Well, we’re down to it. [scg_html_ccha2013]The final battle for the Mason Cup pits Ohio State against Notre Dame and Michigan against Miami. Could anyone have predicted that at the beginning of the season? As the CCHA prepares to write its final chapter, let’s look at the stories. Each is a good one. Michigan (17-18-3, 10-15-3-3 CCHA) It’s not unusual to see Michigan vie for a playoff title. After all, this is the Wolverines’ 24th consecutive [...]
I knew last time out was a fluke. I’m sure you did, too.
Last week: 2-6-2 (.300)
Season to date: 97-69-25 (.573)
I should have flipped a coin.
There are five CCHA series this week with Lake Superior State taking a bye week. Every series is Friday-Saturday — unless that winter storm throws the Midwest a curveball — and the times listed are local.
Ferris State at Northern Michigan. The Bulldogs took two points from Western Michigan last weekend. Still chasing first place, Ferris State has a way to go and can’t get there with a sweep this weekend. The Wildcats last played Jan. 25-26, two losses to Alaska. Northern is chasing a first-round home playoff series. NMU is 6-2-3 at home. Games begin at 7:35 p.m. each night. FSU 4-2, NMU 2-1
No. 3 Miami at No. 6 Western Michigan. This is the series to watch in the CCHA this weekend, as the RedHawks are one point ahead of the Broncos in the standings. Each team has played the same number of games but WMU has one more win than does Miami. Each of these teams also faces third-place Notre Dame and fifth-place Ohio State down the stretch as well. The RedHawks swept Alaska last weekend while the Broncos took four points from Ferris State. Miami is 4-1-0 versus Western in their last five meetings, but that single loss for the RedHawks was a win for the Broncos in last year’s CCHA semifinal play. Games begin at 7:05 p.m. each night. WMU 3-2, 3-2
Michigan at No. 11 Notre Dame. This series is far more interesting than I anticipated it would be at the beginning of the season, when I thought these teams would be vying for first place. The Wolverines, near the bottom but improving down the stretch, can add to Notre Dame’s ongoing second-half misery this weekend. Six points out of first, the Irish still have a shot at a regular-season title but it seems unlikely; the Wolverines can technically finish in the top five and earn a first-round bye but it seems unlikely. Michigan swept Michigan State last weekend and Notre Dame took two points from Ohio State. This series is tied at 12-12-0 since Jeff Jackson became ND’s coach. Friday’s game begins at 7:35 p.m. and is carried by CBS Sports Network; Saturday’s game begins at 7:05 p.m. and is televised by Comcast. Michigan 4-2, Notre Dame 3-1
Michigan State vs. Bowling Green. The Spartans lost two to Michigan last weekend while the Falcons swept Lake Superior State. Each team is working to finish sixth through eighth to host a first-round playoff series. The Spartans scored four goals last weekend, the Falcons an uncharacteristic 11. BGSU is riding a five-game home win streak into Friday’s game; the Spartans are 2-10-1 on the road. This is a home-and-home series with Friday’s game in Bowling Green, Saturday’s in East Lansing. Each game begins at 7:05 p.m. Bowling Green 3-1, Michigan State 3-1
Ohio State at Alaska. One point separates fifth-place Ohio State from sixth-place Alaska, but the Buckeyes have two games in hand on the Nanooks. Last weekend, OSU took four points from Notre Dame while Alaska lost two road games to Miami. OSU is unbeaten (3-0-1) in its last four games, but the Buckeyes are 9-17-2 against the Nanooks in Fairbanks; under Dallas Ferguson, the Nanooks are 8-3-4-0 versus Ohio State. Prior to their two losses last week, the Nanooks enjoyed a six-game win streak. Each team seems to fare equally well at home as on the road. It is possible that Alaska will sweep and I will eat these picks. Games begin at 7:05 p.m. each night. Ohio State 4-1, Alaska 3-2
Stay safe, everyone
Since the Universe has decided to bestow a real winter on much of North America, plans for college hockey — and anything else that matters — have been disrupted throughout the Northeast.
If you have to travel in any area affected by the storm, please be careful. I am allegedly returning to Michigan from California today. Allegedly. It would be a tragedy to be stranded in southern California for an extra day. A tragedy, I say.
The play during the first weekend in February was an excellent preview for the race to the Mason Cup because in the CCHA, anything can happen. The three teams from my former home state of Ohio showed that each is in the hunt for something completely attainable.
1. Miami is in the hunt for that regular-season title. The RedHawks, picked fourth by the coaches and fifth by the media in the 2012-13 preseason polls, tallied their second consecutive CCHA sweep of the second half with two wins over Alaska, a team that had been on a six-game tear through league opponents. Once again, freshmen Jay Williams and Ryan McKay split time in the Miami net, but a story even bigger and more frightening (to opponents, at least) than another dynamic goaltending duo for the RedHawks is Miami’s 10 goals against Alaska goaltender John Keeney, the league’s January Rookie of the Month. Austin Czarnik, Riley Barber and Kevin Morris each had two-goal games for the RedHawks and Cody Murphy scored one in each contest. With 44 points, Miami is one point ahead of second-place Western Michigan. The RedHawks head to Kalamazoo this weekend.
2. Ohio State is in the hunt for a first-round playoff bye. After stumbling three weekends ago in Marquette, the Buckeyes are now undefeated in their last four games (3-0-1), having taken four of six points from visiting Notre Dame last weekend with a 6-3 win and 2-2 tie. Senior Brady Hjelle continued to play inspired hockey. Forget the day-in-the-park 29 saves he made in OSU’s 6-3 win; in the 2-2 tie, he stopped 45 in 65 minutes of play. Even scarier? The way the Buckeyes scored in the second period in the win — five times in two batches, with four goals on the power play. Three goals between 1:09 and 3:12 and another two goals late in the period 1:46 apart. Two goals — one early, one late — by Ryan Dzingel. Sure, bad Notre Dame team defense and a shaken Fighting Irish goaltender contributed to that second-period carnage, but I can think of several other teams that would not have been able to take advantage of all of the opportunities presented. With 35 points, the Buckeyes are one point ahead of fifth-place Alaska. The top five teams in the CCHA get a first-round playoff bye … and the Buckeyes head to Fairbanks this weekend.
3. Bowling Green is in the hunt to host a first-round playoff series. That is a lovely thing to have typed. The long-suffering Falcons are reaping the rewards of good, old-fashioned hard work and may find themselves at home for the first round of the CCHA playoffs. The Falcons swept Lake Superior State at home, outscoring the Lakers 11-4. Eight different Falcons scored in the two games. Sophomore Dajon Mingo (what a great name) had a goal in each contest, including Friday’s game winner, and freshman Mark Cooper had the game-winning goal in Saturday’s win plus another marker. BGSU is now 5-3-0 in the second half and tied with Michigan for eighth place with 25 points, one point behind Lake Superior State and five ahead of 10th-place Northern Michigan. The Falcons also have two games in hand on the Wolverines and Lakers. I’d like to be able to tell you that BGSU plays either team this weekend, but the Falcons have a home-and-home series against last-place Michigan State, a team with 16 points. Teams in the sixth, seventh and eighth spots in the final standings host a first-round CCHA playoff series.
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.
What a weekend.
1. If you don’t like the CCHA standings, stick around for a week because they’re sure to change. At the end of the first half of the season, I was worried that the CCHA may fall into its old trap of becoming a two-tier league with a handful of teams huddled together at the top of the standings and a big drop-off after Nos. 4 and 5. With eight points separating first-place Western Michigan and sixth-place Ohio State, I don’t think that’s a possibility. At the start of the 2012-13 season, I was hoping that the final regular-season CCHA title would come down to the final regular-season CCHA game. Given the standings shuffle of January and the remaining CCHA schedule, I think I may get my wish.
2. Taking care of business means a new No. 1. While Notre Dame was able to break its five-game free fall with a 5-2 win over Ferris State Saturday night, a single win this weekend wasn’t enough to keep the Irish in first place. In fact, a single win wasn’t enough for second place. While Notre Dame was splitting with Ferris State, Western Michigan swept Michigan and Miami beat Bowling Green twice. That gives WMU the top spot with 39 points, Miami the second with 38 and Notre Dame takes third place with 36. It is impressive that the Irish held onto first place for as long as they did through that five-game losing streak, a feat that illustrates just how difficult it is for everyone to earn points in this league.
3. Who’s the hottest team in the league right now? The Nanooks, of course. With two home wins over Northern Michigan, the Nanooks completed their third consecutive sweep of the new year, putting them into a two-way tie for fourth place with Ferris State. Freshman goaltender John Keeney has been in net for all six of those games. He allowed just three goals against the Wildcats.
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.
It was an interesting weekend in the CCHA, one that resulted in two teams sharing the top spot.
1. Sweeping is hard to do, but sometimes you don’t need a broom to move ahead. Alaska, however, had no problem sweeping Notre Dame and thereby helping Western Michigan slide into a tie for No. 1 in the league even though the Broncos split with Bowling Green. Additionally, the Nanooks recorded their second road sweep in a row over two teams — Michigan Jan. 11-12 and ND this week — that have given Alaska much trouble.
The other sweeping winners of the weekend? Ferris State and Northern Michigan, who each gobbled up six points. The Bulldogs can thank the Wildcats for NMU’s sweep of Ohio State, as FSU and OSU were tied for fourth heading into the weekend, a spot that FSU occupies all on its own now. The Wildcats can thank the Bulldogs for FSU’s sweep of Michigan State. NMU was next-to-last in the standings heading into the weekend, two points behind MSU and Michigan; now the Wildcats are in eighth place while the Spartans are in the basement.
And those Nanooks climbed from seventh to fifth this week with their six points.
2. Scoring is hard to do, but sometimes you don’t need (much of) it to move ahead. The top three teams in the standings — Notre Dame, Western Michigan, Miami — are having difficulty scoring. With the exception of Friday’s 5-4 loss to Alaska, Notre Dame’s slow 1-5-0 start to the second half can be traced directly to scoring. The Irish have scored 10 goals in six game; take out Friday’s loss and it’s six in five and ND beat MSU 1-0 in its only win of 2013.
The Broncos don’t have it quite as bad, but WMU scored two goals in each game this past weekend in a loss and win with BGSU. There was the six-goal output against Bemidji State Jan. 4, but if you go back to the Great Lakes Invitational where WMU scored one goal in two games, the Broncos have two contests in which they’ve scored more than two goals in eight games.
Then there is Miami. The RedHawks have been struggling up front since mid-December. In Wisconsin this past weekend, Miami split a pair of games while scoring just two goals, both in Saturday’s win.
3. Tending the net for the last-place team is hard to do, but sometimes you do it really well. Michigan State freshman goaltender Jake Hildebrand is in danger of being overlooked because of where the Spartans are in the standings this season. Hildebrand (2.02 GAA, .937 SV%) is having a phenomenal rookie season with a terrible win percentage. Anyone who has played the Spartans will tell you that they’re solid, but they’re not there yet. Hildebrand, however, has arrived. He had 61 saves in two losses against Ferris State this past weekend and is averaging nearly 31 saves per game in the new year. He’s big and fast and pretty much nothing rattles him.
Of course, the Spartans may want Hildebrand to remain their secret weapon. He’s certainly been the best player on their team this season.
Now these are the kinds of picks that I make that everyone knows, loves, and mocks. Last week’s record includes the Tuesday night game between Notre Dame and Bowling Green
Last week: 4-5-2 (.455)
Season to date: 77-56-23 (.567)
The Buckeyes and Bulldogs split … but neither won on the night I predicted. Of course.
This week, everyone plays. There are five conference series and Miami travels to Madison to play Wisconsin. All series are Friday-Saturday. Times are local.
Alaska at No. 5 Notre Dame. The Nanooks are hoping to carry the momentum of last week’s first-ever sweep of Michigan — in Ann Arbor, no less — into South Bend. Friday’s 5-4 Alaska win was the Nanooks’ first game since early December, and the win halted a seven-game winless streak that dated back to Nov. 17. Saturday’s 4-1 win gave Alaska a 4-2-2 road record for the season. Meanwhile, the Fighting Irish hope to carry very little from recent games into this weekend’s series. Notre Dame begins the second half of the season with a 1-3-0 record in four road games played within the span of eight days, including two Tuesdays. Last weekend, the Irish split with Michigan State and Tuesday night ND lost to Bowling Green. That Tuesday loss was the only one in which ND scored at least two goals, having scored one in its three previous contests. The Irish are home this weekend for the first time since since Dec. 8. ND has a 7-3-0 edge in the last 10 meetings between the Nanooks and Irish. Friday’s game begins at 7:35 p.m. Saturday’s game is carried by CBS Sports and begins at 7:05 p.m. Alaska 3-1, Notre Dame 4-2
Ferris State vs. Michigan State. These two teams are getting to know each other well in a relatively short span of playing time. The Spartans beat the Bulldogs, 3-1, at home Dec. 15; the Bulldogs returned the favor in their own rink Jan. 5, a 3-0 game. Last weekend, FSU split a pair of home games with Ohio State and MSU split a pair of home games with Notre Dame. That 4-1 Saturday win for the Spartans was their first since beating the Bulldogs and stopped a four-game winless streak. This home-and-home series begins Friday night in East Lansing at 7:35 p.m., a game carried by FOX Sports Detroit. Saturday’s rematch in Big Rapids is untelevised and begins at 7:05 p.m. I expect nothing more and nothing less than the two previous matches between these teams this season — good hockey and home wins. MSU 3-1, FSU 3-1
Michigan at Lake Superior State. The Wolverines dropped two games to Alaska at home last weekend and are now winless in their last three — four if you count an exhibition loss to the Under-18 team Jan. 4. The Lakers took two points from Western Michigan in Kalamazoo last weekend, tying the Broncos and earning the shootout point Friday before losing 3-1 Saturday. That loss was the first for LSSU since a Dec. 7 loss to Miami. Last season, the Wolverines took five points at home from the Lakers with a tie and shootout point plus a win outright. Even if the Wolverines weren’t struggling, I’d still call two for the Lakers because of the two Kevins in goal, Kapalka and Murdock. Friday’s game begins at 7:35 p.m., Saturday’s at 7:05 p.m. LSSU 3-1, 3-1
Ohio State at Northern Michigan. I’m beginning to think that any series in which Ohio State plays in the second half is going to be (1) interesting and (2) pivotal. The Buckeyes are getting outstanding goaltending from Brady Hjelle and have returned injured players to the lineup. In short, OSU looks solid and is solidly in that top-tier mix with 25 points, tied with Ferris State for fourth place. Last weekend, the Buckeyes split a pair of games with Ferris State in Big Rapids. Now they play the Wildcats, a team that always seems to have a better second half and is showing signs of real life as we hit the home stretch. NMU is unbeaten in four games, having swept St. Cloud State two weeks ago — on the road, where the Wildcats have struggled — and defeated and tied Miami at home last weekend. The last time the teams played in Marquette was Oct. 29-30, 2010, and the Wildcats swept. It’s tempting to call an NMU sweep again this weekend, but with Hjelle in net, I wouldn’t count on it. Of course I’m calling a split. Of course, each team will win on the opposite night of what I’m calling. Games begin at 7:35 p.m. each night. OSU 3-2, NMU 3-2
No. 10 Western Michigan vs. Bowling Green. Last weekend, the Broncos took four points at home from Lake Superior State with a tie and win and are now unbeaten (2-0-2) in four games. The Falcons, though, are unbeaten (4-0-1) in five games and take a three-game win streak into this home-and-home series, including Tuesday’s 4-2 home win over Notre Dame. The Broncos earned five points in an earlier home-and-home series versus the Falcons; WMU beat BGSU, 3-1, at home Nov. 9 before tying 2-2 the following night in Ohio. The Falcons are undefeated (4-0-3) against the Broncos in Bowling Green in their last seven meetings, and WMU holds a 3-1-2 edge over BGSU since Andy Murray’s arrival. In spite of the distance between these teams in the standings — WMU ranked and in third place with 30 points, BGSU tied for eighth place with 16 points — I think the teams will split. Bowling Green hosts Friday, Western Michigan hosts Saturday; both games begin at 7:05 p.m. BGSU 3-2, WMU 3-1
No. 8 Miami at Wisconsin. The RedHawks took two league points in Marquette last weekend, losing to Northern Michigan Friday before tying and earning the shootout point Saturday. Friday’s loss was the first game of the second half for the RedHawks but their second straight loss; Miami dropped the title game of the Three Rivers Classic Dec. 29 to host Robert Morris. Those back-to-back losses were the first of the season for Miami, though. Wisconsin is currently tied with Minnesota-Duluth for sixth place in the WCHA. The Badgers bring a 10-game unbeaten streak (7-0-3) and six-game win streak into this contest, having swept Minnesota State on the road last weekend in two overtime games. Senior defenseman John Ramage had the game-winning goal in each contest, doubling his goal output for the season as well as giving him a career- high year in goals with four. Sophomores Joel Rumpel (1.97 GAA, .927 SV%) and Landon Peterson (1.93, .932) each had a win. Each game begins at 7:07 p.m. Friday’s game is carried by the Big Ten Network, Saturday’s by FOX Sports Wisconsin. Wisconsin 3-2, Miami 3-2
Another Tuesday, another game.
No. 5 Notre Dame at Bowling Green. The Irish lost to Minnesota in Minneapolis last Tuesday (Jan. 8) and split with Michigan State in East Lansing Friday and Saturday. The Falcons had the weekend off, having last played last Tuesday, a 5-1 road win over Michigan. The Irish are 7-1-0 versus BGSU in the last eight meetings. Notre Dame 3-2
In an interesting weekend of conference competition in the CCHA, everyone played except for Bowling Green. Here’s what we learned.
1. It was tough to score, even for the top teams in the league. On Friday night, six of the 10 teams playing were held to one goal or fewer; in Saturday’s action, four teams were held to a single goal. The top team in the conference, Notre Dame, was held to two goals for the weekend by Michigan State, where the Irish won 1-0 and lost 3-1. Miami and Western Michigan each had four goals in the weekend.
This is not surprising if you take a look at the CCHA goaltenders. Four league goaltenders are among the top ten in the country for goals against: Ohio State’s Brady Hjelle, Notre Dame’s Steven Summerhays, Western Michigan’s Frank Slubowski and Michigan State’s Jake Hildebrand. Three of these — Hjelle, Hildebrand, Summerhays — are among the top 10 goalies in the country for save percentage, joined by a fourth, Lake Superior State’s Kevin Murdock.
And even though Jared Coreau isn’t among the top 10 goaltenders in the country, he made 43 saves when the Wildcats beat the RedHawks 2-1 Friday night.
2. It was tough to sweep, again. Only one series resulted in a sweep, Alaska’s two games in Ann Arbor. The Nanooks beat the Wolverines 5-4 and 4-1, and the sweep was the first for Alaska versus Michigan. Going into the weekend, the Nanooks had beaten the Wolverines three times in Michigan’s barn in the previous 26 meetings there. No one else was completely satisfied, as there were two splits outright and a couple of ties to divide the points.
3. It’s tough to beat Bob Daniels when it comes to quotes. After Ferris State’s 3-1 home loss to Ohio State Friday night, Daniels said, “I won’t lose sleep tonight. We played well. There’s not going to be any soul searching.”
After returning the favor with a 3-1 win over the Buckeyes Saturday night, Daniels said, “After seeing Ohio State play, we’re proud of a split [because] they’re a good team. I have a feeling a seven-game series with Ohio State would go all seven games and into overtime.”
Talk about rock bottom.
Tuesday: 0-2 (.000)
Season to date: 73-51-21 (.576)
There are five conference series this weekend. Bowling Green is idle. All series are Friday-Saturday and everything is Eastern Standard Time.
Alaska at Michigan. The Nanooks have been off for a month and the Wolverines probably wish they’d been. Alaska’s last games were Dec. 7-8, a home series against Bowling Green that resulted in a 3-2 loss and 3-3 tie. The Nanooks begin the second half of the season trying to break a seven game winless streak (0-5-2); their last win was a 6-1 home victory over Western Michigan Nov. 16. The Nanooks have picked up a blueliner for the second half of the season, freshman Richard Coyne. The Wolverines lost 5-1 to Bowling Green at home Tuesday night after losing 5-3 to the U.S. Under-18 Team the previous Friday. With all due respect to the winners in those contests, the Wolverines looked as though they were playing utterly without heart in each game. Between those two losses, the one to BGSU is the only one that counts for anything, but even with that UM has a better record at home (6-6-0) and so may have a chance this weekend. These teams are tied in the standings with 16 points each and an even number of games remaining; each is five points behind Lake Superior State and three ahead of BGSU and Michigan State, tied behind them. The Nanooks and Wolverines split in Fairbanks in early December. The puck drops at 7:35 p.m. each night and Saturday’s game is carried by FOX Sports Detroit PLUS. Alaska 3-2, 4-2
Lake Superior State at No. 10 Western Michigan. Last weekend, the Lakers hosted Union for two games and beat the Dutchmen soundly, 4-1 and 3-1. Kevin Kapalka had the first win, Kevin Murdoch the second — and the rotation of those two junior goaltenders is a big reason why the Lakers have won five games in a row, their longest win streak since the 2009-10 season. On the road last weekend, the Broncos defeated Bemidji State 6-0 before tying the Beavers 2-2. The shutout was the third of the season for sophomore Frank Slubowski and the fifth of his career. These teams split a pair of regular-season games in Sault Ste. Marie last season, but the Broncos swept the Lakers in the second round of CCHA playoff action (Mar. 9-10) in Kalamazoo. The Broncos have lost just once at home this season. Games begin each night at 7:05 p.m. WMU 4-2, LSSU 2-1
No. 6 Miami at Northern Michigan. The RedHawks last played in the Three Rivers Classic in Pittsburgh Dec. 28-29, beating Ohio State 1-0 before losing to host Robert Morris 1-0 in the title game. Miami ended the first half of the season with a sweep of OSU and in the second game of that set, the RedHawks scored three goals. That was the only game in which the RedHawks netted more than one goal in their last five games, and they were shut out in two in that stretch during which they went 2-2-1. The Wildcats successfully defended the realm last weekend when they traveled to St. Cloud and swept SCSU, 6-2 and 2-1, earning their second and third road wins of the season. That 6-2 win was Walt Kyle’s 200th career victory, and senior defenseman Kyle Follmer had a goal in each game, his first two of the season. NMU was 3-1-0 versus Miami last season. Games begin at 7:35 p.m. each night. I think this series is going to split — and I guarantee I call it the wrong way. NMU 3-2, Miami 2-1
No. 2 Notre Dame at Michigan State. On Tuesday night, the Fighting Irish saw their six-game win streak snapped on the road by the top team in the country, Minnesota, a 4-1 loss. Junior Jeff Costello had the only goal for ND and junior Steven Summerhays stopped 22 shots. I was sad. This weekend, the Spartans are looking to snap a streak of their own, a three-game winless streak that dates back to the last game of the first half of the season, a Dec. 15 home win over Ferris State — a game that, in turn, snapped a six-game winless streak. Last Saturday, the Spartans played FSU again and lost, 3-0. Freshman Jake Hildebrand stopped 28 in that loss. The Fighting Irish and Spartans have a 112-game history with MSU leading the series 60-41-11; ND is 1-0-2 in the last three meetings in East Lansing. Games begin at 7:05 p.m. each night and Friday’s game is being carried by Comcast. ND 3-2, 3-2
Ohio State at Ferris State. The Buckeyes last played in the Three Rivers Classic, losing 1-0 to Miami and 5-4 to Penn State. OSU’s current winless (0-4-2) streak dates back to Dec. 1, a 3-1 road win over MSU. Senior goaltender Brady Hjelle (pronounced “jelly,” which still makes me smile) is first in the country in goals against (1.43) and third in save percentage (.951). His CCHA goals-against average is 0.79. Seriously. Last weekend, the Bulldogs beat the Spartans at home, 3-0. Sophomore C.J. Motte stopped 23 in his third shutout of the season. FSU has now won two in a row following a four-game losing streak and five winless games (0-4-1), a streak that spanned the month of December. Last year, the teams met in Columbus (Jan. 20-21, 2012), when the Bulldogs took five of six points with a 4-3 win and 3-3 tie with the extra shootout point. These teams are tied for fourth place in the CCHA standings, each with 22 points; the Buckeyes have two games in hand over the Bulldogs. They’re both four points behind third-place Western Michigan and one point ahead of fifth-place Lake Superior. The Bulldogs are better at home (5-2-2) and the Buckeyes are better on the road (5-3-3). Watch them split the opposite of how I’m calling it. These big games begin at 7:05 p.m. each night. FSU 3-1, OSU 2-1.