What did the Thanksgiving tournaments teach us about the CCHA? As feared, parity doesn’t mean equally good.
The top three teams – three of the best in the country, arguably – took hits in semi-predictable ways. Two of the three played nonconference opponents, and that provided a good barometer of where the league stands in relation to at least one other, the WCHA.
Miami, Notre Dame, Michigan
It’s one, two, three again – each separated by a point – but the RedHawks jumped over the Irish and Wolverines with their split against the formerly eighth-place Broncos.
There wasn’t much room for advancement in the standings, as only two series last weekend were in-house, but the split with Western Michigan was enough to move Miami into first place.
It’s how Miami split that is interesting. Tied in the third Friday, WMU scored three goals – from the game-winner to the empty-netter – within a six-minute span. In Saturday’s 5-1 RedHawks win, the Broncos didn’t have a chance; Miami outshot WMU 42-27, and Danny DeKeyser’s first-period goal was as close as WMU got.
Notre Dame and Michigan each had a tie to show for their weekends against WCHA opponents, which is discouraging. The Irish lost to and tied the Fighting Sioux; the Wolverines tied Wisconsin and lost to Minnesota. UM was leading Wisco until the third period but trailed UMN the whole way.
It’s important to note that both ND and UM have two games on hand against Miami.
Alaska, Northern, Western, Lake Superior
The Nanooks took advantage of their conference series with Ohio State to make a little progress, drawing closer to the top tier with a four-point weekend in Columbus. UAF took one point from a tie and three from a win, but it’s important to note that, like the RedHawks, the Nanooks have two fewer games available than the nearby Wolverines and Fighting Irish.
With three points against Miami, the Broncos jumped ahead of Lake Superior in the CCHA standings, and the leap is even bigger than it looks; the Broncos have played two fewer games than the Lakers, who are now two points behind them, with two games in hand on NMU and three on FSU, both of whom are just ahead of Western in the standings.
The Wildcats split a pair of shutouts with Bemidji State, with Reid Ellingson in net both nights. The Lakers lost to Denver, 6-3, in the opening game of the Denver Cup, and it was never close. LSSU lost to Clarkson, 2-1, in the consolation game of the Denver Cup.
Ohio State, Michigan State, Bowling Green
One of these things is not like the other. The Spartans still don’t look like a bottom-tier team to me, and they didn’t in their 5-2 win over Minnesota in the College Hockey Showcase. MSU came out with a three-goal first period and knocked starting goalie Kent Patterson out of the game. A 4-1 loss to Wisconsin the following night brought a little perspective, a game in which they were no match for Justin Schultz, who had a hat trick for the Badgers.
The Buckeyes took two points from Alaska with a shootout “win” on Friday. It’s important to note that OSU has games on hand against everyone around them in spite of being one of only four teams playing league games over the Thanksgiving break.
The Falcons did their best to do the league proud at the RPI Holiday Tournament, beating Alabama-Huntsville, 5-1, in the opening game before losing in overtime, 3-2, to host Renssalear in the title match. It was David Solway’s goal at 19:50 in the third with the extra attacker that sent the game to OT, but RPI’s Bryan Brutlag scored just 20 seconds into overtime to win the game.
Did not play, but did beat MSU the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.
How did the league do?
It wasn’t pretty. The CCHA went 3-7-2 in nonconference play during Thanksgiving weekend. No hardware.
How did I do?
Again, as for win percentage, you tell me. I went 6-7-3, my first “losing” week of the season and made all the more painful because I called Miami and Western to split but called the wins and losses on the wrong nights.