Johnny's On The Spot
When the Inside
College Hockey staff started putting together the list of this
season’s top freshman forwards, we got a lot of comments
from coaches and scouts on the usual suspects – North Dakota’s
Travis Zajac, Chris Bourque of Boston University, Minnesota’s
Kris Chucko, Dan Bertram of Boston College.
our data, however, a theme emerged. Keep an eye on a kid heading
for Bowling Green named Jonathan Matsumoto, said many of our panelists,
including one who labeled the Orleans, Ont., native one of the
country’s top five recruits.
our bets, ranking Matsumoto 13th among incoming forwards. But
if he’s able to build upon his impressive start, he’ll
be a solid candidate for CCHA Rookie of the Year honors. Ten games
into his college career, he leads the Falcons, who are off to
their best start in nine years, with seven goals and 11 points.
has a great understanding of the game, especially in the offensive
end,” BGSU Scott Paluch said after his team’s win
against Wayne State last week. “What’s been impressive
about him is his unbelievable knack to learn. He’s always
watching things, reading things, trying to do things. He’s
a hockey rat.”
was named the 2004 Ontario CJHL Rookie of the Year after scoring
63 points in 51 games with the Cumberland Grads, Matsumoto considered
returning to junior hockey for another year of seasoning. Hardly
necessary – at 5-foot-10, 204 pounds, Matsumoto has deceptive
size, similar to former Michigan forward Andy Hilbert, and possesses
first-rate speed, agility and anticipation.
in minor hockey told me that if you’re following the play,
you’re already behind,” Matsumoto said, “so
I try to get as far ahead of the play as I can.”
that hockey sense, along with his poise, is Matsumoto’s
greatest attribute. Those traits were evident during a Bowling
Green 5-on-3 power play opportunity in the third period of the
win over Wayne State. Though the three Warrior skaters clustered
around the crease, Matsumoto, stationed about 10 feet left of
the net, threaded a pass through the slot which surprised linemate
no panic point with him when he’s got the puck,” Paluch
said. “When he has the puck, he usually makes a pretty good
play with it.”
of the Falcons’ youth movement – of the team’s
top 10 scorers, eight are freshmen or sophomores – Matsumoto
believes his job is to exploit opponents’ weaknesses and
help stem the rash of losing seasons at Bowling Green that extends
back to 1997-98.
on winning teams in minor hockey and junior hockey,” Matsumoto
said. “I expect to win game in and game out.”
AND HEARD IN THE CCHA
Pure Frosting: Thanksgiving is not only a time to pause
and look back on things we have been blessed to experience, but
it’s also an occasion to take pause and look forward to
the coming holiday season, the new year and beyond. In the spirit
of the best holiday of the year, here are some reflections and
projections as we sit one-third of the way through the CCHA regular
season. Thanks in advance for giving me my soapbox moment.
has 14 NHL draft picks on its roster, including first rounders
Eric Nystrom, Jeff Tambellini and Al Montoya. That said, the team’s
best player – and the best player in the CCHA – is
the Wolverines’ outstanding sophomore forward, T.J. Hensick.
Depending on the pace of negotiations between NHL owners and the
NHLPA, he might not be drafted until 2006.
happened to Michigan State defenseman A.J. Thelen? A second-team
All American as a freshman, Thelen has seven points – all
assists – in 12 games after scoring 11 goals and 29 points
last season. Even more disconcerting is Thelen’s propensity
for taking untimely penalties and coughing up the puck, the last
of which has led to a number of prime scoring chances for the
it’s a bold statement, but the CCHA has more impact freshmen
than any league in the country. Need proof? As of Thanksgiving
Day, 11 rookies in the nation are averaging a point per game or
better. Six of them – Matsumoto, UNO’s Bill Thomas
and Bryan Marshall, Tom Fritsche and Dominic Maiani of Ohio State,
and Kyle Greentree of Alaska-Fairbanks – call the ‘C’
home. That list doesn’t include defensemen such as BGSU’s
Mike Hodgson, UNO’s Joe Grimaldi or Miami’s Mitch
isn’t going to go away, folks. The Mavs’ toughest
remaining road series are at Northern Michigan next weekend and
at Miami in late January. We know…they’ve got four
with NMU and Michigan at home. But four games with Lake Superior
State, two against Ferris State, two with goal-starved Notre Dame
and two at home against Alaska-Fairbanks seems pretty appealing.
A top-five finish for the Baby Bulls is quite realistic.
Notre Dame is so callow up front and will struggle to win games
the remainder of the season since they can’t consistently
score goals, very few people outside of South Bend will notice
that Wes O’Neill has become one of the league’s top
three or four defensemen.
year, I wait for the light bulb above the heads of the Northern
Michigan Wildcats to flick on, and every year I’m disappointed.
Okay, recent history shows they’ve done well in the CCHA
playoffs, but this team is as talented as any in the league, save
Michigan. More should be expected. If the ‘Cats can’t
put together a nice run in their last three series prior to the
holiday – like winning four of six against Lake Superior
State, Nebraska-Omaha and Alaska-Fairbanks – they’ll
earn a permanent spot in the good-but-not-great club. Until next
off, Michigan State fans. Rick Comley ain’t going anywhere.
This is mere speculation, but my theory is the team’s struggles
stem from a rift between upperclassmen recruited by Ron Mason
and Comley’s recruits. It’s not the coaching.
an assignment – get a videotape copy of a game played in
mid-October. File it away for five months. Then pull it out in
March after you’ve watched a game played during the last
week of the regular season. If officials are calling obstruction
is being with the same vigilance as they were early in the year,
I’ll pick up the first round at the Varsity Club in Columbus.
Great Weekend Getaway
at Bowling Green (Fri.-Sat.)
it would make for a heck of a football game, these two Mid-American
Conference rivals have plenty at stake in this two-game
series at BGSU Ice Arena. The RedHawks pulled out of their
month-long free fall by beating Western Michigan in Oxford
to snap a seven-game losing streak. The Falcons are off
to a 6-3-1 start, but are coming off a disappointing split
against Wayne State. The pair against Miami marks the beginning
of a telling six-game stretch for Scott Paluch’s troops
– home-and-home series against Michigan and Michigan
State await the Falcons.
you’re there: It’s a sports weekend on the Bowling
Green campus. The Falcons’ men’s basketball
team hosts Bradley at Anderson Arena Saturday. Tip-off is
scheduled for 2 p.m. ET.
play-by-play announcer Greg Harrington,
one of the CCHA’s classiest people (and a fellow Twins
fan), reached a milestone Friday when he called his 1,000th
career hockey game, a 4-0 Mavericks win against visiting
Ohio State. ‘Harry’ has been the voice of UNO
hockey since the program’s inception in 1997.
you happen to see the third jerseys Michigan State
donned against Michigan at Munn Ice Arena last
week? The silver dazzle cloth numbers featured ‘Spartans’
spelled out diagonally across the front; the requisite old-school,
lace-up collar; and numbers that were virtually unreadable.
Unless the goal is to look like an oversized bag of Jiffy
Pop, MSU might want to toss those abominations into the
Red Cedar River.
AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
Here’s a testament to how evenly matched Michigan
and Michigan State have been over the years. The two
wins by the Wolverines marked the first weekend series sweep in
the rivalry since MSU accomplished the feat Feb. 20-21, 1998.
Michigan hadn’t recorded a weekend sweep against the Spartans
since Feb. 21-22, 1992.
else that hadn’t happened in a long time occurred last weekend.
Western Michigan’s 2-1 overtime victory over Miami was the
Broncos’ first win at Goggin Arena in nearly nine years.
WMU had last won in Oxford on Dec. 2, 1995. Between then and last
Friday, the Broncos were 0-8-3 on the RedHawks’ home ice.
we’re on a bit of a roll, let’s stick with the same
theme for one more fry. Lake Superior State is 3-4-1 in conference
play following last weekend’s win and tie against Ferris
State in Sault Ste. Marie. At this rate, the Lakers are
on track for 24 points in the CCHA standings. In the
four seasons since finishing in a tie for third in the league
race in 1999-2000, LSSU hasn’t gathered more than 19 points
in a season.
response to the note last week regarding the NHL Central Scouting
Service preliminary rankings of 2005 draft prospects, the league’s
director of scouting told the Associated Press that the
draft can’t be held unless a collective bargaining agreement
is in place. In fact, the NHL could be forced to conduct
two drafts just months apart depending on when – or if –
labor and management can come to terms on a new deal.
to CSS director Frank Bonello, should a new collective bargaining
agreement were reached in January 2006, one draft consisting of
players eligible for selection in 2005 would take place shortly
thereafter. The ’06 draft would then be held in June. The
2005 NHL Entry Draft is currently scheduled for late June in Ottawa.
you happen to be kicking around Europe next month – and
why wouldn’t you? – you’ll get a chance to catch
a team of locked-out NHLers touring the continent for
two weeks of exhibition games. The Primus Worldstars Tour starts
in Riga, Latvia, on Dec. 9 and concludes in Poland on Dec. 22.
Among the 25 players on the roster for the 10-game circuit are
three former CCHA standouts – ex-Bowling Green star Rob
Blake and erstwhile Michigan Staters Anson Carter and John-Michael
the NHL resort to replacement players in an effort to render the
NHLPA ineffective, former Lake Superior State standout Rob
Valicevic won’t hesitate to cross the picket line.
qualms," Valicevic told the Toronto Star. "I'm
going to do everything I can to take your job."
native, who has played in 193 NHL games over parts of the last
six seasons with Nashville, Los Angeles, Anaheim and Dallas, has
been relegated to the United Hockey League’s Flint Generals
now that so many locked-out pros have drifted into the AHL.
A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this