So good to see my personal second-half slump off to a hearty start.
Last week: 3-6-0 (.333)
Season to date: 70-45-19 (.593)
Thanks, CCHA, for such a strong midseason showing. I didn’t count the Bowling Green game, as my prediction came after the drop of the puck.
Let’s see if I can get this right, shall we? There is a single CCHA game, a single exhibition game and four nonconference series. Times are local.
Michigan State at Ferris State. This single game Saturday night is a twilight game, played at 5:05 p.m. The Spartans very nearly had a good weekend at the Great Lakes Invitational tournament. First they tied Western Michigan in the last minute of regulation in semifinal play, losing the shootout to the Broncos after a five-minute overtime and therefore earning the right to play for third place. Then the Spartans looked strong against Michigan in that consolation game, leading 2-1 heading into the third. Finally, the wheels came off; Michigan scored four third-period goals and MSU lost 5-2. This week, the Spartans play a team that did salvage something of its midseason tournament. After losing 5-3 to No. 12 Cornell in the first round of the Florida College Classic — allowing three third-period goals themselves — the Bulldogs trounced Minnesota-Duluth in that tournament’s third-place game, 6-2. FSU seems to have rediscovered its offense with nine goals in one weekend, scored by nine different players. The Spartans beat the Bulldogs, 3-1, in East Lansing just before the holiday break. I expect the Bulldogs to return that favor Saturday. FSU 3-1
No. 13 Union at Lake Superior State. The Dutchmen finished the first half in third place in the ECAC, going 0-1-3 in league play before taking third place in last week’s Catamount Cup with a 4-1 win over Merrimack. Sophomore Collin Stevens (2.12 GAA, .909 SV%) stopped 20 in that game and four different Dutchmen scored. The Lakers finished their first half strong with three straight league wins, including 1-0 road win over Miami (Dec. 8) and a home sweep of Northern Michigan (Dec. 14-15). Two of those games were shutouts, with Kevin Murdock (1.94, .941) winning over Miami and junior Kevin Kapalka (3.17, .903) in net the following game against the Wildcats. That series versus NMU was the last action the Lakers saw. The Dutchmen and Lakers have met once before, in the 2009 Rensselaer Holiday Tournament, a thrilling 0-0 overtime time that was decided by shootout, which Union won. I can’t underestimate the Lakers, in spite of Union’s ranking. Friday’s game begins at 7:35 p.m., Saturday’s at 7:05 p.m. Union 3-2, LSSU 3-2
Northern Michigan at No. 15 St. Cloud State. As I noted in this week’s column, the Wildcats are looking to turn things around in the second half, beginning with this series. One of the areas in which NMU has struggled is any area where they play that isn’t the Berry Events Center; the Wildcats are 1-8-1 on the road. Northern Michigan finished its first half of the season in last place in the CCHA and last played those two road losses against Lake Superior State. That single road win came Oct. 20 against Nebraska-Omaha. The Huskies are 9-3-0 at home and are in first place in the WCHA as the second half begins. SCSU split a series against visiting Rensselaer Dec. 27-28, losing 4-3 and winning 2-1; that loss snapped a three-game win streak. The Huskies lead this series in Minnesota 14-3-1. Friday’s game begins at 7:37 p.m., Saturday’s at 7:07 p.m. As much as I want to pick NMU for one, I am not calling against the odds. SCSU 2-1, 3-2
No. 10 Western Michigan at Bemidji State. Last weekend, the Broncos scored one goal in the GLI. That goal was enough to tie Michigan State in the first round and one shootout-goal — and remember, kids, those don’t actually count — was enough to propel WMU into the title game against Michigan Tech. That game didn’t go as well for Western Michigan as those other Huskies from the WCHA prevailed 4-0 to capture their first GLI title since 1980. WMU finished the first half with a split against Michigan, so the Broncos are 1-2-1 in their last four. BSU is tied for seventh in the WCHA standings, 2-1-1 in the Beavers’ last four league games, but 0-2 last weekend in the Ledyard Bank Classic. Both of those losses were by one goal to Hockey East teams, including the 3-2 overtime loss to No. 4 New Hampshire in the third-place game. BSU is 3-2-1 in this series, with the teams splitting the last time they met in Minnesota (Dec. 17-18, 2004). Friday’s game begins at 7:37 p.m., Saturday’s at 7:07 p.m. WMU 2-1, BSU 2-1
Bowling Green at Canisius. Like the Wildcats, the Falcons sit in last place in the CCHA as the second half begins, but BGSU finished the first half on a higher note, going 1-1-1 in their last three conference games. Last weekend, the Falcons played a single game against visiting Niagara, beating the Purple Eagles 3-0. That win was also Bowling Green’s first win at home this season; prior to that the Falcons last won in BGSU Feb. 24, 2012. In last week’s shutout win, senior Andrew Hammond had 38 saves and brought his career shutout total to six, one off the mark of all-time BGSU shutout leader Tyler Masters. Canisius is in fifth place in the AHA heading into the second half. Last weekend, the Golden Griffins split a pair of conference home games versus Army, winning 5-1 before dropping a 1-0 game in overtime. The Falcons swept the Griffs twice in Bowling Green last season, 4-1 and 3-1 (Nov. 11-12). This is a Saturday-Sunday series, with both games beginning at 12:05 p.m. BGSU 3-2, Canisius 3-1
U.S. NTDP at Michigan. If the Wolverines hadn’t come from behind against Michigan State in the consolation game of last week’s GLI, beating the Spartans 5-2 on the strength of four third-period goals, I was ready to write them off. I’m still not sure they can beat the youngsters from across town in this single Friday game. I don’t call exhibition games, but a seventh-place Michigan team is interesting enough to mention. Junior Adam Janecyk (2.00 GAA, .939 SV%) has played the last three games for the Wolverines, going 2-1 in that stretch. UM senior forward and leading scorer A.J. Treais (10-8–18) is eligible to play this game in spite of the one-game suspension issued by the CCHA this week for a late hit to the head that Treais delivered versus MSU in the GLI consolation game. Treais will have to serve that suspension in regular-season play — which may help the Wolverines past the kids in this game.