Saturday, January 07, 2012

Michigan 4, LSSU 2

Maybe the Wolverines just like being on TV where I can watch? Michigan ran their unbeaten streak to 6 games with a 4-2 win over the Lake Superior State Lakers.

Chris Brown had the final two goals for the Wolverines, David Wohlberg had 1-2--3 and had a noticeably great night, and Alex Guptill added two assists in a great performance out of the top line. Adam Janecyk played the third period after Hunwick was unable to go after making 20 stops in the first 40 minutes. He wasn't feeling well, but we didn't get any additional details. Janecyk made 7 stops, and didn't have a chance on the one goal he allowed. He won't get credit for the victory, but it had to feel good to preserve the win.

The Wolverines were also aided by the return of Jon Merrill, who was reinstated after missing the first 22 games of the season. Merrill was very solid on the blueline, helped the PK immensely, and added a great assist on Wohlberg's ninth of the year. He was +3 on the night. It's hard to overstate how important he is to this team and how much of a difference his return will make. Merrill is the best player on the team, and arguably the best defenseman in the conference. That bodes very well for the Wolverines in the second half of this season.

Michigan opened the scoring 9:50 into the opening frame. Mac Bennett sprung Travis Lynch on a breakaway and the freshman tucked it between the legs of Kevin Kapalka to give Michigan a 1-0 lead.

Five minutes later, it was another odd man rush to put the Wolverines up by a pair. Merrill absorbed a big hit from Nick McParland and sent a long pass to Guptill. Guptill also shrugged off a check to give the Wolverines a 2-on-1 down low. He slid the puck over to Wohlberg, who had basically an empty net to shoot at and he made no mistake.

The Lakers closed within one on a McParland shot that snuck through Hunwick's legs. He was probably screened by Mike Chiasson on that one, but it was on the ugly side. LSSU nearly tied it short-handed a few minutes later. AJ Treais, I think, made a poor decision at the blueline and it led to a Cassiani chance. He hit the goalpost, however.

The Wolverines regained their 2 goal cushion at 17:10 of the third period. Guptill took a shot that was kicked wide. Wohlberg tried to jam it home and it bounced way up in the air, hit the top of the crossbar, then bounced down. Chris Brown was right in the slot jamming at it--actually, he may have hit Kapalka in the face with one attempt--and apparently got his stick on it on the way in. It looked like it was Wohlberg's, but they've given it to Brown for the time being.

The Wolverines had two great penalty kills in the early-going of the third period, which were huge in the outcome of the game. LSSU has the #2 PP in the CCHA and Michigan gave them absolutely nothing. Wohlberg had the best chance on either of the Lakers PPs. He had a partial breakaway, but just had the puck poked away as he was breaking in.

Just past the halfway point in the frame, the Lakers made it 3-2. McParland was behind the goalline and tried to throw it to the front of the net. It hit the side of the goal and deflected into the slot, right onto the stick of Ben Power. Power roofed one before Janecyk could react. No chance for the Michigan netminder on that one.

The Lakers wouldn't come all that close the rest of the game. Michigan had several chances to ice the game--PDG hit the bar off another great breakout pass from Bennett, Pateryn led a 3-on-1 and rocketed a slapper from about 40 feet, and Brown and Kevin Lynch had cracks at the empty net. Eventually, Merrill flipped one high in the air to spring Brown and he put it into the empty net to seal the deal.

I thought McParland was a pretty impressive player for the Lakers. He was active all night on the forecheck, added a goal and an assist. You heard his name pretty regularly.

One of the unsung heroes for the Wolverines was again Andrew Sinelli. I don't know where he's been hiding, but he sure doesn't look like he wants to come out of the lineup anytime soon. He was fantastic in the defensive end again--one backcheck late in the game prevented what could have been a good scoring chance. I really like that kid.

The scariest moment of the game was almost a repeat of what inadvertently set the Shawn Hunwick to Michigan plan in action. Back in juniors, Hunwick was hit in the mask during a rapid-fire drill and was hit again by the next shot. His concussion caused the Division 1 interest to dry up and he eventually was set to go to Adrian College before getting the call from Michigan. LSSU took a shot through traffic and Hunwick stopped it with his face. His mask flew off and none of the officials noticed. The puck came back to LSSU for another slapper, but luckily it went wide and we finally got a whistle. The Children of Yost, of course, immediately broke into a "Handsome Goalie" chant.

The win moves Michigan into a tie with Ferris State for 5th in the CCHA, though the Bulldogs now have one game in hand. LSSU is one point ahead in 4th. In the Pairwise, the win (and, I'd assume, some other happenings) rocketed Michigan up to eighth. Michigan's RPI also climbed up to 8th from 11th.

MGoBlog had some good stuff today about what the upcoming stretch of games will/could do to the PWR rankings. Ignore the Merrill stuff, since that part of the post was almost immediately outdated by the surprising reinstatement of him today. Earlier in the week, Red had indicated that Merrill wouldn't play this weekend. I sure am happy that someone changed their mind. I still can't believe how quiet they've kept what happened. I guess it's not really our business. I'm just more curious than anything else.

Same two teams tomorrow. The game is on Comcast. I will be pretty light on Twittering. I'm going to watch the sub-.500 Badgers (tear) take on RIT. I sadly don't think I have any orange to wear.

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