January 23, 2013 - 9:00am
BY LIZ VUKELICH
The Michigan hockey team may say that they try not to pay attention to what transpires within its conference, but we at The Block ‘M’ don’t’ quite share that mentality. It’s Wednesday, which means we take a look at a few league highlights and lowlights for the weekly installment of Around the CCHA.
If Michigan’s season ended today, the Wolverines would face Ohio State in Columbus for the first round of the CCHA Tournament on March 8. But the Wolverines still have 10 more games to go before the playoffs start, and anything can happen between then and now.
And this weekend was another prime example of what a gongshow the CCHA can be at times. Just look to Alaska’s sweep of Notre Dame last weekend for proof.
In the past two weeks, the Nanooks have miraculously propelled themselves from the CCHA basement to fifth place following its first sweep of Notre Dame — the CCHA’s top dog — since 2002. Before its series against Michigan a week prior, Alaska hadn’t played since Dec. 8, and hadn’t won a game since mid-November. The Nanooks have since gone undefeated in 2013.
If Alaska’s recent hot streak continues, there’s absolutely no reason why they shouldn’t climb towards the top of the conference and make a serious playoff run, especially considering that their remaining games are all against mid-tier teams.
The Fighting Irish weren’t the only top-tier team to stumble its way through the weekend — Western Michigan had a few hiccups in its split with Bowling Green. Are the Falcons — who are currently sitting tied with the Wolverines in ninth place, but have won three of their last four games — planning on joining the Nanooks as another dark horse looking to make some noise in the conference? It’s still uncertain, but if they pull out another miracle in Oxford this weekend against Miami (Ohio), then maybe a re-evaluation is in order.
Now, onwards for some good news for Michigan fans. I know, what possible solace could anyone find in a team that’s tied for second-to-last place? Well, here it is: they’re not last. That honor belongs to Michigan State with their weekend sweep by Ferris State.
In reality, the Spartans haven’t been playing any worse than the Wolverines, with both teams having more embarrassing losses than decisive wins. Michigan State has a CCHA bye this weekend (instead, they await a series with soon-to-be Big Ten opponent Penn State in East Lansing), which I suppose could give them a chance to regroup.
But even having a significant forward in sophomore Matt Berry — tied for second in the league for goals — doesn’t seem to be helping any. The tides very well could change for Michigan State in the next month, just as it could for Michigan. But right now, the only thing these two programs will battle each other for come playoff time is NOT last place.
Below are the current CCHA standings with each team’s conference record:
1) Notre Dame: (11-5-0)
1) Western Michigan: (10-4-0)
3) Miami (Ohio): (8-4-4)
4) Ferris State: (10-7-1)
5) Alaska: (8-7-3)
6) Lake Superior State: (8-9-1)
7) Ohio State: (7-6-3)
8) Northern Michigan: (5-9-4)
9) Bowling Green: (5-8-3)
9) Michigan: (5-11-2)
11) Michigan State: (5-12-1)