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College Hockey:
Weekend work-up, Jan. 21, 2013: Welcome to the CCHA shuffle

It was an interesting weekend in the CCHA, one that resulted in two teams sharing the top spot.

1. Sweeping is hard to do, but sometimes you don’t need a broom to move ahead. Alaska, however, had no problem sweeping Notre Dame and thereby helping Western Michigan slide into a tie for No. 1 in the league even though the Broncos split with Bowling Green. Additionally, the Nanooks recorded their second road sweep in a row over two teams — Michigan Jan. 11-12 and ND this week — that have given Alaska much trouble.

The other sweeping winners of the weekend? Ferris State and Northern Michigan, who each gobbled up six points. The Bulldogs can thank the Wildcats for NMU’s sweep of Ohio State, as FSU and OSU were tied for fourth heading into the weekend, a spot that FSU occupies all on its own now. The Wildcats can thank the Bulldogs for FSU’s sweep of Michigan State. NMU was next-to-last in the standings heading into the weekend, two points behind MSU and Michigan; now the Wildcats are in eighth place while the Spartans are in the basement.

And those Nanooks climbed from seventh to fifth this week with their six points.

2. Scoring is hard to do, but sometimes you don’t need (much of) it to move ahead. The top three teams in the standings — Notre Dame, Western Michigan, Miami — are having difficulty scoring. With the exception of Friday’s 5-4 loss to Alaska, Notre Dame’s slow 1-5-0 start to the second half can be traced directly to scoring. The Irish have scored 10 goals in six game; take out Friday’s loss and it’s six in five and ND beat MSU 1-0 in its only win of 2013.

The Broncos don’t have it quite as bad, but WMU scored two goals in each game this past weekend in a loss and win with BGSU. There was the six-goal output against Bemidji State Jan. 4, but if you go back to the Great Lakes Invitational where WMU scored one goal in two games, the Broncos have two contests in which they’ve scored more than two goals in eight games.

Then there is Miami. The RedHawks have been struggling up front since mid-December. In Wisconsin this past weekend, Miami split a pair of games while scoring just two goals, both in Saturday’s win.

3. Tending the net for the last-place team is hard to do, but sometimes you do it really well. Michigan State freshman goaltender Jake Hildebrand is in danger of being overlooked because of where the Spartans are in the standings this season. Hildebrand (2.02 GAA, .937 SV%) is having a phenomenal rookie season with a terrible win percentage. Anyone who has played the Spartans will tell you that they’re solid, but they’re not there yet. Hildebrand, however, has arrived. He had 61 saves in two losses against Ferris State this past weekend and is averaging nearly 31 saves per game in the new year. He’s big and fast and pretty much nothing rattles him.

Of course, the Spartans may want Hildebrand to remain their secret weapon. He’s certainly been the best player on their team this season.

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