CCHA Notebook: 12/13

GoBlueWolverine Magazine continues its series of CCHA Notebook entries. In this weeks notebook, we briefly discuss each team in the CCHA along with ranking them in our power poll. With Michigan off until December 29, this will be the last edition of the CCHA notebook until just after Christmas time.

Around The CCHA
It's been a crazy month in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association. Over the past month, the Miami RedHawks have climbed to the top of the conference standings to go along with their No. 2 position in both of the national polls. Michigan, ranked as the top team in the country just before Thanksgiving, hit the proverbial wall early in the month suffering through the schools first four game losing streak in 17 years.

Ohio State has made its way back to the top of the CCHA standings. After starting very slowly in conference play, the Buckeyes turned it around by knocking off the Spartans in the middle of November. Since then, the Buckeyes have taken 10 straight points behind the strength of a much improved power play. While they have not yet hit the tough part of their schedule, things are looking up in Columbus.

In East Lansing, the month of December has seen the Spartans rebound nicely from an up and down November. After splitting with Bowling Green State University early in the month, the Spartans won three of four points from UAF, a very scrappy squad.

Northern Michigan has been one of my bigger disappointments this season. I had picked NMU to finish in the top three of the CCHA and right now they are sitting in a tie for seventh place. Being swept by Michigan and Michigan State really hurt any chance that Northern had to win the CCHA. Northern needs a sweep of WMU this weekend for the month to be considered tolerable.

Lake Superior State and Ferris State have both surprised early in the year. I didn't have either team skating with home ice in the CCHA tournament, yet at the midpoint of the season they are sitting in third and fourth place respectively. Each team must consider December a huge success, yet both still have the most difficult portions of their schedule in front of them.

Nebraska-Omaha is a team that used December as best as they could. After a very, very poor start, the Mavericks came into Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor on a four game winning streak. Despite the Wolverines taking all four points, UNO did everything that was expected of them in the month.

Alaska-Fairbanks isn't having the year that I thought they would. With a very large freshman class last year, I thought that UAF would challenge for the top four in the conference. It hasn't happened yet, but I'm not giving up on them just yet. By the end of the year, I'd expect UAF to be the second most improved team in the CCHA. And the first you ask? Michigan.

Notre Dame is much improved from last year, but still will be battling just to remain out of the conference seller. Western is just hurting.

Power Poll
1. Miami, OH.
2. Michigan
3. Ohio State
4. Michigan State
5. Nebraska-Omaha
6. Northern Michigan
7. Lake Superior State
8. Ferris State
9. Alaska-Fairbanks
10. Bowling Green
11. Notre Dame
12. Western Michigan

At around the midway point in the season, things are almost exactly how I expected them to be. While I expected the Wolverines to be leading the conference, I'm not shocked to see that the young team has dropped three games in the conference. And, as I said earlier, I expect the Wolverines to be the most improved team at the end of the season. We could start to see that now as head coach Red Berenson may have found the right line combinations this past weekend. Andrew Ebbett, Brandon Kaleniecki and Jason Bailey may be the hardest working line in the CCHA. What Berenson referred to as a "checking line", the trio chipped in six goals this weekend. If Michigan gets one third of that each weekend, look out.

Miami of Ohio is tricky. After disappointing last year, they are really playing above and beyond expectations this season. Whether they will be able to continue playing at that level is yet to be seen, but they do have one of the more difficult remaining schedules. Miami still has two against the Buckeyes, Spartans and Nanooks of UAF. At 10-1-1 though 12 games, I wouldn't expect them to drop more then three or four more games, but will that be enough for the Wolverines to make up the two game deficit? We'll see.

Ohio State, like Michigan, is going to battle trying to catch the RedHawks. At the halfway point in the season, the Buckeyes are sitting one game behind U-M and three behind Miami. Neither of which is insurmountable. I am not sold on the Buckeyes offense, but I really like Dave Caruso in the net and think he will keep Ohio State in more games then he costs them. One of their problems early in the season was on special teams. If the Buckeyes can keep that problem corrected, they will fare well in the second half of the season.

The Michigan Insider Top Stories