inches of new snow dominating the landscape, cities across Michigan
have a crisp, clean look this morning as blankets of fluff obscure
dormant grass and fallen leaves. For hockey fans in Big Rapids,
the view out the front window appears especially refreshing.
The dose of winter
weather probably doesn’t have as much to do with that scenario
as much as the recent play of the Ferris State icers. By winning
the Badger Hockey Showdown in Madison for the second straight
season, the Bulldogs have frozen memories of a dismal start to
the season and the promise of fresh, unspoiled powder over the
next three months lies ahead.
For Ferris State, the
wins against Clarkson and Wisconsin at the Kohl Center are the
latest in a five-game unbeaten streak and mark the end of an impressive
10-game stretch during which the Bulldogs are 7-2-1. It’s
a 180-degree turnaround for a team that opened the year with two
wins in its first 10 outings against a slate that included nationally
ranked foes Colgate, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State.
it took us a while to jell and get all the pieces in place,”
said Ferris State coach Bob Daniels, “but we do have a pretty
good nucleus of players in [seniors] Jeff Legue, Derek Nesbitt,
Matt York and Mike Brown. When they go well, the team goes well,
and the four of them seem to be playing their best hockey right
It’s no coincidence,
then, that forwards Legue and Nesbitt, defenseman York and goaltender
Brown were all named to the Badger Hockey Showdown all-tournament
team. Legue has been especially torrid during the Bulldogs’
recent hot streak – he’s scored 11 goals and added
four assists in the team’s last 10 games. Nesbitt’s
no slouch, either, with five goals and eight assists during that
span. Perhaps the quartet’s most important attribute is
they know how to win – all were integral pieces of the FSU
team that won the CCHA regular-season championship in 2003.
“Even when we
were going through the rough stretch at the beginning, [those
four] continued to work hard every day at practice,” Daniels
said. “More than anything, that’s helped to pull the
rest of the team along with them. It’s the leadership they
provide Monday through Thursday in practice, and the end result
is how we play on the weekend.”
With Legue, Nesbitt
and York scoring in bunches – the trio enter this weekend’s
series at Nebraska-Omaha with 20, 18, and 11 points, respectively
– the pressure on some of the Bulldogs’ younger forwards
to contribute offensively has subsided. Sophomores Mark Bomersback
(4-11—15) and Zac Pearson (5-6—11) and newcomer Matt
Stefanishion (5-6—11) are able to follow the lead of the
veterans and give FSU a more balanced attack.
definitely on the upswing right now,” Daniels said. “There’s
a quiet confidence with the team and we do feel we’re capable
of having a strong second half and turning our year into something
AND HEARD IN THE CCHA
Light?: At Michigan State, the positives from the school’s
first Great Lakes Invitational championship since 2000 are just
as numerous as those gained by Ferris State at the Badger Hockey
The Spartans were victorious
in tough, overtime games against New Hampshire and Michigan –
both were rated among the country’s top six teams –
and got outstanding performances from a couple of guys in the
midst of off years. Senior forwards Jim Slater was named tournament
MVP, scoring two goals and an assist at the GLI, and fellow senior
Mike Lalonde, who had been sidelined since Thanksgiving with a
knee injury and scored a goal and an assist against UNH in his
first game back.
for us because we didn’t have the start to the first half
like we wanted to,” said junior forward Colton Fretter,
who scored three goals for the Spartans during the tournament,
including the game-winner in MSU’s extra-session win against
Michigan in the title match. “Everyone worked hard, and
that’s what we need. We need all four lines working hard
and creating opportunities and not just one line one night and
another line the next.”
Whether the GLI title
foretells yet another strong second-half run for Michigan State
remains to be seen, but it wouldn’t come as a shock since
it’s been the Spartans’ modus operandi during Rick
Comley’s rein as head coach.
“If I knew, then
maybe we’d be able to start the way we’ve been finishing,”
said Fretter, searching for an explanation for MSU’s Jekyll-and-Hyde
act. “Maybe it’s more desperation. I remember my freshman
year, we were at the bottom of the league, but in the second half
we really stepped it up. Last year, the same thing…we picked
it up after Christmas.
“Maybe we realize
it’s desperation, time is running out, and we gotta do something.”
Awakening: Maybe it’s because Michigan coach Red
Berenson is to goalies what long-time big league manager Billy
Martin was to pitchers – work your starters and when it
seems like they’re out of gas, work ‘em some more
– that most observers considered the Wolverines’ Achilles
heel to be the lack of a proven backup netminder.
Given the performance
of Noah Ruden at the Great Lakes Invitational last week, questions
regarded that topic have, for all intents and purposes, been rendered
moot. The Bloomfield Hills, Mich., native filled in admirably
while regular starter Al Montoya was with the U.S. team at the
World Junior Championship, making 29 saves in a 4-2 opening-round
win against Michigan Tech and stopping 35 shots in the 2-1 championship-game
loss to Michigan State.
good situation because you do know in advance that you’re
playing, so mentally I can start preparing well beforehand”
said Ruden, who has seen just under 156 minutes of action in five
games this season. “People think it’s probably a high
pressure situation because it’s a big tournament in a big
building, but in all honesty, there isn’t all that much
pressure out there.”
Given that the Wolverines
haven’t won the GLI since 1996 – go ahead and spit
your beverage all over your desk…now – there’s
a little pressure. Ruden handled it with aplomb. In fact, one
might argue he had a better week than Montoya, who struggled in
Grand Forks. That’s a pretty impressive occurrence for someone
who gets less work than the Maytag repairman.
“Al is a big-time
goaltender, and for everyone to be comfortable with me is my goal,”
Ruden said. “I want my team and my coaches to know that
they don’t have to change their play…and they don’t
have to worry if Al goes down or something happens.”
With Montoya returning
to the fold for Michigan’s home-and-home series with Western
Michigan, Ruden will assume his familiar understudy role behind
the guy the New York Rangers picked with the fifth overall selection
in last year’s NHL Draft. But just like a veteran backup
quarterback, he’ll always be ready to step in when needed.
I don’t play much, I am part of this team,” Ruden
explained. “I’m with them day in and day out. I want
to win for this team as much as anyone else does.”
State at Ohio State
about every series on the docket is intriguing in its own
unique way, including the Notre Dame-Lake State battle in
which the over-under for combined goals scored during the
weekend is 1.5. The FSU-OSU series pits the conference’s
hottest team (if you didn’t read the above piece on
the Bulldogs, may God have mercy on your soul) against the
Buckeyes, who haven’t lost in Columbus this season
– they’re 8-0-1 in the capital city. No disrespect
to the defensemen and goalies, but talented forwards on
both sides will make this a fun one to watch.
you’re there: Friday’s game doesn’t start
until 8:05 p.m. EST, so mosey over to the hoary OSU Ice
Rink an hour the puck drops at Value City Arena and watch
the Bucks’ women’s hockey team for a period
or so as they entertain Minnesota Duluth, the country’s
Was it just me, or did it
seem like every time I tuned in to televised action of the
U.S. team at the World Junior Championship that Michigan
freshman forward Kevin Porter was making
something good happen? He was certainly a bright spot for
the Americans, a team that struggled with injuries, illness
last few minutes of the Dodge Holiday Classic championship
game between Northern Michigan and Minnesota were
particularly disturbing. It wasn’t the Pistons-Pacers
fracas of a couple months ago, but the game degenerated
into a chippy affair after the Gophers took a 4-1 lead in
the third period. The worst moment occurred when an NMU
player took a run at Minnesota goalie Kellen Briggs and
extended an elbow in an attempt to wing him. Not a classy
AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
• The aforementioned Montoya was tabbed as one
of the top NHL prospects in the college ranks
by The Hockey News. The publication highlighted the 10
best talents from the American Hockey League, European leagues,
Canadian major junior leagues and the NCAA in its Dec. 28 issue.
CCHA players joining Montoya on the list were teammate Eric Nystrom
and Michigan State’s Slater. Two players with ties to the
conference were mentioned among the AHL’s best – ex-MSU
goaltender Ryan Miller and former Ohio State forward Ryan Kesler.
days following Christmas are an extremely popular time
for returns, so why should college hockey be any different?
In addition to MSU’s Lalonde coming back after missing five
games with a knee injury, Lake Superior State coach Frank Anzalone
reinstated defensemen Mark Adamek and Barnabas Birkeland, both
of whom were suspended in November for violating team rules.
brought three players back into the fold for its non-conference
series with Rensselaer. Forwards Matt Williams-Kovaks (out 14
games with a broken ankle), Dan VeNard (out six games with a separated
shoulder) and Brock Sheahan (out two games with a concussion)
all returned to the lineup against the visiting Engineers.
the Miami RedHawks, who resembled a triage unit for the better
part of the first half of the season. The team’s loss to
second-ranked Colorado College in the Ohio Hockey Classic Dec.
29 marked the first time in more than two months everyone on the
roster was healthy. The last time Miami had its full complement
of players was for a game against Ohio State Oct. 21.
everyone was bringing players back to the lineup. Nebraska-Omaha
announced that goaltender Kris Tebbs was leaving school
to pursue a professional career. A sophomore from Calgary, Tebbs
had played in just one game this season. In 15 career appearances
with the Mavericks, he had a 2-6-2 record with a 3.61 goals against
average and a .882 save percentage. With Tebbs’ departure,
freshman Eric Aarnio becomes the primary backup to Chris Holt.
goalie news, as the amazing Jordan Sigalet keeps
getting more, uh, amazinger. The Bowling Green senior
made 50 saves in the Falcons’ 1-1 draw against Dartmouth
in the first round of the Ledyard Bank Classic in Hanover, N.H.
In 85 career appearances, Sigalet has made 40 or more saves on
18 occasions. That’s a little more than once in every five
games he’s played.
Superior State issued its 30th annual list of banished words
on New Year’s Day. This year’s list was culled from
more than 2,000 submissions sent to the school by people around
the world. Among the 22 words and phrases sent packing were such
gems as “red state/blue state”, “wardrobe malfunction”,
and “zero percent APR financing”.
the phrase “crackdown on obstruction” gets to stick
around for another 12 months.
A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this