You could make a case that Miami is the most
overlooked team in the CCHA, and you could make a case that
the league’s most overlooked star is RedHawks junior
forward Ryan Jones.
Jones, of course, wouldn’t say those
things. He’s too busy scoring goals to ponder such
perceived slights. The reigning CCHA offensive player of
the week scored five times and assisted twice more in last
week’s sweep of Robert Morris, which went a long way
toward solidifying an invitation to the NCAA tournament
for the second straight season. The RedHawks travel to Northern
Michigan to close out the regular season this weekend, then
have a bye through the first round of the conference playoffs
Miami junior forward Ryan Jones is second in the CCHA
with 25 goals and tied for fifth in scoring with 42
“We’ve never been a program that’s
been talked about a lot nationally, but that’s one
of our goals, to make that happen,” Jones said this
week. “I still believe our best hockey is ahead of
For that, RedHawk fans pray. Last season,
Miami wrapped up the regular-season CCHA title on Valentine’s
Day, then hit a lull over the next five weeks as they lacked
tangible late-season goals. They never returned to dominance,
losing the CCHA tournament final to Michigan State and getting
unceremoniously bounced from the Big Dance, 5-0 by Boston
Jones admits that nerves played a part in
the loss to BC, but he doesn’t expect a recurrence
of those jitters this time around. Assuming the RedHawks
don’t implode, they will make their third NCAA appearance
in four seasons, and experience has to count for something,
“If there was ever a hockey game we
were not meant to win, that was it,” Jones said. “One
of these years, Miami is going to make some noise in the
NCAA tournament, and hopefully it’s this year. Since
I’ve been here, we’ve beaten some of the top
teams in the country, BU, Denver, we tied Notre Dame this
year. It just seems like those teams are a little bit more
consistent than us. But a lot of our players have been to
the tournament now, and I think that’s really going
Individually, Jones is second in the CCHA
in goals (he has 25 to Mike Santorelli’s 26), and
he’s tied for fifth in points, but he is largely overshadowed
by linemate Nathan Davis, the Hobey Baker Award front-runner
for most of the first half of the season. Davis’ production
has fallen off since early December, but that has allowed
Jones to step to the fore.
“He’s seeing a lot more attention
now, he’s got somebody beside him all the time”
said Jones, a native of Chatham, Ontario. “I give
him all the credit in the world for not getting overly frustrated.
He’s the best player I’ve ever played with.”
As for this weekend in Marquette, Jones insists
that the RedHawks have a lot on the line. They are one point
behind second-place Michigan and would like to avoid a certain
rival in the second round of the league tournament (although
that’s hard to predict the best way to do such).
“I think our style suits some teams
better than others,” he said. “Anything we can
do to avoid playing Ohio State a seventh and eighth time
this year would be great.”
AND HEARD IN THE CCHA
Confident at ND: Notre Dame
is in a situation similar to Miami was last season, having
clinched the CCHA regular-season title (the first in school
history) with several games to go. The Fighting Irish sealed
the deal with their 1-0 win at Alaska on Friday.
Assistant coach Andy Slaggert was recruiting
last weekend, so he wasn’t in the Land of the Midnight
Sun to witness to the clinching of the title. But he doesn’t
think the same post-title mental lapse that befell Miami
will strike in South Bend.
“I think our kids have earned a certain
level of trust based on what they’ve accomplished
this year,” said Slaggert, an Irish assistant since
1993. “This is all new to us, but it’s hard
to doubt this group of kids.”
Slaggert is “really looking forward”
to this weekend’s home series against Ferris State
to see whether the Irish loosen up after being fairly tight
as they chased the league title for the last month. The
ND coaches hadn’t yet made a decision as to whether
to rest Hobey Baker candidate David Brown this weekend,
although after backup goalie Jordan Pearce got a rare start
and beat Alaska last Saturday, split duties seem to be in
order again versus FSU.
As for motivation: “We don’t talk
much about NCAA seeds here, but that’s a real factor,”
Slaggert said. “The kids know what’s out there.
There’s a sense that we’re not done yet.”
Regardless of whether Notre Dame secures a
No. 1 national seed, Slaggert knows this has been a special
season. “We knew we would be better this year, but
no one thought we would be CCHA champions. We hoped to be
a top-four team, and we really thought we could be in the
preseason. It turns out we were a little better than that.”
Away from home ... at home:
Ohio State has pre-sold between 12,000 and 13,000 tickets
for each night of this weekend’s home series against
Michigan. The OSU band will perform Script Ohio on the ice
at Friday’s game. The first 10,000 fans Saturday night
will get free rally towels.
But the scene for the first round of the CCHA
playoffs in Columbus the following week will be quite different.
Because the state high school wrestling tournament is booked
at Value City Arena, the Buckeyes will host their playoff
series at the 1,200-seat OSU Ice Rink, home to the women’s
team and where the men hold many of their practices.
“It’s unfortunate,” coach
John Markell said. “But those are the issues you face
with a multi-purpose facility like ours. The ice is good
at the Ice Rink, they put $1 million into it for the women,
it’s clean. It won’t be our home-ice facility,
but it will be our home-practice facility.”
This issue will arise every year (provided
the Buckeyes don’t earn a first-round bye) because
the university signed a long-term contract with the wrestling
tournament before the CCHA changed its playoff structure
to make it start a week earlier. Markell intimated that
he was in favor of keeping the Super Six format for this
“We got caught,” he said, “and
we’re going to get caught more in the future.”
AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
Great Weekend Getaway
Michigan at Lake Superior State (Fri.-Sat.)
Of the six CCHA series this weekend, it’s tough
to find one in which both teams have something real
on the line. This is as close as you’re going
to get. WMU can get a first-round playoff bye if it
sweeps the Lakers and Michigan State gets swept by
Bowling Green. LSSU has some work to do to keep the
final home-ice slot away from Ferris State and Northern
While you’re there: Try to
score one of those Team Sweden-ish yellow jerseys
the Lakers wear at home on Saturday nights, and send
it to your buddies at INCH. The good karma will come
back around to you in no time.
Big ups to
Nebraska-Omaha senior defenseman Mike Eickman
and his roommate Matt Pinkerton for organizing
last week’s Caps for Cancer event at the Bullpen.
They collected 575 hats from fans — beating
last year’s total of 500 — and the lids
will be delivered to patients at Omaha’s Eppley
Cancer Institute in the near future.
Not sure whether there was a linguistic and numerical oversight
or just a lack of faith in Marquette, but Northern
Michigan’s note in this week’s CCHA media
release reads: “With his team owning
a 12-20-2 record, (coach Walt) Kyle’s streak
of winning 20 or more games each season at NMU will
come to an end.” By our count, if NMU sweeps
Miami this weekend and wins the CCHA tournament, it
would have 20 victories with the NCAA tournament still
• Playoff scenarios: Notre Dame, Michigan
and Miami have clinched first-round byes for the CCHA tournament.
Michigan State has a magic number of one point over Western
Michigan to secure the fourth bye.
WMU, Nebraska-Omaha, and OSU will be home
for the first round of the playoffs (assuming the Broncos
don’t pass MSU), and eighth-place Lake Superior State
holds a three-point lead over ninth-place Ferris for the
final home-ice slot. Alaska and Bowling Green are guaranteed
to travel in the first round, while Ferris and Northern
Michigan have outside chances of passing LSSU for home ice.
• Michigan State goalie Jeff Lerg came
in second place, behind Tigers manager Jim Leyland, in voting
for the Michigan’s Best honor, bestowed by the Detroit
Free Press to the state’s top sports performer
of the year. Lerg, who was misidentified as his cousin Bryan
in the newspaper’s initial ballot, finished ahead
of luminaries such as Roger Penske, Nicklas Lidstrom, Carlos
Guillen, Chauncey Billups and Michael Phelps for 2006.
“My sister is a school teacher in Plymouth,
and I think she had her kids voting every day,” Lerg
said. “That probably had something to do with it.
But it’s cool. My mom framed it.”
• Speaking of Lerg, he had two assists
Friday, making him the first Spartan goalie to have a multiple-point
game since Chad Alban notched a goal and an assist on Feb.
• Miami seniors Marty Guerin, Matt Christie,
Joe Cooper and Geoff Smith became the winningest class in
program history with No. 86 last weekend. Last year’s
seniors had 85 wins.
• MSU coach Rick Comley, in the Lansing
State Journal, about WMU mucking it up Friday: “We
came out and played really well, and then they turned it
into a Gong Show.”
• Michigan State has moved its Saturday
game against Bowling Green (and, subsequently, its Senior
Night) ahead 35 minutes to alleviate a conflict with the
9 p.m. men’s basketball game against Indiana next
door. The puck will now drop at 6:30 p.m.
• Fun with numbers: With Brian Lebler
injured, Michigan had just one Canadian (Andrew Cogliano)
in its lineup last weekend. ... The Wolverines, the highest-scoring
team in the nation (4.18), have tallied three goals or fewer
in five straight games. ... Ferris State’s 5-1 February
was its best month since its 2002-03 CCHA championship season.
... WMU’s win in East Lansing on Saturday was its
first victory at Munn Ice Arena since 1993, a span of 18
games (0-14-4). Coincidentally, current MSU assistant Brian
Renfrew was the winning goalie for the Broncos that night.
... Nebraska-Omaha managed just two total shots on nine
power-play chances in Saturday’s win over Ohio State.
• Hobey happenings: Lake Superior State
was to have an online vote-a-thon for Jeff Jakaitis on campus
Thursday. As of Thursday afternoon, the Laker goalie led
voting at hobeybaker.com with more than 45,000 votes. ...
These Hobey Baker Web sites are more trouble than they’re
worth for us at INCH. Last week’s link to Notre Dame’s
David Brown site didn’t work. Here it is again: http://und.cstv.com/sports/m-hockey/spec-rel/06-awards-brown.html
• UNO visits Alaska this weekend, and
there’s a decent chance that Alaska will play at UNO
in the first round of the playoffs next week.
A variety of sources were utilized in
the compilation of this report. James Jahnke can be reached