The NCAA and major juniors
Hey kid–you wanna play hockey? You already play major junior? Not a problem. Just come south of the border and sign this letter of intent…
The NCAA is considering passing legislation that will allow professional athletes to pursue careers at U.S. colleges. The sport this would affect most in Canada is, naturally, hockey, and the Canadian press has been hyperbolic while projecting the consequences of this eligibility rule change.
Jim Cressman writes in the Oct. 21 London (Ont.) Free Press, "If the NCAA institutes its new policy, U.S. colleges could begin raiding junior teams next season."
So, the feeling north of the border is that talented Canadian players will flee south for that fast track to the NHL, the U.S. college hockey experience?
Forgive me for asking, but what are Cressman and his colleague’s smoking?
If, in fact, the NCAA–in a fit of madness and stupidity not witnessed since the building of "The Dream Team"–relaxed eligibility rules and allowed athletes with professional experience to play college sports, there will be very little keeping many of the best young players of the game from opting for the major juniors rather than U.S. college hockey. After all, why wouldn’t a player want to test the major junior waters before hitting U.S. colleges, if he weren’t going to be penalized for doing so?
Michigan? Michigan State? Who needs them–except as a fallback plan–when the OHL beckons?
Game(s) of the Week
Bowling Green (0-2-0, 0-0-0 CCHA) at Western Michigan (2-1-1, 2-1-1 CCHA) Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m., Lawson Arena, Kalamazoo, MI
Ben Franklin said, "Human felicity is produced not so much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen as by little advantages that occur every day."
Seems that’s a lesson the Broncos have learned early in this season.
Western Michigan sits atop the CCHA standings this week, largely because they’ve been making those everyday, little advantages happen.
After shocking Ohio State 4-2 and 5-1, the Broncos gained four conference points–and plenty of self-confidence.
"I’m extremely pleased, extremely happy about our performance–special teams, goaltending," said Western coach Jim Culhane after Saturday’s win. "Our main focus is learning to do that…shift after shift, game in game out."
A fairly stunned John Markell said of the Broncos, "[They] played as good as I’ve seen them play in the last four years. They were a very confident team."
That kind of confidence can win some games.
Junior David Gove (2-3–5) is second in CCHA scoring after four having played four games. Steve Rymsha has three goals and an assist. Brett Mills–who missed over a year with a shoulder injury–came back with a vengeance against the Buckeyes, notching a pair of goals and two assists on the weekend.
But the real difference for Western right now is the man between the pipes. Jeff Reynaert is now 2-1-1 as the starting Bronco netminder, with a 2.22 goals-against average and an impressive .917 save percentage.
While it’s still early in the season, the enthusiasm this Bronco team displayed in Columbus–a place where they’d lost 8-0 in March–could very well carry them through two home games against Bowling Green.
The Falcons lost 5-2 to Boston College before dropping a 4-1 decision to Northeastern last weekend. "I thought we were in the game pretty well," said head coach Buddy Powers of the BC contest.
In fact, the Falcons were trailing by just a goal in going into the third before Boston College turned up the heat and took the game.
"Coming back home with two points would have been nice," said Powers, but he’s not disappointed in his team’s early-season efforts.
"Masters played real well in goal, and there were some good things that came out of it." Rookie Tyler Masters made 41 saves against the Eagles as BC outshot BG 46-19.
Fellow rookie Tom Lawson had 35 saves in the Northeaster game, as once again Bowling Green was doubled in shots, 39-19.
The one area where Powers wants to see some serious improvement–and soon–is in offensive production. "Up front, I’m not happy with any of the forwards. We scored three goals [total on the weekend]."
Zach Ham, Chris Bonvie, and Greg Day, each tallied for BG, but it’s clear that for now, what’s missing up front is a player like Dan Price, someone who can just make it happen.
But, as Powers said, "It starts this week. We’ve had our dry run and if we’ve learned our lessons, we’ll get some points."
Western’s confidence–and their lofty position as winners of last week’s Grudge of the Week–may earn them four points when matched against a Falcon club that can’t find the net, a Bowling Green squad still finding its feet. The Broncos owned the neutral zone against Ohio State, had great physical presence and poise, and genuine enthusiasm; those players were having a good time.
And Western Michigan doubled up on shots against Ohio State–not a good sign for Bowling Green, unless the Falcons have, as Powers hopes, learned some lessons.
Picks: Western Michigan 4-1, 3-1
Grudge of the Week
#3 Michigan (4-0-0, 2-0-0 CCHA) at Alaska-Fairbanks (2-2-0, 1-1-0 CCHA) Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m. AT, Carlson Center, Fairbanks, AK
You want a grudge? How about this: Alaska-Fairbanks hasn’t beaten Michigan since…well…ever.
Michigan is 18-0-0 against the Nanooks, and a perfect 8-0-0 in Fairbanks. These two teams last met at Yost Nov. 13, 1998, when the Wolverines delivered a 6-3 defeat to UAF.
The Wolverines are averaging six goals per game, having beaten UMass-Lowell 8-1 and 5-1 last weekend. After just two league games, Mike Comrie leads conference scoring with four goals and two assists.
So, the Nanooks are feeling kind of frisky, having split at home with two 3-1 games against Alaska-Anchorage, and having beaten Ohio State the weekend before. UAF is off to its best start since joining the CCHA.
But are they good enough to lay to rest this particular grudge?
Don’t count on it. They’re competitive–and rumor has it that they still play a very rough brand of hockey–but even without Josh Blackburn in net, Michigan’s on a tear.
And why buck the law of averages?
Picks: Michigan 6-1, 6-2
Along the Boards
Streak: One loss.
Nathan Rocheleau had a goal and an assist in UAF’s 3-1 win over UAA last weekend. Casey Bartzen and Dwayne Zinger also found the net in the victory, while Aaron Grosul scored the lone Nanook goal in the 3-1 loss Saturday.
Rookie goaltender Lance Mayes made 34 stops as Anchorage outshot Fairbanks 35- 23 in the win. Mayes stopped 22 of 24 shots he faced Saturday.
The bad news is that UAF continues in its penalty-garnering ways, giving UAA 16 power plays in the series. The good news is that Anchorage couldn’t capitalize on a single one.
Streak: Two losses.
For the second weekend in a row, Adam Edinger needs one point to become the 64th Falcon to register 100 career points. Edinger has 99 points 43 goals and 56 assists.
The stats are against the Falcons this weekend. Bowling Green is 12 in the league in offense (1.50 goals per game), whereas Western Michigan is tied for fourth, averaging 3.5 goals per game. Defensively, the Falcons are 11th, allowing on average 4.5 goals per game, while the Broncos are tied for third (2.25). BG’s power play is 11th (1-for-12, .083), while WMU’s is third (6-for-34, .176). The Bowling Green PK is seventh (.833) while Western’s is eighth (.828).
Statistics, however, can be deceiving. Bowling Green has played just two games, and Western only four.
Streak: Two losses.
The Bulldogs dropped a pair of games at home to the invincible-looking Northern Michigan Wildcats last weekend, 5-3 and 2-0. Jon Rogger, Kevin Swider, and Chris Kunitz tallied for the Broncos. With three goals and two assists, Kunitz is tied for second in league scoring.
Vince Owen saved 16 of 20 shots in the first game, while Phil Osaer stopped 23 of the 24 shots he faced.
Lake Superior State
Streak: One loss
The Lakers, off last weekend, are ready to host #6 New Hampshire.
Two weeks ago, Lake State split a pair with Ferris State, and Laker head coach Scott Borek liked what he saw. "Jayme [Platt] played well Friday [in the Lakers’ win]. I think the goaltenders were the difference both nights, and that was a positive for us Friday."
In addition to Platt’s performance, Borek is happy with what he’s seen from Trent Walford who had three goals on the weekend. In general, though, Borek said, "I thought offensively, we didn’t generate a lot of quality shots."
Matt Frick may be out with an injury for the series against New Hampshire, "which takes our defense from very experienced to questionable," said Borek.
Streak: Three wins.
The RedHawks beat St. Cloud State twice on the road last weekend, a 5-4 overtime win Friday and a 3-2 win Saturday.
"We played well at times and at times we played as though we were a team playing the second week of the season," said Miami head coach Enrico Blasi.
Gregor Krajnc had the game-winner two minutes into OT for Miami, but Evan Cheverie was the big stud for the RedHawks on the weekend, feeding Krajnc the puck while the ‘Hawks were playing 6-on-5, and scoring the unassisted, short-handed game winner at 6:32 in the third period of the second game.
Miami has two secrets to success: three good goaltenders, and a great team attitude.
Ian Olsen made 32 saves in the overtime victory, while David Burleigh stopped 27 shots Saturday.
Blasi said, "One thing our team has been to this point is real positive on the bench."
That certainly can’t hurt.
Injuries: Jake Ortmeyer, Jason Deskins.
Streak: Five wins.
How special are Michigan’s special teams?
So far this season, the Wolverines have scored 11 power-play goals and two short-handed goals. That’s a power-play conversion rate of 30.6%.
In case you’re wondering, Michigan’s killing penalties at the rate of 93.5%.
With Josh Blackburn out for the time being, Kevin O’Malley has had a chance to prove a little something between the pipes. O’Malley made his second and third career starts against UMass-Lowell last weekend. In two games, he has a 1.09 GAA and a .949 save percentage.
Jeff Jillson led all scorers in the CCHA last weekend with one goal and five assists for six points and just two penalty minutes in the two-game series against Lowell.
The Wolverines have 24 goals in four non-exhibition games this season.
#5 Michigan State
Streak: Two wins.
The Spartans delivered two losses to Nebraska-Omaha last weekend, beating the Mavericks 5-2 and 6-2–and quelling many doubters who said Michigan State may have trouble scoring.
"It’s certainly a tough place to play. Friday night we got some great performances from some new players, and Saturday our special teams just won out," said Ron Mason.
MSU killed 19-of-20 UNO power plays and scored short-handed, while converting on 5-of 15 power plays for the weekend. On Saturday, the Spartan power play was 4-for-9.
Michigan State’s 11 goals last weekend marked the most Spartan goals in back-to-back games since the third and fourth games of last season, when MSU combined against Bowling Green (seven) and this week’s opponent, Ohio State (four), Oct. 23-24, 1998.
Injuries: Freshman forward Pat Brush, sophomore forward Joe Goodenow, and senior goaltender Mike Gresl.
Streak: Two losses.
The Mavericks dropped their first two league games of the season to Michigan State last week, 5-2 and 6-2.
Jason White will go down in UNO history as the first Maverick to score a league goal in the first game in official conference action for Nebraska-Omaha. Jeff Hoggan, Ed Cassin, and David Brisson also scored for the Mavs.
Nebraska-Omaha takes this weekend off.
#8 Northern Michigan
Streak: Five wins.
The Wildcats spoiled the Bulldogs’ home opener last weekend with 5-3 and 2-0 wins.
"It was a great weekend, going into that building and winning," said Northern head coach Rick Comley. "You know when these two teams meet, it’s not going to be the prettiest games."
He’s right; there were 40 minutes of penalties in Friday’s game, and 36 in Saturday’s.
Roger Trudeau had three goals and an assist in the Ferris series, and is tied for third in league scoring. Duane Hoey is now perfect in league play, having earned the shutout in his first and only league start this season.
In overall play this season, the Wildcats are outscoring opponents 19-3. "It’s early," cautions Comley.
The Wildcats have recorded three shutouts in four games, one short of the school season record, set in 1990-91.
"It’s early," says Comley.
The NMU penalty kill has registered five shorthanded goals this season.
"It’s early," says Comley.
The Wildcats host #9 Clarkson for two this weekend in the series that is undoubtedly the one not to miss.
Streak: One win.
Notre Dame got its first win of the season last weekend, beating Union 4-0. Head coach Dave Poulin called it "a good win," especially after hanging tough with Providence and losing 2-1.
Poulin is positive about his squad’s relatively slow start this season. "We were off to such a terrific start last year that I think that masks some of the things you need to work on. When you receive this early-season awakening, you can see what you need to do."
One thing the Irish need to do is score some goals. In two conference games, Ben Simon leads Notre Dame with one goal and one assist.
Streak: Three losses.
The Buckeyes face the meat of their schedule, traveling to Michigan State after three consecutive losses, two at home.
Then they welcome Maine for two. Then it’s a home-home series with Michigan. Then it’s two in Marquette.
John Markell said that he was very disappointed in his squad’s performance last weekend, when Ohio State lost 4-2 and 5-1 to Western Michigan.
J.F. Dufour rides a five-game scoring streak into East Lansing, and his odds for scoring have improved, since he’s been moved on line with Eric Meloche and Mike McCormick. Meloche and Dufour have provided the only spark in the OSU power play, which looks like it needs a whole lot of improvement, converting twice on 14 chances last weekend.
No matter what their record, the Buckeyes tend to play well against the Spartans. Ohio State is 5-4-1 against MSU in the last 10 meetings.
Streak: Two wins.
The Broncos played with real confidence last weekend at the Schottenstein Center, where they beat the Buckeyes 4-2 and 5-1. As good as wins must have felt to Western, Friday night’s game was a sleeper, with neither team recording a single shot on goal in the second period until OSU scored at 6:59.
The wins were the first back-to-back wins against a single opponent for Western Michigan since the 1996-97 season–and it was the Buckeyes doing the honors then as well.
Mike Bishai (2-1–3) had the game-winner Friday, while Steve Rymsha (3- 1–4) did it for Western Saturday night. Brett Mills (2-2–4) tallied all of his points this season so far in the series against OSU.