Another Year Over, and What Have You Done?
As 2007 winds down and we’re almost to the point at which we can take stock of the first half of the CCHA season, I am haunted by the ghosts of seasons past. In fact, I can’t shake the memory of what I wrote a year ago this week, and how history has a way of repeating.
Notre Dame winning and winning, Michigan coming off a disappointing home split against a team it should have swept, a CCHA POTW with which to quibble — all of this looks too familiar.
There were six CCHA teams among the top-20 at this time last year while there are five this week, but Miami was then, as now, the top ranked among those teams, last year at this time the No. 3 team in the country.
With a sweep of Nebraska-Omaha and a little help from Ohio State, the Irish are in sole possession of first place. This week.
It took four points, an idle Miami team and a Michigan loss to propel ND into the top spot, the only team in the league with 20 points. A 9-1-0 record in November didn’t hurt either, the first nine-win month for the Irish since Nov. 1983.
To sweep UNO last weekend, the Irish first had to overcome a three-goal deficit in Friday’s 5-4 win. Maverick freshman Joey Martin’s first two collegiate goals and sophomore J.J. Koehler’s second marker of the season had ND back on its proverbial heels little more than midway through the second, but the Irish netted four unanswered goals within six minutes of playing time at the end of the second and beginning of the third to take the lead — goals by Kevin Deeth (17:18), Christian Hanson (18:32), Erik Condra (0:48) and Dan Kissel (2:21), respectively.
Mick Lawrence scored at 7:57 in the third to tie it again for the Mavs, but Garrett Regan’s tally at 17:54 lifted the Irish up, 5-4.
On Saturday, Mark Van Guilder had the game-winner, Jordan Pearce had his second shutout of the year one night after his worst game of the season, and rookie defenseman Teddy Ruth starred in the role of Superman for the Irish. Ruth played with a knee injury he sustained on Friday night — “It looked like I had a baseball on the back of my knee, but we got the swelling down,” Ruth told the South Bend Tribune — had a goal and an assist.
ND head coach Jeff Jackson gave Pearce the start because, well, he’s Notre Dame’s starter. “When you have a number-one goaltender,” said Jackson, “they’re allowed to have an off night.”
Jackson was also pleased with the way in which the Irish responded to their Friday come-from-behind win. “I liked the fact that we responded to come out and play a 60-minute hockey game. It’s never going to be a perfect game, but I really liked our effort tonight.”
What’s the secret to Notre Dame’s success? It’s simple. The Irish play like a team with good leadership from upperclassmen and a balanced effort from all four classes; Notre Dame can rotate four solid lines; the Irish freshmen contribute; the ND sophomore continue to develop; Jordan Pearce (.912 SV%) is solid in net. And then there’s Jeff Jackson, Paul Pooley, and Andy Slaggert behind the bench.
Notre Dame’s reign at the top of the standings may, however, be short-lived. The Irish are playing Princeton twice this weekend, while Miami and Michigan, tied for second with 18 points each, take on CCHA teams.
At this time last year, I was writing about how the Western Michigan Broncos had broken their 16-game winless streak in Yost Ice Arena by beating Michigan, 6-3, Dec. 1, 2006, their first win in Ann Arbor since 1995.
Last weekend, another less-dramatic streak was broken Yost, when Ohio State snapped Michigan’s 11-game home win streak with a 3-2 victory. The split in Ann Arbor was certainly a big deal for the Buckeyes, as it was just their second CCHA win of the season, but these teams have split their season series now since the 2004-05 season, and the Bucks even took one from the Wolverines in 2003-04, when the teams were clustermates.
So losing to the Buckeyes — even with their current season — wasn’t necessarily a wake-up call for Michigan. Playing a team that figured out how to limit Michigan’s high-flying offense to two goals — and to shut down that offense through 57 minutes and 19 seconds, as did the Buckeyes — was the real ice water in the face.
OSU led UM 2-0 on Buckeye Tommy Goebel’s first two-goal performance as a Buckeye until nearly the end of the game. Then Michigan senior Chad Kolarik scored at 17:19 to cut Ohio State’s lead in half. Then OSU freshman Sergio Somma netted what held up to be the game-winner at 17:51. Then Kolarik scored his second of the game at 18:42.
(A tangent here: I was watching the game on FOX, and those last five minutes were among the most exciting I’ve seen, ever. Both goaltenders made amazing saves, the goals were spectacular and the outcome absolutely uncertain.)
But back to Chad Kolarik, which is the real story here. The two-man Michigan senior class of Kevin Porter (16-10–26) and Kolarik (11-11–22) have done the lions’ share of scoring for the Wolverines. So Michigan head coach Red Berenson shook up the lineup for Saturday’s contest, fielding an all-rookie line of Carl Hagelin, Matt Rust and Aaron Palushaj.
“Anytime you lose a game, you have to regroup and refocus,” said Berenson. “We have been watching Porter and Kolarik carry a large part of our offense in recent weeks and I think it’s important that we get more balance in our attack, whether it’s work ethic or puck touches or a combination.”
Or goals. Goals work. In Saturday’s 4-2 win, three freshmen accounted for all four goals. Max Pacioretty had two goals, and Rust and Hagelin each had one.
Michigan, playing Bowling Green this week with Notre Dame playing out of conference, has a chance to regain at least a share of the CCHA lead.
Last year at this time, I was grousing about Scott Parse. Now, that’s no easy thing to do, as Parse is easily one of the best players to have come through the CCHA in the 13 years that I’ve been covering.
I had no problem with Scott Parse, ever. My problem was that Parse — pitching in on the blueline for a weekend — was named CCHA Defenseman of the Week because he registered a hat trick, including a goal on the power play. Hardly defying expectations, I think, considering the player.
And so this week I have another complaint about POTW honors. Disclaimer: I love the Michigan freshman class, and Max Pacioretty is pure dynamite. He’s eighth among all players nationally for points per game, and scoring two goals in Saturday’s 4-2 win with an assist in Friday’s 3-2 loss is a nice weekend.
But weren’t the Wolverines the No. 2 team in the country last week, while the Buckeyes were, say, the No. 50 or so? I mean, wasn’t Michigan expected to win?
That’s why I was surprised that Buckeye freshman Sergio Somma didn’t get the nod. Somma responded to Chad Kolarik’s third-period goal less than a minute later for the game-winner last Friday, and he added another goal in the third period Saturday.
I know it must be difficult to choose among the worthy and I am doing anything but knocking Pacioretty and Michigan; I’m just looking at the relative fortunes of each team.
Oh, I do believe in spirits. Apparently.
Oh, What a Christmas to Have the Blues
Two home losses to Michigan State last weekend leave Lake Superior State the only team in the CCHA without a league win this season.
The Lakers battled back from three goals down Friday to make it a 3-2 final, before losing 5-2 Saturday. Sophomore Nathan Perkovich and freshman Rick Schofield each scored a goal in each game, accounting for all four Laker tallies.
Freshman Brian Mahoney-Wilson (.891 SV%) and sophomore Pat Inglis (.852 SV%) split the games.
“The guys worked hard and did everything I asked of them,” said LSSU head coach Jim Roque. “We made a couple mistakes, and when you’re a young team you’ll make some mistakes.”
The Lakers have played each of their clustermates twice, and are now 0-6-0 against MSU, UM and NMU. The last time the Lakers drew this cluster was in 2002-03, when they went 2-10-0 against the Spartans, Wolverines and Wildcats.
This weekend, the Lakers travel to Omaha for two against the Mavericks, and these are LSSU’s last games of the calendar year. Lake State starts the second half of the season against Michigan State in East Lansing, Jan. 4-5.
Silver and Gold
Four Wolverines, a Buckeye, and a Fighting Irishman walk into a rink. No, it’s not a new take on an old joke, but it is a familiar scenario when discussing the IIHF World Junior Championships.
Six players from the CCHA will play in this year’s Juniors tourney, four for Team USA, one for Team Sweden, and all from big-name schools.
Three of the Wolverines are freshmen forwards Carl Hagelin, Max Pacioretty and Matt Rust. Hagelin (Sodertalje, Sweden) and Rust (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.) are tied for fifth in scoring among all Wolverines with five goals and five assists each for 10 points; Pacioretty (New Canaan, Conn.) is fifth (5-10–15).
UM defenseman, sophomore Chris Summers (Ypsilanti, Mich.), has four assists in 18 games this season and has six career goals and 18 career assists in 57 games for the Wolverines.
Notre Dame is represented by freshman defenseman Ian Cole (Ann Arbor, Mich.), who has two goals and four assists in 18 games.
Ohio State sends goaltender Joseph Palmer (Yorkville, N.Y.), who has posted a .881 save percentage and 3.38 goals-against average with a record of 4-10-1 this season.
Both Cole and Palmer earned gold medals in the 2006 IIHF World Under-18 Championship.
Obviously, Hagelin will be playing for Team Sweden, and everyone else for Team USA.
Silver, gold, bronze…those are good colors of the season, gents.
The Prettiest Sight You’ll See
I never thought I’d be so happy to see Fred Pletsch on television.
The league’s director of communications and I have had our differences, but I was thrilled to see Fred alongside of Ken Daniels announcing the OSU-Michigan game last Friday on FOX. Fred and his wife, Kelly, were injured fairly badly in an auto accident a month ago — Fred’s laundry list of injuries included several broken bones — but that did little to slow down our league man. Just a week after his accident, he responded to my email from the hospital, so I don’t know why I’m surprised he returned to his commentator duties last week.
At the start of the broadcast, Fred expressed his gratitude for all the good wishes that came his way after the accident. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that we are the ones who are grateful that the Pletsches will be just fine.
And They Shouted Out with Glee!
Of course they did…after they tasted these cookies.
This is the best cookie recipe I know. Dolly is my 73-year-old mother, who still bakes dozens and dozens of cookies every Christmas. Put aside time to refrigerate the dough!
Dolly’s Cut-Out Cookies
3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 tbs. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup butter
4 tsp. milk (1 tbs. + 1 tsp.)
1 tsp. vanilla
- Combine dry ingredients and set aside.
- Cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time. Add milk. Mix until smooth.
- Divide into workable amounts and wrap in waxed paper. Refrigerate several hours or overnight.
- Preheat oven to 375.
- Roll a small amount of dough one-eighth to one-quarter inch thick. Keep the remaining dough refrigerated.
- Cut into festive shapes — Mom always preferred bells and other rounded shapes (less likely to get too crispy around the edges) — and place on ungreased baking sheets.
- Brush with beaten egg whites, and decorate with colored sugar before baking.
Bake 5-10 minutes, but watch carefully; these can burn quickly. You’ll need to make sure your rolling pin is cold, the work surface is floured — I use a powdered sugar-flour mix, so as not to add too much more flour to the dough — and that you work quickly.
These are great with anything hot — coffee, tea, chocolate — and also good with milk. I wonder if Linda Greene still makes these.
Happy holidays, everyone!