Ohio was the
red state in the 2004 presidential election. Last weekend,
three CCHA hockey teams felt blue after being swept by schools
from the home state of inventor Thomas Edison, astronaut Neil
Armstrong and condiment magnate Paul Newman blue. In the spirit
of Dayton-based funk band Lakeside, we'll embark on a fantastic
voyage and explore the recent Buckeye State bonzanza.
Miami's Red-emption: In a CCHA race that’s become
tighter than the Kansas City Royals’ payroll, it’s
interesting to note Miami has crept back into the middle of the
The RedHawks climbed
as high as seventh in the INCH Power Rankings after winning their
first four games of the season in convincing fashion. Then the
bottom dropped out – Miami lost its next seven games and
won just three times over the next 11 weeks. The team, picked
to finish third in the league’s preseason media poll, limped
into the new year tied for last in the CCHA standings.
“Two weeks ago,
we were out of it,” coach Enrico Blasi said. “Our
guys have stayed positive. Over the last month and a half, we’ve
played some pretty good hockey. Sometimes, that can eat away at
Indeed, the rejuvenated
RedHawks enter this weekend’s series at Western Michigan
with a three-game winning streak and a 4-3-1 record since Jan.
1. Not bad for a team that’s seen a number of its core players
– including sophomore forwards Matt Christie and Marty Guerin,
junior forward Chris Michael and sophomore goalie Brandon Crawford-West
– miss significant time due to injury, illness or disciplinary
had to do a lot of things with our freshmen and our younger guys
early,” Blasi said. “The last couple of weeks, [freshman
forward] Nate Davis has scored two shorthanded goals. If we’re
healthy all year, maybe Nate’s not killing penalties.”
Or maybe freshman goalie
Charlie Effinger doesn’t post a .918 save percentage and
win three of four starts in January. Maybe rookie forward Ryan
Jones doesn’t pick up 11 points in the RedHawks’ last
17 games after scoring no points in his first 11 outings. Maybe
senior wing Todd Grant, with 10 goals and 13 assists thus far,
doesn’t close in on career highs in goals and points (he’s
already surpassed his previous single-season best in assists).
With the mainstays
– Greene, Guerin and defenseman Andy Greene, the team’s
leading scorer with 24 points – performing at their usual
levels, the RedHawks have renewed optimism with eight games left
in the regular season. As they should, considering they have series
remaining with Lake Superior State and Alaska-Fairbanks, teams
with whom they’re currently tied.
goal since the beginning of the year was to play our best hockey
come March,” Blasi said. “That hasn’t changed.
Home ice is right there for us. It’s exciting.”
Bowling for Goals: Bowling
Green goaltender Jordan Sigalet has single-handedly led the Falcons
to victory who-knows-how-many times in his career. And while the
senior was his usual terrific self last weekend – he stopped
61 of the 64 shots he faced in a sweep of Notre Dame – the
Falcons’ offensive attack is ensuring Sigalet gets plenty
The Falcons, who ranked
10th in the CCHA in scoring last season at 2.42 goals per game,
are fourth in the league in that category with an average of 3.29
goals per game. They’ve been even better during the last
two months – despite a 4-6-1 record, coach Scott Paluch’s
team averages more than 3.5 goals an outing.
has some great strategies, and when we do them right and keep
our feet moving, that’s what gives us our best chance [to
win],” said senior captain Ryan Minnabarriet, who scored
a pair of goals against the Irish Friday.
Almost as important
to moving their feet to the Falcons is jumping out to an early
lead. In its four CCHA wins since Jan. 1, BGSU amassed leads of
three, six, three and five goals before its opponent scored. In
the two losses during that same span, the Falcons fell behind
by 2-0 scores on both occasions.
“A lot of our
freshmen have stepped in and we’ve got some sophomores that
have really started to put up some numbers, too,” Minnabarriet
explained. “It definitely does take the pressure off someone
who’s expected to put up a lot of points”
As of late, Minnabarriet
has put up a lot of points – he’s got four goals and
four assists in the last six games. But junior forward Brett Pilkington
has 2-8—10 during that stretch. Freshmen Jonathan Matsumoto
(1-6—7) and Alex Foster (1-8—9) have been just as
reliable since Jan. 1. So, too, has third-year forward Mike Falk
(4-3—7) and rookie defenseman Michael Hodgson (1-4—5).
“This has been
one of the high points for us,” Minnabarriet said of the
team’s recent success. “It’s really a lot of
fun. There’s a lot of excitement in the dressing room. There
are a lot of happy faces around right now.”
Your Case: OK, show of hands, please. Who among us had
already given the CCHA regular-season title to Michigan a couple
I’m not embarrassed
to be included in that group, especially considering the Wolverines
had yet to fire on all cylinders but still had a commanding lead
in the conference race. Glance at the standings on the morning
of March 6, and you’ll likely see Red Berenson’s charges
on top. That said, pesky Ohio State, refuses to go away. The Buckeyes,
fresh off a sweep of Western Michigan in Columbus last weekend,
are three points behind Michigan with eight games remaining.
out of reach yet,” said OSU senior forward JB Bittner. “We
knew coming down to the last few weeks how tough points are to
get. We knew they weren’t going to win the rest of their
games just because of the balance of our league.”
Bittner knows a little
something about balance. The Buckeyes might be the only team in
the league with the versatility to beat opponents by outscoring
them (only Michigan has more goals than OSU’s 100) or shutting
them down (the Bucks’ have allowed 64 goals, third-fewest
in the conference).
“Some of the
guys who’ve been here the past few years have stepped it
up and played up to their potential,” Bittner said. “With
them getting more ice time because we lost nine seniors [from
last season], we have a more balanced attack.”
word again. Though Bittner believes Ohio State has to win out
in order to have a legitimate shot at the CCHA regular-season
title, he’s not ready to concede the title to Michigan and
settle for second-place in the league – not a bad showing
for a team expected to finish in the middle of the pack prior
to the season’s start.
“I don’t think you can be happy with what you’ve
St. at Michigan (Fri.)
Michigan vs. Michigan St. at Detroit (Sat.)
series against Michigan marks the start of a rugged four-week
stretch for Michigan State, one of four teams tied for sixth
place in the CCHA standings. After the pair against the
Wolverines, the Spartans travel to Alaska-Fairbanks, host
Ohio State and take on Bowling Green in a home-and-home
series. MSU won the last meeting between the two teams,
but that was at last month’s Great Lakes Invitational
– Michigan was missing five key players who were playing
with the U.S. team at the World Junior Championship.
you’re there: While East Lansing has earned a reputation
as a party town, Ann Arbor has been assailed as a less-than-spectacular
spot for nightlife. Truth is, Ann Arbor caters to a more
mature crowd and there are a variety of fine establishments
located downtown, which is just north of Yost Ice Arena.
Try the Red Hawk, for example, located on State Street is
hailed by Lansing State Journal scribe and the
CCHA reigning bon vivant, Neil Koepke, for its
atmosphere and clam chowder.
the highlights of the U.S. Under-18 Team win vs. Michigan
State Friday was the second-period goal scored by
the NTDP’s Peter Mueller. Mueller, who will
attend Minnesota next season, completely bamboozled MSU
defenseman Brandon Warner with a pretty deke just inside
the blue line, skated in uncontested and got off a rocket
that zipped into the top corner of the net above Spartan
goalie Dominic Vicari’s stick.
convenient as it'd be to have the event played an hour’s
drive from my current home, I’d rather attend
a Frozen Four in Minsk then one in Detroit. Those
who defend the Motor City tell detractors it’s too
easy to pile on a city that’s been the butt of jokes
for decades, and projects like Ford Field mark the start
of a rebirth. To borrow a phrase from Tony Kornheiser, it
stinks. And, yeah, I'll
answer your scathing e-mails, D-towners.
AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
• From time to time, players get thrown out of
games. Coaches, too, on occasion. But a goal judge? It
happened in Big Rapids last week.
Late in the
second period of Friday’s Miami-Ferris State match at Ewigleben
Ice Arena, the Bulldogs got goals from Greg Rallo and Mark Bomersback
in a 2:20 span to erase a 3-1 deficit. According to eyewitnesses,
the goal judge working behind the net in which FSU scored was
unusually demonstrative in his reaction – in addition to
flicking on the red light, he was observed clapping and pounding
on the glass.
dispute the goal, but Miami’s Blasi was displeased with
the goal judge’s behavior. He relayed his concerns to referee
Matt Shegos and expected Shegos to do no more than perhaps issue
a verbal warning. Instead, Shegos asked to see a video replay
of the goal, observed the goal judge’s actions and had him
For the record,
the Redhawks’ Chris Michael would win the game with a goal
a little more than a minute into overtime. With little fanfare,
the substitute goal judge turned on the red light.
to published reports in the Detroit News earlier this
week, the Detroit Lions have been approached by the CCHA about
hosting the NCAA Frozen Four at Ford Field in
2010 or 2011. The first step is assessing the feasibility of converting
the football stadium into a 70,000-seat hockey rink.
hockey is fantastic,” Lions executive vice president and
chief executive officer Tom Lewand told Mike O’Hara of the
News. “We think we could do something exciting.
[But] there is a lot of due diligence to be done before we say
we’re really interested.”
In an effort
to make Jacksonville seem like Rome, Cabo San Lucas and Las Vegas
rolled into one, the NFL will bring the Super Bowl to Ford Field
next year. The NCAA men’s basketball Final Four is scheduled
for Ford Field in 2009.
you really think we’d make it through the entire season
without at least one Michigan player contracting mononucleosis?
This year’s, ahem, infectees, are forwards Mike Brown and
David Rohlfs. Neither is expected to play against Michigan State
this weekend. Another forward – David Moss – missed
the Wolverines’ series with Northern Michigan because of
a groin injury and is questionable for the MSU games.
With the trio
of forwards in the infirmary, coach Red Berenson has been forced
to use senior defenseman Reilly Olson as a fourth-line wing along
with two other seniors – center Michael Woodford and walk-on
wing Charlie Henderson.
holding Northern Michigan scoreless in seven power play opportunities
last weekend, Michigan brought to an end a horrible stretch
of penalty killing. In six January games prior to the
NMU series, the Wolverines successfully killed 28 of 43 man-advantage
opportunities for an abysmal 65.1 percent success rate.
Blake Bobblehead Night brought hockey fans out to Bowling
Green Ice Arena in droves Friday. Nearly 5,000 patrons –
4,956, to be exact – packed the stands to watch the Falcons
down Notre Dame, 4-1. It was the largest crowd at BGSU in nearly
Michigan players may want to fish the puck out of the net
after they score for the next couple of weeks just in case it
represents a milestone. Junior Vince Bellissimo joined the Broncos’
century club last weekend at Ohio State when he notched a goal
and an assist in a loss to the Buckeyes Friday. Two WMU skaters
are poised to join Bellissimo in the 100-point order – junior
Brent Walton comes into this weekend’s series with Miami
with 99 career points, while senior Pat Dwyer has 97 points in
Michigan’s student section is endlessly harangued for its
vulgar language, the Yost rowdies can be counted on for
at least one good laugh every season. The most recent
gem, directed at Northern Michigan goalie and Finnish native Tuomas
Tarkki, was a hand-lettered sign wielded by a fan sitting in the
front row near the Wildcat bench. The message? The Finnish phrase
‘Tarkki on seula’, which, roughly translated, reads
‘Tarkki is a sieve’.
even National Hockey League executives get cabin fever.
Among those in attendance at Friday’s U.S. Under-18 Team-Michigan
State exhibition in East Lansing were Columbus president and general
manager Doug MacLean, and Detroit general manager Ken Holland.
A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this