The road to the Joe (and ultimately Columbus, site of this year’s Frozen Four) begins this weekend, as the twelve teams of the CCHA get their playoff game-faces on.
#1 Michigan Wolverines (26-7-3, 23-3-2 CCHA) vs. #12 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (5-25-6, 3-20-5 CCHA)
Game 1- Friday, 7:35 PM Yost Arena - Ann Arbor, MI
Game 2- Saturday, 7:35 PM Yost Arena - Ann Arbor, MI
Game 3, if needed – Sunday, 7:35 PM Yost Arena – Ann Arbor, MI
The Maize and Blue, ranked first in the conference and fourth nationally, had their way with the Irish this season, winning all four match-ups by a combined scored of 29-6. Michigan leads the all-time series, 59-41-5. Michigan will be led by offensive juggernauts T.J. Hensick and Jeff Tambellini (both of whom had multi-point games against the Irish earlier this season) and backstopped by dazzling goalie Al Montoya will. Leading scorers Cory McLean and Wes O’Neil will look to generate scoring opportunities for the Irish.
#2 Ohio State Buckeyes (24-8-4, 21-5-2 CCHA) vs. #10 Ferris State Bulldogs (12-20-4, 7-17-4 CCHA)
Game 1 – Friday, 7:05 PM Value City Arena – Columbus, OH
Game 2 – Saturday, 7:05 PM Value City Arena – Columbus, OH
Game 3, if needed – Sunday, 7:05 PM Value City Arena – Columbus, OH
The Buckeyes and the Bulldogs met four times this season, with the Buckeyes claiming three of the wins. However, one of these wins and the lone Bulldogs victory came in overtime, foreshadowing an exciting playoff series. Jeff Legue and Derek Nesbitt are players to watch from Ferris; Rod Pelley and Tom Fristche will likely be offensive threats for the Buckeyes. Fritsche, holding an impressive +18 +/- ranking this season, was recently named to the CCHA All-Rookie Team.
#3 Northern Michigan Wildcats (20-9-7, 17-7-4 CCHA) vs. #10 Western Michigan Broncos (13-19-2, 8-18-2 CCHA)
Game 1 – Friday, 7:35 PM Berry Events Center – Marquette, MI
Game 2 – Saturday, 7:35 PM Berry Events Center – Marquette, MI
Game 3, if needed – Sunday, 7:35 Berry Events Center – Marquette, MI
Earlier this month, these teams skated to a tie and a Northern win. NMU is bolstered by a stellar defense, including conference-leading goalie Tuomas Tarkki. Darin Oliver and Andrew Contois will lead the Wildcats offensive efforts. The Wildcats historically have dominated the Broncos: they lead the all-time series 34-15-4 with a 4-2-1 advantage in post-season play. The Broncos, who have dropped eight straight CCHA playoff series, will look to Brent Walton and Vince Bellissimo to spark an upset.
#4 Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks (17-15-4, 13-11-4 CCHA) vs. #9 Lake Superior State Lakers (9-20-7, 8-14-6 CCHA)
Game 1 – Friday, 7:05 Qwest Center – Omaha, NE
Game 2 – Saturday, 7:05 Qwest Center – Omaha, NE
Game 3, if needed – Sunday, 7:05 Qwest Center – Omaha, NE
The Mavericks were 2-1-1 against the Lakers this season, and lead the all-time series 8-5-1. This series marks the first time UNO has had home-ice advantage in the playoffs since 2002. Players to watch: Mavericks Scott Parse, Bill Thomas, and Joe Grimaldi (the latter two were just named to the CCHA All-Rookie team), and Lakers Jon Booras and Nathan Ward.
#5 Bowling Green Falcons (16-14-4, 13-12-3 CCHA) vs. #8 Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks (13-15-4, 11-14-3 CCHA)
Game 1 – Friday, 7:00 Bowling Green Ice Arena – Bowling Green, OH
Game 2 – Saturday, 7:00 Bowling Green Ice Arena – Bowling Green, OH
Game 3, if needed – Sunday 7:00 Bowling Green Ice Arena – Bowling Green, OH
The Falcons and the Nanooks met twice this season; the Falcons swept the series to the tune of a 12-3 combined score. All-CCHA rookie Michael Hodgson, Jonathan Matsumoto, and James Unger will look to take care of business for the Falcons. Curtis Fraser, Kyle Greentree, and Kelly Czuy will attempt to The series features a showdown between two stellar goaltenders: Falcon Jordan Sigalet, an all-CCHA first-team selection last year; and Nanook Wylie Rogers, this year’s CCHA all-rookie goalie.
#6 Michigan State Spartans (17-15-4, 12-13-3 CCHA) vs. #7 Miami-Ohio Redhawks (15-16-5, 11-13-4 CCHA)
Game 1 – Friday, 7:05 Munn Arena – East Lansing, MI
Game 2 – Saturday, 7:05 Munn Arena – East Lansing, MI
Game 3, if needed – Sunday, 7:05 Munn Arena – East Lansing, MI
With a series of wins over Notre Dame last weekend, Michigan State nabbed the final home playoff site. The Spartans and Redhawks split their series at Munn this year. MSU leads the all-time series, 59-15-5. Miami-Ohio, having only amassed a 2-13 road record in their entire playoff history, will look for contributions from leading scorers Matt Christie, Andy Greene, Todd Grant, and Marty Guerin. The Redhawks will be looking to capitalize on Michigan State’s offensive disadvantage—star sophomore A.J. Thelen was dismissed from the team earlier this week. The rest of the Spartans, notably captain Jim Slater and sophomore Drew Miller, will have to work hard to counter the hole left by Thelen’s departure.
The winners of each series will move onto the CCHA Super Six Tournament, to be held at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit on March 17-19.