Tale to Scary Tale
coach Bob Daniels spent part of Wednesday at parent-teacher conferences,
discussing the progress his children have made this year with
their educators. The meetings were a refreshing chance for Daniels,
who will tell you he's spent far too much time discussing his
team's dreadful start.
"The conferences," Daniels reported, "were certainly
a bright spot."
The Bulldogs were the CCHA's fairy-tale story in 2002-03, earning
their first conference regular-season title and NCAA Tournament
bid after finishing ninth in the league the previous year. The
maroon-and-gold Cinderellas, who looked like Jessica Simpson last
year, resemble Homer Simpson this season as the Bulldogs are off
to their worst start in a decade.
There are plenty of d'oh!'s to go around. The facts:
• Ferris State allowed nearly twice as many goals (32) as
it has scored (18). Throw out the first period, and that disparity
grows to 26-12.
.• The Bulldog power play has been anemic thus far, producing
just three extra-man goals in 35 chances for a woeful 8.6 percent
• Two of the nation's top point-getters from last season
– forwards Jeff Legue and Derek Nesbitt – have combined
for two goals and six assists thus far.
• Goaltender Mike Brown was an All-American and all-conference
selection in 2003. So far this year, he's 2-6-0 with a 3.71 goals-against
average and a 86.4 save percentage. He's not among the top 10
CCHA netminders in either statistical category.
Tops among Daniels' concerns is the lack of production from the
teams top-end players.
"That group needs to be heard from," said the long-time
FSU coach. "We haven't given [Brown] a ton of offensive support."
Further magnifying the Bulldogs' lack of scoring punch is the
team's puck possession skills, which has been very sloppy thus
"We've had some awful loose play with the puck," Daniels
explains. "We've had some turnovers in bad areas."
Brown and Ferris State are off to the school's worst start
says Daniels, the loss of six seniors from last season –
including Hobey Baker Award finalist Chris Kunitz and team captain
Troy Milam –- is the crux of the Bulldogs' current woes.
Despite the quality of returning talent, outsiders overlook the
steadying influence those veterans had on the team.
knew we were going to got through some growing pains," Daniels
said. "It's really taken us quite some time to develop and
indentity and team chemistry. We've got to find the right pieces
and put them together."
the schedule hasn't been to kind to a team that's searching for
answers. The Bulldogs have played six of their eight games this
season on the road, including trips to Colgate and Alaska-Fairbanks
on back-to-back weekends followed by a home-and-home series with
Michigan State. The upcoming series with Michigan marks the start
of a three-week stretch during which Ferris State plays seven
of eight in Big Rapids.
the time we hit the end of the year, we'll be a pretty good team,"
Daniels said. "The reality is, no one has given up on our
SEEN AND HEARD IN THE CCHA
SMOOTH OPERATOR – It was just a matter
of time before Michigan State forward Steve Swistak
scored a goal. After all, he's got the hands of a surgeon. Well,
he'll have the hands of the surgeon eventually.
6-2, 200-pound senior, scored the first goals of his Spartan career
in Friday's 8-0 shellacking of Ferris State at Munn Ice Arena.
He added an assist in the team's 4-2 win in Big Rapids the following
night. The West Bloomfield, Mich., product has played in five
straight games and has picked up two goals and a pair of assists,
not bad for a guy who had played in a grand total of nine games
in his first three seasons in East Lansing.
I try to do is get some momentum for the boys, try to get some
emotion going," Swistak said following practice Tuesday.
"I don't focus on scoring per se...it's more on the side
of getting things going, whether it's the big hit or a good shift
grinding in the zone."
his mark in the Spartans' come-from-behind win against visiting
Western Michigan two weeks ago, giving the team a spark with his
hard work in the corners and physical play after a lethargic effort
left MSU trailing by a goal after two periods. He also earned
his first collegiate point with an assist on freshman A.J. Thelen's
fine with that role." Swistak said. "I'm very comfortable
to his recent scoring binge, Swistak, who has another year of
eligibility after this season, was best known for his academic
prowess. A physiology major, he's been part of Michigan State's
Medical Scholar Program since enrolling at the university. The
prestigious program guarantees 10 incoming freshmen each year
admission into MSU's medical school after obtaining their undergraduate
med school in the background is a great thing," he said.
"I'm in. I'll be at Michigan State another two years before
they put me out into the field, so that's a pretty good feeling
knowing I'm going to be a Spartan for another couple of years
asked whether scoring a goal was a bigger rush than nabbing a
sure spot in med school, Swistak was quick to provide an answer.
"Scoring a goal felt great, I'm not gonna lie," Swistak
said. "After three years of waiting, scoring that goal felt
CLEAR – In the murky pea-soup fog that has been
the Nebraska-Omaha season thus far, coach Mike Kemp believes he's
spotted a ray of hope. The winless Mavericks were shut out by
Notre Dame and freshman goaltender David Brown but on the other
end of the ice, UNO rookie netminder Chris Holt
came through with his finest effort of the young campaign.
Holt, a sixth-round selection of the New York Rangers in June's
National Hockey League Entry Draft, was hailed as a candidate
to fill the void left by the departed Dan Ellis. He got off to
a rocky start, however, allowing seven unanswered goals in a loss
to visiting Minnesota at the Maverick Stampede and giving up five
goals to Western Michigan the following week. Against the Irish,
he recovered nicely after giving up an early goal, making 30 saves
in a 2-0 loss.
played solid," Kemp told Craig Sesker of the Omaha World-Herald
following the game, "but I thought our kid played great."
native, who played last season with the U.S. Under-18 team, is
not short on confidence – he told INCH at the NHL Draft
that "I never set a goal I haven't met." And despite
a 4.87 goals-against average and a 86.6 save percentage, that
bravado hasn't waned.
think it is just a matter of time before we get that first win,"
Holt said. "Once that happens, I think everything will snowball
from there. We have been really competitive...we just have to
figure out a way to come out on top."
FROM THE ASHES – As if Michigan needed more help.
The Wolverines welcomed forward Jason Ryznar
back to the lineup last weekend for his first appearance of the
regular season. Ryznar, a junior from Anchorage,
missed the team's first seven games after injuring his shoulder
last month in an exhibition game against York.
great to get out there with the guys and bang in the corners a
little bit," Ryznar told the Michigan Daily. "To
tell you the truth, I felt kind of out of sync out there. It's
going to take a few games to get back into it."
and 201 pounds, Ryznar, who scored 16 points in 34 games last
season, brings an element of size and toughness to coach Red Berenson's
front line. Other than Ryznar, freshman David Rohlfs and fellow
juniors David Moss and Eric Nystrom, Michigan's forwards aren't
is a big part of our physical offense," said sophomore forward
Jeff Tambellini, the team's co-leader in scoring with six goals
and three assists in eight games. "To have him back doing
the things he does down low, cycling the puck, is great."
Great Weekend Getaway
Notre Dame at Michigan
State (Fri.-Sat.): Fans
at Munn Ice Arena are no strangers to shutout streaks. But
they aren't used to the opposing goalie being the one on
the hot streak. David Brown and the Irish face the Spartans,
who have been scoring at will lately (23 goals in its last
four games). While Brown deservedly stands in the spotlight
right now, don't forget about Morgan Cey, who has always
played well against MSU.
you're there: You can't find a statue honoring a Spartan
hockey great outside of Munn, but there's one near the entrance
of the Breslin Events Center of Earvin "Magic"
Johnson, the 13th-best basketball player of his era behind
the great Larry Bird and the rest of the Boston Celtics
(save your e-mails). Anyway, Magic's statue was dedicated
prior to Saturday's MSU-Michigan football game. It's easy
to locate –
walk around the Breslin until you see a giant bronze sculpture
that looks like Lamont from "Sanford and Son".
Props to a pair of freshmen –
Michigan State's Tom Goebel and David Brown of Notre Dame.
Goebel, a Parma, Ohio, native, scored five goals last weekend
as the Spartans swept Ferris State. Brown, meanwhile, posted
his third straight shutout in a 2-0 win against Nebraska-Omaha,
setting the school mark for whitewashes in a season. Pretty
heady stuff for a guy who's made six career starts.
Michigan's schedule maker (who may or may not be standing
behind the Broncos' bench) must hold a grudge against the
team's equipment manager. Why else would Western go from last
weekend's series at Cornell to Fairbanks, Alaska, for two
games with the Nanooks this weekend to Niagara next weekend.
The Broncos will cover more than 9,000 miles during the 16-day
AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
• This weekend's Lake Superior State-Nebraska-Omaha
series is a classic battle pitting the movable object
against the stoppable force. UNO, returning to their new digs
for the first time since the season-opening Maverick Stampede,
are in the throes of a 15-game winless streak dating back to Feb.
15 and haven't beaten a CCHA foe since Feb. 1. The Lakers, meanwhile,
come into the two-game set with a respectable 2-2-2 mark. Coach
Frank Anzalone's squad hasn't won a conference road game since
March 2002, when they downed Michigan in the first round of the
CCHA playoffs. The team's last regular-season road win? Dec. 9,
2000 at Alaska-Fairbanks.
doubtful that two weeks of haranguing in this space jump-started
the CCHA's efforts against non-conference opponents,
but it's a nice thought. CCHA teams posted a 2-0-2 record outside
the league last weekend, led by Western Michigan's impressive
tie and win at 2003 Frozen Four participant Cornell. The Saturday
victory snapped the Big Red's 25-game unbeaten streak at Lynah
executed in a hostile environment," said Western Michigan
coach Jim Culhane. "I was pleased with our competitiveness...it
was good hockey."
In other non-conference action, Lake Superior State earned a win
and a tie against visiting St. Lawrence and Michigan upended Niagara
Saturday. The CCHA's non-conference record stands at 12-13-5.
defenseman Alex Staudt left the Nanooks earlier
this week to join the Western Hockey League's Kootenay Ice. Staudt,
who turns 19 Monday, played in 25 games as a freshman in 2002-03,
recording two goals and three assists. He saw action in one game
this season and did not score. The Ice is based in Staudt's hometown
of Cranbrook, B.C.
Do you think Michigan State coach Rick Comley was a tad
miffed at the officials in Saturday's 4-2 win at Ferris
State? Referee Kevin Hall called one minor penalty in the first
period. In the second and third periods, the two teams were whistled
for a combined 22 penalties.
"That's probably as dirty of a hockey game as I've been in
in 30 years," Comley told Neil Koepke of the Lansing State
Journal. "I thought there could have been multiple majors,
probably five on one shift. It was slashing, spearing and two-handers.
It was a joke. It's not college hockey, nor is the official on
the ice a college hockey official."
Speaking of multiple majors, former MSU standout and current
Nashville winger Adam Hall found himself in the eye of
the storm last week when the Predators hosted Detroit. The game,
a 5-3 Nashville win, featured 210 minutes in penalties and six
players who earned two fighting majors.
Hall, who graduated from MSU in 2002, was one of the dirty half-dozen.
He squared off against two of the NHL's biggest names in defenseman
Chris Chelios and forward Brendan Shanahan.
"We're in the same division and we play a lot of times,"
Hall told the Nashville Tennesseean after the game. "This
was the first one, so maybe both teams wanted to set the tone
for what it's going to be like this year."
• This week's obscure Bowling Green fact:
The Falcons held Miami scoreless in 11 power-play opportunities
last weekend. The RedHawks entered the series with the nation's
second-best power play success rate. BGSU is killing penalties
at a healthy 90.7 percent clip, second only to Notre Dame among
variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report