As we head into the penultimate weekend of CCHA regular-season play — ever — here’s how I’ve done so far.
Last week: 3-6-1 (.350)
Season to date: 106-79-26 (.564)
I suppose I should content myself with the possibility of an overall regular-season picks record above .500.
With two weekends left, every game in every series is important. Nearly everything is still to be decided: the regular-season championship, the final two first-round playoff byes, who will host and who will travel in the first round. And just look at these series this week.
Ferris State is the odd team out this week. All series are single-site, Friday-Saturday. All games begin at 7:05 p.m. local time unless otherwise noted.
No. 3 Miami at Lake Superior State. The RedHawks are in first place with 50 points. Last week, Miami split with Notre Dame, winning at home Friday night, 3-1, and losing 2-1 Sunday in Soldier Field. All Miami has to do from here on out is win to be crowned the last-ever, regular-season CCHA champions. The Lakers — sitting in seventh place with 32 points — will try to have a say in that with this series. Last weekend, LSSU swept visiting Alaska, 5-1 and 4-2, with a near super-human performance from Kevin Murdock in Friday’s game. Murdock’s 46 saves in that contest earned him CCHA Goaltender of the Week. He splits time in net with fellow junior Kevin Kapalka. The RedHawks split their net time between two freshmen, Ryan McKay and Jay Williams. All of this is worth mentioning because the key to this series is goaltending; the RedHawks and Lakers score roughly the same number of goals per game, but Miami’s defense has been off-the-hook good, allowing 1.50 goals per game, tops in the nation. The RedHawks are not infallible, but they’re pretty darned good right now where it counts. Miami is 8-4-0 in the last 12 in this series. Friday’s game begins at 7:35 p.m. Miami 2-1, 2-1
Michigan at Ohio State. Michigan is 10th in the league with 25 points and needs to win the CCHA championship tournament to extend its NCAA tournament appearance streak to 23. Ohio State is tied with Ferris State for fourth, each team with 42 points, and the Buckeyes are looking to earn themselves a first-week playoff bye. Strange. All of it, strange. The Wolverines last played a couple of high-scoring road losses to Notre Dame Feb. 8-9, losing 7-4 and 6-4. Last weekend, the Buckeyes took four of six points from visiting Western Michigan, tying 1-1 Friday and winning 6-3 Saturday. The story of the season for the Wolverines is, well, kind of obvious. The story of the season for the Buckeyes is senior Brady Hjelle (1.79 GAA, .941 SV%), who in addition to being a wall in net has scored two assists in his last three games. The Wolverines are 6-4-0 versus the Buckeyes in the last 10 meetings. These teams do not like each other. Friday’s game begins at 6:35 p.m. and is televised by the Big Ten Network; Saturday’s game is carried by Comcast. Ohio State 4-2, 4-3
Michigan State at Alaska. The last-place Spartans have 22 points. Last weekend, MSU split a pair of home games against Northern Michigan, losing 5-3 Friday and winning 4-2 Saturday. Junior forward and captain Greg Wolfe is a man possessed lately; he has four goals and three assists in his last seven games and the first of those goals came after 16 games without a marker. The Nanooks lost two on the road to Lake Superior State last weekend, 5-1 and 4-2. Alaska, in sixth place with 37 points, sits five points behind Ohio State and Ferris State, the two teams currently tied for fourth and therefore currently in position to earn a first-round playoff bye. The Nanooks are 5-5-2 against the Spartans in their last 12 and 4-1-1 versus MSU in the last six meetings in Fairbanks. Alaska 3-2, 3-2
Northern Michigan at Bowling Green. Last weekend, the Wildcats split a pair of road games with the Spartans, winning 5-3 Friday and losing 4-2 Saturday. Friday’s win was the first CCHA road win of the season for the Wildcats. NMU enters the weekend in ninth place with 26 points, one point ahead of Michigan five points behind Bowling Green, the team currently in the lowest spot to host a first-round CCHA playoff series. The Falcons also split on the road last weekend, beating Ferris State 2-1 in overtime Friday before losing 4-3 Saturday. Freshman goaltender Tommy Burke (2.15 GAA, .908 SV%) played both games for BGSU last weekend, as senior goaltender Andrew Hammond remained sidelined with an injury. Hammond’s status is currently day-to-day. The Falcons have ended the Wildcats’ season for the past two years. At the end of both 2010-11 and 2011-12, BGSU took the final two games of the first-round, best-of-three CCHA playoff series the first weekend in March. I would think that kind of thing sticks with a team, no matter which end of victory the team occupies. BGSU 3-2, 3-2
No. 11 Notre Dame at No. 8 Western Michigan. Each of these teams has secured a first-round CCHA playoff bye. Each of these teams is still very much in the hunt for the final CCHA regular-season championship. Third-place Notre Dame has 47 points; second-place Western Michigan has 48. Each team is chasing first-place Miami, who has 50 points. Last weekend, the Irish split a pair of games with Miami, losing 3-1 Friday in Oxford, Ohio, and winning 2-1 Sunday in the first game of the Hockey City Classic in Chicago. Meanwhile, the Broncos took two points from Ohio State in Columbus, tying the Buckeyes 1-1 Friday — and winning that very important shootout point — and losing 6-3 Saturday. The Broncos are monstrously good at home, having lost just two games in Lawson Arena this season. The Irish are .500 on the road (6-6-1) and 1-4-2 in their last seven games in Kalamazoo. The Last Notre Dame win in Lawson Arena came Feb. 25, 2011. Friday’s game begins at 7:35 p.m. and is televised by CBS Sports Network. Western Michigan 3-2, 2-1
No Bad Days
Three years ago, Louie Facca was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a form of of muscle degeneration that affects young boys. Louie, now five years old, is the son of Western Michigan assistant coach Rob Facca.
Facca often talks about hearing the diagnosis. Upon receiving the news, Facca says he knew that he could never have a bad day. Think about it in terms of relativity. From this new perspective, Facca and his wife, Nikki, formed “No Bad Days,” a foundation dedicated to helping find a cure for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.
This weekend, the Broncos will hold their second annual Ice Duchenne, an event to raise funds for CureDuchenne, one of the major organizations leading the charge to helping find a cure for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Part of this weekend’s fundraising efforts will include the raffling of an autographed Steve Yzerman jersey. Tickets are available at Lawson Arena through the second intermission of Saturday’s game.
The Broncos are also asking fans to spread the word by using hashtags #NoBadDays and #IceDuchenne2013 in social media.
Speaking of those Broncos
When speaking of the Broncos, thoughts turn naturally to the Harlem Shake. Naturally. Even though my old pal and friend of the CCHA, former Miami SID Jess Bechard, says that the Harlem Shake is an indication of the final decline of humanity as we know it (I’m paraphrasing here), this video absolutely is worth the look. Absolutely.
Why? Because that’s Western Michigan head coach Andy Murray just to the right of the green guy, who in turn appears to be doing something unmentionable to a stuffed elephant.