February 8, 2007
Happy to be in Sault Ste. Marie

By James Jahnke

Jim Roque took over as coach at Lake Superior State before last season, just as Jeff Jackson did at Notre Dame. This season, Jackson – a former LSSU coach – has guided the Fighting Irish to the No. 1 spot in the nation. Roque’s Lakers sit in sixth place in the CCHA.

But all jobs are not created equal, and Roque said he is “ecstatic” with where his team is.

CCHA Notebook

So Happy Together: Senior forward Jeffrey Rainville and Lake Superior State are part of a tight cluster of teams battling for home ice in the first round of the CCHA playoffs.

National TV Schedule

“Notre Dame has had NHL-caliber players in their program for a few years now, so Jeff knew they were going to be good when he went there,” Roque said. “He didn’t take Lake State’s job again, you know? He waited for Notre Dame.

“As for us, we didn’t know what we had coming into the year. We had concerns with having four freshmen on defense. But we’ve been in almost every game we’ve played. If I have any complaints, I thought we’d score a little more. We’re still playing an offensive game, letting guys be creative. We’re not sitting back and trapping or anything like that.”

Roque would love to recruit more blue-chip offensive firepower, similar to what Jackson has in South Bend. He has long understood that it’s not easy to lure high-end players to Sault Ste. Marie, but it won’t keep him from trying. He used the example of NHL veteran Doug Weight, who played at Lake State from 1989-91, and he also singled out freshman forward Nathan Perkovich as the kind of player he seeks.

“We just need a couple of good breaks,” Roque said. “We try every year to get different kids to visit us, and we haven’t been able to pull it off. We’re going to go after the best player we can get, bring them up here and show them everything we have.”

That’s all in the future, though. At present, the Lakers are near the top of a tightly bunched gaggle of teams trying to secure home ice for the first round of the league playoffs. It’s a good position, but a tough test looms this weekend with a series at Miami’s new Steve Cady Arena. The RedHawks have fallen to third place and are desperate to regain some traction.

“We’re probably more excited about going down to Miami than we’ve ever been, because of the new building,” Roque said. “If you look back, we had some tough times at the old Goggin through the years. So we’re looking forward to playing in that new arena.”


Swallowing the whistle: Mark Wilkins refereed Michigan State’s 5-1 win over host Nebraska-Omaha on Friday. It was the first college hockey game with zero penalties since Lake Superior State beat Notre Dame, 3-0, on March 5, 2004.

Wilkins did that game, too. But it’s just a coincidence, he says.

“I was joking with (CCHA director of official) Brian Hart that the last game I did before Friday, I had Bowling Green and Alaska, and we had 28 penalties,” Wilkins said this week from his office in Indiana. “I’ve been known to call a lot of penalties, all the way back to my days of doing minor pro hockey. So, it’s just the way the game unfolds.”

Wilkins said he became more and more cognizant of the fact that the game was penalty-free as it went along, but there was “no way” that it influenced his officiating. MSU coach Rick Comley was quoted in the Lansing State Journal as saying, “For two and a half periods, it was legitimate. Late in the third, I thought there were a couple that could have been called.”

Wilkins agreed that the aggressiveness picked up late in the game, but he said even the hardest of hits were clean. Even better, he said, was there was no after-the-whistle chippiness by players, nor complaining by the benches. From an officiating standpoint, it was a perfect game.

“The game is for the players, we’re just sidenotes,” Wilkins said. “We only step in when the players force us to, just reacting to what happens. I don’t get a bonus or an ‘attaboy’ or anything like that because I don’t call a penalty for a game. It does me no good. I call the penalties that are there.”

The Falconer: Bowling Green has gone from 16 wins in 2004-05 to 13 last season to five this season, but coach Scott Paluch believes this year’s group is getting better.

“There’s no question we’re not where we want to be, but we’re a much-improved team from the beginning of the season,” Paluch said. “That said, we’re still not earning points, which is what it’s all about, and I still believe that’s what this team here right now can do.”

In terms of the standings, the Falcons don’t have much to play for. Eleventh-place Ferris State has twice as many points as BGSU (14-7). But every team makes the CCHA playoffs, so Paluch is pointing toward that as an opportunity. It all starts this weekend, he said, when Michigan visits for a single game Friday.

“This game is an opportunity to put a great challenge in front of the guys and see what we can do,” Paluch said. “I think they know how big this win would be right now.”


Great Weekend Getaway
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Alaska at Western Michigan

There are sexier matchups this week, such as MSU-Michigan and UNO-Notre Dame, but this series at Lawson Arena will have great bearing on who sells tickets for the first round of the league tournament, and who will pack their bags and jump on a bus (or plane). The Nanooks and Broncos are part of a three-way tie for eighth place in the league, and eighth place is important because that’s the last home-ice slot in the first round.

While you’re there: Stick around Sunday and watch the United Hockey League’s Kalamazoo Wings host the Fort Wayne Komets at 4 p.m. The only downer is that you’ll miss the K-Wings’ famous Valentine’s Day pink-ice game by a few days.

Stick Salute

Hockey Day in Michigan, the brainchild of the CCHA, is this weekend, and it has created a pretty good buzz in just its second year of existence. Among other things, the Red Wings will hold an open practice, three high school games will be played at Joe Louis Arena, Fox Sports Net will televise a CCHA doubleheader, and hundreds of children from across the state will participate in “Hockey is Fun” clinics from Detroit to Marquette. Nice job all around

Bench Minor

Miami is 0-2-2 in its last four games, its longest winless skid since March 2005, and it is just two points ahead of fourth-place Michigan State, which has three games in hand. The good news for the RedHawks is that they’re 12-3-1 at home, and Lake Superior State visits this weekend.

• Nebraska-Omaha suspended senior Bobby Henderson and sophomore Adam Bartholomay, both defensemen, for the remainder of the season after they were arrested for public intoxication Sunday night at a casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

"They were in a situation they shouldn't have been in," coach Mike Kemp told The Gateway newspaper.

Citing the police report, the paper also reported that Henderson told officers, "I am a hockey player. I'll get out of this." In the squad car, Henderson head-butted the cage and yelled, "I play for the Mavs, you can't (expletive) with me."

Bartholomay, who also plays forward, had 19 points in 29 games this season. Henderson had an assist in 11 games.

• Michigan freshman defenseman Chris Summers skated on a forward line during practice this week after finishing Saturday’s game up front in the wake of a shoulder injury to Brian Lebler. Lebler is expected to play this weekend, but Summers might still play forward after scoring the first goal of his career Saturday (albeit an empty-netter).

• Good anecdote from Michigan defenseman Matt Hunwick on ccha.com: “The best part of growing up in Michigan, especially in the metro Detroit area, is having the Red Wings and living close enough to Canada to get CBC and being able to watch 'Hockey Night in Canada' every Saturday night. I used to love watching HNIC, and I still do. Don Cherry in the Coach’s Corner was a highlight of my Saturday night when I was younger. After home games at Yost, I still put on CBC in the players’ lounge after Saturday night games.”

• We always try to acknowledge when the players hit the 100-point mark for their career. Sometimes, we miss one (sorry, Alex Nikiforuk). But as impressive as it is to hit the century mark, it’s incredible in this era of hockey to hit 200, as Michigan’s T.J. Hensick did it with a four-point game at Western Michigan last week. With 66 goals and 137 assists for 203 points, Hensick became the 12th Wolverine to reach the mark, and the first since Bill Muckalt in 1998.

• The Wolverines have created a Web site to tout Hensick’s Hobey Baker Award candidacy: www.mgoblue.com/hensick4hobey.

• LSSU senior forward Jeff Rainville (9-8–17) will play against Miami this weekend after getting “banged up” and missing last Saturday’s game against Northern Michigan, Roque said.

• Alaska will have four sets of brothers on its roster next season. Wow.

Brandon and Dion Knelson will be sophomores, Aaron and Jeff Lee will be a senior and a sophomore, Jordie and Jamie Benn have signed letters of intent to be freshmen, and Dustin and Bryant Molle will be a sophomore and a freshman. (Dustin has transferred from Alaska Anchorage.) The Nanooks’ brotherly love worked during last weekend’s three-point effort against Miami, as Aaron Lee scored the winning goal Friday and Jeff Lee notched the tying tally Saturday.

• Notre Dame is ranked No. 1 for the first time in school history, which Jackson said two weekends ago might be the worst thing that could have happened to the team. But the undeniable good news for the Irish is that they're the first squad to lock up a first-round bye in the CCHA tournament.

• Now this is a great promotion. At Saturday’s Northern Michigan vs. Ohio State game in Columbus, there will be free haircuts for fans, courtesy of Great Clips.

• Fun with numbers: Ohio State is 8-0-3 when defenseman Sean Collins has a positive plus/minus number. ... Saturday’s Michigan vs. Michigan State game at Joe Louis Arena pits the team with the nation’s longest unbeaten streak (MSU, 6-0-1, tied with North Dakota) against the team with the nation’s longest winning streak (U-M, six). ... Last weekend, Kyle Greentree became the first Alaska skater to net 20 goals in a season since Jeff Trembecky in 1997. ... Just like football (except in reverse, and before the bowl games): Michigan and Ohio State rank first and second nationally in short-handed goals.

• Angela Ruggiero, a stalwart on the last three U.S. women’s Olympic teams, will be the analyst for Fox Sports Net’s coverage of Saturday’s Alaska at Western Michigan game. Your hockey-dumb co-workers might know her from the current season of Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice.”

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