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A preview of this weekend's CCHA action.
Here's a look at all the series involving CCHA teams this weekend.
RIT at Michigan, Thursday and Friday
The bad news for Michigan heading into this series is that they will be without the services of Jon Merrill for this series, and a few after. The good news is that Jared Rutledge recovered from retinal surgery to play a period during Michigan's 7-3 exhibition win against Windsor, and has been named the starter for Michigan's season-opening game. He'll be backed up by fellow freshman Steven Racine. Racine is a man of many nicknames.
For RIT, goalies Josh Watson and Jordan Ruby are likely to each start a game in goal as they battle to the death--or more likely stop well short of death-- for the starting goalie job. The Tigers were picked to finish fourth in Atlantic Hockey by the league's coaches. My first Google search attempting to find that information was 'ecac preseason poll' so it's safe to say that I probably don't have a lot of insight into their team.
Michigan Tech at Lake Superior, Thursday Lake Superior at Michigan Tech, Saturday.
As bad as next year's realignment will be for college hockey, this is one of the few series that will actually be made better, and more geographically logical, by having these teams in the same conference next year.
Via Stephen Anderson of Houghton's Daily Mining Gazette, freshman Pheonix Copley will get the start in goal for Michigan Tech on Thursday night. Reports seemed to lean towards Copley earning the starting job in practice, though it seems like there might be a short leash on him with a lot of talent behind in fellow freshman Jamie Phillips and returning goalie Kevin Genoe.
Michigan Tech freshman forward Alex Petan scored a hat trick in Tech's exhibition win over Brock, and he sounds like a player Tech is expecting to make an immediate impact.
Lake Superior was picked to finish last in the CCHA by the coaches, and 10th by the media, mostly because the Lakers return very little in the way of scoring. As a result, the Lakers are going to be relying on an extremely defensive strategy that leans heavily on goalie Kevin Kapalka.
Michigan State at Minnesota, Friday and Saturday
Another non-conference match-up that will be a conference game next year.
Minnesota overtook Boston College for the number one ranking in the USA Hockey poll this week, which seems odd since neither played a real game.
Don Lucia said that both Adam Wilcox and Michael Shiborowski will play this weekend, and they'll likely split time through the first couple weeks of the season.
Last week, Michigan State head coach Tom Anastos called Jake Chelios his team's most improved player, and he'll need to have a good year leading a very young Michigan State defense, after losing Torey Krug to the NHL.
Ferris State at RPI, Friday and Saturday
Ferris State begins their campaign after last year's magical run to a CCHA regular season championship and the Frozen Four final, and it's safe to say that the excitement level in Big Rapids is pretty high.
The Bulldogs are already facing some injury problems. Leading returning scorer Matt Kirzinger injured his wrist in the team's exhibition game against Ryerson, which could keep him out for a significant amount of time. Defensemman Scott Czarnowczan is questionable with a knee injury, while forward Cory Kane has been having back spasms, but sounds likely to play.
After a dismal season last year, RPI was picked to finish 8th out of 12 in the ECAC coaches poll, and 9th in the media poll. I was pretty confident when I searched for 'ecac preseason poll' that time.
St. Lawrence at Western Michigan, Friday and Saturday
Much of the attention placed on Western Michigan this week was because of BannerGate. The team's replica banner celebrating their CCHA Tournament victory last season was stolen off the facade of Lawson Arena. Senior defenseman Luke Witkowski made some Lian Neeson-esque threats, and the banner was returned by a student the next day.
St. Lawrence was picked to finish 6th in the ECAC by the coaches and the media, and is commonly referred to as St. Larry among friends.
Wisconsin vs. Northern Michigan, Friday and Saturday, Resch Center, Green Bay Wisconsin
These teams are pretty much meeting each other half-way here, with Northern Michigan having to travel and extra 39 miles.
As I write this, there's been no official announcement on Nic Kerdiles' situation, but even with a best case scenario, it seems unlikely he plays this weekend. Kerdiles was excused from practices Tuesday and Wednesday with Wisconsin with what head coach Mike Eaves called "a persistent headache," which appears to be classic Eavesian wit, rather than an actual medical diagnosis.
Meanwhile, sophomore defenseman Jake McCabe sat out the team's exhibition against the NTDP U18 team, but will be available to play this weekend.
Northern Michigan's Reed Seckel played his junior hockey in Green Bay, and is excited to make the return trip. Also from that article, Matt Thurber wants two wins against his former team because he says it would be huge for league play. Ummmm.....
The Wildcats will rely heavily on junior goalie Jared Coreau, who could be in his final season of college hockey if he can generate enough interest in the NHL free agent market, after impressive displays at camps for both the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames last summer.
IceBreaker Invitational: Notre Dame vs. Maine, Nebraska-Omaha vs. Army, Friday and Saturday, in Kansas City, Missouri
I guess Dakar was booked, so the college hockey season will open up with the Icebreaker Invitational in Kansas City instead. As no surprise to anyone that thought this idea through, they're having a tough time selling tickets. Less than 3000 tickets had been sold as of Tuesday. It's a shame because Kansas City was more than game as a host, trying to parlay success here into a Frozen Four bid for the future, but the amount of people willing to make the type of investment needed for that trip--even Omaha, which is relatively close, is still a non-commutable three hours one-way--is really small, especially for early October hockey. Fans from all four teams can see their team play at home next weekend for about $1000 cheaper.
Notre Dame vs. Maine will be the first game played on NBC Sports Network this year. It will be interesting to see if the lack of NHL hockey helps bump up television numbers a little. It will be also be interesting to see how many new fans stick around when they tune in and see a game played in a very big, very empty arena.
Union at Bowling Green, Friday and Saturday
Friday night, Bowling Green will be asking fans to wear brown for a "Brown Out," while on Saturday they'll be wearing pink for their "Pink in the Rink" promotion, raising awareness for the last seven people on this Earth that haven't figured out breast cancer is a thing.
As a nice addition to Bowling Green's arena, one of the team's Hobey Baker Awards is now being placed in the arena lobby.
On the injury front, defenseman Jake Sloat is out until January after breaking his leg in the team's exhibition win over Ontario IT. Freshman Brent Tate is unlikely to play this weekend due to back problems.
Ohio State at Minnesota-Duluth, Friday and Saturday
Kevin Pates at the Duluth News-Tribune pieced together UMD's lineup throughout this week's practices. I would take Bergman-Casto and Olson-Welinski over any top two defensive pairings in college hockey. Their goaltending race seems pretty wide open, but I would expect veteran Aaron Crandall to get the first opportunity to earn the role.
With nothing better to do, locked out NHLer RJ Umberger is helping out his alma mater as a volunteer assistant coach.
Ohio State was really young last year, with 12 freshmen on the roster in Mark Osiecki's first season, perhaps part of the reason the team seemed to hit a wall after a strong first half start last year. Not surprisingly, this year they'll be looking for their deep sophomore class to carry the team, led by standouts Ryan Dzingel and Max McCormick.
Colgate at Miami, Friday and Saturday
Miami lost their athletic director this week when AD Brad Bates left to take the athletic director's job at Boston College.
The RedHawks are young this year, with 11 freshmen and 18 underclassmen in total, thanks to graduation, and some surprising early departures.
Colgate already has a game under their belt after beating Niagara 10-2 on Tuesday. Senior forward Robbie Bourdon scored 2 goals and 2 assists, giving him the extremely early lead in the country's scoring race.
Kendall Hockey Classic Alaska vs. Air Force Friday, Alaska vs. Canisius Saturday, in Anchorage, Alaska
After some serious concerns, the staff at Anchorage's Sullivan Arena were able to put a sheet of ice down, allowing these games to go on at Sullivan Arena as expected. Though I suspect fans attending Alaska's 5pm Friday game against Air Force in this tournament still would have had enough elbow room, even if the games had been moved to the 750-capacity Wells Fargo Arena.
Alaska forward Andy Taranto is ten points away from becoming the 18th player in UA history to reach the 100-point mark.