March 17, 2006
CCHA Semifinals
Title Game Pipe Dreams
Northern Michigan, Michigan defenders hit posts, wonder "what if?"

By James Jahnke

Michigan State 4,
Michigan 1
Team Goal Str
Time Assists
First Period
1-UM Andrew Ebbett (14) EV
7:26 C. Kolarik, M. Mitera
1-MS Tim Crowder (13) PP
8:46 C. Potter, D. Booth
2-MS Zak McClellan (3) EV
16:45 E. Graham, C. Lawrence

Second Period

No scoring
Third Period
3-MS Bryan Lerg (15) EV
17:44 C. Mueller, C. Fretter
4-MS Tim Crowder (14) PP
19:28 C. Mueller
UM: Noah Ruden, 59:42, 20 saves, 4 GA
MS: Jeff Lerg, 60:00, 25 saves, 1 GA
Penalties: UM 8/16; MS 6/12
Power Plays: UM 0-3; MS 2-5
Attendance: 10,478

DETROIT – Nathan Oystrick and Matt Hunwick are among the best handful of
defensemen in the CCHA. On Friday, both of them skated down the slot
unchecked. They took perfect centering passes. They shot. They hit the post. Their teams lost.

The similarities of the two plays were striking. So were the results. Thus, Oystrick’s Northern Michigan Wildcats will play Hunwick’s Michigan Wolverines in Saturday’s consolation game at CCHA championship weekend at Joe Louis Arena.

Miami overcame a 2-0 deficit - it would have been 3-0 had Oystrick hit twine instead of pipe on his second-period attempt - to beat Northern, 5-2, in Friday’s first semifinal. Michigan State will play the RedHawks in the final after thwarting rival Michigan, 4-1, in the late game.

Hunwick’s shot, which came about halfway through the third period, would have tied the score at 2-2.

“We didn’t capitalize on our chances,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “It was just one of those things. Disappointing.”

Oystrick came straight down the seam from practically center ice, screaming for the puck from Andrew Contois. He said he saw room high on Miami goalie Charlie Effinger’s glove side. He simply missed.

“About an inch inside, it would have gone in,” said Oystrick, the Wildcats’ senior captain. “Just got unlucky.”

The two pipes weren’t the only deciding factors of the games. Michigan State’s defensemen did a masterful job keeping the swift Wolverine forwards at bay, for the most part. MSU coach Rick Comley cited the Spartans’ right to last change as being a major advantage because he could dictate matchups. And even when the MSU defense failed, 5-foot-6 goalie Jeff Lerg stood tall, making 25 saves.

The Spartans also got two goals from freshman Tim Crowder as MSU overcame
a 1-0 deficit created by Andrew Ebbett’s first-period goal for Michigan.


Miami 5, Northern Michigan 2
Team Goal Str
Time Assists
First Period
1-NM Mike Santorelli (15) EV
14:14 P. Bateman, N. Oystrick
2-NM Pat Bateman (10) EV
16:56 unassisted

Second Period

1-MIA Brian Kaufman (1) EA
2:49 A. Greene, M. Ganzak
2-MIA Ryan Jones (21) EV
11:28 N. Musitelli
3-MIA Nathan Davis (20) EV
17:05 unassisted
Third Period
4-MIA Nino Musitelli (6) EV
7:03 unassisted
5-MIA Stephen Dennis (2) EN
19:45 A. Greene, M. Davis
NM: Bill Zaniboni, 57:53, 13 saves, 4 GA (1 ENG)
MIA: Charlie Effinger, 59:39, 19 saves, 2 GA
Penalties: NM 2/4; MIA 4/8
Power Plays: NM 0-4; MIA 0-2

Miami got away with at least one, maybe two, high sticks on goals Friday. The first was questionable. On a delayed penalty, super Miami defenseman Andy Greene took a shot from the point that hit “about six” (his estimation) players on the way to the net. It appeared to us that its last deflection before fluttering over NMU goalie Bill Zaniboni was off of freshman forward Brian Kaufman’s high stick. But Greene was credited with the goal until about a half-hour after the game, when it was switched to Kaufman, which seems pretty damning.

NMU coach Walt Kyle said he thought the puck was hit with a high stick, too, but he refused to comment further.

“You can’t criticize the officiating,” he said. “You get fined.”

Kaufman was not available for postgame interviews.

The second instance came on Miami’s third goal, the game winner. As forward Nathan Davis cut across the slot en route to the goal, the puck took a high hop and he clearly brought it back down to the ice with a high stick, then snapped a shot past Zaniboni. Nobody seemed to notice in real time, but it was evident on replay.

Davis said he didn’t realize it, either, until somebody mentioned it in the locker room.

“I don’t know, it happened pretty quickly,” Davis said. “I just heard about it about five minutes ago. It didn’t feel like it was high. It felt like it was right around waist level.”


• Four teams, four pep bands, plus the Northern Michigan cheerleaders. That’s batting 1.000 in our book.

• Things can change in an instant, but indications at the Joe were that Western Michigan coach Jim Culhane will keep his job for next year.

• Sweater spotters didn’t have much to work with. Aside from the four participating teams, the only college jerseys we saw were Nebraska-Omaha and, ahem, New Hampshire. If we missed you, sorry. Make yourself more noticeable.

• Dave Ellis of the Spartan Sports Zone television program wanted a Stick Salute from INCH for collecting on a bounty on an Ann Arbor News writer with a crushing check during Thursday’s media hockey game at the Joe. He gets into our Seen and Heard instead.

• Miami’s fan section was largely drowned out by the raucous Puckheads of Northern Michigan, but there was a decent amount of red in the stands. Or were those just the empty seats?

• Northern Michigan defenseman Geoff Waugh made the crucial turnover that
allowed Nino Musitelli to give Miami a 4-2 lead at 7:03 of the third period. In a corner of the defensive zone, Waugh tried to control a behind-the-net pass from Oystrick, but the puck squirted off his stick right to Musitelli in front of the net.

“I take full responsibility for it,” Waugh said. “I should have had it. Just getting used to the boards. We play on an Olympic sheet back home, and I don’t know if you saw, but a few of us ran into the boards thinking we had more room than we actually had. The angle of my stick just sent it into the slot, unfortunately.”

INCH's Three Stars of the Night

3. Corey Potter, Michigan State
Potter was a tremendous on-the-puck defender against Michigan, and he set up MSU’s first goal of the night with a shot into Jack Johnson’s skates in front of the net

2. Nathan Davis, Miami
Davis netted the game winner in the second period with a shot that sneaked between NMU goalie Bill Zaniboni’s body and left elbow. He also hit a post in the first period and was Miami’s most threatening forward.

1. Jeff Lerg, Michigan State
Lerg didn’t have to stand on his head, but he was effective when he needed to be. He kept rebounds out of dangerous areas and never looked unsteady against the uneasy Wolverines.


Joe Louis Arena always has a few TVs in the concourse tuned to the NCAA basketball tournament during this CCHA weekend, which was nice for the Michigan State fans who wanted to be at the rink and still follow the hardwood action Friday night. Of course, that George Mason guy ruined their fun, but it was the thought that counted.

After his news conference, Rick Comley joined the unwashed masses of the media to watch the end of the Minnesota vs. St. Cloud State barnburner on a press-room TV. When Ryan Potulny knotted it at 7-7 in the waning seconds, Comley stomped his foot in good-natured disgust and bolted out of the room with a smile.

Attendance wasn’t very good, even for the U-M vs. MSU nightcap, which is the best draw the CCHA has. The announced figure was 10,487.

Steve Piotrowski is a good referee, but it’s a shame those two Miami goals were so questionable. And then the NMU shot at the end got waved off. The Wildcats did not (repeat, NOT) get jobbed by the officials, but Miami certainly got more breaks.


MSU and Miami meet in Saturday’s title game, with a No. 1 seed in the NCAA
tournament likely on the line. Both would like to be the No. 3 overall seed and head to Albany instead of Worcester, where the Boston schoolslikely await. The Spartans swept Miami in their only meetings this year, but those were in East Lansing and just a few days after the RedHawks clinched the regular-season title. Saturday’s circumstances are far different.

Michigan heads into the consolation game with an NCAA bid seemingly secured, but the Wolverines will feel a whole lot better about themselves and their situation with a win. “If we don’t (have a good game Saturday), I don’t know if we deserve it,” Berenson said.

Northern appears to have no shot at the national tournament, so their primary motivation will be to send the seniors out as winners.