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This Week in the CCHA

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This Week in the CCHA: Feb. 13, 2003

Love Is in the Air

Friday is Valentine’s Day. While Americans aren’t the most publicly demonstrative people on the planet, Feb. 14 is the one day of the year for which we have an excuse to be all warm and fuzzy in public.

Grown men spend large chunks of their weekly earnings purchasing gifts that will, quite literally, die within days — and the recipients of these gifts are pleased.

Men and women alike coo over all manner of offerings — stuffed animals, candy, hearts, bad poetry, cash, and other significant tokens of genuine affection.

This Hallmark holiday traces its roots back to St. Valentine, the man executed by the Roman emperor Claudius II, or Claudius the Cruel, for joining young lovers in holy matrimony.

During the third century, the number of Roman soldiers was diminishing at an alarming rate because the men of Rome were — egads! — marrying, so Claudius banned engagements and marriages in the vain hope that men would join the army in lieu of romantic entanglements. (Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?)

Instead, couples in love found a way to get hitched on the sly by priests like Valentine who were willing to read them their rites in private. When found out, Valentine — appropriately — paid with his life.

And Milton Hershey made millions.

Feel the Love, Part 1

Which brings us to this.

Apparently, hell hath no fury like a scorer scorned. Last weekend, the Michigan Wolverines exacted a little revenge from the Northern Michigan Wildcats, sweeping the ‘Cats in two games in Ann Arbor by a collective score of 8-1.

Prior to these wins, the Wolverines had lost five straight to the Wildcats — including two games in December in Marquette — and two of the other three losses were shutouts in Yost Arena.

In net for those five NMU wins was Craig Kowalski, the same Craig Kowalski who was replaced by Tuomas Tarkki in he second game.

“He definitely heard it when he got pulled, that’s for sure,” Michigan sophomore Milan Gajic told the Michigan Daily. “I know I was one of the guys that was [jawing at him].”

The story in the Daily alleges that after NMU swept the Michigan in Marquette in December, Kowalski told the media that Michigan was “overrated.”

“We had it on our little board out there,” David Moss told the Daily. “We had it highlighted, so we definitely remembered what he said.”

I searched the archives for both the Daily and the Marquette Mining Journal, and I could find nothing that Kowalski may have said along these lines. I tried searching the archives of the Ann Arbor News, but that online archive goes back just 14 days.

Whatever the Wolverines used for motivation — and I do not want to speculate about what any team puts on its little board — breaking a five-game losing streak against a league opponent is better than a dozen roses and a box of chocolates.

Games of the Week

It’s Valentine’s Day. Michigan and Michigan State play a home-and-home series.

Perfect.

Michigan (20-7-1, 14-5-1 CCHA) vs. Michigan State (16-10-2, 12-7-1 CCHA)
Friday, 7:35 p.m., Yost Ice Arena, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Saturday, 7:05 p.m., Munn Ice Arena, East Lansing, Mich.

Ron Mason won’t be behind the bench for Michigan State, and Red Berenson may not be in attendance either. But, as Wolverine captain Jed Ortmeyer told the Michigan Daily this week, “It doesn’t matter who’s coaching them, it’s still Michigan — Michigan State.”

Berenson left Ann Arbor last Sunday to take care of his 90-year-old father, who suffered a stroke last week in Regina, Saskatchewan. Associate head coach Mel Pearson, who has been in charge of the team in Berenson’s absence, told the Daily that Berenson “really wanted to try to get back for the game on Friday,” and added, “Everybody knows he wants to be here, but he’s attending to some pretty important matters.”

All joking about this series aside, this serves as yet another reminder this season of what is truly important to all of us. Best wishes to Coach Berenson, his father, and his family.

That having been said, there is a Michigan State-Michigan series beginning on Valentine’s Day and ending, well, just a couple of weeks later.

In a scheduling quirk, the Wolverines and Spartans are clustermates who will play each other four times in six games. Sandwiched in between those two weekends is an MSU-NMU series, giving Spartan head coach Rick Comley much to think about.

“Now we play our archrival and then my archrival and then our archrival again,” former NMU coach Comley told the Lansing State Journal. “They’re both very good teams, but I think we can play with both of them.”

With an impressive midseason offensive epiphany, the Spartans have dragged themselves up from the bottom third in league standings to their current fourth place. Key to MSU’s turnaround is the Spartan power play, currently best in the conference and fourth in the nation.

It should be no surprise to anyone who follows MSU hockey that the Spartan blue line has been strong — offensively — with the man advantage. John-Michael Liles, this week’s CCHA Defensive Player of the Week, quarterbacks that power play and is tied for the team in lead in overall points (32). Liles rides a career-best nine-game point streak into this weekend’s series with the Wolverines. The senior posted his sixth multiple-point game of the season against Bowling Green last weekend.

On the other side of the puck, the Wolverines continue to play working-class hockey, managing to find what they need usually when they need it. Michigan has the league’s — and the nation’s — best penalty kill, something of a surprise given how thin Michigan’s defense was projected to be this season. The Wolverines PK has kept opponents scoreless on the power play in the last seven games.

A couple of Wolverine seniors are providing the leadership that keeps the Michigan club stable. Senior forward Jed Ortmeyer has a goal in three of his last five games and is tied for second among Michigan goalscorers this season with 11, just five short of his career high of 16, set last year.

And senior forward John Shouneyia leads the Wolverines in assists with 18, adding a helper in each of his last two games. Shouneyia is one of 17 players in Wolverine hockey history to earn 100 career assists.

Here’s a look at this week’s series by the league numbers:

  • Goals per game: MSU 3.90 (third), Michigan 4.10 (second)
  • Goals allowed per game: MSU 2.95 (tie fifth), Michigan 2.35 (second)
  • Power play: MSU 29.0% (first), Michigan 22.0% (fourth)
  • Penalty kill: MSU 79.8% (ninth), Michigan 91.5% (first)
  • Michigan’s top scorer: Jeff Tambellini (11-9–20)
  • MSU’s top scorer: Brad Fast (9-15–24)
  • Michigan’s top ‘tender: Al Montoya (.909 SV%, 2.24 GAA)
  • MSU’s top ‘tender: Matt Migliaccio (.922 SV%, 2.29 GAA)

    The rivalry between these two teams extends to official records and “Senior Night.”

    According to Michigan records, the Spartans and Wolverines will be meeting for the 237th and 238th times this weekend, with Michigan leading this series all-time 119-107-10. According to Michigan State, the Michigan leads this all-time series 123-108-10, making these the 242nd and 243rd meetings between the clubs.

    And Friday would be senior night in Ann Arbor but there was a coin flip that said otherwise. Who could make this up? This is an event held during the summer in Stockbridge, Mich., a town located halfway between Ann Arbor and East Lansing. Michigan won an extra home game against the Spartans, scheduled for Friday, Feb. 28 — and that will be Michigan’s last regular-season home contest.

    And one more thing: if you’re a Spartan fan going to the game in Munn on Saturday, it’s a “White Out,” and you’re supposed to wear white. You’re supposed to make some noise, too.

    Picks: This series is so important that Sports Illustrated is sending a writer to cover it. Ooooooo. The Wolverines are 13-1-0 this season; the Spartans are winning big when they win. Michigan 3-1, MSU 4-2

    Family Affairs

    Michigan sophomore forward Milan Gajic will play against his brother in this series, Spartan freshman forward Nenad Gajic.

    And Wolverine senior J.J. Swistak’s cousin, Steve Swistak, is a Spartan sophomore.

    And Wolverine sophomore forward Charlie Henderson calls Tom Campbell, the Munn Ice Arena manager, “uncle,” because he is.

    Happy Birthday, Al Montoya

    The league’s youngest player turned 18 on Thursday, Feb. 13. Sheesh.

    Tickets for the Midwest Regional

    Tickets are now on sale for the 2003 NCAA Midwest Regional, Saturday and Sunday, Mar. 29-30, at Yost Arena. Call the Michigan Athletic Ticket Office at 734-764-0247.

    Super Six Tickets

    Tickets are now available for the CCHA’s Super Six, which will be held Mar. 20-22 in Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena.

    These are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday games to accommodate the NCAA’s post-season selection scheduled for Sunday, Mar. 23.

    And remember, there are six games this year, including a consolation game Saturday afternoon.

    For tickets, call 248-645-6666. Group discounts are available by calling (313) 396-7911.

    Feel the Love, Part 2

    “I yearn to drink thy cup of love divine,” says Guinevere to Lancelot in a sonnet by Munda.

    How fitting that two cups are in the news this week. And neither has anything to do with love divine.

    An evil supreme, maybe. Depends on your hometown.

    On the line in the Northern Michigan-Lake Superior series is the Father Cappo Cup, that which symbolizes CCHA supremacy in the Yoop. The Wildcats have beaten the Lakers in their last eight meetings, including two contests in November, 2002, but that doesn’t mean that the Wildcats are taking this series for granted.

    NMU head coach took a page from the official CCHA Coaches Guide to Quotes when talked with the Marquette Mining Journal about this series. “I have a belief that anyone in this league can step up and beat you on any given night, whether it’s Lake Superior State or Michigan,” said Kyle.

    “We continually talk about [not overlooking LSSU]. These points go toward the league standings, and we’re in the hunt for home ice in the playoffs. We remind the guys of the difficult game down there [Sault Ste. Marie] early in the season.”

    In Ohio — the state where I was apparently born, even though my birth certificate reads, “Syracuse, New York,” and I swear I have some vague memory of graduating from a SUNY school sometime in the 1980s — the aptly named Ohio Cup will be decided with this weekend’s Thursday-Saturday series between Ohio State and Miami.

    This odd piece of hardware is sponsored by the Buckeye Sports Bulletin and is awarded to the CCHA team in Ohio with the best record against its in-state CCHA opponents.

    And because of the uneven number of games now between Bowling Green, Miami, and Ohio State — OSU and Miami always play each other four times per season because they’re clustermates, but BGSU may play each team only twice — not every game between Miami and OSU is counted in cup contention.

    OSU has already clinched a tie in the overall cup standings with two wins over BGSU and one previous win over Miami in Columbus. The Thursday night game between the RedHawks and Buckeyes will decide who gets this little cup of love.

    Of course, the most interesting thing about either cup race is that no one — including the fans, including the teams — seems to care.

    And, for the record, OSU has secured the cup just three times in its 21-year history.

    In Need of Some Love

    After a bye week last weekend, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish return to play against Bowling Green this weekend, and the Irish are looking to snap a nine-game winless streak (0-6-3).

    January has not been a good month for the Irish in recent seasons. Since the 2000-01 season, Notre Dame is 4-15-6 in January.

    Another note of interest for the Irish: since the start of the 1999-2000 season, Notre Dame has played in 33 overtime games, and is 5-2-26 in those contests.

    So, what’s the problem in South Bend? I don’t know; contrary to the ads you may have seen on late-night cablevision, I am not psychic.

    Well, They Wear Red at Least

    No one outside of Columbus wants to hear this, but if Ohio State wins out the season, the Buckeyes will take the CCHA regular-season title outright, their first since 1972.

    I happen to think that OSU’s two losses to FSU earlier this season will prove to be prophetic for season-end standings.

    Feel the Love … Ah, You Get the Picture

    Every once in a while I like to answer reader email. I used to get really interesting reader feedback, most of it questioning my morality or the ability of anyone with ovaries to write about men’s college hockey.

    Funny how that tapered off after USCHO added pictures to weekly columns.

    (Check out the weekly column for the ECAC, co-authored by my esteemed colleagues Becky Blaeser and Jayson Moy — or is it? No photo, and I’ve never seen them in the same room together … but I digress.)

    Here is a sampling of recent reader feedback, all pretty typical of what I’ve seen this season. The noticeable absence of profanity in any of the messages is a general step up for the entire league this season, I think.

    Matt, a faithful reader from whom I’ve never heard until this week, wrote, “Do you ever get out of Ohio? There are other teams to write about. How about the Bulldogs? Do you get paid for this job?”

    Matt, I’ll answer your questions in order.

    No, but when my parole is up I plan on seeing the world.

    Bulldogs … bulldogs … doesn’t ring a bell. I do, however, have a cat named Moxy.

    And actually, it’s a government job. Your tax monies pay my salary. Thanks for the new set of snow tires!

    Another dedicated reader from whom I’d never previously heard took offense at my assertion that Lawson Arena isn’t as lethal to visitors as it was last season. This was just before Michigan visited Kalamazoo. Naturally, the Broncos proved me wrong.

    Scott J. wrote, “It’s funny how you claim that Lawson isn’t as intimidating as it used to be, when I haven’t seen you at a game there recently. Come to think of it, I don’t remember EVER seeing you there. You must have some secret spy camera hidden in Lawson’s rafters — with sound sensors — to provide that kind of information.”

    Busted!

    See, I was claiming that Lawson isn’t as intimidating this season compared to last because of Western Michigan’s record at home up until the Broncos’ home-and-home series with the Wolverines. Last year, the Broncos beat six nationally-ranked opponents at home. Until the Michigan series, WMU was 7-4-0 at home, with losses to Cornell, Nebraska-Omaha, and Notre Dame at home.

    Four of those home wins were victories over Niagara, Findlay, and LSSU (twice). Yes, the Broncos beat Ferris State at home.

    So, I was trying to make a point about how fervently the Broncs protected Lawson last season as compared to this year — up until that home-and-home series with Michigan.

    (Beating a dead horse — no pun intended — is sometimes necessary when responding to reader email.)

    But Scott J. actually discovered something more significant: my secret spy camera and sound sensors hidden in Lawson’s rafters. I don’t know how he found them, as I installed them according to the official “Reporters Guide to Subterfuge” (2001), pp 121-23.

    Damn.

    And you know, Scott J., I don’t remember seeing you the last time I visited Lawson (the 2000-01 season). Maybe you were sitting near the folks chanting obscenities in unison.

    Those are my memories of my last visit to Lawson. And the press box food was good.

    And finally, Rob B. sent an email whose subject line was, “Will there ever be a time for NMU recognition????????????” His email message said, “The title of the email is enough for you to put your ego down and give props that NMU deserves.”

    Well, Rob, when you’re right, you’re right; the title of the email is enough. Period.

    Seriously, folks, I do appreciate the feedback and your continued support of USCHO. Happy Valentine’s Day.

    Correction

    I wrote in last week’s second WMU-OSU game recap that the contest was allowed to continue on for approximately six seconds at the end of the game because someone in Value City Arena didn’t restart the game clock when play began at the end of the third period.

    That’s when the Buckeyes were up 3-2, and the Broncos had pulled Mike Mantua in favor of an extra skater.

    Brian Johnson, game producer for the Ohio News Network, wrote to correct me. I got my information in the press box, but Johnson said that the clock error should have been listed as 4 5/6 seconds, not six seconds. “But either way,” wrote Johnson, “if WMU has scored a last-second goal … .”

    Yes, we all heard from OSU coach John Markell in the post-game press conference. Not a happy man.

    Thanks for the heads-up, Brian.

    Notes From The League

    UAF: Junior forward Cam Keith’s overtime goal against Nebraska-Omaha last Saturday extended UAF’s unbeaten streak against the Mavericks to 11 games (7-0-4), dating back to Dec. 1, 2000.

    BGSU: The crowd of 4,152 at the BGSU Ice Arena present for the Falcons’ 6-3 loss to Michigan State last week was BG’s biggest since Dec. 3, 1999, when over 4,200 fans watched BG beat Michigan 4-2.

    FSU: The Bulldogs have already surpassed their previous season-best CCHA win total with six regular-season games remaining. Saturday’s 5-1 win over Lake Superior State was Ferris State’s 16th conference victory, besting the team record of 15 set in 1990-91.

    LSSU: The Lakers’ loss to FSU last Saturday marked the first time this season that LSSU outshot an opponent and lost. Mike Brown made 30 saves to drop LSSU to 3-1-1 when outshooting opponents.

    Miami: The RedHawks are 14-1-1 this season when they have the lead heading into the final period of a game — but are 0-8-1 when trailing after two.

    Michigan: More than you wanted to know about Milan and Nenad Gajic. The British Columbia natives were teammates on the Burnaby Lakers lacrosse team that one the Canadian Minto Cup Junior A championship in August.

    MSU: The Spartans were in 10th place on Jan. 3 with a 4-6-0 record in league play, but since then have gone 8-1-1 to improve to fourth. In those 10 games, MSU is outscoring opponents 46-20.

    UNO: Senior forward David Brisson had two goals in last Friday’s 3-3 tie with UAF, tying former teammate Jeff Hoggan for the Mavericks’ career goal-scoring lead. Brisson needs one more goal to become UNO’s all-time leader in goals, assists, and points.

    NMU: The Wildcats had owned the top-ranked power play in the CCHA (in overall games) for the entire season, but have slipped to second since going 0-for-13 over the past three games.

    Notre Dame: Notre Dame is just one of two CCHA games that has not shut out an opponent this season. Lake Superior State is the other.

    OSU: With two wins over WMU last weekend, OSU extended its home-ice league winning streak to 12 games, one short of the school record.

    WMU: Until losing two one-goal games to OSU last weekend, the Broncos had been 4-1-0 in games decided by a goal. In Friday’s contest, WMU allowed the game-tying goal with less than a minute left, and then lost in overtime. In Saturday’s contest, after scoring the game-tying goal late in the third against OSU, WMU allowed the winner 14 seconds later.

    Absolutely Too Good to Ignore

    Straight from this week’s Lake Superior State press release:

    “No opponent’s lead is safe when LSSU coach Frank Anzalone pulls the goalie in the third period — a comeback ploy for which he has become famous.”

    Al Gore invented the Internet.

    I’m Batman.

    Fiction Is Fine, but …

    My esteemed colleague and Hockey East Correspondent, Dave “Pops” Hendrickson, tantalizes his readers weekly with snippets of excellent prose written by people other than himself.

    He drops chunks of really great fiction into the end of his column, and orders readers to identify it. I think it’s some sort of scheme to determine whether or not Dave’s readers are smart enough to understand his own esoteric meanderings. In fact, I think if you guess correctly you win a membership card, a decoder ring, and dinner at Dave’s house next Saturday.

    Not to be outdone, I feel the urge to prove to readers that I, too, am literate. (Of course, CCHA fans — being much smarter than Hockey East fans — won’t fall for this ruse at all.)

    And since it’s Valentine’s Day, what better than poetry to tickle your brain cells? Name the poet and the poem. Be the first to email me, and see your name in print next week.

    Oh — and you’ll win dinner at Dave’s house next Saturday, too.

    Oh, love is the crooked thing,
    There is nobody wise enough
    To find out all that is in it,
    For he would be thinking of love
    Till the stars had run away,
    And the shadows eaten the moon.

    Bonus Question

    Anyone but Bleachered can answer this one. It’s a lyric from a song, British, early ’90s. Name the artist and the recording.

    What is love made of?
    Nobody knows.
    What are you afraid of?
    Everyone knows … it’s love … it’s love.

    Mr. Verdi, Call

    Please.

    USCHO covers the CCHA all week long on the CCHA Blog, with weekend recaps on Monday, picks on Friday, and updates during the week.


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