Thursday, March 1, 2012

Thoughts on the CCHA Weekend Ahead

After our short mid-week hiatus, we are here to talk about playoffs.

Yes coach, we are here to talk about playoffs. Though the Colts won't be in it. Specifically, we are talking about the Mason Cup.

 The Chase For The Mason Cup Begins March 2nd

The CCHA playoffs get started this weekend with three first round series, and although Michigan State is off this weekend (and we already know who the Spartans will play), three more quarterfinal spots are up for grabs in the best of three series this weekend.

This could be one of the most interesting CCHA tournaments ever since any one of these teams could make a run given how close the league standings have been all season long. 

Here is a look at each of the series this weekend:

#11 Bowling Green (10-21-5) at #6 Northern Michigan (16-12-6)

Bowling Green travels up to Marquette for a first round series for the second straight year. Last season, no one really gave Bowling Green a chance. Things went worse from there as Northern dominated the opening game of the series 6-3. However, they fought back to tie the series and ending up shocking the Wildcats in game three in a double OT thriller.

The two teams played just three weekends ago, and Northern swept the series 4-2, 2-0 in Bowling Green.

Northern Offense:   2.88 Goals/Game  (4th CCHA)
Bowling Green Offense:   1.67 Goals/Game  (11th CCHA)

Northern Defense:   2.68 Goals/Game (9th CCHA)
Bowling Green Defense:  2.83 Goals/Game (11th CCHA)

Northern Power Play:  19.5%  (24 for 123, 2nd CCHA)
Bowling Green Power Play  9.4 %   (15 for 159, 11th CCHA)

Northern Penalty Kill:  85.3 %  (133 for 156, 3rd CCHA)
Bowling Green Penalty Kill:  83.3 %  (145 for 174, 9th CCHA)

Thoughts:  Even though the Falcons have been playing better hockey, it is tough to see them winning two out of three again this year. I have to believe the playoff series last year will be in the back of the minds of all the Wildcats. With that said, the Falcons are going to be able to have some measure of confidence knowing they have done this once before.

My Pick:  Northern Michigan in Two.

#10 Alaska (12-18-4) at #7 LSSU  (16-15-5)

Alaska faces the task of coming back down to the lower 48 where they have only won three games this season (two of which were in Bowling Green). The teams split the season series (1-1) in Fairbanks. Alaska took the opening game 4-2, but they lost the second game 3-2. This series also took place just three weekends ago.

LSSU Offense:    2.56 Goals/Game  (9th CCHA)
Alaska Offense:  2.38 Goals/Game  (10th CCHA)

LSSU Defense:   2.67 Goals/Game (8th CCHA)
Alaska Defense:  2.59 Goals/Game (6th CCHA)

LSSU Power Play:   20.1 %  (27 for 134, 1st CCHA)
Alaska Power Play:  16.0 %  (25 for 156, 9th CCHA)

LSSU Penalty Kill:  83.8 %  (109 for 130, 7th CCHA)
Alaska Penalty Kill:  81.0 %  (119 for 147, 11th CCHA)

Thoughts:  On paper, this is probably the most even first round series. This series is very important for LSSU as they sit in 20th in the Pairwise (which means the Lakers will need a long CCHA tournament run to get them into the NCAA tournament). The numbers are fairly even until we start to talk about special teams. Obviously matching up the worst PK with the best power play will figure to favor the Lakers. With the lower scoring offenses this figures to be first to two wins (either that or one game will probably be 9-8).

My Pick:  LSSU in Three

#9 Ohio State (15-13-5) at #8 Notre Dame (17-16-3)

To be honest, I didn't think this would be a first round series for a couple of reasons. Notre Dame came in with very high expectations, but they struggled to find consistency.  With that said, the Irish have beaten just about everyone they faced which simply led to a lot of splits. On the flip side, Ohio State was in first place in the CCHA when 2012 started. But they finished 1-9-4 in their last 14 games after that impressive 14-4-1 start. That lone win though was at Western Michigan. Ohio State and Notre Dame split this season in South Bend. That series occured all the way back in October with Notre Dame winning the opening game 5-2 and dropping the second one 4-3.

Notre Dame Offense:  2.64 Goals/Game (8th CCHA)
Ohio State Offense:  2.70 Goals/Game (6th CCHA)

Notre Dame Defense:  2.78 Goals/Game (10th CCHA)
Ohio State Defense:  2.61 Goals/Game  (7th CCHA)

Notre Dame Power Play:    19.0% (33 for 174, 4th CCHA)
Ohio State Power Play:      18.1%  (30 for 166, 6th CCHA)

Notre Dame Penalty Kill:   81.5%  (110 for 135, 10th CCHA)
Ohio State Penalty Kill:    83.4 %  (126 for 151, 8th CCHA)

Thoughts: With the tail spin that the Buckeyes have been in, you can pretty much count on everyone picking Notre Dame in this series. Despite that 1-9-4 streak, Ohio State still finds themselves in the NCAA picture coming in 18th (tied) in the current Pairwise rankings. Notre Dame is the team that they are tied with, so the winner of this series could find themselves back in the hunt for a NCAA at-large bid (though the winner of this series probably will need to win next week as well). Everyone is waiting for Notre Dame to turn the light switch on with the amount of talent they have on their roster, and a short series could be the jump start they need. This time I'm going to agree with the majority, but I think Ohio State will make the Irish work for it....

My Pick: Notre Dame in Three.

This figures to be a great CCHA playoff season as the conference was tight from start to finish. So it wouldn't be too shocking to see a few series this weekend and next go the distance. Though, now that I've said that, here come the sweeps......

Krug Honored Yet Again

Torey Krug was named the RBC Financial Group CCHA Player of the Month for February. A nice feather in his cap, as he makes his claim for the CCHA player of the year.

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