For the second week in a row, four CCHA teams are ranked among the top ten teams in the country.
Last weekend, one of those teams, Notre Dame, lost to a team that was sixth in the conference standings before the start of last weekend’s action.
Another of those teams, Ohio State, lost to a team that was fifth in the conference standings before the start of last weekend’s action.
Yet another, Michigan, tied the team that is next-to-last in conference standings–and had to come from behind to do it.
Six CCHA starting goaltenders are among the nation’s top 20 in goals-against averages. Michigan State’s Joe Blackburn leads the country in GAA, with an astounding 1.39. Ferris State’s Vince Owen is fifth with his 2.20 GAA; Michigan’s Josh Blackburn is sixth (2.36); Ohio State’s Jeff Maund is 11th (2.36); Notre Dame’s Forrest Karr is 12th (2.38); and Northern Michigan’s Dan Ragusett is 16th (2.48).
The top six teams in the CCHA have goalies allowing fewer than 2.5 goals per game this season. Maund, Karr, Owen, and Josh Blackburn have even lower averages in league play.
Three CCHA goaltenders are among the top ten nationally in save percentage statistics as well. Joe Blackburn is tied with St. Lawrence’s Eric Heffler at .931. Jeff Maund and Vince Owen are knotted with Rensselaer’s Joel Laing for the fifth-best overall save percentage (.921), while Dan Ragusett is tied for the tenth-best save percentage with Maine’s Alfie Michaud (.910). Notre Dame’s Forrest Karr is tied with Wisconsin’s Graham Melanson for 13th (.907).
It’s no coincidence then, that only one player from the CCHA, Ohio State’s Hugo Boisvert, is among the nation’s top ten in scorers with 47 points–and Boisvert is 17th! This is from a league that claims Mike York, Dan Price, Adam Edinger, Buddy Smith, J.P. Vigier, Ben Simon, Brian Urick.
This is in a conference which has produced 24 tie games this season (18 league, six nonconference). Compare that with the ECAC’s 18 ties (11 league, seven nonconference), the WCHA’s 13 ties (nine league, four nonconference), and Hockey East’s mere 10 (six league, four nonconference).
Now you tell me why the second-place CCHA team–with a winning season record over No. 7 Michigan and No. 8 Notre Dame, and a tied season record with No. 3 Michigan State–is 13th in the PWR. As one coach of another CCHA team said this week, "We were trying to figure it out, but we got frustrated and it gave us a headache." Another CCHA coach whose team is not among the top ten put it even more succinctly: "The league gets screwed in the Pairwise."
It’s important to note that the third- and fourth-place teams in the league are not among the top ten in Pairwise, either.
What does all this mean? Either the CCHA is the easiest league in which to play (all that parity) or the toughest (all that parity).
And, with that, we go to the races–the playoff races!
With 38 points and a couple of games in hand over their nearest competitor, the No. 3 Michigan State Spartans look good in first place. The Spartans, the only CCHA team not to have experienced any kind of slump this season, delivered No. 8 Notre Dame Fighting Irish the first of Notre Dame’s 1-0 losses last weekend.
This week, the Spartans face off for the last time against the Irish (in the regular season, at least), and for the third Friday night in as many weeks. On Saturday, the No. 3 Spartans and the No. 7 Wolverines finish their season series in Joe Louis Arena.
After dishing out a 6-2 beating to Northern Michigan Friday, the No. 9 Buckeyes found themselves on the other end of a 7-2 beating in Marquette Saturday. This weekend, Ohio State hosts Ferris State and Alaska-Fairbanks in Columbus. The Bucks remain in second place with 35 points–and two fewer games left than any of the top six CCHA teams.
The No. 7 Michigan Wolverines increased their winless streak to six with a tie in Kalamazoo last weekend. Michigan heads to Western Michigan for the grudge match Friday night, before playing Michigan State Saturday in Detroit. With 32 points, Michigan holds onto third place in league action.
No. 8 Notre Dame suffered back-to-back 1-0 shutouts last weekend, first to No. 3 Michigan State, then to Ferris State; the second loss was the first for the Irish in South Bend this season. Notre Dame, one point ahead of Ferris State with 29 points, will try to hold onto fourth place this weekend in a pair of road games, first in East Lansing, then in Bowling Green.
With a 5-2 win over Western Michigan and a 1-0 win over No. 8 Notre Dame, the Ferris State Bulldogs have dealt themselves back into the game. The fifth-place Bulldogs have 28 points in league action, and head to Ohio State Friday and Miami Saturday.
Northern Michigan got the lopsided split with the No. 9 Buckeyes last weekend, losing 6-2 and winning 7-2. This weekend, the Wildcats play home-and-home with Lake Superior State, in Marquette Friday night and Sault Ste. Marie Saturday. The Wildcats, just a point behind the Bulldogs, are also playing for that last home playoff spot.
Bowling Green lost 4-3 in overtime to Alaska-Fairbanks before walloping the Nanooks 10-3 in Alaska. The Falcons now have 21 points and sole possession of seventh place. This weekend, Bowling Green hosts Notre Dame for one game on Saturday night.
With 16 points each, the RedHawks and the Lakers are exactly where they were before last weekend’s play–tied for eighth–after they split a pair of games in Sault Ste. Marie last weekend. The Lakers took Friday’s contest 5-3, while Miami won 4-2 Saturday night.
This weekend, the RedHawks host UAF Friday and Ferris State Saturday. The Lakers head to Marquette Friday and host the Wildcats Saturday.
With five points in their last four games–and 15 total points–the Western Michigan Broncos have become competitive enough to challenge for that last playoff spot. Last weekend the Broncos lost 5-2 to Ferris State, then tied No. 7 Michigan 2-2. This weekend, Western’s only game is a Friday night rematch with Michigan, in Kalamazoo.
Alaska-Fairbanks split with Bowling Green at home last weekend, winning 4-3 in overtime before letting the Falcons score 10 goals Saturday. This week, the Nanooks travel to Miami and Ohio State.
Last week’s record in picks: 6-4 Overall record in picks: 93-71
This isn’t funny any more. Can I call Hockey East for the rest of the season?
No. 8 Notre Dame (16-9-4, 13-8-3 CCHA) at No. 3 Michigan State (22-3-6, 16-2-6 CCHA) Friday, 7 p.m., Munn Ice Arena, East Lansing, MI No. 7 Michigan (17-8-5, 14-6-4 CCHA) vs. No. 3 Michigan State Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, MI
No. 8 Notre Dame vs. No. 3 Michigan State–The Re-rematch
What the heck are fans of these two teams going to do for fun after this Friday night? Perhaps support groups are in order.
For the third time in as many Fridays, the Irish and Spartans will face off to give fans another exciting, close game. When these two teams met last weekend in East Lansing, the Spartans came away with a 1-0 victory.
Bryan Adams (14-6–20) had the game-winner, his 17th goal overall. Mike York (10-19–29) and excellent defenseman Jeff Kozakowski (1-7–8) had the assists on the even-strength goal.
Notre Dame’s Forrest Karr (2.12 GAA, .911 SV%) had 24 saves for the Irish; Joe Blackburn (1.42 GAA, .930 SV%) had 21 saves for Michigan State.
Speaking of Kozakowski, the senior defenseman currently owns the longest active point streak among Spartans, and the longest of his career. During this five-game point streak, Kozakowski is 1-4-5. The defenseman is also +17 in league play, +22 overall. So is Spartan defender Mike Weaver.
The Irish played a second game last weekend, which also resulted in a 1-0 loss. On Saturday, Ferris State’s own top-notch blueliner, Jim Dube (4-11–15), had the game-winner on the Bulldog power play.
Notre Dame outshot Ferris State 38-23, but Vince Owen (2.13 GAA, .924 SV%) came up strong between the pipes for the Bulldogs. Karr had 22 saves.
Imagine that: your goalie stops 43 of 45 shots on goal for a given weekend, and your team loses two games anyway.
"We played very well on Friday night," says Notre Dame head coach Dave Poulin. Poulin says that the danger after two consecutive shutouts is in "fundamentally wanting to change the way you play," saying that there’s really nothing to tinker with.
"We’ve lost two games in a row, each by a goal, and we’ve not scored in either." So, the Irish head coach says, before the game with Michigan State, Notre Dame will be working on "scoring goals–what else?"
"Every team goes through this, and hopefully it’s coming at the right time for us," says Poulin.
Michigan State head coach Ron Mason says, "We have been in a lot of tough games like that one. It’s our style of game, we feel comfortable in them and we have had a good deal of success in them."
In fact, the Spartans have had many close games this season, skating to six ties, four one-goal victories, three one-goal losses, and nine two-goal wins, eight of which were decided by the score of 3-1.
The Spartans have allowed more than one goal in a game just nine times this season, and in those nine, Michigan State’s record is 2-3-4. Clearly, the Spartans are a better team when their defense is clicking. Luckily for them, the Spartan defense usually clicks, and how.
Michigan State is the only team in the nation allowing less than 2.0 goals per game (1.32), and this current Spartan defense–no pun intended–is the best in the history of the CCHA. Last year’s Michigan State team set the CCHA record by allowing on average just 1.80 goals per league game, as opposed to this season’s 1.33.
Ironically, no single Spartan has earned CCHA Defensive Player of the Week honors. Only two other teams–Lake Superior State, ranked eighth in goals against per game, and Western Michigan, ranked 10th–had not had a defenseman named Player of the Week.
This week’s CCHA Defensive Player of the Week went to the other goaltender who blanked Notre Dame 1-0, Ferris State’s Vince Owen.
What can be said about this meeting that wasn’t said last Friday, or the Friday before?
Notre Dame’s got a really good power play. Michigan State has a really good penalty kill.
Both have good first lines. Michigan State has the clear advantage defensively and in goal.
The Spartans haven’t lost a game since Nov. 29, 1998. So much has changed in the world since the last Spartan loss. Nate Ewell, Michigan State hockey’s Sports Information Director, reminds us that the world itself heads into a tailspin after the Spartans lose.
Since the last Spartan loss, the U.S. has bombed Iraq; the U.S. House of Representatives impeached President Clinton and the Senate acquitted him; Mike Tyson boxed again and was sent back to prison; the U.S. Postal Service raised the cost of sending a letter first class to 33 cents; King Hussein of Jordan died; the NBA has resumed playing.
The Spartans are riding an 18-game unbeaten streak, a 15-game league unbeaten streak, and a 26-game home unbeaten streak.
What was that frequent score?
Michigan State 3-1
No. 7 Michigan vs. No. 3 Michigan State
The Wolverines are 0-3-3 in their last six games, having tied Western Michigan 2-2 last weekend. Trailing 2-0 late into the second period, Josh Langfeld (12-8–20) brought the Wolverines to within one. Langfeld tallied his second point of the night when Mark Kosick (7-8–15) scored with just seven seconds left in regulation to tie it up. Mike Comrie (10-15–25) and Langfeld had the assists.
Josh Blackburn (2.22 GAA, .905 SV%) had 23 saves for the Wolverines, while Western Michigan’s Matt Barnes saved 29 of 31 Michigan shots on goal.
The last six-game winless streak Michigan endured came in 1988-89, when the Wolverines went 0-7-2 from November 18 to December 16.
The Wolverines are one of only two CCHA teams to hand the Spartans a loss this season (Ohio State being the other). In the teams’ first meeting of the year, on Nov. 20, Dale Rominski (11-5–15) tied the games for the Wolverines shorthanded, while Josh Langfeld had the game-winner.
Michigan State beat Michigan 3-1 in the championship game at the GLI on Dec. 27. Comrie had the only Wolverine goal in that meeting.
On January 29, the two teams skated to the seventh tie in series history, a 3-3 deadlock in Munn Arena. The point was the first the Wolverine seniors had earned at Munn in their collegiate careers.
For much of the season, these two teams possessed the best and second-best defenses in the nation, but it’s been at least six games since Michigan was able to claim the number-two defense in the country.
The team is struggling from top to bottom, and some Wolverines have shown a lack of on-ice discipline during this stretch. This team is crying out for leadership. When your top scorer is a freshman, and there’s a first-year player between the pipes, leadership has to come from somewhere other than these key roles; the Wolverines have yet to find that place.
In their last seven games away from Yost, Michigan is 0-4-3. In those games, Michigan has been outscored 17-9 and outshot in four of the seven.
Ron Mason says, "It’s a big weekend, but we are going to play it like we have all year. We are going to prepare for the first game and then change gears and get ready for the second. They are both very, very good teams."
The Spartans are a team that haven’t slumped at all this season, and they shouldn’t start with this game.
Michigan State 3-1
No. 7 Michigan (17-8-5, 14-6-4 CCHA) at Western Michigan (5-17-7, 4-14-7 CCHA) Friday, 7 p.m., Lawson Arena, Kalamazoo, MI
Interim Western Michigan coach Jim Culhane says that Bill Wilkinson’s reassignment was a shock. "We were all surprised. We had no idea."
Under Culhane’s leadership, the Broncos are 2-1-1, but the man who was Bill Wilkinson’s assistant for 15 years says that while you might attribute the turnaround to the coaching change, he wouldn’t.
"The kids are working harder," says Culhane. "The one thing I want them to do is to compete every shift, every game."
Wilkinson’s firing came after an 8-0 loss to Ohio State. "It was an embarrassment to the team, the program, the institution," says Culhane, "and I don’t ever want that to happen again."
Culhane says the top line for the Broncos is David Gove (6-11–17), Corey Waring (6-6–12), and Frank Novock (4-12–16), and that senior Matt Barnes (3.18 GAA, .888 SV%) is the go-to guy in net.
The game against Michigan is the only game the Broncos play this weekend. "The whole focus of our practice this week is on one game," says Culhane. "We played the last 65 minutes to a draw, so we know that we can play with them."
Chuck Mindel (11-5–16), the Broncs’ leading goal-scorer, had the first goal against Michigan, assisted by Matt Addesa (5-6–11) and Daryl Andrews (3-8–11). Andrews had the second goal, assisted by Novock.
Barnes made 29 saves to Josh Blackburn’s 23.
In the 5-2 loss the night before to Ferris State, Caley Jones (1-0–1) notched his first point of the season, while Steve Rymsha (5-5–10) had the second Bronco goal of the night. Barnes stopped 14 of the 19 shots he faced.
The Wolverines lead this all-time series 40-22-8, and enjoy an eight-game undefeated streak (6-0-2) against the Broncos. Michigan pasted Western 6-3 on Jan. 16 in Yost, a game in which Dale Rominski registered his first collegiate hat trick.
Each of these teams is playing with a purpose. The Wolverines need points to secure home ice in the first round of the CCHA playoffs, to give themselves a better chance at NCAA playoff action, and to attempt to move up in the standings. The slumping Wolverines don’t want to limp into the playoffs, no matter where they play them.
The Broncos are one point out of eighth place. With the Lakers facing Northern Michigan twice and the tough Bulldogs traveling to Oxford, Western Michigan can indeed advance if the planets are correctly aligned in its favor this weekend.
No. 8 Notre Dame (16-9-4, 13-8-3 CCHA) at Bowling Green (13-15-3, 9-13-3 CCHA) Saturday, 7 p.m., BGSU Ice Arena, Bowling Green, OH
The Falcons split a pair of wild ones last weekend in Fairbanks, losing 4-3 in overtime Friday before crushing the Nanooks 10-3 Saturday.
"Friday we actually had better chances than Saturday," says Falcon head coach Buddy Powers. "Obviously the games didn’t break the way we wanted them to to move up the ladder. Our objective is still points every weekend. At this point in the season, we have to try to play as hard as we can to prepare for the playoffs."
Dan Price (12-22–34) had a hat trick in game that saw Nanook goaltender Ian Perkins turn aside Curtis Valentine’s (3-3–6) penalty shot. Valentine was in the neutral zone breaking toward the Nanook end when a Fairbanks defender threw his stick in Valentine’s path. Powers says he took the shot instead of the power play because he thought "Valentine was due." The shot went wide of the net.
Mike Savard (3.46 GAA, .879 SV%) had 36 saves to Perkins’ 27. Pat Hallett had the winner for the Nanooks 43 seconds into OT.
At the end of the game, Perkins suffered a groin pull, and Chris Marvel played in net for the Nanooks Saturday. It was a substitution that favored Bowling Green, ten times.
The Bowling Green goals were, in order, scored by Craig Desjarlais (8-11–19), Valentine, Chris Bonvie (11-11–22), Bonvie again, Doug Schueller (6-3–9), Grady Moore (4-10–14), Adam Edinger (15-21–36), Edinger again, Mike Jones (6-15–21), and Greg Day (5-10–15).
Both of Edinger’s goals were on the power play. Day earned CCHA Rookie of the Week honors for his goal and two assists in the game and his +5 on the weekend.
Savard and Marvel each made 18 saves.
Powers knows that his team can’t be complacent or overconfident when the Irish come to town. "After those back-to-back losses, they’re going to be steaming."
Bowling Green leads in the all-time series against Notre Dame with 27-20-3, but lost both earlier meetings, 6-2 in South Bend in November, and 4-1 in South Bend in January. The Falcons are 17-8-0 in games against the Irish played at the BGSU Ice Arena. The Falcons are 0-4-0 against Notre Dame in the last four contest, having been outscored 21-13 in those games, but two of those losses were by just one goal.
Dave Poulin says, "At this point, it [the season] is in your own control." He adds that the Irish are "in the best shape physically" of the season.
Bowling Green should have some momentum going into this game, but if the Irish are serious about making a college hockey statement–as well as trying to secure home ice for the playoffs–this game should snap their winless streak.
Notre Dame 4-2
Lake Superior State (8-19-3, 7-15-2 CCHA) at Northern Michigan (17-10-3, 12-9-3 CCHA) Friday, 7 p.m., Lakeview Arena, Marquette, MI Northern Michigan at Lake Superior State Saturday, 7 p.m., Taffy Abel Arena, Sault Ste. Marie, MI
The Wildcats participated in a wild split of their own last weekend with Ohio State, losing a 6-2 game in which neither Northern goalie seemed to show, before winning 7-2 in a game that the Buckeyes decided not to play.
Sean Owens (4-3–7) and Brad Frattaroli (3-5–8) had the goals in the loss. Dan Ragusett (2.47 GAA, .906 SV%) and Duane Hoey (3.47 GAA, .847 SV%) combined for 20 saves.
The second game was tied at two each going into the third. Rich Metro (3-7–10), Fred Mattersdorfer (4-7–11), Tyson Holly (7-4–11), Buddy Smith (3-24–27), Roger Trudeau (11-7–18), Chad Theuer (5-13–18), and Bryan Phillips (6-5–11) had the goals in the second game. Ragusett had 29 saves to Jeff Maund’s 38.
Lake Superior State split a pair with the Miami RedHawks last weekend, winning 5-3 Friday, and losing 4-2 Saturday.
Blaine McCauley (1-9–10), Mike Henderson (2-3–5), Bart Redden (2-3–5), Jeff Cheeseman (8-3–11), and Ben Keup (5-6–11) had the goals in the win. Jayme Platt (2.98 GAA, .895 SV%) had the win with 17 saves.
Trent Walford (8-8–16) had the two goals in the loss. Platt was the goalie of record in that game as well, making 24 saves.
The Lakers are 4-4-0 in their last eight games, with wins over Miami, Michigan, Bowling Green, and Notre Dame. That’s two top-ten teams, in case you’re keeping track. As resurgent as the Lakers have been, however, their defense shouldn’t be a problem for Northern Michigan, a team led by J.P. Vigier (17-11–28) and Buddy Smith (3-24–27); Vigier is seventh in league scoring, and Smith is tied with BGSU’s Ryan Murphy for eighth.
Northern Michigan is scoring, on average, 3.25 goals per game, compared with Lake Superior’s 2.63. Neither team’s special teams are especially notable.
The Lakers have, lately, improved their ratio of goals scored to goals allowed, and are now being outscored by opponents 76-63. While the Wildcats do tend to score a lot of goals, they tend to give up a few as well, outscoring opponents 78-69.
Neither team’s defense is very strong, although Ragusett is probably the steadiest goaltender between the teams.
The Wildcats lead this all-time series 28-16-5, and are undefeated against the Lakers (2-0-2) since rejoining the CCHA. The ‘Cats trail in Abel Arena 10-11-3. The Jan. 2 meeting between these two teams in Marquette resulted in a 4-3 Northern win.
"It was a nice win for us Saturday night after a disappointing loss Friday night against Ohio State," says Northern Michigan head coach Rick Comley.
"We’re still alive for a home-ice playoff berth and each game gets to be more and more critical as the season winds down. I’m sure this weekend’s series will be very physical as both teams have a lot at stake."
After that 7-2 win, the momentum should belong to the Wildcats.
Northern Michigan 5-3, 3-2
Ferris State (13-10-5, 12-8-4 CCHA) at No. 9 Ohio State (18-11-4, 16-7-3 CCHA) Friday, 7 p.m., Schottenstein Center, Columbus, OH Alaska-Fairbanks (9-20-1, 6-19-1 CCHA) at No. 9 Ohio State Saturday, 8 p.m., Schottenstein Center, Columbus, OH
The Buckeyes thought things were rolling along really well until they ran into Northern Michigan Saturday night. OSU had easily won the previous night’s contest, and head coach John Markell says that had something to do with the letdown the second night.
"We got the easy win Friday, and we forgot what it took to play Saturday. It didn’t help that we were down a defenseman, but that’s not the reason why we lost. We lost because we didn’t show up to play."
Junior Ryan Skaleski received a game disqualification for his participation in a skirmish with Northern’s Doug Schmidt in the 6-2 Buckeye win. Markell was so angry about the call that he’s protested it to the league.
"Our guy was walking away. He was doing what he was told to do. He wasn’t fighting."
Regardless of the merit of the call, the outcome left the Buckeyes short a defender. Team captain Dan Cousineau (2-1–3) was moved from left wing on OSU’s first line to defense, replaced by Rob Gubala (2-0–2).
The defense was shortened further by Ryan Jestadt’s second-period ten-minute misconduct, immediately after which the Wildcats scored five third-period goals.
In spite of the loss that snapped the Buckeyes’ nine-game unbeaten streak and dropped them out of the top 12 in the Pairwise Rankings, Markell remains optimistic.
"We got a split up there, and under normal circumstances it’s tough to do. As a coach, I’m not happy with that seven-minute stretch in the third period, but I can’t be negative after just one loss."
Eric Meloche (6-10–16), Jason Selleke (2-2–4), Neal Rech (5-2–7), Hugo Boisvert (15-22–37), Chris Richards (6-16–22), and Brandon Lafrance (6-2–8) had the goals Friday. Defenseman Jaisen Freeman (3-2–5) and Boisvert had the goals in Saturday’s spanking.
Jeff Maund (2.09 GAA, .927 SV%) had 31 saves in the win and 38 in the loss. According to Markell, Maund wasn’t the problem Saturday night.
Ferris State vs. Ohio State
The Bulldogs took four points last weekend, beating Western Michigan 5-2 and delivering Notre Dame’s second 1-0 shutout of the weekend.
"We played well last weekend," says Ferris State assistant coach Drew Famulak. "Our power play finally came around. And Vince Owen broke the school record for shutouts in a season with five."
Joel Irwin (8-8–16) and Brent Wishart (6-8–14) each had a pair of goals and Kevin Swider (8-7–15) had one in the win over Western. Irwin’s first goal and both of Wishart’s were on the power play. Jim Dube’s (4-11–15) power play goal from Rob Collins (2-5–7) and Brian McCullough (9-10–19) was the only score in the Notre Dame game.
Vince Owen (2.13 GAA, .924 SV%) stopped 28 shots Friday and 38 in Saturday’s shutout, earning him CCHA Defensive Player of the Week honors.
"It’s basically playoff hockey right now," says Famulak. "It’s a dogfight out there among the top six teams in the league. We keep the players focused by telling them how competitive it is in this league."
When the Bulldogs come to Columbus, they’ll be trying to make up for the 3-0 Jan. 21 loss to the Buckeyes. The season series is split, as Ferris State won the first meeting 4-2 in Big Rapids.
The Buckeyes have won five of their last six straight against the Bulldogs, and their last four consecutive games in Columbus. OSU is 41-27-9 against FSU all-time, 24-10-7 over the Bulldogs at home.
The two teams are very evenly matched in net, as the last contest proved. Everyone knows that Jeff Maund is good, but his fellow sophomore Vince Owen also happens to be all that.
Ohio State is better offensively, and not only because of Hugo Boisvert. The Bucks possess several players, including Eric Meloche and Chris Richards, who can help to open up a game.
The Buckeyes are outscoring conference opponents by a healthy 80-57 margin; the Bulldogs are doing so 66-51. The special teams are a wash, with the Bucks and Bulldogs posting similar numbers.
Two Bulldog injuries of note: Kenzie Homer will miss the weekend with a knee injury, and rookie defender Christian Schroder, who had surgery to repair his ACL last weekend, is gone for the rest of the season.
They won’t shut them out again, but Ohio State has a definite advantage at home, and they want to prove that last Saturday was a fluke.
Ohio State 4-3
Alaska-Fairbanks vs. Ohio State
The Nanooks split at home last weekend with Bowling Green, winning 4-3 in overtime Friday before losing 10-3 Saturday.
Kerry Hafele (4-7–11), Chris Kirwan (11-6–17), Dwayne Zinger (3-7–10), and Pat Hallett (7-0–7) had the goals for the Nanooks in the win. Ian Perkins (4.11 GAA, .879 SV%) stopped 27 shots on goal, including Curtis Valentine’s penalty shot at 3:39 in the second period. It was the third game this season in which Perkins stopped a penalty shot and the Nanooks went on to win the game; it was the fourth shot he’s faced this year.
Unfortunately, Perkins was injured late in the game and Chris Marvel (4.76 GAA, .872 SV%) was responsible for all ten Bowling Green goals Saturday night. Kevin McNeill (5-4–9), Sjon Wynia (6-6–12), and Kirwan had the goals Saturday. Marvel stopped 18 shots.
The Buckeyes have the edge in every aspect of this pairing.
The Nanooks are converting just under 10% of their conference power-play chances, and are killing off just about 77% of their penalties. Ohio State’s PK is second in the conference, successful 89% of the time. Their power play is fifth, converting close to 15% of the time.
Of course, the Nanook special teams may be improving. Hafele’s goal Friday was shorthanded, and three of the other five goals on the weekend were power-play goals.
The Nanooks allow 4.31 goals on average per conference game to Ohio State’s 2.19. Fairbanks is scoring 2.42 goals per game, compared with OSU’s 3.08.
Alaska-Fairbanks has been outscored 63-112 in conference play, and the team sits collectively at -126.
The Buckeyes lead this all-time series 9-8-1, and are unbeaten in their last five against UAF, including two close games in Fairbanks Thanksgiving weekend. During the first game, OSU scored two goals within the last three minutes to overcome a 2-0 deficit, sending the game into overtime where the final score was 3-2 Ohio State.
OSU is 5-1-1 in Columbus against the Nanooks.
Interestingly, the Nanook goaltender who earned that tie against the Buckeyes was Chris Marvel (a 4-4 tie last season). Marvel has traditionally played well against Ohio State.
Perkins is questionable for these games. The Buckeyes are not hurting, physically, but the jury’s out on whether or not they’ll bring their game. If OSU brings its game, this is in the bag.
Ohio State 5-2
Alaska-Fairbanks (9-20-1, 6-19-1 CCHA) at Miami (8-17-5, 6-14-4 CCHA) Friday, 7 p.m., Goggin Ice Arena, Oxford, OH Ferris State (13-10-5, 12-8-4 CCHA) at Miami Saturday, 7 p.m., Goggin Ice Arena, Oxford, OH
RedHawk sophomore Jason Deskins (13-9–22) earned his third CCHA Offensive Player of the Week award for the season for his performance in Sault Ste. Marie last weekend, where he had three goals and an assist. He is the first three-time CCHA Offensive Player of the Week since Michigan’s Brendan Morrison earned the honor five times during the 1995-96 season.
"Jason Deskins is playing at a level beyond the level of a sophomore," says Miami head coach Mark Mazzoleni. "He has a quick stick and a way around the net. He’s always been a goal-scorer, and he has a real good knack for the net."
Deskins is part of Miami’s first line along with Mark Shalawylo (10-12–22), and Pat Leahy (6-10–16). Since this line was put together December 27, the trio has combined for 23 of the RedHawks’ 33 goals, 25 of their 51 assists, and 48 of their 84 points.
Miami was 2-10-3 in league play (4-13-4 overall) before the line began playing together, and are 4-4-1 since. On a team that is collectively -61, Deskins is +4, Shalawylo is +10, and Leahy is at 0.
Mazzoleni attributes Miami’s recent success to the formation of this line and the general maturation of the RedHawk squad.
"We’re maturing. We’re a little grittier, and some younger guys have been stepping up. Andy Marsch has been playing well, and Ian Olsen played well Saturday."
Marsch (3.40 GAA, .889 SV%) has emerged as the more reliable Miami goaltender, in spite of the 5-3 loss Friday. The win was Olsen’s (3.11 GAA, .897 SV%) second conference win of the season.
Mazzoleni says he knew his young players would take some time finding their feet. "I guess it’s what you hope for after Christmas, that improvement in your younger players. Our young defenseman are stepping up, too."
The coach adds that the prominent first line is a necessity in the CCHA. "It’s tough to do by committee in this league."
Ryan Brindley (3-6–9), Deskins, and Josh Mizerek (2-9–11) scored in the loss, and Marsch had 35 saves. Miami came back from a two-goal deficit to score four unanswered Saturday. Deskins had two goals, Leahy had one, and Alex Kim (8-7–15) started it all off. Olsen had 27 saves in the win.
"We didn’t play well Friday. We had no legs," says Mazzoleni. The coach points to the RedHawks’ bizarre schedule during the last month of play, with alternating weekends off in the last four weeks. "We had no emotion, and we couldn’t get it going. I give credit to Lake Superior for a well-played game, but we just couldn’t get anything going."
Alaska-Fairbanks vs. Miami
The RedHawks dropped a pair to the Nanooks in Fairbanks last November, losing 2-3 and 2-5.
Each team is scoring about 2.5 goals per game, while the RedHawks are allowing just over three to UAF’s just over four.
The teams anchor the bottom of the league on the power play, but Miami’s second-to-last power play converts at 12.9%, which is a few percentage points better than UAF’s 9.6%. Alex Kim is especially effective with the man advantage, registering six power-play goals this season.
The real difference between these teams is momentum. Earlier in the season, the Nanooks had a much better shot at making the playoffs than they do now, with Miami, Lake Superior, and Western improving dramatically recently. The RedHawks may actually have more faith in themselves, and playing at home doesn’t hurt.
Ferris State vs. Miami
Ferris State holds the edge in this all-time season series, 31-27-10. Miami leads the series this season, having won 5-1 and tied 2-2 in Big Rapids the last weekend in January.
Miami is 4-5-3 at home this season; the Bulldogs are 16-15-2 on the road.
The Bulldogs certainly have the edge in every significant category but one this season, that being the season series. Vince Owen is an awesome goaltender, but the Miami RedHawks know they can play with the Bulldogs.
And Miami wants to make the playoffs. Real bad.
Pick: Miami 3-2