February 10, 2005
MSU Lives Vicari-ously

By Mike Eidelbes

CCHA Notebook
Michigan State's Dominic Vicari made 41 saves on consecutive nights as the Spartans skated to two draws with Michigan.

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Decades from now, when we’re old, withered cynics playing euchre in a neighborhood bar on weekday afternoons, we’ll reminisce about the winter of aught-five and the time Michigan State goalie Dominic Vicari fought off debilitating cases of Lyme disease, lumbago and gingivitis to single-handedly thwart Michigan by making 153 saves to preserve a 2-2 tie.

Until the tale grows to oversized proportions over time, we’ll have to settle for the facts…and that’s not a bad thing. Vicari, a sophomore from Clinton Township, Mich., fended off a bout with the flu early last week to turn in a pair of brilliant performances in back-to-back ties against Michigan last weekend.

“At the beginning of the week, I felt pretty bad,” said Vicari, the only MSU goaltender with game experience as senior Matt Migliaccio nurses a broken hand. “I wasn’t sure how bad it was going to get. Towards the end of the week, I started to feel better. I told our trainer after Friday’s pre-game skate that I wanted to play.”

In Friday’s deadlock, Vicari made 41 saves – 17 coming in the first period – as the Spartans rallied from a two-goal deficit on a pair of goals by forward Drew Miller late in regulation, including the game-tying tally with less than two seconds remaining and Vicari on the bench in favor of an extra attacker.

“They came out flying in their building and we got outshot pretty bad in the first period,” Vicari said. “Once we got settled down coming into the second period, we started to play our game and it showed. Towards the end of the third period, it seemed like we were starting to put more pressure on them.”

In a 1-1 draw at Joe Louis Arena the following night, Vicari held the Wolverines at bay until forward Jim McKenzie got MSU on the board with a goal 3:18 left in the third period. Vicari again made 41 saves, including 18 in the final period.

“It’s funny,” Vicari explained. “When you get sick, you don’t feel very well. But I felt very focused both games. I didn’t really expend any extra energy”

Though both teams earned two points in the league standings, the series was far more uplifting for MSU, which needs all the points it can muster to remain in the mix for home-ice advantage in the first round of the CCHA playoffs. The battle continues this weekend as the Spartans make the grueling trip to Alaska-Fairbanks for two games against the Nanooks in a series that features two of the three teams currently tied for sixth place in the conference.

Even though spending 10 hours in a flying metal tube with travelers carrying God-knows-how-many strains of mystery viruses isn’t the optimal way to return to full health, Vicari says he’ll be ready to go.

“My body’s a little run down from the weekend,” he said. “It takes a little longer to recover. Pretty much all the symptoms are gone – just a little runny nose.”


No Quit in Notre Dame:
“Always look on the bright side of life,” sang Monty Python Traveling Circus troupe member Eric Idle in the outstanding 1979 movie Life of Brian. Of course, Idle’s character was in a rather precarious situation while he sang, but it’s the thought that counts, right?

The Notre Dame hockey team, presently tied for 11th in the CCHA standings, finds itself in a predicament similar to that of Idle’s character. But the bright side for the Fighting Irish – the CCHA playoffs – and a chance to redeem an otherwise disappointing season looms just four weeks away.

“I still think it’s ahead of us this year,” coach Dave Poulin said of his Irish (5-19-6 overall, 3-14-5 CCHA). “I think we’re capable of winning some games and winning a playoff series.”

The notion of the Notre Dame putting together a late-season run seems far-fetched. Notre Dame enters its weekend’s series with fellow 11th-place denizen Ferris State in the throes of an 11-game winless streak (0-9-2). They’re last among Division I teams in scoring offense, averaging 1.53 goals per game. Their power play ranks second to last nationally with a 9.2% success rate.

That said, there are positives working in the Irish’s favor. Experience is one, as Notre Dame has advanced past the first round of the league playoffs four times in the last five years. Another is the play of senior goaltender Morgan Cey. Healthy for the first time since coming to Notre Dame, he’s posted a 2.70 goals against average, a .917 save percentage and is capable of stealing a win or two with minimal offensive support.

Poulin believes the goals are on the way; it’s a matter of getting a break here or a bounce there to open the floodgates.

“When you aren’t scoring, you think you need to make the perfect shot,” Poulin said. “It reminds me of when we used to play against a great goaltender. When Fuhr was really good or Hasek was really good, you think you needed the perfect shot to beat him.

“We haven’t had the scoring, but that’s where a win would give us great energy down the stretch. It’s gonna start with a win, but you have to have what you’re doing reaffirmed. I do honestly think the kids believe.”

Official Business: Anyone who flips on the satellite dish on a Friday or Saturday night to watch college hockey games from across the nation knows that despite the much-publicized crackdown on obstruction trumpeted by conference commissioners at the start of the season, each league seems to vary on how much they’ll let players get away with.

Last week, Kevin Pates of the Duluth News Tribune reported that some coaches and players are wondering how those differences from league to league will affect NCAA Tournament games. For example, UMD coach Scott Sandelin told Pates that a WCHA team drawing a CCHA official in the postseason would be a concern because, according to WCHA director of officials Greg Shepherd, CCHA games are called more tightly.

Miami coach Enrico Blasi, who chairs the NCAA Ice Hockey Rules Committee, said teams that advance to this year’s NCAA Tournament will have to be aware of the styles of different referees. Of course, added Blasi, that’s no different from any other year.

“When you get to national tournament time, you’re going to get a referee from another league and you’re not going to know how he’ll call a game,” Blasi explained. “You’re going have to adjust, and adjust quickly. Nothing’s changed.”

Blasi also notes that the process for selecting referees for the NCAA Tournament – through the help of each league’s director of officiating – aims to put the top officials from each conference on the ice.

“Most of the [referees] are going to be guys that are doing a good job, just like the teams,” Blasi said.

Great Weekend Getaway
120x60 - Brand Red

Michigan at Nebraska-Omaha (Fri.-Sat.)

You may have to burn a few frequent-flyer miles, but this one should be worth the price of admission. No team raises the dander of UNO fans like the Wolverines, and the Qwest Center should be jumping. Michigan’s ups and downs are well-documented, but the Mavericks’ recent hot streak is not – since Jan. 1, UNO is 7-1-2. The series features two former U.S. NTDP goalies, as the Wolverines’ Al Montoya duels the Mavs’ Chris Holt.

While you’re there: If you’ve got a car and the gumption to rise at a decent hour Saturday morning, make the 112-mile drive northwest of Omaha to the city of Norfolk, the boyhood home of Johnny Carson. The city’s Elkhorn Valley Museum features an extensive display of Carson memorabilia ranging from his high school yearbook to a collection of his Emmy Awards. Incidentally, Norfolk (pronounced NOR-FORK) is also the birthplace of Thurl Ravenscroft. You might not know the name, but you definitely know the voice – he sang ‘You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch’ in the classic TV special How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Stick Salute

We know they’re the teams that draw the viewers, but it’ll be nice to tune in to Fox Sports Net Detroit Friday and not have to watch Michigan or Michigan State. Lake Superior State isn’t the most entertaining club on the planet, but they do have a pretty good goalie in Jeff Jakaitis. If you haven’t seen Miami, you’ll want to catch a glimpse of forwards Marty Guerin and Matt Christie and sublime defenseman Andy Greene.

Bench Minor

Michigan fans should be disgusted by the complete lack of effort put forth by the Wolverines in the closing moments of Friday’s 2-2 against Michigan State. The shift during which the Spartans’ Drew Miller sent the game into overtime on a goal with two seconds left in regulation was particularly disheartening – the Michigan players stopped moving their feet, passively tried to freeze the puck on the wall behind goaltender Al Montoya instead of clearing it out of the zone and were ultimately out-muscled by MSU. The Wolverines may have the talent to win a national championship, but they lack the heart.


• With four shorthanded goals this season (all coming in the last 12 games), Miami freshman forward Nathan Davis has vaulted into a share of the NCAA lead in that category with Alabama-Huntsville’s Bruce Mulherin.

Watch Davis on the penalty kill and it’s easy to see why he’s so successful in scoring with a man down. He thrives on giving an opposing player retreating into his own end to pick up the puck a false sense of security, then using a quick burst of speed to accelerate for a clean poke check, leaving his foe flat-footed.

”There are certain things you see when the puck goes back,” Davis said. “[The opponent] is rocking back on his heels or flinching. It’s almost like a stutter step. You make it look like he has room, and then you jump on him.”

In breakaway situations, Davis also has the patience to wait for the goaltender to commit to a move before shooting. Against Western Michigan Saturday, he broke in alone on the left wing, cut in front of crease and waited until goalie Daniel Bellissimo dropped into a butterfly, leaving a sizable opening inside the far post that Davis found easily.

• There are a myriad of reasons explaining why Miami has hovered around the .500 mark for much of the season, but here’s a glaring statistic. The RedHawks’ 3-2 loss at Western Michigan Saturday runs the team’s record in one-goal games to 1-8-0.

• Ohio State’s overtime victory at Lake Superior State Saturday not only allowed the Buckeyes to creep to within two points of first place in the CCHA standings, but was also the team’s 20th win of the year. It’s the first time in school history that OSU has won 20 or more games in four straight seasons. The Bucks reeled off three consecutive campaigns of 20-plus wins under coach Jerry Welsh from 1978-81.

Two lengthy road winless streaks were snapped Saturday as Alaska-Fairbanks and Bowling Green won at Northern Michigan and Ferris State, respectively. The Nanooks’ 2-1 victory was their first in Marquette – UAF entered the game with a 0-9-2 all-time mark when visiting Northern Michigan. BGSU, meanwhile, left Big Rapids with a 4-2 win against Ferris State, their first at Ewigleben Ice Arena in nearly six years. The Falcons hadn’t beaten the Bulldogs at home since Feb. 27, 1999, a span of seven games.

• A rare soapbox moment, if you will. Now that the emphasis on obstruction has become more or less ingrained in the minds of players, coaches, officials, fans and media members, this writer would like to propose a point of emphasis for the 2005-06 season – cracking down on players who turn their backs to checks in order to draw penalties.

During Saturday’s game against Western Michigan, Miami was whistled for infractions on at least three separate occasions – one for checking from behind and two for boarding – after Broncos players turned away from a check. Not only does the practice equivalent to diving, but turning away from a check and facing the wall unnecessarily exposes players to serious injury. Even more disconcerting is that some coaches promote the tactic.

• Despite a 41-save effort from Dominic Vicari and two goals from Drew Miller in the final 2:26 of regulation, the assembled media at Yost Ice Arena for Friday’s Michigan State-Michigan game elected the Wolverines’ Jeff Tambellini as the No. 1 star of the evening. Apparently, Katherine Harris is counting three stars votes in Ann Arbor.

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report

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