My second-half swoon is temporarily on hold.
Last week: 8-5-0 (.615)
Season to date: 85-61-23 (.571)
Any week above .500 is a very good week for me, indeed.
Everybody plays this week. There are five conference series and one Big Ten Hockey preview in East Lansing. All series are Friday-Saturday. Times are local.
Northern Michigan at Alaska. This series feels a little like Clash of the Under-the-Radar Titans to me. Each of these teams has begun the second half well. After sweeping Ohio State at home last weekend, the Wildcats are 5-0-1 in 2013 and carry that six-game unbeaten streak into Fairbanks. Last weekend’s sweep was the Wildcats’ first conference sweep of the season. After sweeping Notre Dame on the road last weekend, the Nanooks are 4-0 in the new year and bring home a five-game unbeaten streak (4-0-1) dating back to Dec. 8. Those back-to-back road sweeps — the Nanooks beat Michigan twice Jan. 11-12 — mark the first time in the program’s history that the team started the second half of a season with four straight league wins. These teams have already met this season, Nov. 23-24, when the Wildcats took five points in two close home games, a 4-3 overtime win and 2-2 tie with shootout point. NMU is undefeated versus UAF in the last 16 meetings. Both games begin at 7:05 p.m. Alaska 3-2, Northern Michigan 2-1
Bowling Green at No. 6 Miami. The Falcons are another under-the-radar team, having had their six-game unbeaten streak (5-0-1) snapped by Western Michigan last Saturday night, but not before they themselves defeated the Broncos. Sophomore Ryan Carpenter had the only goal for BGSU in the 2-1 loss, his 10th of the season and one fewer than he scored in nearly twice as many games last year. That goal extended Carpenter’s point streak to eight games, the longest Falcon point streak since Jonathan Matsumoto’s nine-game streak in 2005-06. The RedHawks have been a bit shy with the goals lately, something that coach Enrico Blasi discussed in this week’s CCHA column. Last weekend, Miami traveled to Madison, Wisc., and split a pair with the Badgers, losing 1-0 Friday and winning 2-1 Saturday. That win halted Wisconsin’s 11-game unbeaten streak. The Falcons haven’t won a game in Oxford since March 10, 2001, a span of 15 winless road games against the RedHawks. I should know better than to pick against the Falcons this weekend, given the way that streaks have been snapping all over the place lately. Friday’s game begins at 7:35 p.m., Saturday’s at 7:05 p.m. Miami 2-1, 3-1
Ferris State at No. 7. Notre Dame. One of these teams is 5-2-0 in the second half and the other is 1-5-0 — and the team that isn’t ranked has the better 2013 record. Last weekend, Ferris State swept Michigan State in a home-and-home series in which six different Bulldogs accounted for the team’s seven goals. I’ve been saying this all season: Ferris State is underrated and capable of generating offense in nearly every situation. The Fighting Irish, on the other hand, are a bit weary after playing six games in 11 days, the last five in eight days and all of those five against CCHA opponents, a conference stretch during which ND went 1-4-0. In four of the six second-half contests, the Irish were held to one goal. Two little points separate these teams, the Irish tied for first with Western Michigan and the Bulldogs in fourth. FSU took three of four games from ND last season. Friday’s game begins at 7:35 p.m. and is televised by CBS Sports Network. Saturday’s untelevised game begins at 7:05 p.m. Ferris State 4-2, Notre Dame 2-1
Lake Superior State at Ohio State. Last weekend, the Lakers split a pair of home games with Michigan, losing 6-5 Friday and winning 3-2 Saturday. That’s seven goals in a weekend, enough to win two games — but the Wolverines are thinking the same thing, I’m sure. Saturday’s victory was the first time that the Lakers had beaten the Wolverines since Feb. 16, 2007, a span of 16 winless games for the Sault Ste. Marie faithful against a team they probably dislike more than any other. The Buckeyes lost two on the road to Northern Michigan, 4-2 and 3-2, giving OSU a lot of time to think about how to get back on track during a very long bus ride home, since that weekend marked the first time this season in which the Buckeyes didn’t earn any conference points in a two-game CCHA set. In the second half, Ohio State is 1-5-0 while the Lakers are 3-2-1. The teams split a pair of games early this season in Sault Ste. Marie (Nov. 23-24), with OSU winning 4-1 and LSSU winning 3-2. I think that sounds about right. Both games begin at 7:05 p.m. Ohio State 4-1, Lake Superior State 3-2
Michigan at No. 9 Western Michigan. Each of these teams split a pair of league games last weekend, but each split meant something significantly different to each team, without a doubt. Michigan’s 6-4 win over Lake Superior State last Friday snapped a three-game losing streak and the resulting three points were the first conference points the Wolverines earned in the second half. Junior Luke Moffatt netted two goals in that win to bring his goal total for the season two three; it was Moffatt’s first career multi-goal game. The Broncos split a pair of home-and-home games with Bowling Green, losing 3-2 on the road and winning 2-1 at home. That loss stopped a four-game unbeaten (2-0-2) streak for the Broncos and prevented them from taking sole possession of first place when the Irish stumbled twice during the weekend. The Saturday win gives WMU a 7-0-1 home record in CCHA play — a streak that will collide with another and equally interesting one. The Broncos have not beaten the Wolverines in Kalamazoo (0-8-0) since Jan. 11, 2003. Friday’s game begins at 7:05 p.m. and is televised by Comcast. Saturday’s game begins at 7:35 p.m. and is televised by FOX Sports Detroit. WMU 3-1, 3-1
Penn State at Michigan State. These teams have never played each other before. On Tuesday, Jan. 15, the Nittany Lions (9-12-0) lost 3-2 in overtime to Division III opponent Neumann. Last Saturday in Philadelphia, PSU beat Vermont 4-2. Skippered by former Alaska coach Guy Gadowsky, the Nittany Lions are led in scoring by a pair of freshmen each with 11 goals and eight assists, David Glen and Casey Bailey. Two freshmen have seen time in net for Penn State, Matthew Skoff (2.74 GAA, .911 SV%) and PJ Musico (3.00, .899). The Spartans lost 3-0 to the U.S. Under-18 team Tuesday night — something they have in common with the Nittany Lions, who likewise fell to the youngsters from Ann Arbor, 3-0, Jan. 12. Last weekend, MSU dropped a home-and-home series to Ferris State, losing 2-1 Friday and 5-2 Saturday. I’ve been beating the Jake Hildebrand drum for a while now, so why stop? The MSU freshman goaltender (2.02, .937) is fun to watch and better than his record. I like these Spartans overall; they play well and just aren’t quite there yet. With just two wins in their last 13 games, I can’t call a CCHA sweep. I think the teams will split, but I don’t think there’s any way to pick which night will result in an MSU win. Of course, I’m required to do just that. Friday’s game begins at 7:05 p.m.; Saturday’s game will be televised by the Big Ten Network and starts at 6:05 p.m. MSU 3-2, PSU 3-1
And one more thing …
Every once in a while I hear from former CCHA players who want to say hello or — even better — to self-promote. Among the best self-promoters in CCHA history is a little-known (sorry, Reed) Buckeye named Reed Whiting (2000-04). Late last night, Whiting messaged me on Facebook to tell me that he was sitting with former Bowling Green Falcon Steve Brudzewski (2000-04) in St. Paul, Minn., where each had competed in the Red Bull Crashed Ice World Championship, which Red Bull describes as “a combination of hockey, boardercross, and downhill skiing.”
Whiting came in sixth out of 100 competitors in yesterday’s “Shootout” — whatever that is. Brudzewski came in 86th, and the top competitor in yesterday’s event was Brian Schack, a Golden Gopher alumnus (2006-2010).
The event runs through Saturday, when a champion is crowned.