The last regular-season weekend of the CCHA was exciting. It was also difficult — and I’m not talking about my picks.
Last week: 8-3-1 (.708)
Season to date: 118-86-29 (.569)
I don’t know how that happened.
We begin the CCHA playoffs this weekend with three best-of-three series at single sites. Times are local. All series are Friday-Saturday with a Sunday game if necessary. There is no shootout in the playoffs. Teams play until someone wins, as it should be.
After this round, teams are reseeded for next week and anyone playing this week will be on the road in the second round. The highest-seeded survivor this week plays Western Michigan, the middle team plays Notre Dame and the lowest seed plays Miami.
With the exception of the Northern Michigan-Michigan series, I seriously have no idea how these will turn out. Of course, I don’t know how that one will turn out, either. As they say, that’s why they play the game. One note to make the final season of the CCHA even sadder: None of these playoff games is televised, unless there are local listings that I don’t know about at this writing.
The numbers before a team’s name indicate order of CCHA finish.
No. 11 Michigan State at No. 6 Alaska
This is the second time in three seasons that the Nanooks have played host to the Spartans in the first round of the CCHA playoffs. In the playoffs at the end of the 2010-11 season, Alaska swept Michigan State 3-2 and 4-3 but needed three overtimes to do so, winning in double OT in the second game. This is also the second time in three weeks that the Spartans have flown to Alaska for a series. The teams split a regular-season pair of games in Fairbanks Feb. 22-23, a 1-0 win for MSU and a 4-2 win for Alaska.
Junior Will Yanakeff was in the net for MSU in both of those recent games against Alaska, but he was not on the ice last weekend when the Spartans split a pair of home games against Western Michigan and a different MSU goaltender earning a 1-0 victory. Freshman Jake Hildebrand was in net for both games against the Broncos and after Friday’s 5-2 loss, Hildebrand stopped 28 shots in his first career shutout Saturday night. Yanakeff was sidelined with an injury. I’m not sure who will be in the MSU net this weekend.
While the last-place Spartans were gritting out a victory against the ranked Broncos, the Nanooks were defending the Governor’s Cup against rival Alaska-Anchorage. Junior Cody Kunyk had the game-winning overtime goal in Anchorage Friday as the Nanooks won 2-1, and senior Andy Taranto had two goals in Saturday’s 3-1 win, including the game winner. This is the fourth straight year that the Nanooks have taken the Governor’s Cup.
Each team, then, is coming into this weekend on a very positive note. Each team is 4-6-0 in its last 10 games and .500 in its last six, but the Nanooks are riding a three-game win streak into the series — and the first win in the streak was against MSU. Alaska is 6-6-2-1 against Michigan State since Dallas Ferguson became the Nanooks’ coach.
All games begin at 7:05 p.m. I think this series goes to three games. Michigan State 2-1, Alaska 3-2, Alaska 3-2
No. 10 Northern Michigan at No. 7 Michigan
There’s bad news for the Wildcats at the start of this series: NMU’s leading scorer, Matt Thurber, has broken his leg and his season is over. Matt Wellens had the story in the Mining Journal Tuesday, the day that Thurber, a senior, broke his leg in practice. Poor Thurber. Seriously, that’s no way to end your last season of college play.
The Wildcats ended their regular season with a home split against Lake Superior State, winning 3-1 Friday and losing 3-0 Saturday. Junior goaltender Jared Coreau had 50 saves in the win and 32 in Saturday’s loss, earning him CCHA Goaltender of the Week honors. It was the third weekend in a row during which NMU split a conference series.
Meanwhile, the Wolverines are on a mission. At home last weekend, Michigan took five of six points from Ferris State, which in part prevented the Bulldogs from getting home ice in the second round of the CCHA playoffs. The Wolverines were dominant in their 4-1 Friday win and put up 36 shots on goal in Saturday’s 1-1 overtime tie. The Wolverines know that they need six wins to make it to their 23rd consecutive NCAA tournament, and Michigan is playing very urgent hockey right now.
The Wildcats are 4-7-0 in their last 11 games (11 games because of a single game against Michigan Tech). The Wolverines are 5-5-0 in their last 10 and 3-0-1 in their last four. NMU took four points from Michigan in Marquette Nov. 2-3 with a 4-4 tie and 4-3 win. Michigan, however, has never lost to Northern Michigan in the CCHA tournament (6-0). All games in this series, including Sunday if necessary, begin at 7:35 p.m. Michigan 4-2, 4-2
No. 9 Bowling Green at No. 8 Lake Superior State
Bowling Green finished the season in ninth place, the highest finish by a Falcons team since 2007-08, when they finished seventh. It’s a bittersweet ending, though, as the Falcons needed one point last weekend to tie Lake Superior State and just two to finish ahead of the Lakers to host a first-round playoff series. Instead, the Falcons fell victim to a driven Notre Dame squad still in the hunt for a regular-season title. BGSU lost to ND 4-3 and 3-1.
In Marquette last weekend, a split was good enough for the Lakers to secure both home ice and the Father Cappo Cup, a total-goals trophy for which the Wildcats and Lakers fight annually. LSSU lost 3-1 and won 3-0 with a goal total of 10-4 over the Wildcats in four games this season.
Junior Kevin Murdock had his third shutout of the season and his career in the victory, which was unusual for the way in which the goals were scored; all three Laker markers were shorthanded. Kevin Perfetto scored unassisted at 2:37 in the second, Kellan Lain scored unassisted at 16:18 in the third, and Domenic Monardo’s 100th career point was the shorthanded, empty-net goal exactly three minutes later. After the game, LSSU coach Jim Roque quipped that shorthanded was the only way the Lakers could score, since they were in the box all night. LSSU had nine penalties for 21 minutes in the contest.
The Falcons and Lakers met Feb. 1-2 in Bowling Green, with BGSU sweeping 4-1 and 7-3. The Falcons are 5-5-0 in their last 10; the Lakers are 3-7-0 in their last 10, with last Saturday’s win breaking a three-game losing streak. Friday’s game begins at 7:35 p.m.; games begin at 7:05 p.m. Saturday and (if necessary) Sunday. BGSU 3-2, LSSU 3-1, 3-2