3/09/2012 – Michigan 2, Notre Dame 1 (OT) – 22-11-4
3/10/2012 – Michigan 3, Notre Dame 1 – 23-11-4, advance to CCHA semifinals
This weekend Michigan will make its 24th straight trip to Joe Louis Arena for the CCHA semifinals. The program hasn't recruited a kid who was alive the last time Michigan was absent for going on a decade now. The last 21 of those years, Michigan has followed up the Joe with an appearance in the NCAA tourney. Since they responded to their ugly November with a 16-3-2 tear to end the year they'll make it 22 in two weeks. The only people who remember a time when these streaks were not active are the old men in Yost not quite old enough to forget.
That is incredible consistency. Just look across the lake and find future Big Ten foes Wisconsin and Minnesota if you want to chalk it up to recruiting. Both those teams select who they want, like Michigan, and have rosters littered with NHL draft picks, like Michigan. They're both working on a tourney streak of zero. Michigan State is also in that situation. (Since Rick Comley left the roster stacked with AARP members instead of future NHLers, that's a different argument.) Those are three of college hockey's glamour programs and they have one bid between them the last three years.
A lot of the vibe around Michigan's program in recent years has focused on how the team has only turned two of those 21 bids into national championships, but that's a conversation for the flat blank day the day after your soul shrivels up when a puck goes in the wrong net and hides inside its lonely crevasse for 52 more weeks of winter. In the immediate aftermath of Michigan punching out Jeff Jackson's eighth-place, college-hockey-NIT-bound Irish and Ferris State blowing it against Bowling Green it's time to give thanks for consistency.
Notre Dame was supposed to finish first in the league this year unless Miami did; they took their great talent and legendary coach and shiny new arena and finished one game above .500. Ferris State actually won the league this year; they took on the worst team in the conference and lost. Neither will be at the Joe. Michigan will, because Michigan always is.
It would be one thing if that was because they always had some ludicrous talents on the team. In recent years this hasn't really been the case. They don't have a lights-out scorer. Their top guys in PPG tied for 94th this year. They've made a transition from firewagon hockey to a more defensive style; they coped with the total implosion of their power play. The big star last year was either a defenseman who never hits anyone or a lightning-fast Swede better known for his defense than his offense. Their big star this year is their goalie.
Michigan has transitioned into a new, monstrously tight-checking era of college hockey without missing a beat. They've all but locked down a one seed after that terrible awful vertiginous November showed us a picture hardly anyone remembers: April without Michigan hockey.
I've got a few Illinois fans on my twitter feed and their mournfulness yesterday as Selection Sunday played on without the Illini was striking as I pondered Michigan's 24 and 22-year streaks. We've been there ourselves, as Michigan's 2008 season spiraled into the dirt and Bo's bowl streak went up in flames. As the basketball program embarks on a baby streak of their own and football gets back up to speed, let's take a moment and give thanks for the unchanging excellence in Yost.
Things happen. Your goalie flames out or some guy leaves school and you're left with a guy from the club team and a mop Jon Falk said you could borrow you call "Lee Moppie" because all hockey nicknames consist of putting "—ie" at the end of someone's name. Moppie sees way too much time and gets stuck in his own end because it's a mop and you lose a bunch of games. Even Bo's bowl streak was a flimsy thing when Harbaugh went down.
It is at this point that your program lays down for a breather, and you find out that the only thing worse than the horrible deflating feeling in April is one in March or February or November. But not for us, not yet.
It was really too bad this one wasn't on TV. It was the game of the year, no question, and up there as far as Yost all-timers go. Obviously not at the level of tourney games; other than that it's competing with Ryan Miller-era games against MSU and that BC game when Jack Johnson shot the goalie's helmet off.
Hunwick on his last game at Yost:
The flag. It's above. It's fabulous. They'll have to figure out exactly when to deploy it since their current idea conflicts with the "who cares" bit during player introductions, but it is awesome. They'll figure it out. Aaron Ward paid for most of it, which is also awesome. Also, Taylor Lewan pled for the Arizona state flag—which the student section deployed when Moffatt got a penalty just to show it off—to make an appearance at Michigan Stadium this fall.
I want more flags. All of the flags!
That's more like it, Notre Dame goalie situation. CenterIce has a diary breaking down the Michigan goals and came away from the weekend with an impression similar to mine:
Watching the highlights I was very surprised by how the scoring played out for us. I could not see anything televised because of my location, but it was very strange to see an entire series of lucky bounces and soft goals.
Michigan had a bunch of legit scoring chances they rang off the posts (three of them in the first OT Friday); everything else was soft.
Even though Summerhays wasn't exactly awful—he did give up just over 2 GAA—most of the goals he gave up were soft-ish, none worse than the harmless dink Phil Di Giuseppe managed to slide through his five hole:
If you let something in through the five hole at that angle from that tight, you have earned the "it's all your fault" in the aftermath.
Meanwhile, Hunwick was just about flawless. He had no hope on ND's Saturday goal, on which Jon Merrill didn't realize he had a two-on-one situation down low and went after a puckhandler emerging from the half-boards, leaving the back door wide open. The Friday goal came after a long period of Notre Dame pressure featuring several grade A stops from Hunwick; finally he could not react fast enough when ND found an open guy in the slot on a pass that came from behind the net.
Meanwhile, the all-Gongshow goalie gave up ten in a three game series against BGSU. Well done, hockey gods.
Notre Dame. Good? Bad? ND is such a confusing team. I think I was right to be very much against playing them in the second round, as they dominated large stretches of the first game and could have/should have put it away. Hunwick was ridiculous, and Michigan was much better in the OT. Michigan was much better on Saturday; even so my impression from watching ND play four times this year is that they should be easily in the tourney.
The goalie thing is a big, big problem. You could tell the body language on Saturday night was "here we go again." If they just had an average goalie I'm guessing they're well above the bubble.
Top line re-emerges. They had a little bit of a quiet spot there. That's over after Brown got the winner Friday and Wohlberg's top-quality snipes Saturday. They were dominant for stretches on the cycle, as well.
Now that Glendening and Di Giuseppe are getting some goals it seems like Michigan has two solid scoring lines for the tournament with the potential for some bonus stuff from Moffatt, a Lynch, etc.
The main problem left. The power play is just horrendous. They could not even get the zone on Friday night, and while they fixed the problem somewhat Saturday they still ended up 0/7 on the weekend. There's an obvious lack of dipsy-doo on the team that is a problem. Michigan has never in my memory played two defensemen on the PP, and I remember many years where the solution to getting the zone on the powerplay was "give it to Hensick."
This year the guy most likely to get the zone on the rush is… Mac Bennett, probably, and he does it by beating a guy as he leaves the defensive zone. When an opponent is lining four up across the blue line like ND was he doesn't have the puckhandling to make guys back off.
I don't really have any answers here. I'll just be over here massaging my temples for the next two minutes.
Sparks. : ( Scratched again and with no points in forever it's hard to make the case he should not be. I just thought that line was so close to putting in a half-dozen goals once he returned to the lineup. Oh well.
MFan in Ohio has been ably summing up the situation on the message board. Michigan actually dropped after Friday night's action thanks to a weird confluence of factors seemingly designed to play up the PWR's flaws: a bunch of not very good teams won or lost to fall above or below the .500 RPI mark that makes teams a TUC. They did this in just the right fashion for Cornell's TUC record to be momentarily very good, and Cornell took its comparison from Michigan based on that and the 3-4 games they've played against common opponents. Cornell is almost 300 points back in RPI.
Order was restored on Saturday, and with just one weekend left you can run scenarios out the wazoo. The worst-case chalk scenario (all higher seeds win except M going 0-2 at the Joe) still sees Michigan finish second; the worst-case-period scenario (UMD, BU, Miami, and Cornell win conference tourneys) sees Michigan finish in a three way tie for fifth. If Michigan beats BG in the semi they'll finish in a tie for third.
Upshot: Michigan has to both blow it as hard as possible and have every opponent within striking distance do as well as they can to lose the top seed.
As far as draw goes, I have no idea. One set of results sees Michigan drawing #4 seed Cornell in the first round; others have Cornell a strong two. The PWR is a jittery thing.
It does seem like Michigan has a solid shot at getting another Atlantic Hockey champ despite not being the #1 overall seed. For that to happen, the following must transpire:
- Two CCHA teams must be one seeds
- Two CCHA teams must be four seeds
- Michigan must be the highest-ranked CCHA team
In that case the committee has no choice but to match the CCHA teams up against the other folks and hand the not-very-good AH champ to Michigan. Your wicked hangover from that one year Michigan played Air Force suggests this may not be the absolute best thing in the world, but… well, yeah.
That is likely to happen if Miami beats Michigan Saturday. It's a consolation prize.
As far as the league goes: Miami, Michigan, and Ferris are solidly in. Ferris and their all-world goalie gave up a billion goals to BGSU and ended up not making the Joe; they're a solid two seed. Western Michigan and State are on the bubble. Both are in unless there is a bid stolen.
One will make it unless two bids are stolen this weekend; that team will be State unless WMU wins the CCHA. In that case State can be knocked out with a single stolen bid.
I'm sorry to descend on you with this but this makes me utterly livid. They are the all-CCHA teams:
Position Name, Year, School First Totals
F - Reilly Smith (JR, Miami) 10 50
F - Tyler Gron (SR, No. Michigan) 7 42
F - T.J. Tynan (SO, Notre Dame) 5 40
D - Torey Krug (JR, Michigan State) 10 50
D - Chad Billins (SR,, Ferris State) 9 48
G - Taylor Nelson (SR, Ferris State) 6 34
F- Justin Florek (SR, No. Michigan) 4 34
F- Cody Kunyk (SO, Alaska) 2 23
F- Jordie Johnston (SR, Ferris State) 3 22
D- Dan DeKeyser (SO, W. Michigan) 2 20
D- Matt Tennyson (JR, W. Michigan) -- 20
G- Shawn Hunwick (SR, Michigan) 2 24
Hunwick got two first place votes at goalie and lost out to Taylor Nelson of Ferris State. In CCHA play Hunwick had a .937 save percentage to Nelson's .927, had a 1.93 GAA to Nelson's 2.08, and played about 430 additional minutes.
You know what they say about the Gong Show and the CCHA: one is an unfunny joke begging to be put out of its misery, and the other was a syndicated 1970s amateur night featuring absurd prizes. It's no wonder that the competent teams all fled as soon as they could find a way to.
|WHAT||Northern Michigan at Michigan|
|WHERE||Yost Ice Arena|
7:35 PM Friday
|LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
Record. 14-10-6, 9-9-6 CCHA. The Northerns, as Al Randall bizarrely calls them, are yet another basically .500 CCHA team. Even at this late juncture six of the eleven teams are within a game of .500. Northern has the worst goal differential of any of them at –5, FWIW.
NMU has been successful out of conference, going 5-1 against WCHA opponents St. Cloud State, Wisconsin, and Michigan Tech. That has seen them through to the good side of the tournament bubble. Yeah, the bubble: even though Northern is currently tied for ninth in the PWR the margins down there are incredibly slim and a Michigan sweep this weekend could bonk them out of the tourney entirely, if temporarily.
Previous meetings. Remember this?
Yeah… that. Shawn Hunwick got booted from the Friday night game for that. You can see why he was pissed:
This started the year-long Gongshow campaign in Hunwick's crease and as a result Michigan got only a tie out of the weekend, losing 5-3 in the punch game and eking out a 3-3 tie Saturday. On Friday Michigan fell behind 3-1; after Hyman and Travis Lynch tied it up Janecyk let in a soft one to let the game slip away. Shots were 32-27 Northern. Michigan outshot Northern 28-26 the next night.
Dangermen. I'll defer to Marquette native Jason Paul on this one:
Topping my list would be big 6-foot-4 senior forward Justin Florek. He was a beast last time around against the Wolverines, who struggled to defend him in front of the net, especially on the power play. Florek has 15 goals and 13 assists in 30 games. Eight of his goals have come with the man advantage. He only had one goal against Michigan earlier this season, but he was responsible for a pair of redirects in front of the net on the power play led to rebound goals. I expect to see U-M defenseman Jon Merrill matched up with his line. That’ll definitely be the match up to watch on the power play.
Tyler Gron had 14-19-33 as well. Matt Thurber appears to be the other member of that line with an 8-15-23 line; past that there's an NMU version of Treias in sophomore Stephan Vigier (11-9-20) and a couple guys with seven goals before the dropoff into grinder territory.
Defense? I'm splitting defense and goalie because they are different things and putting a question mark after defense because let's be honest: it is impossible to scout college hockey opponents since they're never on television and honestly I don't know if I could figure anything meaningful out from a game or two anyway. Defensemen are especially vulnerable to misrepresentation.
So. Junior Kyle Follmer is the only NMU defenseman to make an impact offensively with 3-19-22. As a team, NMU is 21st in goals allowed per game but the guy in net has a huge impact on that, as we'll see…
Goalie. You may have noticed Jared Coreau's name pop up when this blog discusses how statistically impressive Shawn Hunwick is. That's generally to dismiss his candidacy for big-time awards because he's platooning, but a .935 save percentage is impressive even so. Paul notes that Coreau seems to have asserted himself as the man after starting the last three games. With senior Reid Ellington sporting a .905 and giving up almost an additional goal per game it's not hard to see why. The Wildcats are in crunch time and it's time to ride the hot guy.
This is how big a difference there has been between the two goalies: extrapolate Coreau's 2.03 GAA to a team GAA and NMU would be second nationally in goals allowed. Ellington's 2.92 would be 37th. As always, NCAA goalie sample sizes are extremely small, but they're all we've got.
Special teams. Your power plays per game:
|PP For / G||3.6||3.9|
|PP Ag / G||4.7||4.1|
The above table hasn't been much help of late. Gongshow is gonna gongshow and Red has now uncharacteristically complained about the officiating for two straight weeks. But, yeah, Northern takes a ton of penalties and doesn't draw many.
When on special teams, the NMU power play is decent, converting at just under 20% and fielding only one shorthanded goal. Michigan is still languishing just over 15%. Northern is 7th nationally on the kill; while NMU can expect to be shorthanded more often than M they perform better on special teams; this can be considered a wash.
Michigan vs Those Guys
Don't have Hunwick freak out and nail some guy but good. This is self explanatory, but it would be nice if a Gongshow ref actually called contact on Hunwick.
Keep your cool in general. This series was ugly four months ago. The Hunwick thing came paired with a couple of fighting DQs and a Northern guy got a contact-to-the-head DQ Saturday night. Pair that with Michigan's Miami dustup and increasing frustration with Gongshow refereeing you can see the outlines of an ugly, penalty-filled series short on 5-on-5 play.
This would be a bad thing. Not only does NMU play better on special teams than Michigan does but they give up a ton of shots relative to the opponent (they're –202 in CCHA play). The bulk of that disparity is 5x5—1.1 power plays per game does not make that big of a difference. If Michigan can play some of the remarkably penalty-free games they've turned in thus far they'll be in good shape.
Third line: make something pay off. The Sparks-Moffatt-Hyman line seems like it should be putting some pucks in the net but hasn't in a long, long time. AJ Treais can't keep his smoking hot shooting up forever. Unless Travis Lynch is going to start scoring against teams not named Michigan State, at some point Michigan is going to need these guys to step up.
First line: get your mojo back. Sans Brown the top line got smoked on Friday vs State and they didn't score on Saturday, which was the seemingly first time since its invention that it had not. As a huge driver of Michigan's success in the post-swoon era it will be reassuring if they get back on track.
The Big Picture
The CCHA title is likely gone. If Ferris biffs their layup against BGSU this weekend the door cracks open. That's not likely. That out of the way, Michigan can certainly aim for second and will strive to finish in the top four to get the bye and second-round home series. A split would likely assure the latter, again assuming Michigan doesn't totally blow their BGSU layup.
As far as the Pairwise goes, it's like I've been saying for a long time: Michigan can tread water with a split but to make headway they will have to do better than that. Splitting hurts slightly and will see them continue to hang out in the 2-seed band they currently occupy. Sweeping likely takes them past a team or two—they would definitely pass Ferris, for one, by becoming the #1 team in RPI. Probably, anyway. It's hard to predict exactly what will happen.
Aforementioned Michigan Hockey Net preview.
1/21/2012 – Michigan 1, Notre Dame 3 – 14-9-4, 8-7-4 CCHA
1/22/2012 – Michigan 2, Notre Dame 1 – 15-9-4, 9-7-4 CCHA
Rudy does not impress Shawn Hunwick
At one point this weekend one of the announcers called Shawn Hunwick "Rudy" and then laughed about how Notre Dame fans would be mad about that comparison. I just don't even know where to start with that. Maybe here:
|Kent Patterson (COL)||Minnesota||SR||1618:54||56||2.08|
|Kevin Kapalka||Lake Superior||SO||1519:14||63||2.49|
|Andrew Hammond||Bowling Green||JR||1507:05||67||2.67|
|Paul Karpowich (STL)||Clarkson||SR||1458:58||51||2.1|
Rudy was an annoying twerp destined for sketchy pump-and-dump stock schemes who got in late in a blowout once. His life story is a tale of how plucky determination can turn you into a successories poster model and scam artist. Rudy's about as real as Notre Dame football's status as a national power.
By contrast, no one in the country is more important to their team than Hunwick. He plays every minute unless he's probably concussed or Michigan is up 10 goals. He is top ten in save percentage despite getting bombed, despite playing behind a poor penalty kill and mostly without Jon Merrill. He's so good not even the CCHA Gongshow can deny him his rightful place as the all-conference goalie this time around. (Surely. Surely?)
Like Jordan Kovacs, Hunwick long ago left walk-on territory. The journey looks like this:
- We're starting a walk-on? Death!
- He's tolerable for a walk-on but this is a signifier of how far we've fallen and we'll never get good until we get some talent in here.
- He's really good for a walk-on. I should probably stop calling him a walk-on.
- He's pretty good. I am waiting for the other shoe to drop.
- He is my binky.
For both of those guys the term "walk-on" is no longer a signifier of anything other than an improbable backstory. Rudy they are not because they are actually good at things.
It's time to ask the question: is a five-seven walk-on who came to Michigan never expecting to play a game the best goalie in the history of the program?
Statistically, the answer is yes. Al Montoya put up an .895 as a disinterested junior and is out. Marty Turco's billion wins and tourney heroics obscure the fact he put up sub-.900 save percentages until his senior .907. I can't find full Steve Shields stats; the one year hockeyDB has also shows a .907.
Michigan's record book goes back to 1962 and currently lists Billy Sauer's 2007-2008 season at the top of the heap because it hasn't been updated in a couple years. Hunwick's two seasons as the out-and-out starter be 1-2 if whoever's responsible for the book could be convinced you weren't having them on. It's not even a debate when it comes to save percentage. Unless there's a sumo wrestler from the 1920s everyone's forgotten about, Hunwick is the all-time best.
However, hockey's changed considerably even over the last 15 years. In 1996 and 1998 when Turco was regarded as a god despite having those ugly numbers. That was not all in fans' heads, either. Turco went on to a long, successful, colorful NHL career. His first year in the AHL he put up a .920; two years later he was in the NHL. Clearly there was something about Michigan's mid-to-late 90s firewagon hockey that exposed goalies to a lot of high quality chances.
Save percentage alone is insufficient and if there were sports talk radio dedicated to Michigan hockey, people could rage about their favorites without anyone stepping in to say "you're wrong." Because who knows?
But it's not that we can answer that question definitively. It's that we can ask it at all.
It is a sad but undeniable fact that Sauer will mostly be remembered for tourney meltdowns. Hunwick has last year's North Dakota game to his credit. Montoya had a couple of stolen tourney games on his ledger; those are the only ones I can remember that came anything close to last year's grand theft. How close was that? Not close at all.
In the end answering the unanswerable question is going to come down to a few games in April. At this point there's only two ways the question can be answered: maybe, and yes.
*[Michigan's hockey statistical DB doesn't go very far back.]
A good weekend. Speaking of! Hunwick had a second consecutive monster weekend, giving up three goals on 74 shots. One was a no-chancer on a cross-crease pass, another a slot rebound that is the one consistent weakness of his game, the third a close-in shot it was hypothetically possible to stop but very difficult. Last week Ohio State managed one goal.
Michigan's third pairing got stuck in the zone against ND's hard forecheck, the second line seemed to spend most of its time futilely attempting to get the puck back from the Costello line, and defensive breakdowns put him under duress. He still cracked the top ten in save percentage.
You can argue he's the best in the country. The top four are at Union (ECAC) and three Atlantic Hockey schools; #7 is an ECAC guy; #9 is another AH guy. NMU's Jared Coreau and Miami's Connor Knapp are platooning. That leaves Hunwick, OSU's Cal Heeter, Merrimack's Joe Cannata and Mass-Lowell's Doug Carr at the top of the leaderboard in the Big Three conferences.
No one in that group has a huge lead in save percentage and Hunwick's ominpressence would seem to give him an edge. He's logged more minutes than anyone other than Minnesota's Kent Patterson; he has four full games on Cannata. He gets bombed, too. Michigan is yielding a blizzard of shots. That may hurt him when voters look at goals allowed, but he's got a shot at All-American type things.
A bad weekend. No one player is 100% responsible for any goal but Luke Glendening was the guy trying to check the guy shooting on all three of Notre Dame's goals (ENG ignored). Notre Dame's second on Friday was a backcheck he did not get position on and did not control the opponent's stick; the other two were just derpity doo.
(It's possible Merrill was more at fault on the last one.) Glendening also took two dumb penalties, one boarding, one interference.
So… like… he's the captain and everything but he has nine points in 28 games, three in 20 CCHA games; he's –3 in those 20. PDG is +4; Treais does not have conference stats listed at MGoBlue for some reason. Anyone else with those numbers would be fighting Andrew Sinelli for playing time. I'm just this guy on the internet but it's hard to see what Glendening is bringing to the table in terms of stats or the eye test.
Even if Michigan doesn't have a cornucopia of great options, the lines after the raging goal-fest that is Guptill-Wohlberg-Brown haven't been producing much of anything of late. It's time to throw the bottom nine in the blender and see what comes out.
An ugly weekend. Notre Dame was thugtastic to the point where Berenson's biting his tongue:
“They play an overly — I don’t know if it’s overly physical, but some people would say it’s — you know, there’s — I’m not going to say it. But yeah, it’s physical hockey,” Berenson said.
Guptill did not mince his words, though:
“I think they played a really dirty game, I’m going to be honest,” said freshman forward Alex Guptill on Saturday. “It was dirty; it was a mean series. You had to be playing tough out there to get any kind of ice.”
Hunwick is a hothead who will take retaliation penalties; Notre Dame was clearly trying to get him off his game with constant late chops that never get called and a bunch of stuff that probably should have been, most notably a cross-check to Hunwick's head. Hunwick kept his head for the most part. While he picked up a penalty it was a hockey-ref cop-out special wherein a bunch of guys end up in the box and no one gets a power play.
None of this rises to the level of OUTRAGE, but it's annoying when your goalie is under assault constant enough for announcers to delicately bring it up both nights and the referees won't put someone in the box for a couple minutes to stop it. I guess I shouldn't be surprised.
Pairwise bits. Michigan stays fifth in RPI and slides a spot in the PWR for reasons I won't bother figuring out until a couple more weeks are gone.
LIES! A quick glance at Michigan's comparisons is encouraging. Duluth and BU are likely out of reach unless those teams fade hard down the stretch. Comparisons lost against CC, Denver, Lowell, and Ohio State are within reach.
Michigan has significant RPI edges on the first two schools but that Union loss kills them in the COP; everyone is two games above .500 against teams under consideration but CC and DU have had fewer TUC games and therefore have a higher winning percentage. Michigan ties Lowell in COP and will remain tied unless Lowell faces BC or Northeastern in the Hockey East playoffs. Lowell has a significant TUC advantage; the teams are virtually tied in RPI. Because RPI is the tiebreaker, whoever wins that will win the comparison.
Ohio State, meanwhile, got just a tie from a series against Ferris State. They're now 0-3-3 in their last six and have finally bled off their huge advantage in PWR. They've dropped to 4th and are also a tiny hair above Michigan in RPI. OSU has slightly more than a one game lead in TUC; they do have a significant common opponents advantage but not one that Michigan can't make up what with OSU being in the same conference at all.
Michigan can of course slide down by losing a bunch of games. The point of this section: a one-seed is very much in play. Michigan has at least six more opportunities against TUCs and the toughest four games of the brutal stretch run are in the books at 3-1. They've got a bye week, Miami, a road-and-Joe with State, Northern, and then @ BGSU.
Weekly "I can't believe all these CCHA teams are in the tourney" update. Still six or seven. OSU-ND-M-FSU comprise a block from 4 to 7, Northern is 10th, and MSU and Miami are tied for 14th.
Weekly CCHA cat-in-sack update. Nothing is resolved. Miami swept WMU, making things even worse. Baseball standings:
Eight of eleven teams are within a weekend of first place; the difference between the conference champion and not even getting a bye is four points.
Steve Mike Chiasson scratch. Saturday. Got away with it. Still don't understand it.
Argh argh argh argh 2 on 0. It is emblematic of Michigan's odd-man-rush struggles that Guptill and Brown—two of the top three scorers—broke in alone on struggling Steve Summerhays and didn't even got a shot off. They had the right idea but Brown's pass was too far in front of Guptill. That would have made the last period a lot more relaxed.
In all other matters, first line uber alles.
On Friday, Notre Dame made it their goal to seemingly hit Shawn Hunwick as much as possible and try to get in his head. They ran into him, slashed him after the whistle, high-sticked him, at least a half-dozen times (many in the first period alone). The first instance led to a power play. Then the incompetent boobs officiating the game, Keith Sergott and Barry Pochmara, decided to basically let ND do whatever they wanted to our goalie. At one point, Hunwick got frustrated enough that he threw his stick to the ice after a scrum. I thought they then called him for unsportsmanlike conduct--that seemed to be the consensus on the telecast as well--but in the box score they've got him down for slashing. I'm guessing the reaction was based on them evening it up after he got slammed into for at least the fifth time.
He mentions how Friday's game was frustrating for the large quantity of chances against an iffy goalie that were spurned; co-signed.
Penn State picks up their first ever NHL draft pick. Max Gardiner was third rounder in 2010. If you're counting on your fingers trying to figure that out, Gardiner spent a year at Minnesota, where he was 1-2-3 in 17 games and then made a dash for the USHL. Michigan will see him when he is an upperclassman.
Sometimes you start typing up a UV bit and then you hit 600 words and break it out into a post you had not intended to write.
So: hockey. It's been playing. They spent the first couple weeks wandering about looking pretty bad, then annihilated St. Lawrence to be an incredibly underserving #1. One Hunwick game misconduct later they came back from Northern with just two points in their CCHA opener and that ranking was gone.
Ferris rolled into town last night with a 6-0 record and sweep of Miami to their credit; Michigan came away with a validating 5-2 win. I have a habit of watching Ferris early in the year, thinking they're really good, and then watching them go .500, but I mean it this time: I think this is a really good Ferris team. This time I'm on steadier ground what with their record.
I'm still getting a handle on the team since it is hugely different than last year's outfit, but I think it's going to be more fun to watch than last year's edition. That's not to say it will be better—they won the league and got to overtime in the national title game—but they've already scored more pretty goals than they did all of last year.
That's thanks in part to Lindsay Sparks going from oft-scratched to the team's leading scorer. I won't question Red Berenson in case he decides to look at me with disappointment, thereby turning me into dust, but… I don't get it, man. The last couple years it seemed clear he was more of a threat than several second-liners, let alone the Rohrkempers of the world. This year he's looking like an all-conference player. He's already got 11 points, many of them featuring top-level skill.
Freshman takes in order of eeee:
- Phil DiGuiseppe. As I tweeted yesterday, guy can play. Slick passer, good jump, good size, good hands. Sometimes you pull these guys out of Junior A (not B, as I erroneously tweeted) and it turns out they can't make the transition. No such problems for DiGuiseppe, and he just turned 18. Star potential.
- Zach Hyman. Hyman hasn't leapt off the page as much as DiGuiseppe but he'll get there. He's good good balance and hands and he's been an effective part of the Sparks line.
- Mike Chiasson. Steady, conservative defensive defenseman. Will be a four year player; should quietly hold down a second pairing for most of his career.
- Brennan Serville. Has not been as noticeable but seems to have a regular spot. Don't know much about his game yet.
- Travis Lynch. Slotted into a spot with Wohlberg and Glendening and has 3-3-6 already. Had a sweet deflection last night on a Bennett point shot. Not sure if he can keep this up but he's been on a tear since about two seconds after he committed.
- Alex Guptill. Getting a generic-big-guy vibe from him. He'll slouch around the third line most of his career before suddenly getting really good as a senior, like Rohlfs or Lebler.
Szuma and Sinelli got in one game; they get incompletes. They are the new generation of healthy scratches.
Random other items:
- Greg Pateryn is a long-limbed rock. Tough to get enough space to get a good chance when he's on the ice. He will screw up too often to be truly great but if they come through this period without Merrill okay it will be because he held down the fort against top lines.
- Kevin Clare is unbelievably slow. I think he's the guy who sees his playing time decline when Merrill gets back.
- Derek Deblois looks like he's taken a step forward this year. Ditto Brown.
- I guess I can't complain when David Wohlberg is above a PPG but I don't like having him on the same line as Lynch (freshman edition) and Glendening. I'd like to see what a Sparks-DiGuiseppe-Wohlberg line could accomplish, and let the Lynches and Glendening anchor a checking line.
- The official scorer at Yost is padding opponent shot totals like a mother. Anything that gently rolls to a stop two feet in front of the goal is counted. I'm of a mind to look at Hunwick's home/away splits last year to see if there's a big difference in save percentage.
Michigan's streak of picking up an NTDP goalie has hit a third straight year with the commitment of 2012 G Jared Rutledge. Hurray. You're worried.
You're right to be, but Michigan's streak of having that goalie blanch at the prospect of competing with Shawn Hunwick and bolt to the OHL should end at two since Hunwick will be gone after this year. Rutledge, like Trouba, waited a long time to figure out what he was going to do so he wouldn't end up breaking his word:
"I told Red I didn't want to be their hat trick," Rutledge said with a smile. "I told them all along that when I made my decision, I was going to be 100% sure I was coming there. I couldn't be happier and I'm really excited."
Tell us what we've won, me.
Rutledge is a smallish goalie reputed to have excellent anticipation, rebound control, and positioning:
Rutledge is technically and positionally very sound, is excellent at controlling rebounds, handles the puck well, competes hard, has a good glove, doesn’t get phased on the rare occasion he does let in a bad goal, and is extremely good at anticipating the play. Though he isn’t overly big, he challenges exceptionally well, and makes life miserable for shooters. If you don’t beat him on the first shot, chances are you won’t get another opportunity.
Sounds like a less-tiny Hunwick who isn't constantly kicking pucks out into the slot. (No offense intended to Tiny Jesus.) He was drafted in the fifth round of the 2010 OHL draft by Saginaw and is kicking around draft lists as a "B"—mid-round—prospect. His stats are pretty solid—he's averaged between .910 and .920 save percentage splitting time between the U17 and U18 teams, generally outperforming his competition in the same situation.
Hockey recruiting class: complete? Michigan might add a walk-on piece here and there, but this looks like it's about it for next year (question marks denote kids Heisenberg has listed as 2012 or 2013:
- Forwards: Boo Nieves, Daniel Milne, Justin Selman, Max Shuart(?)
- Defensemen: Jacob Trouba, Connor Carrick, Spencer Hyman(?)
- Goalie: Rutledge
If Merrill makes it through his current suspension I'm guessing he will be around next year as well. It seems like someone who was going to leave after this year anyway would book it given the severity of the punishment. If so they may or may not add Hyman. Right now they're scheduled to bring back everyone save Pateryn and I'm not seeing a ton of departure threats. Maybe Bennett. Hyman would be the seventh defenseman at best in that situation because Michigan would be insanely loaded on D: Merrill, Bennett, Trouba, Moffie, Carrick, Chiasson, Serville, and Clare plus Szuma and possibly Hyman. If Merrill and Bennett both take off then there'd obviously be room.
I wish there was a little more depth in the forward corps—I haven't seen any buzz about Milne and Selman being draftable—but a quality goalie plus two first-round types is a big haul to go with what's looking like a promising freshman class.
The scoreboard is hypothetically awesome but they're still trying to figure out how to use it. Goal replays are erratic; highlight packages sometimes don't appear at all in intermissions, and penalties never get replays. If they're willing to put the Wohlberg goal up last night as it was being reviewed I don't think that's a controversy thing. I get that there's only one camera but at least some of the penalties are on the puck.
As for Yost… man, it has been off. I think moving the seniors close to the band was a mistake. When they were in the middle of the ice the chants had a smaller maximum distance; now the two sections furthest away from the band are mostly empty and totally lame. Are ticket prices too high? Michigan ran that Groupon special and packed the empty endzone seats; once that stopped we were again treated to nearly-empty sections in both endzones. I sit amongst the old fuddies now and they're not around either.
Another possibility: odd starting times have thrown people off after decades of Friday, Saturday, 7:30, see you in two weeks.
Whatever the explanation, I'm not feeling the same sort of excitement in the building that there was even a couple years ago. We're seeing the same sort of apathy infect the student section at football games. I think it's time to start taking attendance and offering people nice perks for showing up on time, like better seats next year. The AD's solitary focus on money is making the product worse.
Welcome your semi-regular five-PM-on-a-Friday tab-machete C&P job. First, Stuffing the Passer:
Ron Paul makes an appearance. Why is this not a weekly feature at halftime on NBC I will never know.
Saving our bacon (not that Bacon). The Daily deploys the massive profile machine on Shawn Hunwick:
STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich. — Inside the home of Rich and Robin Hunwick, tickets from the Big Chill at the Big House and Michigan jerseys line the living room walls, set alongside childhood snapshots of their two boys, Matt and Shawn.
Tucked away in the corner of the room is a picture of Shawn, no older than seven, posing in a goalie squat in the net, his equipment swallowing his small frame.
Nothing about this picture is striking. Just a relic from a picture day many years ago.
As per usual, the result here is better than anything the local papers are putting out.
Spite for justice. The Dispatch writes up a piece on high school uniforms in Ohio with a cool story bro from back in the day:
Eastmoor Academy’s uniforms, featuring a blue and white winged helmet and players’ names on the jerseys, are among the most striking in central Ohio. Others, including Watkins Memorial, have borrowed the winged-helmet theme associated with Michigan.
The story associated with Eastmoor’s helmets is legendary. Hall of Famer Bob Stuart, who coached there from 1956-84, was incensed because Ohio State didn’t recruit Warriors linebacker Mike Boren — father to recent Ohio State players Justin and Zach — in 1979, so he introduced the winged helmets the following season.
“It’s a true story; I wanted to stick it to Ohio State for that,” Stuart said. “Plus, I had always admired Bo (Schembechler) and I thought those helmets were unique. We introduced them, the kids seemed to like them and they stuck. And, by the way, I never heard anything from coach (Earle) Bruce.”
No God Please No. Holdin' The Rope sneers at your QB controversy meme, internet:
Not only did Devin just look like a guy who shouldn't be playing right now, from the fumbled snap to the touchdown pass launched from three yards past the line of scrimmage, to the 4th and forever in which he scrambled forever, crossed the LOS, and eventually circled back with what looked like an intention to throw the ball. If I wasn't drinking a cocktail fashioned from the always zesty ingredients of depression, frustration, and anger at the time, I probably would've laughed.
Of course, the argument for Devin is that he's got a stronger, more accurate arm and just generally looks the part of what Michigan quarterbacks once were and ostensibly will be once Denard graduates. Unfortunately, he wasn't really appreciably better than Denard in the passing department (certainly not in a manner that would make Hoke unseat Denard because of Devin's aforementioned strengths). He missed painfully open receivers--guys so open hand-wavingly open that they could have been castaways waving at a rescue plane up above--and wasn't exactly accurate, in addition to the aforementioned Yakety Sax shenanigans.
Be who you are you square-jawed thug-enabling bible-thumping hypocrite who smells like cabbage. Hoover Street Rag on the Gholston business:
Michigan State's current national identity, as much as they have one in football, is built around essentially "Sparty, no!" That's not just with Michigan fans, when Rece Davis says it on College Football Final, you have an identity crisis. You will not embrace the Little Brother standard, and that's probably wise, because no one wins with that. But pure evil, goatee wearing evil, yes, that is what Michigan State football could be.
Think about it, think about all of the time you could save. You wouldn't need to feign sportsmanship at press conferences, you could just come out and say that your players played sixty minutes of unnecessary roughness and you were lucky you didn't get caught. Your players could come right out and say that the game was played dirty. You wouldn't need to ignore the actions of your team off the field and you could immediately allow players who had served jail time back on to your team without any kind of punishment. You wouldn't need to spend days on internal reviews of a punch by one of your players caught on camera. It would just be who you are. You could be like the Raiders of the Big Ten.
Disagreement. Touch The Banner says Martin should have shut down the play picture-paged late yesterday:
The defensive line can do much more. First and foremost, Mike Martin can make the tackle. The star defensive tackle that people seem afraid to criticize is the first person who makes a mistake here. He's responsible for the playside A gap but refuses to get off the center's block. If Martin gets off the block quicker and wraps up Edwin Baker, the play gets made for a loss or a minimal gain.
It's true that middle linebacker Kenny Demens doesn't do a great job on the play. In my opinion, he should be attacking the offensive guard's outside shoulder, thus maintaining B gap responsibility. Instead, he takes the guard on head up and then gets stalemated. If he takes on that guard with his inside shoulder, the WILL (Brandin Hawthorne) is screaming downhill and will tackle Baker for about a 1-yard gain. (With the way Hawthorne reacts, it looks to me that he's just flowing to the ball and that the free safety is responsible for supporting the weakside A gap.)
The Demens stuff I agree with—he got hit with a minus two on that play. The Martin stuff I don't know about. He doesn't make the TFL by himself with a blocker on him but he does force the back into an awkward, difficult cut that should expose him to linebacker play. It's not the best play in the world but it seems like a positive. Also, I gave Martin a –1 for the last game. It's not about being afraid to criticize a guy.
Magnus goes on to complain about my complaining about MSU LBs reading the play faster than Michigan LBs because they are not concerned about Denard throwing the ball, which okay. But Demens has a guy releasing into him downfield and does not understand the structure of the play and thus spills it. That's reading as well. MSU LBs scrape to the POA much better than Michigan has—how many times have I complained about one or the other MLB not reading a pulling OL and arriving late to the hole? Lots. These guys have had trouble diagnosing jets sweeps and triple options by offenses run by Alex Gillett and Kain Colter. The threat of play action is not a problem there.
Etc.: Adam Jacobi truthbombs Dantonio. Answer This, the Ann Arbor-themed bar quiz romantic comedy featuring Ralph Williams as the protagonist's enormous-handed father, is having a special screening at the Michigan Theater Sunday.