This Week in the CCHA: October 13, 1999

Calling Dr. Kildare…

Stop the presses! Hold all tickets!

With one week of official play on the books, the CCHA looks a bit different than it did just ten days ago.

When Josh Blackburn slipped on a Buckeye–at least according to the Michigan daily student paper–and tore ligaments in his left foot, Michigan’s defense took yet another beating and chances for early-season Wolverine success decreased materially.

When Jason Deskins tore an ACL last weekend, my personal favorite for the league scoring title took an early and permanent exit from this season’s action.

Wolverines undone by Buckeyes. RedHawks down two key players, with the loss of defender Jake Ortmeyer as well.

If you’re a Falcon or Buckeye fan, you just got a whole lot happier for your team’s chances in your cluster, didn’t you? Didn’t you?

With things shaken up so early in the season, it seems like the perfect time to speculate a little about who’s going to do what in the year ahead.

Top Netminders

With the Michigan Blackburn out indefinitely and the Michigan State Blackburn the top returning goaltender, it would be safe to say that Joe Blackburn is poised to claim the best stats again this season.

But early-season speculation has it that he may have to work a little harder this season in net, so he’s by no means a lock for first-team all-CCHA.

Who, other than his Michigan namesake, can challenge the Spartan netminder for league glory? Well, Ferris State’s Vince Owen for one. In 28 league games last season, Owen posted a 2.37 goals-against average with a .914 save percentage, making him the second most valuable free-agent goalie in the league, according to many scouts.

Another goalie to watch–in spite of the naysaying around the league–is Ohio State’s Ray Aho. Don’t let Aho’s small stature fool you; he has catlike reflexes and a lightning-quick glove hand. And he’s been waiting for three years for this chance.

Another to watch is Notre Dame’s Jeremiah Kimento. I just like this kid’s presence in net, and if his confidence increases, he’ll be a contender.

Top Scorers

Only a fool would think that Northern Michigan’s J.P. Vigier is an early-season flash. Vigier has five goals in overall play already, in front of a high-powered offense that may tear up the league. With linemate Roger Trudeau feeding him pucks, Vigier may be the top goal-scorer when all is said and done, and these two may be competing for the conference scoring title a la Dan Price and Adam Edinger last year.

Other obvious guesses for to scorer include Bowling Green’s Edinger, Wolverines Mike Comrie and Josh Langfeld, Spartans Shawn Horcoff, Rusty Dolyny, and Adam Hall, Buckeye Eric Meloche, and Notre Dame’s Ben Simon.

A few other, less-obvious candidates include Ferris State’s Kevin Swider, Miami’s fast-flying, net-crashing Mark Shalawylo, Bowling Green’s Chris Bonvie, Notre Dame’s David Inman, and–going way out on a limb here–Buckeye defender Andre Signoretti.

Any way you look at it, scoring in the league is bound to be down compared with other conferences with the losses of Mike York, Dan Price, Hugo Boisvert, and Aniket Dhadphale–and now Deskins.

CCHA Game(s) of the Week

Michigan State (0-1-0, 0-0-0 CCHA) at Nebraska-Omaha (0-0-0, 0-0-0 CCHA) Friday and Saturday, 7:05 p.m. CT, Omaha Civic Auditorium, Omaha, NE

Says Mike Kemp, head coach of the UNO Mavericks, "Stepping into the CCHA is going to be a whole different bag for this program. You have perennial ‘haves’ and then you have everybody else, because that’s where we’re starting."

And the Mavs are starting against the defending regular-season champions, a perennial ‘have’ that beat them twice last season in Munn Ice Arena.

Welcome to the league, Nebraska-Omaha.

Last weekend the Mavericks beat Manitoba 5-3 in exhibition play. The good news for UNO is that five different players tallied: Nick Fohr, Jason White, Shane Glover, James Chalmers, and Dave Noel-Bernier.

The Spartans began the season with a 4-1 loss to Colorado College, in which Sean Patchell scored the lone goal. The Spartans allowed three goals on nine power plays while going 0-for-8 themselves–not exactly up to last season’s form.

Joe Blackburn and rookie Ryan Miller split time in net. Blackburn saved 15 of 18 shots he faced, while Miller turned away 13 of 14.

"We started the game flat-footed, which was something I had worried about with the big ice and the altitude," said Michigan State head coach Ron Mason. "To their credit they came out flying and took advantage. The first period really was the difference, although we played better from the second period on."

The Spartans are not taking the Mavericks for granted in this league-opening series. Last year, Michigan State beat Nebraska-Omaha in two tough games at Munn Ice Arena, 2-0 and 3-1, the first games UNO played against CCHA opponents.

"This is a dangerous series," says Mason, "because we know how much energy there will be in Omaha this weekend. They have a great fan base and I’m sure they will be ready for their first CCHA series.

"They gave us two hard-fought games last year in Munn. I expect an even tougher challenge this weekend."

Yes, the Mavericks will be pumped and these Spartans may not look like the Green and White of a year ago. But Michigan State has not suffered back-to-back losses since the end of the 1996-97 season, and are 10-0-1 following a loss in the last two years.

The sheer adrenaline of the opening weekend could very well give the Mavericks some points, probably in the second game. Look for Miller to see time in goal again.

Picks: Michigan State 4-2, Nebraska-Omaha 4-2

CCHA Grudge of the Week

Western Michigan (0-1-1, 0-1-1 CCHA) at Ohio State (2-1-0, 1-1-0 CCHA) Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m., The Schottenstein Center, Columbus, OH

You want bad blood? The last time Western Michigan visited the Schott, Ohio State walked away with four points, a 3-1 win and an 8-0 pounding that led to the firing of Bill Wilkinson.

And Eric Meloche literally lost a bit of blood Friday night, at the hands of Mark Wilkinson.

The Broncos dominated this series in the mid-90s, when the fortunes of the two teams seemed reversed. But the Buckeyes haven’t lost to Western since November 1997, and are 4-1-1 against the Broncos in the past two years.

Western Michigan tied Miami, 3-3, then lost to the RedHawks, 3-2, both games at home. The good news for Western is that the Broncos are generating more shots on goal than in recent memory, putting 45 of them on net in the series opener.

That could, therefore, be bad news for the Buckeyes, who allowed a bucketful of shots against Alaska-Fairbanks last weekend when they split 4-2 and 5-1 on the road.

The team that keeps its head will prevail in this series, and that could also be bad news for the Buckeyes, who couldn’t stay out of the box in Alaska.

This is a test for Ohio State, but being home is a real advantage in this series.

Picks: Ohio State 4-2, 5-2

Along the Boards


Streak: One win.

Congratulations to Guy Gadowsky on his first win as Nanook head coach. UAF split last week with Ohio State, losing 4-2 and winning 5-1. Sjon Wynia had the game winner for the Nanooks, his first goal of the season and his eighth career game-winning goal. Wynia leads all active Nanooks in scoring with 78 points.

Rookie goaltender Lance Mayes stopped 43 of 47 Buckeye shots on goal for the weekend, and ended the series with a 2.01 GAA and .915 save percentage.

Bowling Green

Streak: One win.

The Falcons beat the University of Toronto 7-2 in an exhibition game last weekend, outshooting Toronto 45-11. Adam Edinger had a hat trick, and the Falcons converted on three their 12 power plays. Edinger needs one point to become the 64th player in BGSU history to reach 100 points.

Rookie netminder Tyler Masters earned the win, making nine saves.

Ferris State

Streak: One win.

The Bulldogs split a pair of games at Lake Superior, losing 4-3 before winning 4-3. Jim Dube had the game-winner, and rookie Chris Kunitz notched a goal and two assists in the win.

Vince Owen made 18 saves in the loss, while Phil Osaer had 26 saves in the win.

Lake Superior State

Streak: One loss.

In spite of being down six players because of suspensions, the Lakers split with Ferris State at home, losing 4-3 and winning 4-3. Trent Walford had a hat trick in the win, including the shorthanded game-winner late in the third period. Ben Keup tallied two in the series, and netminder Jayme Platt had 39 saves on the weekend.


Streak: One win.

The RedHawks suffered a major blow with the loss of Jason Deskins to a torn ACL. Sophomore defender Jake Ortmeyer will also be out for a few weeks with a sprained knee.

The good news for Miami, though, is the three points the ‘Hawks came away with after tying Western 3-3 and beating the Broncos 3-2. Senior goaltenders Ian Olsen and Andy Marsch combined to stop 69-of-74 (.932) Western shots on goal.


Streak: Three wins.

The Wolverines are hurting defensively after losing starter Josh Blackburn to a foot injury. The injury came after Michigan beat Notre Dame 5-3 and 6-1. In Thursday’s game, Blackburn was assessed his first collegiate penalty, a two-minute roughing call for wrestling with a Notre Dame player in the crease.

Mike Comrie was named the CCHA Offensive Player of the Week, not surprising after recording his first collegiate hat trick and going 4-2–6 in the series. In the hat trick, both the second and third goals were unassisted, and scored just 23 seconds apart.

Michigan State

Streak: One loss.

The Spartans lost 4-1 to Colorado College, and this could be a very good omen for Michigan State. The only other time in the team’s history that the Spartans opened a season against CC was in 1965-66, when MSU lost to the Tigers 4-0. The Spartans went on to take their first national championship that year.

Spartan Injuries: Freshman forward Pat Brush (left knee injury, out indefinitely); sophomore forward Joe Goodenow (left hip injury, out indefinitely); senior goaltender Mike Gresl (left hand fracture, out 5-7 weeks); sophomore defenseman Andrew Hutchinson (sprained right shoulder, out 7-10 days); junior left wing Damon Whitten (fractured toe, probable for this weekend).


Streak: One win.

The Mavericks beat Manitoba 5-3 in exhibition play.

Nebraska-Omaha forward Kyle O’Keefe’s older brother, Kevin, was a forward for Michigan State from 1996-98. Kevin was the Spartans’ fourth-leading scorer (13-18–31) his senior year.

UNO’s roster features former Spartan Dan Zaluski, who transferred to Nebraska after the 1997-98 season. He played three career games for the Spartans (two in 1996-97 and one in 1997-98) and did not record a point.

Northern Michigan

Streak: Three wins.

The Wildcats have begun the season by beating up on two teams. Northern beat Laurentian 20-2 in an exhibition game two weeks ago, then blanked Michigan Tech twice last weekend, 9-0 and 3-0.

"I think last Saturday’s game was a good prep for us," says head coach Rick Comley. "Tech came after us physically and we kept our composure, and I was encouraged because we were willing to play in a tight game."

J.P. Vigier had five goals on the weekend, while linemate Roger Trudeau went 1-4–5.

Dan Ragusett and Duane Hoey combined for 41 saves on the weekend, giving the Wildcats their first-ever back-to-back shutouts.

Notre Dame

Streak: Two losses.

The Irish dropped a pair of games to Michigan, 5-3 and 6-1. Michigan held Notre Dame scoreless for just over 53 consecutive minutes of play between the two games, and the Irish went just 1-for-13 on the power play in the series.

Notre Dame seniors Nathan Borega and Tyson Fraser opened the 6-1 loss as the starting defensemen, marking the 67th career game that they have skated together.

Ohio State

Streak: One loss.

The Buckeyes split with UAF in Alaska, winning 4-2 before losing 5-1. The brightest spot by far for OSU last weekend was the play of senior netminder Ray Aho, who stopped 68-of-75 (.907) UAF shots on goal.

Eric Meloche notched his 100th career point Saturday night, scoring Ohio State’s only goal in the contest. Meloche is the 45th Buckeye to meet the century mark.

Saturday night is co-captain senior Ryan Jestadt’s 23rd birthday.

Western Michigan

Streak: One loss.

The Broncos generated 45 shots on Miami netminder Ian Olsen in their 3-3 tie last Friday night. Western lost to Miami 3-2 Saturday.

"I was really pleased with our effort on Friday, but on Saturday we competed for only one period, in the third," says head coach Jim Culhane. "Our team has to understand that we can’t afford any lulls during the game." The 45 shots on net were the most by a Bronco team in 36 regular-season games dating back to February, 1998.

Rookie Dave Cousineau has a last name familiar to Buckeye fans. His older brother, Dan, played for Ohio State for four years, and was captain last season.