Friday, December 28, 2007

Michigan 6, Providence 0

That was a strange, strange hockey game. Due to a wreck on I-75 and having to make the "long" part of the People Mover journey from Millender to the Joe, we missed the first 8 minutes of the game. When I walked in, it was 1-0 Michigan and shots on goal were 12-1. Then a funny thing happened: The Friars got a shot on Billy Sauer and instead of becoming 12-2, the shot clock changed to 13-1. "Surely that can't be right," I thought. Michigan got a shot. The other side of the clock changed. Sure enough, the Friars were peppering Billy Sauer, but it was the Wolverines leading.

And things never really changed. Providence kept shooting. Billy kept making saves. The Wolverines kept scoring. By the time things were said and done, Michigan won the game 6-0, but was outshot 50-21. It could've been worse; Michigan was credited with 23 blocked shots in the game to Providence's seven. Only one player on the Friars failed to tally a shot on goal.

But at the same time (keeping in mind that I missed the first portion of the game) the only great scoring chances that Providence had were on a late flurry at the end of the first period, and on a five-on-three with about 8 minutes to go. The rest of the time, they were taking harmless shots from the perimeter. Sauer was making the saves he had to make, not leaving rebounds, and playing a steady hockey game in net. They had a couple of good chances scattered throughout, but nothing like you'd expect from a team that put up 50 shots in the game. Still a great performance by a goalie that continues to impress.

Spreading it Around:
What struck me tonight was how many different players we got contributions from offensively. Six different players scored goals, ten guys had points. And it was all the different lines contributing: Kolarik (!), Fragner, and Fardig were the only players who weren't a plus in the game, and Kolarik was on the ice for the power play goal. Check out these names that showed up on the point sheet: Miller, Naurato, Lebler, Ciraulo, Winnett, Turnbull. When those guys contribute offensively it's a major bonus, since you pretty much know that Porter's gonna be on the ice for a couple as well.

Best play of the night that only kind of shows up in the box score:
On Michigan's fourth goal (the power play tally by Porter), the Friars had multiple opportunities to clear. Once, they played it to the right point. Porter had pinched down, so there was no one there to hold the puck in. Chad Langlais read the play, and somehow managed to get over to the line in time to keep the puck in the zone. He later held the puck in a second time and eventually fed Porter for the goal. He got an assist on the play, but even that doesn't reflect how much of an impact he had on that scoring play.

Louie Freaking Caporusso:
I didn't forget how good he was during his time off, but he continues to produce. He had a goal just over a minute into the game and had an assist with under a minute left in the first period to stake Michigan to a 2-0 lead. That gives him 10 points in 10 games during his young career. He was also our best faceoff man, winning 10 and losing 7. It's nice to have ya back, Louie!

I Was Worried About This Guy?:
Just earlier in the afternoon, I suggested that Sims was the type of goalie that could make life difficult on us. Wrong. I assume he just had an off night, but after giving up 11 goals in his last 7 games, he gave up 5 on 14 shots before being lifted after two periods. Two were of the weak variety. The other three were nice shots, but at some point you gotta make a save.

Big Goals From Lesser Known Players:
How bout those shots by Anthony Ciraulo and Ben Winnett?! Ciraulo got a great feed short-handed from Kevin Porter and put one up over Sims's shoulder to give Michigan a 3-0 lead. I don't think he got all of it, but it was perfectly placed. The person who did get all of his shot was Ben Winnett. He fired a laser into the top corner, which pretty much ended any thought that Providence might have had about making it a game at some point. That was a bomb.

That's More Like It, Lebler!:
I've been kind of rough on the kid this year, but Brian Lebler played a great hockey game tonight. It was the type of game that he needs to be playing night in and night out, because he is a guy that can help this team. He was in the corners banging away, using his body, creating space for his linemates. I had one specific play that I wanted to single him out for, but it's slipped my mind. So sorry bout that, Lebs. I'll give you some props though for a very nice game tonight.

Unsung Moment of the Game:
It's not College Hockey at The Joe without Bud Lynch not coming close on the pronounciation of several players' names. The best one tonight was how Aaron Palushaj's name became "Aaron Paluski", then "Aaron......mmmsfaf", then "Aaron..........." I love that guy.

So bring on the Techsters:
MTU played a very nice game, downing MSU 4-1 in a game that was much closer than the score indicated. We left after the first period and I caught the third on TV; that was an entertaining hockey game. Tons of hitting, lots of great scoring chances, some big saves, some posts, and one of the greatest hip-checks you'll ever see, with Mike Ratchuk getting up-ended. The Spartans hit a bunch of goalposts, but could never really solve Tech backup goalie Rob Nolan, who played very well despite his ugly numbers (3.17/.874). Stud goalie Michael-Lee Teslak is out with an injury and I don't expect to see him tomorrow, since he wasn't dressed for the game tonight. I'm not disappointed that we should avoid seeing him in net. That guy is good.

MTU comes in at 7-8-2, and their 11 conference points put them at 5th place in the WCHA ahead of Minnesota and Wisconsin. They got off to a hot start, going 5-2-0 out of the gate, and beating North Dakota, and Wisconsin in the process. After that, they slumped, going 1-6-2 over the next nine (including being swept by St. Cloud and taking just one point from each of Minnesota-Duluth and Northern Michigan) before the win over Sparty tonight.

Tech doesn't score many goals. They've only got 38 in 17 games this season. So as long as Sauer is remotely on his game tomorrow and we don't let Tyler Shelast get off (good player!), I expect a win. I'm sure Tech will come out hitting hard, playing some good defense, blocking a frustrating amount of shots, and slowing down Michigan any way they can. But if we can put two or three goals on the board, it should be enough to win.

I was happy to see Tech win tonight, because it means that either way one of the host schools will be ending a long GLI Championship drought tomorrow (We haven't won since 1996, Tech hasn't won since 1980). Plus it'd be a lot easier to stomach a loss to them, if it happens, than Sparty. Both these teams know the significance of this tournament, so I expect it to be a pretty intense game early on.

But I fully expect to be celebrating a GLI Championship tomorrow night. Here's hoping, anyway. It'd be pretty special to win the College Hockey Showcase and GLI in the same season, with some more prizes (CCHA, CCHA Tourney, NCAA Tourney) still up for grabs.

The good news for me is due to the weather forecast, Northwest allowed flights to be changed for free, so my travel plans got pushed back by a day, so I'll be able to get to the game tomorrow. Woot! That means no live-tape-delay blog, however. Just thoughts after the game or sometime on Sunday.


Sorry about the lack of posting this week. I've been back in Michigan doing family stuff and didn't have nearly as much time to screw around writing second half previews as I thought. I hope everyone has had a great holiday.

We begin the second half of the season in a few hours, with the Wolverines competing in the 43rd Great Lakes Invitational, a tournament that they once dominated, but haven't won since 1996. They come into this tournament short-handed, missing Matt Rust, Chris Summers, Max Pacioretty, and Carl Hagelin who are off competing in the World Junior Championships. They will, however, get Louie Caporusso back from injury, which should help somewhat.

The first opponent is the Providence Friars, who come into today's game in sixth place in that jumble of teams that is Hockey East. They're in sixth place, but are just 3 points out of first place, and have at least one game--and as many as three--in hand over every team in front of them. They're 6-6-2 overall and 4-3-2 in conference. But they've been playing good hockey, having won 3 in a row to get back to .500 for the first time after starting 0-4-0. They've beaten UMass, Vermont, Brown, Union, and swept Maine. The losses came against BU, St. Lawrence, Clarkson, Northeastern, Holy Cross, and New Hampshire.

On paper, this is a team we should beat. But then I look at the stats and see a goalie in Tyler Sims with a 2.16, .917--but still only has a 5-5-1 record--and it makes me think that he's probably the type of goalie that can get hot and cause a team fits. Especially a team missing three--or arguably four, depending what position Chris Summers is actually supposed to be playing--really good forwards. He's given up just two goals in his last three games, and 11 in his last seven.

They've got three guys averaging a point a game--and two more who are right around that mark--and are led in scoring by an awful lot of upper-classmen. Their top freshman only has five points.

16 of their 45 goals have come with the man-advantage--and they convert at almost a 25% rate. They also kill penalties very well (86.9%). They've also got 6 shorties this year, so for the season as a whole, they're only -2 in terms of goal differential when they're killing penalties. That's outstanding. Michigan is -8.

I'm not overly scared of this game, but Providence does seem to have the potential to make life difficult on us--and get out of there with a win if Michigan doesn't bring it. I fully expect to see these Wolverines playing for the Championship tomorrow, though.

I've said it before, I'll say it again: I think things set up pretty well for us this year. Even with those four guys gone, we've got our two best forwards, all our defensemen, our goalie, and 4/5ths of our top power play unit. I'm looking forward to seeing Caporusso back in the lineup. Even though our record has been great with him out, I think we did miss him quite a bit. I'd expect that once everyone comes back, we'll see better performances out of guys like Miller and Turnbull--and even Hagelin who got quiet for a little while after a hot start.

Brandon Naurato will be getting a chance on the top line today. What an opportunity for that kid! His numbers are clearly down this year, but he'll get a chance today to prove that he should be an every day player in the second half of the year. Porter and Kolarik will be able to set him up for some nice opportunities, and he needs to make the most of them with his great shot.

I'll be down at the Joe today, but I'm heading back to Wisconsin tomorrow, so I'll miss our game (hopefully the Championship) tomorrow. Fox Sports is showing it on tape delay at like 12:30 am, so I should be back in time to catch the telecast, if we're playing, and do a live-tape-delay blog for it. If my laptop turns on.

One last bit of news: Mark Mitera will now be wearing the "A" instead of Tim Miller. They've said that it was a way of rewarding Mitera, not punishing Miller. Berenson expressed concern that Miller may have been worrying too much about being a captain and it was hurting his game--which, given the start he's had, might not be far-fetched. We've seen the way that wearing a letter has helped Kolarik, but it might be working the opposite way for Miller. Mitera deserves it for the way he has played.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Projected Stats: The Breakdown

The other day, I projected stats for the rest of the season for the hockey team. Today, I'll break down the numbers with my thoughts on what you can take from them--and what might be a little misleading.

It's highly unlikely that Kevin Porter is going to score 41 goals. Ted Cook led the nation in goals last year with 32. The stats on USCHO only go back to 1998-99, but nobody has hit 40 in that timespan. Barring an injury he'll get into the 30s, which is usually good for the national lead, but I can't see him keeping this pace up all year. That said, the most goals a Michigan player has had since 98-99 is 31 (Muckalt). Porter should top that fairly easily.

Colin's research for his inaugural post (beyond an intro) indicates that since 99-00, Michigan has had just three freshmen score more than 1 point per game, and only five have have scored .8 ppg or more. Over the last 7 years, there have only been 57 .9 ppg freshmen. Currently, we've got two freshmen at or above a point per game, and three above .8 ppg. I think it's reasonable that Pacioretty's numbers will continue to improve, as he got off to a slow start due to a broken hand. History suggests that all three of them won't continue at the pace they're on, however.

Chad Langlais is on pace for 27 assists, which would be the highest total ever for a freshman defenseman at Michigan (23, Patrick Neaton) and the highest total by any defenseman over the referenced timespan (26, Jeff Jillson). With the way our power play is working, and with Langlais being the quarterback, it wouldn't shock me a bit if he continued on this pace. It's very likely that he'll get the freshman record. He only needs to average about a half assist a game the rest of the year to attain that mark. That's kind of incredible if you think about all the greats that have come through this program.

Look at those goals against and shots on goal totals. Sauer is on pace to allow 45 less goals than a year ago (albeit that would be in 4 less games). The team as a whole is on pace to allow 42 less goals than a year ago (not counting ENGs). A big reason for that is the play of the defense in front of our netminders. At this rate, we'll give up right around 200 less shots. Pretty impressive.

It should also be mentioned that Billy Sauer's current save percentage would be the best mark a Michigan goalie has posted since Al Montoya's stellar sophomore season.

The biggest surprise amongst the returning skaters has to be Steven Kampfer. In just 17 games, he's had 2 1/2 times the amount of points he had last season and he's on pace to make a 19 point jump (and a +20 jump). He's been really, really good.

Looking at the numbers, there aren't too many players that you can consider to be a "disappointment". Miller, Naurato, Lebler, Mitera, and Summers are the players on pace to score less points than a year ago.

Naurato is playing a lot less, which isn't surprising. Chris Summers's numbers are skewed, as he got a lot of points playing forward at the end of last year, and he's been up front for just a game and a half thusfar. Mitera's numbers are down, not insignificantly, but he's been so good defensively (I believe I read that he's been on the ice for just one even-strength goal all year) that it's impossible to say that he's been disappointing in any fashion.

Tim Miller puzzles me. He made a big jump forward offensively last year, scoring 7 goals and 24 points after tallying 15 points as a freshman. For a forward that didn't see a lot of power play time, those are pretty good numbers. He played with Cogliano and Kolarik for a little while, but most of the year he was playing on the third line, and his points were pretty spread out. He's been really quiet this year, with just six points and no goals.

If you are looking for a breakout player in the second half, he and Chris Summers would probably be the best bets. I think Caporusso's injury hurt him because even though he was playing with Rust, it kind of jumbled the second and third lines. I like him on the wing, and with Caporusso coming back, he should be able to slide back outside full-time. He's not going to be a huge scorer, but he should be closer to .5 ppg rather than .33 ppg. He's only on pace for 14 points, but I bet he ends up closer to 20.

Brian Lebler has been disappointing. Last year he wasn't great, but he was able to contribute offensively at times, and when he wasn't getting on the score-sheet, he was doing a nice job on the checking line. He's taken waaay too many penalties this season, and they've been of the dumb variety. He's had a couple of checking-from-behind majors, and he had a really stupid penalty that negated a power play during the loss to Ohio State. Perhaps he's trying too hard to make an impact physically when he's in the lineup, in an effort to stay there.

If Palushaj continues the pace that he is on, and ends up with 32 assists, he would be tied for 6th on the freshman assists list, just two behind TJ Hensick and ahead of the great Brendan Morrison.

Last year we had seven players with double digit goals and nine guys with 20+ points. This year, we're on pace to match those totals.

Currently we're averaging just a tenth of a goal per game less than we did last year when we led the nation in goals. The schedule gets tougher in the second half with as many as six games against MSU and at least two with both of Notre Dame and Miami. I expect the offense to take a slight turn down, and the goals against to rise a little bit. But as it is, our goal differential is nearly a goal per game better than last year, so we've got some leeway. I don't think anyone would object to averaging say, 3.9 goals per game and allowing 2.3 or 2.4 gpg. That's a vast improvement over 3.1 last year even if they aren't as wonderful in the second half.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Thoughts on Rich Rodriguez and the Sports World

1. There are others who are much more versed in the world of college football. I'm sure the usual suspects will be able to break things down a lot better than I. That said, I can't help but be absolutely thrilled with the outcome to this coaching search--thank you Mary Sue Coleman. Rich Rodriguez is one of the top coaches in the game. He's pioneered an offense that many of the top programs use. He's built West [freaking] Virgina into a kind of sort of national power. And now he's here, to take our offense out of the stone age. As offensive coordinator, he went 12-0. At Tulane. With Shaun King at QB. Read those last 3 sentences again. He made Shaun King the most prolific passer in college football history. It's hard to not get excited about this one. Especially when Terrelle Pryor might follow him to Ann Arbor.

2. I really feel for Les Miles. There have been rumblings that he was still interested in the job, and I believe it. Ironically, if West Virginia hadn't choked on applesauce against Pittsburgh, Miles would probably be our coach, with Rodriguez in the title game. People can say what they want, but anyone who loves this school enough to flirt with it, even with his damn strong football team in the national title game is someone that I will always root for. Beat those Buckeyes, Les.

3. The loss to Pitt will no doubt get brought up by Sparties trying to justify to themselves that this was a terrible hire or that he'll "fit right in". That game doesn't bug me so much. Les Miles lost to Arkansas at home with a chance at the title game hanging in the balance. Same with Tressel's team losing to Ron Zook and Illinois at home. Those two still ended up getting in. But Bob Stoops and the Sooners dropped a game to Texas Tech. Lloyd Carr and company lost to App State. St. Nick and the Crimson Tide lost to a team from Louisiana not named LSU. Urban Meyer lost at home to a ho-hum Auburn team that got beat by Mississippi State. Pete Carroll and USC lost to Stanford. Georgia lost at home to a 6 loss South Carolina team. Mack Brown's Longhorns got blown out at home by Kansas State. It was a weird year.

4. It takes a special play to get me to mention an NFL happening before talking about my Packers, but one happened today. Brian Westbrook, my hat is off to you. For those who didn't see it, the Eagles were up 10-6 on Dallas just before the two-minute warning at the end of the game. Westbrook ripped off a run for a first down and had clear sailing to the end zone. He stopped at the one yard line and took a knee, knowing that they'd be able to run out the clock with Dallas out of timeouts. It was the most heads-up play I've seen in a long, long time. Most players wouldn't have had the awareness to pull it off, and some would've been selfish enough that they would've scored the TD anyway. If there are two things that I'm strongly in favor of in football, they're a) not going for 2 before it's necessary and b) letting the other team score if tackling them means you lose. The latter is hardly ever practiced (or it's not practiced correctly, Mike Holmgren). While I don't think Dallas was trying to let Westbrook score, he was smart enough to pass up the sure TD anyway.

5. I can't wait to hear all the stories about people who lost their fantasy football playoff games because of Brian Westbrook's heads up play.

6. Congrats to the greatest quarterback in history on breaking another of Dan Marino's records, this one, the all-time passing yardage mark. That record came en route to leading the Packers to a 12-2 record, clinching a first round bye. They've got a real shot to come out of the NFC, and I think they can give any AFC opponent a game (and I'm not at all convinced that it's going to be New England).

7. It's amazing to me that after not having a return game since Allen Rossum left a few years ago, it appears the Packers have 4 guys that can get the job done. Koren Robinson gave them great field position all game today and is an ex-Pro Bowler at KR. Tramon Williams has also done well in that role, and took a punt back for a TD against Carolina. Will Blackmon has shown some sizzle on punts, including a punt return for a TD against Oakland last week. And Charles Woodson is solid as well.

8. I really do feel for Lions fans. That team is an absolute disaster, and the city deserves a lot better. It's a testament to the quality of football fans in the Motor City that they continue to show up for games after the crap that Matt Millen has put on the field for the last 6-7 years (not to mention the pre-Millen suckfests).

9. Amir Johnson: 15 minutes, six points, seven boards, three blocks. The other night he had 5 blocks in under 10 minutes. It still blows my mind that he wasn't active for the playoffs last year. No, you're not going to play him 30 minutes or anything, but his energy and ability to create exciting plays could have been the ticket to get the crowd back into a game or gain some momentum. I love Jason Maxiell as well.

10. Another great move by Joe D with the Nazr Muhammad trade. He gets two players he liked, sheds a ton of salary, creates cap flexibility in the future, acquires expiring contracts for if he feels so inclined to deal again, and lands a 7'1" player who was starting as well as a guy who was dropping 20+ a night at the end of last year when he got a chance to play. That's a good move in my book.

11. They said it's a first in team history, but I wonder if it's ever happened where an NHL team has had 2 penalties shots in a game, let alone a period. That was pretty cool for the Wings last night. That team is simply amazing. I still think they need another scorer for the playoffs, but they're playing amazing hockey right now. I'm pretty convinced that no one in the world is better at their job than Nick Lidstrom is at his.

12. I still believe in Beilein but this is hard to watch right now.

13. Congrats to the Michigan volleyball team. They were eliminated in the Sweet 16 by #1 Penn State, but that's the farthest the team has ever made it and the future is bright. Thanks to the outgoing seniors, Katie Bruzdzinski, Stesha Selsky, Sarah Draves, and Lyndsay Miller. Bruzdzinski was a pleasure to watch, and I think she could make a strong case for being the best player to come through our program. I also loved Miller's energy and how happy she seemed to be out there all the time. They're a fun group.

14. I'll get to the hockey point projection analysis hopefully sometime on Monday.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Projected Stats

We're now 18 games into the season and I think it's high time we come up with some projected stats for the rest of the year to give a little context to the pace that some of our guys are on. For comparison's sake, I'll be projecting it over 41 games, which is how many Michigan played last year. We could play as many as 45 games, however (I'm assuming in this "maximum" that we still will have a bye in the first round of the CCHA playoffs, which seems to be a pretty safe assumption).

For Louie Caporusso, I've done two projections: One for his current pace, another for if he misses no additional time. I'm also listing Summers as a defenseman and am assuming the defensive rotation continues.

First, the raw data. I'll break it all down in my next post and talk about what's surprising, what's shocking, what's disappointing, what you can take from this data, and what might be a little misleading.

Kevin Porter:
18 GP, 18-11--29, 8 PIMs, 59 SOG, +13
Projected: 41 GP, 41-25--66, 18 PIMs, 134 SOG, +30
Last year: 41 GP, 24-34--58, 16 PIMs, 128 SOG, +23

Chad Kolarik: 18 GP, 12-12--24, 6 PIMs, 80 SOG, +11
Projected: 41 GP, 27-27--54, 14 PIMs, 182 SOG, +25
Last year: 41 GP, 18-27--45, 24 PIMs, 163 SOG, +13

Aaron Palushaj: 18 GP, 5-14--19, 4 PIMs, 32 SOG, even
Projected: 41 GP, 11-32--43, 9 PIMs, 73 SOG, even

Max Pacioretty: 18 GP, 5-13--18, 32 PIMs, 54 SOG, +14
Projected: 41 GP, 11-30--41, 73 PIMs, 123 SOG, +32

Matt Rust: 17 GP, 7-5--12, 29 PIMs, 21 SOG, +6
Projected: 39 GP, 16-11--25, 67 PIMs, 48 SOG, +14

Carl Hagelin: 18 GP, 5-7--12, 12 PIMs, 28 SOG, +10
Projected: 41 GP, 11-16--25, 27 PIMs, 64 SOG, +23

Travis Turnbull: 18 GP, 5-4--9, 32 PIMs, 32 SOG, +9
Projected: 41 GP, 11-9--20, 73 PIMs, 73 SOG, +21
Last year: 41 GP, 8-9--17, 52 PIMs, 75 SOG, +6

Louie Caporusso: 9 GP, 3-5--8, 0 PIMs, 10 SOG, +6
Projected: 21 GP, 7-11--18, 0 PIMs, 22 SOG, +14
Projected (assuming he misses no additional time): 32 GP, 11-18--29, 0 PIMs, 36 SOG, +21

Tim Miller: 18 GP, 0-6--6, 12 PIMs, 15 SOG, even
Projected: 41 GP, 0-14--14, 27 PIMs, 34 SOG, even
Last year: 41 GP, 7-17--24, 57 PIMs, 53 SOG, +13

Ben Winnett: 18 GP, 3-2--5, 4 PIMs, 26 SOG, +4
Projected: 41 GP, 7-5--12, 9 PIMs, 59 SOG, +9

Brandon Naurato: 12 GP, 2-2--4, 10 PIMs, 30 SOG, -1
Projected: 27 GP, 5-5--10, 23 PIMs, 68 SOG, -2
Last year: 40 GP, 12-11--23, 34 PIMs, 108 SOG, +4

Brian Lebler: 13 GP, 2-1--3, 42 PIMs, 11 SOG, even
Projected: 30 GP, 5-2--7, 97 PIMs, 25 SOG, even
Last year: 37 GP, 7-4--11, 34 PIMs, 48 SOG, +2

Danny Fardig: 12 GP, 1-2--3, 10 PIMs, 13 SOG, +1
Projected: 27 GP, 2-5--7, 23 PIMs, 29 SOG, +2
Last year: 41 GP, 2-4--6, 36 PIMs, 38 SOG, +5

Anthony Ciraulo: 7 GP, 1-1--2, 2 PIMs, 5 SOG, +1
Projected: 16 GP, 2-2--4, 4 PIMs, 11 SOG, +2
Last year: 24 GP, 1-1--2, 2 PIMs, 15 SOG, +3

Chad Langlais:
18 GP, 0-12--12, 22 PIMs, 24 SOG, +7
Projected: 41 GP, 0-27--27, 50 PIMs, 55 SOG, +16

Steve Kampfer: 17 GP, 2-8--10, 16 PIMs, 22 SOG, +10
Projected: 39 GP, 5-18--23, 37 PIMs, 50 SOG, +23
Last year: 35 GP, 1-3--4, 24 PIMs, 32 SOG, +3

Mark Mitera: 18 GP, 1-5--6, 24 PIMs, 23 SOG, +14
Projected: 41 GP, 2-11--13, 55 PIMs, 52 SOG, +32
Last year: 41 GP, 1-17--18, 52 PIMs, 47 SOG, +23

Chris Summers: 18 GP, 1-4--5, 18 PIMs, 21 SOG, +10
Projected: 41 GP, 2-9--11, 41 PIMs, 48 SOG, +23
Last year: 41 GP, 6-8--14, 58 PIMs, 42 SOG, +13

Tristin Llewellyn: 13 GP, 0-1--1, 18 PIMs, 6 SOG, +1
Projected: 30 GP, 0-2--2, 42 PIMs, 14 SOG, +2

Kevin Quick: 13 GP, 0-1--1, 8 PIMs, 6 SOG, +5
Projected: 30 GP, 0-2--2, 18 PIMs, 14 SOG, +12

Scooter Vaughan: 13 GP, 0-1--, 12 PIMs, 13 SOG, +8
Projected: 30 GP, 0-2--2, 28 PIMs, 30 SOG, +18

Billy Sauer:
16 GP, 14-2-0, 2.06 GAA, .915 Save %, 33 goals, 354 saves
Projected: 36 GP, 31-5-0, 2.06 GAA, .915 Save %, 74 goals, 797 saves
Last year: 40 GP, 25-14-1, 3.03 GAA, .896 Save %, 119 goals, 1,028 saves

Bryan Hogan: 2 GP, 2-0-0, 2.01 GAA, .920 Save %, 4 goals, 46 saves
Projected: 5 GP, 5-0-0, 2.01 GAA, .920 Save %, 10 goals, 115 saves

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Media Roundup: BGSU Sweep

The Wolverines closed out the first half of the 2007-08 season in-style with, as expected, a tightly-contested sweep of Bowling Green. Those wins, coupled with the Miami loss to Alaska, have put the Wolverines into the #1 spot in both polls, and the #1 spot in the CCHA heading into our Christmas layoff.

The Michigan Side:
Kevin Porter was named National Player of the Month and has been a pretty unanimous choice in CSTV's Hobey Watch for the better part of two months. Pretty clear it wasn't just playing with Hensick last year.

Michigan doesn't usually lose second periods, but BGSU had great success in the middle frame this weekend.

Derek Whitmore was banged up, and that probably contributed to his subpar weekend. Kevin Porter doesn't believe that Hogan was just trying to clear the puck when he nearly scored into the empty-net. Sidenote: With everything that got called this weekend, how was it not a penalty when Porter got hacked on our second attempt and the empty net?

Red wasn't thrilled with the "holiday hockey" the team was playing, despite the sweep.

Everyone is surprised at Michigan's start. The Daily calls on the student section to eliminate the no-shows and be louder. Because this team deserves it.

Patrick Wiercioch, a defenseman for the Omaha Lancers, was in town on a recruiting visit on Monday. I think we get him. We seem to have cornered the market on players with names that people will butcher at every opportunity (Kolarik, Palushaj, Langlais, Gajic, etc.). He's from BC and played in the BCHL before coming to the USHL for this season.

Stat Hunting:
Our top line has now combined for 193 out of our 531 shots on goal this season. All three forwards have 54+ shots, the next highest on the team are Palushaj and Turnbull with 32 apiece.

Chad Kolarik may have six less goals than Porter, but he's got 4 game-winners amongst his twelve goals. That kid is just clutch.

Sparkling is the only way to describe our goalies' numbers. Sauer has a 2.06/.915. Hogan has a 2.01/.920.

7-0-0 on the road in conference is one way to win a CCHA title.

Now we get Louie Caporusso back. This already dangerous team adds a nearly point per game player (8 points in 9 games...he'd be 5th in scoring at that pace, had he not gotten injured), plus arguably their best faceoff man. That'll help.

The Bowling Green View:
The Sentinel-Tribune has recaps of both games. Red Berenson was very complimentary of the Falcons both nights, saying they outplayed Michigan on Saturday. BTW, I think Bowling Green should stick with these jerseys for awhile. I could take or leave the home ones, but the orange road jerseys were the best I've seen them wear. Very nice.

The BG News has their take as well.

BGSU fans came out in droves Friday night. That arena really can get loud.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Weekend Recap: Sweep of Bowling Green

I'm a pretty happy camper about this weekend. It wasn't the best hockey the Wolverines have played by any means, but against a pretty good hockey team, they were able to get a sweep, despite trailing late on the road, and blowing a 2-0 lead the following night.

The big story of the weekend: -5. 0 goals. 2 assists. 6 shots on goal. Those were the numbers for Derek Whitmore, the senior who came into the weekend ahead of Kevin Porter in terms of goals per game. And by and large, we did a great job on him. He was on the ice for all four Michigan goals on Friday night, and was invisible for most of the night on Saturday. Simply a great effort against one of the nation's best players.

The most exciting moment of the weekend came in the waning moments Saturday night. With Michigan clinging to a 3-2 lead, and the Falcons in a 6 on 4 situation, with the goalie on the bench, the puck was dumped in to goaltender Bryan Hogan. He went to play the puck, and there just happened to be nobody in the middle of the ice. Without a risk of icing, he was free to take a shot at the empty net. As soon as the puck bounced, it was clear he had it right on line. I yelled. I had never seen a goalie score before--Osgood's wasn't on tv. Closer, closer, and it juuuuuuuust missed. What a bummer!

Doubtlessly, we'll be seeing another article this week about how the Wolverines need to stay out of the penalty box. They didn't succeed this weekend. Bowling Green had fifteen man-advantages this weekend. To the penalty killers' credit, the Falcons only scored two on the power play. But even with a whistle-happy official, that's far too many infractions.

Matt Rust deserves a lot of credit for the win this weekend. He had the tying goal Friday night and got Michigan off to a fast start on Saturday with an unassisted, short-handed goal on a breakaway. He wasn't on the ice for any of BGSU's goals, which means his PK unit did their job against one of the best PP's in the country. And he was 20 out of 32 on faceoffs against a very good team on draws.

One more thing about faceoffs: I mentioned in the preview that John Mazzei was an incredible 66% on draws coming into this weekend. Friday night he won just 3 out of 18. He won just 5 on 13 the next night. Great work by our centers.

As a big-time proponent of Summers at forward, I was very happy to see him make another impact play up front, by scoring the game winning goal in his first game back as a forward. He banged in a rebound off a Turnbull shot, which hit the post, and gave the Wolverines a lead with just 1:23 left in Friday night's contest.

Another big positive from this weekend: Both our goaltenders played very, very well. Sauer made some huge stops in the third period Friday night, and made 27 saves in the 4-2 victory. The next night, Red came back with Bryan Hogan and he was able to repeat the magic from his first win. He made 20 stops and damn near scored a goal. Hogan left a few too many rebounds for my liking--one of which ended up in the back of the net--but it also appeared that the defense was ready for it, and they helped him out on a lot of occasions. We were credited with 15 blocked shots Saturday, but it seemed like more. At least two--one by Quick (where he redeemed himself for not holding the puck in at the line and getting beat down the ice), one by Turnbull--kept pucks out of the net (or at least robbed the Falcons of extremely good scoring chances). And when Hogan was called upon, he was able to make the stop. His best might have been off a Tim Miller giveaway, where he was able to stone a Falcon player on a two on one down low.

Again, this is not a goaltending controversy. Sauer has been amazing this season, but reportedly indicated to the coaches last weekend that he was getting fatigued. They obviously had high hopes for Hogan coming into this season, so it makes sense to get him some time and make sure there's a backup plan if Sauer gets hurt or starts to struggle. And with his performances, Hogan has earned himself some playing time. I don't expect to see him every weekend, but as long as he proves to be a trustworthy netminder, it wouldn't shock me to see him a couple of times a month. But Sauer is the guy, as long as he doesn't falter.

It's amazing that I've made it this long without talking about our top line. Their line (including the top power play unit) accounted for three goals on the weekend-including an empty netter. After we saw Kolarik unleashing some lasers last weekend, Porter showed that he's got a great shot as well. The goal he scored on Saturday night was an absolute bomb from the top of the circle.

Kevin Quick was -1 on the weekend, but on Saturday night (when he was even), I thought he made some really nice defensive plays. I mentioned the blocked shot earlier, but there was another two on one where he did a great job not only taking the pass-option away, but also keeping the puck carrier to the outside, which made it pretty easy for Bryan Hogan to hug the post and stop the shot.

And just as Quick was able to redeem himself for a questionable play at the offensive blueline by keeping the scoring chance out of the net, Chad Langlais had an equally great play. He gave the puck away at the Falcon blueline and Dan Sexton was off to the race. Langlais caught up to him and made an incredible play to poke the puck away from behind. Keep in mind that it's extremely difficult to break up a breakaway in college hockey, as you aren't allowed to knock the puck away and then take out the player's legs.

Steve Kampfer also deserves a call for setting up the game-winner on Saturday night. He made a really nice play to keep the puck in the zone, which led to Hagelin feeding Naurato, who uncorked his trademark shot. That one put the Wolverines up for good and to put salt in the wound, it came with just 6 seconds left in the second period.

I was really impressed with Hogan's puck-handling ability. It looked like he's pretty good in that area. And he didn't panic when he was in a couple of tricky situations behind the net.

So we go into a 20 day break at 16-2-0, 11-1-0 in the CCHA. The sweep, coupled with Miami getting shut out at home by Alaska, puts the Wolverines into first place by themselves in the conference--and quite possibly #1 in the nation once again. I don't think any of us could have seen the first half of the season playing out in this manner.

Over the break, I'll have a look back at the first half including player grades, statistical projections to give some context to what our guys are doing, as well as a look ahead to the second half of the regular season. Needless to say, everyone will be getting high marks. I honestly can't think of a single player that I would label as a disappointment. And it's been a long time since I've been able to say that. It speaks to the coaching and leadership on this team, as well as the work ethic of everyone on the roster.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Get Miles

Some mood music from one of my favorite bands, Gomez.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

10 Things to Know About the Bowling Green Falcons

Between the search for a new football coach, which has me hitting F5 over at Rivals every 30 seconds and the World Junior stuff, I almost forgot that we still have a pair of games this weekend. Friday night, we play at Bowling Green, before a home tilt on Saturday. Neither game is televised, which is actually a bonus for me (since I don't get Comcast Local anyway) because it means that Saturday's game will be shown on the WOLV-TV online feed at MGoBlue.

Here are 10 things to know about this weekend's opponent:

1. Derek Whitmore leads the nation in goals per game and is 4th in points per game. He has 13 goals in just 11 games this year. Eight of those have come on the power play. He's also the only player on the Falcons that has more than 2 career points against the Wolverines, with seven. If you think he's the guy to focus on, you'd be right.

2. Despite being picked to finish a distant last in both preseason polls, the Falcons are currently tied for 6th in the CCHA with a 5-3-0 record. They're 8-4-0 overall. If you sort by winning percentage in conference, they move up to 5th. Caveat: Notre Dame is the only team they've played and they lost both games, though they played ND tough. Wins have come against RIT, Western (2), Wayne State (2), Ferris State (2), and Northern Michigan. Losses have come against Notre Dame (2), Niagara, and Northern Michigan. They've been in every game though. No loss has come by more than 2 goals.

3. The teams have split the last two season series, including that embarrassing loss last year. BGSU has won two in a row at home.

4. The Falcons are second in the NCAA on the power play, with a 27.8% rating. Geezus. The PK isn't bad either at 84.1%, which is middle of the pack in the nation, but their CCHA PK is 4th in the conference. In their last seven games, they're 15 for 38 on the PP. They have given up 3 short handed goals in 12 games, so Kolarik might be licking his chops.

5. They've been solid in both offense and defense this year. They have the 9th ranked offense in college hockey and the 17th ranked defense. They've scored less than 3 goals only three times this season.

6. Both Jimmy Spratt and Freshman Nick Eno have played 6 games. Eno is 5-1-0 while Spratt is 3-3-0. Neither has bad numbers, and Eno's are pretty damn good: 2.16/.906 while Spratt has a 2.51/.901. I would expect to see both this weekend.

7. Eno last played for the Green Mountain Glades. Apparently a glade is a clearing in a forest. That might be the worst team nickname since Wild. Urban Dictionary also lists glade/glades as being either a synonym for huffing or a slang term for sunglasses. Either way, it makes the nickname more funny.

8. Apart from possibly Verona, WI, does any random city churn out more players per capita than Northville, MI? BGSU has a pair, Ryan Hohl and Todd McIlrath. That goes with the seemingly 98 that have come through our program.

9. They're freaking ranked! 18th in the USCHO poll, and they're the last team receiving votes in the USA Today poll (that would put them 21st, but the poll goes to 15).

10. As was the case with the Buckeyes, Bowling Green is very strong on faceoffs. They've won 55% of draws on the season and their only guy who takes a significant number of faceoffs who is below .500 is 68/138 on the year (so, off by 1 win). John Mazzei is winning an incredible 66% of his faceoffs this year, and he's taken almost 200. I might have finally found someone worse than Danny Fardig! Derek Whitmore is 11/44 this year.

This looks like a much tougher matchup than it was "supposed" to be. I'm hoping that it will pan out that BGSU just hasn't played anyone apart from ND this year. We still should be able to get two wins, but I expect them to play us very tough and, especially Friday night, they might be able to steal one.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Media Roundup: Ohio State Split

The winning streak had to come to an end sometime. It sucks that it was against OSU, but it's really not all that surprising, given the nature of that series as of late. We saw a senior almost single-handedly will us back Friday night, and a slew of freshmen re-emerge on Saturday, including a goalie making his first career start. Let's check out the general reaction to the weekend. We also get to see if anyone in Columbus remembers that they have a hockey team:

The Michigan Side:
Colin wrote a pair of articles: One about the team's play this weekend and one giving his thoughts on Bryan Hogan. Enjoyable reads as always. Completely agree with him that our passing was just off Friday night. Colin was also very complimentary of Pacioretty's play this weekend. We do miss Caporusso on draws, especially against a team like OSU that's great on faceoffs.

The Daily says that they're looking to switch things up a little bit on the power play since teams are starting to catch on. Seems like that happens every year. Eventually teams caught on to us sending the puck to Gajic for the one-timer a couple years back and we never adjusted. Hopefully things work out a little better this year.

Also in that article, they talk about Chris Summers moving back to forward. It sounds as if it's an experiment for next weekend only, and then they'll consider it in the future if it works out. I'm thrilled about this move. I think I advocated it in the season previews for Summers, Vaughan, Quick, Langlais and Llewellyn. I love Summers's game up front, and our freshmen have been very good. As Colin pointed out, it's readily fixable should our youngster start running around or if we need to protect a lead "OK, you're on D now". As I said earlier, it's almost like dressing 12 forwards and 6.5/7 defensemen. Reportedly, he's been skating with Turnbull and Miller. That's one helluva checking line and it actually has some offensive upside.

Chad Kolarik quashes the idea that there's a goalie controversy. Chad's comments don't entirely mesh with what Red Berenson said, but "goalie controversy" is still too strong of a statement. Sauer has earned the right to be the #1, but I do expect Hogan to get his starts now and then. It wouldn't shock me a bit if we see him against Bowling Green this weekend. If we prove to have two good goalies, then bully for us. They'll both get to play, but barring a letdown/meltdown, Sauer is the guy. He's been outstanding this year and one good performance out of Hogan doesn't change that. All Hogan's performance means is that he's probably earned a few more starts, and Red doesn't have to be scared to yank Billy if he's struggling, as Red was during the NoDak game last year.

The Daily
reports on Hogan's first start, including Red's comments. Apparently Sauer was getting fatigued. Having a quality backup goalie will help him. And even though I think Josh Blackburn is quite possibly the best goalie coach in history, I'm not sure how a goalie has a "fifth gear". BTW, check out the picture included in this article. Hogan's pads are kind of sweet. Montoya still wins for coolest mask though. That thing was amazing.

Here's The Ann Arbor News's take on Hogan's performance.

It was a frustrating weekend at times for both teams.

Good article about the freshmen, but c'mon Nate, it's Canadiens. Sacrebleu! The Ann Arbor News also had an article about the lineup changes.

Our student section really chanted "filthy inbreds"? That's classic!

TJ Hensick made his NHL debut over the weekend. He and Mike Brown also scored their first career goals.

The Buckeye dominance in the faceoff circle played a big role in the game. Corey Elkins was 13-2 on draws on Friday night. Can't score if you don't have the puck. I'd really love to see the Daily do a piece on the anatomy of a faceoff. There are a lot of things that I'd like to know, because I'm sure it's not as random as when I take draws. How do you practice for them? Is there an advantage to the visitor getting to put his stick down first? Are there any particular attributes that make someone a good faceoff man? Why have we sucked at them for 8 years? I feel like it'd be a pretty fun story. But maybe I'm just a nerd that would read an article about winning faceoffs.

Berenson won't say why Kampfer sat Friday night. At his press conference, he said something along the lines of "In house. It's been dealt with."

Nice feature on one of the freshmen I've been most impressed with: Chad Langlais

Awards: Porter was CCHA Player of the Month while Pacioretty was CCHA Rookie of the Month

Stat Hunting:

Kevin Porter's 26 points already would have placed him 8th on last year's offensive juggernaut.

Aaron Palushaj leads the team in assists with 13 and already has more points than any freshman last season. He's on pace for 34, which would match Porter's total from last season. Pretty damn impressive for a freshman that doesn't play on the top line (though he gets most of his points by being on the top power play unit).

Scooter Vaughan's +7 ranks him #1 amongst our freshman defenders.

We have 7 players with 5 or more goals.

We're outscoring opponents by a 2:1 ratio, 66 to 33.

Our penalty kill is now at 88.6%, which is kind of amazing.

After the struggles this weekend, our faceoffs are down to 48.4%. Fardig is back at 39%. Even Rust is only 50.0% now.

Pacioretty has had points in 11 of his last 12 games.

Hogan is the only player that has dressed for a game and doesn't have a point. None of our four freshmen defensemen have scored a goal, but all six forwards have.

The Ohio State View:
They really don't know they have a hockey team--or they just don't care. There was nothing in the Dispatch beyond a one-paragraph wire report about Friday's game. There were no articles period in the student newspaper The Lantern. I understand the excitement over being in the BCSCG, but it kind of makes me sad that hockey doesn't even get a mention. Makes my job a little easier I guess.

The Commit That Wasn't:
Earlier in the day, the Canadian Hockey News reported that Toronto Junior Canadiens forward Devante Smith-Pelly had commited to the Wolverines. The Wolverine checked with some sources, after there were indications that this wasn't true, and were able to confirm that the story was false and that Smith-Pelly isn't likely to be a Michigan player in the future. The CHN has since posted a retraction saying that their source was "completely and utterly wrong".

What's interesting is that Smith-Pelly's teammate, Tyler Toffoli, was at Yost last weekend wearing a Michigan sweatshirt. Apparently he's got 1st round OHL potential.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Damage for World Juniors

As I reported earlier, Carl Hagelin will miss the GLI so that he can play for Team Sweden and the US has just announced that Chris Summers, Max Pacioretty, and Matt Rust will also represent their country.

MSU, Michigan Tech nor Providence will be short-handed for the annual holiday tournament.

I still think with the depth on this team--particularly in light of the news that Louie Caporusso should be 100% by the GLI--this is a year that we can finally win this tournament again, and I'll be extremely disappointed if it doesn't happen. I don't deny that the attrition has been a big factor in the past, but at some point you have to stop using it as an excuse and suck it up to beat a team that might be more talented, due to outside factors.

This team has been full of surprises. It's high time they surprise us with a win in the GLI. That banner has been stuck on "1996" for far too long.

Hagelin to World Juniors

The Swedish Ice Hockey Association, or Svenska Ishockeyforbundet, is reporting that Carl Hagelin will be a member of their team in the World Junior Championships. Not a big shocker there. He's been a solid player and he seems like a guy who you'd like to have on your team in an international tournament.

The United States team will be announced tonight, so we'll find out just how short handed we'll be for the GLI. I don't expect it to be awful: Wild guess (which comes from no inside knowledge whatsoever--they don't want it leaked and I want to be surprised anyway) is that we lose Summers, Pacioretty and Rust.

The good news is that Louie Caporusso should be back 100% in time for the GLI. Red said that he expects Caporusso to begin skating on Saturday.

The other news to come out of Berenson's press conference is that they're skating Chris Summers at forward in practice. Red thinks that he has the ability to jump start his line and that he'll be one of our best penalty killers up front with his ability to fore-check. I love the move. If the goal is to get the best 18 skaters on the ice, then it makes perfect sense to move Summers up front. Vaughan and Quick have been pretty solid on the blueline. Llewellyn has been less so, but even he hasn't been bad and he's playing 2 out of every 3 games as it is.

Summers brings more to the table at forward than probably everyone outside of the top line, Rust, and Caporusso--and he clearly brings more than Lebler (who has been playing pretty dumb hockey as of late), Naurato and Ciraulo.

As long as our youngsters can handle playing every night, I love the idea of putting Summers back up front, where he showed the ability to be an impact player last year. Against the better offensive teams--or if we're in a pinch--you can slide him back. It's almost like we'd be dressing 12 forwards and 7 defensemen.

More later in the media roundup, including a commit that wasn't, but I've got to run errands before I get snowed in again tonight. If you think I'm going out with Wisconsin drivers during a snowstorm, you're insane.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Michigan 4, OSU 2

After all the talk during Friday's telecast about how the freshmen had cooled off substantially, it looks like they got the message. Freshmen accounted for all four goals and all but one of the eleven points tallied in the game. Additionally, freshman goaltender Bryan Hogan made his first career start and did it in style, stopping 26 shots including a penalty shot in the first period en route to a win.

Friday night the Wolverines failed on several scoring chances in the early going, hitting 3 or 4 posts in the first eight minutes. Saturday they made no mistake, scoring 3 goals in a 7 1/2 minute span, all of which were set up by Aaron Palushaj. Ohio State never got within two goals the rest of the night, and Michigan got back in the win column.

Another freshman, Max Pacioretty, was named the #1 star of the night with two goals, including the game winner, which was a laser of a shot. His second goal came on a 2 on 1 late in the second period and Kevin Porter made an absolutely gorgeous feed.

Hogan was a surprise starter in net, but they've got to be happy with the way he played. He stopped a penalty shot in the first period and made 15 saves in the final stanza to preserve the win. From the sound of it--the highlights on MGoBlue don't show the goals he allowed--it would be hard to fault him on either goal. The first was a partial breakaway and the second came on a goal mouth scramble after he had made a few stops. By his own admission, he gave up a few more rebounds than he would've preferred, but not bad at all for a first start. And not a bad time by Coach Berenson to throw him in there. Despite the loss to them the night before, Ohio State doesn't have a great offense and he would be in front of the home crowd.

Steve Kampfer was back in the lineup a night after being a mysterious healthy scratch. Coach Berenson wouldn't reveal the reason for his absence, which leads me to believe it was just a minor violation of team rules (slightly worse than Caporusso's missing a meeting) that was handled in house. He's played too well for it to be performance-related. If it was an injury, Berenson would've said so. If it was a major academic problem, it's probably unlikely that he got it taken care of Friday night/Saturday afternoon. And the fact that he played Saturday means that it likely wasn't serious. Unless we hear anything more, I'd write it off as an issue that's been dealt with.

It was disappointing to drop a game to the Buckeyes, but we were due for a game like that where maybe the effort wasn't as good as it's been and the bounces didn't go our way. Add in a great performance by Joesph Palmer Friday night and it was the right mix for an "upset". I think every team will probably have a couple over the course of the season that they would like to have back, and that was one for us.

The big news this week will come on Tuesday. The US World Junior Championships team will be announced during the first period of the Wings/Canadiens game which will air on Versus. So we'll get to find out just how short-handed the Wolverines will be for the GLI. The good news is that, even though it was just one game, Hogan's performance Saturday gives me faith that we'll have a shot even if Sauer is named to the US team. It's high time Michigan wins a GLI. It's pretty incredible that, even with all the attrition, we haven't been able to win back-to-back games over the Christmas holiday since 1996.