Happy Valentine’s Day, CCHA fans! The Universe delivered a Valentine to me with some increasingly rare prescience for this past weekend’s picks.
Last week: 8-2-2 (.750)
Season to date: 95-62-23 (.592)
The Fighting Irish and Wolverines showed themselves a little love, too, with sweeps of visiting opponents, while the two points the RedHawks lost at home to the Broncos may have cost Miami the regular season championship.
Three of the four points Miami took from Western Michigan certainly cost the Broncos their unbeaten streak.
It should be noted that if the season were to end today, the three teams hosting first-round playoff series would be Alaska, Lake Superior State, and Northern Michigan. All three are tied for sixth place, each with 35 points.
Bowling Green-Notre Dame. The Irish swept the visiting Falcons and in doing so recaptured the top spot in the CCHA. With 50 points, ND is in sole possession of first place – for now – and one point ahead of both No. 2 teams, Michigan and Miami. Mike Johnson had 21 saves in Friday’s 2-1 win for the Irish; Steve Summerhays stopped 13 in Saturday’s 5-1 win as ND outshot the Falcons 35-14. Bryan Rust and Anders Lee each had a goal and an assist Friday, and Lee had two helpers Saturday, a game in which Billy Mayday netted two. In losing efforts, Andrew Hammond (36-of-38) and Nick Eno (30-of-35) split time in the BG net. Mike Fink had the power-play goal for the Falcons Friday, his third marker of the season. Cameron Sinclair notched his second of the year Saturday. The Falcons host Northern Michigan this weekend while the Irish travel to Big Rapids for two against Ferris State.
Ohio State-Michigan. The Wolverines kept pace with the Irish with a pair of one-goal wins, 3-2 and 2-1, over the visiting Buckeyes. Chris Brown led Michigan in goals with two on the weekend; he didn’t have a chance for a third after taking a misconduct for checking from behind in the third period of the second game. That’s a contest that the Wolverines should have won by a much greater margin. OSU netminder Cal Heeter was stunning in that contest, especially in that third period – one of the most electric periods of hockey I’ve seen this season. Heeter combined for 53-of-58 (.914 SV%) on the weekend. In the UM net, Shawn Hunwick faced fewer grade-A chances but also earned his keep in the final period of Saturday’s game and stopped 55-of-58 (.948) in the two games. With 31 points, the Buckeyes are in ninth place. UM hosts WMU this weekend and ends the season in Marquette for two games against the Wildcats. The Buckeyes are at home the rest of the way, with the Lakers this weekend and the Bulldogs Feb. 24-25.
Western Michigan-Miami. I called a split on this one and was gratified with Friday’s tie and extra point captured by the Broncos. Why? Because I took a good deal of abuse from RedHawks fans for calling Western to win Friday. Hey, I respected that unbeaten streak, which came to a close after 14 games. Perhaps the RedHawks didn’t respect it enough, as they led 3-1 going into the third in Friday’s 3-3 tie. Ian Slater and Luke Witkowski scored two goals one minute and 33 seconds apart in the middle of the third in that game to knot it up. Five different RedHawks scored in both games, and Curtis McKenzie had a goal in each game. For the first time in a while, Cody Reichard split time in the Miami net with Connor Knapp; Reichard had the tie Friday, Knapp the win Saturday. Jerry Kuhn stopped 59-of-65 (.907 SV%) in the two games as the RedHawks outshot the Broncos 65-44. With 41 points, the Broncos are in fourth place, but uncomfortably so, as Ferris State trails them by just three points – and WMU has a tough schedule remaining, with series against Michigan and Notre Dame and just one of those four remaining games at home. Miami is off this coming weekend before traveling to Sault Ste. Marie Feb. 24-25 to finish the season against the Lakers.
Alaska-Lake Superior. Six different Lakers scored on the weekend as Alaska and LSSU tied, 2-2, Friday and Lake won, 4-2, Saturday. One of those Lakers was Dillin Stonehouse, a senior defenseman who had the empty-net goal Saturday, his first of the season and the sixth in 130 games for the Lakers. The assist on that goal went to Matt Cowie, and I’d love to know if Cowie had a clean shot himself and dished it off unselfishly to Stonehouse. Four Nanooks scored in the two games. Scott Greenham stopped 48-of-54 in the Alaska net; Kevin Kapalka had 54 saves on 58 shots for LSSU. The teams are tied – along with Northern Michigan – for sixth place in the CCHA, each with 35 points, but both the Lakers and Wildcats have two games in hand on the Nanooks, who finish their league season at home against the Spartans this weekend before a home-and-home with Anchorage Feb. 25-26. The Lakers are at Ohio State this weekend and host Miami to end the regular season.
Northern Michigan-Michigan State. The Wildcats swept the Spartans, 4-2 and 6-5, and Tyler Gron accounted for four of those 10 goals, including a hat trick in Saturday’s contest. Gron’s two second-period goals in the 6-5 win sparked the NMU turnaround in that game, as the Spartans were leading 4-1 when Gron scored on the power play at 10:10 in the second. His next goal, at 19:15, was a momentum shifter; he came out and scored his third at 1:39 in the third. The box of the Saturday game reveals a very different contest from Friday. In the 4-2 win – one of the most boring games I’ve witnessed this season – NMU goaltender Jared Coreau made 50 saves on 52 shots in a game that the Spartans dominated in every other aspect. Saturday, Coreau was pulled after the first three MSU goals, at 13:23 in the first. Reid Ellingson stopped 16-of-18 shots for the rest of the game. Will Yanakeff played for the Spartans Friday, Drew Palmisano Saturday – and the overall netminding (or lack of consistency thereof) tells the story for each of these teams this season. NMU is on the road against BG this weekend before hosting Michigan to tend the season. MSU travels to Alaska before hosting Bowling Green.
Alabama-Huntsville-Ferris State. The Bulldogs swept the Chargers by a collective score of 10-3, netting five in each game. Travis Ouellette had two in Friday’s contest; Mike Embach had two Saturday. Pat Nagle had 41 saves for FSU. Clarke Saunders stopped 40 for the Chargers Friday, and John Griggs made 26 saves Saturday. Joey Koudys and Mac Roy had the UAH goals Friday, Tom Durnie the single goal Saturday. These were the last Division I games of the season for the Chargers, who face the U.S. Under-18 team at home Feb. 25-26. The Bulldogs return to CCHA action for two remaining series: Notre Dame at home this weekend, OSU on the road the following.
I leave you this Valentine’s Day with lines from a poem by Saginaw, Mich., native Theodore Roethke, “I Knew a Woman.” You can find the whole poem by clicking on its title.
Let seed be grass, and grass turn into hay;
I’m martyr to a motion not my own;
What’s freedom for? To know eternity.