All Good Things to Those Who Wait
Well, perhaps waiting isn’t the best way to spend your time while rebuilding a program. Perhaps the Lake Superior State Lakers and the Bowling Green Falcons have spent their time doing something more productive than waiting.
The Lakers still anchor the CCHA standings, having lost their only two league games so far this year to Miami, but LSSU is 2-2-2 overall — which is .500 hockey, for those of you playing along at home — and 2-0-2 against nonconference opponents.
With three of four points at Canisius two weeks ago, the Lakers have already accomplished something in the 2002-03 season that they could not last year: win a game on the road.
Last Saturday, the Lakers scored four goals in their win over visiting St. Lawrence, the first time this season that LSSU has netted four in a game, a feat the Lakers accomplished just three times in 38 games last season, and the first time since a 4-2 win over Northern Michigan Feb. 15, 2003. And they tied the Saints the night before.
“Both teams played really hard both nights,” Laker head coach Frank Anzalone told the Sault Ste. Marie Evening News Nov. 2. “The good thing about college hockey is a game like tonight with two average teams playing as hard as they can. It makes for a really good game to watch.”
Perhaps one of the most encouraging signs for far this season for the Lakers was the way in which LSSU earned that 2-2 tie. Bo Cheeseman and Colin Nicholson scored 21 seconds apart with the Lakers down 2-0 in the second to knot the game.
While it’s nice to get those goals, the stalwart of Laker play for the past two seasons has been goaltending. Junior Matt Violin (2.32 GAA, .902 SV%) had the 2-2 tie against the Saints, and freshman Jeff Jakaitis debuted with 41 saves in the 4-2 win.
“Jakaitis did really well,” Anzalone told the Evening News. “He plays a style where his defense will have to be very accountable to him. He is still learning to handle rebounds on the first shots. All night though, he was very strong.”
This weekend, the Lakers venture into CCHA play again, hoping to break their league road drought against the struggling Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks. LSSU is 1-5-0 against UNO in Omaha, and the Lakers haven’t won a regular-season CCHA game since Dec. 9, 2000. The last time LSSU won any game on the road against a CCHA opponent was March 8, 2002, a 4-3 win over Michigan in the opening round of the CCHA playoffs.
Neither team has a point in league play so far this season, so one team or the other — or both, if the weekend results in two ties — is going to earn at least something with this series. The Mavericks, outscored by opponents 18-11 in six games this season, are struggling both fore and aft, with a collective .884 save percentage.
In fact, the Mavericks haven’t won a game in 14 outings, going 0-12-2 since a Feb. 15 win against Bemidji State.
The Lakers will be the first CCHA team to visit the brand-spanking-new Qwest Center.
The Waiting Game, Part 2
In Bowling Green, special teams made the difference in two games that gave the Falcons three league points against in-state rival Miami. BGSU held Miami, the No. 2 power play in the nation, scoreless for 11 attempts in the two-game set, while power-play goals accounted for half of BGSU’s eight in the 4-1 win and 4-4 tie. The Falcon PK is now fourth in conference play (.903).
“We really try to use the penalty kill as a motivating force for our team,” BGSU head coach Scott Paluch told USCHO.com’s Jeremy Potter. “When it’s not going well five-on-five, killing off a penalty can give you a great lift.”
It was that stellar penalty kill that helped the Falcons come back from a four-goal deficit in the tie game. At 45 seconds into the second period, Derek Edwardson scored shorthanded for Miami — the RedHawks’ second shorthanded tally of the night — to give Miami a 4-0 lead, but the Falcons never gave up, with Mark Wires netting two in the second, and Rich Meloche scoring twice in the third.
“You have to catch your breath from a game like this when it’s over,” Paluch said. “This was a great point for our team.”
This week, BGSU hosts Niagara for one game, the same Niagara team that lost 6-2 to Michigan last week. Even though it’s just the third meeting between the two squads, there’s already a little history there — at least for the Falcons. It was against the Purple Eagles Oct. 4, 2002, at the Lefty McFadden Invitational, that Paluch debuted as Falcon head coach. He won that game, 4-1, and BGSU is 2-1-0 against Niagara all-time.
The 2-3-0 Purple Eagles have impressive wins over New Hampshire (Oct. 25) and Wayne State (Oct. 31). Barret Ehgoetz leads Niagara with six goals and an assist for seven points in five games. Senior netminder Rob Bonk (2.01 GAA, .918 SV%) is the Purple Eagles’ leading goalie and earned the conference win against WSU.
Let’s Just Hope He Doesn’t Read His Own Press
Notre Dame rookie netminder David Brown is fast becoming legend in South Bend. With all of 18 years and four collegiate starts to his name, Brown already holds the school’s consecutive shutout minutes record at 186:15.
Last week, the Irish swept Nebraska-Omaha 4-2 and 2-0, with Brown picking up his third straight shutout. Although Brown has a poised, veteran supporting cast — and although Morgan Cey looked good returning from injury with 29 stops in the 4-2 win — the fortunes of the Irish early this season are clearly linked to Brown’s performance.
“I never thought I would come out this hot to start,” Brown told Steve Lowe of the South Bend Tribune after the win. “I just try to do what I know how to do and show the guys and prove to coach that I’m able to get the job done.”
And, typical of any well-coached goaltender, Brown gave much of the credit for his third shutout to the team in front of him. “The guys really helped me out,” Brown told the Tribune. “They really let me see the puck, clear the rebounds especially — that was key for me. They were right there for me every step of the way.”
In six games overall this season, Brown has posted an incredible .964 save percentage (1.15 GAA), miles ahead of veteran OSU netminder Mike Betz, whose .927 makes him second in overall play. In conference play, Brown (.955 SV%) just trails Betz (.958 SV%).
Nationally, Brown ranks fifth in goals-against average, third in save percentage, and first in shutouts.
To paraphrase George Lucas via Han Solo, let’s hope this kid doesn’t get cocky.
Barks Worse Than Bites
A year ago, a two-game set between the streaking Ferris State Bulldogs and the perennial powerhouse Michigan Wolverines would have been something to anticipate. Anyone who saw FSU play last season knew that the Bulldogs were on the road to something; few realized the season would culminate with a regular-season title and FSU’s first-ever NCAA tournament appearance.
This season, the Bulldogs are 2-6-0 overall with just one league win. Already, FSU has equaled its number of conference losses (five) for all of the 2002-03 season.
The Bulldogs are being outscored by opponents 32-18 through eight games overall; FSU’s offense averages 2.25 goals per game (10th), while the Bulldogs are allowing 4.00 goals per game (tied last).
After losing 4-2 to Michigan State Saturday night after dropping an 8-0 decision the night before, Bulldog head coach Bob Daniels told the Ferris State Torch that the games were “rough” and “physical,” that every time the Bulldogs approached the MSU net, the Spartans “were all over” them.
What a difference a year makes. Having returned 17 veterans, you’d think FSU would be more competitive this season — and perhaps they will be, once they find their feet.
It would be nice to see the curse of Coach of the Year broken with Bob Daniels.
At Least He Doesn’t Bite
What do Alaska-Fairbanks’ Aaron Voros and Miami’s Taylor Hustead have in common? They’re the only two players in the CCHA to have earned 30 penalty minutes already. Voros leads the league with 34 minutes in eight games; Hustead has 32 in 10 games.
What separates them, however, is significant. Voros is the third-leading scorer on his team (2-3–5), while Hustead (2-0-2) is 10th on a RedHawk squad loaded with offensive talent. Each gentleman netted both of his goals on the power play.
During his rookie season, Voros led the CCHA in penalty minutes with over 100. Last year, because of a tumor in his leg, Voros played only 16 games for the Nanooks and still finished second on the team in penalties, just seven minutes shy of the 49 it took Kelly Czuy 35 games to accumulate.
After earning his sixth penalty of UAF’s two-game series against Ohio State at 1:20 in the second period last Saturday night, Voros didn’t see another shift until the start of the third — when he promptly took another penalty, at :57.
But is Voros merely misunderstood, a pro player in a college game? UAF head coach Guy Gadowsky seems to think so.
“You can have different opinions on what a penalty is and what isn’t. Aaron Voros draws a lot of attention — he deserves a lot of penalties — but because he’s Aaron Voros he gets a lot that he doesn’t deserve. But regardless, the refs aren’t adapting to us; we’ve got to adapt to the refs. Whether they’re justified penalties or not, he was having trouble find a way to stay out of the box.
“I know that there are people that feel that he’s playing an excellent hockey game and a pro style and that’s why he’s very much a commodity for the next level by the way he plays, and that he doesn’t get a fair shake.
“That may be true, but if we can’t adapt, it’s not fair to the team.
“I think it’s unfortunate — if you want my opinion. I think there’s times when he plays great and forechecks great and makes a great hit and gets a penalty for being Aaron Voros. I believe that. That’s my opinion. Still, I’m not the one calling the penalties, so we’ve got to realize that we have to change in this league.
“You know what? Maybe at the next level … he won’t get those penalties … but right now we have to learn how to change. We have to learn how to adapt.
“It doesn’t matter if he didn’t deserve it at all, ten percent, fifty percent, a hundred percent; we’re having trouble staying out of the box. We have to learn to adapt. He’s not the only one on the team, mind you, but he draws a lot of attention and lately … he’s been in the box a lot. He’s such a good player that we need him on the ice, period.”
The Nanooks were swept by the Buckeyes, 4-2 and 3-2. Each of OSU’s game-winning goals was scored by J.B. Bittner on the Buckeye power play. In each case, Aaron Voros was not in the penalty box.
Games of the Week
It may be early, but it looks as though each of these teams has a legitimate chance of hosting a first-round CCHA playoff series.
Western Michigan (3-3-2, 2-3-1 CCHA) at Alaska-Fairbanks (3-5-0, 2-2-0 CCHA)
Friday and Saturday, 7:05 p.m. AT, Carlson Center, Fairbanks, Alaska
What planet is this, and who are these Western Michigan Broncos?
Last weekend, WMU traveled to Cornell’s Lynah arena and tied and beat the Big Red, 5-5 Friday and 3-2 Saturday.
Yes, the Broncos allowed five goals against Cornell Friday night, and — yes — the Broncos were up 5-2 at the start of the third, but let’s give credit where credit is due, here; this is the same Bronco team that just a year ago would score five in a game and allow six to lose.
The following night, Bronco netminder Scott Foster stopped 13 shots in the final period to preserve the victory for WMU.
“It was a solid team effort,” Bronco head coach Jim Culhane told USCHO.com’s Adam Wodon after the win. “We haven’t had a lot of success on the road. Tonight and this weekend in one of the toughest places to play in college hockey … hopefully this could be a good step for our hockey program.”
A “huge challenge” was how Culhane described the trip to Ithaca to the Western Herald. “Cornell hadn’t lost at home in 25 games and I thought we executed well in a hostile environment.”
Now the Broncos, who were 4-15-1 on the road last season, hope to carry this newfound road momentum to Fairbanks, the longest trip of the year for every CCHA team that has to play the Nanooks on the road, 5,656 miles round-trip for the Broncos.
Their welcome may be chilly indeed. The Nanooks will try to bounce back from two road losses to OSU last week, the second of which head coach Guy Gadowsky called “painful.”
“Last night, I don’t think we deserved to win at all. Going into the third period, we found ourselves in a hockey game that we didn’t deserve to be in, so the results you can say were justified.
“It hurts because I thought we definitely gave ourselves a chance to win.” In the first game, the Nanooks were down 3-2 at the start of the third in spite of being outshot by the Buckeyes 26-10 through 40 minutes of play. It wasn’t until Rod Pelley scored a minute into the third that UAF lost some steam and OSU began to dictate the game. OSU won 4-2.
In the second match, a 3-2 loss, the Buckeyes led just 2-1 going into the third, and the Nanooks battled back after J.B. Bittner netted the game-winner at 15:04; Felipe Larranaga scored at 17:57 to keep UAF in it, and the Nanooks peppered OSU netminder Mike Betz with 43 shots on goal in the loss.
After losing two on the road to Colorado College Oct. 17-18, the Nanooks returned home to beat Ferris State 4-2 and 4-1 Oct. 24-25.
Here’s a look at the match. The stats are for overall games played.
The goalie stats are especially misleading. Foster (.882 SV%) and Mantua split time in the Bronco net evenly, and Keith Bartusch (.861 SV%) has seen the lion’s share of work in the Nanook net (396:22 minutes) because McKay was out with an injury.
There are several keys to these games. The first is the match in net. McKay is the best goaltender among the four likely to see play, for either team, but if he’s as streaky as any goalie can be, and he has just one full game under his belt after returning from injury.
The second is scoring. The Broncos seem to have discovered this season that if you score more goals than you allow, you win. This is a new development in Kalamazoo, and a welcome one. The Broncos are — drum roll, please — a collective plus-6 in overall play, plus-7 in league play so far this season, another stride forward. WMU is being outscored by opponents in overall play by a narrow, two-goal margin; UAF, collectively at minus-9, is bested by overall opponents 30-24.
The third key to this series is special teams — not necessarily how well the Bronco and Nanook special teams are in the overall scheme of things, but rather how often each will have occasion to use special teams. The Nanooks were beaten twice last weekend by the OSU power play; Bittner’s game-winner in each game was with the Buckeye man advantage.
The Broncos have compiled more minutes in lockdown than have the Nanooks, and more individual Broncos have taken penalties than have individual Nanooks, but as Gadowsky has said, Voros is a penalty magnet — and not in a good way. Add to the mix Czuy, and UAF has the propensity to spend a lot of time in the box with a penalty kill that needs some work.
Note to those playing along at home: perhaps the bigger ice surface will negate this whole argument. With more room, the Nanooks may not feel the need to fight for space, and the Broncos may be frustrated.
These games are bigger than the sum of their collective scores. These are cluster matches; the Nanooks will travel to Kalamazoo Jan. 9-10.
WMU leads this series all-time, 14-8-3, and are 7-4-3 in Fairbanks. Last year, the Broncos earned their first-ever sweep of the Nanooks in the Carlson Center, beating the Nanooks by a collective score of 12-6 in two games (Jan. 24-25).
Picks: Look for the Nanooks to come out determined on Friday night, but it may be that the Broncos have their number. Look also for each of these teams to find its way to Detroit at the end of the season. UAF 4-3, WMU 5-3