These series that begin Thursday are killing me. Some weeks, there just isn’t enough coffee.
So far, I’m 2-for-2 on Thursdays this season, but given that there are three games tonight, I’m sure my brief and uncharacteristic flirtation with perfection will come to an end. Here’s how I’ve done so far.
Last Week: 4-5-2
Season to date: 28-18-5 (.598)
I don’t expect it to get any better. Neither should you.
There are six series this week. Three begin tonight; three begin tomorrow. It’s a full slate of CCHA action with one nonconference offering. Here’s a look at the three that begin tonight, with two series that provide an interesting early season glimpse at reversals of fortune.
The Friday-Saturday series picks will be posted tomorrow morning. All times are local.
FSU at UM, 7:35 p.m.
Someone voted Ferris State the top team in the country in this week’s USCHO poll. It wasn’t me, but after the Bulldogs swept Miami last weekend, I can certainly understand why. FSU is being spurred on by the hottest goaltending duo in college hockey right now, freshman C.J. Motte (.333 GAA, .986 SV%) and senior Taylor Nelson (1.34, .943). These gents have split time in net and allowed five goals in six undefeated games; two of Motte’s three wins have been shutouts. What’s nice for the Bulldogs is that they’re also getting some offense, with two juniors — Kyle Bonis and Travis Ouellette — responsible for 11 of FSU’s 25 goals.
Michigan, however, is no stranger to scoring this season. Averaging five goals per game as a team, the Wolverines have the third-best scoring offense in the country; nine Wolverines have already posted at least two goals through six games, led by juniors Lindsay Sparks and A.J. Treais and senior Luke Glendening. Senior Shawn Hunwick (1.52, .944) is sporting the best numbers of his career early in the season. Last weekend, the Wolverines lost to Northern Michigan before tying the Wildcats and earning the shootout point.
Picks: The Wolverines were 3-0-1 against the Bulldogs last season and have won six of the last eight meetings. This should be a battle royale — but (let’s hope) without the antics witnessed in Marquette last Saturday night. UM 4-2, FSU 3-2
LSSU at Miami, 7:35 p.m.
The Bulldogs are near the top of the CCHA standings while the Wolverines are gracing the bottom half in the early going. That’s one of the league’s early reversals of fortune. This series represents another.
With a record of 3-1-0 in CCHA play, Lake Superior State is currently the top team in the league. After having been swept by FSU last weekend, Miami is 0-2-0 in conference play (and a troubling 2-4-0 overall) and in the bottom spot in the standings this week.
The Lakers split at home against Bowling Green last weekend but allowed just two goals in the process. Allowing just 1.83 goals per game through six contests, LSSU has one of the nation’s tightest defenses in October. Sophomore Kevin Kapalka (1.83, .926) is as steady as they come in net. The blue line is led by junior defenseman Zach Trotman, who is second in scoring to sophomore Kyle Jean — who with four goals has three more than he scored in 38 games last season.
The RedHawks have now lost three in a row, and Saturday’s 2-0 loss to FSU was the first time Miami’s been shut out since early January. Miami’s 2-4 start is its worst since 2003-04, when the RedHawks began the season 1-4-1. Uncharacteristically, Miami’s offense is one of the most sluggish in the nation, averaging 2.33 goals per game (39th). Junior Reilly Smith leads the RedHawks with four of Miami’s 14 goals. Part of Miami’s woes stems from its young offense; six rookie forwards have seen action so far, with five playing regularly. Connor Knapp and Cody Reichard have split time in net, but so far Knapp’s numbers (2.31, .916) are measurably better than Reichard’s (3.36, .857) — but each has a win.
Picks: The RedHawks were 3-0-1 against the Lakers last season, outscoring LSSU 20-6 in those contests. The one tie came in Oxford Oct. 30, 2010. Miami 2-1, LSSU 3-2
UAF at OSU, 7:05 p.m.
Alaska is making its first trip of the season to the Lower 48 after earning a single point at home last weekend with a loss to Western Michigan followed by a tie. That was a come-from-behind tie — third-period goals by Nik Yaremchuk and Andy Taranto — to help the Nanooks to a rather remarkable stat; UAF has earned points in ever CCHA series except for two during the past four seasons. With five goals Yaremchuk, a junior forward, leads UAF in scoring and the country in game-winning goals (three), and he’s just four goals short of his career-best nine in 38 games from a season ago. Senior Scott Greenham (2.17, .909) still holds court in the UAF net.
Ohio State earned a road split with Michigan State last weekend, losing Thursday before Friday’s win. The Buckeyes have split every weekend so far this season, with another conference win against Notre Dame two weeks ago. Freshman Ryan Dzingel is one of the Buckeyes to watch — and not just because of his golden locks. Dzingel, a freshman, has three goals (two game winners) and is among the nation’s rookie scoring leaders in points per game. Two other Buckeyes — sophomore Chris Crane and freshman Matt Johnson — also have three goals to their credit, Crane’s total being one shy from his output in 37 games last year. Crane is noticeable on the ice. Senior Cal Heeter (2.89, .907) is solid.
Picks: The Nanooks were 3-0-1 against the Buckeyes last season; the tie was played in Columbus Nov. 26, 2010. There was also a 1-0 OT win in Fairbanks (Jan. 28, 2011) in which Taranto scored the game winner. In the other two games, UAF outscored OSU 11-4. OSU 3-2, UAF 4-2
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