Having grown up a Catholic, I know the value of confession. And given the email I’ve received recently from fans of a certain CCHA team, I know what I have to do.
Bless me, Readers, for I have sinned.
It has been too long since I’ve been to confession, and this is my sin:
I am guilty of the sin of disbelief. In spite of all the evidence before me, I did not immediately accept that Notre Dame hockey had arrived.
In spite of a 5-1-0 conference record and twice as many league goals for than against, I just didn’t see it.
But when Notre Dame scored five goals against Boston College, I had an epiphany. I’ve opened up my heart and let the Fighting Irish in. I won’t pick against them for the rest of the season.
And now that I’ve confessed my sin, my yoke is easy.
With 10 points, No. 6 Notre Dame and No. 5 Michigan State are tied for first in the CCHA.
Last week, the Irish tied Boston College 5-5 and beat Northeastern 4-3. This week Notre Dame hosts Bowling Green and No. 9 Michigan.
No. 5 Michigan State beat Ohio State 3-1 and Lake Superior State 2-1. The Spartans travel to Ohio State for the last game of that season series Friday, and are then on to Miami Saturday.
With eight points each, No. 7 Northern Michigan, Ferris State, and No. 9 Michigan are tied for third.
No. 7 Northern Michigan split a pair of games with Bowling Green last weekend, losing 6-5 and winning 4-1. The Wildcats travel to Miami Friday and Ohio State Saturday.
Ferris State tied 3-3 with MSU-Mankato on Friday before beating Mankato 3-1 Saturday. This week the Bulldogs host Lake Superior for two.
After taking a breather last weekend, No. 9 Michigan hosts Alaska-Fairbanks Friday before heading to No. 6 Notre Dame Saturday.
With seven points, Bowling Green is in sole possession of sixth place in the CCHA. The Falcons split with No. 7 Northern Michigan last weekend on the road, winning 6-5 and losing 4-1. This week Bowling Green travels to Notre Dame Friday before hosting Alaska-Fairbanks Saturday.
With four points each, Miami, Ohio State and Alaska-Fairbanks are tied for eighth.
The RedHawks lost two to Fairbanks in Alaska last weekend, 3-2 and 5-2. This week, Miami hosts No. 7 Northern Michigan and No. 6 Michigan State.
Ohio State dropped a 3-1 game to No. 6 Michigan State last Friday before tying 2-2 with Western Michigan. This week, the Buckeyes return home after nine consecutive road games to host No. 6 Michigan State and No. 7 Northern Michigan in the teeny, tiny OSU Ice Rink.
Alaska-Fairbanks took its first sweep of a league opponent ever last weekend when Miami came to town, winning 3-2 and 5-2. This week, the Nanooks travel to No. 9 Michigan and Bowling Green.
With one conference point, Lake Superior is in last place in the CCHA. The Lakers tied with Western Michigan 2-2 Friday, while losing to Michigan State 2-1 Saturday. The Lakers travel to Ferris State for two this week
Western Michigan–in sole possession of seventh place in the league–is idle this week.
Last week’s record in picks: 5-6 Overall record in picks: 30-16
See? I’ve done my penance. O Readers, absolve me.
And may St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of journalists, guide my hand. And may St. John Bosco, patron saint of editors, grant my editor the patience he needs.
Bowling Green (4-4-1, 3-3-1 CCHA) at No. 6 Notre Dame (7-1-1, 5-1-0 CCHA) Friday, 7 p.m., Joyce Arena, South Bend, IN No. 9 Michigan (5-2-0, 4-1-0 CCHA) at No. 6 Notre Dame (7-1-1, 5-1-0 CCHA) Saturday, 7 p.m., Joyce Arena, South Bend, IN
In honor of Notre Dame–which is not a Jesuit school, as erroneously reported last week–each team in the preview this week will provide a patron saint for fans to implore on behalf of their respective teams.
Fans of the Brothers of the Holy Cross–Notre Dame, that is–may want to talk with St. Lidwina, the patron saint of skaters.
Or perhaps that’s an area where the Irish need no help at all.
"We’re doing well," says head coach Dave Poulin, "and I think we’re getting better."
An even better Notre Dame team is bad news for everyone else in the league.
The Irish tied 5-5 with No. 2 (then-No. 1) Boston College in Boston last week, after leading 5-2 going into the third. BC scored three goals within three minutes in the third to tie that game, but Poulin says he wouldn’t characterize the scoring as a "flurry."
"We had chances of our own to score between those goals. We never let down."
The following night, the Irish beat Northeastern 4-3–a game that Poulin says was an even bigger positive than tying the then-top team in the country.
"The big answer was Saturday night–to not let down, to go into a different building, a different ice surface, after a really emotional game the night before. That was the test."
Poulin says that his team is enjoying this current success, but not taking it for granted.
"Some of the new kids think this is the way college hockey is, but the older kids know and appreciate–and they’re contributing."
The big contributors include Aniket Dhadphale (3-5-8), Ben Simon (3-7-10), and Brian Urick (6-4-10)–a lethal line that also combines for points on the impressive Irish power play. Against the Eagles, each player from that line had a goal; Simon had an unassisted power-play goal, and the other two Irish tallies–from Matt Van Arkel and Dan Carlson–also came on the power play.
Just under half of Notre Dame’s overall goals–17 of 35–have come with the man advantage, and the statistic is similar in conference play.
The Notre Dame penalty-kill is fifth in the league, having allowed just four goals in 35 attempts. For that matter, the Irish don’t give opponents many opportunities to test it, with just 114 minutes in the box.
Another reason for the success of the Irish this season is defense, including the play of senior goaltender Forrest Karr. The Irish defense was finally at full strength this past weekend with the return of Nathan Borega. Notre Dame has been playing with several defensemen out of the line up at various times because of injuries dating back to the middle of last season–and they’re still consistently outshooting opponents.
Karr is, as Poulin describes him, "steady." In six league games played, Karr’s GAA is 1.84 and his save percentage is .911.
The Irish aren’t much deeper than two lines–but they don’t need to be, apparently, when the top two lines are so productive.
Bowling Green vs. Notre Dame
For help this week, Falcon fans can turn to St. Gall of Ireland, the patron saint of birds. Who better to watch over the Falcons as they learn to spread their wings this season?
And who better to watch over a team that can flat-out fly?
"We like to skate," says Falcon head coach Buddy Powers. "We don’t score, but we can skate.
"We make a lot of things happen but we don’t score. If we could capitalize on the good things we make happen, we might have one loss."
The Falcons beat No. 7 Northern Michigan 6-5 Friday and lost 4-1 to the Wildcats Saturday. Powers says that the scores are not necessarily indicative of the Falcon play. "I thought we played better on Saturday night than on Friday night, but we get nothing to show for it.
"In Friday’s game, five goals between the two teams went in off of players. Saturday, we had two breakaways and a dozen grade-A chances, but we didn’t put it in the net."
Powers says that the inability to finish is frustrating, and that it’s something that comes only with time–from practice and game experience.
"We’ve got six forwards that we expect 12 to 20 goals from each season, and they’re all struggling at the same time. When that happens, it’s hard to win."
With three goals and four assists in league play, Dan Price leads the Falcons in scoring. Also contributing to the Bowling Green offensive effort are Adam Edinger (2-4-6), Mike Jones (1-4-5) and Chris Bonvie (2-3-5).
On the defensive side of things, the Falcons have outshot opponents in six of their nine games this season, and are 3-2-1 for their efforts in those games.
A young Falcon is making some noise from the blue line. Rookie Grady Moore has been playing very well for Bowling Green, tallying two assists in the win over Northern with a plus-three rating in Friday’s game. The only Northern goal Moore was on the ice for all weekend was the Wildcats’ empty-netter in the 4-1 BG loss.
Moore is the current CCHA Rookie of the Week.
Another key to the Falcon defense has been senior netminder Mike Savard. Although his conference numbers through his first five league games (3.63 GAA, .867 save percentage) don’t appear to tell the best of stories, Savard has been the goaltender of choice in BG these days, and Powers is impressed with the senior’s attitude.
The Falcons lead the all-time series against Notre Dame 27-18-3, and are 10-10-3 all time in the Joyce Center.
These teams played each other well last season, with two of three games going into overtime. Notre Dame won the January overtime contest in Bowling Green, while the February extra-time battle resulted in a tie.
Michigan vs. Notre Dame
Michigan last played two weeks ago, when the Wolverines beat Bowling Green 5-2, then lost to Northern Michigan 6-1–in Yost.
That home loss was the most lopsided defeat Michigan has seen since a 7-1 loss to Lake Superior State in 1989. The last time the Wolverines allowed four goals in one period at home–as they did against Northern Michigan–was during a 7-2 beating by Western Michigan in 1995.
Perhaps fans of the defending national champions should turn to St. Agatha, the patron saint of fire and volcanic eruptions. The Wolverines could probably use a little of both.
Mike Comrie–in an early attempt to impress the Rookie-of-the-Year voters–leads the Wolverines in overall scoring with five goals and six assists, and he has a healthy plus-five rating. Comrie also has three power-play goals–a statistic of note for a team that has capitalized just seven times on the man-advantage this season.
Comrie’s three goals and four assists tie him for 11th in league scoring. Sophomore defenseman Mike Van Ryn (3-2-5) is second in conference points for Michigan, while seniors Dale Rominski and Bubba Berenzweig each have two goals and two assists.
In net for Michigan, it’s safe to say that Josh Blackburn is settling in–although inconsistently–with an impressive 1.76 league GAA and .918 conference save percentage. He got the win against Bowling Green, but earned the loss against Northern after being replaced by Kevin O’Malley.
Michigan leads the series against Notre Dame 49-33-2, and the Wolverines have won 29 of their last 31 games against the Irish, despite losing March 14 last season during the first round of the CCHA playoffs.
Head coach Red Berenson is 27-2-0 against Notre Dame.
"I’m really impressed with Notre Dame," says Buddy Powers. "If you can go out to Boston and play BC and tie them in their rink, then come back the next night after an emotional game, that tells me that Notre Dame’s got something pretty special going on.
"We’re going to have our hands extremely full in Notre Dame."
So are the Wolverines.
While the second night in Boston was a big test for the Irish, this weekend is an even bigger challenge. The return to league play against an improved Bowling Green and a rested, frustrated Michigan is not much of a welcome home.
Notre Dame is a big, physical, fast team. Shut down the Irish first line and the power play, and you have a chance. If you can’t do that–and Bowling Green and Michigan may not be able to–and South Bend becomes a lonely place for opponents.
Notre Dame 4-2 over Bowling Green, 4-2 over Michigan
No. 5 Michigan State (5-0-2, 4-0-2 CCHA) at Ohio State (1-6-2, 1-3-2 CCHA) Friday, 7 p.m., OSU Ice Rink, Columbus, OH No. 6 Northern Michigan (8-2-0, 4-2-0 CCHA) at Ohio State (1-6-2, 1-3-2 CCHA) Saturday, 7 p.m., OSU Ice Rink, Columbus, OH
Everyone wants to know what’s wrong with the slumping Buckeyes. With just one win in their first nine games, head coach John Markell is not particularly worried.
"We have just three league losses, and all of those games were on the road. I’m not worried about the national picture. I just want to take care of league play. Our goal is still to finish in the top four."
Ohio State lost 3-1 to Michigan State and tied Western Michigan 2-2 last weekend. This week, the Buckeyes return to Columbus for their first NCAA home games of the season, and they couldn’t be happier about it.
"I expect to see a lot of emotion coming home," says Markell. "Here’s my concern: when you play with a lot of emotion, that wears off after a while, and then the enthusiasm has to kick in.
"We’ve been on the road so long that I can only assume how we’ll react. I can only assume we’ll enjoy the home crowd, the atmosphere, and use our work ethic to our advantage."
Last weekend marked the return of right winger Eric Meloche, who had been missing from the lineup with a collarbone injury since the Buckeyes’ first game of the season. Meloche’s presence had an immediate impact, waking up long-time linemate Hugo Boisvert, who had a goal in each game.
Meloche himself assisted on Boisvert’s goal against Michigan State and Jaisen Freeman’s goal against Western Michigan, which was the first goal of the sophomore defender’s collegiate career.
Perhaps Buckeye fans can turn to St. John the Baptist–the patron saint of Quebec–now that le trio Quebecois has returned in full force.
Boisvert leads the Buckeyes in scoring, followed by Chris Richards and Vinnie Grant. But no one on this Buckeye team has really produced the way Markell would like.
"But once those floodgates open," says Markell, "watch out."
In net for Ohio State, Jeff Maund has looked good in league play. Against the Spartans, Maund saved 41 of the 44 shots he faced. His league GAA is 2.33 and his save percentage against conference opponents is .920.
Michigan State vs. Ohio State
This is the third and final regular-season meeting between these two teams, and the first two games–a 4-4 tie and a 3-1 Spartan win–were beauties in Munn Arena.
But don’t suggest to Michigan State head coach Ron Mason that the Buckeyes and the Spartans match up especially well against each other.
"The games have been close," says Mason, "but I think they’ve had a lot of close games against a lot of teams.
"You’d rather compare yourself against one of the top teams in the league than you would someone near the bottom."
Regardless of what Mason says, Ohio State remains Michigan State’s toughest league rival during the past three seasons. In the past ten meetings, Michigan State holds a one-game edge, leading the series 5-4-1.
After beating the Buckeyes 3-1 last Friday night, the Spartans got past Lake Superior 2-1.
Bryan Adams spelled trouble for the Bucks two weeks ago, scoring three of the four Spartan goals in the tied game. Last weekend, Shawn Horcoff, Brad Hodgins, and Bryan Adams each had goals against OSU.
Uber-player Mike York has had five points against Ohio State–all assists. In fact, York has yet to score a goal in league play, but he leads the Spartans in scoring thanks to his nine assists.
He also happens to be one of the most dominant players in college hockey, whether he’s scoring or not. York is as close to poetry on ice as it gets at this level, and for that Spartan fans may want to implore St. Columba, the patron saint of poets.
While not exactly poetry in motion, Spartan goaltender Joe Blackburn has been sterling in net, allowing just nine goals in six league games, with a league GAA of 1.46 and a league save percentage of .918.
Blackburn has allowed no more than one goal in every game he’s played this season–with the notable exception of the 4-4 tie with Ohio State.
The Spartan defense has been equally impressive, so often allowing fewer than ten shots on goal in a given period that it’s new when they cough up double digits. Led by Chris Bogas and Mike Weaver, this defense has adjusted well to life post-Alban.
In addition to solid defense and a productive offense, the Spartans have the best penalty-killing in the league. Michigan State has allowed just two goals in the 33 times the Spartans have been a man down. That means that on opponents’ power plays, the Spartans have scored more goals–three–than the opponents have.
Northern Michigan vs. Ohio State
Northern Michigan is playing some darned good hockey. For proof, just look at Dan Ragusett’s league statistics.
Four games. 4-0-0. GAA, 1.33. Save percentage, .935.
Wildcats J.P. Vigier (9-4-13) and Buddy Smith (2-9-11) rank first and second in league scoring. Vigier tallied his first collegiate hat trick in Northern Michigan’s 6-5 loss to Bowling Green last weekend, and earned CCHA Offensive Player of the Week honors for his five overall points in the BG series, including Saturday’s game-winning goal.
The ‘Cats are tied for first in league scoring, averaging four goals per game. The Northern Michigan defense is fourth in both league and overall games, allowing about two and a half goals per.
The Wildcat power play is tied for second in league play, and the ‘Cat penalty kill is seventh in the conference.
Last year the Buckeyes swept the Wildcats, winning twice in Marquette and once in the little OSU War Memorial. Duane Hoey was the netminder in all three of those games.
Want to bet that Ohio State faces Ragusett?
This week, St. James the Greater watches over Northern Michigan. James the Greater is the patron saint of laborers–and the Wildcats are the hardest-working team in the league, top to bottom.
James the Greater is also the patron saint of rheumatoid suffers and hatmakers. That can’t hurt, either.
The Buckeyes have won two of their last three games in Columbus against the Spartans, the exception being a 2-1 MSU win last November at the little rink.
The Buckeyes are 8-0 in home openers since the 1989-90 season, and are 20-5-0 all-time in home openers.
"Going in and playing in that building, I never have very high expectations," says Mason of War Memorial. "In most cases, they have an advantage. The longer you keep the game close the better chance you have of making a run for it at the end.
"Ohio State really has something to prove. I think we’re going to see their very best game. For us, it’s a matter of being able to match that."
Says John Markell, "We played them close on the road. It was one-to-one with ten minutes to go, and we’ve also tied them. Now they’re coming to our place and we have to use that to our advantage."
Northern Michigan head coach Rick Comley says, "Ohio State has had a tough schedule this year and I’m sure they’ll get a boost from playing their first home games this weekend. They’re also starting to get a couple of their key players healthy which should help them."
One last interesting note: This weekend of play in Columbus features three of the four teams that played in last year’s CCHA Championship Tournament in Joe Louis Arena.
It’s risky to pick against two top-ten teams, but there are riskier endeavors–like reading your email, for example.
The Buckeyes get a boost by playing two of their last five home games in the little, teeny, tiny, unheated, bird-infested barn that they like to call home.
Ohio State over Michigan State 4-3, over Northern Michigan 3-2
No. 6 Northern Michigan (8-2-0, 4-2-0 CCHA) at Miami (2-6-2, 1-5-2 CCHA) Friday, 7 p.m., Goggin Ice Arena, Oxford, OH No. 5 Michigan State (5-0-2, 4-0-2 CCHA) at Miami (2-6-2, 1-5-2 CCHA) Saturday, 7 p.m., Goggin Ice Arena, Oxford, OH
The RedHawks are probably grateful to return home after their trip to Fairbanks. Losing 3-2 and 5-2, Miami was at the wrong end of the Nanooks’ first-ever league weekend sweep.
In addition to the two losses, Miami lost two key players to injury in the games against Fairbanks. Gregor Krajnc will miss four weeks with a second-degree sprain of his right knee, an injury he sustained while practicing at the Carlson Center on Thursday. Then Dustin Whitecotton left the ice in the first period of the second game with a broken left humerus. Whitecotton will be out for at least 12 weeks.
Jason Deskins leads the RedHawks in league scoring with six goals and six assists; Deskins had both goals against the Nanooks Friday night.
Mark Shalawylo (4-7-11) and Alex Kim (3-7-10) are the other big guns for the RedHawks.
Ian Olsen has the starting duties in net for the ‘Hawks. Olsen made 24 saves on 27 shots against the Nanooks Friday, while allowing five goals on 26 shots Saturday. At 1-6-2, Olsen’s overall GAA is 3.77, and his save percentage is .878.
Northern Michigan vs. Miami
The Wildcats lead the all-time series against Miami 15-3-1 and have beaten the RedHawks six of their last seven games–all of which have been played since the Wildcats rejoined the CCHA last season. The ‘Cats are 3-2-1 in Goggin, which includes the lone loss in those seven games, during a two-game series split last year.
This is the final meeting between the two teams in regular-season play this year. Miami lost two games to Northern Michigan in Marquette last month. "In our first two games against Miami," says Northern Michigan head coach Rick Comley, "they really came at us hard and the series was really tight-checking."
Duane Hoey and Dan Ragusett have split time in net for Northern Michigan. While Hoey’s conference save percentage is about .880, Ragusett has been simply stunning, with a league save percentage of .935.
As mentioned above, Wildcats J.P. Vigier (9-4-13) and Buddy Smith (2-9-11) lead the CCHA in conference scoring, helping explain why the ‘Cats are tied for first in league scoring, averaging four goals per game.
Michigan State vs. Miami
Michigan State head coach Ron Mason calls this "one of the most difficult trips we make."
The Spartans play the Buckeyes Friday before moving on to Oxford Saturday.
"It’s especially difficult going from our big rink to the small rink [at Ohio State] to the big rink [at Miami]. The game changes from the small rink to the big rink so drastically."
Michigan State leads this all-time series 45-12-5, and is 20-4-2 in Oxford. The Spartans won last year’s series 1-0-2, and allowed just one goal in each of the three games against the RedHawks. The Jan. 30 game was a 1-1 tie; on Jan. 31, the Spartans beat Miami 7-0; on Feb. 6, the teams skated to a 0-0 tie in Goggin.
Michigan State is 5-0-1 in its last six games in Oxford, and is undefeated against the RedHawks in the last five meetings between the two teams.
Mason says he has great respect for Miami, and isn’t fooled by their record so far this season. "They’ve done a great job with that program. Their program has been strong. They’ve been hard for us to beat the last couple of years."
Perhaps St. Michael the Archangel is the appropriate patron for Miami this week. Not only is he the patron saint of the sick and injured, but he successfully battled the dragon.
Two top-ten teams in one weekend is pretty close to battling the dragon.
Northern Michigan 5-2, Michigan State 4-2
Alaska-Fairbanks (3-5-0, 2-4-0 CCHA) at No. 9 Michigan (5-2-0, 4-1-0 CCHA) Friday, 7 p.m., Yost Ice Arena, Ann Arbor, MI Alaska-Fairbanks (3-5-0, 2-4-0 CCHA) at Bowling Green (4-4-1, 3-3-1 CCHA) Saturday, 7 p.m., BGSU Ice Arena, Bowling Green, OH
The Nanooks took their first-ever CCHA weekend series sweep with 3-2 and 5-2 wins over the visiting Miami RedHawks.
After the second win, head coach Dave Laurion told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, "It’s amazing what two wins can do for you."
The Nanooks were forced to come from behind in Friday’s game after opening the scoring then allowing two first-period Miami goals. UAF never trailed in the Saturday game.
"I though it was a very gritty performance by our guys this weekend," Laurion told the News-Miner. "For the most part, we played within our system. We had a few breakdowns that they (Miami) didn’t take advantage of, but then we deserve a few breaks."
Anyone who doubts that the Nanooks are an improved team should consider that it took UAF ten games to pick up four league points last season. They’ve done that in seven games this season.
Jim Lawrence is pacing the Nanooks with four goals and four assists in overall play. Others contributing to the Nanook offense are Chris Kirwan (3-2-5), Sjon Wynia (2-3-5) and Nathan Rocheleau (3-1-4).
A pleasant surprise for UAF this season has been goaltender Ian Perkins. Perkins forced everyone to take notice after stopping over 90 shots on net against Alaska-Anchorage during the Nanooks’ first weekend of play. This past weekend, Perkins made 55 saves and allowed just three even-strength goals against Miami, earning him CCHA Defensive Player of the Week honors.
Alaska-Fairbanks vs. Michigan
The Nanooks are winless against Michigan for the entire 17 games the two teams have met. Earlier this season, Michigan swept UAF 6-1 and 2-1 in Fairbanks, a pair of games in which the Wolverines outshot the Nanooks 61-39.
During those two games, the Wolverines had four power-play goals on 18 attempts. The Wolverines are seventh in the league in power-play conversions, while UAF is ninth in league penalty-killing.
Rookie Mike Comrie paces the Wolverines with five goals and six assists. He’s followed by Mike Van Ryn (3-2-5), Dale Rominski (2-2-4) and Bubba Berenzweig (2-2-4).
In net for Michigan, rookie Josh Blackburn has a 1.76 league GAA and .918 conference save percentage.
Alaska-Fairbanks vs. Bowling Green
Bowling Green split with Northern Michigan in Marquette last weekend, winning 6-5 and losing 4-1.
The Falcons lead the all-time series against the Nanooks 9-5-1, but last year UAF took two of three games from the Falcons and tied the third in a three-game series in Fairbanks. The Nanooks won the first two games 9-2 and 4-3, and the tie was a 2-2 game.
Dan Price leads the Falcons in scoring with three goals and four assists. Also contributing to the Bowling Green offensive effort are Adam Edinger (2-4-6), Mike Jones (1-4-5) and Chris Bonvie (2-3-5).
On the defensive side of things, the Falcons have outshot opponents in six of their nine games this season, and are 3-2-1 for their efforts in those games.
Senior goaltender Mike Savard has seen more time in net than sophomore Shawn Timm. Through his first five league games, Savard’s save percentage was .867.
While the Nanooks will be flexing some muscle after their first weekend sweep, the Wolverines will be well-rested after a week off, and more than just a little eager to prove their a better team than their last game–a 6-1 home loss to Northern Michigan.
Just go ahead and ask the Nanooks what happens to the team that next plays Michigan after the Wolverines have been schooled.
And don’t look to last year’s UAF record against Bowling Green to be the predictor of this game. These Falcons are young and fast, relatively injury-free and intact.
At least St. Joseph of Cupertino will watch over the Nanooks this weekend. St. Joseph, born in 1603 in the Kingdom of Naples, is the patron saint of air travelers. St. Joseph was reputed to have levitated during Mass, and the mention of God or other spiritual matters was said to send him into a mid-air rapture.
St. Joseph was also noted for his bad temper in his youth–as were the Nanooks.
Michigan 4-2, Bowling Green 4-2
Lake Superior State (0-7-1, 0-5-1 CCHA) at Ferris State (5-2-1, 4-2-0 CCHA) Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m., Ewigleben Arena, Big Rapids, MI
St. Bernard of Montjoux is the saint to whom Lakers fans may turn for added protection this weekend, while St. Ambrose would be a good patron for the Bulldogs.
St. Bernard is the patron saint of mountain climbers and skiers, and no CCHA team has a bigger hill to climb at this point in the season than Lake Superior.
St. Bernard is also remembered for aiding lost travelers.
St. Ambrose is the patron saint of domestic animals–not to suggest that the Bulldogs are tame. St. Ambrose is also the patron saint of learning, which isn’t bad either.
After tying Western Michigan 2-2 Friday night to notch their first league point of the season, the Lakers dropped a close 2-1 game to Michigan State Saturday.
"Friday night we played a great game," says assistant coach Mike Collins. "It was a great game both ways. Getting a point out of there and in the fashion we did was good."
The Lakers trailed 2-0 going into the third. Rookie Jamie Garrick’s goal at 8:26 made it 2-1, and Tobin Praznik tied it up with just six seconds left in regulation play.
Junior goaltender Mike Brusseau made 21 saves for Lake Superior.
Collins characterizes the Saturday game against Michigan State as a good one. "We scored in the first minute of the game and that probably caught them by surprise."
Collins says that while no one is standing out right now for the Lakers, "We feel that we’re capable.
"We played two good teams that have points in the standings, and we got a point from one and played close with the other."
Collins says that the young Laker team is still learning how to play at this level. "It’s a step up from what a lot of them have been doing, collectively and individuals."
Ferris State comes off a three-point home weekend against MSU-Mankato, tying 3-3 Friday and winning 3-1 Saturday.
Assistant Bulldog coach Drew Famulak said the games were a good learning experience for Ferris State.
"They’re a good team. They skate well, they’re tenacious. They made us compete hard. They were up and down the sheet. And we had to skate and compete hard both nights.
"We got the chance to rotate in eight defensemen, and [rookie goaltender] Phil Osaer played in the tie. He had a little bit of everything–a couple of breakaways, overtime. He saw more in one game than he maybe would have in two or three others."
Osaer made 27 saves in his first collegiate start.
Kevin Swider had three goals and an assist in the games against Mankato; Joel Irwin had a goal and two assists.
Irwin has 3 goals and 4 assists through six league games. Rob Kozak (2-4-6), Swider (3-3-6), and Brian McCullough (3-2-5) are also among the offensive leaders for the Bulldogs.
Even though Ferris State is tied for third in the league–with two top-ten teams–Famulak says the Bulldogs have a lot of work to do.
"Our power play is struggling. We’re getting chances, but not finishing like we were earlier in the year."
He adds "We’ve had some consistent efforts from some of our older players."
Vince Owen is the starter between the pipes for Ferris State. In league play, Owen’s GAA is 2.51 and his save percentage is a solid .915.
Collins says, "We’re not going to be worrying about other teams. We just need to focus on what works for us."
Picks: Ferris State 4-2, 4-1
May St. Sebastian, the patron saint of athletes, watch over all our favorite hockey players this week and throughout the season.
And may St. Lucy, patron saint of eye trouble and writers, watch over whomever may need her help.