Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Michigan/Notre Dame Preview

The Wolverines and the Fighting Irish faceoff tomorrow in the front-end of a Thursday/Saturday series to determine who the biggest underachievers in the conference are. If you're a masochist, the game tomorrow night is on Fox Sports Detroit and Saturday's game will air on the Big Ten Network.

Michigan sits in 7th in the CCHA, 5 points behind Alaska and 4 points behind UNO. Both of those teams have finished their CCHA slate of games. We're also two points behind NMU, who has LSSU at home. So basically we need two wins this weekend--even if one is in a shootout, we would have more regulation wins than Alaska and I'm pretty sure that's the first tie-breaker--as well as a non shootout loss by NMU. If they lose in a shootout and win in regulation, then we'd need to win both our games in regulation. Got that? If all that happens, the Wolverines take fourth place and don't have to play next weekend. Otherwise we're playing in the first round of the CCHA tournament and could face a second-round trip to Alaska.

The Irish are worse off. They sit in TENTH in the CCHA, with an 8-11-7-2 conference record. They need two regulation wins and help this weekend to not have to go on the road in the first round of the CCHA Tournament.

Calle Ridderwall is the only player on the team with more than ten goals. He has a 17-8--25 line. A whopping ten of those goals have come on the power play. Ryan Thang, in his seventh year, has 9-11--20. They have three defensemen with 17+ points.

Freshman Mike Johnson has gotten the majority of the time in net. He's 8-10-5 with a 2.47/.915. Brad Phillips hasn't played a full sixty minutes since Thanksgiving. He's gotten yanked in his only two starts.

ND is only the #49 offense in the country at 2.41 goals per game. They give up 2.47 a night, good for 12th nationally.

So yeah, hopefully the televised games this weekend are actually watchable.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Having a Seat Over There: Recruiting Update

Let's talk a little recruiting, since it's actually, ya know, hope for the future.

College Hockey 24/7 came out with their list of the top 50 recruits for the Class of 2010 and there are five Wolverines on the list. Jon Merrill (#4) and Mac Bennett (#13) are each given 5 star ratings.

They've also had two articles which should be of major, major interest to Wolverine fans because they involve GOALIE PROSPECTS!!!!!!!!!!! Joel Vienneau is said to have narrowed his interest to Michigan and Minnesota. He plays for the Kingston Voyageurs of the OJAHL and has put up sparkling numbers. As recently as a month ago, his father said that he was 95-99% sure that his son was going to Minnesota. Of course at that point the other schools mentioned were St. Lawrence, UMass, and LSSU, so it's kind of a no-brainer. If Michigan gets involved and offers, though, you never know.

The other goalie that has been mentioned is Omaha Lancers' goalie Jeff Teglia. He ranks fourth in the league in goals against (2.37), second in save percentage (.917), and is tied for first in wins (24). He's also a very good student. He said that Notre Dame is his dream school, but that he hopes the Wolverines will renew their interest now that Jack Campbell has opted for the OHL. The Lancers have a track record of putting goalies into the NCAA: Jeff Lerg, Drew Palmisano, Dominic Vicari, Scott Gundmandson, Dan Ellis, and our own Kevin O'Malley amongst others.

The Wall Street Journal had a nice article about the US Olympic Team and the city where a good portion of those guys played high school hockey: Ann Arbor. (Thanks Scotty)

NMU 3, Michigan 1

I need a macro to write this posts a little quicker. It's the same thing every week.

Hogan plays really well for the most part, gives up an unspeakably bad goal. We take several mind-numblingly stupid penalties. The offense can't put the puck in the net.

Tonight's version: Brian Lebler plowed Brian Stewart and took his 42nd goalie interference penalty of the season. It took NMU all of six seconds to score. Backhand shot from down by the goal line, closer to the corner than the net. Somehow it sneaks in. Remember that list I was talking about of the 10 worst goals Michigan has given up this decade? That'd be a candidate. Oh, let's not forget that we lost another defensive zone faceoff that directly led to the goal.

NMU made it 2-0 shortly thereafter on a wrist shot from the blueline that got tipped right in front of Hogan. Four--FOUR--Wolverines chased the puck-carrier out to the point on that one, leaving Chris Summers in no man's land in front of the net. Fox was wide open to tip the puck in.

Hagelin made it 2-1 late in the first when he centered the puck and it deflected in off a NMU defender and Stewart.

That would be all the scoring until NMU added an empty-netter very late in regulation off a Michigan turnover. Josh Langfeld...errr...David Wohlberg threw a blind pass to the right point and it was intercepted. Steve Kampfer kept backing up like he had no clue the goalie was out and NMU was able to ice the game.

In the meantime, what else happened? We were 0 for a gajillion on the power play, including 3 in the first ten minutes of the hockey game when it was still 0-0. We had a 5 on 3 late in regulation and had a few good chances, then Kevin Lynch took a boarding penalty to wipe out the last 1:01 of the power play. Yes, another 1 goal loss (essentially) where we wiped out more than a minute of power play time by taking dumb penalties.

Louie Caporusso took another goalie interference penalty.

Fred Pletsch had a bad mistake, saying that the only 3 Swedes in the CCHA were playing in this game. As nice as it was of him to not mention the name Calle Ridderwall to Michigan fans, he's a Swede and a pretty damn good one.

Hogan made at least 5 stops to keep us in the game, including a breakaway off a turnover by Chris Brown and a stop on Olver off a Hagelin turnover. He's not getting a lot of help offensively. He's actually played pretty well as of late, but this team just can't overcome at least one horrifically soft goal a night.

That being said, we've gone 131:06 since we've scored a goal that wasn't by accident. In the NMU game and the second game of the series against UNO, the only goals we've scored have been centering passes that ended up in the back of the net.

I really don't like Winnett running the point on the power play.

As much as I hate watching this team sometimes (or a lot of the time), I love watching Rust, Hagelin, and Glendening play together.

That's all I've got.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Lost 3 of 4: CRHC, BGSU, Swept by UNO

Coming into this weekend, in the history of the UNO program they had beaten the Wolverines 4 times in 31 games. They hit 50% of that total this weekend. It's time to stop watching the Pairwise, folks. You probably should have done that already, but if you hadn't, now's the time. There's no point. The Wolverines aren't going to the 2010 NCAA Tournament unless they win CCHAs, and to paraphrase Clark Griswold, if I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn't be more surprised than I would be if the Wolverines pulled that one off.

Let's start with Friday night because that game was actually watchable. Highly entertaining as a matter of fact. The Wolverines came out flying and looked like, ya know, a team that actually wanted to be on the ice. Glendening, Lebler, and Sparks all had great chances in the opening minutes but were held off the board.

UNO took a silly penalty and the Wolverines had a great looking power play. The first shift was fantastic and early in the second part, Langlais got a shot through traffic that Chris Brown got a stick on and the Wolverines were up 1-0.

It didn't last long, however, as Steve Kampfer turned the puck over in a terrible position and Martin was able to slip it by Hogan to tie the game up.

A couple of minutes later, Martin made it 2-1 UNO. He centered the puck and Tristin Llewellyn shot it into his own net like his name was Paul Coffey. Shots at one point were 9-3 Michigan, but the score was 2-1 Omaha.

Omaha's forecheck gave the Wolverine fits. After creating the first goal, the forecheck caused a Michigan turnover which led to a power play, which Omaha would capitalize on to go up 3-1. Chad Langlais stepped up on a cross-ice pass but couldn't intercept and it led to numbers for the Mavericks. They found Broadhurst coming late and he one-timed one into an empty net.

In the second, Hogan made a gorgeous stop on a two-on-one to keep the game 3-1 and Caporusso put one in just a second later. That was a potential game-changing save and Caporusso beat Faulkner with a wrister from between the dots.

Hagelin's speed created a chance for Lynch, who got a tip on a shot right at the top of the goal mouth.

Llewellyn then turned the puck over, Kampfer took a penalty because of it, and the Mavericks scored again. A shot from the point deflected over to Broadhurst on the far side and he buried it before Hogan could get across. 4-2 Mavs. Hogan made three saves to keep the game at 4-2, the third of which was just HUGE. A great pass sprung Kemp and Hogan robbed him. He made another stop--this one on Hudson--at the start of the third.

Hudson took a 5-minute major for hitting from behind and it looked like the Wolverines might have a chance to get back into the game. True to form, however, they wiped out an incredible four minutes of the major due to penalties of their own--offensive zone penalties to boot. They did score 4-on-4, however, to get back within one. If you're counting, that's something like 16 1/2 minutes of power play time we've wiped out with penalties of our own in one-goal losses to BU, FSU, OSU (that one was a loss by 2 with an ENG), and UNO.

The 4-on-4 goal was a really impressive play. After Rust turned it over in the UNO end, Kampfer and Hagelin combined to steal the puck back and hold it in the zone. Rust chipped it to Hagelin, who dug it out of the corner. He somehow found Kampfer across the ice and sent him a fairly hot pass. Kampfer one-timed it in.

Michigan had a couple of chances the rest of the game, but nothing of note. The Mavericks rode their strong first period to a 4-3 win.

As entertaining as Friday's game was, that's how unwatchable tonight's game was. We missed the first nine minutes due to women's basketball. I missed the last 10 minutes because I got fed up and fast-forwarded, only stopped to see the replay of Caporusso's fourth in three games--this one from behind the net.

In the meantime we saw more of the same reasons this team isn't going to the NCAA tournament: Way too many penalties, terrible defense, yet another ridiculously soft goal, and--incredibly--nothing resembling an offense despite 37 shots on goal.

Omaha found the late man for a one-time goal on two more occasions, which brought the total to what? 4 this weekend? They actually seemed like they had an idea about what to do with the puck on the power play. I forgot what that was like.

I don't have a whole lot to say about this debacle. Hogan was stellar, last goal aside. He gave up 8 goals this weekend, but the final goal tonight is the only one that he gets blamed for. The team gave him absolutely no help on defense. And they really didn't give him a ton of help on offense either. I've been rough on the kid, but he was in no way the problem this weekend. He held Michigan in the game Friday by making at least 5 spectacular saves with them down by a pair of goals, and he made several more big-time stops tonight, most notably at the end of the second period.

Glendening was good this weekend, despite taking the 42nd (or so) goalie interference penalty of the season for the Wolverines. Kampfer played pretty well too, and I say that knowing that he turned the puck over for the initial Mavericks goal Friday and took a penalty that led to the game-winner as well.

We looked like mini-mites on the second UNO goal, chasing the puck...

There's just not really anything enjoyable about watching this team. They play stupid hockey, the effort is questionable on a lot of nights, and they're going to be the first Michigan team in two decades to watch the tournament on TV. Though we basically did that last year too.

A few very belated thoughts about the Camp Randall Hockey Classic, because I didn't get to talk about it:
-Really great event. The open-skate the night before was absolutely fantastic. Everyone looked like they were having a blast. We had a great time, took a ton of pictures...hopefully Michigan will do something similar for the Big Chill at the Big House.

-Outdoor games rule. Maybe the ice sucked, and maybe the game was boring for the first couple of periods, but I love watching outdoor hockey in front of a huge crowd.

-I wasn't impressed with the Wisconsin fans at all. They were silent up until the string of power plays late in the game. Our section of Wolverines represented. I had my binoculars out and there were several times that people at field level were turning around to see where the pro-Michigan chants were coming from. That said, the Wiscy fans treated us shockingly well.

-The first goal Wisconsin scored was ridiculously soft. Pretty sure I participated in calling Hogan a sieve after that one. Holy crap. If you're making a list of the 10 worst goals that Michigan has given up in the past decade, wouldn't he be on the list at least 4 or 5 times? #1 would still be in the 00-01 season against UAF when we shot the puck into our own empty net during a delayed penalty.

-Awesome goal crease. Not that it mattered, but I thought the teams usually switched ends halfway through the third in outdoor games.

-Didn't see the first penalty Summers took, but the second one was a horrendous call. That's a call you hate to see at any point during the game, but to call it with 2 minutes left in a tied hockey game screamed of not wanting to see overtime and catering to the home crowd. With 8 minutes left in the game, though, was there any Michigan fan who didn't think we'd take a penalty before the end of the night? I would have bet on Llewellyn, but I knew one was coming.

-Then again, it's not like our penalty kill came near clearing the puck on either of the power plays where the puck ended up in the back of our goal. You could tell from Wisconsin's first power play--where they didn't score--that it was going to be an adventure all night if we got down a man. Luckily the refs kept the whistle in the pocket most of the night, which made it all the more puzzling when they brought it out for two pretty marginal calls late (going off what I heard about the first call on Summers).

-Losing 6 straight faceoffs (mostly by Geoffrion beating Rust) on the two power plays didn't help. Prior to the game-winning goal, I'm pretty sure we lost 5 defensive zone faceoffs in a row.

-The two late Wisconsin goals were carbon copies of each other. We don't have a guy with a shot like Smith, though I'm not sure who does. I'm happy that he'll be wearing red and white in the pros too, though, because that kid is a baller.

-So many missed chances. Outside of the first period, Michigan pretty much carried the play. But just like a lot of games this year, despite a lot of shots, not much offense. The first goal was a really nice play by Vaughan (who I thought played a really strong game as a whole), but the second goal was brutal. It still almost held up.

-Kind of fitting to take a goal interference penalty to wipe out any hope of a comeback.

At least we beat BGSU again. Hogan shutout, Cappy two goals. Yay.

7th place in the CCHA, now. Before we pooped the bed this weekend, a first-round bye seemed all but assured. Now we're 2 points back of UA with 2 games in hand so we'll probably pass them. We're two back of Northern, now, with a big series against them at Yost next weekend. And we're now 4 points back of UNO with two games in hand. Six back of FSU and MSU for 2nd and 3rd. Not impossible but not likely, though they play each other next weekend so if one of those teams sweeps and we sweep NMU we're right back in the mix for a top 3-4 seed.

But that's assuming we can play well for a couple of games in a row next weekend. Turnovers, penalties, bad goals, no offense, terrible defense, shaky goaltending. There's no way this team belongs in the tournament, though it's completely inexplicable how they can possibly be this bad.

On the bright side, ESPN LA contributed two more entries in their story about JMFJ's experience at the Opening Ceremony and it sounds like a good time was had by all.

"This is, bar none, the coolest thing I've ever done in my entire life. It'll probably be the coolest thing I'll ever do in my life. I'm still kind of downloading and remembering it all."

Johnson kept up his promise to be ready for the Kings' game tonight, by contributing 2 assists in a 3-0 win over Colorado.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Jack Johnson: Awesome

Back from another business trip that prevented me from writing about the CRHC, getting any info other than tweets about the BGSU game, or previewing the UNO series.

Before I get into tonight's 4-3 loss to the Mavericks (that'll come tomorrow)--really entertaining hockey game by the way--this deserves it's own post.

The opening ceremony for the Vancouver Olympics was tonight and the NHL has not yet gone on hiatus. Typically this prevents the hockey players from attending. JMFJ decided that if he was playing in the Olympics, he wanted the full Olympic experience. You never know when the NHL will put the kabosh on the NHL stars playing (because who wants to grow the game by having the best in the world play on an international stage?), and with the next Olympics in Russia, who knows if he'd have the chance again.

So Jack chartered a plane and he and his family flew up to Vancouver, went to the ceremony, and now he's headed back to LA in order to make the morning skate tomorrow. In doing so, he became--according to USA Hockey--the first active NHL player to march in the opening ceremony.

ESPN LA sent a reporter along for the ride. She chronicled the journey is a really good story, which includes some video.

Johnson also saw some air time in an interview with Dan Patrick before the ceremony began and he came across really well--like he really gets the whole point of the Olympics and wasn't concerned with how difficult it was to arraign because he wanted to be a part of the whole experience.

Kings GM Dean Lombardi commented: "Jack has always been an integral part of the U.S. program and he has now reached its highest level -- a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to march with the colors. USA Hockey should be thankful that the LA Kings turned him into the hockey player he is."*

USA Today, the LA Times, CTV and the AP also had stories about the former Wolverine. CTV has a picture of him that would make J Lehman proud.

Go get 'em, Jack!

*Maybe I made that last sentence up.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Don't Forget, BGSU Tonight

The Wolverines will have a rare Thursday game against at Bowling Green against the Falcons. The game will be streamed on the B2 Network for a fee.

Quick facts:
-BGSU is 4-18-4 this year.
-One of those wins was against us.
-That win is still their only win away from home this year. They're 0-11-3 in the other 14. Nice, guys.
-They beat WMU in a shootout and won the other game last weekend.
-Before that, they had only won one of the last thirteen. (They also beat ND in a shootout in there.)
-Leading scorer: Freshman Jordan Samuels-Thomas. Hyphen has 9-12--21 in 26 games.
-Nick Eno has played most of their games in net. He's 4-10-3 with a 3.20/.897. Freshman Andrew Hammond is 0-8-1 with a 4.14/.885. Eno made 29 stops in their earlier win against Michigan.
-#53 offense in the country at 2.12 gpg. Only Holy Cross, Tech, WMU, American, and "The" UConn have worse offenses. #54 defense. Only Clarkson, UConn, American, and Tech are worse.
-12.9% on the PP. Ehht. 75.0% PK. Ehht.

I probably should have written something about the second game of the weekend against Michigan State.

Maybe it wasn't the most well-played game in history, but that was one hell of a hockey game. I have to admit, that team showed me something. I had them written off completely ("Game over. Season over.") after FYS came from 3-0 down to take a 4-3 lead. Then Carl Hagelin makes a game (and season?) changing play, stealing the puck from Drew Palmisano and finding Matt Rust for a short-handed goal. Chris Brown banged one in a couple minutes later and the Wolverines had a 5-4 win.

We're still a retarded hockey team. We take some of the dumbest penalties. Four days later and I can think of several off the top of my head: Vaughan and Caporusso both took penalties for running the goalie for no reason. Hagelin (of all people) took a terrible penalty for bopping Krug by the bench. State scored on that power play. It's just a constant string of stupid play. Even with a great penalty kill, it still doesn't help.

I thought we did a pretty nice job of getting pucks to Brian Lebler in the slot this weekend. We might not have anyone on the team that can really one-time it, but Lebler did a pretty nice job in the Pacioretty role this past weekend. He got off several really good chances, and buried one of them.

Running out of time to make a move for the tournament, short of winning the CCHAs. That loss Friday night really hurt. Dammit.