This Week in the CCHA: Jan. 12, 2006

Good Vibrations

This is my favorite quote of the season.

“I’ll tell you what. It feels really darn good.”

That was head coach Scott Paluch’s reaction, with a little prodding, after Bowling Green edged Ohio State, 3-2, last Friday night.

Paluch, one of the nicest guys in college hockey, began his postgame summary with, “I thought it was a terrific college hockey game.” Paluch only said that because he begins many postgame summaries with that exact phrase, word for word. Well, and because it was the first time the Falcons had beaten the Buckeyes since Oct. 26, 2001, and Paluch’s first career victory over OSU.

In reality, the game’s pace was glacial — Buckeye captain Nate Guenin said that OSU had been sleepwalking through the first two periods, and that more accurately describes the game’s intensity — but given the significance of that win, Paluch can certainly be forgiven.

With a 2-0 home win Saturday night, the Falcons completed their first sweep of the Buckeyes since March 1999. That game was far more intense, with bruising checking and an awake Buckeye team that simply could not solve Falcon senior goaltender Jon Horrell, who is this week’s CCHA Goaltender of the Week.

It’s Genetic

Apparently, only guys named “Davis” are allowed to net three or more for the Miami RedHawks this season.

In response to its second league loss of the season last Friday, 2-1 to Northern Michigan, Miami pounded the Wildcats, 6-3, Saturday night. Matt Davis had four of those goals and an assist.

Matt’s younger brother, Nathan, registered three against Bowling Green Nov. 25.

Too Familiar

When the Buckeyes and RedHawks played at Value City Arena Tuesday night, the game was their second in two weeks, and their fourth of the season. Miami and OSU met for the title game of the Ohio Hockey Classic Dec. 30 in Nationwide Arena, where they skated to a 1-1 tie.

Earlier this year, the RedHawks swept the Buckeyes in a home-and-home series, but Tuesday night the Bucks were inspired, beating their intrastate rivals 3-0.

The shutout was the second the RedHawks have suffered this season. North Dakota beat Miami 3-0 at the Lefty McFadden Invitational, way back on Oct. 8.

After the game, Blasi noted that the Buckeyes “were very disappointed in their weekend [losses]” to Bowling Green. “They obviously took it out on us tonight.”

The three goals equaled the number OSU scored in its three previous contests, 3-2 and 2-0 losses to BGSU and that 1-1 tie with the RedHawks.

The Buckeye offense was inspired Tuesday, playing like last season’s squad. Maybe that’s because all three goals were scored by sophomores, a class that has been conspicuous in its offensive absence, Tom Fritsche notwithstanding.

Lines and Misdemeanors

Referees and other officials are among the most underappreciated folks associated with sports, and most of the guys I know — I haven’t met any of the women — do decent to excellent jobs, and each does his job with sincerity.

They are, however, human. In fact, they are corporeal, as fans at the Schottenstein Center have been reminded recently, especially Tuesday night.

Never in my years of covering college hockey have I so noticed assistant referees as I did in Tuesday’s Miami-OSU game, and not because the quality of their calls was slipping. What I noticed, as did many people in the press box, was that they were there, in the way, all the time.

Now, I’m willing to concede that perhaps the RedHawks and Buckeyes were using the glass a little more, fighting more for space, doing something that interfered with the normal ways in which officials moves. But I have to tell you that I saw more pucks and players hit men in stripes Tuesday than I ever have, and I’ve noticed it quite a bit this season.

I heard several years ago from someone close to the league that once upon a time, a coach who shall remain unnamed proposed that ARs stay off the ice, that each AR should sit behind the glass at his appointed line and judge from there. Cuckoo, yes, but tempting — and maybe even safer — given the seeming escalation in unintended player-official interaction.

What Brown Can Do for You

Look out for those red-hot … Fighting Irish?

Notre Dame has now gone three games in a row without a loss for the second time this season, having most recently taken three points on the road from Nebraska-Omaha.

Head coach Jeff Jackson told the South Bend Tribune, “We seem to have a little bit of an attitude right now.”

Key in this mini-streak, which dates back to a 4-3 win over Lake Superior State Dec. 18, is the play of senior goaltender David Brown. Brown, who has emerged as the ND starter, is 4-2-1 in his last seven with a 1.89 goals-against average and .935 save percentage.

Last week’s win and tie against UNO is particularly impressive as the Mavericks are one of two teams scoring 3.64 goals per game, the sixth-best scoring offense in the nation.

(For those of you playing along at home, the other sixth-place team is Bowling Green.)

It doesn’t hurt that six different Irish players accounted for the six Notre Dame goals last weekend, either.

Games of the Week

Eight points separate second-place Lake Superior State from last-place Western Michigan, with Miami five points ahead of anyone else at the top of the heap.

No points separate seventh-place Alaska-Fairbanks from seventh-place Michigan State. Yet.

Alaska-Fairbanks (9-8-3, 5-7-2 CCHA) at Michigan State (10-8-5, 4-5-4 CCHA)
Friday and Saturday, 7:35 p.m., Munn Arena, East Lansing, Mich.

Each of these teams has captured hardware and combined they’re 1-1-1 against Michigan. Guess which team has the win?

The Nanooks are making their annual two-week sojourn through the Lower 48, remaining in one spot long enough to play two weekend road series without having to make the long trip home.

Last year’s two-week trip began with a sweep by the Falcons, and ended with a pair of 5-2 losses to Michigan in Yost.

This year, UAF began its trip with a split in Ann Arbor, a 4-2 rebound win Saturday after Michigan’s 4-0 shutout Friday night.

The win was UAF’s second of the season over clustermate Michigan. The Nanooks are now 3-2-1 against ranked opponents for 2005-06.

Saturday’s rare win in Yost Arena prompted UAF head coach Tavis MacMillan to ask my esteemed colleague Danny Martin of the Fairbanks News-Miner, “How many teams can say they won at Yost and Mariucci in the same year?”

Given that only No. 1 Wisconsin is the only other team to have so distinguished itself this season, the Nanooks are in pretty good company.

A big reason for their success against Michigan and part of the reason they captured this year’s Alaska Governor’s Cup is the Nanook penalty kill, which has knocked off 41 consecutive opponent power plays, including 18 Wolverine man-advantages in Yost.

The last team to score against the Nanooks on the power play is their opponent this week, Michigan State, on Dec. 10.

The Spartans swept Wayne State last weekend, something head coach Rick Comley called “much needed” for a team rebounding from a 6-3 loss to Colorado College in the title match of the Great Lakes Invitational.

Said Comley of the WSU Warriors, “They’re not pretty, they do what they can do, and in the third period, both nights, I thought they tried to play a little bit more.”

The Spartans outscored the Warriors 8-2 on the weekend, something that was, indeed, much needed for a lagging MSU offense. “Maybe they are building on something,” said Comley.

Here’s the match by the conference numbers:

  • Goals per game: UAF 2.55 (11th); MSU 3.13 (fifth)
  • Goals allowed per game: UAF 2.70 (fifth); MSU 2.65 (fourth)
  • Power play: UAF 17.5% (seventh); MSU 19.0% (third)
  • Penalty kill: UAF 86.3% (third) ; MSU 80.6% (ninth)
  • Top scorer: UAF Kyle Greentree (4-6-10); MSU Bryan Lerg (7-7-14)
  • Top ‘tender: UAF Chad Johnson (.919 SV%, 2.60 GAA); MSU Jeff Lerg (.904 SV%, 2.64 GAA)

    Lerg was the goalie of record both nights last weekend, although it should be noted that he’s played just five league games. Dominic Vicari, pulled in the loss to CC, has a 2.94 GAA and .886 SV% in nine league contests.

    Johnson has been splitting time in the UAF net with Wylie Rogers (3.86 GAA, .877 SV%), who has played six league games to Johnson’s nine. Rogers was in net for the 4-0 loss to Michigan, while Johnson picked up Saturday’s win.

    In Fairbanks just one month ago, MSU and UAF tied 4-4 before the Spartans beat the Nanooks 3-0. Vicari earned that shutout, Johnson the loss. UAF freshman Kyle Jones had a hat trick in the tie.

    Picks: I hate picking games this season. For years, the coaches have talked about league parity, and now they’ve talked so much about it that they’ve willed it into existence. The Spartans have already taken three points from the Nanooks in Fairbanks, the games are in Munn, and the MSU offense may have awakened. Maybe. I can imagine three points again for Sparty. Maybe. And, yes, I’m still chasing Kyle Greentree. MSU 3-2, UAF 3-2

    Happy Birthday

    Michigan goaltender Billy Sauer turned 18 last Friday night and celebrated with his first career shutout, that 4-0 win over Alaska-Fairbanks.

    Blueliner of the Week

    Two official nominations made their way to my mailbox. Falcon Don Morrison was nominated for his role in BGSU’s home-and-home sweep of OSU, and Laker Kory Scoran was nominated for his role in LSSU’s sweep of WMU.

    Scoran, this week’s CCHA Defenseman of the Week, is certainly an underrated player, but Western Michigan’s offense is ranked 52 out of 59, and his achievements — while praiseworthy — are recognized by the league for offense as well as defense.

    Morrison is a worthy choice, but after having seen the BGSU-OSU series, I’d rather give the award to the entire Bowling Green defensive unit, and that’s exactly what I’m doing.

    One big key to BGSU’s success against OSU Friday night was the Falcons’ smothering defense. While much can be said about the Buckeyes’ inability to score this season — after all, OSU’s offense is tied for 38th in the nation — the BGSU defense allowed no threatening odd-man rushes and kept nearly every shot to the perimeter.

    In Saturday’s 2-0 shutout, a game during which the Buckeyes played very well, the Falcon defense redoubled its efforts and was particularly impressive in blocking shots as well as throwing bodies.

    And, yes, Don Morrison was essential to all of that.

    If you witness a noteworthy defensive performance, by all means email me and nominate that hard-working man for Blueliner of the Week.


    In my Dec. 15 column, I tried to stump you with trivia about Christmas.

    What were the first and last states to recognize Christmas as an official holiday? (Alabama and Oklahoma.) Where is America’s official national Christmas tree located? (Kings Canyon National Park.) Who decided that Christmas should be celebrated on Dec. 25? (Pope Julius I.) In what year were electric lights first used on Christmas trees? (1895.) How many Christmas cards are mailed annually in the U.S.? (More than three billion.)

    And I challenged you to name this tune:

    But it don’t snow here
    It stays pretty green
    I’m going to make a lot of money
    Then I’m going to quit this crazy scene

    Several folks wrote in to correctly identify the lyrics from Joni Mitchell’s “River,” but one reader correctly answered all but one of the questions. Apparently, I’m no match for Ed “Wonderboy” Cheladyn — that’s his actual email name — who only underestimated the number of cards sent annually.

    Ed, you win dinner with Dave Hendrickson! Congratulations!

    I’ve got a couple of softballs for you again this week.

    The date this Friday is Jan. 13, a good day for hockey but a tough day for people afflicted with paraskevidekatriaphobia, an intense fear of Friday the 13th. On average, how many times per year does the 13th of a given month fall on a Friday?

    Saturday is a full moon, another good day for hockey but a bad day for selenophobics, or those who fear the moon.

    Here are two questions about former players who wore No. 13. No peeking.

    This defenseman scored an unassisted goal in Notre Dame’s first-round CCHA playoff road sweep of Miami in 2003.

    In 2001-02, this No. 13 was Alaska-Fairbanks’ “Unsung Hero.”

    Once again, email me your answers to these incredibly difficult questions and you’ll win dinner with Dave. One faithful reader suggested that I’d get more response to the trivia if I promised something more valuable, like something with my autograph on it, but I simply cannot part with my tax returns and rent checks.

    No One Circles the Wagons Like …

    Marv Levy, welcome home.