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 www.msuspartans.com 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?
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.