Last Monday, we were looking back at the first weekend of Division I play. This week, we had a taste of CCHA action and a second look at some opening weekend trends.
First, there’s nothing like a fast start.
Five CCHA teams are still undefeated after four games, but it’s which teams that haven’t lost that makes it interesting. It’s not surprising to see Michigan 4-0 after nonconference games against unranked teams, but three of those five teams — Ferris State, Lake Superior and Bowling Green — were picked to finish in the bottom three in preseason CCHA polls.
Most interesting of these five are the Bulldogs and the Lakers. FSU shut out No. 20 Rensselaer twice this past weekend, and LSSU swept Michigan State to earn the right to sit atop the CCHA standings for the first week of regular season play. There are a couple of Kyles — FSU’s Kyle Bonis (5-1–6) and LSSU’s Kyle Jean (4-2–6) — among the leaders in goals per game in the early going. It’s especially worth nothing that Jean had one goal in 38 games last season.
Expect the Bulldogs to crack this week’s poll; expect the Lakers to have to prove themselves a little more first.
Second, never underestimate the value of a good defense.
Through four games, FSU has outscored opponents 15-3; freshman C.J. Motte and senior Taylor Nelson have split time evenly in net, resulting in a team save percentage of .965 and a goals against average of less than one per game. The Bulldog penalty kill has stopped 19-of-20 attempts for a 95 percent success rate. The strength of the Bulldog defense will be challenged this weekend when Miami comes to town.
A team whose defense was exposed over the weekend is Notre Dame. The Irish split with Ohio State at home and allowed multiple unanswered goals to start both contests, creating a deficit which ND could not overcome in Saturday’s 4-3 loss. All three of those ND goals were scored in the third period with junior Mike Johnson in net. Sophomore Stephen Summerhays had little help through the 31 minutes that he played.
Another teams whose defense was exposed for the second weekend is Michigan State in two one-goal losses to LSSU. A look at the numbers of MSU’s very capable goaltenders, sophomore Will Yanakeff (3.50 GAA, .887 SV%) and senior Drew Palmisano (4.03, .869) provides an early narrative that the Spartans will undoubtedly work to change. In Friday’s 5-4 loss, the Spartans evened the score with less than 10 minutes remaining on Torey Krug’s power play goal, but Domenic Monardo scored with less than two minutes to go in regulation to give the Lakers the win. In Saturday’s 3-2 game, MSU was down three goals before the second period was two minutes old.
Ferris State, Michigan, Bowling Green, Western Michigan and Alaska are among the top defenses in the country after two weeks. Yes, I know it’s fun with statistics too early to mean anything, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see at least three of those teams remain among the top in that category for the remainder of the season — and I wouldn’t be surprised to see FSU prove everyone wrong in the long run.
Third, it’s nice to garner two wins in a weekend. Hardware would have been nice, too.
The Nanooks beat Mercyhurst and Nebraska-Omaha in the Brice Goal Rush but did not take home the trophy with their two wins. The tourney is determined by goal differential and Alaska-Anchorage won that contest.
Still, the two nonconference wins bring UAF’s unbeaten streak to three, after the Nanooks opened with a loss to St. Cloud last weekend. Sweeter still was Saturday’s 4-1 win over ranked UNO and the sustained success that it represented for Alaska.
“The last couple of years we haven’t had that success carry over from Friday night to Saturday night, especially at home,” assistant coach Brian Meisner told my esteemed colleague, Danny Martin, at the Daily News-Miner after Saturday’s game. Meisner added that it was “a big step for us, especially our nine freshmen.”
Sophomore Colton Beck had two goals in the game and Nick Yaremchuk — who with four goals in four games is just five shy of his 38-game total of last season — had the game-winner.
Last Weekend (including Thursday): 9-6-2
Season to date: 24-13-3
I’ll take any weekend over .500.