Travels with CCHArlie
There’s nothing like a little motion, a little kinetic energy, to get a party started. Someone puts on Lenny Kravitz; people dance. The carny pulls a lever; people spin.
Someone drops a puck, and the elaborately choreographed passion play known as college hockey begins.
Given the way in which the 2000-01 CCHA season starts, I’d say the karma quotient of the whole planet is just about to rise.
In a league as geographically far-flung as the CCHA, it’s not unusual for teams to travel some distance on any given weekend. But even by CCHA standards, this weekend is a bit out of the ordinary.
Three teams are in Alaska. The Broncos take on the Nanooks in Fairbanks in one of two league series scheduled this week. Michigan and Michigan State are in Anchorage for tournament play.
In the other conference series, the Buckeyes travel to Marquette to meet the Wildcats.
But that isn’t all. Ferris State travels to St. Cloud State. Notre Dame heads to Omaha for the Maverick Stampede.
And — best of all — Bowling Green flies down to Alabama for two in Huntsville.
You want to know the total mileage? So do I. In fact, I did have roughly half figured out, and this coveted number now sits on my desk in Columbus, right next to a great interview with Dave Poulin, who talked about the strength of the early Notre Dame schedule, the improvements his Irish need to make after a 7-3 loss to Minnesota, and his thoughts on this trip.
Where am I? Gaylord, Michigan, in a room that is designated “smoking,” in a hotel whose name I can’t recall, at 3:18 a.m., fresh off the Ohio State team bus.
Why don’t I hop on the Internet and do a little research? Excellent question. The video driver on my laptop isn’t feeling up to the task. It crashes 30 seconds into both Netscape and Explorer, blurring the screen and forcing me to reboot.
I can, however, tell you that American Beauty is an excellent film, while Deuce Bigalow is mildly amusing, and some boxing movie whose title I do not recall nearly put me to sleep, for which I would have been grateful had it been successful.
I can also tell you that Gaylord is home to the Call of the Wild Museum, Gift Shop, and “Fun Park,” the Jimmy Jukebox Family Center, several pizza places and family restaurants, and approximately 5,016 golf courses.
I can also tell you a little bit about what Buddy Powers thinks of last week’s Falcon exhibition win over York University.
You want numbers? After this weekend’s action, next week’s column will be chock-full of them.
Good News For Falcon Hockey
“Our freshmen played very well in the game,” says Powers. That’s very good news for the Falcons, since there are nine rookies on the Bowling Green squad.
The Falcons beat York 8-4 in a penalty-filled game that gave Powers the chance to see his specialty teams in action. While he’s not hoping for countless whistles when the Falcons take on Alabama-Huntsville this weekend, he is eager for the chance to once again get a good look at his players in a variety of situations.
“Obviously, we want to see if we can’t get a couple of victories that count [this weekend], but more so we play all four lines in every situation. I’ll probably do that again this weekend; whatever line is up goes out on the power play. We’ve got a lot of open spots.”
Those open spots include the net. Powers says that both Tyler Masters and Shawn Timm looked good against York. Timm stayed in Bowling Green all summer to condition.
“I feel pretty good about that [situation in goal]. That’s one of our strong points this season.”
Some bad news for Falcon fans. Ryan Murphy joins Doug Schueller on the DL after “running into a rookie” at practice last week. Murphy separated his shoulder and is expected to miss a few weeks.
Games of the Week
In this season of uncertainty, when you can almost determine the finishing order of roughly nine teams in the league by drawing their names from a hat, the most interesting games scheduled may be those between Western Michigan and Alaska-Fairbanks.
Like most of the media and coaches, I’ve picked both of these teams to sit out the postseason. But predictions have a funny way of going awry, and determined teams have ways of proving pundits wrong.
And there are always a few surprises in the CCHA.
Western Michigan (0-0-0) at Alaska Fairbanks (0-0-0)
Friday and Saturday, 11:05 p.m. EDT, Carlson Center, Fairbanks, AK
This match is interesting for all kinds of reasons:
These two teams split a pair of one-goal games last season in Kalamazoo, each by the score of 3-2.
If there are to be any surprises in the league this season, the biggest of them will likely come from the bottom. The Nanooks may have won just four games last season, but a dozen of their losses were by one goal.
The Broncos also lost a large number of one-goal games, but many of those were higher scoring all the way around, and some of their losses were whoppers, including 9-3 and 7-2 losses to Michigan, a 7-3 loss to Lake Superior, and a 7-0 loss to Ferris State — all in the second half of the season.
Once again, the battle for 10th place in the CCHA may be as compelling as the fight for first, especially now that the league has just one automatic NCAA bid, and that goes to the winner of the tournament, not the regular season. For teams in the lower tier, capturing 10th place will almost be like Charlie winning his ticket into the Chocolate Factory; four points in Fairbanks this weekend may just extend either team’s season by at least two games.
Picks: How long has it been since the Nanooks have swept a conference opponent at home — or anywhere, for that matter? UAF 3-2, 3-1
Grudge of the Week — Well, Maybe
Ohio State (0-0-0) at Northern Michigan (0-0-1)
Friday and Saturday, 7:05 p.m. EDT, Berry Events Center, Marquette, MI
In hockey, “history” can sometimes mean “issues.” For example, the Spartans and Wolverines share some history. So do the Lakers and Wildcats.
The Wildcats also wax nostalgic with the Buckeyes, who travel to Marquette for the second consecutive season for a two-game series. Last year, Chris Gobert ran up his stats by notching five goals against the Bucks, who were famous for making Players of the Week out of many opponents. Gobert would go on to become the CCHA’s Rookie of the Year, the Wildcats would eventually bow out in the post-season against the upstart Mavericks, and Ohio State would join Alaska Fairbanks in hitting the links early.
This history that inspired the Wildcat chant, “Ohowihateohiostate!” would be perfect for this week’s Grudge of the Week one key ingredient weren’t in short supply.
With 10 or more rookies on each roster, the collective memories on each side are a bit diminished. True, the veteran Buckeyes will remember Gobert and his five goals, and junior and seniors on the Ohio State squad will recall having lost the last three in a row to the Wildcats by a collective score of 15-4, and seniors on the Wildcat squad may remember the Bucks’ five-game win streak against Northern from November 1997 through February 1999, but much of the shared history between these two specific squads has yet to be written.
Last weekend, Northern tied Michigan Tech 3-3 on the road in overtime, which may be either an ominous sign for the young Wildcat squad or a ray of hope for the Huskies. Ohio State manhandled Wilfred Laurier in exhibition play in Columbus, winning 5-1, outshooting the Golden Hawks 52-19.
Of course, these numbers — the only ones I have this week, actually — may add up to exactly nothing.
Dan Ragusett and Craig Kowalski will likely split time in the Wildcat net; on the other end of the Olympic ice, Pete Wishloff and Mike Betz will share the Buckeye cage.
Picks: Rookies against rookies, two hard-working squads battling it out…this is a great ticket. Northern has the edge in net as well as the home-ice advantage, but don’t be surprised if the Buckeyes take home some points after these two games. NMU 5-4, 4-3