Ace: Since Michigan just had a low-key Senior Day to send off Max Bielfeldt, this seems like a good time to ask: What's your favorite Senior Day memory? (Any sport may apply.)
Dave Nasternak: Back when I was in school—while Football was just starting its decade+ of beatdowns to OSU and Basketball was...well, it was pre-Beilein (mostly)- the place to be for sports in Ann Arbor was Yost. My Senior Day story(s) come from the Ice Hockey team. Hockey in the CCHA was weird. Not bad, but weird. If you were good enough -and Michigan generally was- you hosted a playoff series at home after the regular season had ended. So, while there was Senior Day, there was also Last Game At Yost Day. In the 06-07 year, TJ Hensick's Senior Day came super early.
|Guest starring Jeff Tambellini. Bork!|
It was February 3rd. It was the back end of a home-and-home against Western. Michigan won 3-1 but...it was relatively uneventful and everyone knew we'd see the seniors for one last series. They somehow managed to play 3 more series of road or neutral ice games before finally coming back to Yost for the CCHA Quarters. After disposing of Western in Game 1 of a best of 3, we knew Game 2 would be it.
It was really bittersweet for me. I was also a senior and while I hoped to get into Grad School at M, I thought it could be my last game at Yost, as well. TJ Hensick might have been my favorite M athlete when I was in school. He burst onto the scene as a freshman, leading the team in points. He would end up leading the Wolverines in scoring 3 of his 4 years, finishing 2nd in his sophomore year.
After his junior season, I'd read that Hensick was close to signing with the Avs, but decided to give it one more go at Yost. While the year didn't end up the way any Wolverine dreamed, Hensick had another phenomenal year. In his Last Game At Yost, Hensick didn't disappoint. He tallied 4 points, 3 of them being goals for his only career hatrick at home (I'm pretty sure). Michigan won very comfortably, 8-3. While Michigan has had a handful of great players since -Porter, Kolarik, Hagelin, Hunwick, now Hyman- there hasn't been another Mighty Mite center (especially with that kind of puck control) since. I taped Hensick's Last Game At Yost (on VHS!!) and later converted it to dvd. I still get a little choked up, watching it.
A season later, Kevin Porter's last series at Yost was also a weekend to remember, including The Day That Yost Changed. My bronze medalist might be Chris Perry's Senior Day, as I made it onto the field as a wide-eyed freshman...but I'll leave those games for someone else.
[Hit the JUMP for Swedish flags, the one that preceded Molly, and some non-hockey we swear]
Carl Hagelin, 2007-2011
PROS: Molded from Swedish clay to be Red Berenson's platonic ideal of the student-athlete. Such an awesomely good defensive hockey player that it was immediately apparent even to novices. There was no such thing as an odd-man break with Hagelin on the ice. Fast as hell, offensively productive, and so good he leapt straight from Michigan's roster to the Rangers. If the Rangers had figured out how good he was in camp, would have been a strong Calder candidate. Four-year player with serious NHL ability, a rarity. Just really, really awesome at hockey.
Indirectly responsible for Yost's burgeoning flag tradition. Scored with a second left in overtime to win the game on senior night. I cried out "CARL?!!?!" during the devastating Miami Fort Wayne game that really needs a nickname.
CONS: Did not singlehandedly drive Michigan to national title, but you could say that about everyone on this list. Hagelin's senior year saw them get closer than any team since '98, so this is less of a con than it is for anyone else.
Shawn Hunwick, 2007-2012
PROS: Came to Michigan a 5'7" walk-on and third goalie expected to see three minutes over the course of his career. Left in the conversation for best ever; save percentages are no contest. Made me excited about the NHL again when he signed with Columbus and got in a game. Smart, funny guy on twitter. Fertile nickname ground: Tiny Jesus, Little Pimpin', etc. Lack of size gave him a distinctive style since if he stayed in or near the crease he was dead.
CONS: Did not make all CCHA first team. Occasionally lost his ish and started punching anyone who eyed his crease owlishly. Depending on personal preferences in re: 5'7" goalies giving hellacious uppercuts to skaters, this could also be filed under "pro." Failed to score on 20 minutes of power play time against Cornell. Deserved better.
Jack Johnson, 2005-2007
PROS: Johnson the younger was Loose Cannon Cop on hockey skates, a guy who doesn't have to follow your rules, man, because he doesn't need the man to catch bad guys and batter them senseless with ninja kicks while acquiring the sweet lovin' from attractive ladies.
A ludicrously talented defenseman, he loved to doodle around guys he was so much better than. He also loved to annihilate anyone with their head down.
He almost killed BC's goalie with a slap shot. He was really unbelievably good in year two. He wears his passion for Michigan on his sleeve. He probably shouldn't have even shown up after going third in the draft, but did anyway, and then stayed a second year.
…and directly responsible for creating JMFJ shirts for the entire family—including what appeared to a ten-year-old—when they found out about this. IIRC the ten-year-old was informed that it stood for something it did not stand for. "Massive fun," maybe.
CONS: Left after two years, and his first year was… uneven. Massive penalty minutes are obvious. Loose Cannon Cop rep got him suspended, sometimes warranted, sometimes not. At one point during his freshman year I yelled "you're supposed to be the third pick in the draft" at him. Was great fun, but how much impact did he have relative to the other guys on the list?
Kevin Porter, 2004-2008
PROS: Four-year player, Hobey Baker winner as a senior after I said his production would tail off without Hensick driving scoring chances next to him. Solid citizen who led some of the best Michigan teams of the period. His final year featured the Nickelback and Creed goals against Notre Dame in the Denver Frozen Four in a game that Michigan otherwise would have won. If Hagelin gets fewer minus points than anyone else for not finding a title at the end of the rainbow, Porter is second.
CONS: This might sound insane: he lacked personality as a hockey player. He was of course very, very good at hockey, but compared to the other guys on the list his career lacks color. Is this insane? Does anyone else feel this? I mean, I don't know what to say about him other than "Hobey Baker winner." The lone highlight on the tubes is a nice snap shot:
But it's not a good candidate for Most Remarkable Thing on the Tubes. When he won the Hobey it sort of felt like the committee had backed themselves in a corner after snootily denying Hensick despite his point totals the year before. That was justified as an example of the Hobey's character requirement—as if mouthing off to a ref is uncommon. As a result, the uber-talented Nathan Gerbe got passed over thanks to a couple of spearing-type incidents over the course of his career.
Porter is the opposite of Johnson. Johnson was Paul Bunyan on skates. Porter was just really good at hockey.
TJ Hensick, 2003-2007
PROS: The most recent magic midget and a guy I miss every time Michigan blows a 2 on 1… or 2 on 0. Had an amazing knack for making the unstoppable pass in that situation, and plenty others. Capable of stickhandling in a phone booth full of lime jello. This is almost painful to watch…
…because Michigan hasn't had it since he left.
Should have won the Hobey Baker easily as senior since he led the nation in scoring by a wide margin. Often accused of being a glory hound but massive assist numbers suggest otherwise. Was a one-man power play setup, a skill you should appreciate more now. Was immediately awesome; accumulated more career points than anyone else in the timeframe by a wide margin.
CONS: Maybe kind of a glory hound. Once tapped in a Porter shot on an empty net that was already going in. Mouthed off in one of those dismal NCAA tourney losses to North Dakota and got a ten-minute misconduct at the worst possible time. Did not win Hobey Baker, probably because of this. It probably wasn't his fault but the teams he was most prominent on were amongst the worst Michigan's had since the Berenson era took off.
Debate in the comments; voting will be unveiled once all candidates are.
Hunwick. Got in. Faced zero shots. But got in!
If that's it for Hunwick in the show at least he got his cup of coffee. Couldn't happen to a better guy. Speaking of…
College hockey on the upswing. This is a remarkable graph, albeit one that is a little deceptive in its axes:
In ten years the percentage of NHL players from college has jumped 50%. Euros made up 23% of the league a year ago, leaving 47% of the NHL from the traditional major junior route. Since there are only 40-some college hockey teams that produce NHL talent* versus 60 CHL teams, the NHL talent per capita between NCAA and junior is now almost a dead heat. The CHL continues to have a lion's share of the top, top guys but college competition is a lot older.
*[Atlantic Hockey excluded.]
Final rankings. The CSB has published final rankings for the various eligible Michigan guys. Results:
- Jacob Trouba: 9th
- PDG: 22nd
- Boo Nievies: 29th
- Connor Carrick: 124th
Milne and Selman are not ranked. Neither is Rutledge. As always, remember that the CSB splits these guys into North American and European categories and ranks goalies separately so add 20-30% to draft rankings to get approximate positions. Trouba should go around #12, PDG and Nieves sometime in the second, and Carrick in the fifth or sixth.
Oddity: The IIHF yanks Q-bound NTDPer Stefan Matteau from its U18 roster after stating that he hasn't played two consecutive years in the US since he turned ten. His spot goes to Anthony Louis, a diminutive Miami commit who is amongst the NTDP U17 leaders in scoring.
Basketball recruiting: now what (again)? Michigan has one open slot for 2012 and a second they could use on a grad-year guy if they want. With Burke's return and Albrecht's commitment the urgency to fill that latter spot—and the attractiveness of it—gets drastically lower. I doubt they add a 13th guy now, graduate or not.
The 12th spot is another matter. UMHoops reports that Arizona picked up a commitment from Matt Korcheck, a 6'9" power forward. While Korcheck doesn't directly conflict with Amedeo Della Valle, he's no longer visiting Arizona this weekend. The Wildcats are likely out of spots. Point Guard U says his Michigan visit is still on and "likely Ohio State" after that. Texas A&M and Gonzaga are the other suitors; it probably comes down to the Big Ten teams now.
Should Michigan take Della Valle now that Albrecht is in and Burke is back? I'm not sure. It was hard to get any sort of read on his game from the Findlay Prep games I watched. If he's really a 50%+ three-point shooter, obviously you take him. That's doubtful, though. He is a 6'6" wing/SG/PG who would be useful to have on the roster if GRIII or Hardaway leaves early and he does have a number of other offers from majors. Michigan would be filling their roster for 2013 by taking him only if everyone sticks around, and how likely is that? Not likely. I'd take him if he wants to come and continue going after a fourth guy in the class of 2013.
McGary continues to slide. I don't think this will affect any recruiting rankings but reports on him from the Hoop Summit were not positive, particularly this bombing by NBA Draft.net:
Mitch McGary, C: The big lefty who burst onto the 2012 recruiting scene this past summer showed he is definitely far from a finished product. After going from relative unknown to garnering comparisons of Tyler Hansbrough, McGary came back down to earth once he got to the more organized play of his Brewster Academy prep school. Mitch’s motor was advertised as being non-stop, but have yet to see that and have yet to see anything close to the ability of Psycho T. Mitch is a decent athlete and has good size, but he went with the trend of staying more out on the perimeter.
FWIW, another observer noted that McGary spent the week icing his feet and legs due to a presumed injury. He weighed in at 6'10", 265 and looked a lot more sluggish than he did over the AAU season. He'll have to recapture the passion that drove him to the top of rankings boards and get in shape to have the sort of impact Michigan fans are hoping for.
Brock walks. Brock Mealer update video from Barwis Methods:
Keith Jackson, Ufer, Bo, and Anthony Carter, 1979. If you need more than this, I cannot help you.
It kills me not to be able to see what Jackson's wearing.
Fun fun fun. I may have more on this later but for right now know that Matt Hayes just bombed Urban Meyer in a Sporting News article:
Multiple sources told Sporting News that Meyer—who won two national championships in six years at Florida and cemented his legacy as one of the game’s greatest coaches—told the Diggs family that he wouldn’t let his son go to Florida because of significant character issues in the locker room.
Character issues that we now know were fueled by a culture Meyer created. Character issues that gutted what was four years earlier the most powerful program in college football.
I haven't had time to read it yet but am preparing bib and knife to do so.
UPDATE ON FURMAN: Better Call Saul disclaimers apply but this is the picture painted by his potty-mouthed lawyer:
"Joshua didn't do anything," Mason said. "He's got one guy sending him threatening text messages, and then when he gets upset about the nasty text messages, somebody else pulls his hair out, and then the poor bastard gets arrested.
"My suspicion is (the women) will show up in court and make a record in court and say, 'Hey look, this guy didn't hit us, he didn't punch us, he didn't do anything,' and at that time the judge will have a little trial or entertain a motion to dismiss it.
"We're working through the case and hope the charges disappear, once cooler heads prevail."
If that turns out to be true then Furman will get restored to active status in a couple weeks.
Condolences. RIP Jon Hoke, Brady Hoke's father.
All hockey nicknames end in an "-ie" sound so let's just call him Dali. Shwn Hunwick's life story reached clock-melting levels of surrealism yesterday when a flood of current, future, and former Michigan hockey players started tweeting out congratulations on Hunwick's NHL debut. His father understandably thought this was a hoax:
“I thought he was pulling my leg. He’s kind of a prankster,” Rich said. "When I realized he wasn’t joking, it was just an incredible feeling.”
As did the security guy at the Blue Jackets' arena:
A 2003 Ford Ranger pulled into the players’ parking lot on Wednesday at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Assorted hockey gear, two small goalie leg pads and a winged helmet sat in the bed of the pickup truck.
The newest member of the Columbus Blue Jackets opened the window to speak to the lot attendant.
Shawn Hunwick told the attendant that he was here to be the back-up goalie.
“I don’t think he really believed me,” Hunwick said. “But then he radioed up to somebody, and they said I was good.”
As did Ira Weintraub of WTKA. The fact that most of the congratulatory tweets were hash-tagged "midget" didn't help.
But lo, it was not a hoax. Wearing #31, a winged helmet, and his block-M-bearing goalie pads, Shawn Hunwick was the backup goalie for the Blue Jackets last night. There's evidence and everything:
With Blue Jacket goalies dropping like flies Hunwick may get signed for the duration of the season.
Q: is there a Hunwick Effect?
His powerful goalie repellent saw multiple touted prospects flee for the sanctuary of the OHL and Bryan Hogan twice suffered injuries that opened the door for him. It's possible his effect extends to nearby pro teams. Not only are the Blue Jackets ready to sign anyone who's available but Detroit started Ty Conklin last night thanks to injuries to both Jimmy Howard and Joey MacDonald. If emergency Blue Jackets starter Allen York suffers a lethal hangnail, Hunwick's ability to get on the ice can only be occult.
BONUS CBJ IS A MESS NOTE: Jack Johnson has set franchise records for TOI twice in the last week, breaking his record of 31:25 yesterday by logging 32:26. Those are Torey Krug levels.
He needs your help. Will Hagerup's immortal animated GIF is up against a runaway golf cart in the GIF bracket's final four. He must not be defeated until the final, where even a partisan like myself thinks Rollerblading Raptors Mascot is a worthy challenger. I mean…
…every time. Gets me every time. I really need to stop watching it. Okay one more time. Okay one more time. Okay one more time. I think I need an intervention.
I ARE PROUD OF U AND TINK U SULD R BE HAPPY. Good lord, the Hollis thing. If you are living under a rock—even more than the tail I think it's the derp derp derp of the mouth that makes it—you should know that yesterday Trey Burke tweeted out something frustrated about making a decision and MSU's athletic director revealed himself to be a lolcat:
My advice believe in YOUR heart & mind, everything else is interference. People seek u out is better than those that seek u.
Yes, MSU's athletic director tweeted unsolicited advice to ignore unsolicited advice and toppped it off by writing "people is". Also I just punched that into twitter and found he had three more characters to spell out at least one of those "u" abominations, both if he dropped the period. The parody twitter account was inevitable, if sadly lacking in laughable grammatical errors.
The fact that MSU's AD appears to be a lolcat probably shouldn't be a surprise:
That's MSU agreeing to road games against WMU, CMU, and Eastern, though it's not like we have much of a leg to stand on what with The Horror II on the docket and Brandon tweeting out something in response that, while about 10% as foolish, was unnecessary.
Moral of the story: athletic directors should not exist outside of press conferences. Also,
In other Trey Burke stay or go news. Chad Ford's flat response to a Q on Burke's draft status:
Trey Burke's draft stock?
Second round. He should go back to school
There is no hedging there. About the only thing he could have said that would have been more encouraging would be "…for six to ten years."
I don't get it. Dabo Swinney, who I want to call Dabo Dabo Doo but will not, wants spring practice to end with a scrimmage against another team:
It’s an idea that has been kicked around before. Here are the basics of Dabo’s proposal: College football teams have the option of a spring game against themselves or another team. If you play another team, it must be both an out-of-conference team but also one within a reasonable driving distance. The coaches will agree upon the rules of the scrimmage in advance.
“Personally, I think it would be a good thing for college football to do,” Swinney said. “College football takes in a lot of money. I think it would be an opportunity to give something back to your school or a charity."
I guess that would be okay, but I like Rich Rodriguez's idea to institute a preseason game against a I-AA foe as an annual event much better. That gives you another game, gets rid of the annoying bowl eligibility stuff, allows you an opportunity to get some preseason kinks out, and can be put in that week in late August when nothing's happening. And since it's a scrimmage no one can beat you.
The best part about all of this is new Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin's response to the idea:
"Dabo wants a jamboree? Why not?"
Hoodaddy Dabo wants a jamobree I tell ya. /boomhauer'd
Etc.: UMHoops kicks off postseason recaps with five low points from the season. That's the Michigan Difference right there. User Rabbit21 previews Air Force, his undergrad alma mater. Option option option. More exit talkin'($). People hate parking tickets.
Murdoch envisions an ESPN competitor, just like NBC envisions an ESPN competitor. I'll believe it when a major college football conference ends up on one of those channels and not before. Fox did grab the World Cup the instant ESPN figured out how to cover it really, really well. I'm still watching the raptor gif.
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.