Last week demonstrated several of the things which make consistent winning difficult in the CCHA. Again, vital early-season points were taken from Alaska by the visiting Wolverines, who didn’t take Fairbanks too lightly. Miami sought to distance itself from the bottom half of the league by taking hard-fought games from Notre Dame and Ferris State, to extend its unbeaten streak to five games.
Bowling Green made a case for itself as a contender, swiping three of four points from the floundering Lakers, to the dismay of both Lake Superior and Michigan State, which had a horrible ride out East. The Spartans came home broke, losing to both Boston College and Northeastern and consequently dropping out of this week’s Around the Rinks/USCHO poll.
Notre Dame found a goaltender as Matt Eisler stopped Ohio State cold, and Ferris suffered the Buckeyes’ frustration in a loss the following evening. All in all, an informed writer picked five — and lost five, raising his meager record to 12-10. This record will resemble those of several CCHA teams, before it is all said and done.
This week there are some intriguing matchups, led by the USCHO Game of the Week, Michigan at Michigan State. Also, Ohio State and WMU face off for two, MSU and Bowling Green reopen old wounds, and Michigan and Notre Dame battle it out in the "schools-wishing-their-football-teams-were-as-good-as-OSU Bowl". Finally, Miami and Lake State take trips to Vermont and St. Lawrence. Here’s my view of the upcoming action.
Ohio State (1-4-0, 1-1-0 CCHA) at Western Michigan (1-1-1, 0-1-1 CCHA) Friday, Saturday, 7:00 p.m., Lawson Arena, Kalamazoo, MI
Ohio State makes its first important road trip, desperately in need of juniors Dan Cousineau and Derek Beuselinck to produce leadership and scoring. Thus far, the two have four points between them. Sophomore Brandon LaFrance is in the same category, producing one point so far. The power play is an ugly twelve percent, and both goaltenders are giving up freshman goals that they can not afford.
Western is also in need of production from junior Steve Duke and senior Justin Cardwell, neither of whom has a goal yet. Sophomore Matt Barnes is 1-1-1, with a .920 save percentage, and could be the difference this weekend. The Bronco penalty-kill is off to a good start at 90 percent, which does not bode well for the Buckeyes.
Pick: Friday WMU 5, OSU 2; Saturday OSU 5, WMU 4
Bowling Green (6-0-0, 2-0-0 CCHA) at Michigan State (3-2-0, 2-0-0 CCHA) Friday, 7:00 p.m., Munn Ice Arena, East Lansing, MI
This could foreshadow the final weeks of the season, as Bowling Green looks to take the early lead for second place, with its 36 percent power play. The Falcons have found strong scoring so far, behind the play of seniors Curtis Fry (5-14–19) and Mike Johnson (11-6–17). Freshman Adam Edinger has shown he belongs, with three goals and four assists thus far. In net, both Savard and Petrie are 3-0.
Michigan State, on the other hand, needs this game to revive itself after a humiliating loss to Northeastern last weekend. junior Mike Watt leads the team with six goals, and junior goalie Chad Alban has a 2.14 GAA and a 3-1 record. He will have to play well this weekend.
Pick: BG 4, MSU 3
Michigan (5-0-0, 2-0-0 CCHA) at Notre Dame (2-1-1, 1-1-1 CCHA) Friday, 7:00 p.m., JACC, South Bend, IN
Michigan takes a strong offense into Notre Dame to face Matt Eisler and the Golden Domers. Senior John Madden is leading the team with six goals so far, followed by Junior Bill Muckalt with five. Marty Turco is a perfect 5-0, with a 2.44 GAA after five games.
Sorry, but Notre Dame does not have enough firepower to hold off Michigan yet. The penalty-kill could save them, with its 91 percent efficiency, but unless Eisler is up to it, that will not be enough.
Pick: Michigan 5, ND 2
Notre Dame (2-1-1, 1-1-1 CCHA) at Bowling Green (6-0-0, 2-0-0 CCHA) Saturday, 7:00 p.m., Bowling Green Ice Arena, Bowling Green, OH
Notre Dame will not fare much better on the road than they did last weekend. Expect Bowling Green to physically dominate Notre Dame as Miami did. Notre Dame freshman Ben Simon faces off against his former teammate-turned-Falcon Mike Jones for the first time.
Bowling Green is not going to lose many home games this season.
Pick: BG 5, ND 3
Michigan (5-0-0, 2-0-0 CCHA) at Michigan State (3-2-0, 2-0-0 CCHA) Saturday, 7:00 p.m., Munn Ice Arena, East Lansing, MI
Michigan and Marty Turco versus Michigan State and Chad Alban. This is what college hockey is all about. The problem for Michigan State is that Michigan has the depth that MSU lacks, especially on defense.
If Alban has a big weekend, he will spoil either BG or Michigan’s night, but the Spartans will have to keep their special teams working, as this will be a tough game. The home crowd will help.
Pick: MSU 4, UM 3
Miami University (6-1-0, 5-0-0 CCHA) at Vermont (2-0-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) Friday, 7:00 p.m., Gutterson Field House, Burlington, VT
Miami had a disastrous trip out East last year, but looks to change that with its goaltending this season. Adam Lord and Trevor Prior have been unbeatable in their regular starts so far, and this will be the first big test for one of them. They play behind a team scoring 4.43 goals a game so far, and only giving up two.
The penalty-kill is a solid 81 percent, and they will need it against Vermont. Vermont has more speed and skill, but toughness and depth I wonder about. Goaltending will be the key, as All-Everything Tim Thomas brings a .930 save percentage to the table. Eric Perrin and Martin St. Louis might find Miami’s defense more formidable than last year.
Pick: A draw — Miami 3, Vermont 3
Miami (6-1-0, 5-0-0 CCHA) at St. Lawrence (0-2-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) Saturday, 7:00 p.m., Appleton Arena, Canton, NY
Miami will have plenty of firepower and physical toughness to handle St. Lawrence. Look for sophomore Randy Robitaille to continue his scoring streak, with 15 points in his first 7 games. St. Lawrence has a solid goaltending duo in Owen and Bracco, as well as strong forwards such as Paul DiFrancesco, who paced the team with 16 goals last season. Depth will be the difference between these two teams; Miami’s junior class is stacked.
Pick: Miami 4, SLU 2
Lake Superior (1-4-1, 0-2-0 CCHA) at St. Lawrence (0-2-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) Friday, 7:00 p.m., Appleton Arena, Canton, NY
Lake Superior is in desperate need of a lift, and this should provide it. A tuneup against St. Lawrence will help the Lakers find their scoring touch before their next big game. Senior Matt Alvey and junior Ted Laviolette need to produce for this to occur. Also, the power play is dreadful, converting only one gaol on 11 attempts.
St. Lawrence will need all it can muster in the net to stop the frustrated Lakers. Forwards Paul DiFrancesco and Scott Stevens must continue their strong play from last year.
Pick: LSSU 4, SLU 2
Lake Superior (1-4-1, 0-2-0 CCHA) at Vermont (2-0-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) Saturday, 7:00 p.m., Gutterson Field House, Burlington, VT
Lake Superior is clearly not the team they were at the end of last season, and that team could not beat Vermont. This one will not either. The special-teams play of LSSU is suspect, and their depth cannot match Vermont’s quickness after the Lakers’ top two lines.
Look for another frustrating loss to build on, as Martin St. Louis and Eric Perrin continue to add to their scoring totals.
Pick: VT 5, LSSU 3
Ferris State (3-4-0, 0-3-0 CCHA) at Mankato State (1-3-0) Friday, 7:00 p.m., Mankato Civic Center, Mankato, MN
Ferris State needs a game like this to get back on track after a long road trip last weekend. The special teams need to work out the kinks, as neither the power play (one-for-11) nor the penalty kill (70 percent) has helped. The scoring has been spread around, though, which is a good sign. Six forwards have all scored three goals or more. Junior Jeff Blashilll (.800 SV%) will have to be stronger in net for his team.
Mankato is looking to find some scoring punch also, as it strives to become a future WCHA contender.
Pick: FSU 4, Mankato 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.