By Paul Szczechura’s own admission,
Western Michigan was “pretty bad” in losses
to Robert Morris and Niagara to start the season.
So with Ohio State coming to town last weekend, a
bloodbath was inevitable, right?
“Actually, we always get up for
the bigger games around here,” Szczechura said.
“It’s kind of a problem, really. We need
to be ready for everyone.”
Szczechura and the Broncos certainly
were ready for the Buckeyes, sweeping the No. 5 team
in the INCH Power Rankings right out of Lawson Arena.
Szczechura accumulated seven points (one goal, six
assists) as the high-powered WMU offense finally looked
dangerous, scoring 10 goals. It was a major statement
series for a Western team that was predicted to be
tethered to the double-digit portion of the CCHA standings
“We’ve seen improvement
from Week 1 to Week 2 and then again to the Ohio State
series,” coach Jim Culhane said. “Now
we need to see whether we can go forward. I’m
interested to see how mentally tough the team is.”
Such mental toughness is the main intangible
in question in Kalamazoo. With six freshmen and five
sophomores in the lineup, it’s tough to predict
where the Broncos will go from here. Will they build
on the Ohio State shockers and seriously challenge
for home ice in the playoffs? Or will Lake Superior
State come into Lawson this weekend, catch them napping
again and derail any momentum generated last weekend?
If you know the answer, call Culhane.
“I think we’re in good shape,”
he said. “We’re beaten up along the blue
line, but we just have to keep getting better. How
good we will be will be determined by our areas of
improvement, which is to get better defensively and
have a better road record.”
SEEN AND HEARD IN THE CCHA
Cheer up, Brutus –
On the other side of the two upsets was Ohio State,
which came in with a top-five ranking and left with
a sub-.500 record. At 2-3-1 overall, OSU is one of
just four CCHA teams with a losing record –
and we’re pretty sure the Buckeyes weren’t
planning on keeping company with Notre Dame, Bowling
Green and Lake Superior State before the season started.
So what’s gone wrong in Columbus?
Well, special teams for one thing. Western Michigan
converted 7 of 17 power plays, while OSU went 0-for-18.
That more than offset the Buckeyes’ 78-36 shots
advantage. Ohio State also got sub-par goaltending
from all-CCHA performer David Caruso and his backup,
Ian Keserich, and the Bucks were victimized by bad
luck. Leading by a goal halfway through the third
period of Saturday’s game, a WMU dump-in took
a funny bounce off the boards and squirted out in
front of a vacated OSU net. Jason Moul’s goal
tied the game (which the Buckeyes had led 4-1) and
set up the eventual sweep.
“We haven’t scored a goal
like that in my 13 years here,” OSU coach John
Markell said. “It was kind of like, ‘Are
you kidding me?’”
But Markell’s not making excuses
for his club, which was the odds-on favorite to win
the CCHA in preseason polls.
“We could have competed a little
harder,” he said. “And we’ve been
a little snake-bitten on the offensive end. We might
change some guys and some positions on the power play.
But we’ve been put on a pedestal, and we’ve
warned the guys that they have to learn how to deal
with that. It’s new for us. Every program has
to go through it. Boston College, Minnesota, Michigan,
they’ve gone through it.
"Hopefully, we’ve learned
our lesson. I still love our hockey club –
I don’t like them at times –
but I think we’ll be there at the end.”
In Search of Mojo – Two
of the most famous hardhats in the CCHA have been
hung up, as Mojo (real name Darren Muljo) and his
sister Lujo (Linda Muljo) “retired” from
the Puckheads fan group at Northern Michigan last
month. Mojo, Lujo and their band of merry men and
women have been fixtures at NMU home and road games
for the past eight years, embodying the spirit of
college hockey fandom and making sure every opposing
goalie knows that he is, in fact, a sieve.
Mojo said he felt it was time to “pass
the torch” to a new generation of younger Puckheads.
He and Lujo were the final original members of one
of the best fan groups in the nation. Luminaries such
as Banjo, Kujo, Hojo, G-moneyjo, The Big Guy and others
have previously moved on to other parts of the country.
Now, student Average-jo (Erich Merrill) takes the
reins of what Mojo hopes will become a more student-friendly
outfit in Marquette.
“I'll continue working on the
side with Average-jo and the Puckheads so that they
stay true to our founding beliefs: That the only requirement
to be a Puckhead is that you truly love NMU hockey,
you’re not afraid to show it, and that, win
or lose, you smile, show respect for other teams’
fans and be good ambassadors for NMU and college hockey
in general,” Mojo said.
“Even though we have hung up the
jerseys and laid down the hardhats for the last time,
we will continue being ambassadors and friends of
college hockey. I'm still Mojo and although departed
from the Puckheads, I'll continue to show my support
for NMU hockey the only way I know how ... by being
loud and proud!”
Mojo also mentioned that he’s
in the market for a good writer (present company excluded).
Apparently, the sing-alongs with opposing coaches,
players and fans, photo-ops with mascots and general
shenanigans across the Midwest would make for a good
book. If interested, apply in person at the Berry
Great Weekend Getaway
Michigan at Michigan State (Fri.-Sat.) These might be the
hottest teams in the CCHA at the moment, and
both will venture into unfamiliar terrain. The
series is NMU’s first trip outside of
the Upper Peninsula this year, while Friday
marks MSU’s regular-season home opener.
The Spartans have performed quite well through
a brutal early season schedule, and this weekend
promises to be just as tough. Getting and playing
with a lead will be important to both squads.
If Northern is to have success, it will be without
forward Dusty Collins on Friday. He is suspended
one contest after picking up a game disqualification
against Lake Superior State.
While you’re there:
Make some noise at Munn, will ya? After the
games, Crunchy’s should be hopping with
a hockey crowd, especially with Northern in
belated thumbs up to Notre Dame’s gold
helmets, being worn for the first time
since 1976. They are created with the same gold
metallic paint as the Irish football helmets,
and like the football headgear, have no markings
except an American flag on the back. The next
CCHA team we’d like to see adopt its school’s
football helmet design: Ohio State. Buckeye
stickers and all.
failed to stop drilling when they felt resistance
at BGSU Ice Arena on Thursday night
sure caused some inconvenience. The game between
Ferris State and Bowling Green had to be suspended
when a drill used to clean out the holes for
net moorings accidentally punctured a pipe beneath
the ice at the goal line during the first intermission,
releasing a pink ooze onto the ice. The rink
was fine by BG’s Monday practice, but
no makeup date for the game has been announced.
It will resume where it left off, 0-0 at the
start of the second period with Ferris on a
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
• For an answer to how
Notre Dame broke its 22-game winless skid
(dating to last season), look to the toilet. During
new Irish coach Jeff Jackson’s first team meeting
back in September, he had every returning player write
down what they hated about their dismal 2004-05 season
on index cards. He then took the index cards down
to where center ice would be at the Joyce Center,
threw them in a wastebasket and burned them. The ashes
were placed in a jar in the locker room to serve as
a reminder of last year’s depths. But things
didn’t get much better as the Irish stumbled
to a 0-3 start, so during the first intermission of
Saturday’s home game against Princeton, Jackson
took the ashes and flushed them down a locker-room
“(The players) laughed a little
bit, but the toilet flushed, and last year is behind
us,” Jackson said. “I’m just glad
it’s behind them and we can move on.”
Notre Dame went out and scored two goals
in the second period and beat the Tigers, 2-0, for
its first win since Jan. 2. Furthermore, it was the
Irish’s first victory by more than one goal
since the 2003-04 season.
• The Fighting Irish have
had some injury problems, most notably captain
T.J. Jindra’s strained shoulder suffered against
Denver. He didn’t play in either game against
Princeton, and is questionable for this weekend’s
home-and-home versus Michigan. On the bright side,
the Irish welcomed back sophomore defenseman Dan VeNard,
who missed the first three games with a stress fracture.
• Michigan State has plenty of
positives emanating from its 3-1-1 start, but one
negative has been the Spartans’ power play.
Despite getting three man-advantage tallies at Cornell,
they still are only clicking at 17.5 percent, and
coach Rick Comley thinks the problem goes deeper than
common early season malaise. MSU lacks a dangerous
man at the point because it doesn’t have a top-flight
offensive defenseman on the roster. “We’ll
have to try a couple of different things,” Comley
said. “We’re a little bit deficient of
the right power-play guy, and that’s been our
biggest problem this year.” He hopes freshman
forward Justin Abdelkader will be the answer ...
• ... but Abdelkader won’t
be available for Friday’s game against
Northern Michigan because he received a game disqualification
late in the series finale at Cornell. That means as
many as eight would-be contributors might be out of
the Spartans’ lineup against the Wildcats. Forward
Jim McKenzie (leg) and defensemen Chris Snavely (shoulder)
and Brandon Gentile (abdomen) are questionable, while
forwards David Booth (rib, not shoulder as previously
thought), Chris Mueller (shoulder), Tim Kennedy (hand)
and Nick Sucharski (mononucleosis) are out. The thinned
lineup has created opportunities for regularly scratched
players such as junior defenseman Brandon Warner,
who scored his first career goal Saturday against
the Big Red while taking shifts at forward.
• The CCHA finished the
early part of its nonconference schedule
with a 2-2-0 weekend (splits by MSU at Cornell and
Notre Dame hosting Princeton). The league doesn’t
get to test itself against outsiders again until Nov.
18-19, when Bemidji State visits Ferris State.
• Miami is putting on
a neat jersey auction for which the RedHawks
will wear throwback jerseys from 1978 (their first
varsity campaign) during every Saturday night home
game. At least two game-worn jerseys will be auctioned
off each home weekend, with the winners collecting
their prizes after the season. Unfortunately, player
nameplates will be removed. Starting Dec. 2, a “legendary”
Miami jersey will be auctioned during each home weekend.
Those sweaters represent Kevyn Adams, Alain Chevrier,
George Gwozdecky, Randy Robitaille, Steve Cady, Brian
Savage and Dan Boyle.
• Several backup goalies
helped their teams bounce back from a first-night
loss last weekend. Michigan’s Noah Ruden beat
Alaska Fairbanks, Michigan State’s Jeff Lerg
beat Cornell and Notre Dame’s Jordan Pearce
(who might be considered a co-No. 1) beat Princeton.
But Ohio State’s Keserich wasn’t as fortunate,
losing to Western Michigan in his first start since
Dec. 11, 2004.
• Two start times for
Ohio State games have been changed. Saturday’s
home tilt against Miami has been moved back to 8:05
p.m. because of the Buckeye football game against
Illinois (fans with football tickets can gain free
admission to the hockey game). And OSU’s Jan.
7 game at Bowling Green has been moved from 4:05 p.m.
back to 7:05 p.m. to accommodate television (which
prompted the first switch).
• Michigan notes:
Being Will Ferrell fans, we liked this answer from
Wolverines forward T.J. Hensick’s interview
with Go Blue Wolverine magazine:
GBW: What kind
of car do you drive? T.J.: 2005 Dodge Stratus.
Red Berenson was one of 35 players
from Team Canada’s 1972 Summit Series squad
inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame on
A variety of sources were utilized
in the compilation of this report.