It’s impossible that we’re in the third week of January — with only six weekends of regular-season hockey remaining — but here we are.
How have I done this season? Sigh. My picks percentage is as brutal as the temperature this morning in Flint.
Last week: 5-3-2
Season to date: 82-58-20 (.575)
I am grateful for the split between the RedHawks and the Lakers that went my way last weekend.
There are five conference series and a single nonconference game between Northern Michigan and Michigan Tech. All series are single-site, Friday-Saturday, and everything begins at 7:05 p.m. unless otherwise noted.
Bowling Green at Alaska
The Falcons enter this weekend well rested — that is, if they didn’t get caught en route in the giant storm in the Pacific Northwest, a system that I know temporarily grounded at least one CCHA official on his way to Fairbanks — as last week was a bye for BG. When the Falcons last played, they took four of six points from Ohio State at home with two ties and two shootout points. Last weekend, the Nanooks completed a disappointing two-week stay in the Lower 48 with two points in Big Rapids after tying and losing to Ferris State. Eight points separate these two teams at the bottom of the CCHA standings, so even if BGSU sweeps in Fairbanks, the Falcons would still be in last place at the end of the weekend. Since seven points separate the Nanooks from eighth-place Michigan State and Northern Michigan, UAF can’t move up in the standings either. The last time the Falcons scored a goal against the Nanooks was Oct. 30, 2010; Alaska blanked BG twice in Bowling Green earlier this season, 3-0 and 2-0, Nov. 25-26. UAF 3-1, 2-1
No. 13 Ferris State at No. 5 Ohio State
Last weekend, the Bulldogs took four of six points from visiting Alaska with a tie and win, and FSU has a nice little four-game unbeaten streak going (3-0-1) to begin the second half of the season. The Buckeyes, however, do not. After dominating the league in the first half, OSU is now winless in its last four, having dropped two lopsided games to Michigan last weekend, a 4-0 loss at home Friday and a 4-1 loss in the Frozen Diamond Faceoff in Cleveland’s Progressive Field on Sunday. This followed two ties with no shootout points in Bowling Green the weekend before, so OSU’s hold on first place in the CCHA is now quite tentative, one point ahead of Western Michigan — a team with two games in hand on the Buckeyes. Last year, FSU was 2-1-1 against OSU and the Bulldogs hold a 4-3-3 advantage in the last 10 meetings. Seventh-place Ferris State is one point behind Notre Dame and Miami in the CCHA standings, two points behind Lake Superior State and three points behind third-place Michigan. What a league. FSU 3-2, OSU 2-1
No. 19 Lake Superior at No. 16 Michigan State
The Lakers travel to East Lansing after splitting at home last weekend with Miami. Their 4-3 win Saturday was LSSU’s first over the RedHawks in Sault Ste. Marie since Nov. 10, 2006. The Spartans had a good weekend at home against Northern Michigan last weekend, taking five of six points with a tie and win. These teams opened the CCHA season against each other Oct. 14-15, with the Lakers sweeping MSU at home, 5-4 and 3-2. After that series, LSSU coach Jim Roque told me that he was happy to have met MSU early in the season because, he said, the Spartans would be a much different, much improved team by midseason and he was correct. What he didn’t predict, though, is that the Lakers would be three points ahead of the Spartans at this point — and that three points would be the difference between fourth place and eighth. Each of these teams plays as a team, which usually means that the hockey is good, disciplined, and close. That’s what I’m banking on this weekend. MSU 3-2, LSSU 3-2
No. 10 Michigan at No. 7 Notre Dame
So tell me, is it Michigan’s strategy these last few seasons to lull everyone else in the CCHA into a false sense of security in the first half of the season before emerging as nearly unstoppable sometime in the second half to make a run at a national championship? If so, it seems to be working. The Wolverines swept OSU on the road last weekend and did so soundly, outscoring the Buckeyes 8-1 in two games. With the wins, Michigan now brings a nine-game unbeaten streak (7-0-2) into South Bend, and with 29 points in the CCHA standings, the Wolverines are within striking distance of first place — a far cry from where they were in mid-November. The Fighting Irish are another story, a team trying to find its mojo once again. Since LSSU snapped ND’s 11-game unbeaten streak Nov. 26, the Irish are 3-6-0 in Division I play. Last weekend, Notre Dame dropped a home-and-home series against Western Michigan, mustering three whole goals in the process. This series is even in the last 10 games (5-5-0) with UM going 2-1-0 against ND last season. These teams last met in the CCHA third-place game Mar. 19, 2011, a 4-2 Michigan win. I hate to call against the Wolverines when they’re on a roll because I know it’ll bite me, but that’s just what I’m going to do. The puck drops at 7:35 p.m. both nights. ND 3-2, UM 4-3
No. 8 Western Michigan at No. 20 Miami
With their sweep of Notre Dame last weekend, the Broncos gained sole possession of second place in the CCHA. For Western, it’s all about being a miserable team to play against, according to coach Andy Murray. That misery includes giving up 1.6 goals per game in their last seven CCHA games; they held ND to three goals last weekend. The RedHawks split with the Lakers on the road last weekend, bringing their second-half record to 3-1-0. That weekend in Sault Ste. Marie marked the end of a stretch of travel for Miami in which the RedHawks played nine of 10 games on the road. They went 6-4-0 in that period. These are the first home games for Miami since mid-November — and the Broncos are 0-9-1 in their last 10 games in Oxford. The teams split a pair of lopsided wins in Kalamazoo Nov. 26-27, 2010, and Miami tied and defeated the Broncos in Oxford last February, but the teams last met in the 2011 CCHA championship game that saw Miami score three goals in the third period on their way to a 5-2 win. Friday’s game begins at 7:35 p.m. Miami 4-2, WMU 3-2
Northern Michigan at Michigan Tech
Last weekend, the Wildcats came away from East Lansing with a single point after tying the Spartans, 5-5, Friday and losing 2-1 the following night. The Huskies swept Alaska-Anchorage at home last weekend and scored a dozen goals in the process, six each night. MTU’s first win against UAA broke a four-game losing streak. The Huskies, currently in sixth place in the WCHA, are led in scoring by Brett Olson (6-15–21) and Milos Gordic leads the team in goals (eight). Senior Josh Robinson (2.68 GAA, .912 SV%) is having his best season. The Wildcats beat the Huskies 4-1 when the teams met Dec. 16 in Marquette. NMU 3-2