Signs of Peace in Our Time
So December is upon us, a time when three of the world’s major religions celebrate holy days, a time when so many of us throughout the U.S. and Canada travel to see loved ones and attempt to be civil to each other for Mom’s sake.
In the spirit of the season, there will be no Grudge of the Week from now until the new year.
And lest you think that good will is a vanishing commodity in these troubled times, consider Rob Collins, the senior from Ferris State who leads the league in scoring. Through 15 games, Collins has incurred just three penalties, for six minutes.
UNO’s Andrew Wong, second in CCHA overall scoring, has four penalties for eight minutes through 16 games. NMU’s Chad Theuer (sixth overall) is has three penalties for six minutes through a dozen games.
That’s three of the league’s top 10 scorers, each with penalties and minutes in the single digits nearing the half-way point of the season.
Consider also that both Ferris State and Northern Michigan are two of the most penalized teams in the league, each averaging more than 20 minutes per game.
Top Bulldog and Wildcat scorers with close to no time in the box. Shawn Horcoff and Mike Comrie now the best of friends.
Can world peace be far behind?
Santa, We’ve Been Very Good, and We Work Hard
If you’re going to break a bad streak, there’s nothing like doing so against a top-10 team.
“You know, we haven’t been playing poorly,” says Alaska-Fairbanks head coach Guy Gadowsky. “We just haven’t been winning.”
The 7-7-0 Nanooks snapped a five-game losing streak with a 2-1 win over then-No. 3 Michigan State last weekend, and followed it up with a 5-1 loss the following night. Cory Rask’s power- play goal in the win was the Nanooks’ first in 29 attempts.
The streak of bad luck, says Gadowsky, began when senior defenseman Aaron Grosul twisted an ankle in UAF’s 3-2 win in Sault Ste. Marie Oct. 26. “When we beat Michigan State, that was the first time we’d won since he injured himself,” says Gadowsky. “We might get lucky and get him back this weekend.”
Another reason for wanting Grosul back is he plays Nebraska-Omaha, UAF’s opponent this week. Grosul (1-5–6) and fellow seniors Daniel Carriere (2-6–8) and Bobby Andrews (4-4–8) are lead the Nanooks in scoring against the Mavericks. Andrews is also, according to Gadowsky, one of the league’s best two-way forwards.
The Nanooks are fairly strong in net this season, with Preston McKay (.907 SV%, 2.72 GAA) and Lance Mayes (.896 SV%, 3.04 GAA) splitting time. The situation is not, however, ideal. “We’ve got two very good goaltenders, and I think we’re just waiting for one to step up and play awesome,” says Gadowsky. “We’ve been splitting, not by design but because we’re just waiting for one of them to take his play to the next level.”
The Nanooks and Mavericks are two teams that match up well. Paired as clustermates because of their remote locations (Alaska, Nebraska – hey, at least they rhyme!), UAF and UNO met four times last season, and the whole thing was a wash. Each won a game, each lost a game, and they tied twice. The Nanook loss came in Omaha; they won at home.
As Gadowsky himself will tell you, wins are hard to come by on the road in this league. This year, UAF is 2-4-0 when not in the friendly confines of the Carlson Center.
Games of the Week
Trailing the Spartans by four points and with two games in hand, now would be a good time for the Wildcats to make a move.
No. 5 Michigan State (10-3-2, 8-3-1 CCHA) at No. 8 Northern Michigan (8-3-1, 6-3-1 CCHA)
Friday and Saturday, 7:05 p.m., Berry Events Center, Marquette, Mich.
There’s an easy explanation for Michigan State’s split with Alaska-Fairbanks last weekend. “I thought Friday night they played great,” says MSU head coach Ron Mason, “and we played really well on Saturday.”
The Wildcats are catching the Spartans at just the right time and in the right place. Back less than a week from the long trip to Fairbanks, Michigan State has to turn right around and fly to Marquette. This is unusual in terms of CCHA scheduling; when a team returns from Fairbanks, it normally gets the following week off.
Complicating matters for Michigan State, Northern Michigan didn’t play last weekend. Mason says this all has an air of deja vu.
“Northern’s catching us just like Alaska did. They [the Nanooks] didn’t play the week before we went there, either,” says Mason.
The coach adds that the back-to-back long travel weekends are “not what the league requires,” and says that “there were some changes that could have been made [regarding MSU's schedule], but it would have made a great big mess.”
Mason, by no means over-confident going into Marquette, knows that the Wildcats will be up and ready for Friday’s contest, just as the Nanooks were when the Spartans arrived in Fairbanks. Mason is also well aware that Northern’s stats nearly mirror Michigan State’s.
The Spartans are first in the CCHA overall in goals per game (3.53) while the Wildcats are second (3.50). MSU leads in overall goals allowed per game (1.67), while NMU is second (2.08). Northern’s power play is first (.255) while Michigan State’s is second (.247). The Spartan PK is first (.893) to NMU’s fifth (.855); the Spartans are the least-penalized team (11.93 minutes per game) while the Wildcats are the third-most penalized team (22.83).
Michigan State leads this all-time series 17-11-2 and are 10-3-2 against Northern since the Wildcats returned to the CCHA in 1997-98, but are 4-5-1 all-time against the Wildcats in Marquette.
The Wildcats are 5-1-1 at home this season, and have compiled their 8-3-1 record against opponents with a combined 32-45-12 (.427) record. The only teams with winning records whom Northern Michigan has faced prior to this weekend’s series against Michigan State are Michigan and Ohio State. Northern swept Michigan in Yost, and was swept by OSU in Columbus.
On paper, certainly Michigan State has an edge. Offensively, it’s a toss-up but if Ryan Miller is on his game, he’s nearly unbeatable. Even though Miller lost last Friday night to the UAF Nanooks, he gave up just two goals in the game.
Picks: It’s hard to argue with the odds. MSU 3-1, 3-2
Worth a Mention
Separated at Birth?
By a few years and a couple of days, anyway. Happy belated birthday to my colleague and dear friend Todd Milewski and happy birthday to my colleague and dear friend Jayson Moy.
USCHO covers the CCHA all week long on the CCHA Blog, with weekend recaps on Monday, picks on Friday, and updates during the week.