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This Week in the CCHA

College Hockey:
Some drama, some hardware as CCHA regular season wraps

There’s so much at stake this weekend that there promises to be drama that affects the standings in every rink this weekend. Even the battle for last place — between Bowling Green and Michigan State in East Lansing — sees the end of an era with MSU’s Rick Comley’s imminent retirement.

IMG 9851 Some drama, some hardware as CCHA regular season wraps

Andy Miele gets the nod as the annual Girl Reporter Player of the Year (photo: Erica Treais).

One point separates first-place Notre Dame from second-place Michigan, so the regular season title is on the line and the Irish go into the weekend knowing they can finish no lower than second place. Michigan and Miami can finish no lower than third, so the coveted fourth and fifth places — with their first-round byes — are up for grabs, and there are five teams vying for those spots.

But enough of this standings nonsense. That’s what Friday’s blog is for. It’s time for hardware.

Hardware

It’s time for the annual Girl Reporter awards (can we nickname them? “Girlies” perhaps?), the completely unofficial and literally nonexistent hardware that I toss out at the end of every season. I’m the committee of one that decides these, but as always, I welcome your feedback and derision.

Player of the Year

This year was a strange one in the CCHA and, I’d argue, for all of college hockey. The parity seemed real across all of D-I, and coaches — at least the coaches in these parts — often pointed to a rather shallow talent pool, one depleted by the lure of professional hockey.

In the CCHA, there were a few standout players, but very few outright game-changers emerged until the second half of the season, with the notable exception of Carter Camper, whose fast start was breathtaking.

The player that impressed me most this season, though, was Camper’s teammate, forward Andy Miele. Miele (17-39–56), a native of Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich., enters the last weekend of the season averaging more points per game than any other player in Division I (1.75).

It seems that every time Miele’s on the ice, he’s the best player on the ice — and that’s saying something, given the company he keeps with his RedHawks teammates.

Michigan senior forward Carl Hagelin (15-27–42) was a close second. He’s just an extraordinary player who has become the driving force behind a likewise talented team.

Coach of the Year

With all due respect to the three coaches whose teams will finish in the top three, this is a no-brainer: Western Michigan’s Jeff Blashill.

Blashill moved essentially the same Broncos team that finished in last place last season (4-17-7-2) significantly up the standings, and with a record of 9-8-9-5 in league play, WMU has 41 points to last season’s 21. The Broncos are the hardest-working team in college hockey right now.

It doesn’t matter where Western will finish — anywhere from fourth to seventh, depending on the outcome of their games against Notre Dame this weekend. Blashill has earned this virtual hardware, and I’d be surprised if the real thing weren’t coming his way in Detroit next month.

Rookie of the Year

I’m so glad I went with Alaska’s Andy Taranto last season, even though he was old enough to buy booze when he hit the campus in Fairbanks. Look where Notre Dame’s Kyle Palmieri is now.

Palmieri’s departure doesn’t sour me on the notable newcomers from Notre Dame, though. (Say that three times fast.)

This year’s Girl Reporter Rookie of the Year is Irish freshman forward T.J. Tynan of Orland Park, Ill. Tynan (19-25–44) leads all rookies nationally in points per game (1.29). He also leads the nation’s fifth-best offense in scoring, narrowly edging out classmate and forward Anders Lee, who has the same number of goals (19-19–38) heading into the last weekend of regular-season play.

Yes, it’s a tough call. Tynan came into the league just 18 years old; Lee is two years older. Lee started the season with better numbers, too — and he could finish the season with better numbers than Tynan.

But it’s Tynan’s birthday this weekend. He’ll be 19 on Friday. My awards. My rules.

Other rookies that caught my eye: WMU forward Chase Balisy (12-17–29); LSSU goaltender Kevin Kapalka (.925 save percentage, 2.25 GAA); Michigan defenseman Jon Merrill (7-12–19). All three will develop into significant impact players in this league — if they stay. (Any bets on Merrill?)

Team of the Year

As tempting as it is to give this to Western Michigan, my Team of the Year has to be Notre Dame. Any team that can overcome the obvious issues they had last season — a bit of entitlement early on, a slate of injuries later — to rise from ninth place to the top of the standings with a shot at the regular-season title gets my vote.

Ferris State Memorial Defenders-of-the-Realm Award

Even though Alaska still has two games against Alaska-Anchorage this weekend, the Broncos have this one all sewn up. With a nonconference record of 6-1-1 that included no games against Alabama-Huntsville, Western Michigan earns this year’s Defenders of the Realm award.

The Broncos get bonus points for sweeping current No. 5 Union back in December.

Honorable mention goes to Lake Superior State. The Lakers took on the entire province of Ontario and — after dropping a season-opening exhibition game to Western Ontario, 5-4 — went 5-1-0 against our Canadian foes, spurred by a decisive five-game run in early January.

The fact that no other CCHA team played that many games is irrelevant.

Chris Richards Most-Likely-to-Be-Overlooked Memorial Award

This goes to Ferris State senior goaltender Pat Nagle, a workhorse in net whose overall numbers are great (2.00 GAA, .923 save percentage), but who will likely be eclipsed by goalies who haven’t played as much but whose league numbers are better.

I fear the same will happen for Alaska junior Scott Greenham.

Mike York Poetry-in-Motion Memorial Award

Michigan’s Hagelin. Again. His overtime goal against Western last weekend cemented it for me.

Best Offensive Goalie Award

It was a down year for goalie scoring in the CCHA, with a disappointing five assists spread out among five league goaltenders. In the end, I had to go with points per game.

Michigan State junior Drew Palmisano narrowly edged Michigan junior Shawn Hunwick for this most insignificant of goaltending awards.

Palmisano had one assist in 24 games; Hunwick had one in 25 games. Palmisano averaged .042 points per game to Hunwick’s .040.

Other goalies with single assists include Alaska’s Greenham, Ferris State’s Nagle and Notre Dame’s Mike Johnson.

Should the numbers change this weekend, I’m not opposed to rescinding this award and giving it to any goalie who can add a second point or score two from scratch in the final weekend of regular-season play.

Two categories for which I need your help

I don’t know who’s going to leave early, and I don’t know who can pick up the trash. Can you help me?

Last year, the Mike Comrie Most-Likely-to-Leave-Early Memorial Award went to Zac Dalpe, who did leave early. I’m leaning toward BG’s Jordan Samuels-Thomas for reasons different than those that decided the Dalpe pick, but I am not at all certain about who’s looking like he might bolt.

I also need help with the Aniket Dhadphale Garbage Man Memorial Award, named for the former Notre Dame player who knew how to capitalize in chaos close in. I am absolutely flummoxed as to who to pick this season, quite possibly a side effect of having spent a lot of time in two specific rinks this year.

Once again, I’ll take nominations. Give me a reason to award these next week. You can e-mail (paula.weston@uscho.com) or tweet (@paulacweston) or just slap an opinion into the comments.

My ballot

1. Boston College
2. North Dakota
3. Yale
4. Denver
5. Michigan
6. Minnesota-Duluth
7. Notre Dame
8. Merrimack
9. Union
10. New Hampshire
11. Miami
12. Wisconsin
13. Nebraska-Omaha
14. Western Michigan
15. Boston University
16. Rensselaer
17. Maine
18. Colorado College
19. Dartmouth
20. Ferris State

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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  • WMUBRONCS

    thank you for giving some recognition to WMU finally. Hopefully we show up this weekend to end the regular season at Lawson and lock up the 4th spot

    • Paula Weston

      Giving recognition to WMU finally? Where have you been all season? The subject matter of the columns rotates, but I’ve been talking up the Broncos in my blog posts all season long. I also had a feature on Jeff Blashill. I’ve not been ignoring Western Michigan.

  • JJFP

    MSU cannot finish last, only BG can. They can however finish 9th or stay in 10th. Michigan can finish no lower than 2nd as they have 4 more wins than Miami already. Miami’s got 3rd locked up.

    • Paula Weston

      You’re right, of course: It’s not a battle for last place. It does, in many ways, feel like it.

  • Fact Finder

    Though Miami can tie Michigan in points, Michigan would win the first tiebreaker, which is WINS, according to the CCHA website. Head to head comes next. Nice job with the facts.

  • Sthelen_45

    WMU goalie Kuhn has at least one assist. I was at the game on Feb. 05 against Bowling Green and he had an assist that night.

    • Paula Weston

      You are correct. I am sorry that I missed that! I will make a giant announcement in next week’s column, stripping Palmisano of his award and giving it to the deserving Kuhn — unless scoring this weekend changes everything.

  • CCHAFAN

    Paula, Don’t forget Anders Lee has 5 huge GWG, tied for tops in CCHA, and has played his biggest games against the top competition. Lee Also has 8 direct helpers to TJ vs 3 for Tynan to Lee. Lee can make plays as well as finish. Both have had outstanding freshman years.

    • Paula Weston

      I didn’t forget Anders Lee. I mentioned him. He’s a great, great freshman. Tynan is a great true freshman.

  • streaker

    Paula responding? Must be a slow day in Flint.

    My bet for most likely to bolt: Jon Merrill. Not that he is exactly ready, but it’s been exactly one season since Michigan lost a talented player early.

    • Paula Weston

      Streaker, the thing of it is that I just completely forget to subscribe to the email threads following my columns and blogs. It’s all new this year and the day job is actually quite demanding — so I forget. This week, I wrote myself a sticky note on Tuesday (I am not making this up) to remember to subscribe. Seriously. It helped that someone emailed me privately about my “15 things” blog…which reminded me that people sometimes do read the things that I publish on USCHO. That reminded me to write the sticky note, which I affixed to the light over my computer desk.

      And that reminded me to check this thread today and subscribe. Seriously.

      And, no, it was not a slow day in Flint. It’s never a slow day in Flint. (Sounds like the title of a really good short story or a really bad country music song: “It’s Never a Slow Day in Flint.”)

      I have thought about Merrill, too. Good nomination.

      • streaker

        Paula,
        I’m just giving you crap since I figured you usually just ignore the negative comments. I understand completely- having a son that teaches. Tried to find you at Yost several times, too and didn’t- so hello anyway.

        Oh, and Merrill- strange brew going on. Talked to him several times and he is not nearly the happy go lucky kid he was early in the season. This is weighing heavy on him- JMHO.

        And if you want Michigan fans cry part deux: my other bet is on Brandon Burlon. His play is not nearly as polished as Merrill, but he’s got good upside. Nice kid, too. Both have struggled a bit lately-also a sign that they are pressing for bigger things. NJ may be pushing both to sign.