It’s mid-December and the perfect time to reflect on what the first half of the CCHA season taught us. Brent Walton surprised us. So did Michigan State, but in a whole different way.
Who’s been naughty? Who’s been nice? Well, I can tell you that even though the Buckeyes are the most-penalized team in the country, I’ve never seen them play as though they are. Why? I’ve only seen them at home — with the exception of a Miami road game — and they’re winning at home, if you know what I mean.
So much to review, but you know what? There’s shopping to do, I’ve got tae kwon do, I just got home from the vet, and just about every coach I know is out recruiting.
I leave for home in a week and it’s not just the students who let the laundry pile up during the academic term. It isn’t only students who are glad to see finals week end, either — except that, for us teachers, the term goes just a little longer than that, and we are contractually obligated to read every frigging word.
Thank goodness there are only two teams playing this week. We’ll get to that first-half report card after the holidays. This week’s column is a shorty, like me.
Hey, Sigalet — It’s Your Mother
Jordan Sigalet has a message for CCHA fans: Keep up the good “sieve-ing.”
“I love it when they do that,” says Sigalet. Bowling Green’s 23-year-old senior goaltender is hoping that opposing fans won’t change their tunes when he comes to town since he’s gone public with having been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
“I don’t want people feeling sorry for me in any way,” says Sigalet.
The trouble began last February, when Sigalet went numb from the neck down after a series with Northern Michigan. He was diagnosed with MS, and underwent a spinal tap the week before the Falcons lost two games to Ohio State in the first round of the CCHA playoffs.
“Yeah, that was awful,” says Sigalet. “I had most of the feeling back except for in my hands.” Sigalet says that he still plays with numbness in both hands, but is used to it.
MS is a progressive disease that attacks the nervous system, resulting in lesions on the brain and spine that cause numbness, tremors, speech difficulties, and in the extreme paralysis.
Sigalet went public with his condition last week after suffering another attack because he “didn’t want to keep on saying it was the ‘flu,” says the Surrey, B.C., native who is obviously tougher than a little viral infection.
“Right from when we found out last March was our number-one thought was what was best for Jordan,” says BGSU head coach Scott Paluch, who was naturally concerned whether Sigalet could play hockey and battle MS. “So far, Jordan’s been able to do both, but as we found out the last two weekends, he’s not going to be able to do both all the time.”
Sigalet says he’s “relieved” that he went public with the knowledge. Only his family — including his younger brother and fellow Falcon, Jonathan — his coaches, and roommates knew of his condition. The rest of the team found out when he told the world.
“I wanted to prove that I can play with it,” says Sigalet, whose .916 save percentage shows he has nothing to prove.
Do Jordan a favor and donate to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and its Canadian counterpart, the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada.
National MS Society Training & Resource Center
700 Broadway, Suite 810
Denver, CO 80203-3442
Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada
And remember, he just sucks, it’s all his fault, and he’s a sieve. Okay?
Boys to Men
This season, CCHA fans have been distracted by Omaha’s success, Michigan State’s struggles, and now Sigalet’s remarkable story, among many other league subplots.
Yet in Sault Ste. Marie, another remarkable story is unfolding, one that reveals a team and a program in transition.
That the Lakers (6-9-1, 5-6-1 CCHA) are no longer league’s auto-doormat is news by itself, but that LSSU has prevailed through some serious challenges makes this team the potential story of the year.
Injured are goaltender Matt Violin and forward Dominic Osman, two impact players for LSSU. Back from injuries are forward Mike Adamek and defenseman Kory Scoran.
Gone is freshman defenseman John Nogatch, who is now playing for the Junior A Northern Michigan Black Bears.
Gone for now are junior defenseman Mark Adamek — Mike’s brother — and sophomore defenseman Barnabas Birkeland.
Back is sophomore defenseman Ryan Reid, who was suspended for violating team rules, but has been reinstated.
Let’s get to the injured players first. Violin “will probably not play until we come back on the 29th,” says head coach Frank Anzalone. It’s a knee injury, and Anzalone says, “We just want it to be 100 percent.”
Osman was flown to his hometown of Detroit from Omaha, where the Lakers were playing last weekend, for emergency back surgery. The sophomore had two ruptured discs and will miss the rest of the season. “We hope to have him back next year,” says Anzalone.
But injuries — while troublesome — are the least of Anzalone’s concerns this season. Nogatch was offered a choice, said Anzalone, and he chose to leave.
“There were things he was doing that I thought were hurting his development as a young man,” says Anzalone. “He was dismissed for some things that I thought were not appropriate, and he was offered the opportunity to return, but he didn’t want to do it.”
Anzalone wants to make it clear that Nogatch was never arrested. “He wasn’t in trouble in any other way than with me. If he had done what I asked, he could have stayed.”
Reid was suspended early in the season because of what Anzalone called a “Bowling Green-like situation,” meaning an unspecified violation of team rules.
“He no longer has a felony charge,” says Anzalone. “His situation has been quieted so that it’s not like that anymore. He paid his dues. He missed 10 games. The school has said that it’s okay. If the school is comfortable with it, so are we.”
Adamek and Birkeland were dismissed, says Anzalone, but “some things are coming into light, things that may work out in their favor and show their innocence.”
Again, these are unspecified violations of team rules, but Anzalone is very clear about what gets a guy kicked off the team, and how he can return. “I dismiss first. I don’t play players who are under a guilt charge. Reid’s for sure and the other two are moving toward exoneration.
“All of these are obviously at the level where these young men haven’t hurt other people. That’s very important.
“I take pride in my discipline and I take pride in my morality. When you have issues, obviously it offends you, but part of our job as coaches is as educators. We don’t want to toss people out the door if there’s hope.”
So, whatever is going on with Adamek and Birkeland — and whatever it was that Reid was facing — is something that perhaps isn’t permanent.
Anzalone is protective of his players’ privacy — as he should be — but says that, “They may be all guilty of being immature … [but] if people are innocent and they’ve made a mistake that’s not something that’s hurt another person, then you should give them a chance to return after they’ve served their penalty.”
Adamek and Birkeland, says Anzalone, have remained in school. “They’ve done a good job that way.”
All of this has forced the Lakers to juggle their roster, making LSSU’s relative success this season all that more appreciable. “Steve McJannett and Alex Dunn went back on defense and we hung in there,” says Anzalone. “Jeff Jakaitis stepped up to the plate.”
Last weekend, the Lakers split with the Mavericks in Omaha, winning 5-2 Thursday and losing 5-1 Saturday. “We won the first night minus four D-I defenseman,” says Anzalone.
The Lakers head to Canton, N.Y., for a two-game set against St. Lawrence this weekend, leaving Friday for the 10-hour bus ride across Ontario to reach northern New York State. The games were pushed back a day to accommodate finals, which ended Thursday at LSSU. “We’re very thankful to Joe Marsh,” says Anzalone, who did the Lakers “a favor” by rearranging the schedule.
Last weekend, the Lakers had to leave for Omaha — by bus, mind you — on Tuesday to play that Thursday game. “There was no flexibility with Nebraska,” says Anzalone. “Players missed most of the last week of their classes, but fortunately we knew in advance. We didn’t get back here until 2 p.m. Sunday.”
The Saints are “everything we don’t like” in terms of hockey, says Anzalone. “They’re everywhere. They don’t mind odd-man rushes and play that open-type game. We have to be careful.”
Careful in many ways, it seems. The Lakers are looking forward to a long break without holiday play. Anzalone says that his players — many of whom have done double duty in recent months — can use a rest.
“I think a lot of guys have done a great job and have had a lot of ice.”
Nothing Whatever to Do with Hockey
I had a friend once who joked that her modeling career ended when she invented the cookie. I have another friend who’s never met a cookie she couldn’t grow to like at least a little.
This weekend, I’m baking Christmas cookies for the first time in four years, and it’s an activity that always takes me back to childhood, when my mother and I would set aside a day for baking together every year. My cookies were lumpy and inedible, but my mother declared them perfect.
Here’s my favorite recipe from childhood. I’ve published it once before for the holidays, but it bears repeating. Dolly, by the way, is Mrs. Weston, my mom, who at 70 still makes her own cookies. And her cookies are still, as always, perfect.
Dolly’s Cut-Out Cookies
3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 tbs. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup butter
4 tsp. milk (1 tbs. + 1 tsp.)
1 tsp. vanilla
Combine dry ingredients and set aside.
Cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time. Add milk. Mix until smooth.
Divide into workable amounts and wrap in waxed paper. Refrigerate several hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 375.
Roll a small amount of dough one-eighth to one-quarter inch thick. Keep the remaining dough refrigerated.
Cut into festive shapes — Mom always preferred bells and other rounded shapes (less likely to get too crispy around the edges) — and place on ungreased baking sheets.
Brush with beaten egg whites, and decorate with colored sugar before baking.
Bake 5-10 minutes, but watch carefully; these can burn quickly.
You’ll need to make sure your rolling pin is cold, the work surface is floured — I use a powdered sugar-flour mix, so as not to add too much more flour to the dough — and that you work quickly.
These are great with milk, but better with coffee.
Happy holidays, everyone, and see you in the new year.
USCHO covers the CCHA all week long on the CCHA Blog, with weekend recaps on Monday, picks on Friday, and updates during the week.