Saturday, November 29, 2008

Wisconsin 3, Michigan 0

So we really just can't score goals for Billy Sauer. Michigan has scored 10 goals in the 7 2/3 games Sauer has played, and eight of those came in the games against OSU and St. Lawrence. They've got two goals combined in the other 5 2/3 games.

Sauer was nothing short of fantastic between the pipes tonight, but when you get no offensive support it's hard to win hockey games. He gave up two power play goals that he had no chance on, and the Badgers added an empty-netter late.

Unlike last Friday against Miami, I can't fault the effort in this one. Michigan was trying out there, things just weren't going their way. They played a great first period, but things unraveled in the second. They took three penalties in quick succession and never regained the momentum after that.

I don't want to say a ton about the officiating until I go back and watch the tape--the game is reairing right now and I can't wait to see the replay of Lebler's clipping--yes clipping--penalty that he was assessed a 5 minute major for. At first watch, I thought the officials were horrendous. It seemed like Red, Mel, and David Wohlberg were equally happy.

The best player on the ice tonight, by far, was Carl Hagelin. That kid is an amazing hockey player and it's one of the most underrated joys in the world to get to watch him play in person. He's always going. I wish I had a count of how many times tonight he went in on the forecheck and somehow came out of there with the puck. I love him and Rust together.

Michigan really didn't end up with a ton of great scoring chances. Wisconsin is really sound defensively. We outplayed them 5 on 5, we just didn't have a lot of opportunity to play 5 on 5 sadly. 17 of Wisconsin's 30 shots (including 10 of their 12 in the third) came during their 19 minutes of power play time. You're just not going to win hockey games when you have to kill penalties for an entire period's worth of time.

What else, what else...I thought Wohlberg had another strong game. Palushaj didn't do much. The Kohl Center is beautiful. Their little power play song is pretty catchy even if we heard far too much of it.

The passing kind of sucked tonight. I don't know if the ice was chippy because of the basketball game earlier in the day--it was bouncing around quite a bit, at least in the end we defended twice--but they just weren't clicking tonight.

Worst smack of the night: "Save your voice for your bowl game....ohhhhh!" Umm...we beat you. I'm 26 and you've beaten us something like 4 times in my life. This was the worst team in the history of Michigan football and we still beat you. And you guys had a crap year least we had somewhat of an excuse. You were supposed to contend for the Big Ten. So yeah, probably not a great time to bring up football.

This season is giving me a headache. I feel so bad for Billy Sauer. He deserves a lot better than this. He was simply stellar in net tonight and they just couldn't help him at all. It's going to get to the point where they have to play Hogan just because he's the guy we play well in front of, but if we get to that point it's no fault of Sauer's. He's giving them a chance and they're not getting it done.

There's no excuse to not rail Michigan State next weekend...

Michigan 6, Minnesota 3

To quote the color guy, "WOOO!" He was saying it anytime there was a hard shot. I was saying it when the puck went in the net for us. Thankfully I got to say it almost as many times as he did!

As bad as the effort was last Friday against Miami, that's how good the effort was tonight. I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a Wolverine that didn't play well tonight. The re-shuffled lines worked to perfection as Hagelin and Rust forechecked the hell out of the Gophers (what a bear of a line to play against) and Hagelin popped in a pair of goals, Turnbull had his best game of the season playing with Naurato and Winnett, Wohlberg was absolutely outstanding once again (and he was with Lebler and Fardig). The best part was that, until the goal that sealed it, it wasn't the Caporusso/Palushaj/Miller line doing it. The secondary scoring was out in full force tonight and the results were just as pretty as I had remembered.

The first goal was a pretty harmless looking dump-in that Ben Winnett corralled. He found Naurato streaking down the left wing and Naurato buried it. Good breakout, good dump that Michigan controlled, great pass, and the lamp was lit. Hard to complain about that one.

The second goal was all Turnbull. He got in on the forecheck, knocked the defenseman down, took the puck, and found Hagelin all alone in the slot. Hagelin made no mistake and the Wolverines were up 2-0.

Naurato had a great defensive effort to keep things that way. A pass was headed for an open Barriball, but Naurato got back and knocked it away. Barriball then went down with a scary looking injury, but he would later return.

Hogan then robbed Stoa on the power play. Huge stop to keep the momentum on Michigan's side.

Turnbull lost the puck on a breakaway and Rust put a hard shot off the bar. Michigan went into the intermission up 2-0 and I was officially having flashbacks to the 2003 Frozen Four, when the Wolverines dominated should have been up 3 or 4. We didn't put them away when we had the chance.

In the second, though, it was the same story again. Turnbull had Kangas beat clean and rung another shot off the bar and then Wohlberg made it 3-0 after a great fake to get around Ness down low. It wasn't a good goal to give up, but a nice individual effort to create the scoring chance.

The Gophers kept turning the puck over and Czarnik fed Turnbull who found Hagelin 10 feet from the net. Hagelin got that shot up quick, right up under the bar and that was it for Kangas.

The Gophers found the net on a 5 on 3, but Michigan answered thanks to some great work on the boards by Lebler and Fardig. Lebler dug the puck out, got it to Wohlberg and Wohlberg put another one into the top corner.

Minnesota got a little momentum heading into the intermission when a rebound hit off Llewellyn's leg and dropped right onto Stoa's stick for a tap-in.

A fluky bounce (but a nice tip) made it 5-3 and things got a little interesting, but once again the Wolverines were able to find a guy streaking alone into the slot. Miller got it to Louie, who tipped it up over Patterson and that was it. 13 goals for Louie this year, 12 with Hogan in net.

Hogan made one more stop, robbing one of the Gophers with the blocker and that was about it.

Stellar efforts all around, but I thought Turnbull, Hagelin and Wohlberg were particularly excellent. Wohlberg has been playing outstanding hockey after a bit of a slow start. I'm really impressed with him. Awesome on the PK, great defensively, great on draws, and he's got six goals now which is behind only Caporusso and Palushaj, two of the best players in the country. I knew the defensive game was going to be great, but he's been a pleasant surprise on the offensive end.

That was just flat out dominance by the Wolverines. They outshot Minnesota 43 to 25 and pretty much dominated play the entire night. Minnesota turned the puck over a lot, but Michigan was getting some great forechecking out of the usual suspects, Hagelin, Rust, Wohlberg, Turnbull.

Minnesota is going to do bad, bad things to Sparty tomorrow night. MSU was held to one goal once again, giving them 21 goals in 15 games. They've scored one or less in seven straight games. This was the first time since 1983 that Wisconsin gave us as few as 12 shots on goal. Final shots in the game were 53-12. Uhhh. Why do I get the sinking feeling that MSU is just waiting to erupt next weekend against us. Michigan just needs to absolutely bury them. But first it's a game against Wisconsin and a chance to defend our CHS trophy.

Quick hits about Wiscy. I'm too tired to do a 10 Things tonight.
-Wisconsin has improved to 6-7-2 after a putrid 0-6-1 start.

-They've been getting some really solid goaltending out of Shane Connelly (who split time in juniors with Billy Sauer). He's got a 2.97 goals against and a save percentage of 90.5 for the year, but his GAA has been right around 2 during this recent streak.

-In their streak of improved play, the Badgers have beaten NoDak, Tech twice, 3 points against Duluth, and a split with St Cloud before dominating MSU tonight.

-Their points are actually coming from the blueline. Jamie McBain and Red Wing prospect Brendan Smith are the leading point men, with 15 and 11 respectively and 4 of the top 6 scorers are D. That's kind of crazy actually. Blake Geoffrion (who I loved at USA) and John Mitchell are the leading goal scorer (7 and 6).

-Geoffrion has 5 of his 7 on the PP and Smith has all four of his goals with the man advantage.

-Michigan and Wisconsin have each scored 47 goals in 15 games to tie for 15th in the country.

-Their defense is tied for 41st at 3.20 goals per game.

-They're the most penalized team in the country.

-Decent power play at 17% but they've given up 5 short-handed goals.

-PK is solid at 89.5 and they've scored 3 shorties of their own.

That's all there is, there isn't any more. No TV for tomorrow night's game, but I'm going to get to see it in person and I'm really excited about it.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

7 Things to Know About Minnesota

The Wolverines have headed West for the 16th annual College Hockey Showcase. The first opponent is the #1 ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers. Here's an abbreviated 10 Things to Know since we only play them once and I'm about ready to pass out from all the food I ate.

The game tomorrow night will be shown on the Big Ten Network (Gasp!!).

1) The Gophers are 7-1-4 on the season, with their lone loss coming in their most recent game when they went down 4-0 to the Denver Pioneers. They've tied Wisconsin, Minnesota State, New Hampshire, and Michigan Tech. Interestingly enough, their only sweep of the season was the first weekend of the year when they beat St. Cloud twice. They had three point weekends against the teams mentioned above and a split with DU.

2) Ryan Stoa has bounced back very nicely from the injury suffered against the Wolverines last season which cost him the season. He has 10 goals and 9 assists in just 12 games, tying him for second in the nation in points per game amongst guys that don't play for Air Force. Freshman Jordan Schroeder has 17 points thusfar, giving him a five point gap on the second-highest scoring freshman in the country. Cade Fairchild and David Fischer have 10 and 9 points respectively back on the blueline.

3) The Gophers might be the first team we've played where there's no question about who will be in net. It's been Alex Kangas all the way and he's got a 2.03/.929, which are pretty darn good numbers. He's given up fewer than two goals in a game just twice this season, though he's given up exactly two in seven of his 12 starts. The Gophers are giving up almost 30 shots a game and they've given up fewer than 25 shots on just two occasions, so we'll probably get our chances.

4) They've got the 10th ranked offense in the country at 3.25 goals per game and they're 14th in defense at 2.08 goals per game.

5) For the second straight week we're facing a team with strong special teams. As you'd expect with a high-powered offense, they're very good on the power play: 9th in the country at 20%. 16/80 on the year. On the PK, they're even better, ranked 5th in the country at an impressive 93.7%. Stoa leads the way with 4 PPGs on the year.

6) They dared to have two players from outside the State of Hockey on this year's team. Freshman Sam Lofquist is from Wisconsin and rookie Grant Scott is from Pennsylvania.

7) Michigan trails the all-time series 115-127-15. With a win tomorrow, the Wolverines would take over the winning percentage lead in the history of the College Hockey Showcase. We're one win up on the Gophers in that column.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Kevin Clare Commits to Michigan

All your NTDP are belong to us.

Kevin Clare became the fifth member of the NTDP's Under 17 team to commit to Michigan. He'll join Jack Campbell, Jon Merrill, Luke Moffatt, and Jacob Fallon in the incoming Class of 2010 (Mac Bennett is in the class as well).

He's a 6'1" 189 defenseman from New York. As of the last update to the NTDP site, Clare had 2 assists in 16 games this season. He also has 16 PIMs.

He previously played for the Tier III New Jersey Hitmen. They won the Eastern Junior Hockey League championship and were the runner up for the Tier III Junior A National Championship. Clare was the youngest player in the EJHL and put up a 3-13--16 line in 37 games.

From the Jersey Hitmen Head Coach Toby Harris:

"Kevin really deserves this," commented Hitmen head coach Toby Harris. "Last season he did everything we asked of him. He embraced the program, he competed hard and most of all he consistently came to work everyday, something that you do not see in such a young man. I am very proud of Kevin and what he has accomplished thus far. I am very happy for the Clare family and know that Kevin will be very successful in every facet of life whichever path he chooses. The Hitmen organization wishes him all the best!"

OHL Watch: He was a 4th round pick of the Erie Otters and according to Head Coach Bob Bassen, "He told us he wants to play Junior A when he's done [with the NTDP]." I guess he had a change of heart.

USHR was pretty impressed with him during the Select 16 Development Camp, saying that he's "smooth and dishes out crisp hits".

The Terrier Hockey Fan Blog wrote the following about him in March:
Another Hitman defenseman, Kevin Clare, is regarded as one of top blueline prospects in the East for 2010. Clare, who USHR reported has visited both BU and BC and also is interested in Michigan and Notre Dame, is from New Rochelle, N.Y., hometown of BU freshman Kevin Shattenkirk.

I guess he ultimately picked Michigan over UNH and Vermont.

Other Stuff:
-Matt Hunwick scored again tonight for the Boston Bruins. He has points in five straight games. He has a 3-3--6 line in 10 games and is +7.

-Steve Kampfer is back on the ice in full pads, though he's only skating on his own at this point. Still, it's looking pretty promising that he'll be able to return this season, hopefully in the next couple of months. That's really great to hear...

-Have I mentioned that I love Tristin Llewellyn? I've had this classic quote of his in my signature on The Yost Post for awhile--"Nobody likes them and I've always dreamed of beating the crap out of Minnesota. I've played with guys from Minnesota and guys that went to Minnesota and never liked one so it was very satisfying."--and he was on the warpath again:

“I personally hate Minnesota,” sophomore defenseman Tristin Llewellyn said. “I played juniors, played with all those sort of guys. Minnesota was godly. They always called it the ‘U.’ That really got under my skin.

“We hate them as much as we hate (Michigan) State.”

He rules.

-Also in that Daily article, the lines have been jumbled again. Rust and Hagelin are back together (YES!) with Czarnik on the other wing. I like it. Three guys who need to get jump-started, but Rust and Hagelin have always been good together. That might be just the ticket to get the two of them going--and to get Czarnik going as well. That has the potential to be a really good line.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Miami 2, Michigan 1

I was pissed off when I was done watching this game. But after a little more reflection, I have no problem with this loss. If you show up and play a pretty good game against a very good hockey team on the road and just get happens. The other team is on scholarship too.

And I do think we played a pretty good game last night. The start was pretty rough. Miami was outshooting Michigan something like 17-4 at one point, but that was largely aided by a slew of power plays.

If you want one positive to take from this weekend--a sign that this season is going to turn around--I think you can look at our penalty kill and feel great. The RedHawks had the best power play in the country and they were 0 for 12 on the weekend, including two very long 5 on 3s. The Wolverine penalty killers, specifically David Wohlberg, Matt Rust, Carl Hagelin, Travis Turnbull and Tim Miller, were absolutely outstanding the entire weekend.

Hogan was very good in net last night, making 32 saves. The first goal came after Brandon Burlon failed on two occasions to get the puck out of the zone. Carter Camper was left alone in front of the net and he tipped in a pass from the side boards. The other goal was a rocket from Tommy Wingels, who I was really impressed with this weekend. I think I liked him last year too. He's a nice player.

I had a big problem with the officiating this weekend. I thought Rust getting tossed for his hit from behind was absurd. He basically shrugged his shoulder and the kid fell into the boards. Later in the game, Turnbull got called for hitting Roeder from behind. That one was borderline. To me, he got him in the shoulder. But it was a hard hit. If you think he hit him from behind, how do you not view that as worse than what Matt Rust did and kick Turnbull out of the game? It was either a hit from behind or it wasn't. And if it wasn't, why'd you call it? If it was, why was it only two? Then we get Naurato's hit on Roeder. #1) It was in the shoulder. #2) Roeder was turning his back anyway. It was ridiculous. I thought Hill and the other joker were pretty awful overall. They started giving Michigan some calls later in the game, and I'm most definitely not trying to say that it cost us the game or anything--you score 1 goal in two games, you don't deserve a road win--but they were bad. In my notes, I wrote the following after the Naurato penalty: "G** D***. This is why you don't have Brian f***ing Hill do a series like this. F*** this. I'd rather watch Aaron Rodgers cost the Packers another game and have everyone make excuses for him than watch this s***." Some of that was frustration with the way the game was going, but those guys called an awful series. So many questionable hits both ways and then we get a call like the Summers penalty early on where he kind-of obstructed the guy but didn't affect the play in any way. The best one was the play that KC8NIY mentioned in the comments from Friday night when Palushaj got lit up after an offsides and even though he didn't have the puck (so the hit wouldn't have been legal even if the play was still live) it wasn't whistled. It's like they gave the guy a break because it was just after the whistle, and ignored the fact it was illegal anyway. Rust getting tossed was a big loss for us though. Oh, it's also worth pointing out since there were a parade of hits from behind in this game that they missed a blatant one by Cannone on Chad Langlais in the first two minutes of the game. Cannone was a friggin' goon this weekend. I was really surprised at that, since he's such a skilled player.

I'm really impressed with Miami. Honestly, I think they're light years better than they were last year, even with all the losses they had. They were hitting this weekend and it really caused Michigan some problems in their own zone (and when they were trying to gain Miami's zone). Their defense was outstanding. They're getting great goaltending and great play on special teams. Even though they aren't scoring a ton of goals like they were last year, at least based on what I saw this weekend, I think they're better equipped to perform well in the NCAA Tournament.

Quick hitters from my notes:
-Rust saved a goal with a great backcheck. He might not be performing offensively, but he's been great on the defensive end.

-Turnbull had a great chance in the first period when he blocked a shot and was off to the races. He tried to go 5-hole and it was there, but he didn't quite hit it. He almost shattered his stick after that one.

-Miami's physicality caused the second goal. Hagelin got absolutely destroyed on a clearing attempt and then Langlais's second attempt was picked off. They fed Wingels and he uncorked one into the back of the net.

-Burlon had a beautiful play to break up a 2 on 1 caused by Langlais pulling a spin-o-rama at the Miami blueline and accidentally flinging the puck back to center ice.

-Turnbull and Miller did a nice job answering the big hits by the RedHawks. There was a 2 or 3 minute stretch in the middle of the game that was as hard-hitting as any stretch of hockey I've seen in a long time.

-I'm an angry young man. This was the emotional reaction I had after the Wolverines finally got a power play: "The crowd starts chanting "Bull****". Sure. Start an investigation to see if Brian Hill went to Michigan too ya ****ing hillbillies. You know, maybe UAH would fit in in this conference, since we've got 3 Ohio teams. Ohio is basically the Arkansas of the North, so Alabama would fit right in." That was a bit harsh. I don't actually have anything against BGSU or Miami. I was just slightly angry with how the game was going at that point....just slightly!

The Wolverines finally got on the board thanks to a PPG by Chris Summers. The puck don't lie. We were on the PP because Cannone put a BC-two-handed across Caporusso's wrist. That was as bad as the one that Norway put on Adam Banks in D2.

Michigan had a 5 on 3 of their own for 1:20 with a chance to tie the game. The unit we sent out: Pateryn, Summers, Naurato, Turnbull, and Czarnik. 4 goals between them this year. That was curious for such a critical situation.

Michigan had two great chances late in the game but Caporusso put both of them off the bar. Beat Knapp twice, and had some of last year's luck. That's part of the reason I didn't feel so bad about this loss. Michigan had their chances to tie/win the game and they just didn't have the puck luck.

Pateryn took a dip **** penalty with about 3 1/2 minutes left. He went to check Vaive and punched him in the face instead. To Vaive's credit, he rolled around like a soccer player for about 3 minutes even though he's the biggest guy on the ice.

Hogan made a huge stop on Mercier to keep us alive and after Knapp gave up a big rebound on a 100 footer, Winnett was in all alone and may have gotten the post. We pulled the goalie but the only chance Michigan had was when a faceoff was won to Naurato, who was in a great shooting position, but he couldn't find the handle.

Michigan drops 9 points behind Miami in the CCHA (with two games in hand). Rough weekend. They're clearly not playing the hockey they need to be playing, but there's a lot of time left. I like the way the defense has performed. We've gotten fine goaltending, though they need to cut out some of the softies. And we've got a line as good as any in the country. Just gotta get that secondary scoring going. Once Kampfer comes back, they probably can move Summers back up front and that should really help. They've got to find a way to get Rust, Turnbull, Winnett, and Czarnik going though.

Weekend summary: Awful effort Friday night. That one was as embarrassing as it gets. The loss last night though? That was a good effort against a very good hockey team. Disappointing to lose, but nothing to be ashamed of. It just puts a lot of pressure on Michigan to win both games against Miami at Yost in January.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Miami 2, Michigan 0*

Sauer got the nod and we're no closer to finding out if we can't play in front of him or if we can't play on Friday. One thing's for sure, this team has big-time problems on Friday nights.

That's 10 goals in 6 2/3 games we've scored for Billy Sauer. He's now surpassed last year's loss total, with 5 in just seven starts. But it's hard to blame him. He was pretty good tonight. The first goal was horrid, but he made something like 26 stops and a good number of them were big. He was a little shaky in there--he looked behind him on at least a half dozen of his stops--but again, the supporting cast let him down.

Side note: I'm still watching the NHL Network. Matt Hunwick has a goal and three assists and is +5 in his last three games. Really nice work out of Huddy. I'm happy to be wrong about him. I never thought he'd crack the league, and here he is playing for one of the hottest teams in the NHL and doing really well. Porter and Hilbert also had goals tonight. Nice to see the lack of offense hasn't carried over to our NHL players.

Back to this abortion.

Things actually started out really well. The RedHawks were whistled for a penalty something like 12 seconds into the game and Michigan had 5 great scoring chances on that power play. Reichard make four stops in a row, point blank, including one where he just robbed Brian Lebler with the glove. They finally showed a replay after the first period and it was about as good of a glove save as you'll ever see.

Unfortunately that was about it for Michigan's offense. After taking 8 shots at the net in the first three minutes, the Wolverines had just 12 the rest of the game, and aside from a goal that was waived off (terrible call, IMO) with 25 seconds left I don't think we had a great scoring chance.

Call us Stevie Weeks, because we shot our load offensively very early on.

Michigan looked to be in the weeds in the first period, facing a long Miami 5 on 3, but there was some great work out of Wohlberg, Rust and Langlais and they were able to kill it off. The Wolverines were outshot 13-2 in the last 17 minutes of that period, but we went to the intermission knotted up at 0.

The second period was pretty boring outside of some big hits by the Miami defenders. There were no great scoring chances, and I realize that Miami had a goal in the period. Miele took the puck behind the net, Sauer slid to his right, Miele brought it back to the left side of the cage and put it in with no problem. Horrible goal to give up. He should've just knocked the net off like Reichard did earlier in the game when he was beat on a would-be wrap-around.

Roeder was absolutely demolishing Wolverines throughout the night. He was really impressive.

The highlight of the period was Louie Caporusso busting his ass on a back-check to break up a 2 on 1. The pass got through and Vaive would've been in all alone but Caporusso broke up the play.

The teams combined for 8 shots in the second period. I couldn't name a single one of ours. I have no idea how ONN (more on them later) had four scoring chances for us in the second. We didn't come near their net.

Miele ended any hope of a comeback (that's how bad we've been on Fridays...two goals is an insurmountable lead) a couple minutes into the third. We didn't get a great replay but it looked like he just got a tip on the shot.

Honestly, at this point I think Chris Osgood could finally give up fewer than 3 goals if he faced us on a Friday.

Scooter Vaughan wins the Not-Smart-But-Strangely-Effective Play of the Night award for selling out to hit a man when Miami had a 3 on 1. He got a piece of the Miami player but they were going to have a 3 on 0. He got just enough of the RedHawk that the puck skittered away from him and it took a few strides before it was corraled. They were in too deep to do anything but pass, so it was a pretty easy read.

Honest to God, I don't think we had possession within 40 feet of the net in the first 11 minutes of that period.

I guess Sauer made a brilliant stop to keep it 2-0. We were getting a shot of Scooter Vaughan in the corner at the time, so I'm not sure.

From 3 minutes into the game until there were 3 minutes remaining in the game, Michigan had 10 shots on goal.

The Wolverines appeared to crack Reichard with 25 seconds remaining, but the goal was waived off due to Chad Langlais being pushed into the crease. Not that it mattered, but that was a pretty weak call. It was actually a nice play too. Turnbull fed Caporusso cutting down the right wing. He put a shot on net and Palushaj buried the rebound.

I amused myself through this debacle by compiling a list of the reasons that this broadcast (it was ONN's feed that the NHL Network was showing) was awful:

1) There were more pronounciations of Brandon Burlon's name than Michigan had quality scoring chances. Here's the list:

We also had Sarnik, Langlay, and Pah-tahr-in out there.

2) The giant ONN graphic in the upper left hand corner actually covered the net for a good portion of the second period. Not that we were going to miss a Michigan goal or anything.

3) Good portions of the first period had the puck off camera.

4) When Naurato got 2 and 10 with three minutes left in the game, the announcers had a long discussion about how they didn't have any idea why he left. He's not Randy Moss, guys. They also commented on an interference penalty, "Quality hit, clean hit, the guy just didn't have the puck."

That said, video coverage is better than no video coverage and I love the NHL Network for showing college games.

Most of the Michigan fans in the crowd were in standing room once again. I really hope Michigan jacks Miami on tickets for our series later this year. They screwed us on tickets last year too.

There's a reason I'm not the coach, but I'd seriously think about reuniting that Hagelin-Rust-Palushaj top line. Hagelin and Rust have been next to invisible offensively since they broke that pairing up. Hagelin has 2 points in his last six and Rust has one point in his last 8. Holy buckets, Rust was even 2/15 on draws tonight. Yes the Caporusso/Palushaj pairing has been great, but Louie had his share of goals even before they were united.

In addition to Rust and Hagelin, someone really needs to wake up Turnbull, Winnett, and Czarnik offensively. Mitera, Kampfer (and Moffie?) can't get here soon enough. We gotta get Summers back up front. We need another quality forward in the worse way.

This game could be summed up by one play. I believe Michigan was on the power play. Two Wolverines were fighting with Justin Mercier in the middle of the ice out by the blueline. Mercier willed that puck out of the zone and in the process showed more heart than the entire Michigan team played with tonight. What a weak effort outside of the first three minutes. This reminded me so much of that game against MSU a couple years ago in the GLI Championship. They just didn't bring it, and it's alarming to see a lack of anything resembling positive play in such a big game.

I have to give Miami a lot of credit. That defensive effort was incredible. They just didn't let the Wolverines anywhere near the net outside of the first few minutes and Reichard made a few truly great saves in the early going. If he doesn't rob Lebler, this could be a completely different game. If Michigan pops one in in the first two minutes, memories of last year come flying back. But he stoned him and that was pretty much that.

I don't think you can call a game a must-win this early in the season, but a loss tomorrow night would drop us 9 points behind the RedHawks. That's a big deficit. And we currently sit 2 points out of 10th place in the jammed up CCHA. It'd be nice to have something positive before we head out to take on the #1 team in the country next (OMG) Friday.

The one positive to take from tonight was that our penalty kill was pretty great. Miami has the #2 power play in the country and Michigan shut them down for the most part. The 1:49 5 on 3 was a great kill. So maybe the PK has turned it around....that's something at least.

And as long as I'm bitching, here's a non-sports one for you. ABC, die in a fire. Canceling Pushing Daisies, Eli Stone, and Dirty Sexy Money in the same day (and being so kind as to do it after they've filmed their now-final episodes, so I'm sure we'll get a ton of closure) is right up there with jerking around Traveler, dumping Boston Legal when it's still one of the funniest shows on TV, and not allowing The Nine to try a timeslot that wasn't the death-slot after Lost. I guess my DVR just got a whole lot less cluttered. I don't know why I even bother with TV anymore. Every time I actually care about the long-term plot of a show, it gets yanked and I get no answers. I know they've got to worry about ratings and it's all about making money, but man, what a bummer. Just another frustrating thing to happen today....

Thursday, November 20, 2008

10 Things to Know About Miami (OH)

First off, congrats to the Michigan basketball team on a huge win against #4 UCLA tonight (Michigan's first win against a top-five team in almost 11 years). I haven't written about basketball much because it's not a sport I know a whole lot about, but I've been genuinely excited about the prospects this season. I was looking forward to this game all week, bet on Michigan outright at Centsports, and I was thrilled that they pulled this one off. It's amazing that we actually have an offensive system that isn't "Dribble out the shot clock and jack a bad three", we have a defensive system that actually confused a high-quality team, guys have improved in the offseason. The whole second half I was waiting for the long drought and it never came. Douglass's three pointer? Nails. That one-touch pass to Sims for the flush was the nicest Michigan basketball play that I've seen since before Ellerbe was coaching. Big win and I couldn't be happier for those guys. I was looking forward to wearing my new maize Michigan hockey jersey tomorrow, but I think I might hafta bust out the bball jersey instead. Huge win, especially since they don't even have Lucas-Perry yet.

Now on to hockey and 10 things to know about the Dynasty that we're facing this week.

1) Miami is 6-3-3 on the season and 6-2-2-1 in the CCHA, putting them 5 points ahead of us (we have two games in hand). They're actually just 2-2-1 at home, however. They've got two impressive road sweeps (Notre Dame and MSU), but lost at home to Ferris and Alaska, and took just one "point" during a road series against Vermont.

2) They're breaking in two freshmen goalies and the kids got off to a rough start, giving up 3,3,4,3 in the first four games. Since then, however, Miami hasn't given up more than two goals in a game (a streak of eight games). Those games came against the #12, 25, 40, and 57 (only RPI is scoring fewer goals per game than MSU...) ranked offenses in the country.

3) Their goal-scoring has been a little hot and cold. They scored just five goals in sweeping Notre Dame, put up 1 and then 5 against UA, 2 and 1 against Ferris and then popped in 8 against MSU. Overall, they rank #17 in offense, .16 goals per game behind Michigan.

4) I have to give their defense credit. I was skeptical before the season due to the youth in net, but they currently have the #12 defensive team in the country and are allowing fewer than 2 goals per game. Both goalies have save percentages in the 92-93% range and both have GAAs below two. Cody Reichard has been playing Fridays and Connor Knapp has been playing Saturdays, so I imagine that's what we'll see again. Knapp has given up just three goals in his last four apperances.

5) This shouldn't be a shocker, they're led offensively by Pat Cannone (6-10--16) and Carter Camper (6-8--14). They've also got the ever dangerous Justin Mercier and Andy Miele (who was awesome in our series against them last year). Nine different players have scored PPGs, and eight have seven or more points. Ganzak and Martinez are gone, so they lost a lot of points from the blueline (61 from that duo alone), but freshman Chris Wideman has eight points (all assists) in 12 games to replace at least some of that scoring.

6) Looooooots of penalties so far. Miami is the third-most penalized team in the country at 22 minutes a night. Fortunately for the RedHawks, they have the #1 PK in the country at 96.1%, and if you factor in short handed goals that they've scored, they're just -1 on their opponents' 76 power play chances this year.

7) They're also great on the power play, #2 in the country at 22.9% (second to BU, and I think we can take credit for their #1 ranking). Four of Mercier's five goals have come with the man advantage. Cannone, Camper and Palmer also have multiple PPGs.

8) We have Honeybaked, they have the Cedar Rapids Roughriders. Seven of Miami's players played for Cedar Rapids right before they came to Miami. 17 of their guys have come from the USHL.

9) Michigan leads the all-time series 66-18-3. Aaron Palushaj had 2-1--3 in the three games against the RedHawks last year. He's actually the only player on our roster with more than 1 career goal against Miami. Hogan has never faced Miami but Sauer is 3-2-1 in his career with a 3.13/.897. He was strong in both of our wins against the RedHawks last year.

10) Both games this weekend can be seen on the NHL Network. Friday night's game will be shown live and Saturday's game will be live in Canada and shown on tape-delay Sunday afternoon in the United States. Let me say again, I love the NHL Network.

Other stuff:
The Wolverines received signed letters of intent from Chris Brown, AJ Treais, and Kevin Lynch, all members of the USA NTDP Under 18 team. Lee Moffie will be in at some point, it's just a matter of when ($ link), which is interesting.

Also, Steve Kampfer was given the go-ahead to remove his neck brace. A reader who has been very accurate in the past wrote in to say that if all goes well, he could be back playing very early in the new year, which would be amazing. Clearly they'll be careful with him, but it's really great to think that he should be able to see the ice again this season. If we can get Kampfer and Mitera back at some point, Summers probably gets to move back up front again, which helps the offense as well. In the meantime, you've got to like the improved play of Greg Pateryn.

The Middletown Press had an article about Lee Moffie and his success at the Junior A Challenge.

I think that's all I've got for tonight. It'll be interesting to see if Michigan sticks with Sauer Friday and Hogan Saturday or if they change it up at all. Miami may not be the offensive powerhouse they were last year, but they're getting great goaltending, playing good defense, their special teams are outstanding, and you know they're going to be looking to make a statement after they fell flat on their face against Michigan last year. Michigan better come out with a much better Friday effort if they expect it to be a game tomorrow.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Michigan 5, WMU 0

So this team is officially schizo. One night after scoring just one goal at home and losing to FREAKING WESTERN MICHIGAN, Michigan had enough goals to win after 14 seconds. Bryan Hogan made 20 stops and the Wolverines popped in 5 to silence the Lawson Lunatics.

This weekend was more support for the theory that either Michigan can't play in front of Billy Sauer or Michigan can't play on Friday night. Hogan has allowed just two fewer goals than Sauer, but he is 6-0-0 while Sauer has matched last year's loss total with a 2-4-0 record. But the goals of support? Michigan has scored 10 goals with Sauer in net and 30 for Hogan.

I'm of the belief that it's a Friday/Saturday thing more than a Sauer/Hogan thing. There are only a few guys on this team who weren't on the roster last year, so most of the team knows how good Sauer can be and how unbelievable he was for all but one period last year. I don't think they've lost their confidence in him. We've seen Michigan teams have this problem before. I can't remember if it was 2000 or 2001, but that was a team that was great Friday night and horrible Saturday night. I'm sure they'll get it together, but it doesn't help our CCHA Title hopes to drop games to the 10th, 11th and 12th place teams. But then, as it is we're only 5 points behind Miami with 2 games in hand (so we could be just 1 point back).

One thing is for sure, after they fell flat on their face during their "Validation Weekend" last year, the Red Hawks are going to bring it against the Wolverines down in Oxford this weekend, so we'd be wise to show up Friday night ready to play no matter who's in net.

Stuff from the game, which I couldn't watch or listen to:
-David Wohlberg kept up his strong play in the offensive zone by notching his 4th goal in 5 games. I gotta say, I didn't think he'd outperform Czarnik, especially in the offensive end. But he has 4 goals to Robbie's 1 at this point.

-Louie Caporusso put the game away with a natural hat trick in the third period. He has matched last season's goal total in just 12 games. I knew he was poised for a big season, but I didn't have him at a goal per game. He's tied for the national lead in goals (and Palushaj is the national leader in points with 20).

-I didn't think that anyone would have a prayer of competing with Aaron Palushaj's effort against St. Lawrence for "Goal of the Year" but Tim Miller could at least be in the conversation. He scored Michigan's second goal of the game by spinning around to receive a pass from Caporusso, splitting the defense, spinning back around, and tucking it through Riley Gill. I think I'd severely injure myself if I ever tried something like that.

-Caporusso's second was off a beautiful feed from Palushaj. Palushaj cut in and darn near scored himself, then he went and corraled the puck, brought it back toward the front of the net and fed Caporusso for an easy tally.

-Good work on the special teams: 2-7 on the PP, 6-6 killing penalties (and 10-10 on the weekend), though the Broncos did take 12 of their 20 shots when they had the man advantage.

-Here's an interesting stat: The Wolverines took 8 penalties in the game and not a single one was on a defenseman. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but it's nice to see Summers and Llewellyn go the whole weekend without getting sent to the box.

-Some cool stats courtesy of KC8NIY:
-I don't care that he plays the PP and doesn't play much on the PK, the fact that Aaron Palushaj has been on the ice for 26 of our 40 goals and just 4 of the 31 we've allowed is damn incredible.

-The surprising one is that Lebler has been out there for 10 of our goals and just 2 that we've allowed. I kind of thought he might be the odd man out on a lot of occasions this season, but if I remember right, he was one of the guys the coaches cited as having had a great offseason and it looks like it's paying off.

-Bryan Hogan has given up 4 goals combined in the first two periods, but 10 in the third. But Sauer's best period has been the third (5-8-4 goals allowed in the three periods). I think I have a solution to the goalie controversy!!!!

Links and whatnot: did a really cool feature on what our white sweaters have looked like over the years. The link takes you to the hockey page, and the link to the video is a few items down the Multimedia list.

Also, I got the question as to what font Michigan is using on the white jerseys this season, so that one could be customized. I found out that the lettering and numbering is actually the Green Bay Packers font this year. I guess we're just making the rounds through the NFC North.

The Port Huron Times-Herald did a story on local product and future Wolverine netminder Jack Campbell. I provided a couple of quotes for the story. It's a nice read if I do say so myself!

Mike Milano was charged with with two crimes, including one felony, in the incident which left Steve Kampfer on the injured list. Red hinted that there might actually be a chance that Kampfer will return to the ice this season, but that's still really up in the air, and I'd imagine it will depend in part upon how his re-evaluation goes. I'd expect they'll treat that one very carefully.

Friday, November 14, 2008

WMU 2, Michigan 1

Screw this, you're getting a copy and paste job from my notes. I don't feel like reliving this one again to formulate a usual post-game wrap. There's a little analysis at the end...

I wish Hagelin had scored on an opportunity in the early part of the first period. He took the puck backward at center to build up some speed, moved through center, split the D at the line, lost control, regained the puck back in the corner, got away from two guys there, and then thought about wrapping it around before bringing it out in front of the net. He tried to chip it short side and Gill stopped it. It would've been one for the highlight reel for sure. Great play nonetheless and some hard work out of a guy we've come to expect it from.

Ice is tilted our way in the early going. WMU has had one rush but that's about it. Michigan has been buzzing, but no grade A chances just yet.

WMU seems pretty content to sit back and play D right now. They're playing solid defense, but they haven't had anything even approaching an offensive opportunity.

Really good work by Hagelin and T-Llew. They've got Cirualo in for Fardig tonight. I wonder if that's an effort to change things up on the PK a little bit.

Good kill. WMU didn't get any chances on that one.

There's a big save by Gill late in the period. Wohlberg knocked the puck into the slot and Rust had a couple pops at it. The second one was a REALLY nice stop. Wohlberg has been strong in the last few games.

It's been that kind of year for Travis Turnbull so far. He turned the puck over deep in our offensive zone with 20 sec left in the period and then took a slashing penalty away from the play on a nothing rush. WMU has 1:50 on the PP at the start of the 2nd.

Nice step up by Llewellyn to break up a potential scoring chance. Gambled, but it paid off. Summers with another nice play on the 2nd PK of the period.

Three good kills so far tonight. WMU had a couple opportunities on that last one but I don't think they've gotten a quality shot off this whole game so far.

Summers just gave a glimpse of why we want him playing forward. He went FLYING down the left wing and tried to stuff one five hole. Palushaj tried to jump on the rebound and ended up in the net.

We're outshooting them pretty badly but a good number of our shots have been from the perimeter.

Great feed by Palushaj to Caporusso for a shot right at the periphery of the crease but he didn't have much space to work with and Gill made a good save. That's been our best chance so far.

WMU just had their best chance. They found Clackson in front with a pass from behind the goal line and Sauer was strong making the stop point-blank.

Woot! PPG! Lebler from Langlais and Palushaj. Nice to see Lebler get rewarded. I think he's been playing pretty well. Gotta admit, I looked up at the Wings game for a second and missed what happened, so no comment on the goal itself.

Shots are 22-6 right now. WMU just isn'tvery good, but they're playing a solid enough game for a team that's overmatched in talent. Michigan's only had about 3 real good chances. They're giving up shots, but they're playing solid enough defense that they aren't a bunch of high percentage chances.

WMU back to the PP. High hit by Miller. Not real smart.

Big block by Winnett after a turnover by Vaughan. Hagelin has really enjoyed playing the puck back into his own end on these PKs (he is European, after all). It's worked pretty well but it almost bit us there when Vaughan toe-picked. Another really good kill. WMU hasn't gotten anything going on the PP. Or even strength.

Summers with a partial breakaway stoned by Gill. He's jumping up some tonight and I like it. I feel like Summers should get the Jack Johnson green light to jump into the play a little more often. Maybe you have to curtail it with the injuries on our blueline, but I really like what he brings when he jumps into the play and he hardly ever does it.

End 2 with Michigan up 1-0. That goal just might hold up (errr.....nope!) with the way WMU is playing offensively, but I'd prefer to pop in a few more and end this thing.

Wow. Billy was down and out there and Squires tried to bring it around the net and tuck it but Sauer somehow got over and gloved it. Beautiful save on a scary moment. Holy buckets!

And they score 2 seconds later off a draw. Awesome. Got tipped in front.

Great (scary) individual effort by Caporusso out by the blueline. He shrugged off 2 WMU players and got it to Hagelin. He had an open lane to shoot but it looked like he tried to pass it and fanned. Later in the shift, they hit on a really nice cross ice pass and tried to go back into the slot. Hagelin's shot was blocked.

I really like watching Robbie Czarnik skate. He's so smooth out there. Really random comment but I thought that at least 3 times tonight...

WMU is really buzzing. Our defenseman fell and led to a great scoring chance but the guy didn't get it on net. Then the puck came back out in front and Sauer made a couple of saves.

I dunno why we can't score when Sauer is in net for us. Michigan has given him NO goal support this year. Then again Jeff Lerg would probably take the goals we've given him. Still, 12 in 6 games is not the way to win hockey games.

Caporusso just beat their whole team. I have no idea how that stayed out. He is crafty. We're all over them, but it's still tied with 7 min left.

Sauer with a nice save on Galivan when he cut to the middle on Langlais.

I don't think Sauer's play has been that different from Hogan's this year, butHogan is so much better at handling the puck. Sauer scares the hell out of me when he goes behind the net.

Wow wow wow. He might have been screened but if he wasn't, sweet Jesus was that a bad goal. Oh, Billy, Billy....No replay, so it's hard to really comment on it. I hope he was screened because that was just bad.

2 goals by their D, who had 2 goals the whole year combined. Stellar.

And this is why you can't let teams hang around. A faceoff win and a fluky goal and suddenly we're losing to the worst team in the CCHA.

Czarnik set up Hagelin from a bad angle but Gill was there. He's been pretty darn good tonight.
Rusty was in cold turkey and Gill made the stop. Getting some chances, but they just can't solve Riley Gill.

Can't even get Sauer of the net. This is really nice. Icing with 18 seconds leftand we'll get one more crack.

Won the draw but nothing much comes of it.


Gotta give WMU credit. They played the perfect game for a 1-6 hockey team. Play solid defense, keep yourself in the game and see what happens. They've scored just 12 goals in their last 7 games, but they've actually managed a win and three ties in those seven games. It means they're getting some solid play in net and that they're not all that bad defensively.

I don't understand why we can't put the puck in the net when Sauer is in there. I have to believe it's more of a Friday/Saturday thing than a Sauer/Hogan thing, but they need to get it together. You can't crap away points to the WMUs and Alaskas of the world...and we're still the only team in conference that NMU has beaten (btw, they're 1-5-1-0 in the about underachieving). This isn't the time to be pissing away points.

This might be a knee jerk reaction, but I think I liked Palushaj better with Rust. Caporusso is good enough that he doesn't really need Palushaj to create for him (he had like 5 goals before Palushaj was moved to his wing). Rust has had a couple chances, but has otherwise been pretty invisible lately. He's only got one point in his last six games.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

10 Things to Know About Western Michigan

1) Western Michigan comes in at 1-6-3 on the season and 0-3-3-1 in the CCHA. They beat Niagara in their opener but haven't won a game (in regulation) since, tying Ferris, State and Omaha and beating FSU in the shootout. They're 0-4 on the road (and have given up 19 goals) and 1-2-3 at home.

2) Offense has been hard to come by for the Broncos over the last month or so. After their 6-5 ot loss to Minnesota-Duluth, WMU has scored 1, 2, 1, 2, 2, 2 goals. The good news for them is that they've gotten three ties in those games.

3) Chris Clackson leads the team with 4 goals (that's already a career high for him) and Patrick Galivan has a 3-5--8 line to lead WMU in points. Their defense has two goals, but they've got a couple of guys with 5+ points from back on the blueline. Greg Squires from the NTDP (and a former BU commit) is their top freshman, with a 2-3--5 line. Chris Frank is still there, and he's still a goon, leading the team with 35 PIMs in 10 games. And he's a team-worst -7.

4) In net, Riley Gill and Jerry Kuhn have basically split time. Gill has played four games, and Kuhn six. Gill's numbers are better: 1-2-1, 2.70, .913 to Kuhn's 0-4-2, 3.41, .903. Gill played both games against MSU, Kuhn got both games last week against UNO. My random guess at the goaltending, which I'll probably end up getting wrong like usual, I think we see Gill both games.

5) Their scoring is ranked #42 in the country at 2.20 goals per game. The defense is 45th at 3.30 goals per game. They've gotten off to really slow starts, getting outscored 12-6 in the first period with a 117-73 shot differential, not in their favor. Their third periods have been basically even in shots/goals but the starts have bit them.

6) WMU's power play is middle of the pack at 26th nationally, at 16.1%. The PK is tied for 33rd at 83.3%. They've scored two shorties and given up two.

7) They block a bunch of shots, averaging 16 a night (to 10 for their opponents). Jordan Collins and Chris Frank are the leaders in that department.

8) Michigan leads the all-time series 60-25-10 and have won 9 of the last 10, including 5 in a row. Even though Lawson is a tough place to play, the Wolverines have been victorious in six straight trips to see the Lunatics.

9) Brandon Naurato is Michigan's leading point-getter against WMU, with 3-3--6 in seven career games. Turnbull has 5 points, and Summers has four. Carl Hagelin is the only one of the youngsters to have scored against the Broncos. Billy Sauer has a 5-1-0 mark with a 2.51 and an .889. He's given up just one goal in each of his past three appearances against WMU, making 71 saves in the three games. Hogan hasn't faced Western.

10) Chris Clackson played with Billy Sauer on the Chicago Steel. JJ Crew (yes, JJ Crew) played with Chad Langlais and Bryan Hogan and is from Placentia, CA, the same city as Scooter Vaughan. Jerry Kuhn played (one game) with David Rohlfs with Compuware in the NAHL, and also played with Steve Kampfer and Max Pacioretty in the USHL. Kevin O'Connor played with Tim Miller and Brandon Naurato, and also wins this week's "Dude, get a job" award, for being 24 in his redshirt junior year. Here's one for you: Travis Paeth played with Eric Elmblad on the Traverse City North Stars. He's also an ex-teammate of Palushaj's.

So there you have it. Tonight's game will (hopefully) be shown and subsequently archived on I believe Western has pay per view video, but I think you have to buy a month's subscription and I'm not sure it'd be worth $20 to catch that one.

I'll take the Wolverines easily tonight and a win in a tougher game at Lawson on Saturday.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Midweek Thoughts

Congrats to Lee Moffie and the Americans on winning the World Junior A Challenge by beating Canada West 7-1. Moffie had the opening goal for the Americans in the championship game. Moffie had a 1-2--3 line in five games played.

USA Hockey regularly puts out feature stories about their players and a couple weeks ago it was Kevin Lynch's turn. I just noticed this article and it's pretty good.

The Under 18s won the Four Nations' Cup in Lake Placid. AJ Treais was the Player of the Game in USA's opening tilt, scoring the first two goals en route to a 4-2 win over Switzerland. Lynch had an assist in a 5-4 win over Finland and Treais assisted on the opening goal of the Championship Game against Finland.

The U-17s went 3-1 at their Four Nations' Cup event in Switzerland. The highlight was Jack Campbell going 2-0 in his starts (against Slovakia and Switzerland), winning both via shutout and making 42 saves in the process. Jacob Fallon had a goal and an asisst and was +4. Jon Merrill was even. Luke Moffatt had a goal and was +4.

Could Mark Mitera return this year? He had surgery on his injured knee last Thursday and Red Berenson told the media that the timetable for his return is 3-6 months. Red is also optimistic that his recovery will be toward the shorter end of that timetable. Now, I would expect Mitera and the team to be safe about it since he's got a shot at a pro hockey career in front of him, but last Thursday was November 6. Three months would put him at February 6. Four months and he's back for the CCHA Tournament. Five months and it's just the Frozen Four if we make it. It might be unlikely, but apparently there's still a chance that Mitera's Michigan career isn't over. You know he'd like to make it back in four months and play at Yost one more time...

The Daily put out their 10 game report card, giving the offense an A-, the defense a B, the special teams a C-, and the goaltending a B. I think I would've gone a tick lower on the offense and defense (B+ and B- respectively; very small qualm) but I agree with the other two grades.

Louie Caporusso kept a five day diary of the trip to Alaska. I don't know about you, but I'm pretty much on board with letting these guys (especially Caporusso and Rust) write for MGoBlue as much as they want to. It's always hilarious. Louie seemed to enjoy getting to play on an outdoor rink for a little while. I'm sure he'll be geeked if the game against Wiscy at Camp Randall ends up happening.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Alabama-Huntsville to Replace UNO in the CCHA?

Interesting article on the Denver Post website. Mike Chambers is reporting in his blog that the conferences may be realigned in order to get rid of the 4-team CHA, which currently gets an auto bid. Under the plan mentioned, Niagara and Robert Morris would join the AHA, giving them 12 teams. Nebraska-Omaha and Bemidji State would join the WCHA and Alabama-Huntsville would replace UNO in the CCHA.

It would be a great move for UNO. By virtue of joining the WCHA, they would immediately become 5x better.

I've always kind of liked playing UNO. I'd be sorry to see them go. And I'm sure everyone would be just thrilled about making the trip down to Alabama. Additionally, aren't UNO and UA clustermates? Would they really want to have the two teams that are furthest apart playing each other four times a season? Huntsville and UA are only 4,100 miles apart (or 2 days, 22 hours by car, not that they'd drive or anything).

Alternate ideas:
WCHA adds Bemidji, Huntsville, and UNO
CCHA adds Alaska Anchorage


WCHA adds Bemidji and Alaska Fairbanks
CCHA adds Huntsville

Either way gets both Alaska teams in the same conference, which is probably how it should be. You'd have another solid in-conference rivalry and I don't think it'd be that tough to schedule teams to make trips to Alaska two weeks at a time. It wouldn't be that often that you'd have to go up there. And a team wouldn't have to potentially go to Huntsville and Alaska in the same year.

I think I like the second option personally (and I don't think I'm biased since I'm not the one making the trip to Alaska, so I'm not trying to just get rid of it). You get the Western teams in the WCHA, and we keep the more "central" teams.

Anybody else have realignment ideas?

UA 4, Michigan 1; Michigan 3, UA 2

The Friday coverage is going to get the shaft around here when the games aren't archived online or I can't DVR them, so I apologize for that. All I really know about Friday night is that the first UA goal was gorgeous, the second goal was terrible (but probably unlucky), the fourth goal was an ENG so it wasn't as bad as the score, and the team seemed to actually be fairly happy with the way they played.

The turning point in the game was that in the second period up 1-0, we outshot the Nanooks 11-4 but got outscored 2-0, and both their goals came really quickly. It sounded like Johnson played very well--he stoned Langlais on a breakaway (the rare breakaway for a defenseman--especially when he wasn't coming out of the box or off the bench) when the game was still in doubt--and I guess he made a few big stops when it was 1-0 Michigan.

The thing that was kind of remarkable--Michigan didn't take a single penalty Friday night and only two penalties were called on UA. For a year that has seen a ridiculous amount of calls, what with the two ref system and everything, it's crazy that we made it through a game with only 4 PIMs for the teams combined.

Tonight wasn't a perfect game, but I thought Michigan played pretty well for the most part and even though it was a 3-2 hockey game (only the 5th one-goal game in the history of the series) I thought we carried the play for the most part.

The night started on a strange note with the game being delayed by a half hour due to a power failure. The announcers said that if the game couldn't start by 9:00 (which would've been an hour and a half later than it did) it would've been postponed and they probably would have played in the Detroit-area sometime during one of UA's two-week trips to the lower 48. Luckily they got the game in. Though it would've been fun to get an extra home game, I don't think anyone would have been very happy going all the way up to Alaska for one game.

The ice seemed kind of crappy tonight. I would imagine it had something to do with the power failure and the compressor being off for the better part of an hour, but maybe not. Either way, we were having trouble hitting on passes for a good portion of the game. They were especially struggling on the cross-ice breakout pass out of our zone. I also saw Palushaj badly miss Caporusso on a 3 on 2 break. Not something you usually see...

David Wohlberg potted goals in both games. It was nice to see him score tonight, especially since it was in doubt about if he was going to play tonight due to an injury suffered in last night's game. I guess he was ok. Rust was banging at a loose puck in front of the net and it skipped out to Wohlberg for an easy tap in. I thought Turnbull might have gotten a stick on it to send it over to him but they didn't announce an assist for him, so maybe it hit the dman instead.

We were all over them in the early-going. Only had one goal to show for it, but we were took 9 of the first 11 shots in the game.

Our penalty-killing still leaves something to be desired. The first goal was a nice tic-tac-toe passing play. The UA forward got a step on Vaughan and he couldn't recover. Hogan went for the poke-check and missed, and Langlais was just a split second late getting Knutsen's stick. He slid it to the left of Hogan to tie the game. Alaska added a second PPG later in the game when our defenseman set a beautiful screen on Hogan on the way toward clearing the UA guy out of the crease. Hogie never saw it. You gotta love a 5% power play going 2 for 4.

Hogan made some big stops. He made a great save on a partial breakaway just after UA's first goal when it was 1-1 and he ROBBED Naglich on a breakaway with the glove. He had another save later in the game where it looked like he lost sight of the puck after the initial save. It kicked to the left of the goal and the UA guy had an easy tap in but it bounced over his stick. He connected on the second crack at it and Hogan dove to his left just in time to nab the puck right at the goalline. He might scare me sometimes, but Hogan has a knack for making some huge saves. He was strong tonight.

The second period was kind of blah for the first half. Neither team got a whole lot going and I think we had one decent scoring chance in the first twelve minutes. That was Caporusso splitting the defense and somehow getting off a good wrist shot even as he was being hip-checked.

Caporusso had something for UA a few minutes later though. He took a pass from Palushaj at center ice and cut to the right wing side. He beat the defender to the outside and then cut back toward the net at the last second, protecting the puck as he pulled it. He dragged the puck cross-crease, got around Johnson, and tucked the puck into the far side of the net. He probably learned how to pull that move off by going up against Sauer in practice day in and day out.

Aaron Palushaj darn near made it 3-1 in the waning moments of the second period. Michigan had a PP and Palushaj had the puck on the left wing. He cut to the middle of the ice and lost Johnson. He nearly had a wide open net to shoot at but the defenseman had collapsed into the crease and the shot hit him in the chest. Palushaj put both hands on his head after that one. He couldn't believe that one didn't go.

With one second left in the power play, however, Michigan capitalized. Palushaj sent a centering pass toward Lebler and it got caught up in the defenseman's skates. Lebler got control if it with his back toward the net and got off a pretty hard backhanded shot that snuck into the net. Johnson would probably like that one back, but those shots when the guy has his back to you can be trickier than they look like they should be.

Alaska was getting a little bit frisky after their aforementioned PPG that made it 3-2 but Sova took a stupid retaliatory penalty with 3 minutes left in the game, so UA had to spend the majority of the remaining time killing off a penalty. Once the penalty was killed, Tim Miller and David Wohlberg did a pretty good job of killing off the final minute.

Big win on the road after a tough loss the night before. The win pulls us into a five way tie for second place in the CCHA with LSSU, Ferris, MSU, and OSU. OSU has played 8 games, the rest of the teams have played 6. Miami leads the conference with 11 points in 8 games. Miami and MSU both lost tonight, so it was big to take two points heading into next weekend against WMU in a home-and-home.

The win takes Bryan Hogan to 5-0 on the season. For the most part, I've thought that the goalies have been pretty equal in their play, but Hogan is 5-0 and Sauer is 2-3. Kind of weird...just the way hockey goes sometimes I guess.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

10 Things to Know About Alaska

This weekend, the Wolverines head to the Final Frontier to take on the Alaska Nanooks up in Fairbanks. There's no TV for either game but they will both be available on the B2 Network for 7 or 8 bucks apiece.

1) Alaska comes into this weekend at 4-3-0 overall and 2-2-0-0 in the CCHA. They're 2-2-0 at home. They beat UConn, Mercyhurst, BGSU and Miami, tied surprising Northeastern (and beat them in a shootout, not that it mattered one iota since it wasn't a conference game), and lost to Miami, BGSU, and Maine. What's kind of whacked out is that 3 of their 4 wins have come via shutout, and all three of their losses have come via shutout. They also shut out the NTDP, though that doesn't count on the record, obviously.

2) Ocho Cinco has played six of the eight games in net for UA, sporting a 2-3-1 record with a sparkling 1.82 goals against and a .926 save percentage. Last year he won as many games as I did (0-6-0 in seven appearances). Freshman Scott Greenham has played two games, winning both while allowing 0 goals in the process. Ocho Cinco has played five games in a row, however.

3) Braden Walls leads the team with 4 goals thusfar. Dion Knelsen is the leading point man with a 3-4--7 line in 8 games. The two of them each have two game-winners. Only eight guys have scored goals, but six of them have multiple goals. No defensemen have put the puck in the net, and they've gotten just six points from their blueline this year.

4) Joe Sova was a teammate of Max Pacioretty's with Sioux City of the USHL. Dustin Molle wins the "Dude, Get a Job" award. He has junior eligibility, but check out the list of guys that he played with in the USHL: Joe Pavelski, Jordan Parise, and Jeff Jakaitis. He also transferred from UAA, which is worse than what Bryan Lerg did. His younger brother plays for UA as well. Knelsen also has a brother on the team.

5) The Nanook offense ranks #43 in the country, scoring just 2.12 goals per game, though that puts them ahead of Northern Michigan and Michigan State (1.88 goals per game, holy crap). Their defense, however, is #4 in the country, allowing 1.38 goals a night. UMass-Lowell is the only team ahead of them that has played more than a couple games.

6) As expected given the offensive and defensive numbers, the power play is ugly and the PK is very good. They're converting on just 5.8% of their PP opportunities, which is 54th out of 57 teams. It's just 3.8% if you factor in the SHG they allowed. They're #7 on the PK at 93% (and they're 95.3% in net penalty killing). In eight games, they've scored 4 and allowed 4 on the special teams. By comparison, we've scored 10 and allowed 11. Alaska is only averaging 12 penalty minutes a night.

7) Their nine freshmen skaters have combined for just a 2-2--4 line in 49 man games played.

8) Michigan leads the all-time series 35-6-0. What I get out of that is that the teams have never tied in 41 games played. They've actually never even gone to overtime, which I think is kind of remarkable. There have only been four one-goal games, in which Michigan is 4-0. Michigan has won 4 in a row overall and are 15-3-0 on trips up to Alaska.

9) Tim Miller leads all Wolverines with a 2-7--9 line in 8 career games against Alaska. Turnbull has six points in eight games and Naurato has six points in seven. Palushaj, Langlais and Rust average a point per game against the Nanooks.

10) Bryan Hogan has never faced UA while Billy Sauer is 5-2 with a 2.02/.919. He's 2-1 in Alaska with less-good numbers (2.69/.909). He was strong in his last trip to Alaska, going 2-0 and giving up 2 goals each night, while making 61 saves on the weekend.

Other stuff:
MGoBlog has lotsa comments about the OSU weekend. He too was impressed with Pateryn and also made mention of a hilarious new chant by the Yosties (even if we may have kind-of-sort-of ripped it off from BU, according to the comments).

Hagelin was practicing as the third-line center this week. All offseason we were geeked about the prospect of Hagelin playing center. It's not as fun that he's on the third line, but hopefully this will further balance our scoring. This is the time of the year where it's good to try different things and see if you can hit on a pair/trio that has great chemistry together. One thing is for certain: Whoever Aaron Palushaj is playing with? They have chemistry.

Louie Caporusso credits watching film of Chad Kolarik as a reason for his high goal total early in the season. "I just figured out that you need to shoot the puck in order to score." I'll say. Caporusso put just 55 shots on net last season, or 1.66 a game. This year, he has a team leading 25 shots on goal, good for just over 3 per game.

The Daily also had features about the improved play of Yost Built-favorite Tristin Llewellyn and the resurgence of the GWG-machine, Tim Miller.

Aaron Palushaj was named CCHA Player of the Month, thanks to his 6-6--12 line through 7 games and +8 rating. He has points in seven of our eight games.

Apparently USA Hockey's WJC games will be aired on the NHL Network. Enjoy watching half of the Wolverines' roster take on the world! I gotta admit, I'm a big fan of the NHLN airing things other than NHL games. The agreement to air college hockey games is fantastic and it's a big bonus that we're getting WJC coverage as well.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Michigan 4, OSU 3; Michigan 6, OSU 1

Thoughts on the sweep of OSU, keeping in mind that I didn't get to see or listen to the game Friday night. I caught the Saturday game on the NHL Network yesterday.

So basically whichever line has Aaron Palushaj is our "top line". Talk about instant returns. Palushaj, Miller, and Caporusso all scored both nights and they combined for a 7-6--13 line on the weekend. All three of Miller's goals have been game-winners, and he was effective driving the net. Caporusso has been on fire. I may not be right about everything (or most things), but I nailed a breakout year for Louie. 8 goals on 25 shots so far this season. He's getting to put the puck on net a lot more this season and he's putting them in the net at a continually high rate.

Palushaj still only averages a couple of shots on goal a game, but there's a very good chance he'll match last year's goal total by Thanksgiving. That kid's hands are unbelievable. I said it about Pacioretty last year and it's time to say it about Palushaj: Enjoy him while he's here, folks. Is it crazy to think that he could end up a serious Hobey candidate by the end of the season? If he keeps this up, he'll be right there. KC8NIY sent me a bunch of stats, and figured that Palushaj has been on the ice for 19 of our 30 goals this season and has only been out there for 2 of the goals we've allowed. Granted the ratio is going to be higher for a guy that's on the power play but not really on the PK, but that's still a really impressive stat. He's been out there for 63% of our goals this season?! Yikes. I wish we had a number like that for Porter or Kolarik last year...I'd be curious to see what it ended up being.

I was really impressed with Pateryn last night and it seemed to be a common thought amongst the Yost Posters. He seems to be getting more comfortable and I actually really liked seeing him on the power play. He's got a laser! I like the umbrella look they were showing Saturday night. It was opening up some nice shooting lanes and Pateryn finally got to unleash his slapper.

And I know he makes some mistakes, but I really, really like Tristin Llewellyn. There was one shift he had (I think it was in the second period) where he was a one-man wrecking crew. He hit about 3 different people in our zone to win a 30-second-long battle for the puck, then when the play ended up coming back down toward our end, he destroyed one of the Bucknuts. I love the physicality that he brings to the party (wow...too much Alton Brown there).

One of the things that I miss most about getting to see games at Yost in person is being able to watch the guys behind the play. Carl Hagelin is so much fun to watch when he turns the afterburners on while backchecking. He looked like he was moving at a different speed from everyone else on a couple of shifts there. He went from the near boards to the bench-side of the ice and still managed to catch a guy from behind on one occasion. It was crazy.

I also was kind of impressed with Lebler. I can't point to a specific play since it was like midnight when I was watching the game, but I noticed him out there a lot--in a good way.

David Wohlberg got his first career goal on a bad, bad giveaway by the Buckeyes, and he was flying after that. He had a block on the PK and turned it into a Rustian breakaway that he nearly converted. It was nice to see him get one.

Speaking of nice to see him get one, Travis Turnbull. No, he's not a "scorer", but he put in 15 last year and it's nice to see him get off the schnide sooner rather than later. I think Hagelin-Rust-Turnbull has the makings of a really solid line that's outstanding defensively. I was happy to hear that Rust should be able to play this weekend. I couldn't come up with a way of finding out how he was without spoiling the result of the game, so I worried about it the entire game.

It sounds like Brandon Burlon will be able to return this week as well, and that should be a big boost to our defense corps (and in time, both special teams units).

I don't want to make judgements about the way a 6-0 (at the time) game was called, but the officiating in the third period was just terrible. Every time guys would jab after the whistle it seemed like Michigan was getting the extra penalty. I get that they were trying to not let the game get out of control but I was far more upset than I should have been in a blowout.

Hogan was outstanding in net. OSU didn't provide a ton of pressure, but he was huge when he needed to be. I remember one big, big stop he made when the game was still 2-0. And he gave up the requisite horrifically soft goal.

One of my favorite moments: During the second intermission, Caporusso was being interviewed and Art Regner asked him something about the second period the night before and was it important to have a great second period tonight so OSU couldn't get back into the game. Louie goes, "Well, the game's not over yet, so we still need to focus in the third period." Great answer, even if it made me laugh a little since it was 5-0.

As far as Friday night goes, it sounds like Sauer was just outstanding, even though he gave up 3. Red Berenson credited him with being the reason for the win, and that's telling, since Red doesn't praise guys when they don't deserve it, especially not Billy. Great to hear that both goalies had top-notch games. Hopefully they'll bring out the best in each other if this goalie competition continues.

This makes me really happy...faceoff numbers of our primary centers:
Caporusso: 61.7%
Wohlberg: 60.3%
Rust: 51.5%
Czarnik: 51.4%

I'd love to know the last time our primary centers were all over 50% on faceoffs. I'd be shocked if it's happened since I started college.

Congrats to Dwight Helminen on his first career goal last night for the Carolina Hurricanes. The Michigan NHLers have been on fire as of late. It seems like every night when I look at the NHL box scores, there are 3 or 4 Michigan guys that scored goals. Eric Nystrom got his first of the season a couple nights ago as well. I also just read that Jed Ortmeyer has been cleared to stop taking blood-thinning medication and he can resume practicing when Nashville gets back from their upcoming six game road trip. Ortmeyer hurt his knee last year and had another blood clot issue that prevented him from participating in training camp. Jed would be the 20th ex-Michigan player to play in the NHL this year. Our guys have combined for a 27-36--63 line this season.

MGoBlue had an article about various athletes' favorite Halloween costumes. Matt Rust and Louie Caporusso critiqued Ben Winnett's Dracula costume from when he was 5 years old. It's pretty funny. Caporusso praises him for his wingspread, which is kind of great.

As Ufer would say, that's all there is, there isn't any more. I can't wait til MGoBlue sorts out their video issues so the games will be archived and I don't have to completely miss the Friday night games due to my own hockey games. It makes it a lot harder to recap when you can't see em!