The CCHA Championship is on the line this weekend as Michigan travels up to visit MHNet in the MQT and Notre Dame plays a home-and-home vs. Western Michigan (with the game at Lawson on Friday night). The Wolverines trail the Irish by a point, but would win the tie-breaker under most scenarios.
Northern Michigan has climbed the CCHA Standings due to 10 points in their last four games, aka they played Bowling Green and FYS. Still, they come into this weekend with the possibility of rising to 4th in the standings and getting a bye in the first round of the CCHA Tournament. I believe with the outcome of the FSU/OSU game tonight, they've locked up home ice in the first round at the very least. OSU is three points behind them and only have one game left to play. NMU has two more wins than the Buckeyes.
Anyway, NMU is 12-11-3-0 in the CCHA and 14-15-5 overall. Their above .500 record in conference is pretty remarkable as they've actually been outscored 59-79. Only BGSU has given up more goals in conference play. Only Ferris, Lake State, and BGSU have scored fewer goals. How is that possible? Out of their 12 conference wins, 8 have come by a single goal (that counts one game that they won by 2, but scored an ENG late). Then they lost a pair to Miami by a combined 13-2, and lost a series 11-2 to Notre Dame.
The Wildcats were hurt by defections in the offseason, losing Mark Olver and Erik Gustafsson. They're led in points by junior forward Tyler Gron, who is having a nice year with 16-15--31 (6 PPGs) in 31 games after 10-10--20 as a sophomore. Justin Florek has 12-14--26. Kyle Follmer has six goals from back on the blueline.
In net it's been more Reid Ellingson than Jared Coreau. Coreau has seen some time lately but has gotten pulled in three of his last four starts. Coreau got a pair of starts against Notre Dame and got the hook in both of them, giving up 7 goals on 24 shots in about 48 minutes of work in the two games combined. He also got yanked in his last start against FYS after giving up 3 in just 13 minutes of work despite a 50 save performance the night before. He's only won 1 game since mid-December.
Ellingson is 9-10-3 on the season with a 2.54/.918. His GAA is a full 1.1 goals better than Coreau's though their save percentages are pretty close. Clearly they're playing better in front of Ellingson. He got both starts against BGSU last weekend.
They rank 46th nationally in offense (2.41 goals per game) and 34th on defense (3.00 goals per game). They're also the most penalized team in the country, though they're 3rd in minute per game (18.6). We're actually all the way down to 33rd in that stat, which is kind of nice.
Their power play is 21st at 18.8% though they've been a little vulnerable to the shortie, having given up five on the season. The PK is just 78.7%, which is 50th nationally. Not a good thing when you take that many penalties. They've been short-handed 188 times this year, tops in the country. That's 37 more times than Michigan. They're -19 on special teams this year, which means they've played tough when they're even-strength (only -1). To compare, Michigan is -1 on special teams and +32 even strength.
Louie Caporusso has 11 points in 10 games against the Wildcats, Hagelin 9, and Rust 6. Shawn Hunwick's lone appearance against NMU was in the CCHA Championship Game last season, where he stopped 17 shots en route to a 2-1 win. Hogan is 2-1-1 with a 2.95/.872.
A couple of other things:
MHNet chatted with Detroit Honeybaked coach Mike Hamilton about Tyler Motte, and was very complimentary, saying that he's a player they can put out there with a minute to go when they need a goal, and he's a player they can put out there with a minute to go when they're up by a goal. Jason also has a preview of this weekend's games.
Also, Merrimack has been one of the surprises this season. Freshman defenseman Jordan Heywood has been a key contributor. He is lucky to be alive after blood clots traveled to his lungs a couple of years ago. 74% of people with a blood clot in their lungs do not survive, and most last only hours. Heywood played hockey with clots in his lungs for a month before he was diagnosed. I mention this because Jed Ortmeyer has a similar problem, and the story mentions that the two have been in contact.
I'm not sure how much I'm going to be able to pay attention this weekend. I'm flying out to Indianapolis tomorrow morning and am working nights this weekend. If it's slow, I may be able to listen to parts of the games, but I won't be able to pony up for the 1-camera NMU video feed. We'll see how it goes.