Mason NEEDS this, Pistons, after all you've put him through
miami of ohio (not that miami of ohio)
Predictorama. Everyone predicts Nebraska-Michigan:
- Athlon: M 31-27: "This matchup is relatively even, but a slight edge goes to Michigan. Taylor Martinez and his receivers will test the Wolverines’ secondary, but Nebraska’s defense will struggle to stop Denard Robinson. Expect Michigan’s defense to make one play late in the game that seals the victory for the Wolverines." [NO PRESSURE GREG]
- BWS: Martinez will complete more deep, downfield throws in this game than Michigan has allowed all season, but none of them go for touchdowns; they're heaves to wide receivers who can out-leap and out-muscle Michigan's corners. However, Michigan holds Nebraska to near 150 yards rushing. It's boom-or-bust for Nebraska's offense. Michigan finally gets a good kick/punt return. Nebraska rallies late but Michigan clutches to the win. Michigan 27 - Nebraska 24
- Maize and Brew: Ultimately I think both offenses find some success running the ball, but there are a lot of stalled drives that go 40-50 yards and end in that awkward no-mans-land between "why are you punting" and "why didn't you punt". How the teams approach these situations and who has the most luck on X-and-short will ultimately decide the game. When it comes to this, I like Michigan's odds. Michigan 30 - Nebraska 27
- Holdin' the Rope features Who Are You And Why Do You Care?: Prediction based on everything but football: Nebraska 21 - Michigan 17.
- M&GB: While Nebraska will score some points, Michigan’s offense should be able to move the ball with relative ease. The offensive line will get enough push against an overmatched front seven and pave the way for a big day on the ground. The ‘Huskers have done a good job this season of matching up with opposing receivers, so look for another big day from tight end Devin Funchess as well when Denard does need to pass. Michigan 42 – Nebraska 24. [ed: yow]
The MZone also has their Know Your Foe series featuring Nebraska mascots past:
I'm surprised the entire state isn't a raving insomniac mess after that business and Li'l Red.
All of us are Purdue. Don't ask me to explain.
I award Jerry Kill the Award for Most Walrus-Looking.
in the communnnity
hmmm. Post idea.
Ryan profile. Via Mike Rothstein comes an extended look at Ryan the Barbarian. In retrospect, this was obvious:
Jake noticed that several kids had stuffed animals they had won in an arcade game in the lobby. He put his arm up the drop portal -- the one the toys usually popped out of -- in an attempt to circumvent the system and grab a stuffed animal.
"The guy had to use the butter from the popcorn machine, rub all over his hands, way up there, to get it out," Susan said. "He was stuck up there for a while."
And thus began Michigan's unique strategy of scouting claw machines across the Midwest, offering anyone with their arm stuck up one.
Hyman profile. This from the Daily:
On the way back from Boston, with Boston University the clear leader in the clubhouse, the Hymans detoured to Ann Arbor for a stop.
It would be their last.
Zach and Spencer sat across from Red Berenson in the coach’s office, while Berenson laid out why they should be Wolverines. It didn’t take long.
“Ten minutes into Michigan, we had completely forgotten about every other school,” Spencer said. “It was over. Zach and I were sitting in the (Ross Academic Center) and we looked at each other and it was like, ‘Yeah, we’re going to Michigan.’ ”
Big test tonight for that surging fourth line.
Check on the blocking. Press conference regurgitating here but let's bring that out from behind a jump to confirm that, yeah, Joe Kerridge is in the process of Wally Pipping one Stephen Hopkins:
“I think Joe’s had a pretty daggone good stretch here," coach Brady Hoke said Wednesday. "He’s practiced well. You look at the iso’s and some of the things that he’s doing in practice, and then when he gets out there on the field. That’s a big part of it.”
Hopkins became the starting fullback midway through last season when then-starter John McColgan suffered an injury. He started every game at fullback until sustaining the hamstring injury before the UMass game in Week 3.
Now, it appears he's out of a job.
Brandon Moore isn't playing much after returning from injury either, but I don't think many people are surprised about that.
See no evil no longer works. The NCAA is set to adopt the long-in-the-making penalty revamp that will finally make head coaches responsible for their assistants breaking NCAA rules:
"It's a tougher penalty structure, there's no doubt about it," Southern California athletic director Pat Haden said in an interview conducted prior to USA TODAYSports' acquisition of the document. "The point is, for head coaches -- and this goes for any sport -- you have this responsibility. You need to be constantly vigilant and you need to be constantly coaching your coaches about how important it is to play by the rules." …
Head coaches can avoid penalties for violations committed by their staff if they can document vigilance about potential red flags. For example, the document states that a head coach should ask about how unofficial visits are paid for and advises head coaches to ask their assistants if they suspect a third party or handler is involved in the recruitment.
The rules are supposed to go into effect Tuesday; hopefully they'll have some impact. Always tough to tell.
Puck drop tonight. The CCHA's parting gift to Michigan starts this weekend as what might be the conference series of the year will see the Saturday game bereft since it's on at the same time Nebraska-Michigan is. The athletic department is selling half-price tickets to both games this weekend, which says something about where Yost attendance is when you can't even sell out a 7:35 Friday game against Miami.
Whether Yost is present or not, they'll drop the puck. MHN on the Redhawks:
Miami is led offensively by a strong group of underclassmen. Five of their top six scorers are a freshman and sophomores. Sophomores Blake Coleman (4-1-5 in 4gp), Austin Czarnik (2-3-5 in 4gp), and freshman Riley Barber (3-2-5 in 4gp) are all tied for the team scoring lead.
Like the Wolverines, the RedHawks welcome a pair of freshmen in the crease who have split playing time. Freshman Jay Williams is 2-0-0 with a 1.94 GAA and .915 save percentage. Fellow classmate Ryan McKay is 1-0-1 with a 0.48 GAA and .984 save percentage.
After two weekends in which the play on the ice was dominating against lower-level competition this is an acid test. Racine will get the start for M.
BONUS: The only word we'd had on Michigan's nonconference scheduling after the move to the Big Ten was something Red tossed off about having little desire to continue "so-called rivalries" against Miami and Notre Dame, which was disappointing. Red seems to have reversed his opinion somewhat, though:
Berenson said on Inside Michigan Hockey this week that Miami is interested in scheduling non-conference games after the CCHA disbands.
I'm guessing scheduling ND is out of the question after they ended the football series in the most dickish way possible.
I'm nervous that Michigan's going to run out 14 games against Bentley next year. Any indication they're not is welcome.
Meanwhile, here's my contractually obligated reminder that the Michigan schools and a guest—probably Bowling Green—should ditch the GLI for a State of Michigan Championship that would be awesome. The trophy could be a mitten the size of a man the winning captain has to put on. Yeah.
Squash. It was known at the time that Rick Pitino was theees close to becoming Michigan's basketball coach a while back when the Amaker hire was made, and good Lord what—
“The day that I committed to Louisville, I signed an agreement to be the next head coach of Michigan and I was fired up to be the coach at Michigan," Pitino said. "The athletic director at the time, who’s no longer there (Bill Martin), was playing squash and my wife came up, she just didn’t want me to go to the west coast, UNLV, and be away from the children. She agreed, okay let’s go to Michigan."
She eventually convinced him to change his mind, and due to one of Martin's squash matches, Pitino informed Michigan of his decision via voicemail.
"I tried to call the A.D. at Michigan between 12 and 1," he recalled. "I had a false name. I would give him a fake name and he would call me back. I couldn’t get a hold of him because he was playing squash. The secretary said he demands that he doesn’t get interrupted unless it’s an emergency and if you want you can leave a voicemail.
"I left a voicemail and went to Louisville and I’m really happy I did."
What qualifies as an emergency to Athletic Director Bill Martin?
- 50% off sale at Squash Unlimited
- Opportunity to hire nice man who wears turtlenecks but has no coaching acumen
- Molasses explosion
- 30% off sale at Squash Unlimited
- Member of immediate family diagnosed with rickets or beri-beri, ONLY rickets or beri-beri don't come to me with any of this scurvy business eat an orange for crissakes
- 1975 America's Cup highlights VHS arrives via Pony Express
- Champagne reaches 56.7 degrees
- Anything at all not related to the most important part of his job
People in charge of things are just in charge of them. There is not necessarily a reason.
Lewan draft stock. Doing okay you guys:
Michigan's Taylor Lewan matched the physical challenge presented by hated in-state rival Michigan State and their 6-6, 278 pound defensive end William Gholston. … Just as Lewan did in 2011, the Michigan left tackle controlled Gholston, demonstrating enough lateral agility and balance in his kick-slide to maintain the edge and the great length and strength to lock up his opponent. Gholston lacks the explosive burst to give Lewan a stiff challenge in pass protection but the Spartans also sent smaller, quicker pass rushers against Lewan, including linebackers on the blitz. Having only played on the offensive line since his senior season of high school, Lewan demonstrated the improvement in pass protection scouts are hoping to see from him to warrant the frequent comparisons he's gained to former Wolverine star Jake Long.
Lewan has specifically improved in his patience as a pass blocker, recognizing spin movies and sliding laterally rather than lunging. As he has throughout much of his career, Lewan was also consistently able to knock defenders off the ball in the running game. Despite his height, the 6-7, 310 pound Lewan played with good pad level, winning the battle of leverage against Gholston and other MSU defenders.
Let's hope he stays anyway.
Etc.: Quinton Washington picture pages WSG Campbell, Roh, and Floyd. John Beilein will live forever. John Beilein says things to media members. Downing, Motte, and Compher feature in USHL prospects article. How do improve NCAA rule enforcement: outsource it. How Northwestern busted the 80 yard Venric Mark TD. Denard Robinson's mechanics. Injuries hit Horford (apparently minor) and McGary (minor, still recovering).
PLAYOFF TIME IS HOCKEY BEAR TIME
HOCKEYBEAR IS GO
|WHAT||BGSU vs Michigan
Miami/WMU vs Michigan
|WHERE||Joe Louis Arena
|WHEN||8:05 PM Fri
|THE LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
|TELEVISION||Friday: FSD Plus
Saturday: FSD (final only)
DeSalvo has been DeMolishing opponent defenses. HA!
When Michigan got only a split from Bowling Green on the final week of the regular season, that was annoying and ominous. The rest of the league didn't think it was ominous for them. They were wrong.
In the first round Bowling Green bussed up to Marquette and probably ended Northern Michigan's season by winning a series against a team that had swept them just three weeks earlier. It was no fluke, either: BG was about on par with Northern in shots in their 5-3 win Saturday and won 4-1 Sunday to clinch the series.
They took on league champ Ferris State the next weekend. Again, their opponent had swept them just three weeks previous. Total goals were 9-2. Again they won the series in three games. This one was a bit of a fluke. Both wins were in OT; on Friday FSU outshot the Falcons 56-34. BGSU fell behind 3-0 on Sunday before launching a stirring comeback. New hero Dan DeSalvo—who didn't even play against Michigan—added his 8th, 9th, and 10th goals of the CCHA playoffs as part of a natural hat trick that took BGSU from 3-1 down to 4-3 up, and through.
Unfortunately I was out of town for the untelevised BG series and can't offer any in-person evaluations to help refine the existing Puck Preview. That post spent a lot of time pointing out that BGSU was the worst team in the league by a good margin and apologizing for any jinxes this might stir up. From reports from people who were there it did seem like Michigan gave the Friday BGSU game away with a series of deflating turnovers late. Saturday Michigan endured nine penalty kills and still outshot BGSU 49-22. They couldn't score until five minutes had elapsed in the third.
That's about right: Michigan should bomb the BGSU net and win; if they get sloppy or enjoy a parade to the box DeSalvo might be able to make them pay.
Czarnik (yes that Czarnik) and Smith are Miami's goal engine
Sniper Reilly Smith (27-16-43) is one of three CCHA Hobey Baker finalists with MSU defenseman Torey Krug and Michigan's Shawn Hunwick. Two of those players were unanimous All-CCHA first team picks. The other is Hunwick. #gongshow
Anyway: Miami took it on the chin from Michigan in early February (Puck Preview), getting swept 4-1, 3-0 at Yost. At that juncture the Redhawks were outside of the NCAA tournament. Eight straight wins later they are playing for a one-seed at the Joe. Miami hasn't given up more than one goal in a game since the Michigan series, and while two of those games were against UAH the other six were against tourney aspirants, ND, OSU, and MSU. They are rolling. In the three series against serious opposition they've outscored their opponents 25-3.
Miami yanked Cody Reichard after the first period of their Friday game in Yost and has rode Connor Knapp since. He's played 8 of the last 9 games; the exception was a gimme against UAH. Knapp will get both games at the Joe unless he implodes. Since he's got a .943 on the year, don't bet on that.
Miami's finally playing like they were expected to at the start of the year; all due respect to Western Michigan but it will be a surprise if the Redhawks aren't in the final.
Michigan edged Western for the #2 seed in the CCHA tourney on a tiebreaker, one that became more important than expected when Ferris got bounced. Over the course of the season, Michigan has proven itself on a slightly higher level than the Broncos. Michigan had a +25 goal differential in CCHA play; Western was +11. WMU made up for it by winning all their league shootouts. Michigan won just one.
Michigan hasn't played Western since their awful November. Michigan got a split at Yost, losing 3-2 on Friday when Dane Walters scored with under a minute left. Michigan outshot WMU 36-25. The next night Michigan went into the third tied again; Bennett and Treais scored to put it away. The shot differential was flipped.
That was WMU's first loss of the year. While they cooled off after their hot start, they still find themselves tenuously in the tournament. They're 15th at the moment and will play themselves in or out over the course of the weekend. Getting swept is probably doom and a split is hair-splitting time.
The Broncos have something of a tough time scoring. Chase Balisy is their leading scorer with 12-22-34 and they've got three more guys with double-digit goals. I really liked senior captain Greg Squires's magic midget game when I saw them live but he's only got 6-11-17 on the year. Sparks-esque, that. Past their top line-ish WMU has guys a lot like Michigan's lower lines. Danny DeKeyser won the defensive defenseman of the year award in the league, FWIW.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Tonight it's simple: keep it five on five, don't throw it up your own middle, and bomb their goalie until something goes in.
Tomorrow Michigan will get a stiff test from whoever comes through. I've tried to write something useful here and keep coming up with "play good at hockey you guys!!!" My brain has started its postseason hockey meltdown. I apologize. You have no idea what I'm talking about because of the same phenomenon.
The Big Picture
If you would like to be the committee go ahead: you are the committee. Sioux Sports has added up every single one of the 1.1 million scenarios still on the table and comes away with these facts under the (obviously faulty) assumption that all games are coinflips:
- If Michigan wins the league they have a 75% chance to be the #2 overall seed and a 25% chance to be the #3 overall seed
- If Michigan is swept at the Joe they still have a >50% chance to be the #2 overall seed, a 33% chance to be #3, and an 11% chance to be the 4. In just under 4% of outcomes in this coinflip-based scenario, Michigan loses their one seed.
Sounds good to me. Caveat: since Michigan's bad scenarios are ones in which teams just under them do well in their conference tourneys against lesser opponents, you should be more pessimistic than that… in the event of a sweep, anyway.
In my YATC fiddling I came up with one of the worst-case Michigan scenarios that dropped them to #5. Flipping one game with a worst-case split (beat non-TUC BGSU, lose to TUC) got them back to #3. A win tonight and I think Michigan has #2 or #3 locked down.
The win-all scenario is so clean because only one team matters: Duluth. If UMD wins the WCHA they'll pass Michigan for #2. If they don't, Michigan will hold on to their current spot. Does that matter? Probably not. I assume the committee will send the Bulldogs to Minneapolis despite the presence of the Gophers for attendance purposes, leaving Michigan in a near-empty building in Green Bay. (NCAA Hockey: we hate money, fans, and atmosphere!)
Things get messier in the event Michigan does not win the league, but there's a consolation prize: a lot of YATC brackets with Miami as CCHA champion feature them as the #4 overall seed with WMU and MSU as #4s. This was the scenario that led to Michigan's matchup against the Atlantic Hockey champion a few years back. That is a better draw despite The Hockey Horror making us hold our breath until a point where the game is comfortably in hand (if that ever comes).
CenterIce provides a game preview.
2/4/2012 – Michigan 4, Miami 1 – 16-9-4, 10-7-4 CCHA
2/5/2012 – Michigan 3, Miami 0 – 17-9-4, 11-7-4 CCHA
Pull the string on a college hockey observer and you'll get a torrent of profanity about the latest refereeing injustices. Do it again and you'll get a statement about how it's a weird year. Do it a third time: more torrents of profanity. A fourth time and you get this: "there are no elite teams this year." Don't bother going any further. It's torrents all the way down.
It's just that… I don't know. I'm definitely not saying this, you know… but… would they be saying that if Jon Merrill hadn't been suspended for the first half of the year?
Consider Michigan's season. When Merrill came back from suspension Michigan was 11-8-3 and yielding 2.6 goals a game. Since, 1.25. They've gone 6-1-1 in that stretch against four opponents fighting for tourney bids with all but one win coming by multiple goals. Nine of Michigan's eleven non-wins in the first half were one-goal contests.
How many of those does Merrill—and the marginalization of Michigan's third pair—swing to the positive? How many goals per game is having him worth? The answer can be a lot less than 1.35 and still be enough to propel Michigan's season record into territory only Minnesota-Duluth is scraping this year. Past it, maybe. The idea I am creeping up to gingerly and fleeing in fear from after considering its audacious blasphemy is obvious.
What if Michigan is this year's elite team?
Look at it from a neutral observer's perspective: here's this team tied for second in RPI and PWR, third in KRACH. It's 10-1-2 in its last 13 games and midway through that stretch added a top-pairing defenseman from the WJC team. Their goalie has entered a new plane of existence in which it's reasonable to put up a .980 over a month. They are surging towards the top of what looks like college hockey's toughest conference. If not Michigan, then who?
Mentioning that point in November when it looked like the team was dead and buried and marveling at the huge distance from that point to this one is obligatory and discharged here. The shift has been abrupt and dizzying.
What changed? Merrill is obvious but Michigan was already on a 4-0-1 move when he re-entered the lineup. The formation of a thunderous top line helps a lot, as does Hunwick going from "still a guy you can win with," as I termed him in a post around the midseason mark, to a surefire Hobey finalist*. And then there's just… this feeling. Of competence and confidence.
Whatever it is, Michigan has rarely found themselves threatened since the halfway point. If it's still a little shocking that this Michigan team is rolling everyone not named Notre Dame, it's true, and the longer it goes on the more confident you can be in your delicate assertions that Michigan might be pretty good at hockey this year.
*[As in top ten, not necessarily top three. That's a possibility, though.]
The throbbing pestilence
The fetid sore on hockey that is Keith Sergott cannot be better summarized than by the meaningless penalty to Blake Coleman with one second left in Friday's game. After they'd let Miami run Hunwick twice without putting Miami on the penalty kill, a pissed-off Coleman plows Hunwick. Sergott does what Sergott does by Sending A Message and making this guy's penalty a major.
This infuriated me. One: the penalty was not a major. It was not dangerous at all, not much of a hit, and warranted two minutes. Two: twice earlier in the game Hunwick had gotten run harder and Sergott either ignored it or evened penalties up. Since the player did not get a DQ, the net result is to make it look like you're being strict without actually penalizing the behavior on the ice in any way whatsoever.
That's Sergott's MO. That's why he was on the ice when Conboy and Tropp assaulted Steve Kampfer, and his inability to keep tempers in check is indirectly responsible for the suspensions handed out at the end of Saturday's game. His incompetence is total, which shouldn't be surprising since he is Bull from "Night Court."
Yost Built has a good summary of this guy's track record:
You'll remember that Sergott was the official a few weeks back at Notre Dame, when he let the Irish run Hunwick at every opportunity and usually just evened things up on the rare occasion that he did call anything. He was also the official when Steve Kampfer was attacked by Andrew Conboy and Corey Tropp. He was also the official of the ND/WMU game when the wrong player got ejected. Even if you set the bar for your officials at "Don't endanger players with your incompetence", Sergott fails in a big way. He shouldn't be reffing BGSU/Alabama-Huntsville, let alone high-profile games.
His existence as a referee is on the same plane as the CCHA adopting "gongshow" as a title sponsor.
Antidote. Denard was at the Friday game:
Further highlights from Friday:
Bullets That Shawn Hunwick Perceives As Lackadaisical Watermelons
Hobey? Yost Built lays out the case for Hunwick:
Hunwick moved into 4th place in the history of the program with his ninth-career shutout. He also now ranks second nationally in wins, is fifth in save percentage, and ninth in goals-against. Hobey. Seriously.
Of the eight guys in front of him in GAA, four come from minor conferences (Union, Niagara, RIT, Quinnipiac), and he's played twice as many minutes as Knapp and CJ Motte. Only Douglas Carr from UML and Kent Patterson from Minnesota are from major conferences, have played around as many minutes, and have a better GAA. And Patterson is only .01 ahead.
The four guys ahead of him in save percentage play for Niagara, Union, RIT, and Robert Morris. And none of them are within 225 saves of him.
He is obviously the best candidate amongst goalies. Can he win against the usual parade of scoring forwards?
Baseball standings. Here you go:
|4||Notre Dame||11||8||3||36||22||1 2/3|
|Ohio State||10||9||5||36||24||2 2/3|
|9||Northern Michigan||7||9||6||30||22||3 2/3|
|11||Bowling Green||4||14||4||19||22||7 1/3|
The conference title race is still competitive, but Ferris State has a clear edge since they're in first place and have a BGSU series left. Michigan will either have to fly through the last three weeks or hope for Ferris to drop some points this weekend at Notre Dame.
The final week could be a barn-burner: WMU plays a home and home with Ferris as Michigan travels to BGSU. If the standings look like they do right now that could be a weekend where a split in FSU/WMU gives M the title.
The call out. Red Berenson is not a guy who expresses much emotion publicly, so a relatively gentle statement like this…
"We'll keep sending the information to the league but the league has to respond. I don't know that they've done a good job of it so far."
…says a lot about how frustrating it's been to watch the league ignore opponents making the Hunwick a target part of the gameplan without consequences. After Saturday, Red's opening statement was this:
"Don't ask me about the officiating."
So people figured out ways to ask him about the officiating without really asking him about the officiating. It was like watching JoePa interviewed at Media Day, when every question was not about retiring (nudge nudge wink wink). So Red said "we should not have to kill that many penalties in a game like that" when asked about the penalty kill and "it was the way the game was being handled" when asked about the emotions escalating at the end.
Legion of Boom! Top line nickname? No? Maybe? Yes? Needs more brutal hits, probably. Whatever.
Level up. When AJ Treais got a pass from Lee Moffie, held it… held it… held it(!) and then passed it back to Moffie at just the right moment for him to bang it into the net I was not surprised.
This was surprising. After a couple years of watching Treais be not Mike Comrie I'd resigned myself to the fact that he wasn't going to be the devilishly entertaining short guy that is my favorite hockey archetype*. But dang if he isn't basically all of Michigan's secondary scoring in the Legion of Boom era.
A lot of this has come from sniping. See his first goal Friday above. Yeah, Reichard could have done better there but Treais had about a square inch of real estate to make that relevant and nailed it. Then he zinged himself:
I saw a very small spot. I was just trying to get it to that spot, and the puck went in. I haven't done that since juniors. Usually my goals are back-door tap-ins.
This has not been true of late. High-variance shooting percentage aside, Treais has started walking dudes and generating chances. It seems like the light has gone on.
Moffatt and Brown are also contenders in this category.
*[Austin Czarnik's a good example. Western's captain this year is the best I've seen, though.]
You knew this was going to be in the post halfway through Saturday's game. I find it inexplicable that Lindsay Sparks ever gets scratched. He makes that line with Moffatt and Hyman so much more dangerous. Multiple times against Miami he set up excellent scoring chances by driving into the offensive zone and then pulling up to survey guys diving to the net or setting up in the slot; he also rang the post on a wrister.
Maybe he's not the greatest defensive player in the world but he's a chance generator. Against the flailing bottom sixes of the CCHA he's got to be a net positive.
Next up on "I can't believe this guy is a scratch": Mike Chiasson.
The Keith Sergott of power plays. A salute to the Miami PP, which sunk further into the depths after going 0/12 on the weekend. They dip to 13% on the year even without considering the shortie; Michigan's penalty kill is up to 16th.
Miami is now 8 of 94 on CCHA power plays.
Goal controversy. I will trade Blasi the goal they got double-reviewed Saturday for Fort Wayne, and I'll include Tayshaun Prince.
Vogelhuber. I'm little surprised "Vogelhuber" is not a rank in Vogon society.
I did mention that Michigan's bye-week fall was mostly illusory and a strong weekend would see them pop up. I didn't think it would be all the way to second, and it really isn't all the way to second: they're in a three-way tie with Mass-Lowell and UMD that sees each competitor take one comparison and lose one from the other. Michigan wins the tiebreaker by the hair on its chinny-chin-chin.
There's not a whole lot of complexity here. Michigan will win comparisons based on RPI against virtually everyone with two exceptions:
- #1 BU. Michigan probably has to have BU get at most a tie out of a weekend series with Northeastern to pass them before the playoffs give people a bunch of unplanned series not accounted for in the TUC stuff.
- #4 Duluth. M is going to have a hard time winning this comparison unless Duluth spits the bit down the stretch and they play very well. COP is basically Duluth's without very specific events unfolding and they have a ~1.5 game edge in TUC.
If M goes 3-1 in the next two weeks they're in great shape; 2-2 and they are probably going to drop to fourth or fifth. The margins here are very narrow, just like they are in the CCHA. Michigan is assured of nothing but has positioned itself well.
Random factoid: every game Michigan has played has been against a TUC (above .500 in RPI) save for their opening swing against Bentley, SLU, and Niagara. This will be an even more impressive statement in two weeks because both MSU and Northern are also TUCs.
Despite forbidding any questions on the matter, that Berenson spent much of his time speaking about officiating and taking shots at Blasi (after a dominating sweep, no less) says quite a lot.
Referees Brian Hill and Keith Sergott lost control of the game, Blasi lost control of his players, and Michigan was the team getting penalized.
For those keeping track at home, yes Keith Sergott is that Keith Sergott, the one who presided a particularly touchy and physical Michigan-Notre Dame series two weeks ago.
So, in honor of Berenson and in the spirit of reticence, I too ask that you not question me about the officiating.
So after the first 13:50 of the game, the RedHawks had had nearly eight full minutes of power play time. In that 7:57 span with Miami up a man, shots were 5-5 and goals were 1-0 in favor of the Wolverines. That is some penalty killing!
There is also a quality ref rant in that post.
MIAMI IS HOCKEYBEAR TIME
[If this seems like excessive Hockeybear, It's a scheduling quirk: he blows up OSU, Miami, and MSU.]
|WHAT||Miami at Michigan|
|WHERE||Yost Ice Arena|
|WHEN||7:35 PM Friday/Saturday|
|LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
|TV||Friday: FSD Plus
Saturday: CBS Sports
Record. 15-11-2, 11-9-2 CCHA. A preseason CCHA favorite, Miami has been a disappointment. Like Michigan they endured an awful stretch in the first half of the season. They were 2-6 out of the gate, splitting against Bemidji State and Colgate before being swept by Ferris State and Lake Superior.
While they have slowly recovered it's taking them longer to get back to the level expected of them than it has Michigan, and their final three conference series are doozies: Michigan, Notre Dame, and Ohio State. Throw in a no-win situation against Alabama-Huntsville (UAH is so bad wins against them actually hurt your RPI and are therefore excluded from calculations) and Miami is in a battle for its tournament life. They're currently 11th; any stumbles down the stretch will threaten their bid.
The good news for the Redhawks is that they are hot now, 6-2 in their last eight, all against the fierce pack of contenders in the CCHA.
As noted on Monday, this is a matchup of the top two teams in conference goal differential. Michigan's climbed to +13 in two fewer games, did it largely without Merrill, and has an easier closing stretch, so you would give them a slight advantage on paper, where all games should be played.
Previous meetings. The Redhawks had a slight advantage in a home series during Michigan's awful stretch, winning 2-1 on Friday before a 3-3 tie Saturday. Miami outshot Michigan 29-21 on Friday and 41-28 Saturday. Merrill, obviously, was not available.
Reilly Smith lights the lamp
Dangermen. There actually is one. This unusual for a very good and very defensively-minded CCHA. He is Dallas draftee Reilly Smith, who is averaging just over a PPG. His 19 goals are fourth nationally. As you might imagine, he's a sniper. The third goal in this LSSU-Miami game from a couple weeks ago is Smith popping the water bottle from just outside the crease:
Letting him shoot is a bad idea.
Austin Czarnik (yes that Czarnik) is his primary setup man with 7-16-23. Miami has a bit of depth behind those two—another three guys have eight goals and a fourth has six—but is just 29th nationally with 2.86 goals per game. Michigan is ninth (yes, yes, SLU and all that).
This would be a game to sic the checking line on Smith and company, but Michigan doesn't really have one.
Defense and goalie and whatnot. The Reichard/Knapp platoon continues into both goalies' senior years. Reichard has a slight advantage in starts and Knapp a large advantage in save percentage (.928 to .901) and GAA.
Knapp started both games against Western; the two split series against LSSU and Northern. It's getting towards put up or shut up time for the Redhawks, so I expect Knapp on Friday and, if things go well in net, Saturday.
As far as their defense goes, they don't get much offense out of them but senior Chris Wideman will plunge down from time to time. Their opener against NMU was reminiscent of the goal Moffie manufactured in Michigan's OT GLI win over MSU:
He's got 1-14-15 on the year and given the state of the Miami power play it's safe to assume a larger fraction of those goals are even strength that you might expect.
Special teams. Your power plays per game:
|PP For / G||4||3.9|
|PP Ag / G||5.1||4.1|
Miami's special teams have been poor. They end up shorthanded more frequently than their opponents and are struggling to score on the power play. They're even worse than Michigan (46th versus 43rd). In the CCHA they are converting at an under 10% rate. That's probably the most inexplicable stat of the season.
Their PK is pretty good (12th) and significantly better than Michigan's (26th). Merrill, etc.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Even those shots out. While Merrill should help in this regard, Michigan is still giving up a ton of shots even after his return to the lineup. Maybe they're not all spectacular but asking Hunwick to keep up his blistering pace (.975 in the past four games!) is a bit much.
Match Pateryn with Smith. Pateryn is Michigan's best defenseman when the puck is on the other guys' sticks; his size, reach, and reliability should help cut down on opportunities for Smith to loose his deadly shot.
Go ahead and goon it up. Miami is undisciplined (last in the league in penalties taken) and their power play is awful. A few tweaks may get you an extra power play or two and they're not going to hurt you if the random number generator goes against you.
Hunwick: keep playing out of your mind. It would be nice, right? .975 will do just fine.
The Big Picture
CCHA baseball standings again:
|Ohio State||10||7||5||1||36||22||1 1/3|
|Notre Dame||10||7||3||0||33||20||1 1/3|
|Lake Superior||9||9||4||4||35||22||1 2/3|
|8||Michigan State||8||9||3||2||29||20||2 2/3|
This is a huge series because all series are huge in the tightly-packed CCHA. Michigan wants to finish fourth or better to guarantee themselves a home series and can put themselves in a good spot by getting anything better than a split this weekend. A split leaves them where they are.
As far as the Pairwise goes, I believe a 6-2 record down the stretch will see Michigan occupying a one seed when the conference playoffs roll around*. You'd hope BGSU would be a slam dunk, leaving them with the task of sweeping one of their other three series and splitting the other two to get there. Miami is the toughest opponent left; getting the sweep this weekend would be a huge step towards both a potential left-field CCHA title and that one seed. Easier said than done.
*[They would have to defend that by reaching the Joe and going at least 1-1 there. They'd be in a good spot, though.]
Hunwick’s no longer just a good story; he’s legitimately among the best netminders Michigan’s ever had – boasting the best save percentage and goals-against average in program history at this point. And as the Wolverines find themselves in an interesting psychological position – seventh place in the standings but just five points out of first – Hunwick finds himself with the opportunity to do more than inspire walk-ons everywhere, he’s got the chance to put this team on his back as they attempt to end a national title drought that’s fast approaching a decade and a half.
PLAYOFF TIME IS HOCKEY BEAR TIME
HOCKEYBEAR IS GO
Western vs Michigan
Miami/ND vs Michigan
Joe Louis Arena
8:05 PM Fri
|THE LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
Friday: FSD Plus
Not much has changed since Michigan took on Western in the second-to-last weekend of the regular season, so the previous Puck Preview stands. Since Western suffered the wrath of Senior Night Hagelin they split with Notre Dame, for which they get a tip of the hat when Michigan raises its conference championship banner, and won a home series against Ferris in three games.
That's been good enough to raise Western to 12th in the Pairwise, but not good enough to assure them a bid. They will be hair on fire this weekend trying to lock that down. A split should do it.
A brief reminder of Western's strengths: they get fairly diverse scoring and have a PPG-ish star in senior Max Campbell, who has 18-17-35. Freshman Chase Balisy is moving up NHL draft boards and has 12-17-29. Western splits those two up so the checking-plus-Scooter-domination line can't shut down both, and their scoring depth is such that the third line is going to have to play some D if they're going to outscore.
Goalie Jerry Kuhn was awful against Michigan earlier in the year but has a .915 save percentage overall. He's about average.
I don't know what was with the Redhawks earlier in the year but they're a death machine now. They haven't lost since an inexplicable 7-4 defeat to Michigan State on January 21st, and though they have three ties in that stretch they're still 8-0-3 since Enrico Blasi peeled the paint after whatever that was. That includes series against the other three finalists: a two tie split at ND, a home sweep of Michigan that caused me to PANIC, and what used to be a three-point weekend against WMU. In their last five they've outscored opponents 23-5, failing to give up more than one goal in any of those games. Despite coming in a distant third in the CCHA I bet if jamiemac (of Just Cover) was to dig up offshore college hockey lines from Venezuela or whatever they'd be a solid favorite this weekend.
As a result they've moved from the PWR danger zone (they were actually 18th(!) and well out of the tournament before the Michigan series) to the verge of a one-seed—Michigan's one seed. A hypothetical title game matchup will be for that one seed and the right to not play any of the top five teams in the country until hypothetically reaching the Frozen Four, and will be a BFD.
Miami's team was also covered in a Puck Preview that remains largely accurate. Andy Miele is a Hobey Candidate and the country's leading scorer with (sigh) 21-44-65. Carter Camper would be a Hobey Candidate if he wasn't on the same team as Miele—he's fourth nationally with 17-35-42. Sophomore Reilly Smith is also in the top ten in PPG with 26-22-48, and then they've got two more guys with double-digit goals. They score like whoah.
Of late they've also defended like whoah. Alaska managed a total of 31 shots in two games last weekend, and while Lake State wasn't quite as inept when it came to vaguely testing Miami's two-headed goalie they were equally incapable of getting the puck in the net. You're probably remembering that Saturday game in Oxford when Michigan had maybe three crappy scoring chances the entire game. Yeah.
Miami's rotated their goalies all year, including last weekend. They have nearly identical stats so it won't matter much who gets the call. One possible silver lining for Redhawk opponents: both have taken major steps back from last year, when they were amongst the national leaders in save percentage.
The Irish lost the CCHA title in agonizing fashion by losing on the last day thanks to three disallowed goals. They suffered something of a hangover two weeks later as they struggled to put away a pretty bad LSSU team. An OT win Friday was followed by a loss and ND didn't show their quality until the final game when they jumped out to a 3-0 first period lead and almost doubled up LSSU in shots in a comfortable 4-2 win.
Michigan's lone series against ND came during football season, before pucks start getting previewed. It was a split in which the games seemed fairly even. Notre Dame got some bounces Friday and then Michigan's Saturday win was the deflectingest game I ever dang saw, with the primary attraction a goal from Chad Langlais that came when Langlais was literally the only guy on the ice who knew where the puck was.
Since that weekend the two rivals spent the year neck-and-neck at the top of the CCHA standings. ND got there thanks largely to two (sigh) awesome freshmen: TJ Tynan (21-28-49) and Anders Lee (22-21-41) are 1—2 in team scoring. A couple of senior assist machines come next and then there's a smattering of guys with Wohlberg-like statlines and a couple of defensemen with pop in their stick, most prominently sophomore Sam Calabrese (not that Calabrese).
Notre Dame's issue has been iffy goaltending. Backup Steve Summerhays has a .859 in ten games and starter Mike Johnson's .907 is just 41st (of 71 qualifiers) nationally.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Well… no bullet points as I try to find something not tautological to say. Michigan played well last weekend against the hockey equivalent of Hampton and before that did enough to scratch out a CCHA championship despite at no point seeming like the sort of team that would end up winning the league or earning a one-seed.
I wouldn't be surprised with anything this weekend. Michigan could have a couple bounces go against them against Western and then close out a disappointing weekend with a loss to a very good ND or Miami team, or they could deflect their way to glory in a series of tight games featuring lots of offense from the blue line.
There's a lot on the line; let's hope it's the latter.
The Big Picture
If you would like to be the committee go ahead: you are the committee. I was wrong on one important point earlier: Michigan's destiny is not entirely in its own hands. If Merrimack wins HE they will take their comparison against Michigan and slip into the last #1 seed. That requires them to beat New Hampshire and presumably BC back-to-back and seems pretty unlikely, but it is a possibility.
I've fiddled with YATC a bit and can't find any other scenario that doesn't result in a #1 for Michigan if they win the CCHA. I do find things like a hypothetical Western-ND consolation game being the difference between the Broncos finishing 17th in the PWR—well out of the tourney—and tied with ND for tenth.
Michigan can still get the last #1 if they lose to ND instead of Miami and favorites win other conference tourneys but that's a 50-50 shot that relies on the hottest team in the country going down against ND in a couple hours. Win and very likely a #1, lose and very likely a #2.
Root against Denver, Miami, and Merrimack this weekend.
Michigan Hockey Net catches up with the Honeybaked coach. He makes latest commit Evan Allen sound like Andy Hilbert, but compares him to Kevin Porter.
2/4/2011 – Michigan 2, Miami 4 – 17-8-4, 14-6-1 CCHA
2/5/2011 – Michigan 0, Miami 3 – 17-9-4, 14-7-1 CCHA
Over the weekend Miami paid tribute to tragically deceased team manager Brendan Burke by kicking Michigan's ass; Michigan paid tribute to not-very-tragically departed Tristin Llewellyn by having a team-wide contest to see who could take the stupidest penalty. Your winner was David Wohlberg, who slammed a Miami player into the boards on an icing call. Michigan had just blown a one goal lead and trailed by one with three minutes left, and I wasn't even surprised. The next night Michigan managed maybe three scoring chances in a 3-0 loss that tempted me to use the word "pathetic" despite its association with internet troglodytes.
So this is definitely an overreaction: that kind of felt like the beginning of the end of the Red Berenson era. I know what the instant reaction to that thought is because I had it too, but after I recoiled at the thing it sat there leering and never scoring any goals it appeared to mean. It's still there. It's horned and pitchforked. It's eating all my cheese dip. I hate it. It knows this, does not care, and refuses to leave.
Let's review the facts:
- In the last billion games Michigan has scored four goals, all of which were shots from defensemen that pinballed around the offensive zone like they were in that famous HORSE game between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Each struck at least three goats before entering the net.
- The best player on the team is the four-foot walk-on goalie who's gone from a terrifying liability to the reason Michigan hasn't lost all of the last billion games in which they scored four goals.
- Despite being coached by another four-foot tall person, this one so goofily hairy that he has to shave every six hours lest he drown in his own beard, Miami has the top two scorers in the country and is 10-6-1 against Michigan in the past X years. Michigan has been swept in Oxford the last three times they've visited.
- The four goals scored have mostly zinged past seniors, and while all of them not named Scooter or Carl have been disappointing the incoming recruiting class consists of a hyped goalie and then guys who are mostly last-minute additions. They seem likely to keep Michigan above the epic .500 fray in the CCHA but not keep pace with Miami and Notre Dame.
As I was trying to figure out the "subtler qualities" this Michigan hockey team had in the midst of their streak of nine wins in ten games, Red Berenson was telling anyone who would listen this team kinda sucked and was enjoying a fluky magic carpet ride. Red Berenson may not be have Carter Camper or Andy Miele these days but he can still identify problems better than I can. Three games later Michigan's finished going 2-2 against the 10th place team in the league and was swept out of the building by the Redhawks. They're now third in the CCHA and while they've got a couple of games in hand on Miami they're two back of Notre Dame and fading fast.
Meanwhile, I've been bracing for next year as a possible end to the tourney streak ever since Lucas Lessio decided to take his talents to the OHL. Michigan loses Rust, Hagelin, Caporusso, Vaughn, Langlais, Hogan, and Winnett, and while those guys have been immensely disappointing on the whole that list has Michigan's three top scorers. Two or three defensemen are flight risks and Michigan always seems to lose one guy inexplicably. Right now next year's top line look like it could be Wohlberg-Brown-Glendening, which… man. Either Moffatt blows up or that kid too young for the NHL draft (Di Guiseppe) massively exceeds expectations or we're going to be Alaska-Fairbanks++ next year.
Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm guessing anyone who's watched this team closely was worried even when its winning, waiting for the other shoe to drop. It has gone thud. Now we're looking back across the last few years, seeing a narrative of erratic but generally declining play coupled with declining recruiting and a general sense of malaise as other teams in the league pass Michigan.
I'm in no way advocating a change. Red's earned the right to coach Michigan until the sun expands and engulfs the earth. I'm almost definitely freaking out because fans are always like "this thing that just happened is never going to stop happening," and unless Jim Tressel is involved that's not usually true. But it does feel right now that we're in the long decay phase every icon from Woody to Bo [era in general] to JoePa to Bowden to Mason [era in general] endures in the long slide from might to age. This Miami series was the equivalent of Football Armageddon: the moment the bad thing you hope isn't true becomes undeniable.
That doesn't mean we can't be good here and there. Since college hockey's system is weighted plinko, we could even win a national title. It won't be as a one-seed, and the days when Michigan getting swept by someone was a nuclear event are over. The near future for Michigan hockey feels like those years when they wandered into a WCHA rink against Minnesota or North Dakota in the tournament and you expected they'd lose. That feeling has lost its novelty.
Feeble, Feeble Non-Bullets
Come on, anti-jinx. Let's do this, yo. Genuine feeling about Michigan sports == Michigan sport doing its best to make me look silly. Let's do it.
Pairwise. Another weekend, another alarming slip. Michigan now hovers at 12th. Eyeballing it, they'll have to go 4-2 down the stretch and make the Joe to feel secure for an at-large. Going .500 would give them the same RPI as Western has right now. Western is 16th and the PWR is an RPI correction scheme, so that would be a coin flip. Going 4-2 would keep their RPI where it is right now and probably keep them along the 3/4 borderline.
The schedule is relatively friendly: home series against OSU and Western followed by a trip to Northern. OSU and NMU are both 9-11-2 in the league, but OSU's performed much better OOC and Northern's lucky they haven't sunk well down the league standings with their –24(!) goal differential. Western is 9-5-8 and has +11 league goal differential, which is good but not in the class of Miami. If they can't go 4-2 in those six games and then beat a team like OSU or Northern at Yost in the second round of the playoffs they won't deserve to be in the tourney anyway.
Yes, pretty much. Daily's Florek with two haunting questions:
If it’s late in the game and the Wolverines are down and call a timeout to draw up a faceoff play, whose stick does the puck end up on? And who takes a penalty shot if Michigan coach Red Berenson could choose anyone on the team?
Florek says you thought about that for too long and settled on Hagelin, which is true, and not good, and it's sad that's not good because Carl Hagelin is awesome but he needs an evil goal scoring gremlin somewhere on his team. It really burns when Michigan is consistently going up against Miami's magic midgets. Those tiny magnificent bastards used to be ours.
OH GOD FLOREK STOP ASKING QUES—
When’s the last time, somebody, literally anybody, on the Michigan team scored on a breakaway?
Dude, I can top that with "what about a cross-ice pass?" If you don't count the first Treais goal from Friday, which had already been deflected into the net by a defenseman's skate before Treais yo-ho-hoed it, it's… um?