Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A post-regular-season poll comparison

A couple weeks ago on Twitter I made a remark about how grotesque my preseason media poll looked in hindsight.

Some of it was so bad that I thought it would be rather comical to bring in back and do a comparison. Where did everyone finish versus where I picked them to finish? With BGSU on spring break, there is no publication of The BG News this week, so I figured this to be a funny way for some of you to get a BGSU sports fix for the week.

The teams are ranked in the order in which I picked them to finish. Where they actually finished in the standings is in parenthese. If you feel like making fun of me, feel free to leave a comment here or on Twitter, @Ryan_Satkowiak.

1. Michigan (Actual finish: 7): When I was looking at this a couple of weeks ago, I felt a lot worse about this pick than I do now. The Wolverines were 10th in the CCHA and looked terrible. Fast forward to now, Michigan is hosting a first round playoff series and is playing its best hockey of the year. Regardless, I still missed this one big time. While Michigan was one of two CCHA teams (along with Notre Dame) to top 100 goals scored this season, their defense was by far the worst in the league, allowing 17 more goals than anyone else in the league. Losing Shawn Hunwick, along with defections of Jack Campbell and John Gibson to the OHL in recent years left the goaltending cupboard empty, and it showed this season. However, with the way they are playing now, don't be surprised to see the Wolverines in Detroit for CCHA Championship weekend.

2. Ferris State (Actual finish: 5): I was a little less far-off on this one, but the offseason losses Ferris had did have some impact on the team. Despite a first-round bye in the CCHA playoffs, the Bulldogs finished a tier below the top three teams in the league. With 43 points in the standings, Ferris finished closer to ninth place than it did third places. The Bulldogs only had a plus-four goal differential this season, but finished fourth in the league in goals-against per game thanks to a great season from sophomore goalie C.J. Motte (2.17 GAA, .927 save percent).

3. Western Michigan (Actual finish: 3): Finally I hit one right on the head. The Broncos actually had an outside chance at the CCHA regular season title heading into the final weekend, but a split with Michigan State, along with Notre Dame's sweep of BG put the Broncos here. They had the second-lowest goal totals in the league, but outstanding play by goalie Frank Slubowski (1.85 GAA .922 save percent) once again make the Broncos a threat in the CCHA playoffs.

4. Miami (Actual finish: 1): If you told be before the season that a team would lose its starting goalie and fall in the standings, I'd have picked that team to be Miami before Michigan. Miami, unlike Michigan, had to replace their goalies with a pair of freshmen. No college experience? No problem, apparently. Ryan McKay had an absolutely outstanding year (17 starts, 1.17 GAA .957 save percent), and the only thing that might keep him from winning CCHA Rookie of the Year is teammate Riley Barber (15 goals, 21 assists). By the way, Jay Williams, the other freshman goalie in Miami's stable, was pretty OK too (19 starts, 1.87 GAA .926 save percent). The RedHawks head into the NCHC next season with a young, stacked team.

5. Notre Dame (Actual finish: 2): In my defense, I did say in my preseason prediction, "don't be surprised to see ND challenge for the No. 1 seed." The Irish came into the season with a loaded offense (and led the league with 107 goals scored) but had huge goaltending concerns. Those concerns were answered by Steven Summerhays, who carried the load to the tune of a 2.03 GAA and .919 save percent in 30 starts. The Irish had a rough patch in the middle of the season that arguably cost them the CCHA regular season title. You can bet they'll want to make up for that in the CCHA playoffs.

6. Northern Michigan (Actual finish: 10): You can't argue how funny it would have been to see Northern finish sixth for a third straight year. The Wildcats weren't bad this year; they finished four points out of seventh place in what turned out to be a cramped bottom of the CCHA. However, they are 4-7 since Jan. 25 and have to play at Michigan in the first round of the CCHA playoffs.

7. Bowling Green (Actual finish: 9): When I was looking at these a couple weeks ago, BG was in seventh and poised to host a first round playoff series. To borrow a quote coach Chris Bergeron used in his press conference last week: the Falcons pretty much choked. That being said, finishing ninth is a step in the right direction. Before the year (in this exact spot) I said the team couldn't afford to lose a key player like Andrew Hammond. I evidently forgot to knock on wood, because Hammond missed a good amount of time this year with separate injuries, including key time down the stretch. Not to knock Tommy Burke, who was outstanding in Hammond's absence, but maybe your senior goaltender steals you a game or two in that time. Regardless, BG is 1-4 its past five games, and Hammond didn't look good Saturday against Notre Dame. The Falcons face an uphill battle to advance to the second round of the CCHA playoffs for a third straight year.

8. Michigan State (Actual finish: 11): I don't think anyone say Michigan State falling from a top-five seed last season to the CCHA basement this season. However, only 57 goals on the season will do that to you. Fun fact: Reid Boucher of the Sarnia Sting in the OHL was once committed to MSU before he decommitted. This season, he outscored Michigan State by himself (Sarnia record 60 goals in 63 games).

9. Lake Superior (Actual finish: 7): I'm going to take this time to gloat for inadvertently predicting a BG-Lake first round. However, as I'm sure you've either heard or were able to infer, the game with be in Ste. St. Marie, not BG like I had inadvertently predicted. 

10. Ohio State (Actual finish: 4): Another one I missed big, Ohio State is solely in the position they are in because of goalie Brady Hjelle. After a slow start to the season, he finished with a 2.00 GAA and .934 save percent. The Buckeyes also had the second highest scoring duo in the league in Tanner Fritz (34 points) and Ryan Dzingel (33 points).

 11. Alaska (Actual finish: 6): After a 10th place finish last season, Alaska exceeded expectations this season thanks to a freshman goalie (sound familiar?). John Keeney came in and posted a respectable 2.33 GAA and .910 save percent, along with a 12-9-3 record in 24 starts. Andy Taranto finished 10th in the league with 27 points.