Last Friday night was … well, it was magical. For me. For my picks.
Last week: 10-2-0 (.833)
Season to date: 95-63-23 (.588)
No chance of a picks week that good again. Ever.
There are five CCHA series this weekend. Northern Michigan is idle. All series are Friday-Saturday and all times are local.
Alaska at No. 4 Miami. With points being what they are and the remaining games being so few, it’s easy to say that every series is the must-see series of the weekend, but this tilt in Oxford may really be must-see hockey. The Nanooks are 6-0-1 in their last seven games, having swept their last three CCHA opponents, including last weekend at home against Northern Michigan. Alaska freshman goaltender John Keeney was named the CCHA Rookie of the Month for January. Keeney recorded those six Alaska wins with a goals-against average of 2.17 and save percentage of .915 for the span. The RedHawks swept Bowling Green last weekend, and a pair of freshmen goaltenders — Jay Williams and Ryan McKay — each earned a win while allowing just one goal per game. The Nanooks are in fourth place with 34 points; the RedHawks are in second place with 38, one point out of first. All three teams ahead of Alaska have two games in hand on the Nanooks. Miami is 9-2-1 versus Alaska in the last 12 games since Dallas Fergus became Alaska’s coach. The RedHawks took two from the Nanooks in Fairbanks earlier this season (Nov. 30-Dec. 1), outscoring Alaska 9-2 in the process. Friday’s game begins at 7:35 p.m., Saturday’s at 7:05 p.m. Miami 3-1, Alaska 2-1
Lake Superior State at Bowling Green. Each of these teams lost two games last weekend, the Lakers to Ohio State and the Falcons to Miami. One key difference is that LSSU allowed nine goals while scoring three while BGSU allowed five while scoring two. The Lakers have given up 41 or more shots per game in five of their last six contests and they’re 1-4-1 in those six games total. The only win was against Michigan Jan. 19, a game in which the Wolverines had 37 shots. The Falcons will be attempting to stop a three-game losing streak when they host the Lakers. In each of their games against Miami, the Falcons were held to fewer than 25 shots. This series is knotted 2-2-2 in the last six games, all since Chris Bergeron took the reins in BG. All of this seems like some interesting math to me. Games begin at 7:05 p.m. each night. BGSU 3-2, LSSU 3-2
Michigan State vs. Michigan. Raise your hand if you thought at the start of the season that the Spartans and Wolverines would be vying for last place at the start of February. Really, your hand is up? Liar. With 19 points, Michigan is tied with Bowling Green for ninth place, three points ahead of last-place Michigan State. The Wolverines do have two games in hand on the Spartans, but I’m not sure that matters much more than pride, in the greater CCHA scheme of things; the top five teams in the league get a bye in the first round of the playoffs and Nos. 6 through 8 host Nos. 9 through 11, and the current No. 6 — Ohio State — is 12 points ahead of ninth place and 15 points above the cellar. Last weekend, Michigan State split a pair of home games with Penn State and Michigan was swept on the road by Western Michigan. These teams split a pair of lopsided games earlier this season, with the Wolverines winning 5-1 in Ann Arbor Nov. 9 and the Spartans winning 7-2 in East Lansing the following night. This is the kind of series that gives me fits to pick. MSU goaltender Jake Hildebrand is playing very well and UM as a team is not, but the intensity of this rivalry makes all of that moot. Friday’s game begins at 6:35 p.m. in Ann Arbor and is televised by the Big Ten Network; Saturday’s game begins at 4:05 p.m. in Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena and is televised by FOX Sports Detroit. MSU 4-2, 3-2
No. 9 Notre Dame at Ohio State. The Fighting Irish finally won a game last weekend, breaking a five-game losing streak with a home win over Ferris State Saturday night. The 5-2 win did more than just halt a skid. In that contest, the Irish got three goals out of their third and fourth lines, a six-player combo that netted one goal total previously in January. Additionally, T.J. Tynan scored a power-play goal in the third period of that game, the first for ND in 15 attempts. The Irish also finally fell out of first place; that split with the Bulldogs was enough to allow both Western Michigan and Michigan to overtake Notre Dame in the standings. With 36 points, ND is in third place and five points ahead of sixth-place Ohio State. The Buckeyes snapped a three-game losing streak of their own when they beat Lake Superior State Friday night, the first win of a two-game sweep. Fourteen different Buckeyes had at least one point in the two games versus Lake State. Also, the Buckeyes haven’t allowed a power-play goal in six games. That may have something to do with senior Brady Hjelle (1.60 GAA, .946 SV%), who is playing crazy-good in net for OSU. The teams split in South Bend early in the regular season in 2011-12 but last met Mar. 2-3, 2012, when Notre Dame ended Ohio State’s season in the first round of the CCHA playoffs. Games begin at 7:05 p.m. each night. ND 2-1, OSU 3-2
No. 6 Western Michigan at Ferris State. The Broncos are in first place by a point this week after their home sweep of Michigan last weekend. In Saturday’s 5-1 win, four of WMU’s goals were scored by freshman; Colton Hargrove had two while Kenney Morrison and Josh Pitt each scored one. Sophomore Frank Slubowski (1.78 GAA, .922 SV%) had both wins for WMU. The Bulldogs are tied with Alaska for fourth place, each with 34 points and each five points out of first place. Last weekend, Ferris State split a road series with Notre Dame, winning 3-1 Friday night. In that contest, sophomore forward Dominic Panetta scored his second career goal in 40 games … but his second goal in two consecutive contests and both of those were game winners. That unique talent is worth a mention. These teams met Dec. 7-8, 2012, in Kalamazoo, where the Broncos won twice. Games begin at 7:05 p.m. each night. FSU 3-1, WMU 2-1
Dave Starman is onto something, again
Do yourself a favor and check out Dave Starman’s column, which contains a couple of things worth noting. While I’m not sure I agree with his assessment of why Notre Dame slipped recently — good teams should be able to maintain through all of that alleged adversity coaches love to discuss — I like his defense for all the right reasons of Brian Burke and his fantasy of Ron Mason on the bench against Red Berenson one last time.
I know it’s an OSU reference in this picks blog for the second week in a row, but it’s so worth mentioning
Kudos to the Buckeyes for hosting Pride Night tonight when they play Notre Dame. In conjunction with Gay Hockey Ohio and the You Can Play Project, Ohio State is raising awareness and spreading acceptance through this event that is thought to be the first of its kind among Division I men’s ice hockey programs. Read my friend and esteemed colleague Jeff Svoboda’s preview of the event for the full story.