March 20, 2004
Bucking a Trend
Ohio State holds lead, captures first CCHA title since 1972.

Ohio State 4,
Michigan 2
Team Goal Str
Time Assists

First Period

No scoring
Second Period
1-OS Paul Caponigri (17) EV
2:56 R. Pelley
2-OS Doug Andress (4) EV
4:04 M. Beaudoin
3-OS Dan Knapp (13) PP
19:27 D. Andress, P. Caponigri
Third Period
1-UM Milan Gajic (13) EV
10:40 N. Martens, A. Ebbett
2-UM Brandon Rogers (7) EV
13:06 J. Tambellini, T.J. Hensick
4-OS Paul Caponigri (18) EN
19:29 Unassisted
OS: Dave Caruso, 60:00, 26 saves, 2 GA
UM: Al Montoya, 59:20, 28 saves, 3 GA
Penalties: OS 5/10; UM 3/6
Power Plays: OS 1-1; UM 0-3
Attendance: 17,895
All-Tournament Team

G: 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

By Mike Eidelbes

DETROIT – 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 position.

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.”

Miami 4 ,
Northern Michigan 0
Team Goal Str
Time Assists

First Period

1-MIA Andy Greene (7) EV
3:11 D. Edwardson, M. Christie
2-MIA Andy Nelson (4) EV
8:06 A. Greene
Second Period
3-MIA Todd Grant (15) EV
8:27 T. Husted
4-MIA Greg Hogeboom (12) EV
15:52 M. Christie, M. Kompon
Third Period
No scoring
NM: Craig Kowalski, 0:15, 0 saves, 0 GA; Tuomas Tarkki, 59:45, 37 saves, 4 GA
MIA: Brandon Crawford-West, 60:00, 24 saves, 1 GA
Penalties: NM 8/24; MIA 8/24
Power Plays: NM 0-6; MIA 0-6


This year's CCHA playoffs, not unlike the regular season, were a wide-open affair full of upsets and sterling performances from unlikely sources.

It's great 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.

Need proof? 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.

“I think 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.”

There are 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.

“I was 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."


• 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.

• Odds 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."

• Kompon, 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."

• Ferris 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.

• Wasn't 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.


Michigan 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 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."

As good as Ohio State was on the ice this weekend, they were even better off 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.

Northern 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.

It's especially 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.

The 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.


Maine's win 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.

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