CCHA fans, you have spoken–and I have heard.
Ever since taking a puck to the head, my predictions have been terrible. I admit it. Now, I’m not saying there is any kind of cause-and-effect going on here, but the timing is interesting, n’est-ce pas?
So, I’ve decided to seek professional help. I’ve consulted a Web oracle.
For each match this weekend, I asked the oracle, "Will X beat Y?" and "Will Y beat X?" I also meditated–as instructed–on each pairing.
With every pick, I’ll share what the oracle revealed. In some cases, I felt the need to pick against the advice of the oracle, especially in the Notre Dame-Ohio State series. Notre Dame gets my pick for the rest of the season, no matter what the spiritual world advises.
In order to test the accuracy of this oracle, I decided to ask it a few basic questions. Here’s what the oracle chose to reveal to me.
Q: Will the sun rise tomorrow? A: Yes, but don’t worry so much.
I’ll buy that.
Q: Where are my car keys? A: To seek permission is to seek denial.
Q: Will the CCHA be a hard-contested conference? A: Some storms must be weathered first.
Q: Are these really, really the last two games in the teeny, tiny, OSU Ice Rink? A: It will take some effort.
Q: What about that cute guy I have this crush on? A: You will pass the test.
Q: And my picks this week? A: Be true to your convictions, even in the face of adversity.
Obviously, this is a higher power, and I am humbled.
No. 9 Ferris State is all alone at the top of the CCHA heap with 17 points. The Bulldogs beat the Lakers 1-0 in overtime Saturday, after topping Notre Dame 4-2 last Tuesday. Ferris State hosts Western Michigan for one game this Saturday.
Tied for second in the league with 15 points each are No. 4 Michigan and No. 6 Notre Dame. The Wolverines beat Minnesota 3-2 and tied Wisconsin 1-1 in the College Hockey Showcase. This week Michigan travels to Oxford and Bowling Green.
The Irish were idle for the Thanksgiving weekend proper (but were winners, nonetheless). Notre Dame travels to Columbus for the allegedly-final two games in the OSU Ice Rink.
With 14 points each, No. 8 Michigan State and Ohio State are tied for fourth in the league. The Spartans beat Wisconsin 3-1 and lost to Minnesota 2-1 in the College Hockey Showcase. This week, Michigan State hosts the University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks for the Mavs’ first-ever games against a CCHA opponent.
Ohio State swept Alaska-Fairbanks 3-2 (OT) and 3-1 on the road. The Buckeyes return home to put their beloved War Memorial to bed against Notre Dame for two games this weekend.
The much-injured Northern Michigan Wildcats split a weekend road series, beating Western Michigan 6-3 and losing to Bowling Green 5-3. Northern Michigan hosts Alaska-Fairbanks for one game this weekend. The Wildcats are in sixth place, with 12 points.
Bowling Green is in sole possession of seventh place with 11 points. The Falcons took four of those at home last weekend, beating Miami 5-1 and Northern Michigan 5-3. Bowling Green hosts Michigan for one game Saturday night.
A pair of teams with a lot of ties between them holds on to eighth place in the league this week. Western Michigan–with five ties–and Miami (with just three) are tied with seven points each. Western lost to Northern Michigan and–you guessed it–tied Miami last weekend. This week, the Broncos travel to Lake Superior and Ferris State.
Miami lost to Bowling Green before the 1-1 tie with the Broncos. Miami hosts Michigan Friday night.
The Nanooks are in tenth place with six points after dropping two games at home to Ohio State. UAF plays Northern and Lake on the road this week.
The Lakers are in last place in the CCHA with four points after dropping a tough 1-0 OT game to Ferris State. Lake Superior looks for its second win of the season against Western Michigan and Alaska-Fairbanks this weekend.
Last week’s record in picks: 5-6 Overall record in picks: 44-32
Yes, ties are tallied as incorrect picks. Thank you so much, Broncos.
No. 6 Notre Dame (9-3-2, 7-3-1 CCHA) at Ohio State (6-7-2, 6-4-2 CCHA) Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m., OSU Ice Rink a.k.a. The War Memorial, Columbus, OH
Here’s a bit of trivia that most CCHA fans probably don’t realize: in 1998, Ohio State is perfect in the teeny, tiny, minuscule, under-heated, bird-infested, sub-standard little War Memorial officially known as simply as the OSU Ice Rink.
In fact, you have to go back to the Nov. 23, 1997, 3-2 loss against Michigan to find OSU losing points in the much-hated little barn.
This weekend marks the end of play in the rink, as the Buckeyes move into the Schottenstein Center on Jan. 2.
Wouldn’t it be just Ohio State’s luck to draw Notre Dame for the last two games in the old barn?
The Irish were idle last weekend after losing to Ferris State 4-2 on Tuesday. Notre Dame lost its only game of the previous weekend, a 1-0 decision in Yost against Michigan.
After starting the season with a blazing power play and a six-game win streak, the Irish have been forced to join the rest of the CCHA mortals because of injury. Senior sniper Aniket Dhadphale has missed four games, while junior winger Joe Dusbabek and sophomore defender Ryan Clark have each missed two games–all because of arm injuries.
All three players are expected to return this week.
The loss of Dhadphale (6-6–12, in seven league games) has hit Notre Dame hard, particularly in the power play. With the senior in the lineup, the Notre Dame man-advantage was converting at a .321 rate. Without him, the Irish are just two-for-17 on the power play (.118).
Of course, Dhadphale isn’t the only Notre Dame weapon, which is what makes this team so dangerous this season. Junior Ben Simon is the best player on the Irish squad, and one of the league’s most underrated players, period. Not only can Simon flat-out fly and create plays, the center is third in league scoring with six goals and 12 assists.
Dan Carlson (3-9–12), David Inman (5-4–9), Dusbabek (2-4–6), and Chad Chipchase (5-1– 6) are a few of the other weapons in the Irish arsenal.
In addition to offensive depth, the Irish have a solid core of defenders who can apparently survive when one of their own is down. From the middle of last season through the beginning of this one, the Irish defense played down a man–and not always the same man–and played well.
Another underrated player, Benoit Cotnoir, leads the Irish defense, with solid help from Clark, Nathan Borega, Sean Molina, and Tyson Fraser.
Forrest Karr (2.17 GAA, .902 SV%) is the starting netminder for the Irish.
After a very slow start to the season, the Buckeyes are 5-1-1 in their last seven games–all conference play.
Last weekend, Ohio State swept Alaska-Fairbanks in Fairbanks, 3-2 (OT) and 3-1. As they did the week before against Miami, the Buckeyes rallied very late in the third period of the first game, scoring two goals in the last three minutes to tie the game and rob Ian Perkins of a shutout. J.F. Dufour had the game-winner–assisted by new linemates Chris Richards and Neal Rech–at 1:51 in overtime.
In the second game, three different Buckeyes scored, including Eric Meloche, who finally tallied his first goal of the season; Vinnie Grant; and rookie Jason Crain, who was named CCHA Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in Fairbanks.
"I thought we played pretty well under the circumstances," says OSU head coach John Markell, the circumstances being a long trip and the absence of team captain Dan Cousineau, who missed play for the second weekend with a concussion.
"Obviously Jeff [Maund] played well. I want to give praise to a lot of guys. I thought the attitude of our team was perfect. I thought the so-called fourth line was uplifting."
The Buckeyes saw production from Nick Ganga, Benji Wolke and Yan Des Gagne the first night; Grant replaced Des Gagne the second night, and the line scored again.
Markell says the Buckeyes have been searching for the right attitude this season, but the weekend in Fairbanks was a step in the right direction. "There was not one negative person on that ice, which was very important. We’re finding the way to win the close games, which is nice."
While struggling offensively, the Buckeyes have are learning ways to win. Hugo Boisvert (5-6–11) leads OSU in scoring, and adding to the offensive effort are Chris Richards (2-8–10), and Grant (2-4–6).
With last week’s wins, the Buckeyes drew even with opponents in goals scored and allowed (29-29).
Crain is part of a very young Ohio State defense, led by juniors Ryan Skaleski–one of the most underrated defensive defensemen in the league–and Ryan Jestadt, along with sophomores Jaisen Freeman and Andre Signoretti, and freshman Scott Titus. Rookie Jeff Marshall played his first game in the 3-1 win over UAF.
In net for Ohio State, Jeff Maund has been more than just solid this season. Maund’s league GAA is 2.19 (down from well over 3.00 at the beginning of the season), and his .927 save percentage is second only to red-hot Ferris State netminder Vince Owen.
"I expect a great series," says Dave Poulin, the understated Irish head coach. "I think it’s going to be a terrific."
Poulin says he’s not particularly concerned with the Irish being cold after a week away from play. "We’ve responded well to that. We had a strange little season early on. We had the week off after Ohio state, then went up to BC and played really well, so I have a reference for how we may do this weekend."
Poulin says that he doesn’t think the little rink–a venue the Irish haven’t seen in two years–is going to be a factor. "One of the encouraging things about our team is that we’ve played well in different buildings this year. I don’t think we’re a team that isn’t built for a small ice surface."
"We’re looking to finish this building up the right way," says Markell. "[The players] enjoy playing here. They enjoy the people who come to games here. The people who come to games in this rink are real hockey fans, true bluers. They come here to watch this hockey club, and the players want to perform in front of them."
Markell adds that there will be an added level of emotion in this weekend’s games. "I think last year we knew we were going to have to play in here a little bit, even though everybody was talking about the playoffs [against Lake Superior] like they were the last two games."
So are these really the last two games in the War Memorial?
"Definitely," says Markell. "Andy Geiger [OSU’s Athletic Director] will not allow us to play here any more."
And that, hockey fans, is a mixed blessing, at best.
In spite of the spanking the Irish delivered to the Buckeyes the last time these two teams met, Poulin says that his team will not be overconfident in Columbus.
"When a team experiences success–the key aspect being that we’ve had to earn the success–you really learn to respect every opponent when you earn success. We can’t afford to take anyone for granted."
Markell says that the 3-0 shutout was "the best I’ve ever seen a Notre Dame team play."
"Do we think we can match up with them in here? Yes. I’m sure they’re coming here knowing what’s at stake, and they have an excellent team. If we can get some points out of this weekend, I’ll be very happy."
The Buckeyes come into this series hot, and hot for revenge. While Ohio State has won four of their last six meetings between the Irish, Notre Dame shut them down in South Bend on Oct. 23, not only shutting them out 3-0 but limiting the Buckeyes to just two shots on goal in the third period of that game.
Notre Dame holds a 19-9-3 advantage in the all-time series, and is 8-4-3 against OSU in Columbus. Each team beat the other once at the Fairgrounds last season.
When Notre Dame last beat Ohio State, the Buckeyes were ranked. Now, they’re just rankled.
But never mind the revenge. Never mind that the last three Irish shutouts have come at the expense of the Buckeyes (the 10/23 game, and two Matt Eisler shutouts on 11/11/95 and 10/25/96).
Never mind that Eric Meloche has finally scored a goal.
Never mind that J.F. Dufour seems to have found a home on the second line with two playmaking seniors.
Never mind that visiting goaltenders sometimes find the little rink a bit fast.
Never mind that these are the last two games–ever–in the War Memorial that fans and players will remember fondly for Ohio State’s incredible late-season run last year.
Never mind that the Buckeyes have not given up a single point in the OSU Ice Rink since 1997.
When asked if Ohio State will beat Notre Dame this weekend, the oracle said, "There is hope."
When asked if Notre Dame will beat Ohio State this weekend, the oracle said, "Nope."
When I meditated about the Notre Dame-Ohio State series, the oracle advised this: "Breathe deeply. The air around you is changing."
To hell with what the oracle says!
I’m a convert. Notre Dame wins every game for the rest of the year.
(Never mind that Michigan and Ferris State hadn’t yet received that memo last week.)
Notre Dame 3-2, 3-1
No. 4 Michigan (9-2-2, 7-1-1 CCHA) at Miami (3-10-3, 2-9-3 CCHA) Friday, 7 p.m., Goggin Arena, Oxford, OH No. 4 Michigan (9-2-2, 7-1-1 CCHA) at Bowling Green (6-6-1, 5-5-1 CCHA) Saturday, 7 p.m., BGSU Ice Arena, Bowling Green, OH
Michigan got the best of the College Hockey Showcase last weekend with three points, beating Minnesota 3-2 and tying Wisconsin 1-1.
Defenseman Bubba Berenzweig (3-4–7 CCHA) had two goals on the weekend, including the only goal in the tie.
The Wolverines are 4-0-2 in their last six games, the longest unbeaten streak so far this season for Michigan. Rookie-of-the-Year candidate Mike Comrie leads the Wolverines in scoring (3-7– 10), while a quartet of players–Dave Huntzicker (1-6–7), Josh Langfeld (5-2–7), Berenzweig, and Mike Van Ryn (3-4–7)–are tied for second among Michigan scorers.
In net for Michigan, rookie Josh Blackburn’s league GAA is 1.55, while his save percentage in CCHA games is .929. Blackburn and the Michigan defense have allowed more than two goals just three times this season.
Michigan vs. Miami
The Wolverines hold a 45-12-2 advantage over Miami in the all-time series, including two losses in Oxford and one win in Yost last season. This is the first pairing of the two teams this season.
Miami played inconsistently last weekend, losing 5-1 to Bowling Green and tying Western Michigan 1-1–both on the road.
"We didn’t play at all Friday night," says Miami head coach Mark Mazzoleni. "We had no interest in being there. We got what we deserved."
Not only did the Falcons seem to score at will against the RedHawks, but they tallied all five goals even-strength. Miami allowed two first-period goals, one second-period goal, and two third-period goals.
Ian Olsen stopped 24 of 29 shots for the RedHawks.
After losing in overtime to Ohio State and beating the Buckeyes the week before, Mazzoleni was worried that his team might come out flat against the Falcons. "We played very hard the previous weekend, and it was a test for us to see if we could come in ready to play."
The RedHawks bounced back on Saturday to tie Western Michigan on the road.
Alex Kim (5-7–12) leads the RedHawks in scoring; Kim assisted Evan Cheverie on the goal in the Western game. Kim is also tied for second in league power play goals with four.
While Kim leads the team in scoring, it is Mark Shalawylo who is the obvious playmaker for Miami. Shalawylo can flat-out fly, thread defenders, and crash the net. He also has the best puck-handling skills on the team. With five goals and six assists, he’s second in team league scoring.
Gregor Krajnc returned to the lineup for Miami last weekend, while Dustin Whitecotton is expected to miss the rest of the season with a broken arm.
Ian Olsen has been the man in net for the RedHawks for most of this season, with a 3.37 GAA and a respectable .890 league save percentage.
Mazzoleni says he hopes his young team will be ready for the Wolverines, but he admits, "I don’t know what to expect.
"Unless you’ve gone through this before, you don’t know how agonizing this can be. When you have a young team, they’re unpredictable. You don’t know what night they’re going to show up, what night they’re going to have the necessary emotion."
Michigan vs. Bowling Green
Have you been paying attention to Bowling Green, CCHA fan? You should–this team is hot.
While the top Northern Michigan line and a bunch of players from Notre Dame get all the press about league scoring, there are several Falcons jockeying for position right up there with the Buddy Smiths and Ben Simons.
Dan Price (4-11–15) and Adam Edinger (8-7–15) are the Falcon scoring leaders, and they’re tied for fifth in league scoring. Both played amazingly well last weekend, and Price was simply superb: six assists and a goal, a personal weekend best for the senior captain.
Price tallied game-winning assists in both the 5-1 win over Miami and the 5-3 win over Northern. In fact, the Falcons win when Price touches the puck; he’s scored three of the six game-winning goals for BG this season, and he registered assists on two of the other three.
Edinger–this week’s CCHA Offensive Player of the Week–had his first collegiate hat trick in the win over Northern Michigan. He’s also tied for second in league power-play goals (4). The Bowling Green power play is currently second in the league.
Joining in the Falcon scoring fun is defenseman Mike Jones (3-9–12). Jones had the game-winner against Miami, and was instrumental in killing all 13 Falcon penalties. He was plus-six on the weekend, and was named the CCHA Defensive Player of the Week.
So why isn’t BG at the top of the standings? Learning curve–and the Falcons have allowed more goals than they’ve scored this season (38-45).
Mike Savard seems to have won the starting position between the pipes for Bowling Green, although head coach Buddy Powers steadfastly refuses to publicly commit to one goalie or the other.
In nearly 450 minutes of play, Savard’s league save percentage is .874, and his conference GAA is 3.51.
Bowling Green trails this all-time series 27-49-2, and is 1-7-2 in its last 10 games against the Wolverines. Michigan won the first game of this season’s series 5-2 in Yost on October 10.
The Falcons are 1-19-2 in their last 22 games against Michigan, dating back to 1992. Six of those losses have been by just a goal, and four by two goals.
"We need impeccable defense, great goaltending, and great special teams–that’s just to compete, not to win," says Mazzoleni.
The faster, stronger, more experienced Wolverines may not have an easy time in Goggin, but the lack of fan appreciation sure works in their favor. Crickets, man–you can hear ’em chirping, even with a thousand fans.
When asked if Michigan will beat Miami, the oracle said, "Think carefully–you already know the answer."
When asked if Miami will beat Michigan, the oracle said, "No problem."
When I meditated on the Michigan-Miami game, the oracle offered this: "You have trouble keeping up, so your self-image is suffering. Work hard at what you desire–you will accomplish it!"
When asked if Michigan will beat Bowling Green, the oracle said, "Don’t count too much on it."
When asked if Bowling Green will beat Michigan, the oracle said, "Never!"
When I meditated on the Michigan-Bowling Green game, the oracle helpfully suggested, "Beginning is half done."
Obviously, the oracle was high this time around.
(Don’t be too surprised if Bowling Green wins this one.)
Michigan 4-1 over Miami; Michigan 3-2 over Bowling Green
Alaska-Fairbanks (4-8-0, 3-7-0 CCHA) at Northern Michigan (10-6-0, 6-6-0 CCHA) Friday, 7 p.m., Lakeview Arena, Marquette, MI
The Nanooks lost two at home last weekend to Ohio State, 3-2 in overtime Friday, and 3-1 Saturday.
It’s more than fair to say that Fairbanks was in these games until the very end. In fact, the overtime loss was heartbreaking; the Nanooks led 2-0 with just three minutes to go. As they had done the week before, Ohio State scored quickly at the end to tie it up, and J.F. Dufour’s goal at 1:51 handed the Nanooks a loss they were probably certain would be a win.
Ian Perkins (4.25 GAA, .876 SV%) made 31 saves for the Nanooks in the loss.
In the 3-1 game, Ohio State led 2-0 until senior Jamie Coady scored at 11:17 of the third to make it a one-goal game; however, Jason Crain had the insurance goal for OSU at the 26-minute mark of the third.
In the second game, Chris Marvel had to step in for Perkins when the starting goalie took a puck to the knee in pregame warmups. Marvel stopped 27 of 30 shots as the Nanooks outshot the Buckeyes 35-30.
The Wildcats split last weekend, defeating Western Michigan 6-3 Friday before dropping a 5-3 decision to Bowling Green Saturday. Because of injuries, the Wildcats dressed only 16 players in the game against Bowling Green.
Among the wounded are junior left winger Tyson Holly, sophomore forward Mike Sandbeck, senior defenseman Mike Johnson, and rookie center Chad Theuer.
Holly (sprained knee) has missed three games and may return in time for the Great Lakes invitational.
Sandbeck (sprained ankle) may return this week. Johnson (shoulder) and Theuer (ankle) will be evaluated this week.
With all of the injuries the Wildcats have experienced lately, Northern Michigan fans can must be relieved that Buddy Smith and J.P. Vigier are among the living. Smith (2-17–19) and Vigier (13-6–19) are tied for the lead in league scoring. And linemate Roger Trudeau (7-4–11) is no slug either–and he’s healthy.
Knock some wood already, would you please?
Trudeau had one goal, assisted by Smith and Vigier, in the win over Western. He had two of the three goals against Bowling Green (Vigier had the other one).
Duane Hoey (3.01 GAA, .884 SV%) had 28 saves in the win, while Dan Ragusett (2.83 GAA, .893 SV%) stopped 29 shots in the loss.
"We gave a really good effort Saturday at Bowling Green and even though we lost we played better than we did Friday at Western Michigan," says Northern head coach Rick Comley.
These teams have met five times, and Northern Michigan has come out ahead each time. The Wildcats swept the Nanooks last year, 5-4 (OT) and 7-3 in a two-game November series, then won 3-1 in February, all games at Lakeview Arena.
Comley says, "We’ll have to bring that same type of approach [that we used against Bowling Green] into this week’s game against Alaska-Fairbanks as we try to regain the level of play we were at earlier in the season."
Interestingly, this game pairs the only two CCHA teams left this season without a tie. In fact, the Wildcats have yet to see an overtime game this year.
Both of these teams play better on the road than they do at home. Still, Lakeview is a hostile arena for visiting teams, and the Nanooks are coming off a tough weekend.
When asked if the Nanooks will beat the Wildcats, the oracle said, "This is not as important as it seems. Put your mind elsewhere."
When asked if the Wildcats will beat the Nanooks, the oracle said, "Kiss and make up."
When I meditated on this game between Alaska-Fairbanks and Northern Michigan, the oracle offered this: "Slay the dragon–do not let fear hold you back."
Herbal tea, anyone?
Northern Michigan 4-2
Western Michigan (1-6-5, 1-6-5 CCHA) at Lake Superior (1-8-2, 1-6-2 CCHA) Friday, 7 p.m., Taffy Abel Arena, Sault Ste. Marie, MI Alaska-Fairbanks (4-8-0, 3-7-0 CCHA) at Lake Superior (1-8-2, 1-6-2 CCHA) Saturday, 7 p.m., Taffy Abel Arena, Sault Ste. Marie, MI
Lake Superior State can’t catch a break.
After defeating and tying Ferris State in Big Rapids, the Lakers took the red-hot Bulldogs into overtime at home, where they lost 1-0.
"It was disappointing because I thought we played well," says Laker head coach Scott Borek. "We got good goaltending, they got good goaltending. In the end it came down to goaltending–it was a well-played hockey game all around."
The Lakers outshot the Bulldogs 29-24. Sophomore Jayme Platt made 23 saves in the loss.
In spite of their record, says Borek, the Lakers remain optimistic, and the team comes ready to play every game.
"We have a great group of people in our locker room. They work their tails off. They’re young–so they have an ability to endure. They have to be happy with the level they’re playing at."
Borek says that it helps that fans are cutting this young team a little slack. Laker fans, notorious for making noise when their team is not performing up to fan expectations, are beginning to make noise of another kind.
The fans in the Soo are warming up to this team. This is the kind of team they like–a team that survives by work ethic. They gave us a standing ovation Saturday."
With three goals and three assists, Jeff Cheeseman remains the offensive leader for the Lakers. A leader in net, however, has yet to emerge for Lake Superior.
"Michael Brusseau," says Borek, "has single-handedly made our goaltending situation uncomfortable."
In this case, uncomfortable is a good thing.
Sophomore Rob Galatiuk looked to be the starter at the beginning of the season, but he faltered and sophomore Jayme Platt saw time between the pipes. He faltered, too.
Enter Brusseau. In two games, Brusseau has a 1.45 GAA and a .939 save percentage. According to Borek, the team plays better in front of Brusseau than either Galatiuk or Platt, who, as good friends, weren’t pushing each other enough to be competitive.
Now Brusseau is out indefinitely with a deep thigh bruise, and Borek says that Platt and Galatiuk are playing and practicing more competitively. Each will see ice time this weekend.
Western Michigan vs. Lake Superior
The Lakers lead this all-time series 53-29-10. On November 6, Lake Superior’s Tobin Praznik scored with six seconds to go forced the first game of the season series into overtime, and each team got a point in the 2-2 tie.
Last week the Broncos lost 6-3 to Northern Michigan before tying Miami 1-1. Rookie goaltender Jeff Reynaert made his first collegiate start against the Wildcats, making 24 saves in the game.
It was Frank Novock’s third-period power-play goal that tied the game for Western against Miami.
"We did a lot of good things and faltered in other areas last week," says Bronco head coach Bill Wilkinson. "We shot the puck better and created more opportunities, but at the same time had too many turnovers in our own end."
David Gove (4-5–9), Novock (2-6–8), Matt Addesa (4-3–7), and Chuck Mindel (3-4–7) lead the Western Michigan offense. Matt Barnes (2.73 league GAA, .897 SV%) is the usual starting goaltender for the Broncos.
Alaska-Fairbanks vs. Lake Superior
The Lakers lead this all-time series 2-12-0, and took last year’s season series 2-1-0. The Nanooks and the Lakers split a two-game November series at the Soo, with UAF winning 6-2, and LSSU winning 8-2. Lake Superior won the February rubber match 2-1 in Sault Ste. Marie.
Alaska-Fairbanks travels south after losing two games to Ohio State in Fairbanks.
Jim Lawrence (6-2–8), Chris Kirwan (5-2–7), Ryan Reinheller (2-5–7), and Mike Jaros (1- 5–6) have been providing the offense for the Nanooks this season.
Western brings an eight-game winless streak (0-4-4) into Friday’s game, and are off to their slowest start in school history with just one win in 12 games.
The Nanooks–a good team that hasn’t found a rhythm yet–bring some very good goaltending, speed, and forechecking to the Soo for this game.
"The trouble with playing these two teams back to back is that they are totally different," says Borek. "Western and we match up extremely well. We both play the zone.
"The Nanooks use the whole rink as well as anyone. They’re very difficult to prepare for. This year I think they know they’re good, and they’re giving themselves every chance to win."
An interesting note is the number of penalty minutes each team averages. The Broncos and Nanooks–in the past notorious for penalties–each average about 19 minutes per game, which is in the middle of the CCHA penalty stats.
The Lakers are averaging about 22 minutes per game, and the penalties have cost them. In games where the Lakers commit ten or fewer penalties, they’re 1-3-2; when they commit 11 or more penalties, they’re 0-5-0.
When asked if Western Michigan would beat Lake Superior, the oracle said, "This is not as important as it seems. Put your mind elsewhere."
When asked if Lake Superior would beat Western Michigan, the oracle said, "A friend will give you the answer next week.
But a real friend would give me the answer now.
When I meditated on the Western Michigan-Lake Superior game, the oracle gave me this: "Stay on target–the arrow will fly true."
When asked if UAF will beat Lake Superior, the oracle said, "Don’t count too much on it."
When asked if Lake Superior will beat Alaska-Fairbanks, the oracle said, "Visualize it."
When I meditated on the Nanook-Laker game, the oracle offered, "The sunset may be a sight, but the sunrise will be more than that."
Ah! Yes. Of course. Who am I to argue–this time–with the oracle?
Fairbanks has better goaltending than Lake State, but perhaps the Lakers catch a break.
Western over Lake 3-2; Lake over Fairbanks 3-2.
Western Michigan (1-6-5, 1-6-5 CCHA) at No. 9 Ferris State (9-3-2, 8-3-1 CCHA) Saturday, 7 p.m., Ewigleben Arena, Big Rapids, MI
Since losing 3-1 to Lake Superior on Nov. 14, the Bulldogs are 4-0-0, having swept Northern Michigan in two games in Marquette, beaten Notre Dame 4-2 in a Tuesday night game, and most recently defeated the Lakers 1-0 in OT last weekend at the Soo.
The Bulldogs are, in part, riding the wave of sophomore goaltender Vince Owen.
Owen stopped 61 shots in his last two game, the 1-0 win over Lake and the 4-2 win over Notre Dame. For those two games, his GAA was 0.96, and his save percentage was .967.
Against Northern Michigan, he allowed just two goals for a 1.00 GAA and a .971 save percentage. Owen is this week’s U.S. College Hockey Online Defensive Player of the Week.
Joel Irwin leads the Bulldogs in scoring (4-6–10), followed by Brian McCullough (4-5–9), Geoff Bennetts (8-1–9), and Kevin Swider (4-4–8).
Ferris State seems to have come into its own, finally, with a talented senior class and a balanced team that shares scoring and defensive duties. The Bulldogs are also fifth in league power play, and third in league penalty killing.
The team unlucky enough to draw the hottest squad in the league this week is Western Michigan. The Broncos are 0-4-4 in their last eight outings.
Western leads the all-time series 50-25-5, but dropped its season opener to Ferris State on October 9 by the score of 3-1.
"Ferris State is coming off two wins, including a big one over Notre Dame," says Western Michigan head coach Bill Wilkinson. "Our focus against…is to come out with some jump in our legs and continue to apply pressure in the offensive zone."
When asked if Western Michigan will beat Ferris State, the oracle said, "Yes, but don’t worry so much."
When asked if the Bulldogs will beat the Broncos, the oracle said, "No problem!"
When I meditated on the Western Michigan-Ferris State game, "Your relatives do not know everything."
That’s a relief.
Ferris State 3-1
Nebraska-Omaha (2-10-0) at No. 8 Michigan State (8-3-2, 6-2-2 CCHA) Friday and Saturday, Munn Arena, East Lansing, MI
In this historic series, the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks play their first-ever CCHA opponents in a sort of preview of the 1999-2000 season, when the Mavs officially join the league.
While Nebraska-Omaha looks this weekend to learn a little about the way things are done in the CCHA, head coach Mike Kemp says that "every weekend is a learning experience."
"These are only the forty-sixth and forty-seventh games in the history of our program. We’re learning on the run, playing as we go."
With only 45 games under their belts and no experience whatsoever in the CCHA, the Mavericks will be taking all kinds of notes this weekend.
"For us it becomes a great opportunity to understand or to see what’s expected of us when we join the league," says Kemp. "Far from being a measuring stick this should be a reality check for our players to see what it takes to play in this league."
Michigan State head coach Ron Mason says he’s pleased the Spartans are the first to welcome the Mavericks to the league.
"I’m really happy we’re playing them," says Mason. "When we originally scheduled them they weren’t in the league. Now that they’re accepted this will give fans at Munn and in the league a chance to see them.
"Our fans here have seen a lot of new teams over the years. When I was [coaching] at Lake and BG, we fought as hard as we could to play established teams and I had tremendous respect for the established teams that would play us. Since then I’ve said that if I were ever in the position to do the same thing for developing programs, I’d return the favor."
As "western" as Nebraska may seem to fans in the CCHA, Kemp says that he thinks the Central Collegiate Hockey Association will be the perfect home for the Mavericks. Joining the CCHA "became an opportunity to get into a league in 1999-2000," says Kemp.
The WCHA wasn’t willing to let Nebraska-Omaha into the league until the 2000-2001 season. That, said Kemp, was unfair to his current players, who are working hard to build a hockey tradition in Omaha. "I want to see as many kids in our program get the chance to play for something, not just to play.
"Also, joining the CCHA helps expand our recruiting base. It opens doors in Ontario and in the U.S. under-18 program.
"And there were unfavorable financial ramifications for joining the WCHA, requirements we weren’t happy with."
So, welcome to the league, Mavs.
UNO’s first league opponents won and lost last weekend in the College Hockey Showcase. The Spartans beat Wisconsin 3-1 and lost to Minnesota 2-1 in Madison and Minneapolis, respectively.
The win proved costly for Michigan State, as junior center Shawn Horcoff and rookie left winger Joe Goodenow were injured Friday night. Goodenow (pulled groin) is questionable for this week, but Horcoff (right knee) will be out at least one to two weeks; he may be able to return for Michigan State’s Dec. 12 game against Northern Michigan.
Mason says that he’s pleased with the way the Spartans competed out west. "We played well Sunday in spite of the injuries." Sophomore John Nail scored the only Michigan State goal against Minnesota after being moved up to the first line to fill in for Horcoff.
With two goals and 12 assists in 11 conference games, Mike York leads the Spartans in scoring. On his heels are Bryan Adams (7-3–10) and the injured Horcoff (4-6–10).
In net for Michigan State is the league-leading Joe Blackburn. The sophomore has a 1.48 GAA and .915 save percentage in CCHA play.
Last weekend, the Mavericks split a home series against Dartmouth, losing 2-1 Friday and winning 7-4 Saturday.
Sophomores Billy Pugliese (3-6–9) and James Chalmers (0-8–9) lead UNO in scoring. Junior Kendall Sidoruk (3.33 GAA, .895 SV%) and senior Jason Mitchell (5.52 GAA, .837 SV%) share the netminding duties.
The Spartans are returning home for the first time in a month–a distinct advantage, since Michigan State is unbeaten in its last 19 games in Munn, which is just one short of the school record of 20 games, set from Jan. 4 to Nov. 1, 1986.
Mason says of these games, "We’re going to look at this as a league series but not a league series."
With only two wins on the season, the Mavericks are having the same kinds of troubles, it seems, that many CCHA teams are experiencing.
"We have an inability to score," says Kemp. "When you’re a team as young as we are, with not a lot of experience, injuries hurt a lot.
"And we’ve been experiencing this inability to finish."
Inability to score and finish? Sounds like you’re joining the right league, Mike.
When asked, "Will Michigan State sweep UNO?" the oracle responded, "Not at all."
When asked, "Will UNO sweep MSU?" the oracle said, "The answer will come next week."
When I meditated on the series, I was given this message: "Those who sow in sadness will reap in joy."
Michigan State 3-1, 3-1