by: Luke Devoe (@CTHSHockey)
One of the constant conversations we've heard over the years revolves around the current FCIAC schedule structure and requirements. As it stands, all FCIAC teams regardless of division are required to play all other FCIAC teams. To put it into context, if the SCC/SWC had such a rule, Fairfield Prep would play Shepaug yearly. This means we consistently see lopsided scores on a nightly basis. Coaches of the Division I squads are faced with the dilemma of playing their game, figuring out playing time for their top guys and avoiding the "running up the score" hate tweets. Division III FCIAC squads, depending on who you talk to, usually default to one of two responses. On one side you get, it gives them great competition which makes them stronger for tournament time. On the other side, you have teams missing out on the tournament each year where if they played a reasonable DIII schedule, they may have a fighting shot.
Greenwich Head Coach Chris Rurak is not a fan of the current situation. "We really need a change, I think everyone can agree on that," Rurak told CTHSHockey. His solution is a great one. Allow DI and DII, which is currently only Westhill-Stamford and Trumbull, to play each other during the regular season. Then, come conference tournament time, throw in the top five DI/DII squads and reserve the 6th spot for the top DIII group. Rurak went on to add "The DIII teams are the ones who really suffer in the standings. All the DI teams make the state tournament. Those games for Division III teams could determine if they are in the state tournament or not."
Trinity Catholic Head Coach Tucker Grose took it in a different direction zeroing in on the conference tourney not really mattering all that much to a DIII school that has no chance of factoring in to it. "For a conference that likes to brag about our success in the CIAC, it is remarkable that we are the only conference in the state that hasn't figured out a way to keep traditional rivalries while also providing a schedule with competitive balance for all teams. For me as a Division III FCIAC coach, I could honestly care less about the conference tournament. So, what is the point of playing a FCIAC schedule when we cannot compete in the conference tournament?"
I've broken down the numbers below but the fact of the matter is Division III FCIAC teams are 6-96 since the beginning of the 2014-15 season against Division I FCIAC opponents. Five of those six wins belong to Staples. Over that time period, these four DIII FCIACs have gone a combined, DIII typical 102-156-8 in the non-DI FCIAC portion of their schedule. DI FCIACs have shutout DIII squads 34 times over that span. 43 times those Division I bullies scored eight or more goals. But, in my opinion, it's far from their fault. In fact, if I'm on the losing side, I find it far more demeaning and belittling to have teams pull up.
Wilton third year bench boss John Miserendino doesn't hate the idea of playing a DI FCIAC club but struggles to see the value of running the gamut of playing all of them. Miserendino told CTHSHockey "At the Division III level, the benefits of challenging yourself against better competition are far from useful when 40% of your entire schedule is playing above your division. I'd love to play Ridgefield to challenge our group but you cannot reap the benefits of that challenge when your next three games are against Greenwich, New Canaan and Darien. By the time we get back to DIII it's been three weeks since we touched the puck. We don't develop, we don't grow, we actually regress."
Then there's the comparable DIII teams in other conferences. If we look at the top of the Division III rankings as they stand right now we see six SCC/SWC squads, a CCC member and a Nutmegger. Those eight teams combined face a total of one Division I team this year (Hand beat Fairfield). They have a decided advantage. Newington Co-op is another good sample size group. Newington plays a manageable 12 DIII games and 8 DII games. The DII games for the large part are against mid to bottom tier DII teams. Then, if you add in the points from out of state games debate, a can of worms is opened, that may be hard to close. "While other teams are racking up guaranteed out of state points against weak New York DII teams, Wilton, Staples, Trinity Catholic and Norwalk-McMahon are being forced to play the top 3-4 teams in the state," Miserendino continued. The man's got a point.
Listen, I get that the FCIAC has proud rivalries and traditions that span across various sports but this has gone on long enough. Allow Wilton to schedule Ridgefield if they both agree on it. But forcing all FCIAC members to play each other is detrimental to the league, its postseason success and the student athletes in it. It seems that all if not a vast majority of coaches want a change, the wise inhabitants of the Twitterverse want a change based on the results of today's poll. So, why no change? We need to keep asking that question.
Here's a look by the numbers (since the start of 2014-15, factoring in Fairfield Co-op from 2016-17-present):
- Division I teams are 96-6 vs. Division III teams
- Division I teams have outscored Division III teams 698-164
- Division I teams have shutout Division III teams 34 times
- Division I teams have scored 8+ goals 43 times
INDIVIDUAL TEAM RECORDS
Trinity Catholic (0-26)
INDIVIDUAL TEAM GOALS AGAINST-GOALS FOR
Trinity Catholic 201-45
INDIVIDUAL TEAM SHUTOUTS AGAINST
Trinity Catholic- 9