Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Michigan Picked to win the Conference

The Coaches and the Media picked Michigan to win the CCHA this year. The Wolverines received 5 out of 12 first-place votes in the coaches' poll and 24/66 in the media poll. Notre Dame, Miami, Ohio State, and Northern Michigan round out the top five in both polls.

The truly amazing thing is that someone in the media poll actually gave a first-place vote to the Michigan State Spartans. Clearly the fact that they return 0 10-goal or 20-point scorers and lost their only good player means they're on a fast-track to the top of the conference. I'm pretty sure the Wack Ballot Watchdog would have caught that one if this was the Blog Poll.

Louie Caporusso
was a unanimous first-team selection for the CCHA Preseason All-Conference First Team. Bryan Hogan was the second-team goalie (though he got the same number of first-place votes as the first-team goalie, Brian Stewart) and Chris Summers was an honorable mention.

The other big news is that the CCHA has gone to a 3-points-for-a-regulation-or-OT-win scoring system. Teams will get 2 points for a shootout win, and 1 point for a shootout loss. MSU Student crunched the numbers and determined that Ferris was the only team that would have benefited from this last year. Michigan would have finished 3 games behind ND instead of 4. It will be interesting to see if the NHL keeps an eye on how this works out. Every now and then someone throws out the idea of making every game worth three points. I'm curious to see if it will have any effect.

Also, a couple of Michigan students are trying to organize an official student organization for hockey, similar to the Maize Rage. Their goal is not to change anything about the student section as it is, but mainly to make it easier for students to travel to road games.

I love that idea. The majority of the CCHA arenas are fairly close and if a big group is going, the cost for a bus/tickets/hotel shouldn't be very much for a 2-game weekend. Maybe this says something about me, but if they had something like this when I was in school, I would've been looking to go to every road game they had a trip for. It would also be nice to see bigger groups of students sitting together at the Joe Louis games.

Ways to get involved:
-There's a mass meeting in the Tap Room on October 6 at 7 pm
-They'll have a table at the hockey bbq tomorrow
-Send an email to
-Join the facebook group Michigan Hockey Student Section

If they're looking for a dynamite event for the first year, might I suggest the Culver's Camp Randall Hockey Classic? Tickets are $15 for big groups, there are plenty of seats available, Madison is a cool city, it's not that long of a drive, and it would be a blast to go in a big group.

I'm also on board with doing whatever they can to get the cowbells/left half-right half of the student section to be somewhat in sync. Nothing burns out a good cheer faster than to have it sound like we're doing it in a round.

Lucas Lessio is off to a great start in his CCHL career, with a 7-8--15 line in 6 games for the St Mike's Buzzers. He's scored 12 points in his last 4 games and has been in on 15 of the 22 goals the Buzzers have scored this season. He was in on every goal in three of their first six games.

I don't know if I mentioned it, but his OHL rights were traded from Niagara to Oshawa a couple of weeks ago. Buuuuut....

The Generals, meanwhile, aren't saying much publicly about the situation, but appear to be having issues of their own trying to sign the 6-foot-1 forward from Woodbridge, who is rumoured to have committed to attend the University of Michigan.

2011 is a long way off.....really hope that kid makes it to campus.

In Honor of my 666th post

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Given that it's officially game week!!!!!!!!!!!! I suppose this could be considered a preview and not just an update on some future recruits.

Great article on yesterday about the NTDP and the decision some kids have to make about whether to join the program or head to the CHL. They specifically talk about Jack Campbell and Luke Moffatt, both of whom--as I'm sure you know by now, are future Wolverines.

Here's a happy quote from JMFC:

"For all my friends and family… to be able to come to a Michigan game means a lot to me," said Campbell, who also referred to the Spitfires as a first-class organization. "I'm excited to play for Michigan and hopefully win a few National championships along the way.

"I've been going to Yost Ice Arena since I was a little kid and it's just an unbelievable atmosphere and I can't wait to play my first game."

Moffatt cited the ability to wear the USA logo game in and game out as why he picked to play for the NTDP over the Kelowna Rockets.

The scout quoted in the article talks about how good this U-18 team is going to be this year and how it's really nice for scouts that the NTDP is playing in the USHL now. He also has some complimentary things to say about Campbell and his performance at U-18s last year.

USA fell to Des Moines 4-2 in the USHL Classic. Campbell made 28 saves on 31 shots (Des Moines had an ENG too) and Merrill scored in the losing effort.

One other update: Lucas Lessio has 6-6--12 in 5 games so far this season for St. Mike's. Incredibly, he's been in on 12 of the 16 goals the Buzzers have scored, and in three of the five games he's been in on every goal they've scored in the game.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

More Odds and Ends


Mac Bennett was chatting with Cammalleri about U of M while he was at Habs camp.

The game time for the Culver's Camp Randall Hockey Classic has been announced. We're playing at 5. The women play at 2, so hopefully the ice will be ok. The Big Ten Network will televise the game, for the few of you who aren't sitting with me.

A commenter mentioned a couple of days ago that Jacob Fallon may have been kicked out of the NTDP for a drinking incident. Western College Hockey said that he has heard the suspension was changed and Fallon will now be allowed to return after December 1. Fallon is still listed on USA's roster, which was updated to indicate the development that I mention one paragraph down. That lends support to the idea that he's not off the team.

In other NTDP news, Austin Czarnik, Robbie's cousin, has decommitted from FYS. MGoBlog had a take on this news.

The University of Michigan Photo Store is going to start making game images available through MGoBlue's photo store. They have offered a 5% discount to readers of this blog who use the promo code tbtyb5 at checkout. This offer runs through the end of September. For the record, I bought the photo of five Michigan football coaches for my dad for Christmas last year and it was a big hit. I also picked up a shot of Yost in front of Yost (which I'm pretty sure is the coolest picture ever) for my office at work. They're actually really reasonably priced and the quality is top-notch. I was very satisfied with the purchase and I'm happy that they're a friend of my site. There's no hockey up yet, but I'm excited to see what they put up. There were some really great photos in the galleries last year and I'm geeked to have an easy way to pick up a couple in the future.

Single game tickets are now on sale for the upcoming season.

Christy Hammond, from Winging it in Motown, wrote a great article on Chris Summers for MGoBlue.

MGoBlue kicked off their annual "Getting to Know the Freshmen" features with an interview with Chris Brown.

College Hockey News ranked us #5 in their preseason poll, behind Denver, Miami, BU, and Cornell.

HT to MHNet, Max Pacioretty will stick with the Canadiens and could end up playing on the top line. The Montreal Gazette speculates that he could end up playing with Gionta and Gomez. It would be more fun if he played with Cammalleri.

Coyotes' assistant Ulf Samuelsson says that Kevin Porter has been one of the best players in Coyotes camp. The article also speculates that Kolarik will be right in the thick of things for one of the final roster spots--though the immediate chances took a hit as he was sent to San Antonio. Chad is being realistic about his NHL chances, saying that he knows he won't be a top-6 forward, so he's going to have to make it by being strong defensively, blocking shots, and bringing energy. I would absolutely love to see #24 crack Phoenix's lineup. He became one of my favorites with the way he put Porter's Hobey interests ahead of his own, and the way he re-invented himself, becoming a top-notch defensive player. He's probably #3 on my list of Favorite Wolverines in Recent Memory behind Jed and JMFJ. The Coyotes also sent Al Montoya to San Antonio, which makes perfect sense, considering he was unbelievable for them down the stretch last year. That's probably why they're the Coyotes.

Jack Johnson scored a highlight reel goal the other night, and the LA Times had a funny exchange with Andy Murray about it:
"If this was a regular-season game it would be on ESPN five or six times," Kings Coach Terry Murray said of the goal.

Uh, sorry, ESPN doesn't cover hockey anymore.

"It would be on Versus five or six times," Murray said.

Not if you get Versus through DirecTV, which is in a dispute with the NHL's cable rightsholder and dropped it.

"Well, TSN would have it," Murray said, referring to the Canadian version of ESPN.

Can't get that here, either.

"We get it in our office," he said, laughing.

The NTDP downed Tri-City 3-1 in the opening game of the USHL Fall Classic. Jack Campbell made 12 stops in the victory.

That's all I've got. Let's drop the puck already!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Anyone Looking for Season Tickets?

A reader wrote in to say that he wasn't going to be able to renew his season tickets this season, but didn't particularly want to give them up for good. He was wondering if anyone out there was looking for tickets--either the entire season or possibly to split.

If anyone's interested, shoot me an email (the link is in the right sidebar) and I'll pass along the details.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Patrick Summers will be the Third Goalie

One of the commenters posted it yesterday and Mike Spath confirmed it today: Patrick Summers, the younger brother of Michigan captain Chris Summers, will be the third goalie this season. He's wearing #30.

Spath also confirmed that Scooter Vaughan will, in fact, move to forward for the upcoming season.

Now more about Summers:
He spent a lot of time in the Little Caesar's organization and also played for Victory Honda. In 69 games in that league he was 28-22-6 with a 2.80/.884. His best year was in 2007 when he was 10-2-1 with a 1.67/.911.

Smart kid, too. The bio of him in the above link says he had a 3.95 in high school.

He also played for Lincoln-Milan. He made 42 stops--including 21 in the third period--in Lincoln-Milan's first win ever over Ann Arbor Pioneer. He posted a 10-10-0 record with a 3.25/.897.

Also, after Willie Yanakeff was booted from the U-17 team, they called on Summers to be a late-season replacement, though I don't believe he saw any game action. At least not according to these stats.

Other stuff:
Mac Bennett was back at Habs camp, and he reiterated that he's playing for Cedar Rapids this year, Michigan next year, and then after that he'd go pro if the Canadiens want him to. Too early to give him the Max Pacioretty Memorial "Enjoy Him While He's Here" award? Or does he have to battle it out with the rest of that class first?

Monday, September 07, 2009

Five Burning Questions Heading into 2009-2010

Now for a cheer, they are here, triumphant!

The offseason, which was a couple weeks longer than it should have been, is almost over. Football's back, which means that hockey is just around the corner. Yessireesir, hockey fans, we are only 26 days away from dropping the puck on the 2009-2010 hockey season.

Here they come with banners flying, in stalwart step they're nighing, with shouts of vict'ry crying, we hurrah, hurrah, we greet you now, Hail!

It also means that it's high time I get off my duff and start the season previews. We'll kick things off with five questions facing the hockey team as they enter a season that will officially start in the Final Frontier, and will hopefully end at Ford Field.

Far we their praises sing for the glory and fame they've bro't us. Loud let the bells them ring for here they come with banners flying.

1) Who will be the regular six defensemen?
Normally it's not a good thing to ask a question such as the one above, but in this case, it's a very good thing. The Wolverines are very deep on the blueline. Mark Mitera is the only departure on the blueline from a team that ranked fourth in the NCAA in team defense last year, and he only played in 8 games. (Granted guys like Miller and Turnbull played a big role defensively as well.)

The Wolverines are carrying nine defensemen on the roster right now: Chris Summers, Steve Kampfer, Brandon Burlon, Chad Langlais, Tristin Llewellyn, Scooter Vaughan, Greg Pateryn, Lee Moffie, and Eric Elmblad. The first four are locks to be in the lineup every night, barring injury. There are fewer games to go around (at least in theory) for the third-pairing defensemen since Kampfer and Burlon are healthy after missing a combined 24 games a year ago.

Tristin Llewellyn is likely to be the fifth regular. He played in all but one game a year ago, pulling ahead of Vaughan and Pateryn on the depth chart. Assuming Michigan Defenseman Hating God doesn't come back, I would imagine T-Loo will play fewer games than a year ago, but he'll still regularly be in the lineup.

They've got options for the sixth spot. There have been rumblings every now and then about a potential move of Scooter Vaughan to forward, but he's still listed as a defenseman on MGoBlue. With Vaughan, you have a guy with 58 games of experience. He had a horrible start to last season--7 of his 15 career minus ratings came in the first 18 games last season--but after the GLI he made the most of his sporadic apperances in the lineup. In the seven games he played in the second half last season, he had four assists and was +6. He's not an offensive threat, but, first half of last year aside, he's been a pretty reliable defenseman during his time in Ann Arbor. I would guess that there aren't too many programs that have the luxury of potentially scratching a defenseman that has played almost 60 career games.

Greg Pateryn had a pretty decent freshman campaign. He played in 28 games and posted 5 assists with a +5 rating. He saw some power play time on the second unit as he really does have a nice shot, despite not scoring a goal last season. His ability to play on a power play unit might give him an edge over Vaughan.

Eric Elmblad likely won't see time barring injury, but he filled in admirably last season. He played eight games and didn't look remotely out of place. He was -2 and only took one penalty. Can't ask too much more out of your eight/ninth defenseman--eat some minutes, don't hurt us when you're in there.

The lone addition to Michigan's back-end is freshman Lee Moffie. Moffie wasn't drafted, but had a pretty good season in the USHL. He had 9 goals and 35 assists in 55 games for Waterloo, which were really similar numbers to what Chad Langlais put up his final year in that league (6-40--46 in 51 games). He was -1 on the season and posted 97 PIMs. He also had 123 shots on goal, which was 42 more than any other defenseman on their team. He was also very effective on the power play, putting up 26 of his 44 points with the man advantage. If he can come in and be a shot in the arm to our power play (which sucked last season) that's his ticket into the lineup.

Far we their praises sing for the glory and fame they've bro't us. Loud let the bells them ring for here they come with banners flying. Here they come, Hurrah!

2) Can Bryan Hogan carry the load in net and can Shawn Hunwick take some of the pressure off/fill in if need be?

If you read any of the Michigan hockey boards, one of the big concerns people have had this offseason is the backup goaltending situation. Billy Sauer graduated and it was very unlikely the Wolverines were going to be able to recruit a goalie given that Hogan has two years left and JMFC is set to come in in 2010. "How would you like to compete for the backup job this year and then battle for 3rd/4th string next year?" isn't a very persuasive recruiting pitch.

Hogan showed last year that he could handle being the starter for Michigan. He played in 31 of the 41 games and finished the year 24-6-0 with a 1.97 goals against and a .914 save percentage. You'd like to see the save percentage a little higher since he was only 28th nationally in that stat, but his mark tied Bob Gray for the third-best save percentage in Michigan history, behind only Billy Sauer's junior year and Al Montoya's sophomore season. His 1.97 goals against was second-best in team history (also to Sauer's junior year). Currently, he would have the best career goals against and save percentage in the history of Michigan hockey.

Red Berenson isn't scared to let a goalie take the reigns and not look back. On ten occasions we've had a goalie play 40+ games. Turco, Montoya and Blackburn all did it three times. Sauer did it in his sophomore year. So, again barring injury, we can expect Hogan to see a lot of action this season.

Behind him we've got Shawn Hunwick, who has just 2 minutes and 52 seconds of playing time to his credit. He made two saves on two shots in his only appearance--the beatdown of UNO in the playoffs in 07-08. He also gave up one goal on 12 shots against the US NTDP in 07-08. Prior to coming to Michigan, he was speaking with schools such as Northern Michigan and Holy Cross about goaltending position. He got injured and was set to go to Adrian before Michigan came calling.

He hasn't looked remotely out of place when he's seen action. I've underestimated a Hunwick before and it didn't work out so well for me. I still wish Red could have gotten Hunwick into a couple blowouts last year, knowing that he was going to be the backup this season.

I would imagine they'll pull someone from the club team to be the emergency goalie.

Hail! to the Victors, valiant. Hail! to the conqu'ring heroes. Hail! Hail! to Michigan, the leaders and best.

3) Can Robbie Czarnik rebound from a disappointing freshman season?

If you're looking for a good pick for Breakout Player of the Year, let me nominate Robbie Czarnik. He was the third leading scorer for the USA U-18 team in 07-08 and the only forward with more points than him was first-round pick, 45-point-as-a-freshman Jordan Schroeder. While success with the NTDP doesn't in it of itself doesn't guarantee success at the college level, a good number of the games he played in--and had success in--were against collegiate teams and it's reasonable he could replicate that.

He got off to a rough start last year, scoring just one goal in his first 27 games. Down the stretch, however, he had 4-4--8 over the last 12. Still, five goals as a freshman (and only one at even-strength) is probably not what the Wolverines or Czarnik were hoping for. Disappointing season and all, his numbers would have been good for fifth in goals, second in assists, and third in points on FYS's team. Owww!

For a good portion of last season, he was the 08-09 version of Louie Caporusso. If someone was going to have the puck hop over his stick with an empty net to shoot at, ring one off the post, or have the goalie make a sprawling save, it was Czarnik.

He had his opportunities, he just didn't convert them. Caporusso had the same problem in 07-08. Cappy didn't have that problem (at least as much) in 08-09 and ended up as a Hobey Finalist. While I'm not projecting a similar season for Czarnik as a sophomore, I think it's entirely likely that we could have a new impact player this year. I fully expect him to be up around 15 goals, 30 points, and top five on the team in scoring.

Only three guys on the team had more shots on goal than Czarnik (Hagelin, Caporusso, and Turnbull), but 11 players had more goals. Some of these pucks are going to start going in and it's going to be great for the Wolverines when it happens.

Hail! to the Victors, valiant. Hail! to the conqu'ring heroes. Hail! Hail! to Michigan, the champions of the West!

4) Can Louie Caporusso repeat his stellar campaign without high-scoring teammate Aaron Palushaj?

It's tough to lose a 50-point scorer who set up 37 goals and not feel it. Much in the way that Kevin Porter got a chance to prove he could do it without TJ Hensick, Louie Caporusso will get a chance to prove that he wasn't an Aaron Palushaj creation.

The thing is, he shouldn't have to. Even though there was a span in the middle part of the season where Palushaj and Caporusso seemed to connect on every goal the Wolverines scored, for the season Palushaj assisted on just eight of Caporusso's 24 goals. With Palushaj gone to World Juniors, Caporusso didn't miss a beat, winning GLI MVP by scoring four goals over the two games.

A better question is can Caporusso find some consistency? Even though he had a phenomenal season a year ago and could have made a legit run at the Hobey Baker (in a very weak year) if the Wolverines had cruised to the Frozen Four with Louie playing well in the process, he was still very streaky. He scored in 16 of our 41 games last year. )By comparison, Porter scored in 24 games during his Hobey season.) The bigger problem was after the GLI, he really cooled off. I didn't expect him to keep up his near goal per game pace, but after the GLI, he scored just six goals over the next 21 games (and only scored in two of the next 14 games--though he had two goals in each of those).

He also struggled offensively in some of the big games. While he was great in the GLI, in our four games against Miami, our three games against Notre Dame, and our tournament game against Air Force, he had a 0-3--3 line, with 16 shots. All those points came in one weekend against the Red Hawks (and 7 of the 16 shots came in one game). He was held off the scoreboard in the other five games.

If he can find some consistency--even if it's not quite at the level he played at in the first half of last year--we're going to be in really good shape. Maybe he will be a Hobey finalist again and maybe he won't, but I still expect a very good season out of #29.

We cheer them again. We cheer and cheer again. For Michigan, we cheer for Michigan. We cheer with main and might. We cheer, cheer, cheer. With might and main we cheer!

5) Is this finally the year that the Wolverines break through and win another NCAA title?

I'm a homer. You know it, I know it. I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't pick them to win the title every year. There have been three different CCHA teams in the NCAA Championship the last three years and none of them have been Michigan. That's depressing. Michigan hasn't had a whole lot of success in the NCAA Tournament the past few years. After having gone winless in the NCAAs just one time in the history of the program, it has happened three times in the last four years.

But there are a lot of things to like about this team. After losing 87 and 78 goals the past two offseasons (50% and 46% of our scoring), the Wolverines lose just 40 goals (27.5%) this year. The incoming class may not have any stud scorers, but Lynch, Treais, and Brown (at the very least) should all be quality players out of the gate.

The strength of the team, however, is going to be on the back end. They lose Mark Mitera, but for all intents and purposes they didn't have him last year either. Michigan only had a 100% Mark Mitera for a couple of periods, so they're pretty well prepared for his loss on the ice. And even without Michigan's top blueliner, even without Steve Kampfer for almost half the season, even without Brandon Burlon for a good portion of the early going (note that they were all out at the same time), they still were #4 in the country in team defense at 2.05 goals per game.

Bryan Hogan may not have ended the season in the best fashion, but he still proved to be a darn good goalie. The great thing about him last season was he only had one game where he didn't at the very least give Michigan a chance to win. The offense scored 3.54 goals per game. There was only one game the entire season where Hogan gave up more than three--5 in that brutal game against Notre Dame in the CCHA Championship. You can't ask a whole lot more out of your goalie than that. When there's only one occasion where the goalie gives up more goals than your offense averages, you're going to win an awful lot of hockey games. I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do in his second year as a starter.

Is this the year for Michigan? I don't know. I do know that they're as good on the blueline as any team in the country. I do know that they've got a quality netminder. And I know they're going to find a way to put the puck in the net. It all adds up to a team that is going to be right in the mix once again.

It's going to be a fun season.

Hail! to the Victors, valiant. Hail! to the conqu'ring heroes. Hail! Hail! to Michigan, the champions of the West!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

The Newest Wolverine: Lucas Lessio

The writing has been on the wall since he left Niagara camp and signed with the St Michael's Buzzers and Bob Miller just confirmed it: Lucas Lessio has committed to the University of Michigan.

I've had him pegged as a 2010 recruit all along because it seems hard to believe he'd play two years of juniors when the OHL is hot and heavy for him, but Miller indicates that "until further notice" he's a 2011 recruit. That makes sense considering he's a 93 birthday. Seeing the amount of talent in the 2010 class, I'd be accelerating.

Lessio is off to a good start in his OPJHL career. Or is it the OJHL? Or the CCHL? Whatever the hell they're calling it now. In three exhibition games, Lessio has a 4-1--5 line, including three points on the power play and a game-winner.

The Wolverine will have much more about Lessio in the near future.

Other stuff:
Billy Muckalt was named head coach of the Valencia Flyers of the Western States Hockey League.

WCH has Kevin Lynch as #30 in his Best of the West series.

Not that this is a shocker, but it's still nice to hear: Luke Moffatt was not at Kelowna Rockets camp.

Dean Blais called Jack Campbell's play in the national evaluation camp "outstanding" and said that he was tested more in his victory against Russia than Mike Lee was.

"We won 6-1, but the turning point in that game for us was killing those 5-on-3s and Jack had two saves I can remember that were outstanding," Blais said. "He would square up to the puck and control the rebounds."

He sounds like he's definitely got a great chance of representing the US at the World Juniors this season. Blais said they accomplished the goal of locking 15 players in to roster spots, and based on his comments, it'd be hard to believe that Campbell and Lee aren't among them. Blais was very critical of Maxwell's play and Knapp didn't see any action against the Russians. Meanwhile, the other two played very, very well.