...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
New Hockeybear. The Alaska hockey series is previewed by Yesman. Alaska means hockeybear. There is new Hockeybear.
Yeah, it's not as good as last year's, but they were due for a comedown after making the greatest hype video in the history of the world. I do like that it makes me think of Take On Me.
UFR update. It is not going to happen this week. It's a long story but I ended up having to disassemble my laptop almost wholly—I still have a half-dozen screws left over, looking for a home—over the course of the week. This was accompanied by the usual shouting and banging that precedes total laptop disassembly. Sorry; look for both halves early next week.
We are 2% of the way to this game. The thing the man said to the people at Tulane about wanting a game against Michigan turns out to be a real thing:
Rich Rodriguez wants a piece of his former employer.
UA athletic director Greg Byrne said Thursday he and the Wildcats' new coach discussed playing Michigan, which fired Rodriguez after the 2010 season.
"He brought it up like, 'Hey, let's look at this down the road,'" Byrne said. "I said, 'Sure.'"
But not a really real thing.
Byrne said the conversation lasted 10 seconds. He has yet to contact the Wolverines.
"It's a two-way path to play a game," he said.
I'd rather not dredge that up again, but if they want it enough to do a one-off at Michigan Stadium it's better than playing East Nowhere.
Something that turns out to not be true. Yeah: the seat filler thing was a hoax that lured me in. Mea culpa. Well played, whoever you are.
Iowa on the decline? The High Porch Picnic breaks out the recruiting stars for a rough evaluation of the amount of talent available for the Hawkeyes next year, finding that the offense will drop a little (from 3.0 to 2.9) and the defense will fall off a cliff even from its current dilapidated state. This year Iowa's average is 2.7; they graduate seven starters and will be dealing with this:
Standard disclaimers about stars not being the be-all and end-all apply but holy dang, man. Remember that window when Iowa was recruiting at a top 25 level? Not so much these days. HPP sums up:
Not only do we lose 7 starters to graduation but their replacements (based upon our current depth chart) aren't highly touted. For guys like Alvis, Hyde and Miller the stars don't seem to matter much. For everyone else, especially the rest of the defensive line, it's one big GOD HELP US. That's just something to think about following the bowl game. Remember when Vint wrote this article and Ross wrote this one? Yeah, just like Penny Lane said: it's all happening.
With a couple of disappointing years in the rear-view mirror already, unless that defense vastly outperforms recruiting expectations this could be the beginning of the end for Ferentz. While Iowa is grateful and patient it will be hard to look at the trajectory there and get excited about it.
BONUS IOWA WORRY: They lost a freshman WR to a transfer in a class Vint says this about:
Grant is the third member of the Class of 2011 to leave the program -- defensive end John Raymond left in September under similar circumstances (Raymon was from the Philadelphia area and got homesick), and Rodney Coe was unable to qualify and left for Iowa Western C.C. -- which, coming off massive attrition in the classes of 2008 and 2009, is a troubling number for a class that Iowa desperately needs on the field.
Boy, we've been there. Now if Ferentz can maintain his puntasaur ways against us we're in business.
Speaking of corn. Iowa State is this weekend. UMHoops has a full preview; the Cyclones are a hodge-podge of former Big Ten players like MSU's Chris Allen, Minnesota's Royce White, and PSU's Chris Babb.
They're better than they were a year ago but haven't really played anyone—Lehigh and Northern Iowa are their only top 100 opponents in Kenpom—and lost games against Drake and UNI, both in-state mid-majors. Their offense is humming along thanks to a 56.8 EFG%; their defense is still pretty crap. They let opponents shoot a lot of uncontested shots (223rd in EFG% D, 300th in turnovers forced, 22nd in FTAs allowed) and rebound well.
Michigan should win. This is a team that was 3-13 in the Big Twelve last year and they haven't so much as played a major conference school to prove they're much different. Kenpom has them an eight point favorite with around an 80% chance of victory.
More NBA draft. The Daily hits up Ford for his opinion on Burke:
“I spend the start of my year talking to our high school scouting guys about who are the freshmen to watch, who are one-and-done candidates — he wasn’t mentioned,” Ford said. “He was a steady kid, not flashy like a lot of the players can be. I think a lot of the scouting guys … see that and they say, ‘He’s not as good.’
“Well now when you see him play that way in college, it’s all poise. He’s unselfish, he’s getting people involved, he gets his own shot, but he’s not out there just primarily looking for his own shot.” …
“One of the NBA GMs said to me, ‘Well look, think of the 30 backup point guards in the NBA and then look at him and what he does and say, ‘Could he do that?’ And I think the answer is yeah.”
There's some one-and-done chatter, which is a bit scary. Michigan does not have a Burke waiting in the wings like they did last year and would have to go with… uh… Brundidge? That's a scary prospect since he's currently behind Eso Akunne. I still think anyone not going in the lottery this year will be inclined to hit up a much weaker draft in 2012, but can a brother get a four year player around here?
Exit Burns. The only head coach in the history of Michigan soccer is gone:
"As a Michigan alum, I'm proud of everything we've been able to accomplish within the soccer program," Burns said in a statement released by the Athletic Department.
"I will forever cherish the relationships that I have developed over the past 12 years with players, assistant coaches, support staff and fellow coaches within the department. However, it's time for a new direction in my life and leadership for Michigan soccer."
Losing Meram, both Saads, and his top incoming recruit was too much to deal with and the team collapsed from a College Cup appearance to a 5-14-1 record. Speculation as to his successor naturally focuses on Caleb Porter, the piped piper of Akron and the Olympic team's coach. It was Porter's team that made Michigan look like the USNT against Brazil in that College Cup game.
Many in a thread with a lot of people close to the situation say he won't leave, but there's got to be a chance. Michigan should punch him in the face with the highest salary in the country; this is a high leverage opportunity to make one of your programs a national power for a relative drop in the bucket.
Montoya on Yost. Bang:
“I’ve played in some great rinks in the NHL and with Team USA, but when you get those 7,000 fans in Yost Ice Arena, there’s not anything like it,” he said. “I’m glad I went to a program like that.”
Etc.: Other Brian unearths self for Genuinely Sarcastic column, receiving bonus points for reminding me of Bring Your Champions, They're Our Meat by referencing historical events with no apparent connection to the game in question. If Johnny posts I think we'll have everyone save IBFC covered in the aftermath.
1/21/2011 – Michigan 2, Alaska 0 – 16-6-4, 13-4-1 CCHA
1/22/2011 – Michigan 4, Alaska 3 – 17-6-4, 14-4-1 CCHA
"We had a lot of guys playing hard, but our team didn’t play as well it needed to.”
I've been going to Yost for a long time and I don't think I've ever seen Michigan outshot on consecutive nights, let alone by the margins they were outshot this weekend. And yet they still won. They won because Shawn Hunwick was both awesome and fortunate—at least three pucks sailed harmlessly through the crease behind him on Saturday—and Alaska demonstrated that they are the sort of team that scores two goals a game even when the other is dead-set on making a pile of errors.
I swear Michigan athletics is designed to make me look bad. A week after suggesting this set of defensemen was a near-flawless machine they coughed pucks up left and right, failed to check guys screaming through the slot, and gave up an epic number of odd-man rushes. On Saturday Alaska had a 2-on-0 thanks to Mac Bennett blowing a tire at the blue line. They didn't score. That was kind of the weekend.
Even Merrill broke character to join in. Of all people, he was the guy headed to the box to give Alaska a minute of 5-on-3 with five minutes left in the weekend and the game in the balance. His slash was pretty dumb. That was also kind of the weekend.
Michigan's last loss was courtesy of back-to-back dumb 5-on-3s ceded to Michigan State. Michigan's penalty kill is really bad this year. The building was braced for a red light. But then Chad Langlais dove to chip a puck out of the zone off the faceoff, Rust and Hagelin played with the puck for thirty seconds, and by the time the Nanooks got set up in the zone they'd spent 80% of their 5-on-3. Ten seconds later it was over, Yost was on its feet, and Michigan had swept an Alaska team that had gone two years since coming out of a weekend without a point.
Today varsity is two points clear of Notre Dame with a game in hand. They've won nine of their last ten and dropped the one in overtime. They're one Ferris State win away from a one seed. But this week the amalgam of parts that add up to more than they should individually looks like a ramshackle jalopy ready to fall apart. Hopefully this can serve as a wakeup call, rather than actual losses foretold by Saturday's performance.
Non-bullets of escape
Strategery Q. Should Alaska have pulled their goalie during the 5-on-3? I don't know, but I think I would have. You're not going to get a better chance to score and the chances a three-man group can break out against six skaters seems incredibly low.
Adding to the uneasiness. The only even-strength Michigan goal of the weekend that wasn't a point shot came from Scooter Vaughn directly off the draw. (Rust's goal was a deflection from Moffie.) Michigan's defensemen can really pick them out from the point but I doubt that's sustainable.
Moffie, yo. Lee Moffie had a three game goal streak and picked up an assist on that Rust goal when another point shot of his was deflected in. And he didn't seem responsible for much, if any, of the scary defending on Saturday.
Greenham FTW. After Michigan's first goal on Friday a student chucked a small plastic ball on the ice. Moments later, Carl Hagelin was decked as he skated by the Alaska bench. A scrum ensued, followed by one of those interminable referee conferences where they take ten minutes to give everyone matching minors.
In this window of time Alaska goalie Scott Greenham attempted to flip the ball back into the crowd. His first attempt was unsuccessful and drew boos. The second worked, but Greenham had miscalculated: he put it back where it came from. Whoever caught it chucked it right back on the ice. Greenham sighed demonstratively and set about trying to flip the thing over the boards on the other side, but couldn't. He eventually hit it to Rust, who put it over in one, causing the crowd to blow up and Rust to celebrate like he'd just won the Stanley Cup.
It was the best interminable referee conference ever.
Speaking of interminable referee conference. How does Michigan come out of that with an unsportsmanlike bonus penalty to Carl Hagelin? He took a penalty for getting nailed. Other frustrations from the refs:
- not immediately waving off the hypothetical Alaska tying goal for goaltender interference, and then not giving Alaska a penalty for running Hunwick over.
- watching two Michigan sticks cleaved in half right after Merrill had gotten out of the box for his slash and calling neither.
I thought the reffing over the weekend was actually pretty good, but those were weird/frustrating.
Yost bits. A couple of student cheers that were memorable: shutting up the Alaska parents section after their third goal with a "Sarah Palin" cheer and chanting "where's our candy?" at a linesman who had flipped them some the night before.
Pairwise bits. Bits flipped somewhere in the PWR and Michigan now slides behind Boston College. They're sixth. This is probably because Ferris dropped under .500 in RPI and Michigan lost their shiny TUC record against them. That's enough to flip the BC comparison.
For an example of how volatile the PWR is, especially at this point, RPI was mentioned as the #16 team in the preview. After the weekend they're up to 8th. Swings all over the place.
I did take a look at a couple of the comparisons Michigan is losing right now and it does seem possible that they would be able to pass some of the teams in front of them without passing them in RPI. They will not win the North Dakota comparison without heaven and earth moving, but they would win comparisons with BC and Denver if Ferris was still a TUC; the UMD comparison would be very much up for grabs with a narrow margin in the common opponents category making the difference.
HOCKEYBEAR IS GO
|WHAT||Alaska @ Michigan|
|WHERE||Yost Ice Arena
Ann Arbor, MI
|WHEN||7:35 PM Fri/Sat|
|THE LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
|TELEVISION||Friday: FSD Plus
(ie, not TV)
Record. 10-8-4, 7-7-4 CCHA. The Nanooks have won two of their four shootouts and are one of a remarkable four teams sitting on a .500 conference record, give or take some shootout points. They're tied for fifth in the league with those teams, a tiny bit behind WMU.
In terms of goal differential, Alaska is +4 on the season and +1 against their CCHA schedule.
Previous meetings. Michigan split a pair in Fairbanks, losing 3-0 on Friday before rebounding with a 5-2 win on Saturday.
Dangermen. Goals have been hard to come by for Alaska. They're languishing at 50th (of 58) in scoring.
Andy Taranto, last year's CCHA freshman of the year, leads the team with seven goals. Four others follow with six. Freshman forward Cody Kunyk and junior defenseman Joe Sova lead the team with 16 points—0.72 per game. No one puts the fear of God into you, but a half-dozen players are at least okay at putting the puck into the net.
Defense and goalie and whatnot. The only entity to have seen time other than junior Scott Greenham has been Open Net. In 22 games Greenham's racked up a .926 save percentage and a 1.98 GAA—he, and the Nanook defense, are your answers to the question "how can a team scoring two goals a game be .500?"
Alaska is fifth in scoring defense at 2.14 goals allowed per game. Possibly heartening item: Ferris State was second before last weekend's series and Michigan doubled up their averages. They're now sixth.
Special teams. Your power plays per game:
|PP For / G||4.6||4.5|
|PP Ag / G||4.6||4.7|
Michigan lags ever so slightly. As to what happens when the specialty units get on the ice, Michigan's power play is mediocre (19.6%, 20th) but Alaska's is worse (15.8%, 38th). Michigan's penalty kill has been terrible (80.3%, 41st) and Alaska's mediocre (84%, 18th). This is a push.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Scoring first highly recommended. It is always highly recommended but is even more so when you're playing a team with the profile of Alaska. This is also an opportunity for Michigan to jump on an opponent on Friday night—Alaska has traditionally been jet-lagged and horrible on Fridays, but much more competitive the next night.
Don't give up anything cheap. A team with issues scoring like Alaska is going to have a tough time against Michigan's deep and solid D corps/Hagelin unless there's a parade to the box or some of the guys in the bottom six/third pairing are turnover machines. Issue: turnover machines exist on those lines. Lee Moffie's +/- will be a bellwether.
Fire them from many places. Open shots from the point should come paired with traffic and should just be taken. Alaska's good defensively and any opportunity to chuck it at the net is a good one, especially when you've got the shooters at the point Michigan does.
The Big Picture
It's still too early to start poking the PWR in earnest, but that didn't stop the NCAA committee from making it slightly worse by going back to an old definition of what a "team under consideration" is. A few years ago it was anyone with an RPI of .500 or better. It was changed to the top 25 in RPI for a few years and now it's suddenly back to the old style, for whatever reason.
This ups the number of TUCs from 25 to 34 and slightly increases the stupidity of that category since now games against #1 are equivalent to games against #34. Before you had to be 25th to get that equality. Also it's ridiculous that six teams with an under .500 record are "under consideration" when the NCAA banned under .500 teams from getting at-large bids after Wisconsin managed that trick one year.
At this instant the change is a slight help to Michigan since it includes Michigan's 5-1-1 record against Ferris and MSU; they move up one slot to fifth in the revised rankings. Unfortunately, a quick glance at the individual comparisons suggests this is about as far as Michigan can move up. The PWR has morphed into a system that slightly alters RPI. Michigan is sixth but manages to make up a big difference in RPI with BC for stupid reasons; those may correct. Meanwhile, the top four all have massive advantages in that category that will be tough to overcome unless Michigan tears through the back half of its schedule. Even then it may take a collapse from teams at the top to snag a top seed.
It's much easier to envision a scenario where Michigan falls down the rankings; they're at the top of a tightly packed bunch. The difference between Michigan and #4 Denver is equal to the difference between Michigan and #16 RPI. Stumbles will see them give ground quickly.
Bonus: Michigan picked up another 2011 commit, a Travis Lynch from the USHL. He's got 13 points in 33 games and sounds like he's going to be a checker and penalty killer a la Scooter. If they can find one more scoring line type that would just about finish the class.
1/16/2010 – Michigan 6, Alaska 0 – 13-10, 8-7 CCHA
1/17/2010 – Michigan 3, Alaska 3 (Alaska 1-0 shootout), 13-10-1, 8-7-0-1 CCHA
Hockey doesn't have grand narrative arc of a 12-game football season so usually I'm at a loss when trying to come up with a column-type substance. Instead, this is mostly items.
With about five minutes left in Saturday's third period I was stewing. After two periods of near-total domination interspersed with a terrible turnover from Chad Langlais, a terrible penalty from Tristin Llewellyn, and the goals that resulted from them, Michigan trailed 3-2 but looked like they'd come storming back in the third. Instead, Alaska kept them penned in their own end with help from a series of dumb or questionable penalties. Michigan had one scoring chance.
It was the exact same script they'd followed all year: own territorially, fail to generate goals off that dominance, make enough undisciplined plays to get behind. It was the same script they'd kicked the year off with in a 2-0 loss against the Nanooks in which they outshot the opponent by more than two to one. It threatened to undo the good from the Friday night shellacking. It was very annoying.
Then Langlais dashed into the slot to pick up a loose puck and fired it through the goaltender and outshot Alaska 6-1 in OT—though the Nanooks didn't get credit for a shot that zinged off the inside of the post—and everything seemed okay. Michigan is 3-0-1 after the break and moving towards the NCAA bubble. They're showing some fight, at least, and it seems plausible that they do something this weekend against tourney-bound Ferris.
The shootout doesn't really matter. It matters a little for CCHA standings but in the eyes of the NCAA it's a tie. For the PWR, Michigan picked up a three-point weekend against a pretty good opponent.
As far as the CCHA goes, Michigan is now within striking distance of that fourth place spot that gets the last first-round bye. They're tied for sixth with Notre Dame, four back of fifth place Alaska, and five back of fourth place Lake State, but they've got two games in hand on all those teams. If you believe in goal differential, Michigan should be able to distance themselves from those two teams over the final stretch: Michigan is +11 in conference while Alaska is –4 and Lake State is +1.
Bork! You know a player has developed into a star when your reaction to his line hitting the ice is "oh thank God," and Carl Hagelin has officially reached this level with me. I've been touting him for a while now but never had that visceral relief until this weekend. He's like a version of Jed Ortmeyer with little rockets in his skates.
Depending on what happens the rest of this season and next, he'll challenge Ortmeyer for champion of my personal Michigan hockey Valhalla. I fully approve of some intrepid students deploying a Swedish flag big enough to use on a battleship this weekend:
Speaking of students. Giant Swedish flag plus responsible vuvuzela guys* plus far more newspapers than usual plus general liveliness equals one of—if not the—best student sections I've seen at Yost. They've even added a few things to the rich panoply of things people say at Yost. "Moose, sieve" is a fantastic addition to the selection of "noun, sieve" chants and this is the year the bizarre muppet-esque hooting that goes on when an opponent is trying to break out of its zone on the power play went from fringe weirdness to actual thing. I'm impressed given the crappy year and the crappy football year that preceded it.
HOWEVA, it is extremely bad form to give the opponent a "warm up the bus/sled/sorority" chant on Friday. One, it doesn't make any sense since they're not going anywhere. Two, it is jinxtastic. Also, a request: someone needs to have their cell phone ring be an incredibly loud plain ringtone as if from a, you know, landline, and they need to have their buddies call four or five times a game so the "Hey, [goalie], it's your mom" cheer can continue.
That is all. Carry on with all other things.
*(Another friend suggested everyone get them because they were "awesome" and I was all "with great power to annoy comes great responsibility." The current amount of crazy plastic horn noise is excellent; more would probably be a disaster.)
So to belabor a point. I don't want to be a creepy mean guy about a kid playing hockey but I do think this sequence was sort of amazing: someone with a 4 as the second number on their jersey runs in for a check on an Alaska player and gets an extremely dubious elbowing call. I turn to my friend and say "I give Llewellyn a lot of crap but that was a terrible call," and then it turns out the guy heading to the box is Brian Lebler. Seven seconds—seven seconds!—later, Llewellyn blatantly grabs a guy to prevent him from getting to a Michigan forward attempting to clear the puck and Michigan goes down two guys for almost the full two. Alaska scores twice. Argh.
Elsewhere in guys who I think had bad weekends: Langlais did score the game-tying goal Saturday but before that he was having a really rough weekend. Alaska's first goal on Saturday was the direct result of a Langlais turnover and he made a series of other mistakes, none of which remain so clear in my mind, before the great redemption.
Lebler, meanwhile, had a really weird weekend. On Saturday he scored on two absolute lasers Brett Hull would have been proud of and zinged a potential hat trick off the post. I've never seen Lebler do anything of the sort before. Then on Saturday he picked up four minors, one of them the aforementioned weak elbowing call but the others were dumb stuff that you have to call.
Good things. Lee Moffie has established himself as an up-and-comer. He's not very physical but is steady, doesn't make a lot of mistakes—though he did fall down and create a two-on-one—and has an excellent shot. It's not heavy but it's seriously accurate; when he dove in from the point to pick up a great Hagelin centering pass it went top shelf, no mistake.
Lindsay Sparks, meanwhile, has gone from healthy scratch to third (second?) liner and kept up his hot recent play with a sweet powerplay goal on which he walked out of the corner and slid it five-hole. Sparks is sixth on the team in PPG and has as many points as Kevin Lynch and one more than AJ Treais despite the latter two having played twice as many games.
Michigan is moving on up. The last two weekends have had a huge positive effect on Michigan's numbers. They're currently 19th in RPI. Two weeks ago they were 29th, not even a Team Under Consideration (TUC). Caveat: it's a lot easier to move from mediocre to pretty decent than to move from pretty decent to tourney bubble. When you're 29th in RPI, the teams around you will go about .500. When you're 19th, they'll be doing better than that.
Even so, that's a big leap in just two weekends; if Michigan continues playing well they have time to break into the top 14 in PWR. Right now Michigan is 19th, exactly what their RPI rank is. Despite Michigan's ugly overall record, their peripherals aren't that terrible. They're 6-6-1 against other TUCs, though that's shaky since they've played three of the last six teams in and are 3-1-1 against them.
Root for Alaska and Minnesota the rest of the way out (not that it's a revelation that you'd like Michigan's nonconference opponents to play well). The other team on the TUC bubble is Notre Dame. Michigan split with them earlier in the year and plays them again the final weekend of the regular season; the desirability of the Irish as a TUC is yet to be determined.
Demon bear. Mandatory. We're using this one from now on because the Demon Bear superfluously blows up Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Michigan State before annihilating the planet.
Um, so Little Bro posted it in the Alaska preview comments. It has fewer than a thousand views on the Youtube so it must be under the radar still. This lack of aggression will not stand.
So… yeah… the bear video came into our lives and was fantastic. There is another. I know what you're thinking: this can only be a disappointment. That's what I thought. I was so very wrong.
Here's a youtube comment:
Is this plot line taken from Scientology scripture?
Now you watch.
Wasn't this the plot of Battlestar Galactica, except awesome?
THEY'RE COMING. ACTUALLY THEY'RE PROBABLY ALREADY HERE.
|WHAT||Michigan v. Alaska|
|WHERE||Yost Ice Arena, Ann Arbor, MI|
January 15/16th, 2010
|THE LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
|TELEVISION||Friday on FSN Plus
No TV Saturday
What's this then?
It's a hockey weekend preview. Am I doing this solely because of the bear video? No. Ten percent of the desire to do this results from Yost Built's lamentable "job" that prevents him from posting as fully as he usually does. [Update: so of course he posts a ten things.]
Record. 10-6-4, 7-6-3-3 CCHA. Currently 4th place with 27 points. Michigan is tied for seventh but has two games in hand.
After a hot start during which the Nanooks picked up wins over Michigan and Ferris (twice), Alaska has cooled off significantly. They split with UNO last weekend and split with UNO the last week before the Christmas break. Before that, they got one point out of Western Michigan and tied Northern twice. Before that they had three splits, two of them against Lake State and Bowling Green. They, like Michigan, have been an almost perfectly .500 hockey club since about mid-November.
Road/home splits don't mean much in hockey, IME, but I make an exception when you're coming from Alaska and spend weeks at a time on the road and I've seen you wander into Yost to get hammered 8-0 on Friday only to win the next night. So: Alaska is 7-2-3 in Alaska* and 3-4-1 outside of it.
*(UAF opened up the season with a preseason "tournament"—there were no brackets—in Anchorage where they played Michigan and Mercyhurst, winning both.)
Dangermen. Freshman winger Andy Taranto is Alaska's top scorer with a 9-15-24 line, good enough for 29th nationally. (And better than any Michigan player. Carl "Bork" Hagelin is Michigan's top scorer with 12-13-25 in two more games. When was the last time Michigan's top scorer was outside the top ten in PPG, let along the top… uh… 38?) Taranto is second in freshman scoring; Alaska appears to have picked up a diamond in the rough.
Dion Knelsen is the other big(-ish) gun with 10-9-19; no other Nanook has more than five goals.
As a team, Alaska has a little more pop than usual. They check in slightly below average in scoring at 2.90 goals per game.
Defense and goalie and whatnot. Alaska usually substitutes grit, hard work, and caution for scoring prowess and this year is not much of an exception. After losing Wylie Rogers and his .922 save percentage, in comes sophomore Scott Greenham and his respectable .914. That's 23rd nationally. Bryan Hogan is 54th of 75 eligible at .900.
Alaska is 11th in scoring defense at 2.40 goals per game.
Special teams. As is almost always the case, Michigan goes into this series expecting to take more penalties than the opponent. But it's not usually this stark. Michigan is 9th nationally with 17.3 penalties per game; Alaska is dead last with a measly 172 minutes—8.6 per game—on the season so far. That's somewhat misleading, though. I prefer power play opportunities since that measure washes out things like misconducts and coincidental minors. It allso gives you a sense for how good a team is at forcing penalties out of the opponent:
|PP For / G||5.1||5.6|
|PP Ag / G||4||5.4|
The difference isn't nearly as stark from that perspective, but Alaska does have an advantage.
This is where Alaska makes its hay. They're 22/102 on the power play so far this year and haven't given up a shorthanded goal. They're scoring at a 21.6 percent rate, better than Michigan—though not much better. (Given how much I dislike Michigan's power play I'm surprised it's converting at a respectable 20.2 percent rate.) The penalty kill is just okay at 83.8 percent and zero shorthanded goals. But, again, they don't end up in the box much.
Michigan's Hagelin-led penalty kill (third nationally at 89%) is the best aspect of the team, FWIW.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Obvious: keep out of the box. Alaska has scored 36 even-strength goals in 20 games and will be on the road, where they are vulnerable. Michigan has 43 goals in 22 games at even strength, and while that doesn't seem like a big gap it does get bigger when you account for the two extra power plays that occur in an average Michigan game.
Match Hagelin on Taranto and Knelsen. Alaska's a team that has one main line and Michigan's got the best defensive forward in the CCHA.
Equally obvious: freakin' score. Michigan started the year off in Alaska with a game that foretold this year's incredible frustrations, outshooting the opponent 2-to-1 but failing to put a puck in the net and losing 2-0; Bryan Hogan gave up a soft goal from just inside the blue line.
Michigan had a huge territorial edge in that game and figures to have more of the same this weekend, but the story all year has been failing to make that edge count.
Jump on them early Friday. I've been watching UAF wander into Yost for a decade now and I don't think I've seen them not get bombed in the first period of the Friday game. If Michigan doesn't come out of tonight's first period with a lead that's a major missed opportunity.
The Big Picture
If Michigan sweeps Alaska we can prepare for a critical Ferris series with hope in our hearts, but it just about has to be a sweep. I guess a three-point weekend is theoretically helpful but Michigan hasn't tied a game in almost two years* and at this point Michigan is so far behind the eight-ball that they can't give away home games against average hockey teams.
Can they? It is obviously within the realm of possibility, but it's hard to go back any farther than the sweep against a terrible Western team and have faith in this team's ability to turn its huge advantage in shots and chances into wins. I lean towards a split, but hockey games are even dumber things to predict than football games so will forgo anything on the record.
*(The last one was a 5-5 tie with Miami on February 9th of 2008 that finished a stretch of four ties in five games. Michigan hasn't gone to overtime since the CCHA implemented the shootout.)