Ohio State Visit Splitsville
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.
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.
"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
“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."
SEEN AND HEARD IN THE CCHA
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
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
Great Weekend Getaway
St. at Northern Michigan
(Fri.-Sat.) 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.
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.
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.
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM
OF THE BAG
• 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
A variety of sources were utilized in
the compilation of this report. James V. Dowd can be reached