"He's a hard worker, and he watched me and Tim (Hardaway Jr.) and Nik (Stauksas) put work in to become (first-round picks), and I'm just happy he's getting better," Burke said. "It's great for the program, too. It shows what type of program the University of Michigan is and the direction it continues to go in."
Eve of Destruction
Things to know as Michigan prepares to take on Niagara (7:30, ESPNU, if you're in AA best bet probably the Arena).
It might get messy. Mike Spath has some dispiriting news about the team's preparation:
Been a bad week of practice, largely because guys have come down with the 24-hour flu. Porter missed yesterday's skate and Red said the execution and effort was terrible. Scooter also has a bum shoulder. Everybody should be good to go for the weekend, but you're just forewarned.
Grudge. Mark Hartigan might be a little bitter about the infamous Molly game:
Told the Huskies were in the same regional as top-ranked Michigan this year, Hartigan bristled.
"Shocker," he said. "When we were in St. Cloud, we were rated higher than Michigan and were supposed to play Michigan at a neutral site, and it was at the Yost Arena."
The Huskies lost, 4-2, to the Wolverines, and Hartigan apparently hasn't gotten over it.
"Last college team I played against," he said. "I hope they lose, 8-0."
Hartigan's wrong, by the way. Michigan was the #4 seed; St. Cloud was #5. Top-seeded Denver might have a complaint.
How to win. Niagara has the #3 scoring offense in the country, though those numbers came against a schedule KRACH ranks 49th of 59 teams. As explored earlier, Niagara's results against teams from the Big 3.5 were middling at best, representative of a team that would finish somewhere in the middle of the CCHA.
By the second Yost regional the NCAA tournament had expanded to 16 teams and allowed a CHA autobid for the first time; in the first game CC took on CHA champ Wayne State. Wayne lined five guys up across the blue line and iced the puck 20 times a period, but managed to stay in the game by getting a couple power play goals. I mention it because 1) Michigan is #10 in penalty minutes and 2) Niagara is #3 in power play efficiency at over 23%.
Staying out of the penalty box is always a good way to win a hockey game; here its importance is magnified.
Danger men. Ted Cook is Niagara's big gun, though he's taken a significant step backwards from a Hobey finalist 2007 when he scored 32 goals and had 42 points. This year he's fallen off to 18, 12 of which are on the power play. It bears repeating: Niagara's best offensive player has scored seven goals at even strength this year. STAY OUT THE BOX.
Cook's also a blogger; in related news I might play never-ever hockey this fall. Suck on that, Ted!
Cook's got three years of big production that mark him as the #1 opposition forward but is actually getting out-pointed this year by the guys I presume are his two linemates: Vince Rocco has 14-31-45 and Matt Caruna has 16-22-38. (Side note: Niagara has some great names. Rocco is one, then there's an Egor and a guy named ...
It's hard to tell how much bonafide offensive talent the Purple Eagles have with that wonky schedule. Their GFA takes a hit if you only consider Big 3.5 games but remains respectable: 28 in 9 games or 3.1 per, significantly down from 3.53 but still hypothetically good for 13th in the country. Two wins over Quinnipiac both saw five goals scored; two against Cornell saw a shutout and then three. GAA increases slightly from their overall average of 2.58 (24th nationally) to 2.77 (hypothetically 35th).
I reiterate: Niagara is a team Michigan should beat but absolutely can lose to.
Are you there? It's me, Brian. Look. I know things between you and Michigan haven't been so good lately -- I'm sure all those safeties deserved your divine wrath -- but could we maybe see to it that Michigan doesn't get humiliatingly dispatched by Niagara tonight? I can take a second round loss, I think. But I have to warn you that if Michigan goes out in the first round again, I'm going to have to start believing in Ryan Seacrest.
Brian @ MGoBlog
PS: Love what you're doing with Notre Dame. Fabulous work.