Two Is the Loneliest Number
Before Nov. 2, the Lake Superior State Lakers had slim — but important — breathing room between themselves and the CCHA basement, and the Ferris State Bulldogs were winless. By the time the Lakers left Big Rapids, the Bulldogs were four points richer and Lake State was alone at the bottom.
“We played very well the first night,” says Laker head coach Frank Anzalone. “When we needed a talented play we didn’t get it. Defensively we were sound, we just didn’t score. We walked in on the Ferris goalie alone several times, but they didn’t walk in on our goalie.”
At the end of Friday’s game, Ferris State goaltender Mike Brown had a 2-0 shutout, and Anzalone had hope for Saturday’s rematch. Anzalone and the Lakers soon learned that hope is not enough.
In Saturday’s 6-2 loss to the Bulldogs, the Lakers jumped out to a 2-0 lead early in the first, but by the end of the second period the game was tied 2-2. Ferris State made it 3-2 in the second, and 4-2 early in the third.
Down by those two goals late in the third, Anzalone pulled Laker goaltender Terry Denike, after which the Bulldogs promptly scored two empty-net goals.
“I pulled the goalie for goals five and six, because I wanted my kids to believe they still had a chance to win that game,” says Anzalone. Losing two to Ferris State was especially difficult, says Anzalone, “mostly because of my ego, that this is Ferris and we can beat them at least once.”
Since returning as head coach to Lake Superior State, Anzalone says, he’s learned that he has a lot of work to do to return the Lakers to “the way it was before.”
Before he left, he means.
“We’re trying to re-instill in them [the players] what the work ethic needs to be like, what the passion needs to be like. As we recruit players who fit that bill, they’ll be able to teach that work ethic to the other players.”
Anzalone says he has a tough job ahead of him, both in the long and short term. His most immediate concern is points this weekend in a home-and-home series with fellow Yoopers Northern Michigan.
“Rick’s [Comley] got a good team and he knows it. Rick’s a little different from me. He’s got the 5-9 guy who can fly, he’s got some size, and he’s got some finesse,” says Anzalone, who sees as his mission the restoration to Lake Superior State of blue-collar, grind-’em-down hockey. The two-game set begins in Sault Ste. Marie, and that game is all Anzalone can see.
“We’ve got to play great tomorrow night. We can’t even think about Saturday night on the big sheet [in Marquette].”
Anzalone has a simple formula for beating the Wildcats. “We have to play our buns off. We’ve got to get good goaltending. And we need to get really disciplined officiating.”
Since his return to the CCHA, Anzalone has been unhappy with what he calls “average” officiating, and he’s let Brian Hart, head of league officiating, know it.
“Sometimes the officiating changes,” Anzalone says. “When we were at MSU, I thought the officiating was average. At home, I thought it was fine. I think the refs who let the kids dictate the games ref the best games.”
So the Lakers can take points from the Wildcats if they hustle, if they get good goaltending, if the officiating is decent, says Anzalone. “If we get that and the stars are aligned properly, we can beat Rick one game.”
Will Work for Fans
— LSSU coach Frank Anzalone, on his players’ wearing handmade signs promoting Laker hockey this week.
Another concern of Anzalone’s is the lack of student attendance at Lake Superior State home games. It’s a crime, he says, since the students live directly across the street from Abel Arena.
His solution? Advertise on the players. On the players.
Wednesday through Friday, Lake Superior State players wore — around their necks — cardboard signs that read, “Come see me Friday night free. Laker Hockey. Wear white.”
“The Blueliner club made them,” says Anzalone, whose players began wearing them in the dining hall Wednesday evening. Anzalone says the humor of the approach will make Lake Superior State students realize that his Division I players “are not above” the student body.
“A couple of guys are worried about reactions, and there’s always going to be somebody who’s a jerk,” Anzalone explains, “but I’ve told them to walk away from people like that.
“Some students are bound to giggle, in a good way. We’re hoping they’ll be intrigued.”
Students at LSSU pay $40 per year for hockey, the only sport that charges admission at Lake State. Anzalone says that he’s hoping that at least a few students will show up for the free home game against Northern Michigan and like it enough to return, next time with a few more friends.
This isn’t Anzalone’s first hands-on attempt at improving the atmosphere at home games. “I had whole bands come over because they needed a pep talk,” says Anzalone. “They’re not attired by the school, so I gave them jerseys.”
Not Laker jerseys, mind you, but blue and gold hockey jerseys that say, “Hockey School.” The color scheme is right, and, says Anzalone, “You should have seen their [band members’] faces when we gave them the jerseys.”
Anzalone says he wants the band to know that somebody cares. “Now they’ll feel as though they belong there.”
If the walking billboards and new band jerseys don’t work, Anzalone is bound to scheme up something else to draw attention to his hockey program — which is exactly the point.
Three Is No Charm
Just above Lake Superior State in the CCHA standings and keeping company with Notre Dame is Bowling Green. With three points, the Falcons are “just trying to win games, and struggling to do it,” says head coach Buddy Powers.
Through eight games, the Falcons have just three scorers who have reached five points: Greg Day (2-3–5), Brian Escobedo (2-3–5), and Grady Moore (1-4–5). Bowling Green has scored 17 goals through the first eight contests, averaging 2.12 goals per game (11th in the league). BGSU is allowing 4.00 goals per game, last in the league.
“Every mistake winds up in our own net,” says Powers, “and we haven’t been able to reverse that equation.”
The Bowling Green power play is a respectable fourth in the conference (.171), but the Falcon penalty kill is dead-last (.750), which is never good news for a team which leads the league in penalty minutes (26.50 per game).
Contributing to these early Falcon difficulties has been what Powers calls a “brutal” travel agenda, with three of the first four weeks on the road — and we’re not talking trips to the local park, either.
BGSU spent Oct. 12-13 at the Ice Breaker Cup in Maine, Oct. 19-20 in Marquette, Mich., and Nov. 1-2 in Munn Arena.
“To bus up to Maine and come back, and then back to Northern…,” says Powers, his voice trailing off. Anyone familiar with the nature of travel in the CCHA understands him completely. The Falcons had to bus to Maine — 36 hours round-trip — because they were originally booked on a 40-seat commuter plane that couldn’t accommodate the team’s equipment.
“So we all went on the bus, along with the equipment,” says Powers.
In the Ice Breaker, the Falcons lost to Maine and tied Clarkson. In Marquette, BGSU lost a one-goal game to Northern Michigan before tying the Wildcats the next night.
Back home during the third week of play, BGSU split with local rival Ohio State. The 4-3 loss in Saturday night’s game was “heartbreaking,” says Powers, as it was the Falcons’ second loss in two consecutive weekends which resulted from an opponent goal in the last 30 seconds of the game.
Then BGSU had the luck of drawing Michigan State, in Munn, after the Spartans returned from a rare road sweep in Omaha. They lost to Michigan State, 6-3 and 4-0.
“If anything,” says Powers, the Spartans “were still a bit tentative” during the Thursday night 6-3 BGSU loss. “Let’s face it; we got three goals on them. Ty [BG goaltender Tyler Masters] had a bad night, and the pucks went into the net way too easy.”
The 4-0 loss — and Michigan State goaltender Ryan Miller’s 21st career shutout — was another story, says Powers. “The next night they [MSU] played awesome. It was kind of like a surgical defeat — very precise.”
Goaltender Tyler Masters (3.93 GAA, .892 SV%) is one of Bowling Green’s bright spots, though he’s had a couple of “bad nights,” says Powers, including that 6-3 loss and the loss to Ohio State. “He started off tremendous. He was good against Clarkson and Northern.”
For all the rockiness of the start, Powers is happy with his squad. “Our effort and our attitude and all those things have been tremendous, but they’re not translating into wins. We’re so close. The guys just have to keep grinding.”
Powers adds, though, that his team could use a shot in the arm, and soon. “These things have a way of wearing on you when they always go the wrong way.”
Games of the Week
There is drama everywhere in this league, and not just at the top.
Ferris State (4-3-0, 2-3-0 CCHA) at Notre Dame (1-5-2, 1-2-1 CCHA)
Friday and Saturday, 7:05 p.m., Joyce Athletic Center, South Bend, Ind.
The Bulldogs travel to South Bend after sweeping Lake Superior State at home, 2-0 and 6-3. This season, Ferris State has the potential to be the CCHA darkhorse, if talent and hard work prevail.
This week’s CCHA Offensive Player of the Week, Rob Collins (7-9–16), leads the Bulldogs and the league in overall scoring through seven games — and he has no penalty minutes.
Ferris State has a dynamic duo in net, two goaltenders whose early season performance would make them household names by now were they not playing for a team in Big Rapids. John DeCaro (1.68 GAA, .938 SV%) is the Bulldog goalie of record for three games, while Mike Brown (2.28 GAA, .919 SV%) played the other four.
DeCaro is currently first among CCHA goaltenders, while Brown is fourth. Ferris State is tied with Michigan State for fewest goals allowed per game in overall play in the CCHA (2.00), and the Bulldogs are fifth (3.43 goals per game) in overall league scoring.
The FSU PK is third (.887), but here’s the kicker: Ferris State has scored just one power-play goal in 40 attempts through its first seven games, putting them at the bottom of the league with a .025 PP percentage.
Ferris State appears to have Notre Dame’s number, owning the all-time series with the Irish 28- 11-3 (15-5-2 in South Bend). Last season, the Bulldogs beat the Irish twice, 4-2 and 3-2 (OT), Jan. 5-6 at the Joyce.
Notre Dame closed a six-game road swing with a split in Northern Michigan last weekend, upsetting the Wildcats 5-4 Nov. two before falling 4-1 the following night. Connor Dunlop (1-9–10) and David Inman (4-4–8) proved to be too much for the Wildcats to handle in the Notre Dame win. Dunlop’s four-assist performance was a personal career best, while Inman’s two goals and two helpers in the contest marked his second collegiate four-point game.
Freshman goaltender Morgan Cey (3.84 GAA, .869 SV%) is the go-to guy for the Irish. All eyes should be on rookie Brad Wanchulak (2-1–3), who is as tenacious and smart as they come.
Picks: Notre Dame is a hard-working and much-improved team this season — but so is Ferris State, and the Bulldogs have certain advantages. Still, the Irish weren’t deterred against Northern Michigan, so these should be too hard-fought games. Notre Dame 3-2, FSU 4-2
Grudge of the Week
This weekend, the Miami RedHawks travel to meet the Bowling Green Falcons. There is no love lost between these two teams.
No. 15 Miami (5-2-1, 3-0-1 CCHA) at Bowling Green (1-5-2, 1-4-1 CCHA)
Friday and Saturday, 7:05 p.m., BGSU Ice Arena, Bowling Green, Ohio
“These games are going to be hotly contested,” says Powers, this week’s master of understatement.
After dropping two regular-season games to Miami in Oxford (4-2, 9-3, Jan. 26-27), the Falcons stunned the RedHawks with two 4-3 decisions, the second in overtime, during the first round of the CCHA playoffs…in Miami.
The RedHawks return to the beloved Goggin Arena after picking up three road points against Western Michigan, tying 4-4 and winning 5-2 Nov. 2-3. Mike Kompon (3-3–6) had two goals in the tie, while Joe Pomaranski (3-3–6), and Danny Stewart (4-0–4) also scored.
In the 5-2 win, Stewart and Greg Hogeboom (8-5–13) had two goals each, and Nick Jardine (3-4- -7) notched his third of the season.
The RedHawks have a clear advantage on the offensive side of the puck, but with David Burleigh in net (.295 GAA,. .889 SV%), the goaltending is a wash. Defense? As Powers said, those Falcon mistakes tend to find their way to the back of the BGSU net.
Pick: Bowling Green leads this all-time series 54-20-5, dating back to a 15-0 win in the first-ever game between the teams in 1978. Ah, those were the days. Miami 4-2, 4-2
R.I.P., Freddie and Freda
“Birds don’t usually live that long.”
— Powers, on the longevity of the original Freddie and Freda Falcon, retired this week.
Freddie, 1950-2001. Freda, 1966-2001.