Monday, January 15, 2007

Michigan/NMU Series Wrapup

Things started out so well, too.

I was actually really pleased with the way we played Friday night. On Tuesday against BGSU, I came away from the game thinking, "We played ok, but a good team would've buried us." I didn't feel that way Friday. I thought we came out, played a solid game at both ends of the ice, got pretty good goaltending, got a stellar performance out of TJ Hensick, and got out of there with a dominating win.

My thoughts on Friday from the Yost Post:

"Northern had a lot of shots on goal, but there weren't a TON of great scoring chances. Sauer was big when he needed to be. Both goals were on the weakish side--the first one was an Osgood-like rebound and the second one was just goofy, but he made some really nice saves. Though the first playing of "Temptation" should've really been for Brandon Naurato. The guy had a wide open net and Naurato blocked the shot.

TJ Hensick was absolutely fantastic last night. As Puckhead said below, he could've had 7 or 8 assists if people were finishing. Every pass he makes seems to have eyes. They're all right on the tape. It's just been great performance after great performance out of him.

I thought Kampfer actually had a pretty good game last night. Made some big hits, had a couple nice rushes.

I still don't like Pio. But he's definitely the best ref in the CCHA. I can't believe some of the jokers that we've had this year. I agree for the most part with MSUStudent's ref rankings, except I think McInchak and Aaron are on a tier by themselves waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay at the bottom.

As I said on Tuesday, I still don't get how less talented teams always seem to get more power plays than Michigan. Especially after the "Crackdown" on obstruction. It seems that they're just a lot more likely to let it go when it's a team's MO, and then when a more wide-open team like Michigan does anything, they notice it and call it. It's stupid.

I was skeptical about moving Rohlfs down to the third line, but it seems that he's a better player in his own right than I was giving him credit for. He was having a great season finishing off passes from Hensick, but he's showing now that he can carry his own line. It's looking like this move might pay off--though we'll have to see it against a team that isn't in the bottom 3 in the CCHA.

Brian & I were talking about this last night--it seems that every senior on our team has improved throughout his career (examples: Rohlfs being a legit star, Cook becoming actually a capable player)...except for Matt Hunwick. It blows my mind how much that kid has regressed.

My last paragraph of that post just goes to show how predictable this team can be sometimes:

"I can't make the game tonight, but hopefully the guys realize that the two wins this week go for naught if they blow the game tonight. It'd be typical Michigan to come out and drop this one like 2-1 or something. Here's hoping they come out with another strong effort and make it a 6 point week."
Hockey players, listen up and listen good. I should not be able to accurately predict a home loss to a tenth place team that you just destroyed the night before. Moreso, I should not be so confident in my prediction that I didn't bat an eyelash upon seeing the score that night.

It's embarrassing to continually play this way at home. That makes 5 home losses this year (including losses to Northern Michigan, Western Michigan, and Northeastern--3 schools that have directions in their name. That's not a good sign). We had 6 home losses last year (including losses to LSSU, Ferris, Ohio State, and Alaska-Fairbanks). Once in awhile is understandable. Over the course of a 40 game schedule, you're going to get beat by inferior teams once in awhile (particularly when the majority of your opponents could fall into that category), but to lose 11 games over 1 3/4 seasons, including seven to teams that could legitimately be considered to be bad teams is just wrong. They need to get it fixed and they need to start playing with some consistency if they're going to have any prayer of making the tournament.

Now, since we've crapped away four points at home against the Westerns and Northerns of the world, we head up to the Final Frontier in fourth place in the CCHA (3rd in winning percentage). But really? Who would be confident in picking us to come away with more than 2 points this weekend, given our past record up there and general inconsistency? Honestly, there's not a team in the country that I would lay money on us to sweep. Northeastern pretty much proved we can lose to anyone. 9 of the last 12 are away from Yost, and frankly I'm not sure that's a bad thing with the way we've played at home this year.

The disturbing thing to me--more so than us losing home games--is that we managed to lose one of the rare games where it sounds like our goalie actually played really, really well. You can't blow home games, you can't blow games where your shaky goalie actually performs at a high level. Two rules of thumb that we'd be wise to abide by.

Fortunately (I think) for us, 9 of our last 12 games are against the weak sisters of the poor in our conference. The downer in that is that we're currently teetering squarely on the Pairwise bubble, playing these teams will hurt our strength of schedule, and we really can't afford to blow too many more games, especially against bad teams.

One other quick college hockey comment: Isn't it pretty hypocritical for the team formerly known as Alaska-Fairbanks to complain about another team running their goalie? Ya know, since their MO in the recent past was to run into Al Montoya as much as possible and all. I'm guessing we're not the only team they did that against. Just sayin'.

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