|Photo: Bill Rapai|
What do you even say at this point? Is the problem the goaltending? Team defense? An offense that's suddenly ice-cold and has fallen to 10th nationally? Unfortunately it's probably all of the above, which means there's a lot of work to do if the Wolverines are going to keep their NCAA-record tournament streak alive.
This week Michigan goes on the road for a two-game series against Ferris State. Last year's national runners-up is 6-4-2 on the season and sitting at 5-3-0-0 in the CCHA, which is good for a three-way tie for second place, one point behind Miami (or, more accurately, two games in the loss column behind Notre Dame). The Bulldogs are coming off their first sweep of the season, against Bowling Green, and have won three in a row. They've actually played an exceptionally weak schedule to this point (RPI, Mercyhurst, Alaska, Miami (the one tough opponent), LSSU, BGSU), so they may not be as strong as the CCHA standings indicate. RPI beat them and tied them, and just recently won another game.
The outstanding Taylor Nelson is no longer on the team, but they are still just fine in net. CJ Motte, brother of 2012-13 Michigan signee Tyler Motte, has played all but 20 minutes for the Bulldogs. He has a 2.20/.928 on the year. He hasn't given up more than 3 goals in a game, but he has done that on seven different occasions. He has shut out Miami twice in two years, so he can step it up when it matters. He posted very similar numbers a year ago, despite most of his action coming on the road.
Chad Billins (a 29 point-scorer from back on the blueline) is also gone, as is leading scorer Jordie Johnston. The Bulldogs' top returning scorer, Matthew Kirzinger, hasn't played all year. 19-goal scorer Kyle Bonis is back, and in fine form. He leads the team with a 6-5--11 line in 12 games, with 4 PPGs. Cory Kane had 11 points as a sophomore, but already has 9 this year. Simon Denis had 13 points in 30 games on defense last year. He's already got 8 points.
The Bulldogs rank 17th in scoring at 3 goals per game and 20th in defense at 2.5 goals per game. They're fifth on the power play, largely thanks to Bonis, at 25.6%. The PK is pretty good as well at 85%.
Michigan needs to start getting sweeps, but this feels like a split. And it feels like I'd be happy with that.
Ferris offers streaming video, so each game can be purchased for $7.95. Yup. Even a bitch-school like Ferris can offer streaming video..........