This is the CCHA. The landscape changes quickly around here. Three things from this past weekend? We could pick a dozen or more.
1. Home-ice advantage? Not exactly.
Friday night was brutal for the home teams. Three of them lost outright and two ended up tied after taking a lead into the third period — and one of those leading teams saw a win disappear within the closing seconds of the third period. Miami beat Lake Superior in Sault Ste. Marie, 2-1, after the Lakers posted a 1-0 lead in the first. Western Michigan beat Notre Dome in South Bend, 3-2, after the Fighting Irish took a 2-1 lead into the third. Michigan owned Ohio State in Columbus, 4-0. Alaska’s Adam Henderson scored on a two-man advantage at 9:38 in the third to tie the Nanooks, 4-4, with Bulldogs in Big Rapids; Alaska went on to take the shootout point. Northern Michigan’s Tylor Gron scored with the extra attacker at 19:34 in the third to give the Wildcat’s the 5-5 tie with Michigan State in East Lansing. MSU’s shootout point hardly felt like a victory after the way regulation ended.
2. Six points is the antidote to parity — or is that the purveyor of parity?
After a first half in which taking six points from an opponent in a single weekend was difficult for many CCHA teams, the fortunes of every team in the league will be made or broken by the sweep in the second half. This weekend, the Broncos took two games and six points from the Fighting Irish, giving WMU sole possession of second place in the league and putting the Broncos just one point behind first-place Ohio State. Should the Broncos capture first place, they should send thank-you notes to the Wolverines and the Falcons — the Falcons for holding the Buckeyes to two points Jan. 7-8 and the Wolverines for this past weekend’s sweep. Those six points captured by Michigan — combined with other action in the league among neighboring teams in the standings — catapulted the Wolverines into sole possession of third place after Michigan entered the weekend in seventh. Now the teams in eighth place — NMU and and MSU — are fewer than 10 points out of first place. At any rate, the second half is much more interesting now that the Buckeyes look much less invincible.
3. I professed my love for the Great Lakes Invitational tournament too soon.
According to a report on ESPN.com Friday, the 2012 GLI may be played in Detroit’s Comerica Park, home to the MLB Tigers. This would be in conjunction with the NHL Winter Classic, which may feature the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs in Michigan Stadium, a.k.a. “The Big House,” the home of the Wolverines’ football team. The timing of the announcement took advantage of all the outdoor college hockey being played this past weekend; in addition to Michigan’s 4-1 win over Ohio State in Progressive Field Sunday, there were three men’s college hockey games — a D-III contest and two D-I games — in Boston’s Fenway Park this past weekend, capping a “Frozen Fenway” that featured six college hockey games, including a D-I women’s game, from Jan. 7 through Jan. 14.
The novelty of outdoor contests wore off for me a couple of games ago, but as the appetite for public spectacle our culture’s need to top each successive event increases, it’s clear that I’m in the minority. It’s also clear that if outdoor games are to be played in the CCHA, the Wolverines must be involved. Yesterday’s contest in Progressive Field was Michigan’s fourth outdoor game and the Wolverines’ third in three seasons. Should the GLI be played outdoors in 2012, Michigan’s 2012-13 senior class will become the first in modern college hockey history to have played in outdoor games each of its four seasons.