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College Hockey:
The weekend work-up, Jan. 16, 2012: Home ice, reversals of fortune and outdoor games

This is the CCHA. The landscape changes quickly around here. Three things from this past weekend? We could pick a dozen or more.

1. Home-ice advantage? Not exactly.

Friday night was brutal for the home teams. Three of them lost outright and two ended up tied after taking a lead into the third period — and one of those leading teams saw a win disappear within the closing seconds of the third period. Miami beat Lake Superior in Sault Ste. Marie, 2-1, after the Lakers posted a 1-0 lead in the first. Western Michigan beat Notre Dome in South Bend, 3-2, after the Fighting Irish took a 2-1 lead into the third. Michigan owned Ohio State in Columbus, 4-0. Alaska’s Adam Henderson scored on a two-man advantage at 9:38 in the third to tie the Nanooks, 4-4, with Bulldogs in Big Rapids; Alaska went on to take the shootout point. Northern Michigan’s Tylor Gron scored with the extra attacker at 19:34 in the third to give the Wildcat’s the 5-5 tie with Michigan State in East Lansing. MSU’s shootout point hardly felt like a victory after the way regulation ended.

2. Six points is the antidote to parity — or is that the purveyor of parity?

After a first half in which taking six points from an opponent in a single weekend was difficult for many CCHA teams, the fortunes of every team in the league will be made or broken by the sweep in the second half. This weekend, the Broncos took two games and six points from the Fighting Irish, giving WMU sole possession of second place in the league and putting the Broncos just one point behind first-place Ohio State. Should the Broncos capture first place, they should send thank-you notes to the Wolverines and the Falcons — the Falcons for holding the Buckeyes to two points Jan. 7-8 and the Wolverines for this past weekend’s sweep. Those six points captured by Michigan — combined with other action in the league among neighboring teams in the standings — catapulted the Wolverines into sole possession of third place after Michigan entered the weekend in seventh. Now the teams in eighth place — NMU and and MSU — are fewer than 10 points out of first place. At any rate, the second half is much more interesting now that the Buckeyes look much less invincible.

3. I professed my love for the Great Lakes Invitational tournament too soon.

According to a report on ESPN.com Friday, the 2012 GLI may be played in Detroit’s Comerica Park, home to the MLB Tigers. This would be in conjunction with the NHL Winter Classic, which may feature the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs in Michigan Stadium, a.k.a. “The Big House,” the home of the Wolverines’ football team. The timing of the announcement took advantage of all the outdoor college hockey being played this past weekend; in addition to Michigan’s 4-1 win over Ohio State in Progressive Field Sunday, there were three men’s college hockey games — a D-III contest and two D-I games — in Boston’s Fenway Park this past weekend, capping a “Frozen Fenway” that featured six college hockey games, including a D-I women’s game, from Jan. 7 through Jan. 14.

The novelty of outdoor contests wore off for me a couple of games ago, but as the appetite for public spectacle our culture’s need to top each successive event increases, it’s clear that I’m in the minority. It’s also clear that if outdoor games are to be played in the CCHA, the Wolverines must be involved. Yesterday’s contest in Progressive Field was Michigan’s fourth outdoor game and the Wolverines’ third in three seasons. Should the GLI be played outdoors in 2012, Michigan’s 2012-13 senior class will become the first in modern college hockey history to have played in outdoor games each of its four seasons.

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_HVM5QWREKL5ZTSPY6HF2V2UPO4 Neil

    After seeing the WMU v. Notre Dame game this weekend it is obvious the parity in the CCHA is quite astounding. Any commisioner would strive to create this type of play because hope springs eternal. It makes for good play and attendance. A few different bounces and WMU could have just ended up splitting the series. Dumb penalties usually cost WMU wins this time of year. What is frustrating is the fact that the new conferences are going to be a foray into the unkwown of parity for the Big Ten, WCHA, and the new NCHC. As a fan of a former basement dwelling team it is quite refreshing to see this change and it seems a pity that it may soon end reverting to dominating teams and conferences based solely on last season and how much the bigger school is willing to spend on their program. The potential lack of parity will hinder the growth of the sport and isn’t the most lofty goal?

    • nmu dad

      The CCHA is something special for Michigan and Ohio.    5 of the top 10 and 8 of the top 16 pair wise teams are CCHA today. 

      Sad to imaging that Penn State has the power (along with others) to destroy it. 

      • aygwm2

        Right, the state of Michigan has some pretty good college hockey teams this year. UoM, MSU, WMU, FSU, LSSU, MTU (wcha), and my fav NMU are all playing at a high level this year.  With a couple months to go it will be interesting to see how the snow settles with regard to the CCHA tourney and the NCAA.  Every game, every puck possession counts from here on out for these Michigan teams.

        • Paula Weston

          Wow.  I posted and went away for a while to do work related to the day job, and I come back to find … meaningful discussion of CCHA hockey!  I love being pleasantly surprised.  Thanks, folks.

  • aygwm2

    Paula,

    “Now the teams in ninth place — NMU and and MSU — are fewer than 10 points out of first place.”

    Not to split hairs, but technically they are in eighth place.  Please see:
    http://www.ccha.com/default.aspx

    Never-the-less, the CCHA down the home stretch is shaping up to be exciting.  Unfortunately, I think tUoM may be on a roll for those of us not too taken with the Wolverines.

    • Paula Weston

      Big surprise that I counted wrong this morning, pre-coffee.  *laugh*  Thanks for pointing out the typo.  I’ll fix it.  (I really am laughing pretty hard as I’m sitting here …)

      • Ian

        Paula, you clearly need more than coffee cause that’s your excuse for your typo every week.

        • Paula Weston

          I know, Ian, right?  I keep working on that perfection thing — and I come up short every time.  I long for the day when I can cross “achieve perfection” off my to-do list.  It mocks me from that list weekly, along with “win lottery.”  With the latter, I think I’m just not trying hard enough.

    • http://www.collegehockeypulse.com/ mrjakep

      aygwm2 Did you think the Michigan win was because of a surge on Michigan’s part or is Ohio State taking a step backwards?

  • guest

    Also important to note that WMU has 2 games in hand against OSU, thus they control their own destiny.  And yes, UM is in 3rd place, but has played 18 conf games vs. 16 for the teams immediately behind them.  It’ll be a close, fun race to the finish.  Not just for the conference title, but for 1st round byes and 1st round home ice.

  • Guest

    I think that its important for ALL the teams in the CCHA to put in great effort over the next year and half before we all split for other conferences.  How appropriate that now that the CCHA is basically on life-support… with a DNR clearly signed by the comish… that we are seeing some of the best hockey in the nation.

    If WMU can get some sort of scoring touch out of a sleeping forward department… look out. 

    • Paula Weston

      Are y’all trying to make me cry — in a good way? I, too, would love to see the CCHA produce some of the best hockey in the nation from now until the final buzzer of the 2012-13 season.  

      Agreed about WMU.  

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_HVM5QWREKL5ZTSPY6HF2V2UPO4 Neil

    Not to dismiss U of M, but it seems teams that have two goalies that can play any night are going to do a lot better in the post season. So much is riding on Hunwick to get them back to the Frozen Four. Teams like Miami, Notre Dame, Ferris and WMU are in a better position when injury will happen by having a better balance in net minutes. Not only is there a lot of hockey left to be played but those nagging injuries for goalies can be a season ender. 

    • streaker

      It didn’t hurt them last season too much after December when Hunwick took them to the NC game. 

    • UM Deker

      Actually, Janacyk filled in admirably for 1 1/2 games against LSSU. In the shootout he absolutely stoned them on 4 of the 6 shots. Not worried about the GK position at all.

  • Markshoup0924

    Dear Mr. Pletsch and Mr. Piotrowski – Please review the game film from the Friday 1/13/2012 ND vs. WMU game for an incident that occurred at 14:39 of the 2nd period. A 5 min major penalty – blow to the head – was called against the wrong player. #11 Jeff Costello was mistakenly called and removed from the game while the player who committed the infraction played the balance of the game (#4 Riley Sheahan). The player who was hit illegally was #23 Dane Walters. He was injured from the hit and was not able to play the remainder of the game and also missed the following nights game. In my opinion, a 2 game suspension for Riley Sheahan would be sufficient.Read more: http://www.uscho.com/2012/01/12/lake-superior-states-perrault-suspended-one-game-by-ccha/#ixzz1jeNtE1Ux

    • Ian

      Yep, that was truly ridiculous.

  • streaker

    Paula, I’m not surprised by your luke warm feelings about outdoor games. You expressed yourself pretty well with the Big Chill and you hardly made any mention about the Frozen Diamond affair. It doesn’t much matter, though- college hockey is trying to create interest for a broader audience. If it adds some excitement to the GLI, rock on. The boys like it and the game did start on ponds. Is the novelty gone? Yes. But the status quo competing with the CHL isn’t working either. 

    • Paula Weston

      My only issue is that I’m not sure it does what you think it does — that is, create interest for a broader audience.  It’s a one-time event, a spectacle for a lot of people.  I haven’t seen any evidence to suggest that these outdoor games create broader interest for college hockey at all.  I haven’t seen anything to suggest that the audience for college hockey has grown at all in the past few years.  

      • streaker

        What do you suggest then? It’s one thing to pick apart every marketing effort (we, as fans, know what it is at face value) but it is entirely another to not bring forward ideas to “make” college hockey more appealing. All I am doing is applauding the effort instead of chastising it. If it becomes the norm, which is the direction it is heading, then fine. When fans get tired of it they’ll stop showing up for the games. But as long as they are there and the big box networks are covering them, it can’t hurt. 

        Matter of fact, I see more college hockey coverage on NBC Sports Network (i.e. Versus, i.e. OLN) than I have in previous years except by ESPN around Frozen Four time. 
        I think the interest is bigger than you think. 

  • Decatur Spartan.

    Sorry folks, but the GLI should NOT be outdoors. Really, can you see yourself
    spending 6 hours in frozen Coamerica Park watching two games each day?
    Include the cost increase. But I would save money on beverage though.

  • Fox5 2

    1 question,How our the ohio state buckholes still ranked in the top 5?They got absolutely out classed this weekend by a better program,but come on voters #5.GO BLUE.Oh and last,osu fans don’t know poop about hockey.

  • dusty bronco

    I would love nothing more than for the CCHA to dominate, but to dominate without the future big 10 teams would be even better. (won’t happen, but it would be nice). Further, I have heard rumors the last few months that Penn St. might leave the Big 10 for the reforming Big East, now how funny would that be to see these teams come crawling back to conferences they abandoned?

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