This Week in the CCHA: February 5, 1999

Recently, the sparring on the USCHO Message Board among college hockey fans has reached an all-time high–or low, as the case may be. The flip side of such animosity is sportsmanship, even friendship.

As CCHA Correspondent for U.S. College Hockey Online, I’ve met my fair share of poor sports; however, the majority of people I’ve met through college hockey have run the gamut from friendly to wonderful.

In your opinion, what team other than the one you personally root for has the nicest fans? What is the nicest or most polite fan behavior you’ve witnessed from people whose team is not your favorite?

Let me hear from you. Give me your opinion about the nicest fans you’ve encountered, and feel free to include fans from other conferences. If you have a specific story, share it with me, and I’ll share it next week in this column.

Just email me at [email protected] Please include your full name and email address, and tell me what team you root for yourself. Any stories received may be used in next week’s column, so be clear about what’s on the record and what’s not, and whether or not you want your name used when your story is told.

Thanks for reading, and happy hockey! Paula

For the first time since the season began, there are no ties in the CCHA standings.

The No. 4 Michigan State Spartans continue to hold at first place with 33 points. Last weekend Michigan State tied No. 6 Michigan 3-3. This weekend, the Spartans travel to South Bend for their first meeting of the season with the No. 9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish before meeting the Lakers in Joe Louis Arena Saturday night.

No. 6 Michigan is just two points out of first place. After the 3-3 draw with the Spartans last weekend, the Wolverines lost to No. 9 Notre Dame 3-2. This weekend, Michigan hosts Lake Superior Friday and Ohio State Saturday.

Nipping at the heels of the Wolverines, Ohio State remains in third place with 39 points, two points behind No. 6 Michigan. Last weekend, the Buckeyes beat Western Michigan 3-2 before shelling the Broncos 8- 0. Ohio State faces Bowling Green for the first time this season Friday before heading up to Ann Arbor.

No. 9 Notre Dame is three points behind Ohio State in fourth place in the CCHA. Last weekend, the Irish beat No. 6 Michigan 3-2. This weekend, Notre Dame hosts Alaska-Fairbanks on Saturday.

With a 3-2 win and 2-2 tie in Fairbanks last weekend, the Northern Michigan Wildcats gained three points for a total of 25, one behind the Irish and good enough for fifth place. The ‘Cats are idle this week.

One point separates sixth-place Ferris State (24 points) from Northern Michigan. Last weekend, the Bulldogs lost 5-1 to Miami before tying the RedHawks 2-2–both games at home. Ferris State sits out this weekend.

Ferris State’s weekend off could be good news for the seventh-place Bowling Green Falcons, who are in position to gain some ground this weekend. Bowling Green, in seventh place with 19 points, split with Lake Superior last weekend, winning 3-2 before losing 4-3 in overtime. The Falcons host the Buckeyes and the Broncos this weekend.

It seems the Miami RedHawks have done some growing up. The ‘Hawks beat Ferris State 5-1 and tied the Bulldogs 2-2 on the road last weekend. With 14 points, Miami will try to hold on to eighth place while taking this weekend off.

Since there’s no preview for Miami this week, now is the time to mention the honors two RedHawks earned last weekend with their play in Big Rapids. Sophomore RedHawk Jason Deskins is this week’s CCHA Offensive Player of the Week for his three goals and one assist against Ferris State. Deskins scored both goals in the 2-2 tie, one of which was his first career shorthanded tally.

Senior Miami goaltender Andy Marsch made 60 saves and allowed only one even-strength goal in his 125 minutes in net against Ferris State last weekend. For his outstanding play, Marsch was named CCHA Defensive Player of the Week and the USCHO/CCM Defensive Player of the Week.

Congratulations to the RedHawks!

Lake Superior State, in ninth place with 12 points, split with Bowling Green at home last weekend, losing 3-2 and winning 4-3 in overtime. The Lakers travel to No. 6 Michigan before hosting No. 4 Michigan State.

Alaska-Fairbanks is tenth in the league with 11 points. The Nanooks lost to Northern Michigan 3-2 before tying the Wildcats 2-2 at home. UAF travels to Western Michigan and No. 9 Notre Dame this weekend.

With 10 points, the Western Michigan Broncos anchor last place in the league this week after 3-2 and 8-0 losses to Ohio State last weekend. Bronco head coach Bill Wilkinson was relieved of coaching duties at the start of this week. Western hosts Alaska-Fairbanks and travels to Bowling Green this weekend.

Last week’s record in picks: 5-5 Overall record in picks: 85-61

So flip a coin already!

No. 4 Michigan State (20-3-5, 14-2-5 CCHA) at No. 9 Notre Dame (15-7-3, 12-6-2 CCHA) Friday, 7 p.m., Joyce Center, South Bend, IN No. 4 Michigan State (20-3-5, 14-2-5 CCHA) vs. Lake Superior (6-17-3, 5-13-2 CCHA) Saturday, 7 p.m., Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, MI

No. 4 Michigan State vs. No. 9 Notre Dame

This is the first game of the season between these two teams, and the first game to be played within a 15-day span. Each team had at least some success against the same top-ten team last weekend; Michigan State tied Michigan 3-3, while Notre Dame beat the Wolverines 3-2.

"Our kids played pretty well in the third period," says Michigan State head coach Ron Mason, whose Spartans had to come from behind to tie the game. "They got the first goal, and it was a bit of a fluky goal, so we had to catch up."

Everyone is trying to catch up with the Spartans, who hold tight to first place in the league. It’s unlikely that Notre Dame, a full seven points behind Michigan State in the standings, can move up to the top spot in the league, but the Irish are fighting hard to host a playoff series.

The Spartans lead this overall series 41-28-4, but trail in South Bend 15-16-3, but are 6-0-3 in the Joyce Center in their last nine trips. Notre Dame is undefeated at home this season, compiling a 9-0-1 record there so far.

The Spartans took two of three from the Irish last season, and the loser scored just one goal in all three contests. Notre Dame beat the Spartans 6-1 in East Lansing on November 1, 1997, snapping a 17-game winless streak against MSU. The Spartans won the other two games 5-1 and 3-1.

This game pairs up the best power play in the league with one of the worst. Notre Dame’s power play has been converting at over 20% all season–and it’s the fourth-best in the nation– while Michigan State’s power play slumbers at about 12%. Of course, the Spartan penalty kill is the best in the league, effective about 93% of the time. Notre Dame’s PK is about 85%.

Statistics can, however, be misleading. Lest you think of MSU’s special teams as unproductive offensively, remember that the Spartans can be deadly on the PK. Michigan State has scored 10 shorthanded goals while coughing up just 11 power-play goals this season. Rustyn Dolyny (10-8–18) and Shawn Horcoff (9-14–23) share the national lead with three shorthanded goals each. The Spartans’ overall PK (.919) leads the nation.

This game also matches one of the league’s top lines with the absolute, bar-none, best defense in the country.

Ben Simon (12-16–28), Brian Urick (10-16–26), and Aniket Dhadphale (11-7–18) have combined for 33 of Notre Dame’s 72 goals this season. Both the Irish and the Spartans are averaging more than three goals per game in arguably the toughest defensive conference in the country.

The Spartan attack is led by the incomparable Mike York (9-18–27) followed by Horcoff, Bryan Adams (12-6–18), Dolyny, Damon Whitten (7-4–11), and defenseman Chris Bogas (1-9– 10). The Spartans are 9-0-1 when Whitten registers a point.

Several Irish players have been on the hot side lately. Simon has nine points in his last seven games; Chad Chipchase (8-3–11) has five points in his last six games; Benoit Cotnoir (4-9–13) has 10 points in his last eight games; Dan Carlson (5-14–19) has six points in his last seven games.

The Spartans have allowed one goal or less in 75% of their games (21 of 28), including nine of the last 11 games, and Michigan State is the only team in the nation allowing fewer than two goals per game (1.32).

By the numbers, Spartan goaltender Joe Blackburn is the best in the league. Blackburn leads the conference in goals against (1.40) and is second in save percentage (.930). Notre Dame’s Forrest Karr (2.26 GAA, .905 SV%) is hot, though, with a 1.71 GAA and .927 save percentage in his last seven games.

Pick

The Spartans are riding a 15-game unbeaten streak (12-0-3), the longest active unbeaten streak in Division I hockey.

A player for each team injured on the same day in separate games may return this weekend. Notre Dame’s Brian Urick has missed three games since January 16 because of a cracked bone in his hand. Urick had three straight two-point games before he was injured January 16.

Spartan defenseman Andre Hutchinson, whom Mason calls "essential," may return to play this weekend for the first time since spraining his knee on January 16.

This game is more of a test for Notre Dame than it is for Michigan State, in the sense that the Irish are trying to prove something this season. In spite of that great Irish first line and power play, the teams are essentially even offensively, as Mike York tends to be a one-man squad. Defensively and in net, the Spartans have a clear advantage.

That having been said, faith saw me through last weekend, and I’ve learned my lesson.

Notre Dame 2-1

No. 4 Michigan State vs. Lake Superior

Last weekend, the Lakers split with Bowling Green, losing 3-2 then winning 4-3 in overtime. The OT game began with the Laker power play after a scrum at the end of regulation. Lake Superior is 2-1-0 since losing 4-1 to Michigan State on January 22.

Tobin Praznik (9-5–14), Trent Walford (4-7–11), Mike Vigilante (2-9–11), and Fred Slukynsky (6-4–10) lead the Laker offense. Ben Keup (3-5–8) had the game-winning goal against the Falcons last weekend, and also tallied two assists for the series. As a team, the Lakers are -51 and are being outscored 48-63 by league opponents.

Former Spartan Mike Brusseau (3.08 GAA, .891 SV%) and Jayme Platt (2.86 GAA, .899 SV%) occupy the Laker net; Brusseau is capable of outstanding play.

Pick

The Lakers need points to make the playoffs, and unless MSU breaks down, it’s unlikely that Lake Superior will get what they need here.

The Spartans lead the series 42-27-8, and have won the two previous meetings this season. Michigan State is 5-4-0 against Lake Superior at The Joe. The Spartans have beaten the Lakers six straight, and are 6-0-2 in the last eight games against Lake.

The Spartans have won their previous two games at Joe Louis Arena, when they beat Northern Michigan and Michigan during the Great Lakes Invitational.

The venue gives Michigan State the edge. Michigan State gives Michigan State the edge.

Michigan State 4-1

Ohio State (15-10-4, 13-6-3 CCHA) at Bowling Green (12-12-3, 8-10-3 CCHA) Friday, 7 p.m., BGSU Ice Arena, Bowling Green, OH Ohio State (15-10-4, 13-6-3 CCHA) at No. 6 Michigan (17-6-4, 14-4-3 CCHA) Saturday, 7 p.m., Yost Ice Arena, Ann Arbor, MI

Ohio State vs. Bowling Green

The Buckeyes beat Western Michigan 3-1 last weekend before rolling over the Broncos 8-0. The Ohio State defense scored six of the 11 Buckeye goals in the two games.

Freshman defenseman Scott Titus had the game-winner in the first game, his first collegiate goal and his first of two on the weekend. Titus also finished the weekend +4, and earned CCHA Rookie of the week honors.

Titus’s partner, Ryan Skaleski, tallied his first goal and point of the season. Ryan Jestadt (6-2- -8) also notched two goals, just one week after tying Michigan with 1:10 to go in regulation.

The Buckeye offense also showed up to play. Hugo Boisvert (11-21–32) had his first four- point period with a goal and three assists in the first period of the second game. Boisvert now leads the league in both conference scoring and overall scoring.

One other player deserves mention for Ohio State. Senior Brian Morrison, who sat out as a healthy scratch for nearly a year before being inserted into the OSU lineup against Cornell in January, got his first point of the season with a sweet little drop pass to Eric Meloche (4-8–12) in the first game.

The shutout was Jeff Maund’s (1.87 GAA, .933 SV%) third of the year, third in the month January, and third in the Schottenstein Center. He must like playing there. Maund began the season giving up close to four goals per game. His save percentage now leads the league.

After such decisive play against Western Michigan, the Buckeyes face a big test this weekend with their first game of the season against Bowling Green. Ohio State has a tendency to show up for big games and let down for games against teams lower in the standings. Breaking that pattern against Western may be a good sign for OSU.

Head coach John Markell knows that he’s facing one of the best lines in the league when the Bucks head north to BG.

"We know we have to check their first line, and how we rotate our checking line will be a big part of this game," says Markell.

That checking line consists of the ever-underrated Chris Richards (5-14–19), J.F. Dufour (7- 7–14), and Neal Rech (3-2–5).

"The key for us may be the match-ups," says Markell. "While we have to check their first line, they have to check ours. It may come down to how well our fourth lines play."

Bowling Green is led by Adam Edinger (2-18–30), Dan Price (9-19–28), Ryan Murphy (6- 16–22), Mike Jones (5-14–19), Chris Bonvie (9-7–16), Craig Desjarlais (6-7–13), and Greg Day (4-7–11). There is no better one-two punch in the league than Edinger and Price, period.

Last weekend, the Falcons split with Lake Superior, and the manner in which the split occurred did not please head coach Buddy Powers.

"I thought in the first game, you could tell the Lakers were playing as though they have their backs against the wall," says Powers. "It was a close-checking game, they kept our power play in check. They obviously did a pretty good job scouting the power play."

The second game was a different story, says Powers. He says that with about 15 seconds to go in regulation, a Laker player ran BG goaltender Mike Savard, and a "chain of events" resembling a "circus" ensued.

"When the dust settled, Mike Jones got the only penalty. It should’ve been a major penalty, but it shouldn’t have been the only penalty," says Powers.

The Lakers began OT with the power play, and won the game.

In spite of the Falcon firepower, Bowling Green is -71 as a team, and is being outscored 68- 81. Powers says, "We’ve been close in games with a lot of teams in the top five in the league, but it’s getting over that hump that we can’t seem to do yet."

Senior Mike Savard is the starting goalie for the Falcons. Savard’s numbers have improved considerably this season, and he currently posts a 3.41 GAA and .881 league save percentage.

Pick

This game pits one of the league’s best power plays against a solid penalty kill. The Bowling Green power play is converting on 20% of its chances, while Ohio State is killing penalties at the rate of 93%. OSU killed all 40 opponent power-play chances in the Schottenstein Center in January. Good thing for the Falcons this one’s in BG.

Both teams can score goals, and Bowling Green outshoots opponents by a much wider margin than does Ohio State.

Ohio State has the advantage in net and defensively. The young Buckeye defense has solidified significantly since the first of the season, and Maund appears to be in a groove.

The one weakness OSU has is inconsistency. If Ohio State looks past this game toward Saturday’s finale with Michigan, Bowling Green will win. If the teams get into a shootout, it’s like Bowling Green will win. If penalties disrupt the flow of the game, Ohio State may lose its collective concentration and Bowling Green will win.

If the Buckeyes play their game, Ohio State will win.

Ohio State 4-3

Ohio State vs. No. 6 Michigan

The Wolverines can’t possibly be happy with their 3-3 tie in East Lansing and their 3-2 loss in South Bend last week. One point in two games is tough for Michigan to take.

On whom better to take out a little Michigan aggression than the Buckeyes, especially since Ohio State actually leads this season series 1-0-1. The 1-0 shutout over Michigan on January 2 was the first time the Buckeyes have ever blanked the Wolverines. Michigan has scored just one goal against Ohio State this season, in 125 minutes of play.

Can you hear the gallop of the Four Horsemen? Or is this like that episode of the original Star Trek series where characters meet their polar opposites in a parallel universe?

Michigan holds a 44-20-8 lead in this all-time series. In the last 34 meetings, the Wolverines are 29-2-3, but are 0-2-1 in the last three games between Michigan and OSU, dating back to last year’s CCHA tournament.

Chris Richards and Ryan Jestadt have scored for the Buckeyes against Michigan this year. Mike Comrie (10-11–21) scored the lone Wolverine goal against Ohio State on January 23.

Comrie leads the Wolverines in scoring, followed by the underrated Josh Langfeld (9-7–16), Mark Kosick (6-8–14), Bubba Berenzweig (3-10–13), Dale Rominski (11-4–15), Mike Van Ryn (6-7–13), Dave Huntzicker (2-10–12), Jeff Jillson (2-10–12), Bobby Hayes (1-9–10), and the other underrated Wolverine, Scott Matzka (2-8–10), who gave it everything he had in overtime against the Buckeyes.

Hayes tallied his first league goal and also had an assist against Notre Dame last weekend. Berenzweig picked up two assists in the Michigan State game.

In net for Michigan, Josh Blackburn is stellar, with a 1.96 league GAA and .916 save percentage. Blackburn made 53 saves last weekend, including 32 in the game against Michigan State.

Pick

As you would expect with two teams that have combined for three goals in two games, the Buckeyes and Wolverines are fairly evenly matched.

Offensively, Ohio State has the potential for more fireworks with players like Boisvert, Richards, Meloche and Brandon Lafrance. OSU is outscoring league opponents 66-44 to Michigan’s 63-43.

As a team, Ohio State is +77; Michigan is +71.

Michigan has the better power play, converting at roughly 16%; Ohio State’s power play works about 14% of the time.

Ohio State’s penalty kill is effective more than 90% of the time, while Michigan kills off about 88% of opponent penalties. Michigan and Ohio State are the number-one and number-two most- penalized teams in the league, respectively.

In net, Ohio State has an advantage when Maund’s head is in the game, but the two previous matches proved to be glorious goaltending duels.

The advantage has to be Michigan’s at home, even though the Buckeyes will play their hearts out.

Michigan 2-1

Alaska-Fairbanks (8-17-1, 5-16-1 CCHA) at Western Michigan (3-16-6, 2-13-6 CCHA) Friday, 7 p.m., Lawson Arena, Kalamazoo, MI Alaska-Fairbanks (8-17-1, 5-16-1 CCHA) at at No. 9 Notre Dame (15-7-3, 12-6-2 CCHA) Saturday, 7 p.m., Joyce Center, South Bend, IN

Alaska-Fairbanks vs. Western Michigan

Both the Nanooks and the Broncos need points to make the CCHA playoffs. This battle for eighth place has some interesting overtones, given that Dave Laurion has given his notice and Bill Wilkinson was given his walking papers.

Last weekend, Fairbanks played Northern Michigan close in two games at home, losing 3-2 and tying 2-2.

Mike Jaros (3-6–9) and Kevin McNeill (4-2–6) had goals each night for the Nanooks, while Jamie Coady (7-2–9) had a two-goal weekend, lighting the lamp in each game.

Ian Perkins (4.01 GAA, .882 SV%) made 64 saves on the weekend.

The Nanooks face a potentially demoralized Western Michigan team. The Broncos lost 3-1 to Ohio State Friday before taking an 8-0 beating Saturday night. Steve Rymsha (3-3–6) had the only goal on the weekend for Western Michigan.

Jeff Reynaert (4.18 GAA, .879 SV%) played well for the Broncos Friday night, stopping 41 of 44 Buckeye shots on net. The following night, however, Reynaert allowed four goals on eight shots in the first period. Matt Barnes (3.39 GAA, .880) allowed the remaining four goals in two periods.

Pick

Because of technical difficulties, current official CCHA statistics are unavailable for the Nanooks. It doesn’t matter–Fairbanks should win this game.

The Nanooks are big, fairly fast, with an aggressive forecheck and consistent goaltending. The Broncos seem to lack on-ice leadership and general focus.

Alaska-Fairbanks 4-2

Alaska-Fairbanks vs. No. 9 Notre Dame

If this game were being played anywhere but in South Bend, it would be no gimme. Fairbanks has the ability to skate with Notre Dame, and the Nanooks have been known to rise to a challenge and exploit an opponent’s weakness, should the opponent display any weakness.

The Nanooks lead this all-time series 12-8-0, but the Irish have won the last six straight, including a decisive two-game home sweep in January, 6-2 and 6-1. Aniket Dhadphale and Dan Carlson both scored twice in the first game; Chad Chipchase had two goals in the second game.

Jim Lawrence (6-7–13), Chris Kirwan (7-3–10), and Sjon Wynia (3-7–10) are the only three Nanooks in double-digit conference scoring.

Pick

The Nanooks are ninth in CCHA scoring, ninth in league defense, 11th in power-play percentage, and 10th in penalty killing. The only thing working in UAF’s favor where special teams are concerned is that the Nanooks are the least penalized team in the league.

Offensively, Notre Dame can eat these guys for lunch, as they proved by outscoring the Nanooks 12-3 in two games earlier this season. The Notre Dame power play, should the Irish get the chance, may be enough to beat Alaska-Fairbanks.

Notre Dame 4-2

Lake Superior (6-17-3, 5-13-2 CCHA) at No. 6 Michigan (17-6-4, 14-4-3 CCHA) Friday, 7 p.m., Yost Ice Arena, Ann Arbor, MI

The Lakers have the edge in this all-time series 31-38-6, but the Wolverines have taken 20 of the last 28 contests, and are unbeaten by the Lakers (9-0-1) in the last 10 meetings, dating back to January 31, 1992.

The Lakers and Wolverines met on October 11 in Yost, where Michigan delivered a 2-0 shutout. The Wolverines outshot the Lakers 40-14 in that game, back when Rob Galatiuk (3.64 GAA, .876 SV%) was playing regularly–and well, apparently.

Dale Rominski and Mike Comrie had the goals for Michigan. The goal was Rominski’s first of the season; Comrie’s goal was the first of his collegiate career. The shutout was Josh Blackburn’s first collegiate shutout.

Since that meeting, the Wolverines have actually improved, posting the second best defensive stats in the nation.

The Lakers are being outscored 48-63 in league games. The team stands at -57 in league play. The Wolverines are outscoring league opponents 63-43, and are +71 as a team in CCHA play.

You do the math.

Pick: Michigan 4-1

Western Michigan (3-16-6, 2-13-6 CCHA) at Bowling Green (12-12-3, 8-10-3 CCHA) Saturday, 7 p.m., BGSU Ice Arena, Bowling Green, OH

The Falcons lead this all-time series 64-35-3, and most recently beat the Broncos 5-3 at home (December 12). In Bowling Green, the Falcons are 37-11-0 against Western Michigan.

Frank Novock (4-10–14), David Gove (5-10–15), and Chuck Mindel (9-4–13) had the goals for Western. Scoring for Bowling Green were Mike Jones (5-14–19), Chris Bonvie (9-7–16), Doug Schueller (4-3–7), Craig Desjarlais (6-7–13), and Ryan Murphy (6-16–22).

The only power-play goal of the night was Mindel’s, and Murphy’s goal was an empty-netter. Jeff Reynaert made 28 saves for Western to Mike Savard’s 21 in the BG net.

The surging Falcons have the best first line in the league, an outstanding power play, more consistent goaltending, and the home-ice advantage.

Pick: Bowling Green 5-2