Western Michigan ties Michigan State.
Michigan leaves a home series with two points.
Ohio State is 1-3-0.
Notre Dame is 5-0-0. Northern Michigan is 4-0-0.
Wait a minute–is any of this surprising at all?
As anyone who follows CCHA hockey knows, the Irish have been on the verge of waking up for two years now. Two weeks into league play, and Notre Dame sits atop the CCHA standings with four league wins and one non-conference win, the number-eight team in the nation.
Northern Michigan is a solid team from top to bottom, a team that bolted from the gate last season, so 4-0-0 is no surprise at all.
Ohio State has one win to its name–and is still a top-ten team. Why? The Buckeyes start slowly, but are still loaded for bear.
Michigan is another team that will start slow and build as the young Wolverines adjust to play at the Division I level…maybe.
Michigan State–now, that’s a surprise. The Broncos can thank Matt Barnes.
No. 8 Notre Dame won another pair last weekend, beating Ferris State 5-3 and Lake Superior 4-3. This weekend, the Irish host No. 9 Ohio State and travel to Western Michigan for one.
Northern Michigan–soon to be a top-ten team–beat Miami twice at home, 3-2 and 5-2. The Wildcats travel to Clarkson for two.
With four league points, the Ferris State Bulldogs are tied for second in the league with Northern Michigan. Ferris dropped a game to Notre Dame 5-3, then beat Ohio State 4-2. The Bulldogs travel to Bowling Green for one game on Saturday.
Bowling Green split a pair with Northeastern, losing 4-2 and winning 5-3. The Falcons host Michigan State and Ferris State this weekend.
No. 6 Michigan squeaked by Niagara in a 6-5 overtime decision, then lost the second round 2-1 the following night. The Wolverines head north to Alaska for two.
No. 9 Ohio State beat Lake Superior 4-1 and lost 4-2 to Ferris State. This weekend, the Buckeyes test Notre Dame in South Bend before heading to The Rematch in East Lansing against the Spartans.
No. 5 Michigan State tied 1-1 with Western Michigan and beat Massachusetts-Amherst 3-1. The Spartans head to Bowling Green Friday, then seek vengeance against Ohio State on Saturday.
Western Michigan and Matt Barnes tied the Spartans 1-1 Friday. This weekend, the Broncos host Notre Dame for one on Saturday.
Miami dropped a pair at Northern Michigan, 3-2 and 5-2. The RedHawks fly east for one game at Providence and one at New Hampshire.
Lake Superior dropped two at home, 4-1 to Ohio State and 4-3 to Notre Dame. The Lakers have the flip side of the Miami schedule, playing New Hampshire and then Providence.
Alaska-Fairbanks split with Alaska-Anchorage, a 5-4 overtime win and a 3-1 loss. The Nanooks see their first league action this weekend with two home games against Michigan.
Last week’s record in picks: 10-4 Overall record in picks: 10-4
So far, so good.
No. 9 Ohio State (1-3-0, 1-1-0 CCHA) at No. 8 Notre Dame (5-0-0, 4-0-0 CCHA) Friday, 7 p.m., Joyce Center, South Bend, IN No. 9 Ohio State at No. 5 Michigan State (1-0-1, 0-0-1 CCHA) Saturday, 7 p.m., Munn Arena, East Lansing, MI
Let’s get this out of the way right away. Yes, Jason Selleke bit Casey Harris in Ohio State’s 4-2 loss to Ferris State. According the folks at OSU, Harris had his fingers in Selleke’s mouth. The Ferris people aren’t saying anything different. Near as anyone can tell, this is what happened:
With nine minutes left in the third period, Selleke and Harris were battling along the boards for the puck. Harris’ helmet came off, but play was allowed to continue. By the time the whistle blew, the two players were mixing it up.
When all was said and done–and mostly done–Selleke was given a five-minute major and a game disqualification, and Harris was given a lesson in why you shouldn’t put your fingers in another players’ mouth after you’ve dropped the gloves.
But the biting incident was only the beginning of the third-period mayhem. While Buckeye head coach John Markell did not have to be restrained by his players–as was erroneously reported by a Columbus radio station–Markell was visibly angry after a Buckeye goal was disallowed late in the third.
Was it a goal? This girl reporter thought so. Was the Ferris goal that was disallowed minutes later also a goal? From where this girl reporter was sitting, yes.
Nothing like a bit of controversy to start the season–eh?
Ohio State at Notre Dame
The Irish are rolling. Coming off a two-win weekend, Notre Dame is now five games into the season, undefeated.
There are two big reasons for this: the Irish power play, and senior goaltender Forrest Karr.
Characteristically understated, head coach Dave Poulin says, "It’s early. We’re seeing some things we like. I like our power play."
Who wouldn’t like the Notre Dame power play? The Irish have scored 22 goals this season; half of them have been with the man-advantage.
Poulin credits "poised and talented" players for this early-season power-play success, especially Brian Urick and Aniket Dhadphale. Urick is tied with Miami’s Alex Kim for the lead in conference power-play goals with three; Dhadphale has two.
And to look at conference stats so far, you’d think that only Notre Dame has put a team on the ice. A host of Irish players are dominating league scoring. Urick (6-2-8) and teammate Ben Simon (2-6-8) are tied for the lead; Dhadphale (2-5-7) is third; Dan Carlson (1-4-5) is tied for fourth; and Tyson Fraser (0-4-4) is tied for sixth.
The flip side of the Irish success is the steady play of Karr. He’s 4-0-0 in league games, has allowed just nine goals in over 200 minutes played, and has a GAA of 2.25.
And the Irish won two last weekend without defensemen Nathan Borega and Benoit Cotnoir. Both were injured; Cotnoir should be back this week.
Notre Dame faces a big test Friday against Ohio State, a team that so far has played well against Boston College, played crappy against Minnesota, shut down Lake Superior, and should have beaten Ferris State.
Poulin says that his focus this week is primarily on preparing for this single game. "I know we’re playing one of the top teams in the country. Ohio State has two first-string goalies, one of the top players in the country in [Hugo] Boisvert, and [Chris] Richards is a constant, constant factor."
While Richards leads the OSU team in overall scoring with one goal and three assists, both he and Boisvert were relatively silent in the Bucks’ first weekend of CCHA play. Head coach John Markell hopes this relative lack of production from his top two forwards will be short-lived.
"What I’m looking for is for our big players to step it up a little bit. We’re not going to go very far if Hugo Boisvert gets one point on the weekend and Chris Richards gets one point on the weekend."
It’s hard to say why Boisvert and Richards haven’t warmed up yet, but don’t look to the absence of Eric Meloche from the lineup for an excuse. Meloche, out for the next three weeks with a bruised collarbone, has been replaced on the Boisvert’s line with senior winger Brandon Lafrance.
Simply put, Lafrance is on fire.
This kid had three goals and three assists in 25 games last season. Lafrance already has three goals in four games this year; against Ferris State, he scored a goal (from Boisvert) and assisted on linemate J.F. Dufour’s tally.
Lafrance can positively motor, and he scores very pretty goals. If he plays Friday like he has been these past two weekends, CCHA fans may be reminded of former Miami players Randy Robitaille and Adam Copeland, Lafrance’s linemates with the Ottawa Junior Senators.
Like the Irish, the Buckeyes have seen scoring from their third and fourth lines. Against Lake Superior, three of the four Ohio State goals came from these role-players. Rob Gubala and Vinnie Grant–both third-liners–scored a goal apiece against the Lakers. They’ll be joined on line this weekend by rookie Nick Ganga, who scored for OSU’s fourth line in that game.
This kind of depth makes Markell happy. "It’s beautiful when we can get goals from the third and fourth line. We need role-playing from those players."
In net for Ohio State will be sophomore Jeff Maund, who allowed just one goal against Lake Superior, his only conference play.
This game pairs the league’s best power play with one of the league’s better penalty-killing units. While Notre Dame has scored 11 power-play goals in 26 attempts in conference play, Ohio State has allowed just two power-play goals in four games, both against Ferris State–and one of those was an empty-netter.
This is the league’s marquee match of the week, no matter what Spartan fans say about Saturday night.
And speaking of which….
Ohio State vs. Michigan State
Talk about your compliments.
"We’re not Notre Dame, with a lot of returning players."
That’s how Ron Mason describes his Spartans, the team that was number one for most of last season.
Last weekend, Michigan State tied a defensively tough Western Michigan team 1-1, then beat Massachusetts-Amherst 3-1.
On Saturday–after having played in Bowling Green Friday night–the Spartans will try to feed the Buckeyes "a dish best served on ice," a bit of revenge for the 4-3 overtime loss to Ohio State in the NCAA playoffs last season.
But don’t tell Mason that this is anything more than the first regular-season meeting between the Spartans and Buckeyes.
"I think people want to make it that way, but our players haven’t even talked about it," says Mason. "At the time you lose it’s traumatic. At the time they [MSU players] just reflected on the loss. For this game, we have five or six new players. If Chad Alban were coming back, maybe he’d want to prove he can beat them."
The Buckeyes will instead face Joe Blackburn, the sophomore starter, in net for the Spartans. Michigan State has scored one goal or been shut out in three of Blackburn’s six career starts; however, in his one league start this season–against Western Michigan–Blackburn allowed just one goal.
The Spartans have played just two NCAA D-I games, so they have yet to establish any offensive patterns.
"We’re not the same team we were last year," cautions Mason. "Ohio State is a little more in place with returning players. They have their lines set. We need to play a few games to see where we are."
The Spartans are outshooting opponents on average of 35-19, and in the game against Western Michigan, Mark Loeding was the only guy outside of the Spartan net not to have a shot on goal.
The Buckeyes and Spartans played five good games against each other last season, culminating in the Spartans’ 4-3 double-overtime CCHA Championship win and the 4-3 overtime Buckeye win in NCAA play.
Even though Ohio State could sometimes solve the Spartan riddle last season, don’t expect the Buckeyes to be overconfident for this game.
"For some reason in the past, we played well against these guys," says Markell, "but one of the things I like about our team is that we respect everybody.
"After last weekend, we respect everyone even more.
"We’re working hard here toward becoming a team. Who knows what kind of effect last weekend will have on this team, but hopefully it will draw us together. Ohio State teams tend to draw together under adversity."
Ohio State lost a player who seemed to be one of the keys last season against the Spartans. With Todd Compeau gone, the OSU second line is trying to find its feet with Louie Colsant.
Notre Dame leads the series against Ohio State 20-11-3, but the Buckeyes have taken five of the last seven meetings, including two of three last season. The teams last played Feb. 13 in South Bend, when OSU won 5-3. In that game Neal Rech and Eric Meloche had two goals each for Ohio State, and Aniket Dhadphale had two of Notre Dame’s goals and assisted on the third.
Michigan State has a 15-game unbeaten streak at Munn Ice Arena (12-0-3) on the line in Saturday night’s game against Ohio State. The Spartans’ last home loss came Dec. 7, 1997, a 1-0 setback to Bowling Green.
Ohio State made this exact same trip (Friday night at Notre Dame, Saturday night at Michigan State) in February of last season. That weekend saw OSU top the Irish 5-3 but fall to the Spartans 4-1.
Markell says of his players, "They’re going to be scared, and they know they’re going to have to play their best games, or they’ll have their lunch handed to them."
Ohio State 4-2 over Notre Dame; Michigan State 2-1 over Ohio State.
(With thanks to Nate Ewell, Michigan State SID, for the excellent turn of an old phrase.)
No. 5 Michigan State (1-0-1, 0-0-1 CCHA) at Bowling Green (2-1-1. 1-0-0 CCHA) Friday, 7 p.m., BGSU Ice Arena, Bowling Green, OH Ferris State (2-1-0, 2-1-0 CCHA) at Bowling Green Saturday, 7 p.m., BGSU Ice Arena, Bowling Green, OH
The Falcons split a pair of nonconference games with Northeastern last weekend, losing 4-2 Friday and winning 5-3 Saturday.
"We played pretty good on Friday night and didn’t score," says head coach Buddy Powers. Bowling Green was down 3-2 late in the third and pressing when Falcon Ryan Murphy shot it in his own net to make it 4-2.
There was more good news than bad on the weekend, according to Powers, especially in net. "Shawn [Timm] made some real good stops Friday. Savvy [Mike Savard] looked good Saturday."
Powers says that his team just wants to continue to try to improve. "The Miami weekend was an opening weekend for both teams, and last weekend was Northeastern’s first weekend of play.
"This weekend will be a sterner test for us."
Michigan State at Bowling Green
Michigan State has a losing streak against just two CCHA opponents–Ohio State, and Bowling Green.
The Spartans dropped a 1-0 decision to the Falcons December 7, 1997. Shawn Timm posted the shutout in that game.
"Any time we go in down there, it’s a battle," says Ron Mason. "It’s our first real test, and it’s on the road."
Mason takes this challenge very seriously. "We’ve had a lot of good years, so everywhere we play we’re treated like we’re a top team; the teams are up for us. There’s never an easy night for us, and our young players have to learn that."
The Falcons trail the all-time series against the Spartans 45-22-6, but Bowling Green has better luck at home against Michigan State, with a 12-16-3 record in the BGSU Ice Arena against MSU.
The Bowling Green power play may be an interesting match for the Michigan State penalty-killing unit–that is, if the Spartans take a penalty. BG has scored at least two power-play goals per game this season, and seven different Falcons have scored with the man advantage.
However…in one league game played, the Spartans have allowed one power-play goal for just five attempts.
Each team also has potentially explosive offense, with one single player who can break a game open. For the Spartans, of course, it’s Mike York who can score seemingly at will. For the Falcons, Dan Price may prove this season that he’s one of the league’s top players–and can this guy fly.
Ferris State at Bowling Green
The Bulldogs lost 5-3 to Notre Dame and beat Ohio State 4-2 last weekend. Assistant Ferris State coach Drew Famulak is modest about the Bulldogs’ prospects this weekend.
"We just want to stay consistent and improve weekly."
Kevin Swider leads the Bulldogs in scoring with two goals and two assists, and Geoff Bennetts has three goals for Ferris State. Rob Kozak is also proving instrumental in the early-season offense for Ferris with three assists.
Watch for Jason Hodel to come on soon for the Bulldogs. Moved back from center (where, according to Famulak, he added depth last season) to his natural position of right wing, Hodel had several breakaways thwarted by Buckeye goaltender Ray Aho Saturday night–but not for lack of Hodel’s trying.
Without the pressures of playing a more defensive game, Hodel may be flying on that wing.
Sophomore Vince Owen is the starter between the pipes for Ferris State. Owen has a 2.67 GAA and a .893 save percentage.
The Falcons lead the all-time series against Ferris State, 43-27-7, and they’re 27-12-3 against the Bulldogs at home.
Last year, the two teams split the season 1-1-1. Early in the season, the teams tied 3-3 and BG won 3-1 in Bowling Green; in February, Ferris State won 3-0 in Big Rapids.
It’s anyone’s guess as to who Powers will start in net against the Bulldogs. The coach wasn’t happy with Shawn Timm’s play against Miami, but he wasn’t unhappy with it against Northeastern in the loss. Mike Savard got the win over the Bulldogs for Bowling Green last season.
The key to the Falcons’ game is consistency–on both sides of the puck.
"We have to make sure we play consistently well period to period, shift to shift," says Powers. "When we get good shifts back-to-back, that’s when we get some momentum going."
Michigan State 4-1 Friday; Bowling Green 3-2 Saturday
No. 8 Notre Dame (5-0-0, 4-0-0 CCHA) at Western Michigan (0-2-1, 0-2-1 CCHA) Saturday, 7 p.m., Lawson Arena, Kalamazoo, MI
The Broncos had a moral victory of sorts with a 1-1 tie against Michigan State last weekend.
"You can call it that," chuckles Western Michigan head coach Bill Wilkinson.
"We played pretty smart. Our game plan was to circle the wagons around [senior goaltender Matt] Barnes. We played a pretty good forecheck, and we killed off penalties well, including two five-on-threes late in the third."
Special teams were instrumental in this game. The Broncos scored first on the power play at 3:25 in the third; the Spartans scored shorthanded four minutes later.
Barnes was stunning in net, saving 36 of 37 shots on goal.
Wilkinson says that special teams will again be instrumental in this game against the Irish. "Our PK will be tested."
The strategy, he says, is to stay out of the box. "If you don’t give them opportunities on it, the fewer chances the Irish have, and the better your chances are for killing the ones you do face."
One of the difficulties facing the Broncos this weekend is the player suspensions they have to work around. Each Bronco must sit out one game for NCAA rules violations stemming from a preseason team golf outing. Because of this, says Wilkinson, "Nothing’s set.
"It’s tough to get familiarity on the lines."
With lines that are set, a clicking power play, and uber-confidence, expect the Irish to take this one.
Notre Dame 3-1
No. 6 Michigan (2-1-0, 1-0-0 CCHA) at Alaska-Fairbanks (1-1-0, 0-0-0 CCHA) Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m. AT, Carlson Center, Fairbanks, AK
Last weekend, something strange happened in Yost Ice Arena. Michigan played two home games, and took just two points.
The Wolverines won 6-5 Friday–by inches–as sophomore Josh Langfeld scored with just two seconds left in overtime. Rookie goaltender Josh Blackburn let in five goals on 16 shots.
The game Saturday was a different beast, with Michigan outshooting Niagara 34-17. But just as head coach Red Berenson had predicted, the Wolverines had trouble finishing, and lost 3- 1.
Rookie goaltender Kevin O’Malley made 15 saves in the game.
While the Wolverines were struggling at home, the Nanooks were busy defending the Alaska Airlines Governor’s Cup for the second consecutive year. With a 3-1 loss and a 5-4 overtime win –complete with shootout!–Fairbanks won another point of pride against in-state rival Alaska- Anchorage.
By far the brightest spot for the Nanooks last weekend was goaltender Ian Perkins, who had an amazing 93 saves on the weekend.
Isn’t that a good-news-bad-news scenario? The good news, coach Dave Laurion, is that your goalie can stop 93 shots in a two-game series. The bad news, Coach, is that your defense is a little suspect.
Don’t expect senior Wolverine Bobby Hayes to explore the grandeur of Alaska during this year’s trip north. Quoted October 21 in the Ann Arbor News, Hayes says, "I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I can see myself buried in my room studying during all of our free time."
One thing Hayes would probably like to do on this visit is score. Hayes wasn’t on the ice for any of Michigan’s goals when the Wolverines beat the Nanooks 6-3 and 4-3 in Alaska; Hayes had two goals in the 5-1 Michigan win over UAF in Yost.
Although the Wolverines are having trouble finishing, they’ve had the Nanooks’ number for a while. And in spite of the travel time and the bugs that need to be worked out, at this point Michigan is the better team.
Michigan, 4-3 and 5-3
Northern Michigan (4-0-0, 2-0-0 CCHA) at Clarkson (0-0-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) Friday and Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Cheel Arena, Potsdam, NY
This overlooked gem of a pairing should be a very good series, pitting the physically punishing Wildcats against the tough Golden Knights.
The Wildcats opened CCHA play last weekend at home by sweeping the fledgling RedHawks 3-2 and 5-2.
With four goals and two assists on the weekend, Wildcat J.P. Vigier was the U.S. College Hockey Online offensive Player of the Week.
After a two-game weekend sweep of former WCHA rivals Michigan Tech the weekend before playing Miami, the hot ‘Cats are off to their best start since the 1981-82 series, and head coach Rick Comley isn’t complaining.
"We’re pleased to open league play with two wins and when you add that to our sweep over Michigan Tech to begin the season it gives us a pretty good start to the year. We’re entering what will probably be our toughest four-game stretch of the season this week with four road games versus three teams ranked in the Top 10 this year and every year. The games will be an excellent test for us and give us a good indication of how far we’ve come and how far we need to go."
The Wildcats are one of two teams in the CCHA whose offense is clicking. Northern Michigan is outscoring overall opponents 19-6, and doubling up on league opponents 8-4.
In spite of Vigier’s performance last weekend, senior Buddy Smith (4-3-7) still leads the team in points and is tied with Vigier in goals.
The Northern Michigan PK is also clicking, having killed off 26 of 28 attempts.
Northern Michigan leads this all-time series 2-1-0. The most recent meeting between the two teams was an 8-4 Wildcat win in the first round of the 1992 NCAA Western Regional playoffs.
For the scoop on the Golden Knights, check out what Becky Blaeser and Jayson Moy have to say in this week’s ECAC preview.
Even though this is Northern Michigan’s first real test, this is Clarkson’s first weekend of play. The more-together Wildcats will sweep.
Northern Michigan 5-2, 3-2
Lake Superior (0-4-0, 0-4-0 CCHA) and Miami (0-3-1, 0-3-1 CCHA) at No. 9 New Hampshire (1-0-0, 0-0-0 HEA) and Providence College (0-0-0, 0-0-0 HEA) Friday (LSSU), Saturday (Miami), 7 p.m., Whittemore Center, Durham, NH Friday (Miami), Saturday (LSSU), 7 p.m., Schneider Arena, Providence, RI
The Lakers and the RedHawks could each use some wins. And perhaps a little luck.
Lake Superior is off to a very sluggish start to the season, losing 4-1 to Ohio State and 4-2 to Notre Dame last weekend.
In four league games, the Lakers have been outscored 14-6 by their opponents.
Sophomore netminders Rob Galatiuk and Jayme Platt are posting numbers that are not impressive as yet. Galatiuk–the preseason frontrunner for the starting job–has a GAA of 4.02, while Platt’s GAA is 2.92.
Still, assistant coach Mike Collins says the team and coaching staff remain optimistic.
"I see a lot of promise, a young team that’s starving to learn and excited about getting their feet wet at the college level.
"We’re not trying to put a lot of pressure on them. We haven’t had the success in the wins and losses yet, but that will come."
Galatiuk was shelled by Ohio State for three goals in the first period of that loss, and Collins says that the starting job is still up for grabs.
"We haven’t made that decision yet. We haven’t even decided on a goaltending system yet."
This early in the season, it’s hard to say what the bright spots are for the Lakers, although Platt looked solid after giving up a quick goal when he came in to replace Galatiuk against OSU.
The Lakers are also plagued by injuries. Mike Vigilante–who returned to the lineup against OSU–is out indefinitely because of a deep thigh contusion suffered in the Notre Dame loss. Perhaps the toughest potential loss is Jeff Cheeseman, who is day-to-day.
In addition, Mike Kusculain has been suspended indefinitely from the Laker lineup, but there’s no word yet on why.
The Lakers’ travel partner is the seemingly equally hapless Miami RedHawks. While the Lakers and the ‘Hawks are two teams with many new and youngish faces on their rosters, they have very little in common beyond their records at this point in the season.
The RedHawks dropped a pair of games to the very tough Wildcats in Marquette last weekend, losing 3-2 and 5-2. The score of the first game was tied at 2-2 when Northern Michigan scored with just 1:48 left in the third to win the game.
In spite of that loss, junior goaltender Ian Olsen posted some good numbers for Miami, making 33 saves on 36 shots. In four games, Olsen has struggled, giving up 16 goals for a 4.32 save percentage, but he’s had little help from the Miami defense, which has given up on average 36 shots per game.
One definite bright spot for Miami is sophomore Alex Kim, a sniper with three goals and an assist in his first four games. All three of Kim’s goals have come on the RedHawk power play.
Miami continues to groom offensive defensemen. Junior Josh Mizerek has four assists in his first four games. Mizerek didn’t post his fourth point last season until the 11th game of the year.
On paper, with players like Kim, Gregor Krajnc, Dustin Whitecotton, Jason Deskins, rookie Evan Cheverie, and Josh Harrold (who made the move from defense to forward this season), the RedHawks should be able to score. It’s just a matter of time before this team wakes up offensively.
Defense, however, is still a bit of a concern.
For the skinny on New Hampshire and Providence, read Dave Hendrickson’s Hockey East weekly preview.
Collins says, "It’s going to be interesting with the Olympic sheet on Saturday."
Interesting, and perhaps painful.
New Hampshire over Lake State 6-1, and over Miami 4-2 Miami over Providence 4-3; Providence over Lake State 4-2