Who: Bowling Green (2-14-2), Clarkson (4-10-2), Northern Michigan (7-8-4), Minnesota (8-9-1)
When: Saturday, Jan. 2 and Sunday, Jan. 3
Where: Mariucci Arena, Minneapolis
Tickets: Click here (new window)
Saturday’s games: Clarkson vs. Northern Michigan, 4 p.m. Central; Bowling Green vs. Minnesota, 7 p.m.
Sunday’s games: Clarkson/Northern Michigan vs. Bowling Green, 4 p.m. Central; Clarkson/Northern Michigan vs. Minnesota, 7 p.m.
About Bowling Green
After 11 wins in 2008-09, the Falcons were looking for a much better first half to start this season. This campaign was nine games old when Bowling Green recorded its first win of the season, a 3-1 home decision over visiting Alaska on Nov. 13. The following weekend, BGSU beat Michigan in Yost Ice Arena, but the Falcons ended the first half with a seven-game winless streak (0-6-1).
There were hopeful signs in that stretch, including a tie and an overtime loss against Notre Dame and a one-goal OT loss to Michigan State.
Freshman Jordan Samuels-Thomas (6-9–15) and senior Tommy Dee (6-5–11) lead the Falcons in goal scoring. Samuels-Thomas is learning to play at this level but is fun to watch; he can be fast and has a great touch with the puck.
Junior Nick Eno (3.14 goals-against average, .901 save percentage) and freshman Andrew Hammond (3.87, .892) have both spent time in the Falcon net. BGSU’s defense is ranked 50th in the country.
The Golden Knights had hoped to play 2009-10 in the fashion with which they were expected to play 2008-09: fast, strong, talented, young and dangerous. Alas, despite five NHL draft picks on George Roll’s roster, this year’s results haven’t proven much better than those of last year’s distressed and dysfunctional team.
A modest but optimistic 3-2-0 start collapsed in a smoking 1-8-2 heap in November, leaving North Country fans to wonder what happened to their oh-so-recent NCAA-caliber program. To be clear, the Knights are neither hopeless nor hapless — merely snakebit in frustratingly unpredictable ways.
Senior Matt Beca is nonetheless maintaining a point-a-game pace with eight goals and another eight helpers in 16 games. Defenseman Mark Borowiecki is one of the league’s top blue-liners, and his six goals and 13 points are certainly helping during tough times. Paul Karpowich has made a dozen appearances, but his save percentage is sub-.900 and his goals-against average is above 3.5.
About Northern Michigan
Northern Michigan finished the first half of the season in the middle of the CCHA pack and everything tangible seems to indicate that the Wildcats are exactly where they should be — for now. NMU has a second-half resiliency that often puts the team nearer the top of league standings than a weaker first half would seem to indicate, but for now the ‘Cats would like better numbers in every aspect of the game.
Mark Olver (10-11–21) is a singular bright spot on the NMU offense. The junior forward is dangerous in any situation, with five power-play goals and one shorthander. Senior Ray Kaunisto is second among Wildcat goal scorers with seven.
Junior defenseman Erik Gustafsson (2-14–16) is one of the most underrated blueliners in the league. Between sophomore Reid Ellingson (2.16 GAA, .926 SV%) and senior Brian Stewart (3.00, .908), the Wildcats are still looking for consistency in net.
If there is a team ready for 2010 and a new start mid-season, it’s Minnesota. The U struggled from the get-go, starting the season 0-3-1 and finishing 2009 with an 8-9-1 mark, helped out by its three-game winning streak to finish out December.
Minnesota’s defense is, on the national scale, on the par with league-leading Denver in terms of goals allowed per game (2.83). The problem is, of course, that they’re scoring only 2.5 goals per game and have only four players with double-digit point totals, led by senior Tony Lucia (14).
While junior goaltender Alex Kangas doesn’t have the worst numbers this year, he doesn’t look like the stud he was his freshman year.