MANKATO, Minn. -- Oh, the things you do when you're bored. After walking around downtown Mankato, I fielded a call from a friend, and was immediately inspired to start doing some counting.
For UMD's series against Minnesota State, the assigned referees are Brad Shepherd and Todd Anderson. While it should be noted that I don't know either individual and certainly have nothing personally against them, it did make me start thinking a little bit.
When the same pair worked UMD's series in Omaha a month ago, my brain started churning, but I didn't do the research.
After seeing Brad and brother Derek for three out of four WCHA series since that weekend, I really started thinking.
As it turns out, UMD will have played 32 games this season as of Saturday night. Of them, either Derek or Brad Shepherd will have worked 16 of them. The two have combined to work two-thirds of UMD's 24 WCHA games this season.
That's a lot for two guys. Derek has worked with Marco Hunt for each of the six games (three weekends) UMD has had him for, while Brad Shepherd has worked two series with Todd Anderson and three with CJ Beaurline.
Conversely, UMD has only seen Don Adam and Timm Walsh once (last weekend). Brad Shepherd has worked ten UMD games. Adam and Walsh two each.
So that has to lead the WCHA, right?
Well, I went through each team's WCHA schedule, counting games worked by a referee named Shepherd. I did not distinguish between league games and non-conference games, nor was I watching for specific opponents or locations.
Here are the totals, listed alphabetically.
Alaska Anchorage: 30 games played, four refereed by Shepherds (13.3 percent)
Bemidji State: 32 games played, 12 (37.5)
Colorado College: 30 games played, eight (26.7)
Denver: 32 games played, four (12.5)
Michigan Tech: 32 games played, ten (31.25)
Minnesota: 33 games played, nine (27.2)
UMD: 32 games played, 16 (50)
Minnesota State: 34 games played, six (17.6)
Nebraska Omaha: 32 games played, nine (28.1)
North Dakota: 31 games played, ten (32.2)
St. Cloud State: 32 games played, ten (31.25)
Wisconsin: 30 games played, ten (33.3)
Someone who is much smarter than I am can try to analyze what it all means. Obviously, the Shepherds all live in the Cities, so there might be something to be said for them working UMD games, since they'll be home by 1am Sunday when they do.
However, of those series, one was in Omaha (approximately five hours from the Cities), one was in Houghton, one was in Alaska, and one was in Madison. So half of the 16 games haven't been worked in the state of Minnesota, meaning the "close proximity to the Cities without working too many Gophers games" theory really doesn't hold much water.
Is there something behind this, or is it just the luck of the draw?
Familiarity with officials isn't a terrible thing, because they are not thrown off by your style of play. However, it opens up the possibility of personal biases being cultivated over the course of a long season, too. That's why it's usually a good idea to spread out the assignments.
It's a bit of double-whammy for UMD. On one hand, they probably don't see the Shepherds nearly as much if the team wasn't so relevant. On the other, these are the same guys who will work games in the WCHA playoffs.
Of course, if UMD makes the NCAA Tournament, they are guaranteed to not see a Shepherd -- or any WCHA official -- again. So maybe it's not really all that bad a thing in the end.
Whether it's just luck of the draw or whatever, it's interesting to look at.