NCAA DI Men's Hockey

CCHA RinkRap: Road Teams Rule The Weekend In The CCHA

CCHA RinkRap: Road Teams Rule The Weekend In The CCHA

Road teams ruled the weekend in the CCHA, picking up 13 of a possible 18 points in the intra-league clashes.

Feb 6, 2024 by Tim Rappleye
CCHA RinkRap: Road Teams Rule The Weekend In The CCHA

Road teams ruled this weekend in the CCHA, picking up 13 of a possible 18 points in the intra-league clashes. 

Road victories vaulted Minnesota State (Friday) and St. Thomas (Saturday) into first place in their sensational home-and-home series. 

Northern Michigan was the only one of the six squads in league action to gain a regulation victory at home, as they claimed five points in their series with rival Michigan Tech. 

Finally, Bowling Green imitated Lazarus up in Big Rapids, collecting all six road points against Ferris State. It kept alive BG’s hopes for home ice in next month’s playoffs.

Living With Bugs

Germs. Pathogens. Viruses. Hockey, perhaps more than any other sport, falls victim to those microscopic pests, ravaging entire teams with flu bugs, colds and worse. 

When there are 20 men sharing tight quarters, shoulder-to-shoulder on a bench, hacking and spitting and reaching for water bottles – it’s a veritable playground for the common cold.

Lake Superior State is recovering from a nasty stomach virus that wreaked havoc on Damon Whitten’s Lakers prior to their last series with Michigan Tech. Their bye weekend was a godsend for the men in blue as they recover in the Soo. 

A virus cost St. Thomas its starting goalie hours before taking the ice Saturday, setting the stage for the biggest drama of the weekend.

St. Thomas coach Rico Blasi has alternated goalies all year – Aaron Trotter on Fridays, Jake Sibell on Saturdays – the one constant in a season aswirl with injuries, callups and skaters jammed into unfamiliar roles. 

That is, constant until Saturday night in Mankato. 

On game day Saturday, Blasi learned that an unseeable bug had felled his star goalie Sibell, the runaway statistical king of the CCHA. Blasi notified Trotter at 2:30 Central that he would get the nod, just as the Tommies piled into the bus for Mankato.

Trotter would be playing both ends of a weekend series for the first time all year. Trotter last was seen fishing the puck out of the net after losing in overtime the night before, but he answered the call Saturday in what was his greatest performance as an NCAA athlete. 

True, he had a shutout season as a freshman, but on this night under the hot lights, in front of 5,000 enemy fans, Trotter stunned the defending champs. He recorded 33 saves, several of them miraculous, helping his Tommies leapfrog Minnesota State and back into first place.

“Trotter played excellent in net,” Minnesota State head coach Luke Stand said after the game, staring at the stat sheet as if in disbelief.

The opposing players also shared thoughts about the performance.

“Their goalie played great, 33 saves,” said Minnesota State forward Brian Carrabes, one of two Mavericks who managed to solve Trotter. “We did everything we could . . . hats off to him.”

The man of the hour was nothing if not forthright.

“I made some saves I probably shouldn’t have, if we’re being honest,” Trotter said to The Rink Live. “But I was just having fun. That’s really all I felt. I was seeing the puck well.”

The most outrageous save was in a third period scramble in which one of the rarest of rink arachnids appeared, the dreaded “Scorpion” save – dreaded in the minds of Mankato fans, anyway – in which a goalie flails his back leg in an act of desperation. Scorpions, snow angels, flops, stops and flashing leather, all of the above defined Trotter’s starry night.

Blasi and his Tommies limp on to their next challenge, a coach stretching his creativity to the breaking point, as he cobbles together a lineup each week.

“We’re going to be a team that’s never going to quit,” Blasi said. “No matter what happens, we’re going to keep playing. I think you see that on the ice.” 

Loose Biscuits

  • The intra-state rivalry between Minnesota State and St. Thomas is packed with player connections, too many high school and junior acquaintances to count. But perhaps the strongest interrelation comes from the Rocky Mountains.

    St. Thomas centerman Luke Manning and Minnesota State defender Brandon Koch, combatants who clashed frequently this past weekend, began their NCAA careers together down in Colorado Springs as freshmen at the Air Force Academy.

  • In Bemidji’s 5-0 win Friday night against Augustana, Beavers defenders blocked over twice as many shots (22) as those that reached BSU goalie Mattias Sholl (10).

  • Northern Michigan’s Russian captain Artem Shlaine revealed his early English lessons in a live interview Friday.

    When asked about the post-whistle skirmishes with Tech, he replied, “We’re not in the s*** after the whistle.”

  • Half of Bowling Green’s eight conference wins have come against Ferris State. The Falcons swept Ferris for the second time this weekend up in Big Rapids.

    BGSU freshman Ben Doran’s first career goal Saturday proved to be the game-winner.

  • Tragedy has struck twice in U.P. Hockey strongholds of Houghton and Sault Ste Marie in one month.

    A day after serenading his beloved Huskies to the 2023 GLI championship, Michigan Tech pep-band stalwart Kenny Bragg perished in a home explosion.

    And this past week, former Lake State championship goalie Blaine Lacher died at age 53. His play carried the Lakers to the 1994 NCAA title.

    “There’s no way we would have won without him,” said teammate Clayton Beddoes.