Friday, February 25, 2011

A Quick NMU Preview

The CCHA Championship is on the line this weekend as Michigan travels up to visit MHNet in the MQT and Notre Dame plays a home-and-home vs. Western Michigan (with the game at Lawson on Friday night). The Wolverines trail the Irish by a point, but would win the tie-breaker under most scenarios.

Northern Michigan has climbed the CCHA Standings due to 10 points in their last four games, aka they played Bowling Green and FYS. Still, they come into this weekend with the possibility of rising to 4th in the standings and getting a bye in the first round of the CCHA Tournament. I believe with the outcome of the FSU/OSU game tonight, they've locked up home ice in the first round at the very least. OSU is three points behind them and only have one game left to play. NMU has two more wins than the Buckeyes.

Anyway, NMU is 12-11-3-0 in the CCHA and 14-15-5 overall. Their above .500 record in conference is pretty remarkable as they've actually been outscored 59-79. Only BGSU has given up more goals in conference play. Only Ferris, Lake State, and BGSU have scored fewer goals. How is that possible? Out of their 12 conference wins, 8 have come by a single goal (that counts one game that they won by 2, but scored an ENG late). Then they lost a pair to Miami by a combined 13-2, and lost a series 11-2 to Notre Dame.

The Wildcats were hurt by defections in the offseason, losing Mark Olver and Erik Gustafsson. They're led in points by junior forward Tyler Gron, who is having a nice year with 16-15--31 (6 PPGs) in 31 games after 10-10--20 as a sophomore. Justin Florek has 12-14--26. Kyle Follmer has six goals from back on the blueline.

In net it's been more Reid Ellingson than Jared Coreau. Coreau has seen some time lately but has gotten pulled in three of his last four starts. Coreau got a pair of starts against Notre Dame and got the hook in both of them, giving up 7 goals on 24 shots in about 48 minutes of work in the two games combined. He also got yanked in his last start against FYS after giving up 3 in just 13 minutes of work despite a 50 save performance the night before. He's only won 1 game since mid-December.

Ellingson is 9-10-3 on the season with a 2.54/.918. His GAA is a full 1.1 goals better than Coreau's though their save percentages are pretty close. Clearly they're playing better in front of Ellingson. He got both starts against BGSU last weekend.

They rank 46th nationally in offense (2.41 goals per game) and 34th on defense (3.00 goals per game). They're also the most penalized team in the country, though they're 3rd in minute per game (18.6). We're actually all the way down to 33rd in that stat, which is kind of nice.

Their power play is 21st at 18.8% though they've been a little vulnerable to the shortie, having given up five on the season. The PK is just 78.7%, which is 50th nationally. Not a good thing when you take that many penalties. They've been short-handed 188 times this year, tops in the country. That's 37 more times than Michigan. They're -19 on special teams this year, which means they've played tough when they're even-strength (only -1). To compare, Michigan is -1 on special teams and +32 even strength.

Louie Caporusso has 11 points in 10 games against the Wildcats, Hagelin 9, and Rust 6. Shawn Hunwick's lone appearance against NMU was in the CCHA Championship Game last season, where he stopped 17 shots en route to a 2-1 win. Hogan is 2-1-1 with a 2.95/.872.

A couple of other things:
MHNet chatted with Detroit Honeybaked coach Mike Hamilton about Tyler Motte, and was very complimentary, saying that he's a player they can put out there with a minute to go when they need a goal, and he's a player they can put out there with a minute to go when they're up by a goal. Jason also has a preview of this weekend's games.

Also, Merrimack has been one of the surprises this season. Freshman defenseman Jordan Heywood has been a key contributor. He is lucky to be alive after blood clots traveled to his lungs a couple of years ago. 74% of people with a blood clot in their lungs do not survive, and most last only hours. Heywood played hockey with clots in his lungs for a month before he was diagnosed. I mention this because Jed Ortmeyer has a similar problem, and the story mentions that the two have been in contact.

I'm not sure how much I'm going to be able to pay attention this weekend. I'm flying out to Indianapolis tomorrow morning and am working nights this weekend. If it's slow, I may be able to listen to parts of the games, but I won't be able to pony up for the 1-camera NMU video feed. We'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Having a Seat Over There: Tyler Motte

Another member of Detroit Honeybaked is headed to Ann Arbor. MHNet gets the HT on this one. Tyler Motte has committed to Michigan to join the incoming class of 2013. He's a 5'11" 178 forward. He's posted 21-14--35 in 32 games so far this season, which ranks him first in goals and second in points on his team. He's been held off the scoresheet in just eight games and has 5-2--7 in his last five games. He's 7th in goals and 13th in points in the MWEHL. Honeybaked is 28-2-2 on the season. Their only two losses have come to JT Compher's Team Illinois.

Motte has been really good ever since he joined the MWEHL. He's averaged over a point per game in all four of his seasons and has 84-68--152 in 125 career games. He was (again) first in goals and second in points on last year's Honeybaked squad.

The Scouting News (yeah, I know...) used the word "indefatigable" to describe him, which is kind of awesome.

The coach of the Port Huron Fighting Falcons commented six months ago that: "He's playing like an 18- or 19-year-old, and for a '95 to do that is pretty amazing ... If he plays with Honeybaked, they're going to have the best player in the nation."

So yeah, sounds like another good get!

While I'm having a seat over here, MHNet also tweeted a good article about Compher which gets extra bonus points for giving a shout out to this site--or at least one of the commenters on it! The director of player personnel for USA Hockey compared him to Ryan Kesler, which, yeah I'd be okay with that....

The Daily has been killing it. They've got a really great--and really long!--feature about Carl Hagelin. In the article we find out about the strange violin celebration during the Big Chill.

“Two of my cousins (came from Sweden) and one of them said ‘You should do the violin, (Axel [his uncle, who was killed in the tsunami a few years ago-ed]) would’ve loved it,’ ” Carl said. “So we talked before, and said ‘That would be great, my dad would’ve loved if you did that.’ We were kind of joking around then. But when I scored, I felt like that was the right thing to do.”

Michael Florek mentions what might be the stupidest NCAA violation ever in his article about the fans giving Carl the Swedish flag:

Right now, the flag sits in Hagelin’s locker. The plan is to take it back to Sweden. But it might have to get by compliance first.
“Someone said it might be against NCAA rules to keep the flag so we’ll see what happens,” Hagelin said. 

Fine. Put it back in the crowd for the rest of the season, waive it in St. Paul and give it to him when he's no longer a student athlete. You gotta be in compliance. This is a hand-made flag. We're not talking about something minor, like free cars whenever you want to use them.

I agree with Mark Burns: If we're getting to St. Paul, it's going to have to start with the defense. We've got the talent on the blueline and between the pipes (amazingly) to make a run. I don't think we're going to outscore teams, but play solid defense, get solid goaltending and you give yourself a chance.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Senior Night Sweep

Thanks to Bill for the photo, as always
Last Wednesday, Casandra Pagni from The Michigan Daily wrote the following:
Michigan hockey seniors Scooter Vaughan, Louie Caporusso, Chad Langlais and Matt Rust were in unanimous agreement on Wednesday.

The topic? Their most memorable moment playing at Yost Ice Arena.

Their answer? They all agreed that the one game they each would never forget came three years ago when Caporusso scored the game-winning goal with just 20.3 seconds left to propel then-No. 2 Michigan over then-No. 8 Notre Dame.

I suspect, if the question was asked again, that some of them may have a different favorite memory. Carl Hagelin certainly would.

What better way to spend senior night than by doing what Carl Hagelin did--scoring the game tying goal with 39 seconds left in regulation and then scoring the game-winner in overtime with 2 seconds to play? The win sent the seniors out in dramatic fashion, all but locked up a tournament bid for these Wolverines (we now sit 6th in the PWR after being on the bubble earlier in the week), and kept Michigan's CCHA Championship hopes alive.

It was a stunning end to a game in which, quite honestly, Michigan didn't play all that well. They fell behind 1-0 just 43 seconds into the game on a beautiful tip by Dane Walters. Michigan tied the game up when David Wohlberg broke the power play futility streak by banking one in off Jerry Kuhn, but then gave up a pair of breakaway goals over the next five minutes. Chad Langlais was able to slip one through a Chris Brown screen to make it 3-2 headed to intermission.

In the second period, the Broncos outshot Michigan 13-6, but Kevin Lynch's short-handed tally was the lone goal of the period. Hunwick made a stop and Lynch took it end to end. Wohlberg was with him and drove the front of the net, cutting right in front of the goalie. Lynch toe-dragged around the defenseman and got off a nice wrister, five-hole to tie the game at three.

Late in the third, however, it looked like the comeback would be for naught. WMU scored on a shot from the point with Caporusso in the box early in the third period. Michigan had managed ten shots in the frame, but nothing of any great consequence. Shawn Hunwick went to the bench with 1 1/2 minutes left in regulation and that set the stage for something spectacular.

Carl Hagelin took a shot from the top of the circle which tipped the defenseman on the way through and made Kuhn look really bad as it deflected through his legs with 40 seconds to play. Kuhn reacted by going all Blades of Steel on us--goalie stick and trapper over the head, then slam the stick to the ice.

Glendening nearly won it a few seconds later, but we had overtime. In the OT, Hunwick made a pair of dynamite saves--a glove stop on a rising shot and then he stoned Max Campbell a few seconds later. There was a brief moment of panic as Greg Pateryn nearly put one into his own net. Michigan went on the power play with 30 seconds left--one of those calls that was a penalty by the book, but you're pissed if it gets called against your team. After a WMU clear, it looked like Western Michigan would get their NCAA-record 11th tie and would head to their 10th shootout on the season. In fact, my notes read like this:

On the power play, Merrill got one shot away but that's all she wr-SCOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

With just a couple of seconds left in overtime, Hagelin took a shot from out by the blueline that may have touched the defenseman on the way through--if it did, it didn't move very much--but it eluded Jerry Kuhn's glove and the Wolverines had themselves an incredible win on Senior Night. Yost erupted, the team went crazy, WMU's coach flipped out Blasi-style about the last penalty.

As the crowd honored the seniors after the game, the Swedish flag that has flown at Yost for three seasons was tossed over the glass to Hagelin. The students had passed it around throughout the game, autographing it and writing thank yous and words of encouragement to our Super Swede.

Moments like that are what make me really miss being around Ann Arbor and make me really miss going to games at Yost.

Our Texan is back to form! (Thanks again to Bill)

Hunwick was shaky at times this weekend--there were some rebounds sneaking out behind him and shots popping out of the glove--but he rebounded from a tough start (3 goals on 5 shots in the first period--a beautiful tip and two breakaways) to be a difference-maker. He stopped all 13 WMU shots in the second period and committed robbery during the overtime. Michigan hung him out an awful lot on Saturday. Definitely not his best weekend overall.

Friday's game was a great start and then got more exciting than it should have after Western never stopped working.

Western hit the post in the early going and then went on a power play as Scooter Vaughan was sent off. Michigan's PK did a great job and then Greg Pateryn hit Vaughan right out of the penalty box. Vaughan came in on a 2-on-1 with Glendening, opted to take the shot, and sniped one short-side like he's been doing it for years. That's 11 on the season for Scooter, and it gave the Wolverines a 1-0 lead.

Pateryn then got a shot through traffic. The rebound kicked onto the stick of Kevin Lynch who popped it in for his first goal in 18 games. That play could potentially have as big of an impact on Michigan's season as Carl Hagelin's winner the next night. Michigan has struggled to find goal-scorers at times this year and Lynch is a guy that can provide some of that secondary scoring. He had 6 goals in the first 14 games this season before going into a massive slump. That goal was the first of three on the weekend for him, and he was noticeably great the whole weekend. If they can keep him going, Chris Brown going, that's a big help as we head into the NCAAs.

Early in the second, Greg Pateryn figured that he had assisted on a couple of goals, might as well score one too. Truth be told, he'd have assisted on his own goal if that was allowed, because he created the play as well. He intercepted a pass just outside the blueline and made a great play throwing the puck into the zone to open ice. That got him onside and let him drive to the net. Rust picked up the puck, made a great cross-ice pass, and Pateryn tipped it in.

Just 15 seconds later, Pateryn took a shot from the point that Chris Brown tipped past Kuhn to give Michigan a 4-0 lead. That was 4 points in the first 24 minutes of the hockey game for a guy that had ten points on the season coming in.

Western changed goalies and was a completely different team after that. They made it 4-1 on a well-placed shot by Dane Walters. He took the shot from the top of the circle and put it right up under the bar. Four minutes later, they made it 4-2 on a bouncing puck that found its way through traffic. Hunwick made the initial shot, but Balisy was left alone to knock in the rebound.

WMU actually outshot Michigan 17-8 in that second period. Most of those came after the goalie change.

Michigan regained a three-goal margin as Derek DeBlois threw one high off the glass from his own zone and sprung Lynch and Winnett on a 2-on-1. Lynch ripped one far-side, top-corner. Not a minute later, though, WMU closed back to 5-3. The defense left Campbell alone in the middle of the ice, and he deflected in a pass from the sideboards.

Western pulled the goalie with a couple of minutes left and Glendening put one into the empty cage to ice it. That was actually a really nice play. Vaughan got the puck to open ice and Glendening made sure he was a step over center before taking a shot at the net. How many times does someone get over-anxious and it ends up resulting in an icing?

I'd love to know the last time Michigan went through a game without a single power play. That was interesting.

Overall thoughts on the weekend:

-Lynch and Brown have stepped it up. The puck is starting to go in for both of them (they combined for 4-2--6 and +4 on the weekend) and they were both throwing their weight around. They both wrecked a couple of people--enough that I got to make a "Chris Brown is hitting people like....Chris Brown" joke.

-Western Michigan is for real. It's unbelievable what Blashill has done in one year with that program. He's got them on the tournament bubble, possibly in line for a first-round bye in the CCHA Tournament, and they really don't have a ton of talent just yet. Campbell and Balisy are studs, but this is largely the same group that went 4-17-7 in the CCHA last year. They've got some speed, and they never quit. That team gets after you the whole weekend. They're going to be a B to play against moving forward. It's actually really nice to see. Western hit a homerun with that hire.

-Attention NHL Network: I love that you showed our game on tape delay. What I don't love is that you left the score of our game on the ticker while you were showing our game. Luckily I've seen this movie before and had my fiancee look to see if it was on there. When she laughed and confirmed that it was, she rigged up a notebook to block that part of the screen. This is common sense stuff and every network does it. Especially if you're airing a game for the first time, take the score off the ticker so you don't ruin the result for everyone tuning in to see it.

-Pretty solid special teams this weekend. The PK was 6 for 7, scored a shortie, and only gave up 5 shots. They were fantastic on Friday night. WMU only had 1 shot on three power plays. The power play was 2/4 with 7 shots on the weekend. They might not have been "pretty" power play goals--Wohlberg threw one off the goalie and Hagelin scored from the blueline--but hey, they got the job done.

-Props to Wohlberg and Brown for great backchecks this weekend. On Friday night, Brown got back to keep JJ Crew from a sure goal. Saturday, Wohlberg had a pair of dandies.

-Underrated play of the weekend goes to Lee Moffie for his check in overtime. Michigan was on the power play with about 30 seconds left. Western got the puck out and was skating it into the Michigan zone with maybe 15 seconds to go. Moffie stepped up and absolutely planted the guy. That gave Michigan possession and they were able to reset. Good breakout, Moffie dropped it to Hagelin at the point and everyone in the building had another magical moment to remember.

Notre Dame swept Ferris at Ferris so we head into the final weekend of the regular season 1 point behind the Irish. The results this weekend eliminate Miami from contention for the CCHA title and lock them into 3rd place in the conference. They could tie Michigan for second, but the Wolverines would get the edge via the "Conference Wins" tie-breaker. The Wolverines head up to Northern while the Irish have a home-and-home with Western. Northern has climbed up the standings to 5th in the CCHA.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

10 Things to Know About Western Michigan

Western Michigan comes into Yost this weekend with a first round bye in the CCHA Playoffs and a possible NCAA tournament berth on the line. The ultra-impressive Broncos, picked to finish 10th in both preseason polls, come into this weekend in 4th place in the CCHA, three points ahead of Ferris State. They're tied for 15th in the PWR and are 16th in RPI.

Here are ten things to know about the team from WMU:

1) This past weekend, the Miami RedHawks snapped Western's 14-game unbeaten streak. Over that span, they swept Union, Alaska, and Northern. They did go 3-3 in shootouts during that unbeaten streak.

2) Their leading scorer is freshman Chase Balisy, who has 11-16--27 in 32 games. Senior Max Campbell leads the team in goals with 13. Amazingly, those are the only two 10-goal scorers. (Then again, that's 2 more than they had last season.) They do have four more guys with exactly 7 goals and six guys total with 15+ points. Greg Squires is averaging almost an identical amount of points per game as he did last year. Last year he led the team in scoring, this year he's fourth.

3) JJ Crew has missed some time this year and has just 1-6--7, but he was their second-leading scorer last year. He hails from Placentia, CA, the same city that gave us Scooter Vaughan. What are the friggin odds that two guys from a city in California that spans 6.6 square miles would face off against each other in a college hockey game in Michigan? He has 1-3--4 in six games against Michigan, to lead all Broncos.

4) Riley Gill is gone. Senior Jerry Kuhn is 8-2-6 with a 2.05/.919. He ranks 10th in the country in GAA. Sophomore Nick Pisellini is 7-5-4 with a 2.38/.899. Pisellini, a transfer from Quinnipiac, was the man in the early going but has been banged up and hasn't played since mid-December. Kuhn has stepped in and is playing far-and-away the best hockey of his career. He owned a career record of 4-19-7 prior to this year. He doesn't have a decision against Michigan, but gave up 2 goals in one period of action back in his freshman season. He's got a 6.00 goals against and a .857 save percentage against Michigan. The best goals against in WMU history is 2.58, so what Kuhn has done this year is really impressive.

5) The Broncos defense has been really solid. During a 6-game stretch in late-January/early-February, Kuhn faced 20, 24, 23, 18, 15, 20 shots. They're giving up 25.1 shots per game for the season.

6) They've owned the third period, outscoring their opponents 32-15 despite shots on goal being almost identical. They've given up 100 more shots than they've taken in the first period, but have outscored their opponents by a pair. So their goalies have had to be good right out of the gate.

7) Freshman forward Shane Berschbach is one of those 7-goal scorers. He has 7-14--21 in 29 games, but has been out since February 4th with an injury. He was projected to miss 3-6 weeks, so I don't expect to see him this weekend. He had 10 points in his last 8 games before he got hurt.

8) Western is 34th in offense and 9th in defense. The power play is only 15.9% (42nd nationally), but defenseman Matt Tennyson has 6 of his 7 goals with the man advantage. For a team as good as they are defensively, the PK hasn't been all that good. They're 34th, at 81.2%. (Michigan is 33rd at 81.2%.)

9) This is the first time since 2002 that these teams have both been ranked when they've played. Michigan is 3-1-1 in the five matchups all-time between ranked Michigan and WMU teams. We catch a break with both games being at Yost instead of the usual home-and-home. Western is 11-3-3 at home, but are just 4-4-7 on the road. This is the first time WMU will finish above .500 since 01-02. Gotta think that Jeff Blashill will get some votes for CCHA Coach of the Year.

10) Carl Hagelin has 6-6--12 in 8 games against WMU. His 12 points matches the amount of points that the WMU team has in their careers against Michigan. Caporusso has 4-5--9, Rust has 3-5--8, Burlon has 1-5--6, and Wohlberg has 3 goals in five games. Bryan Hogan is 5-0-0 with a 1.46/.932, but Shawn Hunwick has never faced the Broncos.

Friday's game will air on Comcast 900 and will be replayed Saturday at noon on the NHL Network. Saturday's game is on Fox Sports Detroit. I'll be trying to avoid Twitter and, really, the internet, on Friday night so I can watch the game on tape delay.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sweep of Ohio State

Thanks to reader Bill for the photo!
When these two teams met earlier this year, the teams played a very close game on Friday night and Michigan clung to a single-goal lead late in regulation, couldn't hold the lead and the Buckeyes won in overtime. The next night, Michigan unleashed a barrage of shots on Cal Heeter. He turned away most of them, but Michigan prevailed 2-1.

The scenario was very similar this weekend, only during the Friday night game Shawn Hunwick turned aside some late Buckeye chances leading Michigan to the win.

Michigan came out with their completely revamped lines, and they didn't appear to help during the first period of Friday night's contest. The Wolverines had a whole 5 shots on goal in the first period and were fairly significantly outplayed. Hunwick made a couple of great stops--his best was on Dries after he walked in all alone and tried to backhand one top shelf--and the first period ended 0-0.

Michigan did end up with a couple of scoring chances. AJ Treais got in behind the defense and shot high, a great pass by Pateryn (high off the glass from his own zone) sprung Rust on a breakaway and he hit the crossbar, and Chris Brown fed Caporusso late in the period. Still, it was a fairly lifeless first stanza, especially for a home game.

Early in the second, Luke Glendening intercepted a pass at center ice, gave it to Scooter Vaughan just over the blueline, and Vaughan put a twisted wrister past Heeter into the top of the net to give Michigan a 1-0 lead. That was Vaughan's 10th of his impressive senior campaign.

AJ Treais nearly made it 2-0 on a wraparound but Heeter got his pad down. Then the Wolverines got a little fortunate. Hunwick bailed out his defense on a bad turnover, and then Burlon made an even worse turnover that would've led to a Buckeye breakaway but for an offside call.

Chris Brown then came close. Michigan was cycling in the offensive end and Langlais slid a shot off Heeter's pads. The rebound came to Brown and he had nothing but net to shoot at, but the defenseman was just able to get a stick on Brown's shot to deflect it up into the crowd.

Sergio Somma made it 1-1 off a feed from Albert. He went 5-hole and it just snuck through Hunwick. Ohio State nearly got on the board again not too much later but Hunwick made a good save on Toy who put a shot through traffic.

After the second period it was 1-1. Just as Ohio State was probably disappointed to be tied after the first period, Michigan was probably disappointed to be in a tie game after the second period they played.

Early in the third, Chad Langlais broke up his second 2-on-1 of the night. This time he had gotten caught, but busted it to get back and just got enough of the Buckeye player to prevent a shot--and didn't get called for a penalty in the process.

Chris Brown then made it 2-1. Michigan came out on a 4-on-2, Hagelin sent a cross-ice pass to Brown and he put one through Heeter from about 60-feet out. That was really not a good goal to give up, but one that Chris Brown and the Wolverines really needed.

Caporusso then added to the lead on what looked like it was going to be a nothing play. Michigan was kind of stumbling around in the offensive zone and Rust --> Glendening --> Hagelin --> Cappy and he put one up top that I don't think Heeter ever saw.

Hunwick made a ridiculous stop to bail out Langlais on an awful turnover. Michigan won a faceoff and it looked like Chad just centered it right to an OSU player. Hunwick got the glove up to keep Michigan ahead by a pair of goals.

OSU followed that up with their best shift of the hockey game, and a couple minutes later they were finally rewarded after Michigan went a little Keystone Kops in the neutral zone. Lynch took a guy down, Pateryn came way out to try to corral the loose puck and ran into his own guy. Lynch took another guy down but the puck got through to Boyd. Bennett was in no man's land, and Pateryn got back just in time to haul the guy down as he scored. Yes, we somehow gave up a goal on a partial breakaway when we had 4 guys within 10 feet of our own blueline. And we managed to take a penalty on the play, so OSU got a power play as well. They had a good amount of possession on the subsequent power play, but no great chances.

Red mentioned that Michigan got a little cute and this was one of the plays: Caporusso was coming right down Main Street (or should that be State Street?) and instead of shooting dished off to Hagelin by the goalie's left. Hagelin tried to dangle around the goalie and then wrapped it around instead, but a defenseman was there to prevent any shot.

OSU pulled the goalie very early on and got a couple of chances, but Dries hit Hunwick in the head with one shot, shot high on another, and Rust and Hagelin both had nice backchecks in the waning seconds to help keep OSU from sending another game to OT late.

Photo: Bill again. "It's all your fault!"
Saturday night was a much better performance right out of the gate. Glendening had two great chances on his first shift of the hockey game and Langlais had a good rush up ice. Hunwick was big early as well. Pateryn pinched up and didn't get the puck, which led to a 2-on-1. Hunwick made a glove save and didn't give up a rebound.

Brown had a couple of good chances and Langlais saved a goal by tying up Somma. The Wolverines took a 1-0 lead on an end-to-end rush by AJ Treais that led to a beautiful pass over to Moffatt who put a vicious backhand across the net up under the bar. Glendening then hit the post off a good feed from Scooter.

Hagelin shot high on a short-handed 3-on-1, which led to a 3-on-1 the other way, but Langlais dove and broke it up. Heeter then made a huge stop on his own man. Rust had a break and didn't get a shot away as he kind of fumbled the puck. The OSU defenseman was trying to clear it to the corner but ended up putting a pretty good shot right on net. Heeter had to be quick with the pad.

Early in the second, Hagelin made as pretty of a pass as you'll see all year to hit Chris Brown for a beautiful tip-in to make it 2-0.

Heeter then made a couple more saves to keep it a 2-goal hockey game, none better than stoning Matt Rust off a great pass from Glendening.

Michigan went to a power play with a chance to go up by 3. They won the draw but Burlon didn't quite get to it. That led to a breakaway for Schneider from his own blueline and he roofed one over Hunwick to make it a 2-1 game.

Hunwick stopped Somma to keep from giving up two SHGs on the same power play, and then he made two HUGE stops on Dries as everyone was piling into the net.

In the third, Chris Brown drilled a guy from behind and got tossed. He got away with a minor the night before, but this one was an obvious major. The Wolverines killed the penalty with only one great chance for each team. Hunwick made a save on a deflecting puck and then somehow got his left toe on the rebound. I don't think he ever saw it, but he was just tall enough to keep it out. Then Winnett ended up with a breakaway from his own blueline and got stopped. Glendening and Winnett had other chances that Heeter stopped.

OSU pulled the goalie fairly early on again and Hunwick had a big save on Somma and that was all she wrote. Michigan gets the sweep.

It wasn't a pretty sweep by any stretch of the imagination. The Wolverines still only scored 5 goals on the weekend, but Caporusso, Brown (2), and Moffatt all needed goals and they all got em. I thought Michigan probably got away with a better result than they maybe deserved on Friday night, but Saturday should have been a 3 or 4 goal win, and Heeter kept the Buckeyes in it.

What about the new lines? I liked them a lot. Hagelin, Brown, and Caporusso's line accounted for three goals and had a slew of chances. I'd like to see Louie get a little more selfish. He dished off at least 4 this weekend where he had pretty darn good scoring chances on his own. He did get his first GWG on the season, though, and hopefully that gets him going for the stretch run. Brown was great this weekend when he wasn't in the box/locker room. It was the first time in awhile we've seen the type of play that he regularly showed at World Juniors.

Rust, Glendening, and Vaughan was a great line as well. Vaughan scored, and Rust and Glendening probably combined for 8-10 great chances on the weekend. Right now, it doesn't seem like either of them could score in a whorehouse with $100 sticking out of their zippers, but they're getting a ton of chances and eventually the goals are going to come. That's a great defensive line as well.

The USA line (Treais, Wohlberg, and Moffatt) was pretty good as well. Treais is starting to turn into a really nice player. He's showing enough flashes that it doesn't sound all that bad to have him as a number one center next year. That Moffatt goal was sick.

Even the fourth line did some good things. DeBlois saved a goal with a backcheck on Saturday, Winnett had three or four great chances when he moved up to the top line with Brown ejected.

All in all, it probably wasn't the goal production they were looking for, but all four lines played well, three of the lines scored goals, and three lines produced fairly consistent scoring chances. Hagelin/Brown and Rust/Glendening had something working all weekend.

I'm starting to think that you could make a damn fine case for Shawn Hunwick as the first team All-CCHA goalie. He's third in wins, despite playing 7 fewer games than Pat Nagle and three fewer than Mike Johnson. He's second in GAA to Connor Knapp, second in save percentage to Will Yanakeff (who has only played in 9 games), and tied for first in shutouts. I could see giving it to Nagle as he's put up killer numbers and has barely gotten two goals per game of support, but Hunwick has been really fantastic for the Wolverines after a slow start (and it's not like we've given him a ton of goals lately either). It's amazing that it took almost 3 years before anyone realized he was capable of playing at the collegiate level--and even as good as he was last season, he was slated to be the #3 goalie this year if Jack Campbell didn't go to the OHL. Pretty amazing.

Michigan and Notre Dame each gained six points on the weekend. Miami lost in a shootout Friday night to Western Michigan, so the Irish sit one point ahead of both the Wolverines and RedHawks. Both teams have two games in hand on Miami, which they'll make up on the idle RedHawks this weekend. Michigan has WMU and Notre Dame travels to Ferris State.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Ohio State Preview

Back in early December, the Wolverines and Buckeyes played a pair of close games down in Columbus. Ohio State won the Friday night game 3-2 in overtime after they scored with 10 seconds left in regulation to send the game into an extra session.

The Wolverines won the second game in the series by a 2-1 margin. Shots were close in the first game of the series, but Michigan outshot the Buckeyes 48-25 the next night, putting up 15+ shots in each of the three periods. Cal Heeter stood on his head to hold Michigan to a pair of goals. Michigan didn't get on the board until 6 minutes into the third period, and David Wohlberg netted the game winner with just over five minutes left in regulation.

Ohio State sits eighth in the CCHA currently with a 9-11-2-2 record. They could finish anywhere from 5th/6th all the way down to 11th without any trouble, as the middle of the pack in the conference is really jammed together. They're 14-13-2 overall on the season and sit 25th in the PWR.

Unlike Michigan at the moment, their seniors are leading the way. All five of their 15+ point-scorers are seniors, and six of their top seven goal scorers are members of the senior class. They're led by Sergio Somma who has 15 goals and 26 points in 29 games. Their leading point man is John Albert, with a 11-20--31 line. Danny Dries has 13 tallies. Somma and Dries are the two to watch when they've got a man advantage, with nine and five goals, respectively. Somma's total is good for fourth in the country with the man advantage.

In net it's been Cal Heeter almost all the way. Backup Jeff Michael has played just 22 minutes on the season. Heeter is 14-13-2 (clearly) and has a 2.35/.920, good for 23rd nationally in both categories. He gave up 4 on 78 shots in the earlier series down in Columbus. He pitched a 40-save shutout against Miami back in January.

Ohio State is 32nd in offense, T-16th in defense and not nearly as good on the power play as their two snipers would suggest. Somma and Dries have combined for 14 of their 23 power play goals. OSU is just 37th with the man advantage at 16.9%. That's worse than us, actually. The PK is just 81.5%, good for 35th and a tick ahead of Michigan's.

Maybe this is the week some guys break out of their slumps. Louie Caporusso has owned the Buckeyes, scoring 4-8--12 in just 8 games. Chad Langlais has 9 points in 10 games and Chris Brown has been good for a point per game.

Shawn Hunwick's only appearance against OSU was in the overtime loss earlier this season.

Both games will air on the Big Ten Network.

Having a Seat Over There: JT Compher

Michigan picked up another recruit for the incoming class of 2013, as Bob Miller reports that JT Compher has committed to the Wolverines. Compher is a forward for Team Illinois in the MWEHL. He's listed at 6'0", 165 and has put up 15-20--35 in 29 games this season. That ranks him fourth on the team in scoring and 7th in the league. He also seems to like to hit, based on his PIM numbers (second on the team with 56) and the kinds of penalties that he's taken. He leads the team in GWGs (4) and is second in PPGs (3).

Last season, he had 24-17--41 in 31 games, which ranked him second in goals and third in points in the league.

Team Illinois is really fricken good by the way. They're 23-3-4 on the season, with a +93 goal differential. Only Honeybaked and LA Selects have a better winning percentage on the season.

Compher is projected as a high pick in the OHL and I believe the Waterloo Blackhawks hold his USHL rights. He'll likely be in the mix for a spot with the NTDP, however.

USHR had him ranked as the #4 forward at the Select 15 camp this past July:
Aggressive and good-sized, with a sense of the game and anticipation. Competitive, too.  Blocks shots.
He was apparently offered by Miami amongst a great number of other schools. From of the sounds of it, this is a big get. He sounds like a high-end forward that can contribute at both ends of the ice.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Swept Away

When I was in college, there was a girl who lived on my floor freshman year. When you saw her from a little ways away, you'd think alright, this girl is going to be pretty good looking. Up close? She wasn't ugly, but definitely not as hot as you were expecting/hoping. That led my roommate to coin the phrase "Catherine should be hotter than she is". I bring this up because all that was running through my mind this past week is that this team--in terms of playing ability--should be so, so much hotter than they are.

What did we see this past weekend? We saw a team that has clearly learned nothing from the position that they put themselves in just last year. We saw a team whose seniors are not playing their best hockey--or even within shouting distance of their best hockey--at this point in the season. We saw another team--our opponent--whose seniors are their best players are who showed it time and time again. We saw more stupid penalties. We saw special teams that I'd call "Un-Michigan-like" except that they've been subpar for long enough (at least on the Power Play) that they were decidedly Michigan-like special teams.

We currently rank 32nd in power play percentage. Freaking Alabama-Huntsville, who is 4-24-2 this year, is in the top 25. They have 58 goals in 30 games and their power play has scored 4 more times than ours. The PK is 39th.

Was the officiating terrible this weekend? Hell yes. But bad calls are amplified when you can't kill penalties. And you tend not to notice the bad calls in your favor when your power play can't capitalize.

I don't want to assign too much importance to one weekend of games, but it was kind of alarming to watch them lose a game that they had no business losing and then completely fail to show up the next night. You can't write the team off given that they just have to get hot for four games to win a national championship, but what we're seeing is that good teams make you pay for bad habits. Taking dumb penalties against the #3 power play in the country is a great way to lose hockey games. In the tournament, most everyone is good.

The sad thing is, they actually played a pretty good hockey game for most of Friday. Miami did nothing 5-on-5 in that game. The Wolverines took a 1-0 lead on a play started by Brown. He was carrying the puck back toward the point, dropped it down to a streaking Moffatt who slid the puck through the crease to Treais for a tap-in. After the first, we were outshooting Miami 16-6 (it helped that we had 3 PPs). Really, though, it's gotta be the worst thing in the world for this team to get three PPs in a period. You know we're not scoring, and then we're not getting a call the rest of the game.

Miami made it 1-1 on a power play created by an absolutely abysmal goalie interference call on Luke Moffatt. He got drilled into the goalie by the defenseman and yet the arm went up. Michigan got running around, Miele had the puck at the right point and sent a pass diagonally to Carter Camper to Hunwick's right. Easy goal.

Treais made it 2-1 on a harmless looking shot from the point that somehow beat Reichard. That was the lone mistake that he made on the weekend. He was really good outside of that one.

Another awful call led to Miami's second goal. Derek DeBlois was bringing the puck out of the zone. He got hauled down. Arm goes up. But no, it's Scooter Vaughan headed to the box. They claim he hooked the guy that hauled down DeBlois. I don't buy that one for a second. A shot from the point deflected off Bennett's skate and then right on to Miele's stick. Nothing that Hunwick could do on that one.

Cannone then toe-dragged around Pateryn and found Tomassoni back door for another goal. You'd have thought Tomassoni was Raymond frigging Bourque with the way he looked this weekend. I can't do justice to how good that move was by Cannone, though.

The RedHawks later added an empty-netter for the 4-2 final.

Really, the highlight of the game was getting to see the clip of BU's comeback yet again. That really doesn't ever get old.

It's not like the chances weren't there. Glendening had a breakaway early, Caporusso had a breakaway off a great feed from Wohlberg, we hit the post and Reichard stopped the rebound with his toe, even though I don't think he ever saw it.....guys just aren't putting the puck in the net when they get the chance. I swear, we're probably something like 0 for our last 15 on breakaways. It's probably a good thing we don't make many shootouts.

But the penalties. God, the penalties. At least three in the offensive zone, two with possession, one with us already on the power play. The capper was David Wohlberg, who took one of the worst penalties I've ever seen. Michigan was down 3-2 with 3 minutes left in regulation. He's racing to try to negate an icing and the defenseman got in his way a little bit. They blow the play dead and Wohlberg just blasts the defenseman into the boards. No reason for it. Yes, the kid rolled around like he was dead. But you can't take that penalty. You know they're calling it. And so Michigan ended up having to kill a penalty for 2 of the remaining 3 minutes. I swear he should've sat the next game for that one. Maybe we don't have enough depth to sit a player for doing something like that, but it was the type of play that's been typical of this team the past couple of years. Something has to change.

Other stuff from Friday:
-I liked the way they took advantage of the hybrid icing, chucking the puck down there knowing that Hagelin would beat his man to the faceoff dot. He would've had a great scoring chance, but the guy pulled him down and got sent to the box.
-Pateryn played a breakaway about as well as you possibly can. He caught up to Vaive just enough that he could sprawl out, and use his size/stick to reach out and knock the puck away without making even a bit of contact. It was gorgeous.
-In addition to stealing all of the Yost chants (I know, we stole them too...), playing William Tell, and apparently using the same intro music as Michigan for warm-ups, what do they play late in the game? Jump Around. I was half waiting for Miami to honor their former Hobey Baker winner Kevin Porter, chant "It's Great....To Be....A Michigan Wolverine" to celebrate the sweep, and then retire Ray Bourque's jersey. Inventing tradition, just like the Avs!
-Hunwick was really good. He couldn't do anything on any of the three Miami goals. The first one was unstoppable. He has to come out of his net further than a lot of goalies because of his size. It works for him to be aggressive. But when they connect on a kitty-corner pass to the backdoor, there's no stopping it. The second goal was a bad bounce off Bennett's skate, and the third was a gorgeous move by Cannone and another backdoor feed that there's no stopping. He made some really great saves.

Now to Saturday.

The Wolverines got an early power play that they should have declined, but it was Miami that ultimately got on the board first. Hunwick had to come way out on a shot that ended up behind the net. He was unable to get back into the crease in time to block Reilly Smith's wraparound.

Miami made it 2-0 off a gorgeous pass from Miele that sprung Vogelhuber on a breakaway. He made a nice move, but Hunwick stayed with him. Vogelhuber clipped Hunwick on the way by, Shawn wasn't able to find the rebound and Smith put it in. In the meantime, Vogelhuber fell when he clipped Hunwick's pad. Merrill ended up on top of him. The ref, who wasn't looking at Merrill, turned, saw Merrill on top of Vogelhuber, and called a trip. Perfect example of a ref guessing about what happened.

Miami got a 2-minute 5-on-3 in the middle of the second period and you could pretty much put the goal on the board before they even dropped the puck. Sure enough, Miele hit Cannone on the same play Camper scored on the day before. In terms of two penalties leading to a full 5-on-3, those were pretty weak.

That was pretty much all she wrote. Michigan had a few chances but stuffed them up (Rust on a breakaway, Wohlberg went offside on a would-be breakaway, Wohlberg hit the defenseman with a point blank shot while the d-man was laying on the ice). That was really about it. We probably didn't have 5 great scoring chances the entire game.

Other thoughts:

-Line changes, not so good. I'm pretty sure the second goal was off a blown change, and Friday night, Camper would have had a breakaway off a bad change but he was just a tick offside.
-Langlais (and Burlon as well) could not have chucked the puck into the defender's shin pads any more than he did this weekend. It was unreal. Shot from the point? Blocked. 3 on 1 with two open teammates? Shoot it into the D's feet. He was clearly getting frustrated. 
-Lazy, 150-foot backhands through three people? Those don't usually work.
-I thought DeBlois was really solid this weekend--and I seem to remember thinking the same thing against FYS last week. Didn't notice him much in the early part of the year, but he's doing some good things now. I think he'll be a pretty decent player for us.
-Miami: Take the fall! Act hurt! Get indignant!
-Red hated the officials this weekend. Quote from Friday: "We're taking too many penalties........or we're getting called for too many penalties." Quote from Saturday: "Either we're shooting ourselves in the foot or we're being shot in the foot."

So we got a whopping 0 points out of our games in hand on Notre Dame. We now sit 2 points behind Miami (still with 2 games in hand) and 1 point behind Notre Dame. This week we get Ohio State, Miami gets 4th place Western Michigan, and Notre Dame has BGSU.

Other thoughts from MGoBlog. Jason from MHNet gives his thoughts on the disappointing senior class and the debacle of a game Saturday. He also has a recap of The Red Berenson Show

Thursday, February 03, 2011

10 Things To Know About the Miami Hockey Dynasty

A semi-quick preview since I'm out in Denver. Going to the Avs/Wild game tonight to see Maddened, Nystrom, Porter and Hunwick.

The Wolverines head to Oxford, OH this weekend to take on Miami in a crucial series.

Here are 10 things to know about the RedHawks.

1) Miami comes in 14-9-5 on the year, ranked 18th in the latest Pairwise. Most of their struggles have come away from home, though. They're 8-3-1 at Cady Arena and just 6-6-4 away from there.

2) The RedHawks are 3-4-2 in their last nine games and two of those wins were against a fairly hapless Bowling Green team. Last weekend they split a pair of shootouts at Notre Dame.

3) Even through the recent struggles they've been scoring goals at a steady clip-28 over the last nine games, 3+ on six occasions, and fewer than two just one time.

4) The defense has been much more hit and miss though. Over the past nine games, they've given up 4, 1, 5, 1, 1, 7, 0, 5, and 2 goals. Really inconsistent.

5) Cody Reichard has the better record between the two goalies (9-4-1 to Knapp's 5-5-4) but their numbers are almost identical. They both have GAAs a tick over 2.25 and save percentages of .901. Aside from a blip against FYS where he gave up 4 on 12 shots and got yanked, Reichard has been solid lately. Prior to that game, he had given up 1 goal in each of his last four starts. He also gave up 2 at ND. Knapp has been a little more iffy. He has given up 3+ in three of his last four starts and took the loss in a relief role against FYS, giving up 2 on 9 shots in just over a period. Both goalies are down 20 in save percentage from a year ago.

6) The thing to really worry about with Miami, though, is the offense. Both Andy Miele and Carter Camper have asserted themselves as Hobey contenders. Miele has 15-34--49 and has only been held without a point in 5 games. He has 15 points in the last 6 games. Camper has scored a career-high 46 points already but has cooled off after a scorching start. By cooled off, I mean he ONLY has 9 points in his last 8 games. They're the two leading scorers in the country.

7) I haven't even gotten to sophomore Reilly Smith, who leads the team in goals with 19. He had three against ND last weekend. Pat Cannone also has almost a point per game. Those guys and 11 goal scorer Alden Hirschfield, who scored the second overtime goal in the Michigan/Miami Regional Final last year, make up the majority of their 7th ranked offense.

8) As you would expect, their power play is really good: 24.8% on the season, ranking third nationally. They have allowed 5 shorties. The PK has been good as well, 8th ranked at 86.5%. They've scored five SHGs of their own.

9) This is a big weekend for Miami. After this series, they'll have just four games left to play, including a pair against surprising Western Michigan. They sit four points behind Michigan and five behind Notre Dame. Michigan has two games in hand on both teams. If they don't sweep the Wolverines, it would be really hard for Miami to pass Michigan in the standings. Even assuming 18 points for Miami (and a sweep this weekend), Michigan would need five wins in their last six to pass Miami. A split, though, and we'd only need nine points even if Miami wins out.

10) David Wohlberg (3) and Kevin Lynch (2) are the only guys with multiple career goals against Miami. Rust, Hagelin, and Cappy all have a goal and a slew of assists. Hunwick is 1-1-0 against Miami and was great in both games: Last year's CCHA semifinal and the screwjob in the Regional Championship. Miele has 5-4--9 in 11 games, but we have held him without a ppg and he is -3. Camper has 1-5--6 against Michigan. Cannone killed us last year (3-2--5 with two goals in the regional). Knapp is 2-1 with a 2.00/.929 but we've been able to get to Reichard (2.59/.899)

Friday's game will air on CBS College Sports. Saturday night, the game will air on Fox Sports Detroit.
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