Someday, I'll stop with the puns. Today isn't the day. I will try very hard not to play off Kevin Quick's name or use Winnett as a way of saying "Win It" though.
That was a really great weekend of hockey. I'm a little fuzzy on the details from the Mich/BC game since I didn't have a pen to jot down notes and I couldn't get my laptop to fire up this weekend. I found a pen for the next night though and was able to take some notes. Anyway, here are my quick hitters on the games:
-I love Carl Hagelin. That kid just back-checks his head off and he's got some nice offensive instincts. Pretty great shot on his goal as well. He could end up being a really special player for us.
-I was impressed with Langlais. I missed that he apparently had a bad pinch that led to a goal, but I thought he was pretty steady back there with the puck. He never panicked and he was great at getting the puck out.
-Speaking of that, the team as a whole did a really nice job getting the puck out of the defensive zone. They only had a few turnovers back there--but nothing major--which is a big improvement over last year.
-Caporusso's pass to set up Hagelin's first goal was an absolute beauty. And again, nice move by the Swede to finish it off too!
-Sauer was pretty good overall against the Eagles. He made some nice saves and the first goal wasn't his fault. I was really unhappy with the third goal (I'll talk more about plays like that when I get to the Minnesota game) and the second goal was just a mess--he got caught between trying to get back to the post and risking the BC player banking it off of him and staying away like he ended up doing. The puck took an unlucky bounce off his stick right to the BC player. Even though the save % didn't end up looking too good, I can live with performances like that one.
-I'm not sure how I missed that Kampfer was back on the ice. I told Bob Miller that it looked like he broke his collarbone, and it did. He was down on the ice for a long time, and when he skated off, he went down the tunnel like he was going to the locker room, slouched over to one side. I completely missed that he came back. I guess he was fine though, because that was a helluva tackle he put on Caporusso after the game winner! We were kind of lucky that no one got hurt on that one.
-I actually thought Kampfer played a pretty strong game himself.
-Turnbull looks like a completely different player offensively. It's amazing to me that that line has as much chemistry as it does so early in the going with 2 freshmen and a guy who typically doesn't do much offensively. But they were outstanding all weekend (and last weekend).
-Great goal by Digger as well. He played a really strong defensive game.
-The shocker of the night (both nights actually) was Ben Winnett seeing time on the PK. His defense wasn't said to be his strong suit in any of the articles I read about him. He had a breakaway and might've had TOO much time. He made one too many moves and the puck rolled off his stick. He had a couple nice back-checks though. Either he or Caporusso saved a goal by getting a BC player's stick. Winnett was active defensively, which was nice to see.
-I'm really excited we got a win in that game. Great win against a good, very highly ranked hockey team, and it was nice to see them find a way to get it done after they blew a 2 goal lead.
-I love watching Gerbe play. He's such a little **** to play against, but I'd take him on my team in a split-second, and that's the best compliment I can give an opponent.
-If there's such a thing as a good loss, that was it. The Wolverines have got to have a world of confidence playing that team again next month. Minnesota is a very good offensive hockey team, this was in a tough environment and they outplayed the Gophers and hung in there until the end. It was night and day compared to last year. I'm really impressed.
-Sauer needs to learn that this isn't NHL2k6. You're allowed to stop a guy bringing the puck cross-crease and trying to tuck it around your pad. Poke-check, use the fact that you're huge to get to the other post, hell, trip the guy. Back-to-back nights he gave up the same goal, and Wheeler scored a very similar goal the night before against RPI. It was pretty obvious what he was going to do. No excuse to give that goal up. The first goal he had no chance on (tip). The third goal was a great shot and there was a monster screen. I'd still prefer that he not give up a goal short-side in that situation, but that would've been a tough save. The fourth one was a bad bounce off a nice play by the defenseman (Langlais maybe?). High glove.
When I say I don't think he played well against the Gophers, it's more because of a couple of shots that didn't go in more than the goals. After Wheeler's goal--later in the game, it must've been the third period--Minnesota had another similar chance, this one coming from Sauer's left to his right. The guy made the SAME exact move Wheeler did and it was a sure goal, but he lost the puck off the end of his stick.
Another time, a wrist shot from the dot hit him square in the M. Somehow, he let the rebound trickle out, two guys had whacks at it, it got into some players skates and it probably should've ended up in the net.
He made a couple of really nice kick saves by the post, but we need him to be better. He was pretty solid against BC though.
As for the other guys:
-I'm really encouraged that we had that much success this weekend without very much out of our top line. Kolarik hit the post when it was 0-0, but apart from that (and a couple of assists on Kampfer's goal) we didn't get much out of those guys this weekend. I had in my notes that the top line was VERY quiet through 2 periods. And they were invisible against BC. I had questioned how this was going to go with Porter at center when all 3 guys are players who like to get the puck on their stick. I'd stick with it for a few more games to see if they develop some chemistry, especially since the other lines are good together, but they need to do more.
-I like Palushaj. He's got some nifty stick-handling moves to get away from guys in tight quarters and he was really crashing the net on a couple of our power plays.
-I love Rust as well. Solid play all around and 2 great goals to top it off. I'd like to see another replay of his penalty late in the game. To me, if he doesn't reach out and grab the guy with that hand, it shouldn't be a penalty. Didn't look like he grabbed him to me. I thought he just put his hand on the guy and pushed him down. Nothing wrong with that. But based on the whistle Minnesota got against RPI (that game was absolutely absurd--it was completely obvious they were trying to get Minnesota into the Championship), you gotta expect a couple of tough ones to go against you. The refs called a pretty darn good game last night, but I thought that was a cheap one late in a one goal game (especially since 3 minutes before, there was some big-time interference down at the other end that went uncalled).
-Again, Hagelin was back-checking like a demon. He's really great.
-I thought Scooter played pretty decently as a whole, but he made a big mistake on one rush. He was the last defenseman back and he sold out to hit the puck-carrier. He wasn't able to gain possession of the puck and the Gophers ended up with a great scoring chance.
-One thing I like about Langlais in addition to his poise with the puck is that he seems to be pretty adept at deflecting pucks using his stick. He was much more shaky against Minnesota than he was the night before, but I think that's understandable the way the Gophers pressure you. His penalty was a bad one. The puck got through his feet and he panicked a bit and just stuck the leg out and tripped the Gopher player.
-On Wheeler's goal, Quick's big mistake was that he took one stride to his right in an attempt to get to the puck before he started skating backwards. In prep school, he gets to that puck and negates the scoring chance. Against a Top 5 NHL Draft pick, he's not getting there. That one step made the difference in Wheeler getting the corner on him. Freshman mistake and the goal still should've been stopped. I didn't think Quick looked bad at all though. He's clearly got some nice wheels on him.
-Great pinch by Kampfer on our second goal...he just snuck in the back side at the perfect time.
-One thing I noticed the entire weekend was that there were a lot of guys falling, mainly from our team. Langlais and Mitera must've blown a dozen tires between them. I'm not sure if the ice was bad (I find it hard to believe since it was so cool there) or what.
-Overall we dominated that game. It wouldn't shock me if our SOG were slightly inflated to help Frazee's numbers, but we carried the play apart from a couple of spurts in the first and third periods when we got to be running around. Michigan was swarming all over the place in the second period (credited with 20 SOG) and they dominated the third as well. And with the goalie out, we hit the bar on a shot that would've tied the game had it gone. Can't ask for a whole lot more than that on the road, in that environment, with so many freshmen.
-I wasn't shocked a bit that Llewellyn sat against Minnesota. He played fairly well against BC, but both his penalties were stupid, particularly the first one. When there's 7 guys and 6 slots, he'd probably be wise not to drill a guy after the play.
-Summers was fine. He uses his speed to get to pucks that maybe some other guys wouldn't get to. But I still think he's a better forward than a D-man. He's playing where we need him though. Hopefully the offensive part of his game will come once his defense partner gets more experience.
Overall I'm so impressed with this team. Those were two very good opponents who play 2 completely different styles. And in both games they showed the type of resiliency that I didn't expect from such a young team this soon. Against BC, they blew a 2 goal lead and ended up in OT but they found a way to win. Against Minnesota, they found themselves down 2 goals on 3 separate occasions and every time scored the next goal. They could never get the game tied, but they kept battling and they had a couple of bounces not go their way or they might've pulled that game out.
Before the weekend, my ideal scenario was for us to beat BC, have Minnesota lose to RPI, and then beat RPI for the title. I didn't want them to see Minnesota and have the Gophers put another half dozen or more on the board. In hindsight though, despite the loss, I think I'm happier than I would've been if they had beaten RPI for the tournament title. That game against Minnesota is going to give them so much confidence heading into the Showcase, and you know they're all aching for another crack at those guys--with a pro-Michigan crowd this time.
I was a little underwhelmed by our team speed as a whole. We had a lot of guys get beat to the outside (Mitera and Langlais seemed to be most at fault in that regard) but it's also very possible that Minnesota and BC are two of the faster, more talented teams that we're going to play the entire year. And I was up pretty high, so everything looks slower.
We're going to have ups and downs, but based on first impressions, I do think that this is a tournament team, and they showed that they're capable of playing with anyone in the country. Whether it stays that way remains to be seen, but playing the schedule we're playing should be helpful to these guys who are getting adjusted to the college game. And you never know how they might be playing come tournament time.
These freshmen are keepers, for sure, and the best part is most of them are 3-4 year guys. There's not one of them that didn't impress me with something they did at some point this weekend.
I'd like to see more out of the power play, less guys getting around the corner from the outside, and goaltending more like we got Friday than Saturday. I went from fairly pessimistic about our chances to have a successful year to pretty damn excited in a two game span. This was a great way to kick off the 2007-08 season!
Edit: Here are Colin's thoughts on the Minnesota game.