Goals Scored in the 2015 NCAA Tournament: Regionals

This weekend, there were 12 games played in the NCAA Division I Men’s Hockey Tournament. Those 12 games resulted in four regional champions that are heading to Boston for the Frozen Four.

In those 12 games, there were a grand total of 66 goals scored. I took a closer look at those 66 goals, where they came from and if there were any trends that could be noticed. I looked at a few different categories on each goal – strength, time in zone prior to goal, zone entry type (carry, dump, faceoff), goal type (rush, in zone possession, forecheck, faceoff, empty net), clearing attempts prior to goal, turnovers prior to goal, and lost battles prior to goal. Here’s a brief summary of the numbers:

  • Of the 66 goals:
    • 9 were empty net (13.64%)
    • 14 were on the Power Play (21.21%)
    • 3 were Shorthanded (4.54%)
    • 40 were even strength (60.61%)

Let’s look closer at the 40 even strength goals

  • 31 of the 40 (77.5%) came after the puck was carried into the offensive zone
  • 20 came off the rush
    • Average length of possession in zone was 5.05 seconds from entry to goal scored
  • 14 came from offensive zone possession
    • Average time in zone was 22.07 seconds from entry to goal scored
    • 13 of 14 came from at least one lost battle by the defending team (92.86%)
    • 9 of 14 came after the defensive team had an opportunity to clear (64.29%)
    • 8 of 14 came after a change in possession in zone (57.14%)
  • 1 came off of a faceoff
  • 4 were the result of good forechecks

Taking a closer look at the goaltending (57 goals allowed):

  • 15 of the 57 (26.32%) goals beat the goaltenders clean (goalie had time to set on the shot)
  • 18 of the 57 (31.58%) came immediately following a pass
  • 12 of the 57 (21.05%) were scored on a rebound
  • 12 of the 57 involved traffic at the net – either a tip (3 – 5.26%) or a screen (9 – 15.79%)


  • I had suspected prior to doing this research that a good majority of goals were scored after a failed clear. While it is a very small sample size, about 65% of goals scored in the offensive zone come after a failed clear.
  • I was surprised with the high number of rush goals – having half of the goals scored at even strength be off the rush is a surprisingly high number.
  • I am not surprised that the number of goals after a lost battle is very high. Often teams that maintain possession do so as a result of winning puck races and 1v1 battles – the longer you possess the puck, the more fatigue sets in and the higher your chances of scoring.
  • Turnovers in the defensive zone are especially damning as well – 57% of goals scored off off OZ possession come after a turnover.
  • The number of goals scored that beat the goaltenders clean was surprising. Over 25% were shots that beat a goaltender that was set on the shot. More on par with expectations was the number of goals after a pass and off of rebounds.

It is a small sample size, but it is very interesting to look at and see how goals are scored in the biggest games in Division I hockey. Bottom line – execute your clears, don’t turn the puck over and limit possession time in the offensive zone for your opponent…things that all good coaches preach on a regular basis.

Update: Here is the data set that I used in a pdf form: https://www.dropbox.com/s/4jlijyn9edph7f4/2015%20NCAA%20Tournament%20Goals.pdf?dl=0

The Math of College Hockey Part 2

Yesterday’s post broke down the long odds faced by any player looking to play college hockey.  Taking rough numbers, I broke down the percentage of players that make it from the 17-18 year old age group to a college hockey roster.

That’s the breakdown of odds for EVERY player in a given age group. On a macro level, that represents the odds for any player. There are a number of other things that may limit a player’s ability to move on to the next level.

  • Academics – At least 20% of NCAA hockey schools have high admissions standards for their athletic programs. Players must be achievers in the classroom and on their standardized testing. What does this mean? C’s in school won’t cut it – these schools are looking for B’s and higher, as well as strong test scores. A lack of effort and desire in the classroom will severely limit your ability to play NCAA hockey
  • Position & Shot – You’re a defenseman? A team already has 8 defensemen in their program? Unfortunately they’re probably not looking to add another one. While this is unpredictable, schools won’t look to have too many players at any one position. Teams also look to have a balance of left and right shot players – it’s not desirable to have all your forwards or defensemen shoot on the same side. Variety allows for different looks and options in the tactical game.
  • Scholarship $$ – DI scholarship schools are allowed to offer up to 18 scholarships. Hockey is an equivalency sport, this means that they can split up 18 full scholarships among as many as 30 players in any one given year. The players that are getting the most money are the top-6 forwards, the can’t miss studs, the starting goaltenders, etc. More of a third through fifth line player? That’s fine, just don’t expect to have a lot of $$ thrown your way.
  • Team Need – There are a lot of players out there that can play at the next level. Coaches and programs are always looking for different things when it comes to their recruits. Sometimes a school might be looking for a big, physical winger. Another year they need a playmaking center. If you don’t fit that mold, they probably won’t recruit you too hard. It doesn’t mean you aren’t good enough, it just means you don’t fit their needs.

At the same time, it is easy to look at the numbers and think they look a little off. After all, there are teams out there with 10-12 DI commitments and some DIII players as well. How is that the case if so few players make it to the next level?

  • The pyramid factor – teams and leagues differentiate themselves as you move up the ladder. After the U18 level, players begin to mix age groups more frequently. Junior hockey combines players as young as 16 with players as old as 21.
  • Elite programs attract elite players – the more a midget or junior program wins, the more players are attracted to that program. The same thing happens with leagues – the more players move on to NCAA hockey from a league, the more players are attracted to that league. Those teams and leagues are now able to take a higher caliber of talent
  • Pace of play – the biggest question mark that coaches have about players making the jump to the next level is their ability to play at a high speed. Young men playing college hockey are in peak physical condition. The game is played at a high speed and with a lot of energy. Players who play at lower levels may have all the tools to play at the college level, but they are not tested to play with pace. For this reason recruiters and scouts will wait until that player is moved up to a higher level (playing against other recruited players) before he is recruited – this allows the scouts to do their jobs with a greater level of certainty that the player can succeed.

Becoming a college hockey player is a journey that starts for many at a very young age. Sometimes it leads to a conclusion with a scholarship offer to a Division I school. Other times it results in an offer to play club hockey at one of the hundreds of schools that offer ACHA hockey. Regardless of what the college level brings, players can learn a lot about life and themselves from the journey to college hockey. Never limit yourself or your chances to play at the next level during the process. Doors open and close in a matter of days and the last thing you want is to be shut out of any opportunity at all. If you’re one of the lucky few that is being recruiting to play NCAA Varsity Hockey, embrace the experience and enjoy the ride, no matter the level. Your four years in college will be over before you know it.

Outdoor Games

When Sidney Crosby scored the shoot out winner in the first ever Winter Classic it ended a game and launched a new era in the sport. The NHL now hosts the Winter Classic every year on New Years Day. A great event for television and for the host city. They have also launched the Stadium Series, a spinoff where other teams will be able to play outdoors, although under lesser fanfare. College Hockey has attempted to join in on the fun, with Frozen Fenway being a regular event, and Games being played recently at Comerica Park and Soldier Field, among others.

The question lingers: is it too much? Have outdoor games become watered down?

My answer: it depends on your perspective.

As a Frozen Fenway participant myself (UMass in ’11), I believe that the experience is something beyond your wildest dreams, regardless of television or attendance. Most hockey players I know have played on a pond at one point in their lives. You rig up some nets, find a puck and as many of your friends that know how to skate and play until the sun goes down. No boards, no refs, no clock. Just hockey.

As we move on in the game, the structure, rules and coaching have a greater impact on how we understand “hockey”. Playing an outdoor game is an opportunity to mix the hockey we grew up playing with the structured sport we play now. It’s a chance to get back to your roots as a player and just enjoy playing the game.

Kids imagine themselves scoring the game winner in Game 7 when they’re out on the pond. We not ever imagined that we would be playing hockey in a place like Fenway Park. The chance to do something of that magnitude in that kind of environment is a memory that will last a lifetime. Win or lose, the chance to practice and play with the stadium and the city around you is an absolutely amazing experience. Green Monster to your left, Peskys Pole to your right, the pitching mound between you and the locker room. Getting dressed in stalls used by Papi, Pedro, and any number of visiting All-Stars. Eye Black, Toques, and the environment – wind, setting sun, breathing steam,

Does the crowd matter? It is noticeable on the ice, but you can’t tell if there’s 33,000 or 37,000 people in the stands. You don’t pay attention to those things as a competitor. I spoke with some coaches this week that have been at Fenway with less than 10,000 and they all loved the experience. Outdoor games are unforgettable for those most intimately involved in the game. The “student-athlete experience” is second to none.

So again, are outdoor games losing their luster? I think not. At its roots, hockey is a game that is meant to be fun for all involved – it’s easy to get too wrapped up in the seriousness of it. Outdoor games bring us back to the roots. Playing hockey is about achieving dreams and making memories that will last a lifetime. There are few memories greater than playing outdoors, under the lights, in an official game, in a world-famous stadium. It’s something that the players involved will cherish for the rest of their lives.