Couple this with upsets, suspensions, and ties, and you’ve got a whole lot of CCHA fans who are getting downright squirrelly.
Now, if your roommate or spouse or child is chanting, "Bring me Shegos" while watching The Shining, you may be witnessing some small symptoms of S.A.D., or Seasonal Another-call-goes-against-my-team-and-I’m-going-to-snap Disorder. Relax; this behavior is perfectly normal for any rabid college hockey fan at this time of year.
But if your roommate or spouse or child looks at you with eyes glazed and mouth watering and evenly declares, "Gee, I’d really like a hot dog from Yost Arena," or, "Do you think they rent out that Puck Boy suit?" then, CCHA fan, you’ve got some real problems.
In the interest of mental health, we at USCHO have researched ways for you to beat those occasional and sometimes bizarre hockey-related seasonal blues.
(Disclaimer: The writer of this article did not consult anyone else before presenting the opinions expressed here as those of the entire USCHO staff. In fact, she’s a bit loopy, having seen the sun just three days out of the last 30, and having loaded up on carbos before doing any of the research. She’s also the only member of the USCHO staff who would use the word derriere when discussing hockey.)
Dr. Russell G. Robertson, Associate Professor of Family and Community Medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin (http://healthlink.mcw.edu), says there are three things you can do to chase away the blahs:
1. Monitor your activity level. 2. Call someone who is usually upbeat or positive and have a pleasant conversation with him or her. 3. Make an effort to do something kind for someone else.
The first one should be easy. You can increase your activity level by, say, simply shoveling out enough snow and sleet to get the four-wheeler out of the driveway to make it to the rink in time for the Big Game. We at USCHO remain convinced that getting up from your seat at the Big Game to make that second trip for nachos also counts as increased activity.
Having a pleasant conversation may be a little harder to do. Forget the fact that it’s hard to find someone positive at this time of year, what with the impending playoffs, the pressure for points, and did you see that open-ice hit that wasn’t even called, dammit, not even called!
But perhaps the effort it takes to locate a positive, upbeat person counts as increased activity. Remember, fans, pleasant conversation does not include calling an official’s lineage into question, discussing certain regional differences within the state of Michigan, or chanting, "You just suck! You just suck!"–no matter how much you’re smiling at the time.
Now, the third recommendation–doing something kind for someone else–is a bit trickier. We at USCHO imagine a Wolverine fan holding the door open for a Spartan fan, without the intention of letting it slam on said Spartan fan’s derriere.
Technically speaking, the suggestion is to make an effort to do something kind, and mentions nothing about the act itself. So, perhaps, if you’re a Bowling Green fan and you actually purchase a warm and fuzzy card to send to your favorite Buckeye coach, and you accidentally write the wrong address on the card before dropping it in the mail (forgetting, for a moment, that The Ohio State University is actually in Columbus, as opposed to, say, Hell), you’ve made the effort to do something nice, and hence achieved your goal of lifting your spirits.
We at USCHO are absolutely certain that defining all of the fans of one school as "white trash" on the USCHO Message Board does not constitute an act of kindness.
Now back to your regularly scheduled preview.
The No. 3 Michigan State Spartans still lead the league (29 points), and managed to gain a point on the Wolverines last weekend by tying Bowling Green 2-2, and beating Miami 5-1. This week, the Spartans travel to the Yoop to play Lake Superior State and Northern Michigan.
After losing to Ferris State 4-0 and beating Western Michigan 6-3, the No. 5 Michigan Wolverines remain in second place with 27 points. This week, Michigan hosts Bowling Green Thursday before heading to Ohio State Saturday.
No. 8 Notre Dame vaulted to third place (23 points) with back-to-back wins over Alaska-Fairbanks, 6-2 and 6-1. The Irish have the flip side of the Spartans’ itinerary, traveling to Northern Michigan before heading to Lake State.
Two teams are tied for fourth with 22 points each, and they square off Thursday night.
The Ferris State Bulldogs (what does this team need to do to be ranked?) beat UAF 4-1 Tuesday before blanking Michigan 4-0, then losing to Northern Michigan 2-1. The Bulldogs travel to Columbus to play Ohio State Thursday night before taking on Bowling Green Saturday.
The Ohio State Buckeyes did themselves few favors last week, dropping a 4-3 overtime decision to Miami on Tuesday, before b eating Cornell 5-3 and tying Colgate 2-2. The Buckeyes have a hard week ahead, hosting Ferris State Thursday and Michigan Saturday.
With 20 points, Northern Michigan is knocking on both the Bulldogs’ and the Buckeyes’ doors. Last weekend, the Wildcats beat Western Michigan 6-2 and Ferris State 2-1.
In seventh place with 16 points, the Bowling Green Falcons tied Michigan State 2-2 and beat Lake Superior 5-4. This weekend, the Falcons travel to Michigan Thursday before hosting Ferris State Saturday.
With the 4-3 overtime win over Ohio State and a 7-3 win over Lake State, the Miami RedHawks doubled their number of league wins on the season and lifted themselves into that very important eighth position in the league. Miami also lost to Michigan State Saturday night. The RedHawks are idle this week.
Since Miami isn’t playing, this is the place to mention that Mark Shalawylo was named the CCHA Offensive Player of the Week. Shalawylo scored the overtime game-winner against OSU, and tallied a hat trick–including the game-winning goal–against the Lakers.
Shalawylo was also named USCHO Offensive Player of the Week. This is big for both Shalawylo and the RedHawks. Congratulations!
Alaska-Fairbanks and Western Michigan are tied for ninth place with 10 points each, just one point behind Miami in the standings.
Last weekend, the Nanooks lost 4-1 to Ferris State, and twice to Notre Dame, 6-2 and 6-1. Fairbanks can gain no ground on the resting RedHawks this week, as they host Nebraska-Omaha for two games.
Western Michigan lost 6-2 to Northern Michigan, and 6-3 to Michigan last weekend. Fortunately for Miami, the Broncos are also playing nonconference games this weekend, heading east to Rensselaer for two games.
With eight points, the Lakers are in last place in the league. Lake Superior State lost 7-3 to Miami, and 5-4 to Bowling Green. The Lakers host Michigan State and Northern this weekend.
Last week’s record in picks:9-5 Overall record in picks:73-51
Ties, ties, and more ties!
Ferris State (11-8-3, 10-6-2 CCHA) at Ohio State (12-10-3, 12-6-2 CCHA) Thursday, 7 p.m., Schottenstein Center, Columbus, OH No. 5 Michigan (16-5-2, 13-3-1 CCHA) at Ohio State (12-10-3, 12-6-2 CCHA) Saturday, 8 p.m., Schottenstein Center, Columbus, OH
Oh, how the mighty have, well, stumbled.
After trouncing Lake Superior State 8-2 over a week ago, the Buckeyes lost to Lake 3-2, and then lost to Miami 4-3 in overtime.
This Ohio State team has taken a season series from No. Notre Dame (2-0-0), is tied in the season series with No. 3 Michigan State (1-1-1), and delivered the Wolverines their first shutout of the season.
The loss to Miami means that Ohio State lost the season series with the RedHawks, 1-2-0.
"This is a whole new situation for this team, for this organization, for this coaching staff," says OSU head coach John Markell.
Markell isn’t referring to the two losses. What he’s talking about is the struggle to maintain the kind of success that the Buckeyes experienced last season.
"It’s a learning process for us, and that’s a good thing. We’re still in the hunt."
A top-four finish is certainly a possibility for Ohio State, but realistically, the hunt for a first-place regular-season finish is over, given the number of points separating the Bucks from Michigan State and Michigan, the number of games remaining, and the schedules of the top five or six teams.
Markell didn’t hide his disappointment after the loss to Lake Superior, when he suggested that his players weren’t ready to challenge for the league title.
"The 8-2 game shot us in the foot. It made us completely lose our focus. After that game, we forgot what got us there."
What got the Buckeyes to the point where they could score eight goals in a game was teamwork, something Markell says is missing at times after the success of last season.
"All we cared about last year was ourselves as a team, because we were all we had." Markell says that individual players didn’t have individual goals, because there were no individuals on last year’s team. According to Markell, last season’s team–which sported a roster very close to this season’s team–took one game at a time, played this systems, and focused on playing each game for the good of the team.
Markell remains optimistic, however, about his team’s prospects for the rest of the season. "There’s a lot of hockey left this season, and if we get focused, we can do anything."
Last week, the Buckeyes beat Cornell 5-3 and tied Colgate 2-2. "It was a little bit of a break from league play, and I think it helped us in our focus."
In the 5-3 game, Ray Aho (2.21 GAA, .923 SV%) got his first win of the season, and Hugo Boisvert (9-15–24) notched a hat trick and two assists.
Two Buckeyes saw game time for the first time this season in New York. Freshman defenseman Matt Weber played respectably in the game against Colgate, and senior forward Brian Morrison played well enough in both games to earn a spot in this week’s lineup.
Missing from action will be Vinnie Grant (3-5–8)–a healthy scratch. Grant has dropped from third in scoring for the Bucks to seventh. Look for Ohio State to shake up the Chris Richards (5-11- -16)-Neal Rech (2-2–4) combo on that second line this week as well.
"Ferris State and Michigan scare the hell out of us," says Markell, "and they should."
Ferris State vs. Ohio State
The Bulldogs earned four points in three games last week, beating UAF 4-1, No. 5 Michigan 4-0, and losing to Northern Michigan 2-1.
Assistant coach Drew Famulak says of the loss, "It was our fifth game in eight days. I don’t think it was our ‘A’ game."
Famulak says that the Bulldogs are focused and are thinking about the task at hand as much as the big picture. "We play each game at a time. We did talk to our players a little bit when we played so many games in so few days. League points are important."
One of the biggest stories for Ferris State this season has been the performance of sophomore goaltender Vince Owen. In 17 league games, Owen has earned a 1.99 GAA and a .930 save percentage.
"He works hard, and he’s a pretty confident kid," says Famulak. "It took him a few games at the start of the season to get on track."
The top Bulldog line of Brent Wishart (4-7–11), Kevin Swider (7-5–12), and Joel Irwin (6-7–13) certainly leads Ferris State in many ways, but this is a team that scores by committee. Brian McCullough (7-7–14) is second on the team in scoring, and Famulak says Jim Dube (2-8– 10) has played especially well lately.
And watch out for Kenzie Homer. This big guy has points (6-3–9) and leads the team in the plus/minus ratio with a +14.
Famulak says the Bulldog penalty kill is good, and he’s right; Ferris State’s PK is fourth in the league, at .882.
The power play, though, says Famulak, is "streaky," performing at 14%, good enough for fifth in the league.
These are two evenly matched teams, in many ways. Like the Bulldogs, the Buckeyes score by committee. J.F. Dufour (5-5–10) seems especially happy in his new home on that second line with Richards.
Other Buckeye scoring threats include defenseman Andre Signoretti (3-7–10), Eric Meloche (3-6–9), and the streaky Brandon Lafrance (4-2–6, 7-5–12 overall), who has scored three goals in his past five games.
The Buckeyes have outscored opponents by a narrower margin, 51-42 to Ferris State’s 53-35 margin.
Defensively, the teams look fairly even as well. The Buckeyes are being outshot by opponents 516-517, while Ferris State is being outshot 496-510. The Bulldogs’ team plus/minus ratio is better, however.
Jeff Maund’s league save percentage is .922, with a 2.20 GAA. Owen’s numbers are .930 and 1.99. The two are fifth and third, respectively, among CCHA goaltenders in league play.
The OSU power play converts at 13.8% to Ferris State’s 14%. The Buckeye PK is second in the league at .894 (and it needs to be–the Bucks take a lot of penalties); Ferris State’s PK is fourth in .882.
"These are two teams battling for home playoff ice," says Famulak. The outcome of this season series may determine fourth place in the league.
When Jeff Maund’s head is in the game, there’s nobody better. When the Buckeyes are focused, there’s no better team. Notre Dame has taught me the value of blind faith, and this game is in Columbus–and the Buckeyes are already down one game this season to Ferris.
Ohio State 3-2
No. 5 Michigan vs. Ohio State
Michigan head coach Red Berenson says he had a lot to be unhappy about when his team lost to Ferris State 4-0. The shutout was one thing, but the behavior of several Wolverine players–and one in particular–was quite another.
"It was a 1-0 game in the third. It wasn’t that we played bad, but it was disappointing for two reasons. One, we were in the game and we found a way to lose. And two, the ugly scene that was not characteristic of our team."
At the end of the game, Andrew Merrick (0-1–1) deliberately ran Vince Owen. The ensuing chaos earned three Wolverines–Merrick, Jeff Jillson (5-7–9), and Greg Crozier (1-3–4)–game disqualifications. Ferris State’s Scott Lewis also received a DQ.
According to Berenson, Ferris State’s second goal of the night was "backbreaking."
"On the ice, were we that bad? No. Ferris State has a very good hockey team."
Berenson says that while Merrick, Jillson, and Crozier are eligible to play Thursday against Bowling Green, it’s questionable that Merrick will.
In Saturday’s game, Bobby Hayes (0-8–8) earned a game disqualification, and will not be able to play against the Falcons Thursday night.
In a way, Saturday’s 6-3 win over Western was a good rebound for a Michigan team that doesn’t put a lot of pucks in the net. "It was a lot of goals for us," says Berenson. "We got up 4-0, then the game kind of disintegrated.
Berenson says that the Wolverines can’t begin to think past Thursday night’s game against the Falcons to the Saturday game with the Buckeyes. He says Michigan certainly remembers the 1-0 loss to Ohio State on January 2, and how tight that game was defensively.
Michigan lacks the high-powered offense of previous seasons. Mike Comrie (7-10–17), Mark Kosick (5-8–13), Josh Langfeld (9-5–14), Dale Rominski (9-3–12), Bubba Berenzweig (3- 8–11), Mike Van Ryn (5-6–11), and Dave Huntzicker (2-8–10) are the offensive threats in the double digits for the Wolverines.
In net, the tall, lanky freshman Josh Blackburn (1.78 GAA, .921 SV%) is as good as they get in this league.
Michigan’s power play is third in the league at 16.1%. The Wolverine PK is third in the league–just behind OSU–at .889.
Markell says that the Buckeyes are afraid of the Wolverines, something that makes perfect sense considering that Michigan leads the all-time series 44-20-7, and until last year’s CCHA tournament were dominant over the Buckeyes in the 1990s, going 29-2-3 in 34 games.
Of course, those two Wolverine losses came against this Buckeye team. Ohio State carries a two-game win streak with Michigan into this game.
Of course, OSU won last time when the Wolverines were without Van Ryn, Jillson, and Langfeld.
Of course, last season, the Bucks beat Michigan when the Wolverines had Turco, Muckalt, and Herr.
Normally, common sense would dictate a Michigan win. But should Nature cooperate, this game will be the sellout the January 2 game should have been; over 16,000 tickets had been sold by Tuesday.
Ohio State 2-1
Bowling Green (11-10-2, 7-8-2 CCHA) at No. 5 Michigan (16-5-2, 13-3-1 CCHA) Thursday, 7 p.m., Yost Ice Arena, Ann Arbor, MI Ferris State (11-8-3, 10-6-2 CCHA) at Bowling Green (11-10-2, 7-8-2 CCHA) Saturday, 7 p.m., BGSU Ice Arena, Bowling Green, OH
The Falcons gained three points last weekend by knotting the Spartans 2-2 before beating Lake Superior 5-4.
"I thought we had good chances," says BG head coach Buddy Powers of the tie. Adam Edinger (10-13–23) and Dan Price (6-16–22) had the goals in the game against Michigan State.
Five different Falcons–Chris Bonvie (6-6–12), Ryan Wetterberg (1-1–2), Edinger, Austin de Luis (2-1–3), and Ryan Murphy (5-13–18)–had the goals in the Lake State game. Wetterberg’s goal was his first collegiate tally.
There’s no doubt that Bowling Green can score; the Falcons have notched 54 league goals this season, and Edinger and Price are among the league’s top scorers. But team defense has been problematic for BG this season. The Falcons have allowed 66 conference goals, and are at -71 as a team in CCHA play.
One problem early on for Bowling Green was goaltending. Sophomore Shawn Timm was supposed to have been the one to take the reins; he didn’t, and senior Mike Savard (3.34 GAA, .882 SV%) has earned the starting position.
Savard’s play has significantly improved during this middle stretch of the season; in his past 10 games, his save percentage is over 90%, and his GAA is under three per game.
"He’s worked hard this year, and he’s really played as a team player," says Powers. "We only have the two seniors [Savard and Price], and we’re maturing as a team."
Powers acknowledges the strides his team has made this season, but, he says, "We have a long way to go."
Capable of playing with the top-tier teams in the league, the Falcons are still finding their consistency. "We’ve played so well up to a point at times," says Powers, "and we find ways to come up short."
Bowling Green vs. No. 5 Michigan
"They’re a good team," says Michigan head coach Red Berenson of the Falcons. "They’ve been in every game they’ve played.
"They gave us a good game down there."
The Wolverines have beaten the Falcons twice this season, both 5-2 decisions, once in Yost and once in BG. The essential difference between these two teams is depth.
While the Falcons have the spectacular combination of Price and Edinger, and several other Falcons can score, Michigan is much more top-heavy in consistent scorers–although they lack the break-out player that both Price and Edinger can be.
Defensively, Michigan is a better team hands-down. While both teams are significantly outshooting opponents, the Wolverines have held conference opponents to 389 shots this season, while the Falcons have allowed 461.
In net, Savard may not have the numbers that Josh Blackburn has, but he has more experience at this level, and he seems to be reborn this season.
The Wolverines will be without Bobby Hayes for this game, since Hayes will be serving the DQ he earned against Western Michigan last weekend.
Counting Hayes’ DQ, the Wolverines earned four game disqualifications in two games last weekend; this Michigan team leads the league in penalties, averaging 27 per game. Berenson has made it quite clear to his players and the press that he will not stand for this lack of discipline, so don’t expect to see Andrew Merrick in the lineup, either.
Unfortunately for the Wolverines, Bowling Green has an excellent power play, converting at nearly 18% in league play, second in the league. The Michigan power play is also good, performing at 16.1%, good enough for third in the league.
The advantage is Michigan’s for any number of reasons, but especially because the game is being played at Yost. However, if the Wolverines display the kind of lack of control they did last weekend, you’ll see one seething coach and a tighter game than the home crowd may expect.
Ferris State vs. Bowling Green
The Falcons hold a 44-27-7 lead in the all-time series against Ferris State, but many of those wins came before these recent Bowling Green rebuilding years, and before Ferris State found the secret for its current success.
It bears repeating: Ferris State scores by committee. Like the Wolverines, the Bulldogs lack the flash of a Price or an Edinger, but what they do have is solid, from Wishart, to Irwin, to Homer, to Bennetts, to Dube, to–you get the picture.
The Bulldog defense is stronger than the Falcon defense, and Vince Owen is hot right now for Ferris State. Forget the fact that he lost against Northern Michigan; he only allowed two goals in the game.
Bowling Green is 5-3-2 in its last 10 games with Ferris State, and the Falcons won the earlier contest this season, a 2-1 decision in Bowling Green in late October. A win would give the Falcons the season series over the Bulldogs for the first time since the 1995-96 season.
There are few places tougher to win on the road than in the BGSU Ice Arena. An intimate building with a loud, rude crowd, BG’s barn is a fun place to see a game.
And the Falcons–like most teams–play especially well at home.
But Ferris State is on a mission. This is a team that doesn’t want to settle for fifth of sixth place in the league; they want to host a playoff series. The Bulldogs want The Joe.
The firepower of Price, Edinger, and Co. can be explosive, but the slower, steadier Bulldog attack may win this race.
Ferris State 4-3
No. 8 Notre Dame (14-6-2, 11-5-1 CCHA) at Northern Michigan (15-9-0, 10-8-0 CCHA) Friday, 7 p.m., Lakeview Arena, Marquette, MI No. 8 Notre Dame (14-6-2, 11-5-1 CCHA) at Lake Superior (4-15-3, 3-11-2 CCHA) Saturday, 7 p.m., Taffy Abel Arena, Sault Ste. Marie, MI
No. 8 Notre Dame did exactly what any top-ten team should do last weekend. The Irish dispatched rather handily the Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks 6-2 and 6-1.
"Our special teams were pretty good," said Irish head coach Dave Poulin.
Poulin sounds amazed when he adds, "We’re killing penalties at 84.5%, and we’re seventh in the league–can you image? When I played in the NHL, the top penalty killing teams were only about 83%."
Against the Nanooks, the Irish power play was 5-for-14, or about 35%. The Irish power play was good before the weekend series against UAF, but now it’s cooking at 24.2% in conference play.
The Irish PK is, indeed, seventh, a full 7.5% behind league-leading Michigan State.
Notre Dame played Friday’s game without Ben Simon (10-15–25), who has the second-most points in league play behind teammate Brian Urick (10-16–26) and MSU’s Mike York (9-17–26). Simon was serving an interesting sort of delayed penalty, for an incident during Notre Dame’s November 21 game with Michigan.
Simon high-sticked Bobby Hayes, and was assessed a major penalty at the time, but Michigan sent a tape into the league for review. The CCHA ruled that Simon be suspended for a game, so he sat Friday.
Brian Urick will be out for a couple of weeks with a hand injury, but Poulin says he expects this to be short term.
The Irish have become rather expert at playing without various individuals; through the second half of last season into the first half of this year, the Notre Dame defense was always down at least one man, and the "out" position rotated.
"Tough sometimes in the short term," says Poulin, "but injury creates depth."
Poulin says, "As caught up as you can get in schedule watching this time of year, we really need to focus in-house." Before the series with UAF, the Irish focused on penalty killing. During the two games with the Nanooks, Notre Dame shut down the Fairbanks power play all eight times the Nanooks had the advantage.
Now, Poulin says, Notre Dame needs to focus on consistency. "We’re constantly working on that."
Notre Dame leads the league in goals scored, outscoring CCHA opponents 65-37. Part of the reason for that is the first line of Simon, Urick, and Aniket Dhadphale (9-7–16). Another reason is that fabulous Irish power play, responsible for 23–or nearly one-third–of Notre Dame’s league goals.
Other offensive threats for the Irish include Dan Carlson (5-13–18), David Inman (5-6–11), Chad Chipchase (8-3–11), and Benoit Cotnoir (3-7–10).
Brett Henning (3-6–9) was moved up to replace Simon online with Urick and Dhadphale last week, and he proved more than up to the task, assisting on both Notre Dame game-winners and earning CCHA Rookie of the Week honors.
Defensively, the Irish are tough, allowing just 407 shot to the 546 they’ve taken themselves in conference play. Both Cotnoir and Tyson Fraser (1-8–9) are defenseman who can apply pressure on the other side of the puck, and Fraser may return to play after missing last weekend with an injury.
Forrest Karr (2.15 GAA, .908 SV%) guards the Notre Dame net.
No. 8 Notre Dame vs. Northern Michigan
The Wildcats took four crucial league points last weekend in a pair of road wins, beating Western Michigan 6-2 and Ferris State 2-1.
Northern head coach Rick Comley says, "We’ve put ourselves in a position to make a run at a home-ice playoff spot with two road wins last weekend. Every game we play down the stretch will be crucial for us and we don’t want to waste any opportunities.
"I was pleased with our defensive play last weekend and it’s something we’re going to have to continue to concentrate on if we’re going to be successful."
Defense has been the bugaboo for the Wildcats this season. After starting out hot-hot-hot, goaltenders Duane Hoey (3.27 GAA, .866 SV%) and Dan Ragusett (2.61 GAA, .902 SV%) cooled considerably, although Ragusett seems to have that great glove back as of late.
Ragusett stopped 59 of 62 shots in the two Northern wins last weekend, and allowed only two even-strength goals. For his efforts, Ragusett was named the CCHA Defensive Player of the Week and the USCHO Defensive Player of the Week.
The ‘Cats are now outscoring opponents 60-53.
Scoring doesn’t seem to be the problem for Northern, as Buddy Smith (2-20–22) and J.P. Vigier (17-6–23) have proven. For half the season, the duo was tied for the lead in league scoring; now they’re among the top scorers in CCHA play.
Other Northern weapons include Roger Trudeau (9-6–15), Fred Mattersdorfer (4-7–11), Chad Theuer (2-8–10), and Tyson Holly (6-3–9).
Vigier and Holly had two goals each in the win over Western, and each was responsible for one of the two goals against Ferris State.
This is the first meeting between Notre Dame and Northern Michigan this series. The Wildcats hold a 6-3-0 lead in the all-time series over Notre Dame, but those three losses came as the Irish swept the ‘Cats last season.
The two teams should match well offensively, with two of the best lines in the country squaring off. But defensively, Notre Dame has a decided edge–better team defense, and a more consistent goalie in Karr.
Notre Dame 4-3
No. 8 Notre Dame vs. Lake Superior
The Lakers gave up a dozen goals last weekend, losing to Miami 7-3 and Bowling Green 5-4. In the 7-3 game, the Lakers outshot the RedHawks 33-22, but the duo of Mike Brusseau and Jayme Platt repeated their performance of just a week prior, when they lost to Ohio State 8-2.
Brusseau (3.19 GAA, .889 SV%) allowed three goals on seven shots; Platt (2.85 GAA, .898 SV%) allowed three on eight.
Platt seemed to bounce back the next night when the Lakers were outshot 39-24 by BG; Platt saved 34 shots in the game.
Tobin Praznik (8-3–11) got the hat trick for all three of Lake State’s goals against Miami. In the Bowling Green game, Ryan Vince (3-3–6) scored twice, while Trent Walford (2-7–9) and Fred Slukynsky (6-2–8) each had a goal.
With his three goals, Praznik became the first Laker of the season to reach double digits in conference scoring. Lake Superior is now being outscored 38-52 by league opponents.
The Lake Superior power play converts 13.6% of the time, while the penalty killing unit is successful 83.5% of the time.
This is the third regular-season meeting between Notre Dame and Lake Superior. The Irish won the first two 4-2 and 4-3. The Lakers led for a bit in the first game; the Irish power play was responsible for all four goals in the second game.
Although it’s a tough road trip and it’s hard to play in the Soo, Notre Dame should win this on the strength of better everything.
Notre Dame 6-3
No. 3 Michigan State (19-3-3, 13-2-3 CCHA) at Lake Superior (4-15-3, 3-11-2 CCHA) Friday, 7 p.m., Taffy Abel Arena, Sault Ste. Marie, MI No. 3 Michigan State (19-3-3, 13-2-3 CCHA) at Northern Michigan (15-9-0, 10-8-0 CCHA) Saturday, 7 p.m., Lakeview Arena, Marquette, MI
Michigan State head coach Ron Mason has nothing but good things to say about the games his Spartans played last weekend.
Of the 2-2 with the Falcons, Mason says, "It was an excellent game, one of the best all season. Bowling Green played really, really well."
Of the 5-1 win over Miami in Cincinnati, Mason says, "They did a real nice job down there. It was a very-well-put-together event." Mason can be a little generous, given that the Spartans gained three points, and the Wolverines gained just two, bumping the Spartan lead over the Wolverines to two points.
The Spartans are led by the incomparable Mike York (9-17–26, 16-18–34 overall), who is tied for the lead in both conference and overall points (tied with Brian Urick and Hugo Boisvert, respectively).
Mason sums up York this way: "We played three games against UAF in Fairbanks and York had just one point, yet he was absolutely a factor in every game."
The Spartan head coach says it bothers him a little bit that York–and before him, Chad Alban–doesn’t get the nationwide attention that players from other leagues and teams may receive.
"I think that’s typical for Michigan State. We have had to go overboard for one player or another just to get them noticed. It’s so hard to get them recognized.
"The unfortunate part is that we can’t control it. People rarely think of individual Michigan State players for national honors."
Shawn Horcoff (9-11-20), Bryan Adams (11-6–17), and Rustyn Dolyny (8-7–15) are behind York in Spartan conference points.
As good as the Mike York is, the Spartans actually win by defense. Michigan State is outshooting conference opponents by the incredible margin of 582-337, and the team is collectively at +151! The Spartans are outscoring opponents 61-23.
While taking nothing away from Spartan goaltenders Joe Blackburn (1.41 GAA, .924 SV%) and backup Mike Gresl (0.75 GAA, .960 SV%), Betty the waitress from the Waffle Cottage could probably win a game in net for Michigan State–that’s how good this defense is.
Keys to the Spartan defense are, of course, Chris Bogas (1-8–7), Mike Weaver (0-4–4), and Jeff Kozakowski (0-3–3). These three have helped Michigan State block an average of 10.2 shots per game.
Freshman defenseman Andrew Hutchinson is out for approximately four weeks with a knee injury sustained in the Miami game. Hutchinson will be missed; he’s a two-time CCHA Rookie of the Week.
The Spartans do have their weaknesses. The Michigan State power play–which led the league for a vast chunk of last season–converts at just over 11% (10th). The Spartan PK, however, is excellent, killing off over 90% of opponent advantages.
No. 3 Michigan State vs. Lake Superior
Michigan State’s last Lake Superior-Northern Michigan road trip was a mixed bag last season. While the Spartans clinched the regular-season CCHA title last March 6 with a 4-1 win at Lake, they gave up one of their six road losses the following night in Marquette, losing 5-1.
History should repeat itself this season, at least for one night.
Michigan State doesn’t get into many shooting matches, but the York-led offense could score some points against either former Spartan Mike Brusseau or sophomore Jayme Platt. As good as Brusseau can be in net, it’s difficult to stop a team that comes at you again and again; the Spartan outgun opponents at a criminal rate.
The Spartans are in the midst of a 12-game unbeaten streak as they travel north this weekend, but that doesn’t mean that Mason is taking the game against the last-place Lakers as a gimme, and no one would take Northern Michigan for granted.
"They [the Lakers] played one of the best games of anybody here," says Mason. "You go to the Yoop and it’s always difficult. They live for hockey up there."
Michigan State leads this all-time series 41-27-8, including a 14-11-6 edge in Sault Ste. Marie. The Spartans have won the last five meetings, and are 5-0-2 in the last seven. Michigan State is 1-0-4 in the last five games at the Soo.
This is the second meeting between the Spartans and Lakers this season, and Michigan State won the last one in Munn 2-1. Platt made 30 saves to Blackburn’s 14 that night.
Regardless of how tight Mason says the Lakers play the Spartans, Lake Superior’s defense is no match of Michigan State’s offense, and the tight Spartan defense should be able to keep the Lakers at bay.
Michigan State 4-1
No. 3 Michigan State vs. Northern Michigan
Pending the outcome of Friday’s game with Notre Dame, the Wildcats may be carrying a streak of their own into the game against Michigan State. Northern Michigan is riding a four-game win streak into this weekend’s play in Lakeview Arena.
This very interesting game pairs one of the most productive offenses in the league with one of the stingiest defenses. There’s no doubt that J.P. Vigier can score goals and that Buddy Smith can help him. The question is, can this duo–along with the rest of the Northern offense–get past the wall of Spartans to take the shots?
In net for the Wildcats will undoubtedly be Dan Ragusett, who’s been the go-to guy for Northern’s last six games. He’s the one with the wicked glove and some very quick moves. He’ll have to be quick indeed to stop York, who seems to create opportunity out of thin air.
The Northern Michigan power play is more productive than that of Michigan State, but the Wildcat penalty kill is in the middle of the league at 86.7%–and Northern averages over 20 penalty minutes per game.
Michigan State leads the all-time series 12-9-1, but are just 3-4-0 in Marquette. The teams have met three times already this year, and the Spartans have won all three by two or fewer goals– a 3-1 win in October, a 2-1 win December, and the 5-3 win at the GLI.
The Wildcats have an edge in overall offense, but Mike York can be anybody’s edge, at any time.
Defensively, the Spartans are the best in the league.
In goal, it’s about a wash. Blackburn is good, but when Ragusett is hot, he’s very good.
Michigan State is undefeated on Saturday night this season (10-0-1). Can’t argue with that stat.
Michigan State 2-1
Nebraska-Omaha (5-18-0) at Alaska-Fairbanks (6-16-0, 5-15-0 CCHA) Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m. AT, Carlson Center, Fairbanks, AK
The Mavericks take their first big trip north this weekend. Remember, Coach Kemp, you wanted to join the CCHA. The Mavs swept Air Force last weekend, 6-2 and 4-0. James Chalmers (4-1–14) and Allan Carr (2-4–6) notched two goals each in the first win. Kendall Sidoruk (3.47 GAA, .886 SV%) had 20 saves in his first career shutout.
The Mavericks are led offensively by Jason White (7-8–15), Chalmers, Billy Pugliese (4-7– 11), and Jason Cupp (3-8–11).
Nebraska-Omaha is 1-3-0 this season versus CCHA opponents, having lost two close games to Michigan State in Munn, and splitting a pair of home games with Bowling Green.
The Maverick penalty-killers have been successful 86.7% per cent of the time this season, and have given up just two power play goals in the last nine games. The power play, however, is chugging along at just 10.7%.
The Nanooks dropped two games to Notre Dame last weekend, 6-2 and 6-1, the last contests of a five-game road trip during which Alaska-Fairbanks was 1-4-0.
Pat Hallett (6-0–6) and Jamie Coady (5-2–7) scored the Nanook goals in the first game. Chris Marvel (3.81 GAA, .884 SV%) had 37 saves in the loss.
Chris Kirwan (7-3–10) had the sole goal in the 6-1 loss, and Ian Perkins (4.24 GAA, .878 SV%) posted 29 saves the second night.
In conference games, the Nanooks are being outscored 47-83, and 53-90 in overall games.
This is the first time these two teams have ever met, and it serves as a sort of preview for next season when the two teams will begin to face each other four times when UNO becomes a member of the CCHA, and the two schools are paired as travel partners.
Picks: UAF 4-3, UNO 4-1
Western Michigan (3-12-6, 2-11-6 CCHA) at No. 10 Rensselaer (13-5-1, 8-2-1 CCHA) Friday, 7:30 p.m, and Saturday, 7:00 p.m., Houston Field House, Troy, NY
"We’re not scoring. When you’re not scoring, you can’t win."
Western head coach Bill Wilkinson provides an accurate summary of the Broncos’ woes this season. Western Michigan has earned six ties this season, confounding many good teams and more than one week’s picks by USCHO’s CCHA Correspondent.
The Broncos are being outshot 440-589 in league play, and 490-638 overall. They’re being outscored by a 44-81 overall margin.
David Gove leads the Broncs in both overall (7-10–17) and league (5-10–17) scoring. Other Bronco scoring leaders include Chuck Mindel (9-6–15 overall), Frank Novock (4-11–15 overall), Corey Waring (5-5–10 overall), and Matt Addesa (5-4–9 overall).
Adding to the offensive woes are the defensive troubles. Western Michigan is down to just four defensemen because of departures and injuries, and forwards Mark Wilkinson (0-4–4) and Anthony Battaglia (0-0–1) were moved back as a pair on defense last Saturday for the fifth time in six games.
Western Michigan’s overall team plus/minus ratio is -185.
Matt Barnes (3.24 overall GAA, .882 SV%) and Jeff Reynaert (3.46 overall GAA, .892 SV%) have been splitting time in the Western net. Barnes was the go-to man for most of the season, but Wilkinson says that two goaltenders are better than one down the stretch.
"Reynaert’s played very well, and he’s gaining confidence."
Last weekend, the Broncos lost 6-2 to Northern Michigan, and 6-3 to Michigan. Barnes and Reynaert split the losses.
Wilkinson looks at this trip east as a chance to try out a few players who don’t normally see much ice time. "We may be able to change up some different things, regroup a little."
The Bronco coach says he knows that Rensselaer is "predominantly high scoring."
"I know they have good goaltending, too."
Last week, Rensselaer’s Joel Laing was named the USCHO Defensive Player of the Week for his back-to-back shutout games.
For more on Rensselaer, take a gander at Becky Blaeser and Jayson Moy’s ECAC preview.
With no disrespect to Western Michigan, the Broncos should be no match for the Engineers, one of the hottest teams in the country.
Rensselaer 4-2, 3-2