Monday, March 31, 2008

More on Michigan's Win Over Clarkson

Other comments from the win that put Michigan into the Frozen Four for the first time since 2003:

-The penalty kill was amazing. Clarkson doesn't have the best power play in the country by any means, but holding them to 0-0 with nine shots on goal was pretty awesome. Clarkson had four straight power plays in the late-first and early-second period when it was still 1-0 and Michigan killed them off and allowed just three shots. Niagara had 3 power plays the night before and Michigan didn't give up a single shot on goal. Bravo PK!

-I still can't get over those stops that Sauer had at the end of the game during the 6-on-3. A couple of the saves toward the end of the sequence were positively Hasek-like (he dropped his stick and everything).

-I'll have to go back and watch the tape again, but on one viewing, I thought Chad Langlais played a really strong game defensively. I know I saw him out there on a couple of PKs doing a very nice job. And Mitera was as good as he's been since the first half of the season.

-I can't tell you how many times I yelled "Win a faceoff!" (with slightly more profanity). 33/80 isn't so good.

-I thought the officiating by Chip McDonald on Friday night was pretty good. I can't say as much for Tim Benedetto Saturday. I'll get more into it later when I do the "Going Upstairs" feature on the games, but I was pretty aggravated for most of the game.

-After being outshot 17-14 through two periods, the Wolverines game out like gang-busters to start the third. Final shots in the period ended up being 18-10, but I want to say it was like 17-4 at one point. And they tallied that all-important second goal.

-Interesting stat: With BC's win today, Jerry York moved into a tie with Jack Parker for the most NCAA Tournament wins all-time with 26. Red Berenson has 25 wins, meaning that if Michigan beats North Dakota for the Championship, Red will take over the top spot. If we beat BC (or if we lose to North Dakota) Red would be in a tie for first.

The Wolverines will now face the surprising Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who knocked off New Hampshire and Spartina over the weekend to advance to Denver. Michigan will be playing in the late game (9 pm EDT) a week from Thursday. Even if there are overtimes, the teams will have Friday off before the Championship Game, so early vs. late doesn't really matter in this case.

Michigan and Notre Dame will be joined (as expected) by North Dakota and Boston College, though neither team had it easy. Both teams were down by 2 goals past the halfway point of the game before rallying for overtime wins.

In the next week and a half, I'm hoping to have the following articles up:
-Going Upstairs reviews of our games against Niagara and Clarkson
-Going Upstairs review of our thrilling 3-2 win over Notre Dame from earlier in the year
-10 Things to Know About Notre Dame, North Dakota, and Boston College

I'm seriously thinking about making the trip to Denver. It wasn't looking so good as of last night, but there are some cheap flights out of Chicago so it looks a lot more doable. I should know in the next day or two. Hopefully we'll see a big contingent of maize and blue out in the Mile High City.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Frozen Four Bound! Michigan 2, Clarkson 0

More later, going out to celebrate, but the Wolverines advance despite not playing a great game and taking an absolutely ton of penalties (a couple of them were even deserved!).

Aaron Palushaj got the Wolverines started on the ole fake shot, wrap-around that seems to work an absurdly high percentage of the time. Kevin Porter put Michigan up by a pair very early in the third period on a beautiful feed from Pacioretty after Kolarik stole the puck.

The star tonight was between the pipes. Billy Sauer played an absolutely fantastic game. I would've said flawless, but that's kind of redundant with the 2-0 final. When they started reffing the score in the last two minutes, Sauer made no less than 7 point blank saves during a 6 on 3 (he got a little help from the bar and Chad Kolarik as well), including 3 blockbusters.

Five goals and an assist on the weekend for Porter, six assists for Kolarik. One goal allowed by Sauer and an outstanding weekend by Mitera. Big time players....

Michigan will face the winner of the Michigan State/Notre Dame game that is just about to face-off. The CCHA is now 5-0 on the tournament, about to be 6-1, with two teams guaranteed into the Frozen Four, and one guaranteed to make the NCAA Championship game. For the record, the WCHA is 2-4, will be 3-5 after tomorrow, and can put a maximum of one team into the Frozen Four. But they weren't overrated this year or anything....

NCAA Regional Semifinal: Michigan 5, Niagara 1

It was a performance that the Hobey Baker voters simply can't ignore. Marred in a 1-0 game, Kevin Porter notched a natural hat trick and later added an empty net goal to put the Wolverines into the second round for the first time since 2005.

It wasn't a game that was too dissimilar from what was expected. Niagara did play Michigan tough. For awhile. They jumped out to a 4-2 edge in shots in the first six minutes and went into the first intermission tied 0-0. It took Michigan a little while to get going, but once Max Pacioretty put the Wolverines ahead and Kevin Porter started to do what he does, it was pretty clear that Niagara would not pull a Holy Cross.

Michigan's defense was pretty fantastic. After giving up four shots in the early going, Michigan held Niagara off the shot chart for more than 20 minutes. After the second period, shots on goal were 30-9 favoring the top seed. Eventually, Niagara was able to crack Billy Sauer, but at that point it was already 4-0 and there was no time to even think about a comeback. Niagara was only able to muster a small handful of legit scoring chances and the Wolverines did an excellent job on Ted Cook, who put in 32 goals just a year ago.

As you'd expect when the opposing team only has 15 or so shots on goal, Billy Sauer didn't have to be great, but he had a pair of brilliant stops when the game was still in doubt. His best save came when it was 2-0 in the middle of the second period. The puck bounced into the slot, and Sauer snared a wrister from the hash mark and didn't give up a rebound. It was a key save because it didn't allow Niagara any momentum.

The night, however, belonged to the best player in the country. After he tapped in a rebound to put Michigan up 2-0, I thought, "Good. That helps the Hobey case that Porter was able to pot one tonight." Little did I know that he was just getting started. By the end of the night, Porter would take the national lead in points, points per game, goals, and goals per game. The prettiest tally was the fourth, a beautiful passing play between Porter, Palushaj and Kolarik.

Kolarik has gone on record saying that his goal was to help Porter win the Hobey and he sure helped tonight. 5 assists, which tied the record for an NCAA Tournament game, helped Porter along to his four goals, which set a Regional mark. But he shouldn't be a Hobey Finalist too. Riiight.

As Cap Raeder said during the telecast, during the NCAA Tournament, your best players have to be your best players, and Michigan's were tonight. Four goals for Porter, five assists for Kolarik, a goal and two assists for Pacioretty, two assists for Palushaj. Hard to beat that.

So the Wolverines move on to face the Clarkson Golden Knights, which will give Red Berenson a chance to get revenge on the team that spoiled Michigan's national title dreams during his final season as a player. They advanced with a 2-1 win over St. Cloud this afternoon.

The Golden Knights didn't seem to be an overly skilled team, but they're big, they hit, and in general they seemed to be the type of squad that we've struggled against somewhat this year. Their goalie was leaving some rebounds, but St. Cloud never had anyone crashing the net to pounce on them. I was impresed with a few of Clarkson's players. Cayer, Clitsome, Guthrie, and Zalewski all played really well today. As was the case with Nigara, this is a team we should beat, but it's not a team that can't beat us.

Out in the West Regional, I owe a couple teams--and Chris at Western College Hockey--an apology. Notre Dame told me to shut up in pretty much the best way possible. I questioned if they would even score a goal against New Hampshire, and instead they potted seven. I don't even care that two were empty-netters. That was really impressive. Combine that with MSU's win over Colorado College--which also surprised me--and the CCHA is guaranteed at least one team in the Frozen Four this year. Michigan and Miami will also have a chance. I guess the lesson here is don't bet on notorious chokers like St. Cloud and the University of No Hardware.

How bout that CCHA by the way? Knocking off the WCHA Champion as well as the Hockey East Champion tonight. And that doesn't even account for the two best teams in the conference. At this point, the CCHA is 3-0 and the WCHA is 0-2. You can pretty much make that 4-1 vs. 1-3, since either Denver or Wisconsin has to lose tomorrow and either MSU or Notre Dame has to win. Shiiiiit.

That 1-3 record also matches my record in picks so far. Combine that with my abysmal showing when I predicted the semis/championships in the conference tournament and I'm pretty happy that my NHL picks have gone as well as they have this year.

Don't look now, but if Michigan and MSU win their games tomorrow, the schools will meet in the tournament for the first time in history. In the national semifinals. I would also say that if Michigan wins tomorrow, there's no way that Kevin Porter doesn't get the Hobey Baker. Especially not after the performance he had tonight. Big time players make big time plays in big time games.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Final Thoughts Before We Get Underway

Here are my picks for the tournament as a whole, plus a few parting thoughts:

West Regional:
1. UNH over 4. Notre Dame:
New Hampshire is clearly the better team, they're used to playing on the big ice, and Notre Dame has been playing like absolute crap for at least a couple of months. Both teams have very good goalies--Regan is a Hobey Finalist and Pearce won the CCHA Goaltending Title if I'm not mistaken. The big difference is that UNH can put the puck in the net and Notre Dame really can't. Since February began, Notre Dame has played 13 games. They've scored more than two goals exactly three times. In six of those games, they scored 0 or 1 goal. Now their leading scorer is out for the season. The only way Notre Dame wins this game is if Pearce is absolutely perfect. If UNH scores once, I think it's game over.

2. Colorado College over 3. Michigan State:
CC has the home-ice advantage in this contest, and it's a big advantage. The Tigers were 18-2-0 at home this year. They're used to playing on big ice, they're used to playing at altitude, and with the way games in the WCHA are called, they're used to clutching, grabbing, hooking, and holding. The defending champs still have Jeff Lerg in net, but the Tigers counter with Richard Bachman, the WCHA's Rookie and Player of the Year. Unless Bachman gets Freshman Goalie Face, the Tigers win this one.

Regional Championship: 2. Colorado College over 1. New Hampshire:
The teams met twice this year at UNH, and New Hampshire won both, scoring six of their nine goals on the weekend in the third period. Bachman only played the second game. I think these teams are fairly evenly matched, they both play on big ice, and they both have great goalies. I give the edge to the home team with the home crowd, but this could be the game of the tournament. CC advances to the Frozen Four. Still No Hardware.

Midwest Regional:
1. North Dakota over 4. Princeton:
I don't know a ton about the Tigers, except that I was bored out of my mind watching the ECAC Championship last weekend. North Dakota hasn't had much success finding the net lately (they've scored more than 2 goals in just two of their last ten games) and Princeton hasn't given up many goals lately (just five in their last five games, four of which came in one contest), but this isn't the ECAC. It'll probably be a closer game than it should be, but I'd be surprised if North Dakota doesn't win.

2. Denver over 3. Wisconsin:
I know how much the home crowd can benefit a team in the NCAA Tournament. That being said, Denver doesn't seem to be fazed by the Madison crowd. According to LetsgoDU, the Pioneers are 11-1-2 at the Kohl Center. That stat kind of blows my mind. Needless to say, I like DU in this one. They got on a roll in the WCHA Tournament, Wisconsin kind of sucks, and Mannino is as good as any goalie in the country.

Regional Championship: 1. North Dakota over 2. Denver:
Denver is the trendy pick to win this Regional, but I'm still going with the team that can't score goals, but scares the bejesus out of me nonetheless. NoDak was 3-2 against DU this year, and only scored one goal in the two losses combined (12 in the three wins). Mannino is capable of taking DU back to the Frozen Four--or the Championship--but I'll take North Dakota.

Northeast Regional: 4. Air Force over 1. Miami:
I'm going to take crap for this--since I've argued all year with the WCHA fans that Miami actually is a very good team--but I'm taking Air Force. The Falcons are a good hockey team, and I'm surprised they've been as good as they have been without the services of Eric Ehn. Indications are that Ehn could be back for this game, and his return would help, even if he's not close to 100%. History says that the games between Miami/Air Force and Michigan/Niagara will be very close, and Miami has puckered in the big games this season. Air Force is battle-tested. They've played Boston College, Colorado College, Minnesota, and Denver this season, so a highly-skilled opponent will be nothing new to them. They took Minnesota to the brink last season in the tournament. And they've got a goalie that I've heard of, which is always a plus for a team that isn't from one of the major conferences. They also come in riding the longest unbeaten streak in the country (9 games). Miami is a good team. Would it shock me if they won this game--or even the Regional? Absolutely not. They're a skilled bunch. Davis, Jones, Miele, Camper, Cannone, Mercier, Martinez...they've got some guns, and they've got a really good goalie. For all I know, this could be 7-0 in Miami's favor. History suggests otherwise, and I'm taking the upset in this one.

2. Boston College over 3. Minnesota:
This might be the first round game that I'm most looking forward to. BC took a couple weekends off late in the regular season, but they got on a roll, won the Hockey East Tournament, and they're putting the puck in the net (23 goals in their last 5 games). At the other end of the ice, you've got Minnesota, who took off most of the regular season, played much better once Frazee was benched, assured themselves a spot by making a run in the WCHA Tournament, but still really can't score (for them to have scored 23 goals, you have to go back 10 games). You've also got two of the most disliked fanbases in college hockey. I expect a great game, but I give the edge to BC because they'll have the partisan crowd on their side. I'd probably take Minnesota if this was at the XCel Center.

Regional Championship: 2. Boston College over 4. Air Force:
I'd probably take BC over Miami as well, but after pulling the huge upset, Air Force can't make it past BC, especially not in MA.

East Regional: 1. Michigan over 4. Niagara:
There's no looking past the Purple Eagles in these parts, and I assume that Red has expressed the same concern to his team. These "weaker" opponents have a way of putting a scare in the top-seeded teams. Ted Cook--and actually Niagara in general--does most of his damage on the power play, so it will be critical for Michigan to stay out of the box like they did last weekend for the most part. Michigan has been the best team in the country for a good portion of the year for a reason, and I expect it to shine through. They're deep offensively, solid defensively, they've gotten great play out of their goalie, they're fast, and the special teams are pretty good. Unlike Air Force, Niagara hasn't played the top teams this year. Bowling Green is probably the best team they've faced. That's not to say they can't win, or that they won't keep it close, but they haven't seen a team like Michigan this year. I like the Wolverines in a game that's much closer than I would like it to be.

2. St. Cloud over 3. Clarkson:
St. Cloud has never won a tournament game. It's been 12 years for Clarkson. I like the Huskies to finally get rid of the o'fer in this contest. They split two games earlier in the year (St. Cloud won 4-1 and lost 3-2, though they were badly outshot in their win), but despite history and despite a crowd that will likely be favoring the Golden Knights, I think St. Cloud has too much offensive talent. And as I said before, this isn't the ECAC.

Regional Championship: 1. Michigan over 2. St. Cloud:
Much to Mark Hartigan's chagrin, I think the Wolverines knock the Huskies out for the third time in eight years. A great game wouldn't shock me. St. Cloud has been feisty against some good teams this year, splitting twice with CC and going 1-1-2 against North Dakota. Again, staying out of the box will be crucial for Michigan because St. Cloud's power play is excellent.

Frozen Four:
1. Michigan over 4. Colorado College:
I'm a homer. CC is a really good hockey team. They can score, their goalie is excellent, but Michigan is a really good hockey team as well. I don't really like going into Denver to play CC in the Frozen Four, but Michigan has been great on the road all season, and we'd get em on the smaller ice.

3. North Dakota over 2. Boston College:
The Sioux missed a golden opportunity last season by losing to the Eagles in the National Semifinals. Two years ago, another loaded North Dakota team lost to Boston College in the National Semifinals. Maybe three times is a charm.

National Championship:
1. Michigan over 3. North Dakota:
The thing that would worry me in this matchup is that North Dakota has been there many times before. They've made the Frozen Four the last 3 years, made the Championship three years ago. Porter and Kolarik are the only players on the Michigan roster who have even won a tournament game coming into this year's NCAAs. The Sioux are good, but aren't the force they have been the past two seasons. They've had trouble scoring goals, and that's one thing that Michigan has not had problems with this season. It blows my mind that six months ago I wasn't sure this team would make the NCAAs and now I'm picking them to win the National Championship (and it's not even going out on a huge limb). If we beat St. Cloud, CC, and NoDak on the way to the title, do we get the WCHA Championship as well? I think MSU won Hockey East last year.

Parting Thoughts Before the Games:
I'm really looking forward to this tournament. One, because we're not in the Region of Death for a change. Two, because even though Michigan is probably the favorite, there's no team that's head and shoulders above everyone else. I could realistically see Michigan, Miami, NoDak, New Hampshire, and Colorado College winning the National Championship, and you have to include Denver and Michigan State as well because of their goalies and the fact that both teams have done it fairly recently.

The games in the first round that I'm most looking forward to are BC/Minnesota, Wisconsin/Denver, and CC/MSU (either it'll be a CC blowout or it'll be a great game, and either way it's fun).

Michigan: Stay out of the box. Stay out of the box. Stay out of the box.

My pleas:
Scooter: Keep being unnoticeable out there. You've been really solid and I'm impressed with how fast you made it back.
Summers: Keep being one of the most underrated players in college hockey.
Kampfer: See above.
Langlais: If you see Clarkson, be careful with the puck at the point while on the PP. They have 12 shorties this year.
Palushaj: I love the emotion, just keep it in check. Also, channeling Mike Legg at some point during this tournament wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. You're going to make a goalie look really silly with that fancy stick-handling at some point. Might as well do it this weekend.
Turnbull: Keep being so clutch when the top line isn't going.
Porter: Relax a little. Don't worry about impressing voters. The chances are there, bury em like you have all year.
Hagelin: Bork bork bork! Keep skating your ass off and doing what you do on the fore-check and back-check. It's a joy to watch.
Lebler: Use that body, but be smart about it. You've been doing much better about staying out of the box.
Winnett: Whatever you ate last weekend, eat it again. That's more like the player I was expecting!
Mitera: I'm not sure what turned you into an offensive dynamo all of a sudden, but I like it. But our zone is still where we need you the most.
Miller: Just pretend it's Joe Louis Arena.
Rust: You've got balls, man. Just please, for the love of Parise, if it's a one goal game in the last two minutes, don't take a penalty. My heart can't handle another one.
Naurato: Keep back-checking. Hugely improved this year. And keep firing away.
Kolarik: Keep being the emotional heart-and-soul of this team and the sniper that you are. And make good on your promise to win Kevin Porter the Hobey. A few points would help that cause.
Fardig: Keep digging and being the Little Ball of Hate that's hard to play against.
Caporusso: Again, the chances are there. You're going to bury em. And keep winning those draws.
Llewellyn: Keep it simple. No dumb penalties, no bad turnovers. Be ready, if you see St. Cloud, they're fast, but if you hit those little buggers, they'll pucker.
Sauer: Keep your confidence up, even if you let in a bad goal. You've exceeded everyone's expectations this year, and if you keep doing what you're doing, we're gonna win this thing.
Pacioretty: No fights. Keep being the beast that you are. And no bailing for Montreal in the offseason.
Black Aces (Fragner, Ciraulo, Elmblad, Hunwick, and Hogan): Thanks for the contributions this year, boys. Stay ready though!

Go Blue.

Edit: As promised, MHNet dug up the clip of Hartigan going Esa Tikkanen during the game at Yost. That net was more open than Molly's legs.

Hoover Street Rag finishes up with their previews of the East and Northeast Regionals.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

10 Things to Know About Clarkson

Note to the Hockey Gods: The presence of this article in no way should indicate an assumption or guarantee out of me that we will be playing on Saturday. It's merely an effort to get the previews out of the way before the weekend so--should we win--I don't have to throw up a half-assed preview on Saturday afternoon that no one will read.

The Clarkson Golden Knights hail from the ECAC, where they took first place in the regular season and lost in the quarterfinals during the conference tournament. Here are 10 things to know about that squad:

1) They were 21-12-4 overall and 15-4-3 in conference. They were 6-9-2 away from home, however, and 0-1-1 at neutral sites.
Good wins: Boston College. They also beat St. Cloud once and Princeton twice.
Bad losses: St. Lawrence twice, LSSU, Quinnipiac, Maine, Dartmouth, Yale, Colgate twice.
Common opponents to Michigan: Beat BC, beat Providence, split with LSSU.
Also of relevance: They got swept by CC in Colorado Springs

2) Clarkson has four guys with 10+ goals and seven with 20+ points. No one averages a point per game or makes the top 50 in scoring nationally. Matt Beca was their leading scorer with 10-24--34 in 37 games (63rd in points per game). Steve Zalewski led the team in goals with 21 (#11 in goals per game). They've only got one defenseman with double digit points....

3) ....Said defenseman's name is Grant Clitsome (#32 in points per game by a defenseman). I don't even have a joke here.

4) David Leggio is their goalie. He's got a 2.34 goals against (#19) and a .918 save percentage (#23).

5) Offensively they rank 20th in the country, scoring 2.86 goals per game on average. Defensively they're 17th, giving up 2.43 a night.

6) They don't take all that many penalties either, just 13.4 minute a game, which is in the top 3rd of the country. The power play? Not so good. Just 14.0% (and just 10.5% if you factor in short-handed goals) and 41st in the country. Their penalty kill is middle of the pack (30th) at 83.8%, but they've scored an NCAA-best 12 short-handed goals this year, which makes their PK more like an excellent 90.3%. Nick Dodge and Matt Beca each have 4 of those shorties.

7) Bryan Rufenach, a freshman defenseman, was a 7th round pick by the Red Wings in last year's draft. He's apparently a good skater, but fairly raw. He has a 3-2--5 line in 32 games.

8) Phillippe Paquet and Dan Reed played with "Other" at Salisbury Prep. Word of advice, make sure the Michigan dressing room is locked during the game.

9) Clarkson and Michigan haven't played since 1962, when they beat Michigan in the national semifinals. Maybe Red will get a chance for revenge.

10) This is Clarkson's 20th appearance in the NCAA Tournament, but just their second this decade. They lost 1-0 in overtime to U-Mass last year as a number one seed. They've lost in the first round their last four appearances in the tournament.

Tomorrow (or later tonight if I'm bored) I will have my parting thoughts on the regional and my picks for the entire bracket (you could look those up at the Yost Post if you really want to know).
One bit of bad news, apparently Michigan has had a terrible week of practice due to the flu bug working its way through the team. That's not what you want to hear heading into one-and-done hockey.

Lastly, Mark Hartigan is a bitter, bitter man. From the Detroit Free Press:

Wings forward Mark Hartigan will be rooting for his alma mater, St. Cloud State, in the NCAA hockey tournament. He also wouldn't mind seeing top-ranked Michigan upset by Niagara on Friday night. Hartigan was a Hobey Baker finalist for St. Cloud State in 2001-02. Told the Huskies were in the same regional as top-ranked Michigan this year, Hartigan bristled.

"Shocker," he said. "When we were in St. Cloud, we were rated higher than Michigan and were supposed to play Michigan at a neutral site, and it was at the Yost Arena."

The Huskies lost, 4-2, to the Wolverines, and Hartigan apparently hasn't gotten over it.

"Last college team I played against," he said. "I hope they lose, 8-0."

What Hartigan fails to mention is that we played on a neutral rink the year before with them as the higher-ranked team and the result was the same. Also, when your school has never won a tournament game, it's hard to say that playing at Yost made a huge difference. What would have made a difference in that game? You not missing the net on a breakaway. Pucker, pucker, pucker!

Courtesy of MHNet, who has been posting great video clips all week, here's a clip that Mr. Hartigan might enjoy.

Jed owns your team.

Edit: It was also pointed out that for that game at Yost, Michigan was a 4 seed and St. Cloud was a 5. A little revisionist history, Mr. Hartigan?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

10 Things to Know About St. Cloud

Note to the Hockey Gods: The presence of this article in no way should indicate an assumption or guarantee out of me that we will be playing on Saturday. It's merely an effort to get the previews out of the way before the weekend so--should we win--I don't have to throw up a half-assed preview on Saturday afternoon that no one will read.

10 Things to Know About the St. Cloud State University Huskies:

1) They enter this weekend as the #2 seed in the East Regional. On the season, the Huskies are 19-15-5 (12-12-4 in conference) which, when adjusted for the fact that they play in the WCHA, means that they're the equivalent of a 39-0-0 NHL team. Away from home, they're 8-9-2.

2) Against the teams Michigan has played this season (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan Tech, Miami), the Huskies are 8-5-1 to Michigan's 5-1-1.

Good wins for SCSU:
Two over Colorado College (one at home, one on the road), one over North Dakota. They also tied North Dakota twice on the road.

Bad losses for SCSU: None really jump out as bad. They swept 4 games against Tech and took 7 of 8 points from Anchorage. Apart from a sweep at Duluth and a tie against Canisius (all of which were in the first four games of their season), they've been good.

3) They're led by four super-underclassmen: Hobey-Finalist sophomore Ryan Lasch (25-28--53, #6 in points per game, #4 in power play goals, #9 in goals per game), freshman Garrett Roe (18-26--44, #3 in freshman points per game, #16 overall), and sophomore Andreas Nodl (18-26--44, #18 in points per game). No one else has more than 10 goals or 22 points. Sophomore goaltender Jase (sic) Weslosky is 16-12-2 with a 2.12 goals against average (#12 nationally) and a .931 save percentage (#6).

4) This the sixth time Saint Cloud has appeared in the NCAA Tournament. They are 0-5 in previous appearances, twice falling at the hands of the Michigan Wolverines.
Edit: They also made the tournament in 1989 as an independent and lost a best-of-three series in two games. So they're 0-7 in six previous tournament appearances.

5) They average 3.00 goals per game, tied with North Dakota for 16th in the country. The defense is 15th in the country at 2.36 goals per game.

6) The power play is #4 in the country, just a tick behind Niagara, at 23.2%. The penalty kill is also very good (#8 overall) at 87.1%. The best news for them, though, is that they're rarely short-handed. St. Cloud is the 3rd-least-penalized team in the nation at just under 11 minutes per game. Lasch, Roe, and Nodl combined for 33 power play goals.

7) Freshman forward Nick Oslund is a Red Wings draft pick. He has 4-1--5 this season.

8) Tristin Llewellyn has played with pretty much the entire St. Cloud team. Jon Ammerman, Aaron Marvin, Nick Oslund, Garrett Roe and Ryan Peckskamp are all ex-teammates.

Brent Borgen played with Chad Langlais and Bryan Hogan with the Lincoln Stars in the USHL. I'm pretty sure he's played with everyone in the WCHA at one time or another. He's played for Minnesota and St. Cloud, and played with half the league in the USHL. Seriously. Check out these three rosters.

Matt Hartman is an ex-teammate of Travis Turnbull's. They played together with the Sioux City Musketeers.

Tony Mosey and Brian Volpei played with Ben Winnett on the Salmon Arm Silverbacks of the BCHL.

John Swanson was a teammate of Billy Sauer's with the Chicago Steel.

9) They suck because they don't track face-offs (or they at least don't make it public).

10) They get off to good starts. They're +15 in first period goals, +9 in the second, and +1 in the third. Overall, they're +25 on goals, +27 on special teams, and -2 at even-strength. As was the case with Niagara, stay out of the box.

Links for the Day:
McKeen's has a good-sized interview with 2009 verbal Lee Moffie. It sounds like they really like him as a player. They won another prep championship, and as of right now, he plans on returning to Avon Old Farms for his senior season.

Ted Cook from Niagara posted another blog entry about yesterday's practice. Sounds like a loose hockey team.

Hoover Street Rag posted their preview of the West Regional.

Western College Hockey previewed the West and Midwest Regionals. I can't cosign on Sparty coming out of the West region. CC's fantastic at home, and both CC and UNH are used to the big ice. It's possible Lerg Lergs it up again, but he's going to have to be perfect to beat Bachman and (likely) Regan back-to-back. Also, I still think it's more likely that Miami loses to Air Force than it is that Notre Dame beats UNH (WCH didn't pick this upset, for the record). I just don't see how the Irish score enough to win that game. I agree with everything written about the Midwest. Denver/NoDak would be a fun game.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

10 Things to Know About Niagara

I'm writing this feature a little early this week so that I can preview each of the three teams. There's been some really good stuff in the Michigan Blogosphere already this week about the Hockey Tournament, so let's start with some links:

WCBN has posted links of the audio highlights from our wins over NMU and Miami.

MGoBlog has typically excellent stuff about the Regional and Niagara as well as a breakdown of how Clarkson and St. Cloud did against teams we've played as well.

The first link has a recount of the hilarity that ensued before our game against St. Cloud in the Yost regional a few years back. I remember it a little differently. The way I remember it, Komo tapped the back of one of the cheerleaders' skates, causing her to stumble slightly, which pissed her off. Then as the mascot was coming off the ice, I believe he speared Brandon Rogers. He definitely speared someone. Kevin O'Malley went absolutely bonkers. The mascot's stick ended up getting ripped out of his hands, broken in half, and then chucked at him as he got the eff out of the rink.

Regardless of if I remember it correctly or not, this--
It is, without question, the best lead-in to a hockey game that has ever occurred anywhere.
--is absolutely true. How much would you pay for a tape of that sequence? It's a shame that game happened pre-YouTube. Those Regionals were amazing. If we host again--we're bidding for a couple--I would walk back from Madison to be there, if I had to.

I'm bummed Molly isn't on Facebook. I was totally going to try to get an interview.

MHNet has a preview of the Purple Eagles.

The Hoover Street Rag is going to preview each of the Regionals, starting with the Midwest in Madison.

So now, 10 things to know about the Niagara Purple Eagles:
1) They play in the CHA with Bemidji State, Wayne State, Alabama-Huntsville, and Robert Morris. They're 22-10-4 on the season (12-6-3 in conference) but were just 9-8-1 away from their home rink, where they were great. As I wrote on Sunday, they're largely an unknown. Air Force has played some top-notch teams, so it's easy to see how they stack up. Niagara has not. Their best opponent this year was probably Bowling Green, who they beat 2-0. They also went 2-2-1 against Bemidji, who was something like 1-9-0 against WCHA teams.

In their non-conference schedule, they lost to Merrimack, beat Holy Cross and BGSU, swept Western Michigan, swept Sacred Heart, lost to Canisius, got swept by Cornell, swept Quinnipiac, and tied St. Lawrence and RIT.

2) They have a player I've heard of, which means he's really good. Ted Cook, a junior, led the nation in goals and PPGs last year with 32 and 21, respectively. His numbers are down this year (19-12--31 in 36 games), but he's currently on a six-game goal streak, has put up 7-3--10 in that span, and was named CHA Tournament MVP. His 12 PPGs rank 6th in the country. He's blogging about the week leading up to the NCAA Tournament over at Niagara's website.

3) Niagara's 3.53 goals per game is good for 3rd in the country behind Miami and Michigan. They spread the offense out pretty well, though. Five guys have 10+ goals, eight have 20+ points (and two more have 19), and three have 30 or more. They don't get an overwhelming amount of offense from the blueline, but Tyler Gotto's .70 points per game is good for 12th in the country amongst defensemen and Ryan Annesley has seven goals.

4) They're middle of the pack defensively. They give up 2.58 goals per game, which puts them 24th in the country. Juliano Pagliero gets the bulk of the work in net, and he has a very solid 2.26 goals against and a .929 save percentage (8th in save percentage, ahead of OMG JEFF LERG! and Billy Sauer).

5) They average just 12.6 penalty minutes a game, 13th best in the country. That's not a product of the league they play in either. They were best in their conference, and Robert Morris was way up there by us. Actually St. Cloud and Clarkson were pretty good at not taking penalties as well. Be good this weekend, guys.

6) As for their special teams, the power play is #3 in the country at 23.3% (they've given up 6 shorties). No one in their conference can kill penalties except for Bemidji, however. Wayne State, Robert Morris, and Alabama-Huntsville are all in the bottom 7 nationally. UAH might actually fare better giving up penalty shots every time they were whistled for an infraction. Niagara's PK is 80.9%, which puts them in 46th place nationally. They've scored 2 short-handed goals.

7) Michigan is 3-1-0 all-time against Niagara. The last time they played was a 6-2 Michigan win in the 03-04 season, so no one on the current team has faced them.

8) Niagara has been the CHA regular-season champion the past two seasons, but has not made the tournament since the 03-04 season, where they lost 5-2 to Boston College.

9) Ted Cook was a teammate of Brandon Naurato and Tim Miller with the Omaha Lancers in 04-05. Egor Mironov and Tayler Simpson both played with Andrew Cogliano on the St. Mike's Buzzers.

10) They're just over 50% on faceoffs. They've got a couple guys up around 53% and a couple under 50%.

The biggest thing to remember is this: Teams from the CHA and AH have been competitive in the tournament in recent memory.

2007: Minnesota 4, Air Force 3; Notre Dame 3, Alabama-Huntsville 2 (2 OT)
2006: Holy Cross 4, Minnesota 3 (ot)
2005: Boston College 5, Mercyhurst 4; Eventual Champion Denver 4, Bemidji State 3 (ot)
2003: Colorado College 4, Wayne State 2 (in a very tightly-contested game)
2001: Michigan 4, Mercyhurst 3 (Mercyhurst led in the third period)

Five of the six games in the last three years between one-seeds and "weaker opponents" have been one-goal games, with Holy Cross winning and two others going to OT. Only Wisconsin/Bemidji in 2006 was a blowout.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Michigan Placed in the East Regional

In the end, the committee opted for protecting the top seeds in the tournament. Michigan was placed in the East Regional in Albany, New York. They will take on the 15th seeded Niagara Purple Eagles. If the Wolverines win, they will play the winner of St. Cloud and Clarkson. The East Regional will be televised live on ESPNU, but I've been told that Michigan will work toward getting some local TV coverage as well.

Last night, I was pretty excited about the idea of us still getting a bid to the Midwest Regional, but I must admit, when ESPN2 flashed up the bracket, I let out a yell. No MSU, no facing a team on their home ice, no North Dakota in the first round (even though that's been a given for months).

I also really didn't like the idea of facing Air Force in the first round. Nothing against Niagara, but Air Force beat Denver, tied Minnesota, lost 2-1 to Colorado College, and put a scare in Minnesota in the tournament last year. They've got tournament experience and were battle tested against four great opponents this year (In addition to the three teams mentioned above, they also faced BC and got smoked).

Niagara is more of an unknown quantity. They really haven't played anyone this year. Bowling Green was probably the best team they faced all year (they won 2-0 but it was like the third game of the season). Not to say that they couldn't show up and beat Michigan, but I'd rather face a team like Niagara, who hasn't seen anything like the speed Michigan brings, over a team like Air Force, who played three two-seeds and one three-seed and went 1-2-1. I'll dive more into the Purple Eagles later in the week.

Then on the other side of the bracket, you've got St. Cloud vs. Clarkson. As I said before, you're going to likely have to play someone decent in the second round, and this matchup is about as good as we could hope for. Again, there's always threat of a loss, but I think we've got the weakest two-seed and the weakest three-seed in our bracket (especially when you factor in that Wisconsin is at home).

On paper, there's no reason that Michigan shouldn't come out of this bracket. But then, on paper, there's no way that MSU wins the tournament last year. We're going to have to play good hockey, but I think we got a favorable draw this year, which should happen when you're the #1 seed.

For the bracket as a whole, some thoughts:

Best Match-Up:
I really like the Denver/Wisconsin and BC/Minnesota games. I'll go with the latter. Both teams are playing well, and BC will have the partisan crowd. I think it'll be a great one.

Worst Match-Up:
New Hampshire vs. Notre Dame. I don't think that even the University of No Hardware could blow this one. I'd be shocked if ND scores more than one goal, and it wouldn't shock me a bit if they get shut out. Losing Condra was a big blow, and they've been playing like hell anyway.

Biggest Complaint:
Clearly Minnesota-State has the biggest beef. While they finished below Wisconsin in the PWR, they had the better overall record, the better conference record, the better non-conference record, won the head-to-head matchup, went slightly further in the WCHA playoffs, and won the Pairwise comparison with Wisconsin 4-2.

Most Fortunate:
Wisconsin, being under .500, making the tournament, getting a three seed, and playing at home, wins this category. Michigan would also be a candidate. Rather than being sent to Madison, as appeared to be the sexy pick last night, they get Niagara, an ECAC team who bombed in the tournament last year, and a WCHA team that has never won a tournament game.
Least Fortunate (in the Tournament):
I think I have to go with Michigan State on this one. Based on the Pairwise, they should've been in Albany facing St. Cloud in the first round, setting up a matchup with a team they have a winning record against for the right to go to the Frozen Four. Instead, they have to go play Colorado College on their home ice (and the big ice) in the first round, and then likely New Hampshire, should they get past the Tigers. I guess it's the hockey world balancing out after they got freaking MAINE in the Frozen Four last year.

Final thought on Wisconsin:
I don't like the idea of a sub-.500 team getting a bid as an at-large. There are almost 60 Division One teams. I can't buy it that a team that didn't even win half of their games is the 12th best team in the country. I don't care what conference you play in. These teams play enough non-conference games that if you're a decent team, you should be able to get to .500 overall. That said, had Wisconsin not gotten blatantly screwed on at least 2 occasions (and the schedule-makers didn't do them any favors by giving them CC at home when they were missing guys to the World Juniors) they probably would've been in the tournament anyway. I think the Hockey Gods smiled on them this weekend. And I expect them to be one-and-done anyway, as Mankato probably would have been.

I do, however, think that rule needs to be revised. You don't put a sub-.500 SEC team in a bowl game just because they're from the SEC. A sub-.500 basketball team in the ACC or Big East can't even make the NIT, let alone the NCAAs.

Some flaws in the system were clearly exposed this year. The TUC cliff needs to go. A win over #1 shouldn't be treated the same in the TUC as a win over #25. There needs to be a minimum number of games for the common opponents comparison to be relevant. I recognize the flaws in the Final 16 Games component that was previously included, but I do like the idea of rewarding a team that improves throughout the season (Examples: Northern Michigan and Boston University are clearly better teams at this point than Wisconsin and Notre Dame). I wish there was a way to incorporate that back into the tournament selection.

It's nice at times to have a system that clearly allows everyone to see how the teams were picked. But sometimes I wish a little common sense could prevail over the numbers (Wisconsin being in this year, Minnesota being "rewarded" with an easier regional last year by swapping Michigan State for North Dakota (yeah, yeah, I know, National Championship, but really?), etc.).

Hopefully this year is the driving force toward finding a better system. I'm not the person to figure it out, but I do know that this current system is not the answer--though to be fair, I do think that, save for one team, this field is correct.

All Your CCHA Championships Are Belong to Us: Michigan 2, Miami 1

College Hockey Showcase Championship: Check
Great Lakes Invitational Championship: Check
CCHA Regular Season Championship: Check
CCHA Tournament Championship: Check
NCAA #1 overall seed: Check

About the only thing missing on this season's check-list which could have been completed thusfar would have been the Icebreaker Tournament, but even that was a preview of things to come this year.

I can't say enough about the performance of this edition of the Wolverines. It's hard to believe that the season has gone by this quickly, but we're now into the portion of the season where it's one and done. Win four games, you're the champs. Lose and your season is over.

While the game may not have meant all that much in the grand scheme of things (Michigan and Miami both had #1 seeds locked up as well as--at least in theory--one of the two game against "weaker" opponents, though we've seen how those teams can put the fear of Parise in their opponent) you never would have known it. The CCHA Championship was hard-hitting, well-played, and featured some lights-out goaltending.

There may have been 16 goals scored in the two previous games between these teams, but the goalkeepers were the stars tonight. Jeff Zatkoff was spectacular for Miami, flashing the glove that failed him so badly earlier this year against Michigan. He stopped Winnett, Porter, and Rust on breakaways and kept Max Pacioretty's through-the-legs pass to Kevin Porter from being a contender for Michigan Play of the Year when he stoned Porter on the one-timer.

Billy Sauer wasn't as flashy tonight as Zatkoff, but he held the #1 offense in the country at bay for over 59 minutes before they finally cracked him on a 6 on 4. His best save of the night came on a point-blank shot by Carter Camper, which was labeled for just a couple inches above his right pad. Sauer was able to get his blocker down to turn the puck aside. It was a brilliant save.

Matt Rust, once again, showed no ill effects from the broken leg that had him in pain earlier in the week. He had a breakaway stymied by Zatkoff (as well as a rolling puck and a pair of hooks, which sent Justin Mercier to the box). He also assisted on the first goal of the hockey game, slowing things down to wait for help, then flipping a pass to Palushaj who tipped it home. His breakaway looked very similar to one he scored on early in the season (against BU maybe?) where he tipped a puck away in his own end and just outskated everyone. It's almost not fair (for a plodder like me) that he can skate so well even with a broken leg. Rust was also dominating on faceoffs tonight, winning 13 of 19.

The other goal was something out of the Dwight Helminen playbook. Miller knocked an offensive zone faceoff forward, danced around Nathan Davis, picked up the puck, and slid it to Brandon Naurato, who had a wide-open net.

This term comes up a lot with the Red Wings, but the secondary scoring was huge for Michigan this weekend. Porter, Kolarik, and Pacioretty are hard to control, but a great defensive team can force other guys to beat them. That's where the Turnbulls, Millers, Caporussos, Nauratos, Palushajs come in. It's not to say that the top line didn't do anything tonight. They had some really great chances. But they didn't score, and we were still able to find a way to win the game. Even though Miller played up last night, he still had two goals and Turnbull had a pair. If the secondary scoring can keep producing even if the top line is not, we're going to be a really tough out.

Random thought: It's an absolute joy to watch Carl Hagelin skate. When that guy turns the after-burners on on the forecheck, it's incredible to watch.

Also, it's really great for Tim Miller to be MVP of the CCHA Tournament. It's been well-documented that he's had a tough season offensively, but good things happen when you keep working hard and he's living proof of that. He made an impact this weekend whether he was playing with Kolarik and Porter or Fardig and Naurato. It's probably safe to say he's out of his slump. If he gets going, it's just another weapon for this team, which is chock full of them.

One other person who I thought was great tonight, Ben Winnett. I don't know what he's been eating lately, but he's been playing pretty good hockey. He didn't have a point tonight and wasn't on the ice for any of the goals, but he was extremely visible out there (in a good way). He's become more and more active in the last month/month and a half. 3/4ths of the way through the season I hadn't noticed him whatsoever, but he's been playing pretty good hockey as of late.

So now we move on to the NCAA Tournament as the #1 overall seed. Beyond that, it's hard to say. Air Force appears to be the likely opponent, but with the uncertainty in the bracket due to that Wisconsin/CC matchup based on the straight seeding, it's not safe to assume anything.

A different outcome in any of six-or-so games and Michigan would be a lock for Madison. But as things shook out, the Wisconsin Badgers appear to be heading for the tournament, which screws things up mightily. College Hockey News still has the Wolverines in Madison. If the Badgers were a four-seed, there'd be no shot of that. But they appear to have moved up to a three, which might open the door for Michigan to remain in the regional closest to home. You'd be replacing the 9-seed in the region with the 12-seed and it would create a conference matchup. Pretty big change in "Bracket integrity", but they may opt to "reward" the #1 overall seed with an easier overall bracket on paper. USCHO agrees that Michigan is Madison-bound, along with St. Cloud, Wisconsin, and Air Force.

Honestly, I'm not so sure it would be a bad thing. First, there's no guarantee that Wisconsin would beat St. Cloud. The teams split their six meetings this season (though Wisconsin won both in Madison) and five of the games were decided by one goal. Second, if we're fortunate enough to move on in the tournament, we're likely going to have a tough game in the second round. If that game is against an under .500 team on their home ice, so be it. If Michigan is a championship-caliber team, they should still be able to send most-everyone home disappointed. Third, it would remove Michigan State from the bracket. With Jeff Lerg and the way they typically play against us, it wouldn't break my heart to see Wisconsin instead of them.Let Spartina go be in the Bracket of Death for a change.

We're about eight hours away from finding out who we will have to go through to get to Denver. I'll have a full breakdown--of the bracket or in general, depending on the draw--after the Selection Show (11:30 am Eastern on ESPN2).

Congrats to our Wolverines. I don't know where this ride will end, but accomplishing what they've accomplished this season is no small feat. Most of us would've been happy just to have Michigan in the tournament this year, then they bring this serious gourmet shit on and take the #1 overall seed. A-maize-ing.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

On to the CCHA Finals: Michigan 6, NMU 4

First off, I have to give credit to the NMU Wildcats. Michigan went 3-0-2 against them this season but not a single one of those points was easy. They're a pretty talented hockey team. Olver, Sirota, Stewart, Butcher, Siddall, Gustafson...they're all good players. With only one of their ten players with double-digits points scheduled to leave school--and with Stewart back--I would expect NMU to be right in the mix for a bye next season in the CCHA.

Michigan was fortunate to get out of that game with a win. They scored some crazy goals--at least three hit NMU players and deflected into the net--and were able to overcome a sub-par power play and a fairly shaky outing out of Billy Sauer, who never seemed to look comfortable in the net. I think shaky is probably the right word for it. He fought the puck an awful lot, but I don't think he played badly. They weren't bad goals (maybe Olver's goal was, but Olver also hauled down Porter on that play), it just wasn't an especially strong outing.

I have to give a call to Tim Miller first off. He had two goals and an assist tonight. Must be something about playing at Joe Louis Arena. That's where all four of his goals have come. Neither goal was especially pretty, but they all count the same and he ended up with the game winner via driving hard to the net. He's had a rough season offensively, but he's played a big part in two of our most-important wins of the year.

There have been a lot of unsung heroes on this team: Steve Kampfer, Chris Summers, and Carl Hagelin are three of them. Travis Turnbull also belongs high up that list. He's third on the team in goals (wow!) and fifth on the team in points, and you'd never know it for the pub he gets. And he's had some huge goals this season. He's been really impressive this season.

Next, Matt Rust and Scooter Vaughan, especially Matt Rust, for gutting it out with injuries that weren't insignificant by any means. Rusty has a broken leg and he still was flying out there. He did a nice job defensively and on the PK.

Mark Mitera's hot streak offensively continued with two more assists, giving him twelve points in his last six games.

Next up, the Miami RedHawks, who shocked Notre Dame by scoring with just over 3 seconds left in regulation to send the game to OT, and then pulling off the win. With the losses by New Hampshire, CC, and North Dakota today, these will be the #1 and #2 teams heading into the tournament.

Obviously, if Michigan wins, they're #1. Miami needs a win out of Northern Michigan in the consolation game plus a win over Michigan to take the top spot as far as I can tell.

For Wisconsin, they need Princeton to beat Harvard in the ECAC title game, BC to beat Vermont in the Hockey East title game, and NMU to beat Notre Dame in the CCHA Consolation game. If all that happens, it actually looks like they'd be a 3 seed. But if any of those games don't go their way, they're out. Weird. That scenario would actually leave Notre Dame in the tournament and knock Minnesota State out.

There are a few scenarios that would move North Dakota up to the #3 overall seed and keep them out of Colorado Springs (mainly if they win the consolation game with CC). In that situation, it would have New Hampshire as #4 and CC as #5. It would be interesting to see if the committee would have the gonads to take New Hampshire out of that Worcester regional and send them to Colorado Springs as the bracket would dictate.

As for Miami, they've won seven in a row and have gone 7-2 since Michigan took three of four points from them. Carter Camper didn't play in those games, but he's back now and has scored four points in the three games since his return. Also, Nathan Davis was just coming off his injury when these teams met previously. He's back into playing shape and has 13 points in his last 11 games.

In the series earlier this season, Michigan's top line and top power play unit were spectacular. They accounted for six of Michigan's nine goals on the weekend. Max Pacioretty, in particular, had a stellar weekend. He will return from his one game suspension.

Jeff Zatkoff didn't have the kind of weekend you would expect out of a guy who has put up the numbers that he has put up. He gave up nine goals on 66 shots and several just plain beat him up over the glove.

Michigan won on Friday night due to an incredible first period where they put up four goals. They allowed just 8 shots on net through the first two periods and were playing stellar defense all around. Saturday Michigan had a two-goal lead and Miami was able to battle back with the infamous goal that may or may not have hit the netting and another late in the contest.

Relevant articles from this site:
Michigan/Miami preview
Friday Summary
Saturday Summary
Media Roundup

It will be interesting to see if Piotrowski cares about the (unfounded) complaints about Shegos doing the Michigan/Miami series earlier in the season. I'd expect to see him on the ice tomorrow. Hopefully if Langseth is on the ice, he stays away from Mark Mitera this time.

That North Dakota/Denver game today was a lot of fun. Lots of back-and-forth action, great goaltending, great scoring chances, and an unbelievable goal by Maiani to pull off the win for DU. I kind of lump the Pioneers in with Michigan State. You have to consider them a contender because of their goalie. They might not be the best team on paper, but I'd be scared to play them if their goalie was on. Mannino was amazing today.

I haven't seen a ton of WCHA games this year, but it seemed to me as if they were calling things closer today (and in the Minnesota/St. Cloud game last night) than they did in some of the semifinal matchups. I've heard a lot about how they don't typically call anything in the WCHA, but for the most part, I thought both of those were pretty well-officiated games.

Minnesota is a much better team since they put in Kangas as the full-time starter. That kid is good.

It's almost inexplicable that Minnesota and North Dakota don't score more goals than they do. I was watching these games and seeing a slew of forwards that are "name" guys and extremely good hockey players: Wheeler, Barriball, Carmen, Oshie, Duncan, Gordon, Kozek, etc. It's not all due to the way the games have been called.

Tomorrow should be a great day of hockey. You've got Michigan/Miami going for the #1 overall seed (and a chance to lay another brick in the building of the Miami hockey dynasty), NMU/Notre Dame in a possible elimination game for the Irish (and Wisconsin), CC/NoDak in a game no one thought would be the consolation game (but which could keep NoDak out of Colorado Springs), Minnesota continuing their incredible run by taking on Denver, Harvard/Princeton in an elimination game for them (and Wisconsin), and BC/Vermont in an elimination game for the Catamounts, who are looking to return to the NCAAs for the first time since 1996-97.

Friday, March 21, 2008

CCHA Semifinals Preview: Michigan vs. NMU

Michigan is 2-0-2 this year against their opponent in the CCHA Semifinal, but NMU has given Michigan all they can handle so far this season. The early season games finished 3-1 and 4-3 (when Kolarik scored short-handed immediately after NMU tied the game up in the last minute). Back at Yost, the teams played to a pair of 3-3 ties.

I'm not writing a formal "10 Things to Know" about this game since I just wrote one about NMU a month and a half ago, and it would be pretty redundant. Here are a few things to remember about our previous games, however:
-When we last played NMU, it was a trap weekend. Those games were in between that emotional series against MSU and the showdown with Miami.
-Kevin Quick was dismissed from the team right before Friday night's game against NMU.
-Bryan Hogan played in the second tie game.
-In those two ties, Michigan badly outshot the Wildcats (44-24 on Friday night, 37-21 on Saturday) but Brian Stewart was great both nights and Michigan missed some great chances.
-There were a ton of power plays in the most recent series. Michigan was 3-15 on the weekend with an incredible 29 power play shots on goal. The Wildcats were 1-14 with 9 shots. Craig Lisko was officiating that weekend.
-Louie Caporusso had a really nice weekend. He had a goal and an assist, and was always around the puck. He had a couple that I'm not sure how he missed. I say that about Louie quite a bit, don't I? If he starts burying those, he's going to put up huge numbers.
-Don't expect Michigan to improve in the faceoff department. We got killed up at Northern and they were +19 on draws in Ann Arbor. Porter won just 6 out of 24 faceoffs last series.
-Kolarik had 19 shots on goal during our last series.
-Mitera had one of his worst games of the season Friday night, immediately after his defense partner was kicked off the team. He rebounded to play well on Saturday night.

Other things to keep in mind:
-Billy Sauer has been good against NMU in his career, going 7-1-1, with a 2.11 goals against and a .914 save percentage.
-Strangely, Northern seems to fare better at Yost than they do at home or at neutral sites. They're 10-13-2 all-time at Yost, but just 1-7-0 against the Wolverines on neutral ice.
-Porter and Kolarik each have 14 points in 13 career games against NMU. Amongst the freshmen, but Caporusso and Palushaj have 4 points in 4 games.
-The Wildcats are 36th offensively and 27th defensively, right in the 2.6-2.7 goals per game range. Their power play is 38th (14.4%) and the PK is 53rd (78.4%). They have, however, put in nine short-handed goals this season, including at least one against us.

Also, if Michigan wins, it will be completely due to the officiating. The linked site claims that Steve McInchak was wearing Michigan suspenders before the series up in Marquette this season. He then proceeded to give Michigan 9 power plays to NMU's 5. I'm calling BS on this one. 1) There's absolutely no way he'd wear Michigan suspenders unless he was paying off a bet or something. 2) It was STEVE McINCHAK! As of the last time I updated my spreadsheet on this computer, we have had him in 27 games over the past five years and have received nine power plays more than our opposition. 3) Why bother mentioning that the next night, NMU had an 8-5 edge in power plays? It doesn't fulfill the agenda. Again, if you were to propose a bill that McInchak could not do our games anymore, I challenge you to find a Michigan fan that wouldn't pledge his/her support.

Since Michigan last played NMU, the Wildcats are 9-4-1. They've played 5 against MSU, 5 against OSU, and series against UNO and LSSU. Any team that goes 4-1-0 against a team that we've traditionally struggled against (MSU) is worthy of respect. It'll be a tough one tomorrow. I expect the Wolverines to come out on top, but Northern is playing great hockey and unlike us, they're in a win or go home situation. If they lose, their season ends Saturday in the consolation game. NMU will have to get stellar goaltending (we've put up 130 shots in 4 games) and they'll have to try to stay out of the box as their penalty killing is less than adequate. Stewart is more than capable of stealing a game or series, and if he's on it's going to be a tight game that could go either way. If he's not standing on his head, I would imagine that Michigan wins.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Porter, Berenson, Pacioretty Honored

In addition to Kevin Porter being named a Hobey Finalist today, Michigan won three major awards tonight at the CCHA Awards Banquet. Kevin Porter was named CCHA Player of the Year, Red Berenson took home Coach of the Year honors and Max Pacioretty earned the Rookie of the Year title.

Amazingly, this is just the second time that Berenson has taken home Coach of the Year honors. That seems like a shockingly low number considering all he's accomplished at Michigan--and considering Enrico Blasi has won the award three times.

Justin Abdelkader's +11 for Michigan State was good enough to be named Most Likely to Take Dumbass Penalties Best Defensive Forward, an award that Porter was up for as well. He can put that next to Jeff Lerg's Hobey nomination on the "Things that were based more on the tournament last year" list.

All in all, a great night for the Wolverines.

Porter a Hobey Finalist

In what was a shocker to absolutely no one, Kevin Porter was named a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award today. Also as I expected, Chad Kolarik was not. There were some surprises on the list, however.

The Finalists are:
-Kevin Porter, Michigan
-Nathan Gerbe, Boston College (But he had a misconduct, so he should be ineligible, right?)
-JP Lamoureaux, North Dakota
-Ryan Lasch, St. Cloud
-Ryan Jones, Miami
-Jeff Lerg, Michigan State (Uhhh....are we awarding the Hobey based on last year's tournament?)
-Kevin Regan, New Hampshire
-Lee Jubinville, Princeton (Ummmmmm)
-Simon Lambert, RIT
-TJ Oshie, North Dakota (What dude?)

I understand he had a great season last year, but how do you put Lerg on over Richard Bachman, who was the WCHA Player of the Year (and just the second player in history to win WCHA Player of the Year and WCHA Rookie of the Year)? Or over Jeff Zatkoff for that matter.

When you're picked to finish tops in the CCHA in one poll, second (by one point) in the other poll and finish third, get beat at home in the CCHA quarterfinals, are a whopping 3-3-2 out of conference despite playing one team worth a damn, are 17th in goals against and 11th in save percentage, I'm going to go out on a limb and say you weren't one of the top 3 goalies in the country this year. I think you could make a strong case that he was only the third best goalie in the conference this year.

How do you justify 25th-in-scoring (28th in points per game) TJ Oshie over Kolarik, who leads the nation in goals per game, is 6th in points per game, and is a top defensive player/penalty killer? I guess you have to have someone like Jubinville from the ECAC, but a forward with 12-26--38? C'mon.

Also, there was no defenseman named as a finalist. I figured they would find one to take, but I applaud them for not reaching just so they could have a finalist at that position. Too bad they didn't take the same strategy with the ECAC.

This honor could be the first of many tonight for members of the Wolverines. Porter is up for the CCHA Player of the Year award (the announcement of which is probably just a formality) as well as Best Defensive Forward. Red Berenson is up for CCHA Coach of the Year. Max Pacioretty is a nominee for CCHA Rookie of the Year. The awards will be announced in about an hour at the CCHA Awards Banquet at the Fox Theatre.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Media Roundup: CCHA Quarterfinals

I haven't done one of these in a few weeks, so it's time to take a look-see at what the media thought of Michigan's series sweep of the UNO Mavericks.

The Michigan Side:
Varsity Blue wins at the internet for having a montage of Sideline Charlie's reports from Friday night's game. I'm posting it here because it's awesome, but you should shoot over to his site for highlights of the actual game Friday as well.

I should also say that I know from experience how hard talking behind a mic can be, and that I'm actually really jealous of the WOLV-TV guys because I really wish I had worked for the station when I was in school. That's something I regret not doing.

Michigan Daily live blogs of Friday and Saturday. I'm not sure why they're always fooled into thinking the crowd will be small just because it's not packed 10 minutes before faceoff, but a good job blogging as usual. Some great photos Friday night as well. Also a nice, if biased (you'll see a completely different, biased as well, recap by reading at MavPuck) recap of the fight.

Daily game stories from Friday and Saturday.

Daily reporter Scott Bell has a great recap of the emotions of his final game at Yost as a student. Based on the headline, I thought it was going to be about Kolarik and Porter. I'm glad it wasn't. I had similar emotions running through me after my final game there as a student--ironically also against Nebraska-Omaha in the playoffs. I didn't know at the time that I was going to spend another three years in Ann Arbor, so I spent a good hour walking around the arena, taking pictures (including one at center ice that a staff member was gracious enough to allow/take), reminiscing, and soaking everything in. Yost is a special place. I only got to one game this season at the Old Barn, and the students weren't there. It was an ass-kicking of Minnesota, so that was pretty great, but not a Friday/Saturday night goes by that I don't miss that place. Fantastic column and I echo a lot of the sentiments (though personally, I enjoy the game itself way too much to get drunk beforehand).

It's impossible to overstate what Kolarik has meant to this team. I've been through this before. He deserves to be one of the ten Hobey Finalists and it's going to be a travesty when he's not.

Elmblad did a nice job pressed into duty in a tough situation.

No Ann Arbor News stuff this week in protest of them letting Jim Carty continue his agenda against the University of Michigan and certain academic programs, and for printing a lot of one-sided trash this week with a few valid points mixed in. Unless there's something really great, I'm probably not linking to them until next season.

Friday's and Saturday's game stories from MGoBlue.

The UNO Viewpoint:
The Friday and Saturday articles from UNO's website.

Friday's story from the UNO student newspaper. The majority of their coverage won't take place until the March 25th issue, sadly.

Mike Kemp was "bitterly disappointed" about this season. The Mavericks lose a ton of offense (Marshall, Lawrence, Scero) but he's more concerned with improving a horrid defense.

Friday's game story from the Omaha World Herald. Kemp called the game "Probably the most dominating performance I've seen by a team in an awful long time."

Saturday's game story. I feel for Bryan Marshall. Sad that a player as good as he is had to end his college career in the press box instead of on the ice.

Stat Hunting:
They combine for 55 goals, 102 points, +52, 310 shots on goal, 11 game winners, 19 power play goals, and five short-handed goals, but Chad Kolarik and Kevin Porter have just 38 PIMs between them. Pretty impressive.

With 69 goals, the three players that traditionally make up our top line outscored Alabama-Huntsville (60 goals) and Brown (67) this season. Add in contributions from other players taking the place of Kolarik or Pacioretty due to injury/WJC and they likely outscored Minnesota-Duluth (74) and Merrimack (71) as well.

We had 56 goals (42 power play, 14 short handed) on special teams last season but allowed 59 (47-12) for a net of -3. This year, we have 50 goals on special teams (42-8) and have allowed just 32 (30-2) for a next of +18. Big difference right there.

At this point, Mark Mitera's +30 rating is tied for the second-highest mark we've had in ten years (David Rohlfs, +33 last year).

Chad Kolarik's seven game winning goals is the third highest total over the last ten seasons (Muckalt and Dale Rominski each had 8. This is also the first time in ten years that we've had a player net three hat tricks in a season.

Kevin Porter's 14 power play goals are the most by a Wolverine in a season in the last ten years. With one more PPG, Kolarik will tie Bill Muckalt for the second-highest total in that span. Max Pacioretty's eight would have led last year's team.

It's kind of a down year for scoring in the NCAA. Porter's 56 points would be just the eight-best single-season total in the last ten years for Michigan and yet he appears to be a shoo-in for the Hobey (though in points per game he's #3). #1, of course, would be Hensick's year last year, which evidently wasn't good enough to even be in the Hobey Hat Trick. Lunacy. Just a reminder to Hobey voters, Porter has no misconducts this season. It's ok to vote for him.

Kolarik led last year's team in shots on goal by 35. In just 34 games this season, he has bettered last season's 41 game total. Bombs away! Porter is in close proximity to him this year (20 behind), though he's also played four more games.

The goals against average for the team has gone from 3.14 to 2.01 while the offense has only dipped slightly (about a quarter of a goal per game). The team save percentage is also 31 points higher.

The penalty kill is an impressive 85.7%. If you account for SHGs scored, it improves to 89.6%. Last year's squad was 80.5%/86.3%.

We've actually gotten worse at faceoffs (47.7% this year).

We could very reasonably have 12 players reach the 20 point plateau (8 have already done so). Since 99-2000, only the 04-05 team has had more than 12 players reach the 20 point mark (they had 13).

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

My Projected Bracket

Running simulations is fun, but I wanted to create a bracket based on what I think will happen the rest of the way.

CCHA Tournament:
Michigan over Miami in the tournament championship
Notre Dame over NMU in the consolation game (NMU would have no shot to make the tournament and Notre Dame would basically be playing an elimination game)

ECAC Tournament:
Harvard over Princeton in the championship
Cornell over Colgate in the consolation game

Hockey East Tournament:
New Hampshire over Boston University in the championship
No consolation game

WCHA Tournament:
North Dakota over 2002 Red Wings
Colorado College over 1977 Canadiens

North Dakota over Colorado College in the championship
Saint Cloud over Denver in the consolation game

We would then get the following as the Pairwise:
1. Michigan (AQ)
2. New Hampshire (AQ)
3. North Dakota (AQ)
4. Miami
5. Colorado College
6. Denver
7. St. Cloud
8t. Michigan State
8t. Boston College
8t. Clarkson
11. Harvard (AQ)
12t. Minnesota State
12t. Minnesota
14. Notre Dame
23. Niagara (AQ)
Air Force (AQ)

Setting the match-ups based on seed:

1. Michigan vs. 16. Air Force
8. Michigan State vs. 9. Boston College

2. New Hampshire vs. 15. Niagara
7. St. Cloud vs. 10. Clarkson

3. North Dakota vs. 14. Notre Dame
6. Denver vs. 11. Harvard

4. Miami vs. 13. Minnesota
5. Colorado College vs. 12. Minnesota State

We have one conference match-up (Colorado College vs. Minnesota State), but with six WCHA teams in the field, that's allowed. It would also be fairly difficult to get rid of. Swapping Minnesota State for Harvard or Clarkson would create another conference matchup, and it's not really fair to penalize Colorado College with a much tougher first-round game by swapping Minnesota State with Boston College.

Similarly, you can't swap Colorado College for Denver or St. Cloud because it would create a conference match-up, and to swap them with Michigan State would give a much tougher regional to our #1 overall seed, so we're not doing that. Since our 12 and 13 seeds were tied in the Pairwise, I suppose they could swap them, but that would also create a conference match-up so there'd be no point. We'll just roll with things how they are.

Colorado College is hosting, so they have to be in Colorado Springs. Michigan gets placed closest to home since they're #1, so they go to Madison. UNH goes to Worcester and North Dakota goes to Albany. The attendance for the Albany regional is probably going to suck, but there's not a great way around it. Clarkson is four hours away from Albany anyway and Niagara wouldn't bring a ton in attendance, so it's best not to mess with the integrity of the bracket.

Midwest Regional - Madison, WI
1. Michigan vs. 16. Air Force
8. Michigan State vs. 9. Boston College

Northeast Regional - Worcester, MA
2. New Hampshire vs. 15. Niagara
7. St. Cloud vs. 10. Clarkson

East Regional - Albany, NY
3. North Dakota vs. 14. Notre Dame
6. Denver vs. 11. Harvard

West Regional - Colorado Springs, CO
4. Miami vs. 13. Minnesota
5. Colorado College vs. 12. Minnesota State

Smoke Has Been Waxed!

Before I get into the main point of this post, I'd like to point out something that was brought to my attention earlier, which may be of relevance to some people. A reader called the ticket office today and passed along the info that Michigan's student section for the games at the Joe will be in Section 221 and the band will be in Section 217a. I hope this helps.

Also, Mike Spath reported from practice that Scooter Vaughan skated today and should be good to go this weekend. Also Matt Rust is expected to skate tomorrow, which is an exceptionally quick recovery from a fricken fractured leg bone. It would be big to have the two of them back this weekend, especially in light of Pacioretty's suspension.

But what I really want to talk about is an event that I'm surprised isn't receiving more pub because it was extremely funny and raised at least $125,000 for a great cause.

Last year, Tony Stewart made an agreement with Kevin Harvick that if Harvick could raise $100,000 for the Victory Junction Gang camp, Stewart would agree to get his body waxed. Apparently he's hairy along the lines of Andy in 40 Year Old Virgin.

The fans from Kevin Harvick's "Harvick Hotline" message board, myself included, pitched in and were able to come up with almost $40,000. Harvick kicked in the other $60,000 to fulfill the requirement of the deal. Stewart lived up to his end of the bargain, and tonight was the night that Smoke's back was waxed (ironic that Harvick would get to inflict pain on him a day after wrecking him in the Sprint Cup race).

They broadcast the event on Stewart's Sirius Radio show, which unfortunately I don't get. A fan at the Harvick Hotline provided a play-by-play, and even though the thread is long, it's worth a read because it's really funny. Harvick was supposed to be commentating, but spent most of the broadcast laughing hysterically.

Also, the 12-year-old son of Clint Bowyer's crew chief did a little pit reporting this weekend and asked a variety of drivers about their thoughts on the event--if Stewart would cry, how much weight he would lose from all that hair being gone, and how much they'd pay to rip off one of the strips. Jimmy Johnson replied to the last question by saying that he would be unavailable today but that he would donate $10,000 if the 12-year-old could rip off a strip. Additionally, JD Gibbs kicked in $15,000 to have the back of Stewart's neck waxed.

I think Stewart is a complete douche bag for the things he says to the media, the way he is the first to blame and the last to admit fault, and generally the way he treats people at the track. I didn't post about this, but the things he said about Goodyear were completely over the line for a variety of reasons. He went completely overboard on that one. That said, I will admit that he doesn't get nearly enough credit for all the money he donates and the things he does for charity. This is one of those times. He deserves a lot of credit for manning up and agreeing to get his back waxed to raise that much money for a great cause. And for being a good sport and broadcasting it to boot.

Originally Stewart had said that if Harvick forced him to get his back waxed, that he would kick in $100,000 of his own money to force Harvick to shave his head. No word on if that's still on the docket. I would imagine after the wreck yesterday and the wax job tonight, the Victory Junction Gang might be getting yet another huge check in the near future. I'm just happy that I could contribute to the fund, and play a small role in inflicting some pain on Tony Stewart.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Good Way to Kill Some Time

College Hockey News has released their Pairwise Predictor. There are still a lot of games left so there's too many combinations to try, but I played around with the favorites winning most of the games and came up with the following:

-Miami should get a #1 seed as long as they beat Notre Dame. It's a lot less likely if they're in the consolation game.

-Looking very strong for Mankato to get in barring an upset in one of the title games. Making the title game isn't good enough for BU. They're going to need the autobid if they want to get in.

-Not looking so good for Wisconsin unless Notre Dame loses both games at the Joe. Even then there are a lot of scenarios where Notre Dame still gets in. It looks like Princeton winning might be key for the Badgers as well. And clearly UNH or BC would have to win Hockey East to keep a second at-large team out of Hockey East from getting in.

-Commenter Chi SF played around with the PWR in the comments of the article below and likes Michigan's Madison odds (yay!). Losing twice is bad m'kay. We should probably try to avoid doing that.

It appears that so long as Northern Michigan loses twice this weekend and Michigan does not lose twice, Michigan will end up the #1 seed. If Northern stays as a TUC and Michigan loses to Miami, Miami will be #1.
- Amazingly, if Michigan loses to Northern but then beats either Notre Dame or Miami in the consolation game, Michigan will stay #1.
- If Michigan beats Northern and loses to Miami, but Notre Dame beats Northern, Michigan stays #1. Only if Michigan beat Northern, loses to Miami, and Nothern beats ND, does Michigan drop to #2 behind Miami.
- If Michigan loses twice, they drop to #5.

Anyway, play around with it and let me know if you find anything that's interesting and realistic.

I've edited a few things from the original posting of this article. It looks like NMU winning the consolation game would kind of screw us up if we lose to Miami in the title game. If they fall from being a TUC, then Miami only has 9 games against TUCs and their strong record in that category would be excluded. It looks like even a loss & tie for NMU would bump them out of the PWR rankings, which would be good for us should we lose the CCHA Championship game.

Assuming Michigan and Miami win their semifinal games, the CCHA Consolation Game could be pretty huge for Michigan. If Notre Dame wins the third place game, Wisconsin is out and our game with Miami doesn't seem to matter in terms of the seeding. If Northern Michigan wins, we could fall to the #3 overall seed by losing to Miami and Wisconsin very possibly makes it in (depending on the ECAC and Hockey East results)

On to the Joe: Michigan 2, UNO 1

As is customary when Michigan wins big, the next night was much closer. The Mavericks didn't roll over and die after the second-worst loss in the history of their program. They came out with a much guttier effort, Kaufmann actually stopped some pucks, and they gave the Wolverines a big scare before falling 2-1.

The game was supposed to air on Comcast, but something got screwed up and it didn't come on (to my knowledge) until there were about 6 minutes left in the game.

To me, the first player that deserves mention for Saturday's game is Billy Sauer. I didn't see most of his twenty-six saves--and I'll grant you that Al Randall can make a dump-in sound like someone just scored the Cup winner in OT--but it sounded as if he was huuuge for us. I know he stopped a Mick Lawrence breakaway in the second period, made a couple of big stops late, and, well, only let in one goal against the #12 offense in the country.

If there was a guy who was mentioned constantly has having great chances, it was Louie Caporusso. He couldn't buy one last night. He hit the bar, had the dman steal one by just getting his stick, got robbed a couple times. He had a ton of chances this weekend, and I view that as a good thing. I'm sure he was frustrated at times--especially when he rung one really late in the game--but he's playing good hockey.

Hagelin was awesome at center this weekend. We're going to be in good hands at center for a few years with the kids we've got as freshmen this year.

Brandon Naurato gets a call as well. He's getting on the score sheet and I've noticed him doing some good things defensively the past few games I've gotten to see.

Where is this Mark Mitera offense coming from? He's had a goal and nine assists in his last five games. I didn't realize that Jack Johnson came back.

The big downer of the game is that Max Pacioretty was involved in a fight with Nick Van Bokern and will miss our game against Northern Michigan. I appreciate that he was sticking up for our captain, but in college hockey where fighting draws a suspension, at some point you have to realize that you're a star player in this sport. You don't need to get yourself ejected for fighting a scrub on a team that's going home for the season.

I can only go off what I heard (and what I've read) on this one, but it appears that this game was yet another fine example of Matt Shegos's incompetence. No real specifics (apart from the odd-man rush we had broken up due to UNO having six guys on the ice), but I find it impossible to believe that a team that can't play defense only committed one infraction warranting a power play in the first 55 minutes of the game. The Michigan crowd is clearly biased, but I can't imagine they were wrong every single time they started booing--and it happened a lot. It got bad enough that the "Fire Shegos" chant was very, very audible on the broadcast. Can't say I've heard the fans go that far in a long time. Again, Miami fan, I'm pretty confident that you would find a lot of support in Ann Arbor for a rule banning Matt Shegos from working our games.

Michigan now advances to take on Northern Michigan, who upset Spartina in their best of three series. (BTW, after all the Brian Aaron/Ed Hightower talk this weekend and Izzo's sobbing, I'm pretty sure you're never allowed to comment on Michigan/Michigan fans disliking the officiating in football, Sparty) Notre Dame will face Miami in the other semifinal. As the #1 seed, Michigan gets the benefit of playing the 4:30 game on Friday (giving them more recovery time for a theoretical championship game appearance). That sound you heard is the management at Joe Louis Arena swearing. Michigan in the early game and no MSU? The attendance is going to be nothing on Friday. The start time is actually bad news for my ability to watch. I have a hockey game at 7 on Friday, so I'll likely have to leave after the second period.

Other happenings from Saturday and Sunday: Clarkson lost their first round series, meaning that the ECAC will more than likely get two teams into the tournament, moving the "bubble" to 13 in the PWR. Also, currently-out-of-the-tournament Boston University or Vermont is guaranteed to make an appearance in the Hockey East Championship, so the bubble could rise even further. Minnesota-Duluth, Minnesota State, and Wisconsin all lost their match-ups. At this point, Duluth is done for and MSU-M and Wiscy are tied for the 13th spot, giving the edge to MSU-M. I'm sure someone will crunch the numbers, but it's looking pretty bleak for the Badgers and pretty good for my chances to see Michigan in Madison sans Wisconsin.

I'm not really going to get into the whole Jim Carty thing this time, unless something he says reaaaally pisses me off. That snake doesn't deserve acknowledgment, though frankly, if I thought it would help him get that bigger gig that he's clearly been angling for for years, I would link every story he writes.

I will say this: It may be premature to comment before I've read all four stories, but assuming the first article included the big guns, which would make sense, if that's all you could come up with after seven months of investigating, I feel pretty good about our program. The story allegedly started out as an investigation into the General Studies major. Having found nothing, they then went with the "Well they had a few easy classes" story. I doubt we'll see any "Whoops, BGS actually is a legit major" stories coming from the Ann Arbor News, however. I would imagine if you gave a reporter with an agenda seven months to come up with something at any major institution, they'd find out a lot worse than this.

I'm also willing to put up with any embarrassment these articles may cause as part of the cost of not having Jim Carty write articles for a good portion of the winter. I will say that it ain't just athletes that can get easy credits in independent study. I'm not going into details about my own experience, but let's just say the words "Merry Christmas" were used at one point.

Am I troubled at all by the report? Not especially. Ideally, all athletes would be model citizens and great students as well as great players. They aren't. There are ways to get easy credits in college and I would suspect that every student passing through has found a few of them. The fact that they didn't do as much work as the guidelines suggest doesn't bother me. They also tell people that we should be studying a minimum of 2 hours a week per credit hour and there were a lot of weeks I wasn't studying 30 hours.

The only thing that even slightly bothered me was when the number of independent studies being taken was extremely high--and I can't say I even care that much about it (especially considering this is the big "GOTCHA!" out of Carty. A couple of easy independent studies? It's a non-issue to me.

But the report also doesn't trouble me because I don't trust Jim Carty to not be lying, distorting facts, and skewing things to fit his agenda, since he did it constantly with the Harbaugh stories. I'm very much looking forward to seeing what MGoBlog has to say about this. It's gonna be good. Aside from that, I'm just hoping this smug little worm finds his bigger gig ASAP. Even though he'd probably end up going blind.

Edit: The CCHA and MGoBlue now list our game as the 8:05 start, I assume due to attendance concerns. So forget what I wrote about the #1 seed getting the extra time to prepare for the next game, should they make it. It's all about the attendance.