CCHA Playoff Preview
by Justin Magill/CHN Writer
Capsule previews of this weekend's CCHA quarterfinal series:
No. 5 Ferris State (17-14-5) at No. 4 Western Michigan (16-10-10)
If there is any team that is prepared for the postseason it is Western Michigan.
It received a first-round bye and it was much deserved after playing Miami, Michigan and Notre Dame all in succession to close the season. Those three teams are also the top seeds in the CCHA tournament.
"Tough stretch of games to end the season against some really good hockey teams," Western Michigan coach Jeff Blashill said. "We hope it prepares us for the playoffs because those are the teams you have to beat to advance.
This series features the only two teams that will face each other that had a week off, so rest and health should not be as much of an issue as the other lower seeds in the tournament.
The series is important for both because they are hovering around the top 16 in the PairWise rankings. Western Michigan is tied with Colorado College for 14th, while Ferris State is at 22, but a series win could propel it into the mix.
"Not really worried about the rankings right now," Blashill said. "Just focused on Ferris State. I believe that the NCAA field will play itself out and if we continue to win, we should be in good shape."
The Broncos come in with their most recent victory against Notre Dame in the regular season finale, the conclusion of a tough end as they played at Miami and Michigan along with the home-and-home with the Irish.
Ferris State is 6-2-1 in its last nine games, so the Bulldogs are coming in on a pretty good streak in their quarterfinal matchup with Western Michigan.
With games by the scores of 3-1 and 2-2 this season, defense and goaltending will more than likely be the difference in this best of three series.
“In four against five seeds, it comes down to your goalie and how well you play in your own zone,” Blashill said. “These games are close and are supposed to be, so you have to find a way to take care of your own end.”
No. 6 Alaska (16-15-5) at No. 3 Miami (19-9-6)
An intriguing matchup between two teams that split its regular season series with a win each at Miami. Miami is on a nine-game unbeaten streak going 6-0-3 in that span and included a sweep of No. 1 seed Michigan.
Despite the recent hot streak Miami is on, Coach Enrico Blasi said the isn't much difference between the two.
"Just a matter of a few wins," he said. "They have a team with experience in the national tournament, so they know what to do."
Alaska beat NCAA tournament regular Michigan State in two games last week, both overtime victories.
It won in double overtime of the second game to complete the first round sweep on Nik Yaremchuk's ninth goal of the season.
"They are a disciplined team," Blasi said. "They will be tough to beat because they don't hurt themselves or put themselves in tough situations."
No. 7 Lake Superior State (12-15-9) at No. 2 Notre Dame (21-10-5)
It has been almost five months since Lake Superior State and Notre Dame faced each other to begin the season.
The Irish handled in the two game set by identical scores of 4-2, but coach Jeff Jackson said he sees a tough opposition in the Lakers.
"They are a lot better than they we're the last time we played them," Jackson said of the team he once coached to two national championships. "With a nice sweep of Ohio State, which isn't easy to do, they are playing with a lot of confidence. It's important for us to come out strong, just like any other game."
After ending the season losing their last three games, Lake Superior State rebounded and took down the Buckeyes in two games at home.
"They are getting some great play in goal," Jackson said. "You can really see that on tape. That will be tough for us and means we have to make sure we are crowding the net, picking up rebounds and making the most of them."
Kevin Kapalka had a 48-save shutout in the first game last week against Ohio State. He allowed two goals on 30 shots in the series clinching 3-2 win.
No. 8 Bowling Green (10-25-4) at No. 1 Michigan (23-9-4)
The last time these two went at it was a two-game series back in October, both Michigan wins by scores of 4-2 and 4-1.
Bowling Green is coming off of a three-game set with Northern Michigan, winning the final two games of the series, the final game being a 2-1 double overtime victory.
As the No. 11 seed in the first round, Bowling Green knocked off the Wildcats, a team that made it to the NCAA tournament a year ago.
Coming into to Michigan, winners of its last six, will be a tough task considering the youth Bowling Green has.
"Well, you can't simulate (it)," Bowling Green coach Chris Bergeron said. "We're not going to put a of emphasis on it. Yost has bounces and demons that no other buildings have, so trying to control it and put too much emphasis does no good."
What sticks out to Bergeron is the work ethic of the Wolverines, a team he said is loaded with talented players.
"This team competes extremely hard," he said. "For a team as talented as they are, they compete hard."