Alive and Kicking

Posted by: Avash Kalra

The CCHA’s days may be numbered, but the lame duck conference has been far from, well, lame this 2011-12 campaign, the league’s penultimate season.

A look at the current Pairwise rankings (as of 12am on January 29) shows six CCHA teams — Ferris State (4), Ohio State (5), Michigan (7), Miami (T-8), Northern Michigan (12), Notre Dame (13) — within the top 13. Starting in the fall of 2013, those six teams will play in four different conferences. Another three — Western Michigan (T-18), Michigan State (20), Lake Superior (21) — sit on the NCAA tournament bubble.

And if the NCAA tournament started today, the CCHA representation would be twice that of the WCHA.

But let’s look closer at all the numbers:

As strong as the league has been, teams like Ferris State, Ohio State, and Northern Michigan have been quiet while ascending the national rankings. Ferris State, for instance, is unbeaten in its last eight games — the Bulldogs haven’t lost at all in 2012. But they’ve been quiet because of a well-balanced team. Ferris doesn’t have a single player on the roster averaging a point per game this season — compare that to Minnesota-Duluth and Boston University (the top two teams in the Pairwise), each of which has three such players.

And that theme continues throughout the CCHA. Despite having six teams in the NCAA picture (as it stands right now), the league only has three players in the nation among the top 50 point scorers: Notre Dame’s T.J. Tynan (featured on CHN last month), Northern Michigan’s Tyler Gron, and Miami’s Reilly Smith.

Check out CHN this week for a feature on Tyler Gron, who has been on an unprecedented roll this month — and scored a highlight reel goal in Friday’s 2-1 win at Miami. Here is the highlight reel.

The CCHA players who have been standing out, though, are the goaltenders. Goaltending for Notre Dame, for instance, helped the Irish to nonconference wins against BU, BC, Minnesota, and Minnesota-Duluth (Jeff Jackson’s crew has stepped up in big, nationally televised games this year). Meanwhile, each half of the Ferris State goaltending duo — freshman C.J. Motte and senior Taylor Nelson — is in the top 20 in the nation in goals-against average.

Check out a feature later this week about Motte and Nelson, and how they’re trying to lead possibly the best Ferris State team since Chris Kunitz led the Bulldogs to the NCAA tourney in ’03.

Most have the Miami/Michigan series next weekend circled on their calendar… but we might as well circle the Northern Michigan/Ferris State series as well. We’ll have more on those teams as the week goes along.


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