Tuesday, March 25, 2008

10 Things to Know About Niagara

I'm writing this feature a little early this week so that I can preview each of the three teams. There's been some really good stuff in the Michigan Blogosphere already this week about the Hockey Tournament, so let's start with some links:

WCBN has posted links of the audio highlights from our wins over NMU and Miami.

MGoBlog has typically excellent stuff about the Regional and Niagara as well as a breakdown of how Clarkson and St. Cloud did against teams we've played as well.

The first link has a recount of the hilarity that ensued before our game against St. Cloud in the Yost regional a few years back. I remember it a little differently. The way I remember it, Komo tapped the back of one of the cheerleaders' skates, causing her to stumble slightly, which pissed her off. Then as the mascot was coming off the ice, I believe he speared Brandon Rogers. He definitely speared someone. Kevin O'Malley went absolutely bonkers. The mascot's stick ended up getting ripped out of his hands, broken in half, and then chucked at him as he got the eff out of the rink.

Regardless of if I remember it correctly or not, this--
It is, without question, the best lead-in to a hockey game that has ever occurred anywhere.
--is absolutely true. How much would you pay for a tape of that sequence? It's a shame that game happened pre-YouTube. Those Regionals were amazing. If we host again--we're bidding for a couple--I would walk back from Madison to be there, if I had to.

I'm bummed Molly isn't on Facebook. I was totally going to try to get an interview.

MHNet has a preview of the Purple Eagles.

The Hoover Street Rag is going to preview each of the Regionals, starting with the Midwest in Madison.

So now, 10 things to know about the Niagara Purple Eagles:
1) They play in the CHA with Bemidji State, Wayne State, Alabama-Huntsville, and Robert Morris. They're 22-10-4 on the season (12-6-3 in conference) but were just 9-8-1 away from their home rink, where they were great. As I wrote on Sunday, they're largely an unknown. Air Force has played some top-notch teams, so it's easy to see how they stack up. Niagara has not. Their best opponent this year was probably Bowling Green, who they beat 2-0. They also went 2-2-1 against Bemidji, who was something like 1-9-0 against WCHA teams.

In their non-conference schedule, they lost to Merrimack, beat Holy Cross and BGSU, swept Western Michigan, swept Sacred Heart, lost to Canisius, got swept by Cornell, swept Quinnipiac, and tied St. Lawrence and RIT.

2) They have a player I've heard of, which means he's really good. Ted Cook, a junior, led the nation in goals and PPGs last year with 32 and 21, respectively. His numbers are down this year (19-12--31 in 36 games), but he's currently on a six-game goal streak, has put up 7-3--10 in that span, and was named CHA Tournament MVP. His 12 PPGs rank 6th in the country. He's blogging about the week leading up to the NCAA Tournament over at Niagara's website.

3) Niagara's 3.53 goals per game is good for 3rd in the country behind Miami and Michigan. They spread the offense out pretty well, though. Five guys have 10+ goals, eight have 20+ points (and two more have 19), and three have 30 or more. They don't get an overwhelming amount of offense from the blueline, but Tyler Gotto's .70 points per game is good for 12th in the country amongst defensemen and Ryan Annesley has seven goals.

4) They're middle of the pack defensively. They give up 2.58 goals per game, which puts them 24th in the country. Juliano Pagliero gets the bulk of the work in net, and he has a very solid 2.26 goals against and a .929 save percentage (8th in save percentage, ahead of OMG JEFF LERG! and Billy Sauer).

5) They average just 12.6 penalty minutes a game, 13th best in the country. That's not a product of the league they play in either. They were best in their conference, and Robert Morris was way up there by us. Actually St. Cloud and Clarkson were pretty good at not taking penalties as well. Be good this weekend, guys.

6) As for their special teams, the power play is #3 in the country at 23.3% (they've given up 6 shorties). No one in their conference can kill penalties except for Bemidji, however. Wayne State, Robert Morris, and Alabama-Huntsville are all in the bottom 7 nationally. UAH might actually fare better giving up penalty shots every time they were whistled for an infraction. Niagara's PK is 80.9%, which puts them in 46th place nationally. They've scored 2 short-handed goals.

7) Michigan is 3-1-0 all-time against Niagara. The last time they played was a 6-2 Michigan win in the 03-04 season, so no one on the current team has faced them.

8) Niagara has been the CHA regular-season champion the past two seasons, but has not made the tournament since the 03-04 season, where they lost 5-2 to Boston College.

9) Ted Cook was a teammate of Brandon Naurato and Tim Miller with the Omaha Lancers in 04-05. Egor Mironov and Tayler Simpson both played with Andrew Cogliano on the St. Mike's Buzzers.

10) They're just over 50% on faceoffs. They've got a couple guys up around 53% and a couple under 50%.

The biggest thing to remember is this: Teams from the CHA and AH have been competitive in the tournament in recent memory.

2007: Minnesota 4, Air Force 3; Notre Dame 3, Alabama-Huntsville 2 (2 OT)
2006: Holy Cross 4, Minnesota 3 (ot)
2005: Boston College 5, Mercyhurst 4; Eventual Champion Denver 4, Bemidji State 3 (ot)
2003: Colorado College 4, Wayne State 2 (in a very tightly-contested game)
2001: Michigan 4, Mercyhurst 3 (Mercyhurst led in the third period)

Five of the six games in the last three years between one-seeds and "weaker opponents" have been one-goal games, with Holy Cross winning and two others going to OT. Only Wisconsin/Bemidji in 2006 was a blowout.


Becky said...

As someone who wasn't at that regional:
How much would you pay for a tape of that sequence? It's a shame that game happened pre-YouTube.


(I did make it in 2003, and that was some good hockey, too.)

I was already nervous about facing Niagara before reading your summary, and now I'm more nervous. I'm definitely not making plans to watch Saturday's game yet!

Packer487 said...

I made myself more nervous as well. Even though I knew about the track record of the "weaker" opponents, I guess I didn't realize that there had been that many occurrences of them putting a scare in the #1 seeds.

5 out of 6 in the last 3 years means no one should look past this team.

Seems to me that the biggest key for us is staying out of the box. Cook is their best player, but 65% of his goals the last two years have come on the power play. It's pretty clear that he's not nearly as effective 5 on 5.

I'm not as nervous as I would be if we were playing Air Force (Out of the 4 #1 seeds, I think Miami is the best bet to go down in Round 1) but history says that we're probably not going to have an easy time either.

Anonymous said...

Tim, you remember correctly. I was sitting in that end zone right in front of the mascot incident. First off, the mascot wouldn't leave the ice. He was at center ice, the refs told him to leave, and he wouldn't, so one of the officials started to physically push him towards the exit and he kept trying to circle back around the official. Finally the mascot gave up and started to skate towards the exit and he did indeed jab Brandon Rogers in the gut with his stick, causing him to fall, the melee to ensue, and Kevin O'Malley trying to jump over the official to get his hands on him. Classic! I have the game on tape, but sadly that pre-game activity isn't on it.

Anonymous said...

I was also there in Yost that fateful night, and it was quite simply the 2nd greatest highlight of my collegiate life (1st? no not my degree, the night we stormed Pres Lee's house after a football game in 1997. He had Heineken.)

That SCSU game is the closest to Slapshot that a real hockey game ever got... you just can't write a script with a slutty skating cheerleader, a mascot with a habit for spearing opposition players, and a brawl pre-game involving an entire team and one mascot. The only thing missing was Bob Gassoff taking his skate off on the ice and trying to stab the mascot.

Unknown said...

Now that the game won't be syndicated, where's everyone in Ann Arbor watching the game Friday?

Anonymous said...

There'll be a pretty good gathering at Scorekeepers. The Arena is another option.

Thanks for the preview, Tim. Thanks also for instilling the fear a couple days early. I was hoping to avoid that until around 3:00 on Friday :)

Packer487 said...

One thing I forgot to mention in my recap of the "Molly" incident: Before the game, we were walking around the concourse and there were 3 or 4 St. Cloud cheerleaders in front of me. As loud as I could, I yelled "WHERE'S MOLLY!?! WE'RE NOT HORRIBLE PEOPLE!"

I wish I had a picture of the look on those girls' faces. It was like they couldn't believe that someone found out about that. It was priceless.

I honestly don't know if it's possible to have more fun than that at a hockey game.

Anonymous said...

I too, was at that game, in section 9- so I got a good look at O'Malley pummeling the st clown Huskie as they went down the ramp to the dressing room. Blocker to the head, fist to the throat.

Even better was the sight of the cheerleaders huddled on the steps, single file, in the student section,probably scared for their lives.

It spilled onto the ice as Ortmeyer laid out a huge hit to start the game and the momentum led to a 3-0 lead I think. SCSU tried to be physical, but it didn't work.

I still have the dollar bill I raised to honor Molly, too. ;)

Anonymous said...

Just informing - Miss Molly is available on facebook and myspace!!! I actually know her (not friends) and was so pleased to find out that she had always been crazy!