"My only hope is that the big Lebowski kills me before the Germans can cut my dick off."
2/6/2010 – Michigan 2, Wisconsin 3 – 16-13-1
When I first started following Michigan hockey, Michigan had this unbelievable streak of not giving up third period leads. It stretched back and back and back and was some ridiculous number that may have been in the triple digits and the last team to actually overcome a Michigan lead in the third period was Illinois-Chicago, a team that didn't even exist anymore.
That record fell by the wayside some time ago and now seems as distant of a memory as UIC hockey itself.
It's not like it's a surprise at this point but I'd really prefer a straight-up stomping to taking the lead in the third, thinking about a manageable stretch run if the team takes care of Bowling Green on Tuesday, dreaming about extending Michigan's record run of tourney appearances to 20, and then giving up two power play goals to the same guy in the same spot within a few minutes of each other.
If they'd just get run out of the building you can get over it and move on. The basketball team has had the decency to do so of late, releasing me from the obligations to care about Wisconsin's unconscious three-point shooting aside from instant reactions like "Jesus," "oh come on," "you cannot possibly be serious," and "did someone slip me LSD?" (Have you ever seen a guy launch a half-court shot and thought to yourself "oh God, that's going in too"? At one point in the second half I complained that Wisconsin was shooting 70 percent from three and thought I was wildly exaggerating to make a point; they were actually 11/15 at that point: 73 percent.)
I digress. The hockey team has made a specialty of this sort of thing. A late penalty doomed them against Ferris State. They managed to blow a one-goal lead against a dire Bowling Green team by conceding bang-bang third period goals. Bryan Hogan wandered out of his net to blow a tie with BU with 2:30 left. Hogan got pulled and his backup conceded what I hear was an unbelievably soft goal at the GLI. You've got an Alaska tie and the 5-4 win over State on the other hand, but the State win almost doesn't count since they blew a 3-0 lead to get themselves in the predicament they overcome. Michigan has lost ground late in games.
It's not really a surprise given the way the team has played. They're wildly variable, sloppy, penalty-prone, etc. But when the names get called on Hockey's selection show and Michigan is, in all likelihood, absent, it will be the last ten minutes of the third that did them in.
Michigan's dropped to 19th in RPI and 20th in the Pairwise. They have to win six of seven down the stretch to give themselves a chance, I think. They might be able to win five and then lose in the CCHA final, but that will be touch and go. Probably. The PWR has so much jitter that any prognostication more than a week or two from the end of the season is vague. It comes down to the TUCs.
- Apparently the Michigan coaching staff was very unhappy with the late penalties on Summers. MVictors tweeted Mel Pearson's response: "You won't see that call 9 out of 10 times." I don't know about that. Like Greg, I assumed Pearson was talking about the second call, when Summers was penalized for a routine defensive play when he was in good position. I thought the tripping call was legit.
- My main ref bitch is that Wisconsin should have had at least one guy gone for dangerous plays along the boards: the hit on Hagelin that was called a cross check should definitely been five and a game and the elbowing call Scooter took was borderline at best.
- No Lee Moffie? If you're going to put in Llewellyn, I guess that's fine, but Moffie's been playing really well and I'd think an error-prone Greg Pateryn would be the guy to get the gate. Maybe he got injured against BG.
- At this point how Louie Caporusso ever scored 24 goals is the mystery, not his season-long slump. His dangles don't work and he tries them all the time. He did have some nice forechecking moments against Wisconsin, but that's kind of the point, isn't it? Even if TJ Hensick had some crazy forechecks in a game no one would remember them because he would have done a bunch of other crazy stuff.
- Good for Scooter to get that goal; he's deserved it the way he's played this year. Might be playing himself into an A for his senior year.
- Torrent is here if you're a masochist or Wisconsin fan.
STANLEY CUP BABY PEERS INTO YOUR SOUL
STANELY CUP BABY: Hey.
TOM HAMMOND: Hey.
1/29/2010 – Michigan 2-ish, Michigan State 3-ish – 14-12-1, 9-9-1-0 CCHA
1/30/2010 – Michigan 5, Michigan State 4 – 15-12-1, 10-9-1-0 CCHA
I feel kind of bad that when you google former CCHA referee Kevin Langseth's name the first three hits are:
- A post on this blog titled "People Better At Their Jobs Than Kevin Langseth" featuring Stephen A. Smith, Carrot Top, the FEMA director during Hurricane Katrina, William Henry Harrison and, most lethally, Nickelback.
- A duplicate of that post with some useless html doohickeys on the end.
- A duplicate of that post from the Notre Dame message board that reposts my RSS feed in full.
Thanks to me, Langseth is in need of some serious online brand management. Then I go back and click the link to the Yost Built post which I let stand as explanation and the red mist descends and all I remembered is mustachioed walrus incompetence and I shake my head. That post came in the aftermath of a game against Ohio State in which 1) an OSU player kicked a goal in* and 2) a goal that banked in off Louie Caporusso's chest was inexplicably disallowed by Langseth despite the fact that there was a senior official in an excellent spot to make a call. Michigan lost by a goal. It was the second important game that year—a game against Notre Dame was the first— in which Michigan had lost by a goal in a game where two blatantly incorrect decisions to allow or disallow goals had gone against them.
Langseth hasn't been seen around Yost this fall; I assume he decided having rabid bloggers seriously damage his online brand wasn't worth it and is now in the nascent stages of a lucrative career selling mustache grooming accessories. The senior official in an excellent spot was Matt Shegos.
So now Michigan has a man-advantage with just over two minutes to go and a chance to pull off a huge comeback on the road. Just after the penalty expired, Chris Brown was standing in the slot. The puck hit him and bounced down, through the legs of Drew Palmisano, and into the net. Like, straight through the legs of Palmisano. We're not talking pinballing. We're not talking the puck died between his legs but was still loose and someone jammed it in. It hit Chris Brown, bounced down, went right through Palmisano into the net.
Shegos somehow missed this and blew the play dead within milliseconds of the puck going underneath Palmisano. The whistle may not have gone until the puck was in the net (I'm not sure), but thanks to the most retarded rule in sports--the play is dead when it's dead in the referee's mind, not when he blows the whistle--you can't review it.
Son of a.
What's the story of the weekend when Michigan claws back from 3-0 down to tie and manages to blow its own 3-0 lead only to charge back with a season-rescuing win at Joe Louis? "Hey, maybe we can do this thing." What's the story now? Yost Built, let your graphic stylings roam free!
That's inescapable. Michigan split the weekend and ended up dropping a slot in the pairwise. If we're looking at RPI, as we usually do this far out, the #14 team has a 0.5385. Here's what they have to do to approach that:
Win seven and a half of nine.
I don't even know what to say. Shegos is clearly the best ref in the league. He still made a huge, game changing error that was so far beyond plausible that I'd rather have the rotating cast of drafted linesmen and guys I've never seen before—the pool Langseth was taken from—in charge.
*(Since this rule changes every two months and is different in every league across the continent, let me clarify how egregious this was: at this moment in history the NCAA rule on kicking the puck in was "anything that touches an offensive player's skate and goes into the net as a result is disallowed." Intent, kicking motions, all that stuff: irrelevant. Skate –> net –> disallowed.)
Holy God was Michigan bad on Friday. Even getting in a position to tie that game was a minor miracle after two and a half periods had yielded maybe three or four scoring chances and probably double or triple that number for Michigan State. It was the reverse of the Ferris weekend, where Michigan played an excellent game Friday and a totally gross one Saturday. The Saturday Ferris and Friday State games were identical down to the final-ish score and the late, ultimately unsuccessful (-ish) Michigan comeback.
Hogan's save percentage speaks for itself. I've been arguing with people about how much culpability Bryan Hogan has for Michigan's crappy record all year, and I think the soft shortie against Ferris and the fat rebounds he kicked out all weekend against State are evidence enough that the reason Hogan has a .902 save percentage—54th nationally of 77 qualifying goalies—is mostly that he's not playing well.
The other idea was that Michigan gives up a small quantity of high quality shots. That may have some truth to it, but every study that serious hockey bloggers have undertaken suggests that relative save percentage is a seriously meaningful way to compare goalies, and Hogan is not doing well in that.
Persons of note. I don't think Chris Brown's at the point where he could pull a Pacioretty and leave just as he turned into a ninja, but I am a little concerned the NHL will look at his corner-friendly frame and willingness to take a beating in front of the net and scoop him up before his time. Except—hey—he's a Coyotes draft pick. The 'Yotes are either cheap or patient or wise or all three and have left their last three Michigan draft picks in school for all four years. That might not be a huge surprise with Kevin Porter or Chad Kolarik, both mid-round picks, but Chris Summers was a first-rounder. First round picks who play four years at Michigan are rare indeed.
Anyway, the reason to fret is that Brown's been the most effective freshman forward on the team in a way unfamiliar to Michigan fans: by being huge and ornery. The last Wolverine to score so many dirty crease goals was Brandon Kaleniecki. Kaleniecki was a highly effective player over the course of his career at Michigan despite not having the talent Brown does—Kal was never drafted and never made it out of the ECHL post-college—and a huge version of him seems like a nice player to have around for four years. He's already displayed more scoring touch than Eric Nystrom ever did, if only because he'll put his nose in wherever it needs to go and is handy with a deflection.
Summers, meanwhile, finally put his speed to good use on a rush that got AJ Treais an easy tip-in goal. I don't think he's lived up to expectations as a senior captain—he's been good, but seems far short of the All-American level you'd expect a senior first-round pick would reach.
Weekly Oh My God, Are We Going To Miss The Tourney update was actually covered above in the midst of near-weekly If I Was As Bad As My Job As CCHA Referees Are I Would Be Drew Sharp rant: Michigan's split with Michigan State did zero for them. They are basically where they were before the Ferris State series with four fewer opportunities to drag themselves out of the muck.
This week: must sweep BGSU in the weird split series and a win over Wisconsin would be a huge help.
|WHAT||Michigan v. Michigan State|
|WHERE||Friday @ Munn Ice Arena
Saturday @ Joe Louis Arena
|WHEN||Friday @ 7:05PM EST
Saturday @ 7:35PM EST
January 29/30, 2010
|THE LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
|TELEVISION||Friday on Big Ten Network
Saturday on FSD (HD!)
Record. 16-8-4, 11-5-4-1 CCHA. #13 PWR. #11 KRACH. Currently second place with 38 points. Michigan is ten points back in seventh, but has two games in hand. 18th in PWR, 16th KRACH.
The Spartans have done most of their damage against weaker opponents. Outside of the previous series with Michigan, the Spartans are 1-6-3 against teams under consideration—the top 25 in RPI. The first two teams out right now are CCHA teams MSU is 2-1-1 against, though. In any case, Michigan State has been decidedly mediocre against quality competition and lethal against 1) bad teams and 2) Michigan. KRACH has their schedule strength 23rd; Michigan is 17th.
State's been streaky. Their recent streak is the bad sort, as they've gone 1-2-2 in their last five and now find themselves squarely on the NCAA bubble. If the season ended today everyone would be very surprised and State would either be one of the last teams in or first teams out depending on how the conference tournaments went.
Before that, State ripped off five straight wins, albeit against BGSU, Michigan Tech, RPI, and Lake State. Only one of those teams—Lake State—is not bad, but Michigan's managed to lose to two of the bad ones this year so hurray.
Dangermen… literally. Well, you're not going to like this except as an example of Michigan State's willingness to tolerate anything, but Corey "Practicing My Golf Swing On Your Head" Tropp is Michigan State's leading scorer. By all rights he should be in the CHL with his goon buddy or playing a year in the USHL in preparation for a transfer somewhere far away, but Second Chance U doesn't care what you did the first time around.
Anyway. Tropp has a 17-19-36 line and, though he hasn't scored in a while has continued to pile up assists. Freshman Derek Grant has 10-17-27 and junior Andrew Rowe has 11-10-21. From there it's a pile of guys with five or so goals. Nick Sucharski has seven but appears to be a minimal threat outside of the power play, where he's got five.
Michigan will attempt to match Hagelin against the Tropp line as often as possible, I'm assuming. They are the home team at the Joe this year so they'll get one night where that's a possibility.
Defense and goalie and whatnot. It's been a weird year for Michigan State, which has plenty of 0, 1, and 2 goal games to its credit but also gave up five to Maine, seven(!) to Wisconsin, and has yielded 18 goals in this recent rough patch. For the first time in the history of the universe, Michigan is scoring less and giving up fewer goals than State.
Spartan goalie Drew Palimsano isn't quite at the level of Ferris State goal Pat Nagle, but he's not that far off. He's in a three-way tie for 7th in save pecentage with a .927; Brian Hogan improved last weekend to .906 despite giving up a really terrible shorthanded goal.
On defense, Jeff Petry has rebounded from a dire sophomore season to post 3-18-21 and has actually gotten his plus minus above zero (+5) after his epic –31 last year, but it's a couple of younger players—sophomore Matt Carndell and freshman Zach Josepher—leading the defensemen in +/- at +10 and +11, respectively. (Yes, yes, +/- is a pretty dumb stat, but it's all we've got for college hockey.)
Special teams. Power plays for and against:
|PP For / G||5.4||5.8|
|PP Ag / G||5.2||5.4|
Michigan has a slight advantage, but only slight. When it comes to the specialty units' efficiency, though, Michigan has a clear advantage. Their penalty kill has slipped to 5th nationally but Michigan State's is basically average at #24. Neither powerplay is gang busters but Michigan does have a slight advantage, converting 19.7% of its opportunities to Michigan State's 18.5. State has also given up two more. Michigan is +1 in shorthanded goals; Michigan State is even.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Be careful in the neutral zone. State tends to back off on the forecheck pressure in favor of sitting in passing lanes when you try to break out and Michigan's been pretty turnover-prone this year. They're also short on guys who can stickhandle past the first opponent and open up space—that's basically Chad Langlais and zero other players—so dumping the puck might be a frustratingly common occurrence. Or, worse, not dumping the puck and turning it over in a dangerous spot.
I'm extra concerned about this after the last weekend, where the Friday night game was acres of open ice and cross-ice passes galore. Those things will get picked off against State.
Be seriously aggressive on the forecheck. State's defense corps consists of Petry (a junior) and six freshmen or sophomores. With Michigan's speed up front they can probably force their share of crippling turnovers or draw some penalties.
Keep your composure. Always difficult against MSU, worse when Tropp is going to be out there, worse still when you've dropped the last two against them and are playing for your season, essentially.
The Big Picture
This is the biggest series left in the season for many reasons. One: it's Michigan State. Two: a sweep puts the MSU-UM pairwise comparison back in play; anything short of that and Michigan basically can't win it unless the two teams meet in the CCHA playoffs. (And even then Michigan will probably have to get three points this weekend.) Three: Michigan can drop two, maybe three games in the eleven they have left and still have a reasonable chance of a bid without a CCHA tourney championship. Aside from the Wisconsin game, these two are the toughest left on the docket.
So… basically like last week: a split does nothing good or bad for Michigan, which is bad when you're on the wrong side of the bubble. A win and a tie helps but not nearly as much as a sweep.
The goal differential says "split"…
Team GP GF GF/G GA GA/G MARGIN
8 Michigan State 28 92 3.29 67 2.39 0.89 9 Michigan 26 81 3.12 58 2.23 0.88
…but performance since the holiday break gives Michigan some hope that they'll come away with something more than that. Also, Michigan's put up that margin against a slightly tougher schedule. Then again, performance in the previous series argues they won't do better.
Rick Comley said that he didn't think this was happening, but apparently it is:
Michigan and Michigan State will take their hockey rivalry to another level in December when they play outdoors at the Big House.
The deal was recently finalized, a U-M official said, and the Wolverines and Spartans will take the ice at Michigan Stadium on Dec. 11 at 3 p.m.
A game at Michigan Stadium would shatter the hockey attendance record—still held by the first Cold War, but under threat later this year—if it sells out.
1/23/2010 – Michigan 2, Ferris State 0 – 14-10-1, 9-7-0-1 CCHA
1/24/2010 – Michigan 2, Ferris State 3 – 14-11-1, 9-8-0-1 CCHA
I think I've come to this conclusion about the Saturday game, in which Michigan tied it up with two minutes left only to concede a game losing goal with under thirty seconds on the clock: GODDAMMIT.
In a little more detail, perhaps. There's no shame in losing to a Ferris State team that basically lived up to their advance billing as a very good team, but it's super frustrating when the three goals scored are
- a terribly soft short-handed goal on a nothing play
- the direct result of a really obvious tripping call, and
- in the final minute of the game.
If Michigan had done better than .500 in the first half of the season it would be easy to let the game go as a combination of misfortune, an excellent opponent, and a tough road venue, but they didn't. The thing stands as a giant missed opportunity in a season that doesn't have many left.
This post probably should be focusing on the full two-minute 5-on-3 kill and a weekend in which Michigan proved itself equal to a team that's solidly in the tournament, but it's hard to do anything but fret when your RPI is in the high teens and you're flirting with the end of a 20-year run in the NCAA tourney. Does Mel Pearson look nervous above or am I projecting? Does it matter?
The great reversal. What a weird series. Despite the 2-0 final score, the Friday game was full of end-to-end rushes and wide open play, with both teams just missing on a number of pretty passing plays. And despite the three extra goals on Saturday, that night's game was a slog where I don't recall a single scoring chance for Michigan in the first period. I don't know if Michigan's breakout caught Ferris by surprise or what, but it was weird. I was shocked that a team with defensive numbers like Michigan State in all its dead-puck Ron Mason glory would get into an end-to-end game like that.
Part of the deal Friday night was a very fast Ferris team pressing hard after they fell behind, which resulted in a lot of open ice—but few odd-man-rushes—once Michigan broke the pressure. When Michigan returned to the ice in the third just looking to close it out, that period became very boring. Saturday was mostly Michigan chasing thanks to the uber-soft shortie. With this team, I buy that first-goal-all-important stuff. The last two weekends are plenty of evidence.
People of note. I thought it was odd that Scooter Vaughn sat out last weekend in favor of freshman Jeff Rohrkemper and still think it's odd after Vaughn got back on the ice against Ferris and played very well, picking up a first assist on Friday and generally being the sort of fourth-liner that gets noticed for positive contributions. I guess you want Rohrkemper to know he's going to get in some games and if you're going to scratch one of the forwards it's probably going to be Scooter.
Louie Caporusso continues to struggle mightily. He's scored once in the past nine games. He has tried 60 spectacular dangles in that time, 58 of which have ended in pucks turned over in dangerous areas. The other two were admittedly pretty sweet scoring chances. I'm worried about him and also AJ Treais, who certainly seems like he should be putting up more points. He's not, and the longer he goes without having something click the less likely it is to ever happen. See also: Ben Winnett.
Greg Pateryn drew in for MGoWhippingBoy Tristin Llewellyn and was just okay. He didn't take any bad penalties but there was one incident where even a relative hockey neophyte like myself could see that he was moving the wrong direction like five seconds before a really poor attempt at a check was blown by and created a two-on-one. Lee Moffie, on the other hand, is super smooth and impresses more each game.
Bryan Hogan… ghaahahhah. Gah.
On that tripping call and other things. I didn't have a lot of complaints Friday night about the refereeing except for Steve McInchak's usual determination to let every post-whistle cheapshot go unpunished, but I also did not have the benefit of replay. Seemingly every call for and against Michigan in the Saturday game was wrong, most comically the Chad Langlais penalty where he took a holding the stick call after he'd established position in a race for the puck and bodied a Ferris player off so that his defense partner could collect the puck. I don't recall the bad calls on Ferris as specifically, but I remember thinking to myself
And then there was the second goal, where David Wohlberg was tripped coming out of the faceoff dot and then rushed out to the point at a speed that allowed Ferris's defenseman to step around him and pick a corner. That's an obvious call you have to make.
Why the CCHA allows McInchak and Some Guy I've Never Seen Before to ref a really important series when there's an opportunity to stash them at Western-Bowling Green I'll never know. In their stead we could have gotten the marginally more competent BG-WMU crew of Confused Marmoset and PCP-Enraged Physics Professor.
JMFJ. Two days after the Dean Lombardi incident, Jack Johnson is where?
At Yost, playing Score-O in his letter jacket. Not even Danny Fardig wore his, and if I was Danny Fardig I would never take mine off. Jack Johnson is awesome.
Still slightly to the good. Splitting with a team as highly regarded as Ferris is in the PWR is still progress: Michigan gained a spot over the weekend and now sits #18. Ferris, on the other hand, dropped from 5 to 8.) In the brief window between the Friday and Saturday games Michigan was technically in the tournament at #14.
PWR is really jittery, though, and the current RPI will predict the future PWR better than the current PWR. In that, Michigan was static.
Re-evaluating the 14 of 17 meme. I suggested that Michigan had to storm the last half of its schedule to have any hope of an at large bid and with the Saturday loss Michigan is off pace. They've used half of those three losses in six games. Doom?
Well… it does look pretty doomy. Sioux Sports shows that Michigan has to win nine of its last eleven to move into an RPI spot better than the last team in the tournament. If we can give them a little more slack it's not mch more: basically we don't have to count the Alaska tie against them.
This weekend is huge, huge, huge. HUGE. For one, it's against Michigan State. For two, State has slid of late and is now on the bubble itself. They're on the right side at the moment but Michigan could—probably would—pass them with a weekend sweep. That would give them the two head-to-head points they lost earlier back and probably send M past the Spartans in RPI. At the very least, Michigan would put that comparison back in play. Anything short of a sweep and that comparison is gone and Michigan will have spent another weekend doing nothing in particular to move on up in the world.
Before the weekend I suggested that 3-1 in this four game stretch was just about required if Michigan was going to be in position for an at-large bid, and they're 1-1. There are nine games plus the CCHA playoffs left after this weekend, which is a lot of time, but if they want to give themselves any leeway at all down the stretch they'll have to take a win and a tie from the weekend.
|WHAT||Michigan v. Ferris State|
|WHERE||Friday @ Yost
Saturday @ Ferris
January 22/23rd, 2010
|THE LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
|TELEVISION||CBS College Sports both nights|
Record. 16-6-2, 10-4-2-2 CCHA. #5 PWR. Currently third place with 34 points. Michigan is nine points back in a tie for sixth.
Ferris State is back with their septannual kickass team, though this edition probably isn't quite as good as the Chris Kunitz-led 2003 team that won the conference championship, made it to the CCHA playoff final, and snagged Ferris State's first and only NCAA tournament bid. They just got swept by league-leading Miami and their nonconference schedule (Canisius, UConn, Robert Morris, single games against Yale and Merrimack) is exceedingly weak. That 2003 team was a legitimate national power. This appears to be a solid team a step or two down from those guys.
Even so, there's one team playing this weekend on the cusp of a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament and it's not Michigan. And Ferris's goal differentials are impressive. They're +30 overall and +18 in the CCHA. They are fifth in scoring margin at 1.25. (Michigan is 11th.) They are for serious.
Dangermen. Ferris has one line that does a huge chunk of their scoring. Seniors Blair Riley (right), Cody Chupp, and Casey Haines are the top line and Ferris's leading scorers; Riley is far and away the top guy with 16 goals and 27 points. Chupp has seven and a couple of other guys are hovering around that mark, but Ferris is a top-heavy team.
Defense and goalie and whatnot. Ferris is built on an extremely stingy defense. They're tied for third nationally with Cornell at just 2.12 GPG; goalie Pat Nagle has a nation-leading .932 save percentage. (He's tied with two others, FWIW.) Ferris actually rotates its goalies, with Nagel and sophomore Taylor Nelson both getting 13 games to date. Nelson's got the better record but Nagel is giving up a half-goal less per game. Nelson's save percentage is a stellar .921.
With two goalies sporting save percentages that Patrick Roy would envy, Ferris State has either stumbled onto a goalie gold mine or the defense has a large influence on those numbers. Expect tight-checking, tough games without a ton of grade A scoring chances.
Special teams. Your updated power plays per game stat:
|PP For / G||6.0||5.8|
|PP Ag / G||5.6||5.5|
Essentially even with Ferris a tiny bit more likely to pick up penalties for and against. And there will be penalties. Ferris is #2 in penalty minutes acquired*. Michigan is #10. Also, when these teams face off it tends to get chippy.
The specialty units will get a ton of time, then. They're dead even. Ferris State is converting a little better on the power play but has allowed three shorthanded goals; if you take those into account Michigan actually outperforms them slightly. The penalty kills are outstanding. Ferris is #3 at 88.8%. Michigan is #4 at 88.5%. Since Ferris has a couple extra shorthanded goals their penalty kill is a little better. The two teams could be any more more identical here.
PROTIP: don't take an obvious holding penalty seven seconds into a kill.
*(Possibly interesting side note: despite UAF's uncharacteristic penalty-fest last weekend they are still the least-penalized team in the country by a wide margin. Meanwhile, the team that beat out Ferris for #1 is Alaska-Anchorage. Alaska: land of extremes.)
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Line match where possible. It's a home and home series so the Saturday game will be tricky, but the obvious move is to put Michigan's crazy fast fore-check and shutdown line of Lynch, Hagelin, and Rust on Riley and anyone else who wants to skate with him. Berenson has explicitly stated this is the plan:
“I don’t want to put an inexperienced player out there against the top player in the league and then expect us to win that matchup,” Berenson said. “We have to respect who is on the ice for them and who is on the ice for us.”
While the top lines on both teams highlight the matchup, it’s the players behind them that will be the difference this weekend.
“You’re trying to outscore that line or shut them down,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “But in the meantime, if you do, and they're nullifying you at the same time, then it comes down to your next line or your next line and where are you going to get your offense from?”
Continue to get supporting players scoring. Whether it's Brian Lebler firing wicked wrist shots off the post and in or Lindsey Sparks coming out of the corner or Chris Brown turning into a face-masked version of Thomas Holmstrom, Michigan is going to need to get some production out of guys who aren't the stars of the team. Caporusso and Wohlberg continue to scuffle. Though they continue to put up assists, Brian Lebler now has more goals than they do. Lebler's actually tied for third on the team with seven, and while that's super cool for him it's a major reason Michigan's had trouble this year.
Play from ahead. Yes, this is dangerously close to a Key To The Game that boils down to "score more points."
An attempt at something not tautological: this is not the other Ferris team. That was an offensive machine capable of generating points not only from Kunitz but from a wide array of offensive defensemen. This is a gritty grit Eckstein of a team with one standout player that Carl Hagelin will be tasked with destroying. Michigan cannot afford to give up a goal like the Chad Langlais turnover against UAF, because teams like Ferris and Alaska are built to play from ahead. Just look at the difference between UAF in the third period on Friday and Saturday. On Friday they were overrun; on Saturday they played keep-away for 15 minutes before Langlais got his redemption.
The Big Picture
Just keep repeating "it was a win and a tie and the shootout was an exhibition" about last weekend. That makes Michigan 3-0-1 since the break. That is a roll, especially since they played very well in the tie save for one turnover and one terrible penalty kill.
They're now a TUC and hovering at 19th in the standings facing down a two week stretch that will probably make or break their at-large hopes. If they sweep the next two weekends they're gold. If they go 3-1 they are feeling very good about their chances with a selection of weak CCHA teams coming up and a bunch of guaranteed TUC wins in the bag. If they go 2-2 they have to really tear through the back end of the schedule, and anything worse than that is curtains.
A win and a tie from the weekend would be great.