This Week in the CCHA: Feb. 24, 2005


This morning a neighbor pounded on my doors — the back after the front, when I didn’t get to the front fast enough — to complain about garbage. The gent in the unit next to mine moved out several days ago and left a bag of garbage next to his back door on the fire escape, directly above this irate early riser’s door.

“There were raccoons,” she screamed, “at four in the morning, ripping through that bag, and scattering filth all over my stoop!”

It was 8:30. I had been up until about raccoon time the night before, writing. I was foggy. There had as yet been no coffee.

“Okay,” I said.

“It’s not okay!” she screamed. Screaming is a big thing with this neighbor. “For eight years, Paula, for eight years!”

“Okay,” I said, again, grateful that I hadn’t let her in.

Guess what she did, one more time. “It is not okay!”

It took me a moment to determine her complaint. The garbage hadn’t been there for eight years. I hadn’t lived here for eight years. I still don’t know where the eight years comes into it.

I finally managed, “If the garbage bothers you, take it downstairs and throw it out.”

She was momentarily speechless, unfamiliar territory as far as I could tell. She grew red in the face and sputtered something more about “eight years” before screaming — once again — about how I hadn’t taken someone else’s trash to the curb.

I’m not lazy. I rarely use my back stairs in the winter, so I didn’t know the trash was there. I certainly would have taken it down had I seen it.

But without coffee, at 8:30 in the morning on little sleep, standing in a freezing doorway, face-to-face with an unpleasant neighbor, I gave her some of the best advice I’d ever given. Brilliant, in fact.

“Do it yourself,” I said, before gently shutting the door and stumbling toward the coffee pot.

If only several CCHA teams capable of doing things for themselves had done so all season, they wouldn’t be sitting where they are now.

It can be argued that the only happy team in the league at this moment is Michigan. Poised to finish first — and the Wolverines haven’t finished below second since the 1990-91 season — Michigan has controlled its own destiny this year.

With a deep group of talented, diverse forwards and a strong senior class, the Wolverines have managed to win games they had no business winning, especially given the kind of season goaltender Al Montoya has had — winning, yes, but clearly inconsistent.

In fact, it’s a rare team offense that can simply step it up and win games in this goalie-dominated world. It’s the kind of thing that Western Michigan would like to do; indeed, the Broncos have a very gifted group of forwards, but are lacking in some fundamentals in which the Wolverines excel, and so the teams are nearly polar opposites in the CCHA standings.

The DIY philosophy is something that the Bowling Green Falcons seem to understand. BGSU, looking to host in the first round of the CCHA playoffs for the first time since Mar. 10-11, 1995, took care of business at home last weekend, sweeping Western Michigan.

“The standings are just so tight right now. We can’t rely on other teams winning and losing,” said BGSU captain Jordan Sigalet. “We have another two really tough weekends ahead of us. This weekend was really huge.”

The Falcons finish the season with two home-and-home series against Big Ten teams from Michigan. This weekend it’s the Spartans; the following weekend it’s Michigan.

But BGSU needs just one win — two points, and in win form rather than tie form — in those last four games to secure home ice. Two ties would leave the Falcons with 12 wins, and given that wins are the first tiebreaker, things could get slippery for BG without an outright victory.

Should the Falcons remain at home for the first round of the playoffs — and, frankly, I’m rooting for them to do so — they could face Miami, Alaska-Fairbanks, Michigan State, Lake Superior, Ferris State, or Western Michigan.

The Falcons face the Spartans this weekend, a team that has had a chance to be top-tier all season, but has been unable to realize its potential.

Last Friday, Michigan State upset Ohio State 6-3, going up 4-0 by the 6:17 mark in the third period. That fourth goal — Jim McKenzie’s hat trick tally — ended up being the game-winner instead of padding, as the Buckeyes battled back to make it 5-3 before Jim Slater’s empty-netter put it away at 18:37.

The Spartans solved OSU’s league-leading penalty kill in the game, and that was the difference. Three power-play goals and one four-on-four from a team of which my esteemed colleague Neil Koepke of the Lansing State Journal so eloquently wrote, “It’s been a chore to put the puck in the net.”

The following night, however, the Spartans lost 5-1 to the Buckeyes, mustering just 15 shots on goal. “We’re still in a position to get home ice and as disgusted as everybody is right now [with the Saturday loss], that’s the nature of the beast,” NMU head coach Rick Comley told the State News.

While disgusted is a pretty strong word for not sweeping a nationally-ranked opponent when you’re among the lower six in your conference, disappointment is certainly something that both of those teams felt in East Lansing last weekend.

The Buckeyes’ performance was a mirror image of their home weekend against Michigan in January, when they came out and manhandled the Wolverines for a 4-1 win before losing 6-3 the following night — again spotting their opponent several goals before deciding to play hockey.

Had the Buckeyes come out and played the first two periods in Friday’s contest the way they did the third against MSU — or against Michigan, if you go back to that weekend — OSU could be in first place in the standings.

Don’t think the Buckeyes don’t know it. “Coach had a fire under him and he lit a fire under us,” said OSU assistant captain Nate Guenin after the 5-1 win in Munn. “He challenged some guys that he felt didn’t show up [Friday].”

Although the Buckeyes have clinched second place and could mathematically catch Michigan — OSU would have to win out, Michigan lose out — the loss against MSU dropped OSU from eighth in the PairWise Rankings to 12th, putting the Bucks in the NCAA danger zone for the rest of the season.

Also unable to do it for themselves, the UAF Nanooks were swept at home for the first time this season last weekend, by Miami — a team that needs to get it done to stay at home in the first round.

One good way to get it done for the other team is to take your own players out of the game, which is what the Nanooks did Saturday. Darcy Campbell and Ryan McLeod each earned game misconducts in Saturday’s contest, as the Nanooks collectively lost their cool in the contest.

UAF head coach Tavis MacMillan, quoted in the Fairbanks News-Miner, said that the it was a combination of “frustration and … mental toughness” that led to the penalties. “It’s a tough game, it’s a really tough game — you get run at, you get slashed, you get hooked and it might go unseen. How do you react? Do you give it back to them or do you swallow your pride and play harder?”

Well, given the outcome, we know the answer to that one.

Given how tight the league is right now, it’s impossible to predict who will be playing where in the first round, except for Michigan and Ohio State. It looks as though the Wolverines will host Notre Dame, a team they destroyed last Friday night and swept on the weekend, while the Buckeyes will probably welcome Western Michigan or Ferris State.

The other travelers will likely be the remainder of the current bottom six: LSSU, MSU, and UAF.

While the matches are far from certain, one thing is clear: only teams that have been able to play to their ability consistently — Michigan, Bowling Green, Northern Michigan, UNO — have truly controlled their own destinies.

In Ohio — Really

I was amazed last weekend that I could watch seven D-I games — two CCHA and two WCHA — in the comfort of my living room, on my very own television.

Why is this news? Because for years, college hockey fans in Ohio have been begging for coverage of the CCHA and D-I hockey, begging to watch games that folks in Michigan take for granted.

For most of Friday night, I switched between the OSU-MSU game and Michigan-ND. On Saturday, I watched the Irish at Yost.

One thing that really struck me was the way in which that Friday Michigan game never felt “put away” until midway through the third. I was also struck by the number of logos on the ice surface at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. I counted 16 individual logos for commercial products or companies on the surface of the ice. I think there might have been more that I missed.

I’m not including the number of advertisements on the dashers, or the dark blue band around the bottom of the boards — something that must have made it difficult to see the puck out there.

That was, by far, the busiest ice surface I’ve ever seen. Seemed like a nice facility, though.

In the OSU-MSU game, I was struck by how much it was like OSU’s 6-3 loss to Michigan. See above.

Here’s Another Kind of Check We Like

The MS Awareness Weekend at BGSU raised $10,652.67 last weekend. Before Friday’s game this weekend, Jordan Sigalet will present a check in that amount to the Northwestern Ohio MS Society.

Hey Good Looking

I think I failed to mention this last week. I love the BGSU away jerseys, even though they’re orange, my least favorite color. They’re bright and interesting. I wish they said “Bowling Green” somewhere on them — that’s because they were home jerseys a year ago — and their numbers are difficult to read, but they are sharp.

In my warped way, though, I do see a resemblance between the Falcon logo and a profile view of Space Ghost (from his talk show, not his action series). But that’s just me.

And a Thanks

Thanks to reader and devoted college hockey fan Keith Instone, who crunched some numbers for me regarding CCHA playoff scenarios. The gesture was unsolicited, and I owe him the beverage of his choice at The Joe.

Coming Attractions

Next week — proof positive that I’m not psychic, the Girl Reporter CCHA Awards, a nail color update, a stunning revelation about my favorite college hockey team, and a look at game theory.

Coming soon, the Girl Reporter All-CCHA Team, a look at the guys we’ll miss, and a visitor’s guide to my adopted hometown of Columbus, Ohio.