Green, Ferris State in Good Standing
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
starting the season with consecutive losses at Union,
senior defenseman Adam Welch and Ferris State are
4-1-1 in the last six games.
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
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
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
“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.”
SEEN AND HEARD IN THE CCHA
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
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.
Great Weekend Getaway
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.
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
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.
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM
OF THE BAG
• 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
• 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