The Envelope, Please …
Finally! The Academy for Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has figured out that this is the best week for handing out the hardware.
We’ve known that all along.
It’s time for the 2003-2004 Girl Reporter Awards, given annually for CCHA performances admirable and otherwise. Let’s get right to it.
GR All-CCHA Team
Forwards Derek Edwardson (Miami), Mike Kompon (Miami), and Jim Slater (MSU); defenseman Doug Andress (OSU) and A.J. Thelan (MSU); goaltender Dominic Vicari (MSU).
Player of the Year
Jim Slater. Why? As Slater goes, so do the Spartans.
Coach of the Year
A great case can be made for a number of coaches, for any number of reasons. Look at what Enrico Blasi did in just one year to turn Miami around. Look at how Rick Comley’s Spartans climbed the standings to vie for the regular-season title. Look at what Guy Gadowsky does, given where his team plays, every day.
But it’s high time that someone recognized Red Berenson for his incredible ability to keep Michigan on top — or very close to it — every single season.
That takes some doing, and that’s why Berenson is my coach of the year.
Rookie of the Year
This is the most difficult category this season, because this rookie class is outstanding. Look at Thelan and Vicari at MSU, Matt Hunwick and T.J. Hensick at UM, Matt Christie and Marty Guerin at Miami, Jeff Jakaitis at LSSU, Scott Parse at UNO, David Brown at ND, Darin Olver at NMU — all outstanding freshmen, all of whom have made a tremendous impact on their individual teams and the league as a whole.
But this year, it’s the league’s youngest member, A.J. Thelan, who earns GR Rookie of the Year honors. Everyone knows how much I love a stay-at-home defenseman, but a two-way player like Thelan is just a thing of beauty. He’s certainly found the right team for his talents.
Team of the Year
Miami. Picked sixth in the coaches and media preseason polls, Miami held the top spot in the CCHA standings for nine weeks before succumbing to a few second-half mistakes. The RedHawks work hard, play as a team, and never quit.
Surprise of the Year
Perhaps it’s no longer a surprise to Buckeye fans. Ohio State coulda been a contendah!
The Ferris State Memorial Defenders of the Realm Award
Notre Dame. Beat Boston College 1-0. Beat Maine 1-0. Beat Findlay 1-0. Okay, so the Oilers don’t grab your attention as do those Hockey East opponents, but there’s something to be said for consistency.
The Irish were 4-1-1 in nonconference play this season, including a tie and win against Wisconsin, a feat managed by neither Michigan nor Michigan State. Their only nonconference loss was to Cornell.
Honorable mention goes to Northern Michigan (5-1-2) and the award’s namesake, Ferris State (5-1-2).
Once again awarded to the Lake Superior State Lakers for their incredible attitude in what must be a difficult situation. Any 11th-place team that averages fewer than 10 minutes in penalties per game has my respect and admiration.
Morgan Cey, the toughest goaltender in the league. Cey, a junior at Notre Dame, missed the first five games of the 2003-2004 season because of knee surgery last July. On Nov. 7, 2003 in a game against Michigan State, Cey re-injured the same knee and had to undergo another arthroscopic surgery.
In his return to play, Cey made 32 saves en route to a shutout of Maine in the consolation game of the Everblades College Classic Dec. 28, 2003.
Then he shut out Findlay, 1-0, in his next contest, Jan. 3, 2004.
The Chris Richards Man-Most-Likely-To-Be-Overlooked Memorial Award
Notre Dame’s Aaron Gill. With 10 goals and 16 assists for 26 points in conference play, Gill, Notre Dame’s captain and a senior, exemplifies the hard-working, two-way forward.
I’ve been wrong in the past, but I’d be surprised to see Gill on either the first or second All-CCHA teams.
The Mike Comrie Most-Likely-to-Leave-Early Memorial Award
This is another tough one, because two of the league’s top teams — Miami and Ohio State — are senior-heavy, and have no likely candidates in their underclasses, and the league’s other top two teams — Michigan and Michigan State — have junior classes that I’d bet are likely to stay.
My picks are a couple of freshmen, UNO’s Scott Parse and ND’s David Brown. From what I’ve seen this season, Nebraska-Omaha has a long way to go in the rebuilding process, a journey that may try Parse’s patience, and even though it’s always a mistake for a goaltender to leave early, I wonder if Brown wants to split time in net with Cey.
My weakest picks, I think.
The Aniket Dhadphale Garbage Man Memorial Award
I loved Aniket Dhadphale. He sat by the crease, put his stick to the ice, and redirected his way to a lot of Notre Dame goals.
This year’s winner is Miami’s Matt Christie. I’ve seen no one else in the league this season more adept at picking up the trash than Christie, and that’s a compliment.
The Mike York Poetry-in-Motion Memorial Award
There were two players this season that captured my attention every time they were on the ice: WMU’s Vince Bellissimo and Parse.
Both with incredible grace and skill, both with hockey sense. Neither is in York’s league — yet — but no one else in the CCHA is, either.
Best Offensive Goalie Award
Alas, for this first time since its inception, no one will earn the GR Best Offensive Goalie Award.
There are 10 goaltenders with one assist each: Preston McKay (UAF), Mike Brown (FSU), Brandon Crawford-West (Miami), Matt Migliaccio (MSU), Kris Tebbs (UNO), Chris Holt (UNO), David Brown (ND), Morgan Cey (ND), Mike Betz (OSU), and Dave Caruso (OSU).
Not one has more than a single, lousy point.
Girl Reporter All-Goon Squad
Aaron Voros (UAF), Nathan Oystrick (NMU), Nate Guenin (OSU), Jon Sitko (BGSU), and Matt York (FSU).
Let’s make one thing clear, here: I know that these gentlemen can play hockey. I’ve seen it. With my own eyes.
I find it remarkable that while Nebraska Omaha was — by far, bar none — the chippiest team I have seen this season, no UNO player makes the list because not a single one of them stands out, on his own.
Honorable mention for chippiest team goes to Alaska-Fairbanks, and Bowling Green and Ohio State rank up there for hot-headedness under pressure.
But the one singular statistic that amazes me — I mean, truly amazes me — is that Aaron Voros led the league in penalty minutes (112) as well as penalties (56). Folks, that means that he earned all 112 minutes on two-minute minors.
And yet he’s played 30 games this season.
York, by the way, is a former GR Rookie of the Year.
Something else to consider: there are no Broncos on this list, and notably absent is OSU’s Dave Steckel.
Team Most Likely to Surprise Folks in the Postseason
Quote of the Year
I’ve got two quotes for you. Either one by itself is unremarkable, but read together they reveal more than what’s actually said.
“I compare them to the New Jersey Devils. They play a good system, they’re well-coached, they’re disciplined, they’re looking for turnovers, and they don’t give you much. You really have to earn what you get.” UM head coach Red Berenson after the Wolverines beat the Lakers 5-1 in Yost Arena, Jan. 30, 2004.
“We shoot ourselves in the foot every game. We let up for six minutes. It happens every weekend — we just let up … once a game, we get buried, and we can’t come back.” LSSU sophomore defenseman Kory Scoran after the Wolverines beat the Lakers 4-0 in Yost Arena, Jan. 31, 2004.
League’s Best Fans
Michigan State. They even impress people with their politeness on the road.
League’s Most Juvenile Fans
Western Michigan. No question. Listen to a Bronco home game on radio, and you’ll hear everything you need to know. And just ask Steve Piotrowski how it feels to exit the ice in Lawson Arena.
League’s Most Proficient Emailers
Once again, the Nebraska-Omaha faithful. I’ve been to Omaha. I know there’s a lot to do there. Why these people are tethered to their machines is beyond me — but, then again, I’m no rocket scientist.
Best Small Barn
Bowling Green. You get those fans going, and that place rocks.
Best Large Barn
The Schott. Why? It’s 1.5 miles from my apartment, there are two bathrooms in the press box, and I have yet to see a game at the Qwest Center.
In all seriousness, for such a big building that sits half-empty for games it is loud in the lower bowl — I mean seriously loud. Fans are knowledgeable, the sight lines are great, it’s a beautiful building, and there are bathrooms in the press box.
(And it sits half-empty because it holds 17,500 for hockey, not because of any lack of fan support.)
Blueliner of the Week
Congratulations to Lake Superior State sophomore defenseman Kory Scoran, this week’s Blueliner of the Week!
Last weekend, the Lakers tied and defeated the NMU Wildcats, 2-2 and 5-2, in a home-and home series. Scoran had three assists last weekend in the win, but we won’t hold that against him because one was a single assist and another a third assist, and by all accounts it was Scoran’s tough defensive play that enabled those goals.
He played clean, he played smart, he played tough, and he’s our Blueliner of the Week.
By the Numbers
With two weekends of regular-season hockey left, here are a few things you should know.
First place is Michigan’s to lose. The only team that can unseat Michigan is Miami. If Michigan earns just three more points in its next four games, the Wolverines will earn at least a share of the regular-season title.
Michigan State can catch the Wolverines, but not surpass them.
The three teams that have earned home ice in the first round of the CCHA playoffs — Michigan, MSU, and Miami — are the only teams that are now capable of earning at least a piece of the regular-season title.
The Spartans would have to win out and the Wolverines lose out for MSU to have a shot at part of the regular-season title.
Five points guarantees Miami at least second place. That’s how many they’d need for second even if MSU wins both games against Michigan the last weekend of the regular season.
The Buckeyes have just two games remaining, so to move up in the standings they would not only have to sweep Miami the last weekend of the regular season, but get a little help from Miami this weekend and MSU the next.
For the Buckeyes to overtake the RedHawks, Miami would have to take one point or fewer in its final four games, and OSU would have to win its two remaining against Miami.
For OSU to finish second outright, the Bucks would have to beat Miami twice, hope that Western takes three points from the RedHawks this weekend, and root hard for Michigan to sweep MSU.
Western Michigan, Notre Dame, Alaska-Fairbanks, and Northern Michigan can each surpass the Buckeyes. OSU is in a quandary this weekend. If the Broncos keep Miami to just one point or fewer on the weekend, the Buckeyes have a possibility of moving up in the standings; however, the more points Miami takes from WMU, the less the Broncos are knockin’ on OSU’s door for a first-round playoff spot.
In order to pull ahead of OSU in the standings, the Nanooks need to win twice this weekend and for the Buckeyes to lose to the RedHawks twice next weekend.
Who’s pushing the Nanooks for home ice? The Bulldogs, the Wildcats, the Irish, and the Broncos. The most likely scenario is that UAF will take at least two points from UNO this weekend, making it impossible for FSU to catch the ‘Nooks, but leaving the door open for the other three teams.
The Broncos have three games remaining for a possible six points and can mathematically catch Miami, UAF, and OSU.
Mathematically, Notre Dame can catch Miami, Michigan State, and Ohio State — and of course UAF.
The Wildcats can catch Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Western Michigan. To host in the first round, NMU is going to need a lot of help from each of those teams.
Believe it or not, FSU is not out of the home ice mix. Best-case scenario for the Bulldogs? They win out over NMU and LSSU, and WMU loses its three remaining games (two against Miami and one against BGSU), and UAF loses twice this weekend to UNO.
Bowling Green, Lake Superior State, Nebraska Omaha
These guys travel in the first round, but there is room for improvement. Most-likely scenario: UNO goes to Yost, LSSU heads to Miami, BGSU goes to MSU.
Keep in mind that these numbers don’t take into account tie breakers. The first tie breaker is number of league wins.
Games of the Week
With so much at stake, these have to be it.
Michigan (23-8-1, 18-5-1 CCHA) at Notre Dame (15-11-4, 11-10-3 CCHA)
Friday 8:05, and Saturday 7:05, Joyce Center, South Bend, Ind.
Sure, the Irish seem outmatched by the Wolverines this weekend, but when you consider that Michigan is 5-5-1 on the road and Notre Dame is 9-2-1 at home, this one is far from a slam dunk.
Add Irish goaltender David Brown, a freshman, to the mix, and you’ve got two games compelling enough for the price of admission, even at the Joyce Center.
Perhaps it’s not fair to hold the Wolverines’ road losses against them. Four of those five came in the first half of the season, before Michigan caught fire, and the fifth was in Fairbanks, where the Spartans, RedHawks, and Buckeyes have also lost.
“Our record on the road in the first half is not really a fair representation of our team,” head coach Red Berenson told the Ann Arbor News this week. “What we do this weekend will give us a better idea.”
What the Wolverines have to do is beat Brown, whose conference save percentage (.929) is nearly as good as his overall save percentage (.930), making him the most consistent goaltender in the league and one of the best.
And Brown is hot. In his last seven games, dating back to Jan. 10 against Bowling Green, Brown is 5-1-1 with a 1.28 goals-against average and .959 save percentage.
Brown’s Michigan counterpart, sophomore Al Montoya (.915 SV% overall, .920 CCHA), looks like a different man the second half of the season, having returned to his rookie form after winning a gold medal with the U.S. Team at the IIHF World Junior Championship.
These goaltenders are ranked second and first, respectively, for this year’s NHL Entry Draft.
Clearly, the difference here is going to be offense. Both the Irish and the Wolverines play above-average defensively, but Michigan’s guns have awakened down the stretch, including sophomore Jeff Tambellini, who ended his 16-game goal-scoring drought Friday night in Michigan’s 7-3 win over Bowling Green.
In fact, the Irish look an awful lot like the first-half Wolverines: good defense, great goaltending, and a complete inability to score even strength. Only three Irish players — Rob Globke (16-14–30), Aaron Gill (12-17–29), and Mike Walsh (10-9–19) — have netted 10 or more goals this season; five of Globke’s and seven of Gill’s have been on the power play.
In contrast, five Wolverines — T.J. Hensick (11-30–41), Milan Gajic (12-16–28), Brandon Kaleniecki (16-11–27), Dwight Helminen (13-10–23), and Jeff Tambellini (10-9–19) — have 10 or more goals.
Then again, nine Wolverines have 10 or more total points, while 10 Notre Dame players have reached that plateau.
Here is the match, by the overall numbers.
The Irish are 4-4-1 against ranked teams this season, having beaten Wisconsin (something Michigan didn’t do), Maine, Boston College, and Ohio State. Of course, all of those wins were on the road.
Michigan gave up just six goals in seven games in January, and has given up 17 in six games so far in February.
Michigan leads this all-time series 55-39-5, with an 18-17-2 edge in South Bend. Michigan is 6-2-2 against Notre Dame in the last 10 meetings.
Picks If the Wolverines are going to lose a game this weekend, it will be Friday night, when the Irish are pumped for the challenge. Michigan is never unprepared for a game, so the risk of underestimating Notre Dame is nil. The key to this series is the play of David Brown — key for Notre Dame, that is. If Brown is stellar, the Irish have a chance for points. A chance. Michigan 2-1, 4-1.
Angels on the Ice
After he scored his first goal in 17 games in Michigan’s 7-3 win over Bowling Green last Friday night, Jeff Tambellini credited someone else with an assist. “I think I had my grandfather on my shoulder tonight. I think an angel helped me out there.” Tambellini’s grandfather had passed away earlier in the week.