Sunday, March 28, 2010

Michigan 3, Miami 2...errrrr....Miami 3, Michigan 2

Before I get into the fact that, yup, it happened again, I have one image running through my head over and over. It's a scene from Mystery, Alaska--for my money, the greatest sports movie ever. After a crushing defeat in which the team from Mystery put a shot off the post in the waning seconds and the Rangers scored one goal thanks to a BS no-call, the silence is broken by Burt Reynolds--the coach of the team--clapping. One by one, the heartbroken fans stand up and slowly clap along with him, until the crowd is cheering so loudly you would think the team had won.

So Michigan Wolverines:

(The clip I'm thinking of is at the thirteen second mark.)

So yeah, it happened again.

Michigan has been plagued for at least a couple of seasons by replays gone wrong, quick whistles when the puck is loose, slow whistles when it's not, pucks kicked in, and it happened again.

In the first overtime session, Carl Hagelin wrapped the puck around the net. Connor Knapp spun in a circle because he had no idea where it was. Kevin Lynch got to the loose puck and slammed it into the n........TWEEEEEEEET! Roughly a tenth of a second before Lynch put the puck into the goal, the whistle sounded. Play's dead. No goal. What made it even more agonizing was the fact that on Miami's second goal, the puck sat underneath Hunwick's pad for at least a second before Cannone chipped it out from under him into the net. The ref darn near touched his toes in an effort to see the puck. Not this time. TWEEEET! Maybe he was tired too.

Michigan continued to dominate the first overtime, outshooting the RedHawks something like 20-6 and outscoring them 1-0. Usually that's enough in sudden death overtime, but tonight it apparently wasn't. Anyone who has watched playoff hockey for any amount of time knew how this one would end. When one team dominates an overtime session and doesn't score, they typically don't win.

Sure enough, just a couple of minutes into overtime, someone named Alden Hirschfeld corralled a loose puck and slipped it past Hunwick for the game winner.

It was the type of game that we've seen so many times before. Outshoot the other team badly, have a goal waived off for no reason other than sheer incompetence, lose in the most heartbreaking way possible.

That said, this one doesn't feel as bad as some of the others (e.g. 2003 Frozen Four in Buffalo). Part because I had all but said goodbye to this season three months ago. Part because we were playing with the house's money just to make the tournament. And part because it was just so goddamn predictable that we were going to lose after the goal was waived off.

It was an amazing effort out of these Wolverines, however. David Wohlberg had a great individual effort for our first goal--to answer Miami's power play tally very quickly. He was a man possessed in the early part of this game. In addition to his goal, he had 2 or 3 breakaways that he just couldn't convert. He also made one of the defensive plays of the season in one of the overtime sessions, though at this point I couldn't tell you what it was if my life depended on it. Just that it was really darn good.

Carl Hagelin seemed like the only player on either team with any jump in his step as the overtime dragged on, and he darn near won the game on three or four different occasions. Matt Rust rang one off the crossbar in the first overtime. Shawn Hunwick made several incredible stops to save our season. Chad Langlais and Louie Caporusso each had huge blocks in the extra session.

Rust, Hagelin, and Lynch combined for 21 shots in the game.

You've got to give credit to Connor Knapp, who was stellar between the pipes for Miami. He stopped 55 of Michigan's 58....err...57 shots, many of which were at point blank range. He stopped 20 shots in the first overtime alone.

In the end, Michigan had plenty of chances to put this one away and just couldn't quite put that third puck past Knapp. They had two uninspired power plays at the end of regulation and during the first overtime (that was our consolation prize for the game-winning goal being waived off....a power play).

That being said, it was a phenomenal effort and it was really enjoyable to watch this team come together through the stretch run. They realized how to "play the right way" (to use a Larry Brown term) and they just may have found themselves a goalie in the process.

Had we won tonight, this is the section where I would be blasting the hell out of those incompetent boobs that were officiating the game. Having lost, it would sound like sour grapes, so I'm not going to complain about much else other than the fact that I really wish they had called a penalty when Hagelin was hauled down right in front of the ref about 20 seconds before Miami scored their second goal. With the way they were calling the second period, you have to make that call. There are a lot more things to complain about, but...whatever.

I will say this. If you're an official, there's only three things that I ask: 1) Call it both ways. 2) Don't decide the game. 3) Don't lose control of the game and let Andrew Conboy assault somebody. This pair massively failed on two of those three requests.

It wasn't a great season. But the last month sure was one heckuva ride. They came up a little bit short, but it was completely unexpected that they ended up making it as far as they did. In January, I can't say I would have complained if you told me we'd be in double OT with a shot to go to the Frozen Four on the line--or that we'd have a chance to get screwed on yet another quick whistle with a regional championship on the line.

Thank you, Shawn Hunwick.

Michigan 5, Bemidji State 1

You know, it wasn't all that long ago where I'd start these game recaps by saying it was the same thing over and over again and be really pissed about it. But right now, I'm happy to keep on writing it.

Yet another great effort by the Michigan Wolverines in a 5-1 win in the Midwest Region semifinals over Bemidji State in a game that was much closer than the final score.

Luke Glendening got the Wolverines going at the 6:15 mark on a gorgeous tip of a Chad Langlais shot. Glendening darn near had two more fairly early on in the game. Bakala made a nice save sliding to his right to stop Glendening off a BSU turnover, and then he stacked the pads and robbed our sophomore alternate captain again in the second period on a pretty feed from Caporusso.

Louie Caporusso may have not gotten as much ice time as he's accustomed to due to all the Michigan penalties, but he sure did make one count late in the second. Chris Brown picked a Beaver's pocket and fed Caporusso cross-ice. Louie took his time and uncorked a shot into the top corner with just 38 seconds left in the second period to give the Wolverines a 2-0 lead heading into the third.

BSU would answer on their sixth power play of the night. Shortly after blasting a shot off the post, they got the Wolverines running around a little bit and leading scorer Ian Lowe blasted one past Hunwick to pull the Beavers within one.

Michigan regained the two-goal lead quickly, though. Hagelin and Lynch worked a two-on-one beautifully with Hagelin feeding Lynch and then getting the return pass for an easy goal. Hagelin would add another tally, this time after a questionable (and predictable) call on Rohrkemper. Rust found him for a shorthanded breakaway and he slipped it under Bakala to put the Wolverines up 4-1. A Brian Lebler empty-netter sealed the deal and a game that was 2-1 with under ten minutes to play turned into a rout.

Shawn Hunwick made 26 saves in the victory--and a pretty decent number of those were grade-a scoring chances. The first two stops of the game were both great pad saves. He also made a phenomenal save with his arm, diving to his left after a Beaver was left all alone in front of the net. He was fantastic between the pipes yet again. He looks comfortable back there and Michigan looks really comfortable with him back there. And notice how many players jumped to his aid when the Beavers were jabbing between his legs trying to knock a puck loose late in the third.

That was a really entertaining hockey game. Very up and down, a lot of great rushes, a lot of nice stickwork by the defensemen. Aside from the frequent whistles to send Michigan players to the penalty box as if they were playing Wisconsin, the game had a great pace.

Steve Kampfer continued his fantastic play in the post-season with a pair of assists and a +2 rating. Chad Langlais had a pair of assists and was +3 on the night. Summers was rock-solid in his return. It's nice to have him back.

That Hagelin/Rust/Lynch line has turned into something special. 2-4--6 and +7 for the game. Lynch has fit in great with those two and he's playing the best hockey of his young Michigan career at the right time. And you can't possibly say enough about Hagelin and Rust. Not just what they've done offensively, but their incredible work in their own zone and on the penalty kill. They're so fun to watch out there and their speed has just been a complete B for teams to play against. Hagelin cracked the 50 point mark with his (very unselfish) assist on Brian Lebler's ENG. He has 19-31--50 on the season and looks like someone who could be a legit Hobey candidate next season.

Add in Caporusso coming to life and the Wolverines have a pair of extremely dangerous lines. Cappy has 13-7--20 since the outdoor game.

Where this game was really won, however, was on the penalty kill. From the 9 minute mark of the first period until the 3 minute mark of the second, the Wolverines had to kill off five full BSU power plays. That's 10 minutes of penalty killing in a 14 minute span, and an incredible eight minutes in a ten minute span from 13 minutes of the first to 3 minutes of the second. They killed off the rough equivalent of back-to-back major penalties and gave up 5 shots on goal in the process. The penalty kill was just ridiculous.

Short of putting on a Bemidji State jersey and trying to knock the puck past Shawn Hunwick, I'm not sure what else the officials could have done to aid the Beaver cause tonight. Doubtlessly, there were a couple of really, really stupid penalties on our part but a few of those were ridiculous, especially with regard to the other stuff they were letting go. My favorite was our guy getting blasted after the horn sounded to end the period and the penalties getting evened up. I also really enjoyed how there was a call literally ten seconds after I asked my dad, "So how long will the officials wait to give them one more power play [late in the game]?" So predictable. They need to play smarter tomorrow against Miami. I know the BSU power play is far better than Miami's, but we were playing with fire tonight and I'm not overly anxious to do it again.

Here's a fun fact for you: After being held off the scoresheet in five of Michigan's first eleven games, Hagelin has only failed to register a point in four games the rest of the season. Two of those were the weekend against FSU. Since that series (on January 22 and 23), the first game of the LSSU series is the only game he hasn't registered at least one point. Incredible. He's still only 35th in the country in points per game, but he's only 3 back of second place in the national scoring race (tied for 8th overall). If they re-did the Hobey voting right now, wouldn't Hagelin have to get some mention?

So now we get the matchup that everyone wanted to see: Michigan vs. Miami. The rematch of the CCHA Championship. Miami knocked off Alabama-Huntsville 2-1 today, and while they held a substantial lead in shots on goal, I wasn't overly impressed. They did kind of sit back once they got a 2-0 lead. The best thing that they likely got out of that game was some confidence for Cody Reichard, since he had had a couple of rough outings in a row.

I'm not going to spend much time previewing the RedHawks. They're a helluva hockey team and everything I wrote last week still applies. We should be in for a great one tomorrow night. It wouldn't shock me a bit if whoever wins this game wins the National Championship. Keep doing what you're doing, boys.

Elsewhere, there were a couple of shockers today:
-The RIT Tigers are off to the Frozen Four after blowing out the University of No Hardware.
-The team that I think pretty much everyone was afraid of, North Dakota, bowed out in the first round. They got down 3-0 to Yale and couldn't quite complete the comeback. Yale looked much better than I expected, and they got their first NCAA Tournament win since something like 1952. That was a stunner.

In the other games, BC and Alaska played a tight one with the Eagles coming out on top and Wisconsin knocked off St. Cloud in a penalty-filled game to reach the Frozen Four and earn a date with Cinderella (RIT). They look really solid, though I swear they've been on the power play for 90% of the minutes I've watched them play this year--or at least that's what it seems like.

Six teams left and the Michigan Wolverines are still standing.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

NCAA First Round: Michigan/Bemidji State Preview

There's already been a lot of great stuff written about this matchup:
MGoBlog has a long preview of this game as well as a hypothetical second round game with Miami or UAH. He also includes lots of stats about what BSU might look like if they were in a major conference.
John Bacon has a solid article about our new man in net.
Hoover Street Rag has their typically awesome previews. Click the link to the left for the main site. Or here is Michigan and Bemidji State.
Maize N Brew has a few words about the team as well as some information about the city of Fort Wayne.
The Wolverine Blog has a bunch of info about BSU straight from The Beaver Pond.

Last year, they were the cute and cuddly team fighting for their program. Possibly spurred by their unlikely run to the Frozen Four, the Beavers were extended an invitation to join the WCHA after the demise of their conference once this season ends.

This year, they're Michigan's opponent in the first round of the Midwest Regional. The Beavers come in with a 23-9-4 record on the season, and won the CHA regular season championship with a 14-3-1 record. They had 29 points in 18 games. They were the only team in the conference above .500. Their conference suuuucks.

That being said, with only 18 conference games, that opens the door for a lot of games against non-conference teams. They swept Air Force, beat and tied NMU, split with Minnesota, beat Miami but lost to Ohio State, got swept by MSU-Mankato, played WMU to a 0-0 tie before beating them 3-0 the next night (Yup, WMU sucks), swept Duluth and split with Omaha. So that's actually a pretty solid mix of games and as Brian asserts, they'd likely be right around 4th place in a conference like the CCHA.

Leading scorer Matt Read has matched his sophomore-year total of 40 points. He was shut out in the CHA semis and consolation game, but had 5 goals and 8 points in the six games before that. He had 2-3--5 in five games against NCAA Tournament teams that aren't UAH.

Ian Lowe leads the team in goals with 20. Eight of those have come on the power play. That's 20 goals after 2 as a freshman and 2 as a sophomore. Safe to say the light has come on. He's got 6 goals in his last eight games. He had 2-0--2 in five games against non-UAH tourney teams. He did have a stellar weekend against Duluth, however.

Jordan George is fifth in the country in points per game amongst freshmen, with 13-21--34 in 35 games.

The Beavers have five 10+ goal scorers and four that cracked the 30-point mark. Sophomore Brad Hunt has 7-26--33 from back on the blueline, good for fifth in the country in points per game for defensemen. He had 32 points as a freshman and had 7 markers with the man advantage last season. He needs to not go all Brendan Smith on us. That said, he hasn't scored a goal in thirteen games, though he does have one assist in seven of his last eight. He had four assists against Northern early on in the season. And you don't see it very often for d-men, so it's worth mentioning: He had a 3-1--4 line in a game against UAH.

Nobody else on the blueline has more than a goal or more than ten points.

Dan Bakala, a sophomore, has gotten the nod in the net more often than not this season, after not playing a single minute a year ago. He's played 30 games and has a 19-7-3 record with a 2.27/.919 (11th in goals against and 12th in save percentage). He has been fairly shaky as of late, having just won one of his last five starts. He got chased in the CHA consolation game after giving up three goals in 2:06 against Bobby Mo. The game before that he gave up 5 on 25 shots against Niagara. There are a lot more 3s, 4s, and 5s in the "Goals Allowed" column than you'd probably like for a guy who played so many games against Robert Morris, Niagara, and UAH. He did give up just 2 against Miami, and had a 24 save performance (1 GA) against UNO.

The Beavers are sixth in the country in goals per game, with 3.53. They also have the #5 defense, allowing the same 2.28 goals per game as the Wolverines. They're also one of the least-penalized teams in the country at just 12.2 minutes per game.

The power play is just 19.0%, 26th in the country, though they've got several players with high PPG totals. They're at 84.8 on the PK (#12 in the country) and have scored five shorties.

It's tempting to look ahead to a possible matchup with the Miami RedHawks, but the Beavers are a good hockey team and they've got the Frozen Four appearance to prove it. They're not sneaking up on anyone this year. As long as the Wolverines keep playing the way they have been playing, I have to like our chances.

There have been some surprises in the NCAA Tournament thusfar. Denver was knocked out in the first round for the third straight season. This time it was the RIT Tigers pulling the upset. Additionally, perennial chokers St. Cloud finally won their first tournament game (in double OT against NMU) and the University of No Hardware knocked out trendy pick Cornell. Wisconsin advanced on the strength of three power play goals. I can't wait for Brendan Smith to play for the Red Wings.

Tomorrow is the best day of the year if you're a college hockey fan. Six games, all one-and-done. Two Frozen Four berths on the line. Doesn't get much better than that. Michigan/Bemidji, Miami/UAH, BC/Alaska, Yale/North Dakota, RIT/New Hampshire (hard to believe one of those teams will be Frozen Four bound), and Wisconsin/St. Cloud. It's gonna be a great day!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Having a Seat Over There: Two Quick Recruiting Notes

Jeff Teglia, the goalie for the Omaha Lancers, will not be our next goalie. He committed to play for U-Mass.

CH247 has an article about NTDP tryout camp invitee Ray Pigozzi that might be of interest. He currently plays for the Chicago Mission and had 11-7--18 in 29 games this year.

We're Dancing! Michigan 2, NMU 1

It's been 13 years and I still remember it well. One of the lasting images of the Red Wings 1997 run to the Stanley Cup was a fan who was holding up a sign that said, "Vernon, I'm Sorry!"

In that same vein, here you go 2010 Michigan Wolverines:

I'm sorry for doubting you. I'm sorry for telling a few people that part of me hoped that LSSU would just mercy-kill us in the first round so I wouldn't have to keep watching the same uninspired hockey-like substance. I'm sorry for jokingly referring to David Wohlberg as Josh Langfeld for half the season. I'm sorry for extending my business trip to Hawaii on the front end, so I'll be there when the National Championship game is on-going. I'm sorry for not even glancing at the schedule to see when Regionals were before picking a weekend for my parents to come visit.

Just one month ago, the Wolverines were headed into the CCHA Tournament faced with a task of winning six games in an eight game span--something they did just once during the regular season (and that stretch included two against WMU, and games against Notre Dame and Michigan Tech). This would include a three-game series on the road and two games at Joe Louis against the top teams the CCHA had to offer.

To put that in perspective a little bit more, the CCHA Tournament started March 5th. To encompass the previous six Michigan wins, you would have to go all the way back to January 22nd, a span of 13 games. It's not like the Wolverines were going all North Dakota on the nation--sucking for the first half, going on a huge streak in the second half and having to wonder if it would be enough. Michigan was consistently inconsistent the entire season. Prior to the CCHA Tournament, they had swept two series the entire season. (Three if you count the College Hockey Showcase.) Then they did it back-to-back, and added wins over the #1 team in the country and a 3-seed in the NCAA Tournament to boot.

They're on an absolutely incredible run right now. Other than the Sioux, is there a hotter team heading into the tournament? Michigan's best players are heating up at the right time. Carl Hagelin and Matt Rust have been fantastic at both ends of the ice, David Wohlberg is healthy and producing, and Louie Caporusso has transformed a disappointing season into the exact reverse of last season.

When Caporusso was a Hobey-finalist a year ago, he had 24-25--49, but scored just six goals after the first of the year--and five of those were against LSSU, WMU, and a dreadful FYS team. This year it's the opposite. After just 7 goals in his first 30 games, Caporusso has now ripped off 13 goals and 20 points in the last 13, which includes five multi-goal games and a playmaker. He also hasn't gone consecutive games without a point this calendar year.

Hagelin has scored a point in every game except one since the FYS series at the end of January. Rust has points in all but five of those games, and has 16 points in his last 17.

You can even look at guys like Kevin Lynch, AJ Treais, Steve Kampfer and Scooter Vaughan and say that they're playing their best hockey headed into the tournament. Kampfer was something like +12 in the CCHA Tournament, and added five points in six games. He stepped up in a big way in the absence of our captain. Lynch, who was invisible for a big chunk of the early part of the season has found a home playing with Hagelin and Rust. He scored a pair of third-period goals to help bury Miami.

We haven't even addressed the goaltending. What can you possibly say about Shawn Hunwick? Apparently, on the radio this morning he said that when he walked on, he was just hoping to get to play the last five minutes of Senior Night, if we were winning big. A month ago, he was a backup goalie who had played one game in almost three seasons--and was thrilled that had happened. Now he's the CCHA Tournament MVP, the starting goalie for a very dangerous hockey team heading into the NCAA Tournament, and he has a chance to become one of the best stories in the history of college athletics. The smallest guy on the team--who ended up at Michigan due to a strange series of events involving a severe head injury and Steve Jakiel being awful--is the biggest reason the Wolverines have a chance. This is Rudy, except with a player worth a damn.

Let's talk a little bit about last night. That was a helluva hockey game. You didn't see the typical feel-out process that you typically see in a one-and-done environment. The teams went at each other from the drop of the puck. We saw back and forth hockey. The Wolverines largely dominated the first half of the first period. NMU came back and controlled more of the play in the second half.

It appeared we were headed for the third period still deadlocked at 0, but with just about a half minute left in the second and the Wolverines on the power play, a broken stick changed everything. Matt Rust broke his stick and headed to the bench. Louie Caporusso jumped over the boards in his place, and fired one into the net to put the Wolverines ahead going to the third.

Midway through the third period, Caporusso struck again to put the Wolverines up by two. He hit the goalpost on a shot, circled behind the net, tapped his stick on the ice to call for the puck, and made a gorgeous tip on a shot-pass from Steve Kampfer.

NMU would get within one on a turnover by Treais and a goalmouth scramble, but the defense was strong and the Wolverines held on for a 2-1 win.

The penalty killers held NMU's top-ranked power play to 0-5 on the night, with just seven shots. A lot of guys got in on the action as well, as all of our penalties were to penalty-killers (Rust, Winnett, Glendening, Kampfer, and Wohlberg).

I'm too happy to really get into the fact that the CCHA should be ashamed that McInchak and Shegos are the best they have to offer. I have no problem with both Glendening's hit and Florek's hit being two. I have no problem with both hits being five and a game, but you can't toss one guy and not the other--especially when Florek's hit was worse and Wohlberg didn't even have the puck. But by all means, toss one of our best penalty killers and leave one of their best players in the game. (Notice who set up NMU's lone goal.) Pio, here's another plea for you to come out of retirement. We need you back.

So now the Wolverines head to Fort Wayne, IN to take on the Bemidji State Beavers. If they win, that would set up a potential rematch with the Miami RedHawks, who play Alabama-Huntsville in the other game. A lot of story lines in this bracket. You've got the Michigan/Miami thing, Hunwick, the RedHawks playing for Brendan Burke, the fact that Alabama-Huntsville has no conference for next season, UAH potentially getting a crack at two teams from the conference that denied them entry, etc.

Even though we ended up in a bracket with two Frozen Four teams from a year ago, it's hard not to be happy about the draw. We're in a location where a lot of Wolverine fans will be able to attend. We avoid North Dakota in the first round. The #1 seed in our bracket is a team that we just rolled. Miami is still the #1 team in the country and have to be favored to come out of the Midwest, but Michigan has a chance. Possibly a damn good chance.

Quite honestly, they could have put us in a bracket with Miami, Denver, and BC and scheduled the games at the Goggin Center in Oxford and I still would have been grinning ear to ear. The NCAA Tournament seemed like a pipe dream a month ago. I'm not sure I would have even taken 100-to-1 odds for them to win the CCHAs. Now we're in the dance and a team no one wants to play.

The Wolverines play the second game of the Midwest Regional. The game will air on and on tape delay at 11:30 pm EDT on ESPNU. It was a lot nicer when other networks would pick up the rights to these games, and we'd actually get to see them live. But hey, it's the Michigan Wolverines in the NCAA tournament. I guess I can't complain about tape delay.

The best part of the selection show, outside of our draw: Getting to see the highlights of last year's BU/Miami game again, and thinking of the look on Blasi's face as he was watching.  

Other stories about the game:
The Wolverine
Inside College Hockey (written by my former hockey teammate--BlackBears forever!--James Dowd)
MGoBlog loves our bracket. Can't blame him.

Every player on that team should be proud of themselves for the performances we've seen over the past month. Red also gave a lot of props to the Wolverine fans who showed up in droves to East Lansing and Detroit.

The run continues.Somehow.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

CCHA Champs!


This kid is a f***ing legend.

More later.

Lessio Projected as a First Rounder

Quick post before the CCHA Championship. I'm not sure if I mentioned this last month or not, but the International Scouting Service released their top 30 prospects for the 2011 Draft, and Lucas Lessio checked in at #24. talked with Lessio about his ranking.

"I want to go a lot higher than twenty fourth, I'm going to keep pushing myself every day," said Lessio. "I know that I'm up there, I know that the scouts know where I am and how I'm playing. Now it's just a matter of continuing to work at it and get even higher than twenty fourth because the overall accomplishment for me is simple, I want to get drafted as high as possible."

He was also said to be "far and away leading all 1993 born players in CCHL scoring". 

Michigan 5, Miami 2: NMU Next

I had to DVR the game due to my own hockey game tonight, and as soon as I pulled up the menu, I swore. My recording, which I had extended by 90 minutes and then set the timer for the show after that and extended it another 90 minutes (I wasn't taking chances with our game or the NMU game going to OT) had resulted in a 2 1/2 hour recording of our hockey game, an hour and a half gap, and then another recording. Combine that with the knowledge that the NMU game had, in fact, gone to OT, and I knew I wasn't going to see everything. "Well," I jokingly said to my buddy, "maybe we'll be ahead by so many goals that it won't matter."

Unbelievably, that was the case. The Wolverines, playing with newfound confidence, played quite possibly their best all-around game of the season, scoring once in the first, once in the second, and three times in the third en route to a 5-2 win. Despite it being a 2-1 game heading to the third, aside from a few minutes early on and a couple minutes after Miami cut Michigan's lead to one, I never felt like the game was slipping from our grasp.

The defense was great, the goaltending was even better, and Michigan scored in a variety of ways.

First let's talk about the best story in college hockey--Shawn Hunwick. He made some huge stops throughout the contest, showing that, yes, the team is playing well in front of him, but that there's a reason for it. He's stopping pucks. He's not giving up the soft goal every night. He's battling, he's making saves, and the team has rallied behind him. The defense is diving to block shots, they're back-checking like crazy. They're playing the type of hockey you'd expect to see out of a Michigan team. But Hunwick. The one that will make the highlight reel was the stick save diving to his right, but he had a couple of pad saves that were every bit as good.

The defense helped out, blocking shots, clearing pucks, and there were a couple of great individual efforts by our forwards coming back to help. Two that I remember in particular: In the second period, Hagelin had one that saved a goal. In the third--I believe when it was still a game--Brian Lebler got on his horse to get back and break up a fantastic scoring chance.

The goals: Tristin Llewellyn put a blast through to put the Wolverines up 1-0. In the second period, with the score the same, Michigan scored one of the prettiest goals you'll ever see. Miami went for a line change and Luke Glendening made a hit to keep the puck in at the blueline. He took his man out of the play and that, combined with the RedHawks change, led to a 4 on 1 for the Wolverines in the Miami zone. Treais to Kampfer to Treais to Moffie and the puck was in the back of the net and the Wolverines had a 2-0 lead.

Miami would close within one on a 4-on-4 situation that was created by what I thought was a pretty weak embellishment call on David Wohlberg, which wiped out a would-be power play. Miami had numbers coming down into the Michigan end. Moffie got back to even it up, but Langlais slid to try and knock the puck away from Wingels. Wingels stepped around him and put a laser up under the bar.

In the third, the floodgates opened. Hagelin passed one to Matt Rust in the slot. It hit him and deflected to the far post where Kevin Lynch was waiting to slam it home. Then Brian Lebler got a great tip on a shot by Rust before Lynch capitalized on a rebound. Miami added a late power play goal, but it didn't matter. 5-2 Michigan final.

Hagelin and Rust each had three assists in the game, and Steve Kampfer was +3 on the night, which makes him a pretty incredible +23 in his CCHA Tournament career, and +13 in this year's edition, if I did that math right.

Hagelin has points in 15 of his last 16 games. Game One against LSSU is the only game since the end of January where he hasn't had a point. He has 4-14--18 in that span.

So now the Wolverines get the Northern Michigan Wildcats. The teams split a series at Yost in February with NMU winning Friday night 3-1 (with an ENG) and Michigan coming back on Saturday with a 5-4 victory. In that 3-1 loss, the Wolverines outshot the Wildcats 39-21. Check out the snarkiness in this post from the loss in the Friday night game. That was exactly 1 month ago. My how things change.

So, a quick NMU preview since it's 3 in the morning here:
They beat Ferris State 5-4 in overtime to make it to the CCHA Championship Game. That was a strange one. I watched most of the game, and NMU dominated the early portion but Ferris was leading. The NMU came back with 3 goals in 1:02 to take a 3-1 lead, got up 4-2 early in the third, and gave up back-to-back goals about a minute apart for the game to be tied, then won it fairly early in OT.

I know Brian Stewart has been up and down a lot this year. He made some stops, but I wouldn't consider this an "up" game for him. The second goal came on a harmless-looking wrap-around but Stewart lost his post. The third goal was on par with the worst goals Hogan has given up this year. It, too, was harmless. A little wrist-shot from the blueline that beat him. He did make 35 saves in the win, however.

The Wildcats are led by Hobey-finalist Mark Olver, who has 19-29--48 in 37 games. Ray Kaunisto (17) and tonight's hero Greger Hanson (16) also have put up some goals. They have five guys with 4+ PPGs on the season. They also have two-time CCHA Best Offensive Defenseman Erik Gustafsson, who has 3-28--31 on the season. They have 5 30-point scorers and 8 20-point scorers.

Stewart is 18-9-7 on the season with a 2.41/.926. In his last 10 games, he's given up 0 or 1 goal on six occasions, and more than 2 just three times. Not surprisingly, he's won nine of his last 10 starts. He has faced a LOT of rubber. Since the start of February, he's made 43, 51, 17, 22, 38, 27, 27, 33, 32, 30, 35 saves. The 17 and 22 were against a terrible WMU team.

NMU is 20-11-8 on the season (13-9-6-3 in the CCHA). They have been just 8-7-5 away from home, however. Below .500 on the road, and a couple wins at neutral sites. They really weren't having a great season, but like Michigan, they're peaking at the right time. They haven't scored fewer than two goals in a game since January 12th, a span of 17 games. They've also scored 42 goals in the 11 games since the start of February.

Quick numbers:
Offense: 22nd (3.08 gpg)--Don't look now, but Michigan is actually 12th in that category.
Defense: 12th (2.51 gpg)
Power Play: 10th (20.5%)
Penalty Kill: 17th (84.3%)
Combined Special Teams is a very strange stat, but they've actually got the top-ranked special teams in the country, based on success rate.

Northern seems to be pretty solidly in the tournament based on a couple scenarios I ran. Even with them losing tomorrow, I still see them in 9th or 10th in the PWR. They're looking for their first CCHA Tournament Championship since 1981, but the Wolverines need this win to make the NCAAs. It's amazing that after the frustrating season Michigan has had, they're one win away from making the NCAA Tournament and, quite honestly, being a team that no one will want to play in the first round.

Get it done, boys.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

CCHA Semifinal Preview: Michigan vs. Miami

Before we get into our semifinal matchup against Miami, a little business:

First off, if you didn't catch MGoBlog's wrap-up of the Michigan/FYS series, you need to go read it. It's one of the five best posts in the history of Brian's site, and that is really saying something.

Tropp and his entire team watched Michigan salute their students—who outnumbered Michigan State's—as they waited for no one to sing their alma mater. When the last of them headed off the ice, season over, a third of the arena gave them a "seeya." Karma has paid in full.

Never in the history of the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry has a comeuppance been so sudden, unexpected, and richly deserved. The road to 23-17-1 as been frustrating as hell, but as I raised my fist for the "hail" in the Yellow and Blue the season rearranged itself into a series of necessary evils. Tropp had to explode so his loss could be a crushing blow. Michigan had to lose to Bowling Green so the 2-7 matchup would be these two teams, and it would have to be at Munn for maximum pwnage. 
That's just beautiful. Add in a truly fantastic reference to The Usual Suspects and you've got a winner.

Michigan also picked up their second commitment for the class of 2012, defenseman Connor Carrick out of Chicago. He's been compared to a better version of Chad Langlais.

He said that it has always been his dream (PDF) to play for Michigan. Carrick's team finished second in the Illinois state finals this year. He was one of the 40 players invited to the tryout camp for next year's NTDP U-17 team.

In the MAHA this year, Carrick had 7-15--22 in 37 games, to rank third on the team in scoring. He had 48 PIMs and led the team with 5 PPGs. He also had 2-4--6 in 22 games in the Midget Major ranks. In the 08-09 season for the '94s, he had 21-28--49 in 31 games, leading the Fury in goals, assists, points, PPGs, and GWGs. reported that the Wolverines will again be without Chris Summers this weekend and that, while he's been practicing, Bryan Hogan will be the backup. (On a side note, how long til we get an opinion piece from Dave Birkett about how the night football game against Notre Dame is a good thing because it will keep Demar Dorsey off the street?)

Ace from The Wolverine Blog would prefer to see Hogan in net.
As for the goaltending situation: Shawn Hunwick has done an admirable job of stepping in for the injured Bryan Hogan, and the (awful) Comcast announcing team was calling for Red Berenson to stick with Hunwick until the team stops winning, but I think this team needs Hogan back if they hope to knock off Miami on Friday and move on to the title game.
While I get the sentiment, I can't agree. Is Hogan the better goalie? More than likely, and you'd typically want your #1 goalie in the net when you're playing one of the best teams in the country. The thing is: They've rallied around Hunwick, they're playing well in front of him, and Hunwick has been more than solid in net. He's given up a few soft ones, but Hogan most definitely isn't a stranger to those. The Wolverines are peaking at the right time. They're playing by far their best hockey of the season, and I don't think now is the time to go back to a guy who may or may not be 100% and who hasn't played in the better part of a month. Hogan was on the opposite side of a goalie controversy last season and basically won out for the same reason: The team played better in front of him. Whether it's fair or not, you have to go with what got you there, and Hunwick has been sharp in the CCHA playoffs. We need to stay out of the box. That's the only time Hunwick has given up goals!

After we saw the RedHawks earlier in the season, they went into a little bit of a slump, winning just one of their next 6 games in regulation. Then, after four straight wins, they got swept by Bobby Mo. After that, they ripped off 11 straight wins (one in a shootout), scoring 52 goals in the process. Over their last six, however, they've gone win, loss, win, loss, win, loss, win. The last five games on that list were against Ohio State.

They are very good. 21-2-5-2 in the CCHA and 26-6-7 overall. Are they beatable though? Absolutely. Ohio State pushed them to the brink and, quite frankly, Ohio State isn't all that good.

They have the #8 offense in the country at 3.51 goals per game, though they've been .75 goals per game better than that over the past two months. At the other end of the ice, however, they've been consistently tough to score on. The RedHawks give up just 1.79 goals per game, and only gave up 2+ goals in consecutive games three times this season. They give up .18 fewer goals per game than any other team in the country, and are half a goal a game better than the stingy Wolverines defense.

Cody Reichard is one of the ten Hobey finalists and it's easy to see why. He's #1 in goals against (1.64), #3 in save percentage (.930), and #2 in winning percentage (.812). That being said, it was Connor Knapp who was given the reigns with the CCHA Tournament on the line in Game 3 against the Buckeyes. He responded with 22 saves in a 2-1 win. Knapp's numbers aren't quite as good as Reichard's (1.90/.920) but that's kind of like saying that Ashley Monroe isn't quite as good of a songwriter as Neil Finn. You're elite just by being in the same ballpark.

You know a team is tough offensively when a guy like Carter Camper is fourth on the team in scoring. They've got 3 40+ point scorers and Camper isn't among them. Jarod Palmer has 17-27--44, long-time Yost Built favorite Tommy Wingels has exploded this year with 16-26--42, and Andy Miele has put up 15-27--42 in his junior year. Camper is second in goals (16) and fourth in points (39). Then you've got Pat Cannone with 28 points, but eight of his 12 goals have been game-winners.

They're shockingly not that good on the power play, however. Miami ranks just 33rd in the country with the man advantage, at 18.4%. The PK is 4th at 87.3% however. One other thing to note: They actually take four minutes more in penalties per game than the Wolverines. They average 20.1 minutes a night.

The scary thing for the rest of the league/nation is that despite the incredible numbers they've put up defensively, they're actually really young on the back-end. Both goalies are sophomores, and they dress just one senior on the blueline. In fact, out of the 275 man games played by their defensemen this season (which works out to 6.8 per they typically dress seven or is someone playing up and USCHO doesn't have it listed?), just 70 have been played by upperclassmen.

We lost the two earlier meetings this year by 3-1 and 5-1 scores. I was pretty upbeat after the first game, in which it sounded like the Wolverines dominated a good portion of the first two periods and just couldn't get the puck in the net. (Yup, sounds like most of the season!) The second game was the one after which Red Berenson called out his team, calling their performance unacceptable.

We actually don't have that many guys who have had a ton of success against the RedHawks. We only have two players with more than one career goal against The Dynasty and one of them won't be playing this weekend. David Wohlberg is the other.

Speaking of Wohlberg, he's riding a five game point streak where he has put up 4-3--7. Caporusso has 7-4--11 in his last five, and actually, Luke Glendening has ten points in his last ten games.

Faceoff is at 8:05 and the game will air on the Big Ten Network. Ferris meets NMU in the other semifinal. I admit, I lost faith for a good portion of the second half of the season, but this team has sucked me back in. They're playing inspired hockey, and if they can knock off the RedHawks, they'll be just one win away from salvaging the season.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

On to the Joe!

It was March 13, 2010
That they came to bury Michigan, all dressed in maize and blue
The words were said, the prayers were read and everybody cried
But when they closed the coffin there was someone else inside
Oh they came to bury Michigan, but Michigan wasn't dead
And when the game was over it was someone else instead
Twenty Michigan Wolverines put on the skates of black
And as the students sang The Victors
To the Joe, we're headed back!

Well, well, well. The Michigan Wolverines are headed back to the Joe! Playing on the road without their starting goalie and without their captain, Michigan won two games in a row in East Lansing for the first time since 1975.

I didn't get to see Friday's game, which is a shame because it sounds like it was complete and utter domination. Michigan scored four times in the first 20:21 to build a lead that the Spartans couldn't come close to overcoming.

Hagelin and Wohlberg each scored breakaway (or partial breakaway) goals and then Louie Caporusso scored what a lot of people described as arguably the best goal of the season--and what a beauty it was! Steve Kampfer put one through a Chris Brown screen to give the Wolverines a 4-0 lead. FYS would score a fluky goal before the Wolverines took advantage of a miscue by Ann Arborite Drew Palmisano and finished out the scoring. The pair of goals gave Caporusso 10 in his last 10.

Tonight started off the same way. Rust and Treais scored 21 seconds apart to chase Palmisano and give Michigan a 2-0 lead. The Spartans came back with 3 power play goals in the last five minutes of first period, including one with just 0.7 seconds left in the first period. The first two were on a 5 on 3 (and subsequent 5 on 4) when Chad Langlais and Tristin Llewellyn took penalties a minute apart. Llewellyn went back into the box at 19:39 and the Spartans scored again 20 seconds later.

Ben Winnett tied the game back up with a PPG of his own on a really nice shot, and Chris Brown jammed a puck in during a goalmouth scramble to put the Wolverines ahead for good.

The Wolverines outshot FYS 44-21 on the night, including an incredible 16-1 margin in the second period.

In a small bit of karma, Corey Tropp did not play in Game 2 after stepping on a puck in warmups. Fiddlesticks! 

The line of the night came from one of my buddies after Palmisano got pulled. I gave him the old "Did you know Drew Palmisano is from Ann Arbor?" text, to which he replied, "Now he's from the MSU bench!"

There's a really cool video up on MGoBlue of the team celebrating in the locker room after the game. Red commented that the Wolverines have been to the Joe something like 20 straight years, but they've never had to battle in a situation like that.

They should be really proud of themselves. In a season of completely uninspired hockey at points, they got it together and took out the CCHA's #2 team on their home ice. Our fans should be proud as well. The chanting was audible and it by and large embarrassed the Michigan State fans that were there. The Spartans love to reminisce about taking over Crisler back at the end of the Ellerbe-era, but the Wolverine fans took over Munn during a playoff series. Great work, everyone who was there.

Now it's on to the Joe where we will take on the Miami University RedHawks, who knocked out OSU 2-1 tonight. We've also climbed up the Pairwise rankings to the bubble. To be safely in, we still need to win this thing, but who knows, maybe there's a scenario that exists where we could still get in as an at-large. It's enough to make me really wish we hadn't blown a few of those games earlier in the season, though.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

CCHA Quarterfinals: Michigan State Preview

Hard to get much better than this! Michigan/Michigan State. Best of three. Winner goes to the Joe. Loser probably goes home for the season. (We're definitely done with a loss in this series. Hard to imagine FYS hangs on to a tourney spot if they fall either, though they'd still have a chance.)

Michigan comes in down their starting goalie and top defenseman. Bryan Hogan is still hurt and at this point, I'm not so sure that you don't have to go with Shawn Hunwick anyway. "Rudy", as Red Berenson called him, has been really solid in net and the team has stepped it up in front of him. The offense is actually putting some pucks in the net and the defense has been pretty solid. They gave up a lot of shots Saturday against LSSU, but not a ridiculous number of scoring chances and we didn't see the odd-man rushes that plagued us against teams like Omaha.

The big downer is that captain Chris Summers won't play this weekend after suffering a charley horse--or something along those lines--last week. Gotta win this series or his Michigan career is over.

The other downer is that Michigan/FYS playoff hockey can only find a home on Comcast 900. That station will air the game Friday and Saturday night. I had heard that the if-necessary game would be on on Sunday, but the FYS game notes indicate that Comcast may pick that game up as well. At least Saturday night, the BTN is showing "Big Ten's Greatest Games".

Michigan isn't used to playing on the road in the CCHA playoffs--they haven't been in this situation since 1988. This series will be played at Munn Ice Arena in East Lansing, where the students are on spring break and where there are plenty of seats available still. Hostile environment? Not really. A tough place to play? Absolutely. Michigan has won just one of the last eight in East Lansing, just twice in the Rick Comley era, and are faced with the task of winning two out of three.

The Spartans are 19-11-6 on the season, but are 11-3-4 at home. They have, however, only won four games in regulation over their last 13. They've also only scored 12 goals over their past six games, with five of those coming against Bowling Green. They have given up two or fewer goals in five of the last six, though four of those were against BGSU and Alaska.

Corey Tropp has made the most of his second chance, leading the Spartans in goals, assists, points, PPGs, and game-winners. He has a 20-22--42 line to go with 9 PPGs and 5 game-winners. After leading the nation in goals for a lot of the season, however, he's fallen off to just 23rd in goals per game. Freshman Derek Grant has scored seven of his 11 with the man advantage, but he has just two points in the last nine games.

Before I move on: Michigan. Listen to me and listen to me good. Corey Tropp cannot be the one to beat you this weekend. If Jeff Petry does it, fine. If Derek Grant does it, fine. If Drew Palmisano skates the puck up ice and lets a shot go from the red line that beats you, fine. Corey Tropp cannot be the one to do it. Have some pride and shut that MF down. Seriously.

In net, Drew Palmisano (who is from Ann Arbor if you haven't heard) has a 15-9-5 record with a 2.27/.922. The Wolverines were able to get to him in the last meeting, scoring 5 goals on 35 shots.

Fun stat: FYS has outscored their opponents 11-3 in the first or last minute of a period (not counting ENGs). 16 of FYS's 36 games this year have been decided by either a single goal or two goals with one being an ENG.

Steve Kampfer is an incredible +18 in the CCHA Tournament over his career.

Louie Caporusso has 14 points in 10 career CCHA Tourney games. Hagelin, Rust, and Wohlberg are each within a point of 1 point per game in their CCHA Tournament careers.

In losing Chris Summers, the Wolverines don't just lose their top defenseman. They lose their top point producer against Michigan State. Summers has 6-9--15 in 19 games against the Spartans. That's 1/4th of his career points total in right around 1/8th of his career games. He stepped up against the Spartans and he's going to be missed.

Palmisano is 13th in goals against and 9th in save percentage.

FYS's offense is 24th in the country and their defense ranks 12th. Strangely, Michigan's offense is better (21st), their defense is better (8th), their power play is better (29th vs 34th...ehhht!), their penalty kill is better (4th vs. 20th) and yet the teams aren't even close in terms of their tournament prospects--and not in our favor. Proof positive that stats don't mean everything (anything?), eh?

Other stuff:
Chris Brown is a finalist for CCHA Rookie of the Year, and Matt Rust is a finalist for Best Defensive Forward. I know a lot of people are shocked that Hagelin isn't a finalist, but Rust is a worthy candidate as well. I think Rust is a really, really underrated player. Hagelin was named to the CCHA Scholar Athlete team for the second straight year.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Having a Seat Over There: Matia Marcantuoni and Some Goalies

Over the weekend, Bob Miller had some recruiting news for us.

Matia Marcantuoni, a potential #1 overall pick in the OHL Draft, would "very likely" be headed to Michigan if he goes the college route. Marcantuoni is a center for the Toronto Marlboros and also saw a little bit of time with the St. Michael's Buzzers where he scored two goals in two games, along with a shootout winner. Poster M71 chimed in with a subtle little smiley face. He has always seemed to know what's going on with our Canadian prospects, so that smiley face put a smiley face on my mouth as well.

A little bit about Marcantuoni: Ryan Kennedy had a feature on him in The Hockey News Prep Watch last month. In that article, both Marcantuoni and Marlboros Head Coach Dan Brown cited his skating as a key asset. Brown said that Marcantuoni is one of the best skaters in his age group. He also said that Marcantuoni is "a real gentleman, very polite". He was Co-MVP of the GTHL Top-Prospects Game.

Marcantuoni was in Michigan for our road-and-Joe series with MSU. He's a 94, so that would theoretically put him in the 2012 class with Nieves.

Miller also chimed in with some names for us to watch as potential future goalies for the Wolverines:
Jared Rutledge - Chicago Young Americans
Jimmy Howe - Little Caesars
Dalton Izyk - Syracuse Nationals (The same team that Boo Nieves plays for). It was said that we should "REALLY" watch him, "hint, hint". He's 6'1", 195 and was nicknamed "Mr Zero" by RedLine after posting five straight shutouts to lead the Syracuse Stars to the New York District Championship last year. Izyk was mentioned back in the Prep Watch feature on Boo Nieves as being "highly coveted". He also was listed as the #1 A-goaltender at the same Select 15 camp where USHR fell in love with Nieves. (USHR raved about Nieves again at the Beantown Fall Classic.)

Izyk is an early-94 as well. Assuming he'd be scheduled to come in in 2012, that brings up an interesting issue: Would you go for a goalie for 2010, have him compete with Hogan as a freshman, start as a sophomore, and then compete with your youngster as a junior and senior, or would you roll with what we've got again next year and hope to get the kid to accelerate and come in as the starter in 2011?

CollegeHockey247 also had a feature on someone to watch in the future: Defenseman Jacob Trouba. He's a defenseman for Compuware who has 14-14--28 in 38 games this year. And, hey! USHR loved him at the Select 15 Festival as well, calling him the #1 defenseman in camp and comparing his upside to Cam Fowler. Notre Dame is our main competition for him.

I vote we go ahead and get USHR's best forward, goalie, and defenseman from Select 15s last year. Yeah, that sounds pretty good. And none of them should go to the OHL after committing.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Where the Hell has this Been All Year?

Seriously, where the hell has this been all year?

I know Lake State is awful and half their team has the flu, but that was a really nice performance *gasp* on the heels on a win the night before! Thank my lucky stars, that's two in a row!

After a 5-2 win last night in which the Wolverines led 3-0 in the early third and made it 4-1 just seconds after LSSU got back into the game, Michigan had a dominating effort, scoring 3 in the first, 3 in the second, en route to a 6-0 win to sweep their first-round playoff series.

Louie Caporusso was fantastic, scoring three of Michigan's first four goals. His first gave the Wolverines a 1-0 lead. He won a faceoff forward to himself, took it behind the net after his shot attempt was thwarted, and scored on the wrap-around.

Jeff Rohrkemper made it 2-0 with the first goal of his collegiate career. The puck slid over to him and he uncorked a wrister up into the top corner.

Caporusso made it 3-0 on a fluky goal. He had a nice rush down the right wing and threw the puck into the slot. The puck hit the LSSU defender and got through Mahoney-Wilson into the net. The net came off the moorings right when the puck went in, but after a lengthy review, the officials decided the call on the ice would stand. There wasn't a clear look, despite the officials having the benefit of all the angles. Ken Daniels said that in the college rule book, it says that a goal can be scored if the net is coming off as long as the goal is "obvious and imminent". That's very interesting if that's the case. I never knew that. If so, that was the right call. Otherwise, I'm not sure it went in before the net was off, but you couldn't tell on any replay.

Shawn Hunwick made 10 stops in net in the first period, none bigger than a stellar right-pad save when the game was 1-0. Brandon Burlon turned it over at the blueline and it led to a 2 on 1. The puck got across, but Hunwick slid to his right and got a toe on it. He then made a really nice save in the first minute of the second period, stopping a Laker point-blank in the slot. The Wolverines rushed the puck up ice and Caporusso fired a wrister by Mahoney-Wilson for his third of the night to give Michigan a 4-0 lead. That's a big save that might go unmentioned in a blowout, but it could've been 3-1 and just like that it became 4-0. He had a couple of nice stops early in the third as well. He played 50 minutes of shutout hockey after coming in for Hogan against Notre Dame, and he gets a 28-save shutout tonight. Gotta give the kid credit. That's a tough situation to be put in after going the better part of three seasons without playing.

Carl Hagelin hit the post, but then scored two of his own in the second period. His first came on a nice keep by Steve Kampfer at the blueline. Kampfer rushed the puck down the wing into the corner and he fed Hagelin in the slot. Hagelin was able to flip it in to give the Wolverines a 5-0 lead.

And not too much later, zee poock was een zee net again. Hagelin on Michigan's second wrap-around of the night.

Rohrkemper also put on off the pipe in there and Caporusso had a gorgeous chance on a well-played three-on-two. Mahoney-Wilson made a nice stop there. Caporusso really could have had six goals in the first two periods.

After six points last night, the Wohlberg-Caporusso-Glendening line was fantastic yet again. It may end up being too little, too late, but if we're going to make a run in the CCHA Tournament, those guys are going to be key. They're getting hot at the right time.

Barring Western Michigan finding a way to take two games in a row on the road against Alaska (yeah right), the Wolverines will be heading to East Lansing for a best-of-three against the Spartans next week. Someone on The Fort mentioned that the Spartan students will be on Spring Break. If true, Munn will be even more tomblike and plenty of tickets should be available.

The one downer of the night is that Chris Summers did not play in the second or third period after what they're calling a charley-horse. He's had a lot of success against the Spartans and that would be a huge loss going into next weekend if he's unable to go. That's a big weekend for both teams. Clearly Michigan needs two wins to keep their season alive, but as of this writing the Spartans sit 12th in the Pairwise and have FSU and NMU right behind him. They need to win that series to keep themselves off the bubble. It should be a great weekend of hockey, and a series that I would expect to go three games.

Edit: One thing I forgot to mention. Steve Kampfer was the anti-Derek Meech tonight. He was an incredible +6. He was out there for all six of our goals. Crazy.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Catching Up

Wolverines on the Move
Wolverines! Get your Wolverines!

The NHL's trading deadline was today and Wolverines dominated the landscape. Of the roughly 60 players moved over the past couple of days, seven were current or former Michigan players.

Steve Kampfer's rights were traded from Anaheim to Boston, where he would be reunited with Matt Hunwick.

Aaron Palushaj was traded from St. Louis to Montreal, where he could once again play with Max Pacioretty.

Kevin Porter and Chad Kolarik were both traded, and will be in separate organizations for the first time in seven or eight years. Porter will join former linemate TJ Hensick in Colorado's organization and Chad Kolarik will be off to Columbus.

Kolarik won't be the only Wolverine to join the Blue Jackets organization, however, as Matt Rust was also traded to the BJs.

Aaron Ward moved from Boston to Anaheim, and *anny Richmon* was tra*e* back to the Win*y City and the Chicago Blackhawks.

Same ****, Different Week
As you may have noticed, I haven't written anything about the Notre Dame series. I haven't watched the games and I honestly don't feel the need to. I'll probably flip through the Thursday night tilt at some point to see Hunwick's shutout, but as far as Saturday goes, why spend time watching the same exact game that I've seen fifteen times this year already?

I'm pretty sure I would have had a seizure during the second period on Friday when we went through this stretch of penalties:

ND: Kissel, slashing, 2:05
Mich: Moffie, tripping, 2:17

ND: Lorenz, roughing, 9:12
Mich: Lebler, hooking, 9:17

ND: Deeth, roughing, 15:32
Mich: Lynch, high sticking, 15:37

ND: Kissel, tripping, 17:45
Mich: Langlais, hooking, 19:35

That's four power plays that we wiped out by penalties of our own, which took away almost six minutes of power play time. That's six minutes of power play time in a period where we gave up four unanswered goals.

Notre Dame scored five seconds after Moffie's penalty, no doubt off a faceoff in our end thanks to Moffie's penalty. Instead of a 20% chance (or so) to take a 3-goal lead and a stranglehold on the game, Notre Dame gets a faceoff in our end and it's a 2-1 game.

So yet another close game where we did a better job of killing our own power plays than the other team did. How is this still happening game after game? We really have to be the dumbest team in the country. Granted I haven't compared it to past seasons or other teams in the nation, but this can't possibly be normal, right?

The big news to come out of the weekend, however, was the injury to Bryan Hogan. He was injured about 10 minutes in to the Thursday night tilt and Shawn Hunwick pitched a shutout in relief and was the #1 star. Saturday night he got his first career start and gave up five on 25 shots in the loss.

According to Red Berenson, it's about 90% that Hunwick will get the starts this weekend against LSSU in our first round playoff series. Who knows, maybe the team rallies around him and gets their heads out of their butts for more than one game at a time. Or maybe they pull the same crap they have all year and we lose a home series to a team that has scored 0 or 1 goal in 9 of their last 11 games, and been outscored 38-13 in the process. Not coincidentally, they've won two of their last 11 (one in a shootout).

Oh. Yeah. And we had another crucial video review go against us and--while the refs probably got it right based on the angle they had--it was still probably a goal that should have counted. When was the last time one of these reviews or quick whistles went our way when it shouldn't have? The game against FYS when the puck went through the net?

Silver Medal for Jack
Jack Johnson won a silver medal. I thought he played pretty well overall in the Olympics. He didn't have much to speak of in terms of stats, but he logged quite a bit of ice time and had some ridiculous rushes up the ice. The goal he assisted on was a ridiculous rush and he beat two guys before putting a shot on net that deflected over to a teammate, who batted it out of the air and in. In the gold medal game, he had another rush in the third period where I have no idea how they didn't end up scoring. Parise had a great chance on the rebound, but it didn't go. It was great to see that kid playing again.

Let's talk about the NHL
There's really a debate about if it's a good idea to shut the NHL down for two weeks in order to participate in the Olympics in 2014? I get that the ratings aren't that high if it's US/Russia for the gold medal. I get that the 2014 games are in Russia and all the good stuff will be on tape delay. I get that most of the people who watched US/Canada aren't going to tune in to your average Detroit/Columbus game.

That being said, you had 27.6 million people watching the gold medal game. Even the initial game between the countries, which was on cable up against ice dancing, drew a really solid rating.

I have to believe most of the players are in favor of the NHLers in the Olympics--the guys who play get to play in the freaking Olympics and the guys who don't get to have a break for a couple of weeks before the playoff run. The fans love it because it's the best hockey you're going to see. It's an all-star game where the players care. And even though the NHL isn't operating for a couple of weeks, it's one of the few times when HOCKEY can steal the spotlight.

Why would you want to do anything that actually draws huge ratings? Clearly it would be far better to keep slogging through the regular season and having games on Versus that draw minuscule ratings. Let's put it in perspective: The gold medal game drew 42.6 times more people than game four of the Pittsburgh/Washington series last year. (A series with arguably the three best forwards in the game.) That's a lot of eyes on the best possible product hockey has to offer. Hard to see how that's a bad thing.

How about some updates on commits and targets?
Mac Bennett and Derek DeBlois's Cedar Rapids Roughriders currently sit in second place in the USHL's Eastern Division, well behind first place Green Bay. They're one point behind Fargo for third in the league. DeBlois is sixth on the team in scoring with a 10-19--29 line in 43 games. He's also +13 on the season, good for third on the team.

Bennett is 8th in scoring and second amongst defensemen with an 8-12--20 line in 41 games. He's fourth on the team--and tops amongst defensemen--with a +11 rating.

Jacob Fallon's Indiana Ice is three points behind Cedar Rapids in the East. Fallon has a 1-5--6 line in 13 games since joining the Ice. He's -4.

Luke Moffatt has 5-8--13 in 22 USHL games. Jon Merrill has 1-5--6 in 16 games in the league. Kevin Clare has 2-3--5 in 16 games.

Potential goaltending prospect Jeff Teglia is 26-10-2 for the Omaha Lancers with 4 shutouts, a 2.27 goals against average and a .920 save percentage. He's second in the league in goals against and tops in save percentage.

Alex Guptill's Orangeville Crushers were eliminated in the first round of the CCHL playoffs. Guptill only played two of the playoff games and had a 0-1--1 line. He had 13-13--26 in 19 games after getting traded to Orangeville. It was a disappointing exit, given that they had beaten their opponent in all four regular season contests.

Lucas Lessio ended the regular season with 30-42--72 in 41 regular season games for the St. Michael's Buzzers. He had three assists in five playoff games, as St. Michael's was eliminated 4-1 by Newmarket.

I can't find a whole heckuva lot about Boo Nieves, except that he had 4-4--8 in 7 games at the Toronto Marlboro's Holiday Classic Tournament.

Lastly, potential goalie prospect Joel Vienneau finished the regular season 27-4-1-2 for the Kingston Vees. He had a 2.16/.928 and three shutouts. In the playoffs, the Vees won their first round series 4-1. Vienneau had two shutouts in the series and currently has a 1.80/.937 in the postseason. They will take on the Trenton Golden Hawks in a second round series that begins Sunday. The defending champs finished 24 points ahead of Trenton in the regular season, so they will have home ice.