Nothing like a weekend slightly above .500. Given the nature of the CCHA, my success rate from last week may be as good as it gets for me from here on out.
Last week: 5-4-1 (.550)
Season to date: 73-42-19 (.616)
Here are my picks for games this week. There’s a full slate of CCHA play. Lake Superior returns to NCAA action for the first time since Dec. 11. Northern Michigan is the team on the sidelines this weekend. All games are Friday-Saturday. Start times are noted.
BGSU at Miami. This series brings former RedHawks players, BG head coach Chris Bergeron and assistant coach Barry Schutte, back to Oxford. Of course, Bergeron coached alongside Miami head coach Enrico Blasi as well – and let me say once again how delighted I am that Schutte is finally getting a chance to coach D-I hockey. After the RedHawks were swept by the Buckeyes last weekend, though, I’m not sure the homecoming will be a fond one for the Miami alumni. Miami took two from BGSU in Bowling Green Nov. 19-20, outscoring the Falcons 7-0 in the set. The RedHawks have won 16 of the last 17 contests between these programs, including the last nine straight. 7:35 p.m. Friday, 7:05 p.m. Saturday. Miami 3-2, 3-1.
FSU vs. UM. These teams have done this home-and-home thing once already this season, with the Wolverines taking four points away from that weekend after a 2-2 tie Oct. 29 in Ewigleben and a 3-2 victory the next night in Yost. I don’t expect much to differ this weekend – two tight games and either fairly evenly split points or two one-goal wins for one squad or the other. But which one? The Bulldogs swept Bowling Green last weekend and the Wolverines split with Michigan State. Each team looks good in many ways but each is vulnerable, too; FSU has fantastic defense and goaltending while UM can score. Second-place UM is two points ahead of third-place FSU, and the Wolverines have two games in hand on the Bulldogs so this weekend could have big implications for the final CCHA standings. Friday’s game in Ann Arbor begins at 7:35 p.m. Saturday’s game in Big Rapids begins at 7:05 p.m. UM 3-2, FSU 3-2.
MSU at LSSU. I have been saying this all season long that the Spartans do not look like a cellar dweller, and their 4-3 overtime win against Michigan Jan. 7 certainly reflected that. The following night, however, the 4-0 loss to UM in Yost illustrated another theme for MSU this season: inconsistency. The Spartans travel to Sault Ste. Marie to take on what must be a pretty confident Laker squad. LSSU spent the holiday break playing Canadian university teams and winning all five games. While those games in exhibition count for nothing real, they do deliver tangibles, like honed skills, awareness of what needs to be addressed, confidence boosts for the 18 players who had at least a point in the swing through Ontario. Sadly, LSSU senior goaltender Brian Mahoney-Wilson may be out for the rest of the season with an injury. 7:05 p.m. both nights. MSU 3-2, LSSU 3-1.
OSU at WMU. Two new head coaches who have already made some noise meeting in Kalamazoo – that’s the makings of a good series. The Buckeyes swept Miami last week and the Broncos return from Fairbanks with five points. OSU rides a six-game win streak into Lawson while WMU defends a five-game unbeaten streak. Can I just call two OT ties with the teams swapping shootout wins? Last year, OSU went 3-0-1 against WMU and took the shootout point, and the Buckeyes hold a 4-2-2 advantage over the Broncos in the past three seasons. During Western’s current unbeaten streak, the goalie of record has been senior Jerry Kuhn in the longest starting streak of his career. How hot is Kuhn? In those five games, he’s allowing less than a goal per game (0.98) and his save percentage is .963. His Buckeye counterpart, Cal Heeter, has started every OSU game this season and has allowed 1.83 goals per game during Ohio State’s current six-game win streak with a .927 save percentage in that stretch. 7:35 p.m. both nights. OSU 3-2, WMU 4-2.
UAF at ND. The Nanooks begin their annual southern January migration with a two-game set in South Bend this weekend and two more in Ann Arbor Jan. 21-22. Last weekend, UAF took one point at home from WMU, marking the only time this season that Alaska has earned less than two points from a CCHA opponent in any given two-game weekend. The Irish went to Marquette last weekend and swept NMU, outscoring the Wildcats 11-2 in two games. Junior Nanook goaltender Scott Greenham (2.02 GAA, .924 SV%) continues to give UAF a chance in every game. Irish freshman T.J. Tynan (15-18-33) leads all rookies in scoring nationally, is third in the country in overall points and he leads the league in goals. It’s been since March 4, 2006, since the Nanooks have beaten the Fighting Irish in South Bend; ND is 8-1-1 against UAF in the last 10 games. 7:35 p.m. Friday, 7:05 p.m. Saturday. ND 4-2, 4-2.