This Week in the CCHA: November 27, 1998

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

As chestnuts roast, turkeys baste, and everyone avoids Aunt Almira’s Jello mold, it’s time to take a look around to ponder blessings and be thankful for what we all have.

The laughter of children, the warmth of a smile, that special glow you get whe–

Oh, forget about it! It’s time to talk turkey. In fact, it’s time to dish some out.

Get out your crayons and outline your hands, CCHA fans: it’s the First Annual Girl Reporter Turkey Awards.

Disclaimer: There is no reason to think there will be a Second Annual Girl Reporter Turkey Awards presentation next year, and there is no money-back guarantee.

Word Turkeys

Turkeys to everyone who bandies about the words parity, elite, and pro-active.

For years we’ve been hearing about the newfound parity in the league. Anyone can win on any given night blah, blah, blah. The two-tier league is dead yada, yada, yada.

Enough already! We’re sick of hearing about parity. Come up with a new word. Or just say that the CCHA is a tough, competitive league and leave it at that.

Coaches, stop talking about your allegedly elite players. If they were actually elite–that is, if they were in actual leagues of their own–they would be, like, in leagues of their own.

So, the term pro-active isn’t used a lot in hockey, but aren’t you sick of it just the same? And who admits to being anti-active?

Turkeys of Team Spirit

Will somebody, please, buy the Bulldog at Ferris State a new head? At the very least, can all you Ferris State fans pitch in and get him a face lift?

Don’t get me wrong–the guy in the bulldog suit does a great job at Ferris games. And the inflatable bulldog (through which the team sometimes enters the ice) is way cool.

But that mascot looks really sad. And Ferris State is doing really well! Cheer up, Bulldog!

An appeal to the fans in Section E at the Bowling Green Ice Arena: stop the senseless profanity. People have complained to me about the language used at BG home games. No one’s your bitch, OK?

And to all you other fans around the league who copy the cheers you’ve heard at Yost, think about making up new ones of your very own. Don’t let the fact that the Michigan faithful stole their cheers nearly wholesale from Cornell fans dissuade you from exhibiting some originality.

The Voices of Turkeys

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Notre Dame player Annie-cut Daphodil. Or was that Anycut Daphalia?

Then there’s the Ohio State player, Hugo Boys Vert.

Gregor Krunch plays for Miami. Phil Oscar plays for Ferris State. Kerry Hay-feel plays for Alaska-Fairbanks.

And, of course, Chris Reeshar is a Buckeye, because everyone knows OSU only recruits kids from Quebec.

Please, broadcasters and PA announcers, take the five necessary minutes to find out the correct pronunciation of player names.

Everyone can’t be a Buddy Smith. Or is that Smythe?

With a 2-1 win over Michigan State and a 1-0 win over Notre Dame, the Michigan Wolverines have vaulted themselves to fourth in the U.S. College Hockey Online Division I Poll and now share first place in the CCHA with Notre Dame — and Ferris State!

The No. 4 Wolverines travel to Minneapolis and Madison to take on Minnesota and Wisconsin in the College Hockey Showcase.

With 15 points, the No. 5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish are tied for first in the league. The Irish beat Western Michigan 9-5 before losing to Michigan. Although idle this week, don’t bet against the Irish, who will probably take four points anyway.

With two wins over then-ranked Northern Michigan — 2-0 and 4-2, both games in Marquette — and a 4-2 win Tuesday over Notre Dame, the Bulldogs of sad mascot fame are now part of the three-way CCHA first place tie with 15 points. Ferris State travels to Lake Superior for a Saturday night game.

With 14 points, No. 8 Michigan State is the only team immediately behind the trio at the top (it hardly seems fair to call it fourth place, but that’s what it is). The Spartans lost to Michigan 2-1 and beat Western Michigan 4-1. Michigan State travels to Madison and then Minneapolis for the College Hockey Showcase.

Northern Michigan dropped out of the top ten with those losses to Ferris State. The Wildcats, tied for fifth in the league with Ohio State, travel to Western Michigan and Bowling Green.

Ohio State split a pair of games with Miami, winning 2-1 in overtime and losing 4-1. This week the Buckeyes travel to Fairbanks to play the Nanooks twice.

Bowling Green is in seventh place with seven points. The Falcons were idle last week, and return to action this week at home against Miami and Northern Michigan.

Western Michigan, Alaska-Fairbanks, and Miami are tied for eighth with six points each.

The Broncos lost twice this past weekend, and host Northern Michigan and Miami this weekend.

Alaska-Fairbanks was idle last week after sweeping Miami in Fairbanks one week before. The Nanooks host OSU for two.

Miami lost a heart-breaker to Ohio State Friday night, 2-1 in overtime, but came back to beat the Bucks 4-1 Saturday. The RedHawks are tested in Bowling Green and Western Michigan this weekend.

Alone in last place in the league is Lake Superior State with four points. The Lakers host Ferris State for one this weekend.

Last week’s record in picks: 3-6 Overall record in picks: 39-26

OK, no more pucks to the head.

Miami (3-9-2, 2-8-2 CCHA) at Bowling Green (4-6-1, 3-5-1 CCHA) Friday, 7 p.m., BGSU Ice Arena, Bowling Green, OH Miami (3-9-2, 2-8-2 CCHA) at Western Michigan (1-5-4, 1-5-4 CCHA) Saturday, 7 p.m., Lawson Arena, Kalamazoo, MI

After a potentially devastating loss to Ohio State in overtime Friday night, the Miami RedHawks came back Saturday with one of their better efforts of the season to beat the Buckeyes 4-1.

In the overtime game, OSU’s Ryan Jestadt scored with just 4.6 minutes in regulation to rob Miami goaltender Ian Olsen of a 1-0 shutout. Neal Rech scored in OT for the Buckeyes.

"Any time you’ve been working hard and you don’t see the end result, it can become very demoralizing," says Miami head coach Mark Mazzoleni.

"Even though we worked hard Friday, we didn’t earn a point. It was a good test for us to come out and play well Saturday."

The RedHawks are a young, young team with 11 freshmen on the roster–and at least seven of the newbies play on a regular basis. With junior Gregor Krajnc out for at least another week with a knee injury, and junior Dustin Whitecotton probably gone for the rest of the season with a broken arm, Miami has had to rely on young players to pick up the offensive slack.

"We don’t have a marquee player but we don’t dip a lot either," says Mazoleni. "The thing that has really been good for us this year is that our sophomores have stepped up."

Sophomores who have been performing for the RedHawks include Jason Deskins (4-5–9) and Alex Kim (4-6–10). Kim is tied with junior Mark Shalawylo for the lead in team scoring, and they are tied with Michigan’s Mike Comrie for seventh in league scoring.

Kim is also second in the league in power-play goals, with four.

The RedHawks have struggled defensively this season, which is understandable given that several rookie defensemen — Mike Tedesco, Jake Ortmeyer, Paul Nejezchleb, and Ken Marsch — see a lot of ice time.

Adding to some of the Miami defensive woes has been the inconsistent play of junior goaltender Ian Olsen. Although Olsen’s league GAA is 4.01 and his league save percentage is .870, he gave a solid, solid performance last weekend against Ohio State, saving 41 shots in the overtime loss — shutting out the Buckeyes for as close to 60 minutes as you can get — and 30 saves in the 4-1 win over Ohio State Saturday.

"This is what I was recruited to do," said Olsen after the win, "so it feels good, finally."

Going into the games against Bowling Green and Western Michigan, Mazzoleni says, "We’re still trying to find ourselves. I don’t think we’re the kind of team that can begin to look at opponents. We need to focus on us.

"I think the big thing we have to do is build on the momentum from last week."

Miami vs. Bowling Green

Bowling Green leads the all-time series with the RedHawks 49-16-5, and are 28-5-3 at home against Miami.

After posting a 1-4-2 record against Miami from 1995 through 1997, the Falcons are 3-1-1 in the last five meetings, including the two games played earlier this season.

This is the last game of the season series, with Bowling Green leading 1-0-1. Bowling Green won 4-2 on October 9, and tied 5-5 October 10.

Both of these teams are young, but neither is lacking offensive power. While Miami has Shalawylo, Kim, and Deskins (among others), the Falcons have Adam Edinger (5-4–9) and Mike Jones (1-8–9), who are tied with two other players for tenth in league scoring, as well as Dan Price (3-5–8), Craig Desjarlais (3-4–7), and Chris Bonvie (3-3–6).

The big question mark all season for the Falcons has been goaltending. Savard has seen more time in net than Timm, but neither has emerged as a strong starter. With a 4.07 GAA and .856 league save percentage, Savard may be more consistent in net than Timm (4.76 GAA, .776 SV%).

But numbers don’t always tell the whole story. Both Savard and Timm are capable of brilliant play in spots, and should either become more consistent, the Falcons could be deadly.

Miami and Bowling Green are both in the middle of the pack in league power-play efficiency, and both are near the bottom when it comes to killing penalties.

Miami vs. Western Michigan

What can a coach whose team has four league ties say about this season?

"We haven’t got that taste of winning yet," says Bronco head coach Bill Wilkinson.

Well, just a taste, maybe. The Broncos do have a win, after all. But with one victory in 10 games, the Broncos are off to their slowest start in school history.

Western Michigan is coming off a disappointing 9-5 loss to Notre Dame, and a 4-1 loss to Michigan State.

The Notre Dame loss was disappointing because the Broncos nearly battled back from a six-goal deficit to get into the game. Notre Dame was ahead 6-0 going into the third.

Then it was 6-2. Then it was 7-2. Then 7-3. Then 8-3. 8-4. 8-5. 9-5.

Had the two teams played just the third period, Western Michigan would have won 5-3.

"We played pretty well in the third but they seemed to score on every opportunity they had that period," says Wilkinson.

"There’s not much difference between a lot of teams this season," says Wilkinson. "It’s not really the skill level that’s beating us. We’re making mental errors."

In order to turn that kind of play around, Wilkinson says, "You’ve got to play the game itself by doing the simplest things, not trying to make it to cute. You’ve got to do all the little things that are simple."

One player apparently picking up the simple things and not being cute is Chuck Mindel. Mindel scored the only Bronco goal in the 4-1 Michigan State loss, and had two assists against Notre Dame.

"Chuck Mindel is playing with a lot of physical presence, hustle and desire," says Wilkinson.

Also contributing to the Bronco offense are David Gove (3-3–6) and Jason Redenius (3-2– 5).

The Bronco philosophy has been to "circle the wagons" around goaltender Matt Barnes, whose league numbers are more than just respectable (2.46 GAA, .913 SV%); Wilkinson, however, says that his team will have to generate more offense to be competitive as the season progresses.

As with the Miami-Bowling Green series, this is also the final meeting of the regular season between the RedHawks and the Broncos, and Miami holds a 1-0-1 edge. The teams tied 3-3 in overtime October 30, and Miami won 7-4 the next night, both games in Oxford.

Western Michigan leads the all-time series 43-31-4.


Just as Saturday was a gut-check for the RedHawks, so will this game be for the Falcons. Before their week off, the Falcons lost 6-2 to Notre Dame in South Bend, and 6-5 to Alaska- Fairbanks at home. Each Falcon goaltender recorded a loss on the weekend.

The Falcons are big, physical, and fast. A win at home against Miami would not be a surprise.

While Western Michigan’s defense has been playing well enough to tie four games and win one this season, without offense, the Broncos are in trouble. A confident Miami team could spell Barnes and the Bronco defense.

Bowling Green over Miami 4-3; Miami over Western Michigan 3-2

Northern Michigan (9-5-0, 5-5-0 CCHA) at Western Michigan (1-5-4, 1-5-4 CCHA) Friday, 7 p.m., Lawson Arena, Kalamazoo, MI Northern Michigan (9-5-0, 5-5-0 CCHA) at Bowling Green (4-6-1, 3-5-1 CCHA) Saturday, 7 p.m., BGSU Ice Arena, Bowling Green, OH

In spite of outshooting the Bulldogs 70-49, the Wildcats were swept 2-0 and 4-2 by Ferris State, at home. The Saturday before, Northern Michigan lost to Ohio State on the road.

The three-game losing streak is the longest of the season for the ‘Cats, and they look to break it on the road.

"We’re coming off what was certainly a down weekend for us against Ferris State," says Northern head coach Rick Comley.

"Their goaltender played well, but we didn’t work as hard as we could have to get rebounds and traffic around the net. We’ll have to try to rebound from these losses and see if we can get back to the level of play we were at earlier in the season."

Earlier in the season, the Wildcats had the top two scorers in the nation. These days, the ‘Cats have to settle for the two of the top three scorers in the league.

J.P. Vigier leads the Wildcats and the conference with 12 goals and three assists. Buddy Smith is second in league scoring with two goals and 13 assists. The linemates are each plus nine.

Vigier leads the league in goals, power-play goals (7) and game-winning goals (3), and Smith pacing the league in assists.

Another key component of the Northern Michigan success so far this season has been strong goaltending from both Dan Ragusett and Duane Hoey, but especially from Ragusett. Ragusett’s league GAA of 2.43 is fifth in the CCHA, and his league save percentage of .904 is seventh.

As a team, the Wildcats are tied for league scoring, averaging 3.20 goals per game; the Northern defense is seventh in the league, giving up 2.80 goals on average per game.

The Northern Michigan conference power play is among the top four in the league, while the penalty kill is among the bottom four.

Northern Michigan vs. Western Michigan

The Wildcats lead the Broncos in the all-time series 19-10-2, which includes a three-game season sweep in 1997-98. Northern Michigan leads the series 10-6-0 in Kalamazoo.

This pairing matches a potentially explosive offense with a slow-and-steady defense, and pits two of the league’s better goaltenders–Ragusett and Matt Barnes.

This game also throws together two teams that like to throw their bodies around. The Wildcats finish checks like no one else, and the Broncos have gone from a team that took a lot of penalties last year to a physically aggressive and more disciplined team this season.

Northern Michigan vs. Bowling Green

Northern leads this all-time series 23-16-3, but hold a 6-11-1 disadvantage in Bowling Green.

This is the last regular-season meeting between the Wildcats and the Falcons; the teams split in Marquette the first weekend in November, with Bowling Green winning 6-5 and Northern winning 4-1.

In the Bowling Green win, Northern was ahead 5-4 early in the third. Adam Edinger tied it for Bowling Green at 11:52 of the third, and Dan Price scored the game-winner with just 1:01 to go.

Vigier recorded a hat trick in the Northern loss.0

Four different Wildcats scored in the 4-1 win the next night–including Vigier and linemate Roger Trudeau.

Craig Desjarlais had the lone goal — and the only point — for Bowling Green in the loss.

Ragusett made 34 saves for Northern in the 4-1 win.


Bill Wilkinson says, "Northern Michigan has a good-skating club. Their big line is obviously one of the top lines in the league."

After three straight losses, that top line — along with the rest of the Wildcats — is going to be itching for conference points.

While calling Northern Michigan to win two in a row is not a huge risk, it may be difficult for the Wildcats to take both on the road. If the ‘Cats lose just one game this weekend, it will probably be to Bowling Green.

Northern Michigan over Western Michigan 5-2; Northern Michigan over Bowling Green 3-1

Ohio State (4-7-2, 4-4-2 CCHA) at Alaska Fairbanks (4-6-0, 3-5-0 CCHA) Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m. AT, Carlson Center, Fairbanks, AK

Don’t tell John Markell that the Buckeyes are slumping. "We’ve won three of our last four games," says the Ohio State head coach, "and two of those were against ranked opponents."

Yeah, and all three of those wins came in the OSU Ice Rink, where the Buckeyes haven’t lost since 1997.

After an electrifying 2-1 overtime win over Miami at home Friday–Ryan Jestadt scored the tying goal for the Buckeyes with just 4.6 seconds remaining in regulation–Ohio State looked flat in Goggin on Saturday, losing 4-1 to a Miami team that outplayed them in every way.

In response to that, Markell is tweaking the lines.

J.F. Dufour moves from le trio Quebecois to the second Buckeye line, to accompany Chris Richards and Neal Rech.

Rookie Mike McCormick takes Dufour’s place with Hugo Boisvert and Eric Meloche.

Some new faces will be added to the lineup in Fairbanks, while some players who have seen a lot of ice this season will be staying in Columbus.

"We’ve got to try to get something clicking as far as goalscoring goes," says Markell. "It’s not that players have been playing bad. Other than our inability to put it in the net, the team has been playing well.

"All I’m doing is trying to change the chemistry. I’m not trying to punish anybody. We’re just trying to generate some offense. I’m not losing faith in these other kids."

Hugo Boisvert (4-6–10) leads the Buckeyes in scoring and is tied for tenth in league scoring. Boisvert has come on since the return of linemate Eric Meloche, and has an eight-game point streak on the line.

With two goals and four assists, Chris Richards is the only other Buckeye among the top 34 league scorers.

Jeff Maund is the starter between the pipes for Ohio State. The sophomore allowed four goals against Miami — and that last one was really soft — but is tied with Laker Jayme Platt for the second- best save percentage in conference play (2.35 GAA, .920 SV%).

Lately, the Buckeye defense has solidified, with Scott Titus and Ryan Skaleski playing excellent stay-at-home defense, and Ryan Jestadt picking up his play on both sides of the puck.

The Nanooks face the Buckeyes well rested, having played their last games two weeks ago. UAF lost to Michigan 6-3 on Friday the 13th, and beat Bowling Green the next night 6-5. Both games, obviously, were on the road.

So, you don’t think the Nanooks have improved? Last year at this point of the season, Alaska-Fairbanks was 1-7-0.

Jim Lawrence (6-2–8) leads the Nanooks in conference scoring. Also contributing to the UAF offensive effort are Chris Kirwan (4-2–6) and Mike Jaros (1-5–6).

Ian Perkins is the go-to goalie for Fairbanks, with a 4.44 league GAA and a .871 save percentage in conference play.

In his last weekend of play, Perkins saved 77 shots on goal — 30 against Michigan, and 47 against the Falcons.

The Nanook special teams can best be described as slumping at this point. The UAF power play is ranked last in the league, while the Nanook penalty kill is tenth.

Interestingly, this series features the most penalized team in the CCHA — and it’s not Alaska-Fairbanks.

"Right now we’re kind of turbulent," says Markell. "We’re emotional at home and not on the road. We get frustrated and take stupid penalties."


From top to bottom, Ohio State is a more talented team than Alaska-Fairbanks.

But all that talent matters little if your team can’t play on an Olympic sheet. And Ohio State doesn’t favor big ice. Not at all.

In fact, Alaska-Fairbanks leads this series 8-7-1, and OSU has won just twice in Fairbanks.

This could be a very long weekend for the Buckeyes.

UAF 4-3, 3-2

Ferris State (7-3-2, 6-3-1 CCHA) at Lake Superior (1-7-2, 1-5-2 CCHA) Saturday, 7 p.m., Taffy Abel Arena, Sault Ste. Marie, MI

Ferris State is the team of the moment in the CCHA, winning three times against ranked opponents in five days.

First, the Bulldogs knocked off Northern Michigan 2-0 and 4-2, in Marquette.

Then Ferris State beat Notre Dame 4-2 in Grand Rapids Tuesday night.

You’d think the Bulldog coaches would be happy — well, they probably are, but they’re a bit busy right now slaying giants, so it’s been impossible to contact them for this specific preview.

Six different Bulldogs scored in the two-game sweep of Northern Michigan — Todd Steinmetz and Joel Irwin in the first game, and Jason Hodel, Brent Wishart, Casey Harris, and Brian McCullough the second night.

That’s four seniors and two juniors, in case you’re counting.

In the two-game sweep, sophomore goaltender Vince Owen made 69 saves and earned his second career shutout. His league GAA is 2.35, and his conference save percentage is .917. Owen is this week’s CCHA Defensive Player of the Week.

In addition to scoring the fourth goal in the second game, McCullough also assisted on the two game-winners, earning him CCHA Offensive Player of the Week honors.

The word to describe the Bulldogs right now would be lucky.

Perhaps the best phrase to describe the Lakers this week might be in harm’s way.

Ironically, three of Lake Superior’s current four points were earned at the expense of the Bulldogs just two short weeks ago. Lake Superior tied the Bulldogs 1-1, then beat them 3-1, both games at Ewigleben Arena.

Rookie Jeremy Bachusz scored the Laker goal in the tie, while Geoff Bennetts scored for Ferris State.

In the Lake Superior win, three different Lakers — Jamie Garrick, Jeff Cheeseman, and Tobin Praznik — did the scoring. Jim Dube had the lone goal for the Bulldogs.

"I think we’ll play with a little bit more confidence," says Laker head coach Scott Borek. "Interestingly our worst hockey came in the second period against Ferris State" in the second game.

That was the period into which Lake Superior entered with a 3-0 lead and left with a 3-1 lead. Borek says that his young team didn’t know how to play with a lead.

"I thought we played very well in the third. I think we’ll come in with some confidence and maybe find some offense."

Cheeseman (3-3–6) and Praznik (3-1–4) pace the Laker offense.

In net for the Lakers, both Mike Brusseau and Jayme Platt seem to be competing for the starting position. In two conference games, Brusseau has a .939 save percentage and a 1.39 save percentage.

In five conference games, Platt has a .920 save percentage and a 2.33 GAA.

Seemingly left out in the cold is Rob Galatiuk, who for all the world looked poised to take the starting position at the beginning of the season.

Borek says that a three-goalie rotation is too much, but for now, "I’m not in any hurry to change that.

"I think going into it right now Jayme’s our starter, but I owe it to Robbie to keep an open mind. The decision [about who to start] will come Friday. At some point, after Christmas, we’ll be a two-goalie team."

Borek says he expects a "highly explosive" Ferris State team, and as confident as his Lakers are after a week rejuvenating, Borek knows that the Bulldogs have improved from two weeks ago.

Pick: Ferris State 4-1

The College Hockey Showcase

No. 4 Michigan (8-2-1, 7-1-1 CCHA) at Minnesota (6-6-2, 5-5-2 WCHA) Friday, 7 p.m. CT, Mariuci Arena, Minneapolis, MN No. 4 Michigan (8-2-1, 7-1-1 CCHA) at Wisconsin (5-5-1, 5-4-1 WCHA) Sunday, 12 noon CT, Kohl Center, Madison, WI

No. 8 Michigan State (7-2-2, 6-2-2 CCHA) at Wisconsin (5-5-1, 5-4-1 WCHA) Friday, 7 p.m. CT, Kohl Center, Madison, WI No. 8 Michigan State (7-2-2, 6-2-2 CCHA) at Minnesota (6-6-2, 5-5-2 WCHA) Sunday, 2 p.m. CT, Mariuci Arena, Minneapolis, MN

The Wolverines

The Wolverines received a much-needed shot in the points with a two-game weekend home sweep, having beaten arch-rival Michigan State 2-1 and Notre Dame 1-0.

Michigan head coach Red Berenson said after the Notre Dame win that the wins don’t "mean a lot now, but down the road it may mean more. It gives us confidence. I like our position going into Thanksgiving."

Berenson also added that the manner in which the Wolverines scored each game-winner was a bit unusual.

"Langfeld’s goal [against the Spartans] went off a skate and ended up being the gamewinner. Tonight [against Notre Dame], you can hardly call that (Matzka’s shot off Ritchlin’s leg) a shot."

Josh Blackburn tallied his second career shutout in the Notre Dame game, earning him CCHA Rookie of the Week for the second time this season.

While two wins are two wins and four points are four points, the Wolverines won by scoring only three goals. Defense hasn’t been the Michigan strong point this season, and Berenson has said repeatedly that the Wolverines need to produce offense consistently to remain among the top four teams in the league.

With three goals and seven assists, rookie Mike Comrie leads Michigan in scoring, and is tied for tenth in league scoring.

Other Wolverines producing points include Dave Huntzicker, Josh Langfeld, Bubba Berenzweig, and Mike Van Ryn — each of whom has seven league points. All but Berenzweig are on the plus side of things.

Michigan vs. Minnesota

The Wolverines trail the all-time series against the Golden Gophers 111-118-5, but are 8-2-0 against Minnesota in the 1990s.

The Wolverines won the last game against the Gophers, a 4-3 win in Yost Arena in last year’s College Hockey Showcase.

Michigan vs. Wisconsin

The Wolverines lead the all-time series against the Badgers 55-48-6, and have a five-game win streak against Wisconsin dating back to November, 1994.

Last year, Michigan beat the Badgers 2-1 in the College Hockey Showcase in Yost.

The Spartans

The Spartans come off a weekend split, having lost 2-1 to Michigan in Yost Arena, and beaten Western Michigan 4-1 at home.

Mike York leads the Spartan offense with two goals and 12 assists, putting him in fifth place in league scoring. Shawn Horcoff (4-6–10), Bryan Adams (7-3–10), and Adam Hall (5-1–6) are among the top scorers for Michigan State.

In net for the Spartans, Joe Blackburn leads the league with an incredible 1.48 GAA through 10 league games played. Blackburn — whose save percentage is .915 — has allowed more than one goal against in just three games this season.

Fronting Blackburn is the best defense in the league. Led by Chris Bogas, Brad Hodgins, Jeff Kozakowski, and Mike Weaver, the Spartan defense has allowed just 15 goals against in league play and 16 overall — the stingiest defense in the CCHA.

Michigan State vs. Wisconsin

The Spartans lead the all-time series against the Badgers 40-35-2, but trail in Madison 13-21-2. Michigan State has won four of its last six games with the Badgers, including all five College Hockey Showcase pairings.

Michigan State beat Wisconsin twice last season, a 2-1 win in Madison in the title game of the Team Cheerios Ice Breaker Invitational, and a 2-0 win in Munn Arena in the College Hockey Showcase.

Michigan State vs. Minnesota

Minnesota leads this all-time series 96-39-6, and 50-13-4 in Minneapolis. Last season, the Spartans snapped their 10-year, seven-game losing against the Golden Gophers with a 3-2 win in the College Hockey Showcase in Munn Arena.

The Spartans have lost 12 straight in Minneapolis, having won their last game in the Twin Cities in 1976. Michigan State hasn’t visited Minnesota for a regular-season meeting since 1981.

Some Showcase Trivia

The Showcase, in its sixth year, is designed to promote college hockey in the Big Ten.

The four participating schools are among the top eight programs in NCAA tournament appearances, with a combined total of 79 appearances.

The four schools have combined for 19 of the 51 NCAA championships.

The four schools were four of the top five NCAA Division I schools in average home attendance last season.

The Wolverines have the best College Hockey Showcase record at 7-3-0. Michigan State and Minnesota are both 6-4-0. Wisconsin is 1-9-0.

Eleven of the 20 College Hockey Showcase games have been decided by one goal.

Spartan Mike York is the leading active scorer in College Hockey Showcase games, posting four goals and six assists in his six previous Showcase games.

Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota and Wisconsin competed for the Big Ten championship while all four teams were in the WCHA from 1959 to 1981. Minnesota won 10 Big Ten titles, while the other three teams won five each.

For more on the College Hockey Showcase from the Badger and Golden Gopher points of view, read Todd D. Milewski’s WCHA weekly preview.


This is a total homer pick, completely devoid of sense and reason.

CCHA sweep!

(Awaiting the hate mail from Wisconsin and Minnesota fans.)

Michigan over Minnesota 3-2; Michigan over Wisconsin 3-2 Michigan State over Wisconsin 3-1; Michigan State over Minnesota 4-1