Happy November! Hard to believe that a full month of the college hockey season is a matter of record.
Speaking of records, here’s mine.
Last week: 6-5-1 (.542)
Season to date: 34-23-6 (.587)
In this season of seeming CCHA parity, I will take any week over .500.
There are four conference series this week with two nonconference sets scheduled. Everything is Friday-Saturday. All starts are 7:05 p.m. local except for the games in Marquette and Ann Arbor, which begin at 7:35 p.m. Michigan State has the weekend off.
FSU at BGSU
The Bulldogs lost two games to Michigan in Ann Arbor last weekend — and looked like a top-10 team anyway. Fast, disciplined, strong defensively with exceptional goaltending in the early going of the season, Ferris State absolutely has what it takes to remain in the hunt all season long. Until last weekend, FSU was scoring goals, too, but the Bulldogs were held to two goals in two games and top guns Travis Ouellette (6-2–8) and Kyle Bonis (5-1–6) were silenced in the 5-2 and 4-0 losses.
Bowling Green lost two close home games to Notre Dame, bringing their CCHA losing streak to three games after opening their league play with a split against Lake Superior State the weekend before. The Falcons are much improved this season; they bring to this series a defense that is allowing only 2.00 goals per game. They’re struggling up front, though, and have scored five goals in their four league games — after averaging 2.75 goals per game in their first four games of the season, all nonconference. Sophomore Bryce Williamson has four goals in eight games; he had five in 31 last year. Freshman Ryan Carpenter (3-5–8) brings some promise. BG’s best player by far this season is junior Andrew Hammond (1.87 GAA, .922 SV%), who is posting career numbers.
Picks: Each team has played four conference games, with FSU three points ahead of BGSU in the standings. The Bulldogs are 4-0 against the Falcons in two seasons. FSU 3-1, 3-1
Miami at UAF
At this point, many college hockey folks must be scratching their heads where Miami is concerned. Expected to reload seamlessly after graduating a talented senior class, the RedHawks have yet to find their groove. Last weekend, Miami was swept at home by Lake Superior State, a 3-2 overtime loss followed by a 5-3 decision in which the Lakers jumped out to a 4-0 lead before the middle of the second period. After allowing four goals, Connor Knapp was replaced by Cody Reichard. Numbers for both senior goaltenders are way down this season — the pair splits time in net and sports a team save percentage of .879 — but the duo doesn’t appear to be getting much help in terms of team defense or scoring.
The Nanooks return to Fairbanks with one point from a long trip to Ohio after a 2-2 tie and 6-0 loss last weekend. Another team struggling defensively, Alaska is surrending 2.75 goals per game and goalie Scott Greenham’s numbers (.894 SV%) are as off as those of his Miami counterparts. Greenham is also lacking the offensive support he needs; the Nanooks are averaging 2.25 goals per game, although junior Nik Yaremchuk (5-1–6) is doing his part.
Picks: Each of these teams is looking for its first CCHA win. With an 0-4-0 record in league play, Miami is off to its worst conference start since 1995-96. The Nanooks (0-2-2) are two points ahead of the RedHawks in league standings. Miami has to win one sometime, right? So does Alaska. Miami 3-2, UAF 4-2
ND at NMU
Notre Dame is bringing its eighth-best offense (3.86 goals per game) to Marquette after sweeping Bowling Green last weekend. Sophomore Anders Lee (10-3–13) became the first player in the nation to hit the 10-goal mark with his game-tying, power-play goal early in the third period of ND’s 3-2 Saturday win; Lee has at least one goal in each of ND’s seven games this season. He and classmate T.J. Tynan (2-12–14) ride season-long point streaks into this series, and Tynan’s scoring streak extends to the last game of last season. The Irish are getting help from more than just those sophomores, though. Freshmen accounted for three of ND’s six goals against BGSU, and senior Patrick Gaul scored the game winner in the 3-2 contest, his second of the season. That was Gaul’s third career goal, and his first of the year this season broke a drought dating back to Jan. 2, 2010.
The Wildcats lost two close games to Western Michigan last weekend, a 4-2 contest that included an empty netter and 3-2 loss in OT the following night. The only Wildcat to find the net against the Broncos was sophomore Stephan Vigier (5-1–6), who scored both goals in each contest, but Justin Florek (5-4–9) and Tyler Gron (4-2–6) have had strong starts to their senior seasons. Another senior starting strong is goaltender Reid Ellingson (2.24 GAA, .922 SV%). Although Ellingson and sophomore Jared Coreau have been splitting time in the NMU net, Ellingson’s numbers are better. He relieved Coreau in Saturday’s loss.
Picks: The Irish swept the Wildcats in Marquette last season, but the teams are 9-9-2 when NMU is home. Every team playing a league game this week has a chance to gain on Lake Superior State, but the Irish can tie the Lakers with a sweep in the Yoop. ND 3-2, 4-2
WMU at UM
Last weekend, the Broncos swept Northern Michigan in two close games, with senior captain Ian Slater netting his first goal of the season to win the game in overtime Saturday. Freshman goaltender Frank Slubowski (1.48 GAA, .918 SV%) had both wins on the weekend, although he and junior Nick Pisellini have each seen action this year. In addition to their undefeated (5-0-3) start to the season, the Broncos have posted other impressive numbers: 1.62 goals against (fourth in the nation); 3.62 goals for (tie 12th); penalty kill at 88.6 (11th). The Broncos have at least a goal from 15 different skaters, with sophomore Shane Berschbach (4-4–8) and junior Trevor Elias (4-0–4) leading in goal scoring. Elias needs two goals to tie his career-high total of six in 42 games last year.
The Wolverines swept visiting Ferris State last weekend, outscoring the Bulldogs 9-2 in the process. Senior goaltender Shawn Hunwick (1.88, .949) recorded his third shutout of the season in Saturday’s 4-0 win and UM looks good defensively, allowing 1.88 goals per game (tie ninth). Like the Broncos, the Wolverines are getting offensive production from a lot of players, with 14 skaters having scored at least a goal so far this season. Michigan’s offense is second in the nation, averaging 4.88 goals per game, although the Michigan power play (18.4/t28th) has yet to awaken. Three Wolverines — juniors Lindsay Sparks and A.J. Treais, and freshman Phil Di Giuseppe — have five goals each.
Picks: Although the Broncos come into this weekend undefeated, I don’t see them leaving it that way. The Wolverines are three points behind WMU and will be keenly aware of this early season opportunity to gain that ground and to pull closer to league-leader LSSU. Of course, the Broncos will be keen to remain ahead and with their four-point deficit to the Lakers, the Broncos could pull into first place with a five-point weekend. Neither team has forgotten their last meeting: WMU’s 5-2 win over UM in a CCHA playoff semifinal game last season. I could be wrong about many picks this weekend, not the least of which could be these. UM 4-3, 4-2
BSU at LSSU The Lakers are taking a break from their fast CCHA start by hosting future WCHA rival Bemidji State. Last weekend, LSSU swept Miami on the road (3-2, 5-3) while the Beavers lost twice to Minnesota-Duluth (6-2, 1-0). The Lakers are fueled by the excellent goaltending of sophomore Kevin Kapalka (2.00 GAA, .924 SV%). Junior Nick McParland (6-3–9) leads LSSU in scoring, having now reached his career-high six-goal total from a season ago — a feat that took him 32 games to accomplish. Two goalies have split time for BSU this season, senior Dan Bakala (3.13, .877) and freshman Andrew Walsh (3.23, .901). Junior Jordan George (4-1–5) is BSU’s leading goal scorer. The teams last met in Bemidji in 2005-06, when the Lakers won and tied. I’m banking on Kapalka. Picks: LSSU 3-2, 3-2
OSU at UAH The Buckeyes took five points from Alaska last week with a tie plus shootout point followed by a 6-0 shutout, breaking OSU’s eight-game winless streak versus UAF. That win was senior goaltender Cal Heeter’s (2.24 GAA, .927) fourth career shutout, first of the season. Sophomore Chris Crane (5-3–8) leads OSU in scoring; he has one more goal in eight games this season than he did in 37 least year. The Chargers are looking for their first win of the season after a 1-1 tie and 7-2 loss to Air Force at home last weekend. Sophomore Clarke Saunders (3.30, .909) was in net for both of those games. The Chargers are being outscored 29-8 by opponents this season. Three Chargers — Kyle Lysaght, Craig Pierce and Mac Roy — have two goals each. Picks: OSU 3-2, 4-2