Hockey: CCHA stays country’s premiere conference
Matt Gamber | Tuesday, November 3, 2009
With four teams in the top 10 and a total of six in the top 20, the CCHA is making its case as the best conference in college hockey.
No. 1 Miami, No. 4 Michigan, No. 9 Notre Dame, No. 10 Nebraska-Omaha, No. 13 Alaska and No. 17 Michigan State have all established themselves as some of the top teams in the country. One other team, Ohio State, fell out of the rankings after a loss and a shootout win against the Irish (4-3-1, 1-0-1-0) over the weekend.
While none of the conference’s top teams have looked invincible in the early going, the same could be said for the best squads across the nation. Every team in the top 20 has at least one loss or tie — with the exception of Cornell and Yale, which had both played only one game through the weekend.
The top-ranked RedHawks (6-1-1, 3-1-0) have held the No. 1 spot all season and haven’t done anything to suggest they don’t deserve it. They posted 4-3 and 2-1 wins at Northern Michigan this weekend after splitting a home series with Michigan State (6-2-0, 3-1-0) to begin the conference slate.
The Spartans currently hold the second position in the conference standings following a sweep of previously unbeaten Western Michigan. Michigan State earned a 2-1 win at home Friday night before notching a 5-3 victory at Kalamazoo Saturday.
Alaska (5-0-1, 2-0-0), opened CCHA play by beating Ferris State 3-1 and 3-2, respectively, in Fairbanks, where the Irish will face the Nanooks this weekend.
Likewise, Michigan (4-2-0, 2-0-0) began its conference slate with a pair of easy wins over Lake Superior State. The Wolverines posted wins by the scores of 5-1 and 6-3, respectively.
Ohio State (2-5-1, 1-2-1-1) remains ahead of the Irish and Nebraska-Omaha (4-0-2, 1-0-1) in the CCHA standings — with five points to Notre Dame’s four — after stealing a point with Saturday’s shootout win.
Nebraska-Omaha cracked the country’s top 10 for the first time this week after the
Mavericks earned their first conference win at home Saturday, 3-1 over Bowling Green.
The previous night, Nebraska-Omaha had fallen to the Falcons in a shoot out.
Bowling Green, Ferris State, Northern Michigan and Western Michigan all opened conference play over the weekend without a victory — and only the Falcons notched a point with their tie. But both Ferris State and Northern Michigan are expected to be competitive, particularly because of the strong defensive style each traditionally employs.
Because of college hockey’s incredibly long season — the CCHA tournament does not begin until March, and the national title won’t be decided until April 10 at Ford Field in Detroit — the results of the conference season’s first weekend or two aren’t especially important in determining playoff positioning or the course of a team’s season. But if the first few games have been any indication, the Irish will be in for a dog fight if they hope to recapture the CCHA tournament title they earned at Joe Louis Arena last season.