It’s playoff hockey time, and this weekend the CCHA begins its first round of best-of-three series with the bottom six teams in the league competing to advance to next week’s quarterfinal round. Frankly, I think the top eight teams should be in with the bottom three sitting it out, but I’m old-fashioned that way. Remember, I’m perfectly capable of living with a tie in regular season, too.
Last week, Friday and Saturday only, I was 8-3 (.727) in my picks. I had already rolled Thursday’s FSU-OSU game into the previous week’s picks for purposes of blogging.
Season to date: 108-68-26 (.599). I’m certain that this will not improve after this weekend.
All series are best-of-three, Friday through Sunday. Times are noted. The only nationally televised contest is Friday’s OSU-LSSU series, which can be seen on CBS College Sports.
BGSU at NMU. Each of these teams finished the regular season with two losses. The Falcons were swept in East Lansing by scores of 2-1 and 2-0, which is just about par; BG has averaged 1.13 goals per game since the beginning of the calendar year, and the last time the Falcons netted more than two goals in a contest was Dec. 30 in a 3-2 win over Holy Cross. Clearly, the team isn’t giving the support it should to sophomore Andrew Hammond (2.59 GAA, .913 SV%), who is playing well. The Wildcats were swept at home by Michigan last weekend, 3-2 and 5-0. Two goals on a weekend – even against the regular-season champ – is no way to approach the playoffs. NMU has two capable goaltenders who are not yet consistent players, but the Wildcats can bring the offense. These teams played just two weeks ago in BG, a 2-2 tie after which the Falcons took the shootout point, and a 3-2 NMU win. They also split in Marquette Nov. 12-13; BGSU won, 2-1, Friday and NMU won, 5-1, the following night. All games are 7:35 p.m., even if the series goes until Sunday. It shouldn’t. NMU 3-2, 3-2.
MSU at UAF. Hey, Spartans! Congratulations on your first sweep of the season! It wins you…a trip to Alaska! Okay, so that’s not how it really went. MSU was going to finish in 10th place no matter what after the Spartans’ sweep of BG last weekend, but I’m sure the trip to Fairbanks – where MSU had played just two weeks before – felt like a strange reward. The teams split that series Feb. 18-19, with the Nanooks winning 4-2 and the Spartans 6-2. Last weekend, Alaska split with Anchorage and then successfully defended the Governor’s Cup with a shootout – fitting, as the game the Nanooks lost 4-1 to the Seawolves was an atypical game for the outstanding Scott Greenham (2.16 GAA, .919SV%), who gave up four goals on 15 shots. (Incidentally, Greenham has played every minute of Alaska’s season.) The Spartans and Nanooks also met in East Lansing early in the year, with UAF taking the extra point after a 1-1 tie and MSU winning 4-1. I think it’s a good thing that Michigan State has its spring break next week, because I think this series is going to three games. 7:05 p.m. starts Friday and Saturday; 6:05 p.m. Sunday. UAF 3-2, MSU 4-2, MSU 2-1.
OSU at LSSU. This series pits two more teams that failed to take care of any business on home ice last weekend. Ohio State took one point from Ferris State Feb. 24-25 with a 2-2 tie and shootout loss and a 3-1 loss outright. Lake Superior, though, was pummeled by visiting Miami, 8-1 and 4-1. OSU’s Saturday loss was the first in five games for them in which they allowed more than two goals. LSSU’s Friday loss was their first at home in five games. These teams met recently, too, but in Columbus (Feb. 18-19). After a 1-1 tie, the Lakers took the extra shootout point, and the Buckeyes won the following night, 5-2. The Lakers are averaging 2.29 goals per game, with Rick Schofield (14-16-30) and Domenic Mondardo (12-14-26) doing most of the busy work. The Buckeyes average 2.66 goals per game with four guys in double digits for goals – and then a significant drop off. Goaltending for each team is good, with freshman Kevin Kapalka (2.33 GAA, .922 SV%) emerging for LSSU, and Cal Heeter (2.28 GAA, .923 SV%) playing all but 26 minutes in net for the Buckeyes this season. I think this one goes to three games as well. 7:35 p.m. Friday, 7:05 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. OSU 4-2, LSSU 5-2, OSU 3-1.