This Week in the CCHA: Oct. 14, 2004

At Last

Congratulations to the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks, who have finally won the Maverick Stampede.

“For us, it’s big,” said UNO head coach Mike Kemp. “We’ve been waiting a long time for this. We’ve been close so many times, for us to get over the hump is so very important.”

The Mavs beat Connecticut 4-1 in the opening round, and Merrimack 4-3 in the title game. Freshman Bill Thomas — assisted by future superstar Scott Parse — had the game-winning goal, shorthanded, at 7:29 in the third.

This was the fifth annual Maverick Stampede, and host UNO’s first title.

Not Quite a Title, but Noteworthy

And congrats to the Miami RedHawks for their two wins in the Lefty McFadden Invitational in Dayton. The wins over Boston University and Northeastern vaulted Miami from No. 15 to No. 10 in the poll.

Rules Is Rules

The D-I season isn’t even two weeks old, and already the NCAA’s decision to crack down on rule enforcement is the hottest topic in the CCHA.

Before the start of the 2004-05 season, the NCAA wrote an open letter to the college hockey community explaining that, in the NCAA’s opinion, the game was in danger of getting out of hand, and that restoring order — making the game of college hockey was it was intended to be — meant stricter enforcement of targeted rules.

The result, at least last weekend, was a lot of goals — and a lot of special-teams goals. A total of 123 goals were scored in 17 games involving CCHA teams, including exhibition games, averaging out to just over seven per game.

In 12 D-I games involving CCHA teams, 75 total goals were scored for an average of 6.25. Of those 75 goals, a 41 involved special teams: 24 were five-on-four man-advantage goals; six were five-on-three power-play goals; five were shorthanded goals; five were scored four-on-four; one was scored four-on-three.

Half of those five-on-three power-play goals were game winners.

“We’re all trying to adjust to the way the game is being called,” says Notre Dame head coach Dave Poulin. Of a tie and a loss to Minnesota-Duluth, Poulin says, “I don’t think there was a single harsh word said to a referee in our building.

“We all want the same thing. I think the intent is very, very good. I think at least three times during my 13-year playing career, this same type of initiative did come up and was handled by players and referees.”

Equally philosophical is Miami head coach Enrico Blasi. “I think that each week that goes by, players will adjust more and more, and coaches will have a better idea of what to teach. Regardless … special teams are always a big part of our team.”

Clearly, with the new rules enforcement, it’s a special teams kind of world, especially if just four of last week’s 11 game-winning goals (Notre Dame tied once) involved special teams.

“The penalty kill, we didn’t expect to have that much thrown at us,” says Ohio State head coach John Markell, whose Buckeyes dropped two games in the Ice Breaker Invitational. “Sometimes we had two freshmen killing five-on-threes.”

The only complaint Markell has about last week’s officiating was the five-on-three situation that led to the game-winner against New Hampshire. The Buckeyes were 10 seconds late returning to the ice at the start of the second period, and were assessed a bench minor for it. Wildcat Brett Hemingway made quick work of the resulting five-on-three — 27 seconds into the second — to put UNH up 2-0.

Markell contends that those in charge of fetching the Buckeyes at the start of the second period knocked on the Huskies’ door instead of OSU’s, leading to the delay. “St. Cloud said, ‘You’re knocking on the wrong door,’ and they never came down one” to find the Buckeyes, according to Markell.

At the start of the season, CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos said of the new rules enforcement, “The goal of the initiative is not to call more penalties. Players will realize that certain things that were traditionally accepted, like a slight hook or hold to slow someone down, aren’t going to be accepted anymore.”

In the short term, though, look for games that are significantly broken up by the whistle, and don’t blame the guys in stripes. They’re just doing their jobs.

If It Weren’t for Bad Luck …

As if a knock on the wrong door weren’t enough for the Buckeyes, OSU has been bitten by the injury bug in a big way, and mostly up front. Sophomore forwards Kenny Bernard and Matt Beaudoin didn’t make the trip to Durham for the Ice Breaker. Bernard will be out with a broken leg until December; Beaudoin will travel to Big Rapids this weekend in spite of a sprained ankle.

Fellow sophomores forward Bryce Anderson defenseman Tyson Strachan, and junior forward Rod Pelley, were injured last weekend. Strachan (knee) and Pelley (shoulder) are expected to play this weekend, but Anderson will miss several weeks with a broken wrist.

Good News for New Hampshire Fans

Last year, the Buckeyes lost their season opener to the Denver Pioneers, who went on to capture the 2003-04 national championship.

Two years ago, OSU lost the first game of the season to the Minnesota Golden Gophers, who went on to capture the 2002-03 national championship.

Lucky for Wildcat fans, I happen to live in Columbus. Just drop me a line if you want the scoop on my adopted home town for the 2005 Frozen Four.

A Moment Frozen in Time

Congrats to CCHA Rookie of the Week Bill Thomas. Nice game-winner, but the pic? Okay, so given my picture that accompanies this column, perhaps I’m not one to talk, but son, what were you thinking?

At Last, Part 2

The CCHA has added another category to its Player of the Week honors: Defensive POTW. Yes, you read that correctly. Of course, this gives me less to complain about on a weekly basis, but I’m glad that the blueliners will finally be getting their just desserts.

Games of the Week

It’s too early in the season to say much of anything, but this series merits attention.

Notre Dame (0-1-1, 0-0-0 CCHA) at No. 10 Miami (2-0-0, 0-0-0 CCHA)
Friday and Saturday, 7:35 p.m., Goggin Arena, Oxford, Ohio

It was a good news-bad news opening weekend for Notre Dame. The Irish’s 15-game, regular-season unbeaten streak was snapped by Minnesota-Duluth in a 4-1 loss last Friday, but — hey — they tied a team that went to last year’s Frozen Four the night before, and with a lot of young Notre Dame players on the ice.

“I think it was a pretty good weekend,” says head coach Dave Poulin. “I took a lot of positives from it.”

One of those positives was holding the Bulldogs to just two power-play goals, given the new rules enforcement and the number of penalty killers the Irish graduated last year.

“You better believe we spent an awful lot of times on special teams this weekend,” says Poulin. “Not only did you have this new [rules enforcement] mandate, but you had four days to prepare with the new practice start dates.

“Teams that have returning special-teams players will have an advantage in the short term. Duluth had nine of their 10 special teams players returning. Still, we held them to two power-play goals.”

Another was the play of the tandem in net of senior Morgan Cey and sophomore David Brown. “We’ve got a couple of pretty good goalies,” says Poulin, “and that makes life a little easier for a coach.”

Poulin says he’s looking for the goaltenders to help teach his youthful team — seven rookies in all — how to win. “Sometimes a goaltender can take a game for you, and that win can give a team confidence.”

The RedHawks had seemingly little trouble adjusting to the cult of youth. Miami’s roster boasts six freshmen and a slew of sophomores, but the RedHawks handled two Hockey East teams with ease, beating Boston University and Northeastern by the collective score of 11-3.

“Obviously, we feel we’re a good skating team and that we work hard and give ourselves the best chance to win,” says the understated Miami head coach, Enrico Blasi. “I like the way we’re approaching practice and the three games we’ve played.”

Blasi calls the rookie infusion exciting. “They bring a lot of energy to the rink. With energy and enthusiasm come mistakes, and that’s where it’s fun for us as coaches. The bottom line is that they’re rookies and they’re going to make mistakes.”

Three RedHawks took CCHA Player of the Week honors: sophomore Marty Guerin (offense), junior Andy Greene (defense), and sophomore Brandon Crawford-West (goaltender). While Guerin and Crawford-West are just sophomores, they are still seasoned veterans who have NCAA tournament experience to add to their bag of tricks.

Blasi thinks these games will be tight. In their last 10 meetings, Miami leads this series 6-4-0, and the RedHawks lead the Irish 24-13-5 all-time. In 2003-04, the RedHawks handled the Irish 5-2 and 2-0, both games in Oxford.

Here’s the match by the very early numbers. The stats are overall, and the rank is among teams that have played a D-I game. Why overall stats? That’s all we have.

  • Goals per game: Miami 5.50 (first); Notre Dame 1.50 (fifth)
  • Goals allowed per game: Miami 1.50 (first); Notre Dame 3.00 (tie third)
  • Power play: Miami 35.3 % (first); Notre Dame 8.7% (fifth)
  • Penalty kill: Miami 100% (first); Notre Dame 90% (second)
  • Top scorer: Miami Matt Christie, Marty Guerin, Andy Greene (four points each); Notre Dame Wes O’Neill (two points)
  • Top ‘tender: Miami Brandon Crawford-West (1.50 GAA, .957 SV%); Notre Dame Morgan Cey (1.85 GAA, .950 SV%)

These numbers are obviously unreliable, given that each team has played just two games. But in some cases, they may be predictors of team performance as the season progresses. Miami expects Christie, Guerin, and Green to lead the way up front, and if the RedHawks are true to form this season, they should have a killer power play.

What might these early stats say about Notre Dame? That the Irish have some big skates to fill up front with the losses of Aaron Gill, Brett Lebda, and Rob Globke, but that they are solid in net. Let’s not forget sophomore David Brown, whose rookie season was no fluke.

“Both teams lost a very strong nucleus of seniors that led us to success last year,” says Poulin. “I think the teams are very similar.”

“I expect a good series,” says Blasi. “They have great goaltending and some pretty good forwards, and they have Wes O’Neill on defense.”

This series pairs two teams with a lot of youth but significantly different strengths. Miami is fast and skilled up front, and Notre Dame’s strength is in net. If this weekend comes down to special teams — and it will — the last man standing in net wins the game.

Pick: I hate to call against Notre Dame, because nearly every time I do, I’m wrong. I hate calling CCHA games, because the league is so tight. And most of all, I hate the fact that I’ll be out of town and will not be traveling to Oxford for this series. Miami 4-1, 2-1


Lake Superior State scored 15 goals in an exhibition game over Toronto, while Northern Michigan lost 1-0 to visiting York.

The Lakers scored a total of 72 goals in 35 games in 2003-04. Okay, so I know this was exhibition, but 15 goals is still nearly one-fifth of all the goals Lake State scored for all of last season. All.

I’m guessing they were ringing more than bells in Sault Ste. Marie Friday night. And, no, I don’t know what that means.