Monday, April 28, 2008

Postseason Report Card: The Forwards (Part Two)

First off, the San Antonio Rampage were able to force a Game 7 by defeating Toronto 3-0 last night. Chad Kolarik had the game-winning goal on an assist from Kevin Porter. Kolarik also assisted on SA's third goal of the game. Chad has a 4-2--6 line in six playoff games and Porter has put up 0-4--4. Game 7 is tonight.

Now onto the second batch of forwards:
#14 Brian Lebler
29 GP, 3-5--8, +1, 52 PIMs

With the influx of talented forwards, Lebler's playing time was down from a year ago and, fittingly, so were his numbers. In 2006-07 he played 37 games and put up 7 goals and 11 points. His power play goals dropped from 3 to 0 as his power play time was very limited this season.

I kind of liken him to a Zac MacVoy type. I don't think he's a bad player by any means, but I don't know that he's a great fit for this team. I could see him putting up pretty good numbers on a team like LSSU (like MacVoy is) but his skating ability, or lack thereof, really limits the effectiveness he'll ever be able to have on a talented team like Michigan.

I criticized him quite a bit at the beginning of the season for dumb penalties (42 PIMs in his first 13 games, 22 if you take out the minutes "credited" for game misconducts--which is still too many for a 3rd/4th line player). He was much better the rest of the way, only taking five minors in his other 17 appearances. The worst penalty he took was probably in the loss to Ohio State. Michigan was down 1-0 late in the second period and he smoked someone well after he played the puck. That penalty negated a Michigan power play as well as an extra chance for them to even the game.

He had his first multi-point game against LSSU (when the Lebler-Fardig-Ciraulo line was outstanding) and I thought he was really strong in the 3-2 win over Notre Dame at Yost as well as against Providence in the GLI.

Overall, what we got this season was pretty much what I expected in my breakdown of him before the year. His numbers dipped slightly due to less ice time and less power play time and he played around 30 games.

2007-8 Grade: C

#15 Anthony Ciraulo
13 GP, 2-1--3, +2, 8 PIMs

Ciraulo didn't see the ice all that often, but I don't think he ever really hurt us. He played just 13 games, but I can think of at least three great performances off the top of my head. His line was stellar in one game against LSSU (they combined for 2 goals and 4 assists in the contest) and he was awesome in the GLI. He scored a short-handed goal on a beautiful shot against Providence. Against Michigan Tech, he was out there in some critical situations and played really well.

In a complete 180 from a year ago, he played more in the beginning of the season and barely saw the ice in the second half, which surprised me because I thought he might get some additional minutes after his performance in the GLI.

I can't complain. He was a minus in just one of the thirteen games he played (and that was the loss to Ferris when we didn't remotely care) and put us a man down on just three occasions.

Maybe I just have an affinity for little guys (I'm 5'5") but I think he's capable of helping this team. He's just caught up in a numbers game at forward.

2007-08 Grade: B

#16 Ben Winnett
41 GP, 6-5--11, +6, 12 PIMs

Winnett did absolutely nothing for me for a good portion of the season but I thought later in the year there were more and more instances where he was noticeable (and in a good way). He had a 4 game point streak in Feburary, scored a gorgeous goal against MSU in an otherwise dismal game for the Wolverines, and was really good in the CCHA At The Joe, despite only tallying an empty-netter on the weekend.

Winnett was one of the few players that I truly missed on with my pre-season expectations (I predicted high 20s, low 30s in points, though I did amend those expectations downward after some initial reports). He clearly had an adjustment period to the college game and I don't think his speed was quite as good as advertised, but I do think he could be a pretty good player for us eventually. He's got decent size, pretty good speed, and he's got some skill offensively. That move he had against MSU was beautiful and he unleashed a rocket of a shot against Providence on his goal in the GLI.

The most shocking thing was that he saw quite a bit of time on the penalty kill (right out of the gate, too. They had him on the PK against BC) and did pretty well. His defense wasn't a quality cited in any of the articles that I had read about him, but the fact that they played him on the PK as a freshman is a pretty good indicator that he's not bad at it.

In his initial year, he didn't live up to his draft status as a 4th round pick of the Leafs, but indications were that he was going to have an adjustment period and he did play better toward the end of the season.

2007-08 Grade: B- (Would've probably been a C+ but for the fact that he unexpectedly was a pretty decent penalty killer.)

#18 Tim Miller
43 GP, 4-13--17, +8, 26 PIMs

It was a weird season for Tim Miller. After scoring 7 goals and 24 points as a sophomore he was completely snake-bitten for most of the year. He didn't score under his 34th game of the season (a huge goal in a win over Spartina) and had just eight points at the time. Starting with the win over MSU, he had four goals and eight points over his next seven games and was named the MVP of the CCHA Championships due to his 2-2--4 line in the games against NMU and Miami.

If you count the game at the Palace against Notre Dame, all four of his goals and 11 of his 17 points came in neutral site games. That's kind of weird.

His best play of the year was for the CCHA Championship winning goal. He tapped an offensive-zone faceoff forward, danced around Nathan Davis and fed Brandon Naurato for an easy goal.

His shots on goal were down this year, his blocked shots were down, and he clearly had a disappointing year offensively. Part of the downturn was likely due to being named an alternate captain before the season. Berenson indicated that some players play better when you give them a letter and some don't, so he took the A off Miller's jersey and gave it to Mitera. One thing that was consistent, however, was his penalty killing. He does a really nice job.

2007-08 Grade: B-. Very disappointing year offensively but he was solid at the other end of the ice and he gets a bump because he made some huge plays in a couple of our biggest wins of the season. Without him in the lineup we probably don't win a game against MSU this year and we probably don't win the CCHA Tournament.

#19 Matt Rust
38 GP, 12-11--23, +13, 69 PIMs

I love Rust. You can play him in pretty much any situation, he's a great penalty killer, he's a strong faceoff guy (50.4%, but only Porter took more draws), he can put the puck in the net, and he's strong defensively. He's also probably the toughest guy on our team.

He was probably our best player not named Chad Kolarik against Notre Dame in the Frozen Four.

Goal-scoring-wise, he was fairly streaky. He put in six of his 12 in a nine game span during December and January and then had just one over his next 14 games. He also had a nine-game goalless drought early in the season.

Even though his +/- isn't overly high, he was a minus in just four games the entire season and worse than -1 just once. He was tied for second amongst forwards in blocked shots, with 20.

The only knock I have against him is that he takes too many penalties. His 22 minors led all forwards and his 69 penalty minutes led the team. He took a penalty in six straight games during the stretch run, which is too many. Early in the season he also ended up in the box at the worst possible times. There were at least 3 or 4 games where he took a penalty in the last 3 minutes.

I've got really high expectations for him moving forward. I don't think it's unfair to compare him to a less-stupid version of Justin Abdelkader (good speed, some offensive skill, gritty, great defensively, great on the PK, penchant for absolute retarded penalties sometimes--Rust may have had 22 minors this year but Abdelkader had something like 41). Their numbers as freshmen were almost identical (Abdelkader had 10-12--22 as a freshman, Rust ended up with 23 points despite not playing on the power play all that often). They have the same work ethic.

I think my favorite Rust moment from the season was his short-handed goal against Boston University. He knocked the puck away from a BU player by the Michigan blue line and was absolutely gone. It's not often that you see a player with a breakaway from their own zone, but Rust had one and he buried the shot.

One comparison that I have to make:
Porter's freshman year: 39 GP, 11-13--24, +11, 51 PIMs

Not that I think he has quite that kind of offensive upside, but it's just kind of interesting to see since their numbers were virtually identical as freshmen. I could easily see Rust becoming a high 30s/low 40s player (Abdelkader scored 33 and 40 as a sophomore and junior). It's also worth mentioning that of the guys who played, only Porter and Caporusso had a higher shooting percentage than Rust's 19.4% (halfway through the season he was scoring on a third of his shots). He's another guy that should benefit from the extra pucks made available by Kolarik and Porter graduation.

2007-08 Grade: A-. I was going to give him a B+ due to the penalties, but he gets a bump for playing on a broken friggin leg at the end of the season. And for being phenomenal in the Frozen Four. At least someone was....

Friday, April 25, 2008

And Now For Something Completely Different

Part Two of the postseason report card for the forwards isn't done yet,but here are a few Michigan-relevant things from around the internet (and maybe a couple that aren't related to the Wolverines):

The finalists for the Selke Trophy have been announced and rest assured, the trophy will be going to a good home. The finalists are Pavel Datsyuk (who is a lock to win it, IMO), Henrik Zetterberg, and Michigan's John Madden.

A reader passed this along: The NHL has released their final rankings for the upcoming draft. Burlon, Czarnik, Pateryn, and Wohlberg all made the list. Burlon is ranked 41st amongst North American skaters, Czarnik is 88th, Pateryn is 146th and Wohlberg is 172nd. At the midterm, they were 57th, 116th, 162nd, and 189th respectively, so the draft stock of all four of our incoming freshmen has gone up.

Edit: Bob Miller pointed out that 2009 commit Lee Moffie is also on the list as the 181st ranked North American skater.

San Antonio lost Game 4 to the Toronto Marlies, so the best-of-seven series is now even at 2. Neither Porter nor Kolarik managed a point in the loss.

Edit: They also lost Game 5 2-1. Kolarik had an assist. They're now down 3-2 in the series.

Blog Posts That I Liked and Haven't Linked Yet:
Genuinely Sarcastic, a glaring omission from the Blogroll which has since been corrected, posted a slew of Red Wings/Avs videos from Youtube which got me all fired up for our second round series with the Avs.

Hoover Street Rag had a recap of their trip to Denver, which sounded only slightly better than our drive out there. I'm a big fan that the next few Frozen Fours are very doable: DC (next year) and Tampa (2012) usually have cheap flights and the Detroit and St. Paul Frozen Fours in 2010 and 2011 are very, very drivable.

SpliceToday had an article about the Michigan/Notre Dame game which reflected on "the pain of relevance". It pondered the question: Is it better to be a high-profile program, knowing that if you lose to, say, Appalachian State, you're never going to hear the end of it, or a fan of a team that is largely irrelevant in the eyes of the world? I'm with the author, taking crap from people after a loss isn't fun, but it would be a lot less fun to not be mentioned at all. Apart from The Horror, in which case I would much prefer toiling in obscurity. It was a pretty good read.

Other Stuff:
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Also, WDFN has partnered with some sites around the blogosphere in an effort to give the fans a bigger voice and they asked if I would like to be a part of it. I've been listening to that station since it first came on the air (I miss Damon "The Dog" Perry), so it was flattering to hear that they like my site and will be adding a link to TBTYB on their Michigan page shortly. I've added a link to the sidebar and will be trying to give a heads up when they've got Michigan content I think you might enjoy

Postseason Report Card: The Forwards (Part One)

Now comes the first in my three-part series grading the forwards for this season.

#8 Aaron Palushaj
43 GP, 10-34--44, +10, 22 PIMs

Wow. We had heard a lot of good things about Palushaj in the offseason, but I don't think anyone expected him to come in and be top 15 nationally in scoring and second in assists. He had points in 29 of Michigan's 43 games and had 12 multi-point contests.

For the season as a whole, he finished third on the team in scoring and (barring something unforeseen) will be Michigan's top returning scorer next season.

He didn't play on the top line this year, but his shrewd passing ability on our top power play unit was a big reason that Michigan's power play was so effective for much of the season. Additionally, he was at his best when the lights were on. In Michigan's three NCAA Tournament games he tallied a goal and five assists, including three helpers against Notre Dame.

He became Michigan's first 40-point-scoring freshman since Hensick did it in 03-04, and he and Pacioretty were the first duo to each record 30 points as freshmen since Kosick and Langfeld. His 34 assists tied TJ Hensick for the second-most ever by a Michigan freshman.

All in all, it was a great season out of any forward, but particularly a freshman. If you're looking for a player with major potential to increase his goal total next season, look at this guy right here. Palushaj scored 10 goals on the season, but took just 98 shots. With Porter and Kolarik leaving, out goes more than 25% of the shots taken by the team as a whole. There will be a lot more pucks to go around and who better to shoot some of them than the guy who was rated as the #5 Goal Scorer in last year's draft by Max Giese.

Since 1999-2000, just three of Michigan's freshman forwards have reached 1 point per game: TJ Hensick, Jeff Tambellini, and Mike Comrie. So you've got a guy that should have won the Hobey, a guy who would've been the favorite to win the Hobey had he returned for his senior season, and a big-time scorer who has gone on to a nice NHL career. I'd say the expectations are going to be pretty high moving forward.

The one knock on his game coming in was that he wasn't great in his own end. His +10 rating was on the low-end of the scale for our forwards but I didn't ever really notice him lagging in our own end. And when you usually play with Hagelin and/or Rust, chances are that the back-checking is taken care of anyway in a lot of cases.

2007-08 Grade: A. When a freshman puts up the numbers he put up, what else could you give him?

#9 Travis Turnbull
43 GP, 15-12--27, +17, 48 PIMs

After 18 points as a freshman and 17 points as a sophomore, Turnbull had a breakout season offensively, piling up 27 points and finishing tied for third on the team in goals. Also, after taking 21 minor penalties in each of his first two seasons, he took just 14 this year.

I really think he should have a letter on his jersey next year. He's a kid that has improved during his time at Michigan and keeps getting better mainly due to hard work. Run a search on "Turnbull" in the search box at the top and see how many times I mentioned his "effort plays" that don't necessarily show up on a scoresheet but were crucial to us winning games. There were a lot. Sometimes, like on Caporusso's game-winner against LSSU, they did show up in the box score, but a lot of times they did not.

He also provided one of the most memorable moments of the season by tipping in a Scooter Vaughan shot to give Michigan the GLI Championship.

He's gritty, good defensively, and you can play him in any situation.

2007-08 Grade: A-. When a third-liner finishes third on the team in goals without the benefit of playing on the top power play unit, increases his point total by 10, and decreases his penalty minutes, I'd say that's a job well done. He was the leading scorer amongst players not on our top PP unit. I wouldn't have bet on that.

#10 Chris Fragner:
2 GP, 0-0--0, even, 0 PIMs

Only saw action during the GLI and didn't do anything to hurt us.

2007-08 Grade: Incomplete

#11 Kevin Porter:

43 GP, 33-30--63, +34, 18 PIMs, Hobey Baker Award Winner

He was ok this year.

Where to start? He captained the most unheralded Michigan team in recent memory to the Frozen Four, became just the second Wolverine to win the Hobey, finished second in goals, second in points, second in power play goals, sixth in assists, was the CCHA Player of the Year, was a West First-Team All American, was the Most Outstanding Player at the NCAA East Regional, set an NCAA Regional Record for goals in a game (4 against Niagara), was the first Michigan player to hit 30 goals since Bill Muckalt, played center on the most dangerous line in the country, was held off the score sheet just nine times in 43 games, was a "minus" on just three occasions the entire season, and truth be told probably should've won the CCHA Best Defensive Forward award since he can play defense without taking a penalty every single game.

The only bad thing I can say about him is that he sucks at faceoffs (42.4%) and, as our top-line center, he took a lot of them.

His performance this year will go down as one of the great ones in the history of Michigan hockey and he put himself in some great company by winning the Hobey Baker. It made me happy that I was able to see him in Denver and thank him for everything that he did for Michigan Hockey this season. I've followed the team religously since 2000-01 and this was probably the most fun I've had watching the Wolverines.

2007-08 Grade: A+. And I'm tempted to make like Ralphie's teacher in A Christmas Story and just keep adding plusses on there.

#12 Carl Hagelin:
41 GP, 11-11--22, +18, 28 PIMs

Off-ice, Hagelin earned a reputation as the hardest worker on the team and things were no different on the ice. His relentless forechecking, hard backchecking, strong penalty killing and top-notch speed made him a favorite of Yost Built. It seemed like any time I rewound the DVR to see who made that great defensive play while backchecking, it was always #12.

He deserves a lot of credit for the improved defensive play of the team. When you've got a forward that works as hard as he does, it can make the life a lot easier on the defensemen and goalie. His 20 blocked shots tied Rust and Fardig for second amongst forwards (Porter, 22).

Hagelin also had one of the prettiest goals of the year when he swept around the net and then roofed one up over Jared Kaufmann in the thrashing of UNO in the CCHA Playoffs.

One of the most intriguing thoughts as we head into the offseason is will Hagelin move to center? He played there in the aforementioned series against Omaha when Matt Rust was out with a broken leg and was fantastic. It seems that all his best qualities are amplified when he plays in the middle and he was our best faceoff man this season (53.8% of 184 draws). Michigan has a ton of options at center, but it wouldn't shock me a bit to see Hagelin centering our top line next season.

2007-08 Grade: A. Yes there are a lot of high grades, but when the team loses 6 games the entire year, these things happen. It's hard to not absolutely love Carl Hagelin's game and the thought of what he'll bring to the team in the future.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Postseason Report Card: The Goalies

The Pistons have rubbed off on me. Sure I could start working on the report card for the forwards next, but it's so much easier if I just half-ass it and talk about the three goalies. So that's what you're getting today, in honor of Deeeeee-troit Bassssketball.

#31 Shawn Hunwick
1 GP, 0-0-0, 0.00 GAA, 1.000 Save %

He served as the backup during the time when Bryan Hogan was out with mono and then became the third goalie for the rest of the season. He played against the NTDP in an exhibition game and gave up one goal and then saw his first official action against UNO in the CCHA playoffs, where he stopped both shots that he faced in just under 3 minutes of playing time.

2007-08 Grade: Incomplete

#35 Bryan Hogan
6 GP, 3-2-1, 2.55 GAA, .903 Save %

Before the season, due to the uncertainty between the pipes, I listed Hogan (and Sauer) as a 10 out of 10 in terms of Level of Necessity. If Michigan had slipped one additional puck past Jordan Pearce, that rating would have been completely justified.

When Hogan came in, the general school of thought was that he would be given every chance to win the starting job. He came down with mono just before the start of the season and was never able to show his stuff. By the time he was back healthy, Sauer had nailed down the starting job and Hogan was left to spot duty.

In the regular season, he played just five games, going 3-1-1 in the process, with the lone loss coming in overtime to Ferris State after Michigan had already locked up the CCHA. His best performance was probably the first of his career, in a home game against Ohio State. The Buckeyes had defeated Michigan the night before and it was pretty important that the Wolverines get a win. Hogan was thrown right into the fire and he performed very well. He allowed 2 goals on 28 shots, stopped a penalty shot in the first period, and made 15 saves in the third period to preserve the win.

The other highlight of the regular season was during his win against Bowling Green. Michigan was killing a penalty late in the game and the BGSU net was empty. The puck came to Hogan with no one in the middle of the ice and--without the risk of an icing call--he shot at the empty net. That thing looked like it was dead on the entire way and juuuust missed. I thought he had it though.

Despite limited playing time, I think Hogan did prove that he can be trusted to play at this level, unlike his predecessor Steve Jakiel. The jury is still out on if he is a future starter, but I fully expect him to see a little bit more time next year (and possibly significantly more if he plays well and/or Sauer struggles). The one flaw in his game is that he has a tendency to give up a lot of rebounds, but overall I was pretty impressed with what I saw.

The biggest moment for Hogan came during the Frozen Four. After Billy Sauer was chased, Hogan played the last two periods and overtime and did an admirable job. He made some good saves, and kept Michigan in the game enough that they were able to tie the game twice. In overtime, he made a glove save that was dynamite. Sadly the Irish scored not too long after the puck dropped again. I wouldn't really fault him for either goal he allowed in that game.

2007-08 Grade: B. It can't be easy to see time between the pipes so sporatically. He beat three teams that we needed to beat, tied a hot NMU team, and lost to Ferris (but made 37 saves) in a game we had nothing to play for. I would agree with the commenter who posted that coming into a game down 3-0 is a fairly low-pressure situation for a goalie normally, but when it's the National Semifinal, I'm inclined to disagree. Hogan knew he had to be basically perfect the rest of the game for us to have a chance to extend our season. To me, that's a lot of pressure to put on a freshman who had only played 5 times the entire year. And after a few shaky moments in the early going, I thought he played really well. I'm looking forward to seeing more of him next season, and I don't mean that as a knock against Sauer.

#36 Billy Sauer:
38 GP, 30-4-3, 1.95 GAA, .924 Save %

I'm still shocked at the way his season ended. After being absolutely stellar against Miami in the CCHA Championship as well as against Niagara and Clarkson in the Regional, I was convinced he could be a big-game goalie and that the confidence issues were a thing of the past. 9 shots and 3 goals later, he was relegated to the bench to watch another goalie lead the team that he won 30 games for this season.

I know everyone was disappointed with the way the season came to a close, but Sauer still has to be applauded for the work he did this year. After getting shelled, shelled, shelled some more in the first half of 06-07, he played pretty well for the most part in the second half, got absolutely destroyed against North Dakota, and ended the season with some pretty scary numbers. His coach wouldn't give him a vote of confidence, most Michigan fans were hoping for something great out of Bryan Hogan, and a lot of people questioned how this kid--who had a track record of not being the most mentally strong goalie we've ever seen--would bounce back from the shellacking that North Dakota handed him.

To his credit, he bounced back amazingly well. The-best-statistically-season-by-a-goalie-in-the-history-of-Michigan-hockey well. He allowed more than 2 goals in just 11 of his 38 starts. A year ago? He allowed more than 2 goals on 12 the 18th game. For the season, he did it 22 times.

He didn't even look like the same goalie for most of the season. I don't know how much was due to the defense, how much was due to new goaltending coach Josh Blackburn, and how much was due to the light finally going on for a player who was still just 19 years old at the start of the year, but the difference was startling. A few good performances gave him the confidence that he had been lacking throughout his career and things kind of snowballed. He got better and better and was at or near the top of the goaltending stats for most of the season.

Two moments in time that will live on in my mind forever: 1) His MVP performance at the GLI, making 50 stops to shut out Providence and following it up with a double-overtime, 37 save encore, leading Michigan to a 1-0 win over Michigan Tech; 2) The incredible flurry of saves he made to preserve Michigan's 2-0 win over Clarkson. That was arguably the best sequence of goaltending that I have seen....ever.

From December 7th to January 26th, he gave up 10 goals (on 291 shots) over a nine game stretch. He gave up 19 goals in his best nine game stretch from 2006-07.

2007-8 Grade: A. And it's an A+ if we show up and lose a normal 3-2 game against Notre Dame. He had an amazing season. 30-4-3 with a GAA below two when he had never had a season below three? You're getting an A for that.

Yes he choked against Notre Dame. Badly. But without Billy Sauer there's no way we win the GLI, there's no way we stay #1 for a fair portion of the season, there's no way we're the #1 overall seed, there's no way we win the CCHA, and there's no way we make the Frozen Four. For a guy that wasn't even guaranteed the starting job, that's a pretty damn fine season. And even though he gave up a pair of horrid goals at the worst possible time, there are plenty of other players who can point the finger at themselves as well for that debacle.

Other Stuff:
The San Antonio Rampage put together a montage of the radio calls of Kolarik's hat trick with "The Victors" in the background. They also have audio from Kolarik after the game. It sounds like our Michigan guys have fit right in. Game 3 is tonight.

Also, after getting sent back down from the Predators, Josh Langfeld notched a pair of goals for the Milwaukee Admirals, giving him an AHL-leading five in just two games.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Mitera to Return as Captain; Porter & Kolarik Are Still Nasty

Great news out of Yost today, as Red Berenson announced that Mark Mitera will return to Michigan for his senior season and will assume the duties as team captain. The Rivals article ($ link) has some great quotes in there, but the gist is that Mitera is coming back so they went ahead and named him captain. Alternates will be announced later in the year, though I would imagine it will be Chris Summers (groom him to be captain his senior year, plus he was an alternate on USA's WJC team this year) and Travis Turnbull. Tim Miller could be a candidate, but I don't think they'll go down that road with him again this year after he struggled with being a captain this year.

In other news, the San Antonio Rampage evened their AHL playoff series with the Toronto Marlies with a 6-3 win tonight. Chad Kolarik had a hat trick in the win and Kevin Porter assisted on two of Kolarik's goals. Way to represent, guys! The hat trick ties Kolarik for the AHL lead in playoff goals with.....Josh Langfeld, who was actually up with the Predators tonight.

They're still listing Porter as a defenseman, but I imagine that's a mistake. According to the box score, SA is dressing 7 D and 11 forwards. That really wouldn't make any sense to change Porter's position and then dress 7 defensemen. It's gotta just be a typo.

Al Montoya didn't play tonight after giving up four goals in the game one loss.

Postseason Report Card: The Defensemen

Despite playing two more games than the 06-07 Wolverines, this year's team gave up thirty fewer goals. A big reason for the difference was the improvement between the pipes. Just as important, however, was the play of our group of defensemen, who allowed 26.4 shots on goal per game (compared to 29.1 a year ago) and drastically cut down the number of quality scoring chances (I don't have a stat on this one, but trust me, kay?).

As a reminder, expectations are factored into the grades and the player's name is linked to my preseason expectations.

#3 Scooter Vaughan
33 GP, 0-4--4, +9, 27 PIMs

Vaughan began the season as part of the "Play 2 every 3" rotation with Tristin Llewellyn and the defenseman formerly known as Kevin Quick. Once Quick was booted from the team, he became a fixture in the lineup and performed at a high level pretty much the entire season.

The best compliment you can give a defensive defenseman--particularly a freshman--is that he was rarely noticeable, and that was the case with Vaughan. He rarely made mistakes, he didn't turn the puck over all that often, and a hitting-from-behind major against Miami was the only penalty he took in the last 20 games of the season.

He proved to be much better than I expected at the start of the season. I didn't say anything particularly dumb in that piece (or particularly smart), but suffice it to say, I didn't expect him to be a top-pairing defenseman for much of the year.

He was a "minus" in eight games, but was worse than a -1 just twice. If you're looking for a big reason we won the GLI, you can point at Scooter Vaughan. He blocked ten shots over the two games, including 6 against Michigan Tech, and took the shot that Travis Turnbull tipped in for the tournament-winning goal.

He also gets points for playing with a broken jaw, after an off-ice wrestling incident.

2007-08 Grade: B+. A player that I didn't expect to play nearly as consistently as he did ended up being a top-pairing defenseman and rarely hurt us. Very solid season out of Vaughan.

#4 Chris Summers
41 GP, 2-11--13, +27, 65 PIMs

Solid and steady. Perfect words to describe one of the most underrated players in all of college hockey. It appeared that Red Berenson had enough confidence in his freshmen defenders to think about moving Summers back to forward (as he did a year ago to great success). Summers skated up front for a weekend against BGSU and scored a game-winning goal. Then he left to go the GLI, Kevin Quick ended up getting kicked off the team, and Summers never saw time at forward again.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. Summers proved to be Michigan's second-best defenseman this season, and arguably its most consistent. He didn't approach the offensive numbers that I expected (I predicted 20 points, possibly approaching the 27 Hunwick had a year ago; he ended up with 13) but they never really gave him the green light to freelance offensively as I had expected.

But for a player that didn't put up huge offensive numbers, his +/- was incredible. He finished the season +27. He was a minus in seven games, but was never more than -1. He was third on the team in blocked shots with 49 and set a career high with 11 assists.

The thought of him moving to forward is probably never going to escape from Wolverine fans' minds, as he's clearly showed that he has the talent to be a very good winger. As it is though, even if he doesn't pile up Jack Johnson numbers back on the blueline, he's still a very good defenseman.

Provided he returns for his junior season, he'll more than likely be an alternate captain. I suppose he could even be the team's captain if Mark Mitera turns pro.

2007-08 Grade: A-. I'd like to see him cut down the penalties a little bit. 65 minutes really isn't an unreasonable amount (especially considering almost a quarter of them came on one play) but there are a few too many two or three penalty games in there. I also wish his offensive abilities would shine through a little more when he's on the blueline. Mitera and Kampfer aren't offensive dynamos by any stretch and he was behind both of them in points. Since expectations count, I feel I have to have him behind Kampfer in terms of his grade. I thought long and hard about making this a B+, but he was so solid overall he deserve to be in the A range even if there's a couple of small things I'd like to see him improve on.

#5 Steve Kampfer
42 GP, 2-15--17, +27, 36 PIMs

Were it not from a (nearly) complete transformation in Billy Sauer's game, Steve Kampfer probably would've been in line for the Most Improved Player award. After a fairly unremarkable freshman campaign plagued by numerous turnovers in his own end, Kampfer grew into a solid defenseman capable of chipping in on the offensive end.

He, like Chris Summers, probably doesn't get enough credit for how good he was this season. I called Summers arguably our most consistent defenseman, but Kampfer could stake a claim as well.

Kampfer was a minus just four times this season (two times worse than -1). In the middle of the season, however, he went 18 games without being on the minus side. Pretty impressive. He committed multiple penalties in a game on just two occasions and was second on the team in blocked shots with 55.

I wanted to see him in the middle of the pack in +/- (he was +3 last year, second-worst on the team amongst guys who played and didn't Bail--see what I did there?--midseason) and with double-digit points. Mission accomplished as he nearly hit 20 points and was tied for 5th in +/-.

He was noticeably excellent against Niagara and put up a ridiculous +6 mark in Game One against Nebraska-Omaha. He was also very strong in the Showcase. He had a rough game in the 5-5 tie against Miami, despite ending up with an "even" rating. That stat doesn't always tell the whole story (and I do realize that, despite the amount of times I've brought it up).

2007-08 Grade: A. I'm surprised too. He's probably more of an A-/B+ type player, but expectations count and Kampfer drastically exceeded mine.

#7 Chad Langlais
43 GP, 0-19--19, +22, 50 PIMs

Thank you, Chris Chelios! Michigan unearthed this gem partially due to a recommendation out of the legendary defenseman and Langlais was another very pleasant surprise on a team full of them. While I expected Langlais to be a pretty good player out of the shoot (USHL All-Star, older freshman), I don't think anyone expected him to be as effective as he was.

He was one of just six Wolverines to play every game (Mitera was the only other defenseman) and made his mark early, with nine points in his first eleven games (including a six game assist streak). Langlais came in with the reputation as an Eric Werner-type, which was great if we were talking about senior year Eric Werner and not so good if we were talking about freshman year Eric Werner. Thankfully, it was the former. He had a few bad turnovers early in the year (Minnesota in the Icebreaker was a fairly bad outing) and took a few bad penalties, but by and large he was pretty fantastic.

He quarterbacked a Michigan power play that was three percent better than a year ago, but was a very significant seven percent better when you factor in short-handed goals allowed.

He was a minus on just three occasions and was named as an Honorable Mention on the CCHA's All-Rookie Team. He wasn't on the minus side in Michigan's last 15 games of the season and was one of our best players in the season-ending loss to Notre Dame.

While he cooled off offensively in the second half (at the halfway point he was on pace for 27 assists and ended up with 19) I feel that he was much-improved defensively. Gone were the bad turnovers and he was quite possibly our best defenseman at keeping the puck in the zone. Despite his offensive "struggles", he still ended up fourth on Michigan's all-time freshman defenseman assists list.

He was really strong against the Redhawks in the series down in Oxford, particularly Saturday night.

2007-08 Grade: A-. When a freshman defender billed as the next Eric Werner comes in and is a minus in just three games and darn-near sets the freshman defenseman assists record, he's getting a good grade. I expect him to be a very solid defenseman for us over the next three years. Langlais is like the perfect recruit. He's great out of the shoot. He's going to likely be even better his next three years. And the chances of him leaving to turn pro are fairly minimal.

#17 Mark Mitera
43 GP, 2-21--23, +30, 60 PIMs

With the departures of four defensemen from last year's team, Mitera took over as the #1 dman and the heart of the defense corps. He was given an "A" once it became clear that Tim Miller was struggling in the role and will be the captain of the team next year if he returns.

He ended the season third on the team in +/-, first in blocked shots with 65, first in points and assists amongst blueliners. INCH named him their defenseman of the year, and he was Second Team All-CCHA.

The most impressive stat is that Mitera was not a minus until the 27th game of the season. Perhaps not coincidentally, that was the first game after his defense partner was kicked off the team. For the season, he ended up on the minus side three times. The only time he was worse than -1 was against Notre Dame in the National Semifinals, unfortunately.

For a defenseman that plays as many minutes as he does and hits like he does, taking 25 minor penalties ain't bad at all. There was just one occasion in the last 22 games where he took more than one minor in a contest.

I think it is fair to point out, however, that over the second half of the season his play was fairly erratic. Against Notre Dame at Yost, he had one of his worst periods of the season. He was -3 in the most important game of the year. Overall, he was still very good in the second half, but he wasn't the robot that we saw on the ice early in the year. There was a point where I would've considered him a lock for not only First Team All CCHA, but also All-American honors and the CCHA Best Defensive Defenseman Award. It has to be considered somewhat of a disappointment that he wasn't First Team All CCHA.

One thing that did show up in the second half, however, was an impressive offensive game. Mitera posted 14 of his 23 points in the last ten games of the season. There was a great stretch beginning with our win over Michigan State where Mitera had 12 points and was +13 over a six game span. Eww.

I hope he comes back for his senior season. He might not have a ton left to prove in college, but there's something to be said for being the captain of the Michigan hockey team and having a chance to win a national title. MGoBlog had some thoughts today on if he'll be back.

2007-08 Grade: A-. I'm tempted to make this a B+ due to the inconsistency in his play toward the end of the season, but I can't justify it. He was still a minus on just three occasions, upped his point total, kept his penalties consistent, and did it despite playing against the other team's top line, seeing 25+ minutes a night, playing with different defense partners, being the only upperclassman on defense, and having to take on the added responsibility as a captain mid-season.

#20 Eric Elmblad
3 GP, 0-0--0, even, 2 PIMs

He was thrown into the fire when Kevin Quick was kicked off the team and Scooter Vaughan was injured. He played in just three games, but they were all in the postseason. He performed admirably. He didn't hurt us out there and that's all you can really ask out of a walk-on that had never played.

2007-08 Grade: Incomplete

#27 Kevin Quick
21 GP, 2-2--4, +8, 12 PIMs, 3 felonies

Despite question marks about how he would adjust to the college game, Quick came in and was a pretty good player for Michigan. He looked pretty good alongside Mark Mitera and started to chip in offensively with a couple of goals against Western Michigan. After a few very solid games, Quick was abysmal against Michigan State (I would imagine something was weighing on his mind) and was kicked off the team shortly thereafter.

His actions left Michigan short a defenseman, killed any thoughts of Summers moving up to forward again this season, and threw away a chance to be a good player on a contender.

2007-08 Grade: As a player, he probably gets a B. Pretty obvious what he gets as his overall grade though.

#34 Tristin Llewellyn
35 GP, 0-5--5, +8, 36 PIMs

Tristin was another who was in the freshman defensive rotation before becoming an every day player after you-know-who did you-know-what. He took some bad penalties early in the year, but seemed to curtail it as time went on (He had 20 PIMs in his first 15 games, 16 in the last 20...and the level of bad penalties went down). A penalty every other game really isn't bad as long as they aren't dumb penalties.

He had just one bad game in the minus category (-3 at MSU, five games as a minus overall) and generally was even. Not surprising as he didn't provide much on the offensive end.

After falling out of favor with the coaching staff somewhat and being scratched for three games in early January, he responded with a wonderful weekend against MSU and played pretty good hockey for the most part the rest of the way.

2007-08 Grade: B-. He was the "worst" of our regular defensemen, but he was still pretty solid for a freshman. He improved throughout the season and even took some skating lessons to help in that area of his game. I think he's a pretty good player but I fully expect him to be in a battle for ice-time next year. It's just a question of if he'll be battling Vaughan and Pateryn for two slots or one (in the latter scenario, it's possible that Pateryn doesn't come in). Burlon is playing regardless.

Overall, it's hard to not be thrilled with the defense corps this season. I would have a hard time saying that any of the players consistently hurt us out there, and that hasn't been the case in seasons past. All of three of the remaining freshmen can play, we know all the upperclassmen are good-to-great players, Burlon is a potential first round pick (Red Line just talked about him again this week actually), and Pateryn was a USHL all-star. I'd prefer to see everyone back next year, but I think we could withstand one defection on the blueline and still have a very good group with some depth. Two defections and we've got trouble.

Are my grades too high? We've got A's for Summers, Kampfer, Langlais, Mitera and B's for Vaughan, Llewellyn, and Quick. I think that's pretty reasonable given the expectations headed into the season and the way this team played defensively. Feel free to chime in with your own grades!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Berenson Wins NCAA Coach of the Year

The post-season accolades keep rolling in. It was announced today that Red Berenson won the Spencer Penrose Award as NCAA Coach of the Year in college hockey. It's the first time Berenson has won the award in his career, though he was named NHL Coach of the Year in 1981.

Other stuff going on:
Chad Kolarik and Kevin Porter have both signed contracts with the Phoenix Coyotes and will join the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL as they begin their playoff run tomorrow. Ex-Michigan goalie Al Montoya may be between the pipes for San Antonio as well. He's been splitting time, so we'll see if he gets the start or not.

I nabbed a copy of this at the Frozen Four, but it's nice to see an online version: has compiled a list (PDF link) of every ex-college player to play in the NHL this season. There were 252 NCAA players that saw time in The Show this year. Michigan put the most players into the league, with 22. Wisconsin was next with 19, most of whom seem to play for Chicago. (HT: Western College Hockey for finding the link)

Red thinks a question at the Frozen Four press conference might have shaken Billy up. If that's really the case: 1) They need to get him to a sports psychologist ASAP; 2) You can decrease the chances that he ever plays in the NHL to 0%.

I don't remember where I saw the article, so I'm sorry for the lack of a link (I think it came from USCHO) but Billy had some very classy things to say after the game. He backed Red 100% on the decision to yank him and even said he thought it was a good move. I also loved Kolarik's quote about how he just thanked Hogan for giving the seniors a chance to possibly extend their careers. There will probably be a Coyotes jersey in my closet at some point, with either Porter or Kolarik on the back. If Chad makes the league, it's gonna be his.

Stuff from the Michigan Blogosphere about the loss to Notre Dame:
MVictors--agreed that it took some major stones for Hogan to play the way he did. I'm also with him about the third goal. I know at least one commenter said it was a great shot--and it was--but he had nowhere else to go with that puck. It's inexcusable to leave the short side open in that situation. Yes the Michigan defenseman (I believe it was Kampfer) got beat, but it was still an extremely low percentage chance and Billy just didn't cover his post.

Maize and Blog has the video of Porter's Hobey acceptance speech, including his hilarious slip up at the end. This wasn't "Sometimes the best team doesn't always win", but it was pretty great. The look on Porter's face when he realizes what he said? Priceless.

Maize n Brew sums things up pretty nicely with their headline. Good article as well.

MHNet wraps things up. I was feeling pretty good about the potential of a Summers return--truth be told, I actually didn't think there was a chance he'd leave--until I saw the quote in MHNet's article from the Coyotes GM. I'm more optimistic about our chances for next season. I realize there are a pair of huge holes (on-ice and off) with Kolarik and Porter gone, but we've got good players coming in, and we've got some excellent freshmen that have a year of experience.

MGoBlog takes a look ahead to next year and a look back at the loss to Notre Dame. No clue what the NCAA was thinking by the placement of the pep bands. It didn't make any sense whatsoever. I completely agree about how cool it was to see the jerseys from all around the college hockey world. My favorites: A UNH Mark Mowers jersey and a Mercyhurst jersey with "Hiscock" on the back. Make your own joke.

I enjoy seeing Brian's projected lines, since I'm terrible at doing them myself. We're still loaded at center, but I don't know who I'd put on the top line. Hagelin was amazing there when he got a chance. Rust was arguably our best player not named Kolarik against ND. Caporusso scored some huge goals and I think he is primed for a huge sophomore season.

As for the comments about the rest of the conference: I definitely think Northern Michigan will be in the mix for a bye in the first round next year. They are clearly the team with the best chance to crack the top 4. One thing about Miami: It's not even that their backup was Hogan to Zatkoff's Sauer last year, it's that he is gone too. So they'll be starting a freshman out of the NAHL next year.

On tap:
Going Upstairs on the Notre Dame game when I have the heart to do it (This depends on how much actually got recorded...I heard we had reception problems during the game)
A player-by-player review of the expectations I had, what they accomplished, and a grade for the season
Updates on all the commits

Before summer gets here and some people take a break from hockey, I would like to thank everyone who reads this site. Traffic doubled in the last quarter and I really appreciate everyone who has read/commented for their support. It really blew my mind how many people knew who I was this weekend. If anyone has any suggestions about things that they would like to see in the future or ways that I could improve existing features, leave a comment or shoot me an email. I'm definitely open to ideas.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Kevin Porter Wins the Hobey Baker

A night after a very disappointing end to his season, Kevin Porter became the second Wolverine in history to win the Hobey Baker, beating out Nate Gerbe and Ryan Jones in the process. There is an eery parallel with Brendan Morrison, who won his Hobey a night after the heavily-favored Wolverines were eliminated in the semifinals by Boston University.

Congrats to Kevin. This is a major accomplishment and even if this season didn't end the way we all wanted it to, he has nothing to be ashamed of. Out of all the greats that have come through this program, just he and Morrison have been honored this way, and that's lofty company to be in.

I met Porter and Jones at the Hobey Hat Trick autograph session (Gerbe was excluded because BC is still playing) and both of them seemed like really good kids. Porter was very friendly to everyone and had a smile on his face most of the time I was there even though he had to be hurting. Jones has cut his hair and looks completely different. He was a really nice guy as well.

Porter was also named a West First Team All-American. Kolarik was on the West's Second Team.

Notre Dame 5, Michigan 4 (ot)

Sometimes the best team doesn't always win.

Sorry, I had to lead with that since there's a clear parallel to Morrison with Porter winning the Hobey tomorrow.

I'm really trying to keep things in perspective. At the start of the year, suggesting that this team would make the Frozen Four would be viewed as a complete homer pick. It's hard to say that this wasn't a successful season. It doesn't make things any less disappointing though, as this was clearly a missed opportunity. They exceeded expectations, but when the #1 team doesn't make the championship, you missed a shot when the window was open.

The first period pretty much doomed them. Getting down 3-0 was just too big of a hole to dig yourself into. Even though Michigan was able to tie the game at 3 and again at 4, I have to believe Michigan expended too much energy coming back. Notre Dame was pretty clearly the better team for the second half of the third period as well as the overtime.

Billy Sauer was horrid. I had an all-time classic rant after the first period, and I'm still kind of in shock that Bad Billy picked this game to rear his ugly head after the way this season went, but he had an amazing season so I can't be too harsh. I would have a hard time faulting him on the first goal as it appeared to be a defensive breakdown which allowed Ridderwall to walk right into the slot. But he didn't respond after giving up the first goal. Instead, he gave up a horribly soft goal just 42 seconds later and followed it up with another weak goal with just 35 seconds remaining in the first period, which was an absolute killer even if we did come back to tie.

I feel really bad for the kid. He was brilliant pretty much the entire year and picked a horrible time to have an off game. This game pretty much locked it in that I'm never going to be completely comfortable with him in net, but he still deserves a lot of credit for helping Michigan accomplish everything that they were able to this season. He drastically improved this season, and it's important to not forget that even in light of this disaster.

It took a lot of balls for Red Berenson to give him the hook after the first period, but I completely agree with the move even though Hogan had next to no experience. Sauer didn't have it, and rather than let it snowball like North Dakota's situation earlier in the day, he shook things up and it damn near worked. It would've been really interesting to see the decision had Michigan won that game. I don't think there would have been a question that they would've gone with Sauer on Saturday, but it would've been a unique situation to be in. (For the record, I would've played Sauer in the Championship) It just sucked that we ended up in a place where we needed to depend on our freshman goalie who had only played a half-dozen times this year. It was a bad spot to put Hogan in, but he performed pretty well all things considered.

As I said, I feel bad for Billy Sauer since his outstanding season--the best statistical season a Michigan goalie has ever had--will be overshadowed by his performance tonight. Mostly, though, I feel bad for Kevin Porter and Chad Kolarik. Kolarik put this team on his back once again and scored twice to get Michigan back into the game. Porter didn't play well (no shots on goal? Really?) but I would've loved to see those guys get a shot at the Championship. I feel as bad for the two of them as I did for Jed Ortmeyer when he didn't get his much-deserved shot at it.

I have to give a call to Matt Rust and his line. I thought they were awesome tonight--Rust in particular. Apart from Kolarik, he might have been our best player. And I'm impressed as hell with the resolve of this team to dig themselves out of their hole and not pack it in like the Sioux did. Those are about the only positives I'm taking out of this one. Because it sucked really bad.

It really didn't seem like anything good happened when we put Caporusso's or Fardig's line out there. I swear, every time Fardig's line was out there, they'd clear the puck, I'd say "Good job, Digger" and then Notre Dame would regain possesion, come down, and score. Mitera being -3 didn't help either.

I'll have to go back and watch the game again, but basically, I thought the first and fourth goals were complete defensive lapses, the second and third goals were horribly weak, and the fifth goal was a nice save and nobody found Ridderwall on the rebound. Always great when a kid has 3 goals the entire season and you let him score twice in the National Semifinal.

Don't take this as criticism of Red Berenson, but I've never understood why hockey coaches are so reluctant to use timeouts to halt the other team's momentum. Right after we scored the tying goal, Notre Dame tilted the ice in their favor for a significant period of time before they went ahead 4-3. And in overtime it seemed like they had the momentum on their side for a couple shifts before they won it. I was kind of surprised we didn't use our timeout to settle things down a little bit.

We had a really great time though. The Pepsi Center is beautiful and we had a lot of fun interacting with fans of the opposing teams. There were some people in the box behind us that were great, including one Notre Dame grad who I wished well in the Championship Game. It was also kind of funny that when we pulled into a liquor store by our hotel, we were met by a North Dakota charter bus that was headed to the same liquor store. I guess this was the college hockey version of the Walk of Shame. Just a bunch of people finding a way to drown their sorrows.

When we celebrated in the bar after Notre Dame beat MSU, in the back of my mind I was thinking, "This is the way you felt when the Giants beat the Dallas Cowboys too". And wouldn't you know it, our season ends much in the same way that Green Bay's did. A surprising team that surpassed all expectations, but still probably didn't go as far as they should have and had their season end in disappointment. And much like with the Packers, I'll root for the team that beat us to win it all. I'd love to see Notre Dame keep it in the CCHA, even if it would hurt to see the CCHA go back-to-back and not have Michigan hang a banner.

I'm so disappointed right now, but this was a really enjoyable season. They won the GLI for the first time in forever, they made the Frozen Four for the first time since 03, they won the CCHA and CCHA Tournament, they won the College Hockey Showcase, they beat Minnesota...and pretty much none of it was expected.

The future still looks bright. Porter and Kolarik are huge losses, but with the maturity of the freshmen and the very talented incoming players that we've got, there's no reason to think that Michigan can't contend again next year. It's just disappointing to not take the opportunity when it's there.

Also in the CCHA, Miami lost Jeff Zatkoff today. They'll likely be starting a freshman out of the NAHL next season. They'll have a big drop-off in net.

That's all I've got for now. I'm going to try to enjoy the next two days in Colorado, hopefully see a good hockey game for the title, and hope that we don't have to slog through a foot of snow in Nebraska again on the way home. Because that sucked worse than losing to ND.


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Frozen Four Edition: 10 Things To Know About Notre Dame

In light of the facts that my hotel in Denver has internet and that I think I've fixed my laptop to the point that it will consistently turn on, I'm going to hold off on the North Dakota and Boston College previews. If Michigan beats Notre Dame, then I'll write a preview of the team we're playing either on Thursday night or early Friday.

Here are 10 things to know about Michigan's opponent in the national semifinal, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish:
1) The Irish have had an interesting season to say the least. They got off to a great start (winning 9 in a row at one point) and at the time of our previous series with them, they were ranked #8 in the country and were right behind us and Miami in the CCHA standings. After the following week's sweep of Bowling Green, the bottom fell out. In the 13 games after the sweep of BGSU but before the NCAA Tournament, the Irish went 4-6-3 and scored just 25 goals. In the last 21 games of the season, ND scored just 43 goals. Then the NCAA Tournament started and the Irish hung 10 goals in their next two games and knocked out the Hockey East Champion and the defending National Champions to make the Frozen Four for the first time in their history.

2) Good wins: New Hampshire, Denver (split), Miami (split), MSU (1-1-1 with the win coming in the NCAA Tournament)
Bad Losses: Ohio State, Western Michigan, UMass
Non-Conference results: Beat Mercyhurst, Denver, RPI (twice), UAH, Princeton (twice). Lost to Wisconsin, Denver, and UMass

3) Jordan Pearce is good. He won the CCHA goaltending title for lowest GAA and is 22-14-4 on the season with a 1.95/.917. Reminder: He was not in net when Michigan beat ND 5-1 at the Palace. Brad Phillips played, got chased, and then Pearce stopped all ten shots he faced in the remainder of the game. He has given up more than three goals just four times all season (Wisconsin, UNO, Ferris, UMass) and has given up three goals just twice in his last 14 appearances. Good goalie and he's playing well right now.

4) They'll be solid in net. The bigger question mark is the offense. Erik Condra and his 38 points, 6 PPGs, 3 SHG, and 4 GWGs are gone for the season. The next leading scorer on the team is Ryan Thang with 17-13--30 in 45 games. Condra's absence leaves them with four 10+ goal scorers and seven with 20+ points, but no one in the top 100 in points per game (or even close to the top 100--the cutoff is .82 and the top remaining Irish player is at .67). They don't get huge points out of their defensemen, but they do get goals. Kyle Lawson, Ian Cole, and Dan VeNard all have 5+ tallies on the season, and Lawson, Cole, and Ruth all scored in the West Regional.

5) Notre Dame is 19th in the country in offense with 2.89 goals per game (obviously that takes a bit of a hit with Condra gone). They're #5 defensively, just a tick behind Michigan at 2.04 goals per game. Actually three of the four Frozen Four teams are in the top 5 in team defense (Boston College - 14). They've really struggled on the power play and it ranks just 33rd in the country at 15.4%. Despite at least three games with multiple PPGs down the stretch and in the tournament, they're just 13 of their last 88. They've also allowed six short-handed goals on the season. The Irish, as you would expect, are very good on the PK, #2 to Miami at 89.6%. They popped in 8 shorties, though three were by Condra.

6) Don't count on winning any faceoffs. The Irish are a fantastic faceoff team, having won 56% on the year. Both Regan and Hanson are above 60% and the worst percentage that any of their faceoff men has is Justin White's 52.4%.

7) Michigan would probably be wise to score 5 on 5, as the Irish don't take many penalties. Only Alaska had fewer minutes in the box than the Irish. Notre Dame, at 13.3 minutes per game, is about four minutes below Michigan's average.

8) Random facts: Notre Dame Head Coach Jeff Jackson has won two national championships (both with LSSU). Notre Dame is the first #4 seed to make the Frozen Four in the 16-team tournament era.

9) With Condra gone, the top performer on Notre Dame against the Wolverines is Garrett Regan with a 4-2--6 line in seven games. Kevin Deeth and Brett Blatchford each have five points in five games. Blatchford's name being on this list is surprising, since he's pretty far down the team scoring list. He has five points in five games against Michigan and 24 points in 68 games against everyone else. Jordan Pearce is 0-2-0 with a 2.93/.896 against Michigan.

10) Kolarik and Porter have been Irish killers in their careers. Porter has 10-7--17 in 13 games against Notre Dame and Kolarik has scored 11-6--17 in 13 games, with seven of those goals on the power play. Caporusso has goals in both games he's played against ND. Travis Turnbull has also done very well, with a 3-5--8 line in seven contests.

I would put a lot more stock in the Michigan/ND game at Yost than the game at the Palace the next night. By all accounts, Brad Phillips was terrible in net and the ice was awful. While Notre Dame has had some trouble putting the puck in the net, they played a really great game against Michigan at Yost. Upon further review, I would go as far as to say that was the best game a team has played against Michigan the entire season, and that's including the teams that beat us.

Condra's absence will be a big blow, but they've done pretty well without him thusfar. The Irish did a nice job against our top line earlier in the year, but I'm curious to see how they'll do with Max Pacioretty back in the lineup. I like Tim Miller a lot, but he's definitely no Pacioretty.

Pearce played well against us this year, but gave up a bunch of rebounds in Friday night's game and the Wolverines had a few golden opportunities that they didn't cash in on (though I could say the same about ND).

No prediction out of me on this one. I'm sure you all know who I think will (and should) win, but you just never know in a one-and-done. Even my subconscious is conflicted. My teams have a horrible track record when I dream about a victory before the game and they've got a great track record when I dream about a loss. What happened last night? I had two Michigan/Notre Dame dreams; a 3-0 win and a 5-1 loss. If we get the first goal, I'll be feeling very good about our chances.

I will offer up a prediction on BC/NoDak, however. Close game, but I think NoDak has a pretty decent edge in net, and JPL will be the difference in a 3-1 North Dakota win.

My relevant articles about the Michigan/ND games this season:
The original Ten Things to Know About Notre Dame
Initial reaction to the 3-2 win
Media Roundup
Going Upstairs: 3-2 win

Charlie from WOLV-TV has his take on the Frozen Four
NDGoon points out that the Miami Student is bitching once again (hahahahahahahaha)
WCBN's blog offers up a Frozen Four preview
MHNet has some great clips of Turco from 1998's NCAA Semifinal (ewww)
Varsity Blue completes their five part series about Yost

Now? I'm off to Denver. Go Blue!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Going Upstairs: Michigan 3, Notre Dame 2 (Jan. 18)

Back in January, the Wolverines won a 3-2 decision against Notre Dame in a game that ended up being an absolute classic. I kept it on my DVR so that eventually I can archive it. In the meantime, it ended up being relevant to my coverage of the Frozen Four. The game took place before I started the "Going Upstairs" feature, so it's time to jump back in time and go upstairs to review this one.

Right off the bat, Notre Dame had a great scoring chance. Porter and Miller went for a hit deep in the Notre Dame end, the puck came out to another Irish player and Kolarik hit him just as he let the pass go. It was still just a 2 on 2 coming through center ice, but Mitera sold-out to check Ryan "Thoia" Thang (why?) and missed, allowing Thang and Kevin "Dee Dee" Deeth to fly into the zone with just Chris Summers back. Deeth went to the top of the crease and Summers played it about as well as he could, not letting Thang pass the puck until he was behind the goal line. He did get the pass through and Deeth put it on net. Sauer made a save and Miller came flying back to check Deeth into our keeper. Big stop for Sauer right out of the gate.

This was one of the games that Pacioretty missed due to a shoulder injury, so Tim Miller took Patch's spot on the top line. Llewellyn also didn't play, since this game occured while we were still rotating freshmen defensemen.

Notre Dame went up 1-0 three-and-a-half minutes into the game on a really fluky goal. Michigan turned the puck over at center ice. Hagelin threw a behind-the-back pass to "Other" who wasn't able to handle it. Deeth picked it up and went to the outside as Other tried to stick check him at the Michigan blue line. Deeth wristed a pass through the slot toward Kissel, who he had streaking down the right wing, but Mitera got his stick in there and deflected it....right into the top corner of the net. No chance for Sauer on that one.

Michigan nearly evened the score when Louie Caporusso had a golden opportunity off a nice feed from Winnett. Naurato led the rush up, but it was 3 on 3 and he didn't really have anywhere to go with it. He hit center ice and threw it across the ice into the corner to the left of Jordan Pearce. Winnett out-raced Blatchford to the puck and immediately threw it into the slot where Caporusso was all alone. He had a wide open net, but one-timed it just wide.

Notre Dame widened the gap to two goals, just a minute later. The Irish won a battle for a loose puck in the corner deep in their end. It came to the point where Lebler wasn't able to lift the stick of Ridderwall enough to prevent a forwarding pass up to Guentzel. Vaughan had come up to provide support on Ridderwall, so when the pass got through to Guentzel, it created a two-on-one. Summers had already started skating with Guentzel and bodied him off the puck, but Guentzel was able to get his stick on it and center it to White. Vaughan got on his horse to get back, but he wasn't able to make it. White quickly back-handed a shot through Sauer's five-hole and the Irish were up 2-0.

Notre Dame has really been coming after Michigan on the forecheck to this point, usually sending two guys. This time, the Wolverines beat it and got a great scoring opportunity out of it. Travis Turnbull came back low to help out his defense and brought it out to center ice where he fed Summers. Summers beat his man to the outside and fed Naurato at the top of the left faceoff circle. Naurato fired a shot and Pearce kicked the rebound right out to Caporusso. If Caporusso had been a right-hand shot, it was in the net. Instead, he made a very crafty move to kick the puck right up to his stick and let a shot go. It was a great play, but that extra half-second gave Pearce time to slide to his left and make a nice glove save.

To keep the offense going, Notre Dame came down to the other end and rung one off the bar. They threw one high off the glass, which Other couldn't handle and the puck bounced to center ice where Guentzel was able to slide it to White. White snapped a shot from 60 feet, which beat Sauer over the glove and hit the cross bar.

The Irish came close once again seconds later. They won a faceoff in the Michigan end and a shot from the point went wide to the left of Sauer and came out the other side. Condra was camped out right in front and he corraled the loose puck by the side of the net. He tried to quickly back-hand a shot into the net before Sauer could recover, but ended up just pushing it back into the slot. He had an empty net for a second, though.

The first penalty of the hockey game went against Mitera for hooking. Probably a needless penalty. He was behind the net and his man beat him. He was going to bring the puck out in front, but Kolarik was right there. Mitera hauled his guy down and got called.

Not much for Notre Dame on their first power play. Condra had one decent shot, but it was a wrister from the faceoff dot, so not really a high percentage look. Michigan put a lot of pressure on the point men.

Evan Rankin had a nice scoring chance with about 5 1/2 left in the first period. Notre Dame won an offensive zone faceoff and threw it deep into the corner. Rankin battled with Mitera for it. Mitera initally had possession, but Rankin stopped the puck when Mitera tried to rap it up the boards, and got to the goal-side of Mitera. Having done that, he was able to walk it out of the corner. Other was slow to react and Rankin tried to tuck it far-side. Sauer got his left pad on it, disaster averted. The Mitera/Other combo has been absolutely brutal tonight.

Porter blocked a shot at the point, gloved it down, and was off to the races. Ted Ruth, who was traded for Sergei Fedorov at the trade deadline, was able to skate with him and get his stick on Porter's just as he tried to get a backhand shot away.

Michigan finally hit on a homerun pass just a few seconds after that rush. Mitera hit Winnett in stride but Dan VeNard got his stick in there to break up any potential scoring chance. He was called for hooking on the play as they went into the corner. That call was on the weaker side (by the way, Hall did this game) but he missed a blatant one after Porter's chance, so we'll call it a wash.

Notre Dame lined up four guys in the neutral zone during the penalty kill. They didn't forecheck the entire time and Michigan wasn't able to get anything going until the waning seconds of the power play when they finally shot the puck in. Langlais carried the puck up and fired one from the red line off of Pearce's pads. Palushaj beat his man into the zone and made a pretty feed to an uncovered Porter after he drew a defenseman to him. Porter threw one off Pearce's right pad and couldn't control the rebound, or he would have had a wide-open net. Matching minors for roughing after the whistle were called on the play. On the ensuing faceoff, Hagelin jumped around his man and was hauled down, so Michigan had a 4 on 3.

The Wolverines spent the remaining 30 seconds of the period in a diamond, working the puck back to Langlais at the point for one-timers. Nothing came as a result and the teams headed to intermission with Notre Dame up 2-0.

The Irish clearly out-played Michigan in that period. Some of the big reasons:
-Mitera played one of his worst periods of the season. Other wasn't any better. And when your top pairing struggles against the other team's top line, you know they're getting some chances.
-Notre Dame won 7 of the 10 faceoffs in the Michigan end and got several quality chances off those draws.
-Their forecheck caused a few turnovers. Evan Rankin in particular was causing fits for the Wolverine defense.

Michigan did have some chances in the first, however. The top line wasn't horribly effective (though they also didn't have Pacioretty) as Ruth and Sheahan did a nice job on them. Caporusso had some really nice chances.

Michigan was able to capitalize on the 4 on 3 right out of the gate in the second period. Porter brought the puck into the zone and threw it cross-ice to Palushaj. The Wolverines had three guys high (Porter on the left, Langlais in the middle, and Palushaj on the right) with Kolarik going to the goal. Palushaj passed to Langlais and he and Chad each slid one "slot" to the left as Porter came all the way across to the right. By switching to his off-side, the left-handed Porter was able to get to the top of the right faceoff circle and one-time a pass from Langlais into the net. Pearce may have been screened by Kolarik, but it might not have mattered. Great play and a great shot.

The line with Naurato, Caporusso and Turnbull has been great tonight. Caporusso has had at least 4 great scoring chances and the other two have been effective as well.

Another chance for Notre Dame off a faceoff in the Michigan end. They won the draw back to Cole and he was ready to let a bomb go, but Lebler had fallen down, which left Rankin open in the high slot. Cole slid the pass to him, but Rankin mishit it.

Rust, Hagelin, and Palushaj just ran a 3 on 2 about as well as you can. Hagelin and Rust played catch as they brought it up ice (Hagelin to Rust, back to Hagelin, back to Rust). It drew both defensemen to Rust and at the last second, he fed Palushaj on the right wing. Palushaj snapped a shot from the faceoff dot and sent it high over the net. Then Rust ran into the goalie and got a penalty. He hit him, but Hasek would've been proud of that dive by Pearce.

The power play was short-lived as Cole was called for interference. Hagelin intercepted a pass headed for Cole and broke out with Porter. He made the pass to Porter and Cole took Hagelin down as he tried to streak into the offensive zone. Hagelin is fast, if you haven't noticed.

Rust headed back to the box just a minute and a half after he came out, as he got called for cross-checking. I'm pretty sure that was another penalty that came about just because Rust is really strong. He just kind of put a forearm into Regan's back and Regan took a tumble. Somehow that ended up being cross-checking. This penalty came about because of another Michigan turnover in their own end due to the strong ND forecheck.

The goal that tied it was Rust's bomb from the left point as he was bringing the puck into the Notre Dame zone. Off a Notre Dame faceoff win in the Michigan zone, Regan took a shot that was well wide of the net and Aaron Palushaj went to the boards to pick up the loose puck. Hagelin was streaking up ice but he was well covered so Palushaj opted for the cross-ice pass to Rust instead. Rust brought it into the zone and let a laser of a shot go from just inside the blueline that simply beat Pearce. That wasn't a good goal to give up, though it was a beautiful shot.

Naurato tried to dump the puck into the Notre Dame end, but it didn't make it. Instead, Notre Dame flipped it right back out. Summers was coming off on the play (remember, the teams have the long change in the second period) and so Michigan was caught when the puck didn't get in deep. White brought the puck in and flipped a pass into the middle of the ice as Vaughan laid down to try and block the attempt. Ridderwall put a shot on net, but Sauer slid to his right and got the legs closed just in time.

Notre Dame hit their second bar of the night off another faceoff win in the Michigan zone. Guentzel tapped the draw back, White picked it up and wrister one through traffic that got behind Sauer but hit the crossbar.

Michigan flashed its transition game off a neutral zone turnover. Porter intercepted a pass that was headed for a Notre Dame player that was changing anyway, he carried into the zone and dropped it back for Tim Miller. With Pearce butterflying, Miller could've taken a shot from the hash mark, but opted to feed Kolarik who was coming in on the right wing. If the pass had connected, Kolarik probably had an easy goal, but Miller got a little anxious and fired the pass too far out in front of Kolarik. Way too hard, a little too far.

The level of play was a lot more even that period. Notre Dame got most of its opportunities on dump-ins and won faceoffs. By the announcer's count, Notre Dame tried dumping the puck in on five occasions that period and got the puck back four times. They also won seven of the nine faceoffs in the Michigan end by my count. I wouldn't bet my life that that count is dead on since it's 3 in the morning, but it's close. Notre Dame has dominated their offensive zone. I haven't been tracking the faceoffs in the Notre Dame end, but I feel like Michigan is winning their share down there.

A key moment in the game came early in the third period when Chris Summers was given five and a game for checking from behind. They're going to call that one every time. The Michigan penalty killing was very strong, and Chad Kolarik actually had the best opportunity on this penalty kill. Notre Dame had some opportunities on the initial shift (which ran a full two minutes) but they didn't hit the net on any of their shots. Tim Miller made three or four nice plays, getting into passing lanes and diving to knock the puck away on one occasion.

For Kolarik's opportunity, a couple of Irish players flubbed the puck out at the blueline and Kolarik was off like a shot. Rust knocked it ahead to him and Kolarik came in all alone. Pearce laid down to try to poke-check him if he tried to deke. Kolarik shot it and tried to go upstairs, but he didn't get it up far enough and it looked like it just caught Pearce as he was going down. Rust came in for the rebound, sent it wide, and was cross-checked into the the net by Ryan Thang, which negated the remaining portion of the power play.

The play went back and forth for the next seven minutes or so but nothing really noteworthy happened.

Aaron Palushaj was called for charging. He had a bit of a break and the defenseman got his stick in there. Palushaj tried to stop but pretty much just plowed into Pearce.

At the end of the power play, Michigan nearly hit thanks to one of their homerun passes. Porter left it for Kolarik at the ND blueline and Palushaj went to the back post. Palushaj was open. I mean wiiiide open and Kolarik tried to get him the puck, but Kyle Lawson came flying back and he dove to break the pass up. He almost knocked it into his own net, but it was still a helluva play.

Porter just missed giving Michigan the lead with about a minute and a half remaining. Miller intercepted a pass behind the Notre Dame net and in one motion centered it to Porter. Porter pulled it across the crease and tried to tuck a backhander into the open net and just missed.

It ended up not mattering, however, as Louie Caporusso won it for Michigan with twenty seconds remaining. The key? We won the faceoff. Caporusso won it back, Mitera chipped it in deep, Turnbull centered it and Caporusso just missed. Caporusso knocked the puck back to Turnbull and then snuck back to the post. Turnbull passed it through his legs to Naurato in the slot. Whether he meant to or not, Naurato one-touched it to Caporusso who buried it. And Yost went bezerk.

Kolarik single-handedly killed the last twenty seconds, just taking the puck into the Notre Dame zone and pinning it along the boards. By the time they dug it out, all Notre Dame could do was throw a Hail Mary down the ice, which didn't connect.

We were really fortunate to get out of that game with a win. Notre Dame played a helluva hockey game. Their forecheck was relentless, Sheahan and Ruth did a great job on our top line, and Sauer made some great saves.

I'm not sure if Notre Dame always plays that balls-out on the forecheck, but I'd expect to see it again this week because it was very effective. They put a lot of pressure on our defensemen and a lot of the time we turned the puck over. They created most of their offense via dumping the puck in and going in to get it. Also, the pressure they put on our defensemen was a big reason that Michigan had trouble hitting on the outlet passes for a lot of the game.

We didn't get destroyed on faceoffs (It was 32-25 in Notre Dame's favor) but the Irish won a huge percentage of draws in the Michigan zone. The biggest win, however, was by Caporusso at the end of the game down in the Notre Dame zone.

Pearce and Sauer both played well. Pearce gave up some rebounds--especially early in the game--and I'm sure he wants that Rust goal back. Sauer had a rough start, giving up two goals on the first five shots he faced (the first of which he had no fault on whatsoever), but rebounded to play a great hockey game. He made some splendid stops, particularly when he absolutely robbed Ridderwall.

Mitera had a horrid first period, but settled down and played well the rest of the game.

I think it's important to point out two key personnel differences from this game to the National Semifinal that will be played on Thursday: Michigan will have Max Pacioretty in the lineup. Notre Dame will not have the services of Erik Condra. Pacioretty adds another dimension to Michigan's top line. Sheahan and Ruth did a great job on Porter and Kolarik for the most part, but while Tim Miller played a good game he's not Pacioretty. He can create space for the most dangerous duo in the country, and he's been held off the score-sheet in just six of the last 32 games. He had put in seven points in his previous five before getting injured, so it's safe to say he was missed. Condra played a strong game for Notre Dame. He didn't have a point in either game against Michigan, but he was a big reason ND had as many scoring chances as they did. He's definitely a loss.

I'll have more on Notre Dame in the 10 Things feature, which is still to come this week.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Look Out Denver, Here I Come!!!!

Tickets have been purchased; I will be attending my third Frozen Four. Hopefully I'll even have the desire to stay for the Championship this time!

958 Miles, 14 hours. Screw it. It's the Wolverines two wins away from the National Championship.

It's gonna be a long six days....

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Going Upstairs: Michigan vs. Clarkson

For the last look at the past before we start looking ahead to the Frozen Four, it's time to take a go upstairs and review the Michgan/Clarkson game:

First penalty of the game went to Clarkson. Pretty clear hit from behind on DeFazio. The Clarkson coach wasn't happy but I don't think that one is even arguable. They never showed a replay so maybe it wasn't as bad as it looked, but based on the live shot he's actually lucky that wasn't five with the way college hockey has been officiated the past couple of seasons.

Some good chances for Michigan on the first shift of the power play. Kolarik and Porter each had a couple of bombs. They were working the power play up higher this time, rather than down low like the night before. Nothing doing when the second unit was out there. Clarkson had a decent chance when a Michigan outlet pass was broken up and came back the other way. Mitera got over to force the Clarkson player to shoot before he could get in on Sauer. Billy got out to the top of his crease and maybe got a piece of it.

We've been offside at least three times on rushes in the first five minutes.

Matt Rust was called for a penalty after Winnett failed to clear. We never got a replay, so I'm not positive that the failed clear had anything to do with Rust getting called. He was over by our bench with another player and he got called for obstruction-interference, so who knows. If he did interfere, it probably didn't make sense to do it. The puck was headed back into our zone where the goalie was set to play it and we had 2 D back against no forecheckers.

Good kill by Michigan. Clarkson had one decent opportunity where their man picked up the puck about 2 feet in front of the net, but he didn't really have anywhere to go with the puck. I think all four of our defensemen out there on the kill had at least one ice of the puck.

Two great chances by D'Alvise right there. Two Michigan players went to the boards with one Clarkson guy, and he was able to cycle back and feed it to a streaking Zalewski. He fed D'Alvise in the slot, who was able to get off a nice turnaround shot despite being pretty well-covered by Summers. He then got his own rebound and threw another one off Sauer's pad. The first one was a top-notch save.

Nice play by Langlais there to break up a cross-ice pass to Marks, who was heading for an easy tap-in.

The announcer comments that Michigan has taken some icings and had some questionable turnovers in their own zone. I actually don't have Michigan "credited" with a single D-zone turnover yet. There have been a couple of failed clears, but nothing that resulted in Clarkson gaining possession in our end.

Kolarik had a great chance. Pacioretty stole the puck at center ice and angled one off the board to Kolarik. He headed into the Clarkson zone, dangled around an attempted poke-check by the back-rushing defenseman (crafty to do that and not just let the shot go), skated in and rung one off the bar. Man he's got a great wrist-shot. Hit Leggio's shoulder and deflected off the bar.

Some penalties coming here at 13:01. This was where Paquet knocked Kolarik down and then punched him in the face. Kolarik was called for "embellishment"...I guess "diving" wasn't descriptive enough? Kolarik really helped the first one, though I don't think it warranted the Joe Buck-esque reaction from the color guy. Probably should've been evened-up. Two for diving, two for roughing after the whistle on Paquet. I don't think the interference call should've been made. Pretty significant, as the ensuing power play leads to our first goal.

Winnett is seeing a lot of special teams time as of late. He was the guy moved up to the first power play unit with Kolarik in the box. They're working it high again and setting Porter up for the one-timer.

Michigan 1-0! Palushaj scored on a wrap-around. Nothing special about that one. One defenseman was on him, but he got the goalie down, went around the net and was able to tuck it in. Amazing how often that works for Michigan. Pacioretty was able to drive the net and get the other defenseman to follow him, which left the far side open for Palushaj to bring the puck around. As good as he's been as a freshman, it wouldn't shock me a bit to see his goals go way up as a sophomore. He's got 10 right now.

Tripping penalty on Kampfer. That was iffy. He got him for tripping and Kampfer did put his stick between the guy's legs, but he didn't fall because of the stick. He fell because Kampfer pushed him down. He had his hand off his stick, but he didn't hold him. He just pushed. Not a fan of that one. Then again, we just got a goal off a power play that shouldn't have been....Of course, there's a trip on Mitera that led to a defensive-zone turnover (luckily the guy flubbed it and it came out of the zone) that wasn't called. No great chances on that PP, though they did get two shots.

And Kampfer's going back into the box, this time for holding. Legit. Kampfer didn't have a stick and grabbed Zalewski, pinning him to the boards. The ref yelled a couple times to let him go and Kamp didn't, so it's back to the sin bin.

Have I mentioned that George Roll looks an awful lot like ex-Packers coach Mike Sherman?

Nice play by Mitera as Guthrie tried to bring it out of the corner. Mitera used that long reach to knock the puck away. End of 1. They have SOG 10-10, scoring chances 5-3 in Clarkson's favor, and turnovers 10-6 Michigan. I have just two of those TOs coming in our defensive zone, though quite a few were on outlet passes from our defensive end. I thought our passing coming up ice was very sloppy.

Good kill, nice stick by Rust, who was able to break up a pass and clear it down the ice. Langlais sent Miller and Fardig away on a 2 on 1, Miller got the pass through, but Digger fanned. PP over. Most everything was kept to the perimeter and Clarkson didn't get a shot on that PP.

Penalty on Llewellyn for cross-checking on a scramble in front of the net. He never cross-checked him. He took his hand off his stick, knocked him down with his free hand, and landed on top of him. Possibly a penalty, but based on the replay it was more of a "There's a guy laying in front of the net so I should probably call something" out of the ref. Definitely not a cross-check. The announcer says "Llewellyn went down on his man right in front of the net." That's inappropriate.

Guthrie picked our guy's pocket on the faceoff and walked right in before back-handing a pass through the slot that didn't connect. He probably could have shot that one. Summers kind of took himself out of the play by lunging for the puck. If Guthrie had pulled it back onto his forehand, he would have been in cold turkey. Nice job by Kampfer to keep it from being a good scoring chance. Nice stop by Sauer a couple seconds later.


Langlais off for cross-checking. The AR called this one. He gave him a pretty good shot. I just always find it amusing when the official is staring right at it, doesn't make a call, and the guy 75 feet away raises his arm.

It almost bit us. Off a won faceoff, Clarkson worked it down low and sent a pass right into the slot for a DeFazio one-timer. It was basically the Palushaj-Kolarik-Pacioretty play that we worked so well the night before. Sauer made a great save.

Nice blocked shot by Mitera and he's taken down when he tries to clear it. Good call on Dodge for hitting from behind.

They're really shadowing Pacioretty on this power play. Again, Michigan was working it up high to Porter for one-timers. Finally they went back down low. The pass to Pacioretty wasn't there because he had a pair of guys draped all over him, so Kolarik brought it out of the corner and had a chance to stuff it. I think we've found something on our first PP unit.

Llewellyn called for tripping. Clarkson banked a long pass off the boards, looking to hit Dodge who was out of the box. Llewellyn just got his stick caught between Dodge's legs. That's getting called 100 times out of 100.

Mitera has been a beast on the PK tonight. He's cleared at least a half dozen pucks down the ice. Blocked shots, blocked passes. He's been great. Our sticks as a whole have been active tonight. Digger just blocked a shot and it led to a clear.

This just occured to me...Would it be fair to compare Matt Rust to Justin Abdelkader? They're both fast, good hitters, work their butts off, good on the PK, have some offensive skill, and both take mind numbingly stupid penalties at times. Rust is better about the latter than Abdelkader (just 22 minors to 41 this year), but I think it's a pretty fair comparison because he does need to be more disciplined. Abdelkader had 10-12--22 as a freshman, Rust has 11-10--21, despite not nearly as much PP time. I think I'm on to something here.

Hagelin just got punched in the face right in front of the ref. Not calling those tonight evidently.

I don't know how much the Perfect Pushup paid to have almost exclusive advertising rights to the NCAA Hockey Tournament, but I kind of want a set of those. Don't say advertising doesn't work! I want a cheesy beefy melt every time I see one of those commercials. If anyone from Taco Bell is reading this, you're bat-**** crazy if you get rid of those again.

There are two minutes left in the second period and Michigan only has 12 shots on goal (and six have been on the PP). Clarkson has done a nice job bottling Michigan up, especially coming through the neutral zone where Michigan has been so strong this year.

They finally connected on one of those cross-ice passes through center ice and it nearly paid off. Kolarik let it go off the boards and took it on the rebound. He outskated his defenseman and pulled it to his backhand as he cut through the top of the crease. Leggio read it and made a nice stop.

Late in the period Porter and Kolarik came in 2 on 0. Porter couldn't get the puck to lay down and by the time he did, Kolarik was in too deep to get a great shot off. You're not going to see that duo miss on too many 2 on 0s.

And 26 seconds into the third period, Michigan goes up by 2. Clitsome tried to clear the puck, Kolarik held it in. He hit Pacioretty who pulled it to the middle of the ice and drew both defensemen to him, allowing Porter to walk in from the faceoff dot untouched. He threaded a pass through to Hobey and he was able to tuck it five-hole. Our top line is just disgusting. I honestly can't believe how good of a player Kevin Porter is. All the players that have come through this program and he's going to be just the second to win the Hobey. Incredible accomplishment out of this senior.

Penalty on D'Alvise for high-sticking. The puck bounced high in the air. Kolarik went for it with his glove, D'Alvise went for it with his stick. When he was bringing his stick back down, D'Alvise connected with Kolarik's head. Good call.

Nauarto negated part of the power play with a slash of his own. Meh. Just before that, Mitera got a shot through from the point that Turnbull got a stick on and deflected it just wide. Turns is pretty good at that. Maybe we should get him to the net more on the second power play unit. They haven't put in a ton of goals lately. He's strong and he's good on tips. Go muck it up in front. Score a dirty goal or two.

Huge stop by Sauer there. Guthrie came in on Vaughan, beat him to the outside and backhanded a shot on goal. The rebound kicked out into the slot and Dodge fired it back at Sauer, who was off-balance but made the save. Even though they don't have a ton of shots, Clarkson has had several Grade A scoring chances.

During the four-on-four, Vaughan redeemed himself by keeping Zalewski to the outside on a rush and Summers easily blocked the centering attempt. Porter had a really crafty backcheck to get the puck and keep possession. That let him break out with Kolarik on a 2 on 1. Kolarik saucered a pass but Clitsome made a great play, sticking his glove out and knocking it out of the air.

Beca rocked Kampfer from behind into the boards. I'm really surprised that one wasn't five. Kampfer hit shoulder-first (thankfully) but Beca hit him square in the back. Stupid, stupid hit, especially when you're down 2 goals and on the PP.

Michigan just missed going up by 3 on the ensuing power play. Kolarik won the faceoff and slid to the middle of the ice, Mitera took a shot-pass toward Kolarik who tipped it back to Leggio's right and it rung off the iron. Porter just missed on the rebound. Kolarik didn't bury one, but he had a ton of chances in this game. Even when he doesn't score, he's always really active, getting scoring chances and setting things up. That's a dangerous player.

DeFazio got called for interference. He took down Winnett as they were going up ice. Right after that, D'Alvise was called for slashing and Michigan had a golden chance on a 5 on 3 for over a minute. He just wound up and smacked the Michigan player's stick. You don't usually see stick-on-stick slashes get called unless someone breaks their composite, but when you wind up that much, it's probably getting called.

Curious decision by Red not to use his timeout and keep Porter's line out there, but he went with the second power play unit and they didn't get much going. Mitera hit Caporusso on a cross-ice pass, but it wasn't a great chance. Once it was back to 5-on-4, Kolarik tried to hit Porter streaking in from the point (the exact same play that worked for Porter's third goal the night before) but the pass didn't connect because Leggio got his stick on it. The forward responsible for the top left portion of the box can't fall asleep for a second when those guys are on the ice. Porter knew right when to go and Kolarik read it perfectly.

Some nice pressure by Caporusso's line created a great scoring chance and another Michigan power play. Turnbull won a battle in the corner and got it to Louie who flipped a shot on net. The rebound bounced around in front and a clearing attempt hit Caporusso. With two Clarkson players down on top of Turnbull in the slot, Louie deked around a third Golden Knight, pulled it to his forehand and ripped one on net just as he was slashed by Marks. Good call, that was a BC Two-Hander.

The power play was short-lived, however, as Kampfer headed off for tripping just 29 seconds later. Clarkson won yet another faceoff in the Michigan end, Dodge snuck in between Kolarik and Kampfer and the point man fed him perfectly. Kampfer had to trip him or he'd have been right in on Sauer. He still got a pretty good scoring chance. Nice stop by Sauer, and that penalty was probably more on Porter than on Kampfer.

Hagelin went off for interference shortly thereafter, and there was no replay (beyond the fact that the guy ended up on the ice) so no comment. Clarkson pulled their goalie for a 5 on 3 that would become a 6 on 3 in 35 seconds.

This was the sequence of absolutely absurd saves by Sauer. It started off another lost faceoff in our defensive zone (wait til you hear these stats). D'Alvise sent it down low to Zalewski who put a backhand shot off the iron. The rebound came right to D'Alvise in the slot and he took a rising shot that Kolarik blocked. Sauer dove to his left to stop the next opportunity and he dropped his stick. While he was down, he stopped Dodge and Beca, then held his post, stopped Beca again, stopped another shot with his blocker hand while he was sprawled out, and another hit him in the stomach before Michigan could dig it out of there. So if you're counting, that's six saves, a post, and a huge block by Kolarik. One of the most unbelievable sequences of goaltending I've ever seen. The overhead shot is fantastic. This sequence is the reason I'm keeping this game on my DVR until I can convert it to DVD somehow.

And those saves were huge. If Clarkson scores there, it's 2-1 and they've got a good minute and a half left, with a 6 on 4 for another half-minute. As it was, our defense started blocking shots and the Golden Knights only got maybe one more great scoring chance, which Sauer dove to his right to stop.

That really wasn't the best game I've ever seen Michigan play. Their passing out of their own zone was terrible and they went offside on rushes way too many times. That said, the top line had a ton of chances, the penalty killing was great, and Billy Sauer was phenomenal between the pipes.

Clarkson ended up with 27 shots, but they didn't spend all that much time down in the Michigan end. By my count, out of the 80 faceoffs in the game, just 19 took place in the Michigan zone. The problem? We lost 14 of those draws. If we could've been even 50% on faceoffs in our end, I imagine the Golden Knights would have had a lot less scoring opportunities because they really couldn't carry the puck into our zone. Lost faceoffs caused the Kampfer penalty late in the game as well as the 6-save sequence that nearly brought Clarkson back within one.

Even though the outlet passes weren't great, we really didn't turn the puck over that many times in our own end. By my count, there were only 8 turnovers where the puck stayed in our end, and a couple resulted in Michigan immediately regaining possesion. 2 by Vaughan on the same sequence (one minor, one less so), two by Mitera (both minor, and he was hauled down on one of them), and one each by Llewellyn, Kolarik, Naurato, and Langlais. By my recollection, none of those turnovers resulted in much of anything.

Langlais has really improved defensively. Early in the year, he had a few bad turnovers. Lately, I haven't noticed it at all. He's been solid as a rock back there. He's cooled off offensively, but he's been great in his own end. He's even seeing quite a bit of time on the PK and doing a nice job.

The penalty kill was really great all weekend. Rust, Miller, Kolarik, the defense...they all did a great job. And the best penalty killer has to be your goalie, and Sauer was up to the task, especially at the end of the Clarkson game. Holy Hasek those were some stops.

I should also point out that I don't think the officiating was nearly as bad as I thought it was the first time I watched the game. Most of the ones we got replays for were legit calls. A couple of bad missed calls, but overall a pretty well-officiated game, despite my earlier comments.

Next up, I'll start looking ahead to next week by reviewing Michigan's 3-2 win over Notre Dame at Yost earlier in the year.

Other Stuff:
Justin Abdelkader left MSU to turn pro. He played for the Red Wings tonight and actually looked pretty good. He took a penalty (shocker) but apart from that he played well. Some nice hits and a few great scoring chances.

The same poster at the Red Cedar Message Board who broke the news of Abdelkader's defection (as well as Bryan Lerg signing with Edmonton) reported that Ratchuk is turning pro. I don't think that's been confirmed yet, but it sounds pretty reliable. I'd be shocked if Kennedy doesn't leave as well.

Varsity Blue posted the start of what will be an 8 part series about the history of Yost. This one just sets it up, but I'm really looking forward to seeing what Tim has to say.

The Wings clinched the President's Trophy for the 4th time in six seasons. Great, can we start the playoffs now? Please? By the way, I absolutely love hearing that our first two games will coincide with the NCAA Hockey semifinal and championship game. That happened when I was in Buffalo as well. Lost to Minnesota, Wings lost in like triple OT to the Ducks on their way toward getting swept. Good times.