||Michigan v. Ferris State
||Friday @ Yost
Saturday @ Ferris
January 22/23rd, 2010
||College hockey lines, junkie?
||CBS College Sports both nights
(Note: 8:05 start tonight. Don't show up at the usual bat time.)
Record. 16-6-2, 10-4-2-2 CCHA. #5 PWR. Currently third place with 34 points. Michigan is nine points back in a tie for sixth.
Ferris State is back with their septannual kickass team, though this edition probably isn't quite as good as the Chris Kunitz-led 2003 team that won the conference championship, made it to the CCHA playoff final, and snagged Ferris State's first and only NCAA tournament bid. They just got swept by league-leading Miami and their nonconference schedule (Canisius, UConn, Robert Morris, single games against Yale and Merrimack) is exceedingly weak. That 2003 team was a legitimate national power. This appears to be a solid team a step or two down from those guys.
Even so, there's one team playing this weekend on the cusp of a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament and it's not Michigan. And Ferris's goal differentials are impressive. They're +30 overall and +18 in the CCHA. They are fifth in scoring margin at 1.25. (Michigan is 11th.) They are for serious.
Dangermen. Ferris has one line that does a huge chunk of their scoring. Seniors Blair Riley (right), Cody Chupp, and Casey Haines are the top line and Ferris's leading scorers; Riley is far and away the top guy with 16 goals and 27 points. Chupp has seven and a couple of other guys are hovering around that mark, but Ferris is a top-heavy team.
Defense and goalie and whatnot. Ferris is built on an extremely stingy defense. They're tied for third nationally with Cornell at just 2.12 GPG; goalie Pat Nagle has a nation-leading .932 save percentage. (He's tied with two others, FWIW.) Ferris actually rotates its goalies, with Nagel and sophomore Taylor Nelson both getting 13 games to date. Nelson's got the better record but Nagel is giving up a half-goal less per game. Nelson's save percentage is a stellar .921.
With two goalies sporting save percentages that Patrick Roy would envy, Ferris State has either stumbled onto a goalie gold mine or the defense has a large influence on those numbers. Expect tight-checking, tough games without a ton of grade A scoring chances.
Special teams. Your updated power plays per game stat:
|PP For / G
|PP Ag / G
Essentially even with Ferris a tiny bit more likely to pick up penalties for and against. And there will be penalties. Ferris is #2 in penalty minutes acquired*. Michigan is #10. Also, when these teams face off it tends to get chippy.
The specialty units will get a ton of time, then. They're dead even. Ferris State is converting a little better on the power play but has allowed three shorthanded goals; if you take those into account Michigan actually outperforms them slightly. The penalty kills are outstanding. Ferris is #3 at 88.8%. Michigan is #4 at 88.5%. Since Ferris has a couple extra shorthanded goals their penalty kill is a little better. The two teams could be any more more identical here.
PROTIP: don't take an obvious holding penalty seven seconds into a kill.
*(Possibly interesting side note: despite UAF's uncharacteristic penalty-fest last weekend they are still the least-penalized team in the country by a wide margin. Meanwhile, the team that beat out Ferris for #1 is Alaska-Anchorage. Alaska: land of extremes.)
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Line match where possible. It's a home and home series so the Saturday game will be tricky, but the obvious move is to put Michigan's crazy fast fore-check and shutdown line of Lynch, Hagelin, and Rust on Riley and anyone else who wants to skate with him. Berenson has explicitly stated this is the plan:
“I don’t want to put an inexperienced player out there against the top player in the league and then expect us to win that matchup,” Berenson said. “We have to respect who is on the ice for them and who is on the ice for us.”
While the top lines on both teams highlight the matchup, it’s the players behind them that will be the difference this weekend.
“You’re trying to outscore that line or shut them down,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “But in the meantime, if you do, and they're nullifying you at the same time, then it comes down to your next line or your next line and where are you going to get your offense from?”
Continue to get supporting players scoring. Whether it's Brian Lebler firing wicked wrist shots off the post and in or Lindsey Sparks coming out of the corner or Chris Brown turning into a face-masked version of Thomas Holmstrom, Michigan is going to need to get some production out of guys who aren't the stars of the team. Caporusso and Wohlberg continue to scuffle. Though they continue to put up assists, Brian Lebler now has more goals than they do. Lebler's actually tied for third on the team with seven, and while that's super cool for him it's a major reason Michigan's had trouble this year.
Play from ahead. Yes, this is dangerously close to a Key To The Game that boils down to "score more points."
An attempt at something not tautological: this is not the other Ferris team. That was an offensive machine capable of generating points not only from Kunitz but from a wide array of offensive defensemen. This is a gritty grit Eckstein of a team with one standout player that Carl Hagelin will be tasked with destroying. Michigan cannot afford to give up a goal like the Chad Langlais turnover against UAF, because teams like Ferris and Alaska are built to play from ahead. Just look at the difference between UAF in the third period on Friday and Saturday. On Friday they were overrun; on Saturday they played keep-away for 15 minutes before Langlais got his redemption.
The Big Picture
Just keep repeating "it was a win and a tie and the shootout was an exhibition" about last weekend. That makes Michigan 3-0-1 since the break. That is a roll, especially since they played very well in the tie save for one turnover and one terrible penalty kill.
They're now a TUC and hovering at 19th in the standings facing down a two week stretch that will probably make or break their at-large hopes. If they sweep the next two weekends they're gold. If they go 3-1 they are feeling very good about their chances with a selection of weak CCHA teams coming up and a bunch of guaranteed TUC wins in the bag. If they go 2-2 they have to really tear through the back end of the schedule, and anything worse than that is curtains.
A win and a tie from the weekend would be great.