The most predictable thing about the 2011-12 CCHA season is that it’s going to change. Every week. Seriously.
First place, all alone. Heading into last weekend, Lake Superior State, Notre Dame and Ohio State were tied for first place. After their 3-2 win over Western Michigan Tuesday, the Fighting Irish spent a brief couple of days all alone at the top. The Lakers and Irish played nonconference games last weekend, though, giving the Buckeyes their chance — and OSU took that chance, sweeping UM in Ann Arbor, 2-1 and 6-5. The last time the Buckeyes took two games from the Wolverines in Yost Ice Arena was in 1986 — you know, when Ronald Reagan was president and Platoon won the Best Picture Oscar. The line of Alex Lippincott, Ryan Dzingel and Chris Crane combined for 11 points in Saturday’s win; Lippincott had the game winner on the power play early in the third.
Second season hopefuls. It’s not too early to worry about three teams that have cooled since hotter (or at least, warmer) starts. Both Michigan and Western Michigan — teams that played like and were voted top-five teams for the first third of the season — have each lost four games in a row, and Northern Michigan stopped an eight-game winless streak with a 2-1 win over Michigan State. For the Broncos and the Wildcats, scoring has been a problem in their slumps. In WMU’s losing streak — which extends, coincidentally back to Nov. 5, Michigan’s last win — the Broncos have been outscored 15-8, netting two goals per game. The Wildcats haven’t scored more than two goals in a single contest since a 3-3 tie versus (coincidentally) Michigan Oct. 22. The Wolverines, though, still have the fourth-best offense in the nation, tied with Minnesota-Duluth and averaging four goals per game. Even in their current four-game winless skid, Michigan has been outscored by opponents by a three-goal margin, 13-10.
More than the third time, but they’ll take the charm. Congratulations to the Nanooks, who won their first CCHA game of the season, 2-0 over visiting Ferris State on Friday. That win snapped an eight-game winless and five-game losing streak. Colton Beck’s fifth goal of the season was the game winner, Carlo Finucci’s third was the other goal and Scott Greenham made 25 saves in the win. Beck is the Nanooks’ leading scorer with 11 points, Finucci is tied for second with three other players who have 10 points each — and therein lies the issue. UAF is scoring 2.14 goals per game while giving up on average 2.64. Greenham’s save percentage is below .900, and in conference play the Nanooks are being outscored 29-17. Four of their last five losses have been by a single goal, including the 3-2 loss to FSU Saturday night.