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June 20, 2024

Opinion

East Coast Bias rears its head in Division III Hockey Playoffs

March 8, 2007

Most people have heard it everywhere they look in sports.

This is the number one excuse used to explain why their favorite teams are omitted from post-season play. It’s heard in college football with the corrupt Bowl Championship Series. It’s seen in baseball with full-circle ESPN coverage of all 19 Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees games, complete with a channel strictly showing Alex Rodriguez from every angle. It’s heard in football with the fact that the NFC and AFC East games are pushed back to later times so everybody in America can see them instead of western teams, who are just as good or even better. Yet, the Division III landscape hadn’t seen too much of it until the NCAA D III Tournament Bracket was released on Sunday night.

To kill any suspense for you readers out there, River Falls did get in and played Bethel on Wednesday night. If you missed that announcement, you should move out from under that rock you’re living under. The winner of that game will go on to play St. Norbert on Saturday night in DePere, Wis. Those three sentences sum up the entire Western bracket.

The western division of D III hockey got screwed in this scenario and the two teams that are feeling the direct effects are UW-Stout and UW-Superior.

The NCHA was no pushover conference this season as even the fifth seed St. Scholastica Saints were able to get into the Peters Cup championship game. The league was one of the toughest in the country in my opinion. I had seen all 8 teams play and no game was a safe bet. The top four teams in the division sat near the top of the USCHO.com D III Poll most of the season and only three teams, two from the NCHA got in.

Let me be the first to send out my condolences to Stout and Superior by saying they were both screwed. Stout led the NCHA for most of the season until losing the last three games to Superior and River Falls. The team played very well all season long, but apparently being ranked second with three weeks left in your season isn’t good enough to get a tournament bid. Not to mention the Blue Devils had the same record as the Falcons did (21-5-2). The final weekend sweep by the Falcons definitely proved to be the reason why we made the tournament and they didn’t.

Then there’s Superior that went into its playoff series versus St. Scholastica with a 50-0-1 record in the last 17 years against the Saints.

The end result was a shocking set of losses on Saturday night when the team blew a late 3-0 lead in the third period and a late penalty shot let the Saints come here and knock off the Falcons.

Superior finished with a 20-win season and the fourth best record in the stacked NCHA. Oh yeah, in previous years, teams that were located in the eastern region and hosting the Frozen Four got the nod over more deserving teams. This year’s Frozen Four will be held in Superior.

So with this simple formula, three teams are going to go to the Frozen Four in the east and one team from the west. The NCAA needs to look at these tournament resumes more carefully and not have their compass point toward the East.

Remember, last year the Falcons had a solid team, but a first round sweep by Stout wound up costing them a tournament berth. The reaction by the Falcons was that of ‘What more do we have to do to get into the tournament?’ That battle cry is being heard in Menomonie and Superior as we speak.

Chris Schad is a student at UW-River Falls.

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