Thursday, October 30, 2008

Porter Gets Goal #1

Congrats to Kevin Porter on his first NHL goal! He scored the 3rd Phoenix goal in their 4-1 win over Pittsburgh tonight. Cammalleri, Hilbert and Knuble also scored tonight. The NHL Wolverines have had a pretty good week.

10 Things to Know About tOSU

Aside from the things we all know (the fact that their fans are animals and they're a bunch of inbreds down there), here are 10 things to know about Ohio State.

1) OSU hasn't been above .500 since 2004-05 when they lost to Michigan in the CCHA Championship Game and fell to Cornell in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Since then, they haven't won more than 15 games and were a horrible 12-25-4 last year (note: that's worse than what Michigan's record would have been if you removed every single goal that Porter, Kolarik and Pacioretty scored). This year, they're off to a 2-3-1 start (1-2-1-1 in their four CCHA games, and yes the new record format is annoying as hell).

2) They haven't gone about the 2-3-1 record the way you'd think. They split with Miami (though one of the wins was in a shootout, so it counts as a tie in the national standings and a shootout win (the "1" that's listed in the third and fourth column) in the CCHA standings) with each team winning their home game, split with LSSU at home, and then went on the road and split with the Denver Pioneers, who had been scoring goals like crazy. They showed some moxie in their win against Denver. They trailed 3-1 late in the second period before scoring three goals in the final 21 minutes to get a big W on the road.

3) It's kind of hard to figure out their goaltending situation. Joe Palmer has carried the load the past two seasons and he didn't put up overly horrible numbers (GAA right around 3, save percentage around 89, which isn't awful for a terrible team). He was a big-time recruit out of the NTDP (and I once ripped Holland for picking Daniel Larsson over him in the Draft; another in a long line of things I've been horribly wrong about). This season he's been yanked twice in his three starts, giving up 4 goals on 20 shots in each of them. He didn't even play against Denver. Sophomore Dustin Carlson has started two games, with a win (vs. LSSU) and a loss (against Denver, where he made 33 stops). He came in in relief for Palmer against LSSU and got himself yanked after giving up 2 goals on 6 shots. Freshman Cal Heeter then came in to mop up. He actually got their win against Denver, stopping 36 shots in his lone start of the season. So who will we see? Good question. Palmer won in Yost last year and Heeter is coming off a big win on the road last week. I say we see each of them.

4) Up front, senior Cory Elkins has led the way with 4-2--6 in 6 games. Peter Boyd, super freshman Zac Dalpe, and John Albert each have multiple goals thusfar.

5) They're a young team. Out of the ten players who have scored goals thusfar, just one is older than a sophomore. Just two of the 14 point getters are older than a sophomore. Boyd and Kyle Reed both had 10 goals as freshmen, the only returning Buckeyes who had double-digit goals last year. Boyd also led the team in game winners last year with four.

6) At the moment, OSU is in a tie for 20th in offense, with 3.00 goals per game. The power play matches their offensive rank, 20th, at 15.8%. They're 48th in defense, however, giving up a whopping 4.17 gpg. Strangely enough, their penalty killing matches their defensive rank, at just 74.4%. They've scored one shortie.

Sidenote: I have no idea how useful the "Combined special teams" stat actually is (I suspect not very), but Michigan is second-worst in the country at the moment, with a 38.1% success rate. Only Army is worse.

7) The Wolverines and Buckeyes have each played six games and they have the same exact number of PIMs, 121, good for 20.2 minutes per game.

8) The Wolverines lead the all-time series 61-28-11. The Buckeyes have earned splits their last two trips to Yost, however.

9) Tim Miller is our leading career scorer against OSU with 3-2--5 in six career games. Aaron Palushaj had three assists in our two meetings with the Buckeyes last year. Avert your eyes. Billy Sauer is 1-2-0 in his career against Ohio State, with a 4.65 goals against and an .835 save percentage. In his no decision, he gave up 5 goals on 26 shots before being lifted in favor of Noah Ruden just over a minute into the third period with the game 5-4 OSU. Michigan tied it up, Ruden then gave up a goal and took the loss. Bryan Hogan played the Saturday game against OSU last year and stopped a penalty shot en route to 26 saves and a win in his first career start.

10) Freshman defender Sean "Puff" Duddy hails from Ann Arbor. He played his junior hockey with the Wichita Falls Wildcats, whoever they are. Steven West (NTDP) and Corey Elkins (Sioux City) are also Michiganders. Erick Belanger is reppin' the Buckstache. It's a good one too.

That, my friends, is a solid Buckstache. And no, I wouldn't say that to his face. That's a big, scary-looking dude.

Tomorrow night's game will be shown on and I've been told that they will start archiving games. The tricky part, for me, is going to be getting to the archived video feed without seeing the score. Saturday night's game will air on Comcast 900 (or on the NHL Network if you're in Canada), with a reair on the Amercian NHL Network Sunday morning.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Moffie USHL Defensive Player of the Week

Lee Moffie is kinda good. He was named Defensive Player of the Week in the USHL after helping Waterloo to two wins over the weekend. He had a goal and an assist in a 6-5 OT win Friday night and a pair of assists (including one on the game winner) in a 3-2 overtime victory on Saturday.

He's now tied for the USHL lead in scoring amongst defensemen with a 2-5--7 line in six games so far this year.

Monday, October 27, 2008

BU 7, Michigan 2

I have to admit, even though I was looking forward to this game the entire week, I didn't pay much attention when it came on. It was a massive kick in the junk that CN8 didn't stream the game like they did last year, and by the time I finally decided that it just wasn't gonna happen, we were down 2-0 and I was getting the same feeling I got during the Friday game up at Northern. I went to get some food, came back to find it was 4-0, and said "Peace."

This game was won and lost on the special teams. Michigan did manage to put in two power play goals after the game was pretty much decided, but that was on a whopping 12 PP opportunities. On those twelve chances, they managed just nine shots on goal. Michigan had three opportunities with the man advantage before the Terriers put in their first goal, but nothing came of them.

The Terriers on the other hand had 9 power plays, took 16 shots at the Michigan net, and scored five of their seven goals with the man advantage (it would have been six, but a Greg Pateryn penalty ended just two seconds before the puck ended up in our net). The PK had been pretty darn good for most of the season. It clearly wasn't on Saturday. I get what they're going for with this two-ref system, but I really don't want to watch games with 21 power plays between the teams. I doubt our fourth-liners like it too much either.

This is interesting: You're not going to find out anything from the +/- stats (and there are limits to that stat anyway) in a game when 7 of the 9 goals came on the power play, but look at who was on the ice for the BU goals:



What's interesting about that to me is that the guys who you would expect to be our top penalty killing forwards (Rust and Hagelin) were out there for a combined 1 goal against. The defense was victimized pretty equally, but it seems that it was more "second PK unit" type forwards (or guys that don't usually kill penalties) that were out there for the goals. I'm sure the main guys were playing a ton of minutes due to the number of power plays, so that could have been part of it, but I wouldn't read too much into this disaster.

Tristin Llwellyn and Chris Summers both would have been ejected for too many penalties if this was beer league hockey. They put the Terriers up a man three times apiece. Speaking of ejections, Brian Lebler will have to sit Friday night after getting tossed for a fight with Vinny Saponari late in the third period. That would have been the only good thing about purchasing the PPV for this game.

Other positives: Caporusso kept rolling and continued his dominance in the faceoff circle (he's now 64.2% on the year(!), Czarnik got his first as a Wolverine, and I haven't heard of any players getting power-bombed over the weekend. That's about it.

I'll reserve judgement on the goalies since I didn't see the game and being that 5 goals were on the power play, there's at least a decent chance that they weren't really to blame. But our goalies have combined for (cover your eyes) an .869 save percentage so far this season. Yuck.

How bad was it? Bad enough that Michigan put just 7 even-strength shots on net the entire game, and 17 total.

It's definitely no time to panic, but it's certainly disappointing that they didn't bring it and give themselves a chance to pick up the future PWR benefits associated with winning our lone game against a HockeyEast team.

It's certainly looking like there will be no dominant team in the CCHA this year. Michigan looked pitiful against BU, MSU has lost to UMass-Lowell and has needed great play out of Lerg to have the record they've got, Notre Dame just got swept at home by a Miami team that took just 1 point from Vermont, and NMU failed to make the statement that "We're for real and we're going to contend" by splitting with Michigan at home and taking just a single point against MSU. Omaha and Miami are the only CCHA teams with less than two losses in the national standings, and Omaha hasn't played anyone.

Then again, Denver lost at home to OSU, CC tied Clarkson twice, UNH got throttled by St. Lawrence (who appears to be much better than everyone thought before the season), NoDak is 1-3, Wisconsin is 0-5-1 (on the bright side, they'd probably be like #6 in the PWR), and BC lost to Northeastern (granted Northeastern is 5-0-1, but it's still Northeastern). BU and Minnesota aside, pretty much all the usual powers have had games that they would like to have back in the early-going. Pretty interesting.

We fell to #8 in the latest edition of the USCHO poll. That's fine...

OSU this weekend. Friday night's game will be on, with Saturday's game on Comcast 900.

Other links of note:
The Hockey News interviewed me about the Steve Kampfer situation.

HSR live-blogged the Niagara game and caught what was the funniest moment of the night: A feature on the Buffalo Sabres' owner, who donated $10 million to the school. They presented him with a Niagara sweatshirt. I would've gone for the "I donated $10 million to Niagara and all I got was this stupid sweatshirt" text, but that's just me. Hopefully they at least validated his parking...

MHNet actually paid some attention to the game, which is more than I can say. He provides a much better recap.

The Daily also put up a couple of stories about the bad loss to BU: The game recap and an article about the goalie switch not really helping. Berenson said the first goal was a bad rebound but didn't blame the goalies after that. He said he made the goalie switch because "you can't pull the whole team".

Dwight Helminen has been called up to the Carolina Hurricanes and should make his NHL debut tomorrow night against Montreal.

Friday, October 24, 2008

10 Things to Know About Boston University

1) Boston comes into Saturday's game at 3-1-0 on the season. They slaughtered North Dakota 5-1 in the season opener, beat MSU 2-1 in a game where they outshot MSU 29-13, beat Merrimack, and then dropped a 2-1 decision at New Hampshire. Like Michigan, they won't play tomorrow night.

2) Nick Bonino leads the team in scoring with a 2-4--6 line in four games. I remember being really impressed with him last year when they came to yost. Six guys have at least three points thusfar, including defenseman Colby Cohen, who has 4 assists. Top returning scorer Colin Wilson has 1-2--3. He had 12-23--35 last year as a freshman, which was good for 9th amongst NCAA rookies.

3) Brett Bennett went back to the USHL and Karson Gillespie graduated, so they've got two freshman goalies and both are off to good starts. Kieran Millan is 2-0 with a 1.50 GAA and a .938, while Grant Rollheiser is 1-1 with a 1.51 and a .919. They've alternated games thusfar. It's Millan's turn in the rotation, so we'll probably see him.

4) They closed last season on a tear, winning 11 of their last 14 and just missing out on the NCAA Tournament, despite being one of the hottest teams in the country by the end of the season. Their slow start doomed them. They lost their two top scorers from a year ago, but still return a lot of good players. I expect they're going to be tough this year.

5) They were sixth in the country in offense (3.38 gpg) and 36th in defense (2.92 gpg) a year ago. The power play was pretty good at 20.5% (though they gave up 6 shorties, which would take their net power play down to 17.4) but the penalty kill was awful. They ranked 54th in the country at just 78.5% and only scored 2 shorties of their own.

6) Currently they're 20th in offense (3.25 goals per game), 8th in defense (1.50 gpg), 10% on the power play, and 87.5% on the PK (though they're 93.8% if you factor in their two shorties).

7) Michigan has won 3 in a row against the Terriers (including two last year) and leads the all-time series 13-8. Matt Rust had a pair of goals last year and Billy Sauer gave up 4 goals on 56 shots in the two games.

8) Colby Cohen is Jeremy Bloom's cousin. Speaking of family members, there are two sets of brothers on BU. Captain Matt Gilroy's younger brother Kevin is a freshman this year, and Vinny Saponari (from the NTDP) joins his older brother Victor. Matt Gilroy wears #97 in honor of his brother Timmy, who passed away in 1993, but wore #97 when he and Matt were on the same line in youth hockey.

9) If there's another program that recruits the NTDP as well as Michigan, it's BU who has seven players from the US National program.

10) The game won't be aired locally, but it is on CN8 in Boston and you can watch via PPV on BU's website for $7.95. Of course, the other option is to go to CN8's website, lie and say you're from the New England area (clicking the Connecticut link works for me), and then click "Watch Live" and you should be able to view the game on your computer. It worked for me last year when they aired one of the games from Yost. But you didn't hear that from me. ;-)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Michigan 4, Niagara 2

As has been the trend for a few of our wins this year, it wasn't a perfect effort, but a decent win nonetheless.

Michigan got off to a good start, but Pagliero made some saves and outside of the first few minutes, the Wolverines kind of sleep-walked through the first period. Niagara got to the front of the net, a rebound squeaked out to the right of Hogan, and Caporusso slipped when he tried to tie up his man, so Baco had a tap-in.

In the first period, Michigan got next to nothing offensively from anyone not on the top line. Things were better in the second period. Wohlberg started jumping, Caporusso started jumping, and we were getting chances from all three of our scoring lines.

The big momentum shift came when Luke Glendening went all Chris Fragner and got kicked out for a hit from behind. The penalty kill was spectacular. In the first half of the penalty, Niagara didn't come near the Michigan net and the Wolverines had a pair of two-on-ones. Niagara took a penalty on the second one, and that about did it for the major penalty.

Another big play came when Chris Moran had Hogan dead to rights; he had a wide open net, but the rebound went into his skates. He golfed at it, but barely hit the puck and ended up flinging himself into the cage.

Shortly thereafter, Caporusso drew a penalty and Palushaj scored from the faceoff circle right off the bat on the PP. And as they did against NMU on a couple of occasions, Michigan struck again in quick succession. Caporusso and Vaughan passed it back and forth a couple times, Caporusso came in on the right wing, put a shot on net, grabbed his own rebound, took it behind the net and scored on the wrap-around.

Hogan robbed one of the Purple Eagles late in the period, but gave up a terrible goal a few seconds later. Niagara threw a shot on net, Hogie knocked it to the corner but was slow getting back to his post, and they were able to throw one in off of him from behind the goal line. Rough goal to give up late in the period when we had all the momentum. That was a power play tally. Michigan's PK was very strong in this game, but the hockey gods usually penalize you for stupid penalties, and Czarnik took one there. He popped a guy in the head after they fell to the ice. Needless, behind the play, and it's something he probably would have gotten away with if there was only one official.

I've gotta say, I was skeptical, but I don't really hate the two-ref system thusfar. They're calling more penalties, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The players will adjust. Then again, we're Michigan, so we're getting the bigger-name refs to do our games. I'm not sure how much I'd like it when it's two guys I've never heard of....

Caporusso struck again to put Michigan up for good, and it was another power play goal (!!!!!). He tried to stick-handle through the defense, it got knocked off his stick and went right to Naurato, who put it through his legs to absolutely no one. Luckily it hit off the Niagara defenseman and went right to Caporusso. Louie slid it underneath Pagliero and lit the lamp for the second time in the game.

Palushaj added an empty-netter and the Wolverines can head to Boston with a 4-1-0(-0) mark on the season. Both teams had some great chances down the stretch. Czarnik sprung Wohlberg and Wohlberg made a gorgeous deke, had Pagliero beat, but put it off the post. Then at the other end, Hogan tried to cover the puck on a harmless-looking play, but missed. Niagara had a wide-open net, but one of our defensemen turned the shot away. It might have been Vaughan.

The Niagara announcers bitched about the officiating constantly, but I thought both teams had some weak calls go against them, and some glaring ones were missed. One of their guys absolutely blasted our player into the boards--it was much worse than Glendening's hit from behind (which was rightly called a major)--and they didn't even call a minor. It was right in front of the ref. So whatever. I don't care that you think it's ok for a player to put his stick on someone streaking to the net, and that when he falls into the goalie it should be called goalie interference rather than a hook.

The guy who really deserves a call tonight is Tristin Llewellyn. I thought he was absolutely fantastic on the blueline. He had some really nice plays in our end, did a nice job on the PK for the most part...he was very good tonight. It might have been his best game as a Wolverine. He's really come on in the early-going this year.

Pateryn was panicking a little bit with the puck. He had a lot more time than he thought he did...he was too quick to just throw it around the boards. It led to a couple of turnovers in our own end.

Turnovers were a big reason we won this game though. Niagara had a lot of trouble getting the puck out of their own end. I bet it was double-digit times that they had a fairly good look at a clear and couldn't get it out.

Another completely random thought: I think Matt Rust is a very underrated passer. He's really good at finding guys streaking to the net when he's over by the side boards. I love that kid's game.

You gotta give Niagara credit. They played Michigan really tough tonight, without their best player. Ted Cook broke his hand and didn't make the trip. That's a huge loss for them, but they still gave us all we could handle. They've got some good players on that team. I really like that Baco kid.

We were really solid in the third period last year and they showed some of that again tonight. Michigan outshot Niagara 18-4 in the final stanza, turning a 2-2 tie into a 4-2 win. Hogan was decent in goal. He made some really good stops, gave up one really lousy goal, and scared the begeezus out of me on another occasion. He's just gotta get some consistency. He's been great in spurts and terrible in spurts. I like that we're getting him some time, but as I've said before, I still think Sauer is going to be the one who ultimately carries the load this season.

Moffie Makes USA World Jr A Challenge Team

Lee Moffie was one of seven defensemen named to the US World Jr. A challenge roster. The tournament will take place in Camrose, Alberta from November 2-9.

Congrats to Lee!

Online PPV Coverage for Tonight's Game

If you'd like to view tonight's game but don't get Fox College Sports, I think I've found a way to watch. It appears that a lot of Niagara's games are shown on the internet through Yahoo Sports. They have the option of a one-month pass for a specific school for $4.95 and tonight's game is included in that. It's cheaper than the B2 Network would be if we had it and cheaper than going to the bar to watch.

Here is the link to the subscription information. Choose Niagara from the list and you should be good to go. I'm not sure how the quality will be, but I would imagine it's at least decent. It's a nice, fairly cheap alternative for those of us that don't get FCS-Pacific.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

10 Things to Know About Niagara

First off: TV. Originally the game was slated to be televised only on Time Warner in the New York area. Fox College Sports - Pacific has picked the game up, however, and so it will be on Comcast channel 264 in the Ann Arbor area (you need the $5/month sports package to get it). It will also air on DirecTV channel 617. Dish Network does not carry FCS, but I suppose it's possible that one of the regional sports affiliates will pick the game up. At the moment it isn't slated to be on, however.

Now for the 10 Things to Know about the Niagara Purple Eagles:
1) The last meeting between these clubs was in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last year. Michigan won 5-1 behind 4 Kevin Porter goals. Michigan is 4-1-0 all-time against Niagara with the lone loss coming in 1998.

2) Senior Ted Cook led the nation in goals and PPGs as a sophomore. He had a down year last year (if 19 goals and 12 PPGs is a down year). One goal will put him into the top spot on Niagara's all-time list. He has two assists in four games so far this season. He wasn't very noticeable in the regional.

3) At the moment, Niagara is led offensively by Chris Moran, who has four goals (2 on the PP) and five points in four games. He's the only player on the team with multiple goals thusfar. In addition to Cook, last year Vince Rocco (14-32--46), and Egor Mironov (15-9--24) put up some numbers and return for another season. Rocco has points in 16 of his last 18 games. Tyler Gotto and Ryan Annesley provide some scoring punch from the blueline. Gotto had 23 points last year and Annesley put in 7 goals.

4) What would give Niagara a chance in this game is the play of their netminder, Juliano Pagliero. He held the Purple Eagles in the game as long as he could in the regional, but Porter, Kolarik, and Pacioretty did their thing and we won going away. Last season he had a sparkling 2.32/.927. He's off to a bit of a slow start this year, having gone 1-2-1 with a 3.44 and an .894. He got chased by St. Lawrence.

5) The Purple Eagles are 1-2-1 thusfar, with the win coming in their most recent game, a 4-3 upset win over Clarkson. They lost to Western Michigan, tied Bowling Green in a game where they got outshot 50-18 (!), and lost 5-1 to St. Lawrence.

6) They currently rank 32nd in the country in goals for and 41st in GAA. Michigan is 14th and 22nd respectively. Their 13.3% power play doesn't look horribly effective (keep in mind that Cook hasn't gotten going yet either), but it blows our 3.1% out of the water. On the PK they've been terrible, killing off just 72% of opposing PPs (7 goals allowed on 25 chances). We're 20-22.

7) They haven't given up fewer than three goals in a game thusfar, and have scored 1, 2, 3, and 4.

8) Somehow they received 7 votes in the latest USCHO poll, which would rank them 30th (which is probably about right, but how is anyone putting a 1-2-1 team with losses to WMU and SLU into the top 20 on their ballot?)

9) They're only 46.9% on draws this year, so we should have the puck quite a bit. Michigan has been really good thusfar in the faceoff circle.

10) Last year, which to me is still decently relevant because most of their team is back and this year has just started, they were 5th in the country in offense, averaging 3.46 goals per game. They allowed 2.65 goals per game, ranking in the middle of the pack nationally (#26). The power play was third at just under 23% and the PK was 80.2%, which was 49th in the country.

On paper, this is a team we should beat without too much trouble. They lost to fricken WMU and they got throttled by a team that we sturggled a little bit with, but still swept. And they gave up 50 shots to BGSU. Still, with Niagara possessing one of the top players in the country in Ted Cook and a very good goaltender, Michigan better not have their heads on the plane to Boston already. It's not like the Purple Eagles have never come into Yost and pulled off a victory before.

What I'd like to see:
-Niagara's PK has been horrible so far this year and they were toward the bottom in that stat last year. If there's a time for the PP to start putting some pucks in the net, now would be a good time.

-Rust, Hagelin, and Palushaj have carried the load offensively so far this season, accounting for 6 of our 14 goals and half of our point production. I'd like to see more production out of Caporusso's line, especially.

-More solid play out of the defense. They've been doing pretty darn well so far in the absense of our top guys. Apparently Burlon is out for the weekend but could return to the ice next week.

-No soft goals. From what I've heard, Bryan Hogan will get the nod in net tomorrow, with Sauer making the start in Boston, which is the way it should be if they're going to split games. Hogan has had periods of spectacular play but has given up a couple of horrid goals. Those are killers, and they'd be especially bad if they gave life/confidence to a team that we should handle.

Further Reading:
10 Things, Game Recap, and Going Upstairs from our tournament game against them last year.

Monday, October 20, 2008

MVictors Interviews Former Hockey Player Dave Shand

(Note: Lots of cursing in this post, only a little of it is mine. Earmuffs!)

This deserves its own post, because it is one of the best things I've read on the blogosphere. Ever. MVictors did a four part interview with former hockey player/former WTKA radio host/one of the best fricken professors I've ever had, Dave Shand.

There's so much good stuff in there, the only way I could quote it all would be to C&P the entire thing. MVictors covers Shand's lawsuit against Bill Martin, the Ann Arbor News academic scandal story, the Rich Rod hire, the Ed Martin mess, and a slew of stuff about the hockey program, which was the best part (for me).

Shand was a fantastic professor. I loved a lot of my professors at Michigan, but he and Keith Harrison were special. The reason I've ignored every request for money from kinesiology thusfar is because neither professor was retained, which is absolutely criminal in my opinion. Someday I'll give to them, but I'm still kind of pissed about that.

That's getting off-track. I also loved listening to Shand on WTKA. He pissed a lot of people off, but he was entertaining as all-hell. I can't even tell you how many times I would be driving to work in the morning and I'd get a call from any one of about 5 of my friends asking me if I just heard what Shand said. He was a friggin riot. And the interview reads just like some of Shand's radio moments (tell me you can't picture Shand ranting about Michigan not paying "fuck all" to West Virginia).

Here are the links: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four

My two favorite moments:
MVictors: Where’s the next coach going to come from? Are they going to do what Michigan State did and hire a seasoned, high profile coach?
Shand: I would really be shocked if Mel Pearson didn’t get it. Just because he was here before I was here, and he was my mentor. I knew nothing about recruiting college hockey and Mel taught me everything about it. I think he’s the best recruiter in college hockey. And I think he’s proven it year after year. Why he doesn’t have a head coaching job somewhere else….it just baffles me. I know he’s had a couple of offers but they weren’t good situations, it was coming in as a disaster rescue unit where your chances of succeeding are really slim. He’s the best guy in a living room I’ve ever seen; he’s the best evaluator of hockey talent.
He goes on to tell an anecdote about Mike Knuble, and how he was playing in K-Zoo and even Western wasn't recruiting him. He ended up being a pretty nice pick-up. Mel and Billy are still nabbing these kids. One look at the "Future Wolverines" list confirms that!

This next answer was actually to a question about Rich Rodriguez and how he reacts to a loss. Shand got off on a tangent, but what a great tangent!

Shand: You haven’t seen fuckin’ Red after a loss. There’s actually a story in John Bacon’s book Blue Ice. We’re up in Sault Ste Marie, and we’re playing Lake [Superior] State. I think the previous 27 times we’d played them we beat them twice. This was 90-91. Lake State were defending national champions. They were big, physical and they’d bang the shit out of you, especially in their own building. I think we lost 10-0.

It’s just Red and I up there–Mel’s on a recruiting trip. I thought Red was going to fucking explode. He comes into the locker room, throws shit around and he goes, “That was unbelievable. You guys are wimps and fucking pussies. You’ve got no fuckin’ guts and no fucking balls.” He stomps out of the locker room. I’m the assistant coach so I follow him out.

So the team’s getting on the bus to get back to the hotel, it’s about three miles from the rink and it’s 25 below zero. As the team’s getting on the bus Red goes, “I ain’t fuckin’ riding with those losers.” So we walk back from the hotel in a snow storm, at 25 below zero, I’ve got Italian loafers that I bought when I was in Europe. They were $250 shoes, they were ruined. I get back to the hotel and just throw the shoes in the garbage because they’re done. I had to go back to my room and run a tub of hot water because I thought I was going to get frostbite.

So Red calls and tells me to come down, he’s got the tape from the game. We looked at the tape ‘til 6 o’clock, 7 o’clock in the morning. For six hours, broke down everything. We have the morning skate, Red doesn’t say a fucking word. We have the pregame meal, normally we have a meeting right after. Red comes in, he goes, “If you are men, and I mean men…with balls and a fucking cock and some sense of yourself…then you will fucking play tonight.” He turned around and walked out of the room. We won 4-3 in overtime. It was unbelievable. The bus ride back from the Sault was like 20 minutes. Talk about people who hate to lose.

I'm not sure how much money I would pay to hear Red Berenson walk into the locker room and call the team a bunch of "fucking pussies", but it would be quite a bit. That might even top my favorite "Michigan Coach Being Pissed" story. I was sitting behind the Michigan bench at Crisler and Dom Ingerson jacked a three from about 3 steps behind NBA range, made it, and then celebrated so much that his man beat him down the court and hit a three of his own. Amaker immediately called time-out and got the team in a huddle. He started diagramming a play (no doubt something brilliant like "Pass the ball to LaVell Blanchard and have him dribble out the shot clock and brick a three") or talking to the team or something when, all of a sudden--and keep in mind it was dead silent in the arena at this point--he spins around, points at Ingerson and screams, "FUCK YOU!" It might not read as funny as it actually was, but it was hilarious. Though not as funny as Graham Brown's tomahawk layup.

So yeah, great job MVictors. Thanks for bringing that to us.

Other stuff: The story from the LA Times that I linked a few days ago has been updated and now indicates that Mark Mitera suffered a torn ACL. Not at all shocking but disappointing nonetheless, especially in light of a post that Spath made on The Fort earlier today indicating that he heard Kampfer is done for the year as well.

MGoBlue had a nice feature story about our revamped defense corps before the NMU series. I just noticed it, but clearly it still applies.

We dropped to #5 in both the USCHO and USA Today polls. Someone actually voted us #1 in the USCHO poll. I'd love to hear the rationale for that one. Not that we're bad by any means--actually I think #5 is pretty close to right, right about now--but #1? After an unimpressive pair of wins against a team picked to finish 8th in the EZAC and a split at NMU? Maybe if they're crediting us with degree of difficulty, having lost half our defense....

It's been a little while since I've had an update about our NTDP recruits:
The Under 18s have gone 3-0-1 against college teams (three of them D-1) since they faced the Wolverines, with wins over Union and RPI and a tie against Cornell. Chris Brown had a goal against Union, a pair of assists against RPI, and an assist against Cornell. Kevin Lynch had a big goal against RPI and an assist against Cornell. AJ Treais assisted on the OT winner against Oswego State.

For the Under 17s, Jacob Fallon had an assist over the weekend in a two-game sweep of Marquette and Jack Campbell made 31 saves (and was 3 for 3 in the shootout) in the second game of the weekend, a 3-2 shootout win.

Lee Moffie has a 1-2--3, +2 and 4 PIMs in four games for the Waterloo Black Hawks. They're 1-2-1 on the season.

As for Mac Bennett, it doesn't look like Hotchkiss starts their year until December.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Michigan 5, NMU 3

Well we got the split! This was kind of a weird hockey game. Michigan outplayed the Wildcats in the first period but found themselves tied 0-0 after one. Then they hit NMU with 2 quick goals at the start of the second before the Wildcats started to come on. NMU got back within one on a goal that was apparently very similar to the one that we had last night that got waived off. We hit them with two more quick goals in the middle of the third to go up 4-1, but after a softie, NMU got some life and we had to hold on for the win.

Hogan was pretty fantastic for most of the game. He made some HUGE stops right out of the gate and absolutely robbed Sirota after we got up 2-0. The second Wildcat goal was terrible* and it gave them life in a game that was pretty much over. Then we started scrambling around and they were able to knock in another one that I don't think was his fault. He had a lot of help from the iron tonight. NMU hit at least 3 goal posts, including one with about 45 seconds left that would have tied the game, but total of bars could have been as many as 5-6. Still, he kept us in the game in the early going. If NMU jumped out by a goal or two, it could have been a different game.

*At least I think it was terrible. The B2TV camera was to the left of center ice a little bit and that goal went in on the far net. If it went 5 hole like I think it did, it was a terrible goal. If they guy put it up under the bar, it's hard to blame Hogan for it.

I didn't see the 2nd or 4th goals--I kept looking up at the Wings game at the exact wrong time--and there weren't replays, but it sounded like all our goals tonight were the result of some really hard work down low. The first one was Rust knocking one in at the front of the net, Fardig scored after we cycled for a little bit, the third goal was Rust jabbing in a rebound and the announcer said Palushaj's goal was a carbon-copy of the third one, so I assume he was at the front of the net as well.

The power play is doing everything but putting the puck in the net. The goals are going to come. They weren't always great tonight, but they had a couple of really good power play opportunities. Missed open nets, posts, beautiful tips that go just wide. They're going to be ok, just a little snakebit right now. They're sitting at 1 for 33 on the season now. You gotta believe that's going to turn around sooner rather than later.

On the other side of the special teams, however, our penalty killing has been stellar. NMU was 0 for 9 on the PP tonight and the penalty killers were great. There were quite a few times where it was getting late in the PP and the Wildcats still hadn't had a shot on goal. The final stats aren't up yet, but I'm curious to see what their final PP shot total was.

Caporusso had some jump tonight. He had a pair of breakaways, one that he was stoned on and another where he drew a penalty shot. He also did a nice job when I saw him out there on the PK. He had our empty-netter about 15 seconds after the Wildcats nearly tied it, but rung one off the bar.

We won this game because our best players were our best players. Rust had a pair of goals, an assist, and was +4 on the night. Palushaj had the game winner, a trio of assists, and was +3. Hagelin had a playmaker as well and was +3. We're going to have to start getting a little more from the second and third lines moving forward.

All in all, not a bad weekend. We lost a game where nothing went right, and once the PP gets going that's a game we probably win. Then the offense broke out the next night and we salvaged the weekend. NMU is a good hockey team. To go up there on the big ice and come away with two points with all the adversity we've seen on the blueline is a successful weekend as far as I'm concerned. The Cats are one of the top 3-4 teams in the CCHA (since Miami sure as hell isn't right now). Road sweeps aren't easy when you're facing good hockey teams.

We probably aren't the second-best team in the country at this point (though #1 BC lost at Northeastern tonight), but I have to believe the goalies are going to raise each other's games, and once our power play gets going, we're going to be just fine. And the power play will get going.

Next week we have a rematch against our first-round opponent from the tournament last year, Niagara (on Thursday) and a road game Saturday against BU, who is off to a 3-0 start with wins over NoDak, MSU, and Merrimack. Should be a fun one.

NMU 2, Michigan 0

Just one of those nights. I had to miss a good portion of the game, so didn't PPV that one (though I'm getting tonight's game). From the sounds of it, we just couldn't get anything going offensively, couldn't get any bounces. NMU did a nice job defensively, only allowing 15 Michigan shots.

On the bright side, it sounded as if Michigan did a great job on the defensive end. The second NMU goal was an empty-netter and the Wildcats only had 21 shots on goal themselves. With the adversity they're facing, I'll take giving up one goal anyday. It sounded like Langlais, Summers, and Llewellyn all had great plays to break up odd-man rushes and I didn't hear Pateryn or Elmblad's names very often, so they either didn't play very much or they didn't do anything wrong.

Offensively it sounded like they just couldn't get a break. Miller missed (another) empty net. We hit a goal post or two. Late in the game, the Wolverines appeared to have scored the tying goal but it got waived off.

Matt Rust seemed to think that it should have counted:
"The puck went to [Chad] Langlais, Langlais took the shot. The shot deflected off of me, hit the goalie and the puck dropped in front of [Travis] Turnbull. He put it in. The referee's explanation was that he blew the whistle down. The video -- he doesn't have a clear view when the puck went in. I'm not going to debate a goal."

Just more bad luck and more evidence against the CCHA LOVES MICHIGAN conspiracy theorists.

Rust being 2 of 14 on faceoffs was kind of indicative of how the game went. It was about halfway through the second period when I started to feel like it just wasn't going to be our night. I even tried the old "SHUTOUT! Nice SHUTOUT Stewart! I hope you don't lose your SHUTOUT!" jinx, to no avail.

One big reason for the success of the NMU defense is that they were able to block 20 Michigan shots. That's always frustrating for an offense. Hopefully we can capitalize a little more on our chances tonight and get some pucks to the net.

Also, the power play is anemic. 0 for 8 last night, 1 for 27 on the season. Gotta get that fixed.

MHNet was at the game and had some thoughts on the performance. I, too, would like to see Sauer get the start tonight. It sounded like he played well last night and Hogan wasn't anything special last week. I know you need to get Hogan some time, but I still think Sauer is going to be this team ends up leaning on down the stretch. I'd prefer to see him in net tonight.

BTW, is it fair to call Nick Sheridan the anti-Darko? He's like the Human Defeat Cigar.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Quick NMU Preview

The Kampfer thing and real-life got in the way so I didn't get to write the customary 10 Things To Know About NMU. I could do it now, but since faceoff is about 20 minutes away, there's probably no point and the game would be going before I finish anyway. So here's a quick and dirty preview of NMU:

-They're 1-1-0 on the season. They came out like gangbangers* against Michigan Tech, scoring on 5 of their first 9 shots en route to a 5-2 win. The next night? Not as pretty. They lost 5-0 to Minnesota-Duluth. Granted losing 5-0 to a WCHA team is like beating the Soviets with the KLM line, so you can't take too much from that.

-Brian Stewart is back in net for the Wildcats. He's got a 3.50/.883 thusfar in the young season. Last year he had a 2.62/.918.

-The only big loss from last year (at least upon a quick skim of the roster) was Matt Siddall who had 18-18--36 for them. Olver, Gustafsson, Sirota, Butcher, and Brown are all back.

-Freshman Andrew Cherniwchan has 2 goals and 3 points in the two games thusfar. Justin Florek from the NTDP is on the roster as well.

-Olver is definitely the guy to watch. He had 21-17--38 in 39 games last year (18th in goals per game) and chipped in 8 on the PP. Sirota was 3rd in the country with 4 shorties. Gustafsson had 27 assists as a freshman defenseman.

-They were 36th in offense and 31st in defense a year ago, and yet were a strangely good team. I'd love to see the breakdown by half of the season.

-Also numbers you wouldn't expect out of a team that darn near made the NCAA Tournament: PP #42, PK #52.

-Tim Miller is actually our leading point-getter vs. NMU with 9 points in 12 games. Billy Sauer is 8-1-1 all-time vs. the Wildcats (2.30/.905). Louie Caporusso has 5 points in 5 games.

The games will be available on the B2 Network for like $7 apiece. I was impressed when I used B2 last year.

*Edit: I forgot to explain. I was listening to XM the other day and Jordan Leopold definitely describe the Avs has having "come out like gangbangers" in the first period. He prooooobably meant to say "gang-busters". Changes the meaning just slightly.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Jack Campbell Commits to Michigan!

Add the best goalie in the class of 2010 to a class that arguably already contains the best forward (Luke Moffatt) and the best defenseman (Jon Merrill). USA Under 17 goalie Jack Campbell has committed to the Wolverines for the 2010-11 season. According to Bob Miller, he's been the top goaltending target of Michigan for 2+ years. They really wanted this kid, so it's huge that we were able to land him. He's currently listed as 6'1" 165.

That means that next year, Michigan will more than likely go with Hogan as the starter and Shawn Hunwick as the backup.

USAHockey had a feature story about Campbell a couple of weeks ago. His goalie coach is ex-Wolverine assistant Stan Matwijiw, who has also coached Chris Osgood and Bryan Hogan. Matwijiw praised Campbell as being the hardest-working kid he has ever coached and said that he's a technically-sound, very athletic kid.

As of a couple weeks ago, Minnesota and Notre Dame were also high on his list.

His numbers aren't pretty this year so far--he's 1-2-0 with a 3.34 goals against and a .825 save percentage--but it's early. He put up great numbers for several years in the MWEHL.

Last season, his Detroit Honeybaked team lost the 18-Under Tier 1 Championship to Belle Tire, but Campbell was named Tournament MVP anyway.

Here's an old profile of him (JPEG).

He was a 6th round pick of the Windsor Spitfires in the OHL Draft. He was the highest-rated goalie in the OHL Draft, but fell due to his commitment to the NTDP (and I assume his desire to go the college route).

He joins Mac Bennett, Moffatt, Merrill, and Jacob Fallon in the NASTY NASTY NASTY incoming class of 2010.

Michigan/Wisconsin to Play Outdoors?

I guess I'm hosting the party for this one! According to Mel Pearson, the Wolverines and Badgers are discussing an outdoor game to be played at Camp Randall Stadium in Feb. 2010. It sounds like both sides are very interested. Red said it would be great for college hockey and Mike Eaves said, "Other schools like Minnesota have been tossed out there, but we really want Michigan."

Can I just say HELL YES!

Outdoor games are awesome and to have one involving my team in my backyard would be absolutely amazing. Unless they actually decided to do one at the Big House, I can't imagine a better place than Madison. The city will be jumping, the bars will be packed, and by playing it in Feburary, it might actually be colder than the original Cold War (which is hard to believe).

Not to mention we'd break the record set at Spartan Stadium and get those bastards out of the record book :)

I'm a huge fan of this idea. I'm already super-excited about the prospect and the game is still 16 months away, if it happens. At least in the meantime, I'll be able to give full attention to the Wings' outdoor game at Wrigley since there won't be Michigan football on New Year's Day (or after November for that matter).

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

More on Kampfer; Milano Suspended

The Michigan Daily had a very informative article about the Kampfer situation, which confirmed a lot of what was reported in the comments further down the page. Kampfer was assaulted, allegedly, by an ex-wrestler-turned-football-player by the name of Mike Milano. (There's the explanation as to why there was so much conflict between if it was a wrestler or footballer.)

The article went on to mention that Kampfer was thought to be unconscious after the attack and that Red Berenson referred to him as "a victim" and having not done anything wrong.

The LA Times confirmed that Kampfer has a fractured skull. The Ann Arbor News reported that he may be able to return to class as early as next week and also confirmed what MHNet reported before, that Kampfer has a neck fracture as well. I'm kind of shocked that The Ann Arbor News didn't find a way to publish his entire personal medical record....

Mike Milano has been suspended from the football team by Rich Rodriguez. If what has been reported is accurate, and he ends up getting charged with aggravated assault, a felony, it'd be a shocker if he isn't booted from school, let alone kicked off the team.

Other stuff:
Michigan Today had a great article by John Bacon about our beloved Coach Berenson. One interesting thing: Red mentioned that he's in the last year of his contract and he isn't yet sure if he'll return next year.

A new recruiting hot-board is on the way, and Bob Miller gave us a sneak peek at some of the names that will be on it.

MGoBlog chimed in with his take on the St. Lawrence games as well as his take on the new faceoff rules, which I kind of forgot about in the midst of us losing all our defensemen. I completely concur about Czarnik. That kid is a player. He might not hit a point per game like Palushaj and Pacioretty did last year, but he's going to be really nice to have around. If the first line is the top power play line, then I could see Czarnik-Caporusso-[Third Guy] being a darn good second unit. Turnbull was the sixth guy last week and I think that's a smart choice.

Also, WCH and MGoBlog talked about the NCAA's idea to seed the Hockey Tournament based on geography rather than bracket integrity as a way to cut costs. As Chris pointed out, perhaps they should have thought of that before scheduling a Regional in St. Louis. Good luck picking schools for that one. Of course, we could just go back to letting schools host since that's the way it is in like every other sport, save basketball. And since Minnesota just gets to host anyway....

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Notice to All University of Michigan Students

If you see any of the following young men walking around campus, please be kind enough to push them out of the way of any safes falling from the sky. Either that or cross the street so you don't get struck by lightning. Twice. At the same time.

Angry Michigan Defenseman Hating God is powerful enough to smite even the immortal. JMFJ is out until after the All-Star break with a torn labrum.

You know someone is getting mono...It has to happen.

Angry Michigan Defenseman Hating God

It's official. Angry Michigan Safety Hating God has bred. And his spawn, Angry Michigan Defenseman Hating God, is pissed the f--- off.

To recap:
-The week before the season, Brandon Burlon twists his ankle. He missed last weekend's games and will likely miss another 1-2 weeks.

-Tristin Llewellyn was suffering from concussion-like symptoms and missed the opener.

-In the opener, Mark Mitera injured his knee and will miss somewhere between most and all of the season.

-Now there's one soul less on His fiery list. Steven Kampfer, who was only +6 this weekend, was hospitalized after an off-ice incident Saturday night. Red can't talk about it yet, since it happened off-ice, but apparently Kampfer will be out for quite some time. He probably stepped on an acorn while moving a fridge... (Edit: MHNet made roughly that same joke, four minutes sooner)

Good thing we brought in Greg Pateryn this year. The Anaheim Ducks must be thrilled with the way their defense prospects are faring this year in Ann Arbor.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Michigan 5, St. Lawrence 3

Thoughts on Michigan's second win of the season, keeping in mind that the Comcast feed didn't come in until about halfway through the game.

-Congrats to Tristin Llewellyn on his first career goal. I heard it was kind of fluky--it hit a rut in the ice--but they all count the same and when he tells the story 20 years from now, it'll be a rocket into the top corner. It's kind of funny how our three sophomore defenders went all of last year without scoring and now two of them have popped in career goal #1 in the first game of their sophomore seasons.

-Aaron freaking Palushaj!!! The first goal was very nice. Hagelin brought it down the left wing on a three on two. He centered it for Rust who one-touched it (kind-of-sort-of-maybe-intentionally) to Palushaj to the goalie's left. Palushaj buried it to give Michigan a 2-0 lead. Then, when St. Lawrence had tied the game at 3 and had all the momentum in the world, he had an absolutely unbelievable individual effort to put Michigan ahead for good. I think my exact reaction was as follows:

Watch the highlights on MGoBlue when they put them up. That might be the prettiest goal he'll ever score. He came in one-on-one, deked the crap out of the defenseman, kicked the puck up to himself, and then put one up over the goalie as he was falling to his knees. Absolutely incredible.

-Michigan has been really successful with the centering pass from the left or right boards in the early-going this season. Our third goal came off a gorgeous centering pass by Travis Turnbull. He somehow got it through to Louie Caporusso and Louie made no mistake.

-The final goal came with 8 seconds left. Czarnik and Lebler broke in 2 on 1 and Czarnik worked it to absolute perfection, drawing the defenseman and getting a pass over to Lebler who blasted one into the top corner (knocking himself down in the process).

-Give a ton of credit to the Saints. They didn't look like a team that should finish eighth in the ECAC. I'm happy to be out of this weekend at 2-0, because the Saints are a scrappy team that wouldn't go away. They work hard, and they came back from 2 goals down twice tonight. They had Michigan on the ropes with about 5 minutes left until Palushaj came through with that incredible goal.

-The SLU fans bitched about the officiating a TON this weekend (and get ready because we're playing NMU next weekend so you know there's more of that to come) but they got massively jobbed late in the third period. With the score 3-2 Michigan, they appeared to tie the game up. The puck bounced to the front of the net and Summers ran into Hogan. The puck hit Summers in the knee and slid into the back of the net. The whistle hadn't gone, the net hadn't come off the moorings, and the SLU player wasn't in the crease. They waived off the goal on the ice, and upheld that call upon looking at the replay. I would LOVE to know the logic for waiving that one off, because there's no really no reason that goal shouldn't have counted. I guess I couldn't see the post to Hogan's left, but I don't see how that could've come off the mooring before the puck went in. I'd be livid about that one. The hockey gods appeared to agree with me, as SLU scored a fluky goal just a few seconds after the return to action.

-As for Hogan, I didn't see the first half of the game, but I didn't think he did anything special. The third goal was pretty ugly. It looked like it hit the Michigan guy in front of the net and then Hogan missed it with his glove as it went along the ice. It hit his pad and slid into the net. That came just seconds after we got a really lucky break where the SLU goal was waived off.

-The other two goals weren't great moments out of Scooter Vaughan. On the first, Wohlberg got deep into the offensive end and turned it over when he tried to dangle around the defenseman. Immediately, Mike McKenzie shot up up and they hit him with the pass. He beat Vaughan and Elmblad down the ice and made a nice deke to put it past Hogan.

-The other goal came about 10 seconds after we went up 3-1 and Vaughan got toasted again. Rough night.

-I missed his great opportunity in the first period but I was pretty impressed with Glendening. He seemed to really get after it and made the plays that a guy fighting for icetime needs to make. He absolutely leveled one of the Saints right in front of their bench. He was like a guided missile on that one.

-As expected, Brandon Naurato was out of the lineup tonight. Red's always seemed to be pretty tough on him, and it wasn't too hard to predict that he'd be sitting tonight after two bad penalties that hurt us last night.

-The Saints really switched things up. I guess 7 guys who didn't play last night were in the lineup tonight. They also changes goalies after the second period when it was only 2-0. And they put in the third goalie on their roster, not the guy that stood on his head last night. Strange. I guess it's a good atmosphere to test what you've got in your young'un, but it was kind of weird.

-The power play was like 1 for 19 on the weekend, with the lone goal coming with 8 seconds left in the game.

-I was really impressed with Robbie Czarnik. He had a pair of assists tonight and he really looks like he's going to be a player. He had a really nice defensive play in the third period, lifting an SLU stick and stripping the puck right by the Saints' blue line and bringing it right back in for an opportunity. We've got a good one there.

-Lots of penalties again. We actually saw some 3 on 3 in this game.

-Mitera will be out for "an extended period of time". They will wait for the swelling to go down before determining if he needs to have surgery. If he does, he's probably out for the year. Even if he can come back, it probably wouldn't be until 2009 at the earliest. Balllllllls.

-Pretty good night for Wolverines in the NHL. Comrie and Hilbert both scored for the Islanders and Hilbert was the #2 star in their win. Also, Kevin Porter picked up his first point on his first NHL shift. Congrats to Kevin!

TV Updates

If you tune in to Comcast 900 tonight and can't find the game, check channel 190 or 191. Apparently Comcast 900 will be showing GVSU football, but our game should be airing on one of the local access channels.

Also--and this is pretty cool--Comcast and the CCHA reached an agreement with the NHL Network to show 18 CCHA games. What this means is that if you're in Canada, you'll get the Michigan game live tonight. The US will have Hockey Night in Canada, but the Michigan game will air tomorrow at noon Eastern (currently my guide only shows it as airing on the NHLN HD, but we'll see if the standard def people get it as well). I guess that's how it's going to be for all the Comcast 900 games this year. Can't hurt our recruiting north of the border!

Prepare Yourselves About Mitera

He went to the hospital for an MRI last night and according to Red in the post-game presser, "I can tell you that it is going to be serious."

Bret from GBW talked with someone from the team at 1 am last night as the results were starting to get back to the players, and, though they weren't ready to let the information out, his source did tell him, "It's not good."

Red indicated that if Mitera is out long-term that he would consider moving Chris Summers back to defense full-time. I think you pretty much have to make that move. Strangely enough, our defense probably won't end up taking a hit because of Mitera's injury. You could make the case that Summers was actually better--or at least more consistent--last year. So you take one top-notch player out of the lineup and replace him with someone equally good. The impact is going to be up front where we'll lose the services of Summers, who I think was going to be an absolute monster. Also, we lose our safety net on the blueline. It sounds as if Llewellyn would be able to play tonight, but we need to get Burlon back and we can't really afford to have anyone else go down at this point.

I think the Hockey Gods just don't want Summers playing forward. Last year he played a couple games up front before leaving for the GLI and then having Kevin Quick get booted from the team. This year Mitera goes down in the first fricken period of the season, likely forcing him to move back to defense.

The other thing is that whether Mitera is out long-term or not, we're going to have to name someone else an alternate captain. It seems pretty clear that our captain is going to miss some time, if not the season. That would leave Summers as the only letter-wearing player out there. They're going to have to put a letter on at least one other guy's jersey. My nominee: Matt Rust. He's already quite possibly our best forward, he leads by example (playing with a broken leg?!), and he's got future captain written all over him. Might as well take this as an opportunity to start grooming him.

One thing I forgot to mention last night over here (I did bring it up at the Yost Post), and it was mentioned in the comments, is that Brandon Naurato needs to be smarter. He took two penalties last night, both of which were unnecessary from the sound of it. One negated a Michigan power play in the third period of a tied hockey game. The other was an offensive-zone penalty (I believe) and the Saints scored on the power play.

Lastly, our new jerseys are AMAZING. I absolutely love 'em. I'm usually against jerseys that have numbers on the front, but underneath the name of the team is the one acceptable location. Just so long as they never put them up by the shoulder.

So yeah, keep your fingers crossed for Mitera, but I'm not optimistic about this one having a happy outcome, just based on the tone of the comments that we've seen. Eff.

Between Llewellyn, Mitera, and Burlon, I wonder if that's enough injuries early on that Brian can officially announce the addition of an Angry Michigan Defenseman Hating God?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Michigan 4, St. Lawrence 3

It wasn't pretty, but a win is a win. And when you're down 2-0 halfway through the first period, getting a win is really all that matters.

The Wolverines pulled one out tonight thanks to a goal from Tim Miller with about 2 1/2 minutes left in the third period. It's great to see Miller score a huge goal in the first game after the way he started last season. You know he feels like a million bucks right now.

Assisting on that goal was Eric Elmblad. Forced into the lineup due to injuries to Llewellyn and Burlon and seeing more ice-time due to the injury to Mark Mitera, Elmblad was out on the ice late in the game and he managed the first point of his career when Turnbull's rebound was buried by Miller.

It sounded like Michigan had a friendly whistle from Mark Wilkens tonight, yet they went 0 for 10 on the power play, which just isn't going to get it done. Jim Hunt commented that Wilkens wouldn't have been allowed to leave the building if he called penalties on Michigan like he called on SLU.

The other thing that was nice to see tonight was that Ben Winnett potted one. He scored in the exhibition season as well, and, after a pretty good finish to last season, he may be showing signs of turning into the player he was supposed to be, coming out of the BCHL.

There was a lot of talk about how Michigan might not have that dominant line, but I really think we might have one with Hagelin-Rust-Palushaj. Those are all great players, two of them are dominant defensively, they can forecheck like crazy, they can all put the puck in the net, and all of them can use their teammates. The other thing that I like is that Rust is a fantastic faceoff man and when he gets tossed from the circle, Hagelin is very good as well. That means a lot of possessions for our top line when they're on the ice. Think about what Kolarik/Porter/Pacioretty could have done if they had had the puck 10-15% more often.

The excitement of the win has to be tempered by the injuries to our defensemen. Anytime I hear "knee injury" and "helped off the ice" I think the worst, so I'm not going to rest easy until I hear how Mitera is. It hurts not having Burlon as well. It sounds like the youngsters held up pretty well though. Elmblad and Pateryn were actually paired together late in the game.

That's about it for tonight. Hopefully we'll hear good news on Mitera. Tomorrow's faceoff is at 7:35 and the game can be seen on Comcast 900.

So Much for Our Defensive Depth

With eight defensemen on the roster, who would have thought that one period into the season, Eric Elmblad and Chris Summers would be back on our blueline?

Brandon Burlon has his foot in a boot because of an injury that the radio guys said wasn't minor. He's out for at least this weekend. Tristin Llewellyn is out tonight with "concussion-like symptoms" and we don't know about his status for tomorrow.

In the first period, Mark Mitera left the game with a left-knee injury. Again, no word on the seriousness of an injury that could be a devastating loss if it's major. Michigan moved Chris Summers back to defense to compensate.

It's currently 3-3 after the second period of play. Michigan has goals from Ben Winnett, Carl Hagelin, and Chad Langlais. Langlais's goal was the first of his Michigan career.

SLU went with Petizian in net and it sounds (the video feed on MGoBlue isn't working) as if he's kept them in the game. Michigan has been buzzing but he's made some big stops.

It sounds as if the Hagelin-Rust-Palushaj line is everything that we hoped it would be. They've had a ton of chances, Hagelin has a goal and an assist, Rust apparently made a gorgeous pass for Langlais's goal and has two assists on the night (and is 11/15 in the faceoff circle), and Palushaj assisted on Hagelin's goal. If not for a few big stops, this line would have done even more damage.

I've heard Czarnik's name several times as well, though he's been held off the score sheet.

More later. Keep your fingers crossed for Mitera. We can't afford to lose him...

Thursday, October 09, 2008

10 Things to Know About St. Lawrence

First up for the Wolverines are the St. Lawrence Saints (We're Saints!), who come into Ann Arbor for a weekend series. Friday night's game can be viewed on Saturday's game will be televised on Comcast 900.

Here are ten things to know about our opponent for the opening weekend of play:

1) The Saints were picked to finish 8th in the ECAC by both the media and the coaches. They were 13-20-4 last year and lost in three games to Colgate in the first round of the ECAC Tournament, though they were 5-1-1 against teams that made the NCAA Tournament. In their sole exhibition game against Guelph, they tied 2-2.

2) They had a whopping four goalies play seven or more games last year (how many teams even carry four goalies?). Two of those graduated. Remaining are juniors Kain Tisi and Alex Petizian. Tisi was 1-5-1 last year with a 2.73/.884. Petizian went 4-5-1 with a 3.48/.884. Petizian did play in 29 games as a freshman and went 19-9-1 en route to the NCAA Tournament. Tisi got the start in their exhibition game and stopped both shots he faced. Petizian played the third period and the overtime and gave up 1 goal on nine shots. Robby Moss also gave up a goal on nine shots during his appearance. Basically your guess is as good as mine about who we'll see this weekend. I'd bet on seeing Tisi Friday night and Petizian Saturday, depending on how Tisi plays in the first game.

3) Tisi and forward Mike McKenzie were teammates of Andrew Cogliano's and Louie Caporusso's with the St. Michael's Buzzers of the OPJHL. McKenzie is also the son of TSN analyst Bob McKenzie. Zach Miskovic played with Brandon Naurato on the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders back in 2003-04. Senior Kevin DeVergilio hails from Sterling Heights.

4) According to USCHO, the Saints return five senior defensemen, four of whom have not accounted for a single healthy scratch since they were freshmen. A veteran defense corps is helpful when you've got goaltending that was as shaky as St. Lawrence's was last year. They get some offense from Zach Miskovic, who had 8-12--20 last season, as well as Jared Ross (6-9--15). Their blueline doesn't provide a ton of points, but those two players have healthy goal totals. Miskovic exceeded the goal production from our entire defense corps.

5) They had just two players hit double-digits in goals last year, both of whom are back for their senior seasons. Brock McBride led the team in points with 12-22--34 and was the only player to exceed 25 points. Casey Parenteau had 11 goals and 19 points. McBride also chipped in five on the power play.

6) A pair of their players have siblings whose names will be familiar to hockey fans. Forward Aaron Bogosian is the brother of 2008 #3 overall pick Zach. Freshman Jared Drewiske's brother Davis used to captain the Wisconsin Badgers and now plays in the Los Angeles Kings organization.

7) Amazingly, they were 26th in the country in scoring last year at 2.78 goals per game. They were 37th in team defense at 2.95 goals per game. I'm sure we'll see some power plays due to the two-referee system, but the Saints were one of the five least-penalized teams in the country last year (we were #11).

8) Their power play was just 14% last season and if you account for short-handed goals allowed, it was just 11.1%. The penalty kill was toward the bottom as well at 80.8%, though it would have been 86.1% if you factor in their eight short-handed goals, which was 8th-most in the country.

9) Red Berenson classified their style of play as "Hard-nose, physical, close-checking hockey" and the Wolverines fully expect to get hit and hit often.

10) Michigan has won five straight against St. Lawrence and is 9-2-1 in the series all-time. The last meeting was in 2004 and the Wolverines won by a 5-2 margin.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Porter Makes the Coyotes

Hensick, Hunwick, Pacioretty, Ebbett, Rogers, Ryznar, Montoya, and Kolarik weren't so lucky, but Kevin Porter has found a home in the NHL. The Phoenix Coyotes announced that he will be a part of the roster for the opening of the NHL season. Eric Nystrom and David Moss have both made the Flames, giving Calgary three Michigan forward (Cammalleri). Mike Brown was going to be placed on waivers by Vancouver, but they pulled him back after realizing he wouldn't have cleared, so he'll likely be in the league as well.

Monday, October 06, 2008

2008-09 Season Preview: The Forwards

If you've got a keen eye, you may have noticed already that the site has moved to its new home:
My first post at the new site is going to be a long one. Here's a look at the forwards for the 2008-09 Wolverines.

Kevin Porter, Chad Kolarik, Max Pacioretty
Incoming Players: Chris Summers (from defense), Robbie Czarnik, David Wohlberg, Luke Glendening

2007-08 Postseason Report Card: Part One, Part Two, Part Three

I know. I know we lost our entire top line. I know we lost arguably 2 of the top 5 players in college hockey. (I'll never concede that Kolarik didn't belong very high up in the Hobey voting last year.) I know that we don't have a bonafide stud forward who is going to carry our team--at least not a proven one. And yet, somehow I remain incredibly optimistic with regard to our forwards this season.

Consider this:
In 2006-07, the Wolverines scored 174 goals. After the season, we lost 87 of those goals--exactly 50%--to graduation and to players who left school early. We lost TJ Hensick, should've-been-Hobey-winner, Andrew Cogliano, JMFJ, amongst others. That was a ton of goals to have to make up. Pretty much everyone, myself included, forecast a dip in scoring.

In 2007-08, the Wolverines scored 170 goals, and finished second nationally in offense. Granted we played two additional games, but we scored just four fewer goals than the season before. And Caporusso, Rust, Pacioretty, and Kolarik all had injury troubles.

This offseason, we lost 78 of those goals, accounting for 46% of the goal-scoring. That's still a significant amount, but between (assumed) improvement from the freshmen and the guys we're bringing in, I think we can make up a decent portion of the goals we've lost.

We get Summers as a forward full-time, Rust, Hagelin, Caporusso, and Palushaj are poised to have nice jumps in their goal totals, Czarnik can put the puck in the net, and Wohlberg is a solid all-around guy. I'll get to these guys individually in a little bit, but here's what I figure:

-Increases in 5 goals apiece by Rust (giving him 17), Caporusso (17), Palushaj (15), Winnett (11), and Hagelin (16)
-Czarnik scores 10
-Wohlberg scores 7
-Increase in 10 by Summers (he had 2 last year and he'll be playing forward on one of the top 2 lines)
-Increase of 3-5 by Miller (he had 4 last year and didn't score for 3/4 of the season)
-5 additional goals from our defense (giving them 12--our defensemen scored 8 last year but one came with Summers playing forward)

That accounts for 60-62 goals and I don't think any of those expectations are unreasonable (maybe Winnett scoring 11 is a little much, but I think at least one of Rust, Caporusso, Hagelin, or Palushaj hits twenty), considering improvement from freshman/sophomore season + increased ice time + increased power play time.

152 goals in 43 games would be 3.53 a game, which would have put Michigan 4th in the nation this past year (behind Miami, the 07-08 Wolverines, and Boston College). Even with a drop-off of 16 goals or so, we'd still be top 5 in the country in scoring. And that's plenty of offense.

Also, we lose 462 shots on goal between those three guys that left. Caporusso, Rust, Hagelin, and Turnbull should all see some more pucks. Caporusso's shooting percentage was better than Porter's (thanks largely in part to goalposts not counting as SOG). Rust's was better than Kolarik's. Turnbull's was better than Pacioretty's and Hagelin's was just .007 behind Pacioretty. Czarnik looks like a sniper. That's not to say that those guys are better than the outgoing players, but it does say that we've got guys that can put the puck in the net, and freeing up that many shots on goal means that the guys we've got are going to have more of a chance to make plays. Remember, Rust and Hagelin didn't see much PP time last year either, and Caporusso and Turnbull were playing on the second unit.

Random Stat That I Can't Believe I Just Spent 10 Minutes Figuring Out But It's Still Kinda Cool: If you removed every goal that Porter, Pacioretty and Kolarik scored last year (and didn't replace them with anything) we still would have gone 17-15-11. I know that doesn't take into account assists, and that really, that stat means nothing in the grand scheme, but I still thought it was fun.

Another Random Projection That May Or May Not Mean Anything: We should get possession of the puck about two extra times per game solely based on Kevin Porter not taking faceoffs (the difference between 42 and 52 percent on 650 faceoffs). It may mean something, it may not. But we're so good with the puck, standing a better chance to win faceoffs on the PP and PK can only help, right?

Alright onto the players:
We may not have that super-stud like Porter was last year, but Aaron Palushaj could be pretty darn close. The kid was 2nd in the nation in assists as a freshman that didn't play on the top line. Granted a good number of those points came while he was playing on the top PP unit, but it's a damn impressive total no matter where he was scoring. The shcoker was that he only put in ten goals. I expect a big jump from him in that department. He didn't have a great shooting percentage, but given his reputation coming into Michigan as a sniper, I have to believe he'll get a bump in that area as well. He's got a good shot, he just didn't take too many of them last year.

My two best bets for breakout seasons are Matt Rust and Louie Caporusso. Each of them scored just 12 goals last season but Caporusso missed ten games and Rust missed five (and played on a freaking broken leg for a couple of the ones he did play).

Caporusso's 12 goals came on just 55 shots. He was tied for 5th on the team in goals but took less shots than Mark Mitera (and was 12th on the team). And his total of 12 goals could have gone way up on those limited chances if he didn't have a tendancy to get robbed or to hit the goal post. Honest to God, he could've had 20 easily. Unfortunately, he rang one off the bar in the third period against USA. Picking up right where he left off. That said, he's going to play more. He's going to get a ton more shots on goal. And he had the best shooting percentage on the team amongst guys who actually played. I forecast 17 above, but 20+ wouldn't shock me a bit. If he can stay healthy, which has been a problem in his career, even before he arrived at Michigan.

As for Rust, he was quite possibly our best player against Notre Dame (if he wasn't, he was 2nd to Chad Kolarik). There's so much to like about his game. He can put the puck in the net (12 goals on 12 shots), he's a great penalty killer, he can kill people, he's physical, he'll block shots (only Porter blocked more amongst our forwards), he can skate like the wind (remember that 150 foot breakaway goal he had against BU?), and he's a tough sonofabitch. I think he has Future Captain written all over him. How would any player on the team slack off when he's playing on a broken leg? As with Caporusso, he's going to play more, he's going to see more pucks, and he's going to put more in the net. Plus I have to believe he'll be on the power play this year. That'll help the numbers as well. I don't know that he has quite the offensive upside that Kevin Porter eventually had--though who would've believed Porter's freshman year that he was an eventual Hobey-winner?--but Porter went from 11-13--24 as a freshman to 17-21--38 as a sophomore. Rust had 12-11--23 his freshman year. A similar jump in numbers is pretty darn likely, I'd say.

Then you've got Carl Hagelin. More offensive instincts than he's given credit for, Hagelin is also going to make a run at the CCHA Best Defensive Forward award, now that Abdelkader's undeserving ass is in the AHL. He may not make the jump that Caporusso, Palushaj, and Rust make, but I don't think 15+ is out of the question. He scored 11 last year and, again, more ice time, possibly some power play time. He's got a reputation as a workout-warrior, so I have no doubts that a year in the training program helped him as well. There aren't too many sights that are more enjoyable than watching him forecheck. Bork bork bork!

Ben Winnett struggled in the early-going last season, but he was a huge scorer in the BCHL (then again, so is everyone) and he showed a little bit more late in the season. Another guy who really struggled offensively before coming on a bit late in the year was Tim Miller. He went from 24 points down to 17, but he didn't score a goal until 3/4 of the way through the season. He's never going to be a huge scorer, but more production than last year is fairly likely.

Robbie Czarnik looks to be a sniper, if his goal against USA was any indication. He'll fit right in. Wohlberg is another one of those guys in the Porter-pre-becoming-the-best-player-in-the-nation mold that can do a little bit of everything. He'll fit in nicely on the third line.

Quick: Who is Michigan's leading returning goal scorer? Would you believe it's Travis Turnbull? He put in 15 last year. I think his offensive potential is probably tapped out, but he's really developed into a nice player. A team with all this offensive talent, all these future NHL players, and one of the undrafted guys had more goals last year than any of the returning players. Amazing huh?

We'll probably get a similar-to-the-status-quo season out of Brandon Naurato. He had 7-11--18 in 34 games last year, but his 4 PPGs is tops amongst returning players. I thought by and large last year he showed more effort in his backchecking (though maybe not so much in the Frozen Four).

After all that, I can't believe I almost forgot about the guy who might have more pure talent than anyone on the roster: Chris Summers. He was arguably our most consistent defenseman last season, but his skills as a forward have tantalized Michigan fans since he first experimented up front late in his freshman year. He only played the position for a couple of games last year before we ran into the World Juniors and Kevin Quick left the program, and all he did was knock in the GWG in his first game. Now he's a forward full-time, he'll be playing on one of the top two lines, and I have a feeling we're in for a treat.

What does Summers's versatility mean to this team? It means if we have a defenseman go down during the game, he could potentially slide back. It means if we have a couple of defensemen get hurt (or commit felonies), we're not friggin screwed like we almost were last year. It means we're basically going to have 3 defensemen out there on the penalty kill. It means we've got a trio of tenacious, fast-as-hell, and good-at-hitting forecheckers in Rust, Summers, and Hagelin. (I'm sure opposing defensemen are really going to be looking forward to that.) And, oh yeah, we've got a guy who has only had great success playing forward.

Here's what it boils down to: We gave up 89 goals last year. We didn't lose anyone on the blueline or between the pipes aside from Summers, who will be terrorizing the defensemen instead of playing in front of the net. If they can repeat last year's performance defensively, replacing even half of the goals we lost is going to be enough to win us a ton of games. But I see greater things from this team. Even if I am an optimist by nature, I don't think I'm being a massive homer here. I simply can't see where I'm being unreasonable with my goal improvements listed above. I think they score somewhere around 150-155 goals. We might not have any 30 goal scorers, but I could easily see Rust and Caporusso over 20. One guy isn't going to replace the great players we lost. They're going to have to do it by committee, but that's ok, because we have the horses to do it.

A Few Quick Thoughts Based on the 17 Minutes of Game Action I Caught This Weekend: I only saw (most of) the third period of the game against USA. It wasn't the best period of hockey I've ever seen, but I was really impressed with the defensive effort. They held the Americans to two shots on goal (15 for the game). This might not be the greatest team the NTDP has ever iced, but they're not bad by any means.

Czarnik sniped one (caught that on the highlights), and what a shocker, Rust was quite possibly our best player. Get used to that.

Another thing that you can get used to: Penalties. Lots of them if this game was any indication. This was the first foray into the two-referee system, and it was pretty obvious they were out there. The teams combined for 31 penalties and 17 power plays. (By the way, Michigan PK? 1 shot on goal allowed on 7 PPs?! More of that, please.) From the part of the game I saw, though, most of those calls were legit. A couple were slightly on the cheap side, but penalties nonetheless. It was just that there was an extra guy out there to see them.

Still, I wouldn't expect to see all that much of our fourth line this year. The benches are going to get shorter with so much emphasis on the special teams.

The last thing that crossed my mind during the third period of the USA game is that I think I'm really going to like Brandon Burlon. I can't point to an exact play, but he seemed to be comfortable out there and he seemed to have the right idea about when to pinch. He also seemed like he has a pretty nice shot.

Other takes on the games this weekend: MGoBlog, Bob Miller on the freshmen, Daily on the weekend (and the 2-ref system), as well as the defense. In the final article, Berenson indicated that both goalies will get a start next weekend against St. Lawrence and that the decision "may be week to week or it may be month to month". I still think it's Sauer's job to lose. He was too good last season to not get the majority of the starts if he keeps bringing performances like he did for 37 games and not like he did for the other 1/3rd of a game he played.

Lastly, Jim Carty has left the Ann Arbor News in pursuit of a law degree. And may I just say, on behalf of probably 97% of our fanbase, OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH CYA! Chump! Dick! Wuss! Douchebag! Asshole! Prick! Cheater! Bitch! Whooooooooooorrrrrrrrrrre! Sluuuuuut! Slimy-No-Journalistic-Integrity-Assclowwwwwwwwwwwn! You sure as hell better not take any blow-off classes at the University of Toledo, Jimmy. And I expect full reports about your grades for the world to see.

Also, from what I've heard, I wouldn't expect to see too much hockey coverage in his old newspaper this year. I actually think that's too bad. As much as I can't stand that paper because of some of the crap they pulled, I thought Pitts did a pretty decent job on feature stories--and it's never good to see less hockey coverage. The Daily (who did a great job last year) and The Wolverine (always awesome) have got us covered though.

Friday, October 03, 2008

2008-09 Season Preview: The Defense

Losses: Chris Summers (to forward)
Incoming Players: Greg Pateryn, Brandon Burlon

2007-08 Postseason Report Card

I was just about to write that the defense corps last year was one of the most pleasant surprises on the roster, but, quite frankly, the whole team was a pleasant surprise. Despite dressing three freshman defenders on nearly every night, the team defense was as good as it has been in recent memory. The constant breakaways and odd-man rushes that had plagued Michigan were cut dramatically. One other change was that Michigan didn't get nearly the amount of goals from their blue-liners as we've been accustomed to seeing. Last year, the Wolverine rear-guards combined for just 8 goals, well down from the 26 they scored the year before (thank you Jack Johnson).

But on a team with as much offensive firepower as Michigan had last year, it was far more important that the defensemen play good solid defense, and they succeeded in that regard. Michigan gave up 30 fewer goals than the previous season, despite playing two additional games.

Heading into last season, we had just 145 games of experience on the blueline. This year, we'll ice 311 games (not including Chris Summers and his 69-or-so games as a defenseman). It's reasonable to think that all the youngsters will improve, and if they can take a similar step forward to the one Steve Kampfer took between his freshman and sophomore seasons, we'll be in good hands.

Expectations are so high, in fact, that the Wolverines made the decision to take arguably their most consistent defenseman and move him to forward. Anyone who has read this site for any length of time knows how excited I am to see Chris Summers back up front. We'll get to him in the preview of the forwards, but I do think that it speaks to the respect the coaches have for the returning players (and the talent of the incoming freshmen) that they went ahead and moved him. Another plus is that if we ever have a defenseman go down mid-game, the coaches will have the flexibility to move Summers back to defense if they need to.

Headlining the current group is captain Mark Mitera, who was named Inside College Hockey's Defenseman of the Year last season. He was pretty much nails the entire year. The man wasn't a "minus" until the 27th game of the season. He also broke out offensively late in the year. Over a six-game stretch at one point, Mitera recorded 12 points and was +13. He had 14 points in the last 10 games of the season. Unfortunately, like Billy Sauer (and Kevin Porter actually) he had his worst game of the year at the worst possible time. He was -3 in the season-ending loss to Notre Dame. Also like Sauer, however, that game shouldn't cast a shadow over what was a pretty amazing season.

Scooter Vaughan returns, likely as Mitera's full-time defense partner. I thought he was really impressive as a freshman. He never really hurt us, was physical when he needed to be, blocked shots, and showed some toughness in playing with a broken jaw late in the year.

Chad Langlais stepped in as an older freshman and played like a vet. For a guy with the reputation as an Eric Werner-type, it was impressive that he was a minus on just three occasions. He got better as the season went on, cutting out some of the bad turnovers that were the only knock on him in the early-going. He wasn't a minus in our last 15 games, though he did cool off offensively. He still ended the year 4th on the all-time freshman defenseman assists list. He also was the lone defenseman on the very effective top power play unit. I don't expect a huge improvement, but I expect 20-25 points and solid defensive play, which is just fine.

Tristin Llewellyn was part of the 2-in-1-out freshman defense shuffle until Quick got the boot. He struggled somewhat in the early going but I thought he was pretty solid down the stretch. He took skating lessons on his own time in an effort to improve in that regard, and I love seeing that kind of commitment. He'll likely be in a battle with Greg Pateryn for the 6th defense slot. I like Llewellyn. I think it says a lot for the quality of our group that he probably won't play every night because I do think he's a good player.

Steve Kampfer's improvement was kind of lost in the transformation of Billy Sauer, the ridiculousness of Porter and Kolarik, and the play of the freshmen. After a shaky freshman year, he was as good as anyone in his sophomore campaign. I'd probably give him the Most Improved award amongst our skaters. His +/- improved by 24 (leaping him from 2nd worst on the team to 5th best) and he showed some offensive punch, dishing 15 assists and scoring a pair of goals. He also blocked a ton of shots. I wasn't a fan as a freshman, but I thought he was just awesome last year. He should be just fine as our #2 defenseman. Also, reports have been that he had an outstanding offseason in terms of his conditioning. That's encouraging as well.

Eric Elmblad played three games due to some late-season injuries and did an admirable job. He shouldn't play much this year, but for an 8th dman we could do a lot worse.

That brings me to the freshmen. Brandon Burlon was mentioned as a possible first-round draft pick before going 52nd overall to the New Jersey Devils. He'll be an every-night guy and I think he's going to be very good. He pretty much destroyed everyone in the strength tests at the NHL Combine so he should be ready for the physicality of college hockey. He's pretty much the complete package for a blueliner. Offensive skills, good defensively, physical, strong...he's going to be fun to watch.

Greg Pateryn is a monster. He's listed as 6'2" 220, which makes him the heaviest Wolverine. He was a 5th round pick in the NHL Draft after an All-Star season in the USHL. Like Llewellyn last year, penalty minutes are my main concern with him. He took a TON of penalties last year and they weren't majors, they weren't misconducts, and they largely weren't coincedentals. In a competitive situation, taking penalties is probably the quickest way to find a spot on the bench. He's clearly a talented player, though, and I expect we'll see #2 out there plenty of times. It always amuses me that we can have NHL draft picks as healthy scratches.

This is a very talented group overall. We've got 5 experienced guys returning from last year, at least 4 of whom will be in the lineup every night. On top of that, we add two skilled freshmen, both of whom were NHL draft picks (not that that's the be-all end-all, but by comparison none of the three returning sophomores were picked). In a pinch, they could move Summers back as well and he's an All-CCHA caliber defenseman in addition to likely being an impact forward. We've got incredible depth. The blueline should be a major strength for Michigan this season.

Lastly, here's something about a future defenseman. Thanks to Eugene for passing along this video about Mac Bennett. His coach calls him a future NHLer...that's nice to hear. And Scotty, there are even some high school girls in there, just for you.