Saturday, February 09, 2008

Michigan 4, Miami 2

Hockey's a funny game sometimes. Michigan looked like poop on a stick for two solid weeks and then hangs four goals on the number one team in the country during a six-minute span in the first period. That was a great performance out of the Maize and Blue. Through two periods, I was willing to call it the best defensive performance I've seen out of a Michigan hockey team. Ever. They held the high-powered Miami offense to eight shots on goal in the first two periods combined.

Mark Mitera, who struggled badly last Friday, was incredible tonight. He didn't let anyone get near the Michigan net for most of the game, but especially in the first period when the game was still in doubt.

Chad Kolarik had a pair of assists, but was at his best in our own end, blocking shots and doing a very nice job of killing penalties. And there were a lot. Kevin Porter, Louie Caporusso, Carl Hagelin...pretty much everyone deserves credit for their defensive play tonight. Summers, Kampfer, Vaughan, Langlais, Llewellyn...all great work tonight. As I said above, that was as solid of an all-around game as I've seen in a long time. Miami did absolutely nothing against this team 5 on 5. They had 10 shots the entire game that didn't come on the power play and maybe one was a good scoring chance.

Porter had the kind of hockey game that reminds you why he's the best player in the country. A goal on a partial breakaway, he was the #2 star on the night, and he was solid as hell defensively. It's really not fair that a guy as gifted as he is on the offensive end can be that solid in his own end too. There's no way they can screw him out of the Hobey...right? Leading scorer in the country, one of the absolute best defensive forwards in the country, and the best player on what is arguably the best team.

Travis Turnbull has turned into one hell of a hockey player. He's having the kind of year that I expected out of Tim Miller. He's always doing good things out there, it doesn't matter which end of the ice the puck is at. He's never going to get the headlines--apart from when he wins the GLI--but he's a key cog on this team.

The book on Aaron Palushaj coming in was that he is a very craft player in tight quarters, and he showed why once again tonight. He got left alone in front of the net, stopped the pass with his skate, and then quick-as-a-cat snapped off a shot into the corner of the net.

The story of the game was obviously the huge first period, but the Michigan defense was spectacular. Miami's got some damn good forwards, but Michigan contained them and did it while playing their own game. I can't even begin to capture how well the defensemen played tonight. All six of them deserve a pat on the back.

And, as tends to be the case when he does our games, I have to bitch about Matt Shegos. How the league continues to let him do games of this magnitude, I'll never know. He was brutal tonight and he was brutal both ways. Depending on my mood, I may do a "Upon Further Review" of this weekend's games during the week, but I'd be really curious to see how many of these so-called penalties were actually legit. Off the top of my head:
-The checking from behind call against Lebler and the charging call against Jones (I believe, there was also one on Steffes around that time) the player clearly turned his back at the last second.
-The five-minute major on Vaughan I also thought the guy turned, but I could see calling that one a two minute penalty.
-The charge against Lebler was an absolute crap call that could have completely turned the game. The defenseman hit him, the goalie was well out of his crease, and Lebler barely hit him and Zatkoff flopped in a way that Hasek would've made Hasek proud. Then we ignore Sauer getting slashed at well after the puck was covered, but that's cool.
-The late hook against Llewellyn was questionable as well. And Mitera better have said something pretty bad to draw a ten-minute misconduct at that stage of the game.
Oh there were more. I'm just having a hard time differentiating between the hooks and holds. He did make one call that was absolutely outstanding however. Miami had a 5 on 3 and Chad Kolarik had lost his stick. He went to grab it and Andy Miele knocked it away from him. That was going to lead to a RedHawk having a wide open shooting lane, but Shegos made the call. I about dropped dead of shock.

I guess my opinion is that you've got the #1 and #2 teams in the country. They're great offensively, they're great defensively. Let the players decide the game. The knee to knee stuff, which got called twice, absolutely. But by and large, let the players play. There's a reason that our games with MSU typically have the least amount of power plays awarded. The refs generally realize that it's two talented teams and you have to let them decide the hockey game.

The weird thing is that Shegos typically does let the players decide it. Over the past five years, he's called less penalties in our games than any other ref that we've had more than a couple times. But I think at one point he started reffing the score and trying to keep control of the game, and he almost allowed Miami to get back into the contest because of it. To be fair, Michigan took a couple of bonehead penalties, most notably Miller's checking-from-behind infraction but there were a couple of abysmal calls.

Reading Red's post-game quotes, he wasn't thrilled with Shegos either.

Sauer was good when he had to be. Hard to fault him on either goal. The first was a lucky bounce of Jones's face/chest and the second was a breakdown by the defense and a great individual effort. I'd have to look at the tape to make sure it was on net, but if it was, Sauer's stop in the opening minute of the game was huge. If Miami scores there, the crowd goes bezerk and it's very probably a different hockey game.

The only real downers of the night were that Michigan's power play wasn't great (1-9 with just six shots on goal) and we let Miami get back into the game late, which gives them some confidence heading into tomorrow. But if Michigan plays that well defensively again, they'll get another W. There's no team in the country that could hang with the Wolverines when they play like that.

The "Whew" moment of the night came when Steve Kampfer returned to the ice after looking to be in some serious pain. We'd have a major issue if any of the defensemen were lost for a significant period of time. Kevin Quick, you're really an idiot.

For Miami, I was really impressed with the speed of Ryan Jones. There were a few times that he just left our guy in the dust, and Michigan is a fast team. I thought Miele had some nice opportunities--they called his name an awful lot. Though he took that really bad interference penalty when they had a 5 on 3. And how pretty was that goal by Palmer? He went right through three of the four guys we had on the ice--that'd be Kolarik, Hagelin, and either Llewellyn or Summers. Gorgeous goal.

As a happy bonus to our win, Michigan State and Notre Dame lost tonight (as well as Miami, obviously) so it was as good of a night in the points department as it could have been. If we get a W tomorrow night, simply splitting against MSU should give us the CCHA title.

One last point: What did Miami do on faceoffs without Nathan Davis all year? There were 70 draws in the game tonight and he took 35 of them. Rust got shelled on faceoffs tonight (5 of 20).

I'm really looking forward to tomorrow night's game. It's important for Michigan to not be remotely satisfied with two points. They can put themselves firmly in the driver's seat for the CCHA title as well as the #1 overall seed with a win tomorrow. If they come out with the same effort and intensity, especially in the defensive end, they can make this a four-point weekend. I fully expect to take Miami's best shot in the first period tomorrow and it'll be key to get off to a good start.

15 comments:

Dave said...

Any definitive word on what Quick did to get kicked off the team? Or any legitimate rumors?

kc8niy said...

If this appears very random, well, it is.

Travis Turnbull has been a favorite of my wife and myself since mid-way through his freshman season. He's always showed some flashes of brilliance, and has played with heart on every shift since day 1. This year, he's taken the next step. He has the poise an upperclassman should have, still brings the grittiness and determination every shift, and has found a way to put the puck in the net more often, while making some beautiful plays to set up his linemates. Oh, and he knows his defense pretty well, too. He'll at least be wearing an "A" next year. He definitely has the personality and on-ice attributes to be an effective leader.

"There's no way they can screw (Porter) out of the Hobey...right?" Well, Ryan Duncan still plays in North Dakota, and still isn't the best player on his line.

Mark Mitera was the biggest goat last Friday. It was far and away his worst game of the year. He looked transformed from good to bad overnight. In hindsight (the Quick situation), that could have been expected. And then, AND THEN, he turns around and gives us his best performance of the year. Simply outstanding last night. I really hope we all enjoy watching him for his last nine weeks (yes, I said nine weeks) as a Wolverine.

The key to last night's game was absolutely defense. Miami's didn't show up until the second period, while we held strong the whole game. Zatkoff could only be faulted on the fourth goal. He played well positionally, but his defense absolutely hung him out to dry on the rest. Granted, I think our offense did a tremendous job of creating space for themselves to work with. It was the one thing they simply couldn't manage against State and Northern, which ultimately cost them both series.

Shegos? Not much of a comment. I wasn't too impressed with his third period performance, and made that known pretty audibly at The Arena last night. Hey, it's a good thing we get all those calls though, because other teams might actually be in the game if it weren't for the reffing.

Don't get me wrong, a fair portion of those calls were legit, and I think our physical play got us in trouble there at times. I also got the impression that Miami was selling some of those calls. To be fair, Miami got shafted on occasion as well. But JFC, did it not appear that Shegos was trying to make a game of it in the third.

Let's learn from our late mistakes and approach tonights game the same as last night. Miami will be throwing everything, including the kitchen sink, at us tonight. As did last night, the first period will dictate the rest of the game.

It's hard to say I'd be content with dropping the game tonight, seeing as though my original goal was to take two points this weekend. Yet I think we're fine if we lose a closely contested game. I'll be ecstatic if we can pull out another "W". Back in the drivers seat instead of riding shotgun.

Streaker said...

Tim and Sunshine...

THIS is the Michigan team I watched early on. The one that dismantled Minnesota and Notre Dame.

I think Miami was tight (gee, maybe the WCHA woofers are correct about how they don't play well in big games) and that Michigan jumped on them.

Shegos is a tool. Period. But I guess it could have been Wilkins (he did the NMU/MSU game) or Aaron.
Either way, there was going to be a good number of penalties called.

Can we also end the Quick speculation, too? He did something so grievous that Tampa is now debating their own investigation. It hurt us and eventually it will hurt him. Let's wait and see if anything comes out on it.

I see Miami bouncing back tonight, although it will be a close game. USCHO is collectively taking their CCHA shots with Miami the cover girl. That's not gonna sit well with Blaisi. ( I guess I was pissed reading about how great the WCHA's SoS is, blah blah effing blah...)

Miami needs to send a message that they are a good team and they will.

DanK said...

1) who cares about that farce of an award... Baker Blows.

2) I've never seen a team that depends so much on a stay at home Dman (mitera). i also can't believe i predictied the correlation b/t his and the teams success. w/ a miscon... is he playing tonight?

3) did you say UFR? yespleasekthxbye.

kc8niy said...

Dan - Mitera was issued a 10 minute misconduct. Had there been enough time remaining, he would have returned last night. He'll be in the lineup tonight, along with Vaughan who was issued a game misconduct (vs game disqualification) for his checking from behind call.

Streak - This most certainly IS the team we were watching prior to the MSU series. Good to see them back.

Re WCHA SoS woofing: They're just trying to find the widest brush possible to paint with. It's all they've got when discussing their conference and Miami/Michigan in the same breath. The fact remains that they must concede EVERY category of importance.

DanK said...

thanks... i keep reading/hearing 10min miscond, and think game disqual. automatically.

Can't see the hype for the facts... said...

We WCHA "woofers" get all caught up in things like head-to-head records -- what can something like a 13-9-5 record for WCHA teams v. CCHA teams so far (and 47-17-10 v. all leagues this year) have to do with relative strength? Granted, Michigan has beaten the Gophers twice -- but so have the Alaska Anchorage Seawolves! Their SoS is STILL 7 places better that UofM and 14 better than Miami. See you at the Regionals -- or in the stands at the Frozen Four (we'll be on the ice, of course!). Hey, we'll also take your Shegos and trade you a Schmidt AND an Adam (or several others!)!

STREAKER said...

CSTHFTF:

Michigan is 3-1 against the W this year. I wish they had beaten Minn twice, but actually lost the 2nd game of the year.

Miami is getting unfairly criticized. They have talent but may not be handling the pressure very well. I am sure they'll represent well come playoff time.

Don't forget MSU, either, which happens to have the last banner, not the W.

kc8niy said...

Absolutely ROBBED tonight. If I could type this in any bigger font, I would. Shegos and his crew gave us the biggest screw job I've ever seen.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't see the game, did we get bad Billy again tonight?

Packer487 said...

First 3 weren't Sauer's fault. The fourth was a bad goal and a bad bounce, but it probably should've been blown dead. The fifth wasn't a bad goal, but a horrible rebound kept the play alive. He wasn't great, but he did make a huge save to keep us in the game when it was 3-2 Miami.

I'm excited to have a WCHA fight finally. NoDak scares the hell out of me, CC I haven't seen. Wisconsin is pretty blah, Denver bores the hell out of me, Minnesota sucks. I've got a really tough time believing UMD is that good based on their resume--they won 2 games in a ten game stretch that involved pairs against MSUM, UAA, Bemidji, MSUM, and Minnesota. Not exactly murderer's row. At least MSUM has a nice sweep of Denver to their credit.

The W is a better conference top to bottom, but I'd stack the top 4-6 in the CCHA up against the 4-6 from the W and I think we'd do fine.

Streaker said...

The WCHA is a solid conference, but the trolling on USCHO is unwarranted. They haven't won shit yet. No Dak will fight with CC for the team I think most likely to face for the NCAA Championship. Nonetheless, having a regional at home will help CC, and No Dak is just as talented as anyone. Denver, Wisco and UM-D are dangerous but not consistent. Mankato has decent goaltending.

Overall, in a neutral/away setting, I like the fact that Michigan has only lost once and tied twice. And, take note, they are currently 3-1-2 against the teams picked to finish ahead of them in the CCHA. Impressive.

If they finish 4-1-1, I think they will at least tie for the crown.

Goon said...

Streaker,
You will find that most of us in the WCHA have a lot of respect for Michigan, I am a Sioux fan and know what your team can do, Michigan's record speaks for itself, Miami is a decent but not worthy of all the love they are getting. I would bet my bottom dollar that Miami would not have the record right now if they played a tougher schedule. No doubt Michigan would have the same record.

In looking back It looks if the Wolverines got homered both nights in Oxford.

I thought Michigan was by far the best team on Friday night, before the parade to the box started, however, that being said Shegos is still better than anything we have in the WCHA.

streaker said...

Hey Goon,

I know where you are coming from and the respect is mutual. I just think the slagging on Miami is over the top. Blaisi isn't ready to take on a big time schedule yet, but he has a team that can compete. Miami has a case of red arse right now for anyone WCHA or UND related. I guess the best way to prep-H that is to win in the tourney. We'll see... that is unless the officating intervenes.

I think we can both agree, though, that is nice to be dumping some dirt on the Gophers right now! ;)

Goon said...

Streaker your right it is alway fun to dump on the goofs. I was shocked that Michigan lost to the on the first weekend because that was basically the highlite of the goofs season.

The playoffs are going to be a dog fight this season. The Miami fans kind of remind me of SCSU fans and the Jan Brady State University syndrome. The little sister that says but I am good.

It will be interesting to see if NMU is going to make a run at the end of the season as they have taken some points against some good teams.