15 things for which to be thankful

You knew this was coming. You had to know, too, that I wouldn’t end that headline with a preposition.

  • Carter Camper. I know I’ve been beating his drum all season, but the Miami senior has singlehandedly reminded us of how collegiate players used to play, how they used to score. Thirty points in 13 games in an era when a 30-point season is lauded. Wow.
  • Ryan Guentzel. The Notre Dame senior has 15 assists in 13 games – and he doesn’t play on line with Carter Camper.
  • The Wolverines’ true committee-style scoring. Every forward that played against Lake Superior last weekend registered at least a point, eight different players scored and 11 Wolverines have two or more goals – but only one, David Wohlberg, has reached the six-goal mark. Their defense has chipped in nine goals and 27 assists. UM has become a very exciting team to watch, because anyone can score at any time. Scooter Vaughan has as many goals as Carl Hagelin. Honest.
  • Notre Dame’s freshman class. These kids are fun to watch, too, in part because they don’t know that they’re not supposed to be this good yet. Anders Lee (9-3–12) was the early favorite for CCHA Rookie of the Year, but that was before T.J. Tynan (7-9–16) started scoring. Among them, the freshmen have scored 28 of ND’s 48 goals. Sure, they’re half the team, but there was no way of predicting they’d be a good half of the team.
  • Three teams pull away, and a top tier is created – again. It’s not that I want to see Miami, Michigan and Notre Dame succeed annually; I just want to see strong league performances from a couple of different teams. In some seasons, coaches get to complain about how teams in this league beat each other up night after night, resulting in less CCHA representation in the NCAA tournament. Whether or not that’s true is debatable (as I’ve often said, parity means equal, not equally good), but having a few very strong programs is a good way to get more teams in the big dance at the end of the year. Not that I’m looking that far ahead or anything.
  • Pat Nagle and Scott Greenham. In recent history, CCHA goaltenders were well represented among the top 10 netminders in the country in both goals-against average and save percentage. In this year of seriously disappointing CCHA goaltending, only Nagle (1.73, .932) and Greenham (1.84, .927) have shown any real consistency in net. Each has logged over 800 minutes, and each has performed without the benefit of Carter Camper, Anders Lee or Carl Hagelin to help take care of business at the other end of the rink. Clutch goaltending for teams that rely on goalies sometimes to win games is a thing to be admired.
  • Three-goal weekends that result in at least four points. Northern Michigan tied and defeated Alaska in Fairbanks last weekend, in 1-1 and 2-1 contests. What a great (and rare) defensive battle and excellent goalie duel. Wildcat Reid Ellingson stopped 75-of-77 shots; Nanook Scott Greenham stopped 48-of-51.
  • Lake Superior head coach Jim Roque. Two weeks ago, LSSU freshman Kevin Kapalka backstopped the Lakers to back-to-back shutouts of Ferris State. Last Friday, Kapalka struggled in the first period against Michigan in Yost, allowing four goals on 12 shots. After the game, Roque felt bad for putting Kapalka in a situation for which the freshman wasn’t quite ready, as he hadn’t really been tested – said Roque – against the Bulldogs.
  • Chris Bergeron, Jeff Blashill and Mark Osiecki. Okay, so technically that’s three things, but let’s just say that we’re grateful to have three driven, intense new head coaches to bring life to three programs that need, well, life.
  • Pink jerseys, pink stripes. Several CCHA teams donned pink jerseys in October to raise money for breast cancer research, and one officiating crew – Keith Sergott, Dean Sanborn, Josh Hatinger and Eric Froberg – did so Oct. 30 in Marquette.
  • Teddy bear tosses. The Nanooks will be tossing bears on Saturday. The Spartans will Dec. 4. The Broncos will Dec. 5. The Bulldogs will Dec. 9. It’s all to make Christmas a little merrier for local children.
  • The Big Chill in the Big House. Any college hockey game that can draw over 100,000 is just a big, juicy, sweet slice o’ publicity for the game we know and love. Construction on the rink in Michigan Stadium has begun.
  • New rinks and rink renovations. Not only should we be excited about a program like Notre Dame building a new facility, but everyone in the CCHA should be happy that places like Lake Superior State have enough support to bring a few perks to their barns. College hockey needs the Notre Dames to be prominent to help the sport grow; the CCHA needs smaller programs like Lake State to be competitive, and a few bells and whistles to help entice a few players – and fans – cannot hurt. I’ve heard rumors that there’s something in the works at Ohio State, too.
  • 25-12-7. That’s the CCHA’s record in nonconference play heading into a weekend that features a dozen games against non-league opponents. That number has been skewed, though, by a 6-1-1 record against Alabama-Huntsville.
  • The end of the College Hockey Showcase. Go ahead and say, “Boo,” but every year this annual tradition seems less and less relevant – ironic, though, given the current Big Ten rumblings. If all five current programs whose schools are otherwise affiliated with the Big Ten played some sort of round robin, perhaps the Big Ten Network would show interest in more than one of these games, too. Would that we could find a way to kill the Great Lakes Invitational, too.

Fire away, and Happy Thanksgiving!