Friday, February 5, 2010

Weekend Preview - Feb 5 & 6

Miami takes on Lakers while Buckeyes order up UNO

Oxford, Ohio (Feb. 5) - This weekend, #1 Miami (18-4-6, 15-1-4-2 CCHA) hosts the three-time NCAA champions, the Lake Superior State Lakers (14-9-5, 9-8-3-2 CCHA) at Steve Cady Arena. The Lakers of the iconic logo and sweet uniforms have been somewhat of a surprise this year as they enter tonight's game in fifth place in the CCHA, just two points behind fourth place Michigan with one game in hand. The Wolverines leap-frogged the Lakers last night on the strength of a 2-1 road victory over Bowling Green.

Founded in 1946 in Sault Sainte Marie, Mich., Lake Superior State is a small school of just 3,000 students. However, they have found success on the largest stage having won three national titles in 1988, 1992 and 1994 narrowly missing the three-peat when they lost to Paul Kariya and Maine. Only nine other schools have won as many as three national titles, eight of which consist of the largest names in college hockey, and in some cases, all of collegiate sports.

Last season, Miami swept the Lakers in the Soo 2-1 and 4-0 en route to the national title game. And, Miami has won four straight and seven of the last nine but those two Laker wins were huge because they knocked the RedHawks out of the 2007 CCHA tournament sweeping two games in Oxford. Overall, the Lakers own a 54-32-10 advantage in the all-time series which was absolutely dominated by Lake State in the 80s and early 90s when Miami's program was still gathering steam.

Offensively, the Lakers are led by junior forwards Rick Schofield (13-10-23) and Will Acton (7-13-20) who along with senior Zac MacVoy are the only Lakers with at least 20 points. But, like Miami the scoring is spread out with ten Lakers having compiled at least ten points this year.

In net, junior Brian Mahoney-Wilson has logged the vast majority of minutes and features a record of 12-8-5, a 2.63 GAA and 91.5 save percentage. Unlike last season when he and senior Pat Inglis split time, Mahoney-Wilson has been head coach Jim Roque's guy and something he felt was necessary to give the team the best chance to win.

"I think, if anything, it has been more of my fault in not settling on one guy,” Roque said. “It’s always tough when you keep changing stuff. This summer, I said no matter what, I was going to make a decision and stick with it.” INCH

This will be an interesting series. The Lakers are coming off a bye week, one in which they endured more of Jeff Jackson's ranting, and are desperately fighting for a top four league finish and an important first round bye in the CCHA playoffs. On the other hand, Miami is in the midst of an 18-game CCHA unbeaten streak and leads the standings by ten points over second place Michigan State. Will the RedHawks continue to match the intensity of their opponents? Can the Lakers keep up their solid, but surprising play against the nation's number one team? And, Miami has an outside chance of wrapping up the regular season title this weekend should Ferris State be swept by Northern Michigan and if MSU splits its series at Alaska.

  • Lake State will be without leading scorer Rick Schofield for tonight's game due to incurring a major penalty and game disqualification 11 seconds into the Jan. 23 game against Notre Dame.
  • Miami sophomore defenseman Cameron Schilling missed last Saturday's game against Western Michigan. It is unclear if Schilling was injured or scratched and what impact that may have on this weekend's series.
  • Faceoff tonight is at 7:35pm; tomorrow at 7:05pm. Both games can be seen around the great state of Ohio on ONN.

Omaha, Neb. (Feb. 5) - The Ohio State Buckeyes (11-13-2, 9-9-2-1 CCHA) will attempt to win a road series at Nebraska-Omaha (13-12-5, 9-11-2-1 CCHA) where they are just 3-8-2 all-time. In doing so, they must battle not only 2010 U.S. World Junior gold medal coach Dean Blais, but what is expected to be a sold-out, all-time record crowd at Omaha's Qwest Center of 15,907.

Ohio State and UNO are tied for eighth place in the CCHA, which just happens to be the final home-ice spot in the first round of the CCHA playoffs as the fifth place through twelfth place teams will do battle in round one. Of course, both squads must be thinking higher in the tightly packed CCHA where just six points (2 wins) separates fourth, and a first-round playoff bye, from tenth place.

To illustrate just how big this series is, the Mavericks have launched a microsite where they are encouraging the Omaha faithful to rally around them and sell-out the Qwest Center tonight for the first time in school history. Check it out - - I have to give them props for trying. As Ohio State knows all too well, a big building is difficult to sell out when there are so many other attractions competing for dollars in a mid-sized city on a Friday night.

The Mavericks are led by former CBJ assistant and former North Dakota head coach Dean Blais, who piloted the Fighting Sioux to two national championships. And, Blais just won gold at the U20 World Championships in Saskatoon by taking Team USA to its first gold medal since 2004. Before the season, Blais was tapped by new AD Trev Alberts, yes that Trev Alberts, to turn around the struggling hockey program. Furthermore, Alberts used the WCHA as a negotiating ploy to lure Blais as he then announced the Mavericks would leave the CCHA after this season and move to the WCHA who will also welcome Bemidji State to the league beginning this fall.

On the ice, Omaha is led by forwards Jeric Agosta (13-7-20) and Rich Purslow (11-9-20) and by senior defensman Eddie Del Grosso (4-15-19) who is having a nice final season with the Mavericks.

In net, the Mavs have split time with sophomore John Faulkner (9-8-4, 2.53 GAA, .904) getting the majority of the starts over senior Jeremie Dupont (4-4-1, 2.98 GAA, .886) who has seemingly been at Omaha for the better part of the last decade.

The Mavericks started the year especially strong at 5-1-3 but then lost six of their next eight en route to a wildly inconsistent season. Last weekend, the Mavs split at Notre Dame, but need to find their scoring touch as they have averaged just 2.73 goals per game this year and are allowing roughly the same. Dean Blais' hallmark is "race horse hockey," but that assumes you have the horses to unleash. Perhaps when Blais has time to assemble his own recruiting classes, he'll be able to play his kind of game.

  • The Buckeyes swept the Mavericks last season in Columbus winning a pair of one-goal games 4-3 and 3-2.
  • This weekend's series is the first between the teams since November 28-29, 2008.
  • Both games can be heard online at Face off time is 8:35pm and 8:05pm, Friday and Saturday, respectively.
  • Dean Blais replaced long time UNO head coach Mike Kemp who was retained at Omaha as the associate athletic director with primary oversight of hockey, golf, cross country/track and field and soccer.

1 comment:

  1. Insightful post as always -- well played.
    "Yes, that Trev Alberts.." Priceless.