Time to preview the first conference game that Michigan has played in over a month. Rich Rodriguez will be on hand (the story is actually on "The Wire" but since there's no permalink to the story itself, I figured it'd be more fun to link the front page where there's a photo of RR in his new hockey jersey--do I have to become the head football coach to get one of those maize jerseys with the diagonal Michigan on it?) tonight to drop the first puck and take part in Score-O. That man should be able to shoot from as close as he wishes.
Saturday night's contest will air on CSTV, and the lack of a TV broadcast tonight means that the game will stream live on Mgoblue.com courtesy of WOLV-TV.
So on to it, here are 10 things to know about the Western Michigan Broncos:
1. They come into this game at 6-13-1 overall and 2-10-0 in the CCHA, and have yet to face Michigan or Miami. They have 2 wins over something called Bentley, 2 wins over Wayne State, and single victories over OSU and NMU. The tie came against Holy Cross. They got swept by Niagara, Ferris, and UNO and also lost to Quinnipiac and the NTDP amongst others. Notre Dame, the closest team to us that they've played, beat them 4-1 and 5-1.
2. They feature one point-per-game scorer in Patrick Galivan, who has 7-15--22 in 20 games. They have 3 other guys with more than 10 points.
3. Riley Gill has played in 15 games, but freshman Jerry Kuhn has played 4 of the last 6 and has much better stats to show for it. Gill is 4-10-0 with a 3.21 goals against and an .896 save percentage. Kuhn is 2-3-1, with a 2.15/.918. Still, Gill has played Michigan three times, going 1-2-0 and allowing a respectable 11 goals, considering he allowed 6 in one of the games. In one of the losses he allowed just 2 goals on 44 shots. Based on the fact that Kuhn is playing well and Gill has had some success against Michigan, I'd expect to see both of them this weekend.
4. Chris Frank is still there, and still likely a douchebag. He'll try to start something at some point this weekend, probably at home when he's in front of his own crowd. He's only taken 28 PIMs this year, and no majors or misconducts. That's actually kind of impressive after having 127 and 109 PIMs the last two seasons.
5. They rank 8th in the CCHA in both offense (2.45 gpg) and defense (3.05 gpg allowed). Michigan is second in both to Miami.
6. Western's power play ranks sixth in the conference at 16.5%, but they've been on the man-advantage just 79 times this season, which is far and away the least in the conference. By comparison, Miami has had 145 opportunities on the power play. In those 79 chances, they've given up 4 shorties, so they are vulnerable in that area. They're 5th in the conference on PKs, killing off 84.7% of the 124 times they've been short-handed, but they've scored just one short-handed goal. In the strange "Combined special teams" stat, the Broncos actually are tops in the conference.
Random stat time...here are the differentials in power plays for/against this year:
Notre Dame +21
Ferris State -3
So much for the "refs love Michigan" argument that a lot of schools in this conference like to use. Though, they really freaking hate Western it seems. How is a stat like that even possible, especially when Western is only in the middle of the pack in terms of penalty minutes? One guess is that they don't have any particularly high-end forward that's drawing penalties, though you could say the same about a team like LSSU, who is +52 up the list.
7. Western's best period is the third, where they're +3 in goal differential. They're even in the first, and -12 in the second. Side note, Miami has scored as many or more goals in the third period than two teams in the CCHA have scored all season. Michigan is closing in on LSSU in that regard.
8. This probably goes without saying, but Saturday's game at Western is a lot tougher than the game at Yost. WMU is 1-6 on the road this year, but 5-6 at home. Of course, they haven't really beaten anyone....let's keep that statement accurate, kay?
9. They block almost 10 shots per game. The team leader has 60 shots on goal, which is a weekend for Chad Kolarik. Not really. It doesn't appear that they track faceoffs, or at least it's not public, which is kind of disappointing.
10. Freshman Max Campbell was the OHA Junior B Player of the Year and was picked in the 5th round by the New York Rangers. He has 3-10--13 in 20 games. Sophomore defenseman Tyler Ludwig is the son of ex-NHLer Craig.