This Week in the CHA: Nov. 13, 2003

There’s No Place Like Home-and-Home

Six teams in one conference creates a problem for schedule makers — if a couple nonconference games are scheduled for one weekend, the options for opponents become very slim. Over the course of the season, this means an increased likelihood of oddities of all sorts. This week features the home-and-home series.

Wayne State and Findlay have already net twice this year, splitting games on consecutive Fridays. This time they will take turns on the other’s home rink over the same weekend. The Oilers host the Warriors Friday and then the series shifts to Detroit and the Compuware Sports Arena on Sunday.

“We’ve played them twice already this year,” said Findlay coach Pat Ford. “We beat them 6-3 on our ice the last time, and we know each other real well.”

More than just familiarity, the two teams have started to develop a little old-fashioned hatred. The first two meetings got a little surly, seeing a total of 30 penalties for 71 minutes — including a major for kneeing and a misconduct. The Oilers’ physical style has created an opportunity for some more fireworks this weekend.

“Is there a rivalry there, no doubt about it,” Ford said. “The games have been hard-hitting so far and they will certainly come in with more intensity after losing the last one.”

Findlay has greater concerns than Wayne State’s effort level. The Oilers have to find a way to put some pucks in the net. They have lost their last four games, and scored more than one goal just once — a 5-3 loss to Bemidji last Friday.

It’s not for lack of shots. Findlay outshot Bemidji on Friday and repeated the feat over the last two periods on Saturday.

“If you look at the whole series, we actually outshot Bemidji,” Ford said. “Eventually the puck should go in, but we need to start making our own breaks.”

The Oilers didn’t receive any breaks on Saturday.

Bemidji scored the game-winning goal at 19:59 of the first period on the power play, on a play that, according to Ford, was offsides. Findlay seemed on verge of getting back in the game in the third period, but in the middle of the Oilers scoring the apparent tying goal, the referee blew his whistle to attend to an injured Bemidji player.

“Aside from a 6-0 loss to Colgate, we’ve played hard every night,” Ford said. “We deserved a better fate on Saturday night, suffering two controversial calls … If you look at the amount of goals we’ve scored you would think we are not playing well, but we are just a young team.”

Among its youthful lineup, nobody has more than six points, so Ford has no choice but to keep running his green lines until somebody proves themselves capable of carrying the offense. If anything should help, it is the fact that Wayne State is the team the Oilers had the most success against, scoring six the last time they faced WSU.

“We need to score by committee with a different guy being the hero each night,” Ford said. “I try and roll three or four lines because we don’t have a go-to offensive guy. The freshmen are still trying to find their place on the team.”

Wayne State, on the other hand, may be pleased to be heading on the road Friday. After losing for the second straight week in Detroit to Niagara — the first two times the Purple Eagles have beaten the Warriors in Michigan — WSU got some help on Saturday with the return of Steve Kovalchik and Billy Collins.

Findlay, meanwhile, has to deal with the of one of its few veterans, senior center Bryan Sherry, who is out six-to-eight weeks with a broken collarbone.

Insert Paul Bunyan Joke Here

I’m not from Northern Minnesota, so I probably don’t get it.

Bemidji State and No. 13 Minnesota-Duluth first squared off in 1947. The two Northern Minnesota rivals decided last year that they would play a home-and-home every year to foment a natural, nonconference rivalry.

As part of this developing tradition, Bemidji coach Tom Serratore and his UMD counterpart, Scott Sandelin, sat down to devise a traveling trophy for this series. Digging deep into local lore, they decided what best emblemized this series was — Babe the Blue Ox.

Oh, jumpin’ Johnny Appleseed.

“We tried to figure out what to call the trophy,” Serratore said, proudly declaring the duo’s epiphany in the official press release. “We wanted to find something that represents Northern Minnesota, and something that Bemidji and Duluth had in common.”

“The footprints of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox created all lakes in Northern Minnesota, including Lake Superior,” Serratore added. “Having Babe as the trophy for the series seemed like a good fit for what we wanted to accomplish.”

Now I enjoyed the tales of Paul Bunyan in my younger days, but is this the best way to create a valued award — a 10-foot ox to parade around the ice after Saturday’s game? Will the victorious team be treated to a flapjack breakfast Sunday morning?

Does the losing team have to clear a forest?

If so, perhaps the Bemidji football team can help the Beavers out if Duluth proves victorious. The football team each year competes for the Battle Axe against Minnesota-Moorhead. The Axe is a ceremonial artifact brought back by an intrepid BSU alum in 1948. Bemidji has won the treasured axe four years running.

An axe, an ox … an ex-hibition of hockey that should prove entertaining.

Alabama-Huntsville Rests

The last to start its season is also the first to get some rest. The Chargers began an extended layoff after getting swept by Miami last weekend.

With three players suspended and inexperience throughout the lineup, UAH could not sustain the effort necessary to defeat the RedHawks. It was good enough against Air Force, but lightning didn’t strike twice. Perhaps by Dec. 5, the situation at Alabama-Huntsville will become more lucid.

Random Walk

I love the NY Giants, but you ever wonder if all of Jeremy Shockey’s injury troubles are retribution for all of his premature trash talking in the league. Then again, if people went to the infirmary for laying the smack down, Terrell “Mr. Sharpie” Owens would be in a full body cast.