On Wednesday, Jan. 6, the family of college hockey lost one of its most ardent supporters when former University of Michigan men’s ice hockey sports information director Brian Fishman died of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.
Fishman–or Fish, as he was known to most of us–had just returned from Winnipeg where he was working for Team USA in Marketing and Promotions during the World Juniors. Fish had just taken a job with USA’s 18-Under team this season.
Brian Fishman was just 29 years old.
I met Fish when we were both rookies–he a rookie SID, and me a cub reporter. It was the first match of the season between the Wolverines and the Buckeyes, and it was in the little OSU Ice Rink. Now, what you need to know about the little old rink is that its press box is about 30 feet long and five feet wide, and the whole set-up is dissected by ladder-like steps that can only euphemistically be called stairs.
So, there wasn’t a lot of elbow room in the place, and Michigan traveled with an entourage. When Fish arrived, he was dismayed to find that I had a seat in the box. He didn’t consider the Michigan weekly newspaper I worked for then "legitimate press." The nickname "Girl Reporter" following my name on the place card probably didn’t help much either.
While I was keeping warm in the rink lobby before the game, Fish petitioned John Patterson, the OSU SID at the time, to have me removed from the box. Patterson told Fish that if anyone was going to be moved to the stands, it would be Fish and not me. When I returned, I heard six different versions of the story–none of them flattering Fish, given Ohio State’s attitude toward anything residing in Ann Arbor–and an affectionate, sometimes adversarial, mostly mutually satisfactory relationship was born.
What I remember most about Fish is his intensity. That incident in the OSU press box serves to illustrate what people in Ann Arbor knew very well about Brian Fishman; he would fight as hard as he could to get as much as he could for the Wolverines, even if the gain were just two feet of space in an unheated press box.
He was steadfast and loyal, and he loved Michigan hockey.
Aside from our shaky first meeting, there are many images of Fish that stand alone in memory. Fish leaping out of his chair, three rows in front of me, as Brendan Morrison drove home Michigan’s 1996 NCAA National Championship in Cincinnati. A calmer Fish as the Wolverines won it in overtime again last year.
There was Fish running the press box at Yost for so many games, but especially for the NCAA Western Regionals last season. Brian thrived on the pressure, and spun like a dervish. It was 80 degrees in Yost last March for those games, and I don’t think he ever broke a sweat.
There was the Brian Fishman who faxed reams of statistics to Hobey Baker voters, pushing Bill Muckalt and Marty Turco in vain.
Fishman, whose post-season media guide was so thorough that you needed the offseason just to get through it.
Fishman, who delighted in debate, with a social fearlessness second to none, and an all- consuming desire to make sure that the Wolverines–his players, his boys–got every possible bit of attention, and then some.
One of my favorite hours with him was spent in a bar in Grand Rapids, Mich., during the 1996-97 NCAA Western Regionals. I was late in arriving, having covered both playoff games under deadline. The usual cast of characters was there–officials, press, fans, sports info people.
Fish took me aside as soon as he saw me, and sheepishly asked, "Did you see that? Did you see?"
Of course I hadn’t, but apparently Fish and Scott Monaghan (currently with the USA Hockey program) had mixed it up verbally, as each was fond of doing. "Well," Fish said, nodding in Monaghan’s direction, "you can guess who got the better of that." He was blushing.
It was a funny and touching moment with a man who never shied from anything difficult, a man who rarely let down his professional guard. Over beer that evening, having lost some loud and public and vocal point to Monaghan, Fish confided, "Sometimes, I think I’m too much for people."
In retrospect, Brian Fishman was never too much. Intense, vibrant, confrontational, affectionate, devoted, thorough, professional, loyal, verbose, serious, funny, guarded, incredibly intelligent–Brian Fishman was all these things, and many more to his college hockey family.
Last week’s record in picks: 8-4 Overall record in picks: 64-46
No. 5 Michigan (15-4-2, 12-2-1 CCHA) at Ferris State (10-7-3, 9-7-2 CCHA) Friday, 7 p.m., Ewigleben Arena, Big Rapids, MI Northern Michigan (13-9-0, 8-8-0 CCHA) at Ferris State (10-7-3, 9-7-2 CCHA) Saturday, 7 p.m., Ewigleben Arena, Big Rapids, MI
Michigan at Ferris State
The Wolverines and the Bulldogs each proved something in a two-game series at Yost Arena last weekend. Michigan proved it has what it takes to beat teams lower in the CCHA standings, and Ferris State proved it has what it takes to compete with upper-tier teams.
The Wolverines beat the Bulldogs 3-2 and 4-3, finding a way to win in spite of Vince Owen’s gutsy performance in net for Ferris State Friday night. Owen made 27 saves as the Wolverines outshot the Bulldogs 30-19 on Friday; the shots were even at 22 each Saturday.
These games were even down the stretch for each team. In Friday’s game, it was Michigan who had to come from behind for the win. On Saturday, when the Wolverines had a two-goal lead, the Bulldogs scored in the third to pull within one.
Friday’s game went a long way toward proving that Michigan depends upon three or four key players: Mike Comrie (7-10-17), Jeff Jillson (2-7–9), Josh Langfeld (8-3–11), and Dale Rominski (6-3–9). Comrie, Langfeld, and Jillson scored the goals, in that order; Rominski assisted on the third.
Comrie had the unassisted game-winning goal for the Wolverines at :32 in the third period in the second game. Jillson was named CCHA Rookie of the Week.
When Jillson was playing in the World Juniors and Langfeld was out with a shoulder injury, the Wolverines lost 1-0 to Ohio State. At the GLI, Rominski was out with the ‘flu for Michigan’s game with Michigan Tech, and was instrumental in the Wolverine’s attempt to turn the title game around, from the mid-way point in the second period through the end of the game.
Mark Kosick (4-8–12), Mike Van Ryn (5-4–9), Dave Huntzicker (2-7–9), and Bubba Berenzweig (3-8–11) are also important to the Wolverine scoring committee, although Berenzweig has struggled this season defensively, often on the ice when opponents score.
Both teams are more defensive than offensive, and the Bulldogs also depend on a handful of players to create scoring chances. Brian McCullough (5-7–12), Brent Wishart (4-6–10), Joel Irwin (6-7–13), and Kevin Swider (5-5–10) lead the Bulldog offense. McCullough had a goal and an assist against the Wolverines last weekend.
Do not forget the surprising Kenzie Homer when you think of Bulldog hockey. Homer (6-3– 12) may not lead the team in scoring, but he’s the Bulldog leader in plus/minus at +12.
Like Michigan’s Berenzweig, the Bulldogs also have a defenseman who’s on-ice for many opponent goals. Irwin, the team’s scoring leader, has a zero plus/minus ranking.
In goal, each team has a goaltender who can hold his own. Michigan’s Josh Blackburn is third in the league in goaltending stats, with a 1.54 league GAA and a .930 save percentage. For Ferris State, Owen (2.12 GAA, .926 SV%) is fourth in the league.
The Wolverines are outshooting league opponents 26.53-22.33, and outscoring them 46-25. The Bulldogs are being outshot by league opponents 28.44-27.13, but they’re outscoring opponents 48-33. Clearly, Ferris State needs Vince Owen to remain hot.
This game is equally important for each team. The Wolverines, one point and a game in hand behind the league-leading Spartans, need to keep pace with Michigan State in the hope of overtaking them down the road.
The Bulldogs are just two points behind third-place Ohio State, but have two games in hand on the Buckeyes. Ferris State helped its own cause by beating Alaska-Fairbanks 4-1 as Ohio State lost to Miami. OSU plays two non-conference games this weekend, and Ferris State can overtake them with two wins.
It’s hard to beat Ferris State at home, but Michigan appears to be driven. Still, a Ferris State upset wouldn’t be much of a surprise.
Northern Michigan at Ferris State
The Wildcats were idle last week. This game, incidentally, is the 900th collegiate contest in Northern Michigan hockey history.
In sixth place with 16 points, the Wildcats have to make a move now if they’re going to try for home-ice in the CCHA playoffs.
This is precisely what the ‘Cats did last year; after starting the season on a tear, they experienced a mid-season slump before securing fourth place at the end of the season.
It’s not secret what’s been hurting for Northern Michigan. When you have two players tied for fifth in league scoring, and another with eight league goals, some of the trouble has to be with the defense.
Buddy Smith (2-18–20) and linemate J.P. Vigier (14-6–20) are among the league leaders in conference scoring. Linemate Roger Trudeau (8-4–12) has posted impressive stats himself.
While the Wildcats have tallied an impressive 50 goals in 16 conference games, Northern has given up 52 league goals. Dan Ragusett (2.88 GAA, .888 SV%) and Duane Hoey (3.27 GAA, .866 SV%) are ninth and eleventh in league goaltending, and have split time in net for the Wildcats.
Another problem the Wildcats face is a lack of real scoring depth. The Smith-Vigier-Trudeau line is responsible for half of Northern’s goals.
The ‘Cats trail Notre Dame by three points in the standings, and the Irish have a game in hand on Northern Michigan.
The Bulldogs swept Northern Michigan two games in Marquette earlier this season, 4-2 and 2-0. Ferris State needs to win this game to prove that not only can it play with the big boys, but it can handle the local competition as well.
Ferris State 4-2
No. 2 Michigan State (18-3-2, 12-2-2 CCHA) at Bowling Green (10-10-1, 6-8-1 CCHA) Friday, 7 p.m., BGSU Ice Arena, Bowling Green, OH Lake Superior (4-13-3, 3-9-2 CCHA) at Bowling Green (10-10-1, 6-8-1 CCHA) Saturday, 7 p.m., BGSU Ice Arena, Bowling Green, OH
Michigan State at Bowling Green
Last week, with a 5-1 win over Miami and a 3-1 win over Bowling Green, the Spartans did what they had to do–they took care of business to stay one step ahead of the Wolverines.
In the 5-1 win over Miami, Mike York notched his second hat trick of the season. With his six points on the weekend, York (7-16–23) earned CCHA Offensive Player of the Week honors, and moved to second place among CCHA scoring leaders, tied with Notre Dame’s Ben Simon.
The undefeated Mike Gresl (0.75 GAA, .960 SV%) had the win for the Spartans Friday, and Joe Blackburn (1.40 GAA, .922 SV%) tallied his eighth conference victory of the season.
Gresl and Blackburn are now the top two goaltenders in the league. This is a statistic, however, that may say more about the Michigan State defense than it does about either goaltender, no matter how good each may be.
The Spartans are outscoring league opponents 54-20, and outshooting them 521-294. That’s an average of 32.56-18.36 per game, for the best defensive effort in college hockey.
The Spartans are currently riding a ten-game win streak, during which they’ve outscored opponents 35-10. In this streak, Michigan State has killed off 44 of 47 penalties and scored six shorthanded goals.
Through the last 10 Spartan games, York has been on fire, with 11 goals and four assists.
The whole Spartan team, by the way, is at a staggering +127.
Bowling Green gets to face this hot Michigan State team for the second week in a row. The Falcons are playing much better than they were last season, but they’re still having big trouble defensively, from the net out.
Mike Savard (3.42 GAA, .879 SV%) is the usual Falcon starter, while Shawn Timm (4.76 GAA, .776) has been in for relief in four league games.
Dan Price (5-14–19) and Adam Edinger (8-11–19) are a lethal combo for the Falcons, and a lot of fun to watch; each is a playmaker, and Price is fast, skilled, and smart. Mike Jones (5-10– 15) and Ryan Murphy (4-11–15) have been producing points for Bowling Green as well.
But the team as a whole is at -67 in conference play; while outshooting opponents on average 32.60-28.67, the Falcons are being outscored in league play 47-60.
Damon Whitten (6-2–8), Bryan Adams (11-4–15), and York had the goals in the 3-1 Spartan win over BG last week. Grady Moore (1-4–5) scored the loan Falcon goal, with Edinger and Murphy assisting.
BG is a tough place to play for any team, but the Spartans should be able to dispatch of any middle-of-the-pack CCHA opponent at this point. It may not be easy if the Falcons fight hard, but Michigan State will win to stay atop the conference.
Michigan State 4-1
Lake Superior at Bowling Green
The Lakers split a pair of games with the Buckeyes last week, losing 8-2 on Thursday, then catching the Buckeyes off-guard for a 3-2 win Saturday.
By the start of the third period Thursday, Ohio State had a 5-0 lead. Tobin Praznik (5-2–7) and Bart Redden (1-2–3) had the goals in the Laker loss. Jayme Platt (2.47 GAA, .912 SV%) and Mike Brusseau (2.63 GAA, .905 SV%) combined for an underwhelming performance in the Laker net.
On Saturday, Jeff Cheeseman (5-3–8), Trent Walford (1-7–8) and Mike Kucsulain (3-3–6) watched from the stands as Jeremy Bachusz (2-3–5), Mike Vigilante (2-6–6), and Fred Slukynsky (5-2–7) scored for the Lakers. Brusseau looked very impressive with 36 saves.
The Lakers are a study in inconsistency. While they wait for one goaltender or another to step up and take the starting position, they don’t know how to play from game to game in front the netminder du jour.
A young team, they seem to lack a team identity and strong direction.
The Falcons are focused. They need points to remain in the hunt for a playoff position. They need to keep pace with other teams clustered near the sixth-place spot, and they need to distance themselves from the bottom teams in the league.
Lake Superior may see better goaltending in this match, but the Falcons have proven that they can win simply by wearing down the defense of their opponents.
Bowling Green 4-2
Lake Superior (4-13-3, 3-9-2 CCHA) at Miami (5-15-4, 3-12-3 CCHA) Friday, 7 p.m., Goggin Arena, Oxford, OH No. 2 Michigan State (18-3-2, 12-2-2 CCHA) at Miami (5-15-4, 3-12-3 CCHA) Saturday, 7 p.m, The Crown, Cincinnati, OH
The RedHawks lost 5-1 to Michigan State and 2-0 to Notre Dame last weekend before winning 4-3 in overtime against Ohio State Tuesday.
For Miami, senior goaltender Andy Marsch looked solid in the Notre Dame loss and the win over the Buckeyes. Marsch (3.47 GAA, .876 SV%) had 35 saves against the Irish, and 23 against the Buckeyes.
Marsch may split time in net with Ian Olsen (3.31 GAA, .892 SV%), who made 28 saves against the Spartans. Olsen’s major flaw this season has been inconsistency; he’ll make huge saves, then let in soft goals.
Jason Deskins (5-6–11), Mark Shalawylo (6-7–13), Alex Kim (6-7–13), and Ernie Hartlieb (3-4–7) lead the RedHawk offense. Hartlieb, Kim, Josh Mizerek (1-6–7), and Shalawylo had the goals against Ohio State; Pat Leahy (2-3–5) had the lone goal against Michigan State.
This very young team–with a dozen players not yet 20 years old–plays with heart, character, and fire, as evidenced by the come-from-behind win over Ohio State. Shalawylo is perhaps the most skilled player for the ‘Hawks; the junior needs just two more points this season to equal his total offensive output in his first two years at Miami.
Miami is being badly outshot by league opponents, 22.44-30.28, and outscored 40-61.
Miami is better capable of sustaining three solid periods of play than is Lake Superior–even more so in Goggin.
Against the Spartans, the RedHawks will have a harder time.
Miami 4-2 over Lake Superior; Michigan State 4-1 over Miami
Northern Michigan (13-9-0, 8-8-0 CCHA) at Western Michigan (3-10-6, 2-9-6 CCHA) Friday, 7 p.m., Lawson Arena, Kalamazoo, MI Western Michigan (3-10-6, 2-9-6 CCHA) No. 5 Michigan (15-4-2, 12-2-1 CCHA) Saturday, 7 p.m., Yost Ice Arena, Ann Arbor, MI
The Broncos need points to vie for that eighth playoff position. It’s doubtful that they’ll get them this weekend.
Western and Alaska-Fairbanks split a pair in Lawson last weekend, with the Broncos taking the first game 3-2 and the Nanooks winning 4-1 the second night. The wash leaves the two teams tied for eighth place, with ten points each.
David Gove (5-8–13), Frank Novock (3-10–13), Chuck Mindel (7-4–11), Corey Waring (5- 4–9), and Matt Addesa (4-4–8) lead the Broncos in scoring. Gove, Novock, and Waring have been placed online together in an effort to jumpstart the Western offense.
There isn’t a single Bronco on the plus side of plus/minus. The team as a whole is -158 in conference play; the top five scorers are -47 combined.
In net for Western, both Matt Barnes (3.03 GAA, .891 SV%) and Jeff Reynaert (3.65 GAA, .892 SV%) have been more than respectable, with little help from a defense that has allowed 531 shots on goal.
The good news for Western Michigan is that their time in the penalty box is down by 19 percent from last season.
The bad news? It doesn’t seem to matter. The Broncos are being outscored 35-65 in conference play. The Western power play and penalty kill are both middle-of-the-conference.
Western’s defense will be no match for Northern’s offense, and with such a low-powered Bronco attack, Western may not score on Michigan at all.
Northern over Western 4-1; Michigan over Western 3-0
Alaska-Fairbanks (6-14-0, 5-13-0) at No. 8 Notre Dame (12-6-2, 9-5-1 CCHA) Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m., Joyce Center, South Bend, IN
The Nanooks are 1-2-0 in their last three games, all on the road, having split with Western Michigan (3-2 loss, 4-1 win) and lost to Ferris State 4-1.
Daniel Carriere (2-2–4) and Kerry Hafele (3-4–7) had the goals in the loss to Western. Jamie Coady (4-2–6), Darren Tiemstra (2-4–6), Pat Hallett (5-0–5) and Dwayne Zinger (2-3–5) notched the goals in the win. Zinger also scored the only goal–unassisted–against Ferris State.
Ian Perkins (4.11 GAA, .881 SV%) made 48 saves in the two games against the Broncos. Perkins and Chris Marvel (3.33 GAA, .891 SV%) combined for 25 saves against Ferris.
Hallett seems able to score only when he visits Michigan; his four previous goals this season came at the expense of Lake Superior in one game at the Soo.
The Nanooks offense is led by Jim Lawrence (6-6–12), Chris Kirwan (6-3–9), Sjon Wynia (3-4–7) and Hafele.
The Fairbanks power play converts at only about 8 percent; the Nanooks are 2-for-20 with the man advantage in their last three games. In conference play, UAF is being outscored by opponents 44- 71.
A more telling stat for this weekend series is the Nanook penalty kill, which is successful about 80 percent of the time–dead-last in the league. UAF faces the highest-octane power play in the league when playing Notre Dame. The Irish convert 22 percent of their power-play opportunities. Eighteen of the 53 Irish league goals–or about a third–have come on the Notre Dame power play.
As did the Wolverines and the Spartans, the Irish took care of business when they needed to last weekend, beating Bowling Green 4-1 and Miami 2-0.
Forrest Karr (2.59 GAA, .901 SV%) had 48 saves on the weekend, including 26 in the win over Miami, his second shutout of the season. Karr is this week’s CCHA Defensive Player of the Week.
Ben Simon (9-14–23), Brian Urick (9-13–22), Aniket Dhadphale (7-7–14), Dan Carlson (3- 11–14), and David Inman (5-5–10) lead the Notre Dame offense, one of the most prolific in the league.
Simon and MSU’s Mike York are tied for second in league points; Urick is fourth; Dhadphale and Carlson are tied for fifteenth.
Simon and Urick are tied with OSU’s Hugo Boisvert for goals scored; Simon is tied with BG’s Dan Price for fourth in assists, and Urick is fifth.
Urick is second in the league in power-play goals (5), tied with Miami’s Alex Kim; Dhadphale and Simon are tied with a host of other CCHA players for fifth in PPGs, with three each.
The Irish are outscoring their opponents 53-34, and limiting opponents to 24 shots on goal on average per game, while shooting 31 times per game themselves.
The Nanooks are tied with Western Michigan in points, vying for that eighth playoff berth. They’ll play hard, and make Notre Dame work at home for points.
With 19 points–just one point behind Ferris State and a game in hand on the Bulldogs–the Irish can not only leap-frog over Ferris this weekend, but surpass Ohio State (23 points). These points are as critical to Notre Dame as they are to UAF; after this weekend, the Irish will still have a game in hand on both Ferris State and Ohio State.
Notre Dame 4-1, 4-2
Ohio State (11-10-2, 10-6-2 CCHA) at Cornell (7-5-2, 4-2-2 ECAC) Friday, 7:30 p.m., Lynah Rink, Ithaca, NY Ohio State (11-10-2, 10-6-2 CCHA) at Colgate (11-5-1, 6-2-0 ECAC) Sunday, noon, Starr Rink, Hamilton, NY
As the second half of the season began, the Buckeyes were on the verge of showing the college hockey world that they’d arrived. With five consecutive wins over ranked teams–including a 1-0 shutout of Michigan–and an 8-2 win over last-place Lake Superior last Thursday, surely Ohio State was had proved that the Bucks were for real.
Perhaps it was a case of putting the cart before the horse. After delivering a good, old- fashioned thrashing to the Lakers Thursday, Ohio State lost to Lake Superior 3-2 Saturday, then lost to ninth-place Miami 4-3 in overtime Tuesday.
In the first game against Lake Superior, Ohio State looked unbeatable.
In the second game against Lake and the game against Miami, the Buckeyes looked unfocused, undisciplined, and unready to play.
Ohio State lost the season series to Miami 2-1-0. This is the same team that tied Michigan State 1-1-1 on the season.
Will the real Ohio State Buckeyes please stand up?
Hugo Boisvert (9-15–24) leads Ohio State–and the CCHA–in scoring. If you haven’t seen Boisvert play, you’re missing quite a show. The junior centerman has clawed his way to the top of the CCHA in scoring in spite of playing without a left-winger all season, and without much help from long-time linemate Eric Meloche (3-6–9), who has yet to awaken offensively this season.
Boisvert scored on a penalty shot against Miami’s Andy Marsch; the Buckeye could’ve been alone on the ice.
Chris Richards (5-11–16) centers the interesting Buckeye second line. J.F. Dufour (5-5–10) has been moved from the first line to the second, and seems very happy there. Right-winger Neal Rech (2-2–4) rounds out a line that threatens on the breakaway in every game. Sooner or later, they’ll score.
Richards and Rech also combine on the Ohio State penalty kill, which has its moments, with an 89 percent success rate (3rd CCHA).
In net for Ohio State are Jeff Maund (2.58 GAA, .913 SV% overall) and Ray Aho (2.98 GAA, .918 SV% overall). Maund looked awesome in the 8-2 win over Lake, looked shaky in the 3-2 loss to the Lakers, and looked solid in the 4-3 loss to Miami. Aho may see some time this weekend.
The Buckeyes are outscoring overall opponents 67-63 (51-42 CCHA). Ohio State’s nonconference record is abysmal this season, at 1-3-0. The Buckeyes know full well that they need to make a good showing in these games for the sake of NCAA post-season consideration.
The Buckeyes face a Big Red team Friday night that is winless in its last three games, having lost 7-3 to Providence, tied St. Lawrence 3-3, and lost to Clarkson 6-2.
The Colgate Red Raiders were idle last weekend, and split a pair of games the weekend before, a 4-3 (OT) win over Clarkson, and a 3-2 loss to St. Lawrence.
For more on Cornell and Colgate, read Becky Blaeser and Jayson Moy’s ECAC weekly preview.
Picking Ohio State defies logic in this weekend series, but Notre Dame has taught me the value of blind faith this season. The Buckeyes have enough talent to play with and beat anyone in the country. Whether or not they show for these games is anyone’s guess.
Total conference homer picks.
Ohio State 4-2 over Cornell, 4-2 over Colgate