I had to laugh when I read USCHO’s front page after Friday night’s games. “Freaky Friday,” the headline proclaimed, because there were upsets all over the place in College Hockeyland.
Except for in the CCHA.
Friday was, in fact, the least freakiest night of the CCHA season, I thought, as the top teams beat the bottom teams and two teams two points and a spot apart in the standings tied. And the landscape didn’t look much different Saturday, either.
Parity? Yes, there is, but the teams that are rising to the top of the standings prevailed, for the most part, this past weekend.
Going into the weekend, one point separated the top four teams in the league: Notre Dame (17), Michigan (16), Miami (15), and Alaska (14). Northern Michigan (12) was knocking on the top tier door.
This week, two points still separate Nos. 1 and 3, and it’s the same three recently familiar faces crowding the top spot: Notre Dame (23), Michigan (22), Miami (21). Each of those teams kept pace at the top by sweeping their opponents – although each squad had difficulty with its opponent in at least one of the games.
- The Irish may have beaten the Spartans by a collective score of 10-4, but in Saturday’s 4-2 win, the game was tied 2-2 until the 17:37 mark in the third, when Sean Lorenz scored the game-winning, shorthanded goal. T.J. Tynan added a shorthanded empty-netter at 19:35.
- The Wolverines beat the Lakers twice, outscoring LSSU 10-4 in the two-game set, but UM barely survived the Saturday 3-2 win. The teams exchanged goals a few minutes apart in the first, and the Lakers took themselves to within a goal 17 seconds after Kevin Lynch put the Wolverines up 3-1 around the 13-minute mark in the third.
- For Miami, the weekend went the other way. The RedHawks were up 4-1 after two Friday before Bowling Green scored two in the third. Saturday’s game, however, was a 3-0 Miami win, a contest that was even more lopsided than the score indicated; the RedHawks outshot the Falcons 38-9.
BG’s Saturday effort – if it can be called that – prompted Falcons head coach Chris Bergeron to comment frankly about his team’s play. The Andrew in the quote is goaltender Andrew Hammond. “I’m getting concerned with Andrew’s mental state able to keep it positive,” said Bergeron. “The team’s completely left him alone the past three Saturdays.”
After taking four points from Alaska with a win and a tie, Northern Michigan has jumped into a tie with the Nanooks for fourth place in the league (16 points). Reid Ellingson had 75 saves for the Wildcats in the set; NMU scored three goals all weekend, UAF two.
Sure, it would be easy to say that the CCHA is falling into its usual three-tier pattern, with teams clearly destined to anchor the basement – and that may be so, but the teams at the bottom of the standings are not playing like cellar dwellers, so I cannot say for certain who will be where at the end of the season.
I’ve seen MSU play a lot of hockey this season, and they don’t look like a last-place team … and yet there they are, one point out of last. I’ve seen LSSU and OSU as well, and neither of those teams looks like an automatic loser. Western Michigan is in the same category, and Bowling Green under Bergeron is not going to roll over.
And then there’s Ferris State. With the exception of the weekend in which they were shut out twice, the Bulldogs look very much to me like a team that can contend with the upper-tier teams, and FSU is still knockin’ on the upper-tier door, two points behind UAF and NMU. The Bulldogs took four points from the Broncos, with a win and a tie.
How did I do this week?
Taking a page from my friend and colleague, Chris Lerch, here’s my record for the weekend: 7-1-2 (.643). I’ll take that, especially since the ties were shootout “wins” for teams that I’d picked to win each night.
Thank goodness that I’m smarter than I look.
And one more thing…
Happy birthday to my beloved sister, Victoria Weston-Butler. I remember the day she came home from the hospital, making everything in my life better from that point on.