Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Announcement About Outdoor Game Coming

Thanks to Marshall for passing this along:
In today's Detroit News, there was an article about how the Wolverines are primed to make a run in the second half of the year. The bottom of the article has an interesting tidbit:

Officials from Wisconsin's athletic department will be making a formal announcement within the next two weeks regarding an outdoor game played at 80,000-seat Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis., in February 2010.

Back in October, the Wolverines were mentioned as the likely opponent for this game. Mike Eaves said "We want Michigan" and Coach Berenson indicated that an outdoor game with Wisconsin is something they would definitely like to explore.

So it appears the game is on, but the opponent is unknown at this point. Wisconsin wouldn't comment and Mel Pearson wasn't available. Based on the stated mutual interest between the teams, however, I think it's pretty likely there will be an exciting announcement on the horizon.

Playing at outdoor game at Wiscy would be great for a few reasons: 1) Outdoor games kick ass. 2) I live in Madison. 3) Camp Randall seats 80,000+ so the game would likely break the record set at The Cold War, plus it would keep the Wolverines in the record book, since it was reported that the Germans would try to break the Cold War record in 2010 at the World Hockey Championships. The stadium that was being discussed as the location for the German game holds about 75,500. A game at Wiscy would likely put that mark out of reach. 4) We'd knock Sparty from the record book, which is nice.

Several future Wolverines are in action in the World Under 17 Hockey Challenge. The US is 1-0 with a 12-1 win over Finland. Jacob Fallon had 2 goals and an assist in the blowout. Luke Moffatt had an assist as well. Jack Campbell got the start for the Americans and made 25 saves. The Americans beat the Pacific Canadian team 11-0 in an exhibition. Campbell made 14 saves in splitting the shutout with Will Yanakeff. The Americans play Quebec tonight.

In the World Junior Championships, the Americans will face Canada tonight with a bye to the semifinals on the line. USA is 3-0-0 in the tournament. Aaron Palushaj has a 2-2--4 line and is +4. Matt Rust has a 3-1--4 line and is also +4. He scored with 1 second left in a 7-2 hockey game to make it 8-2 and scored with 4 seconds left in what ended up being a 12-0 blowout. Phil Kessel is officially impressed. Red Wing prospect Thomas McCollum has won all three games and has a 1.67 goals against and a .909 save percentage.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

GLI Championship: Michigan 5, MSU 1

That was what we call a beatdown. Michigan won their second straight Great Lakes Invitational championship by a 5-1 margin over rival Michigan State behind a complete team effort that showcased what a poor hockey team MSU really is.

It seems strange to say this in a game that was, by hockey scores, a blowout, but the score didn't accurately represent the dominance of the Wolverines. That was a hockey game that could have legitimately been something like 13-1. The Wolverines hit at least 4 goalposts and missed about 5 gaping empty nets. Final shots in the game were 54-20.

MSU took an early lead after capitalizing on a 5 on 3. But after Travis Turnbull tied the game with a great backhand shot, it was all Wolverines the rest of the way. Ben Winnett scored the game winner off a nice play from Turnbull and a pass from Naurato.

Naurato gave the Wolverines some breathing room with his fourth of the year. He was at the front of the net and found some open space by the faceoff circle to Lerg's left. Summers got it to him and he one-timed it into the net. Really nice awareness to get himself to an open area and a great shot.

Tim Miller kept the onslaught going a few minutes later with a diving shot that beat Lerg. Then Louie Caporusso scored his fourth goal on the weekend with a gorgeous rush. He deked to his backhand and put it where the peanut-butter is.

What was really beautiful about this game was that everybody contributed. When the Wolverines can get goals from guys like Winnett, Turnbull, Miller, and Naurato they're going to be tough to beat, especially since it's looking like Caporusso has officially ascended to elite status in the NCAA. He's just one goal behind Kevin Porter's pace of last year.

Beyond the guys who actually put the puck in the net tonight, Robbie Czarnik was just flying. He led the team with six shots on goal (and had a few good ones). The kid can't buy a goal and he's visibly frustrated, but if he keeps playing like that, eventually they're going to start going in. I really think that once he puts a couple in, they're going to start coming in bunches.

Wohlberg also had six shots on goal (and he put one off the pipe) and looked great once again playing with Caporusso. I also thought Lebler had a good game. He was banging in the corners and creating some space, but he didn't take any penalties. He's had an interesting season. He's played well quite a bit of the time, but got himself benched due to some awful penalties. When he's playing smart, he's actually pretty good.

Chris Summers had a Playmaker and was +3 on the night, earning himself a spot on the All Tournament Team.

And I'd be completely remiss if I didn't give a call to our fourth line. Glendening, Fardig, and Ciraulo were fantastic the entire weekend. Glendening picked up his third assist of the tournament on a great play on Turnbull's goal, but that entire shift for the fourth liners was fantastic. Those guys got an opportunity with Palushaj and Rust away and they really made the most of it.

How big of a beatdown was this? After the first period, the Wolverines outshot Michigan State by an incredible 36-5 margin. Yes, after the first forty minutes, we had 4 goals, they had 5 shots. MSU is a bad, bad hockey team. And they played undisciplined hockey. Twice they took penalties away from the play with under five seconds to go in a period. Crowder took a complete dip-shit elbowing call, Gentile kept being Brandon Gentile...I know they beat North Dakota on Friday night, but that to me doesn't look like a hockey team that is in any danger of snapping out of this funk in the near future. They were completely outclassed.

The Wolverines on the other hand look like a team that could make a run in the second half of the season. Unless Michigan sweeps Miami and Notre Dame, which is a tough chore, I think they've dug themselves too big of a hole to win the conference, but one sweep in those two series would put them heavily in contention for a top 2 finish in the CCHA. I don't know what it is, but they just play well in front of Bryan Hogan (Michigan scored as many goals this weekend for Hogan as they have the entire season for Sauer). Caporusso is arguably the best player in the country right now, Kampfer's return bolsters the defense, and the Wolverines are starting to get contributions from the supporting cast, which is a great sign.

After taking next weekend off, the Wolverines return to action the following Friday in a huge home series against the Miami Redhawks. In the meantime, we're GLI champs again and I'm really happy about it. I love that tournament and I love seeing that Michigan banner hanging from the rafters.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Michigan 5, MTU 0

A quick wrap-up:

Louie Caporusso gave Michigan all the offense they needed. He scored twice in the first four minutes and completed the natural hat trick just past the midway point of the first period. Anthony Ciraulo added another and the Wolverines went to the dressing room up 4-0.

They kind of put it on cruise control after that, from the sound of things. There was no scoring in the second period and Brandon Burlon scored his second of the year in the third, and the Wolverines advanced to the GLI Championship Game with a 5-0 win.

Caporusso now has 17 goals in 19 games to start the season (after scoring 12 a year ago). To compare, Kevin Porter scored 19 in 20 a year ago. It's amazing that Caporusso could actually match Porter's torrid start with a big game tomorrow night.

David Wohlberg kept up his stellar offensive play with a trio of assists (do they have such a thing as a Natural Playmaker to go with Caporusso's Natural Hat Trick?). He apparently stole the puck in the Tech end on both of the first two goals.

Luke Glendening scored the first two points of his Michigan career with assists on Ciraulo's and Burlon's goals. I think those were actually the first two Michigan goals he's been on the ice for, if I'm not mistaken. So congrats to Luke! Danny Fardig assisted on both of those goals as well.

Bryan Hogan made 15 saves for his second shutout of the season, but it didn't sound like he was ever tested. Tech had seven shots in the first, was held to just one shot in the second, and put another seven on him in the third. It didn't sound like any were of a "Grade A" variety, however. So an outstanding defensive effort--or just complete offensive ineptness on the part of the Techsters. MTU had several power plays and couldn't get anything going (Michigan didn't do anything on the PP either).

Steve Kampfer made his return to the lineup and absolutely lit up a Huskie in the third period. Nice to see that he's not gunshy about hitting after returning from that injury.

The Wolverines will get a chance to defend their GLI crown against either MSU or North Dakota in the Championship Game at 6:30 tomorrow night. The game will air on Fox Sports Detroit. It'd be good for the conference (and our strength of schedule) if MSU won tonight, but I have a feeling we'll be seeing North Dakota, who has gotten it together after a bad start. And the masochists who get to the Joe early would be seeing MTU/MSU. Take the under if that game happens.

Edit: It's Michigan/MSU. The Spartans got out to a 2-0 lead and held on for a 2-1 win. Good for the conference, good for attendance purposes, it's always good to quell some WCHA woofing, and it's good that one of the CCHA teams will win the GLI Championship. It's bad for Goon. It should be a fun one. I just hope that the Wolverines will bring a strong effort. They've had a couple of real stinkers against MSU in the GLI before and I don't understand how you could possibly NOT get jacked up for a game like that.

Scoring early would be big. Don't let Lerg get any momentum. Don't let the team start thinking that Lerg is unbeatable. Make State play from behind. If Lerg comes out and makes some big stops early, MSU could win one of those typical 2-1 games where Lerg makes 52 saves (30 of which were actual shots on goal). I would expect that Lerg will have to play a great game for MSU to have a chance, but then again, I fully expected to play North Dakota tomorrow, so that shows what I know.

It's strange that after back-to-back shutouts in the GLI last year, Sauer won't be making an appearance (barring a collapse--so let's
hope he doesn't make an appearance) in the tournament, since the radio reported that Hogan would be starting tomorrow if he won today.

The Wolverines move to 1-0 when I wear my new white jersey! Hopefully it's got some luck in it.

Michigan. MSU. GLI Championship. Gotta love it!

GLI Coverage, or a Lack Thereof

Sorry for the lack of coverage and for the lack of a tourney preview. I've been unexpectedly busy over the holidays and it just didn't get done. I'm not even going to be able to make it down to The Joe for the game this afternoon. I'd write up something about Tech, but the game starts in like 20 minutes so the chances of anyone reading it are slim and none. To the Hockey Gods: In no way should this be construed as me looking past Tech. If you have a problem with a lack of a preview, take it up with the D-Bag Leaving Fence Posts In Middle Of The Road Taking Out My Tire and Wheel and Making Me Get My Car Fixed Gods.

I'm heading back to Madison tomorrow and I have my DVR set to tape the Championship Game, so if the Wolverines win today, I'll at least be able to watch/cover the game tomorrow. But as much as I'd like to write a preview if we're going to be facing NoDak, I don't think it's going to happen. Goon's World is a good NoDak resource. Tech Hockey Blog will probably have coverage from our first opponent's point of view as well.

If we face Sparty, nothing much has changed since the last time we played them, except that they're two players lighter and they lost to the NTDP yet again.

Quick hitters:
-Kampfer is back, Vaughan is apparently the odd man out on the blueline.
-USA won their opener against Germany 8-2. Matt Rust had the ultimate "Kessel": An unassisted goal at 19:59 of the third period on an end-to-end rush. I'm surprised that didn't cause a fight.
-Mac Bennett is going to miss a couple of weeks with a sprained MCL.

Go Blue!

I hope everyone had a great holiday. I'll be back in full force soon enough!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Odds and Ends

Steve Kampfer is coming back. From the sounds of it, there's a good chance that he's going to play in the GLI. It'll be interesting to see how they handle the glut of defensemen. I seem to remember reading earlier in the week, maybe at The Wolverine, that Red said he wouldn't dress seven defensemen and that Kampfer's not just going to step in and play like he hasn't missed any time.

They could slide Summers back up front and have him available to move back to defense if Kampfer struggles--or if they need him on the PK or something. I like that option because it gets the best 18 skaters on the ice, though it's awful tough to move the guy who has been your best defenseman to this point.

Having Kampfer back will no doubt be a boost to the team. Even if his on-ice performance isn't up to last year's standards (or his first weekend's standards) right away, having him back out there should thrill everyone on the team. Not to mention the benefit that possibly having Summers at forward could provide. We're not that far away up front. Michigan has scored plenty of goals with Hogan in net, they just need the consistency. Another high-quality forward would help with that.

State lost to the NTDP (again). If they get swept at the GLI, that will be two full months without a victory.

Speaking of the NTDP, after a fairly slow start, Luke Moffatt now leads the U-17s in goals with 11. The other stats haven't been updated in a couple games, but Jacob Fallon is fourth in scoring and second in assists. Jack Campbell has also rebounded from a slow start. He has an 8-3-0 record with a 2.16/.902, which I believe are very, very solid stats for a goalie on the U-17s.

MHNet had a pu-pu platter of good stuff, mostly about ex-Wolverines.

I think this is a $ link, but The Wolverine had some good stuff as well, about Summers growing into a leadership role. There was also a nice tidbit about how the hockey team spent a lot of time ringing bells at Briarwood for the Salvation Army.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Michigan 5, MSU 3

Photo by Greg Sommers

With about 3 minutes to go in regulation the Wolverines were down by a goal and didn't show any signs of mounting a comeback. I was seething, but not at all surprised that we were about to lose to that dogcrap team in East Lansing. Then Ben Winnett hit Brandon Burlon who was streaking out of the zone like he was a forward, Jeff Petry needlessly pinched up, Burlon found Carl Hagelin and the game was tied.

Two minutes later, two more pucks had gone in the Michigan net and every member of the Wolverines was skating out of Munn with a win for the first time in their careers.

The first period was downright dull, especially thinking back to the hockey we saw at Yost the night before. There were a few power plays, but nothing much went right for either team. Shots after the first were 15-9 in favor of Michigan, but each team only had one truly great scoring chance: Summers with another breakaway for Michigan and a tight shot by Kivisto that hit the post to the right of Hogan.

By the way, I've long had a theory that MSU inflates the hell out of Jeff Lerg's stats and Saturday's game did nothing to change my mind. 15 shots in the first period for us? I would have estimated half of that. I don't buy it for a second that we had 15.

Michigan got a power play early in the second and got nothing more than a wrister from Burlon at the top of the circle. A few minutes later Tristin Llewellyn absolutely planted Crowder as he brought the puck into the zone. He then threw an elbow to Crowder's head for good measure. Crowder retaliated and punched him in the face a few times. Llewellyn did nothing after the initial elbow but was still assessed a Roughing ATW penalty to keep the MSU power play in tact. It was absolutely ridiculous and MSU scored on the subsequent power play, a great shot by Petry over Hogan's shoulder.

Thankfully Tweedle-Dumb and Tweedle-Dumber gave it right back to us a few minutes later. Petry hit Naurato with what looked like a hard, but clean, check and eight seconds later (keep in mind MSU had the puck the whole time) the back referee whistled Petry for elbowing. Petry was all the way at his bench when the whistle went, and he started cracking up. I haven't seen a look of disbelief like that since Jack Johnson's "For what?!" reaction after he got tossed for not hitting Howells from behind.

During the power play, Crowder cross-checked Chad Langlais, giving the Wolverines a 5 on 3. Greg Pateryn flipped a shot wide of the net. It took a big bounce off the end boards and popped back to the side of the net. Travis Turnbull was able to beat his man and knock it into the net with a little backhander. If you're counting, that's the fourth goal on the weekend that was a direct result of either a ref getting in the way of a puck or an absolutely abysmal call. Defend your boys, Pio. They were horrid all weekend. Luckily it went both ways.

The Wolverines stayed on the power play and were able to capitalize again. David Wohlberg flipped one to the side of the net and somehow Travis Turnbull was able to jam it in for his second goal in under a minute.

Czarnik had a great chance to make it 3-1. Hagelin wrapped around the net and slid it right through the slot. Czarnik couldn't find the handle, though. That's a kid that just needs someone to shoot one in off his butt or something. Once he gets one, I bet he gets it going. He hasn't been bad...the pucks just aren't going in the net for him. You can tell he's frustrated.

Later in the shift, he put one in the net, but the whistle had already gone. The puck was loose behind Lerg and was sitting right on the goal line. The whistle went before Czarnik could get there and tap it in. After two, the Wolverines had a 2-1 lead.

And just like that, they were down 3-2. Hogan gave up another really cheap goal. MSU dumped the puck in right on net. Hogan put it to his stick like he was going to move it up ice, but Leveille got on him pretty quickly. The puck was knocked loose and Gazely put it in.

Shortly thereafter, there was quite the turn of events. Wohlberg went hard to the net and raised his stick like he had scored. The puck didn't go in and MSU broke out of the zone. Scooter Vaughan went for the hit and missed and the Spartans came in 3 on 1. Llewellyn couldn't block the pass across and Gazely had another tap-in.

Nothing much happened--aside from Llewellyn lighting up Trevor Nill--until there were six minutes to go. It appeared the Wolverines were headed for a power play but Wohlberg got called for cross-checking after the whistle to even it up. Those knuckleheads don't deserve the benefit of the doubt, but I'll give it to them on that one. The only thing on camera was Wohlberg lightly brushing against a Spartan player. That couldn't have been the call if they were calling cross-checking, and we never saw a replay of the scrum.

That seemed like it might be it. Michigan threw away a shot at a power play and MSU was full-on into lead conservation mode. Miller had a chance at an open net but tipped it just wide. It was looking grim.

The Winnett hit Burlon on a breakout and the Wolverines won a game they absolutely had to have.

After Hagelin's goal, the Wolverines had the puck down in the MSU end and Aaron Palushaj, who had been AWOL most of the game, made a beautiful stick-lift to keep the puck in the zone. He fed David Wohlberg who slid a pass cross-crease to Louie Caporusso, who added yet another clutch goal to an ever-growing list of crucial tallies in his career. That was Wohlberg's third assist of the game, as he continues his phenomenal play. Travis Turnbull added an empty-netter for a hat trick and the Wolverines had a 5-3 victory, thanks to three goals in the final two minutes and change.

It wasn't a pretty win, but they found a way to pull one out in a place where they've struggled over the years. Michigan heads into the break tied for fifth in the CCHA with OSU and Ferris State (who has played 14 games to Michigan's 12). They're 1 point behind Nebraska-Omaha, three behind the surprising Nanooks, six behind Notre Dame, and nine behind Miami (with two games in hand on the RedHawks). They face an uphill battle to get back into the mix in the CCHA, but with two against Miami and two against ND still to play, all isn't lost. Just sweep Miami after the GLI, and we're 5 back of them with two games in hand. That first series of the new year looks very, very big if we're going to get back into contention for the conference title.

Michigan is off until after Christmas, when they'll face Michigan Tech and either North Dakota or Michigan State in the Great Lakes Invitational.


Saturday, December 06, 2008

Michigan 6, MSU 1

You know what I loved about last night's game--beside the whole beating the ever loving piss out of MSU thing? I loved the fact that, for the first time in recent memory against the Spartans, Michigan came out and laid the wood to them. They were the aggressors. They were the ones making life hell on Spartan puck-carriers. Summers, Scooter, Digger, Wohlberg, Pateryn, Turnbull...they were all looking to hit the Spartans and make it hurt. Through two periods, shots were listed as 28-12 in Michigan's favor. Aside from general ineptitude on MSU's part, that was the biggest reason Michigan dominated the game last night.

The first half of the game was really entertaining from a hockey standpoint. The second half was really entertaining from a "**** MSU" standpoint. Through 25-30 minutes, that was about as good of a Michigan/MSU game as I've seen since the 5-4 OT game at the Joe a few years back. It was hard-hitting, back-and-forth, lots of good scoring chances, two shorties, and scrums after nearly ever whistle. They brought some nasty back into the rivalry, and I like that.

The only downer of the night was that our power play kind of sucked. Michigan got a 5 minute power play right out of the gate when Brandon Gentile was tossed for smoking Caporusso from behind. Aside from one chance for Summers, Michigan didn't get anything going the entire time. To make matters worse, a linesman got in Llewellyn's way leading to a 2 on 1 for the Spartans, which they capitalized on to take a 1-0 lead.

With Palushaj in the box for goalie interference (we'll get to that in a little bit), Summers lifted Schepke's stick and Hagelin was able to knock the puck away. Matt Rust corralled it and fed Summers in front of the net for a SHG of our own. That was a case of three great penalty killers getting rewarded for the effort.

Shortly thereafter, Summers was off to the races again. At the last second he tried to feed Wohlberg in front. Wohlberg got the shot off, but the pass was in his skates and he couldn't get that much on it. Summers just took off though. He was jumping up into the play quite a bit last night. It was really nice to see. As fast as he is, I feel like he should have the green light to go every now and then. He can get back on D.

Some great work by Palushaj and Caporusso led to the eventual game-winning goal. Palushaj did the dirty work behind the net and knocked the puck free. Caporusso dug it out and made a sweet little spin move to control the puck. He fired a pass to Wohlberg who tapped it into a wide open net.

The third goal was the result of the linesman returning the favor MSU got on their first goal as well as some dominant play by the Wolverines in the offensive zone. An MSU clearing attempt got into the linesman's skates and Michigan held it in. Play continued in the MSU zone for a full minute--this wasn't a power play, folks--and Michigan had at least 3 great scoring chances, including a post by Wohlberg, before Caporusso found Palushaj open for another tap in. The puck nearly came out with 8:45 remaining in the period, the goal was scored at 7:41. Great work by Palushaj, Caporusso, Wohlberg, Burlon, and Scooter. MSU had a couple chances to clear, but the D kept it in and the forwards had an incredible shift.

Hogan wasn't overly busy last night, but he did make two huge stops when it was 3-1. He made a nice save on Tropp and then robbed Crowder on the follow up. It kept MSU from gaining back any momentum. He also made a nice save on Turek as time expired in an MSU power play.

Lebler...what the hell was he thinking? He got tossed for a blatant hit from behind. The puck was 10 feet away at the time and he smoked the MSU player. Everyone knew it was going to be five, and, I honestly think he was kind of lucky he didn't get DQ'ed for that one. Jack Johnson would've gotten a 5-game suspension. He has to be smarter than that. Back to back games he's put us on a 5 minute penalty kill when the outcome was still in doubt. I know he was probably just trying to keep up with the physical trend of the game, but there was plenty of time to pull up on that one.

Thankfully, MSU's 5 minute power play went about as well as ours did in the early going. I don't think they really came near our net. They only registered one shot on goal on that power play. Fardig, in particular, did some great work toward the end of that PK.

I can't remember the exact play--pretty sure it was another occasion where he got in on the forecheck and stole the puck--but I wrote in my notes that "it's a crime against humanity if Carl Hagelin doesn't win Best Defensive Forward in the CCHA this year". He really is unbelievable.

We were awarded a 5 on 3 after a trip and a hit from behind that was called cross-checking (shouldn't have been five, so it didn't really matter what it got called). Michigan came out with their "Penalty Kill" power play unit and once the top line got out there, Hagelin was called for a crease violation even though he never touched the goalie and wasn't in the crease. That killed all the momentum and Michigan never really got control again on that man advantage.

Wohlberg buried another one after Winnett made a nice little deke to split two defenders. He slid it back to Summers who ripped one wide of the net. The puck took a nice bounce off the end boards and came out to Wohlberg on the other side of the net for yet another tap-in. Whether Summers meant to miss the net or not, Lidstrom couldn't have done that any better.

Just over a minute later, the rout was on. Pateryn sent a nice slap-pass to Naurato, who made no mistake. Lerg got hung out to dry an awful lot in this one. Hard to say any of these were really his fault. That got Mini-Me the hook and Palmisano came in.

Things didn't go any better for him. Brandon Burlon decided now would be a good time to get his first goal and absolutely undressed Justin Johnston and beat Palmisano over the glove. He was really excited about that one and rightfully so.

Scary moment when Caporusso limped off the ice and the announcers said it was a kneeing penalty coming to MSU. I was worried for a second until the replay showed it was Palushaj who got kneed. The impact spun him around and his foot went straight between Louie's legs. That hurt to watch.

Other stuff from the game:
-Blue Wall alert (as I roll my eyes)! At the start of the game, the comment was uttered that "The only difference between Jeff Lerg and Roberto Luongo is about 8 million dollars a year."

-Student section: The wave really doesn't have a place in hockey. Please stop. I'm begging on that one.

-Let's talk for a minute about the officiating. I take back what a said about last week's game at Wisconsin. Aaron and McInchak (and the linesmen) put on a clinic of how not to officiate a hockey game. I've never seen four guys get in the way of more pucks. Two goals were caused by the linesmen getting in the way. Aaron got in the way of a pass behind the net from D to D and it nearly led to an MSU scoring chance, except McInchak was out at center ice and whistled the play dead for absolutely no reason (the announcers thought the net came off, but no one ever touched it). He also got in the way of an MSU dump in on the power play, leading to an easy clear.

We saw Palushaj get hauled down, Wohlberg get round-housed in the ensuing scrum, and the penalties end up even (even though the original call was going against MSU). Amazingly, Tropp was called for holding on that one. And Wohlberg got 4 for slashing. And the original trip either wasn't called or they sent the guy off for "grasping the facemask"....hmm.

Crowder took a dip**** slash at one of our guys after the play, which was getting called. A scrum ensued, and only Llewellyn was given a roughing penalty, even though you know it would've been evened up had the original penalty not been called.

Palushaj got called for back-to-back goalie interference penalties, one of which was cheap, but slightly legit. On the other, he got drilled from behind into Lerg. Keeping with the trend, Lebler pushed a defenseman into the shrimp and he got called for goalie interference. Seems fair.

Bob Z got a ten minute misconduct for the crime of getting tackled, which was of course missed. Then there was that wonderful crease-violation-that-wasn't. The only thing those jokers got right the entire game was the five minute majors to Gentile and Lebler. It was an exhibition in incompetence from start to finish. To quote Lloyd Carr, "This is what happens when you hire stupid people." Pio, you need to come back. The fact that those two can get assigned to a Michigan/MSU game speaks to the sorry state of officiating in this league.

I'm not sure if my DVD recorder will allow me to put up video clips (it only takes DVD+Rs, my computer hates those) but if I can pull it off, I might have to make a montage. It was really special.

-David Wohlberg might be the best player on our team at the moment. He had open nets on both of his goals, but he continues to produce at an unexpected level, while being a great penalty killer and a very good faceoff man (even though he's not taking draws on the top line). It's amazing what confidence can do. 2 goals and 2 posts last night.

-Summers was amazing. He really had the after-burners going, scored a goal by jumping into the play, had a couple other nice chances, set the tone with a huge hit on a Spartan in the early going, and was as active as I've ever seen him from the defensive position. Usually he's just solid as a rock back there but you don't notice him all that much. He was all over the ice last night.

Stuff from the stats:
-With the score 3-1 and MSU on the power play for over two minutes to start the third, Michigan outshot the Spartans 13-3 in the third period and scored 3 goals to turn the game into a blowout.

-Our new top line combined for 3 goals, 5 assists, and a +8 rating. Caporusso had a play-maker.

-Palushaj has 16 assists in 17 games.

-Caporusso had 4 assists for the season entering the game and had 3 last night.

-MSU is now winless in 10. They've scored 13 goals in those games.

-Hogan has gotten 43 goals of support. 10 for Sauer.

According to The Wolverine, Red has indicated that Hogan will get the start tonight. I would imagine that we'll see Lerg again for the Spartans. He was hung out on pretty much all the goals and I've got to believe one of the reasons he was given the hook is that we'll be seeing him again tonight.

The Teddy Bear Toss was a rousing success last night, with a record number of bears being collected for donation to Mott's Children's Hospital. Nice job everyone!

The Hoover Street Rag liveblogged the game.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

10 Things to Know About Michigan State

A reminder: TV tomorrow is on FSN Plus but if you want to catch it on a dish or at a sports bar, check out Fox Sports Arizona or Fox Sports Rocky Mountain (1 hour tape delay). Saturday is on Comcast 900 or the NHL Network if you're in Canada. It'll be re-aired Sunday afternoon on the NHLN. Or you could buy tickets since there are still lots available for a game at Munn. I looked earlier and could still get 10 together.

1) MSU is 10th place in the CCHA with an overall record of 4-9-3 and a conference record of 2-6-2-2. They haven't won a game since Halloween night when they beat WMU 3-1. Since then they lost seven in a row, bookended by two ties. Before exploding for four goals in a 4-4 tie against Minnesota, the Spartans had scored 0, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1 goal in their last seven games. It's like they're starting Billy Sauer in net every night. They've scored more than 2 goals just three times this season. Wins: U-Mass, Mass-Lowell, NMU, WMU.

2) The other problem? They aren't keeping the puck out of their net. They haven't given up fewer than 3 goals in a game since November 1, a span of 8 games in which they've given up 31 goals.

3) For the season they've got 25 goals in 16 games and they've got 14 goals in 8 games of CCHA play. Only Michigan Tech (get your GLI tickets now!) and RPI have worse offenses. Defensively they're 27th at 2.69 goals per game.

4) Tim Crowder (he's still there?!) leads the team in points with 10. Daultan Leveille and Matt Schepke lead the team in goals with 5 apiece.

5) Jeff Lerg actually has pretty good numbers for a guy who has been getting shelled lately. He's got a 2.57/.920 for the year, but has just a 3-8-1 record. So much for that Hobey campaign. Tear. Freshman Drew Palmisano (who is from Ann Arbor) has a 1-1-2 record with a 2.40/.915. He played 3 games in November and got the start against the Gophers after Wisconsin presumably wore Lerg out, outshooting MSU 53-12.

6) For as bad as they are, they aren't taking a ton of penalties. They're just 38th in the country at 14.9 minutes per. The power play is just 10.5%, but they have scored 8 of their 25 goals with the man advantage. A couple guys have two, but no one is going crazy with the man advantage for them. The PK is surprisingly good, 88.6%, but no shorties for.

7) For the record, MSU hasn't finished sub-.500 since 1990-91. Michigan leads the all-time series 128-118-18 (MSU has it at 132-119-18), though it seems like all of those ties must have come in the past 5 years. Actually seven have come in the last 20 games.

8) MSU has played their opponents even in the first period with 7 goals for and 7 allowed. The rest of the game though? Avert your eyes. They have a 14-8 defecit in the second period and a 22-10 defecit in the third.

9) Michigan will be down their leading point-man against MSU. Mark Mitera leads the team with 8 career points vs. Sparty. Chris Summers is next with 3-3--6 in 10 games. Palushaj has 3 points in 4 games. Hogan has never faced the Spartans, but rumblings have been that he might get both games this weekend. Sauer has a 4-4-5 record with a 2.77/.900. He's been money against them in Ann Arbor, though it appears he's played his last game against Sparty at Yost.

10) The Spartans have been getting smoked on faceoffs this year, winning just 44%. Leveille takes the majority of the draws and he's an abysmal 37.1%. Warda is the only guy who plays that is over 50%. Tim Crowder has been the Wolverine-killer with 7-5--12 in 15 games, with 5 on the power play. Sucharski, who is out for the year, had six points. Jeff Petry has 4 points in 4 games. Jeff Lerg is 6-4-4 with a 2.51/.918 against Michigan.

Two other things:
Ryan Kennedy from The Hockey News did a feature story about Luke Moffatt. Moffatt apparently fancies himself as a power forward, which kind of surprised me because I was under the impression he was tiny. He's listed as 6'0" 165, so Jason Ryznar he is not. I guess he really likes Keith Tkachuk though.

I don't care for the uncertainty in this paragraph:

Moffatt’s next destination is still unsettled, but he could be staying right where he is, thanks to a verbal commitment to the University of Michigan, also located in Ann Arbor.

Also, Chris Dilks wrote a very nice piece as a diary entry over at MGoBlog about the fellas who are committed but have yet to put on the Michigan sweater.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Midweek Stuff

Lots of quick hitters today:

-Aaron Palushaj and Matt Rust were named to the USA World Junior team, so we'll be without their services for the GLI as they try to bring a gold back to the US. Rust will wear #9 and Palushaj will be #7. Louie Caporusso was not one of the players invited to the Canada try-out camp. Bad news for Louie, but good news for the Wolverines who need to get two wins at the GLI.

-Steve Kampfer is skating with the team, and he's not even wearing a red "no contact" jersey. He continues his remarkable comeback from a well-publicized off-ice incident. It's been reported he could possibly return for the GLI, but with twelve days between the annual holiday tournament and our return to CCHA action, it wouldn't be a shocker to see them be on the safe side. Still, I don't think anyone expected that he might return this soon. Having him back should be a huge boost to the team, and might even allow Summers to take another crack at forward. God knows our offense could use another scorer.

-David Wohlberg is going to get a shot with the top line. It's well deserved. Apart from Carl Hagelin, Wohlberg might have been Michigan's best player last weekend. He's been consistently great for over a month now. He'll get a chance to skate with Palushaj and Caporusso. I like it. Nothing against the guys he was playing with before--as the whole line was really great against Minnesota--but he's earned the opportunity to play with two of the best players in the country. I'm curious to see what he can do.

-TV for this weekend: Friday's game will be aired on FSN Plus in Metro Detroit. It's basically Fox Sports Detroit's overflow channel. Normally that would mean that those of us out of state (or with a dish) are out of luck, but for some reason, Fox Sports Arizona and Fox Sports Rocky Mountain are showing the game as well. I believe FSNA is showing it live and FSNRM is showing it on an hour tape delay. Maybe the people in Phoenix want to see Chris Summers play? Maybe Kevin Porter is that influential? I don't know. But I'm happy about it.

Saturday's game will be shown live on Comcast 900 (and the NHL Network in Canada) and then the NHL Network in the US on Sunday morning.

-If you're not doing anything on Saturday, I've read that there are a ton of tickets available for the game at Munn. As of two days ago, you could buy a block of 10 together. I can't imagine the Sparties have been falling over themselves to snap them up. Paint that arena maize!

-Michigan has (finally) launched an official photo store. This was a long time coming. It's a work in progress but there's already some great stuff up there. Some favorites:
If they get a photo of Desmond doing the Heisman pose or Woodson's "Hail Yes" up there, you know they're selling a TON. Pretty reasonable pricing too. The framed ones are kind of expensive but 14 x 17 (I assume) for $30 ain't bad at all.

-Lastly, I have to comment on Sean Avery. The dude is a complete boob, but to get suspended for that? Come on. It was funny! Off-color, totally unnecessary, but funny! You think guys don't say worse than that every game on the ice? If the NHL only suspended McLennan for the goon-fest that Calgary laid on Detroit in the playoffs a couple years back, it's absurd to suspend a guy for multiple games for saying that Dion Phaneuf is getting his sloppy seconds. (Tenuous Michigan connection: Mike Komisarek would have been getting his sloppy seconds as well...allegedly.)

I mean, isn't 2 games what Claude The Fraud ultimately got for breaking Kris Draper's face? (Granted they were games in the Stanley Cup Finals) Now we're suspending guys for being immature. The wussification of the NHL continues. He didn't even say anything that bad! Do you think Avery would get offended if Rod Stewart called him up and said, "You know Sean, you were getting my sloppy seconds too." (Thanks Scotty.) He didn't even go Adam Levine and talk about how so-and-so sucked in bed. This is up there with Nascar docking guys points for swearing on TV but allowing them to intentionally cause accidents with no penalty (::cough::DaleJarrettRichmond::cough::).

The NHL can claim he's bringing bad publicity to the sport, but I'm sorry, suspending Avery just drew more attention to his comments. Ignore it and it might get mentioned in the last minute of PTI and that's it. Suspend him and it's the top story on PTI, the top story on, and the sports world is talking about it. The only way they could have brought more attention to a nothing story would have been for Gary Bettman to yell out "I'M A MAN! I'M 40!"

Plus they denied me the sure 5 PIMs my fantasy team would have gotten when Phaneuf threw down with Avery.