Editor’s note: Due to an emergency, USCHO.com roving reporter Sam Bohney is filling in for Paula C. Weston.
Michigan Shines At Showcase
The College Hockey Showcase’s most successful team added to its accomplishments over the weekend. Michigan went down a goal to Wisconsin in the early going Friday, but that was the last time the Wolverines trailed against either the Badgers or their Sunday opponent, Minnesota.
In the end, Michigan beat Wisconsin 4-1 and the defending NCAA champion Gophers 3-1. Rookie netminder Al Montoya — he of the impressive early-season run — was one of the keys to both wins, stopping 57 of 59 shots total.
“He’s given us everything we expected and more,” said Michigan head coach Red Berenson of Montoya. “This is good experience for him.”
A second key was special teams, which the Wolverines rode all weekend. Michigan scored a power-play goal and a shorthander in each contest, adding a four-on-four Friday and an empty-netter Sunday for good measure.
But of the two victories, there was little doubt which one meant more. Minnesota beat Michigan last April to advance to the NCAA title game, and though Berenson discounted revenge as a factor, he affirmed the importance of the win Sunday.
“No question, it’s the biggest win of the year, because it was our strongest opponent in a great environment,” he said.
Laker Struggles Continue
Lake Superior will host Nebraska-Omaha this weekend with a dubious streak in play: after 10 league games, the Lakers are still looking for win number one in the CCHA. They fell to 0-10 with a weekend sweep at the hands of Western Michigan.
Head coach Frank Anzalone was brutally honest after the loss Saturday.
“It’s hard; I’ve never been 0-and-10,” he said. “I’ve never experienced this. I’ve always been able to pull teams through storms and find ways to do stuff, but we’re just not at the level of a lot of the teams in our league right now. This is just an example of where the program went, and how long and hard it is going to be to bring it back.
“You can only go one weekend at a time and just keep recruiting and developing, and hopefully a year or two down the road, we’re answering questions like ‘What a great sweep’ or ‘What a great split at Michigan State.’ But right now, we’re at ground zero and we need to keep going forward the best we can.
“We can’t score. We don’t have snipers yet. It’s very rare that you get a freshman that can come in on a team like ours and score a lot of goals; we don’t a strong supporting cast. So even if we had a freshman who could do that, he’d be better off on a stronger team to do that.
“When you’re on a team that’s not real strong depth-wise, that freshman can’t show it anyway, and we don’t have scoring in the upperclass. For us, it’s a battle. We don’t have natural skilled guys, and those we do are in the younger class. I can understand and make sense of this all, I just don’t really like the taste of it. … We are moving forward despite the fact it doesn’t look like it.
“We have to keep sucking up tough losses. This is a very tough situation, but it’s where we are. I don’t think we’re going to be able to change it simply.”
The Lakers will play the Mavericks, who escaped with a tie and a win over Merrimack last weekend. UNO, which got a great boost from Greg Zanon, looks to carry the momentum into the U.P.
“It is a boost of confidence for a team that has been struggling as much as we have,” Maverick coach Mike Kemp said. “It’s nice to get the experience of coming back from a deficit, battling through a difficult time even though it was at home, and coming up with a win over Merrimack.
“Any time you’re in a situation like we’re in, where things have not gone as well as you expected, you are in a position where you’re looking for any kind of optimism. I think we can take some optimism from last weekend, knowing that our guys didn’t quit. They showed perseverance and real dedication.”
It’s been up and down for Western Michigan this season, sometimes in extreme ways. The Broncos’ last eight games include a four-game losing streak and a four-game winning streak.
The most recent string — the winning streak — gets put to the test this weekend when former assistant coach Mike Schafer brings his Cornell Big Red into town.
“Coach Schafer has done a great job with that program,” said coach Jim Culhane. “They’re coming off a win over Boston University and have been ranked most of the season. They have a lot of talent coming back from their NCAA tournament team of a season ago, so we have our work cut out for us.”
The Broncos will have to keep up their scoring pace; they are averaging 4.50 goals per game in the four wins. In the previous four, the Broncos scored just five goals, a scant average of 1.25.
Needless to say, that will be a daunting task against a Cornell team that has only given up 1.33 goals per game on the year.
Michigan State and Ferris State face off in a home-and-home this weekend, both with a little momentum.
Michigan State — which has struggled at times after losing All-World netminder Ryan Miller and head coach Ron Mason — took three points this weekend in the College Hockey Showcase. Ferris had the week off, but swept Ohio State the weekend before.
The Spartans couldn’t hold on to a lead against Minnesota and ended up with a 5-5 tie, but then defeated Wisconsin 2-1 in overtime.
“Unfortunately, in the last three games, we’ve lost leads, but at least we’re at the point where we’re getting them,” coach Rick Comley told the Lansing State Journal. “We kept fighting and scrapping. For a young team to get three points and still be in the middle of a long road trip, it’s a positive. Now we get to go home and have a good week of practice.”
“Our goal was to come out of here with two solid games and scrounge up whatever points we could,” MSU senior defenseman and captain Brad Fast told the Journal. “Three points is great for us at this point in the season.”
Ferris took four points and holds the lead in the CCHA standings. The Bulldogs’ level of success has surprised many — even head coach Bob Daniels.
“We’ve gotten beyond the point where we feel like the little stepson,” Daniels told ESPN.com. “We don’t feel like we’re second fiddle. But we surely didn’t expect the start we’ve had, either.”
Thanks to Pat Host for letting me use his soul.