Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Know Thy Enemy: Starting a New Era - Big Ten Play Begins with #1 Minnesota

This weekend begins a new era in the history of Michigan State hockey. This won't be the first time Big Ten hockey has been around before, but not in quite the same format as we are about to witness. The teams used to compete for a conference championship as part of the WCHA - and they even played in a conference tournament to help determine the conference champion.

Michigan State claims 5 Big Ten championships in its history: 1959, 1967, 1971, 1973 (shared), and 1976. These titles were claimed when the four teams that sponsored hockey (MSU, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin) were all part of the WCHA running up until 1981. In fact, Big Ten roots can be traced back to even before that, but this is when the MSU record books started tracking it.

MSU claims a 94-124-6 all-time Big Ten record. Minnesota boasts the best all-time Big Ten record at 122-93-11 with 10 conference championships. Michigan and Wisconsin both claim 5 championships each.

Ohio State does have claim to 6 conference games prior to this season - losing all 6. After Michigan swept them last week, Ohio State is 0 for forever in the Big Ten, 0-8-0. I suspect that'll change this year.


Despite that history, this feels like the first time we really see a true Big Ten conference. All six teams are together, not part of the CCHA or WCHA, and instead will battle it out over 20 conference games, 2 home, 2 away. All six teams will qualify for the conference tournament - playing over a 3-day period in St. Paul for the right to play in the NCAA tournament.

It's a new beginning. And while the conference has taken a lot of heat, I think a lot of Big Ten fans maintained that this would be good for college hockey. It brings a major brand name to the table - in terms of conference play. The BTN has picked up just about every game (or the Fox Sports Network has) in the conference.

It also allowed smaller schools to form conferences and battle for their own spots in the NCAA tournament. Would Ferris State be 8-0-2 in the CCHA this year - if it still existed with the Big Ten teams inside the conference? That's what they are in the new WCHA - 11-2-2 overall. They might be, Ferris State has a good hockey program. What about the other teams? LSSU? Michigan Tech? Northern Michigan? Are they any worse off today than a year ago?

They still get games with the Big Ten schools - MSU went up to Michigan Tech for the first time in two decades. MSU still went to Western, and they still play Ferris State. Minnesota still played in-state rivals Bemidji State, Minnesota State, and Minnesota-Duluth. Wisconsin still has former WCHA rival Colorado College. The list goes on and on. People might hate the Big Ten right now, but it really seems like everyone is in a good position right now - so maybe it wasn't a bad move after all?


Ok, so the non-conference season isn't over yet. Michigan State will have 3 non-conference games after this weekend - a single game at home against Ferris State and the two game GLI series at Comerica Park.

MSU is 5-7 on the year, but they've been much better at home posting a 5-2 record so far this season.

 Michigan State has beaten Princeton (twice), American International (twice), and Boston University so far this year. Those three teams are a combined 13-24-1. Not exactly a gaudy record there. In fact, BU is the only team that has an above .500 record of the three, and they are only 7-6-1. On the flip side, MSU has lost to UMass (twice), Mass.-Lowell, Michigan Tech (twice), and Western Michigan (twice). Those four teams are a combined 26-28-6. In fact, only Mass.-Lowell (11-4-0) has an above .500 record in this group as well - though WMU is .500 (6-6-2), and Tech isn't far off (6-8-2) .

Still, it doesn't make you giddy that things are looking up. With that said, MSU is coming off a weekend sweep against Princeton including posting an impressive 8-2 score on Sunday. I don't care who you are - when you win 8-2, that's pretty good. MSU's power play looked good going 3 for 7 on the day, and the d-men got involved, a huge sign for Michigan State.

And yes, the injury bug wasn't kind early, and the freshmen have shown flashes. Hildebrand and Yanakeff have played solid between the pipes. Maybe MSU is simply starting to turn the corner in December?

The schedule coming up will tell us - playing #1 Minnesota, #6 Ferris State, Michigan Tech again, then either Western Michigan or #3 Michigan. The good news for MSU is three of the games are at home - where things have been better. The last time Minnesota was in East Lansing, the Spartans defeated Minnesota 4-3 and followed that up with an exciting 4-4 tie the next night.


Minnesota currently has the 2nd best offense in the country at 4.14 GPG. The defense isn't bad either tied for 8th at 2.14 goals against per a game. MSU is currently 39th in the country at 2.58 goals per a game, and the defense is ranked a little better at 26th overall at 2.69 goals against per a game.

The power plays have been struggling for both teams as Minnesota ranks 46th at 14.29% (10 for 70), and MSU is now only 51st overall at 13.56% (8 for 59). So yes, prior to that 3 for 7 game, MSU was converting at a less than 10% rate of 5 for 52. The PK units haven't been perfect either - Minnesota is tied for 37th at 80% (48 for 60) and MSU's is 40th at 79.6% (43 for 54). The good news is neither team is penalized much as Minnesota is at 11.86 minutes per game, and MSU is only at 10.5.

Minnesota is pretty young too - lead by a strong junior and freshmen class. Sam Warning (Jr.) leads the team with 20 points. Junior Seth Ambroz leads the team with 7 goals, and freshmen Hudson Fasching (8 goals, 14 pts) and Justin Kloos (5 goals, 14 pts) lead the younger guys in scoring. Overall Minnesota is very balanced on offense as 17 players have at least one goal, 15 have at least two,  and 11 have at least three goals.

In goal sophomore Adam Wilcox has been steady between the pipes posting a 10-2-1 record, 2.21 GAA, and .923 save percentage.

In case you are curious, 13 Spartans have at least one goal this season, seven of which have at least two,  and four have more than three.  Senior Greg Wolfe leads the way with 7 goals and 10 points. Michigan State's freshmen have been solid starting the year off as well - MacKenzie MacEachern has 5 goals (8 points) and Joe Cox has 4 goals (6 points).

Big Ten Standings

GPWLTSOWPointsTotal Points Possible
Michigan State00000060
Penn State00000060
Ohio State20200054


Look, expecting a sweep this weekend would be - well - a very tall task. I really don't think it's unreasonable to expect some points though. Michigan State has been better at home, and Boston University was ranked when they came into East Lansing. At this point though  - stepping in the right direction and competing will be just as important as trying to pull out a victory or two. Minnesota is good. Michigan State is trying to learn how to be good night in and night out. Nothing wrong with that - as long as you are consistently making those positive gains - playing hard, finishing checks, winning face-offs, improving the power play, improving the offense, and improving the defense.

Right now I'm not sure anything will shock me with this team - and while the wins are important, how they play is going to be examined throughout the remainder of this season. They did well last weekend, but now it's a bigger test, against a bigger named opponent, and the first game of a new era.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

And we're off!

And we're off. The hockey season is under way, and Michigan State had a rough time of it out on the east coast. Spartan fans are going to be tested early, as this (still) young team looks to gel early on against a tough non-conference schedule before the first Big Ten season gets underway.

Michigan State started the regular season getting swept at UMass. UMass built a 2-0 lead in the second period, and Greg Wolfe brought MSU back to within 1 with just over 7 minutes to go in the game, but the Spartans failed to connect on an equalizer. UMass added an empty net goal for the 3-1 win. Hildebrand was sharp in goal stopping 32 of 34 shots.

MSU was out-shot for the game (35-32), but the Spartans actually held a 27-25 edge in shots through 2 periods of play.

The second night, Michigan State got on the board first and held a 2-1 lead after 1, but the penalty kill proved to be the issue, as UMass went 4 for 8 on the power play en route to a 5-2 win. UMass tallied 3 power play goals in the second period alone to build that 5-2 lead. Michael Ferrantino and Greg Wolfe scored for the Spartans in the opening frame. Yanakeff stopped 28 of 33 shots. MSU was 1 for 6 on the power play.

Things don't get any easier for MSU as they host UMass-Lowell & Boston University this weekend at Munn Ice Arena.

Around The Big Ten

Minnesota and Michigan are the big winners early on in the conference. Minnesota swept the IceBreaker Tournament knocking off Mercyhurst and New Hampshire. They went on the road to face a former WCHA-foe and swept Bemidji State. They face BC this weekend.

Michigan is scoring some huge PWR points early on after knocking off BC at home, going on the road for a wild 7-4 win at RIT, then heading to UNH to take 3 of 4 possible points with a 1-1 tie and a 3-2 OT victory. They face BU and Mass.-Lowell this weekend as well.

Penn State started off strong with a 4-1 win against Army. They didn't follow it up though the following weekend as they were swept at Air Force (5-2, 3-1).

Wisconsin got off to a strong start as well opening up with a sweep against Northern Michigan. They travelled east though and got swept losing at BC (9-2 - wowsers) and BU (7-3). Nothing like getting outscored 16-5 in one weekend.

Finally, Ohio State is still looking for its first win this season after being swept by the state of Ohio. They lost a home and home with Miami (6-2, 6-3), and followed that up with a 4-3 road loss at Bowling Green. The good news for them is they only have 1 game left his year against a team from Ohio.

Big Ten Power Rankings

1. Michigan (3-0-1). Giving Michigan the early edge based on a victory over Boston College and going 1-0-1 at New Hampshire.

2. Minnesota (4-0-0). Minnesota can make an early statement this weekend against BC. Only problem is their non-conference schedule resembles a SEC football non-conference schedule - a lot of home games. They do go to Notre Dame though.

3. Wisconsin (2-2-0). Things seem to drop off here, though Wisconsin should be a player in the Big Ten title hunt this year. It's tough to ignore the 16-5 thing this weekend.

4. Penn State (1-2-0). They get this spot based on the fact that they've won.

5. Michigan State (0-2-0). Stay out of the box, and the wins will come. Greg Wolfe off to a hot start.

6. Ohio State (0-3-0). So, who wins first - MSU or Ohio State?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

2013 - 2014 Big Ten Hockey Schedule Released

2013 - 2014 Big Ten Hockey Schedule

We've been waiting for this day - well, really not so much this day but the start of the season. In the meantime, we'll take this.

MSU's 2013 - 2014 Big Ten Hockey Schedule:

All games Friday-Saturday unless otherwise noted

December 6th-7th -   vs. Minnesota
January 10th-11th -  at Ohio State
January 17th-18th - vs. Penn State
January 24th -25th - vs. Michigan/at Michigan (JLA)
Thursday January 30th, January 31st, and/or February 1st - at Minnesota ***
February 7th-8th -  vs. Ohio State
February 14th-15th  - at Penn State
February 21st-22nd  - at Wisconsin
March 7th - 8th - at Michigan/vs. Michigan
March 14th - 15th - vs. Wisconsin

The Big Ten will feature a 20 game schedule with complete home and home series for all six schools. Michigan is the home team at Joe Louis Arena this season, as MSU will host two games at Munn, and Michigan will host one game at Yost.

*** - Series will be played on January 30th/31st or January 31st/February 1st

Monday, April 15, 2013

Ohio State Fires Coach Osiecki ....... Would they go after Gwozdecky?

Ever since Denver University somewhat surprised the college hockey world by letting George Gwozdecky go (all he did was win 2 national titles there and get DU back to being a national power), there has been a lot of speculation on what he might do next.

In an equally surprising move - Ohio State has let Coach Osiecki go

This is just thinking out loud - but could Ohio State be going after Gwozdecky next?

Coach Gwozdecky is 59 years old and has stated he's not done coaching yet.

I've always thought Ohio State was a sleeping giant in the college hockey world, only without the past. Ohio State has the resources to build a championship program, but they need to find the right guy to build it up, that can recruit - pulling in kids to Columbus.

Gwozdecky certainly has done that at Denver.

The timing certainly seems odd. It's not that Ohio State has dominated the CCHA or anything, but they have gone longer with other coaches before letting them go, and the results really haven't been much different. Is this a case of - they see a guy they feel they MUST have - and now they are going after him?

Could Columbus be his next stop?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

MSU All-Access Senior Night

It's been a few weeks since MSU was eliminated from the CCHA playoffs. In that time, we've seen conference champions crowned, and a Frozen Four field take shape. This year's Frozen Four (taking place next weekend) features three first timers (Mass.-Lowell, Quinnipiac, St. Cloud State) and Yale.

I'm still planning on taking a look back at the season that was, but in the meantime - here is the latest MSU all-access episode featuring senior night, as five seniors said good-bye.

Link to MSU All-Access Episode 9: Senior Night

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Miami Eliminates MSU With Pair of 4-1 Victories

Game Recaps

Game 2 Boxscore // Game 2 Recap

Game 3 Boxscore (pending...) // Game 3 Recap (pending....)

Series Thoughts
The Spartans left it all on the ice this weekend, after a grueling trip and a stunning game 1 victory. It might not have been the ending they wanted, but it was a great step in the right direction for the program.  This marks the last time MSU will play in the CCHA, as the next game will be part of the newly formed Big Ten conference.

MSU played very well this weekend, and earned that 3-0 victory in game 1. Miami came back and played much better on the second night, even despite MSU scoring early on in the game, and they showed why they are the CCHA champions. Still, the Spartans responded with a great effort on Sunday, a bad bounce led to the first goal, and Miami built a 2-0 lead, but the Spartans still did roll over. They continued to battle, even as Yanakeff came out to play in the 2nd period. The Spartans got a few power play opportunities and eventually got one in to pull within one. It would stay that way until about halfway through the third period when Miami finally got their breathing room back. After that the Spartans still tried to chip away, but Miami added an empty net goal to finish the scoring off.

Miami will continue to the CCHA semi-finals against Michigan next Saturday. Notre Dame will play Ohio State (funny for how much the Big Ten got knocked, but 4 of the 6 teams are still playing in their respective conference tournaments).

We'll have more thoughts as the off season continues, including a recap of the season, a look ahead to the Big Ten - though right now some time off to reflect seems appropriate. The underdog might not have won this weekend, but they showed the program is heading in the right direction.

Game 3 Live Blog - Michigan State vs. Miami CCHA Quarterfinals

Winner advances to Joe Louis Arena for the CCHA semis.

If Miami wins:

#1 Miami vs. #7 Michigan
#2 Notre Dame vs. #4 Ohio State/#5 Ferris State winner

If Michigan State wins:

#2 Notre Dame vs. #11 Michigan State
#4 Ohio State/#5 Ferris State winner vs. #7 Michigan

Join us at 7 pm for the live blog of game 3:

Friday, March 15, 2013

Believe? Underdog Spartans Stun Miami 3-0

Game 1 Box Score // MSU Recap

So, are you a believer yet?

Haven't won a playoff game since 2008. Check.
Haven't won a playoff series since 2007. Check.
Haven't beaten Miami in 7 games. Check.
Went to Alaska in 2 of their past 3 weekends. Check.
Didn't get back to East Lansing till late Monday after a difficult 3 game series. Check.
Had very limited practice time this week due to the schedule. Check.
Only won three road games all regular season. Check.

I will freely admit that I wasn't sure MSU had it in them this weekend to win a game. I will gladly eat crow tonight. The underdogs right now are very much alive. The Spartans went down to Miami and stunned the #1 seeded and #3 nationally ranked Miami Red Hawks 3-0. Jake Hildebrand stopped all 34 shots he faced for his second career shutout. Matt Deblouw and Matt Berry put Michigan State up 2-0 to stun the home crowd, and the defense and goaltending did the rest. Kevin Walrod would add an empty net goal with 56 seconds to go to finish the scoring.

This victory gave Michigan State its third road victory of the post season. They had three post season victories all season. It was actually a road warrior night as Michigan (over Western) and Ferris State (over Ohio State) also recorded road wins. Notre Dame was the only home team to hold serve, and they needed overtime to get the job done against Bowling Green.

This team continues to amaze in the post season. They really are showing what you can do with a second chance. But, they cannot be satisfied yet. They aren't to Joe Louis Arena yet, and you know Miami is going to kick it up a notch or ten tomorrow (and Sunday if need be).

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Know Thy Playoff Enemy: Miami

And then there were eight.

The Michigan State Spartans have been playing better hockey over the last month, and they were finally rewarded with a road series victory in Alaska. Their reward for that success was a very short week of practice and a road series at the CCHA Champion Miami Red Hawks.

Some reward eh?

The Spartans enter the weekend with a 13-23-3 overall record. Since the loss on February 8th at Bowling Green, Michigan State is 6-4. Miami enters the weekend with a 22-9-5 overall record, #3 overall ranking, and in position to potentially get a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Miami last played on March 1st and 2nd in a weekend split against Ohio State. That split earned Miami the final CCHA championship. I'm sure they'd like nothing more than to win the last Mason Cup as well, knocking out at least one Big Ten foe along the way.

Michigan State leads the all-time series 68-32-6 and that includes a 28-14-3 record in Miami. The problem is Miami has dominated the series of late going 6-0-1 over the last 7 games. This includes a 2 game play-off sweep in last year's CCHA quarterfinals and taking five of six points this year in the season series. Michigan State tied Miami in Oxford 2-2 in the first game this year, and Miami won the second game 2-0. Miami won the shoot-out on Friday as well.

This was one of those series last season that quite a few MSU fans thought the Red Hawks simply presented a bad match-up for Michigan State. Well, they may have been right since Miami dominated the play-off series.

Given the very short week of prep work MSU had, the odds certainly are stacked up against Michigan State. Last weekend we mentioned how the playoffs present an opportunity for a second chance, to remake your ending if your season didn't go according to plan. Michigan State still has that opportunity this weekend to rewrite their ending. Whether they win or lose, you know they are going to lay their heart on the line and give it their best shot. With Yanakeff and Hildebrand, if both goalies are sharp this weekend, the Spartans will be in the game. It's going to be important to stick around, be pesky, and make them earn everything.

They have nothing to lose at this point, and Bowling Green did it last year from the #11 spot. This Spartan team can do it too.

Miami Leading Scorers:

Riley Barber    15 goals, 36 points
Austin Czarnik  11 goals, 33 points
Curtis McKenzie 9 goals, 22 points
Matthew Caito   5 goals, 18 points
Marc Hagel  5 goals, 17 points

Miami Goaltenders:

Jay Williams    12-5-3, 1.89 GAA, .926 save %
Ryan McKay    10-4-2, 1.17 GAA, .957 save %

Team Comparison

Miami Offense:  5th  -  2.53 GPG
MSU Defense:  8th - 2.74 GAPG

Miami Defense:  1st - 1.61 GAPG
MSU Offense: 11th - 2.10 GPG

Miami Power Play: 5th  - 15.8%
MSU Penalty Kill: T-7th  - 83.9%
MSU Penalty Minutes:  2nd least - 12.2  PIM/G

Miami Penalty Kill:  2nd - 88.6%
Miami Penalty Minutes:  3rd most - 13.9 PIM/G
MSU Power Play:  10th - 13.4%

Series Thoughts:

Game 1 Box Score // Game 1 Recap
Game 2 Box Score // Game 2 Recap

Miami is the clear favorite in this one. There aren't going to be many people, if any outside of East Lansing, that will pick MSU to win this series or even a game in this series. The poll on the right hand side seems to show some confident (or crazy) Spartan fans. But this is why you play the game. No one gave Bowling Green a chance to do it last year. There weren't many people that gave MSU a chance last weekend. Legs are going to be a concern this weekend, which is going to make the start very important. If the Spartans score early, it certainly will give them a lot of confidence, and that pesky underdog can go to work again. In any case, the Spartans simply need to work hard for 60 minutes in each game, and if needed, let the goaltending take over. Then who knows what that pesky underdog is capable of doing. Anything is possible, and it's why games are won on the ice and not on paper.

Friday's game is scheduled to start at 7:35 pm. Saturday and if needed Sunday's game is scheduled at 7:05 pm. All the games can be heard on 730 am or the Spartan Sports Network

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Know Thy Playoff Enemy: Miami - A Look Back

The Michigan State Spartans head down to southern Ohio this weekend to take on the CCHA Champion Miami Red Hawks in the CCHA Quarterfinal best of three series. This won't be the first time the teams have met in the play-offs, as they met as recently as last year. Here is a quick look at their playoff history:

1985 CCHA First Round (Total Goal Series) - #1 Michigan State vs. #4 Miami

The two teams first met in the playoffs all the way back in 1985. It was the final year of a three round tournament format, in which the first round was total goals, and the last two rounds were single elimination. 1986 saw the best of three format introduced in the first round.

The Spartans squeaked out a 4-3 victory on the first night, but the team that most MSU fans will say was the greatest team to ever play in East Lansing ended up dominating the second night 7-1 for a total goal series win 11-4.

Sadly the 1985 season did not end the way pretty much every Spartan fan expected. Providence came into Munn and stunned the Spartans with a 6-5 total goal series victory. 

1992 CCHA Consolation Game (Joe Louis Arena) - #3 Michigan State vs. #5 Miami

Michigan State pushed its playoff record against Miami to 3-0 with an 8-5 victory in the 3rd place game at Joe Louis Arena. Michigan State would transform a late season charge into a Frozen Four appearance that ended in the Frozen Four with a 4-2 loss to CCHA rival LSSU. 

1997 CCHA Semi-Finals (Joe Louis Arena) - #2 Miami vs. #3 Michigan State

Michigan State and Miami met in the semi-finals, and the Spartans topped the Red Hawks in a 4-3 overtime thriller. The Spartans would move on to lose to arch-rival Michigan in the CCHA championship game.

2000 CCHA First Round - #2 Michigan State vs. #9 Miami

Game 1 Box Score

The Spartans dominated the game early on building a 6-0 lead before Miami could finally get one past Ryan Miller. Miami did end up scoring the last two goals of the game, but it wasn't enough to really make the Spartans worry. Michigan State's power play was key going 3 for 5 in the game.

Game 2 Box Score

Miami played better, but it wasn't enough as the Spartans broke the game open late in the first period. Andrew Hutchinson scored a backbreaking goal at the 19:59 mark to give Michigan State a 3-1 lead, and with Ryan Miller in net, that was more than enough for the Spartans. Michigan State eventually won 5-1 to sweep the series and push their playoff record against Miami to 6-0 all-time.

The Spartans would go on to dominate the tournament in Detroit beating Notre Dame 4-0 and UNO 6-0 to win the tournament championship. Boston College would beat the Spartans in the NCAA tournament to end Michigan State's season.

2005 CCHA Tournament First Round - #6 Michigan State vs. #7 Miami

Game 1 Box Score  // Game 1 Recap

Michigan State's Chad Hontvet tallied a pair of power play goals in the second period to rally Michigan State past Miami. Michigan State fell behind 1-0 on a power play goal by Nathan Davis, but the two goals in the middle stanza proved to be the difference as MSU won 2-1. Dominic Vicari made 25 saves for MSU.

Game 2 Box Score // Game 2 Recap

Trailing 4-2 in the 3rd period with just over 7 minutes to go, it looked like game three was going to be necessary, and it looked like Miami was going to earn its first playoff win over Michigan State. The Spartans had other ideas as Tom Goebel and Colton Fretter tallied goals just 1:29 apart to force overtime. Then 7:45 into the extra session, Colton Fretter scored again on the power play to give Michigan State a thrilling 5-4 overtime win.

Michigan State would go on and beat UNO in the quarterfinals before dropping a semi-final game against Ohio State and the consolation game against Alaska.

2006 CCHA Championship - #1 Miami vs. #2 Michigan State

Box Score // Game Recap

Michigan State continued its playoff dominance (now at 9-0) over Miami with a hard fought and spirited 2-1 victory over Miami to win the Mason Cup and CCHA Tournament. This marks the last time Michigan State won the tournament, and it allowed MSU to earn a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. The Spartans didn't get to the Frozen Four though as Maine edged MSU in the regional championship game of the NCAA tournament.David Booth scored the game winning goal in this game at the 5:52 mark of the second period. Jeff Lerg made 22 saves in the win.

2012 CCHA Quarterfinals - #4 Miami vs. #5 Michigan State

Game 1 Box Score // Game 1 Recap

Miami finally earned its first playoff victory against Michigan State, and they did so in dominating fashion. It only took 12 seconds for the Spartans to get on the board, but the first period ended 1-0. Miami then used a four goal outburst in the second period to make the game not-so-close. Miami would go on to win 6-0. This was the first post season game for Coach Tom Anastos as the head coach of Michigan State.

Game 2 Box Score // Game 2 Recap

Miami finished off Michigan State pretty quickly with a 4-1 win in game two. The Spartans hung tougher in the first period coming out of it tied at 1 (Krug with the goal). However, the second period doomed the Spartans again with three goals less the four minutes apart. Michigan State's season would end two weeks later in the NCAA tournament - its first tournament bid since 2008.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Program Win: Spartans Shock Alaska

It was not suppose to work this way. Michigan State had a terrible year. They only won three games on the road all year. They never won two games in a single weekend all year. They just made this trip two weeks ago, so they had to be tired. Players were getting sick with the flu on the way out there, and other players were nursing injuries.

They didn't stand a chance.

So, Yanakeff stole game one. Michigan State was "badly" out-shot. Did you see game 2? Alaska dominated. So game 3 was all over - Michigan State had no legs left, and they got their one shot in on Friday. Alaska even started the game with two power plays and eventually got a 1-0 lead. Blowout city here we come, population: Michigan State.

And then..... It happened.

Now, I can't sit here and pretend that Michigan State went on the road and defeated the #1 team in the country in a playoff series, or won a league championship, but this series meant something. For everything that has happened this year, the fact that these Spartans found a way to pull it and hold it together long enough for a weekend - to win at a place that isn't easy to win even before you factor in the travel. Then you throw in the fact that Michigan State fell behind 1-0 and then nearly blew a 4-1 lead. There were plenty of times for this team to fold, but they didn't. They stood tall, stayed strong, and found a way. As good teams tend to do - find a way to win.

Game one was Michigan State's first CCHA post season victory since game 1 of the 2008 CCHA quarterfinals against Northern Michigan. This series was Michigan State's first series victory since a two game sweep over Nebraska Omaha in 2007. That was so long ago, UNO was actually part of the CCHA.

Simply put, for this team and this coaching staff to find the motivation and determination to win this series really speaks volumes of the program. It was a program win. This team might not advance to Joe Louis Arena. After all, Michigan State has a seven game winless streak against Miami. Miami earned five of six points this year in the season series against MSU, and they swept Michigan State last year in the CCHA play-offs. Plus, the Spartans didn't get back into East Lansing until Monday night, which limits the amount of prep time the staff can do on the ice with the players.

After a rough season - even by the kindest of terms - the Spartans finally got rewarded for their efforts. It shows that the foundation is there for the future. Yes, it's still up to the staff to recruit, the players to improve in the off-season, and everyone to put it together once October rolls around. We can't pretend that it'll mean next year everything will be ok, but if the Spartans move back to where they are used to be - near or at the top of the standings, a Frozen Four threat, and a national title contender - it will be this team that we can point to that laid the foundation, that played with its heart, and showed everyone this program won't roll over - even if there are many opportunities and no one would have blamed them for getting their season over with. And maybe, just maybe, deep in the wilderness of Fairbanks, Alaska - the program was reborn under this coaching staff.

The effort against Miami, a team that everyone is going to pick to win, will certainly continue to show everyone just what the program is capable of doing. The odds are certainly stacked up against Michigan State once again.Just like they were this weekend. And then a funny thing happened. The underdog forgot that it was an underdog. And the underdog is still fighting. I imagine they'll be fighting right till the end, and I think they wouldn't have it any other way right now.

And considering the last time the team won a CCHA Playoff series was 2007 - the last time MSU won the national title - no pressure guys. No really. Just take it one game at a time.

Michigan State 4 Alaska 3 - Final

For the second straight year, the #11 seed in the CCHA playoffs went on the road and defeated the #6 seed in three games. This time, Michigan State went to Alaska to do the job. The Spartans win their first CCHA series since knocking off UNO in 2007.

Michigan State will take on Miami next weekend in Oxford.

It's late.

Almost forgot.....

Go Green.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Live Blog: MSU at Alaska - Game 3

Staying up late to see who wins....

Alaska Forces Game 3 with 4-1 Victory

Saturday Box Score

With their season on the line, the Nanooks came away with an impressive 4-1 victory on Saturday night in the 2nd game of the first round CCHA series. The Spartans actually did get more rubber on goal (33 shots compared to 15 in the 2-1 overtime victory), but it didn't translate into  more goals.

The glaring stat is the power play. Michigan State went 0 for 9 on Saturday, and this followed an 0 for 3 effort on Saturday. If Michigan State doesn't win this series, they could simply point to the power play, which actually has given up a shorthanded goal. Alaska's power play hasn't been much better, but they finally scored with the extra man last night in the 3rd period. Alaska went 1 for 5 last night and is now only 1 for 10.

Will Yanakeff made 31 saves last night.

Game 3 is tonight at 11:05 pm. If Alaska wins, the Nanooks will advance to play Western Michigan, Michigan (which swept Northern last night) will play at Notre Dame, and the winner of tonight's 3rd game between LSSU and Bowling Green will play at Miami.

If Michigan State can pull off the upset, the Spartans will move on to Miami, the LSSU-BGSU winner will play at Notre Dame, and Michigan will take on Western Michigan. Ferris State is already in place to play Ohio State next weekend.

NCAA Bubble

Friday's loss to Alaska may prove fatal when it comes to the NCAAs. The Nanooks fell from 15th to 19th in the Pairwise with the loss, and even with the victory last night - they remained in 19th (using the RPI as the tiebreaker in both cases). Right now only Miami is safely in the NCAA tournament from the CCHA. Western Michigan is in a tie for 10th and is probably in even with a loss next weekend. Notre Dame looks like it needs to win next weekend, as they sit in a tie for 16th.  Ohio State is looking like they need to win the CCHA tournament as they sit in a tie for 27th. Ferris State is in the same situation sitting in 26th.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Late Night Heroics: Michigan State 2 Alaska 1 (OT)

Friday, March 28, 2008: The last time Michigan State won a post season game (a 3-1 win over Colorado College).

Friday, March 14, 2008: The last time Michigan State won a CCHA post season game (a 5-1 win over Northern).

Friday, March 8, 2013: The day MSU exercised all those past playoff ghosts. Michigan State was out-shot 35-15 for the game, but it was the final shot that mattered as Matt DeBlouw sent everyone home early on in the first overtime period as Michigan State defeated Alaska 2-1.

Will Yanakeff was spectacular again tonight making 34 saves on the evening, including plenty of great stops in the 3rd period that kept it a 1-1 game. Tanner Sorenson opened the scoring just 27 seconds into the game - giving MSU an early 1-0 lead.

Alaska would go on to tie the game later in the period.

Now Michigan State is one game away from winning their first CCHA playoff series since 2007. I guess someone forgot to tell them, they are underdogs, and underdogs aren't suppose to win.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Staying Up Late Tonight - MSU at Alaska Game 1 Live Blog

Blog will begin around 10:45 pm. Gametime is set for 11:05 pm.

Know Thy Playoff Enemy: Alaska The Sequel

The Spartans once again are making the long trip out west, but this time there is a lot more on the line - an entire season. Everything up to this point becomes moot. Everyone is 0-0, and they don't even have to win two straight games to advance - just two out of three.

Of course, they will be fighting recent playoff disappointments. Michigan State has lost ten straight post seasons (CCHA & NCAA) games. Their last CCHA playoff victory came all the way back in 2008 - game 1 of the quarterfinal series with Northern Michigan. The 10 game streak started that year as well after MSU defeated Colorado College in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Add in the fact that Michigan State has yet to win two games in a single weekend, and Michigan State has only won three road games all season, the odds seem stacked against the Spartans. Despite all this, the people that visit this blog seem confident as over half believe MSU can win the series.  And even if Michigan State does win the series, what does that mean? It means they'd head down to Oxford for the quarterfinal series - playing a team that simply has had Michigan State's number of late.

So really, there's no reason to even show up right? MSU can't win. It's just not possible.

Playoffs - The Second Season, A Second Chance

Was it possible for Bowling Green last season, a team that won 5 conference games all year and only 10 games overall (going into the playoffs) to make it to Joe Louis Arena? No, but did it stop them? No. Bowling Green stunned sixth-seeded Northern Michigan in three games, then upset the conference champion Ferris State Bulldogs in three games.  Bowling Green then held a 2-0 lead in the CCHA semi-finals before finally losing in double overtime - a dream ending coming up just a little bit short.

Was it possible for the LA Kings to barely make the NHL playoffs as the eighth seed in the Western Conference to win the Stanley Cup? Heck no. It's funny how sometimes the underdog forgets that they are just that - underdogs.

There are examples all over the place - and let's not forget that Michigan State did win one of their three road games in Alaska, and nearly had the second game of the series in overtime. How about the potential with two great goalies keeping the Spartans chances of stealing a road series? Hildebrand and Yanakeff have both shown they can steal a game this year. 

While the play will certainly need to be sharp, a win over top 10 Western Michigan had to build up some confidence, and if it takes an 'us against the world' mentality, then so be it - shock the world.

2012 - 2013 Leading Scorers:

Andy Taranto   14 goals, 27 points
Cody Kunyk     9 goals, 26 points
Colton Beck    11 goals, 20 points
Tyler Morley    10 goals, 19 points

Nanooks Goaltender

John Keeney   12-9-3, 2.33 GAA, .910 save %

Team Comparison:

Alaska Offense:  4th - 2.56 GPG 
MSU Defense:  9th - 2.75 GAPG

Alaska Defense: 7th - 2.65 GAPG
MSU Offense: 11th - 2.08 GPG

Alaska Power Play: 7th - 14.5 %
MSU Penalty Kill:  7th - 83.6%
MSU Penalty Minutes:  T-3rd Least 12.4 PIM/G

Alaska Penalty Kill:  1st - 89.5%
Alaska Penalty Minutes:  T-4th Most - 13.4 PIM/G
MSU Power Play: 9th - 14.1 %

Series Thoughts:

The immediate thought is MSU needs to get more rubber on goal. The Spartans only had 38 shots on goal for the entire weekend - 14 in the 1-0 win and 24 in the 4-2 loss. Yanakeff played very well all weekend keeping Michigan State in the game. The Spartans will need another strong goaltending effort in order to win this series, but it's going to take some help in the offensive end as well. 

While Alaska might be the favorite, if the Spartans have their legs going - which won't be easy because of the travel - MSU will be in this series. It's a matter of out-working the Nanooks in front of the goal, in the corners, and limiting the turnovers crossing the blue lines. 

Gut feeling says it goes the distance - which will make for a lot of late night listening. All the games are scheduled to start at 11:05 pm Eastern time and can be heard on 1240 am in Lansing or on the Spartan Sports Network. We'll be looking to do a very late night live blog as well.

Go Green!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Know Thy Playoff Enemy: Alaska - A Look Back

Michigan State and Alaska will meet each other this weekend for the 11th, 12th, and perhaps 13th time in the post season. The two teams have played 10 games in the play-offs up to this point. This includes four series and a single game at Joe Louis Arena. MSU leads the all-time playoff series 6-4. Michigan State swept two series, won a third series in three games, and Alaska has swept a series, and won the lone Joe Louis Arena playoff meeting.

Here is a look back at each of those series:

March 9-10, 2001  #10 Alaska at #1 Michigan State - CCHA First Round

Michigan State dominated the CCHA in the regular season going 21-4-3 in route to a 10 point championship win over second play Miami and Michigan. The Spartans went on to finish the 2001 season in the Frozen Four losing to North Dakota. This season was the last season that only 10 of the 12 teams made the playoffs. Alaska squeaked in with a 7-14-7 record finishing 1 point higher than 11th place Notre Dame and actually tying Bowling Green for 9th. BGSU had one more win though, so they won the tiebreaker for the 9 seed.

Michigan State dominated the season series sweeping the Nanooks in February of that season by a combined score of 7-1.

Game 1: Box Score // USCHO Recap

The Spartans went 3-5 with the extra man in route to a dominating 5-2 victory over Alaska-Fairbanks in game #1 of the best of 3 first round series. The Spartans jumped out to a 3-1 first period lead on goals by Sean Patchell, Adam Hall, and Brian Maloney. Maloney would add his second goal of the evening early on in the third period, and Rustyn Dolyny rounded out the scoring for Michigan State. The Nanooks would add a late goal as Ryan Miller stopped 32 of 34 shots.

Game 2: Box Score // USCHO Recap

Down 2-1 late in the 3rd period, John Nail tallied a power play marker to force a tie with just 2:42 to go in regulation. Michigan State would use that momentum to end the game in overtime as Sean Patchell added his second goal of the series. Brian Maloney put MSU on the board late in the second period, though the Nanooks took a 2-1 lead into the locker room in the second intermission. MSU out-shot Alaska 19-8 in the 3rd period and 44-33 for the game.

Michigan State would go on to defeat Bowling Green and Michigan to win the CCHA Tournament.

March 14-15, 2003         #9 Alaska at #4 Michigan State  - CCHA First Round

The Spartans struggled early on, but they finished strong and ending up in 4th place in the CCHA with a 17-10-1 league record - just one point out of 3rd. Alaska ended up in a tie for 8th place, though with only 10 conference wins, they lost the tiebreaker to Western (13 wins). The Spartans swept the season series winning both games in East Lansing in early January (5-2, 6-2). The Spartan offense was rolling scoring 20 goals over their final four games.

Game 1: Box Score // Recap

The offense continued rolling right into the first game of the playoffs as the Spartans destroyed Alaska 11-1 to kick-off the post season. This included five goals in the opening period - two by Brock Radunske, one by Kevin Estrada, Ash Goldie, and Colton Fretter. Alaska managed to pull within four goals, but Michigan State's  David Booth and Jim Slater would put MSU up 7-1 going into the 3rd. They weren't done then as Brock Radunske got the hat trick just 35 seconds in the final period, and Jim Slater & Ash Goldie added their second goals of the game. Michigan State out-shot Alaska 39-31 for the game, and the Nanooks actually used all three goalies. The Spartans Matt Migliaccio had 30 saves.

Game 2: Box Score // Recap

This game proved to be much closer, but the Spartans rallied for a 3-1 victory on a strong effort from Matt Migliaccio in goal and goals from Lee Falardeau, Brian Maloney, and Tim Hearon. Migliaccio made 35 saves as the Spartans advance to Joe Louis Arena for a quarterfinal date with Northern Michigan. That game proved to be a wild one as the Wildcats won 7-5 ending Michigan State's NCAA tournament streak in the process.

March 19, 2005   #6 Michigan State vs. #8 Alaska - CCHA Consolation Game

Box Score// Game Recap

The Nanooks went to the Joe for the first time ever and finished the tournament winning the 3rd place game over Michigan State. The Spartans ended a disappointing year finishing in 6th place in the CCHA with a 12-13-3 league mark. Despite the regular season, the Spartans found themselves in the CCHA semi-finals dropping the game to Ohio State 4-1. The Spartans couldn't rally from a 2-0 or 3-1 hole in this one, though they did make it interesting losing a 3-2 contest. Tom Goebel and Adam Nightingale scored the goals for MSU. Dominic Vicari ended the game with 23 saves on 26 shots.

March 10 - 12, 2006   #8 Alaska-Fairbanks at #2 Michigan State - CCHA Quarterfinals

In the first season of the current play-off format (1st round byes - in this case for the top 4 teams), the Spartans streak to Joe Louis Arena nearly ended as they were pushed to the brink of elimination by dropping the first game of the series. Michigan State would rebound to the tune of winning the CCHA Tournament and the Ron Mason Cup. It was the last time MSU won the CCHA tournament. The Spartans finished the CCHA season in second place (14-7-7) well behind regular season champion Miami. Alaska finished in a tie for 8th place with Notre Dame.

The Spartans won the regular season series 3-0-1, as they swept the series in East Lansing in January (4-0, 2-1) and won and tied in Alaska in December (4-4, 3-0).

Game 1:  Box Score // Game Recap

Alaska handed Michigan State its first home loss in ten years by hanging on to defeat MSU 2-1 at Munn. Michigan State's only goal was scored by David Booth with just 38 seconds to go in the second period. The Spartan power play went 1 for 11 on the season, and Jeff Lerg ended the game with 27 saves as MSU out-shot Alaska 37-29 for the game.

Game 2: Box Score  // Game Recap

The Spartans blew open a close game with four second period goals en route to a 6-1 victory over the Nanooks. Jim McKenzie started the scoring on the power play to give MSU a 1-0 lead. That lead would hold to past the midway point of the game when Chris Mueller put MSU up 2-0. Then less than a minute later, Drew Miller made it 3-0. The Spartans had a pair of 5 on 3 goals late in the period by Tim Crowder and Bryan Lerg. The third period saw a pair of 5 on 3 goals as well - the first by Chris Lawrence and the last one by Alaska's Kyle Jones to spoil the shutout. Michigan State went 4 for 12 with the extra man, and Alaska went 1 for 9. Jeff Lerg ended the game with 30 saves.

Game 3: Box Score // Game Recap

A wild third game saw Michigan State beat Alaska 7-4 to advance to the Joe. Alaska actually got on board first just 1:10 into the game. The Spartans tied the game just 30 seconds later on a goal by Chris Mueller. Drew Miller scored the first of three just 70 seconds later to put MSU up 2-1. Michigan State out-shot Alaska 16-7 in the first period and 21-8 in the second period. The middle period saw wildness early as three goals were tallied just 53 seconds apart from each other. Eethan Graham and David Booth tallied goals in that span and Michigan State held a 4-2 lead. Drew Miller added his second goal to give MSU a seemingly comfortable 5-2 lead heading into the final period. Alaska kept battling pulling back to within two on the power play just 23 seconds into the 3rd period. Corey Potter would respond about four minutes later only to see Alaska pull back to within two with 10:02 to go in the game. The scoring would finally settle down until Miller finished it with his hat trick goal just inside 2 minutes to go.

Michigan State would go on to defeat Michigan (4-1) and Miami (2-1) to win the Mason Cup. Michigan State would earn a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament this season only to lose a heart breaker to Maine in the regional final.

March 4-5, 2011    #10 Michigan State at #7 Alaska   -  CCHA First Round

The Spartans finished the 2010 - 2011 season with an 11-15-2 league mark just 3 points behind Alaska (1 win), and only 2 points behind 8th place (and home ice). That difference would prove to be huge as Michigan State went out west and dropped a pair of very tough games.  Michigan State went out to Alaska on the second to last weekend of the regular season and split. The Nanooks took the first game (2-1), and Michigan State responded with a dominating 6-2 victory. The next trip out west wouldn't be quite as friendly though.

Game 1: Box Score

Michigan State held two leads (1-0, 2-1) in this game - including one in the third period, but the Nanooks would rally each time eventually winning the game very late in the first overtime. Jake Chelios would put the Spartans up 1-0 in the second period with a power play marker. Michael Quinn for Alaska would pull the Nanooks even with a goal late in the period. Tim Buttery put MSU up in the third period with 11:34 to go. However, just over three minutes later the Nanooks would pull even once again. Then, Nik Yaremchuk would score the game winner with just 20 seconds to go in the first overtime period. Drew Palmisano would stop 34 shots.

Game 2: Box Score

The Spartans dropped another heart breaker in Alaska - only this time it took until the second overtime to end the game. Alaska jumped out to a 1-0 lead 7:54 into the game. Dean Chelios and Dustin Gazley would bring MSU the lead heading into the second period. Alaska put a pair of goals on the board to retake the lead, but with just 41 seconds to go Brett Perlini pulled the Spartans even. The third and fourth periods didn't see anyone score, and once again Nik Yaremchuk proved to be the hero as he ended the Spartans' season and the Rick Comley era just 3:18 into the second overtime period. Will Yanakeff made 30 saves. Michigan State's power play was only 1 for 9 in the game.

So there you have it - the complete Alaska-Michigan State CCHA playoff history. Only days remain until the next chapter is written.

Season Recap

The CCHA season is over. Now let's look back at how completely awesome (read: terrible) my preseason power rankings were in comparison to reality. While I wouldn't say these were my official predictions, we will just pretend that they were. I will own up to them too...

Preseason Rankings

1. Western Michigan
2. Michigan
3. Notre Dame
4. Michigan State
5. Miami
6. Ferris State
7. Northern Michigan
9. Ohio State
10. Alaska
11. Bowling Green


1. Miami
2. Notre Dame
3. Western Michigan
4. Ohio State
5. Ferris State
6. Alaska
7. Michigan
9. Bowling Green
10. Northern Michigan
11. Michigan State


1. Miami (Predicted: 5th). Yeah. Sorry. Swing & a miss.

2. Notre Dame (Predicted: 3rd). Not bad, and had it not been for MSU, the Irish would have finished 3rd.

3. Western Michigan (Predicted: 1st). Again, not bad. Western was just two points out on the final day of the season.

4. Ohio State (Predicted: 9th). Ouch #2. This one is for my fellow Big Ten blogger - Deadly Nuts. Sorry for not believing in the Buckeyes. Don't screw it up though in the playoffs. And to my credit, I did say that 9th was probably too low.

5. Ferris State (Predicted: 6th). Close. Alaska was only 3 points behind.

6. Alaska (Predicted: 10th). Ouch #3. I guess I'm 50/50 at being "close" up to this point. Though, to my credit, I said if they improved in the lower 48, they would be better than my 10th place prediction. They did well in the month of January away from home.

7. Michigan (Predicted: 2nd). As a Spartan, I should have known better than picking Michigan 2nd. Though, they are playing like it now.

8. LSSU (Predicted: 8th). Excuse me for a second....

9. Bowling Green (Predicted: 11th). Yeah - not close enough. Bowling Green was a surprise this year, and they really were playing some strong hockey through the middle of the season.

10. Northern Michigan (Predicted: 7th). Yeah - I can never figure out Northern Michigan. They could be a tough series for Michigan.

11. Michigan State (Predicted: 4th). Big whiffer! Ah well, I gotta be a homer from time to time.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Weekend Recap: Spartans End Regular Season Splitting with #8 Western Michigan

Photo Courtesy of Michigan State University - MSU's Five Seniors Kiss the Logo at Center Ice


Friday:  MSU Recap // MSU Video Highlights // WMU Recap // LSJ Recap

Saturday: MSU Recap // MSU Video Highlights // WMU Recap // LSJ Recap  

Series Thoughts:

A picture is worth a thousand words. They've had their ups and downs, but the Spartan class of 2013 has represented Michigan State University with nothing but class, and they've worked hard. It's only fitting that an all-senior line tallied the only goal in Michigan State's 1-0 upset victory over #8 Western Michigan. Last place may have been clinched. A trip to Alaska may have been known. But this game meant so much more for the senior class, and their play reflected that meaning on the ice. The Spartans battled hard at both ends of the ice for the victory.

It wasn't without a little drama as Western Michigan got a power play with two minutes to go in the game, only to take a penalty of their own with just inside a minute to go. This was after Western thought they had tied the game - but the goal was waived off with a Bronco practically sitting in Hildebrand's lap.

It was Jake Hildebrand's first collegiate shutout.

On Friday, the Spartans lost 5-2, but it was a closer game than that. Western broke open a 1-1 tie over the final six minutes of the second period scoring three goals. Two of the goals bad breaks happened as a d-man fell down for MSU, and a 5 on 3 marker went in off of a Spartan. Still, Western did look the part of a CCHA contender on Friday, and they played well.

On Saturday though, Michigan State responded.

When the dust settled from the weekend, Michigan State did finish in last place in the CCHA, and they now face the task of heading out to Alaska for a best of three series.

The Ghost Of The Recent Playoff Past

Michigan State will be battling recent history, if you believe that sort of thing. The Spartans haven't made it to Joe Louis Arena for the CCHA tournament since 2007. MSU's last CCHA series victory came in that 2007 playoff season over a team that isn't even in the conference anymore - Nebraska-Omaha.

The last time Michigan State won a post season game in either the CCHA or NCAA tournament happened on March 28, 2008 in the NCAA First Round game against Colorado College. MSU last won a CCHA playoff game that same year on March 14, 2008 - game 1 vs. Northern Michigan in the CCHA quarterfinals. Northern went on to win the next two games to win the series.

Since that win over Colorado College:

Notre Dame 3 Michigan State 1   (March 29, 2008 - NCAA Regional Final)
Northern Michigan 5 Michigan State 3  (March 6, 2009 - CCHA First Round at NMU)
Northern Michigan 8 Michigan State 2  (March 7, 2009 - CCHA First Round at NMU)
Michigan 5 Michigan State 1  (March 12, 2010 - CCHA Quarterfinal Round at MSU)
Michigan 5 Michigan State 3 (March 13, 2010 - CCHA Quarterfinal Round at MSU)
Alaska 3 Michigan State 2 (OT) (March 4, 2011 - CCHA First Round at Alaska)
Alaska 4 Michigan State 3 (2 OT) (March 5, 2011 - CCHA First Round at Alaska)
Miami 6 Michigan State 0 (March 9, 2012 - CCHA Quarterfinal at Miami)
Miami 4 Michigan State 1 (March 10, 2012 - CCHA Quarterfinal at Miami)
Union 3 Michigan State 1 (March 23, 2012 - NCAA First Round)

You are reading that correctly, MSU has lost ten straight post season games. The Spartans have been outscored 46-17 in that span.

The best way to make history is by shaping it yourself, and this team now has a chance to exercise these demons and get a win, and while they haven't won two games on a single weekend all year, the Spartans don't need to win two in a row since it's a best of three series. It's a long trip, but they did split in Alaska just a weekend ago - so they know they can win. In fact, they had the second game tied 2-2 late before Alaska won it.

Want some good news? Bowling Green made it to Joe Louis Arena last year as the #11 seed. In fact, they held a 2-0 lead over Michigan in the CCHA semis before the Wolverines rallied for an overtime victory. So, it can be done. It's a new season, so let's take it one shift at a time.

Other CCHA Series

Miami won the final CCHA title. Notre Dame moved into second with their weekend sweep over Bowling Green, and Western's split against MSU. Ohio State earned home ice once Michigan forced a shoot-out against Ferris. Ohio State will face Ferris State in the CCHA quarterfinals in the 4-5 match-up. This upcoming weekend, Michigan will host Northern Michigan, and LSSU will host Bowling Green. Michigan is #7 - they last were the #7 seed in the 2010 playoffs when Michigan won the CCHA tournament.  Michigan has to win it this year to keep their NCAA streak alive, and they are now unbeaten in four games and 5-2-1 in their last eight.

Michigan hasn't beaten Northern this year losing 4-3 and winning a shoot-out (so it's a tie). But that was up in Marquette and back in November. If I had to pick, I'd be surprised to see Michigan lose that series - though it wouldn't shock me if it went the full three games.

BGSU-LSSU should be a good series. The Falcons did sweep the Lakers this year, but those games were in Bowling Green, and this series is up at the Soo. Again, it wouldn't shock me to see it go three games - and anyone could win. I'll go on a slight limb and take the road team.

More coming tomorrow/this week.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Know Thy Enemy - Western Michigan & The End of an Era

Well, the end has finally come. This weekend Michigan State will celebrate the careers of five Spartans: Kevin Walrod, Matt Grassi, Chris Forfar, Anthony Hayes, and Zach Golembiewski. In addition, this marks the end of an era for Michigan State, Western Michigan, and college hockey. It's the final regular season weekend in the history of the CCHA. Michigan State will join the Big Ten conference next season, and Western Michigan will be joining the National Collegiate Hockey Conference with fellow CCHA member Miami.

In the meantime, the Spartans are looking to end the regular season on a high note, potentially move up the CCHA standings, and prevent Western Michigan from clinching the CCHA championship. Though, Western will need a lot of help as Miami only needs two points for an outright championship. Miami takes on Ohio State this weekend.

Western Michigan is 18-8-8 overall with a 14-6-6-3 CCHA mark (2nd place). They sit one point ahead of Notre Dame for second place, and the Broncos cannot finish worse than third in the CCHA standings. Michigan State comes into the weekend with three straight splits posting a 10-21-3 overall record and an 8-17-1-0 CCHA mark (11th place). The Spartans could finish as high as ninth place with a lot of help. Right now MSU would be heading to Alaska for the first round of the playoffs. The Spartans need Bowling Green to sweep a road series at Notre Dame to bump Alaska from sixth place, or MSU needs to earn four more points than Northern Michigan or sweep Western and have Ferris sweep Michigan in order to move up the CCHA standings.

Western is actually on a five game winless streak right now. Their last win came on February 8th against Miami, a 2-0 victory. Western is 0-2-3 since that point. Speaking of streaks, Michigan State is unbeaten in three games against the Broncos (2-0-1). The Spartans swept Western last year in Kalamazoo, and the two teams battled to a 1-1 draw in the GLI semi-final round earlier this year. Matt Berry tied that game with only 16 seconds remaining. The Spartans hold a 63-29-9 all-time record against Western and that includes a 33-5-6 mark at Munn Ice Arena. The last time the two teams met in East Lansing was on October 30, 2009.

Both games are scheduled to start at 7:05 pm and can be seen on Comcast (Channel 900) or heard on 1240 am or the Spartan Sports Network. For those attending on Saturday, senior night festivities are scheduled to begin at 6:45 pm.

Broncos Leading Scorers

Dane Walters   12 goals, 23 points
Chase Balisy    9 goals, 22 points
Kenney Morrison  7 goals, 18 points
Shane Berschbach  3 goals, 17 points
Mike Leone  6 goals, 16 points
Mike Cichy  4 goals, 16 points
Dennis Brown 3 goals, 16 points


Frank Slubowski  18-8-8, 1.87 GAA, .922 save %

Western is 5-5-4 on the road this season.

Western's best period is the 3rd where they hold a +11 goal advantage.

Western's offense is ranked 11th in the CCHA (2.29 GPG), but their defense is ranked 2nd (1.94 GPG). Despite the lack of offensive firepower 5 on 5, Western's power play ranks 2nd in the CCHA at 18.1%, and their PK ranks 3rd at 86.4%. By comparison, MSU ranks 12th in offense (2.12 GPG), 9th on defense (2.76 GPG), 9th on the power play (12.3%), and 8th on the PK (83.2%).

Series Thoughts

Northern plays LSSU at home, so you would think they would manage three points on the weekend. Michigan plays at home against Ferris, so you think they would earn at least one point. BGSU probably isn't going to sweep Notre Dame in South Bend. The point of all this is, the odds are Michigan State is going to be heading back to Alaska - even if MSU manages to sweep Western, which most people won't believe they can do. However, the Spartans did hang around Western at the GLI, and the Broncos aren't exactly lighting the world on fire on offense. If the Spartans can manage to put together six periods this weekend, they'll be in position to take points, and that could lead to some momentum heading into the playoffs. 

That is all that really matters at this point. Putting together two games on a weekend to add some much needed confidence that the Spartans could be a dangerous team in the post season. Yanakeff played very well last weekend, and Hildebrand has played well most of the season, so the Spartans have a pair of goaltenders capable of stealing a game in the playoffs. 

Let's see if they can get something going this weekend, and who knows what could happen.....


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Weekend Recap: Nanooks Salvage Split

Friday's Recap

Saturday:  MSU Recap // Alaska Recap

Weekend Thoughts:

Well, it's looking like MSU will be back in Alaska in a couple weeks. The Spartans did earn their first winning streak of the season, and they held a 1-0 lead after the opening period, but they couldn't translate it into the first weekend sweep of the year. The Nanooks tallied the game winning goal with just 1:03 remaining in regulation. Former Spartan Adam Henderson added an empty net goal, and then the fireworks began as Jake Chelios an Nolan Kaiser squared off, but neither received a game DQ. So currently, Jake Chelios can still play on Friday against Western Michigan.

CCHA Standings:

GPWLTSOWPointsTotal Points Possible
Western Michigan26146635157
Notre Dame26158325056
Ferris St.261311214248
Ohio State26129514248
Bowling Green261013313440
Northern Michigan26814412935
Michigan State26817102531

Play-off Picture

Current Match-ups:

First Round: 

#11 MSU at #6 Alaska
#10 NMU at #7 BGSU
#9 Michigan at #8 LSSU

Quarterfinal Round:

#5 Ohio State at #4 Ferris State
TBD: #1 Miami, #2 WMU, #3 Notre Dame

It's simple for Miami - one point clinches a share of the CCHA title, two wins it outright. Western will basically need to win out and hope Ohio State sweeps Miami to win it outright. Notre Dame still has a shot as well, but they need a ton of help. Ferris State controls its own destiny for home ice in the quarterfinal round. They currently have the tiebreaker over Ohio State (conference wins). Alaska sits in the 6 spot, but they could fall to 7th if BGSU wins at Notre Dame. BGSU, LSSU, Michigan, and Northern Michigan still can earn home ice in the first round of the playoffs - and each can finish as high as 7th (BGSU can still get 6th). Michigan State can finish as high as 9th, but they need help from Ferris State and LSSU. Basically, it's looking like MSU is likely to head out to Alaska again for the first round, but other situations do exist, and everyone is playing for something - as all 11 CCHA teams are in action.

Games This Week


Western Michigan at Michigan State  (Comcast)
Ohio State at Miami
BGSU at Notre Dame
LSSU at Northern Michigan
Ferris State at Michigan (CBS)
Alaska-Anchorage at Alaska


Western Michigan at Michigan State (Comcast)
Ohio State at Miami
BGSU at Notre Dame
LSSU at Northern Michigan
Ferris State at Michigan (Fox Sports)
Alaska-Anchorage at Alaska

CCHA Power Rankings

1. Miami (21-8-5, LW: 1). On the verge of a championship.

2. Western Michigan (18-8-8, LW: 3). A battle with Michigan State awaits the Broncos in the final CCHA series.

3. Notre Dame (19-12-3, LW: 2). Pretty even, a pair of shoot-out wins for both teams this past weekend in K-Zoo.

4. Ferris State (15-13-4, LW: 5). A bye and they move up, Ohio State missed out on a huge opportunity.

5. Michigan (12-18-2, LW: 9). A statement weekend by Michigan - is the rest of the CCHA on notice?

6. Ohio State (13-14-7, LW: 5). The Buckeyes missed a great chance this weekend to move into the Top 4 - now they need help as they face arch-rival Miami.

7. BGSU (13-16-5, LW: 6). The Falcons can move up to 6th, but they need to pull off a road sweep in South Bend.

8.  LSSU (15-18-1, LW: 7). The Lakers competed hard, but they couldn't get any points against Miami.

9. Alaska (14-14-4, LW: 8). Fireworks in Fairbanks this weekend - will they repeat in two weeks?

10. Northern Michigan (14-16-4, LW: 10). The Wildcats remain a dangerous team, but they need to put together two games in one weekend.

11. Michigan State (10-21-3, LW: 11). The Spartans reached double digit wins by hanging on in Fairbanks - now they try to avoid a second trip out there, but help is needed.

Big Ten Power Rankings

1. Minnesota (21-6-5, LW: 1). With two weekends left, the Gophers are only two points back from a WCHA title.

2. Wisconsin (13-10-7, LW: 2). A Big Ten battle tonight and tomorrow against Penn State.

3. Michigan (12-18-2, LW: 5). Statement made - can they do it again this week against Ferris?

4. Ohio State (13-14-7, LW: 3). The Buckeyes need to recover before the playoffs.

5. Penn State (12-13-0, LW: 4). Penn State can make one final Big Ten statement this week against Wisconsin.

6. Michigan State (10-21-3, LW: 6). The Spartans have split their last three series - another big test with Western in town.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Yanakeff Backstops MSU to 1-0 Victory in Alaska

Game Recaps:

MSU Recap // Alaska Recap  // Final Stats // Daily News Miner Recap (Fairbanks)

Game Thoughts:

It wasn't pretty, and the offense didn't exactly explode for a bunch of goals, but they did enough to steal a rare Friday night victory last night in Fairbanks. Greg Wolfe scored the only goal 7:53 into the opening period, and Will Yanakeff was spectacular making 37 stops to earn his first shutout of the season.

Alaska out-shot the Spartans 34-14 for the game.

The Spartans had a lot of jump early, which eventually created the goal, but Alaska pretty much took over from that point though they couldn't solve Yanakeff. MSU only had 1 power play on the evening, and it lasted 11 seconds, because it was the back end of a 4 on 4 situation. Alaska had a power play over the final 1:19 as Jake Chelios took a cross-checking penalty late. The Nanooks pulled their goalie for a two-man advantage, but the Spartans held strong to preserve the 1-0 victory.

With the win, this is the first time all season Michigan State has won back to back games. Tonight, they'll go for their first series sweep of the season.

Around the CCHA:

Miami, Michigan, and Northern Michigan all won tonight. Western Michigan beat ND in a shoot-out. So the standings over the bottom half of the CCHA look like this:

6th - Alaska 37 pts (1 game left)
7th - LSSU  32 pts (3 games left)
8th - BGSU 31 pts (3 games left)
9th - Northern 29 pts (3 games left)
10th - Michigan 28 pts (3 games left)
11th - MSU  25 pts (3 games left)

Alaska has been eliminated from a top 5 spot now. The Spartans drew to within six points of 8th place. They still need help to move up - a loss tonight by MSU would make a second trip out to Fairbanks a very high probability.

The two teams face-off at 11:05 pm Eastern tonight.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Know Thy Enemy: Fear the Bear

Michigan State heads off to Alaska to take on the Nanooks for a pair of games. This could be the final time Michigan State ends up going to Alaska, since the Spartans are leaving the CCHA for the Big Ten next season. The Nanooks will join their in-state rival Alaska-Anchorage in the WCHA next season.

The Nanooks come into this series with a 11-12-3-1 CCHA record good enough for 6th place (37 points).  Alaska is going to have to sweep MSU and hope Ferris State AND Ohio State lose out if they want to assure themselves a potential home ice spot and first round bye. They will need other help on top of that, so I suppose at this point Alaska is going to be concerned about playing good hockey. The Nanooks are basically guaranteed a first round home series unless a lot of crazy things happen the last two weekends, and if Michigan State does something they haven't done yet this year (sweep a weekend series - no time like the present!). Alaska is 13-13-4 overall this year and 7-6-1 at home.

2013 started off with a bang for Alaska winning six straight games to start the calendar year. This included back to back road sweeps at Michigan and Notre Dame. However, the Nanooks have hit hard times lately dropping five of their last six games, and they are coming off back to back losses to LSSU.

The Spartans enter the weekend still in last place, but they are playing better hockey of late with back to back splits. Michigan State is a long shot at this point to get home ice for the first round of the CCHA playoffs, so this weekend could be as much about trying to avoid Alaska in the first round and avoid making two trips out west in three weeks.

While I won't miss the 11pm game times, I know I will miss one thing when it comes to Alaska: the videos:

It would be wise to avoid angering the bear

Fear the Bear.

Ah. Good Stuff.

The last time these two teams met, Michigan State swept Alaska in East Lansing on February 17th and 18th (2012). MSU won the first night 3-2 in OT and posted a 3-0 victory on the second night. The last time the two teams played in Alaska for a regular season series was the 2010 - 2011 season when the teams split the series. They met two weeks later in the CCHA tournament (also in Alaska), and the Nanooks won back to back overtime games to sweep MSU out of the CCHA playoffs, and end the Rick Comley era. 

Michigan State leads the all-time series 41-15-3. This includes a 15-9-2 mark in Fairbanks.  Alaska has dominated the series of late holding a 4-1-1 edge in the last three series in Alaska.

Fast forward to this year, the Nanooks look stronger, even on their recent slide, they are going to be a team to pay attention to in the playoffs.

Leading Scorers

Andy Taranto   10 goals, 22 points
Cody Kunyk    8 goals, 21 points
Tyler Morley   10 goals, 18 points
Jarret Granberg 5 goals, 17 points
Colton Beck     10 goals, 16 points
Trevor Campbell  2 goals, 16 points


John Keeney    9-8-3   2.55 GAA, .905 save %
Steve Thompson   2-3-0, 3.30 GAA, .876 save %
Sean Cahill    2-2-1,  2.37 GAA,  .882 save %

Series Thoughts

The Nanooks have blistered opposing goaltenders getting on average 34 shots on goal a game. On the flip side, they are only allowing 26 per a game. Despite that, they have been outscored 85-78 this season - though the widest margin by period is a 29-24 deficit in the 3rd period. Alaska's penalty kill is very strong at 89.2%, and they are one of the least penalized teams at just over 13 minutes per a game. 

The biggest thing for the Spartans will be to adjust to the larger ice sheet. This will make turnovers even more critical. The Spartans need to be able to protect the puck coming out of the defensive zone and into the offensive zone. If they have a lot of turnovers, Alaska is going to be able to turn that right back on the Spartan goal. 

On the flip side, Hildebrand & Yanakeff will need to be sharp. 

At this point, the Spartans just need to look to build back to back games - and continue to build to the post season. They need to take care of business first before really worrying about anything else. Take it one period at a time, and they need to come ready to go right away. Friday night was a little disappointing to see, but the Spartans played one of their better games of the season the very next night. Now let's see if they can building that into something this weekend. Then, if the two teams happen to face each other again, it may give the Spartans the confidence they need to put it together for a playoff series out there.

Both games are scheduled for 11:05 pm eastern and can be heard on 1240 am or the spartan sports network.

Go Green!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Weekend Recap: Spartans Split With Wildcats

Game Recaps

Friday: Recap // NMU Recap // Video Highlights (MSU) // Recap

Saturday: MSU Recap // NMU Recap // Video Highlights (MSU) // Recap

Series Thoughts

Another weekend split for the Spartans. On Friday, the Spartans fell behind and battled back twice to within one goal. The Wildcats added an empty net goal that capped a wild finish that saw four goals in the final 5:08. Michigan State played probably their best hockey over the final ten minutes, but it wasn't enough. On Saturday, the Spartans played one of their more complete games in awhile, and they eventually rallied scoring the final three goals of the game to pull out the 4-2 victory.

It would have been a little unfortunate for the Spartans to not pull out the win on Saturday, since they were playing much better hockey, and they really controlled the play. Michigan State out-shot Northern 43-20, and this included a 19-3 edge in the first period, but the Wildcats held a 1-0 lead. Lee Reimer tied it up in the second on a shorthanded goal. Northern took a 2-1 lead in the 3rd period, but MSU finally took over as Ferrantino, Forfar, and Sorenson all tallied goals for MSU.

Michigan State again has a chance to win two straight games, but they'll need to do it on the road in Alaska. MSU makes its final trek to Alaska for a CCHA regular season series. I say final regular season series, because it is very possible that MSU could be back in Alaska two weeks later for the CCHA playoffs.

Chris Forfar puts MSU ahead for good  on Saturday 3-2

CCHA Standings

GPWLTSOWPointsTotal Points Possible
Western Michigan24146424860
Notre Dame24158114759
Ferris St.261311214248
Ohio State24127514254
Bowling Green24912313143
Northern Michigan24713412638
Michigan State24716102234

The Spartans cannot finish higher than 7th place at this point, and sitting nine points back of 8th place, home ice advantage is pretty much an afterthought at this point. It's still about building into the post season and playing good hockey heading into the playoffs. If the Spartans don't want to head to Alaska again, then they could help their own cause this weekend by taking some points and giving LSSU or Bowling Green a chance to catch Alaska for 6th place. Plus, it could help MSU by moving themselves up the standings.

Miami, Western Michigan, and Notre Dame have clinched a first round bye. Miami and Western Michigan have guaranteed themselves home ice advantage in the CCHA quarterfinals. Alaska will be eliminated from a first round bye if they drop 2 points this weekend (or if Ferris & Ohio State earn 2 points this weekend - or some combination). Basically, it's looking like Ferris State and Ohio State are in prime position to earn first round byes.

Current CCHA Playoff Match-ups:

First Round

#11 Michigan State at #6 Alaska  (No Head to Head Games Played Yet)
#10 Michigan at #7 LSSU  (Season Series Split 1-1)
#9 Northern Michigan at #8 Bowling Green (No Head to Head Games Played Yet)

Second Round

#5 Ohio State at #4 Ferris State  (Season Series Split 1-1)
Lowest Seed Remaining at #1 Miami
2nd Lowest Seed Remaining at #2 Western Michigan
Highest Seed Remaining at #3 Notre Dame

Games This Week


Northern Michigan at Bowling Green
Miami at LSSU
Michigan at Ohio State
Notre Dame at Western Michigan
Michigan State at Alaska

-Off: Ferris State -


Northern Michigan at Bowling Green
Miami at LSSU
Michigan at Ohio State
Notre Dame at Western Michigan
Michigan State at Alaska

-Off: Ferris State -

Looks like some positioning could be decided this week as NMU-BGSU face each other with home ice on the line in the quarterfinal. Ohio State has a chance to pass Ferris State for home ice with a single point against Michigan, Alaska wraps up its CCHA schedule this week, and ND-WMU face-off in a potential championship deciding series. Then there is current CCHA leader Miami looking to solidify a CCHA championship with a road series at LSSU.

Interesting thing right now is the shoot-out is currently deciding the CCHA championship. I can't think of a worse way to win a title - on a skills competition. This is why I hope the Big Ten doesn't bring over the shoot-out. Miami and Western are tied in league wins, losses, and ties. Miami has won all four shoot-outs they have been in. Western is only two for four. If you didn't have a shoot-out (and assume the games ended with the same results, we'd have two teams tied for first right now. Sorry Western.

CCHA Power Rankings

1. Miami (19-8-5, LW: 1). A Sunday afternoon loss outdoors against ND was an opportunity lost, as Miami could have built a five point CCHA lead with 12 points remaining.

2. Notre Dame (19-12-1, LW: 3). The Irish pass Western since they defeated #3 Miami this weekend. They can prove it on the ice this weekend in Kalamazoo.

3. Western Michigan (18-8-6, LW: 2). Anyone notice the Broncos are now winless in 3 (0-2-1) and have only won once in their last five games (1-3-1)?

4. Ohio State (13-12-7, LW: 4). The Buckeyes went unbeaten against Western, and now a big series for them against Michigan this weekend at home.

5. Ferris State (15-13-4, LW: 6). The Bulldogs split at home against Bowling Green, and now they have a weekend off to see what they need to do to secure a bye and potentially home ice advantage.

6. Bowling Green (12-15-5, LW: 7). The Falcons continue to play decent hockey splitting a tough road series in Big Rapids. Will anyone want to see them in the playoffs?

7. LSSU (15-16-1, LW: 8). The Lakers swept Alaska this weekend. Now they have a tough match-up with Miami coming into town.

8. Alaska (13-13-4, LW: 5). The Nanooks were on fire at the start of 2013 winning their first six games. They are 1-5 since.

9. Michigan (10-18-2, LW: 9). Let's see if the bye week helped.

10. Northern Michigan (13-15-4, LW: 10). The Wildcats earned their first CCHA road victory this season on Friday.

11. Michigan State (9-20-3, LW: 11). The Spartans seem to be playing better hockey, but it still needs to be more consistent.

Big Ten Power Rankings

1. Minnesota (20-5-4, LW: 1). The Sunday result is still pending, but the Gophers continue to be the class of the conference.

2. Wisconsin (12-10-7, LW: 2). A tough home loss on Friday to Minnesota, and they get another crack on Sunday in Chicago.

3. Ohio State (13-12-7, LW: 3). Back above .500.

4. Penn State (12-13-0, LW: 4). The final series in their initial D-I season is this upcoming weekend in Madison.

5. Michigan (10-18-2, LW: 5). It'll be interesting to see if Michigan can come out of the off weekend playing well.

6. Michigan State (9-20-3, LW: 6). The Spartans have a pair of tough series to finish with - at Alaska, vs. Western.