Bucking a Trend
Ohio State holds lead, captures first CCHA
title since 1972.
Andress, P. Caponigri
Martens, A. Ebbett
Tambellini, T.J. Hensick
Dave Caruso, 60:00, 26 saves, 2 GA
Al Montoya, 59:20, 28 saves, 3 GA
OS 5/10; UM 3/6
Plays: OS 1-1; UM 0-3
David Caruso, Ohio State
D: Doug Andress, Ohio State
D: Andy Greene, Miami
F: Paul Caponigri, Ohio State (MVP)
F: Rod Pelley, Ohio State
F: Brandon Kaleniecki, Michigan
Given the storied football rivalry between Ohio State and Michigan,
it wasn't shocking that Saturday's CCHA Super Six championship game
between the Buckeyes and Wolverines boiled down to a battle of field
Ohio State jumped out to a comfortable 3-0 lead after two periods,
but the Buckeyes found themselves huddled around coach John Markell
after Brandon Rogers’ goal with less than eight minutes left
in the third period cut the advantange to 3-2.
In order for OSU to hold on, the objective became simple: get the
puck across the blue line and out of their end, then work it deep
into the Michigan zone after crossing the center line. The strategy
worked well enough for the Buckeyes to escape Joe Louis Arena with
a 4-2 victory and the school’s first CCHA playoff title since
the league’s first year of existence.
“That was our main focus the entire game, actually,”
said senior defenseman Doug Andress, who was named to the all-tournament
team for his efforts. “You don’t have to make a play…you
go high off the glass and you find it in the middle of the ice.
“Loose pucks…we were all over ‘em. Getting pucks
out…we were all over that.”
Through the first two periods, the Buckeyes were all over Michigan
goalie Al Montoya and his somnambulant Wolverine teammates. Through
40 minutes, Ohio State owned a 26-14 shot advantage, as the CCHA
regular season champs seemed more intent on making highlight-reel
plays instead of generating scoring opportunities.
In spite of all the marquee talent the Wolverines boast, the team’s
apathetic play has gotten the better of them on more than one occasion
this season. In many instances during the regular season, Michigan
was able to overcome stretches of poor play, but playoff hockey
is a completely different animal.
“We have to be honest and…be ready when the puck drops,”
Michigan sophomore forward Jeff Tambellini said. “We can’t
be waiting 10 minutes into the game or 40 minutes into the game.”
The Wolverines scored their first goal halfway through the third
period courtesy of junior Milan Gajic. The play energized the largely
pro-Wolverine throng in attendance at Joe Louis Arena and served
as a precursor for what the Buckeyes, who had come from behind against
Notre Dame and Miami in their two previous Super Six wins, could
expect during the final minutes.
“We wanted to keep the pressure on them,” said tournament
MVP Paul Caponigri. “We started the period pretty well and
got a couple chances early, and then we fell back a little bit and
they kind of got the momentum.”
Michigan outshot the Buckeyes in the third period, 14-6, but Ohio
State – a team playing its third game in as many nights –
relied on its balance to weather the storm. A group once defined
by big names such as R.J. Umberger and Ryan Kesler are now a collection
of lunch-pail guys – think of them as two dozen Joe Bag O'Donuts.
“We’ve got no superstars,” Andress said. “We’ve
got 24 guys that work hard every practice, every game. We rely on
everyone to do their job.”
Northern Michigan 0
Edwardson, M. Christie
Christie, M. Kompon
Craig Kowalski, 0:15, 0 saves, 0 GA; Tuomas Tarkki, 59:45,
37 saves, 4 GA
Brandon Crawford-West, 60:00, 24 saves, 1 GA
NM 8/24; MIA 8/24
Plays: NM 0-6; MIA 0-6
CCHA playoffs, not unlike the regular season, were a wide-open
affair full of upsets and sterling performances from unlikely
to be a fan when every team has a shot at making noise in the
league. Unfortunately, people attend Super Six games based on
who's playing, not because it's championship weekend. Finding
a fan wearing a Michigan State sweater at Joe Louis Arena Friday
and Saturday was like finding meat-like substance in a concession
stand hot dog.
Eyewitnesses at Thursday's WCHA Final Five contest between Alaska
Anchorage and Colorado College estimated the crowd at roughly
10,000 fans. The announced attendance for Friday's CCHA semifinals
was more than 11,000, but probably closer to 8,000 (there were
17,895 at Joe Louis Arena for Saturday's affair.)
The days of the league banking on a Michigan-Michigan
State championship game – and the sellout crowd of 20,000
that comes with it – are long gone. The CCHA has been extremely
aggressive in marketing the Super Six as a week-long event, but
as commissioner Tom Anastos points out, the Spartan fan base grew
as the program improved under Ron Mason's guidance.
as fans rally around their programs, they're naturally going to
follow them," Anastos said, "especially when they feel
they've got a legitimate shot at winning a championship.”
signs that the Super Six is become more of a destination and less
of a day trip one makes when their team advances to the Joe. Both
Ohio State and Miami brought vocal contigents to Detroit this
year, and the city of Big Rapids virtually shut down last season
when Ferris State advanced to the playoff championship game.
talking to one of the [Ohio State] radio guys and he said they
have Buckeye fans," Anastos said. "Once we can turn
Buckeye fans into Buckeye hockey fans, there's a better chance
[fans] will make that kind of commitment. I just think it's a
slow evolutionary process."
AND HEARD AT THE JOE
For a moment tonight, pedestrians on the east side of Joe Louis
Arena may have thought they were strolling along the banks of
the Olentangy instead of the Detroit River. Buckeye supporters
lined the sidewalk between the arena and the Ohio State bus following
the game, cheered their heroes as they readied for the ride home.
Even the OSU stick bag got a hearty round of applause. Hey, those
goals don't score themselves.
are you won't see Northern Michigan coach Walt Kyle featuring
in any promotional pieces for the CCHA Super Six third-place game.
"The league won't agree with me," said the Wildcats'
second-year coach and one of the conference's more quotable sources,
"but this is a bad game to have to play in."
Miami forward Mike Kompon was a little more diplomatic in his
assessment of the Saturday afternoon skate, which looked and felt
a lot like an NHL All-Star Game.
"It's tough to play a consolation game, especially after
both teams battled hard last night," Kompon said. "In
the back of our mind we knew we had more to play for with the
NCAAs coming up."
like Kyle, is a guy who can fill up a reporter's notebook with
great material. When asked if he had a preference regarding the
RedHawks' NCAA Tournament regional assignment, the senior replied,
"To be honest, I don't know where they are."
State was ousted by Michigan State in a first-round playoff series
last week, but the program still had a presence at the Super Six.
The Big Rapids Ice Dogs squirt team advanced to the championship
game of the Kids College Classic, a youth tournament held in conjunction
with the proceedings at Joe Louis Arena. One of the players on
the Ice Dogs' roster is Peter Daniels, son of FSU head coach Bob
Daniels. Big Rapids' pee-wee team also earned a spot in the championship,
suggesting that Ferris's recruiting trips may get increasingly
shorter in the future.
it exactly two weeks ago when Michigan fans were saluting the
Buckeyes for beating Miami on the last day of the regular season,
thereby allowing the Wolverines to win the CCHA regular season
title? That, my friends, is the circle of life.
coach Red Berenson used Saturday's post-game press conference
to blast his team's performance in the first two periods against
Ohio State. With the Wolverines on the way to the NCAA Tournament,
you can bet the team heard his message loud and clear.
"It's embarrassing for our team...to come out in a championship
game and lay an egg like that," Berenson said. "They
thought they were playing hard, but you and I know there's a difference
between playing hard and playing with desperation."
good as Ohio State was on the ice this weekend, they were even
better off it...at least from a journalist's perspective. The
Buckeye players I spoke with over the course of the last three
days were insightful, informative, thoughtful, intelligent and
energetic. Sort of describes OSU's style of play.
Michigan goaltender Craig Kowalski had a fine collegiate career,
one which was unfortunately cut short by a groin injury he sustained
in the Wildcats' regular season finale. However, for him to start
Saturday's game against Miami and retreat to the bench after 15
seconds on the ice in order to secure the school record for career
appearances by a goalie taints the accomplishment.
surprising considering Kyle told the media yesterday that he and
Kowalski discussed the record, with the goalie saying he didn't
want to reach the mark in that manner.
top two pep bands in the CCHA were present at Joe Louis Arena
for the Michigan-Ohio State championship game. Still, fans heard
way too much canned music during the course of the game and, inexplicably,
while the ice was being resurfaced prior to the start of the first
period. Sure, it's an NHL rink, but bands, and not Kid Rock, play
a huge role in creating a college hockey atmosphere.
over Massachusetts in the Hockey East championship game likely
keeps the Minutemen out of the NCAA Tournament, meaning that five
CCHA teams (Ohio State, Miami, Michigan, Michigan State and Notre
Dame) will earn invitations to one of the four NCAA regionals.
Not a bad haul for the league.