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Ryan Lambert

NCAA Hockey 101: A guide to former NCAA players in the Olympics

Ryan Lambert
Puck Daddy

NCAA Hockey 101 is a weekly feature on U.S. Division I college hockey. Stick around and you just might learn a thing or two.

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As I'm sure you've been made aware by Doc Emrick calling about 75 percent of the United States' team "a product of (insert university here)," NCAA hockey has a heavy presence at the Vancouver games.

Of the 23 players on the US roster, 16 played NCAA hockey for at least a little while. And both Brian Burke and Ron Wilson are former Providence College Friars, which, you'd think, helped inform their decision to pick eight forwards, five defensemen and all three goalies with college hockey backgrounds to represent their country. (Of course, that number is down from 18 former collegians in the Torino games.)

Up front, Joe Pavelski(notes) and (d-man) Brian Rafalski(notes) both played at Wisconsin, Zach Parise(notes) played for North Dakota, Phil Kessel(notes) is a former Minnesota Golden Gopher, David Backes(notes) played for Minnesota State Mankato, Chris Drury(notes) was a BU Terrier, Ryan Kesler(notes) was an Ohio State Buckeye, Paul Stastny(notes) spent a couple years at Denver, and Ryan Malone(notes) was a St. Cloud Husky.

On defense, Ryan Suter(notes) was a Wisconsin Badger. Both Johnsons played college hockey, Erik for Minnesota and Jack for Michigan. Ryan Whitney(notes) and Brooks Orpik(notes) just missed playing each other in the Battle of Comm. Ave. by a year, Whitney for BU and Orpik for BC.

Ryan Miller(notes), of course, won a Hobey Baker at Michigan State, Tim Thomas(notes) powered Vermont to NCAA appearances in both 1996 and '97, and Jon Quick played two years for UMass.

But somewhat surprisingly, those aren't the only former college players in the Olympics. Canada brought four more of them.

Dany Heatley(notes), like Pavelski, Rafalski and Suter, played at Wisconsin, piling up 113 points in a 77-game college career. Jonathan Toews(notes), too, lit up college goaltenders in two seasons with North Dakota, scoring 85 points in 76 career games.

And on the blueline, Canada leans heavily on two college players. Before he was quarterbacking NHL power plays, Dan Boyle(notes) was a four-year player at Miami. Duncan Keith(notes), meanwhile, was a teammate of Miller's at Michigan State in 2001-02, though he never had quite the offensive pop to his college game that he does now.

But the most surprising former college player, at least as far as I'm concerned given how early their junior players start getting paid, is actually from Sweden if you can believe it. Douglas Murray(notes) played four years at Cornell and anchored one of the most dominant defenses in NCAA history in 2002-03 (the Big Red allowed 46 goals in 36 games that year).

POP QUIZ

In which I ask a blogger five questions about the team they follow. This week, Goon from Goon's World and about a million other places, was kind enough to share his thoughts on the entire landscape of college hockey.

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1) What has Miami done the last few years to be so mind-bogglingly successful (short of an actual postseason title, obviously)?

I think you could answer this question in two words; Enrico Blasi. Blasi is a very good coach and he expects a lot out of his players and has been very successful on the ice. I would say that he is recruiting the right mix of players and they are buying into what he is telling them. Color me impressed.

2) Who is the best rookie in the country right now?

Statically it's Stephane Da Costa from Merrimack College (13g-22a-35pts), that being said, putting on my homer glasses and having the opportunity to watch BSU a few times this season I have been impressed with Jordan George from BSU (13g-17a-30pts) I think Jordan George is a diamond in the rough and this recruit is a testament of thetype of recruiter Tom Serratore is. WCHA beware. I would say that George is my rookie of the year candidate.

3) Given the WCHA is about to send the most teams of any conference to the NCAAs (right now I've got six teams going), how likely is an All-WCHA Frozen Four?

I don't think we will ever see another Frozen Four with all 4 team being from the WCHA. In 2005 there were a lot of people that were less than thrilled about the WCHA getting four teams in the Frozen Four. I also think the 2008 Midwest Regional in Madison where you had DU; Wisconsin, UND and Princeton in the same regional was kind of a preview of what will happen if you have five or more teams in the NCAA tourney from a single league. This season there is going to be a bracket or two where there will be WCHA teams doubled up, especially if there are six WCHA teams in the tourney.

4) Do you feel as though we've seen a significant rise in the number of dirty hits or suspensions in college hockey this year?

Loaded question: No and not enough or lengthy suspensions, in my opinion. This is a hot-button issue with many college hockey fans. Untilthe NCAA decides to really get serious about protecting the players you are going to see more incidents like the Aaron Marvin hit on Chay Genoway. Seriously, what's to stop a team from just going out and taking a run a star player with the intent of injuring him if you're only going to have the offending player get suspended for flimsy one or two game suspension? There needs to be a set standard for discipline in NCAA division one hockey, no more smoke filled room decisions, there needs to be more transparency.

A perfect example of how bad the officiating is in college hockey; the one-game suspension to Aaron Marvin is an absolute joke and a travesty, and the WCHA should be ashamed. Let's break it down even more: the league gave Marvin a one-game suspension for knocking out a Hobey Baker candidate and potential All-American for the season on a dirty checking from behind penalty, that the refs actually penalized the wrong player on, the league officials had to review the tape between periods to get the right player.

The Marvin hit on Genoway would probably net at least 2-4 games in the NHL, even with the inconsistency of the Colin Campbell's Wheel of Justice and probably longer in the QMJHL.

In my favorite league it's going to take a player really getting seriously hurt and carried off the ice on a gurney before the WCHA will finally get serious about disciplining the players that commit egregious penalties on the ice, I think the leagues head of officials is culpable for what has transpired on the ice this season because their disciplinary rulings have no teeth to them.

5) With only six points separating second from seventh in Hockey East, who do you think comes out as the league's representatives in the NCAA tournament.

I think it's going to be Boston College because UNH's out of conference record is brutal and is going to kill them in the end, the Wildcats are1-5-1, Boston College is 5-2 in out of conference play.

EXTRA CREDIT

• Speaking of Stephane Da Costa, check out this ridiculous goal he scored late in the game to give Merrimack its first road win of the year at Vermont on Saturday. Wow that kid can play. [Warrior Rink Rat]

• And speaking of Vermont, the team dismissed second leading scorer Justin Milo this week. It's been a rough season up there. [Burlington Free Press]

• Aaaaaand speaking of dismissals, Western Michigan announced yesterday that 11-year coach Jim Culhane is done coaching the hockey team at the end of the year, but will continue to hold a job with the school. [MLive]

• Does college hockey need to reconsider its policy against fighting? [Ciskie Blog]

• Alaska Anchorage will get second leading scorer Tommy Grant, as well as Brad Gorham and Nick Haddad, back from injury this weekend against Mankato. [Anchorage Daily News]

• Finally, a look at the every-crystallizing WCHA playoff picture. [This is the WCHA...]

Ryan Lambert writes about college hockey weekly here at Puck Daddy. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter.

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