Irish Battle Their Way to CCHA Lead
James V. Dowd
It might be only for a week, but the defending
champions find themselves on top once again.
Having swept Nebraska-Omaha at home last weekend,
Notre Dame took advantage of an Ohio State upset in Ann
Arbor and its two games in hand to jump ahead of Michigan
and Miami — teams which have sat atop the league and
the national polls for several weeks.
Regan-omics: Notre Dame forward Garrett Regan scored
with 2:06 left in regulation in his team's 5-4 win
against Nebraska-Omaha last weekend.
Heading into the final series before the midseason
break, the Fighting Irish have slid under the radar in a
way, allowing the Wolverines, RedHawks, and Michigan State
to draw most of the attention in the CCHA and around the
nation. But despite this lack of attention, coach Jeff Jackson
has prodded his team to capitalize on lucky breaks and finishing
games strong — the keys to their perpetual success
Skating against the Mavericks in South Bend,
the goal was no different.
During Friday night’s game, the Irish
took advantage of a few fortuitous bounces and overcame
a three-goal deficit for the second contest in a row, with
a Garrett Regan goal with just 2:06 remaining sealing a
5-4 victory. Having seen his team fall behind early against
underdog opponents, Jackson realized his players have to
start games with more resolve to give themselves a chance
against stronger opponents.
“I’m concerned about the way we’re
starting games,” Jackson said after Friday night’s
game. “I have to take the blame because I’m
not doing a good job of getting them ready. At RPI (the
previous Saturday), I felt we were coming on. Tonight, we
weren’t playing well.”
Whatever Jackson did to inspire his team before
Saturday’s game clearly had an impact. After going
shorthanded less than two minutes into the first period,
the Irish lit up the scoreboard first with a shorthanded
goal by Mark Van Guilder after an odd-man rush.
Fortunately for Jackson’s squad, a faster
start didn’t cost them in the later stages of the
game. The Irish finished with a flurry of three third-period
goals, giving them a 5-0 victory.
The Irish finish the first half of the season
with a road series at Princeton, where they hope to preserve
a seven-game winning streak.
SEEN AND HEARD IN THE CCHA
A first in Fairbanks: Everyone
knows that Alaska is a cold place. But home couldn’t
possibly feel colder for the Alaska Nanooks as they prepared
to host Northern Michigan at the Carlson Center last weekend.
Eight games into the season, including six league contests,
the Nanooks had recorded just a single point in the CCHA
standings courtesy of a tie in Omaha the previous weekend.
Alaska finally got a glimpse of the [northern]
light at the end of the tunnel as the Nanooks steamrolled
Northern Michigan for their first win of the season, a 4-1
triumph, last Friday.
“The guys have finally been rewarded
with two points,” Alaska head coach Doc DelCastillo
said after the victory. “There has been a lot of work
put into this first win. Honestly, we didn’t know
when it was coming, but the guys have shown some perseverance
The victory was DelCastillo’s first
as a head coach, but he knew there was no room to dwell
on it with less than 24 hours until a rematch. The rookie
coach joked that he had given his players just 30 minutes
to revel in the win.
Regardless of the short-winded celebration,
the visiting Wildcats found a way to overcome the Nanooks
on Saturday night, winning in a 4-2 contest.
Heading into the break, the Nanooks couldn’t
have a tougher four points to strive for, skating into Oxford,
Ohio this weekend for a pair of games against Miami. The
good news for Alaska is that the toughest part of their
schedule will soon be behind them — come Monday, the
Nanooks will have closed out a five-week stretch during
which they played Michigan, Michigan State, and the top-ranked
Great Weekend Getaway
Lawrence at Ohio St.
(Fri.-Sat.) Take this chance to see how the CCHA matches
up against ECAC Hockey as the Buckeyes host St. Lawrence
in Columbus. OSU, winners of two of its last four
games after enduring a horrific 11-game winless streak,
looks to build some steam before heading to Alaska
the following week.
And if you’re not up for two games
at the beautiful Schottenstein Center, then head up
the road to Bowling Green for Friday's game against
Michigan or down the road to Miami for the RedHawks'
games against Alaska.
While you’re there: Take in
some of Columbus’ unique architecture. The city
is home to the State Capitol, the Horseshoe, and,
even more interesting, a picnic basket which serves
as the Longaberger Basket Co. headquarters. The building,
located in nearby Newark, is a replica of one of the
company’s retail baskets and a site worth seeing.
to Alaska finally getting its first league win —
and the first of coach Doc DelCastillo’s head
coaching tenure. The Nanooks have earned three points
over the past four games, and now sit right on the
heels of Western Michigan (9th place) and Ohio State
(10th) in the CCHA standings.
State is only CCHA team without a win in league play.
The Lakers will try to reverse this trend in Omaha
in their final series of 2007 this weekend.
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM
OF THE BAG
• Ferris State continued its strong
season with a sweep of Western Michigan this past weekend.
After falling twice two Bowling Green Nov. 9-10, the Bulldogs
have rebounded nicely, winning three of four points against
Nebraska-Omaha and then taking care of the Broncos. How
well they fare in a home-and-home series this weekend with
defending national champion Michigan State this weekend
will serve as a barometer for the Bulldogs' chances to remain
in the top half of the league during the second half of
• While Ferris State has indeed been
impressive thus far, Bowling Green sits just two points
behind them in the standings with two games in hand. The
Falcons swept the Bulldogs earlier this year, and have notched
impressive wins over Western Michigan and Northern Michigan
as well. This weekend the Falcons faceoff with Michigan,
which showed its human side for the first time in weeks
in a split against Ohio State last weekend.
• At first glance, It may seem like
Northern Michigan is easily in contention for first-round
home ice in the CCHA playoffs, but it’s worth noting
that they’ve played two more league
games than anyone else.
The Wildcats have this
weekend off before skating a home-and-home series with Michigan
Tech the following weekend. While the likes of Ohio State
currently are a few games off NMU's pace, coach Walt Kyle's
team will need an improved effort to solidify a first-round
playoff series at the Berry Center.
• Michigan seniors Chad Kolarik and
Kevin Porter were quite pleased to get the Minnesota monkey
off their backs after beating the Gophers in the College
Hockey Showcase two weeks ago, but the duo faces an equally
frustrating nemesis in Bowling Green — yes, Bowling
Green — this weekend. The Wolverines have enjoyed
success against the Falcons in Ann Arbor, but have lost
at Bowling Green each of the last two seasons.
• While they have played two less conference
games than any of the three teams above it in the CCHA standings,
Michigan State seems to have temporarily lost touch with
the league leaders. Even with a sweep of Lake Superior State
this past weekend, the Spartans are six points behind Miami
and Michigan and eight points behind Notre Dame. But with
four games against Michigan and two against the Fighting
Irish remaining on the schedule, don’t count the defending
national champs out yet.
• While Ohio State has recently
struggled through some of the darkest days in the program’s
recent history, a two-game win streak brought a little bit
of life to the Buckeyes before Michigan downed them 4-2
at Yost Ice Arena on Saturday night. This weekend, Ohio
State faces off with St. Lawrence before heading to Alaska
the following week. Perhaps a few games against less menacing
opponents will help give the Bucks some momentum.
A variety of sources were utilized in
the compilation of this report. James V. Dowd can be reached