MTU 4, Michigan 0
For anyone who thought (or was hoping) that the 2-0 win over Western Michigan prior to the Christmas break would be a springboard to a more Michigan hockey-like second half, the GLI opener provided a nice dose of "Not so fast, my friend".
The Wolverines played a thoroughly uninspired game against Mel Pearson's Huskies and fell by a 4-0 score. Michigan Tech goalie Pheonix (sic) Copley had not given up fewer than three goals in a game the entire season, until the GLI where shut out the Wolverines and followed it up with a shutout against Western Michigan in the championship game.
I only saw about half of the game and the defensive-zone coverage was junk. Adam Janecyk showed that he wasn't immune to the piss-poor defense that's plagued Michigan this season no matter which goalie has been between the pipes.
The game actually started off pretty well. Michigan dominated the first five minutes and were denied by Copley on a couple of great chances. Then Michigan Tech came down and scored on their first real chance of the game. Jujhar Khaira brought the puck behind the net and was followed by a couple of Wolverines. No one covered Alex Petan streaking into the slot and he was left wide-open for an easy goal.
Treais had a good opportunity to tie the game up when he blocked a shot in the defensive zone and took the puck the length of the ice. Copley waited him out and then got a glove on his shot, however. The Techsters made it 2-0 with a power play goal off a great tip from Khaira on a David Johnstone shot. PDG nearly brought the Wolverines back within one in the waning seconds of the first period, but his shot at a wide open net was deflected by Steven Seigo.
Janecyk tried to keep the Wolverines in the game in the second as a nothing play turned into a breakaway, and he stopped the rushing MTU player. He made twelve stops in the second period and held the Huskies at bay until 4 minutes into the third when someone (Bennett I think) turned it over just inside the MTU blueline and it led to a 3-on-1 the other way. A pass got through to Petan, which turned it into more of a breakaway. He scored to make it 3-0. After that goal, Moffie got a penalty for reaching over the boards to hit Petan, who was doing a fly-by of the Michigan bench. MTU had five shots on the ensuing power play and eventually scored. That was all she wrote.
Michigan 5, Michigan State 2
Credit to the team, though...the next night, they took on Michigan State in the third-place game and they got themselves up off the mat and salvaged something out of the weekend with a 5-2 win. We've seen enough uninspired performances against Michigan State (which I don't get), even in the GLI (which I also don't get), where it would have been really easy to mail that game in. They got down 2-1, but then blitzed the Spartans for four goals in the third period. The best part was that most of the goals were by guys who needed some good things to happen for them offensively (or deserved to be rewarded, in Copp's case): Moffie, Copp, K. Lynch, PDG, and Hyman.
Moffie made it 1-0 a few minutes into the game on an odd-man rush where Treais was able to get him the puck streaking down the left side. The Spartans responded when Tanner Sorenson fought off a Clare check to sneak out in front of the net and slip a puck through Janecyk, on maybe the only goal of the weekend that Janecyk should have stopped.
Three minutes later, Clare couldn't chip the puck past a Spartan along the sideboards. Darnell won a battle for the puck and slid it out to RJ Boyd. He was uncovered and Janecyk stopped him, but Matt Berry pounced on the rebound for his 11th on the year.
The Wolverines tied it up 1:29 into the third on a play that looked very similar to their first goal. Three men were up, Hyman with the puck, but instead of going cross-ice to T. Lynch, where Moffie was earlier in the game, he went to the late man, Copp. Copp ripped a shot into the top part of the net for his second.
With the Wolverines on the power play just under a minute later, Treais's shot from the point hit post and sat in the crease. PDG's whack at the rebound was denied but it popped out to K. Lynch and he buried it to give Michigan another one-goal lead.
Michigan's fourth goal was one for the highlight reel. Moffatt spun off a check in the corner and brought the puck out toward the front of the net, down on one knee, with a defenseman sliding at him, he whipped the puck behind his back right on the tape to PDG, stationed at the backdoor. He lifted a shot past Hildebrand to give Michigan a 4-2 lead. I can't imagine there will be too many prettier passes than that this season.
Hyman added an empty-netter on a play where the puck never actually went into the net. A Spartan threw his stick to deny Hyman the tally, and the official correctly awarded the goal. Janecyk stopped 35 shots in the win. It was the first time since their last victory over the Spartans that Michigan scored more than 3 goals in a game.
The only downer of the game was AJ Treais being given 5 and a game for contact to the head late in the third period. He was suspended for a game by the CCHA and will thus miss Michigan's game against Bowling Green on Tuesday night.
NTDP 5, Michigan 3
Michigan's lone game this weekend was the annual exhibition against the crosstown kids from the NTDP. For the first time in the history of the series, the high schoolers earned bragging rights, downing the Wolverines by a 5-3 score.
On the bright side, Michigan signee Tyler Motte had a pair of goals to earn the #1 star of the night. Both of those were assisted by future classmate JT Compher, who was the #3 star of the game. Motte now has 12-9--21 on the season, good for second on the team in goals and points. Allen is tied with Motte with 21 points, and is fourth in goals and second in assists.
There were two other positives:
1) Two short-handed goals by Lee Moffie. Combined with his goal in the GLI, maybe that's a sign that he's breaking out of his season-long slump. Moffie has just 5 points this season and an even rating after he broke out for 32 points and a +22 a year ago. If he gets it going, that would be a major positive for any potential Michigan turnaround.
2) The return of Jon Merrill. From what I understand he didn't play very much--possibly only on the power play--but seeing #24 back out on the ice no doubt brought a lot of smiles from the Yost faithful. There are a lot of problems with this team and getting Merrill back won't fix them all, but adding one of the top players in the conference back into the lineup can only help.
I suppose Derek DeBlois should get a "positive" as well. He had 3 assists and was +3 on the night.
Jared Rutledge played the whole game in net and gave up five goals on 37 shots. Quick strikes were once again Michigan's downfall. After playing to a 2-2 tie through two periods, Michigan gave up two goals in 38 seconds to fall behind. Boo Nieves continued his strong play as of late by bringing Michigan back within one, but Trevor Hamilton scored (on an assist from Michigan signee Evan Allen) to ice it.
You can't get too down about an exhibition game, but it would have been nice to see more signs of life from a team that needs to put a few good performances together and get on a roll to dig their way out of this mess. While it was the first time USA has beaten the Wolverines, they've definitely come close before (against better Michigan teams to boot). There's no shame in losing to them--the NTDP has tied Minnesota, Notre Dame, and New Hampshire this year--but yeah. The Wolverines were, in fact, outshot 37-22 on the game, which isn't especially inspiring.
The US World Junior team captured the gold medal, and Jacob Trouba was a big reason why. He was named Best Defenseman in the entire tournament after scoring 4-5--9 in seven games and providing the US with strong play in his own end. His point total was good for fifth overall and tops amongst defensemen. He joins Erik Johnson and Joe Corvo as Americans who won the Best Defenseman award.
After a must-win game just to get out of the medal round, USA beat the Czechs 7-0 in the quarterfinals before slaughtering Canada 5-1 in the semifinals. They beat Sweden 3-1 to capture gold. Canada did not medal, though Don Cherry says that the US can thank the CHL for having beaten Canada, despite all five goals coming from NCAA players. So there's that, Canada.
Matt Tkachuk, son of 500-goal scorer Keith, visited Yost a couple of weeks back, but pledged a verbal commitment to Notre Dame earlier this week.
The Falcons are tied with Northern Michigan for last-place in the CCHA, with a 2-7-3-1 record (they have a couple games in hand on NMU though). They're 5-10-5 overall, but are actually 3-1-2 in their last six, with wins over Alaska, Niagara, and Canisius, and ties against Alaska and Canisius. Their lone loss in that span was against Notre Dame.
The Falcons haven't scored more than three goals in a game the entire season, and have just 20 in 12 conference games. They have scored 3 times in four of their last six games, however, so they're coming in playing the best hockey that they've played all season.
Their top five scorers are all sophomores. Ryan Carpenter leads the team in goals (6) and points (13). Dan DeSalvo has 11 assists on the year, and Mike Sullivan has added nine back on the blueline.
Andrew Hammond is 3-7-3 on the season with a 2.84/.913. Freshman Tommy Burke hasn't played much as of late, but he was in net for today's win over Canisius. He is 2-3-2 with a 2.23/.905. I'd expect to see Hammond, however. Last year Michigan got 8 pucks past him in three games, winning two, but Hammond had 46 and 55-save performances in the losses, the latter coming in double-overtime in the CCHA Semifinals.
Tuesday's game is at Yost and will air on the Big Ten Network (!). This is a key week for Michigan as they have three home conference games (the latter two are against Alaska) before going on the road for their next four and eight of the next ten, with the ninth at the Joe).