Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Miami - A Dynasty In the Making?

First an update on rankings....

Michigan State did drop a couple spots in the USCHO.com poll this week. The Spartans enter the bye week ranked 15th in the country in this poll.

USA Today kept the Spartans right in the same spot at #14 in the country.

INCH.com saw it the same way putting MSU 15th in their latest power rankings.


Miami Ice Hockey - on the brink of dynasty:

At least that is what The Miami Student would want you to believe back in 2007.

That article was printed back at the start of the 2007 season (the season after Michigan State won a national title). For those keeping score, Miami had the following to brag about in its entire history...

CCHA Titles (2) -  1992-93, 2005-06
CCHA Tournament Titles - (0)
NCAA Appearances (5) - 1993, 1997, 2004, 2006, 2007
NCAA Frozen Fours (0)
NCAA Championships (0)

So you can imagine there was a bit of internet splash back when that article first made an appearance. None of those numbers hardly point to a dynasty. That's a word that is tossed around way too easily in the sports world, and the original article really doesn't help that matter. This led some people to refer to Miami as "The Dynasty" or some of my friends to refer to Miami(OH) as Miami(NTM) meaning 'Miami, not that Miami' because most college sports fans think of the 'U' when you think of Miami.

Basically what the article is trying to point out is Coach Enrico Blasi had the program on the verge of becoming an 'upper tier' program. A program that finally had a national face and would be a force on both the conference and national levels.





We said Enrico Blasi not Palazzo



That's better....


Since that point, Miami has made two frozen four appearances, including a national runner-up, won a CCHA tournament title, and a CCHA regular season title, along with making the NCAA tournament every year since (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011). Still not exactly dynasty worthy numbers. Oh, and they built a new arena.

So maybe the original intent of the article really wasn't that far off, though still missing the mark on the Dynasty. Miami did come into this season as the #2 ranked team in the country, but they struggled to a 2-5 start. Since that point though Miami has been back on track going 19-8-2 since that point including winning 12 of their final 16 games (a stretch that started with a two game sweep at Munn), and winning their last six games to secure the fourth and final home ice spot in next weekend's CCHA quarterfinals.

A Dynasty? No, but still a great program under Coach Blasi.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday Thoughts

So the Spartans finally went into South Bend and won a game. The only problem was they lost the night before which allowed Miami to pass them in the standings and take home ice with it. No problem though, since the Spartans were 6-7 on the road. Not great, but not terrible either.

Also, even though the Spartans were swept in early January by Miami (at Munn), the first game went into overtime, and the second game was 1-0 going into the 3rd period (before Miami won 4-0). The point being is MSU was in both games, but they just couldn't get over the hump. The Spartans went 8-4-2 after that series including 3-3 in road games (and 2-0 in road games in the state of Ohio).

The Spartans probably need to win this series to get them in a great NCAA position. The latest projection has Michigan State as a 3 seed in the Midwest region. Even if Michigan State loses the series in three games, they might have a shot, but they would probably need all the right teams to win. So the moral of the story here is simple: you control your own destiny - win and you are in.

Not to mention the Spartans haven't been to the Joe in March since 2007.

The good news is MSU is 28-11-2 all-time in Oxford, OH. Over the last six series at Miami, the Spartans actually hold a 7-5 edge in the series. The last time they played was back in October of 2009 where they split. So even in recent history, the Spartans have done alright in Miami - and the Red Hawks have had some great teams during that time period.

So even though this team might not be the best match-up for the Spartans, the one thing you can expect is the best effort from the green & white. Miami will earn the series win.

The Munn Minute All-Conference Teams


First Team: 

Forwards:

T.J. Tynan (So., Notre Dame) -  Tynan finished the season tied for the conference lead in points (29), though his -4 rating could keep him from getting some recognition.

Reilly Smith (Jr., Miami) - Smith finished the year leading the league in goals (18), and a +13 rating isn't too shabby either. If you include non-conference games, he tallied 26 goals in 34 games.

Alex Guptill (Fr., Michigan) - Although he probably won't get it since he's a freshmen, I think he deserves a look. He finished the season leading all freshmen in scoring (25 points, 13 goals), and he has a nice +12 rating which some of the seniors above him in points don't quite have.

Defense

Torey Krug (Jr., Michigan State) -  I'll be shocked if he isn't a unanimous first team all-conference selection. He shared the scoring title, a first for a d-man in the CCHA in 25 years. He posted a +19 rating in conference games too.

Chad Billings (Sr., Ferris State) - Ended the year with 25 points, second among d-men to Krug. A +10 conference rating also helps. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if another guy (on my second team) is here instead.

Goaltender:

Shawn Hunwick (Sr., Michigan) - He is the only goalie in the conference in the top 3 in all the major goalie categories with at least 1,000 minutes played - goals against average (1.93), save percentage  (.937), and winning percentage (.635)

Second Team:

Forwards:

Jordie Johnston (Jr., Ferris State) - Led the Bulldogs in scoring (24 pts)

Tyler Gron (Sr., Northern Michigan) - Finished the league in the top 5 in scoring with 27 points

Justin Florek (Sr., Northern Michigan) - Also finished in the league in the top 5 in scoring with 27 points.

Defense:

Lee Moffie (Jr., Michigan) - A +13 rating with 21 conference points gets him in the discussion. He had to do a lot with Merrill out the first half of the year too.

 Kyle Follmer (Jr., Northern Michigan) - Although a -1 rating might not be gaudy (Lidstrom did win a Norris Trophy with a minus rating last season), he was still a key part of the Wildcats offense and defense this season.

Goaltending:

Connor Knapp (Sr., Miami) - Knapp actually has better numbers than Hunwick in each of the three categories, but he has played roughly 700 fewer minutes.

All Due Respect to:

Western Michigan. No one on this list is from Kalamazoo, but the stats seem to indicate otherwise. It wouldn't surprise me to see a couple of guys (Balisy, Walters) to get some recognition because of the team success.

Played Of The Year: This one honestly boils down to a two person race in my mind. Torey Krug & Shaun Hunwick. Without either of these guys, who knows where their respective teams end up. It's just so easy to give this award to a goalie though, because you can make that case with just about every goalie in the top half of the league. I don't know that you can say that about every d-man in the league though, so I'll give the nod to Torey Krug (call me biased if you'd like).

Coach Of The Year: It's so easy to give this award to a team predicted to finish in the middle to bottom half of the league that ends up surprising everyone. We have two teams that fit that criteria this year in Tom Anastos and Bob Daniels. Red Berenson should also get a look given where his team was at in right after Thanksgiving. Enrico Blasi could get a look given the same criteria. However, given that Ferris State has zero NHL draft picks right now, and that they just won the league title, currently hold a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament, this award has to (and realistically should) go to Bob Daniels.


More playoff coverage to come this week.


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Spartans Win, Will Face Miami In CCHA Quarters

The Spartans finally got one monkey off their back this weekend, and for the next two weeks they will look to work towards getting another one off their backs. Michigan State fought back tonight from two different one goal deficits to beat the Irish for the first time since 2008 and in South Bend for the first time since 2006. MSU went 0-7-4 over the last 11 meetings with Notre Dame.

This one didn't start out any different as Notre Dame tallied a power play goal just 4:37 into the opening period to give ND a 1-0 lead. Michigan State battled through it though eventually netting a goal with 2:58 to go in the period as Walrod scored his ninth goal of the season. The second period saw both teams tally short handed goals. Notre Dame scored the first one 10:57 into the period as T.J. Tynan netted his 13th goal of the season. Then with 2:59 to go in the period, Chris Forfar tied the game up with a shorthanded tally of his own. The Spartans weren't done yet as Captain Torey Krug scored his 11th goal of the season with 42 seconds to go in the period. That goal proved to be huge on multiple levels as it tied Krug with Tynan for the CCHA scoring title.

Shots through the second period were 23-12 in favor of Notre Dame. In fact, Michigan State only mustered three shots on goal in the second period, but two found the back of the net.

In the final period Dean Chelios iced the game 9:13 into the final frame with his eighth goal of the season. Michigan State out-shot the Irish 7-6 in the final frame, though the Irish held the 29-19 edge for the game. Yanakeff made 27 saves in the win.

The victory gave Michigan State a nice little boost in the CCHA standings, but it wasn't enough to move out of the fifth seed as Miami defeated Ohio State 5-1 tonight, and Western Michigan shutout Ferris State 3-0. Northern swept LSSU this weekend with a 5-3 win tonight, and Michigan broke through in Bowling Green with three third period goals to win 3-0.

As a result, the CCHA playoffs will look like this:

First Round Match-Ups  (March 2nd - 4th):

#11 Bowling Green (22 pts) at #6 Northern Michigan (42 pts)
#10 Alaska (30 pts) at #7 LSSU (41 pts)
#9 Ohio State (39 pts) at #8 Notre Dame (39 pts)

How about Ohio State? They were first in the CCHA at the start of 2012, but they finished ninth.

CCHA Quarterfinals (March 9th - 11th):

#5 Michigan State (47 pts) at #4 Miami (48 pts)
Top Seed of First Round Winners at #3 Western Michigan (50 pts)
Second Best Seed of First Round Winners at #2 Michigan (50 pts)
Worst Seed of First Round Winners at #1 Ferris State (54 pts)

Ferris State #1 overall is much of a surprise as Michigan State in the top five. Finishing 5th might be a little bit of a disappointment for MSU fans, but the win tonight was still big for the NCAA picture. It still stands to reason that MSU might have to reach Joe Louis to solidify a NCAA bid, as Michigan State still sits in 12th in the PairWise.

Also, I sort of skimmed over it, but I shouldn't. Congratulations are in order to junior Captain & All-America Candidate Torey Krug who shared the CCHA scoring title. He becomes the first d-man in the CCHA to do this  since the 1986-1987 season when WMU's Wayne Gagne did it.

Let the Second Season Begin

It's a new season now, and the team needs to focus on getting that other monkey of their back. Michigan State hasn't been to Joe Louis Arena for the CCHA tournament since 2007. Michigan State lost to Northern in 2008 in three games in the quarterfinals. In 2009, Northern swept Michigan State in the CCHA first round. In 2010, Michigan State finished second in the CCHA only to see a red hot Michigan team come into Munn and upset the Spartans in two games in the CCHA quarters. In 2011, Michigan State lost a pair of overtime games in the CCHA first round in Alaska. So it's been awhile.

Check back here throughout the next couple weeks as we prepare for the upcoming series against Miami(NTM). We will also take a look at the NCAA picture once again tomorrow, as well as start to break down some of the other CCHA playoff series.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Spartans Lose to Irish, Control of Home Ice

Michigan State came into this weekend winners in five of their last six games. Notre Dame came into this weekend on a five game losing streak. Both teams were in desperate need of a win, but it was the Irish that came away with the hard fought 2-0 victory - sending Michigan State away to their 11th straight game without a victory over Notre Dame.

The good news for MSU fans is despite this loss, Michigan State clinched a first round bye thanks to Ohio State and LSSU losing. The bad news is Miami beat Ohio State, which bumps MSU to fifth place, and on the road in the CCHA quarterfinals.

Michigan State is three points behind Michigan, and two points behind Western and Miami. MSU cannot pass Michigan in the standings, since Michigan owns the head to head tiebreaker, so the best MSU could do is third place if the Spartans win (3 points) and both Western & Miami lose (Miami would have to lose in regulation/OT, Western could still earn a point in a SO Loss).

Jeff Costello put the Irish ahead in the second period with a power play goal just 2:31 into the middle period. Peter Schneider put the game away with a goal 9:54 into the final period giving the Irish a 2-0 lead. The stats all point to an Irish victory, out-shooting Michigan State for the game, and dominating the face-off circle (nearly doubling the win total in the face-off category).

Home Sweet Home

How does MSU get home ice?


MSU cannot pass Michigan. Michigan owns the head to head tiebreaker with their 2-1-1 season series win in the CCHA. So we focus on the following:

3. Western 47 points (13 wins)
4. Miami  45 points (14 wins)
5. MSU   44 points  (13 wins)

Situation One (the easiest one):

Michigan State wins in regulation or OT

AND

Miami loses (any type) OR Western loses in regulation/OT

Western goes to Ferris tomorrow night, and Ferris is still playing for a #1  NCAA tournament seed, so the game means something to them. Miami plays at Ohio State, and that won't be easy, but man Ohio State is really falling apart right now.

What if all four teams (UM, WMU, M(NTM), MSU) all finish with 47 points?

Things get a little sticker. The first tiebreaker is conference wins. Michigan, Miami, and Michigan State would have 14 wins. Western would have 13. This would eliminate Western, put them in 5th place. The next tiebreaker would be head to head winning percentage. Michigan State went 1-4-1 against Michigan and Miami. Miami went 2-2 in head to head meetings (.500), and Michigan went 4-1-1. Michigan would be #2, Miami would be #3, and Michigan State would be #4 hosting #5 Western Michigan in 2 weeks.

What if three of the teams tie with 47 points?


It'll depend on which teams MSU are tied with. If it's Michigan and Miami, that would mean Western would have more than 47 points and be the #2 seed. Michigan would be the #3, Miami #4, and MSU #5. Ouch.

If it's Western and Miami, that means Michigan earned at least a point and is the #2 seed. Conference wins would be the next tiebreaker which puts Western at #5. Miami and MSU would still be tied with 14 conference wins, so the head to head tiebreaker is used, which Miami has and would be the #3 seed, which makes MSU #4.

If it's Michigan and Western - and Miami ends up with 48 points, Miami would be the #2 seed. At that point it comes down to conference wins which Michigan and MSU would have 14. That would make Western #5 again. MSU would be #4 since Michigan won the season series.

If it's Michigan and Western - and Miami ends up with 46 or 45 points, Michigan is the #2 seed by virtue of their season series win over MSU. MSU would be the #3 seed by virtue of having 14 conference wins to Western's 13. Miami would be the #5 seed, and Western would be the #4 seed.

What happens if it's a two way tie at 47 points?


Again, it'll depend.

Michigan-MSU & Miami has 48 points:  MSU would be the #5 seed since Western & Miami would be ahead of both MSU & UM. UM wins the tiebreaker based on head to head.

Michigan-MSU & Miami has 45 or 46 points:  Western would be ahead of both still, so they are #2. Michigan would be #3, and MSU would be #4 playing host to #5 Miami.

MSU-Western & Miami has 48 points:  Michigan would be #2, Miami #3, MSU #4, WMU #5

MSU-Western & Miami has 46-45 points: Michigan would be #2, MSU #3, Western #4, Miami #5

MSU-Miami -  MSU would be #5 since UM and Western would have at least 48 points. Miami wins the head to head tiebreaker.

What happens if it's a two way tie at 46 or 45 points with Miami?

Miami would host MSU in the CCHA quarterfinals 4-5 match-up, based on the head to head tiebreaker.

So who do we root for?


 A plea from MSU Hockey Fans Everywhere Coach Daniels: Help your Alma mater out - beat Western!!!



Answer: Ferris State & Ohio State. In any situation, if Michigan State ends up tied with Western Michigan, Michigan State would host in the CCHA quarterfinals. So - go Bulldogs! If Miami were to lose, and Michigan State were to win, the Spartans would host assuming that MSU's win was at least 2 more points than Miami's loss (so if Miami lost in a shoot-out, MSU would have to win in OT or regulation).

What could make this even more fun is if MSU finds themselves in OT. Michigan State plays at 7:35 pm tomorrow. Miami & Western play at 7:05 pm. Those games should be over before MSU's. If Miami earns 1 point in a shoot-out loss, and Michigan State finds themselves in OT - Coach Anastos might be forced to pull the goalie to try to break the tie in OT. At that point a shoot-out win does nothing. Though, you have to keep in mind NCAA hopes as well. If Miami lost in regulation or OT, then MSU would just need to win in a shoot-out, so the goalie can stay in the net in OT. 

But, this doesn't mean a thing if MSU doesn't at least win tomorrow.
 






 

Game Day Part I: Around the Press

Friday morning media links:

LSJ.com: Spartans Look For Strong Finish

State News: Spartans take on ND

USCHO.com : Paula's Picks

South Bend Tribune: How will ND's nice guy finish?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Weekend Preview: Luck of The Irish

How does that saying go - If it wasn't for bad luck, we'd have no luck at all.

The 2011 - 2012 season hasn't exactly played out like the Irish expected. They came into the season ranked #1 in the polls, but it took all of one game to lose that ranking when they lost to defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth in their opening game. Like any good team though, they rebounded the next night and proceeded to jump out to a nice 10-2-3 start in their first 15 games.






I googled "Brian Kelly Smiles" - and this was about the best photo that came up


That's when things started to turn the other direction as Notre Dame is only 6-13-0 since that point. Coming into this weekend, Notre Dame is riding a five game losing streak, and you can point directly to their offensive production. The Irish have only scored four goals in their last five games. They've been shutout twice. Their last win was a 2-1 squeaker over last place Bowling Green.


Now all of a sudden things aren't as rosy for the Irish Hockey Team

 
This weekend is huge though for both teams. Notre Dame cannot actually catch Michigan State, but they certainly could knock the Spartans down a few spots. Both teams are fighting for home ice. Notre Dame currently sits in a tie for eighth place (11-12-3 CCHA, 16-15-3 overall) with Northern (Notre Dame has the tiebreaker). That is important since it is the last home ice spot in the first round. Michigan State holds the all-important fourth and final home ice spot for the CCHA quarterfinals coming into this weekend posting wins in five of their last six games (13-10-3-2 CCHA, 18-12-4 overall). All that stands between home ice and these two teams is each other. Win - and they are playing at home. Lose - and they'll need help (though MSU could still play at home - just in the first round). 

It should be noted that MSU is guaranteed a home ice series in the first round, should they fall into sixth place. MSU cannot fall further than sixth based on who plays this weekend. Notre Dame, Northern Michigan, Alaska, and Bowling Green are guaranteed to finish behind MSU. Miami or Ohio State is also guaranteed to finish behind MSU, because they play each other and both teams cannot earn enough points this weekend to pass MSU (though - each team has a chance to pass MSU, just both won't be able to). This means five teams (11th, 10th, 9th, 8th, and 7th) will finish behind MSU. This means MSU cannot finish lower than sixth. The issue will be finishing in fifth place - that will be good enough for a bye, but they'll be on the road. MSU could finish in second with a lot of help - but don't expect it. Michigan travels to last place Bowling Green. MSU would have to earn one more point than Western, four more than Michigan, and no fewer than one less point than what Miami earns to get second place. Got it?




 Oh man, I think my head hurts - why can't ND be independent in hockey too?



Did you catch all that coach?

What makes this even better, is Notre Dame could finish as high as a tie for fifth or as bad as ninth.  It gets even better when you throw the NCAA picture into this mess. Michigan State sits in 10th place in the PairWise and Notre Dame has fallen all the way to 22nd. Basically, both teams really need to win this weekend. The Irish need to win it to avoid us calling a code blue on the Irish NCAA at-large hopes, and Michigan State needs to avoid a bad weekend to fall back on the bubble - or worse - right past the bubble. 

Behind Enemy Lines:

Top Scorers:
T.J. Tynan    12 goals, 27 points  (tied w/ Krug for the lead in conference points)
Andres Lee   14 goals, 30 points
Riley Sheahan   9 goals, 24 points  (Red Wings draft pick)
Billy Maday     9 goals, 21 points
Austin Wuthrich  7 goals, 16 points

I should point out that four of these guys are not seniors. Tynan and Lee are sophomores, Wuthrich is just a freshman, and Sheahan is a junior. That makes for a bright future for the Irish, if they all come back. It'll be interesting to see who comes out on top after the weekend in conference scoring. Torey Krug has a chance, and for MSU to be successful this weekend, it'll help to see a lot of this:


All-American Candidate Torey Krug needs to show the Irish what Touchdown Jesus is really doing


In goal:

Mike Johnson   9-9-3,    2.63 GAA, .886 save %
Steven Summerhays    7-6-0, 2.93 GAA,  .887 save %


Not exactly gaudy goaltender numbers there considering ND and Jeff Jackson usually pride themselves on defense, defense, defense.

The Team Comparison:

 Offense:

Michigan State  3.09 Goals/Game (2nd CCHA)
Notre Dame  2.62 Goals/Game  (8th CCHA)

Defense:

Michigan State 2.53 Goals/Game (7th CCHA)
Notre Dame 2.82 Goals/Game (T-10th CCHA)

Power Play:

Michigan State 17.7%  (23 for 130, 7th CCHA)
Notre Dame  18.8 %  (31 for 165, 3rd CCHA)

Penalty Kill:

Michigan State 89.2 %  (116 for 130, 1st CCHA - and it's not even close)
Notre Dame   80.6%   (104 for 129, T-10th CCHA)

The second best PK in the CCHA has only killed off 85.3% of the power plays they've faced. That's a pretty large gap between first and second.

Notre Dame appears to give off to slow starts, as they have been outscored 37-22 in opening periods. They do comeback strong though holding a 36-29 edge in the second stanza. The third period is close as ND has been outscored by a 30-29 margin. Michigan State generally gets off to decent starts outscoring teams 35-29 in the opening frame, 34-26 in the middle frame, and 34-28 in the final period.

Michigan State holds a 59-38-4 all-time edge in this series, but Notre Dame holds a 24-21-7 edge in South Bend. What might be scary for MSU fans is MSU is on a 10 game winless streak against Notre Dame (0-7-3). Michigan State hasn't won in South Bend since 2006. 

Which I guess that means Michigan State is due to win in South Bend.

Both games are on TV (yay!). 8:35 pm face-off time on Friday (CBSCS) and Comcast has the 7:35 pm tilt on Saturday. 1240 AM on your radio dial Friday, 730 AM on Saturday due to the basketball game





Coach Jackson hasn't had a lot to smile about lately - all he needs is a little puck luck.

Final Thoughts:

This series is an absolute must have for both teams. That means we will probably see some great hockey this weekend. Michigan State is riding a nice little winning wave, and Notre Dame isn't. However, don't expect the Irish to simply roll over. The Irish will have the size advantage (no surprise there), and they haven't been a good match-up for Michigan State lately (thus the winless streak), but this year's Michigan State team has been a little different. Anything less than an all out effort this weekend will probably result in needing help to finish in the top four. The hockey team needs to take a page out of the basketball team's book - go into a tough environment - and pull out a pair of good wins. MSU leads Miami by two points, so State needs five to guarantee home ice (Miami would hold the head to head tiebreaker). That's a win and a shoot-out win. The only thing they can control is what they do, so there is no sense in looking up at the scoreboard.

Win, and then you won't need to worry about having any luck at all.



Inside Notre Dame Compton Arena

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish finally got a new rink. For those of you who were familiar with the Joyce Center, the hockey team shared it with the basketball team, and it really didn't feel like a home hockey rink.

The Irish, under Jeff Jackson, have made a new commitment to hockey, and I only bring this up, because Michigan State is looking into the possibility of renovating Munn Ice Arena or building an entirely new rink.

In recent years, Miami was another CCHA team to get a brand new rink. Michigan has put money into Yost (including new video boards). MSU has put money into Munn, but just not to the extent that these other schools have. With the uptick of the program this season under Coach Anastos, it stands that MSU needs to make that same level of commitment to the hockey program - especially moving into the new Big 10 conference, the timing is perfect.


I love the second deck all the way around. It looks like you are still right on top of the action too with the steeper grade in the seating. Similar to sitting in the club seats at Munn. 


Although if I'm honest, I'm not crazy about the center ice logo.....


Now, this isn't meant to sell Notre Dame to anyone, because let's be honest, it's still Notre Dame. The same university that has this as the representatitve of their football program:


And let's not forget Lou Holtz....




However, I think they have done a lot of things right with this rink, and I just hope Michigan State takes notice. Munn Ice Arena is a great place to watch a game. There isn't a bad seat in the house, and you can even walk around the concourse and still see the game. However, I did think it was time MSU did take the time into looking into the idea of building a new one. As I mentioned above, the timing is too perfect (and I didn't even mention how the refrigeration system under the ice needs to be replaced by 2013 anyways).

Coach Anastos was asked if he was going to walk around the facility this weekend at his weekly radio show. He didn't say yes, but he did indicate that if there was time, he would certainly take the opportunity to look around. 

In the meantime, we'll begin to focus on the Irish this weekend. Check by later tonight for a preview of this weekend's series.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Moving on up the rankings & more

MSU comes in ranked #13 in the newest USCHO.com poll

I guess you can say people are starting to take notice. Six other CCHA teams are ranked, including #1 Ferris State.

The Spartans have finally cracked the Top 15 in the USA Today poll. Three other CCHA teams are ranked in this poll, and Ferris State still sits at the top at #1.

Inside College Hockey is taking notice as well putting MSU at #15. INCH.com has a vote in the USA Today poll, and their Top 15 represents their ballot.

Hockey polls usually make little sense, and I'm still not sure Ferris State is the best team in the country, but they are riding a very long unbeaten streak right now, which will be put to the test when they face Western this weekend.

Even though Ferris State has clinched a share of the CCHA title, Michigan can still catch them with some help from Western. The rest of the CCHA is still a bit of a log jam, though as we mentioned earlier, MSU cannot finish worse than 6th, and they could finish as high as second.

If you are wondering about tiebreakers, the CCHA comes out just in time with the tiebreaker procedures. But all you need to know at the moment is MSU simply has to win their final two games to be guaranteed a top four spot and home ice advantage in the CCHA quarterfinals.

CCHA HONORS CONTINUE

Tanner Sorenson was named the CCHA Rookie of the week. He tallied a goal and two assists this weekend against Alaska. This marks the third straight week a Spartan has been honored.

And don't look now but Torey Krug leads all CCHA players in conference points. That isn't a misprint - not just d-men, but all players. He is tied with T.J. Tynan of Notre Dame with 28 points.

NO, THANK YOU SENIORS

MSUSpartans.com posted this video of all the Spartan seniors thanking everyone for their support.


Fortunately, they still have the chance to play two (or three) more games at Munn depending on how things go this weekend. In the meantime, for MSU Hockey fans everywhere - this might be the photo you would love to keep (credit: MSUSpartans.com)


Click On It For A Larger Photo (or check out the hockey page at MSUSpartans.com)



Monday Hot Topic - Coach Anastos

Michigan State Hockey has gotten some attention this year for their strong turn around after a rough season last year (and rough past few seasons following the 2007 national title). Going around the internet today, this article caught my eye, from the blog: A Beautiful Day For Football. Basically, he makes the comparison (towards the end of the article) that Tom Anastos is the Brady Hoke of College Hockey (minus the weight, of course). That got me thinking if that really was a good analogy.

Brady Hoke didn't have a lot of major head coaching experience when he was hired at UofM. He was, at one point, an assistant coach at Michigan though, and he claimed he would have walked from San Diego State to get the job (the walk probably wouldn't have hurt). Sorry, that's two weight jokes in a matter of a few sentences.....

Anyways, Tom Anastos didn't have a lot of head coaching experience when he was hired here last year. He was, at one point, an assistant coach at Michigan State. As far as I know, he didn't make a claim that he would walk all the way from Farmington Hills, though that wouldn't have been as bad as walking from San Diego. He did come in and supposedly told the players, in his first team meeting, that he was a Spartan. It was the first time the hockey program had actually been under the direction of a former Spartan.

He immediately hit a homerun with the players, and the players have responded. Very similar to Hoke and Michigan. The year before Hoke, Michigan finished in 7th place (tied) in the Big 10. This was preceeded by a 10th place finish (tied) and a 9th place finish (tied). Enter Hoke - and Michigan falls just 1 game shy of playing in the Big 10 championship game - pretty much in 3rd/4th place.

MSU hockey finished the 2010-2011 campaign in 10th place, losing to Alaska in the first round of the playoffs. In the 2009-2010 season, MSU did manage a second place finish, but they were swept by Michigan in the CCHA quarterfinals (and MSU was a distant 20 points behind Miami for the league title). The 2008-2009 campaign saw MSU finish in a tie for 9th place, and they once again lost in the first round of the CCHA playoffs. MSU missed the NCAA tournament each of those three seasons.

Come to think of it, MSU hasn't been to Joe Louis for the CCHA tournament since 2007 (2008, MSU was upset in the CCHA Quarterfinals - though they still made the tournament). I'm sad now.

But then we get to think about Coach Anastos and what he has done. MSU is in fourth place right now, with the same group of guys that nearly finished dead last just a season ago. It's a shame that Ferris State will win the league title, which will probably give the CCHA Coach of the Year award to Bob Daniels (former Spartan) instead of Tom Anastos.

Anastos has already pulled in some great verbal commitments - much like Hoke is on fire on the recruiting trail. The trick in hockey though is to get them on campus and away from the OHL.

And we all know one thing about this weekend - our guys will compete hard. Notre Dame, if they win, will have earned it.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sunday Thoughts

Coming off a weekend sweep, the Spartans are in a great position both for home ice in the quarterfinals of the CCHA tournament and getting into the NCAA tournament.


This projection has the Spartans as a #3 seed in the East Region against Union in the opening round. Historically, if you can avoid WCHA & BU or BC in the first round, you would usually take it. Union though would be a tough match-up. They currently lead the ECAC, and they are familiar with the CCHA this season going 1-0-2 in games against CCHA teams. The win? An impressive 6-3 win at Yost Ice Arena over Thanksgiving. 

They also tied Western Michigan twice this year, so now all of a sudden Union has your attention. 

With that said, this projection will change a lot between now and selection Sunday  (March 18th), so all MSU really needs to worry about is just win. Realistically, to lock up a bid for the NCAA tournament - they probably need to make it to Joe Louis Arena. Anything short would make for a nervous championship weekend. 

Back to this weekend. I attempted to get video of a goal using my cellphone, but it didn't seem to work. I did manage to get a penalty though (at the 1:43 mark of this video). This penalty happened during a power play, so State got a 5 on 3, but they didn't convert.

video


We also managed to get the post game salute to the crowd, student section, and Coach Anastos saluting the student section:


Not bad for a coach to do that, at a time where the program really seems to be on the uptick. It'd be great to get more students into the game. He's done a great job getting them more involved from having them meet the team, coaches, to having the seniors come on the ice after this game.

Coming up this week will be the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. MSU and Notre Dame have a little bit of history in recent years. Both teams have knocked the other one out in a regional title game in the NCAA tournament within the last five years (MSU beat ND in 2007, ND returned the favor in 2008). It's been awhile since Michigan State has won down in South Bend (2006), and with home ice & first round bye on the line, the Spartans will need to earn five points this weekend to clinch a first round bye & home ice advantage without getting help from anyone.

2. Michigan 47 pts
3. WMU  45 pts
4. MSU   44 pts
5. Miami 42 pts
6. LSSU  41 pts
7. OSU    39 pts

Michigan travels to Bowling Green, so don't expect any help there. Western does play a home and home with Ferris State. That will be a tough series, and it will potentially open the door for teams to move up. Miami plays a home and home with Ohio State, and LSSU travels to Northern for a pair.

With the way Miami & Ohio State are playing, we probably need to assume Miami sweeps that series. This is where MSU will need to get to 49 points to clinch at least the #4 spot in the CCHA (unless Ferris helps out by dominating the series with Western). LSSU has a tough series, and one win by Michigan State (3 points) would put MSU ahead of LSSU in the standings for good. 

It should be a good weekend ahead, and both games are on TV which is an added bonus. It's time to see if the Green & White can close the deal and earn one of the top four spots in the conference tournament.









Saturday, February 18, 2012

Palmisano, Spartans Shut Down Nanooks

I'm not sure Drew Palmisano could have scripted a better senior night.

In front of over 6,900 Spartan fans, the senior goalie stopped all 27 shots he faced for his sixth career shutout leading Michigan State to a 3-0 victory and weekend sweep over the Nanooks.

Alaska started up with a lot of jump early on carrying the play over the first ten minutes of the game. MSU finally got some pressure in front of the net, and Dean Chelios buried a loose puck in front of the Nanooks goal in a gritty effort. Alaska out-shot State 10-9 in the opening period.

The second period saw the Nanooks carry the play early on, but Palmisano shut the door. Failing to get much offense going, MSU slowly started to get more pressure as the period progressed. It wasn't until Torey Krug though ripped a shot on goal - that was deflected by Tanner Sorenson with just over four minutes to play in the period that gave MSU a 2-0 lead. The goal was reviewed briefly, but it stood. Then just over two minutes later, Lee Reimer scored a power play goal to really put the game out of reach. MSU ended up out-shooting the Nanooks 12-10 in the middle frame.

In the final period, MSU out-shot Alaska 12-7, but neither team could get the puck behind either goaltender. Much like Friday night, State carried the play in the final period, getting a couple close chances - including a 5 on 3 power play, but Greenham kept the game from really getting out of hand. Drew Palmisano did the same earning the first start of the night.

Hopefully we'll be able to get some videos up of some of the action, pre-game, and post-game.

You got called for what?

On a lighter note, it was an unusual penalty call night for the officials.

Nolan Youngmun might have gotten the penalty of the year called on him last night. After taking a shot on goal, he crashed the net - like any good hockey player is taught to do. The problem was Palmisano had it covered and the whistle had long since went. Youngmun, stopped short giving Palmisano a nice little snow bath - again just like any hockey player you've seen do.

Official Rodney Tocco thought his actions went above and beyond a normal hockey play, and tagged Youngmun with a 2-minute minor. The penalty was announced as 2 minutes for "spraying the goalie - unsportsmanlike conduct".

I feel dirty now.

It was followed up by perhaps on honorable mention penalty call on Alaska's Chad Gehon. Gehon got called for clipping (similar to the football move - typically called when a player trys to hip check and gets too low - close to the knees). Michigan State took the 15 yards and an automatic first down.

The clipping hit in hockey is actually a very dangerous hit, one that at the professional level can be reviewed for further punishment. A good example of it is below:






 Around The CCHA


Ferris State beat Bowling Green to clinch a share of the CCHA title. They will just need to earn one point next weekend against Western (or have Michigan drop just 1 point against Bowling Green) to earn the outright title and number one seed in the CCHA tournament. Michigan beat Northern to pass Western for second place in the conference. LSSU beat Western, and Miami sent Notre Dame packing with their fifth straight defeat. 

So, with one weekend to go the CCHA standings look like this:

1. Ferris State  53 pts  
2. Michigan     47 pts
3. Western        45 pts
4. Mich. St.      44 pts
5. Miami          42 pts
6. LSSU           41 pts
7. OSU             39 pts
8. N.D.             36 pts
9. Northern      36 pts
10. Alaska       30 pts
11. BGSU        19 pts

What we do know - Alaska will finish in 10th place, and Bowling Green will finish in 11th place. We also know that Miami AND Ohio State cannot both finish ahead of MSU - one could, but not both (they play each other). Notre Dame, Northern, Alaska, and Bowling Green cannot finish higher than MSU either. This means Michigan State cannot finish worse than sixth place.

That does NOT mean MSU is guaranteed a home series though. If Michigan State finishes in 5th place, they will get a first round bye, but they will play at the 4th place team.  

MSU moved up to 10th in the Pairwise rankings. The NCAA projection will come tomorrow - along with hopefully some videos. 

Game Day Part II

Michigan State is now tied for 11th in the PairWise (with Miami) after all the games last night were completed. Since Alaska is not a TUC, a loss would really damage the RPI, so tonight's game is big for MSU's NCAA hopes.

MSU right now would be matched up with Miami in the  CCHA Quarterfinals. Miami swept Michigan State in East Lansing the first weekend in January. It's tough to say who to root for tonight. If LSSU beats Western, Northern beats Michigan, and Notre Dame beats Miami (along with a MSU win), then MSU would be tied for 3rd, just 1 point behind Western for second place. MSU would still only be 3 points ahead of 5th place though. No matter what, MSU will be playing meaningful games next weekend in South Bend.

Around the media this morning....

LSJ.com: Perlini's OT goal lifts Spartans

USCHO.com Recap

Daily News Miner: Nanooks fall in OT

MSUSpartans.com recap

Friday, February 17, 2012

Spartans 3 Nanooks 2 (OT)

Better late than never. These Spartans are starting to have a flair for the dramatic.

Trailing 1-0 in the first period, a waived off Nanooks goal in the first period seemed to spark the Spartans - just in time. Brent Darnell tallied a pair of first period goals to give Michigan State a 2-1 lead after 1. His first goal came on the power play off a Jake Chelios shot from the point - it rebounded on the back boards - Joe Louis Arena style, and he lifted a backhand into the open net. J. Chelios and Merrifield were given assists on the play.

It didn't take long for MSU to grab the lead either as Torey Krug found Darnell again in front of the net just 35 seconds later to give Michigan State the lead. The Spartans out-shot Alaska 6-5 in the opening period.

The Nanooks didn't give up though, they fought hard through a tough second period, and they managed to tally a power play goal of their own with just inside seven minute to go in the period to tie the game up. Michigan State had quite a few chances over the first half of the period, but they couldn't find the back of the net. Shots in the middle frame were 13-12 in favor of MSU.

The third period was clearly the best for Michigan State. They had numerous chances right in front of the goal, but failed to get the puck past Greenham who played very well over the course of the entire game. The third period saw Michigan State kill off a 5 on 3 and a penalty inside of 4 minutes to go in regulation to keep the game tied at two. Shots in the final period were even at 9.

In overtime, the Spartans dominated the play, and Brett Perlini stole an errant clearing attempt and buried it past a sprawling Greenham to give Michigan State a huge three points on the night. MSU out-shot Alaska 5-1 in the overtime period and 33-27 for the game.

Ferris State, Western Michigan, Miami, and Michigan all won tonight. So, Michigan State has passed Ohio State and broken the tie with LSSU (thanks to Western's win) to move into sole possession of 4th place. That's huge, since it's the final home ice advantage spot in the quarterfinal round.

So now the CCHA Standings look like this:

1. Ferris  50 pts  (3 games left)
2. Western  45 pts (3 games left)
3. Michigan 44 pts (3 games left)
4. Mich. St.  41 pts (3 games left)
5. Miami      39 pts (3 games left)
6. OSU        39 pts  (2 games left)
7.  LSSU     38 pts  (3 games left)
8.  UND      36 pts  (3 games left)
9.  NMU     36 pts  (3 games left)
10. Alaska   30 pts  (1 game left)
11. BGSU    19 pts  (3 games left)

We'll have to run through all the potential play-off scenarios tomorrow, but right now Michigan State controls their own destiny for home ice advantage and a first round bye. Win out - and we will be back in East Lansing on March 9th. Ferris State has clinched home ice advantage in the CCHA quarterfinals & a first round bye. Ferris can clinch the outright CCHA title tomorrow night with a three point victory, Michigan earning no more than two points against Northern tomorrow, and Western earning no more than one point tomorrow against LSSU. They can also clinch it out right if they earn a shoot-out win, Western loses in regulation or OT, and Michigan loses in any fashion tomorrow. Basically, it's Ferris State's to lose still.

With the victory, Michigan State currently sits in 10th place in the PairWise rankings. That will change tonight as some of the other games go final.

Tonight's game marked the third straight MSU-Alaska game that has gone into overtime. Alaska swept MSU in the CCHA Tournament opening round last March with a pair of overtime victories (the second one happening in double overtime).

Tomorrow night is senior night - with the senior night activities happening at 7:30 pm. Face-off is at 8:05 pm, and the game can be seen on FS Detroit as part of their hockey day in Michigan coverage.

Around The World of Media

Paula Weston Predicts A Split

I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree on that one.

The Lansing State Journal talks about the seniors approaching the finish line

Though who knows, maybe the finish line won't arrive until April.

The State News talks about the 'hot' Spartans trying to sweep a final home weekend series


The Fairbanks Daily News Miner offers their insight to the series

And in case you were curious (consider this your "worthless trivia comment of the day") it would take approx.... 39 days & 15 hours to walk the 3,867 miles between the Carlson Center in Fairbanks to Munn Ice Arena.

Or roughly 3 days to drive according to google maps

#knowledge is power!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Spartan All-Access Episode #6

Spartan All-Access Episode #6 is up (click here)

It includes highlights from the skills competition, and you have to love the NHL 94 celebration at the end.....


A Look At The Weekend Ahead - The Fighting Polar Bears

The Alaska Nanooks come into town looking to finish their CCHA schedule strong. For the fighting polar bear reference, feel free to scan down to Monday's post. They come into the weekend in 10th place in the CCHA with a 8-14-4-2 conference mark (11-15-4 overall). Based on CCHA tiebreakers, Alaska cannot finish higher than 9th place in the CCHA, so they will be starting on the road in the first round of the playoffs. That means this weekend will be important to build some confidence to end the year (they play Alaska-Anchorage next week).

Leading Scorers:

Cody Kunyk (So.)    13 goals, 28 points
Colton Beck (So.)    12 goals, 23 points
Andy Taranto (Jr.)     9 goals, 20 points
Carlo Finucci (Sr.)    4 goals, 18 points
Aaron Gens    (Sr.)   2 goals, 18 points

A couple other guys to look out for are juniors Nik Yaremchuk (9 goals) and Jarret Granberg (10 goals).

Goaltending:

 Scott Greenham  10-13-4, 2.47 GAA, .905 save %

Scott's conference numbers are very similar to his overall stats. His conference GAA is 2.57, and his save percentage is .903.

Team Comparison:

 Offense:

Alaska   2.47 goals/game  (10th CCHA)
State     3.09 goals/game (2nd CCHA)

Defense:

Alaska   2.60 goals/game (7th CCHA)
State       2.62 goals/game (8th CCHA)

Power Play:

Alaska    16.5%  (8th CCHA, 23 for 139)
State       17.4%  (7th CCHA, 21 for 121)

Penalty Kill:

Alaska   80.7%  (11th CCHA, 109 for 135)
State      89.4%  (1st CCHA, 110 for 123)


Looking at the PK numbers, with how Michigan State's power play seems to be on a roll of late, it looks like MSU should have a big advantage. It'll be interesting to watch how Alaska adjusts to the small ice surface (The Nanooks play on an olympic sized rink). Most people think it's tougher to go from a large ice sheet to a smaller one, but one would think on defense, it would help the Nanooks out a little bit - especially on the PK.

Alaska's scoring (25-22-27) is fairly balanced between each period, but it looks like the second period has caused some problems on defense (23-30-23), as they have been outscored that period 30-22.

Size will be in the Nanooks' corner this weekend. Alaska has split their last four series (BGSU, ND, @ WMU, LSSU).

Michigan State leads the all-time series 39-15-3. 

MSU has scored 99 goals so far this season. It's time to play - guess who will score #100 on the season (feel free to share your guess in the comments below - Krug could be an obvious choice, but I'll go with Perlini).

Honoring The Seniors

Saturday will mark the final regular season game for nine MSU seniors.  The game isn't scheduled to start until 8:05 pm, but the senior night activities will take place at 7:30 pm.

Here is a nice write up by Neil Koepke

This class certainly has gone through a lot, including a coaching change. They were brought on campus after a national title. They've had their share of ups and downs, but the one thing that no one can take away from them is their hard work, and ability to represent the university extremely well during their careers. They are Spartans, and they have brought the program back this season, given it an identity, and lead the program with honor.

And with still a lot of time left in the season, a top four spot in the CCHA on the line, a NCAA tournament bid on the line, you know they'll leave it all out on the ice.

Final Thoughts

This should be the type of series that the team that works the hardest will be in position to win. The numbers might favor MSU, but they'll need to come play for 120 minutes. The obvious point to make is they'll need to avoid the letdown after an emotional, hard-fought series last weekend. This is where the crowd could become a major factor. Expect a couple of close battles. Share your thoughts on the poll on the right - how do you think they'll do this weekend?

TV & Radio Coverage:

Both games are on 1240 AM & The Spartan Sports Network.  Saturday's game is on FS Detroit as part of their hockey day in Michigan coverage. Ben Holden & Darren Elliot will do the play by play.




Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Vote For Hobey

There is a link added on the left hand side that will directly take you to the vote for Hobey fan ballot. A few Spartans are on the list, but realistically, Torey Krug probably is the only one with a shot at being name a finalist - since he has the stats and name recognition.

Click Here For The Ballot

Vote as often as possible (I believe you are allowed 1 vote a day).

Torey is currently tied for 6th in the CCHA in overall scoring (includes non-conference games). He leads all defense in scoring. And anyone who has been watching MSU this season will tell you just how important Mr. Krug is to the team.

Senior Night Ahead

This Saturday will be the final regular season home game for nine Spartan seniors. 

Forwards:

Trevor Nill
Daultan Leveille
Brett Perlini
Mike Merrifield

D-Men:

Brock Shelgren
Tim Buttery
A.J. Sturges
Matt Carndell

Goalie:

Drew Palmisano

That's quite a bit of experience and leadership leaving the team. I would suspect Palmisano would get at least a Saturday start this weekend for his senior night. That will depend on how things go in practice this week, but the coaching staff will probably have a little bit of pressure in giving Palmisano the nod.

In case you are curious, this season the senior class accounts for:

Goals: 33  (out of 99)
Assists:  58

Four of the top five point scorers will all be back, unless someone decides to move on to the next level.

Main Series To Watch

It'd be too easy to say the entire CCHA this weekend, and you should pay attention considering how tight the race is for just about every position, but the biggest series outside of East Lansing is up at the Soo: Western Michigan at LSSU. This series will impact MSU's playoff positioning probably more than any other. LSSU is currently tied with Michigan State for fifth place, and Western Michigan is in second place - just four points ahead of MSU. The immediate concern for Spartans probably should be LSSU. Fifth place is the last first round bye position (though you'll be on the road in the quarterfinal round).

Check back later in the week for further details on the Alaska series.



Monday, February 13, 2012

Inside The Rankings, Krug Honored, and Nanooks Attack

Michigan State moved up one spot in the USCHO.com poll to #16. The Spartans finally passed Ohio State in the poll. I guess sweeping them two weeks ago wasn't enough. The CCHA is well represented in this poll. Ferris State earned the #1 ranking, up from #6, after crushing Notre Dame this weekend. Michigan stayed in the top 5, though they dropped a spot to #5. Outside of that Notre Dame fell to #13, Ohio State is #17, Western Michigan is #18 (ignore the fact the Broncos are in second place in the CCHA), Miami is #19, and Northern Michigan rounds out the top 20. LSSU is just on the outside in the other votes category (#22).

The USA Today Poll wasn't quite as kind putting MSU just on the outside at #16 (first in the other votes category). Ferris State was voted #1 in this poll as well. Michigan came in 5th, and Notre Dame came in 13th. Ohio State, Miami, Northern Michigan, and Western Michigan all received votes.


MSU moved up to 18th in the INCH.com power rankings. INCH.com has a vote in the USA Today Poll, though only the top 15 make that poll.

Throw some goalie pads on Krug - he probably can do that too....

 Torey Krug was named the CCHA Defensemen of the week last week. This is one week after he earned the offensive player of the week. I say we give Palmisano & Yanakeff the weekend off, let Krug throw the goalie pads on and go for the February hat trick. Who is with me?!!


Look out for the Nanooks

And that we bring our attention to the Nanooks. Alaska comes into the weekend in 10th place in the CCHA. Alaska has already been eliminated from home ice. With two games remaining, the Nanooks sit six points behind Miami, Northern, and Notre Dame. Even if Alaska sweeps Michigan State, and Miami, Notre Dame, and Northern Michigan all get swept in their two series, the Nanooks can't finish higher than 9th.

In that situation, they would all be tied for 7th place. Miami and Notre Dame would have 11 conference wins, Northern would have 9, and Alaska would have 10. As a result, Alaska would finish ahead of only Bowling Green and Northern. Shoot-out wins don't factor into the tiebreaker, just regulation & OT wins. So basically, Alaska really isn't playing for anything this weekend.

If Alaska was swept this weekend, and Bowling Green won out, the Nanooks would finish in last place. However, Bowling Green is playing at #1 Ferris State this weekend and hosts #5 Michigan next weekend, so let's assume that Ferris or Michigan will earn at least one point in one of those four games.

However, the Nanooks shouldn't be overlooked. Although they are just 11-15-4 overall, they have beaten Western Michigan (in K-Zoo), LSSU, Notre Dame, Michigan, and Ferris State this season. Though only one of those were on the road.  Alaska is 3-6-3 on the road this year (Western, BGSU - 2 times are the wins)

Though it's tough to dislike a team that is capable of producing hilarious and epic videos such as these (ignoring the attack on Spartan Stadium)



I'm not sure what is accomplished by blowing up the planet Earth - it would mean less hockey afterall...... We all can't afford to fly to Pluto.


From North Carolina, #23 ..... Michael Jordan!!!! Oh sorry, the music had me going. This of course is the original- You have to love how the relative size of the bear changes quite frequently. One minute it's the size of Jupiter, the next it's the size of Anchorage. Even though I've never been, I'm guessing it's not the size of Jupiter. Then again, I suppose if I had a giant blue flame shooting out of my ...... well... I'd be upset too.


Now this one isn't MSU related - it's Miami(NTM)   (that stands for Miami, Not That Miami) related. I think Alaska would be in favor of more road games if this bear keeps destroying the stadium roof like this every week.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The NCAAs.....

After last night, Michigan State ended in a tie for 12th in the PairWise rankings, a tool that mimics the NCAA selection process. Michigan State was tied with Minnesota, but won the comparison, so MSU would be the 12th seed in the NCAA tournament (or the last #3 seed).


Based on this projection, MSU would face Boston College in St. Paul

At first glance, that is one heck of a bracket. Michigan, the top seed, would have to deal with Minnesota who would be playing a home game. Michigan State would have to face a tough Boston College team for the second time this year. Four big time programs in the same regional. That would be a tough hill to climb, but let's face it, most MSU fans would be happy just being in the tournament this year given how last season went.

Most of us thought MSU would be improved, but now the Spartans are in position to be in the top 4 of the CCHA as well as a NCAA tournament team, and as the 2007 Spartans showed - you just need to get in to win. Who would want to face MSU in the tournament at this point? The Spartans would be a very dangerous team.

So, what would it take for MSU to get there? At first glance, MSU would be in pretty good position if they earned 9 of their final 12 points, and won a series in the CCHA tournament. The assumption here is MSU would be at the Joe. The only drawback there might be that MSU has to win at least a game at the Joe (at least the 3rd place game).

It's certainly an exciting time of year to be a Spartan hockey fan. Coach Anastos and company has this team playing very well right now.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Michigan Edges MSU in OT

Matt Crandell tried to play a loose puck, but it slipped underneath him which left Kevin Lynch all alone in front of Yanakeff, and he didn't miss sending Michigan out with a 3-2 overtime victory.

The game started slow for the Spartans, as Michigan really  came out playing with a chip on their shoulder. They took the 1-0 lead just 12 minutes into the game as Treais tallied the first of two on the night. At that moment, Michigan State actually woke up a little bit and started to carry the play a little bit more. The momentum was built at the end of the period and it carried over as MSU struck twice in the first 6:14 of the second period. First Greg Wolfe tied the game with a blast over Hunwick, and Perlini put MSU up 2-1 on the power play with a nice goal at the goal line - catching Hunwick leaning a little bit.

The lead didn't last long though as Treais tallied his second of the night catching Yanakeff going to his left - and sending the shot to his right past the blocker. The game stayed that way through regulation, though both teams had numerous chances to take the lead as Yanakeff and Hunwick stole the show.

Yanakeff ended the game with 32 saves and Hunwick had 33. There were only 3 power plays in the game, MSU went 1 for 2, and Michigan went 0-1. State had a power play with six minutes to go in regulation, but Michigan did a good job killing it off.

The Spartans will return home next weekend for their final home series of the regular season as they host Alaska. Friday night will start at 7:05 pm, and Saturday's game will start at 8:05 pm, with the senior night activities taking place at 7:45 pm. Saturday's game is on FS Detroit as part of the Hockey Day in Michigan cover.

The CCHA Race Begins To Clear Up

Ferris State is now in the driver's seat for the CCHA title, as they host last place Bowling Green. A sweep by Ferris State will eliminate everyone but Western Michigan and Michigan - and both those teams could be eliminated depending on how they do next weekend. Western has a tough road up to the Soo, and Michigan hosts a pesky Northern Michigan squad.

What still is cloudy as all heck will be the rest of the positions. Michigan State falls to 5th place right now, and if LSSU earns just 1 point tonight in Alaska, MSU will drop to 6th place. The significance of that is 5th place is the final first round bye spot. The team that finishes 5th gets a bye, though they will have to play the quarterfinal series on the road. MSU right now holds the tiebreaker over LSSU (conference wins). MSU remains only two points ahead of Northern Michigan - who sits in 9th place. That is important, since 9th place means you are starting the first round on the road. Now, Ohio State sits just one point ahead of MSU, and the Spartans still have two games on hand.

1. Ferris   47 points  (4 games left)
2. WMU  42 points  (4 games left)
3. Michigan 41 points (4 games left)
4. Ohio State 39 points (2 games left)
5. LSSU    38 points (5 games left)
6. MSU     38 points (4 games left)
7. N.D.      36 points (4 games left)
8. Miami   36 points (4 games left)
9. NMU    36 points  (4 games left)
10. Alaska  27 points (3 games left)
11. BGSU   19 points (4 games left)


Projecting The Rest Of The Way

If I had to take a guess at how this thing will play out  (Alaska beats LSSU tonight):

Next Weekend:

Alaska at Michigan State   (MSU sweeps)
BGSU at Ferris State  (FSU sweeps)
WMU at LSSU   (split)
Notre Dame at Miami  (split)
Northern at Michigan  (UM sweeps)

1.  FSU  53
2. UoM  47
3. WMU 45
4. MSU 44
5. LSSU 41 
6. UND  39
7. M(OH) 39
8. OSU   39
9. NMU  36
10. Alaska 27
11 BGSU 19

Michigan State at Notre Dame  (split)
Michigan at Bowling Green  (UM sweeps)
Miami at/vs. Ohio State (split)
LSSU at Northern  (split)
WMU at/vs. Ferris   (split)


1. FSU  56 
2. UoM 53
3. WMU 48
4. MSU  47
5. LSSU 44
6. M(OH) 42  (13 wins)
7. UND  42  (13 wins)
8. OSU  42  (12 wins)
9. NMU 39
10. Alaska 27
11. BGSU

I didn't get too deep into the tiebreakers for that 3-way tie. Ohio State probably would be last with fewest conference wins. At that point it's Miami and Notre Dame - who split the season series in this case. For the sake of getting through this, we'll just give Miami the 6 spot. So if this happens, MSU would get a bye and host a quarterfinal series. Not only that, I think that sets up nicely if MSU were to manage to get to the Joe and the seeds hold. I'd take a Ferris State semi-final match-up. The first round in this situation would be:

BGSU at Miami
Alaska at Notre Dame
Northern at Ohio State

If the seeds hold.... The quarters would be:

Ohio State at Ferris State
Notre Dame at Michigan
Miami at Western Michigan
LSSU at Michigan State

There are some terrific quarterfinal match-ups. Each of those series  could be something to see. 


But for now, the focus turns to Alaska. MSU has to come ready to go. The NCAA tournament is still out there, and I think it's going to be critical for MSU to win 3 of their remaining 4 regular season games - plus win a series in the CCHA tournament. MSU is in a tie for 11th in the PairWise with some games yet to go tonight. 


Tomorrow and Monday we will take a further look at the NCAA tournament, as well as begin to focus on the Nanooks.



The Morning After.....

A little more  from last night..... Munn was packed, as the 5th largest crowd (7,103) in the stadium's history saw Michigan State rally to beat MSU 3-2.

Video Highlights from MSUSpartans.com


USCHO.com Recap - Krug Takes Charge


Lansing State Journal Recap


The State News Recap


Michigan Daily Blog


Spartanmag.com Recap


CCHA Log Jam Continues

 LSSU beat Alaska to move into a tie for 3rd place with Michigan and Michigan State. Ferris State dominated Notre Dame in South Bend, to move a step closer to the CCHA title.

1. Ferris State  44 points (5 games left)
2. Western Michigan 42 points (5 games left)
3. Michigan   38 points (5 games left)
4. Michigan State 38 points  (5 games left)
5. LSSU      38 points (5 games left)
6. Notre Dame 36 points (5 games left)
7. Miami    36 points (4 games left)
8. Ohio State 36 points (3 games left)
9. Northern   33 points  (5 games left)
10. Alaska   27 points (3 games left)
11. BGSU   19 points (5 games left)

So right now MSU would get a first round bye and host LSSU in the CCHA Quarterfinals Best of 3 series. Not a bad position to be in, but a loss with a handful of wins by teams behind them would put MSU all the way back in 8th and in danger of falling as low as 9th which would mean playing a road series in the first round. Every point matters.

Michigan State is 12th in the PairWise. Michigan fell to 6th with the loss.