NCAA DI Men's Hockey

CCHA RinkRap: Shakeup For Lake Superior State, Streaking In Ohio

CCHA RinkRap: Shakeup For Lake Superior State, Streaking In Ohio

This week in RinkRap: wholesale benchings in the Soo, a high-water mark for Blasi’s Tommies, two streaks extended at Bowling Green, and a Maverick stampede.

Jan 17, 2023 by Tim Rappleye
CCHA RinkRap: Shakeup For Lake Superior State, Streaking In Ohio

This week in RinkRap: wholesale benchings in the Soo, a high-water mark for Blasi’s Tommies, two streaks extended at Bowling Green, and a Mavericks stampede through the desert. 

Rock Bottom Rebound

On Friday night, the once-proud Lake Superior State Lakers hit rock bottom, getting shut out at home by Ferris for their nation-leading 18th loss of the season. 

Coach Damon Whitten had seen enough. Saturday morning, he decided to shake up the lineup. 

“It’s a privilege to play this game,” Whitten said. “We felt like some guys weren’t living up to that privilege, and it prompted changes.”

Whitten proceeded to put three veteran transfers into street clothes for Saturday’s finale with Ferris: Jake Willets, Logan Jenuwine and Jack Jeffers. 

One of their replacements, Tyler Williams, set up the first goal in the sixth minute of play, and the Lakers jumped off to a rare lead. They never looked back, winning their fourth game of the year 4-1. 

Whitten singled out Williams for praise in the post-game.

“From his first shift he brought energy, got the bench into it,” Whitten said. “He played like it’s a privilege.”

The biggest crowd of the year filed into Taffy Abel Arena to watch the home team get the rare win. 

If the Lakers are to emerge as spoilers in the CCHA the rest of the season, they will need to change the culture up in the Soo. 

Whitten used the most powerful asset at his disposal – determining who gets the privilege of putting on the LSSU sweater – to reverse the team’s fortunes, at least for one night.

Streaking in Ohio

Deep into the third period of Friday’s scintillating contest between CCHA contenders Bemidji and Bowling Green, two streaks were hanging in the balance: the Falcons four-game winning skein and Austen Swankler’s 14-game scoring streak. 

The junior center took care of both, with one hand, no less. 

Swankler drove down the right wing, fending off a defender with one hand, carrying the puck with the other. 

With a well-timed flick of the wrist, Swankler centered a perfect feed to the streaking Ryan O’Hara, who powered the tie-breaking goal into the back of the net. 

Both streaks were extended, and the Brown and Orange continued its surge the next night, with another assist from Swankler. It was the sixth straight win for the Falcons at their aptly-named Madhouse.

Swankler has scored in 16 straight games, which prompted a search of college hockey’s longest scoring streak. 

Thanks to the ECAC record book, we learn that Brian Cornell (Cornell) and Craig Homola (Vermont) hit the 32-game mark in the 1960s and 1970s. That was the era of goalies with small pads, gaping nets and optional back-checking. 

If Swankler hopes to match those marks, he will need to keep inking up the scoresheet through the CCHA championship game, a tough task indeed. 

With defenses having tightened considerably since the fire-wagon hockey of the 20th century, Swankler’s streak is all the more remarkable and one to savor, as the season makes its way toward February.

Tommies Scale Another Milestone

In the aftermath of Saturday’s St. Thomas upset of Michigan Tech in Houghton, the last handshake of the night belonged to the two head coaches, Rico Blasi and Joe Shawhan. 

Their exchange lasted nearly 10 seconds, as Shawhan quietly expressed his respect for Blasi’s work in the close confines of their embrace. 

Saturday was another milestone for the Blasi era in St. Thomas – the first victory over a nationally ranked squad. 

“This was a signature win, a lot of fun,” Blasi said. “The guys played their butts off. You have to feel like you can do it every night. We want to normalize that.”

Mr. Indispensable

Shawhan has been playing with house money all year, racking up 16 wins, despite losing the most offense in the NCAA from the season before. 

In addition, he has never lost so many man-games due to injury as he has during the 2022-2023 season. 

Night-after-night the adage, “next man up” was employed successfully, as the Huskies climbed the CCHA standings and the national rankings. 

But on Saturday, they lost their junior captain Arvid Caderoth to flu-like symptoms, and the Huskies four-game winning streak collapsed. 

Caderoth, a 6-foot-5 centerman, is the Huskies best faceoff man. All three of the St. Thomas goals came off faceoffs in the Tommies 3-2 win.

Though he only has one goal to his credit this season, Caderoth has been the Huskies most valuable skater, killing penalties, forechecking and winning seemingly every important draw.

Shawhan did not say so directly in his post-game remarks, but a healthy Caderoth would not have lost those crucial faceoffs, plays that decided the game in favor of St. Thomas. 

The loss Saturday pushed Michigan Tech to 13th in the Pairwise, squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble.

Tech senior Parker Saretsky doesn’t care about the Pairwise. 

He participated in NCAA Tournament last year, but was forced to watch the CCHA championship game from home due to Tech’s loss to Bemidji in the semis. 

“Trying not to focus on it (the Pairwise) too much,” said Saretsky after scoring the game-winner Friday night. “Ultimately, we want a league championship. That would be good to add to my resume.”

Making Their Move

Don’t look now, but Minnesota State has won four straight road games to open the new year, climbing to 15th in the Pairwise. 

Coach Mike Hastings now has a No. 1 goalie in Keenan Rancier, the sophomore who collected two wins in the desert against Arizona State, including his first career shutout Saturday night. 

Hastings lauded Rancier, as well as his club’s secondary scoring, after the sweep. He also could not help but single out the sensational play of Brendan Furry, and neither could ESPN. 

This breakaway snipe is one of Furry’s four goals over the past three games.