As I was pulling out of my garage to head into Mott Community College for the day job Thursday, I saw hard little nuggets of snow fall on Flint, Mich., for the first time this season. Looked like the perfect way to begin a full weekend of CCHA hockey.
Last week: 7-3-2 (.667)
Season to date: 41-26-8 (.600)
That’s about as good as it’ll get all season, I’m sure.
Everybody plays this week, which means that someone has to be playing out of conference. This week, that’s Bowling Green. Every series is Friday-Saturday, with all starts at 7:05 p.m. local time unless otherwise noted.
LSSU at FSU With three points separating first-place Lake Superior State from third-place Ferris State, this series may reinforce the parity of the league. Or provide distance for the Lakers. Or give the Bulldogs the opportunity to overtake LSSU. In a season like this, who knows? Last week, the Lakers split at home against Bemidji State — but remained in first place as everyone else within striking distance of first place with games in hand failed to take advantage of the situation. The Bulldogs, a little further down in the standings, won twice last weekend and outscored Bowling Green 9-3 in the process. Last weekend, Taylor Nelson earned his second shutout of the season and FSU’s fourth — but last season it was LSSU that shut out FSU twice as then-freshman Kevin Kapalka allowed no goals in back-to-back games Nov. 12-13. The last time the Bulldogs scored against the Lakers was 58 seconds into the third period of a 2-1 win Feb. 13, 2010. Picks: FSU 2-1, 3-1
MSU at WMU Michigan State last saw action two weeks ago, when the Spartans swept Robert Morris at home, outscoring the Colonials 11-4. MSU finished the 2010-11 season averaging 2.58 goals per game; this year, the Spartans have improved to 3.38 per contest, tied for 15th in the country. Sophomore Lee Reimer (5-6–11) leads MSU in goals and scoring. Two Spartans — sophomore Greg Wolfe and junior Torey Krug — each have two power-play goals. Last weekend, Western Michigan split with Michigan on the road, winning 3-2 and losing 5-2. Scoring 3.40 goals per game, WMU’s offense is evenly matched with MSU’s, but the Broncos’ defense is allowing only 2.00 goals per game to the Spartans’ 3.00. The main difference between these two teams at this point is that the Spartans are still transitioning into what they’ll become, and the Broncos are playing like they’ve arrived. WMU swept in Kalamazoo last Nov. 5-6, 2010. Picks: WMU 3-2, 3-2
NMU at OSU If you’re looking for work avoidance today, listen to this one online at 12:05 p.m. Yes, the Friday game in this series begins at what should be lunchtime. Why? I don’t know. What I do know is that Northern Michigan trails Ohio State by three points in the standings and that each team is coming into this series feeling pretty good. The Wildcats took four points from Notre Dame at home last weekend with two ties and extra shootout points in each contest. NMU came from behind in each game to tie — Justin Florek had the tying goal in the 2-2 game Friday, Andrew Cherniwchan in Saturday’s 1-1 decision — and Reid Ellingson was in net both nights. OSU hasn’t been scored on in three games — 191 minutes and 51 seconds — a first in program history. Last weekend, the Buckeyes swept Alabama-Huntsville on the road; Brady Hjelle had the 4-0 win Friday, his first career shutout, and Cal Heeter had the 2-0 win Saturday. In four games, OSU has allowed just two goals. NMU swept OSU in Marquette last season, Oct. 29-30, 2010. Even with their ties last weekend, the Wildcats are winless in five games. NMU 2-1, OSU 3-2
UAF at ND Neither of these teams is riding a strong recent performance into this weekend, but the Nanooks are trying to shake a big monkey off their collective backs: six games in and Alaska has yet to win a league contest. Last weekend, the Nanooks lost a pair of 2-1 games to Miami at home, marking just the third time they’ve been swept under fourth-year head coach Dallas Ferguson. It’s the slowest start for the Nanooks since the 2007-08 season, when it took them until Nov. 30 to earn their first conference win. The Nanooks haven’t exactly had powerhouse offenses in recent seasons, but so far this year they’re averaging only two goals per game with a power play that hasn’t scored in its last 21 attempts. Junior Nik Yaremchuk has six goals for the Nanooks, who’ve only scored 20 as a team this season. The Fighting Irish took two points on the road from NMU last weekend, tying 2-2 and 1-1 and losing each shootout. Ties are not losses, though, and those two bring junior Mike Johnson’s unbeaten streak to six games (4-0-2). As one of three teams knotted for fourth place with 11 points — Michigan and Ohio State are the other two — Notre Dame has a good opportunity to create a little space. The teams split in South Bend Jan. 14-15, 2011, with ND winning the first game 2-1, UAF taking the second 4-1. If the Irish lose, I think it’ll be Saturday. Saturday’s game has a 5:05 p.m. start time. Picks: ND 2-1, 3-1
UM at Miami Two weeks ago, Michigan junior Chris Brown said that Miami was Michigan’s closest recent rival. That’s because Miami has won three straight in this series and five of the last six games. Last season, the RedHawks beat the Wolverines twice at home, 4-2 and 3-0. Then-sophomore A.J. Treais was the only Wolverine to score on Miami last season, as he had the only two goals of that weekend for Michigan. This weekend could prove that the RedHawks really do have Michigan’s number — or that the Wolverines are a top team that can dispense of a league foe that’s in the process of rebuilding. Last weekend, Miami earned its first conference wins of the season with two 2-1 games in Fairbanks. Senior Cody Reichard had both wins, improving his save percentage to .902. The RedHawks haven’t been very supportive of their stalwart goaltenders this season. Miami finished the 2010-11 campaign with the fourth-best offense in the nation (3.74 goals per game); this year, the RedHawks have dropped to No. 43 (2.30). The Wolverines split a pair of games at home against Western Michigan last weekend, losing 3-2 and winning 5-2, ending their program-best home win streak that included 19 straight wins in Yost Ice Arena and one in Michigan Stadium. Picks: UM 3-2, 4-2
Canisius at BGSU This is the first meeting between the Golden Griffins and the Falcons. Canisius is currently in third place in Atlantic Hockey, having split last weekend with Bentley. The Griffs are led in scoring by sophomore Kyle Gibbons (3-3–6). Sophomore Tony Capobianco (2.61 GAA, .938 SV%) and senior Dan Morrison (3.03, .910) have split time in net; Capobianco had the win last weekend. The Falcons were swept at home last weekend by Ferris State, outscored 9-3. BGSU sophomore Bryce Williamson leads the Falcons in goals with five, but his classmate Camden Wojtala (2-7–9) leads in points. Junior Andrew Hammond (2.39, .904) had a solid start to the season but has leveled off a bit. The teams are evenly matched offensively but the Falcons have a distinct defensive edge. Saturday’s game begins at 4:05 p.m. BGSU 3-2, 3-2
Happy Veterans Day
Happy Veterans Day to all the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces, past and present. My 80-year-old dad is a veteran; my brother-in-law is a veteran. I am always humbled by the service of those who defend my liberties. Thank you, all.
And Happy Nigel Tufnel Day
We all know that this one goes to 11 — three times.