The Runaway RedHawks?
There’s some chatter around the league that Miami is poised to run away with the regular-season championship again this year as the RedHawks did last season, and it sure looked that way Friday night when Miami beat Lake Superior State 6-2. That was the RedHawks’ third consecutive CCHA win to begin league play this year, and in those three games the ‘Hawks had outscored conference opponents 19-3.
Saturday provided a bit more perspective. The scrappy Lakers came from behind to tie the game on Matt Cowie’s goal with the extra attacker at 19:53. The RedHawks took the shootout for a five-point weekend.
Notre Dame hasn’t been as showy as Miami in the early going, but the Irish may have something to say about Miami’s runaway chances. The Irish kept pace with the RedHawks with a five-point weekend of their own, squeaking by Western Michigan, 3-2, Friday and winning the shootout against the Broncos Saturday, a game in which the Irish were the ones who needed to come from behind.
Now Miami and Notre Dame are tied in first place, each with 11 points.
Then there’s Michigan. The only thing that separates the Wolverines from the RedHawks and Irish in the standings is one point, courtesy of Ferris State. Like Miami and ND, UM also played to a tie and a win this past weekend, but lost that extra point to the Bulldogs in Big Rapids Friday.
So, we can summarize the early season this way: seems like old times. With Notre Dame and Michigan in better form than they were to start last season, the early conference play features a familiar cast of characters near the top.
And Also Playing…
Two CCHA teams from Ohio traveled a long way for no points. Northern Michigan swept Ohio State in two close games, 2-1 and 4-3, while Alaska took two from Bowling Green in two 4-1 contests. That’s a little over 1,000 miles round-trip as the crow flies for the Buckeyes and nearly 6,000 miles for the Falcons.
The game-winners for the Wildcats came late in the third period each night. Friday, it was Gregor Hanson at 15:44; Saturday, Justin Florek at 12:42. These are veteran players who did the proverbial stepping up in the proverbial clutch situations, the kind of leadership that Walt Kyle and Co. excel at producing in Marquette. Gritty and good.
UAF jumped out to leads and held them in each of the 4-1 wins. Nanook Scott Greenham (1.73 GAA, .928 SV%) only faced 13 shots in Saturday’s game. Poor BGSU netminder Andrew Hammond made 44 saves in Saturday’s loss; Nick Eno was in net Friday night.
And Then There’s UAH
Given their eight games against CCHA teams in the first half of the season, the Chargers certainly feel like one of our own. They played like they were at home Friday night in East Lansing…for the last four minutes of the game, at least.
UAH tied Michigan State Friday, 4-4, and lost to the Spartans Saturday, 2-1. I was lucky enough to be covering the Friday game — and lucky enough to have remained awake through the third period to witness the Chargers’ comeback at the end.
The first two periods of that game were dull. There’s no other way to put it. MSU outshot UAH 29-12 through the first 40 minutes and had a 3-1 lead to show for it. In the first period, the Spartans so dominated that they looked as though they were on the power play nearly the entire time, endlessly cycling the puck in the Chargers’ end. In the second period, UAH looked a bit better, but goaltender C.J. Groh had to work to keep the score as close as it was.
The third period began the same unpromising way but when Justin Cseter scored at 16:12 to make it 4-2, something awakened in the Chargers and the Spartans did not respond. Neil Ruffini scored at 17:30 to make it 4-3 and with 4.1 seconds left in regulation, Joey Koudys tied the game. UAH was dominant in overtime, thanks in part to a Spartan penalty.
No shootout, thankfully.
What Have We Learned?
Well, Carter Camper and Andy Miele are on a mission, and they’re taking Reilly Smith with them. Camper added two more goals to his total (9-13–22) and is averaging 2.75 points per game. He became the first player in the country this season to reach 20 points in those games against LSSU. That he did so in eight games is beyond impressive.
Miele isn’t far behind (4-13–17), and if you’re one of those who poo-poo assists in points totals, let me tell you that Miele is the ultimate set-up man. The combination of Camper, Miele and Smith (7-4–11) is arguably the top line in college hockey. The trio combined for five of Miami’s eight goals against Lake State.
The top rookie in the league so far is Notre Dame’s Anders Lee (6-2–8). Lee added a goal in each game for the Irish against Western.
Five of the league’s 10 conference games this past weekend were one-goal wins; three more were ties. This is going to be a trend that continues, with no gimme games this season in the CCHA. At the end of the season, the teams in the bottom tier may be separated from the top by a gulf of points, but the lower teams may not be separated from the top teams by too many goals when it’s all over.