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.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

2011-12 Season Preview Part 2: The Returning Forwards

Last week, we covered the guys that won't be returning. Last season, they accounted for 41.7% of Michigan's 146 goals and 50.6% of the assists. That's a lot, but Michigan has handled similar losses before (50% and 46% in 08-09 and 07-08). Here are some quick blurbs about the forwards who return:

Chris Brown: Really struggled to put the puck in the net for long stretches of last season. He had just two goals when he left to join Team USA for the World Juniors, but rebounded a bit in the second half of the year to finish with a 9-14--23 line. He was held scoreless in the NCAA Tournament, however.

Kevin Lynch: Lynch had a long drought last season as well, but his came in the middle of the year. After scoring 6-3--9 in the first 14 games, he was held scoreless for eighteen straight games. He didn't tally a point from November 21-February 17 before scoring 7 points in Michigan's final 12 games (including the game-winner as part of a two-goal effort against UNO in the NCAA Tournament). There are those who think very highly of his game, and I'd expect that he'll get plenty of chances to have a big season offensively.

David Wohlberg: Michigan's top-returning goal scorer (15) has been on a downward trajectory in terms of points (31, 27, 21 in his first three years), but he did match his freshman-year's goal total last year. Wohlberg was heating up at the right time last year. He has a four-game goal streak before a broken collarbone ended his season in the first round of the CCHA Tournament.

AJ Treais: A really offensively-gifted player who took a step up as a sophomore. He had 13 points as a freshman and increased that to 22 as a sophomore. He went 8 games without a point to start the year, but came on after that. He had 13 points in 16 games at one point during the season. Needs to be a little more careful with his breakout passes from the boards in his own end. I fully expect to see him up around 30 points this year.

Lindsay Sparks: Kind of an intriguing player really. He doesn't play all that often, but has looked really good at times. He had 3 goals and 4 points during the CCHA Tournament before finding a seat on the bench during the NCAA Tournament. Had 4-2--6 in 17 games. We'll see if he can gain the coaches' trust this year and find a spot in the lineup.

Luke Glendening: The captain has really turned into a nice player for Red Berenson. A one-time preferred walk-on, Glendening has scored 21 goals and 28 assists in 124 games, including 8-10--18 last year. This will be the third season he's worn a letter, and the second season he's had the C. He'll be a key player on the penalty kill, as we lost most of the guys that made up those units.

Luke Moffatt: A highly-regarded recruit, Moffatt struggled offensively for a good portion of last season after getting off to a pretty good start. He had 8 points in an 8-game span in November, before putting up just 3 goals and 2 assists the rest of the way. He'll at least get a shot to earn his way onto the power play and see more ice time. Time will tell if he lives up to the hype he had coming out of the MWEHL.

Derek DeBlois: I really kind of like DeBlois. He caught the "Hit people from behind" bug at one point last season, but I liked what I saw out of him. He ended up +8 on the year and didn't hurt Michigan when he was out there most of the time. Chipped in with 6 points.

Jeff Rohrkemper: He sure picked a good time to score a couple of his 3 goals last year. He put one in in the NCAA Championship and had the game-winner in the CCHA Third Place Game. I don't think he ever really looked out of place, despite being put into a tough position having played only 7 games all year before being pressed into service in the CCHA and NCAA Tournament. Outside of his boarding penalty against CC that darn-near killed me, you can't complain about his contributions in a very limited amount of ice time.

Hopefully sometime tomorrow, I'll have the defense and the goalies.