Sometimes, all I can say is, “Wow.”
Congratulations to the Nanooks, Lakers and Falcons for advancing to the second round of the CCHA playoffs. Congratulations, too, to the teams on the losing end. The Spartans did not go gently into that good night, the Buckeyes showed some life before it was over and it took three games to end the Wildcats’ season.
Alaska and Lake Superior swept their opponents in two games at home, but Bowling Green? The team that had eight wins going into the weekend? The Falcons took Northern Michigan two three games – and double overtime – and came away from Marquette with a trip to Ann Arbor.
Alaska over Michigan State, 3-2 and 4-3
It took the Nanooks two overtime games to beat the visiting Spartans, and Nik Yaremchuk was the OT hero in both games.
In Friday’s contest, the teams exchanged goals in the second and third periods, with the Spartans scoring first in each. Jarret Granberg had the game-tying goal at 12:45 in the third for Alaska, and Yaremchuk scored the winner at 19:40 in OT. The MSU bench hotly protested the game-winner because the net came up from its moorings before snapping back into place before the puck crossed the line; the Spartans wanted a whistle.
In the second game, the Spartans led 2-1 at the end of one but came from behind in the second to tie it on Brett Perlini’s goal at 19:19. After two scoreless periods of hockey, Yaremchuk found the net at 3:18 in the second OT.
Cody Kunyk had the second assist on each game-winning goal. Scott Greehnam had 56 saves in the two contests. Drew Palmisano stopped 34 in the first MSU loss; Will Yanakeff had 30 saves in the second.
Lake Superior over Ohio State, 4-0 and 3-2
The Lakers dispensed of the Buckeyes fairly easily, shutting out OSU for five of the six periods of play. Playoff hockey can be star-making hockey, and LSSU freshman goaltender Kevin Kapalka – good and promising but a little inconsistent for much of the Lakers’ regular season – emerged a force to be reckoned with after this weekend. Kapalka stopped 48 shots in the shutout and another 28 in the 3-2 win.
Six different players scored for the Lakers, with senior Rick Schofield registering two goals – including the marker that held up to be the game-winner in Saturday’s contest. Schofield also had an assist, bringing his career points total to 102, making him one of two Lakers to hit the 100-point mark in the last 10 years. Troy Schwab is the other.
Buckeye seniors Sergio Somma and Danny Dries scored early in the third. OSU goaltender Cal Heeter finished the weekend with 67 saves.
Bowling Green over Northern Michigan, 3-6 (L), 2-0 and 2-1
Remarkably, the Falcons scored more than two goals for the first time since Dec. 30 and lost the game – and then rebounded with two wins. The two wins also increase BGSU’s win total on the season by 25 percent.
Six different Wildcats scored in the 6-3 win, an easy one for NMU as the Wildcats led 4-1 on Brian Nugent’s goal at 6:06 in the second. NMU outshot BGSU 21-5 in the first period of that contest alone, and poor Andrew Hammond – the Falcons’ steady, reliable goaltender – left the game when Nugent scored that fourth goal. Nick Eno came in for Hammond and allowed one more on 15 shots, but BG could not recover.
The second and third contests were very different. Hammond was in net for the rest of the weekend but allowed just one goal – in spite of being outshot in each contest. In the two wins, Hammond had 73 saves, 29 in the shutout and 44 in the double-OT win. In those two games, the Wildcats outshot the Falcons 74-50. Jordan Samuels-Thomas and Ryan Viselli had the goals in the shutout; Chad Sumsion scored for BG in the second and Andrew Cherniwchan for NMU in the third in regulation of the deciding game.
It was Bryce Williamson who gave the Falcons the deciding win, though, 34 seconds into the second overtime, picking up a rebound of Jake Sloat’s shot and lifting it over NMU netminder Reid Ellingson for BGSU’s first playoff series win since 2007-08.
The loss for Northern marks only the second time since the 2002-03 season that the Wildcats will not advance to Joe Louis Arena. NMU has made an appearance at the CCHA championship tournament seven of the nine years Walt Kyle has been head coach.
As the kids say, that is.
I predicted the series in Fairbanks and Sault Ste. Marie to go to three games, with the visitors winning. I also predicted the series in Marquette to be done in two, with the home team winning. I guess I should save my money on those lottery tickets this week.
Last week: 3-4 (.429)
Season (and postseason) to date: 111-72-26 (.593)
The picks are for actual games played, not for the folly of my predicting three-game series in two places where two games were played. I gave myself a loss for the third BG-NMU game.
There are four second-round, best-of-three quarterfinal CCHA series this weekend: Michigan hosts Bowling Green; Notre Dame hosts Lake Superior State; Miami hosts Alaska; Western Michigan hosts Ferris State.
One last note
There was a confrontation between fans and MSU head coach Rick Comley after the first game in Alaska. Comley and Michigan State are declining to comment on it. I will write a few observations about it in Tuesday’s blog.