Thursday, December 29, 2011

Michigan 4, Boston College 2

The Wolverines came into the GLI as underdogs. Michigan was faced with a tough task in the Great Lakes Invitational semifinal: The Boston College Eagles. The #3 team in the country came into the holiday tournament with a 12-6-0 record on the season, but was the #20 Wolverines who advanced to the GLI Championship with a 4-2 victory.

Michigan came out strong. Alex Guptill was robbed early on in the game. Kevin Clare threw a shot wide of the net and it bounced out on the same side of the net. Guptill was all alone, but Billett robbed him with the glove.

A few moments later, though, Wohlberg brought it in with Guptill on a two-on-one. He took it himself and lasered one up under the bar to give Michigan a 1-0 lead.

BC hit the post on the other end to just miss tying the game.

Back-to-back calls on the Eagles gave Michigan a LONG 5-on-3 and they capitalized! Moffie took a shot with Kevin Lynch on the doorstep. The rebound skipped out to Billett's right and Moffatt was right there to bury the rebound.

Boston College went to a power play, but it was the Wolverines with the majority of the chances. Wohlberg had a breakaway, tried to go backhand and missed high. Then the Wolverines had a 2-on-1. Travis Lynch shot and Michigan couldn't put in the rebound. Then Kevin Lynch had a breakaway and was stopped. The first period ended with Michigan up 2-0.

Early in the second, Treais sprung Glendening on another 2-on-1 and Billett made a nice glove save. Guptill was interfered with while trying to chase his own dump in, but Wohlberg was called for a late hit to even things back up. The momentum really changed at this point in the game. It was all BC for a good chunk of the second period after this. Hunwick made a couple of good stops, Moffatt just missed the far post, and then BC got on the scoreboard.

A failed clear by Chiasson led to an opportunity for BC. The player was knocked down by a Wolverine but the puck came back to Tommy Cross at the point. He sent a shot through traffic past Hunwick to make it 2-1.

BC just missed tying it shortly thereafter. Kevin Lynch was sent to the box and the Eagles kept buzzing. A little drop pass through the slot got a guy wide open and he hit the goalpost. While still on the power play, Hunwick made an initial stop, but the rebound came right to Carey in the slot who slipped it to Hunwick's right.

The Eagles kept up the momentum. A player deked through the Michigan defense and got a shot past Hunwick, but Sinelli and Hyman were in behind the Michigan goalie and Hyman was able to keep the puck out of the net. BC just missed again. All the momentum was on their side and then out of nowhere the Wolverines were back on top.

Treais got the puck out of the zone and led a 2-on-1 for Michigan. He shot the puck through Cross's legs and it beat Billett to put Michigan back ahead. That was a big, big goal to put Michigan back ahead in a period where they were thoroughly dominated.

The Eagles had a chance to even the score when Pateryn was sent off for kneeing. He cranked Whitney, who was vulnerable after lunging to knock the puck ahead. Their knees hit, but he certainly didn't stick his leg out. I thought it was a really questionable call, but the puck don't lie. Michigan killed it off without too much trouble.

PDG was robbed late in the period, and Michigan led 3-2 headed to the second intermission. BC carried the play that period.

Hunwick made a really nice stop on Gaudreau early in the third period. Then another early in a Michigan power play, where BC had the two best chances.

PDG set up Treais for a good look in front but Billett was there. Pateryn absolutely killed Mullane, and then Chris Brown leveled an Eagle who thought a spin-o-rama in the middle of the ice was a good idea.

The Eagles pulled the goalie with 1:15 left in regulation. Their best chance was a bullet from the point that was over top of the net. Glendening had a great effort to get the puck out of the zone, carried it until he got just over center ice, and then paid the price to take a shot at the net. He scored and the Wolverines were off to the championship game with a 4-2 win.

That was a huge win for Michigan's tournament chances, in addition to putting them into the GLI Championship Game. Treais was great. In addition to scoring the eventual game-changing goal, he was setting up people all night. He sprung the Wolverines on at least a couple of odd-man rushes. BC gave up a ton of them.

I really liked the play of the 4th liners. Moffatt was buzzing for good portions of the game and Hyman and Sinelli both had excellent plays in their own end. They were both in behind Hunwick to save a goal and Hyman had another gorgeous backcheck to break up what would have been a great scoring chance. I'm surprised that Hyman has the worst +/- on the team. Every time I've seen him, he's done good things on the defensive end.

The top line was really good, especially in the first period.

The second period was rough once Michigan got running around after a couple of penalties, but the first and third were great periods against a really strong opponent. Michigan carried the play for the majority of the game. They had numerous odd-man rushes and breakaways, along with several other chances right in the slot. Billett played really well to keep BC in it, or it could have been much worse. At the other end, Hunwick was good for Michigan and his defense stepped in to help him when he needed it.

Michigan will take on FYS in the GLI Championship Game tomorrow night. The Spartans downed Michigan Tech 3-1, though the Techsters outshot them 46-26. Palmisano was strong in net, and apparently Tom Anastos hinted that he might stick with his hot goaltender. Palmisano was really good against Michigan in FYS's shootout win, but the Wolverines have a history of success against him. Should be a fun one!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Having a Seat Over There: Steven Racine

Michigan has another goalie for next year! Steven Racine, the keeper for the Georgetown Raiders of the OJHL, has verbally committed to Michigan. first reported that the former Taft goalie had committed, and MHNet confirmed it publicly via some conversations over Twitter.

In the three games he's played for Georgetown, he's 3-0-0 with a 1.30 goals against and a .961 save percentage. He pitched a 26-save shutout in his first appearance for the team. He most recently made 48 saves in a 4-3 overtime win. He had previously been with the Westside Warriors in the BCHL, where he was 7-9-0 with a 3.10/.885. After winning seven of his first nine starts this year, the Warriors went into a huge slump. They made a change after he dropped seven straight decisions, though it doesn't sound like he had a lot of help.

Prior to the BCHL, he spent quite a bit of time in the USHL and the EJHL.

Racine--and I will never say his last name without sounding like Kit from A League of Their Own--is listed at 6'3", 190 and hails from New York.

MHNet has a quote from a guy in OHL Central Scouting who called Racine a "good, solid goalie" and "Athletic, but nothing flashy".

He is expected to backup Jared Rutledge. He sounds like a solid enough pickup. He's a little bit older, he's got some experience playing in a variety of leagues, and he's got good size.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Michigan Takes 4 of 6 Points from State

A wall of Wolverines, courtesy of Bill Rapai
 After snapping a seven-game winless streak against Alaska, the Wolverines came into this weekend against Sparty looking to put together a streak of a better kind. They came out with a 3-game unbeaten streak in tact. Michigan won 4-3 on Friday night at Yost before following it up with a 3-3 tie and losing in the shootout. All told, they came out of the weekend with four of six points.

On Friday night, Michigan State came out with a good first shift, but it was the Wolverines who drew first blood. David Wohlberg absolutely sniped one up over Will Yanakeff's glove to make it 1-0 Wolverines. It was a good pass off the boards from Brown. Wohlberg came in, got into a shooting position, waited for Yanakeff to go down and then fired one up over his glove.

Before the students could start their goal count, however, it was 1-1. Crandall took a shot from the point that must have deflected off of something. Hunwick just missed it and that's very unlike him. Some people were saying it got the stick of one of the Michigan players on the way through.

Chris Brown was called for setting a little pick and Michigan killed the penalty off without too much trouble. When Brown came out of the box, he got the puck, got around the outside of the defenseman, cut to the net, and tucked it five-hole as he was going across the crease. Very, very nice goal out of Michigan's power forward.

The period would end 2-1 Michigan thanks to some robbery by Shawn Hunwick. Michigan State took a shot from the point that went wide and out the other side. It went right to Forfar, who had nothing but an empty net to shoot at. He put it on goal, but Hunwick dove to his right and got the paddle down just in time.

Early in the second, Sparks put one off the bar. Yanakeff then had a huge stop on PDG. Di Giuseppe just barely got a touch on a pass over to Treais. He gave it back to PDG and Yanakeff did the splits and just got a piece of the shot.

Guptill then completed the "hat trick" for his line. A Spartan clearing attempt hit him. He then controlled it and cut to the net on his backhand. He lofted it up over Yanakeff's glove and it was 3-1.

Kevin Lynch then made it 4-1. Derek DeBlois had a very nice feed from behind the net. Lynch got the shot off and Yanakeff got 95% of it. It snuck through behind him, but Lynch followed his shot and was able to tap it the rest of the way home before anyone else could react.

A scrap in front of Hunwick resulted in Michigan State starting the third period on the power play. They got a goal and some much-needed momentum. The Wolverines failed to clear the puck a couple of times and Berry was able to get one past Hunwick after his initial shot was blocked.

After Moffatt went for interference, the Spartans had another power play. Some nice efforts by Travis Lynch and Kevin Clare got the puck out, but on the next FYS rush Hunwick wrapped it around the boards but not out. A shot from the point went off the glass, came back over the net, and went off Hunwick and in. It may have had a little help from Darnell. So with 14 minutes left it was 4-3.

PDG nearly connected with Treais for some insurance. He had a crafty little feed from behind the net. Treais's shot looked like it hit the post. The goal light went on, but the puck didn't go in.

Clare had a very nice effort to break up a pass for a streaking Leveille.

With Yanakeff on the bench, the Spartans had several chances to tie it, but Hunwick stood tall and Michigan got the win.

Brown goes 5-hole on Friday night - Bill Rapai
 The next night in East Lansing, Michigan got off to another good start, but couldn't quite finish the job.

After an opening five minutes where nothing much happened, Chris Brown made it 1-0 good guys. Guptill stole the puck and fed him. Brown let a shot go, it snuck through Palmisano, and Brown was able to crash the net and knock in his own rebound.

Treais had a chance on a 2-on-1 and might have gotten the post. Hunwick then ROBBED Darnell on a breakaway. Flashed the glove on that one.

The Spartans tied it at 1 on a Krug shot from the point that deflected off Guptill's skate into the top corner. Absolutely no chance for Hunwick on that one.

FYS then made it 2-1. Hunwick tried to dump the puck around the boards but it hit a Spartan player. He centered it for Forfar, and it was actually kind of fortunate that it wasn't a good pass. Hunwick slid to his right, Forfar kicked it back to his stick (to Hunwick's left) and that side of the net was wide open.

Hunwick kept it at 2-1 by stoning Wolfe on a breakaway and then Moffatt tied it up at 2. The puck came out of a scrum and he kicked it up to his stick before backhanding one top-shelf. Nice goal.

Michigan's goalie saved the day again with a couple of quick pad saves off a really ugly turnover in the Michigan end. Hyman darn near put the Wolverines ahead on a wrap-around, but couldn't quite stuff it in. The period ended with the score tied.

In the third, both teams had early power plays without a whole lot of success. A little later Hunwick made a big stop on Perlini. Berry brought the puck to the middle of the ice and brought three guys with him. He dropped it back to an open Perlini and Hunwick stoned him.

Wohlberg then made it 3-2 Michigan. Guptill took a shot, Palmisano made the save, but Wohlberg was there to bury the rebound to put Michigan ahead with 6 1/2 minutes to play.

Then the abomination: Kevin Lynch got called for holding and I don't have the foggiest idea what the ref saw. He checked the Spartan player very awkwardly, but he was falling at the time and kind of hit him with his back. His hands and arms were completely away from the FYS player. Just a completely inexcusable call at that point in the game, especially since they had let almost everything go to that point.

And of course bad calls are amplified when you can't kill a penalty to save your life. Michigan almost pulled it off. DeBlois did a lot of great work to run the penalty clock down inside 30 seconds. Moffie tried to clear the zone on his backhand and partially fanned. The puck went right up the middle to Reimer, who roofed one over Hunwick.

Michigan appeared to be headed to the power play with under a minute to go, but right as the whistle was going, Chris Brown lifted a guy's stick and pushed him. Clearly that warranted evening it up. Le sigh. Michigan had a couple of chances in the overtime and actually outshot the Spartans 8-0 but it went to a shootout. Wohlberg, Brown, and Treais missed for the Wolverines. Berry was able to get a backhander over Hunwick's stick and that was all she wrote. Michigan came out of the weekend with 4 points.

Overall I thought it was a pretty good weekend. Hunwick played well, the defense overall played pretty well, the top line was dominant (Guptill was named Rookie of the Week, and the trio combined for 5 goals on the weekend), they got some pucks past Yanakeff who had previously owned them. I also thought that Zach Hyman looked really good on Saturday night. I know he hasn't done as much offensively as we all probably expected, but in two of the three games I've seen I thought he played really well. Once Travis Lynch went out with an injury, Red moved him up to the second line and I thought he was one of Michigan's best players. He had several pretty good scoring chances, and made a really nice defensive play to break up a pass for Walrod that would've been a beautiful scoring chance.

Like I said, I've only seen three games this year so I didn't see the bad, but I don't get the impression that they're too far off. Michigan State had been playing really good hockey, and the Wolverines darn near swept them, even without their two best skaters on Saturday night. There are some big problems on the penalty kill, which wasn't entirely unexpected given that Michigan turned over pretty much the entire PK from last year. There are also some problems in their own end getting the puck out. Having Jon Merrill come back at some point (hopefully) should be a big help in that regard.

Even as bad as the 7-game winless streak was, Michigan currently sits 17th in the Pairwise, so they're just outside the NCAA Tournament. They've been doing it with their best player missing the entire season thusfar. I wouldn't write this team off just yet. They seem like they're getting it together.

Friday, December 09, 2011

FYS Preview

The Wolverines and Spartans face-off in a home-and-home this weekend. Tonight's game is at Yost. Tomorrow they'll play at the Munn Memorial Library. The best part is that *gasp* both games are on TV! Tonight's game airs on FSN Detroit and tomorrow is on the Big Ten Network. Also, the premiere of the Blue Ice documentary airs following the game tonight.

The Spartans got off to a bit of a rough start under first-year head coach Tom Anastos, going 2-4 out of the gate. Since then, they've gone 8-1-1, including a win and a tie against Minnesota and a road sweep of Western Michigan.

The offense has come alive for them. In the past ten games, they've been held below three goals on just one occasion and have only scored fewer than four twice. They've also been really strong on defense, giving up more than two goals just twice (both to Minnesota, neither of which they lost).

It's a good start for The Commish, and I'll eat some crow over that one if they keep it up since I made fun of that hiring an awful lot.

They're led offensively by a pair of sophomores, Lee Reimer (7-13--20) and Greg Wolfe (5-11--16). Mike Merrifield, in 12 games, has exceeded his goal and point totals for the rest of his career combined. He had 6-6--12 in 60 games. This year he has 8-5--13 in 12 games. Captain Torey Krug has also chipped in with 11 points from the blueline.

In net, ANN ARBOR NATIVE Drew Palmisano and Will Yanakeff have split the duties. Palmisano is 4-3-1 in his eight starts with a 2.73/.910. Yanakeff is 6-2-0 with a 2.26/.923. The starts haven't been a direct split. Palmisano played both games against Minnesota while Yanakeff played both games against WMU and NMU.

Yanakeff was 2-0 against Michigan last year (making 37 and 31 saves and giving up 4 goals total). Palmisano gave up 9 on 69 shots last year. Gut feeling, I'd expect to see Yanakeff.

The Spartan power play is just 15.9% (38th), but they're 4th-nationally with an 89.2% success rate on the PK. They've also given up 19 fewer power play chances than Michigan.

The Only Colors has a preview from the FYS side.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Split With Alaska

After the losing skid reached five and the unbeaten streak reached seven with a 4-3 loss to Alaska on Friday night, the Wolverines were finally back in the win column on Saturday. Alex Guptill scored less than a minute into the extra session to give the Wolverines a 1-0 win.

On Friday night, PDG gave the Wolverines a 1-0 lead 2:47 into the contest. Alaska would tie the game in the middle of the first period just after a power play ended, and Michael Quinn and Colton Beck scored 7 seconds apart in the middle frame to give Alaska a 3-1 lead. Moffie cut it back to one just over a minute later. Beck scored again 5 minutes into the third. David Wohlberg cut it back to one with about nine minutes left to play, but despite a 17-5 shot advantage in the third, Michigan was unable to capitalize again.

Serville had maybe the best game of his Michigan career statistically, with 2 assists and a +3 rating. PDG had 1-1--2 and was +2. Greg Pateryn blocked 6 shots on the night.

The loss dropped Michigan to 10th place in the CCHA.

The next night, the Wolverines seemed to be in danger of seeing their winless streak extend to 8. After 60 minutes of play, the score remained 0-0. Guptill scored unassisted on a deflected shot just 57 seconds into the extra frame to give Michigan a much-needed win. That was Guptill's team-high sixth shot on goal of the night.

Shawn Hunwick made 25 stops in the victory. The Wolverines were unable to solve Scott Greenham on their first 41 shots of the night, but #42 was the winner.

The power play was scoreless on 8 attempts on the weekend (including a 5-on-3 that lasted an entire two minutes on Saturday), but the PK was perfect on 8 Alaska attempts and killed off a Brennan Serville boarding penalty late in the third of the scoreless contest).

The win pulled Michigan back into a tie with Miami for eighth place in the CCHA. They are only five points out of 4th, however. All the teams in the CCHA have played the same number of games, with the exception of FYS who has two games in hand on the field (and currently sits 3 points ahead of Michigan).

FYS is the next opponent on the slate. The teams will play at Yost on Friday night (on Fox Sports Detroit) before heading to East Lansing is a whore for Saturday's game, which will air on the Big Ten Network, who finally decided to stop being useless from a hockey perspective.

The Wolverines will have to do it on Saturday night without PDG, who will be attending Canada's World Junior Championships tryout camp. Several familiar names were on the 29-man list of Team USA's preliminary roster, which will be later cut to 22: Jon Merrill and Jacob Trouba (who is listed as Jake) made the list. It appears the USA goaltending duo will be former Wolverine commits. Both Jack Campbell and John Gibson are on the roster with Andy Iles listed as the emergency goalie.

In other news, according to the official Twitter account of the Hamilton Red Wings, commit Spencer Hyman was named to the OJHL All-Star Team. Hyman has 2-10--12 in 17 games this year. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Union 6, Michigan 3 - At Least Hagelin is Sweet

Photo credit: Bill Rapai
Yup, it gets worse. Michigan extended their losing streak to four games--and their winless streak to six--by falling to Union at Yost by a 6-3 margin. Union jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period and a 4-0 lead early in the second. Michigan drew back to within two on goals by PDG and Wohlberg, but Union scored the next two. Guptill popped one in late.

From what I understand, it was a pretty impressive performance if you are impressed by the other team getting breakaway after breakaway. It sounded like an all-around poor performance and Union made them pay.

The silver lining--maybe--is that up next is a trip to Alaska. I know in the past, Red has said that he likes that trip because it's a good opportunity for team bonding. Maybe that's what they need. Get away for a little while, go see the pipeline, go curling, have some fun. Then get out on the ice and hopefully get back on the winning track. There's still plenty of time to fix this. It would sure be nice to see #24 back in the lineup at some point. It sounds like they could use him....

On the bright side, Carl Hagelin doesn't look like he wants to go back to the AHL anytime soon. Our super-Swede now has 1-2--3 in three NHL games. (There's still about 6 minutes left in his game tonight.) He added an assist against the Penguins tonight on a pretty drop pass. Ranger fans are impressed. Blueshirt Banter had his first-career goal as the highlight of the week. He had some nice things to say--including that his speed is unbelievable. Larry Brooks had an article about Hagelin as well. John Tortorella said that "he's not only playing fast, he's playing smart". Sounds like the Hagelin we know! Bork bork bork.

Having a Seat Over There: Dylan Larkin

At least there's some good news for the Michigan hockey program this week. 1996-born forward Dylan Larkin has committed to the Wolverines according to Mike Spath and College Hockey PROSPECTive. Larkin, a forward for Belle Tire's midget minor team, has 13-7--20 in 17 games this year.

His 13 goals this season is tops on the team, which leads the Great Lakes Division of the MWEHL with a 14-0-3 record. The next highest on the team has 9 goals. He's also second in points (Kyle Connor has 21). Surprisingly, only one of his 13 goals has come on special teams, so he's getting it done at even strength. He also leads the team with 4 game-winning goals.

League-wide, he's tied for 17th in points (and points per game) and tied for fourth in goals. The league-leader has 15 tallies.

In the 2011 MAHA State Tournament, Larkin scored 5-11--16 in five games.

A year ago, his 23-24--47 line put him third in goals, fifth in assists, and third in points. They downed the Chicago Mission 6-5 in the U14 National Championship. Larkin had a goal in the championship game.

I'm going to list him as a 2014 until I hear otherwise.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Top 50 BCHL Players, Hagelin

The BCHL ran a poll where fans could vote on the top 50 players in league history. Jeff Tambellini, Brendan Morrison, and Bill Muckalt all made the cut. Eric Nystrom's father Bob also made the cut. There are some other names of note on the list if you're a Wings fan.

Carl Hagelin did in fact make his NHL debut last night. The Rangers defeated Washington 6-3 and Hagelin got on the scoresheet with an assist, a shot on goal, and a +1 rating in 10 1/2 minutes of ice-time. The Rangers were back on the ice today and Hagelin notched his first career goal, 3 shots, and a +1 rating in almost 11 minutes of ice-time. Bork bork bork!

Michigan fell 4-1 to Northeastern last night in a game where--from the sound of it--it was probably a good thing that we didn't have streaming video. After a Travis Lynch goal to open the scoring, Northeastern put four past Shawn Hunwick. I don't really care to watch the highlights, but from following the game on Twitter, it sounded like there wasn't a whole helluva lot of defense to be had. Lots of breakaways. Apparently Northeastern soundly outplayed Michigan, despite the Wolverines holding a 34-22 shot advantage.

Michigan tries to get back in the win column tomorrow afternoon against Union.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Northeastern and Union Previews

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

After a rough start to the CCHA season (3-5-2-1), the Wolverines return to non-conference play for a weekend. With the demise of the College Hockey Showcase thanks to Wisconsin footballifying their non-conference hockey schedule, the Wolverines have scheduled games against Northeastern (Friday) and Union (Sunday afternoon) this weekend.

Northeastern Preview:
Northeastern is 3-7-2 on the season and are just 1-5-1 away from home in Jim Madigan's first season behind the bench. The Huskies dove right into the Hockey East schedule at the start of the season. This is actually their first non-conference game of the year.

Despite the tough start to their season, the Huskies are coming off a pair of wins last weekend. On Friday night, they defeated Providence by a 5-2 score. The next night, they downed Vermont 4-1.

They've also given some good teams a run for their money. They've lost two one-goal games to Boston College (once in overtime) and in early-November they took the only unbeaten team in the country, #1 Merrimack (yes, Merrimack), to overtime on back-to-back nights, tying one and losing one.

They'll be a test for a Wolverine team that has dropped five of its past six (counting the SOL to Miami). Northeastern has struggled to put the puck in the net against good teams, however. They've scored just 8 goals in the 5 games they've played against ranked opponents.

They've been led offensively by freshman Ludwig Karlsson, who has 6-4--10 in 10 games. He had three goals last weekend and was named Hockey East Player of the Week. Justin Daniels has 5 goals and 4 assists in 12 games. Vinny Saponari, formerly of the USA NTDP, has 8 assists on the year to lead the team.

They don't get a ton of offense out of their blueliners. The whole crew has only accounted for 14 points on the year. They're very young on defense. Junior Drew Ellement is the only upper-classman. Beyond him, they've got 3 sophomores and 3 freshmen on the roster. Junior Drew Daniels is listed as a forward but has played the entire season back on D. Last weekend they dressed 2 freshmen, 2 sophomores, and 2 juniors.

In net, all but one decision has gone to three-year starter Chris Rawlings. The junior is 3-6-2 on the year with a 2.59 goals against and a .927 save percentage. Very solid. He's improved both of those numbers each season. Last year he had a 2.68/.920. One strange note: Last year, he faced either BC or BU eight times in a 10-game stretch. He's a big dude, listed at 6'5", 207. He also just recently tied Brad Thiessen atop Northeastern's career shutouts list (9).

Northeastern has always played Michigan tough. Back in the 06-07 season, they gave up a tying goal to Chad Kolarik with 5 seconds left in regulation before falling in overtime. They rebounded the next night by knocking off Michigan at Yost. They also beat the Wolverines in the Left McFadden tournament to kick off the 2004 season. If I remember right, we were ranked #1 at the time. I definitely remember that I was working at the Michigan Union Bookstore at the time, heard the score as I was leaving for the day, and was pissed. It's amazing that I can't remember what I had for lunch yesterday, but I can remember where I was when we lost a hockey game seven years ago.

From Northeastern's game notes:

Michigan is led by the junior duo of A.J. Treais and Lindsay Parks with 13 points apiece while nine skaters have registered double digits.

They have seven players who have been drafted. Three of them have been picked by San Jose.

Sophomore Cody Ferriero is the brother of Benn, a former standout at Boston College.

Union Preview:
On Sunday afternoon, the Union Dutchmen come to town. The #13 team in the country is 6-3-3 on the year and have been excellent on the road, boasting a 5-1-1 record away from the Achilles Center. There are two caveats to that: 1) They play in the ECAC, so they automatically get an asterisk. Blame Yale for that. I made that rule after the NCAA Tournament last year. 2) This kind of goes along with #1, but the quality of competition is a question mark. To their credit, they tied WMU twice. Aside from that it's been Army, Niagara, RIT, UNH, American, St Lawrence, Clarkson, Brown, Yale (a 4-0 loss), and RPI.

Their prowess away from home isn't limited to this season. They're 12-1-1 in their last 14 road contests.

They have been rather stingy on defense as of late. Outside of the four goals that Yale scored, they haven't given up more than 2 since Oct. 21. That's 8 goals in 7 games (or 12 in 8 games if you include the contest against Yale).

Between the pipes has typically been sophomore Troy Grosenick. For the year, he has a 5-2-2 record with a 1.62 goals against and a .935 save percentage, good for third and fifth nationally. Last year he only recorded one decision. Against Yale, he was chased after just 22 minutes.

Offensively, senior Kelly Zajac leads the way. He is 5th nationally with 13 assists, and has 16 points on the year. He's also the brother of NHLer Travis Zajac, formerly of North Dakota. Kelly had 42 points last season.

Mat Bodie has 10 helpers from back on the blueline. Putting those pucks in the net are Jeremy Welsh (7, including 5 on the power play) and Wayne Simpson (6). Daniel Carr has 5-5--10 on the year, but three of those goals came in their last outing, a 5-1 win over RPI. Carr-Zajac-Simpson make up a dangerous top line.

Their power play is clicking along. Union ranks 5th nationally, scoring on 26.2% of their power plays. They've notched 16 goals with the man advantage this season, which works out to 1.33 power play goals per game. Staying out of the box would be nice. Their PP accounts for 42% of their offense.

They've also been really strong on faceoffs this year, at 56.2%.

Common Opponents:
We've actually played a surprising number of common opponents so far this season. Based on the results, they would point toward Michigan having an edge in this game.
They tied Niagara 3-3. We beat Niagara 5-0.
They tied WMU 2-2 and 3-3. We lost 3-2 and won 5-2.
They beat SLU 2-0. We beat them 10-3.

This is the first time that Michigan and Union have ever faced off. They are the only ECAC team that Michigan has never played.

Some Love:
Some love to their athletic department for linking to my site in their official blog's preview of the weekend.

Final Thoughts:
Michigan looks to rebound from 3 tough weekends. After being unbeatable at home for nearly a full year, they've now dropped 3 of the last 4 at Yost. Northeastern has played good teams tough, but has struggled to put the puck in the net against them. Union has a better record, but has some question marks as to the quality of the competition. They're not intimidated playing on the road, however. Their road record is proof of that.

I'll take Michigan with two wins this weekend, though I think both of them will be closer games than you might typically expect, or that Red would want.

In Other News:
In other news, the Rangers have called up Carl Hagelin and he may make his NHL debut tomorrow night. Hagelin leads the Connecticut Whale with 7 goals and is second on the team with 13 points. He's also second in the entire AHL with a +12 rating. That's the player we know! Bork bork bork.

USA Hockey had a feature on Al Montoya, who hopes to make the 2014 US Olympic Team.

Michigan officially received Letters of Intent from Jacob Trouba, Boo Nieves, Justin Selman, Daniel Milne, Connor Carrick, and Jared Rutledge. Michigan Hockey Net has updates on a lot of our recruits in his weekly recruiting roundup.

Also, Bob Miller has started College Hockey PROSPECTive, a blog covering college hockey recruiting. It's very much a work in progress for the time being--he's targeting a true launch in January of 2012--but Bob is one of the best at covering the game and I very much look forward to reading his thoughts moving forward. That site will definitely be one to bookmark!

Lastly, don't forget to badger Dave Brandon about bringing back streaming video for hockey games! One again, unless you're at Yost, you won't see the games this weekend. (I'm going to keep on about this.)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Vote JMFJ For All-Star

Alright folks, on a happier note, it's time to support one of my all-time favorites! The Vote For Jack Johnson campaign is on for the NHL All-Star Game. His numbers aren't gaudy (4-5--9, -3) but JMFJ is sixth in points on the Kings, has played 20+ minutes in every game, and is a top-pairing defenseman on a team that is 7th in the league in goals against as is tied for the lead in their division. He's also managed to only take six penalties in 20 games. He's also third in the league in game-winning goals (3).

Vote for JMFJ by pointing your browser to You can vote 30 times online, 30 times on a SmartPhone, and 30 times by texting "Jack Johnson" to 81812. I don't think texting "JMFJ" will work, though it should.

Make it happen! I just voted my 30 times online and it took roughly 7 minutes. I was hoping "JMFJ" would come up in the Captcha form, but no such luck.

Also, Max Pacioretty has 9-8--17 in 20 games. He'd be a good write-in candidate.

(Also it was fun to see that my site is on the first page of Google search results for "Jack Johnson" and is the first hockey result.) 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

1 Point in Two Weeks

Not good. I mentioned in my Miami preview that if the RedHawks were going to have a successful weekend, that Cody Reichard was going to have to continue his dominance over the Maize-and-Blue and he pulled it off on Friday, making 20 stops in a 2-1 win. The Wolverines got to him a little bit more on Saturday (scoring 3), but Miami overcame a two-goal deficit and won in a shootout. Luckily for Michigan, Zach Hyman scored late in regulation to at least salvage a point.

This weekend Ohio came to town and went home with their first sweep at Yost since 1986. The Buckeyes have won 7 in a row and it appears that Mark Osiecki has something going in Columbus.

On Friday night, the offense sputtered again, scoring just one goal on 30 shots in yet another 2-1 loss. Tonight, the offense got it going, but the penalty killing and defense failed. The Buckeyes came out on top of a 6-5 decision. OSU was 3 for 7 on the power play, and scored two goals in 16 seconds during a Chris Brown major penalty to open up a 4-2 lead.

The losses drop Michigan to an ugly 3-5-2-1 in conference, which puts them in a tie with FYS for 7th (though FYS has two games in hand).

Quite honestly, I don't have a whole lot else for you right now. I'm frustrated that I haven't been able to provide the coverage this season that I'm accustomed to providing. A big chunk of it is that the TV coverage this season has been pretty lame and we no longer have the streaming video option that we had for so many years.

I think it's absolutely ridiculous that a school that makes as much money as Michigan does is so far behind the game in terms of streaming video. I can watch Ferris State games on PPV on the internet, I can watch ANY game from the CHA, but not Michigan? Hell, I can watch UW-Superior games on the internet, but not Michigan. A freaking D-3 satellite school has this figured out. We've actually managed to regress. It's 2011. This internet thing is here to stay. I'm not even asking for the free video to be brought back (though it'd be nice). Give me something like B2Network, where I can pay for the whole season, watch every game, and not miss half the season because I play in my own games on Friday night (they archive them). I don't mind paying, I just want to see the games. Might I suggest joining me in sending a tweet @DaveBrandonAD 's way if you're in a similar situation--or even if you're not and you just happen to like me. There are options out there. If the FAIRBANKS ROLLER GIRLS can pull streaming video of home games, I have no doubt that the greatest university in the world could do the same.

Since Wisconsin bugged out of the College Hockey Showcase, the traditional Thanksgiving tournament is no more. Instead, Michigan has Northeastern (Friday) and Union (Sunday) coming in. Northeastern won a pair of games this past weekend, but they're struggling this year. Union is 6-3-3 and 5-1-1 away from home. Hopefully Michigan can get back on the winning track before heading up to Alaska after the holiday.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Michigan vs. The Dynasty Preview

Photo Credit: Bill Rapai
Red Berenson's troops head south this weekend to take on the closest thing to a hockey dynasty that this world has ever known: The Miami RedHawks. In actuality, the RedHawks have been positively un-dynasty-like so far this year. They stumbled out of the gate, losing their opener against Bemidji, and started 0-4 in CCHA play after getting swept by Ferris and Lake State.

Last weekend, they went up to Alaska and beat the Nanooks by a pair of 2-1 decisions, despite being outshot 30-14 on Friday night.

The lack of offense has been a problem. Miami needed to replace Andy Miele, Pat Cannone, and Carter Camper after last season, and the result has been an offense that has scored just 2.30 goals per game this year, down from 3.75 a year ago. They currently rank 43rd in the nation in offense.

Through 10 games, Reilly Smith is the only player on the roster with more than 2 goals (5-1--6). (To compare, Michigan has 8 players with 3+ goals.) Even Smith's scoring has been cut in half, though. He averaged a very impressive 1.42 points per game last season (28-26--54 in 38 games).

As you'd expect, the power play has also struggled. They're clicking along at 14.0%, good for 40th nationally.

The goaltending/team defense also hasn't been at the level they're accustomed to. Connor Knapp and Cody Reichard return for their senior seasons. Reichard is 3-3-0 on the year with a 2.46/.902. Knapp is just 1-3-0 with a 3.17/.888 (!!). The PK is at 81.4% and they have scored 3 shorties already this year.

Knapp has lost three straight starts, and after giving up 4 on 15 shots in less than 30 minutes of work against LSSU, he did not play against Alaska. Reichard got both of those starts and gave up just two goals total. It'll be interesting to see if Blasi gets back to his goalie rotation this weekend, or if Reichard gets both starts again. I suspect it will depend on how tonight goes. If Reichard shuts Michigan down, he may just keep riding the hot hand. Reichard typically plays Friday nights in their rotation, so he'd get first crack regardless.

I've always been more impressed with Reichard anyway. Last year, he held Michigan to two goals on 55 shots during a weekend sweep in Oxford. He was also in net for both games of their sweep at Yost in 09-10, again giving up just two goals on 49 shots. Michigan did beat him in the CCHA Semifinals during that magic run. Knapp was ridiculous in the tournament game where the quick whistle did Michigan in. He stopped 55 of 57 shots that night. Strangely enough, that's been his only start against Michigan since his freshman year, when he played the majority of three games.

Freshman Tyler Biggs was Toronto's first-round pick in this year's draft after spending two years with the NTDP. He has 1-4--5 so far this year.

This is a big weekend for the RedHawks. Despite their struggles, Miami could get back to .500 with a pair of wins. A Michigan sweep would put Miami at 2-6-0-0 in conference and 4-8-0 overall. That's quickly getting to the point of needing to put together a run to make the NCAA Tournament.

Miami has struggled, but you have to think they'll right the ship at some point. It seems like Reichard has gotten back on his game, but the offense has still be uncharacteristically quiet. A couple of the Wolverine killers (Miele and Cannone) are gone, which is nice. It'll be interesting to see how Michigan responds to the hostile environment down there. I like the chances for a good weekend. Michigan has only been held below 3 goals one time this season and Miami has struggled to the put the puck in the net thusfar. Reichard has been great against Michigan in his career, so if Miami is going to get some points out of the weekend, he'll have to keep that up.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Michigan Splits with Western Michigan

Photo Credit: Bill Rapai
For the second straight week, Michigan took on a highly-ranked CCHA opponent. This time, it marked the Yost debut of new WMU coach Andy Murray. In a battle of former St. Louis Blues head coaches, Murray's team drew first blood, but the Wolverines came back Saturday night to split the weekend.

On Friday night, Western jumped out to a 2-0 lead behind goals from Ian Slater and Brett Beebe. Slater banged one in off a faceoff win. Beebe's was off a 2-on-1 created by a Michigan turnover. Hunwick made the initial save, then appeared to kick the puck into the net. Mike Chiasson was, of course, on the ice for Slater's goal (marking the "minus" of his Michigan career), since it was mentioned in the media (including here, mwah mwahhhhhh) this past week that it hadn't happened.

Michigan came back with a pair of goals by defensemen. Kevin Clare tallied the first goal of his Michigan career when he picked up the puck by the side-boards and caught the goaltender still on the ice. Just over three minutes later it was Mac Bennett tying things up on a shot that Pisellini would really like to have back. The teams headed to the third period tied at 2. It remained that way until just after the students had said, "" Dane Walters popped one in with 57 seconds remaining, and that was all she wrote. I'm not really sure how that puck ended up in the net. There was a goalmouth scramble, Hunwick was down on his stomach, and then the Broncos started celebrating.

Nick Pisellini made 34 saves in the win, including all 14 that Michigan threw at him in the third period. Hunwick stopped 22 of the 25 shots he faced.

The loss snapped Michigan's 20-game home winning streak. The streak ended just short of the one-year mark. The last home loss was on November 12th of last year against Notre Dame.

On Saturday, the Wolverines got outshot by 11 but rode 30 saves from Shawn Hunwick to a 5-2 win to even up the weekend. That was WMU's first loss of the season (6-1-3).

Derek DeBlois extended his point streak to 4 games with a goal in the middle of the first period to give Michigan a lead. He cleaned up the garbage after a Guptill shot hit the post. WMU came back to tie it very early in the second period on a scramble in front. Balisy got the feed, Hunwick robbed him, but the defense was tied up and Balisy was able to lift one over Shawn on the rebound. WMU then took the lead on a Derek Roehl goal at 10:18. Like DeBlois, he buried one after the initial shot hit the post and skipped out the other side.

After that, it was all Michigan on the scoreboard. Alex Guptill got things tied before intermission. He parked himself in front on the power play and was able to bang in a rebound on a Pateryn shot from the point.

The Wolverines put up 3 in the third (including an ENG). Mac Bennett scored his second goal in as many games to put Michigan ahead for good. Sparks had the puck down low. He sent it back to Bennett at the point, and Mac's shot found it's way through traffic into the net. AJ Treais added some insurance inside the five-minute mark, and then Kevin Lynch added the empty-netter for the final margin of victory.

K. Lynch was rushing the puck and it initially looked like he held onto it too long. He was forced behind the net, but got the puck centered to Treais, who shot it home.

The win takes Michigan to 3-2-1-1 in the CCHA, which is good for a three-way tie for fourth place, four points behind conference leader Lake Superior State(!). All the teams at the top of the standings have played 6 conference games.

This weekend, the Wolverines head down to Oxford, OH to take on the Miami RedHawks. Blasi's team had lost five in a row, but righted the ship with a pair of 2-1 wins at Alaska last weekend. More on them later.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Ferris Wrapup, Newsish Stuff, and a WMU Preview

Sorry for the lack of content. I'm out in Billings, MT for work so I've basically been in work-eat-bed mode.

Ferris Wrapup:
Michigan ended up completing the sweep of Ferris last weekend, winning the second game by a 4-0 margin. Shawn Hunwick made 24 stops, the Wolverines killed off 7 Ferris State power plays, and got goals from four different players.

Alex Guptill got things going 5 1/2 minutes into the game. Luke Moffatt threw him a nifty little between-the-legs pass to complete a give-and-go and Guptill roofed one.

In the second period, Travis Lynch and AJ Treais struck a couple of minutes apart to blow the game open. Bennett's shot from the point bounced around and Lynch took it right off Wohlberg's stick. It looked like it surprised Motte a little bit.

PDG then blocked a shot and took off the other way. He centered it for Chris Brown. A sprawling Motte kept it out of the net, but he knocked it right to Treais, who lifted it up over him into the net.

Later in the period that same trio struck again. This time it was Brown putting the puck in the net. Di Giuseppe fed Brown and he lasered one high up over the glove.

That was all the Wolverines needed. Ferris outshot the Wolverines 9-3 in the third period, but Hunwick was perfect and the Wolverines had a sweep of the #6 Bulldogs.

Travis Lynch was 13 and 2 in the faceoff circle. He has been a really pleasant surprise, though you could say that about any number of the freshmen.

Mock Drafts, Honors, and Suspensions:
It was a fairly eventful week off the ice.

Phil Di Giuseppe's OHL rights were traded from Niagara to Windsor as part of a big trade that also involved Jack Campbell. Windsor is clearly not the team you want your player to be on if you'd like to keep him in the NCAA. The thought seems to be that we don't have that much to worry about this season, but expect Windsor to take a run at him during the summer. It sounds like he was more of a guy they were taking a flier on, since he's clearly turned into a helluva find.

Speaking of PDG, he was named CCHA Rookie of the Month for October. He has 5-4--9 and a +9 rating in 8 games. Hunwick was honored as CCHA Goalie of the Month thanks to his 6-0-1 record with a 1.37 goals against and a .949 save percentage.

Di Giuseppe was also mentioned as a potential first round draft pick in a couple of mock drafts released by Jacob Trouba was cited as a top-ten pick in all three of them. Boo Nieves is listed as a mid-to-late first round pick in all three of the drafts. Di Giuseppe goes 11th in one of them and 28th in another.

Also check out the link above for a roundup of how our recruits have been doing this season.

Defenseman Jon Merrill was allowed to rejoin the team in practice, but has had his suspension extended from 12 games to "indefinite". Credit Red Berenson for having the balls to suspend arguably his best player for what appears to be half the season. Also, we don't know what he did, but credit Merrill for sticking it out. It would have been the easy move to sign with the Whalers, but it appears he really wants to be a Wolverine. Hopefully he can get everything straightened out off the ice and get back to being the ridiculous defenseman that we know he can be.

One player who has benefited from Merrill's absence is Mike Chiasson. The rookie blueliner is +14 and has not been on the ice for a single goal allowed this year. He also leads the team in blocked shots with 11. It's hard to believe that Michigan could have expected any more than what they're getting out of Chiasson. I was really impressed with him (Lynch, and Di Giuseppe as well) during the Niagara game, and they've all continued to be impressive as the season hits the 20% mark.

Stat Watching:
The Wolverines already have 12 players with 5+ points. If you would have told me that 8 games into the season Kevin Lynch, Zach Hyman, and Luke Moffatt would have combined for 3 goals, I would not have liked Michigan's chances to be ranked #3 right now and rank #2 in offense. They're getting goals from everywhere right now, and that's a great sign given that three of Michigan's really talented players haven't cranked it up in the goals column just yet (though 2 of them are still averaging .5 ppg, which certainly isn't bad...that projects to a 20-21 point season).

Hyman and Lynch look like the new Rust and Caporusso in the faceoff circle. How do you replace two of the best faceoff guys we've had? By bringing in two freshmen who are killer in the dot. Hyman is at 65.1% (!) right now. Lynch is just behind him at 62.1%.

WMU Preview:
This weekend Michigan welcomes in the fourth-ranked Western Michigan Broncos. They come in 5-0-3 under Head Coach Andy Murray. (Side note: Whoever gave Yale a first place vote should have their ballot rejected. Didn't we learn that lesson last year?) Western has played to a win and three ties on the road so far this year, a pair of ties against Union and a win/shootout win up in Alaska. They swept NMU last weekend at home.

WMU's 5-2 win over Michigan in the CCHA Tournament Semifinal last year snapped a 7-game Michigan winning streak in the series. Michigan has won 18 of the last 21. 

Chase Balisy returns after a 30-point freshman campaign. He currently leads the team with 3-6--9 on the young season. Classmate Shane Berschbach had 29 points last season and has 4-4--8 so far. Every skater who has dressed aside from Matt Stewart (one game played) has at least a point. Defenseman Matt Tennyson had 7 goals on the PP last season. He's yet to tally a PPG this year, but he does have 5 points. He'll be one to watch when we're down a man.

Junior Nick Pisellini and freshman Frank Slubowski have split the netminding duties so far this year. Pisellini is 2-0-2 with a 1.68/.931. Slubowski is 3-0-1 with a 1.47/.918. Pretty stout, the both of them. They haven't gone with the Friday/Saturday split. Pisellini got both games at Union and one at Alaska. Slubowski played both ends of the NMU sweep. Western actually held NMU to 29 shots the entire weekend.

They're the #12 offensive team and rank 4th on defense, giving up just 1.62 goals per game. Their power play is just 15% on the year, possibly because they haven't gotten Tennyson going just yet. The PK is at 88.6%.

If Michigan is going to get Kevin Lynch out of his slump, this might be the week to do it. He has 3-5--8 in 5 games against the Broncos. 

Friday night's game will air on Fox Sports Detroit, while Saturday's contest will be on Comcast Local.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Michigan 5, Ferris State 2

Jared Rutledge's commitment wasn't the only good news for the Wolverine hockey team tonight. On the ice, they downed the sixth-ranked Ferris State Bulldogs by a 5-2 margin. Coming in, the Bulldogs had allowed just 5 goals in the previous six games combined. In a battle of the #3 offense against the #1 defense, Michigan's offense got the upper hand tonight.

After a scoreless first period, the Wolverines put three on the board in just over five minutes in the middle of the second period.

On a Michigan power play, Phil Di Giuseppe scored his first of two on the night. Wohlberg's shot from the point hit a defenseman's glove and deflected to Chris Brown. Brown was able to corral the loose puck and slide it to the other side of the net where Di Giuseppe was waiting to bury it.

With the goalie pulled on a delayed penalty, Travis Lynch made it 2-0 as he tipped in a Bennett shot from the point. Then--thanks to the rule that if you score on a delayed penalty the violation still gets called--the Wolverines were able to capitalize again on the man advantage. This time it was David Wohlberg with a beeeeeautiful wrister up under the bar from just inside the top of the faceoff circle..

Ferris would close back within two on a couple of occasions but the Wolverines were able to answer. After Billins made it 3-1 on a nice rush, Derek DeBlois lasered one just under the crossbar for his first of the year. Ferris scored another power play goal to draw within two again with 7 minutes left, but Chris Brown passed up an empty-netter, feeding Di Giuseppe for the final margin of victory. That was a great all-around play by Brown, as his stick lift in the Michigan end prevented a scoring chance and got Michigan possession of the puck.

Shawn Hunwick made 28 stops in the win, as Michigan was outshot 30-28.

Lindsay Sparks now has 5-6--11 on the season and 3-5--8 during a five-game point streak. There are only two players in the country with more points than Sparks has. PDG is tied for the team lead in goals with 5. Kyle Rau is the only freshman in the country with more goals (6).

The Wolverines now have ten players with 5+ points on the season (and 3 more with four points apiece). Not bad for being 7 games in.

In other happy news, LSSU knocked off Miami in overtime. The RedHawks are now 2-5 overall and 0-3 in CCHA play.

The Wolverines and Bulldogs will resume their series tomorrow night at Yost. CJ Motte will likely get the start for Ferris State.

Having a Seat Over There: Jared Rutledge

For the third straight year, the Wolverines have picked up a commitment from an NTDP goalie. Like Jack Campbell and John Gibson before him, Jared Rutledge has verballed to Red Berenson. Hopefully unlike the other two, he will wear the Maize and Blue next season. He had been mentioned as a possibility for the Wolverines over a year and a half ago.

Rutledge is listed at 5'11", 167 lbs and like Connor Carrick, he hails from Illinois.

This season, he is 3-2-1 with a sparkling 2.34 goals against and a .918 save percentage.  His two losses have come against Michigan and Colorado College, two of the top 4 teams in the country. He made 33 stops against Michigan in a 3-1 loss and 38 against CC, though USA fell 5-0.

Last season with the U17s, he put up very solid numbers. He was 17-9-1 with a 2.57 goals against and a .905 save percentage. Internationally, in the Vlad Dzurilla tournament, he was 2-0-0 with a 1.00/.957 en route to the tournament title. He was in net for the final game and stopped 24 of 25 shots.

He was also 2-0-0 with a 2.00/.844 in the Four Nations Cup. In the World Under 17 Challenge, he was 3-1 with a 2.57/.844. The Americans fell 5-3 to Team Ontario in the gold medal game. Rutledge didn't get the start, but stopped 10 of 12 shots in about 48 minutes of relief work. One of the goals he allowed was on a penalty shot.

He played with the Chicago Young Americans prior to joining the NTDP and led the league in wins. His head coach said the following:
"His anticipation for what a shooter is going to do and his reading of a situation so he can best position himself in the net are definitely his strengths," Young Americans head coach Bruno Bragagnolo said. "He's able to analyze his weaknesses about as well as any goalie I've ever coached. And then I think his movement across the crease and his play out of the net are underrated." 
 The Skokie Review had a neat story about how his dad has helped his career along.

“I took (Jared) to NHL goalie coaches, read everything they wrote and watched every DVD. There was a tremendous amount to learn,” said Johnny, who works full-time in the music business. “I videotaped every one of Jared’s games, watched the videos and analyzed his game. It was an intensive training process. By the time (Jared) was 14 years old, I started backing off. By the time he was 15, I let him go.”

His dad now coaches other young goalies.

Dan Sallows, a scout for the Indiana Ice, had some kind things to say about him:
Rutledge is technically and positionally very sound, is excellent at controlling rebounds, handles the puck well, competes hard, has a good glove, doesn’t get phased on the rare occasion he does let in a bad goal, and is extremely good at anticipating the play. Though he isn’t overly big, he challenges exceptionally well, and makes life miserable for shooters.
I'd still imagine that Michigan will bring in a second freshman goalie for next season. I don't know that they'd risk the possibility of getting whammied three years in a row.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

NMU Revisited and Ferris State Preview

The "top ranked" Wolverines went on the road for the first time to take on Northern Michigan last weekend. They lost on Friday night before rebounding with the first shootout win in program history on Saturday. That dropped them to a more-reasonable-but-still-probably-a-little-high #4 ranking.

Halfway through Friday night's game, Shawn Hunwick had made 17 saves and the score was 0-0. Hunwick was run into and reacted poorly. I haven't seen a video clip, but it looked like he clocked an NMU player with his blocker. He was given a 5-minute major penalty for contact to the head and was ejected. Luke Moffatt and Andrew Cherniwchan were also given fighting majors and game DQs in the altercation.

After the fight, NMU scored 4 goals on their next 14 shots. The Wolverine battled back from a 3-1 deficit to tie the game with under 4 minutes to play in regulation, but the Wildcats scored just over a minute later and added an empty netter to win 5-3. Sparks, Hyman, and T. Lynch scored for the Wolverines.

The next night, the Wolverines got out to a 2-0 lead behind goals from Treais and Sparks. NMU scored a pair of power play goals to tie the score, before Kevin Lynch put Michigan back ahead heading to the 2nd intermission. NMU tied it back up in the first minute of the third period and it stayed that way the rest of the game. Michigan had a power play for almost the entire overtime session but was unable to capitalize. Treais scored the only goal in the shootout, and Michigan was able to salvage two points on the weekend (out of six).

#6 Ferris State comes to town for a Thursday/Friday series at Yost. The Bulldogs are 6-0-0 on the season and just swept The Dynasty last weekend in Big Rapids, which helped them jump 8 spots in the USCHO poll and got them a first-place vote. They've given up just 5 goals in six games and held the high-powered Miami offense to a pair of goals.

One positive: The Bulldogs played a pair of games against St Lawrence (on the road) and beat them 4-2 (with an ENG) and 5-1 (in a game that was 3-1 with under 5 to play). Michigan beat them 10-3 at Yost. They then blanked RPI by 4-0 and 2-0 scores. Last weekend, the Bulldog duo of Tyler Nelson and CJ Motte out-dueled Cody Reichard and Connor Knapp.

The Bulldog power play was the difference in that series. They went 4 for 13 with the man advantage and held the RedHawks scoreless on 8 opportunities. Both of their goals in the 2-0 game came on the power play.

As you'd expect, since they've only given up 5 goals, the goaltenders have fantastic numbers. Nelson and Motte have split time this year and are both 3-0-0. Nelson has a 1.34/.943 and Motte has a ridiculous 0.33/.986(!).

Only 8 players have scored for FSU (which matches how many we had against SLU), but Travis Ouellette has 6 (second nationally with four on the PP) and Kyle Bonis has 5. They haven't gotten any goals out of their defensemen, but Chad Billins had 6 assists.

Overall, they're 14th nationally with 3.50 goals per game. Clearly 0.83 goals per game defensively is #1 in the nation. Only five other teams are even within a goal of that. The power play is humming along at 25% and they've given up just one goal on the penalty kill, which is good for 96.4%.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Easy Canvas Prints

I was recently invited to try out Easy Canvas Prints, a company that puts pictures on canvas. They suggested that I might like to blow up one of my photos from a Michigan hockey game. Unfortunately, when I was in school, I had a really crappy film camera, and replaced it with an okay Kodak Easyshare after hockey season my senior year. By the time I had a real disposable income to get a nice camera, I had moved away and have only gotten to a couple of hockey games since then.

One game that we had the nice camera at was the media game for The Big Chill at The Big House. I thought it would be fun to take the opportunity to blow up one of the photos that my fiancee took me there.

There's the finished product, and I think it's pretty awesome. The canvas is a really high quality, the colors pop, and they've got the ability to do some photo-shopping and other image-enhancing on your pictures if necessary. It's got a hanger built in as well.

I also had the option of having a solid border or having the photo wrap around. I went with the latter option, because it looks much cooler that way and luckily the photo was taken in a way that it wouldn't cut off any of my head or the logo on my jersey to do so.

It arrived at my doorstep less than a week after I placed the order, and it was packaged really well. It actually took me a little doing to get it out of the box!

According to their website, due to the archival-quality material that they use, even in direct sunlight, the canvas should last for "decades to come".

Their website will let you know if your file is of a good enough resolution to be blown up, and if it isn't, then they offer a service as minor-retouching to help increase the resolution. Magic.

So yeah, thanks to Easy Canvas Prints for the offer! I'm really happy with how my print turned out. I've always loved the look of art on canvas. I was actually thinking about getting a couple of prints done before this offer came along, so I was really excited to take advantage and get this one printed!

Michigan 10, St Lawrence 3

8 different Wolverines scored, 12 had points, and 10 players were at least +4 as the Wolverines completed the non-conference portion of their early season schedule in a 10-3 victory over St. Lawrence on Thursday night.

Luke Glendening led the way with his first-career hat trick. David Wohlberg had a goal and three assists. Mac Bennett and Greg Pateryn each had 3 points as well.

Bennett and Mike Chiasson were both +5 in the game, and Pateryn, Di Giuseppe, Moffatt, Moffie, Travis Lynch, Treais, Glendening, and Wohlberg were each +4. Michigan scored multiple goals against all three of the SLU netminders.

Michigan actually fell behind 1-0 in the game before scoring 3 goals in the last 4 1/2 minutes of the first period to take a 3-1 lead into the intermission.

The first Michigan goal was the type of goal that Glendening scores. Wohlberg took the shot, it bounced high in the air and hit the top of the goalie's pad when it landed. It bounced into the crease and Glendening crashed the net and knocked it in.

Moffatt's goal was a beauty. He took a pass from Moffie in the faceoff circle to the goalie's left, quickly pulled it to his left and flipped it in with a nifty back-hander.

Treais put a good shot through a screen to make it 3-1.

They quickly made it 4-1 on Glendening's second of the game. Wohlberg picked off a pass in the neutral zone and beat the defenseman up the ice. He got a lane and fed Glendening for an easy goal. SLU bounced back with one on the power play to make it 4-2. Pateryn (on a bomb), Moffie (good shot that somehow got through, off great work by Di Giuseppe to keep the play alive), and Glendening (fluky goal when Wohlberg threw one off the goalie from behind the net and the puck sat there) extended the lead.

The Wolverines tacked on three more in the third. Di Giuseppe absolutely worked a diving defenseman to get around him and slid the puck into the net. That kid has hands. Wow. Sparks put a shot up under the bar for goal #9, and then, to chants of "We want pizza", Michigan made it ten. Wohlberg got around the D again. Instead of passing, this time he just pulled it to the front of the net and tucked in a shot that should never go in.

Amazingly, all ten of the Wolverine goals were even strength. St. Lawrence was actually 2-7 on the power play. Michigan had just three chances with the man advantage. Shots in the game were 34-32 Michigan. Shawn Hunwick made 27 saves in the victory and Adam Janecyk saw the ice for just over 9 minutes, stopping 2 shots.

Zach Hyman didn't register a point and was even on the night, but he was 14 of 19 in the faceoff circle. Travis Lynch won 11 of his 15 draws as well. Nice to see, since we lost several very good faceoff guys after last season.

After the game, Coach Berenson was not happy with some of the penalties that his team took in the second period:

I thought we took some bad, unnecessary penalties. You can put different adjectives on them, but as coaches sometimes you will call them a lazy penalty or a stupid penalty or a selfish penalty or whatever. The honest penalties you can kill, but you can't kill the others and that is what showed up in the second period.

I know the competition thusfar has been in line with Wisconsin football's non-conference schedule, but it's hard not to get at least somewhat excited when you look at where the offense has come from so far this year. In short, it's come from everywhere.

The only players who have seen action and have not registered a point are backup goalie Adam Janecyk, Kevin Lynch (2 games), Andrew Sinelli (1 game), and Mike Szuma (1 game). Everyone else has gotten on the scoresheet. 11 players have at least 4 points, and yet no one has more than 6. It's still really early and I certainly don't expect them to keep scoring 6 goals per game, but maybe (hopefully?) the offense won't end up being as big of a challenge as feared. The guys we need to score are scoring (Treais, Wohlberg) and some of the younger guys (like Di Giuseppe) are fitting in very nicely.

Notre Dame has already lost a CCHA game. Miami just lost to Colgate. FYS got swept by LSSU this weekend. And for funsies, I'll mention that Wisconsin just got swept by Mel Pearson's Michigan Tech squad, which, unbelievably, has already matched last year's win total in both overall wins (4) and conference wins (2). Great start for Coach Pearson. I'm really happy for him, and for Tech, which deserves to have a good program again.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

RIP Dan Wheldon

For most of his career, I was never a Dan Wheldon fan. I didn't dislike him--beyond the fact that he won a lot of races and wasn't Bryan Herta, the guy I cheered for--but I wasn't a fan. This year, that changed. He signed with Herta's team to race the Indy 500 and I had someone else to root for in addition to Will Power.

As I mentioned, Herta was my favorite driver growing up. Far and away. I used to pick drivers to root for based on how they treated me when I would go autograph-hunting in the paddock as a young'un. Herta was always the nicest guy out there. He didn't win a lot--only 4 races in his open-wheel career--but he was a solid driver in an extremely competitive era. He was always kind of an underdog, and he was fun to root for.

Now, as a car owner, he's continued that. He's owned a team in Indy Lights for a couple of years (that's the equivalent of the NASCAR Nationwide Series, but without the Sprint Cup regulars driving). For the 2010 Indy 500, his team decided to take their Indy Lights driver, Sebastian Saavedra, and make their Izod IndyCar Series debut. Due to the unique qualifying procedure for the Indy 500, Saavedra was bumped from the race, wrecked his car in practice before making another attempt to get in, and then (while at the hospital and without turning another lap) regained his spot in the field while other drivers withdrew their qualifying times to try to defend themselves against other drivers bumping them. It led to a classic scene where Herta called Saavedra at the hospital to tell him that he made the race.

Like I said, a huge underdog.

For the 2011 Indy 500, Herta hired Wheldon to drive his car. The two were former teammates and good friends. People laughed when Wheldon suggested he could win the race in the #98 William Rast car, but due to an alignment with the Sam Schmidt Motorsports team, they were able to put a good car under him. It looked like Wheldon was headed for a third-consecutive runner-up finish in the race when this happened:

The leader of the race, rookie JR Hildebrand, crashed in the final corner and Wheldon snuck by for the victory. Seeing Bryan Herta's tiny team win the Indianapolis 500 was one of the single greatest moments of my sports-watching life. Just listen to that in-car audio at the end. The first voice to come on is Herta's. The squeal of excitement is Wheldon.

Wheldon didn't have a full-time ride for the rest of the year and spent a lot of time doing color commentary for Versus during some of the races. It quickly became evident that in addition to being the best color guy I've ever seen working a race, that he was a really great guy. Always smiling, always enthusiastic. Herta and Wheldon teamed up to be the test team for the new car that is coming next year. Ironically, the new car has a bumper behind the rear wheels that will strive to keep cars from launching into the air.

Wheldon was invited to drive in the season finale at Las Vegas and would have split $5 million with a fan had he won the race. As part of the promotion, he had to start at the rear of the field. Early in the race, a wreck was triggered mid-pack. With cars going 220+ miles per hour, no one had time to react and several cars, including Wheldon's, got airborne. Wheldon flipped cockpit-first into the catch-fence. There aren't many worse feelings in the world than knowing a wreck was potentially fatal and having to wait for them to identify which car it was, hoping that it wasn't one of your favorite drivers, while feeling like a scumball at the same time because you realize that means you're involuntarily hoping that it's someone else. The race was red-flagged, and as time went on it became more evident that this story wasn't going to have a happy ending. It felt eerily similar to when Greg Moore was killed in 1999, and you could hear it in the announcers' voices that they knew more than they were able to let on. By the time Randy Bernard made the announcement we were all pretty much already knew.

These drivers know the risks of strapping themselves into these machines. I know that they know the risks. But this still never gets any easier. I love this sport so damn much, but when this happens it really makes me question why I keep watching. Not many of my friends have shared my love for racing, but a couple have. One cheered for Greg Moore. One cheered for Dan Wheldon. I was raised a Dale Earnhardt Sr. fan.

I know there were likely thousands of other great husbands/fathers/people who died today, and many didn't voluntarily partake in a job that has this much risk, but seeing Dario Franchitti's face as he strapped back into his car for the 5-lap tribute to Wheldon, hearing Danica Patrick barely keeping it together in her goodbye to the series that made her famous, seeing the cars drive slowly around the track while "Amazing Grace" and "Danny Boy" played over the PA system, and seeing pictures like this....

...and I can't help but shed a tear. Or a lot of them. I know it's part of the risk of the sport, but like I said, it never gets any easier seeing someone's life come to an end like that.

Here's the tribute. Undoubtedly that's one of the hardest things any of those drivers have ever had to do:

So thank you, Dan Wheldon. Thank you for bringing an Indy 500 victory to Bryan Herta. Thank you for one of the happiest moments of my sports-watching life.

I'm really crushed right now--and I'm so thankful that somewhere along the lines, my fiancee and I got our wires crossed and she thought that I didn't actually want to go to Vegas for the finale this year. There are a pair of tickets sitting on my window sill. I can't decide if I should keep them or tear them up into as small of pieces as I possibly can, and get rid of them as quickly as I got rid of the recording of the race on my DVR.

Marty Reid gets a lot of criticism about his broadcasting, but the way he left it today was beautiful, so I'll leave you with his words: "Many people ask me why I always sign off with 'Til we meet again'. Because 'Goodbye' is always so final. Goodbye Dan Wheldon."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

St Lawrence Preview

The ECAC's St. Lawrence Saints come to town for some Thursday night hockey tomorrow. SLU is 0-2-0 on the season after being swept at home by Ferris State last weekend 4-2 and 5-1. The Saints led Friday night's game 1-0 before giving up 3 straight to the Bulldogs. They drew within one with about 4 minutes left, but Ferris scored an empty-netter. Matt Weininger got the nod in goal and gave up 3 goals on 20 shots. The next night, Ferris got one in the first, two in the second, and two in the third. Robby Moss made 30 saves on 35 shots. Both Kyle Flanagan and Greg Carey were in on all three Saints goals.

Carey led the team in scoring last year as a freshman, posting 23-17--40 in 40 games. Flanagan was second on the team with 12-23--35. They're also the top two returning goal scorers, so it shouldn't be a surprise that they were driving the offense last weekend.

Weninger played the majority of the games last year, going 7-15-3 with a very respectable 2.65/.913. Moss's record was better (5-6-2) but gave up 3.23 goals per night and stopped 90.2% of shots against him.

Their special teams didn't have a whole lot of luck against Ferris, going 1/10 on the power play and giving up 4 goals in the 12 times they were shorthanded. 

Inside College Hockey picks the Saints to finish 10th in the ECAC. The media picked them 8th, and the coaches picked them 9th. USCHO was the most optimistic, picking them 7th. They media put Carey on the preseason all-conference team.

The Saints were 13-22-5 last year and finished 11th in the ECAC before knocking off Princeton in the first round of the ECAC Tournament (and nearly taking out Yale as well).

Thoughts are with longtime Saints Head Coach Joe Marsh, who has taken a leave of absence from the team to deal with a medical issue. Assistant Coach Mike Hurlbut is calling the shots in his absence.

Michigan is 11-2-1 all-time against St Lawrence and has won the last 7. Their last meeting was in 2008. The Wolverines won 5-3.

The puck drops at 7:35. No video, sadly. I love how we're regressing in internet video technology. It wasn't so long ago that we got free streaming video for all of the non-televised games. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Michigan Sweeps Bentley, Moves to 3-0

I didn't get to see/hear any of the games this weekend, but based on some box score reading and highlight-watching it seems like it was a little harder than it should have been on paper. Michigan swept Bentley by 5-1, 4-1 scores, but those margins of victory probably weren't indicative of how the games went.

On Friday night, Michigan fell behind 1-0 on a power play goal by Alex Grieve. They would draw even on a goal by Greg Pateryn and then take the lead on David Wohlberg's first of the year, but the score would remain 2-1 until late in the third period. Guptill, Glendening, and Treais all scored in the last five minutes of regulation to turn a close game into a rout. Unfortunately on the highlights, several of the goals were NONE OF OUR BUSINESS (as Pressdog would say about the IndyCar races). Michigan outshot the Falcons 23-3 in the third period and 49-19 for the game. Treais (8), Glendening (7), Pateryn (7!), and Guptill (6) combined for over half of Michigan's shots on goal, as well as four of the five tallies.

The next night, the Wolverines once again found themselves in a tight game in the third period. A Moffatt shot through traffic was blocked by the defenseman, but the puck sat right at the top of the paint and Di Giuseppe made a quick move to knock it in. After Di Giuseppe's goal, Bentley tied the game up and then had a goal waived off. Di Giuseppe scored on the power play, taking a cross-crease feed from Moffatt off his skate and then burying it to put Michigan up 2-1. It remained that way deep into the third for the second straight night when AJ Treais tallied his second goal in the last 3 minutes of the game in as many nights off a slick give-and-go from Moffatt. Guptill would add an empty-netter, and Michigan would skate out with a 4-1 win. Hunwick made 21 stops in the win and was named CCHA Goaltender of the Week for his 3-0 record with a 0.74 goals against and .947 save percentage.

It's hard to get a great idea of how the game was based on watching some highlights, but it seems that Treais, Moffatt, and Di Giuseppe were all over the place the entire weekend. PDG could have easily had 2 or 3 more goals, even just based on the highlights I saw. Moffatt was showing flashes of what made him such a highly-touted recruit, and Treais had 2-2--4 with 11 shots on goal on the weekend.

Other things of note:
-Michigan broke the team record for longest home-winning streak. This is 16 straight wins at Yost and 17 straight home wins (counting the Big Chill).

-Every player that was in the lineup on Saturday has at least one point this year. Pretty good through 3 games and 14 goals! Moffie and Guptill have points in all three games.

After five games in eight days to start the season, Michigan now gets a little bit of a break. They'll face St. Lawrence on Thursday night at Yost before getting the weekend off. I'll have more about the Saint Lawrence Saints (WE'RE SAINTS!) later in the week, but they are not off to a good start. They dropped their exhibition game to something called Carleton before getting swept by Ferris State this past weekend.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Michigan 5, Niagara 0, Bentley is Next

This post is brought to you by Charter Communications

This is a new one. I don't think I've ever blogged from 20,000 feet before!

Anyway, the Wolverines kicked off their season on Tuesday against the Purple Eagles from Niagara. There was some apprehension heading into the game with the way the exhibition season had gone, but Michigan jumped on the board just over a minute into the game.

Zach Hyman made a beautiful centering pass from the side of the next that either Chris Brown or Lindsay Sparks could have put in. Initially the goal was credited to Sparks (his first of 3 on the night), but it was later changed to Brown.

With the Wolverines shorthanded in the middle of the first period, Shawn Hunwick's clearing attempt hit off a Niagara player and bounced over to Travis Lynch. Lynch went end-to-end with it, spinning around and shooting when a defenseman stepped up. The puck got through the goaltending for Lynch's first of his Michigan career.

With the game still 2-0, Shawn Hunwick absolutely robbed Iuorio on a cross-ice pass following a Wohlberg turnover at the blueline. That was the turning point in the game. Michigan would add three goals before the end of the second period to turn a fairly close game into a rout.

Sparks made an early-season entry in the "Michigan Goal of the Year" category as he jumped up to take an errant pass away before streaking down the left wing and then faking a forehand shot before pulling it to his backhand and putting it top-shelf. Great move and a better shot. He got that thing up in the air quick.

Sparks would add another a minute later. Alex Guptill used his big body to fend off Kevin Ryan. He slid it back to Clare at the point. He gave it back to Guptill, who fed Sparks. Lindsay's shot hit off Matt Williams (actually, I'm not so sure that Lynch's shot didn't do the same) and deflected into the net.

Three minutes later, Sparks would add his third point of the night. He got the puck to Hyman, who threw a picture-perfect pass off the sideboards to spring Chris Brown. Brown brought the puck in and uncorked a ridiculous wrist-shot from the faceoff dot, beating Carsen Chubak over his blocker. That thing was a frigging laser.

Adam Janecyk saw the first extended playing time of his career in the third period, as Shawn Hunwick came out of yet another game with a shutout in tact. Janecyk made 3 or 4 really nice saves to preserve the shutout. He was officially credited with 8 saves in 9 minutes.

Overall it probably wasn't the prettiest game Michigan has ever played. The Wolverines gave up a whopping 38 shots on goal and gave the Purple Eagles 6 power plays, but it was a pretty good performance overall.

I was really, really impressed with the play of a lot of our freshmen.

Travis Lynch was one of the best players on the ice the entire night. In addition to his goal, he saw a ton of time on the penalty kill and was the only Wolverine to win more than 50% of his faceoffs (uh-oh), going 11/18 on the night.

Hyman had two beautiful passes to set up goals. Di Giuseppe didn't get on the scoresheet, but I thought he was pretty active out there. He had a lot of puck touches and did some good things. They set him up in front of the net on a few occasions, and they were trying to set up the little "screen the goalie, send the pass down low, the screener pivots around and looks for a centering pass" play to him a couple of times.

I thought Mike Chiasson had a really solid game on the blueline as well. He made a great stick check to break up a Niagara opportunity, and he had the look of a guy that isn't going to want to come out of the lineup.

Guptill had an assist and led the team with 5 shots on goal. He saw a bunch of time out on the PK as well. We need penalty killers and it seemed like they were more than willing to give a bunch of guys chances to play out there. I thought a lot of the freshmen looked really good in that role.

Kevin Clare had a gorgeous breakup of a Niagara rush. He chased the guy down, dove, and knocked the puck away without even making the slightest contact with the Purple Eagle. It was nice seeing Brown get on the scoresheet twice early in the season after the way he struggled out of the gate last year. He's going to be critical to Michigan's success this year. Treais and Moffatt had some chances as well. (Moffatt also ended up with 5 shots on goal.)

All in all, a pretty successful first game! The new scoreboard is fantastic. They have some kinks to work out with replays and whatnot, but I'm sure more of the effort has been focused into getting the football scoreboard up and running. It didn't seem like any pucks came close to hitting it this game, though I know at least one got it in exhibition play. Man it felt good to be back at Yost.

Now the Wolverines welcome Bentley into Ann Arbor for a weekend series. The Falcons come out of Atlantic Hockey, where they were picked to finish 10th in the preseason poll. Six of their top eight scorers and all six defensemen return from a team that finished 10-18-6 a year ago. The highlight of their season was a 2-1 win over Northeastern fairly early on. They fell 6-3 to Sacred Heart in the first round of the AHA Tournament.

Sophomore Brett Gensler was their leading goal scorer last year and is their top-returning points man. He had 13-11--24 last year. They have a trio of junior forwards that had 15-18 points last year. They didn't get much offense out of the defense. Mike Switzer and Ryan Kayfes each had 3 goals and 12-13 points, but the rest of the D combined for 4-19--23 on the year, or less than we'd expect out of Jon Merrill in a full year. Freshman defenseman Matt Maher did put up 40 points in the BCHL a year ago, which led all defensemen.

In net, Joe Calvi is gone. He was in net for 16 decisions a year ago. In his place are senior Kyle Rank (4-5-2, 3.46/.904) and sophomore Brandom Komm (1-5-1, 3.16, .890).

Bentley had far-and-away the worst power play in the country last year, at only 8.4%. They scored 13 PPGs, but gave up 7 SHGs. Dustin Cloutier, who had 4 of the 13 goals, graduated. The PK was pretty solid, though. Middle of the pack.

No reason not to get two Ws this weekend. 

In other news, it was announced that the Wolverines will be hosting the 2013 NCAA West Regional. They'll be playing at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids. Since the NCAA would rather punish Ohio State than let Michigan host at Yost again, it seems U of M decided to bid out a different arena. This works. You're still in friendly confines, and you're guaranteed to not have to go play another team in their home arena. I'd rather be at Yost, because the atmosphere was unreal, but it's better to host in Grand Rapids than see what the NCAA comes up with for the bracket.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

2011-12 Season Preview Part 3: Defensemen, Goalies and a Niagara Preview

Michigan lost a lot of minutes on their blueline with Brandon Burlon turning pro, Chad Langlais graduating, and Tristin Llewellyn...umm...doing something.

Michigan fans thought we had dodged a bullet with Jon Merrill deciding to pass up a pro contract to return for his sophomore season. Last week, however, he was suspended for a dozen games (including the two exhibitions) due to a violation of team rules.

When he's in the lineup, though, he's as good as anyone we've had in a long time. As a freshman, he was a finalist for the CCHA Rookie of the Year, the CCHA Best Offensive Defenseman, and the CCHA Best Defensive Defenseman. He also made 2nd team All USCHO, 2nd team All CCHA, and was named to both the CCHA All-Rookie team and the INCH All Rookie team. 7-18--25 in 42 games, +11, only 16 PIMs, and he posted a pair of goals during the Big Chill. He also was far-and-away the team leader in blocked shots with 70. He's absolutely fantastic and I really hope that he doesn't have any thoughts about joining Plymouth to avoid this suspension. Outside of Shawn Hunwick, this is the guy that Michigan can least afford to lose.

He's joined by four other returners on the blueline. Greg Pateryn is the lone senior rearguard and he's as underrated as they come. After putting up 1-10--11 his first two years combined, he exploded offensively for 3-14--17 in 40 games a year ago. His +/- also jumped to a career-best +15. He made the All Regional team after Michigan knocked off UNO and CC in the Tournament a year ago. He does a pretty nice job of getting shots through--and actually took the shot that ultimately led to the game-winner against UNO. 28 PIMs may be a just a tick higher than you would want, but it's certainly not egregious for what he brings to the table. He's a really solid all-around guy.

Lee Moffie also made the All Regional team last year. He's a pretty nice offensive threat back on the blueline. Even though he only had the same number of points as Pateryn, who is thought of as more of a stay-at-home guy, he did lead all Michigan defensemen in goals with 8. Only Wohlberg, Brown, Lynch, and Treais scored more goals last year and return to the team this year. That's slightly scary. He put in 5 on the PP (second to Hagelin's 7). He struggled to get into the lineup early in the year, only playing in 8 of the first 17 games, but only sat out 3 times after the GLI (Llewellyn's dismissal clearly had something to do with that). After Llewellyn was given the boot, Moffie responded with a 3-game goal streak, and a four-game point streak (going for 3-2--5). He also had 4 goals and 7 points during post-season play. Even though he's more known for his offensive instincts, don't forget his check in OT on senior night that started the play that led to Hagelin's winner.

Kevin Clare struggled at some points last season, but still ended the year +12, which is nothing to sneeze at, especially considering he only had 2 points. He's definitely a stay-at-home guy, but God knows we need one of those every now and then. The biggest thing with Clare was that he couldn't consistently get on the ice. During the regular season, he played back-to-back games on just one occasion. He did play 6 consecutive games to close the year, however.

I think we've only just begun to scratch the surface of what Mac Bennett will be able to do. The kid can absolutely fly. One of the Wolverines (I think it was Treais), Tweeted the other day that Bennett "skates like Summers". He had 2-10--12 and was +12 in 32 games a year ago. I mentioned last year that I thought Bennett sometimes was trying to go too fast. He turned the puck over quite a bit, and a lot of the time it was because he was just moving too quickly and he lost it. Now that he's got some experience and the game will slow down a little bit, I think he's going to have a very nice season.

I profiled Szuma, Serville, and Chiasson when I talked about the freshmen. It sounds like Szuma is a little bit nicked up right now.

Now to the goaltenders:
With Shawn Hunwick returning for a fifth-year and the talented John Gibson coming in, Michigan was set up to have the best goalie duo in the country. Gibson bailed, so the Wolverines are left once again completely depending on the short but aggressive netminder. As long as Hunwick stays healthy, we're fine. Despite where he ends up being ranked in the CCHA polls, we have one of the best goaltenders in the country. The kid is just money.

It's amazing that he continues to get overlooked in some circles after what he's done the past two seasons. He was 22-9-4 last year with a 2.21/.925, was named the West Region's Most Outstanding Player, and was USCHO 1st team. He also won the CCHA Best Goaltender award for having the lowest GAA, but was NOT one of the goalies named to the All-Conference Team, which was an absolute joke. Nagle, Greenham, Reichard, and Kapalka all received more votes. Christ, he had a 1.94/.931 in conference.

Given a chance to redeem themselves, the voters repeated their mistake again with the Preseason All Conference teams. Reichard was the first team goalie, which you absolutely cannot make a case for over Hunwick. Greenham was second-team and Kapalka was an Honorable Mention. He was also not mentioned in USCHO's top-ten goalies in the nation, though 4 other CCHA goalies made the list.

Backing up Hunwick is Adam Janecyk. Who the frig knows what we've got in him! He's played 1:32 in his career. You kind of wonder if they'll be more reluctant to throw guys in during garbage time in case they find the next Hunwick at some point. Thank God they didn't play him his sophomore season...Anyway, back to Janecyk. He comes from a good lineage, as his father had more than a cup of coffee as a goaltender in the NHL in the 80s (he actually played 51 games one year for LA). Adam played in the USHL before coming to Michigan and was 8-13-4 with a 3.56/.887 during his year with Sioux City.

Luke Dwyer will apparently be the third goalie.

So yeah...we'll see. Michigan fell to the Ontario Institute of Technology in exhibition play, but rebounded with a 3-1 win over the NTDP tonight. Di Giuseppe has scored in both games, which is really nice to see. I think he could surprise some people this year. Moffatt and Sparks had the other goals tonight. Also good guys to see light the lamp and we need Moffatt to step up, and I'd like to see Sparks end up with some more ice time, given that Michigan will probably struggle to score goals at times.

Niagara won their exhibition over Queens by a 7-2 count. Scott Arnold had a hat trick in that game and CJ Chartrain had a playmaker.

Niagara was picked to finish 4th in Atlantic Hockey. Last year, Dave Burkholder's team was 18-13-4 but they lost an awful lot. Paul Zanette (29-26--55) and Bryan Haczyk (28-17--45) are gone, and take their 20 combined power-play goals with them. So is Ryan Annesley, who had 4-23--27 on the blueline. Arnold is the top returning goal-scorer. He had 16-6--22 in 34 games and they really like him. They do have another Zanette, though he isn't as good as his All-American brother. After scoring 7-13--20 as a freshman, he had just 4-3--7 in 34 games as a sophomore. Giancarlo Iuorio is the leading returning scorer. He had 9-24--33 in 31 games last year.

Arnold played with Ryan Rashid and Patrick Divjak on an all-freshman line last season. They accounted for 32 goals in 35 games.

The Purple Eagles played four different goalies last year. Chris Noonan played the most often, going 8-3-2 with a 2.93/.903. He'll be a senior this year, and I have to believe he's the starter (though he's the only one that didn't play in their exhibition game). Cody Campbell was 4-6-1 with a 3.38/.895 during his freshman campaign. Another freshman, Carsen Chubak, was 4-3-1 with a 2.80/.899. All three of those goalies saw time against Queens. Chubak actually got the start and gave up 1 goal on 2 shots. Campbell got the win, with 3 saves on 4 shots. Colby Drost, a freshman, made 4 saves in a perfect third period.