Yet again, a weekend of play reminds us of how unpredictable this season is. Three quick things:
1. Ferris State may be the story of the year — or not. Raise your hand if you thought the Bulldogs would be in first place at any point this season. Okay, so if you’re a die-hard Bulldogs fan, you may be jumping out of your seat right now, but I doubt even FSU coach Bob Daniels saw this coming. As the only team to sweep this past weekend, the Bulldogs now find themselves in first place for the first time this season with a one-point margin over the three teams immediately behind them, Miami, Western Michigan and Ohio State. At midseason, FSU was fifth; with an undefeated January (6-0-2, 4-0-2 CCHA), the Bulldogs have rocketed up the CCHA standings — and they did so without a single knockout punch. Every win was by a goal. They didn’t take the shootout point in their tie with Alaska Jan. 13. The Bulldogs are averaging just 2.79 goals per game, the 33rd-best offense in the country.
2. Ohio State has made the most of that once-generous points cushion. The fact that the Buckeyes are in second place after going 0-4-4 in January says two things: 1. The five-point lead that the Buckeyes held when they ended the first half in first place was greater than the sum of its reality. 2. The parity in the league made those five points work as a larger cushion, but it’s not because the Buckeyes did themselves any favors in January. OSU hasn’t won a game since beating Robert Morris Dec. 30 and the last OSU league win was against Miami Dec. 10. In January, OSU went 0-4-4; those four ties brought them exactly four points, as they didn’t earn a single extra shootout point in the month. Goalie Cal Heeter’s numbers are still very good and OSU scored three or more goals in three of those eight games — one loss, two ties — so something less than obvious is amiss in Columbus.
3. You don’t need a lot of shots on goal to beat a ranked team in this league. All those teams at the top — from the first-place Bulldogs to the three teams one point behind them in second place — have both Alaska and Bowling Green to thank, in part. The Nanooks beat visiting Notre Dame, 6-3, on Friday night, and they did so with only 23 shots on goal. Steven Summerhays gave up four goals, Mike Johnson gave up two, and the Fighting Irish’s biggest weakness — team defense — was exposed again. Western Michigan enjoyed a brief moment in first place after Friday’s win before dropping Saturday’s game to Bowling Green, 2-1. The Falcons had 22 shots on Frank Slubowski; two were all they needed. For Alaska, it was the sixth league win of the season. For the Falcons, it was their third, their second in two weeks. In fact, the Falcons are .500 in 2012 (2-2-2).