Hey, remember when there used to be this site called The Blog That Yost Built, and the guy who wrote for it would actually do things like provide weekend previews, game recaps, and once-in-awhile, gasp (!) a thing called analysis? Hmm....I don't either.
Sorry about the last month. Real life got in the way and I had a hard time motivating myself to write things like "Yup, split another weekend. Shocking." or "Nope, not making the tournament".
Anyway, the Wolverines (finally) return the ice tomorrow to take on the RPI Engineers in the semifinal of the Great Lakes Invitation, a tournament that Michigan is looking to win for the third year in a row.
One plus is that for the first time in over a decade, the Wolverines come in to the GLI with their entire roster. Yes, that's right. Michigan did not lose anyone to the World Junior Championships.
Their first opponent is in the nightcap tomorrow. Here are ten things to know about the Engineers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute:
1) They come into the GLI with a 9-9-1 record on the season (3-4-0 in the ECAC). After a pretty good start that included a wins over UNH and Yale, and a tie against Alaska, RPI has lost six of their last eight (though their last win came against the defending national champions--yeah they're down this year, but it's still a win over BU). Four of those six losses were by a single goal.
2) They're paced offensively by junior Chase Polacek, who has a 12-14--26 line in 19 games and comes in riding a 13-game point streak. He ranks 15th in the country in points per game. Freshman Brandon Pirri has 18 points, which is seventh amongst freshmen in points per game. He was a second round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks. Another freshman, Jerry D'Amigo, will miss the GLI as he is playing for Team USA at the World Juniors.
3) Goaltender Allen York (a Columbus draft pick) has lost six straight starts after winning his previous five, giving up 23 goals in that span. He was in net for the win over UNH. Freshman Bryce Merriam made 32 saves in the recent win over BU, but has only played 4 times this year. He does have a 3-1-0 record with a 2.27/.898 however. York is 6-8-1 with a 2.93/.895.
4) RPI's 55 goals in 19 games rank them 26th in the country in offense at 2.89 goals per tilt. Michigan is just a little further down the list at 2.78 (ugh). Defensively they're 28th at 2.79 goals per game. Michigan's team defense is actually pretty good, ninth in the country at 2.28.
5) The special teams: 22nd in power play at 20.2% (they have the same number of goals in the same number of chances as Miami). Way down the list in 46th on the PK at 76.9%. They've given up 24 power play goals in 19 games. By comparison, Michigan's anemic power play is at 16.9% (37th in the nation) but they rank second in penalty killing at an impressive 91.0%.
6) The last meeting between these teams was in 1986, an 11-10 overtime victory for the Wolverines. That game was the last time Michigan trailed by 4 goals and came back to win. They were down 4-0 in that game. Michigan trails the all-time series 3-6-1. All four of RPI's previous appearances at Joe Louis Arena came in the 1985 calendar year. This is their second appearance in the GLI. They knocked off Michigan in their previous appearance.
7) Junior defenseman (and captain) John Kennedy is the only Michigan native on the roster. He hails from Saginaw.
8) You want to see patience? Senior defenseman Christian Jensen was drafted in 2004, by the San Jose Sharks in the ninth round.
9) RPI has not won a game the entire season when they've scored fewer than three goals. They're 0-6-1 in those contests.
10) The goals that they've scored and allowed are fairly consistently spread out through the game. They've scored 17 in the first, 19 in the second, 17 in the third. They've allowed 14 in the first, 19 in the second, and 19 in the third.
A few things from the Michigan perspective:
-Louie Caporusso has 5 goals in 4 career games in the GLI. Lebler, Langlais, Glendening, Summers, and Wohlberg all have 3 career points in the holiday tournament.
-Bryan Hogan is 2-0-0 with a 0.50/.971 in the GLI.
-Caporusso is at 57% on draws this year and Rust is at 55.2%. Nice!
The semifinal games and the third place game are not televised. The championship game will be shown on Fox Sports Detroit.