Relativity, Or Why Size Doesn’t Matter
Popular sentiment about size is fairly split. Bigger is better. Good things come in small packages.
When the Buffalo Bills benched Doug Flutie in favor of Rob Johnson for their playoff game against the Tennessee Titans (titan: one that is gigantic in size or power), the pro-Flutie contingency claimed he was being unfairly discriminated against because of his height. Never mind that Johnson has a rocket for an arm.
When Ohio State University moved the men’s ice hockey program from the beloved, teeny-tiny, cold, asbestos-laden Rink (capacity: cozy) to the world’s largest collegiate ice hockey facility, the Schottenstein Center (capacity: cavernous), the state-of-the-art facility was supposed to–and in large part does–draw better recruits and generally improve the program as a whole.
Two years after Ohio State (enrollment: 48,000 and change) made a trip to the Frozen Four, the Buckeyes are struggling to make the playoffs.
And Ferris State (enrollment: 9,500), home of Ewigleben Arena and the guy in the sad-looking Bulldog suit, is tenth in the nation, having just cracked the USCHO poll.
Congratulations, Bulldogs–you Defenders of the Realm–for a great season so far, and for getting the recognition you deserve.
And thanks for proving that sometimes size doesn’t matter.
It’s a short week. It’s going to be a short column.
The Old QB Controversy
When the Bowling Green Falcons traveled East for the Rensselaer/HSBC Holiday Tournament, starting goaltender Tyler Masters (3.09 GAA, .894 SV%) was still nursing an injury sustained during Bowling Green’s 4-2 win over Michigan on Dec. 3.
So Shawn Timm, a native of Western New York, got the nod to start.
"He was working hard in practice," said BG head coach Buddy Powers. "In the Christmas tournament, we decided to play Shawn and go from there."
Timm made 30 saves in Bowling Green’s 3-2 loss to Rensselaer, and 46 in the Falcons’ 5-4 OT win over Union.
"He played pretty well, especially that first game," said Powers. "We played a good against RPI, but again we couldn’t score.
"In the second game [against Union], there was just not enough in the tank."
Timm began his collegiate career midway through his rookie season, really, when Powers said he was physically ready to play. The junior came into camp out of shape that year, and the Falcon head coach wanted to be certain he was properly conditioned before he paced the pipes.
For the second half of his rookie year, Timm was impressive, posting a final overall goals-against average of 3.77, and a final overall save percentage of .884.
Since then, however, he’s been used sparingly, and some have wondered if he’d play another game.
"I didn’t feel ill at ease with playing Shawn [in the tournament]," said Powers. "He’s calm, and not making the same mistakes in net we saw his sophomore season."
But don’t think that there’s a QB controversy brewing at Bowling Green.
"By the same token, Tyler’s our number-one guy, and if he’s healthy, we’re going to play him."
The Odds-Makers Hate This, They Really Hate This
Lake Superior has five nonconference losses. Two of them are to Michigan Tech.
Michigan Tech (1-13-0, 3-19-0).
Let’s put this in perspective. Two of Michigan Tech’s three nonconference wins were courtesy of Lake Superior State, a team that has a realistic chance of hosting a home playoff series at the end of this season.
"The losses to UNH and Michigan are easily explained," concedes Laker head coach Scott Borek. The other three [nonconference games] have all been against Tech. We just didn’t play well in those games."
On Dec. 10, the Huskies beat the Lakers 4-2 in Houghton, a game during which Lake State spent twice as much time in the box as did Tech. The following night, the Lakers were lucky to squeak by the Huskies with a 2-1 win, with Jeff Cheeseman’s game-winner coming mid-way through the third.
Two weeks later, after playing Michigan very tough in their opening game of the Great Lakes Invitational–a game in which Ryan Vince had a late third-period goal to send the game to OT, a game which ended when Michigan’s Mark Kosick scored at 14:13 in overtime–the Lakers had to once again face those pesky Huskies in the consolation game.
"With Michigan, it was clearly feast or famine," said Borek. "We were putting everything we had out there in the overtime game. The next day, we just didn’t have any steam."
The next day, the Huskies notched their second win over Lake Superior in as many weeks, 5-4.
When regular-season play resumed, the Lakers found themselves hoofing it to South Bend to face a team with just four conference wins. The result? Notre Dame 2-1, and a 1-1 tie.
"It was disappointing," said Borek. "They played very well that weekend. Going there, I was concerned because they hadn’t done what their roster would indicate. They’re clearly on the road back."
Now the Lakers face Alaska-Fairbanks for two games, a team in the cellar of the CCHA, a team that just split a two-game series with Western Michigan.
"They’re playing their best hockey of the year. We haven’t had a lot of success lately. We’ve played quite well lately with the exception of the Tech games, but we don’t have a whole lot to show for it.
"We played very well in the tie against Notre Dame. Our message to our team this week is to continue to play as we did last Saturday. We just have to finish. We need to get something positive for our efforts."
On the subject of Trent Walford, Borek has been candid.
"His personal agenda and our team agenda just didn’t come into line, and it was obvious we had to part ways."
Borek is quick to point out that Walford already had his diploma in hand when he walked, having earned his first degree last summer. Walford was working on his second.
Even though Borek has indicated that Walford’s departure is a positive for the team, he said, "Unfortunately, it’s distracting to your team."
He adds, "It floors me when players leave their team."
How To Come Back With Style
If you’re going to return to play after a lengthy injury, you may as well make it count.
That’s exactly what Michigan’s Josh Blackburn did last week, when he shut out archrival Michigan State 2-0 in the first conference meeting between the two teams this season.
The shutout was Blackburn’s first of the season and fourth of his career, and it earned him CCHA Defensive Player of the Week honors.
Blackburn made 23 saves in the win, facing off against Michigan State freshman Ryan Miller, who’s been known to shut out a team or two in his brief time.
The win gives the Spartans and Wolverines identical conference records (11-4-0).
Games of the Week
Ohio State (7-13-2, 3-10-1 CCHA) at Bowling Green (6-12-0, 5-9-0 CCHA) Friday, 7:35 p.m., BGSU Ice Arena, Bowling Green, OH Saturday, 7:05 p.m., Schottenstein Center, Columbus, OH
To the casual observer, this series pits two teams vying for that all-important tenth place in the conference — what will eventually be the final playoff spot and the privilege of losing in the first round to either Michigan State or Michigan.
The more learned, however, understand what this is all about: The Ohio Cup.
The Cup is sponsored by the Buckeye Sports Bulletin, and has been awarded for the last 17 years to the college hockey team in Ohio with the best record against other in-state teams.
Currently, Miami leads the Cup standings with a 3-1-0 record against other Ohio teams. Ohio State is 1-1-0, while Bowling Green is 0-2-0.
Clearly, a sweep by either team would put them in Cup contention.
That playoff spot just sweetens the deal.
Friday’s game marks the 140th meeting between these in-state foes, and don’t think there isn’t some real animosity here.
"The point of the whole exercise," said BG head coach Buddy Powers, "is that it’s OSU-Bowling Green, and there’s a big rivalry."
The Falcons lead the series 86-48-5, and have won the last two meetings, but the Buckeyes hold a 6-2-1 edge in the last nine games. Four of the last seven games have either ended in a tie or have been decided by a goal.
Ohio State head coach John Markell–a former Falcon star–is one away from his 80th career win. Markell ranks sixth all-time at BGSU with 235 career points, and is one of only five players in league history to earn first-team all-CCHA honors three times.
Enough with the history lesson.
Bowling Green is 2-3-0 in its last five, having most recently lost to Miami 4-2. The Falcons ended the first half of the season with a 3-8-0 mark for November and December.
The Buckeyes split with a pair of ECAC teams last weekend, knocking off then-ranked Colgate 3-1 before losing 5-2 to Cornell. After what can only be called a dismal start to the season, Ohio State is 5-2-2 in its last nine games.
Both teams are concerned with scoring. In 14 conference games, the Falcons have been outscored by opponents 51-40, and their big guns–Adam Edinger(right) (3-8–11) and Greg Day (7-6–13) aren’t necessarily firing, though Edinger does have a point in five of his last seven games.
In goal, Tyler Masters has a respectable .894 GAA, but he faces on average of 23.46 shots per game.
Down the road a piece in Columbus, some guns may be warming up. J.F. Dufour (6-10–16) has been having a good season, while Eric Meloche (6-5–11) seems to have found his ability to score again.
In net for the Buckeyes, Ray Aho (3.62 GAA, .892 SV%) sees more shots than does Masters–over 27 per game. But the senior goaltender has been hot lately, earning CCHA Defensive Player of the Week honors two weeks ago, and making more saves last weekend (66-of-71) than any other goalie in the CCHA.
Aho has held opponents to two goals or less in seven of his last nine starts and boasts a .929 save percentage over that stretch (263-of-283).
The Buckeye penalty kill held opponents 0-for-11 last weekend, marking the first time this season Ohio State has been perfect on that end of special teams in a two-game set.
The Falcons, however, are 4-for-20 on the power play in their last three games, converting at 20%.
Special teams could indeed be a factor in this series. Not only do these two teams dislike each other intensely, but both, apparently, are inclined to go, as Ohio State and Bowling Green are two of the most-penalized teams in the CCHA this season. In league games, the Falcons rank third in penalty minutes per game (24.14), while the Buckeyes are second (27.79).
Fans of both teams will be delighted to note that the most-penalized team in the CCHA is Michigan.
Bowling green’s two longest active point streaks are by defensemen, three games each for Michael Jones (0-4–4) and Grady Moore (3-2–5).
Dufour has an active five-game point streak going into Friday’s contest, and he’s scored a point in eight of OSU’s last nine games, with 15 points (5-10–15) in his last nine contests.
It all comes down to this: Each team will probably win at home, deciding nothing.
Picks: Bowling Green 4-3 Friday; Ohio State 4-2 Saturday.
Grudge of the Week
Notre Dame (8-12-4, 5-6-3 CCHA) at Northern Michigan (15-6-1, 10-3-1 CCHA) Thursday and Friday, 7:05 p.m., Berry Events Center, Marquette, MI
Talk about your grudges.
Last year, the Irish fought hard to earn home ice in the first round of the CCHA playoffs.
Northern Michigan came to South Bend and spoiled that party, big-time.
After winning the first playoff game, the Irish dropped the next two to the Wildcats, who went on to compete in NCAA postseason action.
Northern leads the all-time series 8-5-2, but the teams were 2-2-2 last season (counting the playoffs).
Notre Dame, of course, skates into Marquette on the strength of a three-point weekend, having beaten and tied the Lakers in South Bend last week. Northern split a pair at home with the Defenders of the Realm, Ferris State.
Nine of Notre Dame’s last 14 games have been decided by a goal or have ended in a tie, and the Irish are 5-2-3 in their last 10 CCHA games.
With 14 league games remaining, the Wildcats are four games away from tying the number of conference wins they posted last season.
Northern is outscoring league opponents 47-33, while Notre Dame is being outscored 38-28.
Picks: Rubbing salt in the old wounds, Northern 4-2 and 5-2.
Stars In Any League
Eight former CCHA players will participate in the United Airlines 2000 International Hockey League All-Star game on Jan. 17 in Houston, when the league champion Houston Aeros will take on a team of IHL all-stars. Former Lakers Brian Felsner, Terry Marchant and Sandy Moger and former Wolverines Brian Wiseman and David Oliver play for the Aeros.
The IHL all-stars include former Bulldog John Gruden and former Spartan Kevin Miller (both of the Grand Rapids Griffins), and former Wolverine Marty Turco (Michigan K-Wings).
Over in the 2000 Kodak American Hockey League All-Star Classic, also Jan. 17, former RedHawk and one of my all-time faves Dan Boyle (Louisville Panthers) will play for the Canadian team, while former Irish defender Mark Eaton (Philadelphia Phantoms) will suit up for the Americans.
Another former RedHawk–or Redskin–Kevyn Adams (St. John’s Maple Leafs) was also named to the Canadian team, but he got a better gig, having been recalled by Toronto.
The Shortest Distance…
…between two points is a straight line.
The shortest distance between euphoria and a broken heart is a controversial pass and 75 yards.
Brother, can you spare a clue?
Good-bye, Bruce DeHaven.
USCHO covers the CCHA all week long on the CCHA Blog, with weekend recaps on Monday, picks on Friday, and updates during the week.