Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Venue: Not a Mundane Detail, Michael

So, about the OHL playing a game at Michigan Stadium thing. Not happening, from the sound of it!

After Dave Ablauf told the Michigan Daily that the rumors were "not true" this morning, Matt Slovin was able to further confirm:

[A]n OHL source with one of the teams involved informed the Daily that the league is, in fact, planning an outdoor doubleheader. The source went on to name Detroit’s Comerica Park as the most likely venue.

A couple of others asked around and heard similar things. Spath talked with Red about it and apparently got the glare. Sorry, Mike! (And sorry to Dave Brandon for blowing up his Twitter feed, though I still think that was a good exercise, just in case there were any lingering thoughts!)

As for the original source of the rumor, there's this now:
As soon as I heard last night that Comerica is likely setting up a rink I agree that that will be the site of #OHL DH Dec. 31

So as it turns out, this:
Can confirm NHL has approved the CHL request to play an outdoor DH @ Big House Dec. 31st. Teams not confirmed but LDN/SAG, WSR/PLY likely

...turned out to be not entirely true and wasn't actually based on any knowledge of the venue. The other reporter for CTV, Norman James, is now saying Comerica Park as well:
What we know at this point is that the NHL has approved a CHL request to hold multiple outdoor games December 31st in Detroit. The target venue seems to be Comerica Park, where we could see the Knights and Spitfires in action against the OHL's two Michigan based clubs.
That makes much more sense. It's closer to Windsor, closer to London, roughly the same distance from Plymouth, and no one in Saginaw gives a crap anyway. Plus you aren't making Red Berenson's head explode. Or mine.

Anyway, in hindsight, I wish I had tweeted at the original reporter and asked the "Are you sure it's the Big House and not Comerica?" question before calling in the cavalry, but he posted three different times saying basically, "confirmed request to play" "at the Big House".

For something like that, I didn't want to wait to hear it actually being confirmed before I reacted. Remember the uproar over SBC wanting to purchase the naming rights for the Michigan/Ohio football game, and how Michigan eventually called it off? To me, this story was like that. Except times a billion. 

I'm happy to hear that Michigan hasn't sold their souls, from the sound of it. There is still that tiny part of me that remembers they denied the Winter Classic rumors at first as well, but Comerica makes much more sense for a lot of reasons.

If nothing else, I got to remind everyone once again why the OHL is evil, and I like doing that. It was also really rewarding to get to see the passion in our fanbase. Thank you to everyone who immediately took up the cause. That was pretty cool to see.

Just Say No to the OHL

I don't get riled up all that often, but I saw something on Twitter tonight that needs to be stopped if there's even one hint of truth to it (and you know I'm serious since I'm more than willing to deploy single-sentence paragraphs and single word sentences in this post!):

According to a tweet by Brent Lale, a reporter for CTV in London, Ontario, the NHL has approved a request by the CHL to play an outdoor double-header at Michigan Stadium as part of the Winter Classic festivities. London vs. Saginaw and Windsor vs. Plymouth are the rumored teams. Sportsnet would be televising it.

This needs to be stopped immediately.

The OHL is a competing product. They steal our recruits. They play dirty and continue to recruit players after they've signed with colleges. They steal players during the season when it's too late for the NCAA team to replace them. They do everything they can to convince prospects that the CHL is a superior path to the NHL. Michigan should not be allowing them to use our beautiful stadium to showcase their product. 

Trevor Lewis. Jared Knight. AJ Jenks. Jack Campbell. John Gibson. Robbie Czarnik. Lucas Lessio. Tyler Swystun. Danny Richmond. Jason Bailey. All players that have committed to Michigan, signed with Michigan, or played for Michigan, before being poached by teams in the CHL in the not-so-distant past. If you want to go back further, do Mike Comrie and Mike Van Ryn ring a bell? I'm sure there are more.

To this point, I've only talked about kids affiliated with Michigan. Need more evidence? A couple of the rumored teams played roles in the mass exodus of NCAA-bound players to the OHL this summer. Plymouth signed JT Miller, a North Dakota recruit. Saginaw signed Jamie Oleksiak, a defenseman who would have been entering his sophomore year with Northeastern. Additionally, Gibson bailed from Michigan after signing a Letter of Intent. Reid Boucher, a Michigan State recruit, signed with Sarnia. Connor Murphy passed up Miami to sign with Sarnia as well. And that was all in about a week's span. Not to mention BU and BC lost a trio of much younger recruits as well.

Michigan wouldn't let Michigan State and Ohio State play an outdoor game in Michigan Stadium, and rightfully so. They're competitors. Why would you give them an opportunity for the positive publicity that an outdoor game at Michigan Stadium in conjunction with the NHL's Winter Classic would provide? You wouldn't. It would be stupid. Don't do anything to help your rivals, especially if they'd never return the favor.

The same thing applies here. The OHL is not only not a friend to college hockey, they're an enemy. Truth be told, I'd be less offended if it was FYS and Ohio State playing in our stadium than I am about the prospect about OHL teams playing there. There's no way in hell they'd extend the same invitation to a collegiate team if the situation was reversed, unless they thought there was some way that they could steal a player or two while the team was in Canada.

The NCAA, and specifically Michigan, should do NOTHING to accommodate them in any way, shape or form. If the OHL wants an outdoor game, they can host one in Canada or have it at Comerica with the rest of the ancillary events.

There have been some people that think having pro hockey in Michigan Stadium taints the Big House in some way. I don't feel the same way about the NHL, but I certainly do feel that way about the O. They don't belong anywhere near Michigan Stadium. Not as long as the playing field is so unequal with regard to poaching players. The thought of having an OHL game (or two) at the Big House is souring me on the whole thought of the Winter Classic there, and that's too bad since I'm probably one of the people who was most excited about it initially.

And the teams they're throwing around? Windsor STOLE OUR MOTHER FREAKING GOALIE (thank God for Shawn Hunwick) and they have the rights to Evan Allen and Phil Di Giuseppe. Plymouth took Robbie Czarnik mid-season, signed AJ Jenks away, and don't think for a second they didn't immediately call Jon Merrill when his suspension was announced. London signed *anny Richmon* away, landed Michigan-commit Jared Knight and convinced Max Domi to not go the college route (the latter isn't that big of a deal, but I figured I'd mention it since he was a pretty high-profile recruit). They've been one of the most troublesome OHL teams from an NCAA perspective over the years. Saginaw just acquired the rights to Boo Nieves and they have the rights to JT Compher.

None of this even includes future players that are deciding between the NCAA (specifically Michigan) and the OHL. Michigan is constantly in a battle with this league for recruits and they're constantly fighting a (one-sided) battle to keep the recruits that have already signed (or the players that are already on the friggin team). It would be the ultimate kick in the face to see Phil Di Giuseppe and Evan Allen playing at Michigan Stadium for the Windsor Spitfires next year.

This. Cannot. Happen.

I seriously urge everyone to email or tweet at Dave Brandon and make your feelings known. I'd hope that Red has as well. Based on the initial reaction from people on Twitter, I know I'm not alone in feeling this way. Maybe it's too late, or maybe it's no longer in his control. Maybe it's just a silly internet rumor that I'm freaking out about for nothing. But just on the off-chance this happens--or could happen--I don't want to sit quietly.

The OHL has no business playing a game at Michigan Stadium. They're a competitor--and not one that competes in good faith. They're not our friend. If Windsor could find a way to steal Di Giuseppe away, they'd do it in a heartbeat. We should not be helping them to market their product. The answer shouldn't be "Yes" if they ask to use the ice at Michigan Stadium. It actually shouldn't even be "No". It should be something more along the lines of, "Hell no. Go **** yourselves." Slam phone down.

I'm 100% behind the AD making money. I have a very progressive view in this regard. I'm firmly of the belief that if you don't want advertising in Michigan Stadium but you want renovations to Michigan Stadium, Crisler, and Yost, and you want a basketball practice facility, lacrosse teams, etc. that the AD needs to have the ability to host events like the Winter Classic. You're going to get Arby's sponsoring The Big Chill. It's unreasonable to ask them to ignore all these potential sources of revenue. But this is the ultimate in selling out. You'd be letting a dirty competitor come into your house, use it to help market their product, indirectly (or directly) steal players away from you, and make it harder for your own team to compete. And for the minimal amount of revenue that a pair of OHL games would provide.

This. Absolutely. Cannot. Happen.

Edit: Some good news today, as Michigan's Dave Ablauf has called the rumors "not true" and an OHL source has confirmed to the Michigan Daily's Matt Slovin that a doubleheader is in the works, but suggested that Comerica Park is the most likely location, which is how it should be.

That said, Michigan initially denied the Winter Classic rumors when they first came out. It is certainly comforting to hear that one of the OHL teams involved is saying Comerica as well, though.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Michigan Splits at Notre Dame

Hunwick was sharp both games this weekend, earning himself a #2 and #1 star
The Wolverines and Fighting Irish entered the weekend tied for fifth in the PWR and two points apart in the CCHA standings and that's how they remain. Notre Dame won Friday night's contest 3-1 (with a late empty-netter). On Saturday, the Wolverines got out to a 2-0 first-period lead before hanging on to win 2-1.

On Friday, Notre Dame made it their goal to seemingly hit Shawn Hunwick as much as possible and try to get in his head. They ran into him, slashed him after the whistle, high-sticked him, at least a half-dozen times (many in the first period alone). The first instance led to a power play. Then the incompetent boobs officiating the game, Keith Sergott and Barry Pochmara, decided to basically let ND do whatever they wanted to our goalie. At one point, Hunwick got frustrated enough that he threw his stick to the ice after a scrum. I thought they then called him for unsportsmanlike conduct--that seemed to be the consensus on the telecast as well--but in the box score they've got him down for slashing. I'm guessing the reaction was based on them evening it up after he got slammed into for at least the fifth time.

Outside of Notre Dame hitting anything that moved--or wore goalie pads--the game was characterized by Michigan failing to convert on some gorgeous scoring chances. Steve Summerhays played very well--he was the #1 star (and Hunwick was 2)--but a lot of the problems were self-induced. Chris Brown had Summerhays beat on a breakaway late in the first period and rung it off the bar. Just after Notre Dame made it 2-0, Brown led a 3-on-1, decided to shoot, and missed the net high. In the third, with the game 2-1, Derek DeBlois walked in all alone after a Riley Sheahan turnover and missed the net. It was that kind of night.

After Michigan failed to take advantage of an early power play for Hunwick getting run over, Pateryn was sent to the box for a fairly normal slash. On that power play, Hunwick absolutely robbed Sheahan off a great pass from Tynan, who was spectacular on Friday night.

Wohlberg was called for holding, but the best chance on that power play was Mac Bennett's, who was the recipient of an awful turnover from Robbie Russo. He walked in all alone and Summerhays made a good stop. Moffatt just missed connecting with PDG on a 2-on-1. The pass was a little behind him.

Notre Dame made it 1-0 on a rush by TJ Tynan. He brought the puck in, faked the shot and got Hunwick down, then circled behind the net and fed a cutting Sam Calabrese. Calabrese juuuuust snuck the puck inside the far post.

The Irish then hit Hunwick again. Michigan came to his aid this time and somehow things ended up evened up. Apparently Hunwick slashed someone. Probably the guy that nailed him. Shortly thereafter, he got slashed on the glove after he had the puck covered. Hunwick was clearly getting aggravated and the refs didn't want to hear any of it. I was worried at this point because it seemed like Hunwick's head wasn't in the game, but, outside of throwing his stick down at one point, he handled it well.

Wohlberg was blatantly hauled down driving the net, no call, though they did call both players for roughing as they came back up ice. The first period of this game was just awful officiating.

Brown then intercepted a Sheahan drop pass and that put him off to the races. He beat Summerhays clean, but put it off the bar.

Things calmed down in the second period. Michigan failed to convert on an early power play, earned when Hyman was hauled down.

Notre Dame had a few chances on a scramble, Hunwick got knocked down again, Michigan came up ice and both Treias and Glendening had chances, then ND came back and scored. They rushed the puck up on a 3-on-2. Bennett took his man to the boards, then Pateryn went down to block a centering attempt. Calabrese got deep into the zone and finally threw one at the net. Hunwick blockered it away, but it went right to Lorenz, who was able to score on the rebound.

Bennett was then on the good end and bad end of a couple of scoring chances. He made a slick move through the offensive zone, but Summerhays made a stop, then Sheahan absolutely walked him and shot high.

Kevin Lynch had a good opportunity to get Michigan on the board, but couldn't pull the trigger with an empty net to shoot at. His line (both Lynches and DeBlois) was very good in the second frame. They had a really good shift right before intermission as well.

Early in the third, Mike Voran was called for tripping and the Wolverines were able to capitalize. They had some really nice passing to get the puck down to the goalie's left, reverse it back to the right, and then Pateryn's shot was tipped in by Alex Guptill...

...and immediately after the ensuing faceoff, Luke Glendening was called for boarding. Not a play that you want to see out of your senior captain. It didn't come back to bite Michigan as DeBlois had the best chance of the power play off another horrible Sheahan turnover.

Lynch was then sprung on a breakaway. Sheahan hooked him very early and there was a delayed call. Lynch came in, was slashed worse than what Pateryn got called for, and it prevented him from getting a good scoring chance. The original penalty was the only thing that was called. Later on the NBC telecast, Kerry Fraser, longtime NHL official, questioned why that wasn't a penalty shot. It would have taken some cojones to whistle them for two infractions on the same play, but the slash was worse than the hook that was being called in the first place.

Michigan had two more good chances to tie the game up, but Clare shot wide with Summerhays down and out, and then the ND netminder made a very good save on Wohlberg off a great centering feed from Brown.

Hunwick then kept the Wolverines in the game with a big stop on Voran. Voran caught up to an alley-oop pass and cut to his left to try to get around Hunwick, but Hunwick stayed with him and just got a toe on it. The defense then lost Costello, someone (Tynan maybe?) fed him in the slot, and Hunwick got over to make the save.

Summerhays then made his stop of the night as PDG worked some Datsyukian magic down behind the net, shrugged his defender, and fed Treais in front. Treais got a good shot away going five-hole, but Summerhays made the stop.

The Wolverines got Hunwick to the bench and had one good opportunity off a Moffie feed, but then Jon Merrill bombed a shot right into Billy Maday's shin pads and it put him off to the races with an empty net. He didn't miss. Merrill did have some traffic in front if the shot got through. It was fitting that the game ended on another ND blocked shot. They blocked 16 attempts on the night, and that was Maday's third.

For the game, Notre Dame outshot Michigan 35-31 and outhit them badly, though I don't have the final stats on that.

Treais had a stellar individual effort for the GWG on Saturday.
Photo Credit: Bill Rapai
On Saturday, there were some good chances early on. Anders Lee hit the bar right out of the gate. Sparks, back in the lineup for the first time in a month, had two or three good chances early. Then Larson hit the post, though Hunwick had that side completely covered and didn't really give him much else to shoot at.

The Wolverines went to a power play after Lee was called for tripping and they capitalized. PDG fed Treais and Summerhays stopped him, but later in the power play, Guptill got a tip on a Pateryn shot from the point for his second tip-in from Pateryn in as many nights. Berenson would later compare his goal to something that Holmstrom would do. Guptill called it high-praise.

Merrill went for a hit and it led to an odd-man rush. Sparks got back but ND had a couple of very good scoring chances. Pateryn then went for a hit and got called for kneeing. It was pretty much the same thing that Maday did to Hyman (uncalled) the night before. Sparks then shot the puck into a crowd of players, got a ten-minute misconduct for him, and I'm not sure we saw him back on the ice the rest of the night. He certainly didn't do anything noticeable after that. Probably not the way to endear yourself to the coaches after sitting out for a month and a half. I thought he did some good things in the first period, though. He even had a nice defensive play.

After the kill, Costello was sent to the box for slashing Guptill and the Michigan power play struck again. PDG kept the puck in at the line and Treais picked it up. He cut all the way across the zone, got the defenseman to bite on a fake shot, got Summerhays off his angle, and then snapped it past him to the far side. That was a great, great goal.

Notre Dame pulled within one early in the second as Wuthrich went to the front of the net unmolested and Lee found him.

Moffie saved a goal with a nice defensive play after some fancy passing by the Irish. The Irish started to buzz in the middle part of the second period and PDG prevented a great scoring chance with a backcheck/stick-lift.

Guptill and Brown then broke in on a 2-on-0. They passed it back and forth 3 times and the return feed to Guptill was just out of his reach. Kind of the way breakaways/shootouts have gone for Michigan this year. Maybe I shouldn't complain about the lack of a penalty shot on Friday night.

Shots were 12-6 in Notre Dame's favor in the third period, but they couldn't solve Shawn Hunwick. Outside of a good chance by Stephen Johns and a great save on Gerths, I didn't notice any particularly interesting chances in the final frame. Michigan's best chance was a Treais one-timer from a Glendening feed that Summerhays stopped.

Notre Dame played the puck with a high-stick after Summerhays had gone to the bench and that took them out of any real chance to capitalize with the extra skater. The faceoff came back into their end with 45 seconds left and they never really threatened after that.

A split was probably the right result for the weekend. I thought Notre Dame was very impressive, albeit fairly dirty on Friday night. They're a damn good hockey team. They fore-check like crazy, their defense hits like crazy, and Tynan and Lee are amazing hockey players. I could see them doing some damage in the tournament if they get goaltending like they did this weekend. Summerhays doesn't have good numbers, but I thought he was very good the whole weekend. He was the number one star on Friday night. The Treais goal was the only one that he had a chance on.

The best sign for Wolverine fans was that Michigan got the power play going and the penalty killing was great. Michigan was 3-for-8 with the man advantage on the weekend, and a couple of the failed attempts were abbreviated. Notre Dame was 0-for-8 and managed 6 shots on goal. Coming in, the Irish had only been held without a power play goal on 5 occasions (in 24 games) this season, so to hold them off the board for a weekend is pretty impressive. In Saturday's win, ND had just two shots on goal in 6:54 of power play time. Bravo to the PK.

And bravo to Hunwick, who was great the entire weekend. He stopped 32 of 34 on Friday and came back with 38 saves on 39 shots on Saturday. The Irish actually outshot Michigan 39-24 last night. Hunwick stole that game.

Guptill has now scored in 5 straight games and has 5-5--10 in his past six. For the year, he has 14-12--26, to lead the team in goals and point (tied with Brown). He actually has the national lead for points by a freshman, though he's 8th in points per game.

The Wolverines now have a week off to prepare for the stretch run where they'll face Miami at home, a road-and-Joe against FYS, NMU at home, and BGSU on the road. Coming out of road series with OSU and Notre Dame with a 3-1-0 record is a nice start to this tough slate of games.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Notre Dame Preview

What the hell is the matter with me? Three posts in one day?

Anyway, the teams that are tied for fifth in the Pairwise rankings square off this weekend as #7 Notre Dame takes on #10 Michigan at the new Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend.

Notre Dame will play Friday night's game without third-leading scorer (and Red Wings prospect) Riley Sheahan, as he was suspended one game for a hit to the head against Western Michigan.

Notre Dame is 13-8-3 on the season and 8-5-3-0 in the CCHA. They've been struggling as of late, going 3-6-0 in their last nine, though two of the wins were against Minnesota and Boston University. They were swept 3-2 and 3-1 by WMU last weekend.

The Irish have played a tough schedule this season. Their non-conference slate has featured two games against Minnesota-Duluth, Boston College, Boston University, and Minnesota. They're actually 4-1 in those games, yet somehow got bitch-bombed 9-2 by Northeastern.

Notre Dame has been uncharacteristically weak in between the pipes this year. While they rank a middle-of-the-pack 27th in goals against average (2.75), their goaltenders are 62nd and 67th out of 76 qualifying goalies in save percentage. Steven Summerhays has an .893 and Mike Johnson has an .887. Johnson has 18 GP to Summerhays's 10, but it's been Summerhays more often than not lately. Johnson has lost five straight starts after being unbeaten in 10. In the 9-2 loss to Northeastern, he was pulled after giving up goals on the first three shots of the game. His start in a loss to WMU last Saturday night was his first start since 12/9/11. In his five-game losing streak he has a 4.55 goals against and a .792 save percentage. In two games against Michigan last season, Johnson was 1-1 and gave up 6 goals on 57 shots (he stymied Michigan one game and gave up 5 on 33 the next night).

Summerhays has been better. He's 6-2-0 on the season and made 30+ stops against Minnesota and BU within his last 3 appearances. He, too, got shellacked by Northeastern (4 goals on 12 shots), but he's been much more sound than Johnson overall. Last year he had a 3.04/.863, so this is an improvement. Summerhays gave up 3 on 22 shots in a losing effort at Michigan last March.

The Irish are also middle-of-the-pack in offense. They rank 25th in the nation, scoring exactly 3 goals per game. They've got some talent up front, though. TJ Tynan has a 9-22--31 line in 23 games this season to rank in the top-10 nationally in points per game. He's actually ahead of his point-scoring pace from last season, when he had 54 points as a freshman. Tynan has been held off the score-sheet on just 5 occasions this year and he has 3-3--6 in his last four games. He started the year with 14 points in his first seven games.

Anders Lee has 14 goals and is just a tick off his point-a-game pace from last season. Lee has cooled off significantly after a scorching-hot start. He had 10 goals in the first seven games of the season (and he scored at least once in all of them) and had 12 in his first 11. In the 13 games since then, he's scored just twice, both in one game against BU. He has just 3 assists over that span as well. Lee and Tynan have combined for 11 power play goals.

Sheahan has 21 points on the year, and they've got 5 others with 10+ points, including 3 defensemen.

For a team that hasn't lit up the scoreboard, the Irish are strong on the power play. They've tallied at least one power play goal in 19 of their 24 games this year. They only rank 17th in PP (20.7%) but they've been effective. Only Minnesota, Union, Maine, and Connecticut have more tallies with the man-advantage. Then again, only Minnesota-State, Quinnipiac, Clarkson, and Vermont have had more chances on the power play. The PK is 28th in the country at 82.4%.

The special teams edge goes to Notre Dame. Michigan is -4 on special teams. Notre Dame is +9. They've been short-handed 16 fewer times and have had 21 more power play opportunities.

Michigan has 6 players with 3-career points against Notre Dame. Glendening and Wohlberg are the only players with multiple goals. Shawn Hunwick is 2-2-0 in his career with a 2.64 goals against and a .914 save percentage. 

Tomorrow night's game airs at 7:35 on NBC Sports (formerly Versus). Saturday's game is at 7:35 and will be on CBS College Sports. (Edit: I originally went with the USCHO times. NBC Sports lists it as a 7:35 faceoff as does Michigan, so we'll go with that. USCHO had it as 7:05.)

Yost Renovation is a Go

The Regents authorized bidding out and rewarding construction contracts for a $14 million renovation to Yost Ice Arena following this season. The seating areas on three of the four sides will be replaced, the press box will be converted into luxury seating and a new press box will be built above that (I can't wait to see how they pull this off!).

Additionally, it is possible that the covered up windows on the south side of the arena will again be uncovered. Window technology has improved to the point where sun could shine through and not harm the ice.

Here was an artist's rendering from back in June.

That's pretty darn cool if you ask me. Gotta find somewhere else for the GLI, Frozen Four, and National Champions banners!

The renovations should be complete by next hockey season. I really love the commitment by the athletic department to keeping Yost functional for as long as possible. It's going to be a sad, sad day when the hockey team has to move to a new facility.

Having a Seat Over There: Kyle Connor

It appears that Michigan has a new commitment for the incoming class of 2015: Kyle Connor, a forward from Belle Tire. BradyThomas posted on The Wolverine hockey board that the rumor at the U16 tournament in Boston was that Connor had committed to Michigan. I did some hunting on the internet and found that HSP Athletes, a division of ASP Athlete, listed Connor as a client, and also as a U of M verbal.
I sent a Tweet to Dylan Larkin, another Michigan commitment and a teammate of Connor's, asking if he had heard anything and he responded, "Yes committed for the 2015 year!".
Connor appears to be a big get! He has 13-37--50 in 36 games for Belle Tire this season, which puts him first on the team in points (by 9), fourth on the team in goals, and first in assists (by 16). He also has 5 game-winners. He's tied for second in the league in points, and leads everyone in assists.
In BradyThomas's post, he said that Connor is 6'0" and cited his speed and acceleration. He also had him as a probable NTDP player.
Connor recently had an eight-game point streak snapped. In that span, he collected 3-16--19 and had six-straight games with multiple assists. Stay tuned. I'm sure there will be more info about him in the near future!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sweep of Ohio

The outfield crowd looks ugly, but the baselines were packed. Photo: Tim Williams
The Wolverines went to Ohio this past weekend for a pair of games against the Buckeyes and came out of the weekend with their unbeaten streak in tact (and now up to 9 games). After a 4-0 win on Friday night in Columbus, Michigan absolutely dominated the Frozen Diamond Faceoff to draw within 5 points of the Buckeyes in the CCHA standings.

On Friday, Michigan got a career-high 46 saves from Shawn Hunwick en route to a 4-goal win that was closer than the final score. Alex Guptill's shot in the middle part of the first period was kicked out to the right by Cal Heeter. The puck went right to Lee Moffie who sent a laser into the open net to give Michigan a 1-0 lead.

Late in the first, AJ Treais sent a shot through traffic one second after a Michigan power play had ended. That was all the offense Michigan needed. Hunwick was perfect on the night, stopping 19 shots in the first, 14 in the second, and 13 in the third.

Michigan would add empty-net goals from Luke Glendening and Alex Guptill for the final margin of victory.

My notes are pretty brief since I got home from my hockey game at 10:30 or so and still had to pack for Cleveland. I made it a goal to watch the game on the DVR in an hour. I did note that I thought both PDG and Wohlberg had quite a few chances. PDG, in particular, was buzzing even though he was held off the scoresheet.

Jon Merrill had two assists and was +3 in the game. He also rang a shot off the post late in the game as a power play was ending. Guptill had 1-1--2, was +2, and drew a pair of penalties in the third period as the Buckeyes were trying to mount a comeback. Treais had a goal and had several really nice passes. One in the first period set up Glendening beautifully in the slot and a Buckeye back-checker probably saved a goal.

I thought the shot totals both ways were somewhat inflated. Maybe not, but OSU was credited with 19 in the first period and that seemed really high. Don't get me wrong, Hunwick was certainly tested in this one--he earned that shutout, particularly with a stop on Angelli in the first period and Dries in the third--but it didn't feel like 46 saves. Then again, I swore his career high in saves was something like 162 in the North Dakota game last year.

On Sunday, Michigan played their 3rd outdoor game in as many years and it wasn't so dissimilar from the most recent outing in The Big Chill. Michigan got out to a lead and pretty much cruised. Hunwick was strong between the pipes, and the top line put on an absolute show. Check out these numbers:
Chris Brown: 1-2--3, +3
David Wohlberg: 1-1--2, +4
Alex Guptill: 1-1--2, +4

On the blueline, Mike Chiasson and Kevin Clare were both +3 and Clare added a pair of assists.

Jon Merrill's only impact on the stat sheet was a single shot on goal. He had no points and was even on the night, but OSU Coach Mark Osiecki saw enough to call him the best defenseman in the country.

Brown kicked off the goal scoring. A shot from Clare hit him. With his back to the goalie, Brown collected the puck, spun around, and shot. Before the puck even left his stick, you could tell that one was going in. Shots like that are hard for a goalie to track, and we were sitting right behind the OSU net and could tell Heeter wasn't going to be able to get his legs closed.

Michigan made it 2-0 six minutes later on as pretty of a pass and shot as you might see all year. Heeter made the initial save on a Mac Bennett shot that probably going wide. He left the rebound out a couple of feet in front of him. Brown picked it up and threw a nifty little no-look drop pass to Guptill who just sniped one into the top corner over Heeter's glove. Guptill did a little "called strike three" motion after the goal.

The puck from that goal is actually going in my puck case. They were selling game-used pucks, including the Michigan goal pucks. I gave them my contact info and got a call today giving me first crack at which goal puck I wanted. As a puck collector, I'm really excited about that one! Not only was it the prettiest goal of the night, it was the game-winner to boot.

OSU drew back within one on a power play goal early in the second period. They nearly tied it a few minutes later, but a great shoulder save by Hunwick and a diving play by Pateryn to break up a 3-on-1 after a turnover kept Michigan ahead. The Wolverines iced the game with goals 28 seconds apart in the middle part of the frame.

The Buckeyes tried wrapping a puck around the boards and out of the zone, but Wohlberg stopped it on the sideboards. He shot it in front where Derek DeBlois was waiting to tip it past Heeter.

If that goal didn't take the wind out of the Buckeye sails, the next one surely did. David Wohlberg drove hard to the net and the puck kind of rolled off his stick, right underneath Heeter. That was it for the Buckeye goalie.

OSU outshot Michigan 11-10 in the third, but never really seemed like they had a prayer of getting back into the game. A couple of very late penalties gave them a 5-on-3, but the Wolverines were able to kill off the remaining time and head home with a 4-1 win.

Guptill and Wohlberg each have 3-5--8 lines in their last four games. Brown has 3-4--7. Between having a true top line, getting the best defenseman in the country back in the lineup, seeing Kevin Clare's confidence continue to rise after the GLI, and having Shawn Hunwick in net, it's easy to see why the Wolverines were able to sweep a highly-ranked opponent on the road. If the pucks start going in for the second line at some point--PDG has been all over the place lately and hasn't been rewarded--they're going to be a really dangerous team. If they aren't already.

The wins take Michigan up to #5 in both the PWR and the RPI. They're now in third place in the CCHA, but things have gotten a little thrown off because of games in hand.

It doesn't get any easier with the road games. Michigan will now head to South Bend to take on the co-#5 Fighting Irish. Friday night's game will air on the NBC Sports Network (fka Versus). Saturday will be on the CBS College Sports Network. Notre Dame is coming off a pair of losses to Western Michigan, but recently beat Minnesota and Boston University. More on them later in the week.

One thing to mention: I know people have made a lot of jokes about the crowd, but I thought the Frozen Diamond Faceoff was a really great event. The announced attendance was probably pretty close to legit, Progressive Field is beautiful, the weather was perfect, and so was the outcome. I don't know for sure, but I'd imagine that they made pretty good money on that one. The rink was already installed for their Snow Days, so to have an even with ~25k (especially at those ticket prices) isn't bad at all. I'd go back again. I'd also like to give a tap of the stick to Angel in the pro shop for helping me out in landing the goal puck.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Winter Classic Closer to Reality; NHL Midterm Rankings Released

Picture this, but with Wings/Leafs maybe?
Photo: Tim Williams
As the Wolverines prepare to take on Ohio State outdoors this weekend, another outdoor game at the Big House may be drawing closer to reality.

Jeff Arnold, formerly of, reported for Yahoo that the NHL is in "advanced discussions" with the University of Michigan to host the Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium in 2013.

One source told Arnold that Dave Brandon was initially against the idea but "something happened to make it go from looking like it could happen to [a point where] it probably will."

It was also reported that the NHL will make an announcement by January 29th and that they said next year's event will "break records". It's hard to think of any non-sarcastic record that a game at Comerica Park would break, so it's sounding like the NHL at the Big House is a very real possibility.

A source also told Arnold that if the game does happen at Michigan Stadium, it will be the only event played. That makes sense, given that the GLI would be just a couple of days earlier, and that's a Detroit event.

In other news, the NHL released their midterm rankings for the 2012 draft. Seven future Wolverines appear on the list, with the highest-ranking player being Jacob Trouba.

Here is the list:
North American Skaters:
9-Jacob Trouba (6'2", 193 defenseman from the NTDP)
28-Phil Di Giuseppe (You know who he is)
31-Cristoval "Boo" Nieves (6'2.75", 184 forward from the Kent School)
82-Alex Kile (5'11", 189 forward from the Green Bay Gamblers)
157-Connor Carrick (5'11", 185 defenseman from the NTDP)
175-Justin Selman (6'0", 190 center from the Sioux Falls Stampede)

North American Goalies:
36-Jared Rutledge (5'10.5", 171 from the NTDP)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

LSSU 2, Michigan 2

Despite 34 saves from Adam Janecyk, the Wolverines fell
in another shootout. Photo credit: Bill Rapai

Adam Janecyk made 34 stops in his first career start, but it wasn't enough to get a win. Michigan led 2-1 after 2, but Buddy Robinson scored 2:58 into the third period and neither team was able to break the tie. The Lakers won the six-round shootout by a 2-1 margin to pick up the bonus point in the standings.

David Wohlberg scored his 50th career goal on a shot that deflected in off a Laker defender to give Michigan a 1-0 lead. The Lakers tied it up on a Ben Power goal, but Michigan regained the lead 13 seconds later on a Guptill back-hander.

Shots in the game were 37-36 Michigan. Janecyk made 13 stops in the third period to preserve the point for Michigan. According to some people on Twitter, Michigan had a lot of chances out of the gate in overtime but were unable to capitalize. Luke Moffatt scored the lone goal for Michigan in the shootout. Nick McParland had the shootout winner and was the #1 star one night after being LSSU's best player in a losing effort.

The Wolverine power play continued to struggle, going 0-for-3 on the night and managing just two shots on goal. According to Red, the unit is "a work in progress, but there is not a lot of progress".

Michigan now sits in a 3-way tie for ninth in the PWR and is 10th in RPI. This weekend they'll take on the #2 Ohio State Buckeyes. Friday night's game is in Columbus and will be on the Big Ten Network. Sunday's game is the Frozen Diamond Faceoff at Progressive Field in Cleveland. That game will air on Fox Sports Detroit Plus.

In other news, David Wohlberg and Alex Guptill were awarded CCHA Player of the Week honors. Wohlberg's 2-3--5 was enough to win the offensive player of the week award, while Guptill was the freshman of the week with his 1-3--4 effort against LSSU.

Boo Nieves's rights were traded to Saginaw as part of a deal for Jamie Oleksiak. It's not Windsor or Kitchener, at least!

JMFJ scored a goal last night and Tebowed after he put the puck in. (See the link for the video.)

Red told The Michigan Daily that both Hunwick and Guptill should be ready for this weekend. Guptill took a "vicious slash" (no penalty, of course) during Saturday's game.

With the 4-point weekend, Michigan sits 7th in the CCHA, 1 point out of fifth, two points out of fourth, and just four points out of second (though the two teams in second have two games in hand). Also Ferris State is one point behind the Wolverines and they have two games in hand. That makes for quite a log-jam in the middle of the pack, and quite a race for the final byes in the first round of the CCHA Tournament. (I previously said there were 3, but there are 5. I forgot that 4 plays 5, but it's in the second round.)

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.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

LSSU Preview

Michigan's run through the gauntlet begins with a pair of games at home against the LSSU Lakers. The Lakers are having a good season by most teams' standard, but a fantastic season by their standard. Jim Roque's team hasn't made the NCAA Tournament since Jeff Jackson left after the 1995-96 season, but right now they sit in a tie for 13th in the PWR.

The Lakers are 12-8-2 on the year and a solid 6-3-2 on the road. They were 8-2-0 in the first ten but have hit a bit of a rough patch since then. Not quite Michigan November rough, but they won just two of their next nine games (not counting a shootout win). They've won two of the past three, not including an exhibition win over Western Ontario their last time out.

They swept Michigan State, they swept Miami at Miami, they split with NMU, and they split with Notre Dame. So they've had some good performances against some good hockey teams. They got swept at Ohio State, but one of the losses was 2-1.

They've been cold more often than not offensively. They average 2.68 goals per game, which is 36th in the country. They've been held to two or fewer goals in 10 of their last 14 games. They're 14th nationally in team defense, though, giving up just 2.45 goals per night.

As usual, they're very rarely penalized. They only take 9 PIMs per night, which is 57th out of 58 teams. They've only been shorthanded on 79 occasions this year, and they're very effective when they are shorthanded. They rank 5th in the country in PK at 88.6%. The power play is middle of the pack at right around 20%. So LSSU has a definite advantage on special teams, at least if the rest of the season is an indication.

They're led offensively by Domenic Manardo, who has an 8-12--20 line. Four of his eight tallies have been game-winners. Only four players in the country have more game-winners. LSSU also has a pair of 10-goal scorers in Nick McParland and Kyle Jean. Defenseman Zach Trotman has 6 goals (4 on the PP) and 14 points.

It's been Kevin Kapalka in net most of the way for the Lakers. He's 11-6-2 with a 2.45/.916. Sophomore Minnesota State transfer Kevin Murdock doesn't have the record (1-2-0) but he has a 2.02 goals against and a .927 save percentage. He was strong in the 2-1 loss to Ohio State and played in the Catamount Cup championship game against RIT in their last game that counted. I would think that we'll see Kapalka, but it wouldn't be a major shocker to see Murdock either.

In the series, the Wolverines have won the past 13 meetings. The Lakers haven't beaten Michigan since February of 2007. Let's hope that continues. Prior to this most recent winning streak, the teams were tied in the all-time series.

David Wohlberg has 3-5--8 in 8 career games against the Lakers. Luke Glendening has seven points over that span. Shawn Hunwick is 3-0-0 with a 1.33/.947 in his appearances against LSSU. Kevin Lynch had 3-1--4 in the two games last season.

Friday night's game will air on FSN Detroit+. Saturday's game will be on Comcast.

Monday, January 02, 2012

GLI Champions! Michigan 3, FYS 2 (ot)

The 47th edition of the Great Lakes Invitational ended in dramatic fashion. The Wolverines battled back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits against the Michigan State Spartans, scoring a goal in the final minute of regulation before winning it in overtime.

I only got to see the third period and overtime. The Spartans outshot Michigan 11-7 in the first period, but outside of a few checks it didn't sound like anything was overly noteworthy. The Wolverines had a great chance on a two-on-one with Wohlberg and Brown. Wohlberg got the pass across, but Palmisano made a great stop on Chris Brown.

In the second period, it was the Wolverines outshooting the Spartans by the same 11-7 margin, but the Spartans got on the board first. Tanner Sorenson beat Hunwick over the glove. Based on Hunwick's reaction, it looked like it probably tipped off the defenseman on the way in.

The third period was not too dissimilar (except in reverse) from the second period of the BC game the day before. The Wolverines outshot the Spartans 24-3 in the third period, but Michigan State managed to get a goal out of it.

The game would remain 1-0 until just past the halfway point of the third period when Derek DeBlois broke the shutout. Palmisano left a rebound on a Kevin Lynch shot and DeBlois muscled it into the net. It was one of those plays where the puck is sitting there, the net is open, and it seemingly takes FOREVER for the player to put it in. He did, though, and the game was tied....

....briefly. Just 2 1/2 minutes later, Walrod brought the puck into the Michigan end and dropped a pass toward the net for Brett Perlini. Hunwick looked to be slightly off his angle and Perlini put a shot pass him on the short side.

The Wolverines continued to pepper Drew Palmisano with shots and finally got the break they needed with just over two minutes left in regulation when Brent Darnell was called for tripping. After a lot of possession and several shots on goal--Palmisano made one very nice shoulder save--Luke Moffatt got to a loose puck in the corner and centered it. Kevin Lynch tipped it past Palmisano to tie the game back up with 50 seconds left in regulation.

In overtime, both teams had their chances. Shawn Hunwick made a pair of fantastic saves to keep the Wolverines in the game in the middle section of the period. That was after he stopped Wolfe on a breakaway 20 seconds into the extra session. Just past the halfway point of the first overtime, Moffie got the puck by the left point. A Spartan aggressively charged the point and slid to block what he assumed would be a Moffie shot. Moffie moved to his left and eluded the Spartan. He walked in on goal and the Red Sea kind of parted. He had a lot of traffic in front of the net and would've had a great look had he decided to shoot. Somehow, he spotted a streaking Kevin Clare (just off the bench after Mike Chiasson went for a change). He slid the puck over to Clare and the defenseman had nothing but the back of the net to shoot at. He hit it, and Michigan had their second GLI Championship in a row and the fourth in the past five years!

Treais, Wohlberg and Clare were named to the All Tournament Team. Clare was named the MVP. It was kind of fitting that he'd be the guy to score the game-winner as he was as good defensively this weekend as he has been at any point in his Michigan career.

PDG, Pateryn, Moffatt, and Treais all had 5+ shots on goal in the game, as Michigan outshot FYS by a 48-25 margin. Pateryn also had 4 blocked shots in the game. Moffatt had a pair of assists and was a noticeable threat offensively the entire weekend.

So Michigan comes away with another GLI Championship and they also come away with two huge wins for their PWR ranking. Boston College and FYS were both ranked in the top 6 of the PWR and will more than likely remain TUCs all year. Michigan slid up to 13th in the PWR. They've since slid back to a tie for 15th, but I've got to believe the position is better than it was a week ago. They're 11th in RPI.

The Wolverines are 4-0-1 in their last five games and they're picking a good time to turn things around. The next six series on the docket are against LSSU (at Yost), at OSU (including the Frozen Diamond Faceoff, which I'll be attending!), at Notre Dame, Miami (at Yost), a road-and-Joe series against the Spartans, and at home against NMU. Those are the #13, #1, #4, #21, #10, and #9 teams in the PWR, respectively. And the worst team of the bunch is the one that has given Michigan a ton of trouble in recent years.

It's a tough stretch, but also a huge opportunity for Michigan to solidify their NCAA Tournament chances and home ice in the first round of the CCHA Tournament. They're 8 points out of a bye in round one which would be tough to make up, but they're just one point out of home ice in the first round of CCHAs. With the way they are playing right now and (hopefully) with their best player coming off suspension at some point in the near future, things are definitely looking up.