This Week in the CCHA: November 22, 1996

CCHA PREVIEW: November 22-23, 1996 CCHA Preview: November 22-23, 1996 by Paula C. Weston

Last week’s CCHA action did nothing to prove my theory of the impending demise of the unofficial "two tiers" in the CCHA. Three teams at the top of the conference — Michigan, Miami, and Michigan State — each have six wins in conference play. Michigan, with 13 points, has the edge over Miami and Michigan State by one point. With its win over Ferris State on Tuesday, Western Michigan pulled ahead of the remaining pack by a point, tallying up a total of seven with just three conference wins. Close behind is Lake Superior State, also with three wins, but with six points. Each of the remaining CCHA teams has just two wins — including, surprisingly, Bowling Green. Notre Dame and Bowling Green are tied with five points each, while Ohio State, Ferris State, and Alaska-Fairbanks each have four.

In spite of the domination by just three teams at the top of the standings, the potential exists for a leveling-out in the middle of the conference. Lake Superior State’s offense showed signs of waking up in two games (one conference, one non-conference) against Ohio State last weekend, and it’s unlikely that Bowling Green will remain asleep for long.

Still, with Western Michigan, Ohio State, and Alaska-Fairbanks idle this weekend, the CCHA status quo will probably hold for at least another week.

Last week’s record in picks: 7-4

No. 8 Michigan State (7-4-0, 6-2-0 CCHA) at No. 7 Miami (8-2-0, 6-0-0 CCHA) Friday, 7 p.m., Goggin Arena, Oxford, OH

The battle for second place in the CCHA begins with this game. After playing No. 7 Miami in Oxford, No. 8 Michigan State will travel up to Bowling Green on Saturday.

Both Miami and Michigan State picked up two points last weekend. In its only game last week, Miami beat Bowling Green 4-0 on Friday, while Michigan State split a pair of games, losing at Michigan 5-1 Friday, and winning at Ferris State 7-3 Saturday.

Michigan State head coach Ron Mason says that this is a "tough road trip. We’re playing two teams who are hard to beat at home." Of the Miami game, Mason says, "This may be the biggest challenge we’ve had all year long. They’re definitely a legitimate team."

Miami head coach Mark Mazzoleni thinks it’s too early to put too much emphasis on any one game. "I think the games [this weekend] don’t have any more significance than any other games this early in a 30-game season. I know a lot of coaches feel the same way."

This is an interesting pairing: Michigan State’s high-powered offense against a positively stingy Miami defense. In eight CCHA games, Michigan State has scored 38 goals while allowing 25. In six CCHA games, Miami has scored 23 goals–two fewer than Michigan State has allowed–but has kept opponents to just seven goals.

Michigan State’s strong and steady offense may prove too much for Miami’s league-leading goaltending.

PICK: Michigan State 4-1

No. 8 Michigan State (7-4-0, 6-2-0 CCHA) at Bowling Green (6-5-1, 2-5-1 CCHA) Saturday, 7 p.m., BGSU Arena, Bowling Green, OH

When the Spartans head to a Bowling Green to play the slumping Falcons, Mason says his team will be facing a Falcons team that’s "rebounding–they’re going to win some games this season."

Falcons head coach Buddy Powers certainly hopes so, but he says he’s taking nothing for granted, especially home-ice advantage. "Notre Dame came in here and stole one a couple of weeks ago. It should help that three out of our next four games are at home. We have to get some points on the board."

After last weekend’s loss to Miami and tie with Michigan, Powers isn’t kidding. It’s the Michigan tie that keeps Bowling Green just one point above the bottom of the standings.

The Falcons will have to try to gain some ground without senior left winger Brett Punchard. Before breaking his ankle in a game against Michigan two weeks ago, as part of an outstanding line with seniors center Curtis Fry and right winger Mike Johnson, Punchard had five points (two goals, three assists) in six games. "His loss takes our top left-winger out of the line up for a couple of months," said Powers. "It also affects our power play. We have to do some shuffling."

This should be a close one. Michigan State could take advantage of a Falcon team that has yet to spread its wings.

PICK: Michigan State, 5-4

Notre Dame (3-5-1, 2-3-1 CCHA) at Bowling Green (6-5-1, 2-5-1 CCHA) Friday, 7 p.m., BGSU Arena, Bowling Green, OH

The Irish were surprised at home last week by Ferris State, 5-1, then lost a non-conference overtime game to visiting Mankato State on Sunday, 4-3. This week they travel through Ohio, stopping Friday night in Bowling Green, and Saturday in Miami. It may be a long bus ride home to South Bend for Notre Dame.

The Irish were outshot more than two to one in their loss against Ferris State. Junior goaltender Matt Eisler, who had been outstanding for Notre Dame in the net, faced only 16 shots, and stopped 11 of them. This statistic is very telling for Notre Dame. Even though the Irish are squarely in the middle in both power play and penalty kill rankings in the CCHA, neither the offense nor the defense has been able to click.

Even with a hobbled offense, Bowling Green will start its climb from mediocrity with this game against the Irish.

PICK: Bowling Green, 7-2

Notre Dame (3-5-1, 2-3-1 CCHA) at No. 7 Miami (8-2-0, 6-0-0 CCHA) Saturday, 7 p.m., Goggin Arena, Oxford, OH

Unfortunately for the Irish, their swing through Ohio takes them from a hungry Bowling Green team to a feasting Miami team. With Miami’s CCHA-leading goaltending duo of Trevor Prior and Adam Lord (with .964 and .935 save percentages, respectively), the Irish will have difficulty scoring on this newly confident, nationally ranked Miami team.

PICK: Miami, 3-1

Ferris State (5-8-1, 2-6-0 CCHA) at Lake Superior State (6-5-1, 3-2-0 CCHA) Friday & Saturday, Taffy Abel Arena, Sault Ste. Marie, MI

The Ferris State Bulldogs have played three games in the last ten days. The Bulldogs beat Notre Dame on the road last Friday, 5-1, but lost a pair of home games, 7-3 to Michigan State last Sunday, and 3-2 to Western Michigan Tuesday.

Ferris State assistant coach Drew Famulak said that they were pleased with goaltending and the power play on Friday night, but were overpowered by Michigan State on Sunday.

The Lake Superior State offense should prove to be too much for the Bulldogs this weekend. In their home sweep of Ohio State last weekend, the Lakers had 16 goals. Junior center Bryan Fuss was selected as the Bauer/CCHA Offensive Player of the Week for the five points (three goals, two assists) he contributed. Also, look for Jason Sessa’s scoring streak to continue.

Laker coach Scott Borek couldn’t be reached for comments about this series.

PICKS: Lakers 5-2, 7-1

Brown (1-4-1, 1-4-1 ECAC) at No. 1 Michigan (9-1-1, 6-1-1 CCHA) Friday & Saturday, 7 p.m., Yost Arena, Ann Arbor, MI

Both Brown and Michigan had three-point weekends last week. While the struggling Bears were relatively happy with that, you can bet that Michigan–who gave up a point in a tie with Bowling Green, at home–is less than satisfied.

With a win over Yale and a tie against Princeton, Brown earned some points in ECAC play. Jeff Holwaty looked solid in net for Brown against Princeton, saving 37 shots on goal.

Brown’s momentum may carry it along in ECAC play, but visiting the No. 1 ranked Michigan Wolverines will give it pause for at least this weekend. Michigan’s offense is stunning. Senior left winger John Madden leads the CCHA in points with 16 (five goals, 11 assists), and was named the Bauer/CCHA Defensive Player of the Week for the weekend of November 15-17. Madden had a short-handed goal and an assist in the tie with Bowling Green, and was an important part of the Wolverine penalty killing unit, which allowed just two goals on 15 chances for the weekend.

There are three other Wolverines among the top 11 scorers in the CCHA–Warren Luhning, Matt Herr, and Hobey Candidate Brendan Morrison. With Marty Turco in the net for Michigan, this could be a lop-sided weekend for Brown.

PICKS: Michigan 8-1 Friday, 6-3 Saturday

Paula C. Weston is the CCHA Correspondent for U.S. College Hockey Online

Copyright 1996 Paula C. Weston . All Rights Reserved.

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