to play football, not to play trumpet
2012 ncaa hockey tournament
Sitebulletins. We are two weeks away from the Spring Game and the it's hard offseason after. We'll be ramping up the usual stuff—profiles of the incoming freshmen, ranting about offsides in hockey, recaps of our insane predictions—and yes, now is the time when a Sugar Bowl UFR gets done. All timely like.
There are a couple of complicating factors, most prominent: knee surgery. I'm having it. Unfortunately they've moved the date from April 17th—blissfully amidst nothing at all—to April 10th. That's four days before the Spring Game. Glarble. I'll do my best to give you the usual breakdown, but I'm not sure how with-it I'll be. I'm supposed to be able to walk in two weeks, so hopefully I'll be coherent after four days.
The other project, one that I wanted to get started on earlier, is whacking the server in the right spot so it's a bunch faster. This should be doable, but it is going to take some time. Between that and the surgery don't be surprised if my posting frequency drops a bit. I'll get at least one thing up a day; the rest of the time is going to be spent on laying a groundwork for keeping things upright when next season rolls around. Death to the 503.
goodnight, sweet prince
Read this. I linked it in the game recap post but really, if you haven't read Zach Helfand's article on the Cornell game you should:
GREEN BAY, Wisc. — The crease is empty now.
The custodians in the Resch Center stands are picking up trash, and with plastic gloves they shove Skittles wrappers and used napkins and programs that show a picture of a 5-foot-6 goaltender that used to play for the Michigan hockey team into a large plastic trash bag.
It is a quarter till midnight.
Below them, on the ice, the crease is empty.
Forty-nine minutes ago, at 10:56 p.m., it wasn’t. Forty-nine minutes ago, there was a goaltender named Shawn Hunwick lying on his right side across that crease, and a puck was there, just past the crown of his helmet.
It's one thing to execute a long-form article over weeks and another to bash something really good out on deadline. Helfand has chops. Googling reveals a planned graduation date of 2014. I feel old.
Stephen Nesbitt also has a good column on Hunwick's exit, one in which Hunwick says a blog called him a "waste of space." Doesn't sound like me, but I do like Fawlty Towers… hmmm… phew. No hits except some false positives in which commenters call each other wastes of space.
As long as we're moping about the Cornell game and early exits, the HSR writes on Michigan's last three tourney losses, all of which were 3-2 in OT after a disallowed goal. Ay yi yi. Holdin' The Rope is also attempting to hold its head together with its hands. Center Ice previews the incoming recruits.
We must prevent anyone from attending this event. The NCAA is bound and determined to prevent any hockey regional from selling out, even the best conceivable scenario of Minnesota-North Dakota at the X:
-That said, the NCAA did their best to neutralize any home ice advantage at the XCel Center by making sure no one would attend. Tickets for each session cost $57, and there was no re-entry between the two games on Saturday, meaning fans were pretty much stuck inside the XCel all day if they wanted to see both games. The end result of the blatant price-gouging was an announced crowd of 10,974 for a regional final between Minnesota and North Dakota. That doesn't look terrible, but as Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald pointed out, last week's WCHA Final Five quarterfinal held at the same building between Denver and Michigan Tech, and played on a Thursday afternoon drew an announced crowd of 11,489. The NCAA ran an event less successfully than the WCHA. This year's regional final was also outdrawn by the 2007 regional final between the same two teams, but held in Denver.
The prices for regionals are so ridiculous they can't even sell out a Minnesota game in Minnesota.
I just don't even know, man. There's a Michigan fan on the USCHO board who rails on this broken playoff system, spawning huge multi-page threads that make me want to find the people who think it's impossible to move back to home regionals and throttle them.
College hockey needs to grow the sport at home, where it's in competition with the CHL, and not in Tampa or St. Louis. Move to two weekends of best two out of three series on home ice and follow it up with a Frozen Four. You bring the game to the people who support it, not hundreds of miles away, and cease the embarrassment of having three thousand people in arenas that seat three times that many. The current system is essentially a giant middle finger to the people who fill arenas during the regular season.
Even when they can get it right, they don't: Michigan is hosting in Grand Rapids next year when there is a Toledo regional available. That's an extra four hours roundtrip so Bowling Green, a school with almost no chance of making the tournament, can host. And WCHA fanbases all get shut out.
A little more Merrill info. Red, at least, expects him back:
As for Merrill, a second-round pick of New Jersey, Berenson said: "Merrill will get some interest, but right now his heart is at Michigan. I don't see him doing anything."
While Red's been wrong before, that's a think in the right direction on my Bayesian Merrill departure meter. The Daily also throws this in an article on Wohlberg's departure for the AHL and other matters:
Sophomore defenseman Jon Merrill is the only Wolverine who hasn't appeared to make a decision regarding his status for next season.
Not sure if that's an assumption or the prospect of losing Brown/Guptill is not on the table. That would be nice, getting everyone back. It's happened. It's rare, but it's happened. Once, I think.
Anonymous surveying. Rothstein took some anonymous survey questions($) when he was giving exit interviews to the 19 seniors and returns with word that Jerald Robinson is the pick for breakout player. One comment on him:
"He obviously hasn't played that much, but he has everything you need to be a great receiver. All he needs is the opportunity, and once he gets that, I know he'll do well. I think he'll definitely have a breakout year this year, because Junior (Hemingway is) leaving and (Darryl) Stonum isn't on the team, so we need him to step up, and I think he will."
Ryan, Toussaint, and Denard(!) are 2-3-4. There is much else of interest behind that paywall, but… yeah, paywall. I can probably tell you that Rothstein asked whether players liked Rodriguez and got generally positive but mixed responses. The responses to the same question about Hoke: "Yes – 19."
These grapes are truly sour. I either missed this or just forgot about posting on this article. Whichever it is, here it is. Possibly again. It's an Andy Staples piece from January on decommitments of top 100 recruits that has a couple of fascinating figures:
Of the 500 players ranked in the Rivals100 for the classes of 2007 through 2011, 73 (14.6 percent) decommitted at some point during their recruitment. Of those, 62 (12.4 percent) ultimately signed with a school other than the one to which they originally committed. …
Of the players who decommitted, 34.2 percent either failed to qualify, transferred or were dismissed. … Of the players who made one commitment and stuck to it, only 18.7 percent either failed to qualify, transferred or were dismissed.
The washout rate for guys who picked more than one school is almost double that of players who stuck with their one true love. So we didn't want Pharaoh Brown anyway. (Yes. Yes, I did want Pharaoh Brown. Fiddlesticks.)
About 15% of players end up switching. That seems higher in the South, FWIW, as some of those switches are involuntary. I'd guess Michigan loses fewer from this class, and going forward in the Hoke era.
Irvin hype clarity. I haven't been entirely sure what to think about Zak Irvin since the recruiting sites have such divergent opinions on him. Scout has him a generic three-star; Rivals thinks he's a top 50-type player. Via UMHoops, here's an indication that local observers lean towards the latter. The Indy Star is commenting on the snub of Bryson Scott, a Purdue commit who was only named to Indiana's second tier junior All-Star team:
Six players are named to the core team and it’s pretty clear in my mind that’s he’s one of the six best players in the junior class. I’d rate him or Hamilton Southeastern’s Zak Irvin as the top in-state prospect currently in the 2013 class. Plus, Scott has led his team to the regional each of the last two years and he averaged more than 25 points a game as a sophomore.
Irvin is on the "core" team that will scrimmage the seniors twice in preparation for their annual game against Kentucky.
Etc.: Keith Olbermann eulogizes Bert Sugar, Michigan grad and story fountain. MSU lists 6'7" Tyler Hoover as a starter at DT. Many happy Masseys to him. This would be much more fun if MSU's OL was the shambles it should have been last year. Michigan is back on Monte Morris. Rittenberg goes to Sweet 16, comes back advocating for home sites in CFB playoff.
3/23/2012 – Michigan 2, Cornell 3 (OT) – 24-13-3, 15-9-4 CCHA, season over
Shawn Hunwick first stepped on the ice for a 18-16-1 Michigan team that had seen its at-large NCAA hopes evaporate during a dismal road sweep at the hands of Nebraska-Omaha.
No one wanted him out there, but at least it didn't much matter. This year's team was in danger of missing the tournament in November and recovered to finish second in the Pairwise. Two years ago they had missed it, period, until they lost their starting goalie and inserted a guy who came to Michigan with no illusions he'd play.
That was the catalyst for a change in Michigan's fortunes. Involuntarily pulling Bryan Hogan was another outlet for the dread everyone was feeling at the near-certainty that Michigan would break its tourney streak. Those in the stands reacted by assuming that every shot at or in the general vicinity of the net would either go straight in (in the case of shots that needed no assistance) or be deflected into the dead center of a wide open goal (in the case of shots that were not already on net).
The team felt the same way. They responded by swarming into the slot in a great mass to sweep away the fat, glistening rebounds Hunwick seemed to give up on every shot, no matter how harmless. Their certainty that Hunwick would be overrun led to a 4-0 shutout.
The next night they'd finish the regular season by giving up five goals in an untelevised road loss. Did they relax? I don't know.
Michigan entered the playoffs the next weekend and went on a rampage. They continued to patrol their own slot with feverish intensity, and this translated into the "jump" hockey coaches and commentators are always using to define that ineffable quality a hockey team has when its passes are going tape to tape and the opponents keep finding inconveniently located defenders.
The jump lasted three games. They swept Lake State out of Yost, then bombed Michigan State 5-1 at Munn. The second night they leapt out to a two-goal lead and then bled it back. The first goal was just one of those things. Tristin Llewellyn took an insane elbowing penalty to put Michigan down two men and MSU passed it around until they got a slam dunk.
The second and third goals were the end of the ride. They were both power play goals—Llewellyn would watch State score from the box three times in three minutes—but they were pillowy soft ones. This was the moment at which it all came screeching to a halt and Hunwick was revealed as the walk-on he was. Michigan went to the locker room down 3-2 after one, certain that anything they let on net was going in. The jump had left Michigan's step.
Michigan State got one shot in the second period. It did not go in. That period was twenty minutes of battering a door until it hung by the barest sliver of a hinge. Three minutes into the the third, it gave way.
State managed 22 shots for the game but no more would get past Hunwick; Michigan tilted the ice decisively in the second, tied it, and finished the job in the third. The next weekend at the Joe, Michigan allowed 22 shots to Miami and 18 to Northern Michigan as they secured a streak-extending bid with the most rousing CCHA playoff run they'd had since the days when Michigan was looking up at the Lake States of the world.
They played like banshees. They died like Vikings. They did so because they didn't know what the hell was going to happen when someone threw a puck at the net.
Two years later, Shawn Hunwick is possibly the best Michigan goalie of all time and it's overtime because Michigan had a goal disallowed because Michigan always has a goal disallowed.
Michigan wins a faceoff and gets a shot off that is saved and caroms to Cornell. Cornell turns the play back against a third line of Luke Moffatt, Derek Deblois, and Travis Lynch. Moffatt is there to provide a third man back against the rush.
The defenders can't handle the rush that well and end up giving up a scary shot from a Cornell forward cutting left to right in front of the net. Hunwick's way out of the blue ice, because he's always way out of the blue ice because he's 5'6". He gets his right pad on the shot. He's 5'6". He has limited options when it comes to leg angles that kick pucks places. His choice here is between letting the thing into the net and kicking his leg as straight as he can so that there's no angle for the thing to go in. He's got a save percentage above .930. He's a Hobey Baker finalist. He kicks it out into the slot, like he did against Notre Dame, over and over again.
Moffatt's there, but in a bad position. His check is crappy, he doesn't tie the guy's stick up sufficiently, the guy puts it in the net, and Hunwick is over. All that's left for him to do is take the puck that was in the slot and is now in the net and hand it to Cornell. Deblois and Lynch are cruising into the defensive zone still. They don't look much like banshees, and they're not there in the slot. They're sophomores—juniors now—and don't remember what it was like when Shawn Hunwick was a 5'6" walk-on and not a Hobey Baker finalist.
The Horrible Horrible Power Play
For the third straight year Michigan's season ends 3-2 in overtime thanks in part to a disallowed goal. The rage factor on this one is lower than the other two because it came with 58 minutes to play, was not disallowed because the ref blew his whistle, and there's not enough rage to go around this year thanks to the power play.
Michigan's terrible awful power play entered the NCAA tournament 46th nationally and leaves it 48th, where they'll stay since everyone else around them is done for the year. Michigan spent half the
third second period up a man, almost three minutes of that time up two, and achieved a –1 goal differential in that time. That was the game right there. Michigan finished 0/7 on the power play, gave up a power play goal on one of Cornell's three opportunities, and conceded a shorthanded goal for the first time all year.
It's clear there's something wrong with the power play that can't be explained away by pointing to a lack of talent. Michigan hasn't had a power play you could actually call good in four years despite consistently putting up a lot of offense:
|YEAR||PP RK||Goals per G||Goal RK|
You can say '09-'10 is slightly above average, but that's all. Meanwhile Michigan continues to finish around the top ten in scoring despite not getting much production out of their power play. If their ability with a man advantage roughly corresponded with their 5x5 scoring this year* Michigan would have put up 13 extra power play goals and leapt into the top five in scoring.
It's hard to take the argument that Michigan just doesn't have the talent seriously when outfits like Bemidji State, Western Michigan, Northern Michigan, and Ferris State all finish 20+ spots ahead. Zero of those teams have NHL draft picks littering the roster, let alone a set of offensive defensemen like Merrill, Moffie, and Bennett.
This is a coaching issue. Watching Michigan cluelessly bat it back and forth from one covered guy to the other one on the five-on-three should make that clear. No one moves, no one has a plan, and the most common thing to do is fling a point shot into a defender's pads. Red is the king of all he perceives but this is a major problem that doesn't look like it's going away.
*[The #10 power play, North Dakota, converted at a 22% rate compared to Michigan's 14.6.]
The disallowed goal. I don't think Moffatt's impact changed the outcome of that play. The goalie was already sliding away from the puck and had no idea where it was. That said, Moffatt did impact the goalie in the crease, and it didn't look like his defender had anything to do with it. I don't think it's an outrageous injustice. It's very frustrating, of course, but if the ref screwed that up he more than made up for it with the avalanche of Cornell penalties Michigan could do nothing with.
The penalty shot was a terrible call, but at that point I think I preferred it to the alternative since Michigan was down, had a power play, and was playing a team without a ton of offensive skill.
Merrill: WTF? Also Moffie. The biggest reason Michigan lost other than its power play was the Merrill-Moffie pairing. Moffie initiated the sequence that led to the shorthanded goal with a suicide pass to Merrill; Merrill screwed it up at the line and the two-on-one started. Then Merrill took a swipe at the Cornell saucer pass with his stick instead of getting his body into the passing lane, leading to a slam dunk.
On the winner it was Merrill and Moffie who combined to let that rush turn into a dangerous shot; Merrill got too far outside and again out of the passing lane. Moffie also added a stupid crosschecking penalty seconds into Cornell's dubious major; it was Merrill who ended up giving up the (admittedly ludicrous) penalty shot.
Merrill has not played well over the last month. He was responsible for goals against Northern Michigan, Bowling Green, Western Michigan, and Cornell and hasn't been as superb with the puck as he usually is. I'm not sure what's going on there but he doesn't seem focused.
CCHA: not so much. The conference got almost half its membership into the tournament this year but saw four of its five teams flame out in the first round. Ferris State got past injury-riddled Denver and Cornell to make its first Frozen Four, and congrats to them.
Everyone else went out in game one. Takeaways from this:
- A conference where no one can score that was won by a team without an NHL draft pick on it is not that good at hockey.
- Non-conference games are hugely important because they are so sparse and provide the basis of comparisons between conferences.
That latter issue should evaporate after next year. Western college hockey will reform itself into three conferences from two and Michigan will have 14 nonconference games instead of six. Hopefully those aren't all home series against Bentley during football season.
A glance at next year. It's hard to predict without knowing the results of the NHL draft and whether Michigan will suffer early departures. A hypothetical no-defection defense corps looks pretty good:
That's light on sandpaper but should have no problems moving the puck. The only problem is that Michigan could lose the first three guys listed above. Bennett came in saying outright that he would not be a four-year player, Trouba is good enough to be signed immediately by an NHL club, and who knows what Merrill's attitude will be towards a hypothetical junior season after the rollercoaster he went through. Losing one guy is survivable. Two is worrying.
Michigan really needs a big leap forward from Serville. He's a lot younger than Chiasson, has a decent NHL draft pedigree, and seemed to be moving forward late in the year. If he can develop into a solid second-pairing type it'll be okay.
At forward, Red will put them through the blender but one man's rough guess:
- Moffatt-T. Lynch-PDG
- Random assortment including Rohrkemper, Sparks, Other Lynch, and freshmen Daniel Mile and Justin Selman
It's possible Nieves comes in and forces himself onto the top two lines but I'm guessing Red will go with a defense-oriented player over the freshman. Defections here are also possible, of course: Guptill, PDG, and Brown are all potential departures. People keep talking about PDG leaving but I'd be surprised if an NHL team is eager to sign him just now. His 26 points are good for a freshman but not Pacioretty good. The kind of guys who have left after one year have driven play more than PDG did.
The biggest change will be in net, where NTDP goalie Jared Rutledge replaces Hunwick with Junior A vagabond Steve Racine backing him up. Rutledge's Pointstreak page is a little scary—a drop in games and performance from year to year—but the embarrassingly primitive spreadsheet the NTDP uses to track its stats shows that over the course of the year Rutledge has a .902 versus teammate (and Ohio State commit) Collin Olson's .893. NTDP save percentages can be pretty ugly since a big chunk of their games are against college teams, so that's fine. Rutledge is a small, aggressive, technically-sound goalie who sounds a lot like Hunwick.
BONUS SPREADSHEETIN': Michigan's 3 NTDP U17 commits are #1, #4, and #5 in scoring on their team. JT Compher is the guy at #1 and has played 7-8 fewer games than the rest of the team. He's the only guy with a PPG. Tyler Motte is neck and neck with Miami commit Anthony Louis and UNH commit Tyler Kelleher for #2; Evan Allen is a half-dozen points back of that group. With those three guys and Bryson Cianfrone, a Canadian Junior A player who was projected as a first round OHL draft pick before committing to Michigan, Michigan looks like they'll have a dynamite 2013 class. Pending defections, of course, Always pending defections.
Union and Michigan State are underway in a near-empty building, so we're off. Some final items before the madness descends:
HOCKEYBEAR. PLAYOFF TIME IS HOCKEYBEAR TIME.
HOCKEYBEAR IS GO
Cornell. The preview is here; the Big Red is a tight-checking team with a defensive emphasis and good goaltending. Usually getting an ECAC team in the tournament is a good sign—no team from that league has advanced to the Frozen Four since 2003. You saw the Air Force game, though. This is single elimination playoff hockey.
Line change? Michigan's broken up their top line at an odd time. In practice they've moved Derek Deblois up and Chris Brown down, leaving the lines like so:
- Brown-Lynch The Elder-Moffat
- Rohrkemper-Lynch The Younger-Hyman
Berenson's explanation of this is grim:
"I just think the lines were getting stale, especially Wohlberg's line," Berenson said. "I thought they lost their work ethic, and they were scoring as individuals but the line wasn't producing. In fact, the line was negative in the last 10 games.
"We can't go into a tournament with a line that is not helping the team, especially one that's supposed to be one of your best."
The top line was still filling up the nets, scoring eight goals in the last nine games, but they're –1 between them. How much is on them and how much is on Michigan's newfound addiction to terrible turnovers from the defense.
Also from that article: Michigan is 13-4-1 since Merrill returned, and he's +12.
Or maybe not? The Daily has another quote from Berenson that suggests Michigan may dump the change if it's not going well:
“When you see the line chart (on Friday) you’ll have a better idea,” Berenson said. “But I like the fact that we’ve got some flexibility. We’ve had different players play with different players during the year, and we’ve even had some guys play different positions. I think when you get to this point of the year, you have to be flexible, as a coach and a player.
“That doesn’t answer (the) question, but that’s my answer.”
It's possible Red is just sending a message.
2002 from darker eyes. Denver reminisces about Yost's apex:
"That was one of the toughest losses I've had in my career," says Kevin Doell, who led that club with 43 points and remains a veteran scorer with the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League. "When we had a lead going into the third period, we were good at shutting the door. Once they got that first goal and their crowd got into it, it was a huge momentum boost for them. It's still hard to swallow when I think about it."
And thus was born the NCAA's deathly fear of a home crowd for anyone other than Minnesota.
The start of it all. The Daily's Zach Helfland tell the story of Michigan's tourney streak beginning:
It was late Sunday night in March 1990. Bo had just retired, the Fab Five just months away from enrolling at Michigan, and Berenson had just finished a phone call that would decide whether his once-mighty hockey team would be relevant again after so many years.
The 2012 version of the Michigan hockey team encountered some bumps, but it waltzed into the tournament. So did the team before it. In fact, since 1990, only one team, the 2010 squad (which Shawn Hunwick led on its miracle run), was anywhere close to the bubble. But in 1990, it wasn’t that easy.
On one end of the call was Berenson, six fruitless years into his tenure in Ann Arbor. On the other was the NCAA selection committee. Ever since it beat Bowling Green in the CCHA consolation game the day before, Berenson’s team, firmly planted on the NCAA Tournament bubble, had been waiting for this call.
View from Cornell. An email:
Hi, I'm a Cornell fan. I like your site and wanted to add a thought or two with respect to some of the comments.
About the ECAC's number of national titles: technically it is four, not three. Cornell (1967, 1970), RPI (1985) and Harvard (1989). RPI also won in 1954, before the league was formed. And BU walked off with 3 (1971, 1972, 1978) when Hockey East split off from the ECAC.
On the subject of Cornell's mascot/nickname confusion: The nickname is the Big Red. Just the color. We tried to explain this to a Minnesota fan at the 2005 regional when they asked what the mascot is and they thought we were talking down to them. But usually when we say "Big Red" to someone the next words out of their mouth are "Big Red What?". In fact, one of the Cornell fan sites is called "the Big Red What?"
Anyway, the nickname comes from a football song written in 1905 as the team wore red and white, the school colors since its founding. The bear came along in 1915 when the football team bought a live black bear and kept it on the sidelines during games. And despite a bear being in the Cornell sports team logos the university website still refers to the mascot as "unofficial". Not sure what to make of that. Long story short, nobody calls us "the Bears".
They're like Stanford, okay?
Etc.: Michigan is not exactly paranoid about letting people see their practices. Cornell is of course the team that Michigan emulated during the famous 1991 matchup at Yost that spawned a thousand angry swears. (HT: MHN.)
The final team in Green Bay this weekend. First round opponent Cornell was profiled a couple days ago; Denver yesterday. Doing the entire regional is not a jinx. It is a way to work out nervous energy. I told my wife that today was the first round of the hockey tournament and got a worried "oh" in response.
Oh crap oh crap oh crap oh crap
|WHAT||Michigan(?) vs Ferris State(?)|
|WHERE||Green Bay, heart of the CCHA|
|WHEN||9:30 Eastern Saturday|
|LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
Record. 23-11-5, 16-7-5 CCHA. Ferris won the CCHA by four points despite winning just one of five shootouts. They were going to have a rumble with Michigan at the Joe for the top seed in Green Bay until two overtime losses to Bowling Green saw them shockingly dumped from the CCHA playoffs. Ferris got locked into a two seed as a result.
They achieved what they did mostly with defense. Ferris is a little bit better than average at putting pucks in the net (a hair under three goals per game is good for 21st) and is top ten at keeping them out (2.2, 10th). Their goal differential in the league was an impressive +18. Michigan (+25) and Miami (+19) did beat them out, but Ferris spread their goals out much more effectively than the mercurial Wolverines and Redhawks.
Previous meetings. Michigan's lone bright spot in their awful streak last fall was a sweep of the Bulldogs that looks inexplicable now. Michigan hammered the eventual league champions 5-2 and 4-0; they'd win one of their next nine games.
It makes even less sense when you dive into some of the ancillary stats, in which the teams were dead even. Shots were basically even over the weekend. On Friday both teams had two power play goals. On Saturday the teams combined to go 0/11 with a man advantage. Penalty kills were also even over both days.
The only stat separating the teams were goals, goals, goals. Taylor Nelson gave up five goals on 28 shots; backup CJ Motte got the Saturday game and gave up four on the same number. Hunwick's save percentage for the weekend was .962. Note that Michigan's seven goal advantage came entirely at even strength.
Common opponents. Too many to mention since Michigan and Ferris are conference-mates. At least for now. This is probably even; the Bulldogs may have won the league but the different league playoff runs bring that back to parity.
Ferris needs Matthew Kirzinger to produce if it expects to advance
Dangermen. Ferris State's scoring is a lot like Michigan's: a top line does most of the work and gets they get decent support from the second line. After that there is little. Ferris's scoring drops off a lot faster than Michigan's. CenterIce scouted them before the fall series:
Don't get me wrong these guys can play, but what I saw from the film was the inability to finish plays. Time after time I watched a Ferris forward stickhandle through miami defenders, or make the perfect pass only to miss the net. A lot of the goals scored were due to Miami being shorthanded or being to slow, or a shot from Bolivia. That being said we still have to respect the team who is 15th in team offense because they do have a lot of skill.
The top guys are all upperclassment in the same point range. Winger Matthew Kirzinger (10-22-32) is the setup guy for Kyle Bonis (18-11-29) and Jordie Johnston (18-15-33). The second line does a little bit of scoring, but five of Travis Ouellette's nine goals have come on the power play, as have three of Garrett Thompson's nine. They don't get much even strength production outside of the top three.
Senior defenseman Chad Billins is also a power play threat—he has 7-22-29 with five of those goals coming with a man advantage.
Defense. These guys are defenders first, second, and third. Billins gets that power play run and has an assist rate that indicates he's doing something more than picking up second assists; even so no FSU defender has more than two goals at even strength.
Elaborately-named Scott Czarnaowczan is the other guy on the top pairing with Billins; he was a nominee for the league's top defensive defenseman at the end of the year.
undeserving of first team all conference but still pretty good goalie clapclapclap
Goalie. Taylor Nelson was not better than Shawn Hunwick over the course of the season but he would have been a deserving second-team all conference selection with his .920 save percentage and 2.18 GAA. Freshman CJ Motte got a dozen games as well, but Bob Daniels isn't likely to go away from his senior unless things go pear-shaped.
As noted above, neither goalie had a good outing in Michigan's sweep early in the year.
Special teams. Your power plays per game:
|PP For / G||4.7||3.7|
|PP Ag / G||4.4||4.2|
Michigan vs Those Guys, Hypothetically
Single elimination hockey. Is insane.
Usual statement about playing five on five a lot. Goes here.
Match Pateryn and Bennett with their big line. Michigan has last change and given the steep dropoff in even strength production they should try to get their best defensive lineup out there against Kirzinger/Bonis/Johnston. That is Pateryn plus some combination of defensive forwards.
Get the same goalie gap. The difference in Michigan's dominating sweep early in the year was almost entirely in net.
Grind it out. Ferris is a neutral-zone clogging, space-denying, odd-man-rush-prohibiting team of grit and sand that's gotten where they are despite a total lack of NHL draft picks. They will make whoever they play work for any chances they happen to get. Michigan will need guys like Guptill and Deblois and Brown and Glendening to win board battles if they want to get anywhere.
The Big Picture
Cornell first, of course. In the blessed event of a second-round game, Michigan must win or be thrown out the airlock.
Ah, hell, let's do the whole regional.
|WHAT||Michigan vs Denver(?)|
|WHERE||Green Bay, heart of the CCHA|
|WHEN||9:30 Eastern Saturday|
|LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
It's a pioneer. It is also Sinbad. This description is not about his comedy, obviously. It's about how he played basketball at Denver with a silly looking afro.
Record. 25-13-4, 16-8-4 WCHA. I'm not sure how a WCHA team with that record falls to a three seed, but that's Ferris State's problem before we can complain about it. FWIW, KRACH is in near-lockstep with the Pairwise when it comes to ranking Ferris and Denver.
The Pioneers finished third in the WCHA—a game and a half ahead of streaking one-seed North Dakota—with a +17 goal differential. After beating Wisconsin in three games to open the WCHA playoffs they won OT games against Michigan Tech and UMD, the second in double OT, before getting clubbed by North Dakota in the final 4-0. Take that with a grain of salt. By the end of that game Denver was down to three defensemen one night after going to double OT.
In keeping with the regional's ALL THE OVERTIMES theme, three of Denver's last four games have been playoff OTs. Michigan is coming off consecutive weekends with playoff double OTs. Ferris State got bounced by Bowling Green thanks to two overtime losses two weeks ago. And ten of Cornell's last 21 games have gone to OT. Prepare for fetal position hockey this weekend.
Outside of the league, Denver had one very impressive win and one bizarre loss. They beat BC in Boston to open the year, then lost to BU the next night. They beat Princeton in late November, then lost to Miami. They beat eventual one-seed Union 3-1 and smoked Air Force 7-1. They hosted Alabama-Huntsville… and split, giving the Chargers one of their two wins on the year.
Previous meetings. None. How about…
Common opponents. Both teams have wins against BC. Michigan, of course, got clubbed by Union at the tail end of their November fail; Denver beat them. Michigan went 2-1-1 against the Redhawks Denver lost to, and Michigan swept Denver's first round opponent. Denver will obviously be 1-0 against Ferris if this preview becomes relevant.
Dangermen. This is hard to judge given Denver's extensive but murky injury issues:
DU coach George Gwozdecky on Sunday said his six injured players — forwards Jason Zucker, Chris Knowlton and Beau Bennett, and defensemen Paul Phillips, Josiah Didier and David Makowski — are all “day-to-day” and questionable for Friday’s NCAA Tournament opener against Ferris State.
The Denver Post's Mike Chambers guesses that Zucker and Didier will be fine, Bennett will return, and that Makowski will play but only on the power play. Bennett and Makowski have been out since December; Zucker and Didier picked up injuries in the WCHA title game.
As a result of the injuries, Denver fans are feeling a bit of pessimism. One emailer:
I've see a few of their games this year and I am not holding my breath for this team to go deep in the tournament. The scoring dries up at times and the defensemen had issues clearing the puck earlier in the season. More than likely the goalie won't be determined until the day before and they both are pretty solid (either Brittain or Olkinuora). The Shore brothers and Zucker are the biggest scorers on the team, so losing Zucker would hurt if he can't play. Philips is a solid defensemen, but he might be out as well. This team is kind of wounded right now and young.
Uncertainty aside, this team has some elite scorers on it the likes of which have ceased to exist in the CCHA. If Denver fans think their team sees scoring dry up they'd be appalled by the CCHA: Denver is 9th nationally in goals for, with Michigan one slot behind them.
The top two lines are centered by the Shore brothers, Drew and Nick. Drew drives the bus for Denver with 21-31-52 and a +21. Given the plus minus ratings it looks like Denver has run a blender through its lines all year. Luke Salazar and Ty Loney are currently Shore's linemates. Salazar has 12-17-29, a +18, and just one minor penalty on the year; Loney has 10-11-21 and appears to be the gritty guy who provides grit and stuff.
The second line is explosive offensively but has struggled to keep its head above water. Nick Shore has 13-28-41 and is a –1 on the year; Zucker has 22-24-46 and is just +6. Some of this may not be their fault, as Denver has been missing two of their best defensemen for most of the year.
Defense. Injury clouds the picture even more here. Denver was down to five defensemen after the Didier injury against North Dakota; while they will get players back for the tournament how many will make a big difference. It sounds like Didier should be fine, Phillips still out, and Markowski limited.
That would mean Denver rotates through five guys on the blue line with occasional shifts to the returning Markowski; on a hypothetical second-night matchup they would be more tired than Michigan's guys, inevitable overtimes held equal.
In the absence of the injured, freshman Joey LaLeggia is the main man. He's +15 on the year and has 11-27-38. Those are astounding numbers given that he's only got three power play goals. LaLeggia's brilliant freshman season saw him named the CHN rookie of the year. He's not a big guy—just 5'10"—but he's been a rock for the Pioneers.
John Lee appears to be LaLeggia's partner. he's the muscle in the pairing at 6'2" but is also a good skater; he was a fifth round pick of the Panthers in 2007. If you're adding that up, yeah: he's 23. Veteran. Scott Mayfield is a penalty-prone stay at home guy with massive size (6'4") and an excellent draft pedigree (a second rounder). He may be deployed in an effort to slow down Brown and/or Guptill depending on how long the fracturing of the top line lasts.
Sam Brittain is 60-40 to be the guy
Goalie. Denver has three different goalies with double-digit games, something I don't think I've ever seen before. Junior Adam Murray, the least impressive statistically, only got his starts thanks to an injury to sophomore and Panthers draftee Sam Brittain. Once Brittain returned he and freshman Juho Olkinuora split starts. Both have impressive save percentages (.931 and .924, respectively). Despite Brittain's slight edge in that category his GAA is a couple tenths worse than Olkinuora (2.39 and 2.18). You'll note that neither of those is very high.
Denver fans aren't sure who will get the call this weekend. Based on recent play Brittain has the edge. He stopped an alarming 67 shots in the double OT win over Duluth; the next night Olkinuora was bombed for four goals on 18 shots before getting pulled for Murray in the third. I'd guess Brittain gets Ferris State and will maintain that spot in the event of a win that isn't 6-5.
Special teams. Your power plays per game:
|PP For / G||4.1||3.7|
|PP Ag / G||4.3||4.2|
Michigan vs Those Guys, Hypothetically
Single elimination hockey. Is insane.
Take care of the puck. Bob Daniels on the Pioneers:
“After watching tape on DU, we realize we have to be careful with turnovers. They’re a team I think, full of predators. They have so much skill up front that any type of turnover, could be very dangerous. We’re going to turn pucks over, but we want to make sure we’re very careful where they occur.”
- Ferris State Head Coach Bob Daniels
If you're thinking of Michigan's recent tendency to cough up horrible turnovers, you're not alone.
Hope the relatively chipper injury report is a front. If Zucker's out that's a big boost.
Wear them down if at all possible. Denver's shorthanded on the blue line and will be playing the second game of a back-to-back. If the first one is close or the inevitable overtimes are unbalanced, a steady diet of dump, chase, cycle could have the Pioneer defensive corps sucking wind in the third. A corollary…
Survive an offensive onslaught in the first period or so. Hypothetical Denver matchup is a rare one in which the other team has a clear edge in offensive talent. Michigan will have to ride it out and get to the part of the game in which they're fresher.
For the love of God stay out of the box. Obviously. Michigan prefers games like the ones they had against Notre Dame where penalties are rare animals.
The Big Picture
Michigan of course has to beat Cornell to find themselves against Denver. From there, win or disintegrate into component atoms.
|WHAT||Michigan vs Cornell|
|WHERE||Green Bay, heart of the CCHA|
|WHEN||8:05 Eastern Friday|
|LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
It's a bear.
Record. 18-8-7, 12-4-6 ECAC. The Big Red were a clear #2 to the dominant Union Dutchmen in the ECAC this year, finishing two and a half games clear of third-place Harvard and putting up a +20 goal differential in conference. Union was a whopping +38(!) and Yale was somehow +13 despite finishing .500 in ECAC play; no other league team topped +5.
They made the ECAC semis but then got smoked by Harvard* 6-1:
They bounced back with a 3-0 win over Colgate in the consolation game.
Cornell made the tournament with defense, giving up only 2.1 goals per game in the league. Their offensive numbers were middle of the pack, as per usual. Cornell has been built on tight checking and excellent goaltending since I've been following college hockey.
As an Ivy, Cornell played an abbreviated schedule but the shorter ECAC league schedule did allow them some opportunities to test themselves against teams across college hockey. Results were mixed, with losses to Mercyhurst (a barely above .500 Atlantic Hockey team) and UMass (a 13-18-5 Hockey East team) against a win over Niagara and an old-style three-point weekend against Colorado College. They also lost in overtime to BU at Madison Square Garden.
For what it's worth, KRACH really does not like the ECAC this year. One-seed Union would be the last team in the tournament if it was used to seed the field; Cornell would not even be on the bubble at #22. The nearest CCHA team is #19 Lake Superior, if you're looking for a conference analog.KRACH overrates schedule strength considerably, but the ECAC's performance in the tournament of late reinforces the skepticism of pure math. The 2003 edition of Cornell was the last ECAC team to make the Frozen Four. Atlantic Hockey and the CHA—which doesn't even exist any more—have been more recently.
Previous meetings. None. How about…
Common opponents. Few. Both beat Niagara in one-off games; Michigan's win was by a more comfortable margin than 1-0. Michigan annihilated St. Lawrence; Cornell swept them but won only 1-0 and 4-3 in overtime. On the other hand, Michigan got crushed by Union at Yost at the tail end of their terrible streak earlier this year. Cornell got a win and a tie out of two games.
Greg Miller is three points short of a PPG.
Dangermen. If the point totals for the Big Red's leading scorers don't seem impressive, keep in mind that they've only played 33 games to Michigan's 40. They're just above average in scoring at 2.9 goals per game. (Michigan is a tie for tenth with North Dakota at 3.25.)
In any case, Cornell has two guys around a PPG, junior Greg Miller (14-16-30) and senior Sean Collins (13-11-24). Collins was a Blue Jackets seventh-round pick in '07, FWIW. Both of those guys are very good at staying out of the box, with just nine minors between them on the season, but it's Miller who drives the bus. They center the top two lines: Miller is +20, Collins +4. Brian Ferlin (8-13-21 and +15 in just 26 games) appears to be another top line guy along with John Esposito (7-8-15 in 22 games, +13). [UPDATE: Cornell fans mention that Ferlin is out with an injury.]
After the big two, Cornell has a bunch of guys between six and eight goals on the year. Two are defensemen; six are forwards. Cornell's scoring goes three lines deep but lines two and three are not outfits you really have to gameplan for.
Defenseman Nick D'Agostino is dangerous on the PP when not getting kneed by opponents. (NH Register)
On the power play, watch out for defensman Nick D'Agostino. With six goals he's the Big Red's leading power play scorer.
Defense. Again, it's hard to extrapolate much here without watching Cornell play a ton. D'Agostino has all the power play points and Joakim Ryan also has 6-10-16; D'Agostino, Kirill Gotovets, and Braden Birch have all been drafted late. It's Birch and Gotovets with the big +/- numbers. Those two are either a shut-down top pairing or a second pair sheltered from the top lines of the ECAC by the high-scoring guys.
Goalie. Cornell starter Andy Iles is like an ECAC Hunwick. He's 5'8" and played every minute Cornell was on the ice this year save the five or so given up to Open Net. His save percentage isn't quite in Hunwick's stratosphere but it is a solid .918; his GAA is a hair over 2.1. CCHA comparables are OSU's Cal Heeter and MSU's Drew Palmisano, both of whom put in .918s this year.
The video from the Harvard game above was not Iles's best day but a couple of differences between him and Hunwick are immediately apparent. Hunwick is much more aggressive at coming out of his crease than Iles, and there was one goal where he waved his glove at a shot and missed entirely. I can't remember a glove side shot Hunwick had a shot at going in since the doom at the end of Fort Wayne.
It looks like there will be room over the shoulders for a Wohlberg, Brown, or Treais to snipe at.
Special teams. Your power plays per game:
|PP For / G||3.9||3.7|
|PP Ag / G||4.0||4.2|
Cornell's penalty kill has been a major weakness all year. They're at 79% and are 48th of 58 teams. That's right: Cornell's PK is worse than Michigan's power play, which is 46th. The Big Red's power play isn't much better at 40th; Michigan's PK is a decent 13th. This is a rare game in which Michigan wouldn't mind a lot of penalties… as long as they're evenly distributed.
Michigan vs Those Guys
Single elimination hockey. Is insane.
Nowhere to hide. It's not exactly going up against North Dakota but Cornell has enough scoring depth that Clare and Chiasson/Serville will get thoroughly tested. ECAC teams are usually short on footspeed, which should help prevent the ugly shifts where those guys get caught in their own end for 90 terrifying seconds… but most of these guys can shoot and you know we're getting at least one of those.
Get the zone on the power play. One of the primary reasons Michigan's power play sucks out loud is they have no way to carry the puck into the zone and have been consistently poor at dumping, chasing, and setting up.
Against Cornell they'll be getting power play opportunities against one of the worst penalty kill teams in the country. If they can get set up, they can have success. Getting there has not been easy.
Pound, pound, pound. While Cornell is a big hockey team, the impression I've gotten from watching highlights against Harvard and BU is that they're pretty vulnerable to getting leveled. They may not be accustomed to the pace of play in leagues outside their own and Michigan may have an opportunity get turnovers in dangerous areas if they press hard.
Hunwick > Iles. Michigan goes up against Shawn Hunwick's ECAC doppelganger and should have an advantage in net. If they don't much of their expectation of victory evaporates. I'm not overly concerned about this since Hunwick's had maybe one or two bad games since Michigan removed its head from its rectum in December, but you know the drill: single elimination playoff hockey.
Pray. Here it comes. Drawing an ECAC team is usually good news. Still… pucks bounce.
The Big Picture
Win or die.
I'll have briefer capsules on Ferris State and Denver later in the week.