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.