CCHA Column: Nov. 9, 2000

The Game’s In OT And It’s Time For The Shootout!

Hockey stick, political shtick — it’s all the same.  Both help players score, and each can be wielded as a weapon.

Of course, each can break from time to time, and we all know about the shaft.

The major networks teach us that all of U.S. national politics that the complexity of a presidential race is really about a few thousand votes in Florida, that the opinions of a few thousand people polled accurately represent the views of the entire U.S. population, and that there’s nothing to be said that can’t be summed up using approximately 563 words in the English language.

Spin doctors reduce whole elections to just a few easy-to-digest phrases.

David Letterman taught us that no subject has any more than 10 crucial points.

As the fate of the country hinges on the opinions of fewer people than Munn Arena can seat, what lessons are we hockey fans to learn from this unique moment in U.S. history?  More importantly, how does the outcome of the presidential election affect you, Joe and Jane CCHA Fan?

So I ask you, CCHA fans — and the majority of you are U.S. citizens — what can be more patriotic than looking at the presidential election through the lens of NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey, and seeing what it means only to us?

Top Ten Things the CCHA Should Expect with a Bush Victory

10.  No need to understand the pesky rules of the game anymore.  Advisors will do that for you!
9.  Vouchers for hockey fans to attend games at Notre Dame and other private schools.
8.  Right wingers awarded “phantom” assists.
7.  Women lose right to choose seats.
6.  45% of hockey players not required to pass SAT.
5.  “Common sense in regulation.”
4.  All hockey moms issued pearls and sensible dresses.
3.  James Baker named head of officiating.
2.  Reflecting the new isolationist attitude, no more nonconference games.
1.  10% penalty cut for top 1% of teams in the league.

Top Ten Things the CCHA Should Expect with a Gore Victory

10.  Rules of the game explained in more detail than anyone would ever need or desire.
9.  Stricter emission standards for Zambonis.
8.  Left wingers awarded “phantom” assists.
7.  By the end of his four-year term, a “fully qualified, well-trained” official on the ice in every arena.
6.  No one has any wood in any game — literally.
5.  Group hug replaces post-game handshake.
4.  All goals scored pooled and divided according to individual team need.
3.  Warren Christopher named head of officiating.
2.  Trade negotiations begin with Hockey East.
1.  At the Joe, everyone kisses Tipper!

And regardless of which candidate wins the election, every team now has the right to demand a poll recount, and we all have to wait a good two weeks after the NCAA championship game for the victor to be declared.

Games of the Week

Two of the three teams tied for first place in the league standings meet this weekend, and the two teams happen to belong to the monster cluster from which the conference champ may well emerge.

Who needs a stinkin’ election when you have this kind of drama in Michigan?

No. 14 Northern Michigan (5-1-3, 3-1-2 CCHA) at No. 4 Michigan State (5-1-1, 4-1-0 CCHA)
Thursday and Friday, 7:05 p.m., Munn Arena, East Lansing, MI

There’s nothing like a game between the Spartans and Wolverines to get the CCHA blood boiling, and there’s nothing better than a one-goal game.

And last weekend, as Michigan State handed Michigan its first loss of the season, there was absolutely nothing better than Ryan Miller, this week’s CCHA Defensive Player of the Week.

Miller was flawless in his first career start in Yost Arena, earning his first shutout of the season in the 1-0 victory, as the Spartans were outshot by the Wolverines, 31-13.

“When we needed the big save, Ryan was there,” said Spartan captain Rustyn Dolyny.

Dolyny scored the only goal of that game.  It was the first win for Michigan State in Ann Arbor since Oct. 25, 1997.

Miller’s overall save percentage is .945, and his goals-against average is 1.56.

Traveling to East Lansing is Northern Michigan, a rookie-heavy team playing well in front of freshman goaltender Craig Kowalski, who was named CCHA Rookie of the Week for the second time this season.

Kowalski stopped 39 shots in Northern’s 2-1 win over Bowling Green last week in Marquette.  In overall play, Kowalski’s save percentage is .928 (1.96 GAA).

Both of these teams, of course, are greater than the sum of their netminders — maybe.  There’s no doubt that Miller is the star of the Spartan show, as Michigan State is averaging 2.86 goals per game, while allowing just 1.57.  So far this season, the Spartans — outscoring opponents 20-11 — have yet to establish themselves as offensively dangerous.

The Wildcats, on the other hand, are scoring some goals.  In overall play, Northern Michigan is averaging 4.11 goals per game, allowing 2.56.  The Wildcats are outscoring opponents 37-23 through nine games played.

Fifteen Wildcats have scored at least one goal, with Terry Harrison leading the way (7-4–11).  Chad Theuer (3-9–12) leads all ‘Cats in scoring, while Chris Gobert (5-5–1) is avoiding the dreaded sophomore slump.

The Spartans lead the league in both power play (.282) and penalty kill (.897), but here’s a very telling statistic:  in overall play, MSU as a team stands at +1, and the squad is +4 in league games.

Where’s Mike Weaver when you need him?

This series pits Western Michigan’s seven-game unbeaten streak (5-0-2) against Michigan State’s four-game win streak. 

The Spartans lead this series 14-10-2, and are unbeaten by the Wildcats in the past six meetings.  Northern Michigan is 4-8-1 all-time in Munn, and has not beaten MSU in East Lansing since rejoining the CCHA in 1998.  Each the last seven matches have been decide by two or fewer goals, including last year’s 3-2 (OT) and 2-0 wins for the Spartans in Munn.

Both squads are a little beaten up.  For the Spartans, Andrew Bogle returned to action against Michigan since his shoulder injury on Oct. 20, while Joe Goodenow (left shoulder) remains day-to-day.

Injured Wildcats include Kevin Gadner (groin, questionable), Bryce Cockburn (shoulder, questionable), and Dave Bonk, who will undergo shoulder surgery this week after he got hurt in practice.  Bonk is expected to be out until after Christmas.

Of course, this match also pits one man against his former coach.  Rick Comley played for Ron Mason at Lake Superior State (1968-71) — but I swear neither of them looks old enough.

Comley says, “I think Michigan State is probably a better hockey team than we are at this point.  Last weekend against Bowling Green was a good weekend for us because it was much tougher than the previous two. I think we take another step up in caliber this weekend, and we’ll just have to go down there and see how we match up with them.”

Picks: I can very well see Northern Michigan taking points this weekend, but I just can’t pick them.  It’s Miller time.  Michigan State 3-2, 3-2

Grudge of the Week

Is there a team in the league that doesn’t hold some sort of grudge against the Wolverines?

Ferris State (2-4-2, 0-3-1 CCHA) vs. No. 3 Michigan (6-1-2, 4-1-0 CCHA)
Friday, 7:35 p.m., Yost Arena, Ann Arbor, MI
Saturday, 7:05 p.m., Ewigleben Arena, Big Rapids, MI

Michigan leads this all-time series 43-21-2, and if that isn’t enough, the Wolverines are 6-3-1 in the last 10 meetings, 12-3-1 in the last 16, 23-9-0 in Yost against the Bulldogs, and 19-12-1 in Ewigleben.

That having been said, in the last seven games, the series is tied 3-3-1, with each game decided by two or fewer goals.

There is no love lost between these two teams.  In recent years, at least one game every season results in 47 or more combined penalty minutes.  In the last 10 meetings, the Wolverines have averaged 29.0 minutes per game, while the Bulldogs earn 23.8 pims.

This season, Ferris State averages 17.12 penalty minutes per game to Michigan’s 19.78.  Let’s see how these totals change after this weekend, especially if Mark Wilkins calls either one of the games.

Picks:  The Bulldogs have yet to register their first league win, and it’s unlikely that they’ll do so against Michigan.  Each team has a tough home arena, but with Phil Osaer still out for Ferris State, beating Michigan anywhere is even tougher.  Michigan 4-1, 4-2

Defenders of the Realm

The Bulldogs earned their first two wins of the season in classic DOTR style, by beating Colgate 5-4 and 3-1 in Big Rapids.

“We played just OK on Friday, but really well on Saturday,” says Ferris State head coach Bob Daniels. ” Friday was sloppy, but Saturday, we were on top of our game for the whole time, for probably the first time this season.”

Prior to the weekend sweep, Ferris State was 0-4-2 for its first six D-I games of the season, against teams that were or are ranked:  Northern Michigan, Nebraska-Omaha, and St. Cloud State. 

“We’ve played pretty good teams,” says Daniels. “On our end of things, even now I don’t know if we’re the team we can be at the end of the year.  We’re still groping, trying new combinations — it’s not coming as quick as I’d like or as the players would like.”

Ferris State’s reward for back-to-back wins is that home-home series against Michigan. “It’s always exciting, and we look forward to that,” says Daniels. “Any time we have a challenge I look forward to that.”

The Bulldogs were not the only Defenders of the Realm last weekend.  The Western Michigan Broncos also successfully represented the CCHA in nonconference play, beating Dartmouth 5-0 and 5-4.  Jeff Reynaert (.898 SV%, 3.22 GAA) earned the league’s first shutout in the Friday win.

With their 6-1-1 record, the Broncos are off to their best start since the 1979-80 season, and their five-game win streak is Western’s longest since Nov. 1995. 

Unless you’ve been living in an isolation tank, you’ve got to know that David Gove is just making mincemeat of opposing goaltenders.  Gove has 11 goals and 11 assists in eight games overall, and is on pace to score 46.75 goals this season.

But don’t overlook Mike Bishai (5-13–18) and Steve Rymsha (10-7–17).  The two are second and third, respectively, behind Gove in overall scoring for the entire league, and the three are a big reason why the Broncos are averaging 5.75 goals per game.

Tripping the Lights Fantastic

If you’re enjoying yourself more at the rink, it may be because there’s a little more action this season — scoring action, that is.  Through the first five weeks of play, scoring in the CCHA is up nearly one-tenth of a goal per game (3.08 goals per game in 1999 compared to 3.17 goals per game in 2000).

If you think that’s largely because of the Gove-Bishai-Rymsha trio, you’re onto something.  The Broncos are scoring on average 2.35 more goals per game this year than last.

On the other side of things, the Buckeyes are allowing 2.50 fewer goals per game.

Ganga Watch

Fans of Ohio State’s Nick Ganga watched with apprehension during the penalty-filled two-game series between the Nanooks and Buckeyes last weekend, but their hero earned just one two-minute minor for the weekend.  Ganga had three goals on the weekend.

For those of you keeping track, in seven games Ganga has six goals and an assist, yet a mere six minutes in penalties.   It’s 25 games and 44 penalty minutes to go.

Travels With CCHArlie

The less to be learned from last week’s travelogue is that if you want to win on the road, don’t stray too far from home.

The Mavericks traveled 1,368 miles, round trip, for no points. 

The Falcons logged 806 round-trip miles for one point against Northern Michigan.

The Nanooks fared better, earning three points in a two-week road trip that saw 6,830 miles.  Last weekend, UAF earned its first win of the season, a 4-3 overtime decision against Ohio State.

For the ECAC teams, mileage also meant empty hands last weekend, as Dartmouth (1,362 miles round trip) lost twice to Western Michigan, and Colgate (1,010 miles round trip) dropped two to Ferris State.

On the other hand, Notre Dame slipped down the road to Oxford (340 miles round trip) for its first CCHA points, with a win and tie against the RedHawks, while the Spartans traveled a mere 50 miles one way, as the crow flies, to beat the Wolverines.