January 10, 2008
Alaska, Ohio State Visit Splitsville

By James V. Dowd

After struggling greatly during the early parts of the first half of this season, both the Alaska Nanooks and Ohio State Buckeyes were looking to build upon what little momentum they had built leading into the break and during the holiday season when they faced off in Columbus last weekend. And while both teams were happy to earn a split, their respective losses left them with a lot to work on in the coming weeks.

Alaska started off the new year on the right foot, notching its program's first win in Columbus in almost five years. The Nanooks' senior class was thrilled with the achievement, and pleased to improve their season record against the Buckeyes to 2-0-1.

CCHA Notebook

Junior defenseman Tyler Eckford and Alaska started the season with seven straight losses, but the Nanooks are 4-4-3 in their last 11 games.

National TV Schedule

"We knew coming down here that we had to start off right," Alaska freshman Dustin Sather said to the Fairbanks Daily Miner after the game. "We were just taking this like any other game, one period at a time, and we were happy to get two points."

Ohio State, on the other hand, couldn't continue its strong play from the Ohio Hockey Classic, where they took the electric Miami Redhawks down to the wire in a 3-2 championship game loss.

Looking back on the differences between their play against Miami and how it translated to the opener against Alaska left coach John Markell with a lot to be desired.

“We have to understand these guys played an immature game tonight,” Markell said. “We saw what we can do as team in the last 10 minutes of [this] game and last weekend. Obviously we have to build upon that and sustain a foundation. The passion wasn't there.”

One night later, the Buckeyes recovered some of their holiday form, scoring three goals in the final frame en route to a 5-2 victory. Having seen this schism in effort and results from his team, Markell said that the key from here on out will be getting every player to show up each night.

With the split, Ohio State sits in ninth place in the CCHA standings, and Alaska moved into the eighth spot — a spot which would give it home-ice advantage in the first round of the CCHA playoffs. And like Markell, Nanooks first-year coach Doc DelCastillo realizes consistency and a complete effort will be of utmost importance in coming weeks.

“I think it was pretty easy [for Ohio State],” DelCastillo said in the postgame press conference. “They were hungrier than we were, they wanted to win it more than we did and they went out and showed it. It's pretty tough when you get outworked."


A first in Fairbanks: After an embarrassing performance at this season's Great Lakes Invitational which saw his team lose to Michigan Tech and Providence by a combined score of 9-4, Michigan State coach Rick Comley was looking for a spark of any kind from his team last weekend as they skated against Lake Superior State.

Following the loss to Providence in the GLI's third-place game, Comley expressed great frustration with the efforts of his team, and set them back to work quickly, scheduling a practice the morning after losing to the Friars.

“There was absolutely zero emotion there,” Comley said following the Providence game. “And that's alarming to me, obviously. It's an emotional sport; you have to play with emotion.”

The extra effort paid off and the Spartans came out firing on all cylinders in a 8-2 landslide Friday. The win was Michigan State's 13th consecutive win against the Lakers, and seemed to answer any doubts about the team's work ethic.

Tim Crowder and Michael Ratchuk each scored two goals and an assist, while Matt Schepke led the way with a goal and three assists. When comparing the win to the lackluster GLI effort, Schepke named hard skating as the most important change.

“Everyone was moving tonight,” Schepke said. “Everyone had that sense of urgency that maybe we kind of lacked at the GLI. It's a feeling of must-win from here on out. We dropped in the rankings and I think everybody kind of realized, that in order for us to maintain and stay in the tournament at the end of the year, which is the ultimate goal, we need to play on a must-win basis, one day at a time, and take it one game at a time.”

But a disappointing 3-3 tie the next night put the Spartans right back where they were heading into the weekend — questioning their consistency and intensity. One particular area Michigan State must address is the ability to finish games strong. The Spartans lead the CCHA in first-period goals with 31, but are second worst in the league in third-period goals allowed.

Great Weekend Getaway
120x60 - Brand Red

Wayne St. at Northern Michigan
Provided that Wayne State does not make a magical run to the NCAA tournament, Northern Michigan this weekend will be the last CCHA team to face the Warriors Wayne State has decided to drop the program after this season. The Wildcats, on the other hand, hope to jump start their second half, which started with an encouraging split against Notre Dame last weekend, with a sweep of the struggling Warriors, who've lost eight in a row.

While you're there: Check out the Marquette Maritime Museum on the Lake Superior shore. Michigan has long been famous for its lakes and the museum showcases an important facet of local history.

Stick Salute

Michigan freshman Carl Hagelin, a native of Sweden, who was the only CCHA player to win a medal at this year's World Junior Championships. Hagelin, the first Swede to ever skate for the Wolverines, failed to notch a point in the tournament, but he did appear in all six of the team's games.

Bench Minor

Western Michigan's Riley Gill, the goalie on last year's CCHA all-rookie team, has shown the ability to make big saves at key junctures. But his 3.76 GAA is almost half a goal worse than any other starter in the league, and his .885 save percentage puts him near the bottom in that category as well.


• Special teams are one key to the success of a team, and Miami proves that point. Through last weekend's games, the RedHawks, who were neck and neck with Michigan in the CCHA standings, boasted a league-leading net special teams rating of plus-21 (net special teams is the sum of power-play goals and shorthanded goals scored less power-play goals and shorthanded goals allowed.) Heading into this weekend's series at Nebraska-Omaha, that rating is six points better than any other team in the league.

• As if heading into Yost Ice Arena to face off with Michigan Tuesday wasn't enough motivation, there was certainly extra incentive for U.S. National Team Development Program linemates Robbie Czarnik and David Wohlberg — both whom have committed to skate for the Wolverines down the road — to perform well. Czarnik certainly made the most of the opportunity, scoring the lone U.S. NTDP goal in a 5-1 loss.

C Despite the fact that teams are starting to notice that Bowling Green is a force to be reckoned with, the Falcons maintained their place in the top half of the league standings with a series split against Miami. Although they struggled in the series finale, the Falcons came out strong in the opener, becoming the first team to score four goals on the RedHawks this season. BGSU also the first team this season to hand Miami a road loss.

• Although they are still the only CCHA team without a win in league play, Lake Superior State has shown signs of life recently. The Lakers have notched ties in three of their last four road games, including a 3-3 draw against Michigan State at Munn Ice Arena last Saturday.

• Without a bona fide superstar, Ferris State relies on extraordinary efforts from different individuals on a nightly basis. In the Bulldogs' wins at the Toyota UConn Hockey Classic over the holidays, that role was filled by freshman forward Mike Fillinger. Fillinger, who has played in barely half of the team's games this season, scored his first collegiate goal in Ferris State's 2-1 win against Brown and added an assist against Connecticut in the final en route to a place on the all-tournament team and CCHA Rookie of the Week honors this week.

• Ex-Alaska star Jordan Hendry became just the sixth player in Nanook history to play in the National Hockey League, making his debut with Chicago Wednesday in the Blackhawks' 3-1 loss to Dallas. Hendry performed admirably in his 13:29 of ice time, taking one shot and serving a minor penalty for hooking. Hendry, who replaced former Michigan defenseman Danny Richmond on the Blackhawk roster, was one of three CCHA alums in Wednesday's game. Former Michigan State defenseman Duncan Keith — who on Thursday was named a reserve on the Western Conference All-Star team — manned the blue line for the Blackhawks, while ex-Michigan netminder Marty Turco got the win in goal for Dallas.

• Speaking of the upcoming NHL All-Star Game, another former Michigan State standout, Edmonton Oiler Shawn Horcoff, was also selected as a Western Conference reserve Thursday. The Eastern Conference reserves will be announced Friday.

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