New Power Generation?
only have college hockey fans seen more special teams play
through the first month of this season, but early indications
may point to an emerging trend in the CCHA. With more power
play opportunities, it seems more teams are drifting away
from the traditional two-defenseman, three-forward unit.
evidence is anecdotal, but hard to argue. The reporter witnessed
two conference games last weekend – Ohio State at
Western Michigan and Nebraska-Omaha at Michigan State –
that featured a combined 27 power plays. In all but a couple
of instances, the power play units were comprised of four
forwards and one defenseman. Michigan State ran out a second
grouping with freshman rearguards Jeff Dunne and Daniel
Vukovic at the points. On the other end of the spectrum,
Western Michigan coach Jim Culhane rolled out five forwards
changes from team to team,” Michigan State assistant
coach Tom Newton said. “There’s so much power
play time now, it’s important to get your five best
people with the appropriately-handed shots in the best positions
want to get their most explosive players on the ice as much
as possible, but this occurrence also speaks to another
reality – it’s a lot easier to find talented
forwards than it is to find quality power play quarterbacks.
use [former MSU defensemen John-Michael] Liles and [Brad]
Fast as a great example,” Nebraska-Omaha coach Mike
Kemp said. “If you have those two guys back there
that can really be potent and run a power play, that’s
a luxury. I don’t think too many people have that
luxury right now.”
Not only is having
offensive-minded defensemen a rarity, but experience on
the blue line is the exception rather than the rule in the
CCHA. Michigan State dressed one junior, three sophomores
and two freshmen Saturday, while Nebraska-Omaha countered
with a senior, a junior, two sophomores and two freshmen.
At Lawson Arena the previous night, Ohio State had a junior,
two sophomores and three freshmen and Western Michigan iced
a senior, a junior, two sophomores and two freshmen.
our case, we’ve got some guys that move the puck pretty
well back there,” said Kemp, specifically referring
to rookie rearguard Joe Grimaldi, who played for the U.S.
National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor last season.
“But they’re still young.”
The strategy comes with some negative by-products –
Western Michigan scored shorthanded Friday and Nebraska-Omaha
had a handful of odd-man rushes during the penalty kill,
converting one of them. It’s just another component
of the new reality that is college hockey.
“They’re enforcing the rules, and that’s
forcing us to emphasize special teams,” Newton explained.
“It’s been hard to get flow in five-on-five
situations, but the players are learning. We’re all
learning. We’ve got to stick with it.”
SEEN AND HEARD IN THE CCHA
BG Players Back
The seven suspended Bowling Green players have been reinstated to the team and will return to practice on Sunday, the school announced Thursday night. The group was suspended indefinitely when the school learned of a prank from April 2003 involving alcohol and racial slurs.
The players – Ryan Barnett, Steve Brudzewski, Bryan Dobek, Mike Falk, Don Morrison, Brett Pilkington and Alex Rogosheske – will have missed four games each. They also received additional penalties from the universitys student discipline program. The university, citing privacy laws, didnt disclose the exact penalties.
In Rod We Trust – Rod Pelley’s junior
year didn’t get off to a promising start.
Less than 40 minutes into Ohio State’s season-opening
loss to New Hampshire at the Ice Breaker Tournament, Pelley
– regarded as the Buckeyes’ hardest hitter –
was ready to knock a Wildcat skater into next week.
“I had him lined up, and I missed him last second,”
Pelley said. “I dislocated [my shoulder] pretty good.”
While his shoulder may have been dislocated, it seems Pelley’s
goal scoring touch was relocated. In the six games since
he was hurt – he sat out OSU’s third-place match
against St. Cloud State at the Ice Breaker – the Kitimat,
B.C., native has scored six goals and three assists. It’s
no coincidence the Buckeyes have won five of six after started
the season with two losses.
It’s the kind of production coach John Markell expected
from Pelley, especially after losing nine letterwinners,
five of them forwards, from last year’s squad that
won the CCHA playoff championship. A bull of a player at
6-0 and 205 pounds, Pelley was one of the Buckeyes’
most effective scorers during the second half of last season,
notching 14 of his 22 points after the first of the year
and earning CCHA All-Tournament team honors after scoring
three goals and two assists in three games at Joe Louis
“He wanted to have a whole season like he had the
second half of last season,” Markell said. “He
stayed all summer to make a difference.”
Staying in Columbus during the break instead of retreating
to beautiful British Columbia not only meant focusing on
weight training and conditioning, but also gave him the
opportunity to skate with guys from the other team in town,
the NHL’s Blue Jackets.
“It’s amazing how much they communicate. Even
in shinny, they’re real loud,” Pelley said of
the professionals. “They’re yelling for the
puck all over the place. Their passes are crisp…and
every time they shoot the puck, they’re shooting to
As the second leading goal scorer in the CCHA thus far,
Pelley has obviously honed that last skill to near perfection.
And if he finds himself in a scoring drought at some point
this season, well…he’s got a slump-buster in
“I might go run into the boards again,” Pelley
said. “Maybe it’s like that movie, Lethal
Weapon. That guy had a magic shoulder.”
'Cats – With
19 letterwinners returning from a team that posted a 21-16-4
mark last year, Northern Michigan fans had good reason to
feel confident about their team heading into the 2004-05
season. The only serious hole to fill was in goal.
Wildcats’ go-to guy for most of his four seasons in
Marquette, Craig Kowalski, had graduated, leaving senior
Tuomas Tarkki – he of the 22 career appearances in
his previous three years – and redshirt freshman Bill
Zaniboni to assume the duties. Tarkki, a native of Rauma,
Finland, filled in nicely after Kowalski was injured late
last season, winning four of six starts in February and
March, but he hadn’t been counted on to carry the
load for NMU. Zaniboni, meanwhile, is a freshman, and you
just never know with rookies.
could have been the Wildcats’ Achilles heel has instead
emerged as one of the team’s strengths so far. Tarkki
and Zaniboni are among the country’s top 10 goaltenders
in goals against average and save percentage, Northern Michigan
ranks tied for second nationally in scoring defense and
coach Walt Kyle’s squad, ranked ninth in this week’s
INCH Power Rankings, are off to their best start since 1998-99.
That’s the same season NMU made its last NCAA Tournament
"We've had good goaltending," Kyle told the Marquette
Mining Journal prior to the his team's non-conference
series with Michigan Tech, "but when I first took the
job, we committed to playing young defensemen. They
had a lot of ice time to develop and grow. I hope we're
seeing some of those benefits now."
The maturation of blueliners such as juniors Jamie Milam,
Nathan Oystrick and Geoff Waugh and sophomores Bobby Selden
and Matt Maunu certainly helps. But Tarkki, who's listed
as 6-4, 204 pounds, and Zaniboni, who goes 6-1, 210 pounds,
have earned their due as well.
AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
Great Weekend Getaway
at Michigan (Fri.-Sat.)
team is where it would like to be right now. The RedHawks
are dinged up. The Wolverines are inconsistent. One
would think a sweep for either team would be a giant
boost, and it would. But given the way these two clubs
are playing, it doesn’t seem likely. It should
be an exciting weekend, though, what with five of
the CCHA’s top 10 scorers on the ice –
Matt Christie, Marty Guerin and Andy Greene for Miami
and Milan Gajic and T.J. Hensick for Michigan.
you’re there: The Wolverine gridders have the
weekend off, but there’s still football at Michigan
Stadium Saturday. The inaugural “Bash at the
Big House” pits Division II powers Grand Valley
State – the two-time defending national champions
and the country’s 19th-ranked team – against
undefeated and fourth-ranked Michigan Tech. More than
31,000 tickets have been sold for the 1 p.m. ET game,
but you’ll have plenty of room to stretch out
in a stadium in which expansion means painting the
lines that mark individual bleacher seats closer together.
their surprising start will wane as the season marches,
but coach Mike Kemp’s young Nebraska-Omaha
team is a treat to watch. The forwards, especially
sophomore Scott Parse and freshmen Bryan Marshall
and Bill Thomas, are dynamic, defenseman Joe Grimaldi
appears to be a budding star and goaltender Chris
Holt is playing with confidence. The Mavs are pretty
good right now. It’s scary to think where they
might be a year or two down the road.
The playing conditions
at Lawson Arena for Friday’s Ohio State-Western
Michigan game were deplorable. Certainly, both teams
were subject to the same elements and no one from
either side blamed their performances on the dense
fog that hovered over the ice, but they had every
right to do so. When players say they can’t
see the puck, that’s a problem. To make matters
worse, the Buckeyes were told the heat in their locker
room couldn’t be controlled, making a steamy
night that much more uncomfortable.
For the last half of Friday’s Ohio State-Western
Michigan game, the Lawson Arena ice surface looked
more like an elaborate pre-game show gone awry. With an
outdoor temperature in the low 70’s at faceoff in
Kalamazoo, a blanket of fog reminiscent of the 1988 Stanley
Cup Finals game between Edmonton and Boston at Boston Garden
hovered over the ice.
was halted early in the third period so both teams could
empty their benches and skate around in circles in an effort
to get the fog to dissipate. The solution worked temporarily,
and the remainder of the game was played in a thick haze
that was especially problematic in the Buckeyes’ defensive
don’t want to say it was a problem,” said OSU
goalie Dave Caruso, who gave up three third-period goals,
“but when they would dump the puck, I had no clue
where it was.
was hard to see the puck, even coming off the glass. I would
be sitting back trying to figure out where it was and then,
boom, it would pop out.”
Michigan netminder Daniel Bellissimo had much better visibility
in his end. Still, when his team had the puck on the other
side of the rink, the action became a rumor.
couldn’t see a thing in the far end,” said Bellissimo.
“When we scored, I had no clue. I just reacted based
on the fans.”
goalie asked for sympathy, but Bellissimo conceded he had
an easier time than his Buckeye counterpart.
probably had it tougher because we were wearing white and
they were wearing red,” he said.
While we’re on the subject of goaltenders, Michigan
State netminder Dominic Vicari had to leave late
in the first period of Saturday’s game against Nebraska-Omaha
with a head injury.
Mavericks’ Scott Parse picked up a loose puck and
raced into the Spartan zone on a breakaway, but MSU freshman
defenseman Jeff Dunne caught up to him and hauled him down.
Parse fell into Vicari, while Dunne was penalized for hooking.
who had stopped six of the seven shots he faced on the evening,
was taken to a Lansing hospital for observation. His status
for the Spartans’ home-and-home series with Ferris
State this weekend is uncertain. Matt Migliaccio subbed
for Vicari, allowing three goals on 19 shots.
Injuries have turned Miami from red-hot to Red Cross
in a matter of two weeks. After a blistering start during
which they won their first four games and outscored its
opponents, 20-5, the RedHawks have dropped four straight,
the latest being last weekend’s pair of defeats at
of the team’s top six forwards – sophomores
Marty Guerin and Geoff Smith – were sidelined with
leg injuries and didn’t make the trip to the North
Country. The RedHawks’ ranks were thinned even more
when another sophomore forward, Andy Nelson, was knocked
out of Friday’s game with a head injury and defenseman
Matt Davis hurt his leg.
Michigan State announced the hiring of a new volunteer assistant
coach Tuesday. Former MSU defenseman and NHL veteran
Jason Woolley is joining Rick Comley’s staff.
He replaces another former Spartan, Damon Whitten, who accepted
a full-time assistant coaching position at Wayne State.
NHL lockout has put Woolley’s 13-year NHL career on
hold for the time being. He’s played for five teams
during that period, most recently Detroit. The North York,
Ont., native still ranks second among Spartan defensemen
in career scoring with 144 points.
know that I can help this team," Woolley said. "To
be honest with you, it is an honor. I'm going to take full
advantage of it. I want to make one thing clear; I'm not
here to threaten anyone's jobs, I still have a lot of hockey
left in me.”
Nebraska-Omaha forward Justin Chwedoruk
left the team this week and returned to the Alberta Junior
Hockey League. Chwedoruk, a sophomore, hadn’t played
in any of the Mavericks’ six games this season. As
a freshman, the St. Albert, Alberta, native had a goal and
two assists in 29 contests.
• It’s probably not the first time something
like this happened, but it still bears mentioning. Michigan
sophomore forward Mike Brown scored a shorthanded
goal against visiting Ferris State in Ann Arbor Friday night,
getting the puck behind Bulldogs netminder Mike
Brown. It was the first tally of the year for Brown
the forward as the Wolverines blanked FSU, 3-0. Brown the
goalie exacted revenge the following night in Big Rapids,
stopping all 33 shots he faced in a 1-0 overtime victory.
• The factoid of the week returns
– and if this keeps up, I’m going to owe Peter
King royalties, or perhaps a year’s supply of Starbucks
hazelnut lattes. Nebraska-Omaha freshman forward Bill Bagron
was born May 18, 1982. Yes, he’s a 22-year-old
freshman, roughly nine months older than Michigan senior
captain Eric Nystrom and about eight months older than Michigan
State senior captain Jim Slater.
variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this