by Brian Bileski
October 12, 2006
The 2006-07 Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) season is officially underway on Friday night as the likes of Michigan, Miami of Ohio and Michigan State drop the puck in one of the NCAA's most competitive college hockey conferences.
Last season ended with an amazing showdown in the league's final, the Mason Cup, when the Michigan State Spartans upended Miami of Ohio by a narrow victory 2-1.
Both schools along with the Michigan Wolverines and Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks entered the Frozen Four Tournament as favourites to win it all but that title went to the University of Wisconsin. This year the CCHA is looking to recapture a national title, something the league has not done in several years.
Both Michigan and Michigan State are the two teams to beat. LeafsTV will air plenty of games featuring both schools.
|Jack Johnson is one of the top prospects in the world. |
The Michigan Wolverines feature one of Canada's top young college prospects in former Toronto Buzzer and Team Canada Junior Andrew Cogliano. The Woodbridge, Ontario native returns to Ann Arbor for his sophomore season despite being a first round choice to the Edmonton Oilers in 2005.
Of course he isn't the biggest name on the team as the Wolverines' roster showcases twelve NHL draft picks, the most notable being American defenceman Jack Johnson whos rights are owned by the Los Angeles Kings. You can bet the brass in L.A. are looking forward to the day Johnson goes pro. Meanwhile, Nepean Ontario native, Jason Bailey, brings a rough and tough attitude to the ice with his bruising checks.
Michigan State returns seventeen players from a squad that entered the NCAA tourney as a top seed. The Spartans were knocked out in the second round by the Maine Black Bears 5-4. Two Toronto natives are key contributors to the team. Daniel Vukovic, a Junior D-man from North York should see plenty of ice time. The undrafted big man has a chance to really shine and will hopefully turn a few heads with his textbook defence. Nick Sucharski, a former Wexford Raider and Upper Canada College graduate, is expected to produce some good numbers this season. The smooth skating playmaker is property of the Columbus Blue Jackets, but they're not likely to get a piece of him until after the fans in East Lansing, Michigan, see him score some dazzling goals.
Coach Enrico Blasi of Miami of Ohio is a native of North York and a former Redhawk himself. In his nine years behind the bench he has built a program that is a national championship away from becoming one of the elite hockey schools in the NCAA.
Last year they were ranked #1 in the nation and hovered in the top ten for most of the year. Back to back losses in the Mason Cup, and then the first round of the NCAA's to Boston College 5-0 were probably tough for the team to deal with despite playing a great season of hockey.
Matt Christie, a former Aurora Tiger, is in his senior year and is expected to be a leader on the ice and in the locker room. Ryan Jones, a Chatham Ontario native, put up big numbers in his sophomore season scoring 22 goals and is one of the top offensive threats in the league.
Any one of these three teams has a real strong chance at walking away with a CCHA title this season. Yet there are nine other teams who will compete at the highest level on a nightly basis. Game in and game out the CCHA will be as tough a conference to win as any down south in the NCAA.
Be sure to watch "CCHA Ontario' every Friday evening at 7 p.m., where LeafsTV features the best Ontario hockey stars playing in the most competitive conference in NCAA hockey. Meanwhile, following CCHA Ontario at 7:30 p.m., LeafsTV airs a CCHA hockey game featuring Michigan, Michigan State, Miami of Ohio and all the best in the conference.
Below is a list of all the Ontario born players on CCHA rosters this fall:
BOWLING GREEN FALCONS
Josh Boyd (London/Portage MJHL), Johnathon Matsumoto (Orleans/Cumberland CJHL), Rich Meloche (Oakville/Milton OPJHL), Kevin Schmidt (Markham/St.Mike's OPJHL)
FERRIS STATE BULLDOGS
Mitch O'Keefe (Almonte/Hawkesbury), Matt Verdone (Summerstown/Cornwall CJHL)
LAKE SUPERIOR STATE LAKERS
Pat Aubry (Ottawa/Kanata CJHL), Ryan Baird (Thunder Bay/Fort Williams SIJHL), Simon Gysbers (Richmond Hill/Stoufville OPJHL), Matt Martello (North York/Vaughn OPJHL), Jeff Rainville (Blind River/Soo Greyhounds NOJHL), John Scrymgeour (Pickering/St.Michael's OPJHL), Derek A. Smith (Belleville/Wellington OPJHL)
Matt Christie (Ajax/Aurora OPJHL), Joe Cooper (Toronto/St.Michael's OPJHL), Ryan Jones (Chatham/Chatham), Alexandre Lacombe (Orleans/ Gloucester CJHL), Geoff Smith (Toronto/Texas NAHL)
Jason Bailey (Nepean/US NTDP), Andrew Cogliano (Toronto/St.Michael's OPJHL)
MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS
Nick Sucharski (Toronto/Wexford), Daniel Vukovic (North York/St.Michael's OPJHL)
Jeric Agosta (Ruthwen/Aurora OPJHL), Jeremie Dupont (Richmond Hill/Aurora OPJHL)
David Brown (Stoney Creek/Hamilton OPJHL), Wes O'Neill (Essex/Green Bay USHL)
OHIO STATE BUCKEYES
Kenny Bernard (sarnia/Sarnia WOJHL), Sam Campbell (Hamilton/Hamilton OPJHL), Nick Filion (Cornwall/Cornwall OPJHL), Mathieu Picard (st.Isidore/Hawkesbury CJHL), Andrew Schembri (Mississauga/Cornwall CJHL),
Nathan Ansell (Sarnia/Sarnia WJBHL), Daniel Bellissimo (Toronto/St.Michael's OPJHL), Mike Lesperance (Newmarkert/Newmarket OPJHL), Johnathan Lupa (London/Stratford MWJHL), Paul Szcechura (Brantford/Brantford MWJHL), Cam Watson (Cambridge/Cambridge MWJHL), Julian Zamparo (Toronto/St.Michael's OPJHL)