2/18/2011 – Michigan 6, Western Michigan 3 – 20-9-4, 17-7-1 CCHA
2/21/2011 – Michigan 5, Western Michigan 4 (OT) – 21-9-4, 18-7-1 CCHA
Sometimes being at a hockey game is an exercise in wishing you were watching the thing on TV where the camera angle is consistent and the replays are repeated ad nauseum. This is especially true at Yost, where events just happen and evaporate without the benefit of video replay.
An example: at the end of the first period the puck was behind the net and suddenly the ref was feverishly pointing at the puck in the net without the thing seemingly ever reaching a spot where that was physically possible. The ref went to check it out. A few moments later the part of Yost directly behind the penalty boxes stood up and craned their collective neck to see the review as I plotted to relocate there next year, and a few moments after that he waved the thing off.
Last year I would have had to trudge through the deep, useless recesses of the USCHO board to find out what happened. Five years ago a Saturday game against Western probably wasn't televised at all and no one would really ever know. Since it's 2011 I just pulled out my phone, tweeted at the Daily's hockey beat writer*, and found out within ten minutes that the puck had indeed gone into the net from behind the goal.
I didn't see it, though, and that's kind of the point of being a spectator.
Sometimes hockey collapses itself into a universe just for you. You have to be sitting along the sideline between the blue lines for this to happen. If you are, at certain points you can draw a perfectly straight line from you to the guy shooting the puck to the goal.
An example: when Michigan came back against Denver in the NCAA tournament I sat right behind the Michigan bench and watched Eric Werner plunge into the slot to flick a puck over Wade Dubielewicz** to tie the game. I saw it the whole way and my mind blew up.
I shelled out for old fogey seats this year so when Lee Moffie entered the zone I saw Hagelin behind him and thought Moffie should drop it, and he did, and there were two seconds left so there's only one thing for Hagelin to do, and as he let the shot go and I drew a straight line from me to him to the net as the puck slid past the defenseman clean and rose. I could see where it was heading, see the goalie throw his glove at it but not get there in time, see the puck ricochet the right way as the great clank filled the building. It was one of those moments where the angel comes down from heaven and says "you there—God has selected you to have the deep-seated, socially awkward fandom of the concealed lunatic." It was pure.
And while I've been craving video boards at Yost for years there's something beautiful about not having the thing you just experienced altered by someone else's perspective. Since the Werner goal isn't on youtube no one can tell me he wasn't wielding a scimitar, wearing an eyepatch, and screaming "hhhhhyarrrrr" as he swashbuckled towards the net. I'm pretty sure the unicorn he was riding was named Steve.
Those days are over—see the youtube clip above—but thanks to Carl Hagelin Yost got one last opportunity to walk out of the building buzzing about the thing that just happened in your head, and only your head.
*[Michael Florek was beaten to the punch by the Hoover Street Rag.]
**[Google's spellchecking was heroic here: I typed "wade dublevicz."]
mfan_in_ohio has again broken down the pairwise so I'll just point you to his analysis. Michigan flew up to sixth after the sweep, but it is a tenuous, tenuous sixth. Here's why:
That's Ohio State barely nosing above .500 in RPI after taking a win and a tie from LSSU. Michigan's 3-1 record against the Buckeyes thus counts in the TUC category. This tiny difference in the season of a single opponent swings comparisons against Boston College and UNO. If OSU had split over the weekend Michigan would be eighth and we'd be wondering what a man has to do to get some respect around here.
As it is, OSU's nose getting over the line combined with a couple of wins over a WMU team that did well in its nonconference schedule gets you halfway to a one seed in one weekend. That and a lot of help elsewhere—Dartmouth, RPI, UMD, UNO, and Denver all lost over the weekend. Denver lost to Michigan Tech(!), which is huge because that's a common opponent and a terrible team.
While this is almost Michigan's ceiling, the stumbles of Denver and UMD have opened the door to the last one seed. Michigan easily beats Denver in COP now and is within striking distance in both TUC and RPI—outperforming them by a game down the stretch will do it. UMD, meanwhile, is close enough in RPI to drop if they lose and the six remaining regular season games between the two teams are all common opponents—NMU for Michigan, CC and UNO for UMD. If they take those two comparisons and Ohio State and Ferris can walk the tripwire so that both of them finish the season under consideration, they can slide up to fourth. This will take some luck but if Michigan sweeps Northern and wins the CCHA playoffs I think they'll be 50-50 for the one-seed.
- OSU plays Ferris this weekend and can remain in the TUC zone by splitting. However, sweeping will actually put Ferris about where OSU is now, leaving them vulnerable to dropping out in the CCHA playoffs. You probably want a split here but root for OSU on Friday because they're more vulnerable. You want both of these teams to do well in the playoffs.
- You hate Denver and Minnesota-Duluth with the burning fiery passion of a thousand suns.
- Also Boston College and UNO.
Everything else is up to Michigan.
It's Michigan and Notre Dame with ND maintaining a one-point lead. They have a home-and-home with this Western team; Michigan goes to Northern. Agonizingly, neither game in Marquette is televised. Michigan will win the tiebreaker if the teams end up even in points.
Non-bullets of !!!
Kind of mad, kind of awesome. Shawn Hunwick was not so good this weekend. On Friday it didn't result in much damage because the team had already gotten the other guy's goalie pulled but on Saturday he was off on both of the breakaways. They were breakaways so it's hard to be too mad but he gave up a weak five hole goal on the first and was way too deep in his net on the other. On the other hand, this is what he tweeted immediately afterwards:
Thank you Carl Hagelin for saving my ass. Great senior class. We had a phenomenal four years.
It wasn't that bad. We still love you and the fact that on shots from the point you end up halfway to the blue line.
Also, Hunwick made three clutch, clutch stops in the third period Saturday.
Need moar Swede. There needs to be another Swedish guy on the team ASAP. We've got the flag, we're very enthusiastic about the word "Bork"—let's make this happen.
Muppets. I totally should have muppetsed. Sorry. I had some people over afterwards and it slipped my mind.
With an assist to Lee Moffie. Moffie's fought for playing time most of the year despite having quite a knack for scoring because he's not that great defensively. Late in the third period as Michigan was trying to tie, however, he was ridiculously good. He's at his best when it's desperate and he can pinch and use his skill and wheel around the zone.
Other defensemen. It was a weekend full of defenseman thoughts:
- Greg Pateryn had a goal and three first assists on Friday. He essentially beat WMU by himself. As a bonus he would have had a fourth assist if you could assist on your own goals—he made an excellent play to control the puck and make a cross-ice pass in to the zone to set up the scoring chance. He still gets too aggressive at the blue line.
- Jon Merrill was really really good Friday—my friend just kept saying "he's really really good"—and then had probably his worst game as a Wolverine Saturday. It wasn't just the breakaway; he probably had more turnovers Saturday than in any two games he'd played this year.
- Mac Bennett is now leading the rush like 25% of the time there is one when he's on the ice.
What does he have to do? Lindsay Sparks was fast out there and looked as dangerous as he usually does. He hasn't put up much in the way of points but I'm continually surprised he can't get in the lineup regularly.
Exploding Lynch. Two on Friday, then two very fancy moves to get to his forehand Saturday. After the first I thought "that's the most dangerous thing he's done as a Wolverine" even though the shot was stopped; he did the same thing a period later and scored. Let's throw everyone down on the fourth line.
BONUS. Googling for Denver goals did turn this one up:
I'm hoping Hagelin channels Ortmeyer in his final games at Michigan.
As the crowd honored the seniors after the game, the Swedish flag that has flown at Yost for three seasons was tossed over the glass to Hagelin. The students had passed it around throughout the game, autographing it and writing thank yous and words of encouragement to our Super Swede.
I wondered what all the stuff on it was. Also: this is a bonus from having Senior Night on a weekend where the students aren't on break.
On what Berenson said to Carl when he gave him a hug after the game… Well, I just told him “Aren’t you glad you came to Michigan? And aren’t we glad that you came?” And good for him. He set a standard here. He’s been a terrific kid, student, player, teammate—you know, just a terrific kid. It’s the first Swedish player we’ve had and we’ll always remember him.
2013 commit JT Compher will join the NTDP, which should lock him up for college—it also suggests he's a high-end guy.
|WHAT||WMU @ Michigan|
|WHERE||Yost Ice Arena
Ann Arbor, MI
|WHEN||7:35 PM Fri/Sat|
|THE LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
|TELEVISION||Friday: Comcast Local
(Friday replay: noon
Sat on NHL Network)
hey, baby, what do you say we go back to my place and become not terrible at hockey?
Record. 15-7-10, 9-6-9 CCHA. The Broncos fired Jim Culhane in the offseason and, like Notre Dame after firing Dave Poulin, immediately got a lot better after canning their long-term incompetent. After years and years of hanging out in the basement with Bowling Green with one of the nation's worst goals against average, the tie-happy Broncos are in a tier by themselves after conference leaders Michigan, Notre Dame, and Miami. They're the only team other than those three to have a positive goal differential in conference(+9). They're fourth in conference, three points clear of Ferris and six clear of the massive pack of basically .500 teams.
Of course, that might have something to do with the Broncos insanely back-loaded schedule: their last three weekends are against Michigan, Miami, and Notre Dame with five of six on the road. Last weekend was the Miami series, in which Western got a tie and a loss.
Previous meetings. No meetings this year. If you're looking for a gauge of how they've done against Michigan-esque competition, WMU swept ECAC power Union, split an earlier home and home with Notre Dame, and is 0-2-2 against Miami. They are dangerous.
Dangermen. There isn't a ton of danger on the roster, but senior center Max Campbell has 13-12-25 against just four penalties and freshman Chase Balisy has 11-16-27 against just four. After those guys it's an array of players with seven or fewer goals.
Unlike Michigan's last few opponents, Western does have a threat from the blueline in sophomore D Matt Tennyson. Tennyson has 7-9-16 and will be someone to look out for on the power play, where he's scored six of his goals. That leads the team.
Defense and goalie and whatnot. The fruits of firing Jim Culhane in one handy table, this detailing the career of starting goaltender Jerry Kuhn:
Kuhn is a 24-year old who has scuffled along doing not much over the course of his career as Riley Gill's backup.Gill was talented, but by the end of the year he'd been covered in enough rubber to [ANALOGY REDACTED] as WMU slid towards an eight-win season. This year Kuhn started on the bench behind Nick Pisellini, a Quinnipiac transfer, until he struggled and got injured, allowing Kuhn to Hunwick his way into the starting lineup.
So here's the thing about WMU: Pisinelli has a horrible .899 save percentage. Gill had a very good .923. Pisinelli's GAA is a half-goal better than Gill's was last year. Kuhn's 2.09 is on pace to set an all-time record for WMU as the Broncos—of all teams!—have cracked the top ten in scoring defense despite getting half of their goaltending from last year's version of Bryan Hogan. Jeff Blashill should be a slam-dunk CCHA coach of the year*.
Also you should regard the Bronco defense corps with respect no matter how alien this is. Their best guy is sophomore Luke Witkowski, a Lightning draftee (sixth round) who leads the team in +/- with +12 and penalty minutes with 46 (all minors). He's a big thumping stay-at-home sort who keeps a live bass in his room and has an outstanding hockey mullet. Watch to see if WMU tries to match him up with anyone in particular.
*[Culhane's best-ever CCHA finish in 11 years: fifth. Winning seasons: three. Last year: 8-20-8, 4-17-4 CCHA]
Special teams. This is another Blashill miracle:
|PP For / G||4.7||4.3|
|PP Ag / G||4.2||4.5|
Western never has an advantage in power plays. Unfortunately for the Broncos they're not doing much with that advantage. They've got the 42nd-ranked power play—actually worse than Michigan's—and their penalty kill is slightly below average. The two teams are tied at 81.2 percent. This looks like a push, with Michigan's slightly less depressing power play cancelling out Western's probability of getting more PP time.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Prepare for more of the same. This looks like another grind it out weekend where the newly assembled checking-plus-Scooter-domination line matches up against the team's top threats and hopefully allows the two scoring lines to outpace Western's second and third lines. Earlier in the year Balisy and Campbell weren't on the same line, but I can't find anything recent and assume that they're on the same one now. If not, the Hagelin line will probably match up with WMU's secondary scoring line.
Outscore with Moffatt/Wohlberg/Treais. They've been playing pretty well and they'll be up against bottom-six guys from Western. Michigan's main advantage is this line on the ice five-on-five.
DEFLECTIONS TO GLORY. What the bold said.
The Big Picture
The top of the CCHA is mired in a three-way tie for ninth in the Pairwise that Notre Dame wins on tiebreakers. Michigan can split their final four and enter the CCHA playoffs still in the at-large zone but it'll be scary if they do so. Winning three will at least see them tread water, and they'll enter the CCHA tourney a solid two seed if they get all four.
In other games, you should root hard for Ohio State and Lake Superior, both of whom are just below the new, stupid TUC cliff. Problem: they play each other this weekend. Lake Superior follows that up with Miami. OSU gets Ferris State. Since getting Lake State over the hump seems impossible, hold your nose and root for the Buckeyes. Getting that 3-1 record back in Michigan's TUC calculations would be big. Also root against MSU this weekend as they take on Alaska—Michigan does not want the Spartans sweeping their final four and entering the CCHA tourney with a shot at a .500 RPI. MSU closes with awful BGSU and will get to the magic number by winning their final four games.
The "usual root against anyone in Michigan's proximity" also applies: UNH, ND, UNO, UMD, Wisconsin, etc.
2/11/2011 – Michigan 3, OSU 2 – 18-9-4, 15-7-1 CCHA
2/12/2011 – Michigan 2, OSU 1 – 19-9-4, 16-7-1 CCHA
As with the basketball team, no grand soaring narrative bits as the hockey team did what it needed to do against Ohio State. They did in in the way they had to do it if they were going to do it. They further established themselves as a pretty good team that's obviously not great. They're going to have to deflect their way to glory.
On Friday an elderly gentleman sitting next to my friend said "there's just something missing with this team" out of nowhere—he was bothered—and my friend said "scorers" and that led to a conversation about all the various ways in which scorers are fun to have. I didn't participate. I sat there and thought "AAARGH" as Michigan almost scored on a dozen cross-crease passes. I've gone from missing TJ Hensick to missing Andy Hilbert to missing Brandon Kaleniecki, and now I'm missing all of them. Michigan can't score on two on ones, one-timers, or pucks that skitter a foot from the goalmouth*. At the same time their defense is probably the deepest and best Red's ever had. Watching them play is persistently odd, which is why old Midwesterners break with the strong and silent bit to complain to people they don't know.
The line revamp was interesting. Vaughn, Rust, and Glendening got the start on Friday, which was odd until it became clear that Red was matching that line against the Alberts/Somma line that provides the bulk of OSU's offense. That left Hagelin/Caporusso/Brown and Moffatt/Treais/Wohlberg against weaker competition. I'd say that's getting the bulk of Michigan's scoring away from top lines and allowing them to be more offensive minded, but Scooter scored his tenth of the year on Friday. So I can't. That's the idea, though.
It seemed to work for the Wohlberg line. All those guys have some skill and Moffatt and Treais seem to be taking steps forward as the season progresses. Treais is now doing a couple of noticeably skillful things per game and Moffatt has had at least one shift in the last four games where I thought to myself "that's a really good shift"; they were the only two to come out of the Miami weekend with any credit. Moffatt opened the scoring in the 2-1 win Saturday, with Treais getting the first assist, and if Michigan can keep them out there against third lines they should outscore on the regular.
Hagelin and Caporusso were a little awkward but got goals even if they rode up a defenseman's stick or were unscreened shots that went five-hole or… well… you know the drill by now. A lot of Michigan's goals are weird bounces of the puck. They win by getting more opportunities at weird bounces against teams that can't break down their D.
So it goes. Three series left (including the playoffs), two against bad to very bad opponents, two at home, a tourney bid all but assured—feels like biding time until Michigan gets an opportunity to reprise their phoenix act from last year.
*[For those who don't remember Kaleniecki, imagine a 5'9" Thomas Holmstrom. This about sums it up:
I'm not sure he ever scored a goal from more than three feet, but despite that he always hit double digits by the end of the year. The definition of a mucker. Also he scored this very silly goal.]
With a couple weeks left in the regular season it's now feasible to look at the PWR with an eye towards its final incarnation. This is where I'd go into the individual comparisons and fish out which were gone and which were flippable but mfan_in_ohio has already done so.
The upshot: Michigan's only lost three comparisons irrevocably and has at least a slim shot at the rest. Realistically, comparisons against BC, Denver, and a few others are longshots dependent on a precise set of results Michigan has no control over. The reasonable best-case scenario is to move up from 9th to 6th or 7th, snagging a two-seed and removing any chance Michigan would play North Dakota or some other high-power WCHA team in the first round.
This year's a weird one as far as desired seedings go. Yale and Union are doing very well nationally—even schedule-obsessed KRACH likes them—but the ECAC hasn't had a national contender in a decade and I'm not sure how I'd feel if Michigan ended up eighth and got bracketed with Union with (presumably) Yale to follow. I don't think I'd like it much. Even if Yale is playing weak competition they're the top scoring team in the country by a half goal and are outscoring opponents by 2.12 goals per game. That's a lot of goals per game. A schedule argument only goes so far when KRACH likes you without even considering the fact that you're not just beating teams, you're bludgeoning them.
Non-bullets and stuff
For the record. This is my 12th year at Yost and while I haven't been to every game I've been to the vast bulk. I've never seen a three-for-three night at Score-O before. Can anyone recall the last time that happened?
Conference race. Michigan is a point behind ND after they swept Bowling Green. Miami took four points from WMU and is tied with M but both of those teams will spend their games in hand. Despite being a point back Michigan should feel they've got a good chance. This weekend Michigan gets Western at home; ND gets Ferris on the road; the next weekend Michigan gets Northern on the road as ND plays a home and home with Western.
Where did they come from? Usually opposing fans are limited to the parents section and maybe a pocket or two in the endzone. That was the case Friday, but on Saturday there were lots of OSU fans—probably more visiting fans than I've seen since MSU was in its Mason heyday. Where did they come from? Why did they only show up Saturday? Should I carry around a voice recorder just in case this happens again so I have proof of the things that come out of their mouths?
Aggressive. OSU's coach was very aggressive when it came to pulling his goalie. Both nights Heeter left with about two minutes left and stayed out the rest of the game; OSU didn't score but didn't get scored on either. I've been bugging my buddy about this for much of the year when opponents get an opportunity: if you're down one and you get a power play with 3 minutes left or whatever, shouldn't you pull the goalie?
Pateryn: erratic. Greg Pateryn is probably driving the coaches crazy, as he's alternating Llewellyn-like aggression at the blue line that gives up odd-man rushes with great passes and backchecks.
Brown: scores. Also guh. I wasn't sure Brown's major was a good call but Yost Built had the benefit of replay and said it was "obvious," so okay. In the immediate postgame Red said he hadn't seen it but had "heard it was a legitimate major penalty in college. You can’t do that." Also, the night before I thought Brown was definitely getting the gate for his other boarding/charging/general naughtiness, so if that played into the refs decision that's understandable.
Chris Brown: please stop doing this. The naughtiness, not the scoring.
Yost Built covers the weekend in depth and raises an excellent point:
I'm starting to think that you could make a damn fine case for Shawn Hunwick as the first team All-CCHA goalie. He's third in wins, despite playing 7 fewer games than Pat Nagle and three fewer than Mike Johnson. He's second in GAA to Connor Knapp, second in save percentage to Will Yanakeff (who has only played in 9 games), and tied for first in shutouts. I could see giving it to Nagle as he's put up killer numbers and has barely gotten two goals per game of support, but Hunwick has been really fantastic for the Wolverines after a slow start (and it's not like we've given him a ton of goals lately either).
That's amazing. Red said Hunwick was the starter point blank before the weekend and after saving 55 of 58 shots he's done nothing to change that.