This Week in the CCHA: Jan. 17, 2002

It’s In the Stars

Hockey fans, I would be remiss if I didn’t warn you about this: From Jan. 18 through Feb. 8, Mercury is in retrograde.

What does this mean, you ask? It means you should stay the course, avoid signing contracts and making major decisions, don’t vary routines, and — for heaven’s sake — observe all hockey-related superstitions.

Come on. You know you’ve got them. And why not? Hockey players are among the most superstitious people in the known universe. Players don their equipment in a specific order. Goaltenders touch the pipes in a certain way.

Superstition is not limited to the ice. I know fans who wear certain jerseys for certain games, or who change the way they dress after losses, fans who eat the same things for weeks when their favorite teams are doing well.

Then there are the folks in the press box. At the start of the third period during the less-than- thrilling 1-1 tie between Lake State and Ohio State (Jan. 11), I happened to gripe about the overtime potential of the slow, penalty-free game. A colleague said, “See? Why did you say that?”

Obviously, the extension of the evening’s “entertainment” was all my fault, all my fault, all my fault.

The following night, a different colleague said — out loud! — the word “shutout” before the end of OSU’s 5-0 win over Lake. I thought the Buckeye SID would lose it.

So in the spirit the times, here’s your Game of the Week, which is always the Grudge as well, when these two meet.

Games and Grudges

No. 6 Michigan State (17-5-2, 12-4-1 CCHA) at No. 8 Michigan (13-7-4, 10-4-3 CCHA) Saturday, 7:35 p.m., Yost Ice Arena, Ann Arbor, Mich.

The Wolverines are under the sign of Sagittarius, the most optimistic sign of the zodiac. Michigan had better remain optimistic in the face of Mike Cammalleri’s mononucleosis. (See below.)

The new moon on Jan. 13 will have a lasting effect on Sagittarian energy, in spite of Mercury in retrograde. One caution, though, Wolverines: remain alert. A simple slip — too many men on the ice? a bad read? — could cost you big against the Spartans.

There isn’t much activity in the Wolverine/Sagittarius chart in terms of movement, so be prepared to fight hard for points and stay the course even if it feels as though you’re not moving up in the standings.

Of course, Mars moves into your house of true love on Jan. 18, so who knows what will happen?

On to the Capricorn Spartans. Capricorn is the most ambitious sign of the zodiac, which should surprise no one, given this program.

This recent new moon was actually in Capricorn, which means that things should go your way — if you work at it. And we know you’ll work at it. With all kinds of planets on the eastern side of your chart this month, you’ll not only work hard but you’ll be in control of your own destiny as well.

If your significant Capricorn birthday was on or near the date of that full moon — and it was — this year should bring you great things, Spartans.

Jan. 19 is a particularly good night for you, Capricorns — for love, that is. Perhaps you’ll feel the love in Yost Arena?

OK. Now here’s something we hope you’ll really like.

  • The Spartans and Wolverines are meeting for the 234th time in a series that dates back to 1924. Michigan leads the all-time series 119-105-9, and is 61-38-1 in Ann Arbor.
  • The 2001-02 CCHA season kicked off Oct. 6, 2001, with a 3-3 tie between Michigan and Michigan State, in front of a world-record crowd of 74,554 in Spartan Stadium.
  • Michigan State tops the conference standings, while Michigan trails them by two points, in second place. Seem like deja vu? It should. The Spartans and Wolverines have finished No.1 and No. 2 in the final CCHA standings in each of the last four seasons, and were picked to finish that way in the 2001-02 media poll. Michigan tied for second last year and won the CCHA regular-season title the season before.
  • The Spartans enter this contest with a four-game unbeaten streak against the Wolverines (3-0-1). Michigan State hasn’t gone five games without a loss to Michigan since Dec. 11, 1988 – Dec. 10, 1989, when the Spartans won five in a row.
  • A win for the Wolverines will put them above .500 at home (4-4-1). A win for the Spartans will put them above .500 on the road (4-4-0).
  • The Wolverines are 6-2-2 in their last 10, 3-2-2 in their last seven. The Spartans are 8-2-0 in their last 10, and 5-2-0 in their last seven.
  • The Wolverines were unbeaten against CCHA opponents in 11 games until the mighty Nanooks broke that streak Jan. 12 (3-1). The Spartans are 9-3-0 in their last 11 league contests.
  • The Spartans have won just three times in their last 10 trips to Yost, but shut out the Wolverines 1-0 in their last visit (Nov. 4, 2000). Ryan Miller stopped 33 shots in the game, his first shutout of the 2000-01 season.
  • The Wolverines have killed 26 of 27 opponent power plays since returning from the holiday break, and have gone 25 straight penalty kills without allowing a goal.
  • The Spartans and Wolverines will meet just once more during the regular season, a nonconference game in Joe Louis Arena Feb. 16.
  • The Spartans and Wolverines are tied for second in the CCHA in goals per game in conference play (3.35). Michigan State leads the league for fewest goals allowed per game in conference play (1.65), while Michigan is third (2.24).
  • The Spartans and Wolverines are one and two, respectively, in league power-play conversions (.232, .203) and penalty killing (.912, .901).
  • The Wolverines average 20.00 minutes in the penalty box per game to the Spartans’ 12.24.

    Both teams have scoring power and excellent team defense, and the Spartans have, of course, Ryan Miller (1.60 GAA, .939 SV% CCHA), whose stats lead the league and who is second in the country among all D-I goaltenders.

    But the man in the other cage ain’t bad, either. Senior Michigan goaltender Josh Blackburn posted his eleventh career shutout Jan. 11 against Alaska-Fairbanks, tying the school record held by Marty Turco (1994-98). During his last five outings, Blackburn posted a 1.47 goals-against average and .940 save percentage.

    With Mike Cammalleri out for the Wolverines, look for freshman walk-on Charlie Henderson to make some noise. Henderson has a point in five of his last eight appearances (3-4–7), and had a career-high three points in Michigan’s 7-0 shutout of UAF (Jan. 11).

    Another secret weapon of the Wolverines is that this game is designated the annual “Maize-Out,” during which fans are encouraged to wear maize (we call it corn) to the games to match the team, which will be sporting maize jerseys. Hurry to the gate, Wolverine fans! The first 750 people to arrive will receive free maize t-shirts.

    Pick: Something in me tells me that this one will go Michigan’s way, even without Cammalleri. Wolverines 2-1.

    The Bad

    Wolverine junior Mike Cammalleri will be out indefinitely with mononucleosis.

    Cammalleri — arguably among the best forwards in the country — has skated in 19 of Michigan’s 24 games, missing five as a member of silver-medal Team Canada in the 2002 World Junior Championship tournament.

    Second in Michigan scoring with 15 goals and 11 assists, Cammalleri was also named Best Forward in the tourney.

    Said Michigan head coach Red Berenson Thursday, “We were hoping it was on the downside of mono, where you’d get improvement every day and in two or three days he’d be okay, but instead, it’s the other way. It’s worse today, his spleen is tender, and his lymph nodes are starting to swell up, so he’s just getting the symptoms now, so he’s on the front side of it.”

    Berenson said that, obviously, this isn’t good news for the Wolverines, but that “you can’t dwell on it and cry over spilled milk. This gives an opportunity for someone else to step up and fill a big role.”

    Berenson added that this changes the way the Spartan-Wolverine match looks on Saturday. “If we were a favorite or had any home-ice advantage, we still have it, but we’re not as good a team without Mike Cammalleri. We’ve got to prove that we can pick up that slack and overcome that.”

    The Good

    Spartan netminder Ryan Miller is one of 14 finalists for the 2001 Sullivan Award (AAU), given annually by the Amateur Athletic Union to the top amateur athlete in the United States.

    “I feel very fortunate and flattered to just be nominated,” says Miller. “It’s a very prestigious award and I’ll try to live up to the standards they’ve set.”

    Other finalists are Tony Azevedo (water polo), Natalie Coughlin (swimming), Michelle Kwan (figure skating), Matt Lindland (wrestling), Stephen Lopez (tae kwon do), Toccara Montgomery (wrestling), Brandon Paulson (wrestling), Mark Prior (baseball), Jason Reed (rowing), Sean Townsend (gymnastics), Allen Webb (track and field), Angela Williams (track and field) and Roy Williams (football).

    The Sullivan Award has been presented each year since 1930, when golfer Bobby Jones was its first recipient. Other notable winners include Florence Griffith Joyner, Carl Lewis, Peyton Manning, Mark Spitz and Bill Walton. Olympic wrestler Rulon Gardner earned the Sullivan Award last year. No hockey player has ever won.

    The AAU will announce a group of five second-round finalists in March, and the winner will be announced at an awards banquet at the New York Athletic Club in April.

    The Good, Part 2

    Here’s something utterly useless, passed along to me by Mike Eidelbes — but it’s worth repeating, if only to give you a glimpse into the sad lives of hockey SIDs.

    UMass-Lowell netminder Cam McCormick leads the nation’s D-I goaltending stats with an astonishing 1.11 goals-against average and .952 save percentage. McCormick began the 2001-02 season with a 10-18-4 career record, a 3.17 career GAA, and a .879 career save percentage.

    (What this says about Blaise MacDonald, I don’t know.)

    McCormick is a big guy, 6-2 and 237 pounds. MSU goaltender Ryan Miller is tall — also 6-2 — but weighs just 160 pounds.

    What Michigan State wants us to know is how Miller stacks up to McCormick, pound-per-pound.

    Yes. Really.

  • Miller is 21, McCormick is 24.
  • Miller has had 23 starts, McCormick 13.
  • Miller has 16 wins; McCormick has 11.
  • Miller and McCormick each have six shutouts this season.
  • Miller has 572 saves this season, McCormick 279.
  • Miller’s saves per pound (SPP) are 3.58, to McCormick’s 1.18 SPP.

    As Eidelbes writes, “The numbers indicate [that] Miller easily leads McCormick in the saves per pound category. Therefore, Ryan Miller is — pound-for-pound — the best goaltender in college hockey today.”

    The Good, Part 3

    With his 5-0 win over Lake Superior State Jan. 13, OSU goaltender Mike Betz set a new school record for shutouts in a single season (5). Betz is in some pretty good company. Jeff Maund did this once (1997-98), and Bill McKenzie did so twice (1969-70, 1971-72).

    It Gets Better

    If the season were to end today, the Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks would be hosting the Western Michigan Broncos in the first round of CCHA playoffs. The Broncos are in Fairbanks this weekend.

    The CCHA media poll placed Fairbanks last, but this savvy writer (as well as Maverick beat writer Eric Olsen) placed them considerably higher, and staying home postseason has apparently been on head coach Guy Gadowsky’s mind as well.

    “It’s been a goal from day one, since our first meeting,” says Gadowsky. “We still have a long way to go. In this league, just because you play at home doesn’t guarantee anything. We’re playing excellent programs all the way through.”

    Gadowsky credits the character of his team with the Nanook success, while the team clearly credits Gadowsky.

    “We had the highest GPA we ever had last year, and right now it’s January and we already have the most wins we’ve ever had in the CCHA,” says Gadowsky. “The attitudes in the dressing room really brought about a change in all their habits, how they represent themselves in the community, how they represent themselves on the road, how they conduct themselves in classrooms.

    “We have really good people here, and they’ve done a great job in changing the attitude of what it means to be part of this program. I just can’t stress enough the quality of guys like Bobby and Aaron Grosul and Daniel Carriere.”

    Says Grosul, “I think it has a lot to do with Coach Gadowsky and his philosophy and his systems. He’s had time, and he’s got his recruiting classes coming in. The more he has time to teach guys his systems and they start dedicating themselves to his systems and his philosophies, the success is just going to keep coming.”

    Nanooks in Detroit? I wouldn’t bet against it.

    Thanks to Scott Weighart for his research for this section.

    The Downright Ugly

    After his Lakers played two solid games and never gave up in 125 minutes against nationally-ranked Ohio State, LSSU head coach Frank Anzalone said, “We just don’t have the talent.

    “I think where we are showed up. Them seam’s ripped open, and you can only keep stitching it for so long.”

    This week Lakers Ryan Bennett, Andy Contois, Aaron Phillips, and Trevor Weisgerber were given their walking papers.

    Of being shut out by Mike Betz and OSU, Anzalone said, “I think if we were a little stronger offensively, crashing the net … there were a number of times that we didn’t even get a shot off on two-on-ones. He didn’t see the quality shots that … can really test him.

    “We just don’t have that. We are just not at that level. If we had two or three other really good players … I mean, we’ve got two centermen on our that aren’t even on scholarship playing at the Division I level. So, until we regroup and we regain momentum, all the Mike Betzes in the world are going to look good against us.”

    Anzalone added, “That’s not derogatory toward Betz.”

    Not at all — not toward Betz or his own team.

    And from the File of the Greatly Exaggerated

    Some readers have emailed me to ask if CCHA referee Duke Shegos is retiring, as was apparently reported during the MSU-FSU broadcast Tuesday night. (I can’t say for certain what was said, as I wasn’t listening.)

    Here’s the scoop: Duke Shegos is not, at this moment, retiring. “That’s a little premature,” says CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos.

    According to the Commish, Shegos will be unavailable for the remainder of the season because of a conflict with work, and Anastos isn’t ruling out that Shegos will retire at the end of this season, but for now it’s just a leave of absence.

    If we’re lucky, Duke will return for the 2002-03 season. Please, Duke. There’s no one to replace you. Ask the big guy in Marquette.


    As promised last week, responses to recent reader email!

    Wayne State

    An astute reader from Michigan wrote, “When is Wayne State going to join the CCHA?”

    My answer is, I just don’t know. It seems odd to have a team in Detroit that isn’t a part of the league, a team coached by Bill Wilkinson, a team playing so many games against CCHA opponents.

    All I know is that if the league goes to 13, the current playoff system will have to change. Woo-hoo!

    Who’s the Greatest?

    In response to my assertion that Ryan Miller is arguably (that’s a qualifier, for those of you playing along at home) the best collegiate goaltender ever, a reader from Michigan wrote, “Obviously you must be a Spartan fan or you would remember who Marty Turco is!!”

    Sure, I think I know who Marty Turco is. If you’re talking about the Marty Turco whose four-year shutout record was broken by Ryan Miller in fewer than two seasons, then I know who Marty Turco is.

    I never said that Turco wasn’t a great goaltender. He was, and he is.

    And can somebody — anybody — from the state of Michigan tell me what the deal is with the whole “C-Ya!” thing? As a native New Yorker, I’d never heard this until I moved to Ohio. In fact, I’d never heard it (or seen it spelled that way) until I started covering hockey.

    The reason I ask is that the reader from Michigan who questioned my goalie judgment also addressed his message, “Dear Ms. Paula (c-ya) Weston.”

    I’ve been called many things before, but never that.

    JB Bittner

    An Ohio State fan wrote, “How about JB Bittner’s contributions?”

    OK. Bitter is an OSU rookie with considerable skill. On the small side, he’s fast and learning how to tough it out along the boards. He’s played with R.J. Umberger for much of his life, so the two of them are natural linemates — they really complement each other.

    It took some time for Bittner to adjust to the college game, but he continues to improve weekly. Fifth on the team in scoring (7-5–12, +3) and now on the first line, Bittner will probably contribute even more in the second half.

    Whither Bowling Green?

    A troubled Falcon fan wrote, “What’s wrong with Bowling Green?”

    I have no idea. Honest. I really don’t know.

    What Is This, the Dating Game?

    An anonymous reader from who knows where asked this pertinent question: “What are the five things that can always be found in your refrigerator?”

    Well, I’m not sure I can think of five things. There’s always beer, green olives, eggs, and mayonnaise. For a fifth, I think it would have to be cheese, or maybe oranges (and neither of those necessarily in good shape, either).

    Just a Comment

    A reader from Michigan wrote, “I was rooting for the mouse.”

    I’m guessing that Stella was, too, since Moxy beat her to it.

    A Great Segue

    Another reader from Michigan asked two questions. “Who cares about your stupid cats, anyway? And how many cats do you live alone with?”

    Well, I’ll overlook that sentence-ending preposition just long enough to answer these important questions.

    First, many readers have written over the past year or so to ask about Moxy, the cat who poisoned herself with a cleaning product last year and who most recently caught a live mouse in my bedroom.

    And, yes, I do live alone with my cats, Mabel, Moxy, and Stella. Moxy and Stella are littermates. Mabel is the old lady of the three. All are girls.

    As for the implication that my cats are stupid, I have to set the record straight. All three of my cats sit on command. Each comes to her own name when called. One cat, Stella, fetches a specific toy on command and has recently been taught to play tag. Mabel and Moxy don’t fetch on command, but they do fetch (sometimes, it feels like a never-ending game).

    My next cat-related goal is to teach Moxy how to jump through a hoop. I’ll keep you all informed, as it annoys so many of you.

    And Finally…

    A concerned reader from Michigan asks how I “manage to be in bed with all the CCHA teams (except ND) if [I’m] so lazy. Sounds like a LOT of work to me.”

    Oh, it’s a tough job.

    Seriously, do y’all (as they say in these parts) realize how horrifying that idea — both metaphorically and literally — would be to any team in the league? The idea that a team has a writer in its pocket is nasty indeed, and reflects poorly on the both the writer and the program.

    But those poor hockey players! I’m, like, old enough to have given birth to them (if I were really naughty in high school, that is). Can you imagine how they’d react to the literal implication?

    Oh, the horror. Horror.