Here are next week’s playoff matches:
No. 8 Bowling Green at No. 1 Ferris State
No. 7 Notre Dame at No. 2 Michigan
No. 6 Lake Superior State at No. 3 Western Michigan
No. 5 Michigan State at No. 4 Miami
I think we’ve learned quite a bit from the first round of the CCHA playoffs. Here are three things that stick with me.
1. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever underestimate Bowling Green. Incredible as it seems, the Falcons have eliminated Northern Michigan in Marquette in three first-round games — for the second consecutive season. Last year, the Falcons became the first last-place team to advance out of the first round by capturing its best-of-three series by winning the second and third contests. This year, the Falcons did exactly the same thing, except that they didn’t need double-overtime Sunday night to do it. After dropping Friday’s game 4-2, Bowling Green rebounded with 5-3 and 4-1 wins. That’s nine goals in two games from a team averaging 1.76 goals per game in the regular season, second-to-last in the nation. The Falcons will travel to Big Rapids next weekend to take on top-seed Ferris State.
2. In the playoffs, goaltending makes the difference. In the case of all three first-round series, the winning goaltenders had great weekends — or at least great performances in the games they won. In Notre Dame’s sweep of Ohio State, sophomore Steven Summerhays allowed just two goals with a weekend save percentage of .970. In Lake Superior’s sweep of Alaska, sophomore Kevin Kapalka allowed three goals with a weekend save percentage of .960. Both Summerhays and Kapalka had second-night shutouts as well. In his 4-2 loss to Northern Michigan Friday night, senior Andrew Hammond allowed four goals on 26 shots (.846). In his two wins, Hammond posted a .941 save percentage.
3. At least two “big” CCHA programs will be watching The Joe from home. Now that Notre Dame has eliminated Ohio State, the Fighting Irish will travel to Michigan for the second round of the playoffs. Yes, either ND or UM will advance, but it seems as though this may be the year of the “little” school — and I know that schools like Bowling Green and Western Michigan are not small schools by any means, but in the traditional landscape of the CCHA they are — and after this weekend, at least two of the CCHA’s four big programs will be done.