February 1, 2007
The Great Santorelli

By James Jahnke

Mike Santorelli knows who Ted Cook is, and he knows why he knows who Ted Cook is.

Cook, the dynamic Niagara sophomore, leads the nation with 26 goals. Santorelli, the dynamic Northern Michigan junior, is right behind with 25. Santorelli is reluctant to talk about his personal achievements, but he admits that winning the national goal-scoring crown would be “a huge thing to have.” To do so, he’ll have to pass Cook – who, like Santorelli, was at the Maverick Stampede in October, although their teams didn’t face each other – and hold off pursuers such as North Dakota’s Ryan Duncan (21 goals) during the season’s final month.

CCHA Notebook

Patriotic Puckhead: 1st Lt. James Kolky, better known as "Kujo" of Northern Michigan's rowdy Puckhead fan group, mans the door to the Wildcats' bench during last weekend's game at Nebraska-Omaha. For more on Kolky, check out this week's Stick Salute.

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“If it happens, it happens,” Santorelli said, “but if it doesn’t, hopefully it will just help me grow as a player.”

That’s a common theme with Santorelli, a native of Burnaby, B.C. He readily credits assistant coach John Kyle and his linemates, especially Rob Lehtinen, for his success, and he tends to spin forward assessments of his game. Instead of talking about what he does well now, he’ll offer up how he wants to get better in the future.

Certainly, one of those areas for improvement is defense. Like many gifted offensive players, Santorelli struggles at times to give the same effort in his own zone. The sixth-round Predators draft pick from 2004 knows he must improve that facet of his game to play professionally. But he also realizes that for Northern Michigan to be successful this season, he has to put the puck in the net.

Santorelli has 40 points this season. Second-place Darin Olver (who has led the Wildcats in scoring each of the previous three years) has 27. After them, the next-highest point total is 16. In terms of goals, Santorelli has 25, Olver has 11 and no one else is in double digits. It’s quite a burden for one player, but Santorelli doesn’t mind.

“If I only had eight goals or something, I wouldn’t be doing anything for the team,” said Santorelli, who has 12 goals in NMU’s 10 games since New Year’s Eve. “Coach always tells us to do what we can for the team, and what I do is provide offense. I take pride in scoring goals.”

Now if only some other Wildcats would. NMU has the second-worst offense in the CCHA, at 2.47 goals per game heading into this weekend’s rivalry series against Lake Superior State. Having been swept by the Lakers in December, Northern is in danger of losing the Cappo Cup for the first time since 2000.

Even so, and even though the Wildcats are in ninth place in the CCHA, Santorelli thinks they’re close to gaining the form expected of a team with eight NHL draft picks.

“We’ve been in probably 70 percent of the games we’ve lost,” he said. “It’s just a matter of learning how to play in some late-game situations where you’re up a goal or down a goal with five minutes left. I think we’re coming around.”


Bombarded Bulldogs: Ferris State gave up 15 goals to Michigan last weekend, and the 11th-place Bulldogs have held their opponent under three goals just once in 2007. (Fittingly, that one time was a loss, 2-1 in overtime to Wayne State.)

Coach Bob Daniels said things aren’t as bad as they appear, although he is frustrated that taking care of the puck is one of the team’s weaknesses as the calendar rolls into February. He said playing an aggressive team such as the Wolverines exacerbated Ferris’ puck-possession issue, leading to nine goals against Friday and six Saturday.

FSU’s goaltending hasn’t been up to snuff, either, which has re-opened the race for the No. 1 spot, once held firmly by sophomore Mitch O’Keefe. Junior Derek MacIntyre has played in five of the last eight games after playing just two before New Year’s. Neither goalie’s numbers are good: O’Keefe is 4-17-3 with a 3.20 goals-against average and .879 save percentage, while MacIntyre is 3-1 with a 5.00 GAA and .830 percentage (he played every minute of Friday’s 9-4 loss at U-M). So, for the time being, including this weekend against visiting Ohio State, Daniels is going to rotate them.

“The issue we were having is that Mitch was having trouble putting together back-to-back games,” Daniels said. “He was playing well on Fridays, but then struggling the next night. At one point, we looked at his save percentages from one night to the next, and they were drastically different. So, that, and the fact that MacIntyre had been working very hard in practice, we decided to do a split. We’ll go with that until one of them emerges — or if the split works, we’ll just stay with it.”


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Michigan State at Nebraska-Omaha (Fri.-Sat.)
The Mavericks, afterthoughts for most of this season, amazingly sit just three points behind the Spartans for fourth place in the CCHA and the last playoff bye. MSU does have one game in hand on UNO, but a three- or four-point weekend by the Mavs would make things quite interesting. The Spartans, meanwhile, are tied with North Dakota for the longest winning streak in the nation (five).

While you’re there: The stage version of the Lion King is in Omaha for a month, including a 2 p.m. performance Saturday at Orpheum Theater. Think of it as your pregame skate.

Stick Salute

A salute (literally and figuratively) to Northern Michigan and coach Walt Kyle, who invited Puckhead legend Kujo to join the Wildcats on the bench as a “guest coach” during last weekend’s series in Omaha. Kujo, a.k.a. 1st Lt. James Kolky, is being deployed to Iraq on Sunday, so this was his last chance to see his beloved Wildcats before leaving. He was on the bench in full uniform (U.S. Army, not Puckhead) on Friday at the Qwest Center, and got a standing ovation from the road crowd. Though the Wildcats were swept by UNO, Kujo couldn’t have asked for a better send-off. “He will be in our prayers,” Kyle said.

Bench Minor

We deserve it. Last week, we forgot to mention that Alaska senior Curtis Fraser also reached 100 career points in January. D’oh. In fact, after a four-point weekend at Bowling Green, Fraser is up to 106 (55g, 51a). Belated congrats, and good luck against Miami this weekend.

• Notre Dame goalie David Brown works regularly with a sports psychologist to make sure he’s focusing on the proper things. But the Hobey Baker front-runner would have to be a robot to not be salivating about playing Bowling Green this weekend. The Falcons have scored just seven goals in their last eight games (0-7-1).

• Isn’t it incredible that Saturday against Western Michigan will be Senior Night for Michigan? The Wolverines’ final six games of the regular season are away from Yost Ice Arena.

• Fun with numbers: All 18 Ferris State skaters had a shot on goal during Friday’s 9-4 loss at Michigan. The Bulldogs finished with 40 shots in all. ... Maligned Michigan goalie Billy Sauer was great in January, posting a 6-1 record, 2.01 goals-against average and .935 save percentage. ... Bowling Green (5-22-2) has not won a game this season in which leading scorer Jonathan Masumoto has failed to notch multiple points. The Falcons are 5-2-0 when he does.

• Does reading Michigan State defenseman Daniel Vukovic’s name in the box score remind anyone else of Daniel Vosovic from "Project Runway" season two? No? Really? OK then.

• Speaking of great names, Bowling Green freshman forward Tommy Dee doesn’t get enough credit. Is he kickin’ it with Pam Anderson? Hyping Colt .45? Chasing an escaped Harrison Ford? Being jocked by the girl around the way? OK, sorry for the Beastie Boys reference. That was a stretch.

• Lake Superior freshman forward John Scrymgeour most likely will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury, unless the Lakers go deep into the national playoffs. He has three goals and two assists in 26 games.

• Notre Dame football coach Charlie Weis was spotted at Friday’s ND-Miami game at the Joyce Center. He’d make a good goalie, no?

• During his chat with media members following his team's 2-2 tie with Miami Saturday, Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson said one of the goaltenders on the first team he ever coached — that would be the Fraser (Mich.) Avengers midget A team — was Jeff Zatkoff, Sr., father of the current Miami netminder. Jackson diplomatically reported that the elder Zatkoff, who stands 6-foot-8 and played college hoops at Eastern Michigan, "was a better basketball player.""

• Former Spartan forward Ash Goldie (2001-05) was scheduled to be on “The Price is Right” on Wednesday morning. But we, being working men at INCH, missed it. Hope he won A NEW CAR!!!! Or maybe he successfully honed his Plinko skills during football tailgating at MSU.

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report. James Jahnke can be reached at jahnke@insidecollegehockey.com.