Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Media Roundup: Boston University Sweep

By this point, everyone knows what my thoughts were on the Boston University series. CSTV has highlights here (including Rust's ridiculous end-to-end breakaway goal), if you weren't able to see the game. Let's see what the MSM had to say:

The Michigan Side:

The much-improved-over-when-I-was-in-school Daily hockey coverage has a nice article about Billy Sauer. The praise has been well-deserved thusfar. The Friday night game against BU might have been his best game in a Michigan uniform. It could've gotten pretty out of hand early on, but he held us in the game until we were finally able to get the offense going.

The weekend in review from the Daily, and the game wrapups (printer friendly version, since their website is having issues) from the Ann Arbor News.

Matt Rust had some problems with the foggy conditions inside the rink. Porter is confident that we'll win a lot of hockey games if we start playing 60 minutes rather than 40.

Evidently Michigan will be heading out to Boston to play single games against BU in 2008 and 2010. Obviously there will be another game each of those weekends--probably one against BC to repay them for coming out a couple years ago--and they'll have plenty of schools to pick from in the Boston area. I love seeing us schedule teams like that. They're always fun games when we square off against the Boston schools.

Red wasn't thrilled about being ranked #3, I'm sure he feels the same way now that we're #2 in one poll.

Mark Mitera won CCHA Defenseman of the Week. I'm kind of surprised that it's the first time that he's been honored in that way. I guess I shouldn't be, given the other defensemen we've had, but it's a well-deserved honor.

Red Berenson's press conference ($ link) revealed that Bryan Hogan is ready to come back to practice after a bout with mono. He's still going to be awhile, as he hasn't really been on the ice with this team, and I expect he's lost some weight and his stamina isn't nearly what it was. But it's nice to hear that he's allowed to practice again. Thankfully Sauer has been solid thusfar and we haven't desperately needed Hogan.

Maize n Brew chimed in with some comments on the game (#8 on his list). He pretty much hits the nail on the head when he writes, "Michigan's never been short on stars, but over the last few years has been a bit short on depth. This year it's the opposite. Personally, I like the make up of the team. I saw a team that's willing to outwork its opponents, and that will translate into a lot of wins."

Stat Hunting: In looking at the stats through 6 games, there are a few things that are interesting:
-All of our freshmen forwards have now tallied their first goal, with Pacioretty and Palushaj scoring last weekend.
-Four of our top six point getters are freshmen--Pacioretty is absent from that list, but he'll be there soon.
-Brian Lebler, Tristin Llewellyn and Chris Summers (!) are the only players on the team who have played and not yet tallied a point.
-The rotation of players at the bottom-end of the roster has been pretty equal. Naurato and Lebler have each gotten into three games, while Llewellyn, Vaughan, and Quick have all played four games. Red Berenson has said that this rotation will continue, but I'd expect Quick to earn a permanent spot in the lineup at some point in the near future. He's going to be the best of the freshmen defenders.
-Our top line is firing away. Porter, Pacioretty, and Kolarik have combined for 70 of our 188 shots on goal through six games, and they rank 1-2-3 (in that order) in shots.
-Five different players have our five game-winning goals. Strangely enough, they're the top five players on our roster in points.
-The special teams are looking very solid. After taking a couple games to get going, the power play is converting at a 20.6% clip, while the PK is killing off 86.7% of opponent power plays.
-Billy Sauer has a very nice 2.49 goals against average.
-We've scored 24 goals. Half have come in the third period. We've allowed 15 goals, nine have come in the third period. Pretty obvious which period you don't want to miss!
-As expected, Rust and Caporusso are our best main faceoff guys. Kolarik and Pacioretty have also been excellent. Porter is fine at just under 50% and Fardig's percentage has gone up ten points from last year, thusfar.

The Opponent's View:

This quote comes from the Daily, but BU Coach Jack Parker said that Saturday's game should've been 8-1 or 10-1.

CSTV's blog from the game has a great quote from Coach Parker about what an impact Billy Sauer had in Friday Night's win:

"We had 51 attempts and hit 27 [on goal] in the first two periods, and we were down 2-0" BU head coach Jack Parker said. "That was tough. When we don't get the 5-on-3 goal [late in the second period], it jacked them up, too at the end of the third period."

Jack Parker was very complimentary of the Michigan freshmen in the BU student newspaper.

"I didn't know how good their freshmen were," Parker said of the Michigan defense. "When you play four freshmen defensemen, usually you can forecheck a team like that. We forechecked them pretty good [Friday] and got chances and got shots and looked like a pretty good hockey team and exposed their defense a little bit.

"[Saturday] we didn't have a chance because they were in our zone all night," he added. "They were storming us. They got the puck so fast and got out, we never even got near them. It was like two different speeds, they were fast and we were dead slow."

But as much I would like it if the Wolverines were undefeated as the writer indicated twice in that article, we're not. Even though that loss felt like a win.

CSTV had a writer roundtable, which included Antoine Pitts. The first question is about Michigan and their chances this year. Consensus: Too early to tell. I agree.

Time to put another great weekend behind us and start looking ahead to Nebraska-Omaha. MavRick from the MavPuck website was kind enough to answer some questions about the UNO team, and I'll have that for you guys on Thursday. Let's keep this freight train rolling.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Michigan 6, Boston University 2

This one was never really in doubt. The Wolverines led 42 seconds into the game, had a two goal lead by the 2:25 mark, and after that the Terriers were only within a goal for about four minutes of game time. Michigan scored early and often on their way to a 6-2 win and their second consecutive series sweep.

Summers, Kampfer, Llewellyn, Naurato, and Fardig were the only players on the ice who didn't tally a point tonight (even Sauer had an assist) and just three players had multiple points in what was a complete team effort tonight.

Ben Winnett scored his second of the season on a great feed from Tim Miller. Shortly thereafter, Max Pacioretty got the first of his career on a very similar play; great feed from Aaron Palushaj, who kept up his strong play this weekend.

The Terriers got on the board after a bad turnover by Sauer behind the net. Michigan took the momentum back just four minutes later on a gorgeous homerun pass from Mark Mitera to Carl Hagelin to spring him on a breakaway. He went five-hole and had me yelling bork bork bork!

They blew the game open in the third with Caporusso knocking the puck out of midair into the cage, Turnbull beating a defenseman to the outside and slipping it into the net, and Kolarik scoring from a bad angle. The Terriers scored with just six seconds left to make the margin a little bit closer.

While last night BU dominated play for the first half of the game, tonight the Wolverines got on the board early and never really looked back. They did a much better job controlling guys like Yip and Bonino (despite his late goal). Those two were all over the ice last night and I barely heard their names during this game.

It was another solid defensive performance, allowing just 24 shots on goal--and more importantly not as many high-quality chances. Billy Sauer played a good game, but he wasn't tested nearly as much as he was last night. The first goal was extremely weak, but I'm more than happy to live with the "weak goal of the game" if he's going to play well the rest of the time. It's a lot easier to take when it's one bad goal out of two rather than three bad goals out of six.

Once again, Mark Mitera played a key role on the blueline. He was a +3, sprung Hagelin on the breakaway that pretty much gave us the momentum for good, and just played a solid overall hockey game. I don't remember any specific play, but I also thought that Kevin Quick was solid tonight. Or at least I think he was. It was hard to see numbers on the internet feed that I had blown up to full screen so I didn't have to hunch over my monitor.

One thing that I noticed this weekend, which was very nice, is that we had an absurd number of breakaways and 2-on-1s. The long passes were connecting. Last night they hit a couple people coming out of the box. Tonight it was more just in the flow of the game. But the "homerun" passes were working. I thought they really passed the puck well as a whole.

It looks like Max Pacioretty is starting to find his game after struggling a little bit in Minnesota. He was quite possibly our best forward this weekend. I had him as one of my stars last night and he was listed as the #1 star tonight by the media. I can't really argue with their picks of Pacioretty #1, Sauer #2, Hagelin #3, though I don't feel like defensemen with good defensive efforts get enough credit in the voting, so here's some love for Mitera as well.

I'm loving the competition on defense. I think it's really bringing out the best in all of them. None of the freshmen got beat badly tonight from what I saw. They're all playing really responsible hockey. And Chad Langlais had a really outstanding weekend. None of them look out of place in the college game, and that's nice to see because they all had their question marks coming into the season. For the record, Vaughan and Lebler sat tonight.

Brandon Naurato also deserves a call. No he didn't score, and yes he was a -1 (though that was on the meaningless goal at the end of the game) but I thought he looked really good out there with Palushaj, and he had a wonderful backcheck to break up a BU 2 on 1 that Llewellyn also played very well.

Matt Rust was solid once again and he and Caporusso were both dominant on faceoffs, winning a combined 21 out of 26.

Overall that was a great weekend of hockey against a team that I do think is much better than their record. We kind of ran them out of the building tonight, but last night they showed that they can be a very dangerous hockey team. As I said before, they're too talented of a hockey team to not get this turned around. I wouldn't doubt that they'll contend for a spot in the tournament by year's end once they cut out some of those mistakes on defense.

Sauer was strong all weekend, probably deserving of a star in both games. The power play connected on a few more occasions, and all our freshmen played well. At this point, I'm really not sure what is the proper level of excitement to have about this team. There's so much to like about the work ethic, the speed, the overall talent level, and the leadership of our captains. The play in net will always be a question mark based on past history, but Sauer has answered the challenge so far this season. I'm still taking it game to game, weekend to weekend, but I couldn't be happier with the start. I'm really enjoying watching these guys play. 5-1-0 for the month of October was pretty unexpected, and I'm thrilled.

Next week, it's back on the road as they head to Nebraska-Omaha, who is 1-2-0 on the season, beating Alabama-Huntsville while getting run by Miami (OH) twice. Friday night's game can be seen on CSTV, while Saturday's game can be viewed on the PPV B2livetv Network. The internet is a wonderful thing.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Live Tape Delay Blog: Michigan vs. Boston University

I'm back from my hockey game, the laptop decided to cooperate after the 23rd time I tried to turn it on, and I'm ready to rock and roll. This is going to be strange watching a game from Yost on TV. I can't remember the last time I did that. This is only about the 6th home game I've missed since the 2000-01 season, and four of those were last season.

I swear that every TV in my house is set on CSTV right now. And I narrowly averted disaster when I accidentally pulled up MGoBlue.com to see what time the football game was tomorrow. Even with friggin' college hockey I have problems not finding out the final score.

Pregame: The Wolverines are coming out in the maize jerseys to go with the Maize Out theme for the evening. I really didn't like the diagonal "Michigan" jerseys last year, but now I kind of want one. For some reason they're a lot less stupid-looking than the Avs old third jerseys that they're similar to. Maybe it's the color scheme. I'm still not sure that I like them--particularly how big our captains' letters are--but I still want one.

It's kind of disappointing that Mike Emerick did the introduction but he's not calling the game. I wanted to see some BIIIIIG DRIVES! tonight.

Tristin Llewellyn is sitting out on defense tonight and Brian Lebler got the hook up front. It appears that Chad Langlais is the favored freshman defenseman since he's the only one who has yet to sit.

First Period:

19:26: Michigan is buzzing early. Porter feeds Pacioretty on a two-on-one and Patch fanned with a wide open net. It looks like he's been paying attention to his linemate. Kolarik finds iron for about the fifth time this season. 3 inches one way and he would've been the hero. But three inches the other way and he would've missed completely. I never thought of it like that. Despite the pressure, we're going on the PK. Sauer's out at the top of the crease and makes a nice save with no rebound.

18:05: CSTV announces that they don't have the power play clock. What they do have are tickers taking up roughly 1/8 of the screen. I really don't care about a Missouri basketball player getting charged with disturbing the peace. Patrick Beverly got benched for Arkansas red-white scrimmage though for not trying on the court or in class. At least he's in a place that reminds him of Chicago.

15:50: Rust's line is doing a nice job on the forecheck. Nothing really comes of it, but that was a nice effort. It's Halloween weekend and students are dressed up. I swear I just saw someone dressed up as a black guy. The announcers congratulate Dick Umile for his 400th win. Wins that meant anything: 0.

14:15: 2 nice stops by Sauer, one on a shot from the point with Billy down on the ice. He's playing well out of the gate. Must be something about playing the Boston schools that gets him all fired up. I'm pretty sure Louie Caporusso just killed Jason Lawrence. It looked worse than it was, but we're probably lucky that our wonderful officials didn't find a way to call that a hit from behind. Another really nice stop by Sauer, bending backwards to get his stick on a puck that was headed by. BU is carrying the play early on.

11:55: Pacioretty is set up very nicely by Kolarik and the goalie made a nice save. Palushaj, or "Palosky" as he was called breaks in all alone and dings it off the bar. It's pretty incredible how many bars we've hit so far this season.

8:21: Shattenkirk misfires on what would've been a BIG DRIVE! if Emerick was calling the game. That rush was started by Chris Summers blowing a tire at the Boston U blueline. Quick made a nice play to make McGuirk give the puck up (I apologize if I get some of the BU players' names wrong. I refuse to pull up any college hockey website to try to get to a roster at this point) and Shattenkirk sent it wide. Nice shot out of that kid.

7:19: Rust made a really nice move at our blueline to start the rush but he's hauled down. That better be a call. Ok it is. Timmy Miller is just offside and Gilroy will be headed off. He's #97. I would love to know how that came about. Is he a Jeremy Roenick fan? We're not quite at the point that he could be going with his birth year, though I'm sure Michigan will start recruiting 97s in the next year or so.

6:50: The announcers point out that BU's PK is at just 75% this season. Even our power play has to be able to pot one or two against that...right? Nice feed by Caporusso through the slot but no one was home. It seems weird to me that we've got a power play unit with Mark Mitera, Steve Kampfer, and Travis Turnbull on it. It makes sense for this year, but I'm not used to those guys being any kind of offensive threat. BU kills it off.

4:45: Miller steals the puck and he's in all alone, but the puck skittered too far off his stick when he knocked it away. Unlucky. That would've been a nice opportunity. Langlais makes a nice play at our blueline to force the Terriers into an offside. Another nice pass by Caporusso into the slot but the defender had our player tied up.

2:53: MacArthur has a slapper from the center of the ice at the top of the circle. Luckily he blew it wide. Less of that. They're saying he has the hardest slapper in college hockey and I can see why. That was very Hartigan. Billy's getting a little feisty. Guys are crowding him in his crease and he's tripped two of them, very innocently. I must say I prefer that method to Al Montoya whapping them with his trapper.

1:05: Palushaj just tried to go wide but he's knocked down. Naurato gets the puck in prime shooting position but the defenseman gets his shin pad on it and Bennett covers. We just saw why Mark Mitera doesn't rush the puck very often. He had his pass broken up and then he hauls the BU player down. The Terriers will have about 1:50 on the PP once the second period starts.

Pretty entertaining period of hockey. BU kept it in our zone for long stretches of the first 13 minutes or so of the game. Sauer made 3 or 4 really nice saves, particularly his toe save on a slapper from the point after he had just gotten back on his feet. Our top line created some good chances, and we rung 2 off the iron. They "won that period" (they outshot us 15-6 and many of those shots were quality) but we're getting our scoring chances as well.

Period 2:

Our ice looks strange and I can't quite put my finger on why. Has our center line always been solid red?

18:36: How the hell did that not end up in our net? Cohen took a shot, Sauer left a huge rebound (the first bad one of the night), another Terrier got his stick on it and someone on the doorstep tried to tip it in. It skittered out the other side. Another shot from the point gets tipped on the way through but Billy's up to the task. Is this power play over yet? 21 seconds to go.

18:28: Parker pulls the ole "Ann Arbor Hockey Association" tactic. He tries to make a line change right before the puck dropped. Shegos didn't allow it, but it bought his guys some time to rest. In our league, you weren't allowed to change on the PK during stoppages unless the team with the power play was changing (we played with a running clock). You could send guys out, though, and by the time the refs realized that you weren't supposed to be changing and made the original guys come back on, you had killed off a good 30 seconds. The power play ends but BU is still pressuring.

17:20: We're struggling a bit to get the puck out of our zone, but the difference this year is that we're not turning the puck over in the process. They seem pretty calm with it, and are perfectly content to loop back around and regroup. Turnbull takes down a Terrier on the forecheck and we're going back to the box. The announcers think it was a little weak, but to me, that call was a no-brainer.

15:54: Kampfer makes a nice hit in our end to let the Wolverines gain control of the puck. We try to rap it up the boards, but Gilroy makes a great play to keep it in. Wilson gets a chance, Sauer the save, rebound right to the Ewing but Sauer got over. He's been really good tonight. Just saw the replay, that second chance was a great save with the blocker. The band plays Temptation, and if I were there, I wouldn't be saying "Sieve, sieve" rather than "Goalie, sieve". It's kind of nice.

15:20: Bonino gets the puck in the high slot, tries to pass to a forward right in front of the net, but one of the defensemen--I believe it was Summers--does a nice job to block the pass. The announcers think Bonino should've shot, but I can't see how the result would've been any different. Summers had him covered. Summers is all over the ice this shift--another great block and Sauer stops the rebound. We finally get the puck out of the zone and Turnbull's out of the box and Langlais headmans the puck up to him for a clear-cut breakaway. He tries to go backhand and flips it wide. He comes around the net and gets another crack but Bennett makes the save. Great feed from Langlais, and I think Turnbull had him beat. He just misfired. The crowd sounds like they're doing the "Ooooooooh cya" chant as they head to commercial so we might be going on a power play.

14:51: Yup, we are a man up. Pacioretty wins the draw. That's the 12th faceoff he's won in 14 tries. Apparently he's going for the Cy Young. I'm not sure how that made sense. We're getting outshot 23-7 at the moment. Pacioretty with a nice move in tight quarters to get away, gets off a nice shot and Bennett is there.

13:03: We've had possession in the BU end for this entire power play but haven't really had any top-notch chances to show for it. Mitera takes a shot from the point and Naurato tips it wide. That was about the best chance we've had on this PP. Hagelin had Mitera streaking in but he didn't see him. BU is back to full strength.

12:38: That was the first "Oh God, Billy" moment of the night. BU dumps it down the ice, it caroms off his pads and he has to dive forward to sweep it away from the rushing Terrier player. That was way closer than it needed to be. Somewhere, I think Tyler Swystun just had a seizure. Pacioretty with a great outlet pass to Kolarik who looks for Porter in front and the pass just misses or it would've been an easy tip in. Or he would've missed the net since that's how he do.

11:55: Is Jeff Lerg really only a junior this year? They just said that he has 2 years left, but it seems like he should be a senior by now. Again, I'm not risking opening another browser to check, but that's a bummer if he's not ready to leave yet.

11:10: Naurato gets pushed into the goalie and Bennett's shaken up. Langlais brings it back into the zone, getting hooked in the process. He gets it to the winger and either got hooked up high or committed the biggest dive I've ever seen. Bennett makes a nice save, Fardig's checked from behind and the Terriers ice the puck. There could've been at least 3 calls on that sequence, but nothing from Shegos. So much for home cooking. They just showed the replay of the second hook on Langlais. I'm not saying he wasn't hooked, but even Paul Kariya thinks he helped that one. Gawlik the linesman takes one in the face and then gets checked for good measure. Those guys have a thankless job. Why couldn't they have saved that one for McInchak, Hoberg, or Aaron?

The announcer says that if Gary Bettman ever leaves, Tom Anastos might be in line to succeed him. Imagine having a hockey guy as commissioner of the NHL! Pacioretty with a chance, then Porter, Patch on a wraparound, still nothing goes in. Pacioretty might be the best player on the ice tonight, apart from the two goalies. He's been all over the place. He's shaking his head on the bench over that wrap-around that didn't go.

8:00: Matt Rust breaks up a centering pass in between the circles in our end and he's GONE! Despite getting hooked, he goes 5-hole and the Wolverines lead 1-0!!! What a play by that kid! We got 3 fist-pumps and a glass-punch in celebration. Holy crap that was something! You don't usually see a guy get a breakaway from his own blueline when he's carrying the puck out. Rust showed some nice wheels on that one.

7:05: Fardig with a face-first dive to break up a long BU possession in our end. We're at 6:55 now and the color guy just tried to jinx it, uttering the dreaded "S" word. Nice work in the corner and then along the boards by Palushaj, with some help from Naurato, who failed to get the puck out, causing that BU possession a couple seconds ago. Palushaj gets it into the slot and labels one off the post and in! Nice shot! Gotta love the energy out of these freshmen.

6:48: After a good 30 minutes of BU dominance, the Wolverines now lead 2-0. I've got to give Max Pacioretty credit for swinging the momentum in this game. We've carried the play since he had 3 chances on that shift a few minutes back. It also may have started just before that with some nice plays out of Chad Langlais. And of course, you have to give Sauer a ton of credit for keeping the game scoreless while we played through the early struggles. Hopefully he can keep it up for another 26 minutes.

5:52: Shattenkirk tees one up and it doesn't get through. I'm scared whenever he touches the puck. Wish we had gotten that kid. Holy shit, how on earth did Sauer stop that one? Yip's name has been called a ton of times tonight and he just had another great shift. Higgins had a shot from the hash that Sauer somehow got his pad on, despite 3 guys in the crease. Yip has a chance on the rebound and that one is pushed aside as well.

Great individual effort by MacArthur right there. He laid out our defenseman, took the puck, flipped it over another defenseman and Sauer stayed with him and made him take a low-percentage shot from behind the goal line. We get a much-needed icing. I assume they saw Sauer's lack of aggressiveness on film after the Minnesota game--particularly on Wheeler's goal. He's a completely different player tonight. I think I've got the same look on my face right now that Red Sox fans had when JD Drew hit a Grand Slam the other night.

We're going back on the PK. Can't complain about that one either. Shegos has called a pretty good game tonight.

4:00: Langlais is off. We've closed the shots on goal total to 25-16. Shattenkirk has another slapper blocked. Mitera blocks back to back shots and ices it. Shattenkirk can't get one through it seems. That one was a freshman mistake right there. He shot it right into Mitera's shin pads. There was nothing there. I honest to God don't know where this Billy Sauer has been. This is as good as he has ever played in a Michigan jersey. Shegos decides to call Fardig for face-washing a guy after the whistle. I'm pretty sure that never gets called in hockey. Nevertheless, we're going to be down 2 men for 35 seconds. Wow, Michigan Tech just knocked off NoDak! It's nice to see the Techsters with a program again. BU timeout.

3:04: Leave it to a Sparty announcer to make an App State reference during a college hockey game. "They could've used some of that crowd noise on the gridiron against App State." Or we could've used a defense capable of stopping a spread offense with a mobile QB. Either way, you're going to lose to a team that lost to App State, so blow me, kay? Why don't you beat Northwestern.

2:30: I'm not sure how many shots we've blocked tonight, but it's a LOT. They couldn't get a shot through on the 5 on 3, and now we've got another guy off to the races coming out of the box. It's Langlais this time. Great move, and a nice save by Bennett. That little shoulder fake that Langlais did right there was Jack Johnson-esque. PK is over and there's a minute left in the second period. Turnbull in 4 on 1 takes it himself and sends a wrist-shot over the net. I think it's the number. That was very Gajic (though for the record, I really liked that kid).

0:23: Bonino into the zone, drags on Summers and rings one off the bar. Lucky break there. I don't want to see them put one on the board late in this period. We escape and we're 20 minutes away from a W.

Like I said, the top line isn't on the board yet, but I give Pacioretty a ton of credit for turning the momentum in this game in our favor. He's been outstanding tonight. That period was a lot better than the first. Much more even play, we put a couple on the board, and the penalty killing was outstanding. We've even managed to spring two guys on breakaways out of the box. BU might want to get that fixed. It hasn't bit them yet, but you don't want to give up too many of those. Sparty escapes with a 5-4 win over NMU. Shots on goal through 2 are 27-19 in favor of the Terriers. They've got a slight edge in faceoffs, but nothing major.

3rd Period:

With the puck dropping to start the third, we're officially the most successful CSTV game so far this year. Great back-check by Kolarik there. Bonino draws another penalty on the Wolverines. That one we had to take. He got around Kampfer and was in cold-turkey. That took a really nice scoring chance away. Brandon Yip is an impressive hockey player. There's something about this BU team that I really like. They're fun to watch. I gotta believe they'll get this turned around sooner rather than later.

17:11: Our defense lost Lawrence in front of the net and he slides it under Sauer's pad with a backhand shot to make it a 2-1 game. Billy would probably like that one back, but it wasn't an awful goal. . Nice play by Shattenkirk to keep it in at the blue line. I think it kind of surprised him since Lawrence's back was to him. I can't even get mad about the failed clear. That was just a great play at the line to hold it in. I would like to see us stop taking penalties at some point.

16:01: Porter's line with another strong shift. One of them just got dumped right next to Shegos, but I guess we're not calling those tonight. Our passing has been pretty crisp tonight. Even the bad passes seem to be handled by our guys. We're playing a pretty good game overall I think.

13:30: Langlais uses his skating ability to draw a penalty on Yip. Quick got taken down as well, but nothing that should warrant 2 penalty calls. Langlais has had a good game tonight. Let's go boys, a PPG here would be really nice. Great shift by Louie Caporusso. Won the draw in the offensive zone, out-muscled a defender to keep possession of the puck and got himself a nice little scoring chance. He's a crafty passer as well.

12:03: A couple of nifty passes, but I think Pacioretty got a little too cute there. I had a mild coronary as CSTV lost the feed for a couple seconds. GOAL!!!!! G-L-A-M-O-R-UST! Amazing what can happen when we win the faceoff. Rust back to Mitera and the freshman tipped it in. Just keep him off the ice in the last two minutes. Winnett in point blank but Bennett made the save, even though he looked behind him.

11:40: And the color man just said that he thinks this team is going to make a run at the Frozen Four. I'm not ready to go there yet, but I love the work ethic these guys have. If they get goaltending like this all season, there's no limit to how good they can be. They badly missed an offsides right there but Mitera got it out. No harm, no foul. And I just ripped on BC for the fog there, but we're getting some at Yost. You can only see it from the ice cam and it's not anything that's going to affect the game, thankfully. CSTV has to be saying, "Sonofa...."

10:18: Nice little give-and-go between Palushaj and Naurato. They didn't connect on the second pass but they had the right idea, and the first pass by Palushaj was very nice. Naurato's been good tonight. I've gotta give a call to Scooter Vaughan and Kevin Quick. I've barely noticed either of them tonight, and that's a good thing. All of our defensemen have been good, particularly Mitera and Langlais, but the other two freshmen in the lineup have been very solid tonight. And they just dropped another App State reference. Thanks guys. Appreciate it.

8:56: Lawrence had a root canal this morning? What? Damn hockey players are tough. He's had a strong game too. McGoff scores for BU on a nothing-looking play. Ohhhh Billy you gotta stop that one, buddy. No screen and it beat him under the glove. Buckle up everyone. It's 3-2.

6:20: Porter beats his man to the outside, hauled down, and he still manages to get a stick on it, chip it up in the air, and over Bennett! His own man might've actually tipped that one in. The net is off the moorings so I assume they'll go upstairs on this one. Shegos is nowhere to be found, but the assistant referee signaled right away that it was a goal. That's going to count. What a weird play! That puck rolled right up Bennett's stick, off his blocker, up in the air, and the defenseman batted it into the net. Shegos gets that one right. It's a goal! 4-2 Michigan, and Kevin Porter's fourth of the year. Way to answer, guys.

5:10: We get a little too cute again. Rust was up on a 3 on 1, fed it to Miller in the slot and he tried to go right back to Rust for the hatter, but he was in too deep. Should've just shot that one. A BU player is hurt and it's MacArthur. He looks to be in some pain. He just lost an edge and went hard into the boards.

4:10: The fog's a lot worse than it looks on TV. I'm not sure what the deal is there. It's not warm in Ann Arbor today and they didn't add a ton of seats in the offseason. I wonder what's possessing CSTV to go to Omaha to do our game out there next week. I'm happy, don't get me wrong, but it seems like an odd game to show.

2:06: BU pulls the goalie down 4-2. Shattenkirk sends one wide. Porter sends one into the empty net. I swear that was offside; BU sure thinks it was. Oh yeah, that wasn't even close. He was off by 3 feet. I'm not exactly sure how you're allowed to discuss that and overturn the goal, but I can't complain because they got it right.

0:45: Under a minute to go now. The Terriers are getting called for a high stick, so that's probably going to do it. Good call. He gave Winnett a pretty good whack while trying to play the puck. That's the first time I've ever seen the penalty box attendant speak to the player. GREAT glove save by Bennett on Porter. And that's the game! Great win for the Wolverines.

We got solid goaltending when we needed it. Great play out of our freshmen. Outstanding work out of our defensemen. The penalty kill was fantastic, despite the one PPG allowed. And Sauer played really well, even if he needs to stop that second goal.

For BU, that's gotta be disappointing. Once again, they're the better team for at least the first half of the game and have nothing to show for it. That's a good hockey team though. Bennett gave up 4, but he played a good game. They've got a surprising amount of offensive talent. I was really impressed with MacArthur, Lawrence, Yip, and Banino, along with Shattenkirk on the blue line.

Shots on goal ended up 32-30 and we actually had the edge in the faceoffs 38-29, which means that we went on a roll there in the third period, when it matters.

We'll see you back here again tomorrow night! It'll probably be a less-detailed account because I won't be able to back up the live feed to rewatch plays. It should be a good game. Like I said earlier, it's been 30 years since BU started a year winless in five and they played a pretty strong hockey game tonight. I'm sure we'll get their best shot tomorrow.

My three stars tonight:
3: Max Pacioretty--While he only had a single assist, I give him credit for turning this game around. He was outstanding in the first two periods and then tallied his first point as a Wolverine in the third.
2: Billy Sauer--Played out of his friggin mind for the first two periods and made a pair of saves that I have no idea how he stopped. He did give up one softie, but he made more than enough tough saves to cancel that out.
1: Matt Rust--2 more goals and his line was strong all night. He made a great play to go end-to-end on the first goal and on the second tally he won the draw and then tipped the shot on the way through. Great game out of the freshman.

Honorable mentions to Chad Langlais, Mark Mitera, Brandon Yip, and Kevin Shattenkirk.

Boston University Series Preview

This weekend the Wolverines take on the Boston University Terriers, who have struggled out of the gate. BU has an impressive group of young defensemen, and a very talented goalie in Brett Bennett, who previously played for the NTDP.

Tonight's game will be on CSTV (they offer a PPV online for $7.95 if you're not getting the game). Tomorrow's game will be aired in live the Boston market on CN8 and on tape-delay in Ann Arbor at 11:00 pm. CN8 streams live on the web.

Since BU isn't a team that we typically get to see, I contacted The Terrier Hockey Fan Blog about answering some questions, and despite the late notice, Terrier Blogger from the site graciously agreed.

1) Obviously BU hasn't gotten off to the start that they would have liked. What's the biggest reason or two for the early struggles of the team? Can you pinpoint a couple of things or are they simply just not playing the kind of hockey that they're capable of playing? Distracted by the Sox & Patriots maybe? What were the preseason thoughts on the team; Is this supposed to be a rebuilding year, or should we still expect to see the Terriers in the tournament come the end of the season?

This is supposed to be a rebounding year, rather than a rebuilding one. Two years ago, BU was sixth in the nation in scoring and won the Hockey East championship. Last year, the offense fizzled, primarily due to injuries and to the loss of the previous year's senior line with no new impact forwards to replace them. This year, with only one forward of consequence to replace, there are three very talented newcomers, Colin Wilson, Nick Bonino and Joe Pereira, all of whom will be in the lineup. Wilson centers the top line.

I'd attribute the slow start to a few things: the forwards are trying too hard to make pretty plays and have passed up good shooting opportunities; some bad puck luck—like BC had against Michigan—when BU shot a puck of one of its own players into the Terrier net, against RMU; the absence of two starting defensemen (Eric Gryba and Dan McGoff); and failure to hold a lead. Of the nine periods played, BU held leads in all but one.

2) You guys are typically a pretty defensive-oriented team (Ed Note: Or maybe not, based on what he said about the goal scoring from a couple years ago). With three senior defensemen graduating, how have the youngsters looked, particularly Kevin Shattenkirk, who I know Michigan was high on? I really liked Brian Strait when he was with USA as well. How is he doing? Who can we expect to see get matched up against the Pacioretty-Porter-Kolarik line?

Brian Strait is playing very well for BU. Very sound and thorough in his own end, Brian has displayed more offensive assertiveness this season and has looked good on the powerplay, teamed with our other rookie blueliner, Colby Cohen. I can't offer an opinion about matchups, especially since as the home team, Michigan gets the last change. But I will point out that Jack Parker insists on getting the same effort from forwards defensively as they produced in the offensive zone—or else they sit.

3) Losing John Curry was obviously a killer, but I saw Brett Bennett play for the NTDP and I was really impressed with him. I'm surprised he didn't make more of an impact last year, but I guess when you have a Hobey candidate goalie, you're not taking him out to play a freshman. Gillespie has gotten two of the three starts this year, however. Does it appear that BU will rotate goalies for the time being--will we likely see both this weekend? Are they similar style goalies?

Curry was indeed a rock, ever since entering the BU-Michigan game in the McFadden tournament three years ago. He had well above average skills but was an ultimate competitor. Gillespie has impressed in his limited opportunities. Two years ago he shut out then-defending NCAA champion Denver and he authored a few gems last year, too. My sources tell me the players are very confident in both goalies. Bennett has a bit of a hybrid style, while Gillespie is a very good positional style. Bennett gets the start tonight and Gillespie tomorrow.

4) Michigan's power play got it going (finally) against NMU last weekend. I would assume that a defensive team like BU has a pretty good penalty kill. How are the special teams? Is BU the type of team that will give us some chances to have a man advantage or are they a pretty disciplined bunch?

BU's ability to stay out of the box and, when they don't, to keep Porter and Kolarik in check will be the critical aspect of the game, IMO. BU has some very good penalty killers up front.—Chris Higgins, Bryan Ewing, Luke Popko, John McCarthy. Having to use some less game-experienced defensemen on the PK certainly hurt against RMU and UAA.

5) What forwards should our fans know about? What player on the team is the most fun to watch?

Peter MacArthur, Bryan Ewing, Chris Higgins and Brandon Yip are the top returnees. Mac has led BU in scoring the past two seasons and Dave Starman says he has the best slapper of any NCAA forward. Higgins has produced a number of highlight reel goals in his two year career. He's fully recovered from an injury that slowed him a bit last season.

Colin Wilson is a projected top 10 draft choice this spring. In comparing him to his U18 linemate James Van Riemsdyk, it's generally agreed that he's less explosive and a shade slower, but a stronger player physically and exceptionally thorough in all three zones. Nick Bonino, according to one respected observer, has "first-round hands, but fourth round wheels." He and Wilson have already improved BU's face-off win percentage.

6) Awhile back there were rumors that Michigan and Michigan State might come out to Boston to play you guys and BC at Fenway. I haven't heard anything about it since the rumor was published. Have you guys heard anything about that--or about a potential Michigan series out there? Red Berenson at least hinted that we might be making an appearance in Boston in the near future since you guys and BC have both come out here.

There hasn't been much written recently about outdoor games at Fenway. IMO, they're a novelty and have been done. I'll just watch reruns of "Mystery Alaska," which was written by David Kelley, whose dad, Jack, coached BU for ten years including back-to-back NCAA titles. [David also is married to this pretty actress :--) ] (Ed Note: I love Mystery, Alaska and I love Boston Legal. Never realized that David E Kelley wrote the former. And I also didn't know that he was related to BU's old coach. I think that's pretty cool)

7) When BC keeps having games fogged out, do you just laugh while sitting in the confines of your gorgeous new arena? I know I'd make fun of MSU all the time if it kept happening to them.

Terrier fans have a cheer [The Song (Ed Note: The music part of "The Song" will be familiar to Michigan fans as MSU plays it as well)] that pretty much covers all matters BC. Hopefully they'll use it a few times this weekend. If not, you can google it.

8) Any parting thoughts on the weekend?

I previously mentioned Brian Strait and Colby Cohen and you noted that BU and Michigan fought tooth and nail over Kevin Shattenkirk. But the best Terrier dman and, right now, the most talented player is 2nd team All-American Matt Gilroy, a Cinderella story if there ever was one. A late bloomer who played a few years of junior after high school, he was recommended to Parker by the father of now graduated defensemen Kevin Schaeffer. Matt had been a forward in juniors, but agreed to walk on as a defenseman. The late-bloomer quickly blossomed and a few games into his freshman year moved into the starting lineup and thrived. He's a strong puck carrier, jumps up into the play well and is very solid in the defensive zone. BU fans can thank their lucky stars that Gilroy, undrafted, told many NHL teams "no, thanks" and returned for another year in Scarlet.

Thanks again to
Terrier Blogger from The Terrier Hockey Fan Blog for his thoughts on the weekend. I hope everyone on our team realizes that BU is better than their record indicates and they've definitely got one very good goalie (and another who apparently is good as well).

It's been over 30 years since BU has started a season off winless in their first five games, so a split this weekend wouldn't shock me. I'm hoping for more, maybe expecting more, but the Terriers have too many good players to keep dropping games. And we're due for a stinker of a game at some point.

Matt Gilroy, the defenseman mentioned in
Terrier Blogger's thoughts on the weekend, did an interview with CSTV this past week. Here's what he had to say. He sounds like a great story.

I have my own hockey game tonight, so I'll be watching the game on my DVR once I get home. Provided that my laptop will turn on, I'll be doing a tape-delayed live blog of the game, which I will put up after I'm done watching.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Slow Day

Nothing much is going on today, so today's update is going to be a short one.

Mike Spath and Bob Miller have updated the Hockey Hotboard to include some new players, along with comments from Bob about many of the guys.

Also over at the Yost Post, Maize Out said that there may be some good news on the recruiting front after this weekend. I'm sure he'll have it over at WCH if that's the case.

More stuff about the NHL Schedule: Apparently the Red Wings were proposing that the league go back to the 84 game schedule they used to have, and lower the number of preseason games. That would allow for every team to play every other team both home and away at least once. Gary Bettman put the kabosh on that, which is another reason he's a moron. When the Wings and Leafs are both behind a proposal, chances are it'd be good for the game. It's still nice to see the Wings taking the initiative on this, since the league isn't smart enough to do so.

Finally a couple of reminders for some charitable events that are going on right now:
-The U of M Memorabilia Auction to support the Pat Maloy Cancer Scholarship is going on right now. So far, they've raised over $20,000 based on the bids that are in. There's some really great stuff up for bid, including some cool hockey stuff. Also, if you happen to know any San Jose Sharks fans, there are a couple of signed jerseys which have pretty low bids right now. The team signed jersey hasn't been bid on yet, and opens at $200, which is pretty reasonable.

-Christy Hammond from Behind The Jersey is helping out with a campaign to get people to register as organ donors. They're having a competition with Ohio State to see who can get more people to sign up, and we're getting thrashed right now. One feature of the program is to provide red heart stickers for each would-be-donor's driver's license, which played a key role in Jason Ray's organs being donated. He was the UNC Mascot who was killed earlier this year. So if that's something you believe in, please help out the cause.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Media Roundup: Northern Michigan Sweep

Michigan Hockey Net attended both games this weekend and provides recaps for Friday and Saturday, along with post-game thoughts from Friday. MHNet noticed the same thing that Kolarik did: Mark Mitera had an outstanding weekend. He was also impressed with the chemistry amongst the forward lines as well as the lack of turnovers from our blue liners. All positive things to see with such young units.

The Postgame Notes section of the MGoBlue press release indicates that Michigan has now won 14 of the last 16 games against Northern Michigan, with Billy Sauer posting a 7-1-0 mark.

The Michigan Daily blogs during games, and it's a nice way to get a play-by-play when you can't see the game. Friday. Saturday. They point out that Saturday night was the third straight game that Michigan has finished the third period short-handed. From their point of view, it makes me question the strategy of NMU switching goalies even more. The second goal was apparently put into the net by a Wildcat, and just before Michigan scored the go-ahead goal in the third period, Janzen apparently made a huge save.

It sounds as if Michigan had some trouble getting the offense going even-strength this weekend. We trailed in shots on goal for most of Saturday's game and the lack of quality chances was a common theme on Friday night as well through two periods. Luckily the power play got going just in time to win us a couple of games.

The Daily
also came through with a nice article about the special teams units from over the weekend. Kolarik seems to be embracing the role as a captain, because he's a pretty darn good quote.

When Matt Rust, back in the locker room after being ejected, heard the roar of the crowd, he thought the Wildcats had won the game. This is the second time in three games that he's taken a penalty late in regulation.

Red Berenson was interviewed by The Wolverine ($ link) about the past weekend as well as general thoughts about recruiting, which was pretty interesting. He said that Hogan met with the doctor again yesterday and is no better than a week ago.

The idea that this team is going to be "scoring by committee" seems to be panning out. Through four games, 10 different players have goals and only Hagelin, Porter, and and Rust have more than one goal.

Walt Kyle was disappointed in Janzen's play in net. I'm not sure if it's due to the hit that Stewart took late in Friday's game, or if it's the usual MO for them, but it also seems odd that he'd play Janzen after he praised the heck out of Stewart's play the night before.

Red Berenson said that NMU was the hungrier team on Saturday night and that we needed a little bit of luck to get out of there with a win. He gave Sauer a lot of credit for his play this weekend. Here's the Friday recap from The Mining Journal.

NMUHockey.net ripped the officiating Friday night, saying that it was the worst officiated game he had seen in 30 years. It's nice that others have come to appreciate Steve McInchak as much as I do. CCHA Officiating, folks! They haven't posted comments on Saturday's game yet, but I hope it gets mentioned that NMU received three more power plays than the Wolverines did, including a five minute major to close the game and start OT (oops!) and the result was the same.

One thing that they made mention of in the weekend preview post, which I had completely forgotten about, is that NMU plays on an Olympic-sized sheet. That makes the low shot totals that Michigan held NMU to all the more impressive, since that was the first time on the big ice in college for Michigan's ten freshmen who played.

Monday, October 22, 2007

We're #3...But is That a Good Thing?

With the sweep of Northern Michigan combined with the other happenings around the nation, the Wolverines vaulted Boston College, Minnesota, and Denver in the latest USCHO/CSTV and USA Today polls, rising up to #3 in the nation.

Wasn't it just a couple of weeks ago that we were thought of as the #4 team--in the CCHA?

While I'm beyond thrilled about the way this season has started, I still remember 2005-06 and don't particularly want a repeat of that. It might be a case of complaining along the lines of "My wallet is too small for my fifties and my diamond shoes are too tight" but a big part of me wishes we were a bit farther down the poll.

I absolutely loved the fact that we were under the radar at the start of the season. 4th in the CCHA, no expectations, no press clippings to read and get a big head over. I don't want that target on our backs, especially this early in the season. Not to go all Roy Williams, but we're not so far away from being 1-3 or 0-4 right now. Instead we're ahead of everyone in the country not named North Dakota or Miami (OH).

The next test is going to see how this team responds to a tough loss, or a tough weekend. And while I'm hoping that they won't get that test for a long, long time, that day is coming. If they respond better than that 05-06 team did, I'll be very happy. In the meantime, I'll just hope that they respond better to a high ranking than our football team typically does.

A few other comments from the weekend:
-Lloyd Carr deserves a ton of credit for the way Michigan has played after the way this season started. They could've easily rolled over and lost 6, 7, 8 games, especially considering Henne and Hart have been dinged up, along with the problems in the kicking game and whatnot. Instead, they need to win just 2 of the next 3 (Minnesota, at Sparty, at Wisconsin) to set up a showdown with OSU for the Rose Bowl. I said at various times that they still had the Rose Bowl to play for, but I didn't really believe it. I thought it was possible but didn't think it would happen. Now it seems likely that we'll get another crack at OSU with a trip to Pasadena on the line.

-That was a major gut-check win over Illinois in a hostile environment. With the way the game started, Henne getting injured and missing half the game, and Hart not playing, they still found a way to step up and win the game. Or at least take the game when Illinois handed it to them. Either way, it was a nice victory against a pretty decent team who really wanted that one.

-Our field hockey team knocked off Northwestern to finish off a 6-0 Big Ten season and win their first outright Big Ten title since 2002. They've now run off 11 in a row, and haven't lost to a team ranked lower than #3 all year.

-For anyone who hasn't been watching the Red Wings, you're really missing out on seeing one of the great players in hockey rise to another level. Henrik Zetterberg has been absolutely sensational this season. He has 7-10--17 in 9 games this season, and has tallied at least one point in every game thusfar. What's more impressive is that he has multiple points in 6 of the 9 games. And going back to last year, he's now scored a point or more in 16 straight regular season games, and 36 out of the last 40.

-ESPN had a nice article about how Rob Blake is mentoring JMFJ.

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.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Michigan 3, NMU 1

Last weekend, we saw this young team beat a highly ranked opponent (BC) and hang tough against another quality opponent in a hostile environment. Tonight was another step in the maturing process, as they were able to battle back from a late second period 1-0 deficit to beat Northern Michigan on the road 3-1.

Despite some early struggles, going o'fer on their first 5 power plays, the Wolverines finally got going with 2 Kevin Porter PPGs, each from Kolarik and Palushaj. Carl Hagelin said "Bork bork bork!" and netted the insurance goal late in the third period with a vicious wrist shot.

In addition to the top line getting some production tonight, the most promising thing that I notice is that it appears we were really solid defensively once again. After 22 shots on goal in each of the first two games, the Wolverines held the Wildcats to 14 tonight, including just 2 in the second period. That's 58 shots on goal in 3 games. By contrast, I believe we gave up 52 shots on goal against Minnesota alone last year. If there's one remedy for what's usually shaky goaltending, it's playing strong team defense and not letting the other team get all that many scoring chances.

It sounds as if Sauer had no chance on the first goal, which was a failed clearing attempt from a couple of our players. The NMU player held it in and fed it to a guy who was wide open in the slot, due to our team getting a little anxious breaking out. And apart from that, he stopped the other 13 shots they asked him to, including a couple of big saves in the third period and three good saves at the start of the game. He definitely knows how to play against NMU (6-1-0, 1.88, .926).

The penalty kill remained strong, they're now 12 for 12 on the season, which is impressive given the teams we've played and the youth on some of our units.

The other bit of good news is that the third period was our best period, once it became a four-line game once again. Some of the guys who don't play on the specialty teams were lacking in ice time due to the amount of penalties in the game (McInchak of course).

In the ongoing battles for ice-time as the 12th forward and 6th defenseman, Brian Lebler got the nod over Brandon Naurato tonight while Scooter Vaughan was the defenseman sitting out tonight, allowing both Llewellyn and Quick to play. Also, according to MHNet, Winnett was elevated to the second line, playing with Rust and Miller. Palushaj dropped down to the line with Fardig and Lebler. He remained on the top PP unit, however, and netted two assists on the night. MHNet was impressed with Mark Mitera's play tonight, and Chad Kolarik was as well...the newest Alternate Captain singled out Mitera in his MGoBlue interview as being outstanding tonight.

I really like that it seems we're spreading out the offense somewhat. Against BC, it was Caporusso's line. Against Minnesota it was mainly Rust's line. Tonight, the top power play unit (which is basically the top line) got it done. We had 7 guys with 3+ shots on goal, but no one had more than 4 (and the only guy with that many was Kampfer). If we can continue to have 3 legit scoring lines, it's going to make this a very tough team to match lines against.

Faceoff Watch: Kolarik was actually the main man in the circle tonight, winning all 7 of his draws. I'm a bit surprised that Rust has struggled somewhat in the earlygoing of his Michigan career (9 of 20 tonight, just under 50% for the year), but he's still better than most of the guys we've had in the recent past.

Hopefully they can complete the sweep tomorrow night, and get off to a nice start in CCHA play.

One other thing of note tonight: The Boston College/North Dakota game, which was nationally televised on CSTV, was canceled after the second period due to poor ice conditions, fog, and power outages. Because the game went 2 periods, the NCAA considers it an official game and it'll go into the books as a 0-0 tie, which is what the score was after 2. What makes this interesting is that this is the third straight season that Boston College has had a home game called off.

Last year, their game against Boston University was canceled for the same reason. Coincidentally, that game was also going to be televised on CSTV. Two season ago, they lost an exhibition game against St. Thomas for a similar reason.

It really surprises me that they haven't found a fix for this yet. It's an embarrassment to their program to have problems like this so frequently, especially when BU is playing in a brand spanking new arena not too far away. It also doesn't help that it's happened back-to-back years during national TV games. I'm sure CSTV isn't going to be in any hurry to get back there. This is one of the marquee teams in college hockey. They shouldn't have home games canceled three years running due to poor ice. I feel bad for their fans. They were robbed of what would've likely been a great finish in a game against the #1 team in the country.

Lastly, tomorrow's game will be broadcast on the internet at B2LiveTV.com for the cost of $6, which I don't think is too bad for what is said to be a pretty good video feed synced with the radio play-by-play. I may not purchase it tomorrow since our game will be opposite Michigan football, the ALMS race, and the Red Wings game, but our games at UNO, Ferris State, and LSSU should also be broadcast on the site. $6 is a little steep for me to buy it to watch recruits play, but they also offer the video services for USHL and NAHL games. I'd love it if Michigan eventually partnered with them. It may not be worth it for the school since we have so many TV games, but I'd be more than willing to pay to see any extra games, particularly since the season pass for each team that uses this service is only $50.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Media Roundup: Icebreaker Tournament

Let's try something new on Mondays/Tuesdays: Media Roundup. The goal is to compile articles that I find about the past weekend, point out interesting facts, tidbits, or observations that I missed or failed to mention, and to comment when necessary. If people like this feature and I find that it's useful, I'll make it a regular part of the weekend coverage. If it just ends up being me regurgitating links, then it won't. I'd also consider holding this feature until mid-week so that I can comment on the Michigan Daily's take (why do they wait til Wednesday? Weird). So we'll see how it goes.

One comment that I meant to make and neglected to is how much I enjoy when we play Boston College. It seems like every time it ends up being a really fun hockey game. Red Berenson said in a chat on CSTV that it's possible we'll go out East in the near future. Maybe that Fenway game actually happens?

The games against the Wolverines took their toll on the opponents. Brock Bradford is out indefinitely after breaking his arm on Friday night, and Ryan Stoa will miss the rest of Minnesota's season after blowing out his knee Saturday night. Best wishes to both guys on a speedy recovery.

The Ann Arbor News is upbeat about what the future holds for this team. Matt Rust, wise beyond his years, understands something that previous Michigan teams couldn't grasp: "It goes to show that we can be a top team. It's all about working hard." Show up, bust your ass every night, and we're going to win a lot more than we lose.

RJ Anderson's goal to kick off the Championship Game was the first of his career, snapped a 70-game goalless streak. It's good to know that stuff like that doesn't only happen to the Red Wings.

The impressive performance this weekend lifted Michigan up to #6 in the latest USCHO and USA Today polls. North Dakota remains #1 after a blowout win over Michigan State (who fell to #9 in both polls). Miami also received a few first place votes and holds down the #2 spot. 5 CCHA teams are in each of the rankings.

Upcoming opponent Boston University got off to a rough start, losing to Robert Morris (ouch) and tying Alaska-Anchorage. Granted it was up in Alaska, but that's starting to look like a series that we should probably sweep, given that it's the home opener and all.

WCH agreed that Frazee's shot total was inflated and also provided some comments about individual Michigan players.

You want Hagelin shirts? I give Hagelin shirts. Bork Bork Bork! Yes the kid rules, and yes, that is going to be the motto for this season. If I was still able to go to games at Yost, I would totally be trying to get the student section to chant that when he scores. Someone please make it happen.

One final note that isn't related to ice hockey, congrats to the Michigan Field Hockey team who has clinched at least a share of the Big Ten Championship for the fourth time in six years. They've rebounded from a 2-4 start against an absurdly tough schedule to raise their record to 11-4 (5-0 Big Ten) and move up to the #5 spot in the national rankings. The nine game winning streak includes four wins in overtime.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Swede and Sauer: Impressions on a Great Weekend of Hockey

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.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Breaking Down the 07-08 Wolverines: Max Pacioretty

The final player to be previewed is #39, freshman Max Pacioretty. And I apologize to Max if this one seems a little rushed, because honestly, it is.

Last Season: Pacioretty made the most out of his one and only USHL season, scoring 21-42--63 in 60 games. He had a +20 rating and posted 119 PIMs. His point total was good for second on the team and 10th in the league (3 points behind future teammate Aaron Palushaj). He also had 4 goals and 6 assists in just seven playoff games.

He was given the USHL's Rookie of the Year award and played in the USHL All-Star game. He's in pretty good company by winning the ROY trophy. Other winners include Kyle Okposo, Joe Pavelski, Brandon Bochenski and Danny Richmond.

Expectations: Pacioretty went from unknown--to us Westerners--prep school hockey player to USHL phenom, to first round NHL Draft Pick and status as the jewel of this recruiting class. While most of the players appear to be 3 or 4 year guys, Pacioretty is likely not. Enjoy him while he's here, folks.

He'll be playing on the top line with Porter and Kolarik right from the get-go, which should probably plenty of scoring opportunities. He's big (6'2" 203), strong, physical, not afraid to hit and muck in the corners, nice wrist shot, decent defensive player, and apparently he's a surprisingly good passer.

In his pre-draft profiles, his passing was often cited as a major plus for him. He was Max Giese's #5 "play-maker" available. He's also apparently a good faceoff guy, which has me kind of wondering if he won't end up playing center, should it become evident that Porter is more comfortable on the wing.

Central Scouting used the word "supple" to describe his hands, which is pretty awesome. I'm expecting that ESPNU announcer to leave me a comment saying that that's kinda gay.

He has the size to be a prototypical power forward, but Giese came out and said "He's not a power forward", so I guess that'll be a work in progress as he learns to better use his size.

He'll be on the top line and the power play, and with his talent, I think a point total in the high 30s is very possible. I don't know that he'll get over a ppg. We've only had a handful of freshmen do that in the recent past, but he'll be right there.

And I like him because he said Jed Ortmeyer is his favorite player and who he models his game after. Can't pick a better guy than that!

Level of Necessity: 8 out of 10.

Again, he looks to be a 2 year guy. He's going to come in and have an impact on this team and he should look really nice playing with Porter and Kolarik. I expressed concern that there might not be enough pucks to go around on that line, but if he's as good of a playmaker as everyone seems to think, he might be the perfect compliment since those guys are both used to getting the puck on their stick.

Parting Thoughts: I really gotta get going here, but it seems that this is going to be another roller-coaster ride. If it's not enough that we'll have to expect ups and downs from our dozen freshmen, we've also got a shaky goaltending situation to deal with. Some games, it will all come together. We'll score goals, the defense will be good, and Sauer (or Hogan) will have a good game. There's a ton of talent on this team.

But on the nights when the defense and goaltending aren't good, it's going to be a flashback to last year--only without the nation's leading offense to bail us out. I expect the offense will still be good, but it would take an awful lot to match last year's scoring total--even though I think we're deeper up front that last year, just without those elite forwards like we've had in the past.

I still expect a pretty good season. It'll be fun watching all these young, talented players grow. If this team can learn to play solid defense and we get NCAA-caliber netminding, they can contend for a title. Those are big ifs though, and I think it's more likely that we'll be on the tournament bubble for most of the season. Whether we make it or not is going to come down to the goaltending.

With that said, I'm off to St. Paul. I hope you've all enjoyed reading these previews, because it's probably never happening again. I hope I haven't come across as too big of a homer--or a complete idiot--in the process.


Breaking Down the 07-08 Wolverines: Billy Sauer

The next-to-last stop on this tour through the 2007-08 Wolverines is the starting goalie, junior Billy Sauer.

Last Season: The 06-07 season was an adventure in net. The closest analogy that I can find to describe Billy Sauer's play would be to look at Chicago Bears quarterback Rex Grossman. People starting referring to his outings (and at times, even his individual passes) as "Good Rex showing up" or "Bad Rex showing up".

We had a similar situation in Ann Arbor. Sometimes it was Good Billy, and sometimes it was Bad Billy. You just never knew, and when Bad Billy was in town, the results weren't pretty.

There were times when he was really, really good. He had 35 saves in the CCHA Championship Game against Notre Dame, but it's only the weak goal he let in for the game-winner that gets remembered.

Other times, however, it was simply stunning how a Division I goalie could be so bad. Over a pair of games in early December, he gave up 10 goals on just 33 shots, which paved the way for the one start Steve Jakiel made in a Michigan uniform. 5 goals in the first 21 minutes of the game against North Dakota couldn't hold up for the game, let alone the first 25 minutes, and by the halfway point in the game, we were facing an unbelievable 7-5 deficit.

If you look at the game-by-game breakdown, the streaks were amazing: Early in the year, he gave up 5, 3, 4, 3, 3, 6 over a six game span. He then followed that up by going 2, 4, 1, 2, 1, 1. Then it was right back to being Bad Billy with a streak of 3, 8, 5, 5, 4, 1, 4 before a seven game stretch where he gave up more than two goals on just one occasion. But then he gave up 2 or less just three times over the next ten games.

Down the stretch, he was actually quite good. His mother sat next to me during a game late in the season and I commented that he was playing well, and I wasn't lying. Apart from a six goal bobble at OSU, he played fairly good goal: 1, 3, 3, 3, 1, 3, 6, 1, 3, 2, 2, in the lead-up to the North Dakota debacle.

But for the season, the numbers weren't pretty. Sauer had a 3.03 goals against average with an .896 save percentage. That's simply not good enough. Some of that is on the defense, no doubt. But there were far too many occasions where weak goals, untimely goals, or simply too many goals doomed us. 13 out of the 40 times he played, the opposition scored 4 goals or more. Not even the best offense in the country is going to be able to overcome numbers like that.

One of the most telling stats is that the Wolverines were just 4-11-1 when scoring 3 goals or less, and they were still under .500 when scoring exactly three times. We didn't have the ability to win the low-scoring games, which put a ton of pressure on the offense. You can't expect a team to score four goals a night in order to win.

For all the cracks that I make--and I'm trying to be better about that this year--I really don't think he's the worst goalie in history. He's big, he's athletic, he's good about finding the puck in traffic. The big weaknesses in his game are that he's very vulnerable high on the glove side, and that he doesn't really show the ability to bounce back from a bad goal or a bad game (as the streaks indicate).

Expectations: My expectation was that at this point he'd either be backing up Bryan Hogan or splitting time. But with Hogan's illness that isn't to be, and thus Sauer will get one more chance to prove himself worthy of being the starting goalie for the Michigan Wolverines.

I'm scared. He's never proven to be mentally tough, and I'm worried about how he's going to respond to giving up a slew of goals to North Dakota last year, and having his coach not give him a vote of confidence in the offseason. Playing Boston College and potentially Minnesota right out of the gate, before going on the road for six of the first eight conference games, and a home series against Boston University isn't exactly easing back into it. If he's not on his game--if he can't bounce back--this season is going to get ugly before Bryan Hogan is even back to full health.

It's so hard to know what to expect. Players improve. Sauer strung together some very solid performances last year. And--this is possibly the most important thing--he's still only 19 years old. Coming in as a freshman, he hadn't played very much hockey. He split time in the USHL for one year and was only 3 years removed from playing JV hockey when he became the starting goalie for Michigan.

And all it would take is a little consistency. I've commented to several people that I'd be happy to take Josh Blackburn numbers because you knew what you were getting. He was right around the .905 mark every season. Never especially great, but never horrible either. I can count on one hand the number of times I uttered "Dammit, Blackburn" in the two years I watched him play. I'd much rather have a guy like that than someone who is up and down from week to week. One extra save every four games is all that it would have taken for Sauer to be at a .905, but it's the consistency that really matters. And if he can achieve that, then this team will be in the mix for the CCHA.

As bad as he's been at times, he's not that far off from being the goalie that we need.

Level of Necessity: 10 out of 10.

I have to list him as a 10 as well. As I said in Hogan's profile, we need a goalie. And to be perfectly honest, I'd be happier than a pig in shit if the Billy Sauer that skates out of that tunnel tonight is the Billy Sauer that played out of his mind against BC two years ago in his first collegiate start.

As much as I've hyped up Hogan, I would be perfectly fine if he got healthy and never played a game, because it would mean that Sauer has finally become that kid who was at one time the #4 rated North American goalie and had an outside chance at being a first round selection. The talent is there.

This is his last chance. If Hogan is at all a good goalie, Sauer would be wise to not start this year on a bad note. He was given a reprieve with Hogan's illness and he needs to make the most of this chance.

The tean is going to be hard-pressed to match last year's goal totals (though I don't think they'll be super far off it). But the safety net is going away. We aren't going to give him 25 occurrences of scoring 4+ goals, so we damn well better be above .500 when we put 3 up or it's going to be trouble.

At least in theory, the team defense should be better this season, as it appears they're making a concerted effort to improve that area of the game. We need the goalie to be better. It doesn't matter who is it, but we need the goalie to be better. If he's not, then the consecutive years in the tournament streak could be in serious jeopardy.

Other Stuff: Red Berenson talked with CSTV on Tuesday and answered fan questions. There's nothing earth-shattering in the interview, but he does express optimism that Sauer will put it all together this season. It was a much more positive answer than he's typically given when asked about our goaltending.

Tomorrow morning, we look at Max Pacioretty, I make some final thoughts, and then the puck drops officially on the 2007-08 season.