Last week the CCHA teams got off to a strong start for the most part, playing a number of tune-up games. The week did not begin on a positive note, as Alaska-Fairbanks defenseman Erik Drygas injured his neck in practice, and remains in serious, but stable condition in the hospital. A team meeting was called, and Drygas’ jersey hung from the goal posts as Fairbanks faced interstate rival Anchorage over the weekend, losing two hard-fought contests.
Ohio State lost to Bowling Green in a game that has been called "rough" by some. Hey, that is what the CCHA is about, tough grind-it-out hockey! Miami can score, and Michigan looks the same! Notre Dame started off on a positive note, and so did Western Michigan. Ferris State split, and LSSU got its first win mid-week. The real tests begin this week for most, with some intra-conference games that will be great barometers for the national picture.
Here’s a look at this week’s match-ups:
Miami (1-1-0) at Alaska-Fairbanks (0-2-0) Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m., Carlson Center, Fairbanks, AK
Look for Miami to test both of its goaltenders this week to figure out who can carry the load. With the first test coming on the long road trip, Miami will no doubt need to overcome sloppy play early on, until their legs return. Randy Robitaille and Dan Boyle proved Miami can score against Windsor, but the defense was missing early, and the goaltending by Adam Lord was mediocre.
Alaska will need to play strong defensive hockey to stop the trapping Miami forecheck. Cody Bowtell and the offense will need to produce more then three goals to beat Miami. Look for Miami to dominate by Sunday.
PICK: Miami 2 out of 3, but Alaska wins Thursday. Boston College (0-0-0) at Bowling Green (2-0-0) Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m., BGSU Ice Arena, Bowling Green, OH
Boston College will have to rely on their goaltending to keep then in a game against a stingy Falcon defense, and a scary offense. Bowling Green brings a 47 percent power play, and a 94 percent penalty kill with them. Mike Johnson looks to add to his five goal opening weekend. Look for Bowling Green to physically dominate.
Do not count out Boston College and Marty Reasoner, but depth will be the difference. BC coach Jerry York finally has his team playing for him, but it is too early for them to beat Bowling Green.
PICK: FRIDAY, BG 4, BC 2; SATURDAY, BC 4, BG 3; Split.
Clarkson at Ohio State Friday and Saturday, 7 p.n., OSU Ice Rink, Columbus, OH
Ohio State will look to work out the kinks on offense with a young group of talented forwards who need time to gel. Brandon LaFrance and Tyler McMillan will lead a weak power play that only converted one of eight chances last weekend.
Clarkson will provide a strong test of the Buckeye’s speed and goaltending, from the likes of senior Todd White, a 29 goal scorer last season, and captain Jean-Francois Houle, who netted 14. This will be a great challenge, which is just what OSU needs after playing sloppy early against Bowling Green. Goaltender Dan Murphy is very solid in the pipes, and could steal one alone for Clarkson.
PICK: OSU 4, CLARKSON 3 FRIDAY; CLARKSON 5, OSU 3 SATURDAY; SPLIT
Western Ontario (0-0-0) at Ferris State (1-1-0) Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m., Ewigleben Arena, Big Rapids, MI
This is a great weekend for Ferris State to work on its defensive posture against a solid Western Ontario forecheck, as well as a chance to score some goals, and build confidence in players like sophomore’s Kenzie Homer and Joel Irwin, who each scored two last week.
Ferris should have enough depth to outshoot, and outscore Western Ontario’s mediocre roster.
PICK: FSU SWEEP
Maine (0-0-0) at Lake Superior State (1-1-0) Sunday, 2 p.m., James Norris Ice Arena, Sault Ste. Marie, MI
Maine will have LSSU matched for speed, depth, and goaltending, but not spirit as LSSU is 15-3-1 in their last 19 at home. Look for the Lakers to win a tight game with strong goaltending in John Grahame backing them up. Ted Laviolette and Matt Alvey are a strong tandem on offense, but the power play struggles, as does the penalty kill early.
Maine will have to rebound energy-wise from a long trip to the Soo, and the physical pounding they will get from Michigan, but young toughs like Trevor Roenick can handle it. Special teams will win this game. If Maine’s power play gets going, watch out.
PICK: LSSU 4, MAINE 2
Maine (0-0-0) at Michigan (2-0-0) Friday, 7:30 p.m., Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, MI
This weekend will show us a lot about three of the top teams in the nation, and could mark the beginning of a downhill slide for Maine, for playing Michigan, and LSSU at home is tough. Look for Michigan’s depth to overpower a suspect Maine defensive core. Jason Botterill and Bill Muckalt will challenge Maine’s defensive capabilities, especially on their power play which is 41 percent so far. Depth will win out in this one, Maine lacks what Michigan reaps.
PICK: MICHIGAN 4, MAINE 2
Western Michigan (0-0-0) at Notre Dame (1-0-0) Friday, 7 p.m., Joyce Athletics and Convocation Center, South Bend, IN
Notre Dame will need youngsters to step up in order to handle a physically formidable Western Michigan team. Joe Dusbabek and Ben Nelson did just that last week, putting crucial points on the board.
This will either be the coming out party of Western’s goaltender Matt Barnes, or that of Dusbabek and Ben Simon for Notre Dame. Western’s penalty kill is putting out the fires, going 100 percent on the kill last week. If the offense can score more than three, it is their game.
PICK: WESTERN 3, NDAME 2
Western Michigan (0-0-0) at Michigan State (1-0-0) Saturday, 7 p.m., Munn Arena, East Lansing, MI
Michigan State will use all its firepower on offense to break away from the Western Michigan defense by the end of this one. Steve Ferranti’s three goals lead the way, and an 80 percent penalty kill isn’t too shabby either, it will get better.
With fresh legs, it will be a tough night for Western to win over Chad Alban who is unstoppable at home. PICK: MSU 5, WMU 3
Copyright 1996 Kirk Koennecke . All Rights Reserved.
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USCHO covers the CCHA all week long on the CCHA Blog, with weekend recaps on Monday, picks on Friday, and updates during the week.