Tuesday, November 28, 2006

College Hockey Showcase in Review

When I pleaded with the Wolverine hockey team to "Pretend we're Holy Cross" on Saturday night, I was referencing their hockey team from last season. Not their 2003 football team.

What a brutal result. I figured a loss was coming. I didn't see 8-2 though.

It's another disappointment against the Gophers, but a loss wasn't that shocking. It was the last of a brutal five-games-in-nine-nights stretch, and the Wolverines were finishing up with the best team of the stretch (and in the country) and on the big ice to boot.

I was watching the game in a bar (plug for Joe Koolsky's in Troy…great place, great food) so the details of the game are a little fuzzy. But my overall impression was that they soundly outplayed us, but it was more 5-2 bad rather than 8-2 bad.

The big difference in the game was that Minnesota converted on seemingly every breakaway and odd-man rush that they had, while Michigan didn't. Tim Miller had a glorious scoring chance right off the bat and Briggs made a fantastic save. Johnson (I think) had a breakaway and didn't convert. Cogliano had at least one breakaway and didn't score. Meanwhile, Minnesota got us with the old "Alley-Oop" play from The Mighty Ducks.

We've obviously got big-time problems with allowing short-handed goals. You never like to see one allowed—and we've seen that far too many times this year. Three is completely inexcusable.

I can't say a whole lot more than that. It's hard to get a read on actual players' performances when you're sitting at a bar and also trying to watch the Wings, Pistons, and USC/Notre Dame.

Kyle Okposo, Jim O'Brien, and Mike Carmen were extremely impressive in that game. I always liked Carmen at USA. I think I'm in agreement with WCH on this one that it is hard to believe that O'Brien hadn't scored coming into this game. He's a good player—and it's scary that he's on the fourth line. Damn that's a talented hockey team.

As for the Wisconsin game, I didn't get to watch it. But it says a lot about our team that they were able to come back against the defending champs in their house, after getting down by a couple of goals. I know Wisconsin is struggling right now, but I would gamble that by the end of the season that's going to look like a very nice win for us. I think it already does, despite the Badgers' record.

Overall I'm very happy. Playing Michigan State, Wisconsin and Minnesota in a five day span is no easy task and I said coming into the week that I wanted to see 2 wins. We got them. We were clearly overmatched against the Gophers, but we're not nearly as bad as that score looked. I'm sure that was a tired hockey team, and that's not a good thing when you're going up against a team that's that talented—and you're on Olympic ice.

I feel good about the direction of this team. They've been playing better and better. After going what seemed like 12 years without beating MSU, now they've taken two in a row. They're winning close games. They've shown that they can come back against solid opponents. They've won some low scoring games—which is great to see because it means that Sauer and our defense are playing well. They took 3 road games against Ferris and Wisconsin—places where we've had trouble in recent years. The setback against Minnesota was disappointing but they were due. Now it's time to regroup, play strong hockey heading into the break, and dare I say…get that GLI monkey off our back?


Anonymous said...

Couldn't pick a better rebound game after that Gopher debacle than a home tilt against Western--a team we've absolutely owned forever, back in the friendly confines of Yost. And we do need to rebound, because after the Western home-and-home is the Notre Dame home-and-home, which has massive CCHA regular season title implications.

colin said...

The most telling thing about the Minnesota game is that every summary I've read says we played worse and worse each period. So, you know, I'm willing to give us the benefit of the doubt there. And we had been playing well, so I have to consider it some kind of anomaly.

My overall impression is that this team is growing, getting better and NOT exhibiting the maddening tendencies we saw last year. The streakiness they showed at the beginning of the year seems to be gone and the intensity is up. I know JJ is the best player on this team, but we seem to follow TJ. His up and down play is our up and down play. He's been intense, a two-way player, and we look all the better for it. Rohlfs is another key to this team, too. He's always had the hustle, but he's shown a little flash too. He lets Kolarik play on the second line, which keeps the scoring lines more evenly talented.

We're on pace with last year's offense, but our defense is clearly improved. I think we can probably get away with Billy playing like a B+ goalie (meaning @ .900 sv pct, I guess) because I don't think there are any real dominant goalies out there right now in the CCHA, at least that I can think of.

Also: how about getting Jack a few shifts at forward in critical games? Could we get away with that at D?

Packer487 said...

Yeah, I was really happy to see WMU on the schedule this week. It'll be a nice tune up for ND. Hopefully they aren't looking ahead to what should be a huge weekend!

Colin: I agree with everything you said about the team as a whole. I could live with a .900 save percentage out of Sauer. You'd like it to be better, but as long as he's making the saves he needs to make and bails us out once in awhile on the mistakes, we'll be fine.

I don't know about moving Jack to forward at this point. If it's just getting him on the ice more often, then I'd be fine with it because I'm sure he'd thrive with as much ice time as we can give him (though he has played 26-30 a lot this year already). Kampfer scares me though.

Though, if the offense is struggling in any particular game, I think it'd be a great idea to move him up for a shift or two. He seems like the type of guy that could spark something real quick. Whether it's on a rush, the forecheck, or if he just kills someone.