I think you will get your wish.
Colorado College Hockey
So back around the end of December I put together a preview of CC for the GLI championship game that Michigan won 6-5 in a back-and-forth, Wild West shootout. Some of that will be replicated here, but if you want to check it out, here's the link:
Colorado College (23-18-3/13-13-2) Second-Half Overview:
Since Michigan ousted CC in the GLI, the Tigers have gone 11-9-2, including 6-4-1 since Jaden Schwartz returned from a broken ankle suffered playing for Team Canada in the World Junior Championships (you might have heard of him- the announcer last night may have been getting paid on commission by the St. Louis Blues for how many fans he could bring in tonight to see Jaden- he also put up a 2-2-4 scoring line). While that's not a world beating record by any standard, the level of competition faced in that stretch was, playing eight games against tournament teams North Dakota, Denver, Minnesota-Duluth and, including, last night's 8-4 win against Boston College, going 4-3-1. In fact, overall CC has played the most games again the tournament field of any team in the tournament- posting an 8-7-1 record (again, including BC).
This team is very young (its average age is 20 years and 4 months- for comparison's sake, Michigan's average is 21 years even), with 16 underclassmen and only four seniors on the roster, although they've certainly grown up the last month or two. This is not the same team that Michigan faced in the GLI (more on this later). CC has essentially been playing playoff hockey since the middle of February, when its Pairwise was hovering somewhere in the high-teens to low-twenties. Nearly every game since February 12th's 2-1 victory over Mankato, last night's game excluded, have been one-goal games (in the two losses to Wisconsin down the stretch, both 3-1 losses, in one game Wisconsin scored the 3rd goal with 4:25 to go, in the other the third goal was an empty-netter with 11 seconds left). Winning tough games in the final part of the year, CC bolstered its Pairwise ranking, earning the #14 overall seed and an at-large berth. CC is battle-tested and is playing its best hockey of the year when it matters the most.
CC has been playing with nearly the same line combinations since Jaden's return.
Fr. Jaden Schwartz (17-29-46)- So. Rylan Schwartz (9-28-37)- Sr. Shultz (17-28-45)
Jr. Hall (5-6-11)- Jr. Dineen (13-11-24)- So. Rapuzzi (12-10-22)
Fr. Eveland (3-14-17)- So. Winkler (3-6-9)- Sr. Johnson (20-17-37)
Fr. Krushelnyski (6-8-14)- Jr. Civitarese (5-4-9)- Fr. Collett (2-3-5)
The "dangermen" are obvious. The top line is as good as any in college hockey. Jaden has a ridiculous 17 goals on only 78 shots (about 22%) and 46 points in only 29 games played (1.59 points-per-game, 2nd in the nation behind only Andy Miele). After that, scoring is fairly balanced, but no one is going to beat you single-handedly. Johnson and Dineen do most of their damage on the power play: 12 of Johnson's 20 and 11 of Dineen's 13 coming on the man-advantage (they are tied for 2nd and 5th nationally in PPG). Dineen's the guy who sets up in the crease for greasy goals. Johnson hasn't registered a point since scoring two goals February 26th against Minnesota-Duluth, but has been playing with a shoulder injury- he's looked much better in recent weeks, but is still in a scoring drought. Team speed is an emphasis, as I'm sure you'll hear during the broadcast. Hall, Eveland, Johnson, and Krushelnyski are all slot-ninja types (about 5-8, 170), but even the bigger guys can skate. Alexander Krushelnyski is also the son of former Red Wings player and asst. coach Mike Krushelnyski.
Only two players on CC are NHL draft picks- Jaden (1st round, #14 overall, St. Louis Blues) and Winkler (3rd round, Dallas Stars) and neither played against Michigan at the GLI- Jaden was with Team Canada, Winkler was out after surgery on a broken wrist. Rapuzzi was also out with a concussion suffered against MSU the night before. The line chart, save for the 4th line, which remained the same, was much different at the GLI:
Sr. Schultz- So. Rylan Schwartz- Sr. Johnson
Jr. Hall- Jr. Dineen- Fr. Morin
Fr. Eveland- Fr. Skalbeck- So. Hamburg
Fr. Krushelnyski- Jr. Civitarese- Fr. Collett
Essentially CC replaces two freshman fresh out of high school and Hamburg with two NHL draft picks and Rapuzzi.
Michigan will have to play more physically than CC in order to slow down their team speed. For a smaller team, CC likes to hit, and plays better when they do. If you saw the CC-BC game last night, you’ll remember how bodies were flying everywhere, especially in the first two periods as CC established a 7-2 lead. Conversely, in the 3rd period, CC’s physical game diminished and BC got back into the game, pulling within three with 6:21 to go.
CC’s top two defensive pairings have been the same for the entire season, and log the most minutes. The third pairing, however, has been a rotating cast until the last month or so, in which time it, too, has been a constant.
Jr. Guentzel (6-21-27)- So. Marciano (3-8-11)
Sr. Lowery (1-16-17)- Fr. McDermott (2-12-14)
So. Boivin (3-5-8)- Jr. Bidwill (0-2-2)
The D isn’t flashy offensively or defensively, but is mediocre enough to get the job done (a ringing endorsement). Gabe Guentzel’s last name ought to sound familiar to some- he’s the brother of the Notre Dame forward Ryan Guentzel, as well as the son of Nebraska-Omaha’s asst. coach Mike Guentzel (who also coached at CC Gabe’s freshman season). He is also the team’s biggest threat from the blue line. Marciano is a former NTDP product and more of a stay-at-home defenseman. Lowery has balance in that he likes to hit and can move the puck. McDermott is more of puck-moving defenseman, but his D has gotten better. As I mentioned, the top four will be out there a fair bit, although Boivin and Bidwill have played well enough as of late to given them more of a breather. They replace the Jr. Behrend- So. Leaverton pairing that faced Michigan the last go-around. Look for Michigan’s forwards to capitalize on a few defensive breakdowns that are sure to present themselves throughout the game, particularly against the Boivin-Bidwill pairing.
Goalie and General Defense:
Joe Howe has been the go-to-guy down the stretch. While posting average numbers for the year (18-14-2, 2.97 GAA, .901 Save%), he’s been a solid competitor. He’ll make a few flashy saves here and there (he had a few of those last night) and follow that up with a “my grandma could have stopped that one.” That said, Howe made 39 saves on 43 shots against BC and 34 on 38 against North Dakota last week, two very good teams. He’ll give up a few goals, but he’ll keep CC in the game too. His defense occasionally leaves him out to dry, but the forwards are very good fore- and back-checkers. CC has been out-shot in the last 5 games, on average 33.6-25.4, which is a concern for them, but for the fact that they’re 4-1 in that span, the only loss in a 4-3 defeat to North Dakota.
Special Teams and Whatnot:
CC’s Power Play is good. Tied for 6th nationally at 23.4%, CC’s top PP is a dangerous foe to tangle with. Guentzel (2 PPG) and Shultz (9 PPG) play the point, while J. Schwartz (8 PPG), Dineen (11 PPG) and R. Schwartz (3 PPG) play up front. I can’t find face-off stats, but Dineen and R. Schwartz are pretty good, I want to say near 60%, especially on the PP. The 2nd unit isn’t nearly as good, and has changed faces such that I’m not exactly sure who’s on the 2nd PP line, but keep an eye on Johnson (12 PPG) and Rapuzzi (4 PPG).
While Michigan’s power play ranks 24th nationally clicking 18.39% of the time, CC is tied with Michigan for 23rd nationally on the PK at 83%. Michigan has scored 8 shorties this year, including Glendening’s against CC in the GLI, while CC is tied for the lead (with Michigan Tech) in giving up shorties, with 11. And although CC blanked the national leader in forcing SHG’s, BC, they had a few shorthanded chances and Michigan will too. On the flip side, Michigan has only given up five shorties all year, and CC only scored five shorties this season, although two of them came last night. Krushelnyski leads the Tigers with 2 SHG’s, including one against BC.
Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics:
-This is the 6-year anniversary to the day of the last time the Tigers and the Wolverines met in the NCAA tournament, which was also a regional final matchup. That game saw the Tigers down 3-0 early in the second period before scoring four unanswered goals, including one by eventual Hobey Baker winner Marty Sertich, to pull out a come-from-behind victory and a Frozen Four berth, after which the Tigers lost 6-2 to hated rival DU on their way to back-to-back national championships.
-CC’s freshman class have collectively accounted for 115 points (40-75), 29.6 % of the team’s points.
-The Tigers have scored at least one power play goal in 11 of their last 12 games and in 30 of 44 overall for the season.
-CC is undefeated (17-0-1) when leading after two periods and is 21-3-3 when ahead or tied after forty minutes of play. Conversely, CC is 2-15 when trailing after the 2nd. However, those two wins came recently in the final two games in the best-of-three series against Wisconsin in the first round of the WCHA playoffs.
-CC has scored twice within a minute nine times this season.
-Head Coach Scott Owens is the only coach in the West Regional without a National Championship. Red Berenson, Jerry York, and Dean Blais have eight between them.
Meaningless Fearless Predictions:
CC continues its strong play and avenges the loss in the GLI. Jaden Schwartz scores at least one goal and the announcer blushes with deep man-love for him. CC gives up a shortie and a PPG, but wins the 5x5 battles in a harrowingly close 5-4 victory.
As a CC alum who has followed their hockey team closely for nearly the last 10 years, I thought that I'd pass along a preview/scouting report to enhance the viewing experience for those of you who will be watching the game tonight.
CC Hockey 2010-2011 First-Half Team Overview: CC is 12-8-1 on the season (8-6 in WCHA, good for 5th place) with the nation’s 7th toughest strength of schedule. They are 13th in RPI, 11th in the KRACH, and tied for 12th in the very preliminary Pairwise comparisons. All of this suggests they’ll be a solid bubble team come tournament time. After a slow start in first month of the season, the Tigers went on a tear, which was kick-started by a 9-2 thumping of Denver. Beginning with that game, they’ve gone 9-3, including a split against a very good Nebraska-Omaha team. They’ve been without team scoring leader Jaden Schwartz (11-15-26, the nation’s 4th leading scorer) the last four games, going 3-1, while he’s been with the Canadian national junior team. CC plays an up-tempo style that put an emphasis on team speed over size. They are very strong on special teams with 22% success rate on the power play, and 87.4% on the PK. CC is also very young, with 16 underclassmen compared with only 10 upperclassmen (4 seniors, one of whom is the walk-on goalie).
The Forwards: With Jaden Schwartz joining the Canadian team, Scott Winkler (the only other NHL draft pick on the team besides J. Schwartz) out since Oct. 22nd with a wrist-injury, and William Rapuzzi injured with a concussion last night against MSU, the forwards will be young, with the veterans double-shifting at times. Watch out for seniors Stephen Schultz (10-13-23) and Tyler Johnson (13-8-21, who leads the nation in PPG with 8), as well as sophomore Rylan Schwartz (5-19-24), Jaden’s older brother. Keep an eye on junior Nick Dineen (7-6-13) for greasy-goals and on the PK. After that, a variety of freshman and sophomores round out the lineup, with an assortment of jitterbug slot-ninja types in Archie Skalbeck (5-7-12), Dakota Eveland (1-6-7), as well as Alex Krushelnyski (2-6-8, yes, that Krushelnyski, son of Mike, former Red Wings player/coach).
The Defenseman: CC’s defenseman are solid, if unspectacular, headlined by senior and captain Ryan Lowery (1-10-11) and junior Gabe Guentzel (3-10-13). Lowery is usually paired with freshman Eamonn McDermott (1-3-4) and Guentzel with sophomore Joe Marciano (0-5-5). Those four will eat a lot of minutes, especially in PP and PK situations, as CC’s third pairing has been inconsistent, with a constant rotation through the season.
Goalies: Joe Howe has been the top goalie for CC this year, posting decent numbers (10-7-1, 2.64 GAA, .911 SV%, with 3 shutouts) following his freshman campaign last year that saw him earn freshman-All America honors. He’ll occasionally make the spectacular save, but is more well known for being a durable, reliable between-the-pipes guy. When he’s on, though, he can steal a game. Backup Josh Thorimbert has only played in 4 games this year (2-1, 3.06, .909, 1 shutout), and will likely only play in the event of a blowout or injury.
Key Matchup: Michigan’s key to the game is to play a physical style in order to keep CC’s speed at bay, while not taking penalties, because CC will make them pay. Also, it would be to Michigan’s advantage to turn this into a game of attrition, tiring CC and force them to play their inexperienced 3rd and 4th lines and 3rd defensive pairing. This would be a very good win for either team, especially in terms of Pairwise comparisons at the end of the year.
Meaningless fearless prediction: Michgan's talent, even sans Merrill and Brown, will overwhelm the short bench and inexperience of CC, and but Tigers will keep it close until an empty-netter ices the cake.