I didn’t expect 2012 to be such a fascinating year. Sure, the Mayans have predicted some exciting things, but I certainly didn’t think that the scenery would move so quickly the first weekend in January. Here are three things that have changed my perspective a bit following the past weekend of hockey.
1. Six points in one weekend in this league is a lot. A conference weekend sweep has been a semi-rare thing in the CCHA this season, as Miami knows all too well. With a pair of road wins over Michigan State this weekend — Friday’s 2-1 overtime win and Saturday’s 4-0 game — the RedHawks have just their second sweep of a CCHA opponent this season and the valuable six points has vaulted Miami from sole possession of ninth place to a tie for fifth with Northern Michigan. Miami began the weekend with 18 points and ended it with 24, and was the only team to sweep its conference opponent. The RedHawks have every bit of talent they need to redeem that disappointing first half, and now they’re 10 points out of first place — as opposed to 14 points out of first, which is where they started the weekend.
2. Anybody cannot beat anybody else on any given night, apparently. The parity of the league — and of college hockey throughout the country this season — was the big story of the first half and this past weekend did little to change the tone of things (Miami excepted, of course). But actually defeating an opponent? Well, that’s another story. Kudos to Bowling Green for the Falcons’ four-point performance against Ohio State and kudos to Lake Superior State for its tie and shootout point against Michigan Saturday — the first points the Lakers have taken from the Wolverines in Yost Ice Arena since 2005 — but ties are not wins, even when a successful shootout makes them feel like victories. And Western Michigan certainly proved that anybody cannot beat anybody else on any given night when the “anybody else” in question is the defending NCAA champion Bulldogs. Minnesota-Duluth’s two wins in Kalamazoo — in which they outscored the Broncos 9-3 — extended the Bulldogs’ unbeaten streak to 16 games. Thank goodness for Ferris State, who successfully defended the realm with two wins over visiting Colgate, proving that an excellent defense is sometimes the best offense.
3. The Fighting Irish should pay me to pick against them, especially in single games against ranked nonconference opponents. First I picked Boston University to beat Notre Dame in South Bend on New Year’s Eve. The Irish won that game 5-2. Then I picked Minnesota to beat ND in Minneapolis in the Hall of Fame Game this past weekend. The Irish won that game 4-3. Sophomore Steven Summerhays made 31 saves in the contest for a game save percentage of .911 — well above his first-half numbers — and picked up his sixth win of the season. (He also got the win against BU.) Sophomore Jeff Costello’s third goal of the season early in the third period put the Irish ahead 4-1 and held up to be the game winner as the Golden Gophers netted goals 31 second apart late in the third. Someone close to the Notre Dame team chided me with a genuine “tsk, tsk” after the game, especially since the Irish were playing the day after legendary Notre Dame coach Lefty Smith’s funeral. Now I know.