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 […]
There’s a game tonight between Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan. It’s a Tuesday. As the kids say, WTF — which stands, of course, for “What Tremendous Fun!”
Michigan Tech at Northern Michigan. At home last weekend, the Huskies lost to and tied Minnesota-Duluth, 7-3 and 4-4. Late in the third period and down 4-2, MTU scored two goals to knot the game, Blake Pietila’s even-strength goal at 13:58 and Steven Seigo’s marker at 19:10 with the extra attacker, with Alex Petan registering the first assist in each. Petan, a freshman forward, leads the Huskies in scoring (4-9–13). Freshman Pheonix Copley (4.36 GAA, .851 SV%) and senior Kevin Genoe (3.21, .897) have each played seven games; Copley finished the loss after Genoe started and Genoe earned the tie with 33 saves. The Wildcats were held to two goals in a two-game road sweep against Western Michigan last weekend. Junior Jared Coreau (2.78, .914) had 72 saves in the series. This is the 127th meeting between the Huskies and Wildcats; NMU holds a 65-48-13 lead in the series and the Wildcats beat the Huskies twice last season, 4-1 at home Dec. 16 and 5-2 in Houghton Jan. 21. The game begins at 7:35 p.m.NMU 4-2
I’ll have my updated picks total in Friday morning’s blog. I did surprisingly well last weekend, LOL — which stands, of course, for “Laughing Out Loud.” (What were you thinking?)
I was in East Lansing Saturday night when the Buckeyes swept the Spartans. When I was talking to OSU coach Mark Osiecki after that game ended — before all other CCHA games ended because the OSU-MSU game began at 6:05 p.m. — little did I know that the Buckeyes were setting a trend. In four of the five CCHA series this past weekend, one team swept another; in the FSU-UM series, the Bulldogs took four points.
1. Miami has Alaska’s number. The RedHawks are now 9-2-1 against the Nanooks since Dallas Ferguson became head coach and are now 7-0-1 in their last four trips to Fairbanks. Miami outscored Alaska 9-2 in Fairbanks in the series and did so by splitting net time between freshmen Jay Williams and Ryan McKay; the latter had a 4-0 shutout Saturday. McKay has played four games this season, three of which have resulted in decisions and two of those were shutout wins.
2. Ferris State is for real. I talked to a number of people during the weekend who said they were shocked that FSU shut out UM 5-0. I was surprised by the lopsided score but certainly not shocked. The Bulldogs are getting production out of all four of their lines and they have the top power play in the league, the sixth-best in the country. Kyle Bonis — who leads the Bulldogs with eight goals, adding two of those in the 3-3 tie Saturday — was nowhere on the score sheet Friday. The conventional wisdom has always been that if FSU gets consistent offense to accompany its always-tough defense, the Bulldogs would be a force to reckon with. The Bulldogs are now a force to reckon with.
3. All it takes is a weekend like this to clarify the standings for the rest of the season. Heading into the weekend, one point separated first-place Miami from three teams tied for second (Ferris State, Notre Dame, Ohio State), and the RedHawks were six points ahead of ninth-place Northern Michigan and Michigan State. Now Miami is one point ahead of second-place Notre Dame and Ohio State, three ahead of fourth-place Ferris State … but 12 ahead of MSU and NMU, who remain in ninth place. A single weekend like this in which four of five league teams take all available points makes a huge difference, especially given how infrequently it’s likely to happen this season.
I knew last week would be a bit painful. Perhaps I should be grateful for any week in which I at least break even.
Last week: 4-3-1 (.562)
Season to date: 51-29-15 (.616)
Wrong-way splits … sigh.
It’s a full slate of CCHA action this week, with 10 teams playing and Bowling Green off. All series are Friday-Saturday. All games are at 7:05 p.m. local time unless otherwise noted.
Lake Superior State at No. 6 Notre Dame. The Lakers split a series with the Buckeyes at home last week, losing 4-1 and winning 3-2. The Fighting Irish split at home with North Dakota, losing 2-1 and winning 5-2. LSSU junior Kevin Kapalka returned to play for Saturday’s win, having been out since Oct. 26. ND junior Anders Lee scored a bunch of goals for the Irish, but if you want to know exactly how many, I suggest you talk to ND coach Jeff Jackson. The teams split a pair in Sault Ste. Marie nearly a year ago this weekend. Friday’s game begins at 7:35 p.m. ND 3-2, 3-2
No. 4 Miami at Alaska. The RedHawks were off last weekend, having last played Nov. 16-17 at home, a series against Michigan State in which Miami captured five points with a 2-2 tie and 2-0 win. Miami is undefeated in its last five games (3-0-2). Last weekend, the Nanooks took one point away from their road series against Northern Michigan, losing 4-3 in overtime and tying 2-2 the following night. Last season, the RedHawks won two 2-1 games in Fairbanks (Nov. 4-5) and Miami is 5-0-1 in its last six road games against Alaska. Miami 2-1, 2-1
Michigan at No. 17 Ferris State. The Wolverines are 2-4-0 in their last six, including a 5-1 loss to Cornell in Madison Square Garden last Saturday and a 3-1 home win over Bowling Green the night before Thanksgiving. The Bulldogs, off last weekend, are 4-2-0 in their last six and ride a three-game win streak into this weekend, having swept Bowling Green on the road, 4-3 (OT) and 3-1, Nov. 16-17. UM swept FSU in Yost Ice Arena Oct. 27-28, 2011. FSU 3-2, UM 3-2
Northern Michigan at No. 10 Western Michigan. At home last weekend, the Wildcats took five points from Alaska. Alaska was also the last team that the Broncos played, Nov. 16-17, a split in Fairbanks before WMU took the Thanksgiving weekend off. WMU swept NMU in Kalamazoo Oct. 28-29, 2011 (4-2, 3-2 OT). The Broncos are 4-0-0 against the Wildcats in their last four meetings. WMU 3-2, NMU 3-2
Ohio State at Michigan State. Last weekend, the Buckeyes split a pair of road games versus Lake Superior, winning 4-1 and losing 3-2. The Spartans were off last weekend, having last played Nov. 16-17, two road games against Miami that resulted in a 2-2 tie and 2-0 loss. MSU was 3-1-0 against OSU last season, losing 3-0 and winning 5-2 at home Oct. 20-21, 2011, and sweeping on the road, 6-3 and 3-2, Feb. 3-4. Friday’s game begins at 8:05 p.m., Saturday’s at 6:05 p.m. OSU 3-1, MSU 3-1
I spent the morning thankful for speedy internet connections and the magic of in-home laundry. I hope that your post-Thanksgiving Monday contained at least half as much gratitude.
Three things from this weekend, quickly:
1. Michigan is not ready for prime time. With three wins in their last 10 games and a 5-1 loss to Cornell in Madison Square Garden Saturday night — in front of 18,200 people, no less — the Wolverines prove that they have a long way to go this season. Earlier in the season, UM had the top scoring offense in the country; now the Wolverines are tied for 10th, averaging 1.6 goals per game in their last five. UM allowed five goals on 23 shots against the Big Red with freshman Steve Racine in net. Allowing 3.46 goals per game on average, Michigan now has the 52nd-best defense in the country.
2. The Buckeyes are alive. With 15 points, Ohio State is tied for second place with Notre Dame and Ferris State, two teams that I thought would be more likely to inhabit that spot than would OSU. A split in Sault Ste. Marie is what brought OSU closer to the top and perhaps clarified which Buckeye should be starting in net. Senior Brady Hjelle had both decisions but freshman Collin Olson started for OSU in Saturday’s 3-2 loss, giving up two goals within the first nine minutes of play. Hjelle gave up one in relief but OSU’s anemic offense — No. 50 in the country, 2.08 goals per game on average — offered no support. Hjelle transfered from Minnesota-Duluth after the 2009-10 season and he saw time in eight games for OSU last year; this year, he’s 3-2-2 with a 1.45 goals against average and .950 save percentage, third in the nation in each category.
3. Jeff Jackson says what’s on his mind. Following Notre Dame’s 2-1 loss to visiting North Dakota Friday, Jackson had some choice words for a goal that was waved off in the final minute of play, with goaltender Steven Summerhays pulled for an extra attacker. Junior Anders Lee seemed to have scored after tapping in the puck when the puck rolled off the leg pad of North Dakota goaltender Clarke Saunders. Referee Keith Sergott waved it off. Quoted in the press release issued directly from Notre Dame hockey media relations following the game, Jackson said, “It was just an awful call. The puck was free between his legs. I could see it from the bench.”
It’s a light schedule this weekend, but everyone played last week. As I suspected, I didn’t do nearly as well this past weekend with predictions as I did the first three weeks of CCHA play.
Last week: 5-6-1 (.458)
Season to date: 47-26-14 (.621)
The wrong-way split in Fairbanks hurt. The non-splits did, too. I’ll count Michigan’s Wednesday night win — and my correct pick — in next week’s totals.
There are two CCHA series, a single (and dandy) nonconference series and a single game in Madison Square Garden between Michigan and Cornell, the game I wish I could attend simply because it’s in New York City.
Alaska at Northern Michigan. The Nanooks split with visiting Western Michigan, a 6-1 win and 3-2 loss. The line of freshmen Nolan Huysmans and Tyler Morley and senior Jarret Granberg was responsible for four of the Nanooks’ eight goals on the weekend. The Wildcats return home after being swept on the road by Ohio State, 2-0 and 4-2, marking the second year in a row that the Buckeyes swept the Wildcats in Columbus. NMU is undefeated against Alaska in the teams’ last 14 meetings (8-0-6-4); the last time the Wildcats lost to the Nanooks was Nov. 30, 2007. Friday-Saturday, games at 7:35 p.m. each night. UA 3-2, NMU 3-2
Ohio State at Lake Superior State. While the Buckeyes were sweeping the Wildcats at home last weekend, the Lakers were splitting with visiting Alabama-Huntsville, giving LSSU the distinction of being the first team that the Chargers have beaten this season. That split was the sixth straight series split for the Lakers. For the Buckeyes, it was their first series sweep since Dec. 2-3, 2011. The last 10 games between these teams are tied 4-4-2; last year, the Buckeyes were 2-1-1-1 versus the Lakers. Friday-Saturday with 7:35 p.m. and 7:05 p.m. start times. LSSU 3-2, OSU 3-2
No. 7 North Dakota at No. 6 Notre Dame. Last week, North Dakota (5-3-2) played two overtime games at home against Minnesota-Duluth, tying the first contest, 4-4, and winning the Saturday game, 4-3. Sophomore Mark MacMillan had the tying and winning goal in the win and now leads North Dakota in goals with five, although senior Danny Kristo (4-8–12) leads the team in points. Junior Clarke Saunders (2.42 GAA, .927 SV%) had the tie; freshman Zane Gothberg (2.63, .902) had the win. The Fighting Irish swept Michigan in Yost Ice Arena, 3-1 and 4-1, making it look easy in the third period of each game by outscoring the Wolverines 2-0 in the third Friday and 3-0 Saturday. Fun note of that series: It was the first time that the Irish had swept the Wolverines in Yost in 35 years (Feb. 3-4, 1978), the year that current Minnesota coach Don Lucia was a rookie for Notre Dame. His son, Notre Dame freshman Mario Lucia, scored his first collegiate goal in Friday’s game. The teams last met Nov. 26-27, 2010, in North Dakota, when the home ND beat the visiting ND, 6-3, the first night; the teams tied 2-2 the following night. Friday-Saturday with 7:35 p.m. and 5:05 p.m. start times. North Dakota 3-2, Notre Dame 3-2
No. 19 Michigan vs. No. 13 Cornell. The Wolverines snapped a three-game losing streak with a 3-1 home win over Bowling Green Wednesday. The Big Red are winless in their last five (0-3-2), having lost 4-1 to Harvard Friday and tied with Dartmouth, 1-1, the following night, both games at home. Cornell is the team that ended Michigan’s 2011-12 season, a 3-2 overtime decision in the NCAA Midwest Regional. UM is 3–1 all-time versus Cornell. Cornell 3-2
There’s a single game tonight between Bowling Green and Michigan in Ann Arbor. I’ll post the rest of my picks for this weekend plus my picks record Friday morning.
Bowling Green at No. 19 Michigan
In their TMQ column this week, my friends and colleagues, Jim Connelly and Todd D. Milewski, ask, “How much respect is too much?” They open by discussing the Wolverines, a team with a 4-6-1 overall record and a national ranking, albeit a low one. It’s a fair question. The Wolverines have one more conference win and two more CCHA points than do the Falcons, their opponent tonight. I have Michigan at No. 13 in my USCHO.com Division I Poll ballot, based not on their reputation — as Jimmy and Todd speculate — but the talent they have and the team I’ve seen play. The Wolverines also lost two games to one of the best teams in the country last week, Notre Dame. That could have happened to nearly anyone, and so UM still gets a vote for a respectable spot from me.
That explanation aside, there’s no reason for a good team to melt down as the Wolverines have in their last three games, and should that trend continue, we’ll all know that this year’s UM squad is in trouble. I’m sure there are many people rooting for just that, but let’s not forget that the Wolverines were near the bottom of the standings at midseason last year.
The Falcons were likewise swept by an excellent team last weekend, Ferris State. It was the first CCHA series this season in which BGSU did not take at least one conference point, and the Falcons came close when they were down 3-0 late in the third period and scored three unanswered goals to tie up Friday’s game, a 4-3 overtime loss.
These teams last met in Joe Louis Arena in the 2012 CCHA tournament, where the Wolverines beat the Falcons 3-2 in double overtime. The Falcons have lost five straight in Yost Ice Arena, dating back to Nov. 20, 2009. The Wolverines have won nine of their last ten meetings versus the Falcons, dating back to Nov. 21, 2009.
This was a strange weekend. Three things that strike me as interesting about it:
1. The number of times you shoot the puck may count for something. In Ohio State’s sweep of Northern Michigan, the Buckeyes outshot the Wildcats 77-34 and allowed only 12 shots on goal during Saturday’s 4-2 win. Alabama-Huntsville notched its first win of the season, 2-1, against Lake Superior State in Sault Ste. Marie Friday night, outshooting the Lakers 35-20. In their 6-1 Friday win over the Broncos, the Nanooks outshot Western Michigan 32-17. Not every winner in the CCHA out-gunned opponents by a lopsided margin, but the Buckeyes, Chargers and Nanooks were underdogs in those series.
2. Six points is a lot. The Buckeyes doubled their CCHA point total with their sweep of the Wildcats, jumping from a tie for ninth place last week — one position out of the CCHA cellar — to their current solo spot in fifth. Two other teams, Notre Dame and Ferris State, also swept their opponents. They were tied for third last week with Lake Superior State and Michigan State, but this week share the second-place spot with 15 points each and a little — a very little — distance now between themselves and third-place Alaska. These sweeps early in the season will be significant later if the season continues to be one in which teams split points in nearly every series.
3. The Wolverines have developed an ability to self-destruct in third period. This is an interesting thing to me because Michigan is still the only CCHA team to be among the top 10 scoring teams in the country and because the 2011-12 Wolverines were sitting near the bottom of the CCHA standings at midseason and still made the national tournament. While the Wolverines didn’t start well against the Spartans in their Nov. 10 game, UM lost any chance of recovery in that game when MSU scored two goals before the midway mark of the third. In the third period Thursday night against the Irish with the score tied 1-1, the Wolverines made two mistakes that led to ND goals late in the stanza. In Friday’s 4-1 ND win, the score was tied 1-1 going into the third — again — and the Irish turned up the heat, scoring three goals in the last nine minutes of the game.
I’m already starting out in the hole this week since I picked Michigan to win last night. This is how I’m doing so far this season, without that pick:
Last week: 6-2-3 (.682)
Season to date: 42-20-13 (.647)
Two splits did so the right way — or, at least, the way I called them — and that has bolstered my picks percentage for the third straight week. I do not expect this to last.
Everyone plays this week. I’ve already given you my picks for the Notre Dame-Michigan series, so here’s the rest of this week’s story.
It’s all CCHA except for the Lakers, who host Alabama-Huntsville. The remaining ND-UM game is tonight; all other series are Friday-Saturday. Times are local.
No. 20 Ferris State at Bowling Green. The Bulldogs split a pair on the road with Lake Superior State last weekend, losing 4-1 and winning 2-1. Sophomore C.J. Motte had 43 saves in that win. The Falcons earned one point against Western Michigan in Kalamazoo with Saturday’s tie. BGSU’s scoring is very sluggish in the early going this season, averaging just 1.73 goals per game. We know how things went the last time these two teams met, though. The Falcons took the Bulldogs to three games in the second round of the CCHA playoffs and Dan DeSalvo’s overtime goal in the third game of that series sent the Falcons to Detroit. Look at BGSU’s record over the last eight games: win, loss, loss, tie, win, loss, loss, tie. I am not calling against that kind of mojo, even if it does mean I may eat some picks. Games begin at 7:05 p.m. each night. BGSU 2-1, FSU 4-1
Michigan State at No. 4 Miami. The Spartans are coming off an emotional high, a 7-2 home win over Michigan after they’d lost to the Wolverines, 5-2, the night before. How a young team reacts to such a thing can be tricky. Speaking of tricks, sophomore Matt Berry registered his first collegiate hat trick in the win, including the goal 34 seconds into the game that set the pace for a dynamic first period. The RedHawks took five points at home from Northern Michigan with Friday’s 5-2 win followed by a 2-2 tie with the shootout point. As a result, Miami sat alone in first place in the CCHA standings until Notre Dame won last night. Miami is 5-0-0 versus MSU in the last five. Friday’s game begins at 7:35 p.m., Saturday’s at 7:05 p.m. Miami 4-2, 3-2
No. 19 Northern Michigan at Ohio State. I’m not getting angry email from Northern Michigan fans — surprising, because NMU fans tend to send me “fan” mail throughout the season that has nothing to do with the performance of their team — but I can’t imagine that a Northern team at the bottom of the CCHA standings is sitting well with the Wildcat faithful, no matter how early in the season it is. The Wildcats have five conference points coming into this weekend. The good news is that they’re playing the Buckeyes — a team whose fans have been sending me angry (or at least concerned) email. Each of these teams has just one CCHA win and the difference between the two is the shootout point that the Buckeyes earned last Friday night following their 1-1 tie against Alaska. OSU followed that up with a 3-1 loss the next night and the Buckeyes are now averaging 1.62 goals per game, worst in the league and 56th-best in the nation. These teams are 3-3-0 in the last six meetings. I’m calling a split for that reason, but I think that the Wildcats can sweep. Games begin at 7:05 p.m. each night. OSU 2-1, NMU 3-1
No. 9 Western Michigan at Alaska. I admit it: I didn’t expect the Nanooks to be this competitive this season. With a trio of competent goaltenders, the Nanooks have the ninth-best penalty kill in the country (88.6%) and the 21st-best defense nationally. Alaska is also averaging more than 35 shots on goal per conference game this season, and sooner or later that offense may click as well. Last week, UA took four points from OSU on the road. The Broncos took five points from visiting Bowling Green, giving sophomore Frank Slubowski a 5-0 career shootout record. The Broncos are 4-3-3 in their last 10 games against the Nanooks, but the series is tied 3-3-2 in the last eight in Fairbanks. The Broncos were 2-1-1 against the Nanooks last season. Games begin at 7:35 p.m. each night. WMU 3-2, UA 3-2
Alabama-Huntsville at Lake Superior State. The Chargers are still looking for their first win of the season. UAH lost twice on the road last weekend to Northeastern, 3-0 and 3-1, and the Chargers’ offense is the lowest-scoring in the nation, averaging 1.20 goals per game. Four Chargers have netted two goals each with eight players total scoring through 10 games this season. Sophomore defenseman Graeme Strukoff leads UAH in total points (1-4–5). Three Chargers have seen time in net, but senior John Griggs (4.39 GAA, .895 SV%) has seen the most of it, including the Saturday loss versus Northeastern. Last weekend, the Lakers split a home pair with Ferris State, scoring two goals within 13 seconds in the last minute of the second period in Friday’s 4-1 win. At the beginning of last season, the Lakers swept the Chargers in Huntsville. Friday’s game begins at 7:35 p.m., Saturday’s at 7:05 p.m. LSSU 3-1, 3-1
I covered the ND-UM game last night and won’t be near a rink for the rest of the weekend, but I will try to hit Twitter (@paulacweston) during the televised ND-UM rematch.
Anyone handy with a paint brush? Got a strong back for moving boxes of books — many boxes of books?
The Notre Dame-Michigan series is Thursday-Friday, so here’s my prediction for just that series. I’ll have the rest of my picks for the weekend Friday morning, as well as a running total of how I’m doing.
No. 8 Notre Dame at No. 13 Michigan. Each team enters this series with a loss as its most recent game. The Fighting Irish lost to Boston College, 3-1, in Chestnut Hill Friday, Nov. 9. Freshman Thomas DiPauli had his second career goal in the game, and junior Steven Summerhays made 19 saves in the contest. The Wolverines split a pair of lopsided games against Michigan State, winning at home, 5-1, that same Friday, and losing badly the following night in Munn Ice Arena, 7-2. Freshman Jared Rutledge had both of the Michigan decisions, although he was relieved in net toward the end of third period of the loss by classmate Steve Racine. The teams split a pair of games in the Compton Center during the regular season last year before Michigan swept Notre Dame in Ann Arbor in the second round of the CCHA playoffs. In the Jeff Jackson era, it’s Red Berenson 12, Jackson 10. Games begin at 7:35 p.m. each night. UM 3-2, ND 4-2
Once again, no one can close a deal in the CCHA.
1. There’s nothing like a good, old-fashioned thrashing. It’s even sweeter for a team at home, against its arch-rival. Both the Wolverines and the Spartans experienced that this weekend, with Michigan coming out of the weekend at the sour end. Friday’s 5-1 lopsided UM win seemed predictable: close through two periods, with the Wolverines turning up the heat in the third. There was nothing predictable about Saturday’s 7-2 MSU win, including the fact that the Spartans scored seven goals, the first one coming 34 seconds into the game. Munn Ice Arena was electric. Yes, that Munn Arena, the one with the reputation for older fans who sit on their hands. In fact, it was the better barn of the two in the series — and no one could have predicted that.
2. All it takes is four points to make a move. Alaska defeated and tied Ohio State and did not take the shootout point, but given that four of the teams the Nanooks were tied with at the start of the weekend — for first place, no less — split outright with their opponents, Alaska is in second place. This week. And the RedHawks with their five precious points are in first. This week.
3. The winners really won. For the most part, the scoring margins in games where teams actually won were impressive in conference games this weekend, with winners outscoring losers 32-10. In six of the eight league games in which someone won, losers were kept to one goal; four contests were decided by three or more goals. I don’t know what that says this early in the season, but that’s not exactly the kind of stat that indicates a parity where everyone is equally good.