3/18/2011 – Michigan 2, Western Michigan 5 – 25-10-4
3/19/2011 – Michigan 4, Notre Dame 2 - 26-10-4, third place
So… hockey. I went down to the Joe on Friday, sat directly behind the goal where Michigan shot twice, and saw Western Michigan score four goals in the (a?) second as Michigan got thumped embarrassingly. They went out and won the next afternoon against Notre Dame but even that win over a solid team seemed to bode unwell—Michigan was outshot 44-23. It was only Shawn Hunwick going ape that prevented an 0-2 weekend that would have provided a sad counterpoint to the basketball team's overachieving.
Depending on the events of this weekend we'll look back at the CCHA finals as a hiccup or the omen that spelled doom, and since our bracket is a team we split with earlier in the season and almost definitely BC it's probably going to be the latter. Getting outshot 2-1 and surviving on a goal from Jeff Rohrkemper of all people does not seem like a recipe for tournament success. Right now I find it very hard to believe Michigan will get to the Frozen Four unless Hunwick is as insane as he was against ND.
Deblois runs train. Derek Deblois was extremely fortunate not to get kicked out of the Western game after taking two dumb boarding penalties. I wouldn't have complained if he got the boot on the first one, and I think he was saved on the second by the fact that he was boarding the opponent into a linesman, not the actual boards. If the linesman wasn't in the way that could have been extremely ugly. Western scored on both power plays; Deblois justly sat out the ND game.
Penalty kill debacle. WMU was 3/6 on the PP and Michigan is now 25th nationally on the PK. I have no idea why. Michigan returned the entirety of what was a top five PK last year and now they're turrible. I think Hunwick's size is a major factor, as he's just not going to block nearly as many open shots he can't see as a big guy, but last year a lot of opponent power plays were spent trying to dig the puck out of their own end.
If Michigan's going to do anything in the tourney they're going to have to stay out of the box. A penalty filled game will not be to their benefit. Maybe not so much against UNO's meh PP, but BC is sixth and will gut Michigan like a fish if they take dumb penalties.
Goodbye, fourth line? Now is the time—last week might have been the time—to consign Michigan's dodgy fourth line to the bench except in select situations. I'd throw Winnett down there and use Lynch as the defensive responsibility on the midget line of Treais-Sparks-Someone, but Red has always given Winnett more time than it seems he warrants with his play so I don't think we'll see that. I'm guessing if we do see a short bench it won't be until the second round as M tries to keep players fresh.
Atmosphere. Kudos to the Western fans for turning out en masse at the Joe. The Friday game featured student sections chanting at each other*, and while I wished things were a little more clever there was more atmosphere for College Hockey at the Joe than there had been since the Chris Kunitz-led Ferris State team played Michigan for the CCHA title in a packed building. It's too bad for the league that the two new powers are fan-deficient ND and Miami; if Ferris and Western were making the Joe on the regular the CCHA finals would be far less depressing.
*[I wish the Michigan students had responded to the "why so quiet" chant with "we are losing," and followed that with "this is why you go to Western," though I'm not sure how you chant-ify the last bit.]
Please don't go full Roy. I'm a little worried about Shawn Hunwick's tendency to get punchy when things aren't going well. He took a critical penalty earlier in the year and could have gotten one in a scrum midway through the second. When he's on he's very good; against Western it seemed like the Broncos got in his head and affected his performance.
Yost Built: not impressed with Friday's game. Also not impressed with the refs on Saturday. The News profiles Hagelin.
Big Ten Section
In case you were wondering about other Big Ten teams adding hockey, Illinois says no, Nebraska says no, Iowa says no (sort of, no quote), and I'm pretty sure you don't even have to bother asking Northwestern, Indiana, or Purdue. If you're wondering about CCHA teams packing it in, they seem pretty sanguine about it:
Are the non-Big Ten teams worried about their future? Let’s see: Miami: Nope. Bowling Green: Not at all. Lake Superior State and Ferris State: Nah (Great quotes from LSSU coach Jim Roque). Western Michigan: Not really. Minnesota State Mankato: Not entirely. Notre Dame: Maybe just a tiny bit. Alabama-Huntsville: Cautiously optimistic? Northern Michigan: Not “crying” about it. Nebraska-Omaha: Not worried, just not too happy. (Pretty much everybody is saying the same things. I’d imagine (hope?) we’ll have a much better idea about a plan after the American Hockey Coaches Association meetings over the summer.)
That ND article also has quotes from Jeff Jackson about trying to get scheduling arrangements with the Big Ten teams. Michigan "has obviously become a rival" and Michigan State "is also an option." LSSU's Jim Roque points out that they're talking about one home series a year they won't draw as well for since no one turns out to see OSU, something Playing For Stuff would entirely replace. I cannot emphasize enough how awesome Playing For Stuff would be.
The Big Ten Network is committing to "at least 40" hockey games as part of the new arrangement. That's a third of the conference schedule and approximately two per week over the course of the season, which is way less than I'd like but way more than they're doing now. The 40 number suggests they won't be moving start times for TV.
You can start your expansion speculation now, by the way.
Unexpectedly Long Recruiting Section
Feel free to file this under "I'll believe it when I see it," but highly touted forward Max Domi (yes that Domi) is apparently headed for the USHL and then college:
“I played junior but (Max’s mother) Leanne and I want our kid to go to college,” said Tie Domi, Max’s celebrity father. “It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but for us, it was the right decision.”
Young Domi, 15, was expected to be one of the top choices in the OHL draft, and has informed junior teams in the province to pass on him. The decision by Domi shouldn’t be considered a shot at junior hockey… The real shot in all this is that Domi is bypassing tier-two junior hockey in Ontario to play next season in the United States Hockey League, where he will finish his last year of high school.
Absolutely no one believes this is actually going to happen, but if Domi doesn't go to Kingston or one of the don't-draft-me-whoops-I'll-report spots (Kitchener, London, Windsor) then maybe it's not a front. Domi visited Michigan about a month ago, FWIW, and is supposed to be highly interested. If Domi actually goes to college and actually picks Michigan he'd be a 2012 recruit.
Insert link to rabble-rousing article about how messed up the major junior draft system is here. Also wonder why the hell USA Hockey would agree to this:
Hockey Canada and USA Hockey have an agreement that borders on the obscene when it comes to restricting the rights of young people. Fearful it will lose its best prospects to college hockey, the Canadian League has convinced Hockey Canada to prohibit any 16-year-old Canadian player, in conjunction with USA Hockey, from playing in the USHL unless they appeal to the National Appeals Committee and demonstrate "special circumstances" or move there with a parent. What makes it so obscene is the CHL opens its arms to American-born 16-year-olds and has no problem with doing it, but insists on making it a one-way street.
Canada forces their players who want to play college to play in Junior A—the iffy circuit that Burlon, Caporusso, and most other Canadian players in college toiled in—instead of the vastly higher quality USHL. I'm confused as to what their leverage is here. If USA Hockey welcomed them, what recourse would Canada have? They've already set their phasers to maximum predation.
Why is this a one-way street? I have no idea, but I emailed USA Hockey in case they do.
(HT: Western College Hockey)
BONUS random scouting report: AmericanDream is probably the most connected and reliable poster on HFBoards when it comes to exceedingly young American hockey players (tallest midget jokes apply but "reliable message board poster" is about as good as it gets when we're talking about 16 year old hockey players), and he provided a scouting report on recent Michigan commit Alex Talcott. Talcott is the only '95 commit Michigan has who isn't trying out for (or has already made) the NTDP but it's not for a lack of talent:
Kind of shocked that Alex Talcott did not get an invite as well. extremely gifted player who should go very high for this years OHL draft. The kid is a fire ball on skates, absolutely electric and physical. Some say he will go in the OHL draft's first round along with Compher (both University of Michigan star recruits).
Not sure if Talcott said he is going to the OHL so dont even bother, but if I could make a list of the top 5 forward eligible for this group it would be: Compher, Fasching, Shea, Brian Williams, and Talcott as the top 5 imo with Hayden, Guertler, and Allen right there as well.
Bold mine; those guys are current commits. I doubt that Talcott is already set on the OHL since he just committed two weeks ago, but stranger things have happened and as mentioned Michigan is already forward-heavy in the 2013 class.