Goodbye, a little early
In retrospect, I’m not surprised that Michigan State’s Derek Grant is the first CCHA player this season to leave college hockey before his proverbial time. Grant, a forward from Abbotsford, B.C., had 20 goals and 43 assists in his two seasons as a Spartan. With the uncertainty of the MSU coaching situation, it makes perfect sense for Grant to take a chance on developing better in a pro setting.
“I love everything about Michigan State,” said Grant, “and I will always be a Spartan. I owe a great deal of thanks to our coaching staff for giving me the opportunity to wear the green and white.”
Grant, a 2008 fourth-round NHL draft pick of the Ottawa Senators, has played two games already with the Binghamton Senators (AHL) and has registered an assist. He’s playing with CCHA alums Erik Condra (Notre Dame, 2005-09) and Derek Smith (Lake Superior State, 2004-07).
Grant is the 10th Spartan player to exit the program early since 2006.
What did them in…or not
When a best-of-three series goes to a third game, it’s not unusual for legs to tire late in the going and seasons to be decided on fatigue-related mistakes. In Sunday’s 5-4 Western Michigan win over Ferris State, it was a turnover in the Bulldogs’ zone that led to Max Campbell’s game-winner – but it was a mistake that could have been made at any point in the game, not because of heavy legs and eyelids.
“In all my years, normally when we get into three games in three days and the guys are a little wore out, generally those are 2-1 games,” FSU head coach Bob Daniels told the Kalamazoo Gazette after Sunday’s contest. “I’m just amazed at the pace of the play and the energy level from both teams sustained through three games in three nights.”
Two players from FSU that I hate to say goodbye to are seniors Pat Nagle and Zach Redmond, both Michigan boys. Nagle (Bloomfield, Mich.) finished the year with an 18-14-5 record, .923 save percentage and 2.02 goals-against average. In his career, Nagle was 45-42-11 (.916 SV%, 2.32 GAA).
I was sorry to see Redmond’s senior year hampered by injury. The defenseman from Traverse City, Mich., played in only 26 games in 2010-11 and hadn’t seen action since Feb. 12. In four years, Redmond had 22 goals and 68 assists.
While the All-CCHA First-Team goalie, Nagle, was ending his season in Kalamazoo last weekend, the league’s Second-Team netminder, Alaska junior Scott Greenham, was meeting the same fate in Oxford. The Nanooks lost in two 4-1 games, though, and it was RedHawk Andy Miele’s goal 16 second into the second – with the score tied 1-1 – that sealed Alaska’s fate Saturday night.
“When they scored on first shift in the second period, I think it caught us off guard and I don’t think we ever recovered from that,” Alaska head coach Dallas Ferguson told the Hamilton Journal-News after the loss. “We didn’t have much push-back after that first goal.”
Greenham (Addison, Ont.) played every minute in Alaska’s net this season with a record of 16-17-5, a .917 save percentage and 2.23 goals-against average.
My impression of Greenham has always been that he’s one of the good guys, so I wasn’t surprised to receive an email this weekend with unsolicited praise for Greenham from someone close to the league but not affiliated with the Alaska program, describing Greenham as “one of the best kids in the league…a class act.”
I can’t think of Western Michigan’s success this season without thinking of Bill Wilkinson, who coached the Broncos from 1982 through 1999. Wilkinson landed at Wayne State University from 2003 to 2008, and after the Warriors folded, Wilkinson eventually took his act on the road – to Spain.
And just this past weekend, Wilkinson’s team, Club Hielo Jaca, won the Spanish League Championship with a 5-0 win over Barcelona. The only American on the team, James McKenna (Middlebury College, 2005-08), had two goals in the win.
I got email from Wilkinson before the title game and I’m happy to report that he and his wife, Mary, are enjoying this second act in Spain. He talked up the weather, the golfing, and his shaky Spanish skills.
I heard from another Bill a while back, former CCHA commissioner Bill Beagan (1985-98), who updates me regularly on his life in retirement with his wife, Barb. He had some interesting thoughts about the Big Ten, calling the conference a “no-brainer,” and advocating for the admission of Notre Dame to the league when it forms.
Beagan had some good words about yet another Bill, Billy Jaffe, whom he remembers not just as a Michigan player but as a linesman for the CCHA. He says that Jaffe is a “good kid.”
That’s another advantage of having been around the CCHA for so long and knowing folks who’ve been around even longer. When you’re a child of the 1960s, it’s nice to be referred to as a good kid.
Another good kid
I’ve been a fan of WMU captain Ian Slater’s after meeting him following his second collegiate game, a 2-1 loss to RIT Oct. 11, 2008. Some things you just don’t forget. Slater’s leadership qualities impressed me immediately.
I know he’s young and a college kid and all, but this week Slater fell into a language trap that has vexed me for two seasons running. Talking to the Kalamazoo Gazette this week about losing the first game of last weekend’s series against Ferris State, Slater said, “We respond to adversity and we’ve proven that this season.”
Losing the opening game of a best-of-three CCHA playoff series does not constitute adversity. Losing the entire series does not constitute adversity.
Adversity is what hit Haiti last year and what Japan is going through right now. Political uncertainty in Egypt, Lybia, and Tunisia? That’s adversity. Nangarhar Province in Afghanistan? That’s a place where people face real adversity.
I love college hockey as much as anyone else does, but a loss is just a loss, and events in the wider world remind us that hockey is, in fact, only a game.
Give to the American Red Cross to fight real adversity around the globe and in the U.S.
And, as always, @paulacweston on Twitter.