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College Hockey:
What I think I learned this weekend in the WCHA about home ice, scheduling and Pheonix Copley

The WCHA dropped the puck on conference play this weekend at Alabama-Huntsville and in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Alaska also hosted Mercyhurst in its final nonconference series of the weekend.

With Bowling Green still to play Tuesday at Ohio State, here’s what I think I learned this weekend in the WCHA.

1. Home is where the wins are

After starting the year 6-11-3 in nonconference play, WCHA teams have combined to go 12-7-3 since then to improve to 18-18-6 following the Nanooks win and tie at home against Mercyhurst.

That turnaround can be credited to WCHA teams playing nonconference opponents on home ice, where they are 12-4-3. On the road in nonconference play, the WCHA is 4-12-3 and on neutral ice, they’re 2-2-0.

In 2013-14, WCHA teams are scheduled to play a total of 26 nonconference games at home, 42 on the road and 13 on neutral ice.

Bemidji State leads the league with five nonconference home games, followed by Alaska (4) and Bowling Green (3). The rest of the league’s seven teams have two each.

If the trend continues — with seven nonconference home games, 23 road games and nine neutral ice games remaining — the WCHA will finish around 32-41-9, not taking into account quality of opponents.

No wonder commissioner Bruce McLeod and others in the WCHA would are pressuring league members to schedule more home games and not take easy payouts to play on the road with no return trip.

2. The WCHA schedule makers got it right last weekend

A new era in the WCHA kicked off with two old, heated rivalries in Northern Michigan/Michigan Tech and Alabama-Huntsville/Bemidji State.

The Wildcats and Huskies split the first two games of their four-game series with NMU winning 2-0 before a sellout crowd of 4,260 at the Berry Events Center in Marquette and Tech earning its first win of the season in its first home game of the season, 4-1, in front of a near-sellout crowd of 3,944 at John MacInnes Student Ice Arena in Houghton.

The Chargers didn’t get as big of crowds in Huntsville or any wins, falling 6-1 and 1-0 to the Beavers, but a more stable and consistent home slate this season should help the program boost attendance. Ferris State heads south this week.

The only rivalry missing this weekend was Nanooks vs. Seawolves, but maybe the world just isn’t ready yet for that much chirping in a week.

3. Tech goalie Pheonix Copley is too hard on himself

Making back-to-back starts for the first time this season after splitting weekends with sophomore Jamie Phillips, Copley stopped 14 shots to earn his first win of the season on Saturday.

Despite getting the win Saturday, the sophomore from North Pole, Alaska, was hard on himself.

“Obviously the goal, it’s one you’d like back,” said Copley, who stopped 31 shots the night before in a 2-0 loss at NMU. “It was kind of off angle, not the best shot.”

The goal Copley gave up was a short-range rocket by NMU senior forward Stephan Vigier, who bounced the puck off the left post and past the Tech goalkeeper.

Vigier happens to also be tied with Alaska’s Cody Kunyk and Nolan Huysmans for the league-high in goals with five, so I think Copley can brush that goal off. Not many goalies in college hockey would have gotten that one, but it’s also nice to see the sophomore set the bar so high.

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  • Redhawk fan13

    Unfortunately OSU has a two point lead over Miami and Western.

    • Paula Weston

      Thanks.  

      • Fox5 2

        Ladies and Gents can we change the subject for a minute.The hockey poll voters are getting as bad as those for ncaa football.Can anyone give me an explaination on how teams can lose six straight games and 3 out of 4 and stay in the top 7?It just doesn’t make sense 2 me.CCHA best conference in the country going 2 miss it.

  • Decatur Spartan.

    With just 6 pts separating first from eighth, it looks like a very fun race to the end of the season. No team can take another for granted any longer.
    Time to hold your breath!
    Go Spartans!
     

    • Paula Weston

      This season is awesome!  I hope that the CCHA’s last year, next season, will be as thrilling.  

  • John Fitzgerald

    “Histories of sustained success?”  Journalistic Creativity at it’s best.  Berenson has traditionally used the GLI as a springboard, and this year seems no different as their slump was in November and December.  However nobody fears the Block(head) M any longer as the “Yost Ghosts” were chased away in 2011 by many teams.  History is a class, not a predestined determination of an outcome of a sport played by 8-24 yr old males.

    The CCHA standings are condensed due to a surprising 1st year by Anastos @ MSU and Murray has kept the Broncos staying relevant (although the offense took the weekend off vs Miami of Ohio), plus as you’ve mentioned recently, the 3 points earned for a regulation W.  Miami of Ohio, OSU and U of M have all played 2 extra games so far, so other than Bowling Green living in the basement this year, almost every contest during the next six weeks will be a “pivotal positional” game.

    GO BRONCOS!!

    • Paula Weston

      Um, maybe I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that 21 consecutive NCAA appearances is a history of sustained success, nor do I think it’s a stretch to say that a team that has had a run of six consecutive NCAA appearances — and Frozen Four appearances in 2009 and 2011 — makes an argument for a history of sustained success.

      The Broncos were in the NCAA tournament last year for the first time since 1996.  They look like they’ll make the tournament again this year.  This is a good start toward building a history of sustained success — but they haven’t done so yet.

      Players in programs with ongoing success understand better than players from emerging programs how to be successful — even when it appears that they’re slumping.  They may not achieve that success, but they have far more experience at their disposal than players in other programs.

      No one fears Michigan?  Really?  Given their history, I doubt that any coach in the league is thinking, “Gee, I’d really like to face Michigan in the playoffs.”  I’m not sure any coach in the country would say that.  Same goes for the RedHawks.  

      • Hawks

        Any school from Boston would want to face the Redhawks :/

      • John Fitzgerald

        Other than my “Go Broncos” sign-off, this wasn’t about the Bronco’s and their recent success as much as it was the Michigan Hockey Team’s past success not being relevant in 2012.  Yes, players have to learn how to win, and that confidence is developed with the influence of others.  But sports in general has examples of “teams rising above and surpassing their historical results.  Underachievers and overachievers are why games are played and not decided based on “Statistics”.  And yes, any coach/player lacing up their skates that is should want to play Michigan or Miami University anywhere, anytime, otherwise I don’t want them playing for WMU.  Call Andy Murray and ask him if he “really wants to play Michigan in the playoffs”. 

    • Bob

      All’s I’m saying is this is another case in point of delusional Western Michigan fans having come out of the woodwork lately.

      • John Fitzgerald

        Bob….This has nothing to do with the 1 and 1/2 years of improved play at Western Michigan, but more that Michigan has proven that they can be vulnerable and their history isn’t relevant this year.  They’ve got great players, but the parity in the CCHA that is apparent in the 2011-2012 is more relevant than the overall coaching record of Red Berenson. 

        • UM Deker

          The biggest reason for the UM Nov slump was turnovers in the defensive end. (3 unassisted goals by Union was the low point) After 7 game winless streak, UM was still 5th in scoring nationally. Since getting Merrill back the defense has been much improved and they have only one loss (@ND).

  • Miami

    John who is Miami of Ohio?

    • LoveAndHonor

      Miami University … Love and Honor