This Week in the CCHA: Oct. 10, 2002

It’s the first week of regular-season play, and more than a few things will look different to CCHA fans. Walt Kyle’s behind the bench for Northern Michigan, Scott Paluch has replaced Buddy Powers at Bowling Green, and that’s not Ron Mason with the Spartans at the Maverick Stampede.

Another change is the fast-faceoff rule, something that Miami head coach Enrico Blasi claims to like.

“I think it’s going to work out very well. It really speeds up the game, and you’ve got to be on your toes,” Blasi says.

Other changes are in the CCHA wind at the start of the 2002-03 campaign, including a tweaking of the Super Six tourney. It is, however, comforting to know that some things will remain the same — at least for a while. Miami did beat Air Force 12-1 in the opening round of the Lefty McFadden Invitational.

Preseason Champs

Congratulations to the Miami RedHawks, who took home the laurels from the Lefty McFadden Invitational in Dayton Oct. 4-5.

It was a triumph of the CCHA over the CHA, and apparently that one repeated consonant still makes a difference. Not only did Miami down Air Force, but Bowling Green defeated Niagara, 4-1, setting up an all-CCHA title game, which the RedHawks won 2-1 over the Falcons.

“It was a typical first weekend,” said Blasi, who thinks that Miami’s last-place preseason ranking by this girl reporter is a bit harsh. “There were good things and bad things. The important thing was that we played as a team.”

Blasi got the early look at the Paluch-led BGSU squad, and he liked what he saw.

“I thought they were pretty good. I thought Tyler Masters played well. Scott’s got his team believing they can compete.”

Believing in themselves would be a big step for the Falcons.

Games Of The Week

There is one league series this weekend, making it the week’s best bet by far.

Bowling Green vs. Western Michigan
Friday, 7:05 p.m., BGSU Ice Arena, Bowling Green, Ohio
Saturday, 8:05 p.m., Lawson Arena, Kalamazoo, Mich.

As recently as February of this year, the Broncos spanked the Falcons 8-1 (Feb. 1) before completing the weekend sweep with a 5-4 overtime win the following night.

If rules of coaching changes hold true, though, this could be a very different Falcon club from the one WMU faced eight months ago. Another issue for the Broncos this weekend, says head coach Jim Culhane, is the number of games Bowling Green has played already, though the season is young.

“Honestly, we’d like to have a couple more games under our belt before we jump in,” says Culhane. “Scott [Paluch] was fortunate in that he has … three games under his belt. The one thing for us with the lopsided win on Saturday was not getting a really good read on what we need to improve.”

The Falcons beat the University of Windsor in exhibition at home, Tuesday, Oct. 1, before heading to Dayton to compete in the exempt, preseason Lefty McFadden Invitational, where they downed Niagara 4-1 before losing to Miami in the title game, 2-1. That’s two D-I games to WMU’s none.

The Broncos did beat up on visiting Canadian school Waterloo in exhibition, blanking the Warriors 12-0. Still, says Culhane, it’s difficult to measure a team’s strengths and weaknesses in such games.

“We knew we could get up and down the ice pretty well, and we felt comfortable that we were able to score returning top scorers from last year,” Culhane says. “You’re not going to be 100 percent perfect with only four days of practice.

“We told our guys to work hard for 60 minutes, regardless of the score. We needed to get a good quality work ethic mentality in that game. That was what I was pleased about. When the game gets away from the opposition, you can get cute with the puck … but we worked hard for 60 minutes.”

Rookie forward Vince Bellissimo had a hat trick in the contest, Dana Lattery registered a couple of goals, and a herd of Broncos had multi-point games. In net for WMU, Scott Foster got the win but faced only five shots; Mike Mantua faced four in “relief” of Foster.

Junior Mark Wires had two goals and an assist for the Falcons in Dayton. Senior Goaltender Tyler Masters stopped 23 in the win and 38 of 40 he faced in the title game against the RedHawks (.953 SV%).

Bowling Green leads this all-time series 66-41-3, 38-15-0 at home. The Broncos have won six of the last eight meetings between the teams, and the last three WMU wins have been in the BGSU Ice Arena.

Picks: It would be tempting to give the Falcons the benefit of the doubt at home, but given how overwhelmed the BGSU defense was by Miami’s attack in Dayton, the Broncos have a good chance to sweep. WMU 4-1, 5-2

Voros Watch

Alaska-Fairbanks sophomore forward Aaron Voros made a spectacular debut last season, notching 18 goals and 13 assists for 31 points while finishing the season plus-17.

This feat is even more impressive given how much time Voros spent off the ice; Voros led all CCHA players in PIMs for the 2001-02 season with 101.

Will Voros repeat as King of the Sin Bin this season? He certainly has the potential.

So far this year, Voros has perfect penalty stats. Of course, the Nanooks begin D-I play this weekend against their in-state rival, Alaska-Anchorage.

Stay tuned, sports fans!

Loose Ends

Michigan head coach Red Berenson will fly to Saskatchewan on Saturday for his father’s 90th birthday, missing the Wolverines’ game against either Canisius or North Dakota in the second round of the Xerox College Hockey Showcase in Buffalo. Associate head coach Mel Pearson will act as head coach for that game. Berenson will, however, be behind the bench Friday night, as Michigan takes on Niagara.

From the LSSU weekly release: “The freshmen have competed with each other,” said Laker head coach Frank Anzalone. “Some are in better shape than others, but the upperclassmen have noticed that we have some good freshmen, and they are working hard.”

Anzalone added, “They are capable of playing. It bodes well for our future. We see good things every day. We’re just better than we were last year.”