Thursday, March 08, 2012

CCHA Quarterfinals: Notre Dame Preview

Thanks to NMU losing a home playoff series to BGSU for the second year in a row, the Wolverines will take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the second round of the CCHA Tournament. Notre Dame advanced by putting Ohio out of their misery, 2-0 and 4-2.

In Friday night's contest, ND used two Billy Maday goals and 33 saves by Steve Summerhays (11 in each period) to take a 1-0 lead in the series. On Saturday, Ohio scored a pair of goals in the first period to take a 2-1 lead into the intermission, but the Irish scored three unanswered (including a Maday ENG to seal it) to end Ohio's season in all likelihood. Unbelievably, the Buckeyes were 14-4-1 on New Year's and won one game the rest of the season and finished the year .500.

Notre Dame is a more dangerous opponent than you'd typically expect to see in the second round as the #2 seed, but the Irish stumbled to an 8th place finish in the conference this year. They're 19-16-3 overall and were below .500 (12-13-3) in conference. Like Ohio, they got off to a good start (10-2-3 in their first 15), and then got wildly inconsistent. They lost 4-straight (including an ugly 9-2 loss to Northeastern), won 3 in a row, then went 6-10 down the stretch (including 5 straight losses, where they were outscored 18-4).

The offense hasn't been there lately and the defense has been hit or miss. The four goals they scored against Ohio in the clinching game of the first-round series was the first time they've put up more than 2 in a game since late January. They had gone 9-straight scoring two or fewer. The defense gave up 18 in their five game losing streak, but only gave up 25 over the past ten as a whole.

I can't imagine we'll see Mike Johnson in net. Steve Summerhays played both games last weekend, gave up 2 goals total, and made 30+ saves in both games. Johnson hasn't won since February 3 and has an ugly stat line: 9-10-3 with a 2.69/.883. Summerhays is 10-6 with a 2.43 and a .907. He's given up two goals in his past three starts, but lost his four starts prior to that. He was chased in two of them, including 5 minutes into a game against Ferris. Summerhays did hold Michigan to three goals on the weekend the last time these teams met.

Despite the offensive struggles (42nd nationally in offense), this team does have some talent up front. Everyone knows about TJ Tynan (13-28--41) and Anders Lee (16-17--33) by now. Behind them are Billy Maday and Riley Sheahan, who both have 20+ points. It doesn't seem like they get a whole heckuva lot out of the top two lines though. Outside of their top 5 forwards, no one has more than 5 goals (and no other forward has more than 11 points).

Tynan has been held in check lately. He has just one goal and four points in his last nine. He had two assists in ND's Friday-night win against Michigan earlier this year. Lee has scored goals in two of his last three, but before that he was held out of the goal column in 14-straight games and 23 of out his last 24(!!!!). He started the year with 12 goals in his first 11 games, but has really cooled off since.

Tynan, Lee, Maday, and Sheahan have combined for 24 power play goals on the season (also, all four of Robbie Russo's have come with the man advantage). ND is middle of the pack on the PP and PK.

None of the Wolverines have been overly successful against ND in their careers. No active player has more than 2 goals or 4 points against the Irish. Hunwick has a .931 save percentage, but hasn't gotten much help. He only has a 3-3-0 mark. The big stat in Michigan's favor: They've made the CCHA semifinals in 23 straight seasons.

All two/three games will be at Yost and will be 7:35 faceoffs. Saturday night's game will air on Comcast Local, but there is no TV for the other one/two games. This sure would be a nice time to have the live internet video back, Dave Brandon!

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