan was hired under Mark Dennehy, that was because Glenn Stewart went to UNH in August.

If Tortorella or Carr get the Harvard job, I could see Merrimack moving in the direction of trying to bring on a coach/teacher. Scott Borek is a known commodity as a recruiter and Josh Ciocco is young and would also have the ability to connect with players on the recruiting trail. But that’s all a “what if” scenario right now.

About Mike McMahon

Mike McMahon is in his 13th year covering Merrimack College for The Eagle Tribune and is the founder and managing editor of The Mack Report. Mike also serves on staff as a senior writer at College Hockey News. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcMahonCHN

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