Three of the league’s four conference contests of a week ago were sweeps: Michigan took Miami in two, at home; Alaska-Fairbanks beat Nebraska-Omaha twice at home; and Michigan State beat Ferris State twice, once at home and once on the road.
In a near-sweep, Bowling Green took three of four possible points from visiting Notre Dame.
In nonconference play, both Western Michigan and Ohio State swept their opponents as well. And, in another near-sweep, Northern Michigan took three of four possible points from Michigan Tech.
That is nearly as clean as it gets.
Here’s Your Hat …
Four CCHA players recorded hat tricks last weekend. NMU defenseman Nathan Oystrick — this week’s CCHA Defensive Player of the Week — earned his last Thursday in NMU’s 6-6 tie against Michigan Tech, while his teammate, Darin Olver, netted one of his own Saturday, in NMU’s 6-3 win over MTU.
On Saturday, Michigan’s Jeff Tambellini — this week’s CCHA Offensive Player of the Week — had three goals in the Wolverines’ 5-2 win over Miami.
Also on Saturday, OSU’s Dan Knapp found the net three times on the power play in the Buckeyes’ 7-1 win over Sacred Heart.
Apparently, Knapp’s goal-scoring ability is tied to his lack-of-hairdo.
“My little cousin called me and told me the other day, ‘You’ve got to score. Shave your head again,'” said Knapp. “That’s how I got the idea. As soon as I scored the third one I thought, ‘That little snot knew what he was talking about.'”
In February, Knapp netted his first hat trick in Big Rapids after shaving his head. “I went up north and in the first game I couldn’t score, and the second game I got a hat trick. I hadn’t been finishing my scoring opportunities, so I took [Sean] Collins’ razor and clippers … and scored some goals.”
Not Your Average Kick in the Pants
FSU freshman Matt Stefanishion received a two-game suspension for kicking MSU’s Tommy Goebel Nov. 5. Stefanishion was given a five-minute major penalty and game disqualification at the time of the infraction, but after review the league tacked on the stiffer punishment.
Stefanishion will sit out FSU’s games against visiting UConn this weekend. Goebel reportedly received eight stitches but returned to play the following night, netting a goal in MSU’s 5-1 win in Ewigleben Arena.
Not Your Average Fans, We Hope
Toward the end of Michigan’s 5-2 win over Miami last Friday, things got a little out of hand both on and off the ice.
After Andy Greene slashed a Wolverine, a multi-player altercation ensued, resulting in slew of penalties for a bunch of players, and a game disqualification for Michigan captain Eric Nystrom, who attempted to leave the penalty box — a major no-no.
Of those 16 penalties, 14 were for hitting after the whistle. Three players — Michigan’s Brandon Rogers and Kevin Porter, and Miami’s Jon Saunders — also received a 10-minute misconducts.
Greene did get called for the original slash, by the way.
In addition to the fracas on the ice, there was some nastiness in the stands between Miami players’ family members and Michigan fans. Several fans — representing both persuasions — were ejected from the game.
On-ice hostilities aside, it is beneath the dignity of an academic institution the caliber of Michigan to tolerate this kind of behavior from its fans. I’m not excusing any untoward behavior from visiting fans, but the visitors were reacting to what has become an increasingly hostile and vulgar atmosphere at Yost Arena.
This week, a long-time Michigan fan wrote me in exasperation about the situation at Yost, saying that he is “tired of all the swearing at Yost by fans” and “embarrassed by the intimidation and threatening situations geared toward parents of visiting teams.”
There is, apparently, an alarming new curse word being added to the already ridiculous — and juvenile — list spouted at Michigan home games. It is so vile in nature that I can’t even allude to it here. The thought of this word being chanted loudly, in unison, by Michigan fans, makes me queasy.
It’s obvious that there is a certain type of Michigan fan who has no respect for anything — including the fine Wolverine hockey program — given that head coach Red Berenson himself made an appeal to the fans to tone it down last season.
What’s alarming is that the school itself has taken no real step to reverse this nasty trend, as evidenced by what’s occurring in the stands on a regular basis.
Just Because I Can’t Stand It Anymore
When an OSU player scores a goal — say, Rod Pelley — the PA announcer at the Schott tells the audience, “That is Rod’s eighth goal of the season.”
Rod’s. Not Pelley’s.
Yet, when the same player goes to the sin bin, the PA announcer and he are definitely no longer on a first-name basis. “Pelley, two minutes for obstruction-hooking.”
Raise your hand if you thought that the BGSU Falcons would be 4-1-1 at this point in the season.
This weekend, seven Falcons return to the ice after serving suspensions for violation of the school’s student code of conduct, relating to an April 2003 incident that was brought to light through an anonymous photograph sent to the Bowling Green Sentinal-Tribune in October.
The seven include Ryan Barnett, Steve Brudzewski, Bryan Dobek, Mike Falk, Don Morrison, Brett Pilkington and Alex Rogosheske. All are veterans.
Although no head coach would ever want to endure an experience like this — potential scandal, program scrutiny, flat-out embarrassment — BGSU’s Scott Paluch says that in many ways the situation has been a positive one. “We want a team that through any situation — injuries, whatever — is a positive group that understands that our hard work is the foundation of our program.”
That hard work is what has brought a shortened bench through two weekends of play against league opponents, adding five points to the Falcons’ coffers.
“The guys that were eligible to perform did so, as we expected them to,” said Paluch.
Paluch points out that goaltender Jordan Sigalet (.944 SV%) has been the backbone of the squad through this — through anything, season after season — but that others have also had a chance to shine.
“Taylor Christie, a senior who didn’t play a lot last year, has really come a long way during the first six games of the season. Rich Meloch has also stepped up.
“If you look at what has happened during the last six games, it really has been a team effort. Jordan has been our pillar. He has given us every opportunity. A lot of guys are blocking shots, a lot of guys are taking hits to make plays.”
And as nice as the 4-1-1 start to the season is, Paluch says, “It really is early in the year. With everything going on it has seems a lot longer, but it’s really early and we have a lot of things to improve.”
This weekend the Falcons travel to Omaha to take on the Mavericks, another team that came out of the gate fairly fast this season, but stumbled last week against MSU. “It’s a good early-season matchup,” says Paluch, who dismisses any heightened rivalry as something “that might have occurred years ago, before any of us [at Bowling Green] were here.”
Paluch acknowledges that working some of the returning players into the lineup may be difficult, given how well his team has played without them. “We really were in a competitive situation from the beginning of the season,” meaning that players have had to fight all along for ice time at BGSU, he says. “Our staff has worked hard to create that. It’s made our team closer and made our team learn the value of competition.”
Games of the Week
The Buckeyes are scoring more than four goals per game. The Wildcats prefer to allow none, but are giving up two and a quarter. Something’s got to give.
No. 12 Northern Michigan (5-1-2, 3-0-1 CCHA) at No. 13 Ohio State (7-3-0, 5-1-0 CCHA)
Saturday 7:05 p.m., Sunday 2:05 p.m., Value City Arena, Columbus, Ohio
“We’ve been pretty good on the road right now. Hopefully we can keep that rolling and get three, maybe four, out of four points.” That is what NMU junior, defenseman Nathan Oystrick, told NMU’s student paper, the North Wind this week, and why not? Oystrick, this week’s CCHA Defensive Player of the Week, was one of two Wildcats to net hat tricks against MTU last weekend. The other was Olver.
When you’re hot, you’re hot.
The Wildcats are undefeated in league play, having swept Michigan State and defeated and tied Notre Dame so far this season. A road split against St. Cloud State also bolsters NMU’s confidence.
It doesn’t hurt, either to have one of the best goaltending duos in the country. Tuomas Tarkki and Bill Zaniboni have been splitting time in the NMU nets, and both are among the league’s best. In conference play, Tarkki tops the league with a 1.00 GAA and .971 SV%, albeit in just two games.
Kyle told the North Wind that he doesn’t know who will be in net against the Buckeyes, but says that Tarkki “looks like he’s emerging right now potentially as our top guy.”
The story of the young season for the Buckeyes has been offense. OSU leads the country in goal production, adding 12 more to last weekend’s lopsided home sweep of Sacred Heart.
The hot line right now for OSU is the all-rookie trio of John Dingle, Tom Fritsche, and Domenic Maiani, responsible for four of last weekend’s 12 goals. Fritsche, who has yet to net his first collegiate goal, leads the team in scoring with 13 assists.
Head coach John Markell assembled the line two weeks ago for a split series against Western Michigan, adding Dingle to the duo of Fritsche and Maiani, who have played together all season.
“You’ve got a guy like Johnny Dingle who can communicate,” says Markell. “He’s verbal. He’s big and strong and can control the boards. Maiani’s got a good stick.
“Fritsche — we don’t know where he’s going but most of the time it’s to a good place.”
Markell is well aware that NMU will target his youngsters. “They will get tested. I’m sure they’re circled.”
Here’s the match by the overall numbers:
• Goals per game: NMU 3.62 (tie fifth); OSU 4.10 (first)
• Goals allowed per game: NMU 2.25 (second); OSU 2.70 (sixth)
• Power play: NMU 20.8 % (first); OSU 19.6% (third)
• Penalty kill: NMU 88.6% (third); OSU 86.7% (fifth)
• Top scorer: NMU Darin Olver and Dirk Southern (each 3-7–10); OSU Tom Fritsche (0-13–13)
• Top ‘tender: NMU Tuomas Tarkki (2.15 GAA, .937 SV%); OSU Dave Caruso (2.49 GAA, .909 SV%)
In league play only, the numbers get more interesting. OSU is scoring 4.50 goals per game and NMU allowing 1.25 — both tops in their respective categories.
Mike Santorelli (5-3–8) is NMU’s leading goal scorer. Pelley (8-4–12) is OSU’s. Six of Pelley’s goals have come on the power play, and all of those from the right point. Both Tarkki and Zaniboni (2.28 GAA, .926 SV%) are ahead of OSU starter Caruso in the overall stats game.
“These are very similar teams,” says Markell, “with good goaltending, forwards that can move the puck and have skill, and defensemen that have skill and can move the puck.”
Each team plays a good transition game, and each team feeds off opponent turnovers; each team’s defense also has the green light for offensive play, when the situation allows.
Don’t assume that because NMU plays on an Olympic sheet that the Wildcats are faster than the Buckeyes; both teams can motor.
Markell concedes that the Wildcats have a slight advantage in experience. “They’re a group of kids one year older than we are. They have a lot of sophomores and juniors, and neither of us has many seniors.” The Buckeyes play as many as nine freshmen in a given night.
This is only the second time that the Wildcats have traveled to play the Buckeyes in Value City Arena since the Schott opened in 1999, but Markell says, “I don’t think they care where they play. The puck doesn’t care.”
Both teams have been hampered by early injuries. NMU forwards Dusty Collins and Alan Swanson will not make the trip, and OSU forward Kenny Bernard is still out.
Markell says that his young squad — which hasn’t lost a home game yet — will not take NMU lightly. “We are not by any means overconfident. I don’t think we played very well in Western Michigan.”
He adds, “We all know a good defense can beat a good offense.”
NMU senior Kevin Gardner is one of the few Wildcats who have played in Value City Arena, and Kyle has never played the Buckeyes in Columbus.
“It’s a tough place to play in,” Gardner told the North Wind. “It’s an NHL-size rink with an NHL-size seating capacity.”
(As Buckeye fans know, however, without the NHL-size crowds.)
Kyle told the North Wind that he’d like to return to Columbus for the national championship next April.
Picks: There’s no question that this series has end-of-season ramifications. If each team is as good as it appears to be, both will be chasing Michigan for the league title come March. Both teams are young, and youth can lead to great enthusiasm; the Wildcats haven’t lost a league game this season, and the Buckeyes haven’t lost at home, so the youngsters on each team don’t really know how to lose. Unfortunately for each team, that learning process is an eventuality. The fast-flying Buckeye offense will challenge the tight Wildcat defense and outstanding NMU goaltending, and it’s even money that some tempers may flare. Either team could sweep. NMU 5-3, OSU 5-3