While winter was bearing down on the East Coast, the hockey in the Midwest couldn’t have been hotter.
1. Notre Dame controls its own destiny. The Fighting Irish beat Michigan twice while everyone else around them split, most notably Miami and Western Michigan. It’s the first two-game sweep Notre Dame has managed in the new year and it tightened the top of the standings considerably. Miami’s in first place with 47 points followed by Western Michigan with 46 and Notre Dame with 44. Each team has the same number of games remaining and the Irish play the RedHawks this coming weekend and the Broncos Feb. 22-23.
2. Usually scoring four goals in a game means a victory. Not so for the proverbial victors of Ann Arbor. In five games this season, Michigan has scored four goals and not captured a win. The Wolverines lost 5-4 to RIT Oct. 11, tied Northern Michigan 4-4 Nov. 2 and lost 5-4 to Alaska Jan. 11. This past weekend against Notre Dame, Michigan scored four goals in each contest but the Irish netted seven Friday and six Saturday. Nine of the total goals scored between the Irish and Wolverines involved special teams play. A glance at the box scores looks like a road map for poor overall team defense and inconsistent goaltending with each team as guilty as the other.
3. In the second half of the season, the CCHA has self-sorted into three tiers. I was hoping that in the last season of CCHA play, four or five teams would be crowding the top and making a viable play for the title — how cool would a three-way tie for first be, with ties being broken by goal differentials or coin tosses? — but three teams are looking at No. 1 with three more teams competing for the remaining two first-round bye spots and five teams looking to finish as high as they can for the first round. The predictability of the structure is disappointing, but the speculation about order of finish is interesting at least — as is the unusual placement of a few programs. There are several races being run.