Looking ahead to some of the games and what they mean…
In the CCHA, the big series is Michigan and Michigan State if for no other reason than it’s Michigan and Michigan State. The sixth-place Wolverines (that sounds strange) split a home-and-home with Bowling Green (tied for 10th with Northern and Western), scoring one goal in a 3-0 loss at Yost and a 1-0 win at BG. The ninth-place Spartans (4-10-2-2) and their in-state rival (10-6-0-0) hook up for a home-and-Joe (Louis Arena, that is) weekend.
Most importantly this weekend is the Michigan State “Shoot For A Cure” auction which will enable fans to bid on several pieces of memorabilia from current and former Spartans, and some former Wolverines as well. The Michigan State hockey team has joined the fight against children’s cancer; for the past four years, team members have been volunteers at the Sparrow Hospital Pediatric Ward. Through the Spartan Buddies program, they have visited with many children who have had to face this awful disease.
An initiative called “Shoot for a Cure” — started by former Spartan Justin Abdelkader and current senior Daniel Sturges, will be in its second season in 2008-09. Last year, the initiative raised more than $5,000 through a chuck-a-puck contest and silent auction. This year, the initiative got a jumpstart with a visit by the Stanley Cup to the Michigan State-Notre Dame football game on Sept. 20. $2,500 was raised in under two hours as more than 300 people had their photo taken with the world’s most famous trophy.
Throughout the hockey season, fans can help the Spartans fight children’s cancer through a variety of “Shoot for a Cure” activities. This season, there will be silent-auction items at each home game. Auction items include (but are not limited to) autographed NHL photos of former Spartans, autographed photos of some of the program’s most-loved players during their time at MSU, and autographed items from Michigan State’s 2007 national championship game and the “Cold War” game at Spartan Stadium in 2001.
The games are televised this weekend by Fox Sports Detroit, and will be highlighted by a terrific feature by three-time Michigan Emmy Award-winner Shireen Saski on the Spartans’ efforts in the East Lansing community on behalf of “Shoot For A Cure.”
Saski, the consistent face and voice of the CCHA the past 10 seasons, will be contributing a variety of features all season long including an upcoming look at Miami’s Kevin Roeder and his firefighting family legacy, in the near future for the station.
Donations to “Shoot For A Cure” can be made by sending a check to Shoot for a Cure, c/o Angela Howard, Michigan State University, Clara Bell Smith Center, East Lansing, Mich. 48823. Angela, along with sports information director Jamie Weir, should also be congratulated for the work in making this a successful fundraising and awareness initiative. Updates on items can be found on the MSU hockey website.
The marquee matchup (being televised by CBS College Sports) features Miami at Nebraska-Omaha. After 18 CCHA games, the RedHawks have a three-point lead over UNO but have lost their last four games away from home. UNO is a solid home team at 8-2-2. Before all is said and done, Mike Kemp’s Mavs will be heard from.
Here is a great one and a credit to John Markell and his staff: depending on how Alaska and Miami do as road teams this weekend, Ohio State (with a sweep of Western in Columbus) could be in no worse than a second-place tie in the CCHA. That hasn’t happened since Nate Guenin patrolled the blue line.
Hockey East: Have you seen the standings in Hockey East, our other favorite conference? Maine visits Boston College Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, and it has been a while since it has been said that Maine enters the head-to-head meeting trailing BC by a point. BC has hit a bump in the road this year and Maine is starting to make headway in returning to national prominence.
Boston University and New Hampshire square off in a home-and-home, but UNH’s home rink has been home for the Terriers as well. Recent visits (this season’s 2-1 loss notwithstanding) have been good to BU. Likewise, UNH seems to play well at BU whether it be Walter Brown or Agganis.
ECAC Hockey: ECAC Hockey travel partners Harvard and Dartmouth square off Saturday at Dartmouth. The Big Green, with two games in hand, hold a three-point lead over Harvard and with Princeton idle, a Dartmouth win ties it with Guy Gadowsky’s Tigers at 8-4 and puts them both two points behind league-leading Cornell (8-0-2). By the way, Cornell visits Harvard Saturday, February 14. This historic rivalry will be televised by CBS College Sports.
The Big Boys From Out West: The always-entertaining WCHA finds three points separating the usual suspects for the top five spots. Number one is Denver (11-4-1), which has two games in hand and a point lead over second-place Wisconsin (by the way, if you’re looking for a Spencer Penrose winner this season, put Mike Eaves on your ballot) at 10-6-2. The Gophers are third at 9-4-3 and tied for fourth are North Dakota at 9-5-2 and Colorado College at 9-7-2. Minnesota State holds a point lead over Minnesota-Duluth (Duluth has two games in hand) and those two square off at the DECC.
Minnesota and Wisconsin are off this weekend. Those of you who are big-picture folks, fans of college hockey, or only have time for one set of games this weekend, the Denver at North Dakota series is a must-watch. NoDak didn’t look good at the Great Lakes Invitational over the break, but hammered the resurgent Gophers in a weekend sweep in Grand Forks two weeks ago. As usual, great drama out west. What else do you expect from the WCHA?