This Week in the CCHA: Dec. 3, 2009

I Had That Feeling of Self-Pity

I can’t take this anymore. Three correct picks two weeks ago. Four last week. I picked Michigan State to sweep in the College Hockey Showcase. I picked Ohio State to be swept in North Dakota. At least I picked Michigan to split.

Is it too much to ask for a little consistency in the CCHA?

Alaska. The Nanooks, currently ranked No. 12 in the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll, have just one weekend sweep to their credit this season, two wins over Ferris State (Oct. 30-31).

Bowling Green. The Falcons got their first win of the season over ranked Alaska (Nov. 13), breaking an eight-game winless streak (0-7-1). Then they split the following weekend with Michigan, earning their second consecutive win in Yost Ice Arena, dating back to last season.

Lake Superior State. The Lakers took one point in a two-game set against Western Michigan (Nov. 16), the CCHA’s current last-place team, in the midst of a six-game winless streak (0-5-1) … then recorded back-to-back wins over ranked CCHA opponents, beating Nebraska-Omaha Nov. 14 and Alaska Nov. 20.

Miami. The RedHawks have five ties. If they had all come in a streak, that would have been consistent — and considerate.

Michigan. The Wolverines split with the Falcons, and the win — on the second night of the series (Nov. 21) — snapped a five-game losing streak during which UM scored just six goals. They followed this up by scoring 13 goals in three wins, including that victory over Bowling Green and a sweep in last weekend’s College Hockey Showcase.

Michigan State. The Spartans split a series with No. 1 Miami in Oxford in late October, swept the Wolverines, took four points from ranked UNO, and are now winless in their last four (0-3-1), including two losses last weekend in the College Hockey Showcase.

Nebraska-Omaha. The Mavericks had no back-to-back, single-series wins until this past weekend, when they swept last-place WMU.

Northern Michigan. The Wildcats have one weekend sweep, over ranked UNO (Nov. 20-21), a series in which they outscored the Mavs by 11-4. Otherwise, their record is all over the proverbial rink.

Notre Dame. The Irish haven’t swept a series this season and have put together back-to-back wins two times this year, with the consecutive victories separated by a week.

Ohio State. The Buckeyes were easy to figure out for a while: weak Fridays followed by stronger Saturdays that sometimes translated into points. Then they were swept by Ferris State (Nov. 20-21). There are signs, however, that OSU may be predictable again.

Western Michigan. After beginning the season with two solid weekend sweeps against nonconference opponents Mercyhurst and Alabama-Huntsville — on the road against the Chargers, too — the Broncos have won just one game. OK, so that’s consistent, but that Nov. 21 tie against Miami is confusing.

What to Do?

Keep picking. Keep erring. I guess.

The Outcome Was Decidedly Blue

Last weekend, the Michigan Wolverines swept their WCHA and Big Ten opponents, Minnesota and Wisconsin, in the College Hockey Showcase. This was welcome relief for UM fans and accounted for half of the CCHA’s wins against nonconference opponents last weekend.

The Wolverines shut out the visiting Minnesota Golden Gophers 6-0 Friday night, with goals from five different scorers and a 24-save performance from Bryan Hogan. On Saturday, three different Wolverines scored and Hogan stopped 39 shots in UM’s 3-2 win.

Aside from Hogan’s solid performance in net, one of the most welcome signs of Wolverine life from the Showcase came from junior Louie Caporusso, who found the net each night — doubling his goal total for the season. Last year, Caporusso had 24 goals in 41 games.

Caporusso’s productivity may be the result of a line change; since Caporusso was moved from a line with Carl Hagelin and Chris Brown to partner with David Wohlberg and A.J. Treais, he’s scored three goals and the Wolverines are 3-1-0. Caporusso had the game-winning goal against Wisconsin, a team that looked mighty good Friday night in East Lansing. (The Badger defense can be particularly impressive — underperforming so far this season, but when they’re on, they’re impressive.)

As for last weekend’s Showcase performance, said UM coach Red Berenson, “Obviously, it’s a step in the right direction.”

How Long, I Wondered, Could This Thing Last?

In the Nov. 9 USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll, six of the top 13 teams in were CCHA teams. Half the league.

This week, there are three — half that Nov. 9 number.

At the time, I mused about whether the league was that good. Those were the days, however, when Michigan was ranked and Notre Dame and Alaska were considered top-10 teams.

What happened? Well, it was early. Many teams had yet to begin playing within their conferences in earnest, and as much as we claim that interleague play is the best barometer of a team’s worth, how a team stacks up in-house — against known quantities, aka, teams suspected of being either good or less so — can really help a national voter determine how to dole out the rankings.

I’m going to get a lot of heat for saying this, but I’m not convinced that Alaska and Nebraska-Omaha should be ranked as high as they are currently. I was convinced earlier in the season that each team was absolutely for real, but now I’m not so sure; the Nanooks have trouble scoring and the Maverick net hasn’t been nearly as consistent as it was in the early going.

Although I was clearly wrong in my preseason pick of Notre Dame to finish first, I wouldn’t discount the Irish to surge to a much more comfortable spot in the standings before it’s all over — and never count out the Michigan Wolverines.

As coaches are fond of saying, there’s a lot of hockey left to be played.

But the Age of Miracles Hadn’t Passed

The Ohio State Buckeyes beat the then-No. 6 Bemidji State Beavers in the Subway Holiday Classic in Grand Forks N.D., last weekend, a 2-1 overtime win in which Kyle Reed scored the game-winner 48 seconds into OT from John Albert and Sean Duddy.

This reestablishes OSU’s weak-Friday-strong-Saturday pattern; the Bucks lost to host North Dakota, 4-1, Friday night. By way of explaining his team’s Friday night loss, OSU coach John Markell said, “I still have some players not playing up to their potential.” It’s been his refrain all season.

After Saturday’s win over the Beavers, Reed said that the game was “a turnaround” for the Buckeyes’ season.

After beating the No. 1 Miami RedHawks and losing in overtime to the completely unranked Buckeyes, Bemidji State moved up a notch in the poll.

The Sun Was Shining Everywhere

What could be more painful than watching a scoreless tie? How about one during which just six minor penalties were assessed? That was the fun-filled contest between Lake Superior State and Union last Friday night in the RPI Holiday Tournament. LSSU goaltender Brian Mahoney-Wilson and Union goalie Keith Kinkaid each earned shutouts, and each stopped 30 shots through 65 minutes of play.

Alas, Union’s Mario Valery-Trabucco scored in the second round of the shootout to give the Skating Dutchmen the shootout “win.”

This reminds me of a 1-1 overtime tie I witnessed Jan. 1, 2002, in the Schottenstein Center in Columbus. It was Lake Superior State against Ohio State. Daymen Bencharski scored at 2:56 in the first for the Buckeyes; Tyson Turgeon scored less than a minute later for the Lakers.

The teams skated through another 60 minutes of scoreless hockey — 60 excruciating minutes of scoreless, soulless hockey. Not one penalty was assessed in the game.

I led that game recap with a sentence that included the phrase “as exciting as watching gelatin congeal.”

The mere memory of that makes me grateful that I was in East Lansing last weekend.

Had Me Low, Had Me Down

My heart goes out to everyone who knew and loved Bud Cooper (1929-2009), a man who embodied the Lake Superior State spirit throughout his entire life. Cooper died of cancer Nov. 30, and with his passing college hockey lost a great friend.

Cooper played football and basketball at the Sault Ste. Marie Residence Center of the Michigan College of Mining & Technology, or Soo Tech (1948-49), the school that evolved into Lake Superior State University. Cooper transferred to Central Michigan University and then coached at the high school level until 1954, after which he returned to Sault Ste. Marie — and never left.

He began his career at Soo Tech/LSSU as men’s basketball coach and became the school’s athletic director in 1957, a position he held for 30 years. He never really left LSSU, raising funds for the university and remaining close to the basketball and hockey programs.

It would be impossible to exaggerate Cooper’s influence on the college hockey world. Cooper hired legendary coach Ron Mason in 1966, and he’s influenced MSU coach Rick Comley and ND coach Jeff Jackson.

It is because of Bud Cooper that the Lakers play hockey, and because of Bud Cooper that they joined the CCHA at the start of the 1972-73 season, a year after that fledgling league’s inception.

I Like a Gershwin Tune

How about you?

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