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Paula’s pick, April 13, 2013: NCAA championship game

I went .500 in my picks for the semifinals. I will take that.

Tonight, we know that a national champion from the ECAC will be crowned and I am happy for that league, its members, its teams.

Tonight, we also know that hearts will be broken. The older I get and the longer I cover this sport, the more aware I am of how much the loss affects the young men of the national runner-up team.

In the long term, we all know the good an appearance in the Frozen Four can be for the future of a hockey program, even for the three teams that go home without a trophy.

The game

The champion will be the team that imposes its will on its opponent. If the Bulldogs can continue to frustrate and clog and box out and provide that team-wide solid wall, Yale will win. If the Bobcats can fly as they have all season, the Quinnipiac will win.

You know that old adage that speed kills? That’s what I’m thinking.

Quinnipiac over Yale, 4-2

Paula’s picks, April 11, 2013: Frozen Four

Well, my hockey-minded friends, we are down to it. As I’ve said repeatedly, I picked Notre Dame to go all the way in my bracket. Since I was wrong and I am here, though, I figured I’d post some picks with which many people are likely to disagree, especially my Hockey East counterpart, Dave Hendrickson.

Here’s my record to date.

Midwest Regional: 0-3 (.000)
Season to date: 130-99-29 (.560)

I only picked the Midwest Regional (as opposed to the others) because that’s where the CCHA teams were playing. We see how well that went.

This week

As you know, it’s UMass-Lowell vs. Yale at 4:30 p.m. and St. Cloud vs. Quinnipiac at 8:00 p.m. My buddy Dave has the River Hawks going all the way. Therefore, I must pick against them. It’s nothing personal, Lowell fans. Given my picks record, perhaps you should thank me.

Picks

Yale over UMass-Lowell, 2-1
St. Cloud over Quinnipiac, 3-2

I’m going with the teams I saw prevail in regional action. That’s my rationale.

I’ll post a pick for the title game on Saturday. By then, I may be 0-2 for the tournament.

Weekend work-up — oh, wait. No. Not really.

CCHA fans, it’s Monday the week of the Frozen Four and we are without a representative this week in Pittsburgh.

Well, unless you count me. I’ll represent. I’ll do so poorly and limit my representation to that which occurs off the ice, but I’ll represent.

I was glad I made the trip from Grand Rapids to Toledo eight days ago to see the last-ever game in which a CCHA-affiliated team made an appearance. The Miami RedHawks played hard in that 4-1 loss to St. Cloud State, but it was clear that the Huskies were not to be denied their first trip to the Frozen Four. In the final period of that game, I felt myself tear up more than once — silly, I know — with the realization that This Was It. I thought that I’d have that moment in Pittsburgh rather than Toledo; I am grateful, perversely, for the quick punch to the throat rather than the long goodbye at the Frozen Four.

I am glad for Bob Motzko, too, that SCSU is heading to Pittsburgh. Many people may not know that Motzko spent five years as an assistant coach at Miami (1991-92, 1994-98), and he was one of the many coaches who was kind to me when I started covering college hockey. I was touched by Motzko’s remarks after his win, about his ties to Miami and how challenging this season was to those in the WCHA as well. If the CCHA can’t be there, I’m glad that the WCHA in its current state gets one last whack at the national championship.

I have sympathy for WCHA fans — I do, really. The league that they have loved and followed is becoming something nearly unrecognizable. I am positive that I will become absurdly fond of the new WCHA, a league made up almost exclusively of D-II schools whose only D-I sport is hockey. Couple that with the specific CCHA schools that are merging with the remaining WCHA programs to form the new league, and the new WCHA is guaranteed a slice of my hockey-loving heart.

But it won’t be the same — not for the WCHA fans, not for the rest of us. It won’t be the same for many of the fans of teams in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference nor the Big Ten. I’ve heard from fans of every current WCHA team joining the NCHC that they’ll miss the WCHA; I’ve heard from many Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State fans that they’ll miss the CCHA. I’ve heard from coaches all over the country who have said the same thing of the demise of the CCHA, that it didn’t have to happen. I’ve also heard that perhaps the new alignments will not hold, that things will be reconsidered in a few years. We’ll have to wait and see.

More immediately, though, we have some great college hockey to witness. This is an exciting Frozen Four, to be sure. Two teams from Connecticut? Wild and fabulous, as it guarantees some of my favorite Boston hockey writers will be in Pittsburgh even though no teams from Boston will be there. (Yes, yes. It’s good for the whole tiny state of Connecticut, too, and Quinnipiac and Yale fans.)

Two ECAC teams? Even more fabulous, as that league has been underrepresented in the Frozen Four for many years now.

A single team representing the west? Yes, but one that’s never been there coached by a guy with deep CCHA roots. I can live with that.

And a Frozen Four in a great sports town, a reinvented Rust Belt city that loves its hockey. I can live with that, too.

One more note that occurs to me about CCHA representation in this year’s Frozen Four: I have no inside knowledge of this, but look for at least one CCHA crew officiating in Pittsburgh.

I’ll be writing in Pittsburgh, even though the CCHA won’t be playing. I’ll be writing next season, too, although I’m not sure yet what my duties will be. Thanks to everyone who’s asked about that. I was moved throughout the season by the number of people who expressed concern for me as the CCHA was ending. For those of you looking forward to being rid of me after this season, well, too bad.

You can join the USCHO staff at a variety of locations in Pittsburgh, and if you’re not there, you can listen to Ed Trefzger and Jim Connelly with USCHO Live! Wednesday through Saturday. Rumor has it that I’ll be sitting in the USCHO booth at the Frozen Fest on Thursday before the games.

I’ll post my picks for the tournament on Thursday morning. My apologies in advance to Yale fans, as I’m picking the Bulldogs to go all the way.

Paula’s picks, March 29, 2013: Midwest regional

Well, my picks last weekend were legendarily bad. Fitting.

Last week: 1-2 (.333)
Season to date: 130-96-29 (.545)

I’m happy to have finished the final CCHA season above .500.

This week

Having only two CCHA teams in the NCAA tournament in the conference’s final season is disappointing. I have Notre Dame winning the whole thing in Pittsburgh in my tournament bracket — I was seriously impressed with the Fighting Irish last weekend — but I’ll be holding my breath until Sunday night, hoping that either the Irish or the RedHawks advance to the Frozen Four.

Notre Dame and Miami both play in the Midwest Regional, which Tyler Buckentine and I preview here so that you can read all about the Irish and the RedHawks, as well as Minnesota State and St. Cloud State. Notre Dame is the top seed in Toledo, Ohio, and Miami is the No. 2 seed in that set.

Here’s the thing: I really think that every team in the NCAA tournament has an equal chance of advancing to the Frozen Four this year. The parity in college hockey in the 2012-13 season was impressive, and as we all know, anything can happen in a one-and-done situation.

I think Notre Dame continues to roll as a solid unit this weekend. I think Miami’s youth and inconsistency gets in its way. We all know, however, how accurate my picks have been this season.

Picks

Notre Dame over St. Cloud State, 3-1
Minnesota State over Miami, 2-1
Notre Dame over Minnesota State, 3-1

In case you’re interested, my Frozen Four: Massachusetts-Lowell vs. Minnesota, Union vs. Notre Dame. Notre Dame over Minnesota in the title game.

The tournament

We have all the tournament information you need on our front page. The schedule is here, which is why I haven’t listed times and television info in my picks.

I’ll be covering the entire West Regional with Katie Carito and John Denny before heading to Toledo Sunday to cover the deciding game of the Midwest Regional with J. Justin Boggs and Timothy Boger. Who knew that living in Flint would result in this NCAA tournament geographic advantage?

Join the live blogging from any of the regionals this weekend to talk hockey with the USCHO crew and other fans.

Weekend work-up, March 25, 2013: Adios, CCHA

How different the world looks this Monday morning, after a weekend in Detroit. Sure, that’s a truism all by itself, but after the final weekend of CCHA play, it’s a bit more specific.

I learned so much in 30 hours over two days that it’s difficult to choose what to write about here. One of the things I learned — or, rather, one of the lessons that was reinforced — was the genius of Jayson Moy, who nailed this year’s brackets again. That has little to do with what happened at Joe Louis Arena, though, and I feel compelled to limit my observations to the final weekend of CCHA play.

And here they are.

1. Michigan wasn’t running on borrowed time. The Wolverines simply ran into a better team.

I suspected that Michigan might run out of gas at some point during the NCAA tournament, maybe produce a collective hiccup against another strong team because the Wolverines’ success at the end of the 2012-13 season had fairly shallow roots. I’m not saying that Michigan wasn’t deep and talented; I’m saying that the idea of winning and working as a team was a fairly new concept to this specific group of Wolverines.

I’m sure that the argument can be made that this is exactly what Michigan did this weekend — finally falter — but I don’t think that’s the case at all. After beating Miami 6-2 in the semifinal game, the Wolverines were toe-to-toe against the Fighting Irish in the title game, finding ways to succeed for 40 minutes in spite of being outplayed by Notre Dame. UM was outshot 28-10 through the first 40 minutes, and even after Austin Wuthrich’s goal for ND 29 seconds into the third period put them behind, the Wolverines did what good teams do: they redoubled their efforts and worked tremendously hard, limiting the Irish to five shots while taking 11 themselves.

They never quit, committed few mistakes, and lost to a better team. Even after the game, as disappointed as the Wolverines were for all the reasons we understand now, there was no hanging of heads, no blaming anyone else, no bitterness — and huge respect for the Fighting Irish.

2. Miami may not have run into a better team, but the RedHawks exposed their biggest problem in their 6-2 semifinal loss to Michigan.

Yes, Miami ran into a hot, hot, hot team. On Sunday, though, the Fighting Irish played a Michigan team that was even hotter, thanks in part to Miami and the Irish won. What happened in Saturday’s game wasn’t an anomaly for Miami; it was one of two kinds of games the RedHawks have played all season.

The RedHawks scored four or more goals in 14 contests this season, all wins; in five of those games, they scored at least five goals. Yet Miami has just the 38th-best scoring offense in the country, averaging 2.38 goals per game. Why? Miami’s been shut out seven times this season and held to one goal in five games. One of those games in which the RedHawks scored just one goal was a win and two were ties. None of the shutouts resulted in tie games.

Miami’s played 37 games. The high-scoring and low-scoring contests together total 26 games. That’s a lot of the season when Miami has played either-or hockey, and that doesn’t include the eight games in which the RedHawks netted two goals.

Miami’s biggest weakness — inconsistency in its overall team defense — is something that can be put into the context of the RedHawks having such a young team. Miami has 11 freshmen and nine of them are regularly in the lineup, including starting goaltenders Ryan McKay and Jay Williams. Of Miami’s six sophomores, five play regularly. That could account for the bipolar nature of their season.

Having said that, if they stick to the score-four-goals script next weekend, they have a great chance of getting to Pittsburgh.

3. Notre Dame was friggin’ awesome.

I cannot remember when I saw such dominant, determined play from a CCHA team in a single weekend at Joe Louis Arena. As impressive as Notre Dame’s smothering defense was — and, trust me, it was — I was even more impressed with the team’s offense and the depth of that offense.

In each contest, the Irish allowed the first goal and then had to come from behind against a very, very, very good goaltender. In their 3-1 win over Ohio State, the Irish responded to the Buckeyes’ only goal — from Ryan Dzingel at 9:56 in the first — with a goal of their own less than a minute later from fourth line right winger Peter Schneider. T.J. Tynan’s game-winning goal at 3:50 in the third period came on the power play. The Irish had 43 shots on Ohio State’s Brady Hjelle, and although they only got two past him (the third goal was an empty netter), they persisted enough to win.

In their 3-1 win over Michigan, they likewise bombarded UM goaltender Steve Racine, who — like Hjelle — was excellent in net. Again, the Irish gave up the first goal, Derek DeBlois’ tally at 19:00 in the first. When Anders Lee scored at 10:34 in the second to tie the game, though, Notre Dame realized it could actually score against a goaltender Lee himself called “a wall.” Austin Wuthrich had the game-winner 29 second into the third in that game.

Five different players scored for Notre Dame. Jeff Costello had two goals, the final goal in each game.

Yes, Notre Dame’s eighth-best defense is impressive, but the tenacity of its offense was unbelievable in Joe Louis Arena. Notre Dame was a team that played as a team and never cracked, not once. They’d have to come through the same bracket as Miami, but their chance of going to the Frozen Four is also excellent.

Video from the CCHA championship game

DETROIT — Here’s video from the end of Notre Dame’s 3-1 win over Michigan in the CCHA championship game on Sunday and clips from the postgame news conferences:

Video reaction from Michigan’s win over Miami

DETROIT — Here are videos of the news conferences after Michigan’s 6-2 victory over Miami in the CCHA semifinals on Saturday:



Video reaction to Notre Dame’s win over Ohio State

DETROIT – Here are videos of the postgame news conferences after Notre Dame’s 3-1 victory over Ohio State in the CCHA semifinals on Saturday:



Paula’s picks, March 22, 2013: The CCHA’s last trip to The Joe

My last-ever, CCHA-only picks. But first, here’s how I’ve done so far.

Last week: 7-4-0 (.636)
Season to date: 129-94-29 (.569)

Who knew I could improve, even a little, toward the end?

CCHA playoff championship

The semifinal games are televised by FOX Sports Detroit PLUS. The championship game is carried by FOX Sports Detroit. There is no third-place game.

Saturday, March 23

No. 3 Ohio State vs. No. 2 Notre Dame, 1:05 p.m.
No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 1 Miami, 4:35 p.m.

Sunday, March 24

Championship game, 2:05 p.m.

This is it

Three games, one champ. Half of this weekend’s field needs to win the final CCHA championship to receive the league’s autobid to make an appearance in the NCAA tournament. I am sure, however, that every single one of these teams has its eyes only on the Mason Cup as the weekend begins. Who wouldn’t want to be remembered as the final team to win the CCHA playoff championship?

As I said in this week’s column, every story line this weekend is interesting. The most compelling — and the one to receive the most media attention — is that of Michigan, the seventh-place Wolverines who need two wins to keep alive their NCAA appearance streak. Should they win out, they’ll go to the NCAA tournament for the 23rd consecutive season. This is their 24th consecutive appearance in the CCHA championship tournament.

That is compelling. I don’t care if you are a Michigan hater. This is interesting stuff.

Perhaps, though, it seems less interesting to Miami coach Rico Blasi. In a conference call that featured the four Joe-going coaches Tuesday, Phil Colvin, the CCHA’s director of communications, asked Blasi how the RedHawks would deal with Michigan’s momentum heading into the tournament. Blasi, in response, sounded exasperated, as though he’d heard the question one too many times.

“Well, I guess we’re going to have to show up on Saturday and play the game, Phil,” said Blasi. “I don’t know what else to tell you.” It was the perfect answer.

Blasi continued, “Michigan is a great team, they’ve got a great program, historic program. They’ve been to the Joe twenty-four years in a row. I mean, I don’t know what else to tell you. They’re the hottest team in the country and we’ve got to show up and play our game and see what happens.”

Exactly.

Each of these four teams has an equal chance, in my opinion, of capturing the title this weekend. I don’t think I’ve ever seen as level a field as this one at Joe Louis Arena, not in recent memory. The top-seeded RedHawks have a freshmen tandem in goal that is veteran at this point and talented beyond its experience. Additionally, Miami’s defense is the grittiest, tightest, best in the league. While the RedHawks’ offense is inconsistent, it is dangerous and capable of explosive output. The RedHawks absolutely could be the 2012-13 CCHA playoff champions.

In that same conference call, Michigan coach Red Berenson called Miami “scary,” and he’s right. “They’re a scary team because they can score with anybody and defensively they’re the best team in our league,” said Berenson.

“They don’t give up much, they don’t need much, and they’ve got a lot of offensive firepower. They’ve got a lot of offensive skill. Their coaching staff has done a good job. They’ve been the team to beat all year in this conference.”

The Wolverines bring an eight-game unbeaten streak (7-0-1) into Joe Louis Arena. For a team that didn’t seem to have any clue as to what it was doing for three quarters of the season, Michigan sure looks like a contender now — and the Wolverines are on a mission.

“You know what can happen,” said Berenson. “The game can go either way. These are big games for both teams. Obviously, we’ve got a lot more at stake than Miami does in the big picture. We’ve played a couple of games at Joe Louis this year. That might help us but nevertheless, this will be a big game between two good teams.”

Michigan’s not the only team riding a streak into Detroit. The Fighting Irish may be the overlooked team in this field, in spite of their second-place finish. Notre Dame had a little slump of its own in the second half — there was a tough January schedule and a slew of injuries — but the Irish are 5-0-2 in their last seven contests. When the going got a little tough for ND in the second half, the Irish refused to give up.

“We had good leadership and guys stayed patient and stayed with the program,” said coach Jeff Jackson. “A year ago we had a similar situation and some guys kind of checked out a little bit and frustration built up to where it was a negative. This year, that didn’t happen.

“Everybody pretty much stayed on course which allowed us to slowly get back on the right track. I think in the last month, we started to look very similar to how we were in the first half.”

Where Notre Dame was in the first half was at the top of the standings. With all due respect to Coach Berenson, for the first half of the season, the Fighting Irish were the team to beat. On the road in the first weekend in February, though, the Irish took two points from their semifinal opponents with a loss and tie (plus shootout point) in the Schottenstein Center. Jackson, a goaltender himself, has a healthy respect for Ohio State senior Brady Hjelle and the rest of the Buckeyes.

“They certainly have one of the best if not the best goalie in the country and that certainly solidifies everything that they do,” said Jackson. “That’s not to say they don’t have a lot of skill and talent up front. They have a lot of guys that allow them to play an aggressive style. Sometimes they can take risks. They activate their D. They’ve got a big D that have skills and those defenseman activate into the rush so they’re good on transition. And when they do break down, they have a wall in net.”

A coach who knows what he’s up against — and who prepares his team for what it’s up against — is a coach that can win a game or two. One of Notre Dame’s biggest weapons is Jackson and his coaching staff. It doesn’t hurt that the Irish are another team with a solid defense, good goaltending from Steven Summerhays and a potentially explosive offense.

Notre Dame’s opponent, Ohio State, is the team that won the first-ever CCHA championship tournament, so it seems poetically just that the Buckeyes are going to Detroit this weekend. I don’t mind saying that OSU’s appearance brings to Joe Louis Arena people associated with Buckeye hockey of whom I am rather fond — long-time friends and acquaintances that I haven’t seen often since moving from Columbus to Michigan in 2008.

I also remember quite fondly OSU’s miracle run to the CCHA title in 2004, when the Buckeyes became only the second team to play its way through three conference championship playoff games — the CCHA had the Super Six back then — with a team that really had no business doing so, much to the delight of the fans in Joe Louis Arena. While it’s true that people who aren’t Buckeye fans despise the Buckeyes, most CCHA fans hate Michigan even more; every fan who remained for the title game who wasn’t rooting for Michigan was pulling for Ohio State, and that game — as games go — did not disappoint.

Unless you were a fan of the Wolverines. Ah, but I digress again.

Back to this weekend’s semifinal game between Notre Dame and Ohio State. I’m not Jeff Jackson’s only fan. Here’s what OSU coach Mark Osiecki has to say about Jackson.

“Jeff’s done a tremendous job with that program,” said Osiecki. “They’re unbelievably well coached.”

See?

Osiecki knows what the Buckeyes are up against in their first game this weekend. “I think [the Irish] are very, very disciplined – disciplined with their team systems. I think we’re going to have to be extremely patient, be smart. This team’s so gifted, talent-wise. We just have to play smart. We have to play as a group of twenty guys on the ice.

“If we get into penalty situations, that’s where Notre Dame certainly their skill is going to rise.”

Osiecki’s onto something there. The Irish scored a slew of power-play goals in their last four games — all against Bowling Green for the final two regular-season contests and last weekend’s CCHA quarterfinal games. Notre Dame also had a successful penalty shot against BGSU last weekend.

Of course, the Buckeyes have the wall to which Jackson referred, senior goaltender Brady Hjelle, whose numbers were off the hook in the first half of the season but who has settled for mortal status in the second half — if you can call a .935 save percentage in nearly 2,000 minutes of play “mortal.” The Buckeyes have the league’s scoring champion, Tanner Fritz, and a bunch of other guys who can score, and OSU’s defense is solid.

In short, Ohio State could win it all, too.

It’s an incredible field. All four teams have gritty, tough blue lines now. The proof is in the numbers for Miami, Notre Dame and Ohio State, and for Michigan, the proof is in the recent streak and killer confidence. I love good defensive battles. This weekend, I’d love three one-goal games.

This weekend, I’d love three overtime games. Seriously. I’d like as much CCHA hockey as I can get, please.

My picks

I’m not hedging my bets when I say that anyone can take the Mason Cup this weekend. No one’s win — nor anyone’s loss — would surprise me.

Semifinals

Ohio State 2-1
Michigan 3-1

Championship

Michigan 4-2

Haters gonna hate

I know, I know. I’ve picked a Big Ten final — not because I want to, but because I have a feeling. I could be wrong. We all know that’s likely, actually.

I’ll be covering the CCHA tournament with Katie Carito, Matt Mackinder, Matt Nye and Rachel Lewis. It’s a great USCHO crew and I think we’ll do the last weekend justice. I’ll be live blogging all weekend from Joe Louis Arena, so please join me for that.

I will also be attending the league’s party Saturday night in COBO Hall, so if you’re there and want to say hello, please do so.

Oh yeah — that NCAA tournament …

Miami’s in. Notre Dame’s in. Western Michigan is on the bubble. OSU and UM are out, unless one of them wins the Mason Cup.

Want to play with the PairWise? Well, you can, right here. USCHO’s PairWise Predictor is a fun waste of time an excellent way to spend a little of your Friday at the office.

You figure it all out and see how well you match up by the time Sunday’s selection show arrives. Then watch as the genius of Jayson Moy is revealed. Don’t believe me? Check out his Bracketology Blog to see the master at work.

This Week in the CCHA: March 20

CCHA says goodbye with semifinal matchups that once seemed unlikely

Well, we’re down to it. [scg_html_ccha2013]The final battle for the Mason Cup pits Ohio State against Notre Dame and Michigan against Miami. Could anyone have predicted that at the beginning of the season? As the CCHA prepares to write its final chapter, let’s look at the stories. Each is a good one. Michigan (17-18-3, 10-15-3-3 CCHA) It’s not unusual to see Michigan vie for a playoff title. After all, this is the Wolverines’ 24th consecutive […]

Read this week's column »

Weekend work-up, March 18, 2013: Look who’s going to The Joe!

What a weekend of hockey in the CCHA! Two sweeps, two series that took three games, and the team that won the very first conference regular-season and playoff championships returns to participate in the last-ever battle for the Mason Cup.

It’ll be Michigan vs. Miami and Ohio State vs. Notre Dame March 23-24 in Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena. The semifinal games are slated for 1:05 p.m. and 4:35 p.m. Saturday, but I don’t believe the league has announced who’s playing at which time yet. Sunday’s title game is at 2:05 p.m.

So, kids, what did we learn from this weekend of hockey?

1. Michigan is a freight train.

As I said going into the weekend, if the Michigan team that had been playing for the previous three weeks showed up to play in Kalamazoo, the Broncos were doomed. Well, the Broncos were doomed. Friday’s game was tied 3-3 going into the third and Jacob Trouba’s second goal of the night won it for Michigan on the power play at 9:15. Saturday, though, was another story completely. That game was tied 1-1 going into the second, when the confident Wolverines exploded for four unanswered goals, two by Alex Guptill. Michigan won 4-3 Friday and 5-1 Saturday.

This has been a pattern for Michigan this past month, a more tentative game Friday and a solid game Saturday, even when the Saturday score isn’t quite so lopsided. The UM defense is mighty strong right now in front of freshman goaltender Steve Racine, who seems to improve with each game. (He’s from Western New York, though, so nothing good he does surprises me.)

I know that haters will hate, but Michigan’s pursuit of its 23rd consecutive NCAA bid as a No. 7 seed is a great story.

2. Notre Dame is scrappy.

The two games that the Fighting Irish played against the valiant Bowling Green Falcons couldn’t have been more different. Friday’s 1-0 overtime win was grinding, grueling and in some ways a little too careful. The Irish limited the Falcons’ shots against Steven Summerhays to 22 in the 1-0 win, and Brian Rust had the game-winning goal 1:22 into OT. Incidentally, including the three goals Rust scored in this series, the junior has netted 10 of his 15 goals for the season in the second half.

In Saturday’s 4-3 win, five of the seven goals scored between the two squads involved some sort of special teams play, including Rust’s successful penalty shot at 8:28 in the third. That’s because there were 32 minutes of penalties total in the feisty, scrappy game. The Irish gave up two power-play goals in the second period and Anders Lee’s game winner came with the man advantage midway through the third.

In both games, the Irish were tough, physical, and did what they needed to do to survive each one-goal game.

3. Those teams from Ohio are beatable.

We knew this already, of course; there isn’t a team in the CCHA that can’t be beaten on a given night. Both series in Ohio, though, went to a third game, while the series in Michigan and Indiana did not. It wasn’t surprising that the series in Columbus between Ferris State and Ohio State went to three games. The Bulldogs and Buckeyes exchanged a pair of 3-1 wins earlier this season, and a quick look at the recent history between the teams shows a couple of ties and a goal’s difference here and there. After dropping Friday’s game 4-2, the Buckeyes won 3-1 Saturday and 3-2 Sunday night.

It was surprising to see Miami drop its opening quarterfinal game to last-place Michigan State, 3-0 — that is, until you realize that the RedHawks have been shut out by opponents seven times this season. Miami is capable of stunningly good offense, but that offense is sometimes inconsistent. The offense arrived Saturday and stayed for Sunday’s contest, each game a 4-1 win for the RedHawks. Sophomore Austin Czarnik had the shorthanded, game-winning goal in the first period of Sunday’s game; Czarnik had three goals total for the weekend.

For the record, it was Ohio State that won the first-ever CCHA regular-season and playoff championships in 1972. The Buckeyes never did win another regular-season championship, but they did capture the Mason Cup in 2004.

Miami has captured the Mason Cup once, in 2011. Michigan has won the CCHA playoff championship nine times, most recently in 2010. Notre Dame has won the CCHA playoff championship twice, in 2007 and again in 2009.

This isn’t what I expected the field of the last-ever CCHA championship tournament to be, but I now expect that next weekend in Detroit, we’ll be treated to a fantastic weekend of hockey.

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