the Best for Last
4, Ohio State 2
Hunwick, B. Rogers
Maiani, M. Waddell
Kaleniecki , B. Rogers
Pelley, D. Knapp
Dave Caruso, 60:00, 31 saves, 3 GA (1 ENG)
Al Montoya, 60:00, 27 saves, 2 GA
OS 16/40; UM 12/24
Plays: OS 0-7; UM 2-10
Saturday was dreary day in Detroit, dominated by low, gray clouds,
an intermittent mix of precipitation that included rain, snow
and sleet and a chilling late winter wind.
In many ways,
the conditions outside reflected what had taken place inside Joe
Louis Arena over the course of the first two days of the CCHA
Super Six. Thursday’s quarterfinals and Friday’s semifinals
weren’t poorly played, but lacked the sizzle and drama of
conference tournaments in Albany, Boston and St. Paul.
Saturday’s finale between top-seed Michigan and second-seeded
Ohio State, a 4-2 Wolverine win, let the 16,891 fans in attendance
leave the rink feeling like they got their money’s worth.
The league championship match, while not a game for the ages in
terms of quality of play, was entertaining nonetheless with flurries
of end-to-end action, a combined 67 shots on goal, solid efforts
from both goalies a couple of goal reviews and the feistiness
befitting this rivalry.
it was hard-fought both ways,” OSU captain JB Bittner said,
side-stepping a query from a reporter who asked if he thought
the game was well played.
which had been the Buckeyes’ strength throughout the season,
proved to be their undoing tonight. Four Wolverine power plays
kept Ohio State from rolling out four lines nearly for nearly
half of the first period and playing its relentless style that
focuses on wearing down opponents. It also shortened the benches
for both sides, allowing dangerous Michigan scorers like Jeff
Tambellini, Milan Gajic and T.J. Hensick to gobble up ice time
while OSU’s offensive forces like forward Rod Pelley idled
on the bench.
knew going in that their power play was one of their strong points,”
Bittner said. “It’s so hard when you’re trying
to win something in one game. It’s not a seven-game series.
You have to get your game established right away.”
It came as
somewhat of surprise, then, that Michigan coach Red Berenson said
he didn’t want to get into a special teams battle with the
Buckeyes. Clearly, the man advantage was a boon to the Wolverines,
who got a pair of power-play tallies from Gajic – one in
the first period and one in the second.
depth of our program is the amount of scorers that we have,”
said Tambellini, the Super Six MVP. “Any time we can get
on the board early, it’s great. The power-play guys…we’d
be out when they’d get a couple penalties. Then we’d
be sitting back down [when we were penalized]”
played only five or six five-on-five shifts the whole game,”
Gajic said. “[Referee Steve Piotrowski] decided to call
it tight tonight. He could’ve easily turned a blind eye.”
Like the game
itself, Tambellini’s game-winning goal 5:27 into the third
period wasn’t pretty. In fact, saying it was a fluke is
like saying Gary Busey is a little quirky. Seconds earlier, the
junior forward muffed a prime scoring chance when whiffed on a
shot as he broke into the zone on the near wing. An Ohio State
defender gathered the loose puck but misfired on a clearing attempt.
Tambellini trapped it against the wall and fired a centering pass
intended for teammate Brandon Kaleniecki, but the puck hit Buckeye
defenseman Jason DeSantis and caromed past goalie David Caruso.
was a near carbon copy of the goal Bittner scored in the second
period to tie the game a mere 11 seconds after Gajic notched his
second PPG to give Michigan a 2-1 lead. His centering attempted
bounced off the leg of the Wolverines’ Eric Werner and skipped
by netminder Al Montoya.
saw a couple strange goals,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson.
“It was certainly a game that could’ve gone either
Michigan State 2
Fornataro, C. Schmidt
Slater, B. Lerg
Hontvet, P. Skinner
Wylie Rogers, 60:00, 36 saves, 2 GA
Dominic Vicari, 60:00, 23 saves, 3 GA
AF 9/18; MS 7/14
Plays: AF 1-6; MS 0-8
can count itself among the two or three teams in the country that
can say it ended the season with a win.
The national champion
will be able to make that claim. There’s also the possibility
that the winner of Saturday’s ECACHL third-place game can
include itself on that list pending Sunday’s announcement
of this year’s NCAA Tournament field.
With that in mind,
it’s no wonder the Nanooks felt an added measure of accomplishment
after beating Michigan State, 3-2, in the CCHA Super Six third-place
game. In fact, UAF rookie coach Tavis MacMillan sounded like he’s
ready to get back to work when he returns to the office next week.
want to take time off,” MacMillan said moments after putting
a bow on the best season in school history. “My wife is
going to shoot me when she hears that…but I want to see
kids continue to get better, I want to see them continue to get
bigger [and] I want to see them continue to shoot for 4.0’s
in the classroom and become better citizens.”
It’s hard to
fault MacMillan for his zeal. With 11 freshmen among the 19 returnees
from this year’s squad, UAF will have the talent and experience
to advance to the Super Six – and possibly beyond –
next season. He’s also fortunate to have players who can
fill a variety of roles, an advantage a friend of MacMillan’s
who is also an NHL scout has advised him of for years.
“He always says
to me, ‘Tavis, you can’t build a puzzle with all the
same pieces.’ The Aaron Lees, the Ryan Muspratts, the Brandon
Gawryletzes, they’re all pieces to the puzzle and as important
to what we’re doing here as the Ryan Greentrees and Ryan
McLeods and Wylie Rogers.
to these guys is, what are they going to do over the summer to
make themselves better? Are they going to rest on their laurels
or are they going to challenge themselves to become better hockey
players? That’s a big challenge.”
The challenge is one
that will no doubt be stressed by MacMillan and the UAF coaching
staff, but also the Nanooks’ departing seniors who’ve
helped the program advance to the Super Six twice and host first-round
playoff series on two occasions.
Captain Jared Sylvestre,
when asked to reflect on the class’s role in laying the
foundation for the UAF program and the prospects for the future
of college hockey in the Golden Heart City, paused for a few seconds
definitely say it’s a sign of things to come for the program,”
Sylvestre said. “I’m glad to be one of those guys
to be here at this time.”
INCH's Three Stars of the Tournament
Wylie Rogers, Alaska-Fairbanks
One of the major reasons the Nanooks’ future looks
so promising, the freshman goaltender made 36 saves in Saturday’s
3-2 win against Michigan State. In three games at the Joe,
Rogers stopped 104 of the 112 shots he faced for a .929
2. Tom Fritsche, Ohio State
UNO's Bill Thomas may have been named the CCHA's best freshman,
and he's a worthy recipient, but Fritsche should develop
into one of the league's most dynamic players. He's the
complete package of strength, speed, skill and smarts.
1. Jeff Tambellini, Michigan
The junior forward has been overshadowed by teammate T.J.
Hensick for most of the season, but Tambellini revived his
reputation as one of the nation's most potent offensive
players. As for his game-winning goal in the title game,
it was a fluke...but, hey, it counts.
AND HEARD AT THE JOE
Named to CCHA Super Six all-tournament team were forwards Tom
Fritsche (Ohio State), Ryan McLeod (Alaska-Fairbanks) and Jeff
Tambellini (Michigan); defensemen Sean Collins (Ohio State) and
Brandon Rogers (Michigan); and goaltender Wylie Rogers (Alaska-Fairbanks).
Tambellini was the tournament MVP.
• Ohio State thought it had tied the game at one late in
the first period when Kenny Bernard poked a loose puck past Montoya,
but referee Steve Piotrowski blew his whistle before the puck
crossed the line.
He told both teams' captains he lost sight of the puck.
"The puck was held for a millisecond before the whistle was
blown," OSU coach John Markell said. "That was a legitimate
"It seemed like a quick whistle," Bernard said. "On
instinct, I went and put it in.
"That's just the bounces. We can't control the referees."
• Sylvestre provided the biggest laugh of the tournament
– at the expense of fellow senior forward Jason Grinevitch
– with his account of the shorthanded goal he scored to
give the Nanooks a 1-0 lead.
little bugger…he never passes on a two-on-one,” Sylvestre
told reporters following the game. “He came through with
that big toe drag. The only reason [the puck] came to me is because
After an extended
laugh, Sylvestre tossed a bouquet to his linemate.
played well,” Sylvestre added. “I’ve got to
give him a hard time.”
• Michigan State’s loss to Alaska-Fairbanks Saturday
brought to an end the careers of seniors who were the last vestiges
of the Ron Mason era. As freshmen, this year’s graduating
class placed second in the CCHA regular-season standings and was
runners-up to Michigan in the 2002 CCHA playoffs.
been a tumultuous three years for MSU since Rick Comley unpacked
his bags on the banks of the Red Cedar, but captain Jim Slater
says the Spartan program is as strong as it was when he arrived
on campus as a freshman in the fall of 2001.
not really much difference. I think it’s just as strong
as it was when Coach Mason was here. It’s just a matter
of getting it done on the ice, and we haven’t been able
to do that. To say the program is out of control, it’s not
right at all.”
Every CCHA team has advancing to Detroit for the Super Six on
its to-do list prior to the start of the season. And while earning
a trip to the Motor City may be a difficult task, some teams have
found that getting out is even tougher.
Alaska-Fairbanks’ return trip is a complex one. The Nanooks
are scheduled leave Detroit via bus at 4 a.m. Sunday for Chicago.
From there, they’ll board a plane for the eight-hour trip
to Anchorage. Once they arrive in Anchorage, the team will have
to spend the night there before catching a flight to Fairbanks.
eliminated by Michigan State in Thursday’s quarterfinal
round, was told it would have to wait until Monday before the
entire team could get on a flight home. Rather than keep his players
idling in Detroit for three days, coach Mike Kemp arranged for
a bus to take the team on the 12-hour trip to Omaha.
• Maybe the CCHA tournament is jinxed.
The Joe Louis Arena ice crew was ready to resurface the playing
sheet during the second intermission when one of the two Zambonis
stalled shortly after pulling onto the ice. Attempts to revive
the offending machine were unsuccessful, and a forklift was brought
in to tow it from the ice.
No official explanation was given regarding the malfunction, but
speculation centered around an arena staffer who allegedly forgot
to turn off the Zamboni's dome light.
A message on a sign mounted atop a two-story building housing
that houses Mac’s Bar, an establishment you can see from
the entrance to Joe Louis Arena – “Hey NHL and NHLPA
– get back to playing hockey!”
and a steady parade of players to the penalty box notwithstanding,
Michigan and Ohio State provided a thrilling end to what was otherwise
a very ordinary three days at Joe Louis Arena. Given the Wolverines'
status as a perennial national championship contender and the
Buckeyes taking another step toward solidifying their place as
an elite team in the CCHA, Michigan-Ohio State has surpassed Michigan-Michigan
State as the league's top rivalry.
off to the Michigan State pep band for its stirring second-period
rendition of the Super Mario Bros. theme song. Whether the tune
was directed toward anyone in particular is unknown, since the
Spartans’ smallest players (Bryan Lerg and Tommy Goebel)
are skilled forwards. Mario, as we all know, is a pint-size plumber.
boorish behavior of Michigan's Chad Kolarik during the championship
match was embarrassing. The freshman forward was constantly in
officials' faces and precipitated a dust-up at the end of the
second period by slashing an OSU player after the whistle. You're
a fine player, Chad, but your actions cast a long shadow over
an idea for the next season of ‘The Amazing Race’.
Set the teams loose in one of Detroit’s outer suburbs with
a target destination of Joe Louis Arena. All but one of the major
arteries heading into the city’s downtown area was affected
by a closure due to construction. Most people, had they mapped
their route to the rink, would’ve come up with a diagram
resembling one of those “Family Circus” cartoons in
which Jeffy goes from point A to point B via points C through
removed from sending five teams to the NCAA Tournament, the CCHA
will have to be content to see two teams – Michigan and
Ohio State – vie for a national title.
Both teams are solid, but flawed. Despite a solid performance
Saturday, Michigan goaltender Al Montoya has been average at best
this season. Ohio State's Achilles heel is penalties. Even though
the Buckeyes have the league's best penalty kill, they'll be hard
pressed to have any kind of postseason success because they put
their opponents on the power play far too many times.
Focused your eyes beyond April, however, and the CCHA's future
looks especially bright. Alaska-Fairbanks showcased its young
talent at the Super Six this weekend, quartefinalists Nebraska-Omaha
and Northern Michigan boast plenty of youth and Bowling Green
is a program on the rise. To steal the words of UAF captain Jared
Sylvestre, it's definitely a sign of things to come.