This Week in the CCHA: Oct. 11, 2001

Ministry of Truth

This is what life is like post-Sept. 11, 2001:

  • Films such as Collateral Damage and Big Trouble postpone release because they feature bombs or terrorist attacks.
  • Men in Black 2, which was supposed to include a climactic scene at the World Trade Center, will be revised.
  • The marketing campaign for Robert Redford’s film, The Last Castle, received a makeover, eliminating the promotional shot of an American flag flown upside-down (a universally recognized distress signal).
  • The album cover art — planned before Sept. 11 — for hip-hop artists The Coup has been nixed because it featured one of the group members blowing up the World Trade Center with a detonator.
  • The ripped-from-the-headlines television show based in New York City, Law & Order, may scrap a spring 2002 five-episode mini- series that deals with terrorism in New York. The episodes were planned before Sept. 11.

Ironically, while the entertainment industry works furiously to eliminate potentially insensitive material that alludes to war or terrorism — indeed, while the entertainment industry seems to be bent on actively erasing all pre-Sept. 11 images of the World Trade Center towers — news shows throw around the word war as though the U.S. has actually declared one.

What does this have to do with college hockey? Well, last Saturday, Oct. 6, Michigan and Michigan State skated to a 3-3 tie in a contest dubbed “The Outdoor Game.”

Not everyone in East Lansing, however, got the memo that mandated the event’s change of name; the shuttle buses from the MSU remote parking lots to Spartan Stadium proclaimed clearly that their destination was the “Cold War.”

It seems that revision is the theme of the day. This isn’t “political correctness”; this isn’t even sensitivity. This is revisionist history.

There was nothing whatsoever wrong with calling the Oct. 6 game the “Cold War.” Any human with an ounce of sense understood the play on words, and — jeepers creepers! — the Red Menace is no more!

I don’t want to be told that the government has the corner on the word war. In addition to being an American, I’m a sportswriter. The rhetoric of sports is filled with reference to war. No one expects the good citizens of Buffalo to take arms against Florida when the Bills play the Jaguars this weekend (all jokes about Buffalo’s inability to win a game and the annual “invasion” of Florida by “snowbirds” from Western New York notwithstanding).

Nor do I want images of the pre-attack World Trade Center erased from the public memory.

There’s a lovely scene in Woody Allen’s Manhattan in which he and Diane Keaton talk through the night while watching the gorgeous New York City skyline from Sutton Park, a vantage point from across the East River. The outline of lower Manhattan — accented by the towers of the World Trade Center, silhouetted dark in the soft, pre-dawn grayness — prompts Allen’s character, Isaac Davis, to call New York a “knockout.”

Allen was, of course, referring to the aesthetics of that beautiful city, and we deserve to remember that city the way it was before Sept. 11. This takes absolutely nothing away from the tragedy and heroics that have resulted from the Sept. 11 attack.

Nor does using the word war in a metaphorical sense in any way show disrespect for anything that’s going on in the world today.

One painful lesson we’ve learned in the past five weeks is that the world is not as safe as we thought, and that we are not immune to attacks from enemies beyond our borders. One lesson we should learn, however — before it’s too late — is that we are also not immune from enemies of another kind, those who label us unpatriotic when we express unpopular opinions, those who attempt to dictate the very language we use (either overtly or implicitly), those who attack the First Amendment from within.

Okay. It’s time to drop the puck already.

Games of the Week

The Maverick Stampede

It’s the second annual Maverick Stampede, and it’s a doozy. All games are at the rockin’ Omaha Civic Auditorium.

No. 5 Michigan vs. No. 6 Providence, Friday, 5:05 p.m. CT

Talk about your marquee matchup. The Stampede kicks off with two teams loaded for bear, the Wolverines and the Friars.

Many people — including me — questioned how Michigan would bounce back from offseason personnel losses. Andy Hilbert and Jeff Jillson flew the coup (could the animal imagery get any thicker here?), and the Wolverines graduated Mark Kosick, Josh Langfeld, and Scott Matzka.

Actually, the loss of Kosick and Langfeld could be a plus. Michigan fans can only hope that when Kosick and Langfeld left, they took a whole lot of attitude with them on their collective way out the door.

In their wake enters an extraordinary rookie class, poised, talented, and — seemingly, for now — unpretentious. Anyone who saw Michigan beat Mercyhurst in the first round of NCAA play last year got a glimpse of something wonderful: a Wolverine squad that played with heart, emotion, and love of the game.

Anyone who saw the Outdoor Game against Michigan State Oct. 6 saw the same thing, but with eight rookies whose enthusiasm may be a threat for a long, long time.

Of course, it wasn’t just the exuberant play of guys like freshman forward Jason Ryznar, who notched a goal and an assist in the outing, but there was the seemingly effortless play of Mike Cammalleri, who had a hand in all three Wolverine goals, and the poise of veteran netminder Josh Blackburn, who wasn’t particularly challenged, but looked specifically unrattled during the match.

Michigan has to face a very tough Providence team, a squad that returns its top five scoring forwards from the 2000-01 campaign. Devin Rask had 51 points last season; Peter Fregoe (37), Drew Omicioli (27), Marc Suderman (26), and Jon DiSalvatore (25) round out the quintet of returning 20-point men.

Opposite Blackburn in the Providence net is All-American goaltender Nolan Schaefer, who in 25 games during the 2000-01 season compiled a record of 15-8-2 with a 2.47 GAA and .915 save percentage.

This is just the second time that these two teams meet, and the first time since the 1964 NCAA semifinals (1964 being the year of this columnist’s birth — which makes their last meeting about a hundred years ago). Michigan leads this very short all-time series by the margin of 1-0-0, having won the previous match 3-2 on the Wolverines’ way to the 1964 NCAA championship.

Pick: I haven’t seen Providence play this season, but I have seen Michigan. Wolverines 3-2

Minnesota-Duluth vs. No. 13 Nebraska-Omaha, 8:05 p.m. CT

If there’s one thing Mavericks fans sincerely love — aside from emailing yours truly — it’s winning in the Omaha Civic Center, where they sell beer.

(Why is it important to note that beer is sold in the Civic Center? Beats me, but it sure seems to make a lot of Mavs fans happy.)

UNO should play the inhospitable host in its first game this weekend, and Mavs fans should rejoice.

The Bulldogs finished 7-28-4 last season, scoring just 103 goals for the year (2.64 per game). On the plus side, Duluth returns its top eight scorers, including Tom Nelson (40 points), Nate Anderson (28), Andy Reierson (22), Jon Francisco and Judd Medak (21 each), and Beau Geisler (20).

Minnesota-Duluth’s primary weakness is defense, from the net out. Returning goaltenders Rob Anderson (.895 SV%, 3.80 GAA) and Adam Coole (.869 SV%, 4.27 GAA) will need to improve if the Bulldogs are to be competitive in the WCHA — and this game.

The Mavericks return three of the top players in the league, conveniently one at each position. Junior forward David Brisson led the team in scoring with 47 points. Junior defenseman Greg Zanon is, quite simply, the bomb on the blueline, an All-American and All-CCHA first-teamer. He was also the third highest-scoring Maverick last season, with 12 goals and 15 assists.

Dan Ellis returns in net, and if this sophomore plays like he did in the first round of last year’s CCHA playoffs, watch out. Ellis finished the season with a 21-14-3 record, a 2.49 goals against average, and a .911 save percentage.

And let’s not forget sophomore forward Andrew Wong, who had a dozen goals and a dozen assists in his rookie season.

Minnesota-Duluth actually leads this all-time series, 3-1-0, and the Mavericks are 1-1-0 against the Bulldogs in the Civic Auditorium. UNO junior forward seems to have the Bulldogs’ number, with three goals and one assist against Duluth all-time. The Mavericks won the last contest, Dec. 18, 1999, by the score of 3-2 in Omaha.

Pick: Unless the planets are misaligned, the Mavericks should overwhelm the struggling Bulldogs. Yes, it’s tough to say a team is struggling before it’s even left the gate, but unless the planets are aligned — well, you get the cosmic picture. UNO 4-2

Minnesota-Duluth vs. No. 6 Providence
Third-place game, 5:05 p.m. CT

Pick: There’s no consolation in this third-place game for the Bulldogs. Here’s a genuine dose of East Coast bias. Providence 5-1

No. 5 Michigan vs. No. 13 Nebraska-Omaha
Championship Game, 8:05 p.m. CT

How could I predict any combination other than this for the title game? It’s not merely that I’m a complete homer for the CCHA, but given the respective first-round matches, I honestly think Mavs fans will get exactly what they want: a chance to play Michigan for the whole Stampede shebang.

In this contest, UNO has the edge in net, but Michigan has it in every other way. With no disrespect intended toward the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks, the players, the coaches, the fans, and the fair city of Omaha itself, Michigan is just that good. Unless the Outdoor Game against the Spartans was a fluke — and wouldn’t everyone else in the league be thrilled if it were? — the Wolverines have the ability to absolutely plough through the competition this season.

Pick: Ordinarily, the Mavericks would also have a home ice advantage, but given that this young Michigan team was utterly unfazed in front of 74,000 fans in Spartan Stadium, I think that’s a moot point. Michigan 4-2

Of Mavericks and Wolverines

Here are a couple of notes of interest.

While Hobey Baker winner Ryan Miller deservedly earned a ton of press for his NCAA shutout record, senior Michigan netminder Josh Blackburn has been quietly amassing shutouts of his own. Blackburn is just three away from setting a new Michigan school record. The previous record was held by Marty Turco (11), who also held the NCAA shutout record before Ryan Miller came along.

In an on-ice ceremony Friday, the Blue Line Club will induct four people to the Omaha Hockey Hall of Fame. Ted Baer, Eddy Bruneteau, Jake Forbes, and Motto McLean are the first inductees in over 40 years. This year, the UNO Blue Line Club wanted to revive the Omaha Hockey Hall of Fame award to reward people who have made a lasting contribution to the Omaha hockey community. The last inductions took place in 1961, the year in which Gordie Howe was honored.

Here’s an omen: The winner of the inaugural Maverick Stampede went on to win the NCAA championship. The Boston College Eagles defeated Nebraska-Omaha in the championship for the Omaha Cup, and were ranked No. 4 at the time. The No. 5 Michigan Wolverines look good, really good…

Here Come the Nanooks!

The CCHA media poll had the Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks dead last, but this reporter knows better (as, apparently, does Eric Olson of the Omaha World-Herald, who picked UAF to finish ninth — another omen?).

This hard-working team swept Air Force last week by a collective score of 13-3. The series sweep marks the first time the Nanooks have started 2-0 since the 1990-91 season, when they began the season with back-to-back wins over Notre Dame.

UAF posted a team plus/minus of +38 in the two games against Air Force, and nine different Nanooks had goals.