Saturday, February 27, 2010

Friday Roundup/Weekend Preview - Feb 26 & 27

Last year's Miami seniors went out with a bang

NOTE: OK, so epic fail on my part for not getting this finished yesterday, but here it is today with updated playoff implications.

Oxford, Ohio (Feb. 26) - With 106 wins, a CCHA regular season title, a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament and an appearance in the NCAA title game in the bag, LAST season's Miami seniors were the most decorated of any class in school history. However, THIS season's senior class, including Jarod Palmer, Gary Steffes, Brandon Smith and Dane Hetland have an opportunity to surpass those accomplishments. Consider they already have a second CCHA regular season title to their credit, they possess the CCHA's top tournament seeding, another #1 NCAA tournament seed is a possibility as is the opportunity to capture the school's first-ever Mason Cup, awarded to the winner of the CCHA tournament, and perhaps, a second Frozen Four appearance. Additionally, this senior class' win total of 104 makes them the second winningest in school history. And, with (likely) at least five games remaining, they have an opportunity to leave Oxford as the school's most successful class ever. Incidentally, NEXT year's senior class which has driven much of the success of the past two years is already at 80 wins meaning they too will have an opportunity to rewrite the Miami hockey record books and could complete their time at Miami with an unprecedented four players in the career 100-point club.

With the first-round of the CCHA tournament starting next weekend, this is the last weekend of regular season play and, aside from the top spot, the league is tightly packed from second through tenth place. In fact, first-round byes and first-round home ice slots are still up for grabs.

Here's a quick rundown of the weekend's action.

Miami v. Ohio State
Miami's 4-2 loss last Saturday vs. UNO saw the RedHawks 23-game league unbeaten streak end as well as its school record 11 game overall unbeaten streak. With the loss and Denver's sweep of WCHA bottom-feeder Michigan Tech, the pollsters saw fit to move the Pioneers ahead of Miami in all three media polls. While Miami will continue to play for the #1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, the Buckeyes are clinging to the final first round home ice playoff spot which they possess by three points over ninth place Lake Superior. Should the Lakers sweep the Wildcats, they could easily pass Ohio State should they struggle this weekend against the RedHawks.

Update: Miami scored SIX second period goals to overwhelm the Buckeyes 6-2 on senior night. Six different RedHawks scored goals including a goal and an assist for senior Jarod Palmer in his final regular season game at Steve Cady Arena. Sophomore Cody Reichard made 33 saves to improve to 17-2-3 on the season. The teams will conclude the regular season tonight at 8pm from Value City Arena where Ohio State will need at least a point to assure themselves of having home ice next weekend when the CCHA playoffs begin. The Buckeyes got a break when Northern Michigan defeated Lake Superior in OT meaning the Lakers are still three points behind Ohio State for the final home ice slot. But, should the Buckeyes lose and the Lakers win tonight, Lake Superior will take the tiebreaker and host Ohio State next weekend.

Ferris State v. Western Michigan
The Bulldogs find themselves in a tie for second place with Michigan State in the league standings and face a difficult challenge in last place Western Michigan. Last week, the Broncos announced that head coach Jim Culhane would not return to the WMU bench next season meaning you can undoubtedly expect them to play hard for Culhane during final weekend as head coach. With a second place finish, Ferris State would have its highest league finish since winning the CCHA regular season title in 2002-03.

Update: Ferris State secured a first round playoff bye with a shootout victory over the Broncos. It was the fourth shootout win for Ferris State this season. The Bulldogs are currently 14th in the Pairwise rankings that largely determine the NCAA tournament field,

Michigan State v. Bowling Green
Like Ferris State, the Spartans have an opportunity to lock up the #2 seed in the CCHA tournament which would enable them to avoid a matchup with Miami until the CCHA Championship game in Detroit. While MSU won't see a big boost in the Pairwise this weekend, their NCAA hopes are hanging by a thread so two wins this weekend are an absolute must.

Update: Michigan State secured a first round bye and moved into sole possession of second place with a 5-2 win over Bowling Green. MSU is currently tied for 11th in the Pairwise rankings.

Northern Michigan v. Lake Superior State
The aforementioned Lakers are hoping they can sneak into eighth place in the league and steal the final first round home ice playoff spot from Ohio State. However, NMU has an opportunity still to claim a first round bye so this series between the two "U-P" rivals takes on additional importance this weekend.

Update: NMU can clinch the fourth and final first round playoff bye with two points tonight against Lake Superior. The Wildcats defeated the Lakers 2-1 in OT last night.

Michigan v. Notre Dame
These two teams played Thursday with Michigan earning a 4-0 win at Yost Ice Arena. Junior goaltender Bryan Hogan left the game with an apparent groin injury early in the first period, but seldom-used junior Shawn Hunwick picked up the slack and carried the Wolverines to the shutout.

Update: After Friday's games, Michigan sits in seventh place in the CCHA just two points behind Northern Michigan for the final first round bye. If Michigan defeats Notre Dame in South Bend tonight and NMU takes one point or less against Lake Superior, Michigan will earn the fourth position.

UNO and Alaska

Both teams will play non-conference series against Bemidji State and Alaska-Anchorage, respectively. UNO can enhance their NCAA tournament resume with a sweep of the Beavers while Alaska can continue to affirm their place in the top 16 of the Pairwise.

Update: Bemidji State defeated UNO 3-1 and Alaska defeated archrival Alaska-Anchorage 7-4 last night. Currently, UNO sits 20th in the Pairwise and out of the NCAA tournament field of 16. Alaska is currently tied for 11th.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Afternoon Scrum 2/26/10

Hockey headlines for the CBJ and from around the league. Mmmmm... hockey

  • Men's hockey resumes in Vancouver today. Here are the schedule and the game previews.
Finland vs USA (Noon pst. NBC)
Slovakia vs Canada (6:00 pst, CNBC)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Afternoon Scrum 2/24/10

Hockey headlines for the CBJ and from around the league. Mmmmm... hockey

  • The qualifying rounds are underway in Vancouver. Here are today's matchups and previews. Let's go Fightin' Bald Eagles!
Swiss vs USA Noon, pst (NBC)
Canada vs Russia 3:30 pst (CNBC)
Czech Rep vs Finland 7:00 pst (CNBC)
Slovakia vs Sweden 9:00 pst (CNBC)

  • Team Canada finally looked like they knew how to score goals, putting up a snowman against Germany. Nash contributed a goal late in the 3rd when the game was already well decided. Prior to that game, Dave Feschuk of took Nash to task for his lack of goal scoring on the big stage, and fits in a few jabs at the CBJ and the city of Columbus while he has our attention.
  • We all know about the pressures Team Canada is dealing with, what with them representing the country that invented the game and doing so on home soil. But Sean Grodon of the Globe and Mail has an interesting peek at the pressure being felt by Team Russia and GM Vladislav Tretiak.
  • So who's gonna win that game? PuckDaddy gives his 5 Reasons the Canadians will win. Be sure to check out our Around the Boards feature to see who the writers of this esteemed blog think will win.
  • Former CBJ and current Red Wing Ole-Kristian Tolleffsen (Team Norway) was issued 25 minutes in penalties for a devastating elbow he delivered to Slovakian F Lubos Bartecko. Bartecko lost his helmet, fell to the ice and struck his head. He was taken off the ice on a stretcher. Not a pretty sight.
  • Practice resumes for non-Olympian NHLers today. Puckrakers reports that Jackets players should expect a long day as Interim Head Coach Claude Noel looks to up the conditioning level of his players with 19 games left in the season. Apparently, it starts now.

Around the Boards 2/24/10

Today’s Question:

Canada vs. Russia – who is going to get it done?

I have no doubt Mr. Ovechkin would like to bury a current Penguin, not just a former Penguin...

With today’s HUGE matchup between the Canucks and the Ruskies, we asked the Jackets Required crew who they thought was going to be able to put aside the mammoth pressure and move on to the Olympic semi-final round? Let us know who you think is going to win in the comments section!

Pepper Brooks:

Looking at Russia’s lineup is friggin’ scary. Top to bottom, they are sweet. Their forwards come in waves as Ovechkin, Malkin, Kovalchuk, Datsuk, Morozov, Semin, will be constantly attacking. That could be good, but also a little dangerous because if you look at the Russian defensive core, it gets a little thin after Markov and Gonchar. If the Canadians are able to counter attack, they could get some odd-man rushes, something an inferior Germany wouldn’t allow.

Both teams are going to put goals on the board as neither Nabokov nor Luongo have been a shutdown guy on the big stage. It will be interesting to see who can hold the water in the dam the best. I think Canada will ride the wave of a wild home crowd, a coming out party from the younger Canadian defensemen Doughty, Weber, and Keith, and Jarome Iginla will prove to be the difference with timely, gritty goals. Canadians win a classic 6-4.



If the Canadians were overwhelmed by U.S. speed, they are in for a treat tonight. And, considering the aging and relatively ineffective blueline play of Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer and Dan Boyle, they seem ill-suited to handle the speedy and talented Russian forwards such as Pavel Datsyuk, Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin. It's going to take a lot of Sidney Crosby and the talented Shark line (where was Joe Thornton against the U.S.?) to make up for the speed and overall talent advantage the Russians possess. Will Rick Nash ever score a meaningful goal?

I'll say Russia 5-3.

Top Shelf:

Dude, with the $70 mil tax free you're getting in the KHL, you can't spring for some red gloves?!

I've been thinking about this for hours and can't decide who I think will win. Canada looked like they finally figured out who to play with whom in their line combinations and spanked Germany. That may not be saying much, but all you can ask a team to do is take care of it's business which is what they did last night. On the other hand, Russia has loads of scoring power, speed and a solid team game... not to mention a full day's rest versus Canada's 24 hour tun-around time between games. I'm pulling for Rick Nash and Team Canada, but something tells me Fedor Tyutin and Team Russia advance.

Stick on the Ice:

I think Russia will beat Canada. They have a lot more team speed, and clearly that is a weakpoint for the Canadians -- especially behind the blue line. Pronger and Neidermeyer have looked a step slow. I just don't see them being able to contain Ovechkin, Malkin and Kovalchuk. Conversely, I'm not terribly impressed with the Russian defensemen either -- we all know that Tyutin is likely to make a few turnovers and Nash will know that better than anyone. But Ovechkin is so emotionally focused right now that I think he's elevating the play of the whole team. They had their wake up call and I thought they played a much better game against the Czech Republic -- due mostly to the sustained pace and tempo. I think the game will be close, but I just don't see Canada being able to win a trackmeet against Russia.

In the end, we all agreed that this would not occur:

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Afternoon Scrum 2/23/10

Hockey headlines for the CBJ and from around the league. Mmmmm... hockey

  • Olympic hockey picks up again today. Here are the game previews from

Monday, February 22, 2010

USA beats Canada 5-3

At this point, even those living under rocks are aware of the "upset" last night in men's Olympic hockey. I just wanted to put up a big 'ol picture of it.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Around the Boards 2/21/10

Today's Question:
Who do you want to win the Olympic Ice Hockey tournament?

With today's unbelievable slate of Olympic hockey, the Jackets Required staff kicks around the simple question, who do you want to win gold? We want to hear from you in the comments section!

Top Shelf:

Are you kidding me? I've been rocking the USA jersey as my desktop wallpaper at the office for two weeks already! Despite Bob Hunters commentary, I don't have a problem rooting for Brian Rafalski, Ryan Suter, or Ryan Kessler as long as they have USA stamped across their chest. Having said that, I don't think they will be competing for Gold. Assuming Canada makes it to the Championship Game, I'll be pulling for our neighbors to the North to win the Gold.

Stick on the Ice:

I want the U.S. to win. During the first round of games, I found myself wanting Canada to win in the first game because of Nash -- and I certainly want to see him do well. But as the second round has unfolded, I've quickly forgotten about my NHL allegiances. I want my country to win. I find it hard to believe that Canadian fans will be cheering for players of other nationalities that play for their favorite NHL teams -- and I don't fault them for that. I will be just as big of a Jackets fan when the NHL resumes, but right now I want that gritty group of American guys to shock the hockey world. True, they have a roster full of NHL talent, but they don't have the marquee players that are on ALL FOUR LINES of the Canadian team - and to a slightly lesser extent - the Swedish and Russian teams. They can win a medal, but it will require plenty of toughness and belief. Who do you play for?!

Pepper Brooks:

First off, I consider myself a patriot who is eternally grateful to have been born and raised in the U.S. of A. I will be rooting for the Yanks in every event that I don’t really know the competitors or only hear their names every four years. Hockey is different. I see these guys constantly and I don’t care what sweater their wearing, David Backes and Ryan Kessler are card-carrying members of the National Douchebag Society. Canadians have been frothing at the mouth for a gold medal on their home turf and I won’t mind if Nasher, Iggy, and Sid the Kid get it for them. The passion Canadians have for their hockey borders on scary, but nonetheless it’s viewed as their game and they want to be the best at it. Knowing how much Canada would enjoy the victory as opposed to the masses in the States, I’m kinda pulling for our neighbors to the north.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Friday Round-up

Justin Vaive and the RedHawks have been punishing teams of late

Oxford, Ohio (Feb. 19) - Junior forward Justin Vaive scored his fourth goal of the season and senior Jarod Palmer, the CCHA's reigning offensive player of the week, continued his hot streak by registering three points as #1 Miami defeated Nebraska-Omaha 6-2 at Steve Cady Arena.

After a shaky first period that saw Miami trade chances with the Mavericks, the RedHawk defense took over the game. Led by sophomores Will Weber and Cameron Schilling, Miami limited UNO to just 10 shots during the final two periods of the game after surrendering an uncharacteristic 11 in the first period. In fact, Miami allowed two first period goals which broke a streak of 13 unanswered first period goals by the RedHawks who had not allowed a goal in the first period of a game since a 1-1 tie at Alaska on January 22.

Dean Blais professes "race horse hockey." And, he had his Mavericks running in the first period. But, Miami made the necessary adjustments and got back to locking down the neutral zone, and frankly, kept UNO out of the Miami zone for much of the second and third periods. The ice definitely seemed tilted after that first period that saw Cody Reichard allow an uncharacteristic goal when UNO sophomore forward Alex Hudson fired a wrister past Reichard on a 1-on-1 rush and Hudson also had the second Maverick goal on a 5x3 power play. After the game, Blais seemed to sum up the night's effort succinctly.

“The better team won,” said UNO coach Dean Blais. “We just got outplayed, and we got what we deserved.”

More to the point, Blais felt his squad ran out of juice as Miami squeezed the Mavs during the last two periods.

“I didn’t think we battled as hard as we have been — it was almost like we ran out of emotion,” Blais said.

For the game, Miami outshot the Mavericks 45-21 as the RedHawks once again got balanced scoring as six Hawks scored goals. Jarod Palmer led the effort with a line of 1-2-3 for the night and now has an eight game scoring streak and leads the team with 15-23-38. The 38 points are a career best for the senior from Fridley, Minn.

With the win, Miami improves to 23-4-6 overall and 20-1-4-2 CCHA. They extended their CCHA unbeaten streak to 23 games and continue to play inspired hockey despite having clinched the regular season title last weekend.

Head coach Enrico Blasi agreed.

"This team is focused on just one day at a time," Blasi said. "You go out there and play hard and you leave it all on the ice. It's going to be really hard if you take some weeks off and try to turn it on again. You gotta keep the pressure on and keep working hard and they're doing that."

Tonight, Miami will attempt to sweep the Mavericks and continue trending toward a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Faceoff is 7:05 from Steve Cady Arena and the game can be seen across the great state of Ohio on ONN.

Ohio State gets crucial road win over Western Michigan

Kalamazoo, Mich. (Feb. 19) - A day after learning he would not be returning to the Western Michigan bench next season, head coach Jim Culhane and the Broncos dropped a tough 3-1 decision to the visiting Ohio State Buckeyes.

Though head coach John Markell's future is cloudy at best, he could not allow time to feel sorry for Culhane as the Buckeyes continue to fight for position in the tightly packed CCHA standings. With the win, and a Lake Superior loss, Ohio State moved into sole possession of eighth place and the final home ice spot for the CCHA playoffs with three games to play. The Buckeyes are just a point behind Michigan for seventh place in the league standings as the Wolverines dropped another home game to surging Northern Michigan.

Yet again, super sophomore Zac Dalpe led the Buckeyes with two goals including an empty-netter with 53 seconds left to seal the win. Dalpe leads Ohio State with 18 goals and 34 points this season. He has been the only consistent scoring threat for the Buckeyes as only he and Sergio Somma (10 goals) are in double-digits for Ohio State.

Junior Dustin Carlson made 33 saves to register his third win of the season as the Buckeyes improved to 12-15-4 overall and 10-11-4-2 CCHA.

Ohio State and Western Michigan complete the weekend and season series tonight at 7:35pm from Lawson Ice Arena in Kalamazoo.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Around the Boards 2/19/10

Today's Question:

How do you feel about the shootout and what changes, if any, would you make to it?

The Jackets Required staff kicks around one of the biggest changes in the 'new' NHL. Let us know how you feel in the comments section!

Do we still want to see these moves?

Or these?


It sucks ass. It should go away. You award an extra point to the winner of a skills competition after 65 minutes of hockey couldn't separate the teams? What was wrong with win-loss-tie? And, do not award points for OT losses.

Top Shelf:

I get the appeal for casual fans, and the need for something to end a game before it goes into multiple extra periods. They are fun to watch.. But, it is a horrible way to determine the allocation of points in the standings. They way points are allocated once the game reaches a tie is the bigger issue. Something needs to be done to lessen the incentive/reward for losing in overtime.

Pepper Brooks:

When the NHL came out of the lockout with the shootout, I was a huge fan of it. I still find it exciting and have yet to walk out on one, but the shootout has definitely lost a lot its’ appeal for me. With the way shootouts affect the standings in such a tight league makes me hope that the league will do a little tweaking without totally depriving us of a little guilty fun (that’s what she said).

My solution would be to give 3 points for a regulation win, 2 points for an OT or shootout win and 1 point for an OT or shootout loss. Awarding an extra point to the winner of the shootout or overtime would provide the extra incentive for the teams to put forth some effort and give that closure we all like as we leave the arena full of overpriced booze, while minimizing the impact that he has today. Too many columns in the boxscore? Whatever, you have a computer.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Afternoon Scrum 2/18/10

Hockey headlines for the CBJ and from around the league. Mmmmm... hockey

  • Tom Reed over at Puckrakers rails against NBC and their programming decisions regarding Olympic hockey.
  • Puck Daddy expounds on the TV coverage issue. Speaking of their coverage, watching Jeremy Roenick and Mike Milbury pretend to have controversial opinions about these games is nauseating. And what is with the set? FSN-Ohio is nearly as professional looking. Can't we at least get Milbury, Bill Patrick and Roenick some Olympic, or just some NBC jackets to wear? The Winter Classic is a much more professional and enjoyable viewing experience. Sorry, I went off on a tangent there.

  • Olympic Men's Hockey games today: USA v Norway (noon), Switzerland v Canada (4:30 pm), and Slovakia v Russia (9 pm).

  • TSN has their Olympic Power Rankings posted here.

  • The Dark Blue Jacket (one of my favorite fellow CBJ blogs) has a contest going to guess how many goals Captain Columbus will have in these Olympics.

  • Looking for an explanation of how the Olympic format plays out? Here you go.

  • And finally, how 'bout a Get to Know Your Pepsi Party Patrol Two-fer?!?! Let's meet Jeffrey. Jeffrey thinks Vin Diesel should play him in the movies due to their both being follically challenged, has a weakness for jalapeno potato chips (muy calante!), and says the best concert he's ever been to was Evanescence. He's also obsessed with "lifting." Yeesh. Anyway, good to meet you Jeffrey.

  • And our 2nd PPPer today is Amanda. Amanda would like to travel in time to meet her future family. I have a friend who by chance met his future-self in a bar in Austin Texas a few years ago... it was awkward and he has not been himself ever since. Amanda idolized Britney Spears when she was younger, and today would most like to meet Taylor Swift because she seems fun and outgoing, just like Amanda. Peas in a pod they'd be. Finally, Amanda seems to be a bit geographically challenged, but that just makes her all the more adorable and more likely to be played by an Olsen twin in the movies. Thanks for doing what you do Amanda!

Just For Fun - Randy Moller Goal Calls

Randy Moller is a retired NHL defenseman who played from 1982 - 1995 in the Nordiques, Rangers, Sabres, and Panthers organizations. He currently is the play-by-play man for Florida Panthers radio broadcasts and he has a lot of fun calling goals. Check it out:

Around the Boards 2/18/10

Today's Question:
On the current roster, who is your favorite Columbus Blue Jacket?
Here is what the Jackets Required staff had to say. Let us know who your favorites are in the comments section.

Top Shelf:

I could make arguments for a few guys, but I'm going to say Umberger. Work ethic, leadership and and the guy flat out cares about the team and the city. Love that dude. Honorable mentions go to the Captain (I will forever be a fan of his after signing the extension to stay here. He is Captain Columbus) and Jake.

Stick on the Ice:

At this particular moment, I really like the play of #10 Kris Russell. He's a Western Canadian version of Rudy -- 5-foot nuthin', hundred and nuthin'. He really plays hard every night and way above his weight class...anyone else remember how he knocked big Joe Thornton off the puck in a rush the last time the Jackets and Sharks met? He plays very sound positional hockey and he's really getting a better sense on when to join - or lead - the rush. He doesn't panic much and his slapshot is better than it should be. I also like the intangibles with him. He dealt with the Hitch youth development model - and he is flourishing. He didn't complain or get down on himself when he was sent to the Cuse last year. And he bounced back recently after a really serious injury to his face. He's just hockey tough and he skates like the wind. I think if he can develop some solid breakaway moves that he'll stretch out defensive pairings and score 12-15 goals per year.


R.J. Umberger. The "real" captain, he leads by example, works hard every night and makes the most of the talent he has. Trading him is not an option.

Pepper Brooks:

One of the few good things about having a crappy team for the majority of your existence is consistently having a pick at the top of the draft. When said crappy team has below average management, fans get to see those high draft picks at an early age and live with them as they go through the highs and lows of breaking into the NHL. We get to see their successes, like Rocket Richard and Calder Trophies, and feel their failures (‘Hello, Mother Russia’). The one who stands out for me is Nasher. The captain is a lead-by-example guy who tries to put the team on his shoulders every year. He doesn’t complain about anything publicly and is the type of guy you want representing you in the community. Nasher gives the CBJ legitimacy nationally in Canada. (Nobody watches hockey in the States, haven’t you heard?)

When he had the organ-i-zation in a tough spot, he chose to get the deal done. He chose to finish what he started, he chose Columbus. He chose us. I choose him.

Funny thing is, I started writing this post about Rusty but it occurred to me that I almost take 61 for granted. Truth is, I really like a lot of the guys on the roster but 61, 97, & 93 are at the top of the list.

What about you? Post who your favorite players are in the comments section.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Around the Boards 2/17/10

Today's Question:
With the injury to Cam Ward, Steve Mason was put on notice that if an injury occurred to any of Canada’s 3 goalies (Luongo, Brodeur, or Fleury), he would be on a flight to Vancouver. So, do you hope he gets the call?

Do you want to see this guy in Vancouver in the next two weeks?

Here's what the Jackets Required staff had to say....

Pepper Brooks:

To be honest, no. The kid has had a tough season filled with a lot of disappointments, although he has been playing stronger hockey lately. I think he needs the next two weeks to take care of himself both mentally and physically and finish this season strong so he has momentum and confidence going into next year. Mase will have plenty of opportunities in the future to rock the maple leaf on his sweater, but for now I want him as far away from the that pressure cooker as possible.

Stick on the Ice:

I have mixed emotions about this. Let me start by saying that I believe - and have continued to believe for the whole season - that Mason has tremendous potential. I fully believe that he has the raw skill requisite for the Olympics, but as we all know his issues this year have been mental. He's lacked confidence, focus and the necessary ability to bounce back from adversity.

Will the Olympics - or even the possibility of representing the team - provide him with a greater sense of confidence? Absolutely. Will the Olympics distract him from his focus on the Blue Jackets? Absolutely. So the question is will the pros outweigh the cons for Jackets fans? Hard to say...Personally, I think the Olympic camp he attended did nothing but shake his confidence and distract him from the start of the regular season with the Jackets. I do think that Olympic experience and the mentoring he'll undergo as part of that will ultimately make him a much better goaltender. However, this is a precarious time for the Jackets and frankly, my focus goes there first. He will have another shot in four years. Ideally, I'd like the Canadian team to keep Mason on speed dial, but I'd rather have him work with Rook and Noel for the next two weeks and leverage the emotions of not being on the Olympic team to motivate him for a really strong finish. Certainly, we saw something like that happen last year when he was slighted from the All-Star game and he finished in a dynamic way.

Top Shelf:

Sure, why not. Could the experience, even if he never even dressed for a game, be a bad thing?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Saturday Night Fights - Feb 13

Miami crushes Bowling Green 10-2

Bowling Green, Ohio (Feb. 13) - Two Saturday nights in a row, the Miami RedHawks have participated in a game that featured over 100 combined penalty minutes. And, two Saturday nights in a row, Miami put up 10 goals on an overmatched opponent.

In an ugly game in all senses of the word, the Miami RedHawks completely overwhelmed the smaller, slower and much more poorly attired Bowling Green Falcons 10-2. In doing so, Miami notched yet another series sweep as nine RedHawks had multiple point games including two-goal nights for freshman Reilly Smith and senior Brandon Smith, plus four helpers for junior Andy Miele. Miele's assist on sophomore defenseman Chris Wideman's shorthanded goal in the second period was the second of two spin-o-rama's on the play with senior Jarod Palmer also showing off the nifty feet and hands. Palmer carried the puck into the BG zone to the right of goaltender Nick Eno, spun and left the puck for Miele who spun drawing two defenders to him. Miele dropped the puck to Wideman who walked down the slot and fired a wrister past Eno. At that point, it was 6-1 Miami late in the second period.

While the action had been chippy but controlled to that point, things would get out of hand following Wideman's goal.

When a BG player ran Miami sophomore goaltender Connor Knapp at full speed with 37 seconds remaining in the second period, both teams, including Knapp, would meet behind the Miami net. The ensuing melee saw helmets, sticks, gloves and sweaters litter the ice as two Falcons and Miami's Alden Hirschfeld (from nearby Sylvania, Ohio) were shown the gate. As the officials sorted it out, they ultimately awarded Miami a bizarre 7 minute powerplay that would carry into the final period. The total tally for the incident was a whopping 67 penalty minutes and freshman defender Joe Hartman would notch a powerplay goal early in the third to keep Miami rolling.

As if things weren't bizarre enough, at 8:57 of the third period, following another minor dust-up, head coach Enrico Blasi was shown the gate. Blasi took his time walking along the boards toward the BG student section and band waving to the crowd as he exited. And, with one final parting shot, turned and executed a flawless bow to referees Brian Hall and Dean Sanborn. The Romanian judge awarded him a 9.0. To say the scene was surreal might not describe it enough. As an aside, I do think it was a bit classless of Rico, however, he's sending a message to the league and to his team that he has their back no matter what. As a player, I couldn't ask for more from my head coach.

A kneeing major assessed to BG's Robert Shea at 11:09 was the "perfect" ending to an ugly display by the Falcons in all facets of their game. They are now 4-22-4 on the season.

Next week, the RedHawks play host to Dean Blais and Nebraska-Omaha at Steve Cady Arena. The Mavericks are fresh off a sweep of Michigan and have ascended all the way to fourth in the CCHA with an overall record of 16-12-6.


  • With the victory, Miami improves to 22-4-6 overall and 19-1-4-2 CCHA.
  • The RedHawks have an astounding 20 point lead over both Ferris State and Michigan State who are tied for second in the conference. That's like leading the standings by roughly seven games.
  • Miami now has a season's best seven game winning streak and is unbeaten in 22 consecutive CCHA contests.
  • Miami has put up 25 goals over the past two weekends while allowing just eight.

Friday, February 12, 2010

CCHA Regular Season Champions!

Miami seals third CCHA regular season title in school history with
3-2 win over Bowling Green

Bowling Green, Ohio (Feb. 12) - One of the most difficult weeks the Miami Brotherhood has ever endured ended with a silver lining as the RedHawks clinched the third CCHA regular season championship in school history by defeating the Bowling Green Falcons 3-2.

As you know by now, Miami student manager Brendan Burke died suddenly last Friday when his vehicle collided with an oncoming truck on a snowy road in rural Indiana. Burke's story has been well-documented, and on Tuesday, the RedHawks attended his funeral in Massachusetts and have almost certainly been grieving since learning the unfortunate news after last Friday's 2-0 win over Lake Superior.

To suggest the Miami hockey team has been through a tumultuous year on and off the ice would be an understatement. Between the high of earning their first Frozen Four appearance last March to losing a close friend last week, the team has been through the ringer. Consider:
  • March 2009 - Miami defeats UMD 2-1 to win the NCAA West Regional and a berth in the Frozen Four
  • April 2009 - BU defeats Miami 4-3 in overtime rallying from a two goal deficit with less than a minute to play to steal the national title from the RedHawks
  • October 2009 - Miami is predicted to finish as high as third in the CCHA pre-season polls
  • January 2010 - Miami drops its first two games after the holiday break to lowly Robert Morris to fall from the top spot in the polls for the first time since October
  • February 2010 - Miami has been ranked number one in the polls for 15 of the season's 17 weeks; Brendan Burke dies suddenly; Miami clinches the regular season title
With all that's happened, this group of remarkable young men have managed to maintain their focus, poise and composure, and continue to play outstanding hockey. With tonight's victory, Miami runs its school record league unbeaten streak to an amazing 21 games. They have lost just one conference game this season, in overtime, back on October 24 to Michigan State. The RedHawks are now 21-4-6 overall and 18-1-4-2 in CCHA play. Even more astounding is that Miami has yet one more game in-hand over second place MSU who is off this weekend. The RedHawks have an almost unbelievable 17 point spread over the Spartans and still have five games remaining before a first round bye in the CCHA tournament.

Ultimately, this Miami team will be remembered for a remarkable regular season. But, history will judge them by what they do in March, and hopefully, April. Will their amazing run continue? Or will they falter during the playoffs? With what they have accomplished during the season, there is absolutely no reason why the RedHawks shouldn't win their first ever CCHA Tournament Championship and hoist the Mason Cup at Joe Louis Arena in just over a month. But, to do so, will require this team to dig deep once again and find the strength, courage and resiliency they've shown over the past year.

Four Lines Deep - 2/12/10

Canucks at Blue Jackets; Nationwide Arena
7 p.m. (EST); Fox Sports Ohio (HD)
The Canucks feel like they've been on the road for a really long time.

Have you ever been on a road trip that started with good music, a bag of cheddar pretzel Combos and a full cooler -- and then one of the wheels fell off the car? The Canucks are going through one of those trips right now.  Did I mention that they have 14 consecutive road games? Yes folks -- that's an NHL record. After starting out with a road win in Toronto, they dropped three of four, with the only win coming in a shootout against the struggling Bruins.

However, they might be coming out of it. They shut-out Florida last night 3-0, and their big threats such as Henrik Sedin (1a) and Alex Burrows (1g) found their way back onto the stat sheet after a notable absence over the previous four games. Luongo had 31 saves, but the hapless Panthers don't have much bite. They hit FIVE posts and squandered a  5-on-3 with too many men on the ice. 

Regardless, the Canucks are a tough team to handle on any given night. They score a bunch of goals (188; 3.14/g) and don't let the opposition score too often (143/2.39). They have the fourth best goals differential in the league (+45). The Jackets clearly don't get any kind of a break after tackling the Sharks on Wednesday. However, the CBJ seem to be brimming with confidence -- the next big test will be seeing how they handle some adversity and the Canucks certainly have the roster to add some of that to the mix.
First Line: Exploit the chinks in the armor. Due to injuries and the demands of a long road schedule, the Canucks will have some faces on the ice tonight that aren't seen too often. Former Jackets' defenseman Aaron Rome has seem limited action this season, but was given more than 18 minutes of ice time last night and finished a +1 against the Panthers. With the Canucks missing Willie Mitchell and Bieksa, the blueline simply isn't as strong as normal. Further, Andrew Raycroft will be in net. He's got decent stats this year (5-4/2.17 GAA/.912 SV), but he's only made five starts in the past three months. He lost four of the five and the Canucks were outscored 22-13 in those games.

Second Line: Make the twins see triple.  Just as it was the case with San Jose, the Jackets have to lock down the top line with the Sedins and Burrows. That line is a combined +76 and accounts for more than a third of the team's goals.  It's likely to assume that Pahlsson and company will be assigned the task of harassing the top line again and that will require a full commitment from each forward. The Jackets did a really good job of limiting quality chances for the Sharks on Wednesday, much of which was due to solid backchecking. The Sedins have to get some aggressive checking, or they will carve up the Jackets again.

Third Line: Lather. Rinse. Repeat.  It's pretty clear that the Jackets are figuring out a formula for success and it's not too complex. They have to continue playing aggressively and rolling four lines with some "jump." The transition game has been much faster and effective, and that's due in large part to improved play in the center of the ice and responsible passes out of the defensive zone. A steady diet of hitting helps quite a bit as well -- I'd like to see Umberger ensure that Kesler shows up for the Olympics with some eye paint. Despite taking two penalties, I hope that Boll continues to punish on the forecheck as well.

Fourth Line: Keep Mason-wide Rocking.  This one is for the fans. I will be in attendance with Top Shelf this evening, and we'll do our best to keep up the energy. Mason clearly takes inspiration from the crowd and the fans have to do their part to make Nationwide a hostile environment. The CBJ won't win tonight if Mason doesn't continue to stand on his head. I continue to believe that the playoffs are nearly impossible to make, but if the Jackets are going to keep things interesting, the home crowd must be more of a factor down the stretch. Vancouver is tired and they've just played in southern Florida the last few nights -- so they'll be dragging from the schedule and the shocking change in climate.

Afternoon Scrum 2/12/10

Hockey headlines for the CBJ and from around the league. Mmmmm... hockey

  • Jackets take on the Fighting Orcas tonight in Masonwide Arena. Game previews from the Dispatch, and ESPN.
  • has a list of the top 200 players in the NHL. I'll spot you the obvious pick, Nash is #27 on the list. I spotted two other Jackets in there. Follow the link to see who.
  • Interesting development in Big D where the biggest name in the history of the franchise, Mike Modano, has expressed interest in becoming a minority owner of the club. Modano has introduced Dallas Mavericks' owner Mark Cuban to a group of potential investors who are looking at buying the team. Cuban wants to be a minority player in the Starts too, as it will help him own more of the American Airlines Center where both the Mavs and Stars play.
  • Great article from Tony Gallagher of The Province about Rick Nash the Olympian.
  • PuckDaddy has an insightful look at the coverage NBC is giving hockey during these Olympics. Let's just say the Peacock prefers ice dancing to ice hockey.
  • And here's the full Olympic ice hockey schedule for you.
  • The Great One is the leading candidate in the mystery of who will light the Olympic cauldron at tonight's Opening Ceremonies. But Cam Cole of the Vancouver Sun looks at others who could get the honor.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Around the Boards 2/12/10

"Sir, you are hampering my ability to experience joy with that crappy call!"

The Jackets Required staff is going to be sending a daily question to each of the contributors and posting their responses. For now, we will call it 'Around the Boards' and be very thankful we spared you the original name that was going to be associated with this entry.

We encourage you to weigh in with your opinions in the comments sections. Be heard, hockey fans!

Today's Question:
What is the biggest change to the CBJ that you’ve noticed since Hitch was fired and Noel was hired?

Stick on the Ice:
As I've said in previous posts, the Jackets bet really heavily on youth - and in particular on Brassard, Voracek and Mason. All of them underperformed under the tutelage of Hitchcock this year. They won't say anything bad about him, and they shouldn't. They knew that Hitch had their best interests in mind. Unfortunately, Hitch just didn't know how to relate to them and motivate them through some pretty big ups and downs. It's a lot like my wife asking me what she should wear when we're already late getting somewhere. It's an urgent situation and the more I speak, the worse things get. I try to avoid these situations, because I don't want to get fired and replaced by my assistant spouse. Moving on...Noel clearly knows how to motivate and manage young players. When those three players are clicking, it makes us a different team. We have an effective guy in the middle of the ice on the second line, we've got a winger who's a constant scoring threat, and a netminder who can dominate a game. We're also lucky enough to get a side dish of young Russell going from good to great right before our eyes. Granted, we've got a lot of other guys contributing, but the success of those young players is the most impactful for me. And I'm very pleased with the development. Again, to be clear -- I don't put all the responsibility of the last three wins on those players. Nash, Vermette, Hejda, etc. are playing well right now. But those young guns played a big role in each game. Regardless, we're seeing the true potential of this team and it's pretty close to my expectations from the end of last season...except Commodore isn't playing.

Seems to me they are simply playing loose. In watching practice right before Hitch was removed, Noel was spending time after practice with Weighty and Garon helping both of them improve their game. It was clear the three of them had quite a rapport and I think that's spreading throughout the locker room.

Top Shelf:
The biggest change is the "Joy" factor! I found Umberger's quote to be interesting : "He's a lot stricter than Hitch ever was," forward R.J. Umberger said. "There's more rules." Even with that, there has been an obvious change in the atmosphere in the room and on the ice. I don know what kind of rules RJ was speaking of, X's & O's or otherwise, but the fact that there are more rules and they still are playing more relaxed is a huge change and a surprise. I don't harbor and ideas of this team making a playoff run, but I couldn't bear to watch the team trudge along like they were under Hitch. You could feel the pressure the players were feeling through the TV set! Close to .500 hockey the rest of the way and seeing the boys improve while having fun is what to watch for the rest of the season.

Pepper Brooks:
There’s no doubt that the CBJ are more relaxed and, in turn, starting to play the way they were expected to coming into the season. Brass and Jake are starting to emerge from a season that, until recently, was a total misstep and Russell has made huge strides to look like a dynamic defenseman. Most importantly, Mase has been the dominant presence in net that this team has needed all along. Noel’s messages of ‘Free your mind’ (I wonder if he got that from En Vogue) and ‘Joy of the game’ have gotten a lot of the credit for the wins, a notion that Noel, to his credit, is quick to downplay.

I believe that the players have been able to string together some very good hockey for the mere reason that there’s very little pressure left this season. No one expects them to run off the 18-5 (or better) record it would take to leapfrog six teams to claim the 8th spot, so the pressure is essentially gone. The firing of Hitch signaled to the players that management knew this season was a bust, too and so now the focus goes from scrapping for a playoff spot to proving to management that you’re a part of the solution going forward.

I hope I’m wrong and that time will prove to me that Hitch was such an overbearing detail-aholic who couldn’t relate to guys born after 1985 and his shelf life had expired due to natural causes. It would be easier to stomach than having doubts about whether some of the cornerstones of the franchise are as mentally tough as they need to be. We will know at this time next season when the CBJ are either in the thick of a playoff race or once again in teardown and buildup mode.