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.


Anonymous said...

USCHO lists Brandon Smith as a defenseman, but he plays offense.

streaker said...

Smith got moved up this season, but Tim is right when he said that the defense was young. Miami isn't going anywhere next season.

But, for now, Michigan got a nice dose of revenge for that thrashing in November. Hunwick was fabulous, and the offense is humming. Must finish the job tomorrow. And the weirdest thing, Michigan drops from 16th to 19th in the PWR after beating Miami and by the results of the other games. Five teams are ahead of them that can only sit and watch: UNH, Alaska, Vermont, Minn-Duluth and FYS. Bizarre.