This Week in the CCHA: January 16, 1998

But if you take a closer look, you find a league that’s tight and cozy, and no team’s position seems guaranteed.

While Michigan has 27 points in first place, Michigan State has 25 points in second place, and Miami has 20 in third. Big deal, you say? Yup, when you consider that the difference between third and eighth places is a mere four points.

Miami has 20 points, Northern Michigan 19 and Lake Superior 18; Ferris State and Notre Dame each have 17, and Ohio State can claim 16 points.

More evidence of parity: among all CCHA league games played this season, 22 have gone into overtime, and half of those (11) ended in ties.

Miami, Michigan State, and Bowling Green have played the fewest league games (15), and Miami has all of its games against Michigan State–and, for that matter, Michigan–left to play.

Fourth place–and perhaps third place, second place, and first place–is still up for grabs. Northern Michigan may, indeed, finish fourth and host the first round of the playoffs. So may Lake Superior, Ferris State, Notre Dame and Ohio State. The odds are in favor of someone hosting the first round of the CCHA playoffs who hasn’t done so in quite a while (or maybe ever).

Michigan has just one game this weekend against visiting Alaska-Fairbanks. The Wolverines won two hard-fought games last weekend, beating Bowling Green 4- 2 at home and Western Michigan 4-3 in overtime in Kalamazoo. The Nanooks took one of three from Notre Dame at home, losing 4-2, winning 3-2 and losing 5-1.

Michigan State hosts Alaska-Fairbanks and travels to Ferris State. The Spartans tied and beat the Wildcats at home last week, 1-1 and 6-1. The Bulldogs beat Miami 5-1 and lost to Ohio State 5-3 on the road last week.

Miami had a rare one-point weekend last week, losing to Ferris State and tying Lake Superior–at home. The RedHawks go north to Northern Michigan and Lake Superior this weekend.

The Wildcats host Miami and the luckless Western Michigan Broncos this week.

Lake Superior lost to Ohio State 7-0 before tying the RedHawks last week. The Lakers host Western Michigan and Miami for the rematch this week.

Ferris State has one game against Michigan State this weekend. The Bulldogs split a trip through Ohio, beating Miami but losing to Ohio State.

The Buckeyes host a Sunday matinee game against Bowling Green this weekend. Ohio State comes off a four-point weekend, while Bowling Green fought hard in a losing effort against Michigan.

After a trip to Alaska, Notre Dame has earned a week off.

Last week’s record in picks: 5-6 Overall record in picks: 70-53

Could the person who swiped my crystal ball return it, please? No questions asked.

No. 7 Miami (14-4-2, 9-4-2 CCHA) at Northern Michigan (10-8-4, 7-6-4 CCHA) Friday, 7 p.m., Lakeview Arena, Marquette, MI No. 7 Miami (14-4-2, 9-4-2 CCHA) at Lake Superior (10-8-4, 7-6-4 CCHA) Saturday, 7 p.m., Abel Arena, Sault Ste. Marie, MI

The rumors have been flying that senior RedHawk Dan Boyle is injured and will miss the rest of the season. You heard it here: Dan Boyle is not injured, as of this week.

However, Miami does have a few key players hurting, one of whom is out for the year.

Vitali Andreev has been out for a bit now after re-injuring the knee he hurt last season. Andreev will probably be out for another week.

Senior captain and defenseman Todd Rohloff’s college career is over after tearing two major ligaments to his wrist a few weeks back. He’s not even traveling with the ‘Hawks this weekend for moral support.

In the RedHawks’ Friday loss to Ferris State, Mark Shalawylo broke two fingers; he’s gone for four-to-six weeks.

"That’s hockey," says Miami head coach Mark Mazzoleni. "Time to move on."

With the wingers Andreev and Shalawylo out of the line up, Mazzoleni says he’ll be playing freshmen wingers Anthony Donskov and Ernie Hartlieb. Each has played just one CCHA game.

"This is the type of situation where you look for your seniors to step up and lead," says Mazzoleni. "If you’re counting on freshmen to carry you, you’re in trouble."

The RedHawks ran into a little trouble last week with the Bulldogs, who beat Miami 5-1 in Oxford. "Ferris State played as well as I’ve ever seen them play," said Mazzoleni. "Our team probably didn’t give them the respect they should have. Once they got the lead they were very good at keeping it. It’s hard to come from behind when you’re down if you don’t have the right attitude at the beginning of the game.

"We dug a hole and they threw the sand on us."

The RedHawks travel to the U.P. this weekend to play their final regular-season games against Northern Michigan and Lake Superior. The Northern series is split, as is the series against Lake–sort of. Lake and Miami have gone into overtime twice this season, with the Lakers winning 4-3 in Oxford, and the teams skating to a 3-3 tie in Oxford just last week.

Miami at Northern Michigan

When the Wildcats visited Oxford in December, they delivered Miami a 3-2 loss. The RedHawks rebounded the following night with a 5-2 win.

"Northern Michigan is a team that plays extremely well at home," says Mazzoleni. "I don’t expect them to play a passive game in any manner. We have to keep our game simple on the road."

This game pairs up two of the least-penalized teams in the league, in spite of Northern’s reputation for physical play. Special teams may not be much of a factor, which is good news for the Wildcats.

Miami has the best power play in the league, while only Bowling Green’s league penalty killing is less effective than Northern Michigan’s. Also, Northern’s power play is the worst in the league.

It may very well be that Northern doesn’t have great special teams because they don’t need them often, with just 170 league penalty minutes. But you don’t want to give Miami even one opportunity, because Tim Leahy and Gregor Krajnc will come right for you.

Miami has an offense deeper than that of nearly any other CCHA team, and this game may come down to whether or not Northern Michigan can keep Miami from creating good offensive chances. With two Miami forwards out of the lineup, Northern definitely has a fighting chance. But with Adam Copeland, Leahy, Dan Boyle, Krajnc, Marc Tropper, Dustin Whitecotton–etc., etc.–with scoring totals in the double digits, the word "blitz" comes to mind in a setting other than football.

Miami has the clear edge in the net as well. Both Trevor Prior and Ian Olsen are saving about 90 percent of the shots they face, more or less. Prior’s GAA is 2.61; Olsen’s is 2.76. The collective GAA for the Wildcats is 3.31, while the team save percentage is .861. Those numbers aren’t far off Duane Hoey’s stats, since Hoey has seen the bulk of time between the pipes for Northern.

The key to this game is whether or not Northern can shut down the Miami offense, an offense that scored just four goals last week, and offense eager to erase the lingering memories of a one-point weekend.

PICK: Miami 4-2

Miami at Lake Superior

The Lakers may just have Miami’s number this season.

With a 4-3 overtime win in Sault Ste. Marie earlier in the season, and a 3-3 tie in Goggin just last week, Lake Superior is clearly doing something right against Miami.

Laker head coach Scott Borek called the tie a "very good hockey game," adding that Miami and Lake Superior were "two teams that were both desperate for success" after each loss Friday night.

"We were fighting for some confidence," says Borek. The Lakers were shut out 7-0 by the Buckeyes in Columbus the night before playing Miami. "Losing that game at Ohio State as humbling as it was–that was a difficult struggle confidence-wise."

Mazzoleni says that the game between Miami and Lake was a "very clean hockey game, very spirited–an excellent college hockey game."

Given the season series so far, both coaches expect nothing less than good college hockey on Saturday night. "That will be another great game," says Borek. "Hopefully we’ll both come in with a win.

"I think we’ve played our best hockey of the year against Miami."

It not as surprising as it may seem on the surface that these two teams are playing each other tough this season. Even though Miami came out gunning from the gate and Lake was a bit slow to start, each has potentially explosive offense, good defense and solid goaltending.

Miami has the defensive edge, but Lake Superior has one of the best rookie goaltenders in the league in Rob Galatiuk.

Lake Superior owns this series overall (43-11-9), in Sault Ste. Marie (27-1-4), in Oxford( 15-10-5), and on neutral ground (1-0-0). The Lakers are playing good hockey, and the RedHawks are hurting. Look for the upset.

PICK: Lake Superior: 4-3

Western Michigan (5-16-2, 4-12-1 CCHA) at Lake Superior (10-8-4, 7-6-4 CCHA) Friday, 7 p.m., Abel Arena, Sault Ste. Marie, MI Western Michigan (5-16-2, 4-12-1 CCHA) at Northern Michigan (10-8-4, 8-6-3 CCHA) Saturday, 7 p.m., Lakeview Arena, Marquette, MI

When you ask Western Michigan head coach Bill Wilkinson how he’s doing, he’s liable to answer, "How do you think?"

The Broncos haven’t won a game since Nov. 14, a 4-3 overtime win against Lake Superior. That’s a dozen straight losses since mid-November, some of them heart-achingly close, some of them outright blowouts.

There was the 2-1 overtime loss at Miami. The 2-1 loss to Notre Dame. The 4-3 loss to Michigan. The 3-2 loss to Cornell.

Of course, there were the 9-1 loss to Ferris State and the 12-5 loss to North Dakota.

But just last week, there was the 4-3 overtime home loss to No. 5 Michigan, the game that ended when Bubba Berenzweig scored for the Wolverines with just 24 seconds left.

The game in which Matt Barnes made 34 saves to Marty Turco’s 18.

"We played well against Michigan," says Wilkinson. "As a coach, I can’t ask for much more than I got [in that game]."

In order to snap the Bronco losing streak, Wilkinson says, "We’ve got keep playing the way we played against Michigan. If we do that, sooner or later we’ll have a win."

Sooner is better than later for the Broncos, whose nine points are just enough for tenth place in the CCHA–and not near enough (not now, anyway) for a playoff spot.

"We’ve still got time," says Wilkinson, "but we need to win one soon."

Western Michigan at Lake Superior

This series is split so far. When the teams met in Lawson Arena in November, the Broncos won 4-3 in overtime, then lost the following night 4-1. Wilkinson says that he hardly knows what to expect from the Lakers.

"After that 7-0 loss to Ohio State and the tie with Miami, we’re not sure what to think."

Lake Superior head coach Scott Borek says that the Broncos are a better team than their record indicates. "They’ve only given up more than four goals three times this year, and you can’t blame them for North Dakota. They’re a great defensive team."

Borek says that a team in Western Michigan’s position–trying to make the playoffs, just a few weeks short of a team playing the spoiler–is a "dangerous" team.

"They’re sitting back right now. They’re too good to be where they are right now. I hope they get points, but not this weekend."

Neither of these teams has yet to realize its potential this season. Wilkinson says that his team is working hard; Borek has said that his team is merely "competitive," in spite of a recent hottish streak.

The numbers tell a story of two similar teams.

Each team has played 17 league games, and the Lakers have double the points the Broncos have in CCHA play. Western Michigan is being outscored by opponents in CCHA play, but not embarrassingly so–the margin is 39-52. The Lakers are one of only two of the top eight CCHA teams to score fewer goals than they allow (53-60).

Western has solid goaltending. The beleaguered Matt Barnes has been the sole Bronco goaltender of record, and his league stats are more than just respectable–a GAA of 2.87, and he’s saving 90 percent of the shots he faces. Barnes has made 447 league saves.

For the Lakers, Rob Galatiuk, Jayme Platt, and Shawn Greene have combined for a league GAA of 3.45, and a save percentage of .886. Galatiuk alone, however, has numbers nearly identical to those of Barnes–2.82 GAA, .903 save percentage. Galatiuk has made 400 league saves.

The main difference between the two teams–as Bill Wilkinson himself will tell you–is offense. Frank Novock leads the Broncos in scoring, with 10 goals and 5 assists for 15 points. Steve Duke is the second-leading scorer…with no goals, just 12 assists. Joe Corvo has 10 points, but the next highest goal scorer is Chuck Mindel, with just five goals. All the big guns for Western are in the minus.

The Lakers, however, have a little bit of real offense. Terry Marchant is one of three CCHA players with 25 league points (9-16). Jason Sessa has 13 goals and 10 assists. There are a few other Lakers who can score–Joe Blaznek, Tobin Praznik–but only the top two Laker scorers are on the plus side of things.

That may not be a deep offense, but it is a potentially explosive offense, and Marchant, at least, is playing consistently.

Western needs these points more than Lake does, but the likelihood that Western will get its first points in over a dozen games against a semi-hot Laker team in the Soo is, well, smallish.

PICK: Lake Superior 4-3

Western Michigan at Northern Michigan

It’s a shame that Western Michigan doesn’t have much offense; Northern Michigan doesn’t have much goaltending.

Northern beat Western twice in Lawson Arena this season, 3-0 and 4-2. The Wildcats have played inconsistent hockey all season, and it’s hard to know from one week to the next which Wildcat team will come out to play.

Last week the ‘Cats tied Michigan State 1-1 and lost the following night to the Spartans 6-1.

Like the Broncos, the Wildcats have played any number of close games. Unlike the Broncos, the ‘Cats have a solid first line and an assortment of players who can score, enabling them to win those squeakers.

Fred Mattersdorfer leads Northern Michigan in league scoring, with six goals and six assists, just one league penalty, and a plus three. The combination of Roger Trudeau and J.P. Vigier is one that should not be ignored. Between them, the pair has a dozen goals and nine assists.

Then there’s Buddy Smith and Curtis Sheptak, both of whom are capable of being playmakers.

The Wildcats must be doing something right defensively, in front of the net, because Dan Ragusett, Duane Hoey, and Jason Flick are combining for a team save percentage of just .861, while allowing 3.31 on average as a team. Hoey has seen most of work in net, with a 3.18 GAA and a save percentage of .868.

The team sits comfortably at plus 54 in league play (compared with Western’s minus 68), so the Wildcats are generously spreading around the scoring opportunities.

The ‘Cats are a young team, which is the main reason for this season’s less-than-consistent performance.

If Western can penetrate the generate solid offensive chances, the Broncos have a good opportunity to pick up at least a point. Of course, it all depends on who decided to play offense for the Broncos.

PICK: Western 3-2

Alaska-Fairbanks (7-15-2, 4-12-1 CCHA) at No. 2 Michigan State (18-3-3, 10-3-2 CCHA) Friday, 7:08 p.m., Munn Ice Arena, East Lansing, MI No. 2 Michigan State (18-3-3, 10-3-2 CCHA)at Ferris State (8-11-3, 7-7-3 CCHA) Saturday, 7 p.m., Ewigleben Arena, Big Rapids, MI

Ron Mason looks forward to the return of Bryan Adams to the Spartan lineup.

"Adams will probably start skating again on Monday," says the Michigan State head coach. "He compliments York so well. It was no accident that they were our top two scorers [before Adams’ injury]."

The left winger fractured his right clavicle November 30, and yet still remains the fourth scorer for the Spartans with two goals and 10 assists.

That’s a stat that says almost as much about the Spartan offense as it does about Adams. And while we’re on the subject of Spartan offense…

What is Sean Berens eating these days, anyway? Berens has 10 goals in just four games, and he’s scored them this way by game, since the title game of the GLI: 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Berens had a hat trick against Alaska-Fairbanks January 3. He paid for that hat trick with a game disqualification, which forced him to miss the Spartans’ 1-1 tie with Northern last Friday night.

When Berens and the Spartans played Northern Saturday, the senior had four goals–and his second hat trick in two consecutive games played.

He’s the first Spartan on this current roster to have a hat trick.

"The pucks went in for him," says Mason. "He got some timely goals."

Timely. Are hat tricks and game-winner ever untimely?

Alaska-Fairbanks at Michigan State

Before going to Fairbanks, Ron Mason made no effort to hide how little he looked forward to the trip. As it turned out, his gut instincts were right: the teams split the weekend, with a 6-4 win for UAF in the first game, and a 6-2 win for the Spartans in the second.

"They always play us hard, I guess," says Mason. "Maybe playing them as close to that series will have an effect. I hope it does."

The Nanooks have had some success in Munn Arena. The Spartans lead the young series, 9-4-0 overall, and 5-3-0 in East Lansing. Michigan State beat Alaska-Fairbanks twice in East Lansing last year, the most recent Nanook visits to Munn.

We know what Michigan State is. The Spartans have a powerful defense with an extraordinary goaltender, Chad Alban. With a record of 10-2-2 in league play for the Spartans, Alban has amassed over 844 minutes in net with a GAA of 1.85 and a save percentage of .908. Last weekend, Alban made 49 saves on 51 shots for a weekend save percentage of .961. His performance against Northern Michigan earned him CCHA Defensive Player of the Week honors.

Offensively, the Spartans have five players in the double digits in scoring. Berens–who now leads the Spartans in league scoring (13-4–17)–the incomparable Mike York (7-10–17), Rustyn Dolyny (8-6–14), the injured Adams (2-10–12), and defenseman Chris Bogas (3-7-10) have combined for more than half (33 of 51) of the Spartans’ league goals.

Fourteen of the 26 Spartans who have seen action this season are goalless. That figure includes Alban, who is credited with two assists.

There’s offense for the Green and White, but it’s shared primarily by just a few players.

The Nanooks, on the other hand, have a few more players who can score consistently. Sjon Wynia is among the CCHA’s leading scorers with 24 points in league play (12-13). Jim Lawrence (7-9–16), Jeff Trembecky (7-9–16) and Kerry Hafele (2-13–15) Chris Kirwan (6-8–14), and Eon MacFarlane (3-7–10) are the Nanooks in the double digits in league play.

No one disputes Alaska-Fairbanks’ ability to score goals, as the Nanooks lead the league in goals scored with 68. However, when the Nanooks play, they tend to allow a hefty number of goals–a total of 102 goals against this season, by far and away the most goals allowed by any team in the CCHA in league play.

Two reasons: sketchy defense, and goaltending that goes from bad to mediocre.

With Ian Perkins and Chris Marvel sharing time in net, the Nanooks have a collective save percentage of .860, and they’re allowing nearly five goals per game.

The team is minus 134 in league play, as a team. Only one Nanook, Chad Hamilton, is on the plus side, at plus one.

This is an interesting matchup. The Nanooks can score, but the Spartans routinely keep opponents to few shots on goal. The Spartans aren’t known especially for offense, but the Nanooks aren’t known especially for their defense, either.

PICK: Michigan State 4-1

Michigan State at Ferris State

The Bulldogs are sort of a chameleon team, a team that changes and adapts to surroundings depending on the situation.

When Ferris State went to Miami last week, the Bulldogs knew that they were up against one of the best offenses in the CCHA, having lost to Miami 6-2 in early December. They won 5-1.

When Ferris State went to Ohio State the following night, the Bulldogs weren’t sure what they were up against, and they couldn’t adapt fast enough, losing to the Buckeyes 5-3.

This week, the Bulldogs will probably know what to expect, having lost once to the Spartans 6-1 in October.

October was a long time ago, and if the Bulldogs are as smart as their namesakes, they will have learned how to prevent Michigan State from scoring six goals against them. The trick is to learn how to score against the stingy Spartan defense.

Joel Irwin leads Ferris State with eight goals and 11 assists in league play. Including Irwin, there are eight Bulldogs with at least ten points, although no one Ferris player has ten goals.

Watch out for Kevin Swider, who is a legitimate candidate for CCHA rookie of the year. Also playing especially well are Bren Wishart, Kenzie Homer, and Jim Dube.

But, then again, Brett Colborne, Geoff Bennets, Brian McCullough, Rob Kozak, and J.P. Tessier are not to be taken lightly.

In short, this is a very talented team, one that doesn’t get the respect it deserves in this league.

In net for the Bulldogs is one of the CCHA’s best rookie goaltenders, Vince Owen. A smart goalie who seems to learn from his own rookie mistakes even within the course of a single game, Owen’s league GAA is 3.20, and he’s saving 88 percent of the shots. This is a goaltender who should only improve with experience.

The Spartans may be the No. 2 team in the country and the second-place team in the CCHA, but if the Green and White faithful think that Michigan State won’t have its hands full with Ferris State, they would be, sadly, mistaken.

PICK: Michigan State 2-1

Alaska-Fairbanks (7-15-2, 6-14-1 CCHA)) at No. 5 Michigan (19-4-1, 13-2-1 CCHA) Saturday, 7 p.m., Yost Ice Arena, Ann Arbor, MI

How tough can one road trip be? After facing No. 2 Michigan State on Friday, the Nanooks play the number-five, league-leading Wolverines Saturday.

And the Nanooks don’t do especially well in Yost Arena.

Last season, Michigan outscored Alaska-Fairbanks 32-2 in three games in Yost Arena–one regular-season game, and two playoff games. Things are closer in Alaska, but the Wolverines won two games in Fairbanks earlier this season.

In 14 meetings, the Nanooks have yet to beat the Wolverines.

This is the sole Wolverine game of the weekend, but head coach Red Berenson says, "It looks like a breather on the schedule, but it’s not."

Berenson insists that his team is the sum of a few good players–Marty Turco, Bill Muckalt, Bobby Hayes, Matt Herr–and the ability to find a way to win in close games. Last weekend, the Wolverines beat last-place Bowling Green 4-2, and needed overtime to beat next-to-last-place Western Michigan 4-3.

"These have been really tough games," says Berenson. "Bowling Green was an empty net goal, and Western was an overtime game, so figure that out. Our win against Bowling Green was ugly. Marty Turco really struggled in net."

The Wolverines will be without stand-out freshman defenseman Mike Van Ryn this weekend, who injured himself on the penalty-box door. "He’s not skating," says Berenson. "He’s day to day."

Berenson says that although his team is firmly in first place, the Wolverines aren’t really much better than any of their opponents this season. "They’re always tough games. We haven’t played Miami yet. Lake Superior was the only team we’ve really outplayed."

With the win over Bowling Green last weekend, Marty Turco earned his 112th career victory, setting a new NCAA Division I record for wins by a goaltender. With every game he plays from now until the end of the season, Turco has the potential to set a new record for wins.

The publicity that Turco received–including a well-written, half-page feature article by Steve Allen in USA Today–is a nice boost for a Michigan team that isn’t nearly the team it was a year ago.

But that wasn’t the only publicity the Wolverines were getting last week.

Chris Fox was charged with assault with intent to injure, a felony that carries a maximum of ten years on prison under Michigan law, stemming from an incident during a summer hockey game.

This is how Berenson describes the incident: "Fox was high-sticked and cut for 16 stitches. He was going to the bench. He was already bloody, he was hurt and scared, and someone came after him. He turned and lifted his stick in self-defense."

Fox’s stick caught the mouth of another player, causing damage that has already required two surgeries to correct. Berenson says, "It wasn’t intentional, and he [Fox] felt bad about it."

Berenson says that this whole incident has been investigated twice by Michigan police–last summer and last November–and, according to Berenson, both times the police indicated that the matter would be dropped.

"[Fox] is a victim of being a player on a high-profile school," says Berenson, adding, "this is not the Chris Fox we know."

Back to the game at hand.

The Nanooks may play better on the second night of their trip, but don’t expect a miracle.

PICK: Michigan 6-2

Bowling Green (4-17-2, 2-11-2 CCHA) at Ohio State (11-10-1, 8-9-0 CCHA) Sunday, 3 p.m., Ohio Expo Center (Fairgrounds), Columbus, OH

The Buckeyes are basking in the afterglow of their third four-point weekend of the season, having beaten Lake Superior 7-0 and Ferris State 5-3, both games in the tiny rink the OSU players like to call The War Memorial.

With the wins and the 12 goals last weekend, the Buckeyes have once again turned a scoring corner, now outscoring league opponents 57-51.

Credit sophomore forward Hugo Boisvert with helping Ohio State regain the upper hand in scoring over league opponents. Boisvert had five goals and an assist last weekend, scoring his first collegiate hat trick in the Ferris State game, and earning CCHA Offensive Player of the Week honors.

With 12 goals and 13 assists, Boisvert is one of three CCHA players with 25 points in league play–and Boisvert insists he’s not a goal-scorer. Boisvert’s linemate Eric Meloche has 10 goals and eight assists in league play, while linemate Jean-Francois Dufour has six goals and eight assists in league play.

That line alone is responsible for 28 of the Buckeyes’ 57 league goals–just shy of half of Ohio State’s scoring in CCHA play.

It’s not unusual for any team–even the Buckeyes–to have a few players who can score, but this season, that first line is getting help from a strong second line, led by junior Chris Richards (6-13–19) and Dan Cousineau (3-7–10).

With a goal and nine assists, freshman defender Andre Signoretti has also hit the ten-mark in scoring. Signoretti tends to be paired with senior defenseman Ryan Root in regular shifts and on the power play. Root has four goals and four assists.

With all this offense and as many wins so far this season as the Buckeyes saw in all of last season, you might expect a giddy feeling in that War Memorial.

Not so. Head coach John Markell says, "I want them to stay focused." In eighth place, the Buckeyes know they’re just four points out of third place in the CCHA, but, says Markell, they also know they’re three points out of ninth.

Bowling Green has been playing much more strongly in front of rookie netminder Shawn Timm, who, with a record of 1-5-1, is allowing 3.38 goals per game with a save percentage hovering around .890.

Bowling Green’s problem is overcoming a dismal start to this season that coach Buddy Powers has dubbed "The Murphy’s Law Season." Lead scorer Dan Price was suspended indefinitely when he entered a plea of no contest to vehicular manslaughter charges.

Aside from Price, only two other Falcons have shown offensive promise this season. Adam Edinger has four goals and seven assists in league play. Curtis Valentine leads the team in goals with five.

"If you watch their scores, they’re competing very well against every hockey club they’re playing," says Markell. "We’re taking them seriously. Bowling Green is a team that can jump up and catch you."

This is the second meeting between these two teams this season. The first game was a 5-4 come- from-behind win for Ohio State, the first night during which that first line–responsible for all five goals–really showed what it’s capable of doing.

Jeff Maund is having an outstanding rookie season for the Buckeyes in net. Maund is keeping some pretty good company among CCHA goaltenders, with a record of 8-5-0 in league play, a GAA of 2.74, and a save percentage of .908. For the record, his save percentage equals Chad Alban’s save percentage.

Maund is mostly relaxed and unflappable in net, although he can give up some soft goals. He gave up two soft goals to Ferris State’s Kenzie Homer last weekend, and he gave up two soft goals to Bowling Green when the teams met in November.

He’s still a solid advantage in net.

Another advantage for the Buckeyes is the bigger ice surface of the Ohio Expo Center (formerly the Fairgrounds Colosseum). This fast-skating team has room to move on the larger surface, but the cavernous Expo Center–better suited to horse shows than hockey–swallows noise. What the Bucks gain on the ice they lose in atmosphere.

If the Buckeyes stay focused and play the game capable of playing, and if Hugo Boisvert and Chris Richards are in their groove, Ohio State should beat Bowling Green.

PICK: Ohio State 4-1