With every CCHA team in action this past weekend, we learned a little bit more about how this season is shaping up. Here are three of the scariest things that emerged from the most recent games.
Michigan’s offense is scary good. There is no other way to put this. Averaging 4.88 goals per game and second in the nation only to Minnesota, the Wolverines are finding the net often, and they don’t need a man advantage to do it; of the nine goals UM scored against Ferris State in two wins, seven were even strength, one on the power play, one with an extra attacking for a delayed penalty. Three Wolverines have five goals: Juniors Lindsay Sparks and A.J. Treais and freshman Phil Di Giuseppe. Fourteen UM skaters have recorded at least one goal. They’re fast, they’re smart, they’re four lines deep and these Wolverines beat a very, very good FSU squad. And it’s a good thing they can score without the power play, because it’s performing at 18.4 percent — tied for 29th in the nation.
Western Michigan is still undefeated. Okay, so this isn’t scary if you’re a Bronco fan, but it certainly puts the rest of the league on notice. After a 4-2 win Friday, WMU needed overtime to sweep Northern Michigan at home, but the Broncos prevailed — with senior captain Ian Slater playing the hero 28 seconds into overtime with his first goal of the season. The two victories brought the Broncos to an overall record of 5-0-3, which is Division I’s current best unbeaten streak. The Broncos’ offense is balanced, averaging 3.62 goals per game, tying them for 12th nationally. The WMU defense is fourth, allowing 1.62 goals per game in large part to the goaltending duo of junior Nick Pisellini and freshman Frank Slubowski — and Slubowski had both wins against NMU.
The CCHA is littered with good goaltenders — again. The 2010-11 season was a year in which the CCHA’s goaltending was merely mortal. This season, at least half a dozen of the league’s goalie’s are showing that they have the potential to be among the best in the nation, and that may be a slightly conservative estimate. What’s eerie is that the list of netminders off to great starts includes names that fans may not have expected, like Bowling Green’s Andrew Hammond, who’s allowing fewer than two goals per game with a .922 save percentage or rookies like WMU’s Slubowski or FSU’s C.J. Motte, without whom Friday’s 4-0 UM win over the Bulldogs easily could have been 7-0. Eerier still is the number of teams with two goalies capable of starting, like NMU, FSU, WMU and Michigan State. What makes this scary? Miami’s Connor Knapp and Cody Reichard — the two who reigned for three seasons in the CCHA — have yet to play to their potential this year. When that happens, the CCHA will be frightening indeed.