Saturday, February 02, 2013

Off the Mat: Wolverines Sweep the Spartans!

For the first time this year, the sweet sounds of "The Victors" have emanated from the Wolverine locker room. Michigan put together their first winning streak since the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th games of the season with a 3-2 win over the Spartans at Yost last night followed by a 5-2 win today at the Joe.

Boo Nieves, Derek DeBlois, and Phil DiGiuseppe were particularly awesome for Michigan this weekend. Nieves had a 3-2--5 line on the weekend, DeBlois scored three goals and was ridiculous on the PK, and PDG added five assists. 

Jared Rutledge was in net for both games and had a solid weekend. Two of the goals he allowed should have been stopped, but unlike previous games where a bad goal would snowball into 2, 3, or 4 in a period, he responded with some really nice stops and has clearly earned a spot between the pipes next weekend against Notre Dame. Michigan has only allowed fewer than 3 goals on 8 occasions this year, so it was nice to see it happen in back-to-back games for the first time all year. Also, it's worth pointing out that the Wolverines have only allowed more than three 15 times this year, but only once in the last five games. Progress. If you give up three or fewer you'll have a chance to at least be in the game. 

It was a late-arriving and fairly subdued crowd at Yost last night, and in the early-going the team matched the lack of enthusiasm of the fans. Rutledge made one nice stop in the early-going, but it took less than five minutes for the Spartans to get on the board last night at Yost. Serville had his pocket picked by Brent Darnell and Darnell lifted one up over Rutledge's glove from a sharp angle. 

Michigan started to turn the tide in the mid-to-late section of the period and ended up outshooting the Spartans 14-10 in the frame. DeBlois and Nieves were Michigan's two best players in the first period and it would later pay off for them.

Nieves mentioned that in the locker room, the team decided that this was the time where they would usually fall apart and it wasn't going to happen. The team came out in the second period and played what had to have been one of their top 5 periods of the season. The Wolverines only scored one goal, thanks to some great goaltending by Jake Hildebrand, but they outshot the Spartans 14-4 and largely took control of the game. 

Trouba rings one off the post
Photo: Tim Williams
The Wolverines swarmed the Michigan State net for large parts of the period. Trouba hit the post off a faceoff win, Moffatt nearly hooked up with Hyman just before Michigan's goal, and finally the Wolverines were able to capitalize. PDG kept the puck in the zone and got it over to Nieves in the middle of the ice. He slid a pass over to DeBlois who absolutely sniped one up into the top corner to even the game at one.

Before intermission, Sinelli had a partial breakaway but a nice play by the Spartan defense forced a shot wide of the goal. 

After the Children of Yost did their thing:

...the third period started with a bang as the teams combined for three goals in the first five minutes. A Spartan clearing attempt hit a teammate in the back and the puck stayed in the zone. PDG centered for Nieves who slapped it past Hildebrand. 

The Spartans answered less than a minute later, however. The Spartans won a battle in the corner and Kevin Walrod was able to get the puck to Jake Chelios just before he was hit by Mike Szuma. Chelios had a step on Rohrkemper and was able to pull the puck cross-crease and sneak it past Rutledge's pad to even the game again.

It took Michigan just over two minutes to get back on top. A big hit by Kevin Lynch in the defense end freed up the puck for Nieves. He sent it up-ice to PDG and the DiGiuseppe hit him streaking into the slot. He one-touched it past Hildebrand for his second of the game, sixth of the year. That would be all she wrote. Michigan was able to kill of a Spartan power play in the last few minutes.

The question then became how would Michigan respond? When they last defeated the Spartans at Yost, they followed it up by getting shelled the next night at Munn. They had three other chances to sweep a series but hadn't be able to finish the deal.

The game got off to a poor start as Moffie was whistled for a penalty--his fourth of the weekend--in the first twenty second. The PK again did their job, aided by two or three really nice saves by Rutledge, and the Wolverines were soon awarded a power-play of their own. DiGiuseppe's shot was turned aside, but Luke Moffatt was able to get three pops at the puck in front of the net, eventually shoveling one past Hildebrand to give Michigan a 1-0 lead. 

Mid-period, the puck once again didn't lie. Andrew Sinelli was whistled for charging on what appeared to be a good, hard check. On the ensuing power play, Derek DeBlois stole the puck from a Spartan, skated in, and destroyed Hildebrand's water bottle with a shot for his second snipe of the weekend. 

Hildebrand had a couple of big stops late in the period to keep the game from getting out of hand early-on. He made another great stop on Kevin Lynch early in the second, off a great feed from Guptill. With Michigan on the power play, a Moffie turnover led to a rush the other way and Forfar beat Rutledge 5-hole to cut the lead in half. Merrill slashed Forfar as he was coming in, and the Spartans got a power play on the "and-one". After the PK did their job again, Andrew Sinelli was behind the net and found Andrew Copp in the slot. Copp tapped it through the wickets to put Michigan back up by 2. Nice to see two of the hardest working guys in the business rewarded for their efforts!

The Spartans had the Wolverines on their heels for the last five-minutes or so in the period and they looked to grab some momentum as Wolfe dove for a loose puck and got it under Rutledge's pad. That one needed to be stopped. His pad got off the ice and the puck snuck underneath. A lot of times this season, Michigan has failed to respond in situations like this, but tonight they did and it was Derek DeBlois again. Moffie flipped a shot toward the net and Hildebrand left a soft rebound. DeBlois was there to knock it home and the Wolverines went into intermission with their two-goal lead in tact. 

In the third, Nieves had a chance at the side of the net but hit it into the side of the goal. Rather than try to stuff it in again with Hildebrand out of position and a defenseman closing, he opted to take the puck around the net and throw it out front. His centering attempt deflected off of Travis Walsh and bounced into the Spartan goal. 

The Spartans had a couple of looks after that, but nothing major. Michigan outshot FYS 45-28 in the game and got to celebrate their first sweep of the season with a 5-2 victory. Rutledge was named the third star of the game, which is really nice for him and has to do wonders for his confidence.

The Wolverines now head to South Bend, and it will be really interesting to see if this little spark can ignite a fire. They're getting the Irish at a good time. After a great start to their year, the Irish would actually miss the tournament if it started today. They snapped a five-game losing streak with a win over Ferris State last weekend, but they've lost 6 of 7 and 7 of 9 heading into tonight's action. Michigan lost 3-1 and 4-1 games to Notre Dame at Yost earlier in the year, but they were competitive in both of those games before fading late.

Talk of next week can wait. For tonight, the team just needs to enjoy their first sweep of the season and make sure it's not the last time this year that they get to sing "The Victors". 

In addition to the video above, I snapped a bunch of pictures this weekend with my Samsung Galaxy Note 2 and I'm pretty happy with how they came out. We were packed in pretty tight so it was nice to be able to just pull my phone out and get some quality shots when it was hard to dip into my pocket to get my camera out.


I love the guys on the back of the net

The anthem. This is the new background on my phone.


One of the best traditions in sports


Celebrating with Rutledge

Saluting the fans

It is a grand old barn

1 comment:

Brandon said...

I'd kill for that Michigan bubble hockey table