Before I get to anything else, I have to say how deeply saddened by the death of Dave Faiella, Northern Michigan’s sports information director. Dave died Dec. 1, reportedly from heart and kidney trouble that had struck recently. He was only 49.
I’d been acquainted with Dave for over a decade, longer than his nine years at NMU. I wish I’d known him better. One article said that he loved to surf. I had no idea. I never would have guessed.
He was a very gentle man, soft-spoken, sweet-natured, genuinely nice. He had a funny, crooked smile that made me smile in response every time I saw him, and he was quick to smile. His dark, curly hair perpetually looked as though he’d just come in from windy weather. He always looked a little harried. As a professional, he was what the word implies – a pro, incredibly helpful, unpretentious, easy to work with.
My heart goes out to his immediate family, to his Northern Michigan University family, to all of the people in the CCHA and Marquette who will miss him.
Now it seems silly to talk about anything else, right? Well, it’s Friday, so I can write about how dismal my picks were last week and you can laugh at them and me. Hockey is an excellent distraction.
My picks last week: 6-7-3
Overall this season: 52-22-12
Owie. I knew that I’d take a hit last week – after all, there were many games against the WCHA – but I didn’t think it would result in my first “losing” week of the season. I had been doing surprisingly well. Again, I do not know which formula to use for calculating the percentage of my picks success, and no advice came my way at all this week so I can only assume that I’m shouting into the ether. As my students would say, whatev. I have hope that someone – anyone – is reading this and will email me with some help. As always, firstname.lastname@example.org works just fine.
This week, there’s a full slate of CCHA play, every series an interesting one. Everyone but Alaska plays.
BGSU at LSSU. Last week, each of these teams had respectable showings in holiday tournament play – and, yes, I’d say that scoring three goals against Denver in a 6-3 loss is respectable. The Falcons beat Alabama-Huntsville 5-1 and took host Rensselaer to overtime in a 3-2 loss. The Lakers lost 6-3 to host Denver and 2-1 to Clarkson. LSSU outscored BGSU 7-3 in a pair of wins in Bowling Green last season. With 10 points, the Lakers are four points ahead of last-place BG and each team has played 10 conference games. I’ll say this for the shootout; an unintended side effect is the interesting way in which six available points any given weekend changes how we look at a series. LSSU is trying to snap a four-game losing streak. BGSU 3-2, LSSU 3-1.
MSU vs. FSU. Last weekend, the Bulldogs were – sadly – idle. Had they played, perhaps they could have defended the realm a little better than others who shall remain nameless. Those others, however, do not include the Spartans, who split the College Hockey Showcase with a win over ranked Minnesota and a loss to Wisconsin. It still boggles my mind that MSU is second-to-last in the CCHA standings, one point ahead of BG, but it’s a fact. With 17 points, the Bulldogs are in fifth place and looking to use this weekend to gain ground on Alaska, as the Nanooks sit in fourth place with 20 points and are not playing this weekend. FSU and MSU played the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, a game the Bulldogs won 3-0. This is a home-and-home series, with the Bulldogs hosting Friday and Spartans Saturday. I don’t know why the USCHO schedule says that Saturday’s game is 5:05 p.m., but it’s being played at 7:05 p.m., as usual. FSU 3-2, MSU 3-1.
WMU at NMU. The Broncos went to Oxford last weekend and split a pair with Miami, no easy thing to do in Steve Cady Arena. The Wildcats went to Bemidji and split a pair with a WCHA team, for which we are all profoundly grateful. WMU’s win over the RedHawks was the first for the Broncos since Jan. 2007. The last time the Broncos beat the Wildcats was also in 2007, in November of that year. This series pits two very good emerging goaltenders, WMU’s Nick Pisellini (2.19 GAA, .912 SV%) and NMU’s Reid Ellingson (2.28, .929), the CCHA Player of the Month for November. Northern has won the last five straight between these teams. WMU 2-1, NMU 3-2.
ND at Miami. Ah, the series my brain wants to attend! First-place Miami hosts second-place Notre Dame, and I would argue – in spite of last weekend’s outcome for each team – that both teams have shots at a national title. Yes, I said it in December. Yes, you may have the chance to throw that in my face in March, but I don’t think so. Miami split with Western last weekend and the Fighting Irish lost to and tied the Fighting Sioux (much to my eternal consternation). As good as each is, the two teams couldn’t be more different. The Miami offensive is explosive, with the top line in the country; the ND offense is sneaky and deep. Miami swept a two-game set against Notre Dame by a collective score of 5-0 one year ago this weekend. The RedHawks have also won six straight against the Irish, an interesting history for seniors on each squad. Miami 4-1, ND 3-2.
UM at OSU. Ah, the series my heart wants to attend! I remember fondly the old days, when former Buckeye Eric Meloche called the Wolverines “weasels” and all it took was a look for guys to go. Being from the Empire State, I’ve never understood the rivalry between these teams – and living in Columbus during football season made me wish I’d never encountered it, at times – but the fellas on the ice get the rivalry between the schools, and that can produce some very intense, fun-to-watch hockey. Last weekend, the Wolverines had a disappointing showing in the final College Hockey Showcase with an overtime tie against Wisconsin and a loss to Minnesota. The Buckeyes hosted the Nanooks for Thanksgiving and came away with two points for their efforts. These teams have split three of their last four series; a year ago this weekend, the teams split in Columbus. If there’s anything for the Buckeyes to be gained this weekend, it’ll be on Friday night. OSU 4-3, UM 4-1.