Welcome, all, to the first edition of “The Midwest Coast Bias” — the newest and trendiest CCHA blog, at least while the CCHA still exists. Thanks to my colleagues, including Joe Meloni and Scott McLaughlin (Hockey East), Justin Churchill (ECAC) and Dan Myers (WCHA), the new CHN blogs have you covered from coast to coast … and now, in this space, even in between.
Some initial thoughts from the first weekend of play:
The Murray Era Begins
Fresh off their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1996, the Western Michigan Broncos kicked off the 2011-12 campaign by sweeping Alabama-Huntsville in convincing fashion — outscoring the Chargers 11-1 and holding UAH to just 22 shots all weekend. Enjoying the wins the most, perhaps, was “rookie” head coach Andy Murray, who now has a pair of NCAA wins to go along with his 333 as a former head coach in the NHL.
Alabama-Huntsville, meanwhile, has to feel like the kid who always loses in musical chairs. But that’s another story.
Though reading too much into this particular nonconference game is entirely unwise, it’s still worth keeping an eye on WMU sophomore forward Chase Balisy, who scored a goal and added four assists over the weekend. An NHL draft pick of the Nashville Predators and a CCHA All-Rookie Team selection a year ago, the California native helped spark a line that accounted for 13 points over the weekend. Just as impressively, they held the puck for long periods of time, playing ‘keep-away’ so effectively that Murray spoke of “time of possession” after the game — as if he had just won a football game.
Ohio State freshman forward Ryan Dzingel propelled the Buckeyes to a season-opening win thanks to a game-winning goal with less than eight minutes to play in the third period against Quinnipiac. The goal came on a 5-on-3 power play.
On Saturday, Dzingel scored a late-game goal again — this time, with 56 seconds left to play and the OSU net empty. The goal cut Quinnipiac’s lead to 4-3, and though the Bobcats ultimately held on for the win, it appears coach Mark Osiecki has a new late-game go-to guy. Appropriately, his favorite TV how — as listed on his official Ohio State profile — is NBC’s recently-concluded Friday Night Lights, where seemingly every game was decided on the final play.
- Michigan started slowly in both games this weekend, as the Wolverines found themselves tied, 1-1, with Bentley in the second period on two consecutive nights. As expected, Michigan pulled away in each game (5-1, 4-1), with senior goaltender Shawn Hunwick playing all 120 minutes.
- All eyes are on Notre Dame sophomores T.J. Tynan and Anders Lee, as they look to build on the momentum of stellar rookie seasons. In their opening games against Minnesota-Duluth, the reigning national champion, Tynan and Lee found the score sheet a combined six times — two goals and an assist for Lee and a goal plus two assists for Tynan.
- Another duo to watch early on: Miami senior netminders Connor Knapp and Cody Reichard. Both struggled in the RedHawks’ season-opening series against Bemidji State, with Reichard registering a stunning loss on Friday night before Knapp earned a narrow 3-2 win on Saturday — thanks to senior Matt Tomassoni’s short-handed goal with less than five minutes to play.
Much more to come in future weeks. For now, though, feel free to comment below.