This Week in the CCHA: March 10, 2005

Awards, Part 2

This week, the Central Collegiate Hockey Association announced its all-league honors, and I want to send each and every recipient a hardy, Girl Reporter “Congratulations!”

That having been said, I have a couple of lists of my own, gents I would like to single out for the annual Girl Reporter All-CCHA and Girl Reporter All-Rookie teams.

My picks are not solely based on numbers, but rather a variety of things, including but not limited to statistics. And since this is an editorial column and no one actually gets any hardware, everyone will just have to live with that.

2005 Girl Reporter All-CCHA Team

JB Bittner (OSU)
Jeff Legue (FSU)
T.J. Hensick (UM)
Eric Nystrom (UM)
Rod Pelley (OSU)
Scott Parse (UNO)
Jeff Tambellini (UM)
Brent Walton (WMU)

Six of these — Legue, Hensick, Pelley, Parse, Tambellini, Walton — are the six best offensive-minded forwards in the league. Bittner and Nystrom are the two best defensive forwards.

Like I said, my team, my rules.

Sean Collins (OSU)
Andy Greene (Miami)
Nathan Oystrick (NMU)
Eric Werner (Michigan)

Just last weekend, Werner became the league’s top-scoring defenseman with 23 points in 26 CCHA games, and he’s been there all season. And, by the way, he plays defense. In fact, every guy on this list is a great two-way player.

Dave Caruso (OSU)
Jordan Sigalet (BGSU)
Tuomas Tarkki (NMU)
Dominic Vicari (MSU)

Okay, so there are four goaltenders. (My rules, remember.) Each of these players has is as vital to his team, in my opinion, as any of the others. Caruso has been plugging along quietly in Columbus — not so quietly, if you’ve seen his glove saves in person — and has 22 wins this season. Tarkki is just pure quality. Vicari has held steady on an unsteady team.

And we all know how amazing Sigalet’s performance has been this season.

2005 Girl Reporter All-Rookie Team

Tom Fritsche (F, OSU)
Jonathan Matsumoto (F, BGSU)
Bill Thomas (F, UNO)
Mitch Ganzak (D, Miami)
Kyle Hood (D, OSU)
Wylie Rogers (G, UAF)

There you have it. For what it’s worth, gents, I think all y’all are all right.

Playoffs, Round 1

It’s playoff hockey time, and everyone is nervous, even the Michigan Wolverines. I’m not kidding. Given how Notre Dame has taken its last six first-round series to three games, Red Berenson and the Wolverines would be foolish to think that the Fighting Irish are just a steppingstone to The Joe.

Michigan beat Notre Dame four times this season by the combined score of 29-6. “The first weekend we played them, I didn’t think we caught them at a normal time,” said Berenson. “They’d just come off the Alaska trip, and they were really out of sync. At that point, they really weren’t themselves.

“The next time, we played them in Fort Wayne, and they had four point-blank scoring chances in the first period, and Montoya was the difference. Then we went on to blow them out. It was not that lopsided a game for half the game.

“We played the games. They’re not the games they are on paper.”

Berenson said that the Wolverines “should be ready” to have a good weekend. Isn’t that like saying the sun “should be ready” to rise in the east tomorrow morning? “Right now,” said Berenson, “we have all the pieces.”

This regular-season championship “was not easy,” Berenson claimed. “I didn’t see any team out there handing us a game, or a chance for first place, including Notre Dame. Our games were hard-fought.”

Down the road a ways, Michigan State head coach Rick Comley is cautiously optimistic going into the weekend against Miami, a series that pits No. 6 against No. 7. “We’ve run three in a row. Obviously we had to win two this past weekend. We did what we had to do.”

Comley knows that the RedHawks, who could have been hosting this series with a win over OSU last weekend, have had an excellent second half and have gone 6-3-1 in their last 10 games, with five of those wins on the road.

“We expect them to come in here and play hard,” said Comley. “Whether they’re home or on the road, I think they’re the same team. They’re talented and they’re well coached.”

For his part, Miami head coach Enrico Blasi was philosophical about playing in East Lansing this weekend. “I just told the guys, too, that I’m actually kind of glad that we’re going on the road,” Blasi said after Miami tied OSU 2-2 in Columbus last Saturday.

“This is a big week on campus for midterm exams. I remember last year it was really a distraction, right up until Friday with guys’ exams, so maybe it’s a blessing. Who knows? I’m a big believer that everything happens for a reason.”

Certainly, the atmosphere at Munn Arena has changed since the departure of sophomore defenseman A.J. Thelen. When he left, Thelen threw a parting shot at Comley, claiming that there are “a lot of players on the team that are unhappy,” and that “there’s not a lot of trust on the team right now.” Thelen called the season “out of control.”

Comley said that if you want to know how things are among the Spartans, “You’d have to ask the players,” but added, “The locker room feels a lot better to me than it did last week. It was a great week of practice.”

This weekend, the Mavericks of Nebraska-Omaha give fans their first CCHA playoff series in the Qwest Center, and head coach Mike Kemp thinks that Lake Superior State will be a tough opponent. “It’s going to be really interesting. It’s going to be a dogfight. They play very hard, and they play a good, solid defensive game and any mistake can be magnified.

“Hopefully, the motivation of playing at home, and the motivation of getting to the Joe for our guys will be inspiration.”

One small issue for UNO: freshman forward David Phillips “got banged up in practice Monday,” said Kemp. He may be out Friday but is expected to play by Saturday.

Another team very happy to be playing at home for the first time in a while is Bowling Green. “It’s been way too long, that’s for sure,” said head coach Scott Paluch, whose Bulldogs haven’t hosted a first-round playoff series in a decade.

“I think the important aspect about [hosting] is the fact that over the course of 28 games we’ve done enough good things and accumulated enough points that has allowed us to stay home,” said Paluch.

“It’s significant for our program, where we’ve gone the last few years. Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean anything beyond the fact that the games will be here at home.”

Paluch is well aware that the Falcons may be in for a long weekend against the Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks. They’re in a situation where they started the playoffs a week early with their Governor’s Cup. Up until the last week of the season, they looked like they might play at home [in the first round of the playoffs].”

Paluch could not disguise the excitement and pride in his voice when he spoke of this week’s playoff series and what it took for this specific group of Falcons to get there.

“What’s happened on the ice, it’s been a real measure of consistency with this group, regardless of anything that’s been put in front of them. There’s been a … consistency of focus. It’s a big-time credit to the seniors and really to the entire team. No matter where we’ve been in the season … stretches with a few losses in a row or a few wins in a row, not only on Friday and Saturday but Sunday through Thursday in practice.

“We’ve gotten so many contributions. It’s been a really enjoyable experience watching the team.”

Junior goaltender Jon Horrell started in last Saturday’s 5-4 loss to the Wolverines in Ann Arbor, but not because there was anything wrong with regular starter Jordan Sigalet.

“We made a decision to play Johnny,” said Paluch. “Our staff has talked about it knowing that there could be a situation that he might have to play three games in a row in a weekend.”

Paluch said that Horrell played “very well,” making 33 saves in the loss.

Another of my favorite coaches, Ferris State skipper Bob Daniels (and don’t you think that head coaches love being called “skipper”?), comes to my adopted hometown of Columbus, Ohio, as Ferris State takes on the No. 2 seed Buckeyes.

“The good news is that they’re going to have all of our respect,” said Daniels.

The Buckeyes took three of four regular-season games from the Bulldogs, but that one FSU win was OSU’s first home loss of the season, back in January.

“They were playing well [in January], and it doesn’t mean they can’t play well again,” said OSU head coach John Markell. “It would be naïve to think that teams aren’t thinking upset.”

Last weekend, the Bulldogs split a home-and-home series with Western Michigan, a weekend that Daniels called a “capsule” of the FSU regular season.

“I think Western played extremely well, and Friday night it looked like it was a chore [for us] to be playing … [but] come Saturday night we had a much better effort from the team. It looked like we were having fun.”

Fun. That’s the key ingredient to these playoffs. The teams that enjoy it the most are most likely to emerge victorious.

Here’s a brief look at each series. All stats are conference-only.

No. 12 Notre Dame (5-25-6, 3-20-5 CCHA) vs. No. 1 Michigan (26-7-3, 23-3-2 CCHA)

This is the fourth time in the history of these two programs that the Irish and the Wolverines are meeting in the first round of the CCHA playoffs. Last time out, in 1997-98, Notre Dame took Michigan to three games in Yost Arena, but the Wolverines prevailed — and we know what happened in Boston that year.

Michigan swept Notre Dame all four games the clustermates played this season, by a collective score of 29-6. In a year when Al Montoya seems to be struggling for focus in net, he still has Notre Dame’s number.

This pairing pits the league’s most dynamic and deepest offense against the league’s least prolific team. The CCHA playoffs, of course, are designed to favor the home team, but the disparity in numbers between these two gives Michigan every possible edge:

• Goals per game: ND 1.71 (12th); UM 4.57 (first)
• Goals allowed per game: ND 3.75 (11th); UM 2.50 (third)
• Power play: ND 12.6 % (12th); UM 25.5% (first)
• Penalty kill: ND 77.4% (12th); UM 82.8% (fourth)
• Top scorer: ND Cory McLean (4-15–19); UM T.J. Hensick (21-22–43)
• Top ‘tender: ND Morgan Cey (3.22 GAA, .902 SV%); UM Al Montoya (2.51 GAA, .893 SV%)

Three other Wolverines — Jeff Tambellini (17-21–38), Milan Gajic (13-14–27), and Chad Kolarik (13-15–28) — have reached the double-digit goal mark in conference play this season.

As impressive as that is, even more revealing about the power, depth, and balance of this Michigan team is the number of players who have reached 10 or more goals overall this season. David Moss (8-14–22), Eric Nystrom (9-15–24), Kevin Porter (9-12–21), and Brandon Kaleniecki (9-5–14) give the Wolverines a total of eight goal-scorers who have netted 10 or more in overall play.

Given how under-productive Michigan’s power play has been for stretches this season, the sheer number of goals scored by this Wolverine squad is very, very impressive. The Wolverines sit at +203 as a team in league play.

Notre Dame is one of two league teams — LSSU is the other — to have no players reach the 10-goal mark this season.

Even if Montoya struggles in net — and I do not think he will, in the postseason at all — the Wolverines can overcome any opponent with offense alone. That’s not to say that Michigan lacks defensively or that the Irish are an easy mark.

Since the Irish returned to the CCHA in 1992-93, Michigan is 17-2-1 in Yost against Notre Dame.

This is the 16th straight season that Michigan has hosted a first-round CCHA playoff series. I’m not a gambler and I am too often wrong about anything from weekly picks to the day’s weather, but I am pretty sure I’ll see the entire Michigan squad, in uniform, in Detroit.

Pick: Michigan 4-1, 5-1

No. 11 Ferris State (12-20-4, 7-17-4 CCHA) vs. No. 2 Ohio State (24-8-4, 21-5-2 CCHA)

Another lopsided match on paper, this one pairs a high-powered offense against an offense that can muster some goals, a solid defense against a talented but inconsistent defense, and a postseason goalie against a rookie who beat him once during the season.

Hmm. That last one is interesting, isn’t it?

The Bulldogs were one of only two teams to beat the Buckeyes in Columbus this season — Michigan was the other one — in a 3-2 overtime game in a January weekend split. Going into that weekend, FSU was 6-2-2 in its previous 10 games and still high from its wonderful, stupendous, league-defending, second consecutive Badger Showdown crown, and I can tell you that the Bulldogs played mighty, mighty well that weekend.

Since then, however, OSU has taken off and FSU has floundered. And there’s no denying that OSU has the edge on paper:

• Goals per game: FSU 2.61 (11th); OSU 3.57 (third)
• Goals allowed per game: FSU 3.46 (ninth); OSU 2.21 (second)
• Power play: FSU 12.7 % (11th); OSU 23.8% (second)
• Penalty kill: FSU 82.6% (fifth); OSU 8.87% (first)
• Top scorer: FSU Jeff Legue (18-13–31); OSU Rod Pelley (18-12–30)
• Top ‘tender: FSU Derek MacIntyre (3.15 GAA, .890 SV%); OSU Dave Caruso(2.14 GAA, .919 SV%)

Many league fans don’t want to know this, but this Ohio State team is balanced, talented, and full of a youthful enthusiasm that makes them better than last year’s squad — even if the lack of experience may catch up to them somewhere in the near future. In other words, this team — among the top 10 in the country in scoring offense, scoring defense, power play, penalty killing, and win percentage — has the goods.

A dozen of Pelley’s conference goals have come on the power play, where he is deadly from the right point, and Matt Beaudoin (17-8–25) has scored 11 with the man advantage. Two other Buckeyes — Dan Knapp (7-16–23) and Dominic Maiani (8-14–22) — have 11 goals each in overall play.

While not in the league of Michigan’s uber-offense, one interesting thing about Ohio State’s scoring is that every single Buckeye who has played at least nine league games this season has scored at least one goal except for goalie Dave Caruso — who has two assists in conference play, three overall.

And when the Buckeyes are on, they play great team defense.

For the Bulldogs, only Legue and Derek Nesbitt (12-14–26) have reached double digits in goals in conference play, but Matt Stefanishion (8-6–14) has 11 goals overall.

OSU is 52-34-10 all-time against FSU, and 5-1-2 all-time against FSU in postseason play. Since 1990, the Bulldogs are 4-15-2 on the road against the Buckeyes, and all-time FSU is 13-41-3 in postseason action.

I think these games will be closely contested, the first game being tighter than the second. They could go to three, but I told both coaches to wrap it up in two, because I have plans Sunday night. Seriously, I think FSU is no match for OSU’s offense and special teams. And there could be some love on the ice.

Pick: OSU 3-2, 3-2

No. 10 Western Michigan (13-19-2, 8-18-2 CCHA) vs. No. 3 Northern Michigan (20-9-7, 17-7-4 CCHA)

Here’s a ticket I’d like to be able to buy! The Broncos have a talented group of frontmen, tough enough to stymie nearly any defense in the league. Unfortunately for WMU, the Wildcats have the best defense in the CCHA, and will allow very little this weekend.

I think.

These two are familiar postseason foes, meeting for the third time in postseason, first-round play in five years — and NMU came out ahead in both times previous; the series in 2001 went to three games and in 2003, NMU swept 8-3 and 6-4.

NMU took three points from WMU during the regular season with a win and a tie in Marquette Feb. 11-12.

Here’s a look at how the teams match on paper:

• Goals per game: WMU 2.79 (eighth); NMU 2.93 (sixth)
• Goals allowed per game: WMU 4.00 (12th); NMU 2.04 (first)
• Power play: WMU 19.0 % (fifth); NMU 15.0% (10th)
• Penalty kill: WMU 79.0% (eighth); NMU 86.6% (second)
• Top scorer: WMU Brent Walton (14-24–38); NMU Andrew Contois (16-13–29)
• Top ‘tender: WMU Daniel Bellissimo (3.78 GAA, .887 SV%); NMU Tuomas Tarkki (1.81 GAA, .936 SV%)

Mike Santorelli (14-9–23) is the only other Wildcat who has scored 10 or more goals in conference play, while Dirk Southern (5-14–19) has 10 goals overall, Pat Bateman (7-11–18) has 11 goals overall, and Darin Olver (9-30–39) actually leads the Wildcats in overall scoring.

Jamie Milam (9-6–15) is the NMU sniper on the power play with eight of his nine conference goals scored with the man advantage.

For the Broncos, Vince Bellissimo (16-16–32) and Mike Erickson (11-9–20) round out the top conference goal-scoring.

The line to watch for WMU is Walton, Bellissimo, and Kevin Labatte, who has three goals and three assists in his last six games.

For all their offense, the Broncos have serious trouble defensively, with a collective -149 team rating to show as proof. WMU can break out as well as any team in the league, but has difficulty recovering the other way, and the man-to-man defense that the Broncos play regularly puts them at a serious disadvantage.

In spite of the Wildcats’ clear advantages — which include the league’s best goaltender — I still think that WMU is going to pull one out. Besides, Walt Kyle says I must always, always, always call at least one game against the Wildcats. Happy Birthday, Walt, whenever that is.

Pick: WMU 4-3, NMU 5-3, NMU 5-4

No. 9 Lake Superior State (9-20-7, 8-14-6 CCHA) vs. No. 4 Nebraska-Omaha (17-5-4, 13-11-4 CCHA)

The Lakers play hard — really hard — but do they have a chance against the Mavericks?

Oh, maybe. Not.

Not one Laker has reached the 10-goal mark for the season in either conference or overall play, and LSSU has been outscored by league opponents 103-64 this season. That alone should strike the fear of the hockey gods in the hearts of Laker fans, but couple those stats with the deep UNO offense, and you can almost guarantee that Sault Ste. Marie will not be a happy place come Monday.


This is the fifth meeting this season between LSSU and UNO, and the first ever postseason between the two clubs. The clustermates met four times this season, with UNO earning a 2-1-1 edge in the series — not what you might expect, given the discrepancies between the teams.

The Lakers split in Omaha in December, winning 5-2 Dec. 9, losing 5-1 Dec. 11. In Sault Ste. Marie Feb. 18-19, UNO beat LSSU 5-2 before the teams skated to a 3-3 tie the second game, with Lake State leading 3-1 going into the third period.

The difficulty for the Lakers is twofold: they have trouble playing with the lead, and they can’t overcome much of a deficit. They do not, however, stop coming at you. Ever.

Here’s the match by the numbers:

• Goals per game: LSSU 2.29 (11th); UNO 3.61 (second)
• Goals allowed per game: LSSU 3.00 (tie sixth); UNO 3.00 (tie sixth)
• Power play: LSSU 15.4 % (ninth); UNO 17.7% (seventh)
• Penalty kill: LSSU 79.7% (seventh); UNO 80.9% (sixth)
• Top scorer: LSSU Jon Boras (7-8–15); UNO Scott Parse (16-22–38)
• Top ‘tender: LSSU Jeff Jakaitis (2.69 GAA, .922 SV%); UNO Chris Holt (2.81 GAA, .907 SV%)

UNO has a formidable offensive front, with Parse leading the way. Bill Thomas (13-20–33), Bryan Marshall (11-16–27), and Alex Nikiforuk (10-10–20) are also part of that package, as is Dan Hacker (9-6–15), who has 13 goals overall.

More than half of UNO’s 101 league goals were scored by those five gents, and what the Mavericks lack in experience — this is a young team — they more than make up for in talent and enthusiasm.

The Lakers have improved over last season, but still have a way to go before heading to the Super Six.


In addition to Jakaitis, they have the more-than-competent Matt Violin (3.04 GAA, .915 SV%), who played 11 league games this season and missed some time because of injury.

Consider, too, that LSSU buses to Omaha from Sault Ste. Marie. Again, I’m not kidding.

As much as I’d like to see the Lakers in Detroit again — and who among the CCHA faithful wouldn’t, given the program’s history? — I think this is UNO’s series. Besides, Coach Kemp owes it to me and Shirley, and he knows it.

Picks: UNO 4-1, 4-2

No. 8 Alaska-Fairbanks (13-15-4, 11-14-4 CCHA) vs. No. 5 Bowling Green (16-14-4, 13-12-3 CCHA)

Many fans think that this is one of the series to watch for an upset, but I’m not so sure. I think the everything is in place for the Falcons, mostly, who have worked too hard for this home ice to not go to Detroit.

Which, of course, saddens me, given how fond I am of the Nanooks.

The Falcons and Nanooks met in BG earlier this year, and it wasn’t pretty for the UAF faithful; BGSU swept 6-2 and 6-1, but it followed UAF’s 22-day holiday break. As BGSU head coach Scott Paluch pointed out this week, the Nanooks are already in playoff mode, having had to defend the Governor’s Cup last week against UAA, a series as important to Alaskans as any first-round CCHA playoff series.

Both of these teams are scrappy, but the Falcons have experience that the Nanooks lack, plus another significant edge, other than that of Jordan Sigalet in net: no one plays harder, comes at you harder, and is more tenacious than Bowling Green. No one.

Even before Sigalet’s announcement regarding his MS this season, the Falcons had already come through media scrutiny and controversy when several players were suspended for violations of team rules. During that stretch, many eligible players who wouldn’t otherwise have played got plenty of ice time, and when the suspended players returned, everyone had to learn to play real games together.

The result of that early lesson, coupled with the team support of Sigalet, is a strong, cohesive, consistent, and dedicated team.

UAF has played inconsistently this year, by contrast, in large part because of a youthful roster. The Nanooks have also shown fairly poorly on the road (5-11-0) — and although head coach Tavis MacMillan wouldn’t make any excuses, I’d say it’s because they’re young.

The Falcons have an edge in every possible category, statistically:

• Goals per game: UAF 2.64 (ninth); BGSU 3.29 (fourth)
• Goals allowed per game: UAF 3.54 (10th); BGSU 3.11 (eighth)
• Power play: UAF 16.9 % (eighth); BGSU 19.4% (fourth)
• Penalty kill: UAF 78.1% (11th); BGSU 78.7% (ninth)
• Top scorer: UAF Curtis Fraser (13-10–23); BGSU Brett Pilkington (5-22–27)
• Top ‘tender: UAF Wylie Rogers (3.13 GAA, .896 SV%); BGSU Jordan Sigalet (2.83 GAA, .916 SV%)

While Pilkington leads all Falcons in points in conference play, Jonathan Matsumoto (12-12–24) leads in overall play and is the team’s leading goal-scorer overall (16). James Unger (12-11–22) also has a dozen goals in CCHA play, and Derek Whitmore (9-4–13) has 11 goals overall.

On the power play, it’s Matsumoto, Unger, and Ryan Minnabarriet (5-12–17), whose five goals in league games have all come on the power play.

And as good as is Sigalet — and he is — the team is playing well, defensively, in front of him, at +44 on the season in conference play.

Jared Sylvestre (10-4–14) is the only other Nanook with 10 or more goals in conference play, but two others — Kyle Greentree (8-14–22) and Ryan McLeod (9-6–15) — have reached the 10-goal mark in overall play. Fraser, Sylvestre, and McLeod are the go-to men on the power play.

I saw the Nanooks early in the season and they looked pretty good to me, but they don’t seem to have jelled yet or found their collective feet enough to put together consistent games, one after the other. And that, of course, is what playoff hockey is all about.

Picks: UAF 4-3, BGSU 4-3, BGSU 4-3

No. 7 Miami (15-16-5, 11-13-4 CCHA) vs. No. 6 Michigan State (17-15-4, 12-13-3 CCHA)

If things had gone a little differently last weekend, the Spartans would be traveling and the RedHawks would be at home, but the very fact that MSU swept Notre Dame in the last regular-season weekend to secure home ice and the RedHawks took one point from Ohio State when they needed more says a lot about this weekend’s series.

The Spartans could have been on the road for a first-round CCHA series for the first time since most of the current MSU players were in grade school, but they aren’t. The Spartans could have been hurting offensively down the stretch like they were in the first half of the season, but they weren’t.

The Spartans could have been playing with A.J. Thelen on the roster this weekend, but they’ve parted ways.

Because each of those things is a possibility that didn’t materialize, the Spartans may have finally turned the corner on this season.

After a less-than-promising 3-4-2 start to the new year through mid-February, the Spartans have gone 4-2-0 in their last six to earn that home ice advantage.

In the past 10 games, four Spartans have combined for 21 goals, and Jim Slater — who couldn’t buy himself a goal for Christmas — has four goals and nine assists in that stretch.

The other three Spartans who have picked up their games include Colton Fretter (10-22–32), Drew Miller (16-10–26), and Jim McKenzie (9-4–13), and Miller has really turned it on recently.

And since Thelen left the squad, MSU is 3-0-0.

The RedHawks split at home with MSU in early January, losing 4-0 Jan. 7 and rebounding 4-1 the following night, and while the Spartans lead the RedHawks 31-11-3 all-time in East Lansing, Miami is 3-1-0 in its last four games in Munn Arena, having swept there Jan. 30-31, 2004.

These teams are, not surprisingly, close in the numbers game:

• Goals per game: Miami 2.86 (seventh); MSU 3.11 (fifth)
• Goals allowed per game: Miami 2.71 (fifth); MSU 2.64 (fourth)
• Power play: Miami 18.4 % (sixth); MSU 20.0% (third)
• Penalty kill: Miami 84.8% (third); MSU 78.2% (10th)
• Top scorer: Miami Marty Guerin (10-16–26); MSU Jim Slater (11-23–34)
• Top ‘tender: Miami Brandon Crawford-West (2.33 GAA, .921 SV%); MSU Dominic Vicari (2.48 GAA, .916 SV%)

Slater, Fretter, Miller, McKenzie, and Ash Goldie (8-7–15) are responsible for 28 of MSU’s 35 conference power-play goals. Goldie and McKenzie each have 10 goals in overall play.

The RedHawks, who played through a season of injury and illness this year, have two players in addition to Guerin who have netted more than 10 goals in conference play, Matt Christie (13-12–25), Todd Grant (10-11–21). Nathan Davis (7-8–15) has 13 goals in overall play.

Christie, Grant, and Guerin have seven goals each for a total of 21 of Miami’s 36 conference power-play goals.

Miami is fast and skilled and competitive and can potentially have all the right ingredients to reach Joe Louis Arena. Last weekend, Crawford-West gave a performance amazing enough to earn him CCHA GOTW honors, in spite of Miami’s only capturing one point from the Buckeyes. If he plays like that, the ‘Hawks will be very hard to beat.

Each of these teams has struggled for different reasons this season, and while my heart wants Miami in Detroit because I want all three Ohio teams there — with all due respect to Michigan State, another sentimental favorite of mine — my head tells me that MSU has just clicked, just in time.

Picks: MSU 3-2, 3-2


Congrats to Tara and Andy Slaggert on the arrival of their third son, Carter James. The newest Slaggert was born Mar. 3. Papa Slaggert, one of the many great guys in college hockey, is an assistant at Notre Dame, and I had the pleasure of meeting his delightful wife and oldest son several years ago in Detroit.

Next Week

Next week will be my final column for the 2004-05 season. Stop applauding.