Thursday, November 24, 2011

Northeastern and Union Previews

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Northeastern's game notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Anonymous said...

One other *erm* to mention, Tim.

Michigan's official athletic website is now charging fans to listen to archived Red Berenson shows. Another money grab.

Anonymous said...

There was video for the Union game although somewhat hidden. If you went to the schedule, it wasn't listed but if you went to Multimedia you had the option of paying for it.