Trying to Get Even
With 39 goals
in 10 games, Michigan leads the CCHA in scoring. No surprise there.
And the Wolverines are converting at a 26 percent clip on the
power play, also tops in the conference. Again, not a shock. So
why is coach Red Berenson so concerned about his team's goal scoring
at the season's quarter pole?
Maize and Blue's 39 goals, just over half (20, to be exact) have
been scored at even strength. Only Miami boasts a worse percentage
of even-strength goals to total goals scored. Last weekend's split
with Ferris State serves as a microcosm of Michigan's season –
the Wolverines scored eight goals in two games, six coming with
the man advantage.
can't keep playing as an even team five-on-five and expect to
be above .500," Berenson explained. "It just doesn't
work. We can't rely on our power play and our penalty killing
every night to bail us out."
a quick scan of the CCHA scoring leaders and one can get a good
idea of the issue facing the Wolverines (8-2-0 overall, 4-2-0
CCHA). Only one player – sophomore forward Jeff Tambellini
– is among the league's top goal scorers. Five U-M skaters
rank in the conference's top 10 in power-play tallies. Then there's
junior Brandon Rogers. He's off to a great start, with a goal
and eight assists...but hasn't scored an even-strength point thus
Jeff Tambellini is one of the few Michigan skaters who've
had success scoring in five-on-five situations.
finger on the root of the problem isn't easy. In trying to explain
the Wolverines' relative lack of success at even strength, Berenson
touched on factors such as confidence around the net, taking advantage
of fortunate bounces and puck movement. The most pressing issue,
however, is for players to take personal responsibility for making
better plays with the puck.
"If you keep shooting the puck over the net, you're not going
to score a goal," Berenson said. "It's shooting a goal
rather than shooting to shoot when you do get your chances."
Berenson feels the team's efforts in its own end also presents
cause for concern –"When you're cheating defensively,
you come up short offensively," he stated – but added
that he and his staff are doing their best to keep the players
from squeezing their sticks too tight.
"We've got some guys who know they should have better numbers,"
Berenson said. "But we're not putting a ton of pressure on
SEEN AND HEARD IN THE CCHA
BEAR MARKET – It's been quite a week for
the Alaska-Fairbanks hockey program.
the Nanooks swept visiting Western Michigan last weekend to improve
to 5-5-0 overall, 4-2-0 in the CCHA and join Michigan in a fourth-place
tie in the conference standings. Sophomore forward Kelly Czuy
(pronouced "chewy") earned INCH National Player of the
Week honors after scoring four goals and four assists in the series,
including 2-3—5 in Friday's overtime win against the Broncos.
I'm just too busy gawking at him to do anything," UAF forward
Cam Keith told Fairbanks Daily News-Miner writer Richard
Larson following Saturday's game. "He's got the quickest
hands, the hardest shot and he can skate. He's the total package."
offense didn't dominate the headlines however. On Saturday, senior
goaltender Preston McKay made 24 saves as UAF recorded its first
shutout of a CCHA foe – a span of 234 games that started
in 1995 – with a 4-0 blanking of WMU.
a couple minutes left in the third I started thinking about it,"
McKay admitted. "It's just human nature, especially when
the team has never had a CCHA shutout before."
the biggest news came Tuesday, when College Sports Television
unveiled the remainder of its hockey broadcast schedule. Included
on CSTV's docket is a foray to Fairbanks on Feb. 6, when the Nanooks
welcome Michigan – and a legion of curious fans in their
homes, no doubt – to the Carlson Center.
a huge game," UAF coach Guy Gadowsky said. "It is always
a big game when you play Michigan and add to the fact that it
will be on national television. I think we'll put on a great show
and fans nationally can see that we have the best...fans in college
a lot of hockey to be played between now and February, but the
Nanooks can put themselves in position to play for a home-ice
berth in the first round of the CCHA playoffs by capitalizing
on a favorable near-term schedule. UAF has six games remaining
prior to the Christmas holiday (a series at Miami, two games with
struggling Nebraska-Omaha and two at Lake Superior State) and,
on paper, should wrap up the first half of the season with no
fewer than seven league wins. That's 14 points before the break
in a league in which 29 points is usually good enough to earn
home playoff games.
FRESHMAN – Steve Hartley and Brandon Crawford-West
are freshmen at Miami University. They live in the same dormitory.
They're both members of the RedHawks hockey team.
the pair receive equal playing time in coach Enrico Blasi's current
goaltending rotation. And while Crawford-West and Hartley would
like nothing better than to become full-time starters, they've
adjusted to the system and become each other's biggest supporters.
pretty much best friends...even though there's that competition
going on," Crawford-West said following Wednesday's practice
at Goggin Ice Arena. "When we're on the bench, we're hoping
the best for the other guy and for the team."
Crawfowd-West and Hartley have been steady, if unspectacular,
for the RedHawks (5-5-2 overall, 3-2-1 CCHA) so far. Hartley,
a textbook butterfly goaltender who plays on Saturdays, is 2-4-1
with a 2.56 goals-against average and an 88.9 save percentage
while Crawford-West, an acrobatic scrambler who makes Friday's
starts, is 3-1-1 with a 2.76 GAA and an 89.1 save percentage.
they split time on the ice, they've come together off it to become
best friends. Both admit that having a fellow freshman goalie
to lean on has been a blessing in many respects.
know how each other feels, so we can rant and rave to each other
if something's going wrong," said Hartley, the son of Atlanta
Thrashers' head coach Bob Hartley. "If everything is going
good, we have a great time together."
first couple weeks of intense practices, we were really good for
each other," added Crawford-West, a 2002 Pittsburgh Penguins
draft pick. "We were able to sit back at the end of the day
after whatever we did – ice sessions, running stairs, bike
rides – and say to each other, 'I'm exhausted. You're exhausted,
pair share information on opponents and offer constructive criticism
on a regular basis. They've also found that their nights off can
be learning experiences, too.
good to watch sometimes," Crawford-West said. "Just
little stuff that you notice as a goalie that maybe no one else
notices...things like [this team] tries to shoot low or on the
power play they're holding up on shots."
now, Crawford-West and Hartley have embraced the rotation and
are saying the right things – "Lots of freshmen don't
get to play 50-50," Hartley said – even though it's
only natural for both to want to unseat the other guy and become
the full-time starter.
both don't think 50 percent of the games is enough," Crawford-West
said. "That's how any goalie would think. But it's not an
issue right now."
Great Weekend Getaway
at Ohio State (Fri.-Sat.): Granted,
it's still early in the season, but Michigan has one win
in three road contests thus far. Three of Ohio State's seven
wins, meanwhile, have come away from Value City Arena. Something's
gotta give. The Buckeyes boast the CCHA's top penalty-killing
unit in league play – they've allowed three goals
in 35 shorthanded situations. The Wolverines, on the other
hand, are scoring power play goals against conference foes
at a 26 percent clip. OSU is a little better defensively,
allowing 2.27 goals per game as compared to U-M's 3.0 goals
per game. The Maize and Blue are scoring 3.9 goals a contest,
while the Bucks are averaging 3.36 goals a game. Did we
mention something's gotta give?
you're there: A crowd of more than 105,000 is expected for
Saturday's Purdue-Ohio State football game at Ohio Stadium,
so odds are you're not going to find an affordable ticket.
You can hang with the cast of ESPN's College GameDay –
including former Buckeye quarterback Kirk Herbstreit –
broadcasting live from outside the stadium prior to that
morning. The fact that we're an ESPN affiliate had nothing
to do with that plug.
You've gotta walk before you run, so hats
off to Bowling Green, in the midst of a four-game unbeaten
streak (2-0-2), the Falcons' longest since March 2001. Coach
Scott Paluch's troops have a prime opportunity to extend
that stretch to six games with two games at Lake Superior
State this weekend.
Ohio State forward Dave Steckel has been
one of the CCHA's most maligned players over the past three
seasons and in some respects, the criticism was warranted.
Still, the hulking forward is quietly off to a solid start
with seven points in 11 games. He had 18 points in 36 contests
Former Michigan standout Mike Comrie has rankled the
ire of Edmonton Oilers' fans for his obstinance in
the face of a contract dispute with his hometown club. Comrie
fired the latest salvo Saturday during a feature on Hockey
Night in Canada, telling a reporter that the Oilers' negotiating
ploys are an insult. Dan Barnes of the Edmonton Journal
offered a scathing – but accurate – assessment
of Comrie's tactic earlier this week. It's a
• Providence removed the Skating Friar from the front
of its sweaters a couple weeks ago. I'm just saying...
AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
• Michigan will be without the services
of steady defenseman Andy Burnes, who suffered a strange
– and painful – injury during last weekend's series
with Ferris State. A senior from Battle Creek, Mich., Burnes separated
his shoulder. In most instances, the separation occurs on the
outside of the shoulder near the joint, but in Burnes' case, the
clavicle separated from the sternum in the middle of his chest.
He's expected to miss six-to-eight weeks.
• The Spartans welcomed junior pivot Lee
Falardeau back to the lineup last weekend. A second-round
pick of the New York Rangers in the 2002 NHL Draft, Falardeau
had missed seven of MSU's first eight games with a knee injury.
• Miami fans would be wise to show up for Saturday's game
against Michigan State a little early in order to get a prime
seat for festivities at Goggin Ice Arena honoring former
Redskin standout Brian Savage. A forward who scored 109
points for the Red and White from 1990-93, the school is retiring
Savage's number this weekend. The Sudbury, Ontario, native, who
now plays for the National Hockey League's Phoenix Coyotes, helped
the squad to its first CCHA regular-season championship and a
berth in the NCAA Tournament in 1993. Savage earned CCHA Player
of the Year honors and was a second team All-America selection
and Hobey Baker Award finalist that same season.
Brett Smith's overtime goal against Michigan Friday propelled
goaltender Mike Brown to the top of Ferris State's career wins
list. The 6-5 extra session triumph marked the 43rd victory
in Brown's two-plus seasons with the Bulldogs. The previous record
was held by Rob Hughston, who went 42-53-7 in 117 games from 1981-85.
Brown topped Hughston's wins total in just 75 games.
• As reported in this space one week ago, both Lake
Superior State and Nebraska-Omaha were looking to end dubious
streaks at Qwest Center Omaha last weekend. And although
Frank Anzalone and Mike Kemp probably aren't all that thrilled
with a series split, we're happy to report that the Lakers got
their first conference road win in nearly three years by posting
a 4-1 win against UNO Saturday. The previous night, the Mavericks
ended a school-record, 14-game winless streak with a 7-1 rout
of Lake Superior State.
• Speaking of ending lengthy droughts, when Western Michigan's
Jeff Campbell scored with goaltender Scott Foster pulled in favor
of an additional skater late in the third period of Friday's overtime
loss at Alaska-Fairbanks, it was the Broncos' first extra
attacker goal in nearly eight years. WMU assistant coach
Scott Brooks remembered the previous extra attacker tally well
– he scored it on Jan. 26, 1996, against Colgate in a game
the Broncos went on to win in overtime.
• Plus-minus numbers are often misleading. Still, it's interesting
to note that Michigan State's top forward line
of juniors Jim Slater and Mike Lalonde and freshman Tom Goebel
own a combined plus-minus rating of +38 throught 10 games this
season. The team's remaining 18 skaters are a combined +3 on the
• This week's obscure Bowling Green fact:
The Hockey News has released a special "Best of
Everything" issue available at newsstands across North America.
Among those highlighted is Mike Emrick, selected by a panel of
NHL beat writers as the best play-by-play announcer in the game
today. Emrick, who is the television voice of the New Jersey Devils,
earned a Ph.D. in Radio, Television and Film from Bowling Green
in 1976, hence his on-air nickname, "Doc." Incidentally,
his broadcast partner, former goaltender Glenn "Chico"
Resch, played at Minnesota-Duluth before embarking on a lengthy
A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this