November 8, 2007
Bowling Green, Ferris State in Good Standing

By James V. Dowd

While the likes of an Appalachian State beating Michigan in football or Grand Valley State topping Michigan State in basketball still causes a stir in the sports world, upsets and fast starts by less-recognizable upstarts in college hockey don’t always raise eyebrows in the same fashion.

CCHA Notebook

After starting the season with consecutive losses at Union, senior defenseman Adam Welch and Ferris State are 4-1-1 in the last six games.

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That said, the first three weekends of CCHA league play have two surprise teams showing signs that they might end up in the thick of the race for a home-ice berth in the first round of the conference playoffs. And it's not like they've been beating up on cupcakes in the process.

Ferris State and Bowling Green both finished in the bottom third of the league standings at the end of last year, sitting at ninth and twelfth, respectively. And with both teams looking very much the same on paper this year — and many of their CCHA brethren looking improved — public expectations for the pair weren’t much higher.

Of course, the consensus is wrong on many occasions, and the Bulldogs and Falcons are currently fourth and fifth, respectively, in the CCHA standings. What's more, both teams are coming off sweeps — Ferris State dumped Ohio State twice in Columbus last weekend, and Bowling Green took both ends of a home-and-home from Western Michigan — of teams that had to be considered favorites on paper beforehand.

For the Bulldogs, the key has been an improved work ethic, which has included lifting sessions at the crack of dawn and a sense of teamwork which can make up for the lack of superstars in the lineup.

“We’ve had a pretty good start in the CCHA and it comes from a different attitude,” Ferris State captain Adam Welch said. “We have a more hard-working attitude. We don’t have any big-time scorers so far, so everyone has been contributing.”

And as the two teams test just how far a revitalized work ethic can take them, what better test than each other? In a matchup which seemed rather insignificant just a few weeks ago, the Bulldogs and Falcons meet in Big Rapids in a series which could quickly turn the fortunes of either squad. It doesn’t get any easier for either team after the weekend, either. Ferris State sees Nebraska-Omaha, Western Michigan, and defending national champion Michigan State prior to the holiday break and Bowling Green faces off with Northern Michigan, defending league champion Notre Dame, and Wayne State before closing out the first half of the season with a home-and home series against red-hot Michigan.

With marquee matchups on the horizon, it might be easy to look past seemingly more manageable opponents in the meantime. But having been on the other sides of these match-ups in the past, they will surely take them seriously to hold onto any remnants of a spotlight which might shine on them.

“We’re a team that has to focus on proving ourselves every weekend,” Welch said. “We can’t look past anyone and lose a few games, because then no one is talking about us.”


Pluck of the Irish: It's been a lost season for the tenants of Notre Dame Stadium, but just across the plaza from the House That Rockne Built, the Fighting Irish hockey team has jumped out to a 4-1 start in CCHA play, staying in the mix to defend their regular-season title.

After starting the CCHA schedule last month with a midweek win over Bowling Green, the Fighting Irish appeared to fall back into a pattern of inconsistency against Ferris State, where offensive stagnation led to a weekend split that looked very similar to the team's home-opening series against Denver and its third-place finish at the Lefty McFadden Invitational in Dayton, Ohio, to open the campaign.

This past weekend, however, the Irish returned to the form they displayed a year ago in a sweep of visiting Lake Superior State, outscoring the Lakers by an 11-4 margin. The offensive surge was led by junior forward Erik Condra, who notched six points in the series — including a five-point haul in the first game, a 7-3 Notre Dame win.

Luckily for the Irish, the boost in offense comes just in time for a marquee matchup against top-ranked Miami in Oxford this weekend. The RedHawks are tied for third in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 1.50 goals per game, so it will take all the offense Notre Dame can muster to knock off the current league leaders.

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Bowling Green at Ferris State

While there are a slew of compelling conference games and non-conference matchups throughout the CCHA this week, the series between the hometown Bulldogs and visiting Falcons should prove quite interesting.

Both teams have started surprisingly well in league play and will look to continue that in what could be an important battle for home-ice advantage in the first round of the CCHA playoffs. In last season’s series, Ferris State won both games from BGSU, part of the Bulldogs' four-game win streak in late February that also included a win each over Michigan State and Notre Dame.

While you’re there: Good luck. Admittedly, Big Rapids, Mich. is not the most interesting place in the United States, but the fall colors make Michigan a great place to visit at this time of the year. Take some time out and relax from a long work week while strolling along the Big Rapids Riverwalk.

Stick Salute

This week's Salute goes out to the defensive and goaltending corps of the Michigan State Spartans. Coming off of a sweep in Alaska where the Nanooks scored just two goals, the CCHA rewarded two Spartans with player of the week awards. Goaltender Jeff Lerg, who broke the school record for consecutive starts in goal was named the league’s Goaltender of the Week, and blueliner Daniel Vukovic was named the Defensive Player of the Week.

Bench Minor

Another week, another disqualification. Western Michigan’s Jordan Collins was bounced from Saturday’s game with Bowling Green for checking Todd McIlrath from behind. The Broncos certainly had to be aware of the absence of last week’s Bench Minor recipient, Kai Kantola, who received a four-game suspension for his hit, and might have taken better care to avoid losing one of their own, even if only for a game and a half.


• If Notre Dame’s most recent performance against a top-ranked team is an indication of things to come in Oxford this weekend, Miami had better be ready for the Irish. On October 20, 2006, the Fighting Irish set the tone for their magical season with a 7-1 thrashing of Boston College — at the Eagles’ home in Chestnut Hill, Mass., no less.

• Alaska coach Doc DelCastillo has had a rough start to his head coaching career, losing four in a row at the helm in Fairbanks. The four consecutive losses mark the worst start for the Nanooks since 1996-97. The road to filling the shoes of Tavis MacMillan — who started 2-2 in his first four games en route to an appearance in the CCHA Super Six — won’t get any easier as Alaska plays at Michigan after being swept by Michigan State last weekend.

• While Michigan’s Chad Langlais certainly didn’t come in as heralded as Andrew Cogliano, the Wolverine freshman was named CCHA Rookie of the Week this week after notching four assists during the series at Nebraska-Omaha this past weekend, making him the first U-M newcomer to earn the honor since the current Edmonton Oilers’ forward did so on Nov. 7, 2005.

• Michigan State forward Tim Kennedy has always been known for finding the back of the net at key junctures in the game, but has taken his opportunism to a new level this season. Through last weekend, Kennedy leads the nation in power play goals with five and game-winning goals with two.

• After starting off strong with a victory at the Lefty McFadden Invitational, the Ohio State Buckeyes have struggled in recent weeks, losing six in a row after starting 2-0. Even with strong contributions from freshmen — Todd Rudasill, Peter Boyd and Patrick Schaefer all scored in their respective first career games — the Buckeyes have been held to a total of six goals during that six-game span. This stretch is the first time since 1999-2000 that Ohio State has lost six in a row in one season and been held to an average of one goal per game over a six-game stretch.

• Despite the fact that Lake Superior State has started the season with a 1-4-1 record in its first six games, the Lakers have found a bright spot in forward Nathan Perkovich. The sophomore notched a goal in each game against Notre Dame last weekend, and has scored in five of the Lakers’ six games.

• While Miami’s Ryan Jones has emerged as one of the nation’s top forwards in the absence of the injured Nathan Davis, the more intriguing offensive numbers for the RedHawks last weekend were 15 and 12. Miami’s 12 goals in two games against Northern Michigan were impressive in and of itself, but more notably, 15 different players notched at least one point on those 12 goals. Talk about spreading the wealth.

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report. James V. Dowd can be reached at