HAI GUYS. So I've got this 1500 word ND preview in my drafts folder that somehow I did not publish last week. That's a sinking feeling right there. Apologies for anyone who felt abandoned. Moving on.
Image: last time Michigan hit up the Joe with a trophy on the line, success was experienced.
DeSalvo has been DeMolishing opponent defenses. HA!
When Michigan got only a split from Bowling Green on the final week of the regular season, that was annoying and ominous. The rest of the league didn't think it was ominous for them. They were wrong.
In the first round Bowling Green bussed up to Marquette and probably ended Northern Michigan's season by winning a series against a team that had swept them just three weeks earlier. It was no fluke, either: BG was about on par with Northern in shots in their 5-3 win Saturday and won 4-1 Sunday to clinch the series.
They took on league champ Ferris State the next weekend. Again, their opponent had swept them just three weeks previous. Total goals were 9-2. Again they won the series in three games. This one was a bit of a fluke. Both wins were in OT; on Friday FSU outshot the Falcons 56-34. BGSU fell behind 3-0 on Sunday before launching a stirring comeback. New hero Dan DeSalvo—who didn't even play against Michigan—added his 8th, 9th, and 10th goals of the CCHA playoffs as part of a natural hat trick that took BGSU from 3-1 down to 4-3 up, and through.
Unfortunately I was out of town for the untelevised BG series and can't offer any in-person evaluations to help refine the existing Puck Preview. That post spent a lot of time pointing out that BGSU was the worst team in the league by a good margin and apologizing for any jinxes this might stir up. From reports from people who were there it did seem like Michigan gave the Friday BGSU game away with a series of deflating turnovers late. Saturday Michigan endured nine penalty kills and still outshot BGSU 49-22. They couldn't score until five minutes had elapsed in the third.
That's about right: Michigan should bomb the BGSU net and win; if they get sloppy or enjoy a parade to the box DeSalvo might be able to make them pay.
Czarnik (yes that Czarnik) and Smith are Miami's goal engine
Sniper Reilly Smith (27-16-43) is one of three CCHA Hobey Baker finalists with MSU defenseman Torey Krug and Michigan's Shawn Hunwick. Two of those players were unanimous All-CCHA first team picks. The other is Hunwick. #gongshow
Anyway: Miami took it on the chin from Michigan in early February (Puck Preview), getting swept 4-1, 3-0 at Yost. At that juncture the Redhawks were outside of the NCAA tournament. Eight straight wins later they are playing for a one-seed at the Joe. Miami hasn't given up more than one goal in a game since the Michigan series, and while two of those games were against UAH the other six were against tourney aspirants, ND, OSU, and MSU. They are rolling. In the three series against serious opposition they've outscored their opponents 25-3.
Miami yanked Cody Reichard after the first period of their Friday game in Yost and has rode Connor Knapp since. He's played 8 of the last 9 games; the exception was a gimme against UAH. Knapp will get both games at the Joe unless he implodes. Since he's got a .943 on the year, don't bet on that.
Miami's finally playing like they were expected to at the start of the year; all due respect to Western Michigan but it will be a surprise if the Redhawks aren't in the final.
Michigan edged Western for the #2 seed in the CCHA tourney on a tiebreaker, one that became more important than expected when Ferris got bounced. Over the course of the season, Michigan has proven itself on a slightly higher level than the Broncos. Michigan had a +25 goal differential in CCHA play; Western was +11. WMU made up for it by winning all their league shootouts. Michigan won just one.
Michigan hasn't played Western since their awful November. Michigan got a split at Yost, losing 3-2 on Friday when Dane Walters scored with under a minute left. Michigan outshot WMU 36-25. The next night Michigan went into the third tied again; Bennett and Treais scored to put it away. The shot differential was flipped.
That was WMU's first loss of the year. While they cooled off after their hot start, they still find themselves tenuously in the tournament. They're 15th at the moment and will play themselves in or out over the course of the weekend. Getting swept is probably doom and a split is hair-splitting time.
The Broncos have something of a tough time scoring. Chase Balisy is their leading scorer with 12-22-34 and they've got three more guys with double-digit goals. I really liked senior captain Greg Squires's magic midget game when I saw them live but he's only got 6-11-17 on the year. Sparks-esque, that. Past their top line-ish WMU has guys a lot like Michigan's lower lines. Danny DeKeyser won the defensive defenseman of the year award in the league, FWIW.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Tonight it's simple: keep it five on five, don't throw it up your own middle, and bomb their goalie until something goes in.
Tomorrow Michigan will get a stiff test from whoever comes through. I've tried to write something useful here and keep coming up with "play good at hockey you guys!!!" My brain has started its postseason hockey meltdown. I apologize. You have no idea what I'm talking about because of the same phenomenon.
The Big Picture
If you would like to be the committee go ahead: you are the committee. Sioux Sports has added up every single one of the 1.1 million scenarios still on the table and comes away with these facts under the (obviously faulty) assumption that all games are coinflips:
If Michigan wins the league they have a 75% chance to be the #2 overall seed and a 25% chance to be the #3 overall seed
If Michigan is swept at the Joe they still have a >50% chance to be the #2 overall seed, a 33% chance to be #3, and an 11% chance to be the 4. In just under 4% of outcomes in this coinflip-based scenario, Michigan loses their one seed.
Sounds good to me. Caveat: since Michigan's bad scenarios are ones in which teams just under them do well in their conference tourneys against lesser opponents, you should be more pessimistic than that… in the event of a sweep, anyway.
In my YATC fiddling I came up with one of the worst-case Michigan scenarios that dropped them to #5. Flipping one game with a worst-case split (beat non-TUC BGSU, lose to TUC) got them back to #3. A win tonight and I think Michigan has #2 or #3 locked down.
The win-all scenario is so clean because only one team matters: Duluth. If UMD wins the WCHA they'll pass Michigan for #2. If they don't, Michigan will hold on to their current spot. Does that matter? Probably not. I assume the committee will send the Bulldogs to Minneapolis despite the presence of the Gophers for attendance purposes, leaving Michigan in a near-empty building in Green Bay. (NCAA Hockey: we hate money, fans, and atmosphere!)
Things get messier in the event Michigan does not win the league, but there's a consolation prize: a lot of YATC brackets with Miami as CCHA champion feature them as the #4 overall seed with WMU and MSU as #4s. This was the scenario that led to Michigan's matchup against the Atlantic Hockey champion a few years back. That is a better draw despite The Hockey Horror making us hold our breath until a point where the game is comfortably in hand (if that ever comes).
Yeah there is an ugly gongshow aspect to college hockey. Who cares? Hockey Bear cheerfully drops bombs on lil bro from an (I think) F-15. Morever, he don't even need no stinkin' plane once he goes warp speed. Godspeed Hockey Bear.
Praise be unto the Mattison. May his swag reign for a hundred seasons.
UMD is by far the best attendance option for Green Bay; no one else is remotely close. Minnie will draw well regardless of what other teams are in St. Paul, so I believe it is a real possibility for Michigan. Of course, if Minnesota can squeeze into a 1 seed, we're in great shape.