Men's CCHA Hockey

CCHA RinkRap: "Expect The Unexpected"

CCHA RinkRap: "Expect The Unexpected"

Lake State swept the league’s hottest team, Northern Michigan, and St. Thomas scored two goals with their net pulled to steal a point at Michigan Tech.

Dec 14, 2021 by Tim Rappleye
CCHA RinkRap: "Expect The Unexpected"

On Sunday, Bowling Green coach Ty Eigner was in the middle of his weekly car wash when he began scratching his head about how unpredictable this season has been. “Every night when you look at College Hockey News, you check the scores and you’re like, “What? That happened? Every single night, it’s crazy.”

Nothing was crazier, or harder to imagine than what happened this past weekend in the CCHA. To wit: an undermanned Lake Superior squad swept the league’s hottest team Northern Michigan; cellar-dwelling St. Thomas scored two goals with their net pulled to steal a point at Michigan Tech Saturday; and Ferris State scored three goals in forty-eight seconds to stun BGSU Friday night, handing the Falcons their first home loss of the season.  

A Freshman Wills A Pendulum Swing At Bowling Green

The carryover from the Ferris scoring explosion Friday continued to the midpoint of Saturday’s finale, as the Bulldogs led BGSU 1-0 midway through the third. A packed house at Slater Arena sat on their hands when the Falcons’ Austen Swankler lined up for an attacking zone draw.

“We give our centers the liberty to run whatever faceoff plays they like,” said Eigner to RinkRap. “They made the call for what we like to call ‘Pee-Wee.’” 

Crucial faceoffs so often result in multi-player scrums, but this time “Pee-Wee” was executed to perfection. Swankler ladeled the puck directly onto Nathan Burke’s blade, and the transfer rifled home the tying goal. Just. Like. That. 

The Slater crowd instantly morphed into the Madhouse on Mercer, and the rowdies nearly tore the roof off the old barn minutes later when Swankler ripped his seventh goal of the year for the eventual game winner. 

“I fired it on net, it went low glove,” said the kid who leads all Bowling Green scorers with 18 points. “Being able to come back after three tough losses is just an amazing feeling.”

The desperately needed offense from Falcon newbies Swankler and Burke have given their teammates belief going into this coming weekend’s battle with the nationally ranked Buckeyes. 

“Now we feel good about ourselves,” said Eigner. “Going against in-state rival Ohio State, it’s a big deal for everyone around here.”

Lakers Defy All Odds

Perhaps the biggest deal of the weekend was Lake State’s stunning sweep of nationally ranked Northern Michigan. The news before Friday’s game was troubling for the Lakers—once again key players were out of the lineup. All that adversity, however, has apparently steeled the men in gold and blue, as they pounded Northern for 60 minutes, blowing out the Cats 7-2 Friday. 

In a season marked by what Laker coach Damon Whitten describes as “seizing opportunity,” sophomore Seth Eisele got his first start in over a month, and outdueled NMU’s Rico DeMatteo to secure the win. 

“Obviously it could have been easier to come back with Ethan Langeneger,” said Whitten, “but that’s the faith we have in these guys. I thought Seth responded with a great game.”

Lost in all the scrambling by the LSSU staff to field a consistent roster is the play of team MVP Louis Boudon. The senior leader delivered his second hat trick of the season to carry the Laker offense Saturday. 

“The captain shows up,” said the appreciative Whitten. “Your best players have to be your best players in critical situations, a critical weekend in CCHA play…just a great statement.”

LSSU leapfrogged into fourth place of the CCHA standings, as the league now shuts down for the holidays. It is a remarkable achievement considering how much elite manpower the Lakers lost to both Covid protocol and injuries in the first half. Whitten is convinced that those disruptions will be beneficial due to all the players now vying for ice time.

“That competition is really going to skyrocket.”

Taking The Foot Off The Gas In Houghton?

To the fans exiting the MacInnes Center Saturday night, it was a time to celebrate. A brilliant individual scoring rush by Brian Halonen gave Michigan Tech a sweep of pesky St. Thomas, Tech’s first OT win in four tries. But Huskies coach Joe Shawhan was in a dark mood in the post game, having just watched his club’s two-goal lead melt into a virtual tie in the closing minutes. Moments after his team meeting, he continued to scold his flock like a Lutheran minister. 

“There isn’t enough pride in the jersey,” admonished Shawhan. “We had too many guys make themselves feel good and not pay the price for the University.”

Why was Shawhan so blue? He knows the success of this season comes down to getting an NCAA at-large bid from the Pairwise computer rankings. Giving up that two-goal lead resulted in 45 percent of a loss to St. Thomas, the team ranked 58th in the national Pairwise. The result dropped Tech to number 14, a spot sitting on the wrong side of the tournament bubble. Shawhan read off a litany of his team’s transgressions: a penalty for faceoff infractions; another minor for too many men on the ice; power play was poor; and the cardinal sin, “We got out-competed.”

The heroic Halonen, one of the few to escape Shawhan’s dog house, still expressed the pain of squandered opportunity. 

“It was something we needed, a pretty poor execution on our part,” said Halonen with a bowed head. “That’s not how we wanted to leave at break.”

Loose Biscuits

College hockey stat mavens are scrambling to put Ferris State’s lightning attack of three goals in :48 into perspective. FSU play-by-play man Harrison Watt had to search all the way back to 1976 to find a Ferris Team that surpassed that, when the Division II Bulldogs scored three goals in :22… 

Minnesota State snuffed all the drama out of their showdown with second place Bemidji this past weekend, sweeping the Beavers with a suffocating display of puck possession. “It was a butt kicking,” said Beavers coach Tom Serratore after Friday’s 5-1 loss at the hands of the first place Mavericks, a game in which the visitors outshot the home team 35-12. 

Heading into the break the Mavs have a cumulative shots for/shots against differential of 651-339, nearly a 2:1 ratio. Considering the fact that they have played the toughest non-conference schedule imaginable, that stat may be the most impressive example of Mike Hastings’ 10-year reign of terror in Mankato… 

Michigan Tech senior Brian Halonen has been a singular force for Michigan Tech this season, a beacon of light in coach Shawhan’s morality play in the Keweenaw Peninsula. Halonen has an impeccable scoring line of 11-11-22 in 17 games played, and gets double-shifted whenever tensions rise on the Husky bench. Despite being Tech’s leading scorer, he remains eternally humble. “I hop over the boards when my name is called,” said Halonen Saturday. “Keep my nose to the grindstone. Forget about the points, those will come when you play well.”