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.

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