This Week in the CCHA: Nov. 4, 2004


Directive. Imperative. Green light. Carte blanche. Order. Command. Commission.

This week, the word mandate has been redefined against new criteria. Here’s how the word now applies to the CCHA.

  • The 3-1-0 Wolverines and 3-1-0 Mavericks are each one loss away from legitimate claims on the top spot in the standings.
  • With Notre Dame’s 32-31-4 all-time series lead over Bowling Green, fans of the Fighting Irish will gloat in their “Who’s your daddy?” chant.
  • Likewise, even though the Wolverines and Bulldogs split last weekend — as they have for seven of their last eight home-and-home series — Michigan fans can claim total ownership of Ferris State based on goal differential.
  • Oh, what the heck. Every split results in ownership, based on goal differential and the nattiness of the respective coach’s jackets.
  • While the league may appear to be struggling against nonconference opponents, having compiled a 13-14-2 record in nonleague games, the CCHA may decree world dominance after the weekend’s through, depending on the fortunes of Northern Michigan, Ohio State, and Western Michigan.
  • Everything that happens with every Michigan team cancels out everything that happens with every Ohio team, leaving Alaska-Fairbanks, Nebraska-Omaha, and Notre Dame the only possible league winners this season. And among those three, the team that wins can claim victory for the next four years.

Why Not Ask What Your Country Can Do for You?

For the past few months, we’ve heard that a high voter turnout can be bad for an incumbent, that a Washington Redskin win the Sunday before an election can be bad for an incumbent, that no president has gone to the White House without Ohio in umpteen years, blah, blah, blah.

We know how all those intangibles — the ones that don’t include actual votes — affect an election. What we don’t realize is how much a presidential election affects the outcome of the D-I men’s season it inaugurates.

When a Republican maintains the White House, it’s good news for the ECACHL. The last Republican to win reelection was Ronald Reagan. Rensselaer won the national championship in 1985, the start of Reagan’s second term of office. Harvard won in 1989, during the first year in office for the elder George Bush — who was, of course, elected after serving as Reagan’s vice-president. It’s clearly St. Lawrence’s year.

I know what you’re saying. Boston College won during George W. Bush’s first year in office, so shouldn’t another Hockey East team win this year? The answer to that is no, of course not, and don’t you watch CNN and FOX?. Boston is in Massachusetts. John Kerry was from Massachusetts. The Red Sox won the World Series this year only because the series was played before the election.

Oh, oh, oh — then there were the back-to-back WCHA victories following Nixon’s inaugurations, in 1969 and 1973. It doesn’t matter if he didn’t complete his second term.

And upon further examination, Kerry’s involvement in this presidential race may doom any team from the northeast in 2005. For safety’s sake, let’s call it North Dakota’s year.

We’re not going back to the Eisenhower era. As my college-level writing students will tell you, what happens before you were born clearly doesn’t count. I was born in 1964.

When a Democrat wins reelection, it’s total chaos. Maine won in 1993, during the first year of Bill Clinton’s first term. North Dakota won in 1997, during the first year of his second term. Had Kerry prevailed in the election, it would absolutely be St. Lawrence’s year. Or maybe Air Force would be a shoo-in.

When a Republican takes the White House, the country is divided. In the years following a Republican presidential victory, dating back to Richard M. Nixon’s first year in office in 1969, half the teams capturing a national championship were from the east (Rensselaer 1985, Harvard 1989, BC 2001), half from the west (Denver 1969, Wisconsin 1973 and 1981).

Ford’s inauguration in 1974 doesn’t count. He wasn’t elected, took office in August, and the whole thing happened during an even-numbered year. Any hockey player will tell you that because his presidency didn’t follow the norm, because his presidency indicates a Michigan bias, and because he varied his post-touching routine after allowing a goal, we can throw him right out.

(For the record, Michigan Tech won in 1975. See what I mean?)

No matter who’s in office, it always looks better for the west. Given the west’s dominance of the national championship since 1963 — 32 national titles to the east’s 10 — it doesn’t seem to matter who’s in office. Teams from Boston seemed to fare better under the Republicans, but the east was more competitive during the Clinton years.

The 2005 Frozen Four is to be played in Columbus, a city that went 2-to-1 for Kerry, even though Ohio went for Bush. And even though BC won in Bush’s first year in office, factor in the Kerry jinx, throw in Ohio’s swing-state status, always put your left equipment on before your right and skate counterclockwise three times during warmups, and the CCHA may just have an outside shot at a national champion this year.

Unless Air Force gets in the way.

Welcome Back

Spartan alum Jason Woolley is a new volunteer assistant coach at his alma mater, thanks to the NHL lockout.

Woolley, an All-American defenseman for the Spartans (1988-91), brings 13 years of NHL experience back to East Lansing. “This is a perfect situation for me,” Woolley told Neil Koepke of the Lansing State Journal this week. Woolley said that the lockout “isn’t a lot of fun” and described the opportunity to coach at MSU as “special.” He replaces former Spartan Damon Whitten, who is a new assistant coach at honorary CCHA member Wayne State.

Woolley, currently on the roster for the Detroit Red Wings, has played with the Washington Capitals, Florida Panthers, Buffalo Sabres, and Pittsburgh Penguins, and lives in East Lansing with his wife and children.

D-I hockey is also providing an attractive alternative to idleness for Philadelphia Flyers head coach Ken Hitchcock, who has been volunteering at Princeton at the request of Tigers head coach Guy Gadowsky, in his first year at Princeton after leaving Alaska-Fairbanks.

Just Call Them David, Collectively

The Western Michigan Broncos are unbeaten in 19 of their last 27 games against ranked opponents in Lawson Arena, a five-year-old trend that continued last week with WMU’s 6-3 Friday win over then-No. 13 OSU. That’s a record of 16-8-3 for a win percentage of .648 — a clear indication that things are moving forward for Jim Culhane and the Broncos.

Just Call Them Hurt, Collectively

The injury bug continues to plague several teams, including Alaska-Fairbanks, Miami, Northern Michigan, Ohio State, and Nebraska-Omaha. Most of those teams have guys who are playing banged-up after missing time because of injuries, but some men are out for the long haul. UAF defenseman and assistant captain Jordan Hendry and Nebraska-Omaha defenseman Phil Angell are out for the season, and OSU forward Kenny Bernard is out until December with a broken leg.

Buckeye Bryce Anderson returned to the ice in style last weekend after sitting out several weeks with a broken wrist. Anderson earned an empty-netter in OSU’s 5-2 win over WMU.

And Just Call Them Gone, For Now

The seven BGSU players suspended for allegations surrounding an April, 2003, party will not dress for the Falcons’ series against Notre Dame this weekend, though they will be allowed to return to the team.

According to Thursday’s announcement by the school, they will be eligible to play again on Friday, Nov. 12.

Games of the Week

You’ll need coffee to follow these this weekend, unless you happen to live in Fairbanks. If you’re listening online, split time between Bruce Cech and Harry Harrington, not just out of fairness but for the sheer fun of it.

No. 15 Nebraska-Omaha (5-1-0, 3-1-0 CCHA) at Alaska-Fairbanks (2-2-0, 1-1-0 CCHA)
Friday and Saturday, 7:05 AT, Carlson Center, Fairbanks, Alaska

Who’s the dummy who picked the Mavericks to finish last in the CCHA this season? Um, that would be me, and UNO head coach Mike Kemp — a man with a good sense of humor and a low grudge capacity — is delighted in proving me wrong.

“We make it a full-time job,” he told me this week. When I pointed out that I picked the Mavericks to split with the Spartans, but called the respective wins and losses on the wrong nights, he laughed some more. “It’s our mission to make you wrong.”

He must know my ex. He must know all my exes. And maybe he’s a Yankee fan.

How are the Mavericks erasing the memory of last season’s dismal last-place finish? “It’s kind of a combination,” says Kemp. “We have some real balanced performances from a lot of different people. Maybe there’s just a little more maturity than we had a year ago. Guys are handling situations much differently.”

What kind of situations? Nothing controversial. “The pressure of the game, handling adversity, things that — incidents already this year like the Merrimack game for example, when we were up in the third and they tied in the first few minutes of the third. A year ago would have folded. This time [the UNO players] stuck to their guns and came back. Same thing with Western Michigan. Guys just knuckled down and played one-on-one hockey.”

Same thing last weekend, against the Spartans. Down three goals after the first period in their 5-2 loss, the Mavericks made a game of it by scoring the next two goals in the game. In their 5-2 win, the Mavs didn’t panic when — up 4-0 late in the third — the Spartans scored two goals less than a minute apart.

Kemp called the weekend in East Lansing “gratifying in the sense that in the first night [MSU] came out a very determined hockey team after their trip to Northern Michigan and most of Friday night they put us on our heels.

“But with a young hockey team … the following night we took the play back and took the play to Michigan State. While we got spanked around the first night, we came back the second.”

UNO’s success this season is due in part to youthful enthusiasm and the guys that Kemp says he hates to call grizzled veterans, sophomores who earned their stripes “kicking around the bottom of the league” last year, as well as leadership from upperclassmen.

Those returning players “have come through the school of hard knocks,” says Kemp.

And, of course, there’s Scott Parse.

“It’s nice to have some people who surround Scott and complement him. Bill Thomas plays very well with Scott,” says Kemp. “The line of Scero, Marshall, Phillips has been very successful. Chris Holt has been pretty steady. We’re seeing that hoped-for maturity in him.”

The sophomore Parse (3-8–11) and his linemate Thomas (4-5–9), a freshman, lead the Mavericks in scoring. Bryan Marshall, Brandon Phillips, and David Scero are freshmen as well.

This week, the Mavericks travel to a place where they’ve never had success to face another young team, the UAF Nanooks. First-year head coach Tavis MacMillan says his rookie class is adjusting well to life in the CCHA.

“We’re carrying 11 freshmen on our team right now, and for the most part nine are playing every night — nine or 10 for sure. They’re doing really well and what’s enabled them to adjust is that they’re very smart hockey players.”

UAF has the oldest freshman class in the league, with an average age of 20.4. That’s by design, not accident; with their remote location, the Nanooks can’t compete for recruits with the Michigans and Michigan States of the world, and with the number of seniors they graduated, the Nanooks needed more seasoned players right away.

“Kyle Greentree, Adam Powell, Ryan McLeod — these are guys who put up good numbers in juniors,” says MacMillan. Not surprisingly, they’re among the Nanooks leaders’ this season.

“Troy Newton, Aaron Lee, Ryan Muspratt, these are such smart hockey players that it doesn’t matter what team we’re playing, I’m very comfortable with them on the ice.”

Like Kemp, MacMillan thinks of his sophomores as old campaigners. “Greentree, Emmerson, Burnett — I refer to them as the older line.” Even though Greentree is a rookie, the line is older; Greentree was born in 1983 and Jordan Emmerson and Lucas Burnett in 1982 — two 22-year-old sophomores and a 21-year-old “rookie.”

The Nanooks are 2-2-0 in D-I play, all games on the road. Last weekend, UAF beat British Columbia twice at home in exhibitions, but MacMillan was not happy with Saturday’s 5-3 decision.

“We played okay, but they came in with a game plan and they knew we were faster and had more skill. We allowed them to stay in that game because we forced the play.”

Conversely, MacMillan said he was pleased with the way the Nanooks played in 5-2 loss to Alaska-Anchorage the week before.

“We played really well that night but we just couldn’t beat Lawson,” he says — that’s UAA freshman goaltender Nathan Lawson. “I thought we played pretty well that night. You go into Anchorage’s rink and outshoot them 38-20, you’re doing something right.”

MacMillan said the win in Lawson Arena against WMU two weeks ago was huge for the Nanooks “especially with such a young team.”

“I remember going into Western as an assistant coach and a player. There was the energy with which they play and their student section. I thought our energy was great at Western and that’s what helped us. In the past, even in games that we won, I would say they outplayed us.

“Going into Anchorage is the same way. There’s such a huge buzz behind that series. We don’t have to create it; the state creates it. We don’t have to tell the freshmen how important that series is. Everybody knows it before they come in. It’s the two biggest teams in the state, and to go in there and play so well was great.

“Our biggest concern as a coaching staff this season is our performance, and our performance has been great. We’ll add up the wins and losses at the end of the season.”

Here’s a by-the-numbers look at the series. The stats are overall.

  • Goals per game: UNO 4.33 (second); UAF 4.40 (first)
  • Goals allowed per game: UNO 2.83 (tie fourth); UAF 2.60 (third)
  • Power play: UNO 20.5% (tie fourth); UAF 20.6% (second)
  • Penalty kill: UNO 77.5% (12th); UAF 92.3% (first)
  • Top scorer: UNO Scott Parse (3-8–11); UAF Kelly Czuy (2-5–7)
  • Top ‘tender: UNO Chris Holt (2.82 GAA, .899 SV%); UAF Wylie Rogers (0.00 GAA, 1.000 SV%)

Keith Bartusch (3.71 GAA, .857 SV%) has played three games to Rogers’ one; Roger shut out UAA 6-0 in his only appearance for UAF this season.

The Nanooks are 8-0-4 against the Mavericks all-time at home. “Everybody wants to make a big deal about our home record against UNO, but I don’t,” says MacMillan. “They’ve got a very skilled team and their coming in here with some confidence. It’s going to be another war. It’s going to be another battle. It’s a cliché, but every weekend is just another challenge within your league.”

“Obviously, we’re going someplace where we haven’t had success,” says Kemp. “It’s something we’re concerned with. Certainly UAF is a different team than they were a year ago with the number of people they graduated. With Aaron Voros going pro, they are a different club. He was a force and guys on that team really responded to him.”

Picks: Okay, so not being able to see this series in person is another good reason for disliking my Ohio residency this week. Both teams are young, both are fast — but UAF is faster, given the training on the Olympic sheet. Although UAF skates more rookies, the Nanooks are actually older and slightly more experienced. History tells me to pick a sweep, but — as Kemp says — there has to be a first time for everything. Oh, and Maverick Nation, make note of the word spanked in this column. It was Kemp’s, not mine. UAF 5-4, UNO 5-4