The mouth-watering main course begins with the first two of three games between No. 4 Michigan and No. 7 Miami.
With 29 points, No. 4 Michigan tenaciously holds on to first place, winning at home over Alaska-Fairbanks last weekend, 5-1.
The RedHawks, at number four in the CCHA standings, split the weekend, losing to Northern Michigan 5-3 and beating Lake Superior 4-3, both games on the road.
This weekend, No. 7 Miami hosts No. 4 Michigan for two games.
Does it get any better? Well, maybe not…but it can be just as good.
No. 2 Michigan State is second in the CCHA with 26 points, and this weekend, every Spartan fan becomes a secret RedHawk fan as well. The Spartans took four points last weekend, beating Alaska-Fairbanks 6-1 and Ferris State 7-0.
The Spartans have just one game this week, and it should be a doozy. Fifth-place Lake Superior visits Munn after beating Western Michigan 4-3 and losing to Miami 4-3 last weekend. With 20 points, the Lakers are just two behind Miami and three behind Northern Michigan.
Laker fans — as much as they hate to admit it — will silently cheer on the Wolverines.
It is hockey, not politics, that provides for the strangest bedfellows, no?
Third-place Northern Michigan will travel to Bowling Green and Ohio State, hoping to keep a two-game winning streak alive. The Wildcats beat Miami 4-3 and Western Michigan 5-2 last weekend. Northern needs these points to stay in the home-ice race.
The Buckeyes are in sole possession of sixth place with 18 points, and the Buckeyes want points as badly as the Wildcats do. Ohio State is fighting for fourth place, a realistic goal considering just four points separates the Buckeyes from the fourth-place RedHawks.
After beating Bowling Green 4-2 last weekend, the Buckeyes will do battle against Northern Michigan Saturday, then take on Notre Dame Sunday.
The Fighting Irish are just one point behind Ohio State, and they, too, want the points. If it is realistic to say that the Buckeyes have a shot at fourth, it is realistic to say the same of Notre Dame. After a week off, the Irish come to Ohio to play Bowling Green the night before playing the Buckeyes.
Bowling Green is now playing the role of spoiler. With little chance of making the playoffs, the Falcons take on Northern Michigan and Notre Dame. These two games will be hard for Falcon fans, considering that Bowling Green wins mean good things for their in-state rivals, the Buckeyes.
Ferris State and Western Michigan each face non-conference action this weekend, as both Cornell and Rensselaer travel to the state of Michigan. Each CCHA team will play each ECAC team once.
Alaska-Fairbanks has the week off.
Last week’s record in picks: 5-3 Overall record in picks: 75-58
Go on. Tear another little piece of my heart out, baby.
No. 4 Michigan (20-4-1, 14-2-1 CCHA) at No. 7 Miami (15-5-2, 10-5-2 CCHA) Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m., Goggin Ice Arena, Oxford, OH
It’s mid-January, and this is the first time these two teams have met. Does the CCHA playoff race get any better than this?
Michigan head coach Red Berenson has just one word for this series: "Huge."
Sitting seven points ahead of Miami in the standings, the Wolverines can’t actually switch places with the RedHawks, but Berenson knows that Miami can jeopardize the Wolverines’ first-place position. "We’re going in there with a lot of respect," says Berenson.
Berenson says that the Wolverines are "still piecing ourselves together." adding, "We still have a lot to prove."
Although Michigan holds on by three points to the top spot, Berenson says, "That could change every week.
"We have two more with Michigan State, two with Lake Superior, three with Miami, three with Notre Dame. We put ourselves in a good position by beating opponents earlier in the season that we knew we could beat."
At this point in the season, Berenson says he’s more concerned with focusing on the Wolverines rather than on the teams the Wolverines will face. "I’m not worried about first place. I’m just worried about getting our team to play as well as they can against the top teams in this league, and I think that Miami’s one of the top teams."
Miami comes home after a lopsided weekend of play in the northern regions of Michigan, losing 5-3 to Northern Michigan and beating the Lakers, 4-3.
"We’ve had games that we don’t deserve to win," says Miami head coach Mark Mazzoleni, "and [the game against Northern] was one of them.
"Our overall effort wasn’t bad. I take tremendous pride in our team defense, and we played as poor a defensive game as I’ve seen us play in a long time.
"If we don’t have our edge, like most teams, we’re very beatable."
That Miami edge has taken a bit of a beating lately. Sophomore forward Mark Shalawylo is out for a few more weeks with a hand injury. Senior defenseman and captain Todd Rohloff is gone for the season with a wrist injury.
Then there’s rookie Alex Kim, who is responsible for nine of the team’s even-strength CCHA goals.
"He has taken a personal leave of absence for violating team policy," says Mazzoleni, and that’s all the coach will say.
Kim has missed two weekends of play, and this will be his third. He’s out indefinitely.
Having gained only three points from their last four games, the RedHawks need to turn things around. Part of that turnaround, according to Mazzoleni, is learning to respect opponents.
There’s no doubt that the ‘Hawks respect the Wolverines. Michigan leads this series 44-12-2, though Miami won the last time these two teams met, 4-2 in Oxford last March.
"We’re going to have to play a very disciplined game against them," says Mazzoleni. "We need to take away their power-play chances."
Says Berenson, "I think we’ll have Miami’s absolute best shot, and they’re a tough team at home….If they’re going to make a statement to stay in the top four, this is the weekend to do it."
Miami’s league power play is the second-best in the CCHA; Michigan’s is third. Michigan’s league penalty killing is third, at 86.7 percent; Miami’s is fourth, at 86.5 percent.
Michigan is outscoring opponents almost two-to-one; Miami is outscoring opponents, on average, by about 1.4 goals per game in league play.
Michigan’s Marty Turco has numbers and moves that opponents notice. His league 1.95 GAA and save percentage of .915 put him third among goaltenders who have played at least two full games, and it should be noted that he has nearly 1,014 minutes in league play.
The duo of Trevor Prior and Ian Olsen have put up some nice numbers for Miami as well, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see each goaltender in action this weekend.
Prior and Olsen are seventh and tenth in the CCHA in league play, respectively. Prior’s league GAA is 2.52 with a healthy .903 save percentage. Olsen, who’s seen half as many minutes in net as Prior — give or take a few — has a GAA of 2.92 with a save percentage of .887. The pair has a combined save percentage of .892.
No one disputes Bill Muckalt’s excellence; he leads Michigan and is second in the CCHA in scoring, with 15 goals and 12 assists. He’s dangerous. Two hat tricks. Five game-winning goals. Eleven goals on the power play overall.
Then there’s Bobby Hayes, who seems to be living in Muckalt’s shadow this season. Hayes is the other Wolverine among the CCHA’s top ten scorers (11-13–24), and he’s scored three goals when the Wolverines are down a man in league play.
And keep an eye on rookie Josh Langfeld.
Miami has three scorers tied for ninth in CCHA scoring with 19 points each. Included in this bunch are Adam Copeland (10-9), Dan Boyle (9-10), and Dustin Whitecotton (3-16). Tim Leahy is tied with Josh Langfeld for points (18).
Boyle is, without a doubt, Miami’s number-one playmaker, with his ability to perplex forwards and dipsy-doodle the puck with the best of them.
Michigan may have players who stand out more, but Miami is deeper — when the ‘Hawks decide to play like the offensive power they truly can be.
Miami has a slight advantage being at home, but if these games are close in the third period, Michigan has a definite edge. In 15 of their last 19 games, the Wolverines were tied, down a goal, or up a goal going into the third, and they are 16-2-1 in those games. When the games are close, the Wolverines tend to find a way to get those points.
PICKS: Miami 4-3, Michigan 4-3
Northern Michigan (12-8-4, 10-6-3 CCHA) at Bowling Green (4-18-2, 2-12-2 CCHA) Friday, 7 p.m., BGSU Ice Arena, Bowling Green, OH Northern Michigan (12-8-4, 10-6-3 CCHA) at Ohio State (12-10-1, 9-9-0 CCHA) Saturday, 7 p.m., OSU Ice Rink, Columbus, OH
The hard-working Wildcats swing south of the border through Ohio after winning two at home last weekend, a critical 5-3 win over Miami and a 5-2 win over Western Michigan. Northern Michigan holds on to third place, in spite of having some of the worst goaltending in the CCHA.
"It is a fair statement to say that our goaltending has not been good enough," says Northern Michigan head coach Rick Comley.
One area where the Wildcats need real improvement is between the pipes. Starter Duane Hoey has a save percentage of .865, and he’s allowing just over three goals per game in league play.
"The acceptable level of goaltending in this league is [an] 89 percent [save percentage]. If you want to have home-ice advantage in the playoffs in this league, you should be seeing 90 percent."
Comley’s biggest criticism of Hoey is that his "he’s given up bad goals."
The Wildcats have a team save percentage of .866. They’re outscoring opponents by the slim margin of 62-60. So how are they holding on to third place?
"[Hoey’s] save percentage is 86 percent," says Comley, "but that’s tempered somewhat by the fact that he hasn’t seen a lot of shots on goal."
Comley adds, "Who knows how he’d do if he were facing more shots? Some goalies thrive under pressure."
The other sore point for the Wildcats is special teams. Northern Michigan stands alone at the bottom of league power-play stats, converting on just 10.5 percent of power play chances. The ‘Cats don’t do much better when they’re down a man, where they’re ninth in league penalty killing.
Of course, the Wildcats don’t take many penalties — they have just 190 CCHA penalty minutes. But, says Comley, that doesn’t mean they don’t work at their special teams play.
"We work two to three days a week on special teams….We’re not blessed right now with that supreme offensive talent."
But the Wildcats are staying in the race for home-ice advantage come playoff time, relying heavily on defense. "I would say we work hard," says Comley. "And certainly everybody in the CCHA plays defense today."
Northern Michigan at Bowling Green
Bowling Green needs a win. As Buddy Powers said after the Falcons’ 4-2 loss to Ohio State Sunday, "That’s our offense: two goals and a cloud of dust."
The Falcons haven’t had a win since December 28, when they beat Vermont. Their last CCHA win was a 1-0 shutout against — of all teams — Michigan State, on Dec. 7. Their only other CCHA win was over Ferris State Nov. 1.
The Falcons can get a lead, but they can’t seem to keep it, as Sunday’s game showed. Going into the third period, Bowling Green was up on Ohio State 2-1, but Powers said that the Buckeyes "just turned up the heat," something the Falcons haven’t been able to do, and something the Falcons haven’t been able to counter.
When these two teams last met on Jan. 2, Northern won in overtime, 6-5. Again, the Falcons led 4-2 going into the third, and led 5-2 when Ryan Murphy scored for Bowling Green at 1:12 of the final period.
But the Wildcats scored twice within two minutes toward the middle of the third, and the game-winner came at 2:50 in overtime.
The Falcons have been bolstered by the efforts of Shawn Timm, whose numbers don’t tell the whole story of his play. His league save percentage is .892, but he’s allowing 3.45 goals per league game.
Here’s a little secret: Shawn Timm can’t do it alone. The Falcon defense offers some help, but can’t seem to clear the puck from the front of its own net.
Then there’s the offense. All you need to know about Bowling Green’s offense is that Dan Price is still the Falcons’ leading CCHA scorer, and he hasn’t played in eight games.
PICK: Northern Michigan 5-2
Northern Michigan at Ohio State
Many CCHA teams have been surprised by Northern Michigan this season. Ohio State isn’t one of them.
In late November, the Buckeyes beat the Wildcats in Marqette, twice, by the scores of 5-1 and 5-4.
"They’re a good team," says Comley of the Buckeyes, "and they know how to put the puck in the net."
Ohio State head coach John Markell looks forward to this rematch. "I expect a real competitive game, and there’s a revenge factor. We played well up there, and if we play that well again we’ll be all right."
The Wildcats have as good a first line as nearly anyone in the CCHA, with Roger Trudeau (7-7–14), J.P. Vigier (6-6–12), and Buddy Smith (2-8–10). But Smith — Northern Michigan’s best player, according to Comley — is out, and Rich Metro (5-5–10) has been filling in on the top line.
That gives the line a different look, according to Comley. "Smith is more of a finesse player, while Metro’s a defensive forward."
The ‘Cats have some offensive depth to counter the loss of the play-making Smith. Fred Mattersdorfer has 14 points in league play, while Jeff White has 10.
The Buckeyes have offense as well, with three players from two different lines among the league’s top ten scorers. Hugo Boisvert is third in the CCHA in scoring (12-14–26), and his linemate Eric Meloche is tied for ninth with 19 points (11-8).
Sitting alone in seventh place in CCHA scoring is Chris Richards, with seven goals and 14 assists. On line with Richards, both Dan Cousineau and Todd Compeau can score. Cousineau is fifth on the Buckeye scoring depth chart (4-9).
That line was responsible for the third-period surge that lifted the Buckeyes over Bowling Green 4-2 Sunday, as Richards, Cousineau and Compeau each had a goal in the third period. Compeau, the newest member of the line, had three points on the night, as did Cousineau.
The Buckeyes are not the sum total of offense alone. (When was the last time you could say that without smirking?) Defensively, the Buckeyes are often tough, and the Buckeye goaltending is outstanding.
Rookie Jeff Maund shoulders most of the play in net for Ohio State this season. Maund is fourth among CCHA goaltenders in wins this season (10). He’s saving nearly 91 percent of the shots he faces, and he’s averaging 2.69 goals against per league game.
The Buckeyes have a serious advantage when they play in their little War Memorial. Now that football season is over, the pep band has finally shown up, and the rink that holds about 1,600 rocks when the Bucks get rolling.
PICK: Ohio State 5-3
Lake Superior (11-9-4, 8-7-4 CCHA) at No. 2 Michigan State (20-3-3, 12-3-2 CCHA) Saturday, 7 p.m., Munn Ice Arena, East Lansing, MI
Lake Superior split last weekend, beating Western Michigan 4-3, then losing to Miami 4-3. Head coach Scott Borek was disappointed not only with the loss, but with the way the Lakers lost.
"Miami had five shots on net for the last 40 minutes of the hockey game, and we lost. It’s hard when you lose a hockey game like that."
In fact, the Lakers held the RedHawks to a single shot on goal during the second period. "We were in the driver’s seat for home ice [in the playoffs] Saturday night. Our momentum right now is negative."
Negative momentum is not a quality you want to carry with you to Munn Arena, where you face the number-two team in the country. Especially if you’re banged up, as is Lake Superior.
"David Lambeth is out," says Borek, "[Joe] Blaznek is out for the next six weeks. With those two guys out, we’re really hurting.
"We’ll play Michael Vigilante in Joe’s spot. If we can get Joe back before the end of the season, we’ll be a better team for it, because then not only will Joe be back, but Vigilante will have some experience."
The loss of Blaznek is especially troublesome to Borek because the team captain is important to both the first power-play unit and the first penalty-killing unit.
Conversely, for the first time this season, says Michigan State head coach Ron Mason, "Everybody’s healthy. They’re not in game condition, but they’re skating."
The most notable returnee is Bryan Adams, who hasn’t played since breaking his right clavicle Nov. 30. Adams started full practices on Monday, and is expected to play against the Lakers. When Adams is on the ice, he’s usually there with Mike York.
Speaking of York — and the rest of the Michigan State offense — just what the heck is going on up there, anyway? The Spartans scored an uncharacteristic 13 goals last weekend, beating Alaska-Fairbanks 6-1 and Ferris State 7-0.
"The pucks are going in right now," says Mason. "You can’t predict that. Right now the kids are finishing and that makes it easier for us.
"That makes for some lopsided victories. Ferris is a better team than that score indicates."
The Spartans have scored six or more goals in four of their last five games. Up until that point, the Spartans scored six goals in a single game just once this season.
Just a few weeks ago, none of the current Spartans had a hat trick. Mike York tallied his first in the shutout against Ferris State, and Sean Berens now has two hat tricks, earned in consecutive games.
In fact, Berens is having a career season. He has eight power-play goals, which ties him for third in the nation.
The Spartans have the best defensive corps in the league — perhaps in the country — and Chad Alban is among the toughest goaltenders in college hockey, with an incredible 1.72 GAA in league play and a save percentage of .912.
With all cylinders clicking, this is a very scary Spartan team.
To counter this frightening new uber-team, the Lakers have Terry Marchant, who leads the league in scoring with 13 goals and 17 assists. Jason Sessa has 14 goals and ten assists.
The Lakers also have decent goaltending from Vince Owen, but what Borek says his team really needs is some spark. He says he’ll be "looking to some younger players to provide some punch. I thought our emotion level against Western was low."
Against Michigan State, Borek says, "We’re just going to have to play at the top of our game defensively, and hope we can penetrate offensively."
For Mason, this single game is as meaningful as two when you’re fighting for points, for playoff position — for the CCHA title. "When you play one game in a weekend, it’s kind of like a four-point game in its consequences. I think it’s going to be a good game, since the Lakers are playing a lot better right now."
Given the way his team is playing, though, Mason knows that false modesty gets you nowhere. "If we doing everything we need to do, then we know we can win the league."
And the game.
PICK: Michigan State 5-2
Notre Dame (12-10-3, 7-7-3 CCHA) at Bowling Green (4-18-2, 2-12-2 CCHA) Saturday, 7 p.m., BGSU Ice Arena, Bowling Green, OH Notre Dame (12-10-3, 7-7-3 CCHA) at Ohio State (12-10-1, 9-9-0 CCHA) Sunday, 3 p.m., Ohio State Fairgrounds Expo Center, Columbus, OH
After a weekend off, the Fighting Irish are rested and ready to make a run for better playoff position.
Head coach Dave Poulin says that Notre Dame "played very, very well" in Fairbanks, where they beat the Nanooks twice and lost once. "After 19 hours in travel time, I think you’re happy with four points."
Notre Dame could have had five or even six points in that trip, if it weren’t for the tenacity of the Nanooks in the second game, which UAF won 3-2 in overtime. Notre Dame outshot Alaska-Fairbanks 37-25 in that game, and the winning goal for UAF came at the 4:15 mark of overtime.
Poulin says the key to Notre Dame’s play this season is taking care of business in the Notre Dame house first. "We’ve been looking after our end, and keeping teams to 20 shots or so."
ND is one of the few CCHA teams to have two good working goaltenders this season. Both senior Matt Eisler and junior Forrest Karr have been solid for the Irish, combining for a team save percentage that’s close to 90 percent, with a combined GAA of 2.71 in league play.
The Irish have a few players who can score as well. Sophomore standout Ben Simon has become the Notre Dame playmaker, the guy with the ability to break open a period or even a game. With 15 points (4-11), Simon is tied with Benoit Cotnoir for the lead in Irish scoring (6-9).
Poulin is especially pleased with the emergence of freshman defenseman Mark Eaton. "He’s playing well at both ends of the rink." Eaton has 13 points (2-11) and is plus five in league play.
Notre Dame at Bowling Green
Notre Dame has beaten Bowling Green once already this season, a 2-1 win at home in early November.
Each team has something worth playing for in this game. For Notre Dame, which faces Ohio State the following afternoon, it’s points that help the Irish keep pace with the other six teams vying for fourth place in the CCHA.
For Bowling Green, a team that has just two CCHA wins, it’s a matter of self-respect and a chance to break out of a losing streak.
"They’re going to work very hard," says Poulin of Bowling Green. "They’re going to play hard. We’ll need good goaltending."
Well, maybe not. About the need for good goaltending, that is. In their 4-2 loss against Ohio State last weekend, Bowling Green had four close-range shots that missed the net entirely in the first period. Ten of Bowling Green’s 14 second-period shots were fired from beyond the circles. Of the four close-in shots in that period, one was a goal and two missed the net completely.
This team, in any given game, has the same scoring chances that most male college hockey fans have with Cindy Crawford.
The Falcons just aren’t finishing their offensive chances, so Notre Dame goaltending won’t be the factor that wins this game.
But Bowling Green goaltending may very well be.
Shawn Timm is for real. The rookie goaltender has OK numbers and not a lot of help in front of the crease, but sometimes the puck looks as big as the moon to him, while he makes the net look as small as a paper cup to opponents.
You may not think so, but Bowling Green has a chance to win this game, especially at home. It is not, however, likely.
PICK: Notre Dame 3-2
Notre Dame at Ohio State
"The last time we played Notre Dame," says Buckeye head coach John Markell, "we didn’t have Taj Schaffnit, Chris Richards and Benji Wolke. We didn’t give the game to Notre Dame the game that I think we can give them."
When these two teams played in mid-November, the Irish won 3-2 after leading the game 3-0 for two periods. Buckeye captain Schaffnit, high-scoring forward Richards and the now-injured Wolke were out of the game because of disqualifications they’d received against Bowling Green the night before.
The overall impression that both coaches had after that game was that the officials ran the game.
"There was absolutely no flow to the game, due to the fact that we didn’t play five-on-five at all," said Poulin after the game. "And I don’t think that was through any fault of the teams, because I thought it was a pretty cleanly-played game."
Markell took his comments one step further. Of referee John LaDuke, Markell said, "He’s always a factor in the game. He did the same thing last night. He was a factor in that game, and he was a factor in this game."
The hockey gods willing, these two teams will finally get a chance to play the good college hockey game that this pairing should provide.
It is likely that each team will come to this game after having won the night before; if that’s the case, then Ohio State will still be just one point ahead of Notre Dame in the standings.
Ohio State will also remember what it felt like losing that game, when Notre Dame scored two shorthanded goals and a power-play goal.
Should special teams become a factor in this game, Notre Dame has the edge over Ohio State. The Irish have a significantly better power play than do the Buckeyes, but the Buckeye penalty killing is slightly better than Notre Dame’s.
Should special teams become a factor, it’s also in Notre Dame’s favor that this game is not being played at the little OSU War Memorial. The Buckeyes don’t perform nearly as well on the power play in the larger Fairgrounds Expo Center as they do in their small barn on campus.
Both teams have good goaltending and comparable defense, although Ohio State may have a slight edge defensively with the pairing of offensive defensemen Andre Signoretti and Ryan Root.
It’s offensively that Ohio State has the clear edge.
Two players, Meloche and Boisvert, with double-digit goals. Two players, Boisvert and Richards, with more than 20 points in league play. Six players, including defenseman Signoretti, in double digits in scoring in CCHA play.
Only one Notre Dame player, Aniket Dhadphale, has 10 goals. Seven Notre Dame players have 10 or more points in CCHA play, but only two players, Cotnoir and Simon, have as many as 15 points.
As a team, Ohio State is plus 39 in league play. Notre Dame is minus 11.
And even though Ohio State lost that first game by a goal, they showed how they can at least attempt a comeback in the third period by scoring two unanswered goals. In the third period, if the Bucks are down, they know how to come back — something worth noting, since it’s new to Ohio State this season. The Buckeyes are outscoring opponents in the third period 30-19.
Ohio State may have another advantage over Notre Dame: the Buckeyes think they’re playing for fourth place. They very much want to host the first round of the playoffs, and not in the Expo Center, either.
They know they’ll have to get by Notre Dame to do that.
PICK: Ohio State 4-3
Rensselaer (10-7-2, 5-4-2 ECAC) at Ferris State (8-12-3, 7-8-3 CCHA) Friday, 7 p.m., Ewigleben Arena, Big Rapids, MI Cornell (8-5-2, 5-4-1 ECAC) at Ferris State (8-12-3, 7-8-3 CCHA) Saturday, 7 p.m., Ewigleben Arena, Big Rapids, MI
Rensselaer at Ferris State
The Rensselaer Engineers bring a hottish streak to Big Rapids, having gone 2-1-2 in January, and most recently beating Union 7-2.
The big guns for the Engineers are Eric Healey (11-19–30), Matthew Garver (12-14–26), Mark Murphy (6-14–20) and Alain St-Hilaire (3-17–20).
In net for Rensselaer, sophomores Scott Prekaski and Joel Laing have been splitting time. Both are saving nearly 90 percent of shots on goal, and each is allowing just over three goals per game in overall play.
How do the Engineers match up with Ferris State? Well, each team is a team fighting for respect, and the Bulldogs seem to be a team more on the rise within their conference.
Last week, the Bulldogs lost their sole game of the weekend to Michigan State 7-0. But, as Spartan head coach Ron Mason said, that score is not a fair indication of where Ferris State is right now.
In league play in January, the Bulldogs are 3-3-0, beating both Northern Michigan and Miami, and losing their last two games to Ohio State and Michigan State.
The Bulldogs have yet to beat a nonconference opponent this season, having lost to Mankato State twice and North Dakota once. Of course, there’s no shame in losing to either of those opponents.
With players like Joel Irwin, Kevin Swider, and Brent Wishart — each with 20 or more points in overall play — the Bulldogs are capable of putting the puck in the net. And the team is hardworking, from top to bottom, with solid defense and passable goaltending.
But that goaltending is still not completely solid. In his rookie season, Vince Owen has stats that hover around the point of acceptability: a save percentage of roughly 87 percent, and a GAA of over three per game.
Both in overall games and in league play, the Bulldogs are being outscored as a team by their collective opponents.
Ferris State would like this game to break a losing streak, but Friday may not be the night.
(For more on Rensselaer, please see this week’s ECAC Preview.)
PICK: Rensselaer 3-2
Cornell at Ferris State
Cornell seems to be a young team in front of an experienced netminder. Junior forward Kyle Knopp leads the team in overall points (16), with sophomores Ryan Moynihan and Doug Stienstra each tallying 10 points in overall play.
Eighteen Cornell players are freshmen or sophomores.
In net, senior Jason Elliott has posted impressive numbers, with a save percentage of .928 and a GAA of 2.31 in overall games.
The Bulldogs have more consistent scoring than does the Big Red, but Cornell has more consistent goaltending. Defensively, Ferris State can be very tough, often limiting opponents to perimeter shots — which is helpful, given Ferris State’s good-but-not-great goaltending.
(For more on Cornell, please see this week’s ECAC Preview.)
PICK: Ferris State 3-2
Cornell (8-5-2, 5-4-1 ECAC) at Western Michigan (5-18-2, 4-14-1 CCHA) Friday, 7 p.m., Lawson Arena, Kalamazoo, MI Rensselaer (10-7-2, 5-4-2 ECAC) at Western Michigan (5-18-2, 4-14-1 CCHA) Saturday, 7 p.m., Lawson Arena, Kalamazoo, MI
The Western Michigan Broncos are in a rut, and no one knows it better than head coach Bill Wilkinson. For the players, Wilkinson says, "It’s hard to handle.
"It’s hard to come to the rink…you don’t know how to react to it. We’re trying as coaches to do what we can."
With a 14-game losing streak going into this weekend of nonconference play, Wilkinson says, "Cornell will come in hard, and RPI’s a good-skating offensive team. We have to play like we’re in the Stanley Cup."
The Broncos know they can beat these opponents, but they probably don’t think they can, and Wilkinson says that’s where the problem is.
"Some guys are doing too much to try to compensate for the losses," says Wilkinson, adding that when players try to do it all themselves, the whole team system breaks down.
"Some guys," says Wilkinson, "think that no matter what they do, they’re going to lose."
Wilkinson says that his team just needs to persevere, and try to work on skills that make a team successful — everything from finishing checks to solid goaltending. "You’ve just got to continue to do the little things that make you a good team.
"We’re not playing well enough defensively. I think we’ve just kind of got this monkey on our backs."
That monkey may be able to ride for just a bit longer. With just six points separating Western Michigan from eighth-place Ferris State, the Broncos still have a chance of making the playoffs. At least Wilkinson thinks so. Perhaps his players don’t.
A quick look at Western’s scoring says a lot about a team that can’t seem to turn it around. With the notable exception of the 9-1 loss against Ferris State in the Pepsi Tournament, and the 17-6 weekend against North Dakota, the Broncos tend to limit opponents to four goals while scoring a couple for themselves; they have chances in many of the games they play, but they don’t finish.
At times it seems that Frank Novock is the sole Bronco scoring goals. With 10 of them in the CCHA, Novock far and away leads his team in both goals and points. Chuck Mindel has done his part with six goals, but only one other player, Brett Mills, has as many as four in league play.
Steve Duke, second in scoring to Novock, finally has a goal to go with all of those assists (1-13–14).
The team sits at minus 73 in league play, but is a whopping minus 147 overall.
Senior goaltender Matt Barnes is doing his part, with a save percentage around 89 percent. And Barnes is facing a boatload of shots on goal; he’s made 662 saves overall this season.
With more evenly balanced teams, both Cornell and Rensselaer will do their part to keep the Broncos blue this weekend.
PICKS: Cornell 4-1, Rensselaer 4-2