Monday, October 22, 2007

Michigan 4, NMU 3

Sometimes it takes a senior.

There aren't too many more difficult positions to be in than the one that the Wolverines found themselves in late in the third period of Saturday's game. Matt Rust was back in the locker room after a hitting-from-behind game misconduct. The team had just given up a 6 on 4 goal which tied the game in the last minute. The NMU crowd was going bonkers. On top of that, the forty-seconds left in regulation, along with the first three minutes of the overtime period (should there be one) would be played a man down.

Enter Chad Kolarik. I made mention in his preview a couple weeks back about how he was nice to have on the PK due to his ability to score short-handed goals and he came up with a huge one. He had been held without a goal through the first three games of the season but he picked a great time for his first, stealing the puck at the blueline and blasting a shot through Brian Stewart with 21 seconds remaining. Winner winner chicken dinner. And a big case of maize-and-blue balls for the Northern fans.

Steve McInchak once again was whistle-happy, awarding 13 power plays between the two teams and assessing a combined 58 PIMs. 6 1/2 minutes was the longest span in the entire game where the teams were playing at even-strength. I say again, if this league goes to a two-referee system next year, we're all in big, big trouble.

It sounds like Sauer again played fairly well, despite a subpar save percentage. The first goal was a power play one-timer from the circle. The next he made a save in the slot before the rebound went to an uncovered NMU player. The tying goal late in regulation could only be described as a "seeing-eye goal" as it sounds as if the shot worked itself through three or four players before finding Fox in perfect position to score.

Other notables from reading the stat sheet:
-The power play was 2 for 5, giving them a very solid 4 for 14 weekend with the man advantage. Kevin Porter tallied three of those goals with Kolarik and Palushaj assisted on all three.

-Kevin Quick sat out in favor of Scooter Vaughan, who I was told played a very solid game.

-Brian Lebler remained in the lineup over Brandon Naurato.

-The Wildcats changed goalies after Michigan took a 3-2 lead with 4:38 remaining in regulation despite Derek Janzen making 10 saves in the third period to that point. His replacement, Brian Stewart, gave up the game winner on the only shot that he faced.

That may have been the most inexplicable goalie switch since Gordon Bombay put in Julie "The Cat" Gaffney for the last shot in the shoot-out against Iceland.

I'll be really curious to see the explanation for that one when I do the media roundup piece tomorrow. I gotta believe someone asked Walt Kyle about that one.

-Kolarik got back to going bombs-away, accounting for 6 of our 19 shots on goal.

-Rust was dominant on faceoffs, winning 12 of 18. The rest of the team got killed, winning 15 out of the other 46.

Overall another great weekend. The team defense held the shots down for the fourth straight game (22 is the most we've given up thusfar) and if we hold the goals against to three or less, we're going to win a lot of hockey games. Giving up 4+ is what kills us. Three I can live with.

It's impossible to complain about 3-1 after 4 games, especially since they've yet to play at home. Next weekend we get BU who has really struggled thusfar, going 0-2-1 to start the season, losing to Robert Morris in the process.


Anonymous said...

The Mining Journal had one quote from Walt regarding Janzen and I took it as pretty harsh...

“I was really disappointed,” NMU coach Walt Kyle said of Janzen’s play. “Honestly, he’s a great kid. I’m sure he’ll come up with a bigger effort at some point. But I didn’t like any of the three goals that went in on us.”

As for the game, Mitera had another great game. Not just scoring (which is a bonus with him) but lots of good defensive plays.

Vaughan I agree with. Had a solid game. Didn't notice him making too many mistakes, which is always a good sign.

I like Matt Rust's physical game, too. He put the body on a lot of guys. Red just needs to keep him off the ice during the final few minutes!

Turnbull took a stupid 10-minute misconduct arguing with the ref over Kampfer's penalty and not relenting. Someone in blue should have grabbed and dragged him away. He wouldn't stop complaining to McInchak...big mistake!

Sauer's not going to have the best save percentage, nor should we ever expect him to when he only faces 20 shots a game and gives up two or three. But as I've said before, what's important is the quality of the shots he's facing and letting in.

Packer487 said...

Thanks for the comments Jason. You can only tell so much from the radio (and I only got to listen to maybe 15 minutes this weekend) and boxscores. It's nice to hear from someone who was actually there.

It's really nice to see Mitera gracefully stepping into that #1 defenseman role. It might end up being really helpful to have our #1 dman be a defense-first kind of guy.

I honestly can't think of another situation where I've seen the starting goalie yanked with under 5 minutes to go in a 3-2 hockey game. Even if they all have been bad goals, don't you have to ride him at that point? And he had made 10 straight stops in the 3rd before he let in that goal.

Definitely one of the stranger things I've seen...and it clearly bit Kyle in the ass. Of course, if the goalie switch sparked the team and they went on to win, I guess he'd look like a genius. Strange, strange time to change goalies though.

Anonymous said...

Definitely strange. Had Kyle left Janzen in and NMU tied/won the game or lost 3-2 (4-2 empty net), no one would have ever even brought up leaving him in after the third goal. It wouldn't be an issue.

But he put in a cold goalie with 5 minutes left. Whether it was to try sparking the team or one of my NMU friends theorized it's because he knew he'd have to pull the goalie and Stewart has more experience in that department (though that seems to be stretching it a bit), I don't know. Hopefully the student paper might have more answers than the Mining Journal.

It is very nice having a solid defensive rock as our #1 d-man. Last year it was like, "We have no faith in our goalie, therefore the best defense is a good offense," and that's why Sauer got hung out to dry a lot of times. We tried to win most games by putting up 5+ goals. Having Jack and Matt out there was almost like playing five forwards at times.

So far this season the team's mentality seems to be the complete opposite. It's "Lets help out our goalie as much as possible." We have enough skill up front that the goals are going to come, so lets do our best to prevent them at the other end. We might have more close games, but we can put up 3-4 goals and win many of them with the effort the team is giving at both ends of the ice.