||Friday: Michigan vs Miami
Saturday: Michigan vs Ferris State/Northern Michigan
||Joe Louis Arena, Detroit
||Friday: 8:05 PM.
Saturday: Championship @ 7:35 PM. Third place game @ 4:35.
||College hockey lines, junkie?
||Friday: BTN HD
Record. Yeeergh. 26-6-7 overall. 21-2-7 (with two shootout wins) in the CCHA. The ferocity with which Miami pwned the CCHA has to be approaching record territory. They had 70 points, 20 more than second-place Michigan State. Their conference goal differential was +61. Michigan and Northern tied for second in that category at +14. This may be the best CCHA team since Brendan Morrison and company.
However, Miami did look somewhat mortal last weekend. 6-2 over Ohio State on Friday was not a surprise, but they lost 5-4 in overtime the next night and squeezed out a 2-1 series clincher in game three. Look a little deeper, though:
- Friday shots: 42-28, Miami
- Saturday: 46-21, Miami
- Sunday: 24-23, Miami
It's a miracle it even got to Sunday.
It was weird at the time and it's weirder now: the most bizarre series of the season in college hockey is Miami getting swept by the CHA's Robert Morris in a home and home. Miami is Miami. Robert Morris went 6-9-3 in the CHA. Against teams not named Miami, Robert Morris was 8-19-6. WTF?
Previous meetings. The only two meetings of the year started Michigan's November tailspin. Game one was a penalty-laden, frustrating affair that may stand the test of time as the game most emblematic of Michigan's 2009-10 season. Michigan outshot the Redhawks 28-13 and lost 3-1. Along the way they failed to convert on a penalty shot, put a number of shots off the post, and missed wide open nets. They found a way to lose that game.
The next night was totally different. Miami had the advantage in shots and walked away with the game early in the third, causing Michigan to melt down and take 19 penalties. Berenson called them out for it in the aftermath, and they responded by getting swept by Michigan State.
Dangermen. Might be quicker to pick the kids who don't seem particularly threatening. Junior forward Justin Vaive only has eight points. Freshman Steve Mason has played all of five games. Backup goalie Connor Knapp has two assists.
Aaand we're running out of names. Miami has four(!) players currently at or above a PPG: senior Jared Palmer and juniors Tommy Wingels (right, via cnati.com), Andy Miele, and Carter Camper are all in a tight cluster of 39-44 points. All have at least fifteen goals. This means Michigan cannot throw Hagelin and company at the opponent's top line and turn them into spectators. (It also means that you can expect Miami to be this good again next year: they have two seniors who play regularly.)
There's a dropoff after those guys but it's a dropoff to junior Pat Cannone, who has a 12-16-28 line. So… right. Miami has almost two lines of double-digit goalscorers.
Defense and goalie and whatnot. Cody Reichard and Conor Knapp are still rotating even this deep into the season. Reichard has played more than Knapp so far this year and got the first two games in the OSU series, but was pulled in favor of Knapp after he gave up five goals on 21 shots in Ohio State's OT win. As of Wednesday, Miami had not named a starter.
This is not like Michigan's choice between Hogan and Hunwick. Reichard and Knapp are #3 and #9 nationally in save percentage with a .930 and .920, respectively. Either one is a far better option than Michigan's goalies.
As far as those go, it will be Hunwick this weekend:
"It's a pretty easy decision," Berenson said before practice Tuesday afternoon. "I have to play Hunwick. He got us there. (Bryan) Hogan's skated at practice. He'll take shots today. He'll be our backup if he's ready to go."
He is Red Berenson and can shoot lasers from his eyes at anyone with temerity to question his judgment, but man I disagree with that. Though Hunwick's save percentage is holding up pretty well so far, there have been a ton of soft goals and even more fat rebounds that opponents have not been able to capitalize on. Maybe Hogan's still feeling the effects of his groin injury and Berenson is phrasing it this way for motivational/confidence purposes.
Miami has been as good on defense as they are on offense, shielding the goalies—when you've got two guys in the top ten in save percentage chances are your defensive corps has an awful lot to say about that. Here Miami is also poised to bring back virtually everyone. USCHO lists senior Brendan Smith as a defenseman, but he's actually been bumped to forward this year to make room for a collection of sophomores and freshmen. Vincent LoVerde is the only upperclassman; he and Cameron Schilling are the top pair.
Special teams. Your power plays per game:
|PP For / G
|PP Ag / G
Surprisingly for such a talented team, Miami kills more power plays than it draws. This seems to be wholly the responsibility of freshman forward Curtis McKenzie, who has a spectacular 43 minor penalties this year.
Does this matter much? Eh… not really. Miami's kill is fourth nationally at 87.3% and has seven shorthanded goals. Michigan dropped a little bit after that first period outburst by Michigan State but is still seventh at 86.3%. Also a surprise: for a team that scores as many goals as Miami does, their power play is kind of lame. They're 33rd at 18.4%. Michigan is slightly better at 19.2%.
Neither team was particularly successful in the earlier series, with Michigan going 1 for 14 and Miami going 2 for 15. Two of those goals were five on three, the third four on three. This is a series that's going to be decided at even strength.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Do whatever the hell it is you have been doing lately. Michigan can play with Miami. We saw that in the first matchup of the season between the two teams, where an epic ton of bad luck and iffy goaltending sent Michigan down to defeat. And we've seen it in the CCHA playoffs to date. Michigan's opponent has been run out of the building four straight times.
Sure, post-human Miami wouldn't even comprehend Lake State as a hockey team, but humiliating Michigan State in the fashion Michigan did has to count for something.
Clone Carl Hagelin and put him on three lines. They might have done this, actually. Do it again. I have something in my head where after a game the Michigan hockey team gathers in a circle and removes their helmets and they're all Carl Hagelin and they all go "bork"… is it a dream or a nightmare?
Pray like hell. Even if Michigan plays at the level they have been of late, I can't see Miami going as quietly as Michigan's first two playoff opponents. Hunwick is going to face his share of grade A chances. I worry about that. It will take a superhuman defensive effort to win.
The Big Picture
No matter how you thwack the Pairwise predictors there is no way to get Michigan into the tournament without an autobid. It's all on the line.
If Michigan wins Friday I'll hop in with a conference championship preview.
Mark Burns apologizes to Louie Caporusso; cosign. AnnArbor.com previews: one and two.