CCHA Championship Preview


When: March 18 and 19

Where: Joe Louis Arena

Who: (1) Michigan, (2) Notre Dame, (3) Miami, (4) Western Michigan

Michigan enters the final weekend of the CCHA playoffs with two convincing wins over 11th seed Bowling Green, and are eager to defend their CCHA playoff crown. In all, the Wolverines have won 8 in a row since being swept by Miami, and you know they want another crack at the RedHawks in the title game. Carl Hagelin leads the Wolverines with 17 goals and 47 points, but the most impressive person on the team for me has been goalie Shawn Hunwick. Pressed into duty in the postseason last year, Hunwick has been great this season with a .923 save percentage that tied him for third. I will also be interested to see how Freshman Jon Merrill reacts to his first championship weekend, and my Michigan darkhorse in terms of an impact player or a tournament MVP is Chris Brown who, despite only having 9 goals this year, isn’t afraid to go to the dirty areas and score the blue collar goals that are necessary to win a conference title. (hey it’s a cliche, but it’s a true cliche).

Western Michigan makes it to the Joe in Mark Osiecki’s first year at the helm, and it is the Broncos’ first trip to the semis since 1994. Western is led by Senior center Max Campbell, who had 18 goals and 35 points this year, though their best forward in conference play was Chase Balisy, whom I named to my CCHA 3rd team. The Broncos will want to avoid special teams tussles if they want to secure a CCHA title or an NCAA tournament bid, as they are 8th in the league in power play (16%) and 9th in penalty kill (79.9%). Despite Jerry Kuhn being 9th in the league in save percentage, Western was 5th in goals allowed, suggesting good play from their defensemen this year (especially when taking their kill into account).

Notre Dame just missed out on winning the CCHA regular season title, but they look like a strong contender for a playoff crown. Led by a pair of Freshmen in TJ Tynan and Anders Lee, Notre Dame looks like a preseason top 5 team next year, but of course have some business to take care of yet this year. Senior Joe Lavin has played well defensively for the Irish all year, and he also had a goal and an assist in last weekend’s series vs. Lake State. Keep an eye on Lee, who had a 2 goal game vs. Miami and a pair of 3 assist games vs. them this year.

The RedHawks are last in my preview and as such are my pick to win the tournament. Miami is on an 11 game unbeaten streak and are 1-1-2 against Notre Dame, 2-1-1 against Western, and 2-0 against Michigan this year. Andy Miele is a probable Hobey Hat Trick finalist, as the Senior leads the country with 65 points and 1.81 points per game. While Carter Camper has gotten a ton of publicity as Miami’s second banana, Reilly Smith has had an extremely strong  year, with 26 goals and 48 points. I am surprised at the dropoff in goaltending this year, with Cody Reichard only having a .911 save percentage and Connor Knapp with a .909 mark, but it hasn’t hurt the RedHawks much as they are 3rd in the country, allowing 2.17 goals per game. If they get a hot couple of weekends from their goalies they could be serious national title contenders.