2011 hockey tournament
3/25/2011 – Michigan 3, Nebraska-Omaha 2 (OT) – 27-10-4
3/26/2011 – Michigan 2, Colorado College 1 – 28-10-4, Frozen Four
The course of the season showed that if Michigan was going to make the Frozen Four they were going to do it one way: narrowly. If you need a number, during the course of the UNO broadcast they put up a stat showing Michigan's record in one-goal games was 10-3. That's just how they do.
That record is now up to 12-3 after history's greatest video review and the Joe Howe show (wsgs Joe Howe's Posts) and if there was ever any chance we remembered this hockey team as the weird one that kind of reminded you of Ron Mason that's gone now. This team isn't trying to win games –1 to –2 but you'd be forgiven if sometimes you thought they were.
It's working, though. I spent the second intermission Saturday thinking about Buffalo, when Michigan dominated Minnesota for two periods but didn't put enough of that domination on the scoreboard to prevent Minnesota's rally from tying the game; Michigan lost the game and Al Montoya's brain in overtime on one of those bizarrely frequent OT goals that comes from almost the goal line on the left side of the net*. I spent the third period thinking about how beautifully boring it was until Red channeled into Lloyd Carr by slipping Jeff Rohrkemper out there for a power play shift. He was immediately punished for punting from the 34 by a Rohkemper boarding penalty and nine seconds later CC fumbled a puck into the net. Everyone braced for a storm. That storm was a single pea-sized hailstone. The most nervous moment after that was a bunch of players rooting for the puck on the boards with the goalie out and twenty seconds left.
Michigan had outshot their opponent 43-22, played a game universally acclaimed as their best of the season, and won 2-1 because Scooter is an animal and pucks that come off Lee Moffie's stick will hit the post and go in even if they have to deflect off three guys to do it. There is a natural inertia pulling them towards narrow wins you're uncertain about; even now that they've reached the Frozen Four there's a feeling they don't really match up with a North Dakota.
There's also the feeling they just might, though. Because what the hell, Michigan's 11-1 since the line shakeup after Michigan's dismal 0-3 stretch against MSU and Miami. Season goals slipping away and faced with the question of how to get the most use out of some good forwards who never, ever score Michigan put together a vintage Todd Marchant checking line and let anyone who might put the puck in the net forget about guys like Jaden Schwartz.
This has been remarkably effective. If the announcer didn't bring his name up every time he wasn't making a joke-type assertion about the "hockey hotbeds" of California, Texas, and Arizona, the viewer could have forgotten about Jaden Schwartz. Lingering irritation at Matt Rust's bad OT penalty against UNO evaporated as his line erased Schwartz, Schwartz, and Schultz with a healthy assist from Jon Merill at his most subtly awesome. The Schwartzes got their goal on a four-on-four scramble; everything other than that was frustration. In the second period they started jawing and shoving people because they were getting nothing. This was one day after they turned defending national champs Boston College into a lump of smoking carbon.
I watched North Dakota pummel two teams, one of them not even in the ECAC, this weekend. I remember Michigan's last two not-very-competitive matchups against them. I have considerable doubts that Michigan will beat them since they're by far the best team left standing. Doubts about doubts come when you close your eyes and see Jon Merrill gently shepherding you, the puck, and a hockey team into a deep, peaceful sleep as Matt Rust obscures the face of North Dakota Hobey finalist… oh… you know… what's his name.
*[Almost certainly an artifact of my introduction to college hockey but they seem to happen all the time: Josh Langfeld's championship winner, the Vanek goal (at 1:00) that put Michigan out in Buffalo, and ND's winner against Merrimack were all bizarre nothing shots from the same area of the ice that took the goalie by surprise.]
A Tiny Window Of White Bullets
Also the other two goals but mostly Scooter!
You do not have a twitter account that concerns itself with Michigan hockey if you didn't tweet "Scooter" followed by one to three exclamation points after his goal, which was completely unbelievable even as it was happening. CC does not have the greatest defensemen in the world but holy crap where did that come from?
Monster faceoffs. Michigan both faced and received extended periods of 5-on-3 time in the first period, and during both they got clean, critical faceoff wins. Moffie's goal was a direct result. The lack of a CC goal on their terrifying PP was greatly aided, as well.
Clare escape. To recap the thing I kept talking about during the game: after a tough shift in which Pateryn and Clare got caught in the zone forever, allowing the Schwartz line to get out against them and some other random non-Rust forwards, Red pulled Clare out of the lineup for more than a period. Pateryn took shifts with the second pair D to give guys a break. Clare returned about halfway through the second and actually got some PK time a bit later, which I guess makes sense because your breakout on the PK is slapping the puck down the ice. I saw him out there a couple times in the third, as well, but his minutes were minimized.
All this invites questions about Burlon's availability. He's got two weeks to recover from his strep and penicillin reaction, so I imagine he'll be in the lineup. Losing 15 pounds is kind of a lot, though, and I wonder how effective he'll be.
RNG in full effect. Hockey's vaguely weighted plinko system was a little more random than normal this time around: FF participants are two three-seeds, a two, and a one. One seeds went 2-2 in the first round, bringing their record against fours to 11-9 the last five years. That goes beyond "anything can happen" into "your excellent season gets you nothing."
What's wrong? I don't think you can blame the Pairwise. The "better"* ranking system, KRACH, already updated for the weekend's results and still has Yale a #1. The only difference between KRACH's top seeds and the PWRs is putting Denver above Miami, and there's a fair chance that wasn't the case before the events of the weekend.
You can blame insular schedules. Yale's nonconference schedule consisted of single games against CC, Air Force, Cornell, and Vermont and an "Ivy Shootout" against other ECAC members. The only evidence we had that Yale was a top seed other than their ECAC schedule was a 5-1 win over a .500 WCHA team and a 2-1 record against Atlantic Hockey—yeah, they'd already lost to first-round opponent Air Force.
This vapor-thin trail coupled with some other ECAC nonconference games convinced the ranking systems the conference didn't suck despite years of evidence to the contrary. The last ECAC team to make the Frozen Four was Cornell in 2003 and that last to win a title was Harvard in 1989.
That only explains perpetually disappointing ECAC #1s, which are rare. The rest of it is on a tournament format which has #1 Miami play #4 UNH in New Hampshire in a single-elimination game.
*[FWIW, KRACH is mathematically pure but has a tendency to go nuts about nonconference results. In certain years it would put up to eight WCHA teams, some well below .500, into the field.]
Abandabuildings. It was no surprise to see literally every seat in the upper bowl in St. Louis empty. We wondered if a couple of friends had actually made the trip despite stern clucking about teaching the NCAA a lesson, and I said "if they did they'll be on TV because they'll be the only people there," and midway through the second there they were. Even the NCAA's comically generous numbers only show 55% capacity.
Every year we get sterile half-full buildings as teams get shipped halfway across the country and fans have to deal with the possibility they'll get on a plane to see their team play once, or if they're lucky play twice and make the Frozen Four and then you've blown your budget on regionals already. Insert usual rant about using home sites here.
The good news is the NCAA has not selected regional sites past next year. In the past sites have been selected three to four years out, so that's a clear sign this failed format is on its last legs. Last year there was a report out of Grand Forks that change was coming, with home sites and "super regionals" of an undetermined nature.
The bad news is that once again the CCHA has no regionals within hundreds of miles of it—the closest is in Green Bay as the St. Louis regional moves to St. Paul. At least Michigan's getting out of that rinky-dink operation, and as a bonus the failures of its commissioner* now directly benefit it.
*[Seriously, what has Anastos done since 1998 that a lump of quartz couldn't? The CCHA has gone nowhere, and has clearly become the region of the country that either gets screwed over by the committee or can't scrape together a bid that makes any more sense than having a regional in St. Louis.]
I am Jack's total lack of surprise. The crew doing the Yale-UMD game that chucked Yale's best player out of the game for a clean open-ice hit were from the CCHA. Yale's coach was infuriated enough afterwards to lead his presser with "the game was taken away from us." Yet more reason to be happy we're getting away from the league—hopefully most of the refs don't follow.
Via Boyz in the Pahokee as per usual.
Daily game story and gallery featuring a great shot of the Scooter(!!!) goal:
Everyone in the shot including Scooter is thinking "WTF?"
“I think they did have a few pretty good shots early on,” Hunwick said. “But this is an opportunity to play for the Frozen Four. I think I made a couple good saves. It’s pretty easy to stay in the game when you’re playing to go to the Frozen Four. They didn’t really get anything going too much until they got into the power play. Once they got into the power play, I really had to be sharp.”
Seriously, that power play was terrifying. That first period five on three was awful.
Torrent of the CC game.
So Michigan won a hockey game last night after a ten minute review that contained more back-and-to-the-left moments than JFK.
At first ESPN put on the overhead cam and that was inconclusive, but my instant reaction when I saw the far endzone cam was "that's in the net." The guy doing the actual game then ran the overhead cam on a loop, and once he did it became clear that a portion of Faulkner's skate well in the net was actually the puck. I was convinced, and eventually so were the refs.
The college hockey internets duly blew up. I kind of figured this would happen. There was no "ah-ha" frame. Everything put together made it incredibly unlikely the puck wasn't in the net, and it's always easier in that situation to just say "sorry, inconclusive."
Complainers are wrong.
And the refs were right. More stills.
If you want to argue that the refs shouldn't have called a goal because you couldn't figure out it was a goal and they could and they were later proven right, you are insane. This is a group that appears to include EJ Hradek and ESPNU's studio talking head, who complained that the spot shadow showing the puck well in the net wasn't available to the refs, thus inflaming the already pretty inflamed college hockey internet.
Why people suddenly want it to be harder to prove a puck was in the net than get convicted for murder in Mississippi I don't know, but I think it has something to do with the wings on the helmets.
UPDATE: Josh Houchin has a video look at it:
That's in the net.
PLAYOFF TIME IS HOCKEY BEAR TIME
Friday: Michigan vs UNO
Saturday: Michigan vs BC, CC, or tears
|WHERE||Hundreds of miles from anywhere reasonable|
Fri: 5:30 PM.
Sat: hypothetically 9 PM
|THE LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
Friday: ESPN3, Comcast Local, Altitude
Record. 21-15-2, 17-9-2 WCHA. The Mavericks' debut season in the WCHA was a successful one. A very successful one: the finished third and their +35 goal differential was second only to North Dakota's terrifying +50.
Their performance outside of the conference was not so good. They swept an early-season tournament against Clarkson and RIT and split with Michigan (hey, that's us!) but were swept themselves by eh Quinnipiac and somehow managed to lose to UAH at home. That one seems like a slight fluke since shots were 59-19 UNO.
Also not so good has been recent performance. UNO split its last three series of the regular season and was swept out of the playoffs by Bemidji in the first round; they've lost four of their last five.
Previous meetings. Michigan and UNO split a lopsided pair at Yost earlier in the year. UNO took the Friday game, leaping out to a 4-0 lead before a couple of consolation goals with less than ten minutes left made the final score respectable. The next night it was Michigan leaping out to the 4-0 lead; they fished that game 6-1. Michigan had ten more shots Friday; they were essentially even on Saturday.
I remember having a conversation with Guy Who Would Be JBug If I Was Bill Simmons to the effect of "I thought Saturday's game was exactly like Friday's but both nights the bounces went entirely one team's way" that we both agreed on. This one will be tight. Or it won't, I guess.
Dangermen. The Mavs get goals from everywhere. A whopping eight players hit double digit goals this year and the spectacularly-named Johnny Searfoss just missed with nine, giving UNO three almost utterly balanced scoring lines. The guy to look out for slightly more than the others is senior Matt Ambroz (17-17-34).
UNO has a couple of D with a ton of assists but no one like Michigan's goal machine defensemen.
Defense and goalie and whatnot. Sophomore John Faulker has played in every game this year with mediocre results. His .908 save percentage is slightly below average nationally; Michigan has a big edge in net with Shawn Hunwick's .921.
UNO's D doesn't have any stars outside of guy who gets all the power play assists; Bryce Aneloski is the only NHL draftee and that's as a seventh rounder on his third trip through. What you will see is plenty of overage guys—Aneloski, for example, is a 21-year-old sophomore. UNO has a grand total of two teenagers, one a backup goalie, and five 24-year-olds.
Special teams. Your power plays per game:
|PP For / G||4.2||4.2|
|PP Ag / G||4.6||4.4|
Both teams are slightly more likely to suffer a penalty kill than acquire a power play, but UNO is slightly more so. UNO's power play is mediocre at 17.6%, probably because they have a lot of pretty good offensive players but no lights-out stars. Michigan's kill is slightly better than average at 82.4%. The flipside is similar—both the UNO kill and Michigan PP are slightly above average.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Goalie Hyde, please. The last month has been a little bit of a rollercoaster for Michigan's goaltending. Shawn Hunwick was extremely shaky against WMU, then awesome against NMU. The team had a bye, then he had a virtual bye against BGSU. At the Joe he was extremely shaky against WMU again, then stole the game against ND, Montoya-vs-Maine style. I think we're more likely to get Dr. Hyde, but if things start going badly they might keep going badly.
Goodbye midget scoring line. I'm not super happy about Michigan abandoning the Sparks-Treais-Anchor setup on the third line but after looking at UNO's scoring it's clear this is not a team that has a third line that's just trying to keep the puck out of its own net. The results:
This week, Winnett stayed put, joining senior center Matt Rust and junior right wing Luke Glendening, while Vaughan is now on the third line with sophomore center Kevin Lynch and sophomore right wing A.J. Treais (previously at center).
This setup leaves sophomore Jeff Rohrkemper as the fourth-line center with sophomore Lindsay Sparks and freshmen Luke Moffatt and Derek DeBlois fighting for two wing positions.
The nominally top line—defined as whichever one Hagelin's on—remains Brown-Hagelin-Caporusso. Also I am not trying to hear that Vaughn and Treais are on the third line. That's #2, yo.
That setup on the fourth line means we can kiss it goodbye, IME. Not exactly what I wanted but anything that results in moar Hagelin increases your chances.
Pray like hell. This is actually left over from the CCHA finals last year when Michigan was staring down a juggernaut Miami team with a 19-year tourney streak on the line. It is the best advice for a one-and-done hockey tournament, so here it stays.
The Big Picture
Win or die.
HSR previews the Mavs:
Blais has garnered UNO's second trip to the NCAA tournament, and as one of my friends put it to my bluntly, "I am loathe to bet against Blais in a tournament setting." He has a point. Blais resume includes 5 30+ win seasons at North Dakota and two national championships for the Fighting [NICKNAME] and he lead the USA Hockey World Junior team to the gold medal in Saskatoon in 2009-2010. He is a coach who gets the most out of his talent and whose team will play hard every shift.
Yost Built does the same:
Faulkner was a microcosm of Nebraska-Omaha's inconsistency. He was 6-6-0 against tournament teams, splitting series against Michigan, North Dakota, CC, North Dakota again, DU, and Minnesota-Duluth. He gave up 35 goals in those 12 games. Minnesota-State, Michigan Tech, and Alabama-Huntsville were the only series all season where he gave up 2-or-fewer goals in both games. He had shutouts against North Dakota and Colorado College, but gave up 6 and 5 goals in the other game of the weekend. He's very capable of being great, and he's very capable of being chased. We saw both ends of the spectrum earlier in the year. Friday night, he stopped 34 of 36 shots. The next night, he lasted just over 23 minutes before getting the hook.
WCH points out a one-and-done hockey tournament is a random number generator:
I think the ideal NCAA tournament preview would chronicle what each team ate for breakfast the morning of their game, since that would seem to be a lot more important than any sort of statistics accrued over the course of the season. Brad Schlossman posted the statistic last night that in the past four years, #1 seeds are just 9-7 against #4 seeds in the first round of the tournament. Some may that call that exciting, but it's almost random to the point of being meaningless.
I've got a pretty good way to address this in a mailbag coming up.
Berenson returns to his second hockey home. 2013 recruit Tyler Motte made the NTDP. Michigan Hockey Net deploys a live blog for the game. I'd participate but I'd just type "FFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUU" the entire game unless we got up five goals.
Finally… um… can someone who goes to the official WCHA site more often than I do tell me how long this tagline has been up?
Consult the flowchart? Consult the flowchart. Oh, snap.
Oh, I'm an idiot. WCBN's fundraising drive lasts until March 20th, which is… um… four days ago. I said I'd give them a plug. This is it. Their online donation form is still up, though, so this isn't completely useless.
Pads! OH MY GOD IT'S SPRING PRACTICE VIDEO
Excellent savvy on the part of the athletic department to defuse any panic about Michigan wearing white pants this fall. Someone in the department has learned about the internet.
The Wolverine Blog has some spring practice content up, with five guys with the most to lose and most to gain. Maize and Blue Nation has had "whispers come across his desk" that may be random unreliable internet stuff but include reassuring comments like "Craig Roh three point stance" and "Thomas Gordon seeming competent at safety."
Think about that bit: Thomas Gordon seems like the most likely of what will be three or four moved linebackers to be a competent free safety due to his size, speed, and high school position. He was a strongside linebacker last year. Cam Gordon is a strapping guy headed for 230 pounds everyone thought would play linebacker even when he was a receiver. He started at free safety. This year we might (will probably?) see those guys switch positions.
/shakes fist at sky
The second-dumbest thing. Apparently I'm not done with people who say stupid things about Jalen Rose, but what am I supposed to do when Jason Whitlock writes this?
And if it’s clear Rose and Jimmy King were speaking in past tense, there would’ve been no need for Rose to send Hill and Jay Williams tweets before the documentary aired explaining that’s how the Fab Five felt 20 years ago.
Or it was clear but since it was not explicit Rose made it so before the damn thing ever came out, for all the good that did. Whitlock then goes on with his usual condescending What Ails Black Folk crusade because that's what he does. Here's Dave Zirin at the Nation—high up on the list of websites I never thought I'd have cause to link to on MGoBlog—annihilating Whitlock*.
Meanwhile, Frank Beckmann should drop the "mann" from his last name:
I love that Jack Sharp looks like he could be Purdue's head coach. I don't love that a guy closely associated with the University is essentially Glenn Beck.
*[This is not an endorsement of the Nation's opinion on anything other than Jason Whitlock. I still remember that back in the day the most ludicrously communist Daily columnist during my time as an undergrad got a coveted internship there that he used to write more ludicrously communist pieces. It is a silly place.]
Bah, Burlon. Brandon Burlon's strep infection/bad reaction to antibiotics is probably going to knock him out for the entire weekend. Red's already said playing Friday is out of the question and this doesn't sound like he's going to be able to go at all:
Burlon — out of the lineup for both games this past weekend at Joe Louis Arena — has been plagued by an “inflamed esophagus,” according to Michigan coach Red Berenson.
The junior defenseman has been in and out of the hospital since last Monday when he came down with strep throat. He’s had trouble eating solid food and has lost about 15 pounds over the past week.
Also in that article: Shawn Hunwick is having a mid-life crisis because he never wants to leave Michigan. His first action is taking a fifth year. Suggestion: master's degree. It worked for me.
Gotta collect 'em all. Ray Vinopal's transfer destination is Pitt, which is indeed closer to home—it's about an hour—and also features a bunch of Michigan's former coaches, including his position coach. Because this is a Michigan safety we're talking about he will become an All-American now that he's free from the clutches of Angry Michigan Safety-Hating God.
Guh. You don't even need to know what SDPI is to know this is true:
/shakes fist at Greg Robinson hire
/also 3-3-5 installation
/actually hasn't stopped shaking fist since January 2nd
Even more hockey recruiting. The United States of Hockey checked out a recent NTDP game and reports back on goalie John Gibson, amongst others:
John Gibson: The big goaltender looks like a pro goalie when he plays. He takes up so much net whether he’s standing up or on his knees. During the shootout, when he came out to challenge, I think the net basically disappeared. When I say the moves Gaudreau and Girgensons put on Gibson were nasty, I mean… just filthy. The big guy made 35 saves, including several key stops late.
I asked one of the team staffers if Gibson was excited about his season and his commitment to Michigan. The reply, “Gibby doesn’t get excited about much of anything.”
So Gibson is the exact opposite of Shawn Hunwick. Warning: don't read the bits on Rocco Grimaldi. They will make you sad he is headed for North Dakota.
Kenpom is the bible. Pete Thamel's NYT article on how accepted Kenpom is amongst college basketball coaches makes me wonder what it will take for halftime statistics to feature offensive rebounding percentage. The brilliant/frustrating thing about tempo-free numbers is that they're stupidly easy to explain (with the admittedly vast exception of "offensive rating"): we took this number, and then we divided it by something. This allows coaches to say things like this:
“I’m not a math geek,” said the George Mason assistant coach Chris Caputo, who does all of the team’s scouting reports. “But it gives me a quick statistical synopsis of who they are before we watch tape and personnel. What do they do well? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Where do their points come from? It’s a snapshot of relevant statistics.”
No football or baseball coach that confesses he looks at advanced metrics would start off his statement "I'm not a math geek," or at least they'd obviously be lying. With Kenpom it's plausible Caputo just knows how to divide.
The frustrating part about all this is how stubborn the broadcasting establishment is about incorporating this stuff. I'm tired of seeing "FG%" next to "three pointers" and trying to figure out on the fly what each team's percentage on twos is.
Ain't nobody there. Mmmm fluffy headline:
Brady Hoke reaffirms Wolverines' love for recruiting from Detroit
I'll take that over "Darius Morris can't be sure he's returning to Michigan State" any day, though. The Hoke Media 180 continues unabated. Let's hope it's as important as the media thinks it is.
Etc.: Northwestern won't be adding D-I hockey either. Notre Dame seems to be preparing for life without Michael Floyd. Minnesota and Wisconsin nonconference schedule issues. Derek Dooley gets a "year zero," which seems fair but makes me think about Nick Sheridan. The Hoover Street Rag has fired up its annual hockey tournament preview. Yost Built on the BTHC—FWIW, I doubt that both Alaska schools will end up in the same conference because I don't think you can exempt four games up there, thus depriving them of their main enticement.