With as many
teams bunched in the middle of the CCHA standings as there are,
the league’s playoff picture heading into the penultimate
weekend of the regular season is surprisingly clear. Maybe it’s
the harmonic balance – three teams have clinched a first-round
home playoff series (Michigan, Ohio State and Northern Michigan)
and three teams already know they’ll be on the road during
the second weekend in March (Ferris State, Western Michigan and
leaves six teams jockeying for the three remaining home ice spots.
The half-dozen can be further broken down into three groups.
Control: Fourth-place Nebraska-Omaha (16-12-4 overall,
12-10-4 CCHA) and fifth-place Bowling Green (15-11-4, 12-9-3)
have uncomplicated tasks – get two points over the next
two weeks and they’re locked in. The Mavericks’ set
against the Nanooks is their last league series of the regular
season – they close with a non-conference, home-and-home
series with Minnesota State, Mankato. The Falcons, meanwhile,
have four CCHA games remaining, but they’re tough home-and-home
series with Michigan State and Michigan.
A Little Help: After a disastrous first half,
sixth-place Miami (15-15-4, 11-12-3) has picked itself off the
mat and virtually controls its own destiny with regard to a top-six
finish. That would require a sweep of Ohio State in a home-and-home
series March 4-5 and a loss or tie from Michigan State in one
of its last four games.
Speaking of the eighth-place Spartans (14-14-4, 9-12-3), they
close out the regular season with home-and-home series against
the aforementioned Bowling Green and last-place Notre Dame. The
cleanest scenario for MSU to earn a home ice berth – sweeps
against the Falcons and Fighting Irish, and two Miami losses to
Not Bloody Likely: Alaska-Fairbanks (11-14-3,
10-13-1) enters the weekend in seventh place in the CCHA standings,
but because Michigan State has two games in hand, they’ve
got the easier road to home ice. UAF’s best bet is to sweep
UNO this weekend, then hope for Michigan State and Lake Superior
State to lose at least one of its last four games and Ohio State
take three of four points from Miami.
For all intents and purposes, ninth-place Lake Superior State
(8-17-7, 7-11-6) is alive in Euclidean terms only. The Lakers
would need back-to-back sweeps against Western Michigan and Northern
Michigan, respectively, a Miami-Ohio State split and for Michigan
State to go 1-3 in its last four.
SEEN AND HEARD IN THE CCHA
Hood is Good: Even before he arrived on the
Ohio State campus, freshman Kyle Hood had a reputation as an offensive
defenseman. After all, he scored 66 points in 58 regular season
games for the British Columbia Junior Hockey League’s Cowichan
Valley Capitals last year.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Osoyoos, B.C.,
native hasn’t looked out of place at forward, where coach
John Markell moved him starting with the Buckeyes’ 2-2 tie
against Colorado College in the Ohio Hockey Classic championship
game Dec. 30. In 15 games up front, Hood has four goals and nine
assists. He’s currently in the midst of a five-game point
streak and put his name on the score sheet in all but one of OSU’s
last 10 contests.
“It’s been working out OK,” said the 5-11, 190-pound
Hood, who last played forward during his first year of junior
hockey with the BCHL’s Penticton Panthers in 2001-02. “The
coaches bear with me. I’ve made little mistakes here and
there. I just try to keep up with my linemates the best I can.”
For the most part, Hood has skated as a fourth-line winger. That
changed last weekend, however, when he jumped to right side on
a line with fellow freshmen Tom Fritsche (OSU’s leading
scorer with 35 points) and Dominic Maiani (29 points).
They’re great offensive talents and real solid guys to play
with,” said Hood, who also mans the point on the Buckeyes’
top power play unit. “I was the high guy all the time. I
just let those two go down there and cycle away.”
Ironically, Hood says the toughest transition has been managing
his responsibilities in the defensive zone – “You’ve
always got to read off the forwards and make sure you’re
in position,” he said – and he enjoys being able to
create scoring chances by outworking opponents. As for the future,
Hood doesn’t know if he’ll move back to defense this
“As long as I’m playing and helping out the team as
best I can, I’m happy,” Hood said. “Whether
it’s the first line or the fourth line or the third set
on defense, I’m not real concerned. I’m just looking
to go out there and do what I can do to help the team win every
Fort Wayne, Fenway and the Frozen Tundra: For
the people who run Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort
Wayne, the most important number from last week’s neutral-site
game featuring Michigan and Notre Dame wasn’t the 9-2 final.
It was 7,948, as in the number of fans who attended the first
college hockey game in the 53-year-old building’s history.
“In terms of the building, the atmosphere, the crowd, everything…I
thought it was tremendous,” Notre Dame coach Dave Poulin
said. “I’m extremely appreciative of the way we were
treated. I’d love to have a little different result, but
I’d love to come back.”
coach Red Berenson said he, too, would welcome a return engagement
in Fort Wayne in the future. Coliseum officials are working with
the CCHA in an effort to secure an NCAA Regional for the 10,500-seat
arena between 2008-2011. Poulin believes Fort Wayne deserves serious
play a regular-season game and have the crowd respond the way
they did, I don’t think there’s a question this is
that caliber of facility,” he said.
Boston Globe, meanwhile, Mark Blaudschun – citing
an athletic department source at Boston College – wrote
that BC and Boston University are investigating the possibility
of playing an outdoor doubleheader at Fenway Park in December.
The article specifically mentioned Michigan and Michigan State
as potential opponents.
would be a thrill,” said MSU sophomore forward Drew Miller
when asked about the prospect of playing against the backdrop
of Pesky’s Pole and the Green Monster. “Anytime there’s
a big event like that, it’d be really cool to be a part
storied athletic venue – Lambeau Field in Green Bay –
appears to be on the verge of hosting an outdoor hockey game.
According to Thursday’s edition of the Wisconsin State
Journal, Michigan Tech and Ohio State are the leading candidates
to play Wisconsin in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game on Feb.
11, 2006. Notre Dame is also mentioned as a possible opponent.
Once the opponent is finalized, the Green Bay Packers, the University
of Wisconsin and the WCHA could have an agreement in place as
soon as next month.
CEO John Jones, who’s spearheading the effort, envisions
an ampitheatre-type seating arrangement that could accommodate
30,000 to 35,000 spectators.
not trying to set any attendance records," Jones said to
Wisconsin hockey beat writer Andy Baggott. "We're just trying
to give a great location and atmosphere for the Badger skaters
to get on the ice and have a good game. That's our vision."
at Nebraska-Omaha (Fri.-Sat.)
Yeah, this series has playoff implications, blah,
blah, blah. The real reason to take in this two-game set –
the last CCHA regular-season series for both teams –
is to show appreciation for UNO coach Mike Kemp and UAF bench
boss Tavis McMillan. Both have taken incredibly young teams
to the brink of top-six finishes in the league standings.
The job Kemp has done this season is quite remarkable. The
Mavs finished last in the league last season. This year, they’ll
likely finish fourth despite the fact that just one senior
and one junior have played in more than half of the team’s
you’re there: Qwest Center undergoes a rapid transformation
following Friday’s game as the Creighton men’s
basketball squad, one of five teams in the ultra-competitive
Missouri Valley Conference, entertains last-place Indiana
State for a 1 p.m. tip-off Saturday. If you’re with
a group, debate amongst yourselves who is the greatest player
in Blue Jay history – Kyle Korver and Paul Silas are
candidates, but we’ll take Benoit Benjamin, the all-time
leader in giant body-to-small head ratio.
Kudos to Fort Wayne
for putting on a great show for Friday’s
Michigan-Notre Dame tilt. The War Memorial Coliseum is a
fine venue and, based on the attendance and the buzz in
the concourses between periods, the city seems primed to
embrace future college hockey events.
reality of minor league hockey is that the profitability
of a franchise hinges on promotions and advertising, not
wins and losses. Still, it was a tad disconcerting to watch
Friday’s game in Fort Wayne and see 27 advertisements
on the War Memorial Coliseum ice sheet. The only
business missing was Chico's Bail Bonds.
AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
• In order to keep its slim hopes of a top-six
finish in the conference standings alive, Alaska-Fairbanks
will have to beat Nebraska-Omaha Friday without the services of
at least two of its regulars. Freshman defenseman Darcy
Campbell and freshman forward Ryan McLeod were both whistled for
major penalties and game disqualifications for checking from behind
in the Nanooks’ 5-4 loss to Miami Saturday, and therefore
must miss the front end of this weekend’s series at UNO.
Another freshman, forward Don Johnson, hurt his knee midway through
the first period of Saturday’s loss.
is some positive news on the injury front for UAF, however. Senior
defenseman Cramer Hickey could return to the lineup for the UNO
series. He’s been out since Jan. 21 with a knee problem.
club with injury concerns is Michigan State. The Spartans
could be without a pair of juniors – forward David Booth
and defenseman Corey Potter – for this weekend’s
home-and-home series with Bowling Green. Both were hurt last Friday
in MSU’s win over Ohio State at Munn Ice Arena. Booth missed
the rematch with the Buckeyes with a rib strain. Potter, on the
other hand, tried to go Saturday despite a hip pointer, but only
managed a handful of shifts before leaving the game. Both are
listed as day-to-day.
was a good weekend for Jordan Sigalet and his Bowling Green teammates.
On the ice, the senior goaltender from Surrey, B.C., stopped 51
of the 54 shots he faced as the Falcons swept visiting Western
Michigan and virtually assured themselves a home series in the
first round of the CCHA playoffs. Off the ice, more than
$10,600 was raised at BGSU Ice Arena in conjunction with
the team’s Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Weekend spearheaded
week was a really busy week,” said Sigalet, who announced
in December he had MS. “I just wanted to make it look as
professional as possible and raise as much money as possible.”
Notre Dame followed its loss to Michigan in Fort Wayne Friday
by dropping a 6-3 decision to the Wolverines in Ann Arbor the
next night, and now the Fighting Irish are on the doorstep
of a dubious distinction – the team’s winless
streak currently stands at 15 games (0-13-2), one shy of the school
record set during the 1988-89 campaign, when Notre Dame endured
an 0-14-2 stretch. The Irish have this weekend off, but meet Michigan
State – one of the five teams they’ve beaten this
season – in a home-and-home series March 4-5.
microcosm of Notre Dame's season: It's the first period
of Friday's game against Michigan. The Fighting Irish trail 2-1
and are about to kill a Wolverine power play. With less than 15
seconds remaining in the minor penalty, forward T.J. Jindra attempts
to bat the puck out of the Notre Dame end with his hand...and
his glove flies over the glass and into the fifth row of the arena.
Referee Mark Wilkins whistles Jindra for delay of game. The Wolverines
score on the ensuing man advantage to take a 3-1 lead.
"That's kinda the way it’s been going," Poulin
said. "It’s been a very, very difficult year all the
way around in every aspect of it. But we’ve played hard
Last month, we turned the spotlight on Nebraska-Omaha
forward Bill Thomas, the nation’s leading point-getter
among freshmen who was on track to top the school’s single-season
rookie scoring mark set by linemate Scott Parse last year. Last
Friday in Sault Ste. Marie, Thomas surpassed Parse’s mark
when he recorded his 36th point of the season on a power-play
goal in the second period of the Mavericks’ 5-2 win at Lake
Superior State. Not only did Parse assist on that goal, but he
also set up Thomas’s second goal of the night in the third
the third time this season, Northern Michigan broke its
single-game attendance record as 4,216 packed Berry Events
Center last Thursday to see the Wildcats skate to a 3-3 draw with
non-conference rival Michigan Tech. That eclipsed the mark set
Nov. 6, when 4,197 were on hand to watch the same two teams. The
first time NMU broke its home attendance record was Oct. 22, when
4,163 saw the host team beat Michigan State.
has given us many wonderful things – Labatt Blue, The Tragically
Hip, Eugene Levy – but the new CCHA promo that runs
during the league’s television broadcasts isn’t
one of them. The spot produced by Leafs TV, which is owned and
operated by the Toronto Maple Leafs, is visually appealing, but
includes clips of Boston College’s Ben Eaves and Michigan
Tech’s Colin Murphy. Unless a radical realignment was recently
(and secretly) announced, the Eagles and Huskies aren’t
in the CCHA.
variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report