The CCHA has really been a one horse race all year. They finished the CCHA regular season with 70 points, 20 points ahead of second place Michigan State. Other than being swept by Robert Morris earlier in the year, the Redhawks showed narry a chink in their armor. The Redhawks can score (3.5 gpg, 8th nationally) and can keep the puck out of the net. Their 1.79 goals allowed per game is the best in the country. They’ve also given up just 1.39 goals per game in CCHA play.
The one chink in Miami’s armor is the amount of penalties they take. Their 20.1 PIMs per game is 2nd most in the country behind only Alaska-Anchorage. Sadly for Miami’s opponents, all that practice has made them pretty good penalty killers. Their 87.3% penalty kill is 4th in the country, and they’ve also scored 7 short handed goals.
Michigan came into the CCHA playoffs needing to probably win the whole thing to make the NCAA tournament. After a two game sweep of their archrivals Michigan State, they’re halfway there. Junior forward Carl Hagelin leads the team with 43 points, 1.05 per game. Louie Caporusso hasn’t tailed off at all from his stellar season last year, posting a 18-21–39 line. His 18 goals leads the Wolverines, who finished 15th in scoring offense.
Defensively Michigan has played quite well. Mike Mitera is gone, but led by Steve Kampfer, Michigan has a solid D corps that has kept opponents out of the net. They allow just over 2 goals per game on the year, 8th best in America. Those numbers are a bit inflated because the CCHA is probably the most defensive league in America. Even with their stellar defensive numbers, Michigan goaltender Bryan Hogan has played poorly this year. His .901 save percentage is 54th among 78 qualifying goalies. He will need to play well to give Michigan a shot at the NCAA tournament.
The other semifinal features Northern Michigan and Ferris State. Ferris State started off hot, but needs a strong weekend here just to make the NCAA Tournament. After a few years of inconsistent play, Northern Michigan finally broke through with a top four finish. They swept Alaska in the first round of the playoffs to make it to the Joe. The Wildcats are led by Senior goalie Brian Stewart. His .927 save percentage is 2nd in the CCHA, and 5th in the country. Forward Mark Oliver took home INCH’s CCHA Player of the Year award after leading the league with 47 points. He also has 19 goals.
Ferris State is led by Blair Riley. He started hot, but tailed off in the 2nd half, finishing with 18 goals and 37 points. His .97 points per game were 12th in the league. Ferris also was 2nd in the conference in scoring defense, allowing just 2.24 goals per game. Junior goalie Pat Nagle has a .927 save percentage that is just .03 behind Miami’s Reichard, and tied for 2nd in the conference. Like Stewart, he is going to have to continue his stellar play for Northern to win the CCHA title, but I think the Wildcats will be an NCAA Tournament team.
I’m going with Miami and Northern in the title game, and I have to pick the RedHawks to win the championship.