November 26, 2003
Brown's Stick-To-It-Tiveness

By Mike Eidelbes

 CCHA Notebook

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Remember back in September when the CCHA's top goaltender was junior Mike Brown of Ferris State and Notre Dame freshman David Brown was nothing more than a promising rookie? Two months into the season, the younger Brown has been the conference's best netminder while the elder Brown is struggling to regain the form that made him an first-team All-American in 2003.

In front of 1,700 fans in Big Rapids Saturday, Mike Brown proved he's ready to turn the corner with a sterling effort in the Bulldogs' 4-0 win against Nebraska-Omaha. The Calgary native stopped all 35 shots he faced in recording his first shutout of the season and the seventh of his career, a new school record.

"I struggled early in the year," Brown said. "The whole team did. It's just not one person or an individual."

Statistics bear out Brown's assessment. Last season's offensive juggernaut has scored just 31 goals in a dozen games and the power play is a woeful 7-for-61 (11.5%). The Bulldogs are in the middle of the pack in terms of penalty killing but lead the conference in penalty minutes. His numbers are also indicative of his uneven play – with a 3.38 goals-against average and an .882 save percentage, Brown doesn't rank among the the CCHA's top 10 netminders in either category.

Brown, a big goaltender at 6-foot-0 and 195 pounds, is at his best when can sqaure his body to the shooter and use his size to fill up the net, giving opponents the illusion that they have nowhere to shoot. That's exactly what he did against the Mavericks Saturday. He also benefitted from a fortunate dose of puck luck, something that's eluded him thus far.

"All year, I haven't been getting the shorthanded a skate, off a stick," Brown said. "It's nice to finally get the return favor to me. Obviously, our defense bailed me out a few times. It's good to see the guys bearing down. We've got a lot to look forward to."

What Brown and his mates have in mind is a sweep of Bowling Green Dec. 5-6. A pair of wins against the Falcons would give the Bulldogs a 6-8-0 record heading into the holiday break and put them right back into the race for a home-ice berth in the first round of the CCHA playoffs.

"It gives us a chance after Christmas to get back into the race," said Brown of the next week's Bowling Green series. "It's early enough in the season where the damage isn't too out of control."

Helping Ferris State get back on track might force Brown to break with a superstition he's developed this season. He's used a different goalie stick in every game, which he claims is partly born out of necessity as paddles made from composite materials break frequently. After Saturday's shutout, however, Brown says he may have to give his current branch the benefit of the doubt.

"I might have to go back to that one," Brown said, laughing. "It fared well this weekend."


KISIO'S MAJOR DAD – On the surface, Brent Kisio's story is similar to "Romeo and Juliet." Kisio's father, Kelly, enjoyed a long NHL career and is now the general manager of the Western Hockey League's Calgary Hitmen. As a 17-year-old, Brent knew his best option was to pursue a college playing career and the free education that goes along with it.

In case you didn't know, the major junior and college hockey camps haven't exactly held hands around a bonfire singing "Kumbaya." There's plenty of acrimony between the two sides. But unlike Shakespeare's most famous work, however, Brent Kisio's story won't become a tragedy.

"When it comes right down to it, every player is different," said Kisio, in his first season at Nebraska-Omaha. "Every player has to make a choice and the [WHL] is a great choice for some guys and college is a great choice for other guys."

A 5-9, 175 pound forward, Kisio has been a solid contributor for the young Mavericks this season. He's scored three goals and added two assists but, more importantly, plays with a maturity rarely found among rookies.

"It's very evident that he comes from a family where he was well-schooled to play the game," said UNO coach Mike Kemp. "His instincts and his hockey savvy are superior to most freshmen we get in the college hockey ranks. It's certainly a tribute to his upbringing."

Ask Kisio about his thinking man's approach to the game and he'll downplay his heady play.

"If you're not thinking," he said, "you're going to get killed every night."

Although college coaches recruiting Brent Kisio may have felt like asking the police chief's daughter to the prom – "Some colleges might have been tentative," he said – the family's main goal was to get their son into the best situation hockey-wise and academically.

"It's one of those thinks where you'd think it would be a contentious situation," Kemp explained, "but Brent was playing in Vernon [of the British Columbia Hockey League] as a 20-year-old and it was very evident...that he was trying to get a scholarship. Obviously, they saw the value of education and wanted [Brent] to play college hockey."

Brent, whose brother Kurtis is a freshman at MSU-Mankato, is pleased with the way the season is shaping up at UNO. One of 14 freshmen or sophomores in the Maverick lineup at Ferris State Saturday, he says the team is stocked with talent but has to develop a killer instinct. Specifically, avoiding Saturday losses after Friday wins.

"Once we start bringing that heart every night and become consistent, we're going to be a good hockey team," Kisio said. "We're right on the brink. Once we get over that brink, watch out."

Great Weekend Getaway
120x60 - Brand Red

Massachusetts at Nebraska-Omaha (Fri.-Sat.): We folks in fly-over country know Massachusetts is a good team – they've been ranked among our top 10 the entire year. We just don't get the chance to see the Minutemen much. So if you're in the general vicinity of Omaha, drop by the Qwest Center and take in this interesting non-league tilt. The Mavs are a young team – 14 freshmen and sophomores were in the lineup for Saturday's loss at Ferris State – and while they lack experience, this may be the best skating bunch in the program's short history and they've got a pair of promising goalies in freshmen Chris Holt and Kris Tebbs. The Minutemen are led by Thomas Pöck, the best defenseman you'll see play in Omaha this season. Yes, we're aware that Keith Ballard and Ryan Suter have been there already.

While you're there: Sources close to INCH say you can't go wrong by hitting Omaha's Old Market District to while away the time after games. Two of the hottest spots are the Underground and the Safari Bar, the latter being a dance club that skews toward the younger crowd. Before the puck drops, check out the lounge at the Courtyard by Marriott on 10th Street, a gathering spot for UNO Blueline Club members.

Stick Salute

Originally, the plan was to honor Bowling Green and Ohio State for their success at Colgate and Cornell. Throw in Miami, winner of two games against Alaska-Fairbanks, and the CCHA's Ohio-based members posted a combined 4-0-2 mark last weekend. It's a case, as the Dayton-based funk legend Ohio Players once opined, of players doin' their own thing.

Bench Minor
To the guy who operates the celebratory horn at Ewigleben Ice Arena. Sure, everyone gets excited when a goal is scored. And there's nothing wrong with it in theory: I'm a big fan of the horn that rumbles after every St. Louis goal at the Savvis Center. At Ferris, however, the guy that holds the cord acts as if he's the conductor of a train engine trying to worn a stalled school bus full of children of impending doom. No wonder visiting teams try to cut the hose that powers the air horn.


• Perhaps Kemp and Ohio State coach John Markell should get together and exchange notes. In this space last week, we chronicled the Buckeyes' Friday struggles – OSU is 2-5-0 on Fridays after beating Colgate last week and have seven wins in as many Saturday outings. UNO, meanwhile, has won three straight Friday games but are 1-4-1 on Saturdays. Throw out their 4-2 win vs. Northern Michigan Nov. 15, and the Mavs' Saturday goal total is six.

• The hit of the season to date occurred during the second period of Saturday's UNO-Ferris State game, courtesy of Bulldogs' junior defenseman Matt York. York caught the Mavericks' Chris Claffey circling back toward the UNO offensive zone with his head down and delivered what is known in football parlance as a "de-cleater", hitting the forward so hard his skates flew out from under him. Claffey took a moment to gather himself, retrieved his stick and skated to the bench no worse for wear.

• This is the kind of stuff that may interest only me, but Notre Dame has played 35 overtime games since the start of the 1999-2000 season, the most recent being a 2-2 tie with Lake Superior State Saturday. The Fighting Irish's record in OT contests during that span: 5-2-28. Maybe Poulin has watched the tape of the 1966 Notre Dame-Michigan State football game one too many times.

• No such honor exists, but if the CCHA presented an award for best interview, Notre Dame coach Dave Poulin would be a shoo-in for the title. Just weeks after comparing his line combinations to the players on the classic Nintendo Ice Hockey game, he dropped another gem on the same subject to South Bend Tribune writer Steve Lowe following his team's 5-3 win over Lake Superior State Friday.

"I think line combinations are formed similar to good nicknames," Poulin mused. "They just happen. All the planning in the world and all the thought process, and you come out of a rotation and somebody gets with someone else and you say, 'Wow, that's something I really hadn't thought of before.'"

• While we're shamelessly stealing quotes from various sources – hey, it says we do so at the end of this notebook every week – statements uttered by former Michigan State star Shawn Horcoff following Saturday's Heritage Classic in Edmonton sound awfully familiar to things heard after the Cold War at Spartan Stadium two years ago.

"Just the start, walking out there for the first time was pretty amazing,'' said Horcoff, whose Oilers dropped a 4-3 decision to Montreal in front of 57,167 at Commonwealth Stadium. "Looking in the stands and seeing that many people was such a big thrill, something that will probably never happen again.''

Apparently, television viewers thought the same thing. The game was the highest-rated regular season contest in CBC history. Of course, the match was unavailable in the U.S. except to those limited pockets of the country that receive CBC or subscribe to DirecTV's NHL Center Ice package. It was a great event, though. Just take the word of another former Spartan and current Oiler.

"This was something I'll remember,'' said Mike York. "It's something everybody will remember forever.''

• It wouldn't be a CCHA Notebook without an obscure Bowling Green note of the week, this one straight from the Falcons' minister of hockey information Kris Kamann. In his last three starts, goaltender Jordan Sigalet – this week's conference defensive player of the week – has posted a 0.92 goals-against average and a .970 save percentage. His record during that span? No wins, no losses and three ties – BGSU skated to a scoreless draw with Lake Superior State Nov. 15, earned a 1-1 tie with Cornell Friday and played to a 2-all score at Colgate Saturday.

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report

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