so much for that
mgoblog, hockey edition
It is this:
|2013-14 MICHIGAN BIG TEN ICE HOCKEY SCHEDULE|
|Friday, Nov. 29||Ohio State at Michigan|
|Monday Dec. 2||Michigan at Ohio State|
|Friday, Jan. 10||Michigan at Wisconsin|
|Saturday, Jan. 11||Michigan at Wisconsin|
|Friday, Jan. 24||Michigan at Michigan State|
|Saturday, Jan. 25||Michigan vs. Michigan State (Joe Louis Arena)|
|Friday, Jan. 31||Wisconsin at Michigan|
|Saturday, Feb. 1||Wisconsin at Michigan|
|Friday, Feb. 7||Michigan at Penn State|
|Saturday, Feb. 8||Michigan at Penn State|
|Thursday or Saturday, Feb. 13 or 15||Michigan at Minnesota*|
|Friday, Feb. 14||Michigan at Minnesota|
|Friday, Feb. 21||Penn State at Michigan|
|Saturday, Feb. 22||Penn State at Michigan|
|Friday, Feb. 28||Ohio State at Michigan|
|Sunday or Monday, March 2 or 3||Michigan at Ohio State|
|Friday, March 7||Michigan State at Michigan|
|Saturday, March 8||Michigan at Michigan State|
|Friday, March 14||Minnesota at Michigan|
|Saturday, March 15||Minnesota at Michigan|
|Big Ten Men's Ice Hockey Tournament (Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minn.)|
|Thursday, March 20||Quarterfinals|
|Friday, March 21||Semifinals|
|Saturday, March 22||Championship Game|
Now, a couple things probably leap out at you: "Thursday or Saturday" and "Sunday or Monday" plus a definite Monday game against Ohio State that's part of a series about a month before conference play starts in earnest.
The latter is because that hockey series bookends The Game, which is pretty cool. Note that that conference series is at the end of November/beginning of December and then there's almost a month before Michigan plays another Big Ten game. Wisconsin and Minnesota will also drop the puck that night for a "doubleheader," sayeth MGoBlue.com, so expect both those games to be televised.
I haven't been able to dig up anyone else's schedule yet so I can't tell if they're going to be moving some of these games around to get more of them on BTN. If doubleheaders are a common occurrence then clearly they will at least be moving times. Michigan would be the early game when there is a Central time zone game on the docket.
I was hoping the Big Ten folks would try to line up more things like that OSU megaweekend, but they did not have many opportunities. At least not for Michigan, anyway. M doesn't play Wisconsin, it's beside the point for Michigan State, the Minnesota game is probably before hockey season is allowed to start, and Penn State is the week after. They may or may not be able to put together a joint PSU/M weekend there, but no one wants to kick the season off with conference games.
Because the stupid format of the conference tournament squeezes what what a three-week process down to one weekend, Michigan will have two extra weekends to futz with. They will likely 1) not fill that January 3 slot in anticipation of not having some kids back from the World Juniors and 2) not have a series like those odd BGSU Tuesdays.
What about the nonconference schedule?
We know a few things. Michigan travels to UNO November 15th and 16th. They also go to UNH the 18th and 19th. For some reason I believe they're headed out to Boston to play the BC/BU twin bill they usually do when they go out there but I can't dig that up except this random blog that BC Interruption trusts implicitly about BC hockey scheduling. He was right about the setup of the latest Frozen Fenway double-header, FWIW. I assume he's right and Michigan will play BC plus some other Boston-area team, whether it's BU, Harvard, or Northeastern. Northeastern did come in a couple years back, Michigan may owe them a return.
They will play in the GLI, as always, and four of their nonconference games will be against the Bentleys of the world because that's just how college sports roll, and Michigan's already going on the road for six quality games. It would be nice to get a couple quality nonconference home series in the mix.
I'm a bit dubious that'll happen. They're not playing Miami, UMD, North Dakota, Michigan Tech (a possibility because of Mel Pearson), or WMU (though they are in the GLI). I'd be shocked if things are cordial enough to schedule Notre Dame after the Irish canceled the Michigan series with maximum asshat engaged. So who's left? ECAC teams, mostly. Which would be okay, but I was hoping Michigan could get some sex appeal on the schedule with their 14 nonconference games. They have, but not at Yost.
YOU'RE A TALLER. User Bombadil reports that Ian Bunting is still getting mail from Mississippi State, too.
This may be fake but probably not.
With men's swimming bringing home a title of their own plus the basketball team's run to the final, Michigan is actually threatening Stanford's Director's Cup hegemony. When the Director's Cup releases their updated standings tomorrow Michigan should be on top of the rankings with only a few sports left: golf, base/softball, track and field, women's water polo, women's lacrosse, and men's volleyball.
Michigan's pretty good at some of those… but, uh, unfortunately Stanford is better.
Top 25 Rankings for Stanford in spring sports, most rankings updated last weekend:
Softball - 16
Men's Golf - 8
Women's Golf - 12
Baseball - receiving votes
Women's T&F - 9
Women's Water Polo - 1
Men's Volleyball - 6
Women's Rowing - 9
Women's Tennis – 12
This is how you dominate the Director's Cup since a year after its inception. If you want even more details, the board has you covered.
Goodbye, 11 to 15 minutes. Draft Express's Trey Burke draft video is all kinds of fun. Even the five minutes dedicated to Burke drawbacks features a number of Kobe assists or shoulda-been Kobe assists:
What an awesome player.
YER A BALLERZ. The NCAA 14 cover:
Will I buy this crap-pile of a game from the worst company in America because it has Denard Robinson on the cover? Maybe. Have they fixed the kangaroo linebackers yet? Made any positive changes to gameplay since 2004?
- #34 JT Compher
- #49 Michael Downing
- #84 Tyler Motte
- #111 Nolan De Jong
- #136 Alex Kile
- #142 Andrew Copp
- #157 Evan Allen
2014 recruit Dexter Dancs fell out of the rankings after being 154th in the midterm. Everyone went up save Compher, who dropped from #20. Default reminder: the CSB has separate lists for goalies and Europeans, so add 30% to each guy's ranking to get a projected draft spot. FWIW, Compher and Downing have appeared in a lot of first round mock drafts I've seen.
So. Michigan's class may lack a Trouba-level dominant star, but it is extremely deep. Everyone who's coming in next year* save recent goalie pickup Zach Nagelvoort and Bryson Cianfrone is likely to get picked in the upcoming draft. Kile in particular is a bonus after being passed over a year ago. He nearly doubled his points in the USHL this year and gives Michigan another option for a scoring-line forward.
That helps make up for the fade from Cianfrone, who was headed for the first round of the OHL draft before his Michigan commitment. He's off NHL draft radars and has a 6-15-21 line in the USHL this year. He is a 5'8" kid who's coming in as an 18 year old, so you can construct a picture in which he still develops into what he was supposed to be a couple years ago.
Anyway: strong incoming class that hopefully sticks around long enough to be impact upperclassmen. And how about Andrew Copp?
*[Spencer Hyman and Max Shuart may also arrive, but neither signed a LOI so I assume they are walking on.]
And we're done. Show us what we've won. Oh, it's a wheezing dog and a dead iguana. Jim Delany on further Big Ten expansion:
"Given everything that has gone on, yes," Delany said when asked about the ACC’s deal cementing the current five major conferences to their respective lineups.
Although Delany said the 16-team superconference format was also "an arbitrary number" that he wasn’t part of, the Big Ten was open to further expansion. ... There still is the possibility that a team from the SEC (Missouri) could leave for the Big Ten -- the SEC has no grant of rights or exit fee -- but that’s a pipe dream, at best.
So here we are. Playing Rutgers and Maryland every year, and not Iowa and Wisconsin and Nebraska. It's hard not to see Delany as a giant middle finger to fans, just walkin' around. Mighty big hand you escaped from there. Tell us more about media markets. Please, yes, just like that. Yes. Like that. About media markets.
What is a name, anyway? The powers that be paid someone millions of dollars to tell them to call the college football playoff "College Football Playoff." Nice work if you can get it. Not quite as good as Bill Hancock's job, which is to say whatever the hell he wants at any time without bothering to pretend he believes it.
That is not actually a name. If you call your dog "dog" you have not named him but described him. It is bad when your "name" for a thing is in fact a description of a superset of what you are—there are already other, separate college football playoffs. Delany:
"I'll be happy with whatever. Obviously I'm not great with names."
Yes, but that's no reason to eschew the concept entirely. You can try again, Mr. Delany, as long as you float some trial balloons to see if the entire internet mocks you before you make a decision. You can love again.
Anyway. These folks trademarked their name-type substance. Can you even do that? I want to make shirts that say "COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF" to test this out. If Xerox is too generic to be a trademark, how can "college football playoff" be unique enough? Someone who likes being in lawsuits, please find this out.
Further confirmation. In not-quite-announced news that's pretty much announced, yeah, Desmond Morgan is permanently moving to MLB so James Ross can start at WLB:
“Playing in space is something I definitely had to adjust to my first two years here because I wasn’t used to that in high school. I was more of an in the box kind of guy,” Morgan said. “Going back over to MIKE, I kind of feel a little bit more comfortable in a sense because of that.
“During the spring, it’s been an adjustment but it was something I kind of grew up playing.”
Joe Bolden and Royce Jenkins-Stone will back up the MLB and WLB spots, respectively.
BONUS: James Ross named "most improved player" this spring. Hype rocket is entering stage two.
Ann Arbor is pretty all right. Click for big.
WE AGREE OH MY PANTS. Dave Brandon and I both think a ten game conference schedule is a good idea.
"I'm in favor of looking at it for the same reasons we went from eight to nine," Brandon told MLive.com. Those reasons include more competitive schedules, as well as greater ability for players to see each of the league's 13 other teams in their careers.
The money thing is an issue, but raise your hand if you'd willingly eat the extra costs from a hypothetical exhibition game in exchange for a tenth conference game. That's everybody, right?
25 memories of "college sports' dumbest goldrush." Blake McLimans taking his talents to Oxford. RIP, Toomer's oaks. Senior highlights from Mark Donnal. Stretch four, yo. Athletic directors are sad. David Thorpe really likes Trey Burke($).
At center. The one in the goalie pads. Obviously.
Michigan hockey had been scouting around for a goalie ever since… well… for a while, anyway. They have acquired him: Zach Nagelvoort, a '94—ie, about a year older than a kid straight out of high school—currently playing in the NAHL for the Aberdeen Wings.
Nagelvoort was traded midseason at his request after he found himself behind former Lake State commit Tyler Marble and his .940. Good call, dude. Nagelvoort tore it up after the trade, going 8-1-1 down the stretch and winning the league's goalie of the month award. His stats during that run were pretty good: a .957 save percentage and GAA of 1.42 for one of the worst teams in the league. As a team, Aberdeen's save percentage .908 even with his contributions. He wasn't bad with his previous team, either, as his cumulative save percentage is .936.
Aberdeen head coach Travis Winter said the Nagelvoort came in wanting to succeed and wanting to help turn things around. “Zach came in and immediately injected the team with confidence. He is a very confident goaltender and person and it rubbed off on the rest of the team. We know we have a chance to win every night when he is in goal and during the last two months of the season, that was the mindset in every game and one of the reasons the team played so well.” Winter also said that Nagelvoort’s strengths in goal lies within his athleticism. “Zach is a very athletic goalie, who doesn’t give up on plays and he is very quick from side to side. He makes the 2nd and sometimes 3rd saves you need to stay in the game and keep momentum going and you almost never see a bad goal scored on him. I think all that combined with his confidence makes him an elite goaltender at this level.”
He's 6'2", just under 200 pounds.
While this is a flier, Nagelvoort has real shot at playing time. Nagelvoort's stats suggest he's got potential, and the Rangers (yes those Rangers) apparently checked him out in December. While taking an NAHL skater is almost always a sign of desperation—or at least a signal that you need a guy to scratch nightly—goalies are weird and come from weird places and the NAHL is one of these places. Last year two(!) NAHL goalies were drafted by the NHL, one of them (Anthony Stolarz) in the second round. This year the NTDP grabbed an NAHL goalie for the Five Nations tourney, bypassing the USHL. Former OSU goalie Cal Heeter came from the NAHL, as did former Maine starter and NHL backup Ben Bishop. [UPDATE: Oh and a guy named Shawn Hunwick you might have heard of.]
Steve Racine established a grip on the starting goalie job during Michigan's late run and will likely enter next year as the starter. If he falters, Michigan needed an option other than Jared Rutledge, which they've found. Whether Rutledge stays around with dim prospects or tries to find playing time elsewhere is unknown. The scholarship situation is murky there; one thing that may have helped with Nagelvoort is that he is originally from Michigan and presumably can get instate tuition.
3/23/2013 – Michigan 6, Miami 2 – 18-18-3, reach CCHA final
3/24/2013 – Michigan 1, Notre Dame 3 – 18-19-3, season over, tourney streak over
In the end they were nowhere near good enough.
If you've followed Michigan hockey for a long period of time, you can point to a tourney game here or there Sunday's CCHA final against the Irish reminded you of. Smash together:
- that Maine game where a moment of brilliance from Mike Comrie couldn't cover up his short-handed defense's failing legs with…
- that Boston College game Michigan inexplicably led for most of that was over the moment the Eagles tied it after a nine-minute stretch without stoppages and…
- that North Dakota game when Michigan couldn't get out of its own zone but scratched out a shorthanded goal and made it stand up and…
…you get that Notre Dame game.
You know the general outline even if you have no idea what I'm talking about above. If it was soccer the announcers would instantly announce your goal as "against the run of play." Overwhelmed in the corners, fortunate to be in the game, goalie's arm hanging out over the abyss as he screams "DON'T. LET. GO." Fingers sweating, grip slipping, eyes widening, waiting for the buzzer or death.
I don't know about you but as soon as Notre Dame tied it, I was waiting for the end. Michigan had hardly put together a scoring chance. Notre Dame did them a favor by scoring early in the third and dialing back the throttle. At that point shots were 31-10, scoring chances at least that lopsided. By sitting back Notre Dame allowed Michigan to get a better handle on the game, but with 19:30 left I thought "Michigan will have two chances to tie it" and that was all they got.
Notre Dame ate Michigan's lunch. They took one penalty and gave up no odd-man rushes save the shorthanded goal. They won battles in the corner at a 3 to 1 rate. Michigan couldn't put together a rush for ten-minute blocks of time. Over the previous month they'd put something together and run roughshod over all comers, but finally they met a horse they couldn't catch up to. All that stuff Michigan did over their last ten games Notre Dame had been doing all year.
That's how a 21-year tourney streak ends: with Notre Dame showing men of will what will really is.
In the aftermath the word of the day is "redeem."
By the bitter end, Michigan hockey redeemed itself
NCAA streak ends, but Wolverines made Michigan proud
Michigan put themselves in this position with 2/3rds of a season of miserable, unwatchable hockey, and did not dig themselves out. Without the vagaries of single-game playoff hockey they would not have even come close in the end. They were 0-5 against the Irish this year, bombed in every game. Michigan was about as far away from winning that Notre Dame game as they were from getting an at large bid. They had a chance, and found out that running to catch up with someone who had been trying hard from day one isn't easy.
They got what they deserved. A team with as many NHL draft picks as anyone in the country was reduced to a "Cinderella run" in the CCHA playoffs. Divided, they lost game after game to sheer apathy. It got so bad Red tried the put-in-the-third-string-walk-on trick again. Hunwick's first team responded by flying through the slot to clear pucks like demons. This edition lost 4-0 to Michigan Tech and 5-1 to Bowling Green, the nadir. That listless debacle against Bowling Green is this season. What they did at the end was a preview of next year.
It's great that Andrew Copp emerged to take the team by the scruff of its neck and jam it towards an NCAA bid whether it wanted one or not, great that Steve Racine emerged into a viable starter once his defense ceased selling him out a dozen times a game, great that Guptill went from a wake-up scratch to pounding, skating power forward. The fact that this could happen is a ringing condemnation of the upperclassmen. By midseason the guys flanking Treais on the top line were Copp and Sinelli; by the end of the season Copp, a freshman no one had heard of before the year, was the undisputed leader of the forward corps. Because he tried real hard, full stop. This made him unique.
His leadership and the rest of the locker room pulling together is reason for hope. Lessons have clearly been learned, and if this year doesn't show the players the route to success goes through Jeff Jackson's relentless discipline, I'll be surprised.
But it doesn't redeem a damn thing. The preseason #2 team in the country finished under .500 and missed the tournament for the first time in 22 years. There is only one word for that: failure. The scarlet F is branded in this team. The only way up is to own that. Some of them have time to redeem themselves yet; that process starts now.
Michigan loses Moffie, Treais, Sparks, Rohrkemper, and Lynch the Elder to graduation. The early word on departures from Mike Spath at the Wolverine is as such:
- OUT: Kevin Clare, revealed to be indefinitely suspended as much as he was injured and implicated as a Problem, and—sigh—star-crossed Jon Merrill.
- FENCE: Trouba is declared 60-40 to return—an opinion more or less shared by Dave Starman. At least we will know quickly—he's expected to make a decision in a couple days.
- BACK (EXCEPT ONE OF THESE GUYS WILL NOT BE BACK BECAUSE THIS IS MICHIGAN HOCKEY): The three forwards likely to have NHL options are Guptill, Di Giuseppe, and Nieves. Spath projects all to be back, though Guptill "clashed" with the coaches earlier in the year—he was left at home for one series, IIRC. Mac Bennett is projected to return and wear the C.
Just looking at playing time, a couple other guys may also head for greener pastures. There's Rutledge, of course, who turned in an .856 and watched Racine establish a death grip on the job over the last ten games of the season. If he wants to play, a return to the USHL and transfer to a smaller school is probably the only way. Then there's Mike Chiasson, who was an apparently-healthy scratch for the ten-game run. Mike Szuma played in his stead; against Notre Dame Michigan refused to ice a sixth defenseman entirely. I don't think any of the recruits are threats to not show but never say never, mmm, Connor Carrick?
If Michigan does get Trouba back and somehow evades the inevitable unexpected departure, here's a hypothetical line chart:
- Di Giuseppe-Nieves-DeBlois
(Also: Kile, Sinelli, Cianfrone, Random New Walk-on who might be Max Shuart.)
- Bennett-De Jong
(Also: Szuma and probably Kevin Lohan, possibly Spencer Hyman.)
Michigan can sustain a forward departure without much dropoff. The guys I've projected as scratches are all capable of emerging into quality players. Sinelli gave Michigan good minutes late this year. Kile is a year older than the NTDP guys and has better than PPG with one of the USHL's best teams. While Cianfrone has struggled in the USHL, before that he was a midget minor demon and projected first-round OHL draft pick who still went in the third round despite telling teams he was headed to Michigan. Drawing one of those guys into the lineup will be fine. Only Shuart (who left his USHL club for the NAHL) looks particularly unlikely to be a contributor next year.
On defense, they need Trouba back badly. That third pairing is pretty sketch as it is, featuring one of two guys Michigan simply refused to ice against ND plus Serville, who still gives me hives quite a bit. The top two pairings feature two freshmen. There's not nearly as much confidence that any of the backup plans will come through. Lohan is a 6'5" late bloomer; Hyman is a guy who's piled up a lot of time in junior and seems like a third pairing type. If Trouba's gone Michigan is down to one solid pair and hope.
Copp will get an A, for sure, and then DeBlois seems like the most likely other captain. That lineup has no seniors save projected C Bennett and Luke Moffatt, who has never seemed like captain material. Juniors include Lynch, Hyman, Chiasson, and Serville. I could see Hyman getting a call, but DeBlois was on the top line while he toiled on the fourth.
Say this for the man: he dances when you tell him to dance. (AnnArbor.com)
Thanks for the service. One of the secret joys of being a Michigan fan has been the excellent service provided by John Wilkins and the alumni band when the students aren't available. Wilkins always brought an entertaining flair to the job he created 21 years ago. He has just retired, and he'll be tough to replace:
Deciding to retire from the pep band was not easy for Wilkins. “I will miss the Alumni Pep Band very much,” he said. “The opportunity given to me to conduct a Michigan band at Michigan games, to play this great Michigan music, was a dream that I had since a little boy, a dream come true. Over the years I have developed incredible friendships with the players and will miss working with them on a regular basis. I'm glad that I have been invited to come back every year to conduct the entire Alumni Band at the football game in October on homecoming weekend.”
Also I have that tie.
It's kind of like the Heisman I guess. Denard will be on the cover of EA's most recent slight rehash of NCAA Football 2003. Smile incoming:
He joins Desmond Howard and Charles Woodson. The game will pay tribute by having linebackers jump impossibly high to snag interceptions off everybody.
There were vote shenanigans that threatened to propel Texas A&M's Ryan Swope over the top, but EA promised they would eliminate fake votes, and by "eliminate fake votes" they meant "put Denard on the cover even if he finished last because this is EA, and EA gets dollars son even if it means turning a single player game into an always-online fiasco because we are mad at pirates."
He probably doesn't realize he's twisting the knife. After three straight weekends in Ann Arbor, Drake Harris finally gave the "it's not you… it's me" speech to Michigan State, decommiting. Except he said it was actually you, Michigan State:
"Since I'm just playing football now,” Harris told reporters after his regional basketball game Monday in Grand Rapids, “I want to play at a bigger school, win a national championship."
Analysts are saying don't count your 6'4" elite wide receivers before they hatch, but it looks like the field is catching up to Michigan now. They'll have an opportunity:
“I don’t have a frontrunner, I don’t even have a top list right now. I’m supposed to go down to Florida on March 22, and then Ohio State sometime in April and Notre Dame sometime in April. I’m not sure what I’m going to do in the summer. I’ll probably go out and visit some schools out West.”
Harris says he'll enroll early and plans to commit in October. Long way to go.
[Ace, you can just C&P this section into Friday Recruitin'. Sorry.]
Well, yeah. Trey Burke is a first-team All American to the Sporting News and the Big Ten's player of the year, the first time in 24 years a Michigan player has brought that award in. The last guy was Glen Rice, which also yeah. Burke said "I feel honored" in response to being honored. Tautological point guard is tautological.
It really came down to Oladipo versus Burke, and while I love Burke with a Denard-crush intensity you really can make a case for Oladipo, who shot 66% from two(!), was the #5 guy in true shooting percentage, has a near-top-100 OREB rate—something Michigan felt the lash of on Sunday—and is a defensive superstar. It's that versus Burke's huge usage and incredible assist rate and turnover avoidance. It's Woodson versus Manning for the Heisman, except Indiana fans probably won't be bringing it up 20 years later.
Well… uh. Tim Hardaway also made first-team All Big Ten on one of the two ballots. This I am not so sure about. Aaron Craft got the nod on the media ballots—a weird situation where the better defensive player gets the hype and the coaches go for offense—and to me that's a lot more justifiable than going strictly by scoring average. That's how you pick Hardaway over, say, Gary Harris, who shot 74/52/42 on FT/2s/3s versus Hardaway's 69/50/38 on virtually identical usage. Hardaway did rebound a lot better, but what rebounds exactly was Gary Harris supposed to acquire as a the two-guard in a lineup with Payne, Nix, and Dawson?
I haven't watched Harris that closely but I doubt Hardaway brings much defensive value he doesn't. Eh. Awards are pointless, see…
The CCHA's continuing inability to do anything right. This is far less egregious than the various Hunwick-related snubs last year (Hunwick was a top-three Hobey finalist and not the CCHA goalie of the year), but Boo Nieves was honorable mention All Rookie this year despite having the second-most points of any freshman in league play. Alaska's Tyler Morley's 8-7-15 was better than Nieves's 8-14-22.
In other news, highlights of Michigan's 3-2 win over Northern on Friday contain one Michigan goal and two by NMU.
Where was this all year? Hockey resoundingly swept Northern Michigan over the weekend in two games I did not see because I assumed Michigan would not have a home series last week, because when has Michigan ever finished between 6th and 8th in the CCHA? LOL that idea.
In any case, Michigan's Saturday demolition of Northern was so comprehensive it makes you a little mad. Michigan outshot Northern 23-6 in the first period and 16-3 in the second, whereupon it was 4-1 and all over but the shouting. If you can do that now…
Anyway, Saturday's game was a weird one with two penalty shots:
Copp converted the second once the goalie went for a poke and missed it, leaving his five-hole exposed. He also scored a grinder earlier.
A few guys are really standing out on a weekly basis, Copp, Racine, Nieves, Merrill, Guptill, they just are playing on a level that no one else is coming close too. I vividly remember our series against Western earlier in the year because every stoppage of play a Bronco went to a Wolverine, chirped at him and gave him a shove. No one did anything about it. Today I thoroughly enjoyed seeing any Wildcat who went near Racine get a push and shove, most of the the time it was Andrew Copp doing it. Little things that make a big difference.
The Guptill-Copp-Deblois line sees Guptill on a seven-game point streak; Nieves was sick last weekend but played through it.
Vincent Smith AMA. #2 popped up on Reddit yesterday to do an AMA promoting his Pahokee kickstarter, and the first question is… not about Clowney. It's about what kind of sub he ate. Well done, zparts. The second question mentions Clowney, but also finger guns. There was also the inevitable MGoBlog question that got the inevitable "I don't really read it" answer.
There is another. Derrick Walton senior highlights:
He won't be Trey, but if Hardaway and Robinson are back he won't have to be. If he can be a better version of Yogi Ferrell (18% usage, 26 Arate, 43%/32%) Michigan shouldn't have too much of a dropoff on offense what with everyone else back.
3/1/2013 – Michigan 4, Ferris State 1 – 13-18-2, 10-15-2 CCHA
3/2/2013 – Michigan 1, Ferris State 1 (shootout win), 13-18-3, 10-15-3 CCHA
it was messy, like we like it (MGoBlue)
After the Bowling Green meltdown from myself and the hockey team I vowed I was done talking about them. They'd just gotten blown out by BG and topped it off by letting a dangerous knee-to-knee hit slide without so much as a shove. They sucked, which was bad enough. That they did nothing when a guy wearing an A was on the ice after a cheap shot in an already-lost game was the end.
I spent the following two months of the season watching them in a depressed, cynical fugue state, dreading the ticket in my hand that condemned me to watch them get swept by Alaska for the first time since Alaska was a thing, not really caring if we missed half of a first period against Western because the waitress couldn't figure out how to change the channel, content to pick up twitter updates on the Ohio State series. I kept thinking of better things to do with 500 dollars, like use it to set my beard on fire.
Friday, I went to the ticket drawer, pulled out not one but two Ferris State tickets, realized that the home-and-home I expected was a two game home series, and sighed.
Friday started off rough with a penalty 30 seconds in; Michigan only killed it off with a couple of fine point blank saves from Steve Racine and then suffered another shift of heavy Ferris pressure. I was just prepping to enter fugue state when Michigan scored; Zach Hyman and young Lynch and Selman cobbled out a goal from some hard work. Guptill won a board battle and Andrew Copp made a cross-ice pass that Deblois buried, and Ferris got chippy.
Jacob Trouba probably got speared at some point, and another opponent knee met a Michigan player dangerously. This time there wasn't even time for me to put the Bowling Green game together with that incident before Copp came over and let that Ferris guy know he was marked. Roughing penalties followed; Trouba took an extra two late with Michigan up four. Michigan had incidentally dominated a 4-1 win, outshooting a decent team by 14. It was fun.
Saturday's ticket felt like an opportunity instead of a burden, and Copp—now ensconced in his role as the #1 center—started screwing with Ferris before the puck even dropped. He assisted on a first period goal, drew two penalties, intercepted stretch passes like he was playing for a Ron Mason Michigan State outfit, and spent large chunks of the game giving anyone who looked at a Michigan player funny the business. A pissed-off Trouba picked up a misconduct. I grew little grudges against Ferris State players, and was incensed by after the whistle business.
Michigan again significantly outshot Ferris. Racine stoned a couple of breakaways and then three straight shootout attempts. The team mobbed him for an unnaturally long time after the last one.
It felt like a team again, and Yost a place to be. It was Michigan hockey: end to end, pissy, ref-baiting, out-shooting, chippy fun. Michigan has always been a team with its heart on its sleeve, prone to dumb penalties of aggression that I used to loathe. They are far superior to the sleepwalk of the last year. By the end of Saturday's tumultuous draw Ferris's goalie was out in overtime and Yost was on its feet, moaning and screeching, full of hate and joy and fear. The new building seemed like the old one for a bit. Finally.
I don't know if Racine is going to keep up this level of performance or if Trouba's going to stick around or if Copp can really be the emotional center of a team as just a sophomore. I do have something to say about them that isn't randomly assorted swear words now. It's hard to see them winning two series and two at the Joe to extend that tourney streak, but at least I'll be pulling for them instead of silently hating everything. At least I've got a reason to renew.
Bullets still mostly about next year
Gongshow forever. I don't actually know if the refereeing in the Big Ten is going to be any better, but it's fitting that the last ten seconds of regular-season CCHA play saw Ferris State get a breakaway thanks to having seven guys on the ice. Here are four:
Here are two more:
This is okay since the goalie is out. This guy…
Not so much. Racine stoned the guy anyway.
Racine, come on baby. I was hoping he'd pop that save percentage over .900 with that weekend but he remains stuck at .892. Nonetheless, he was probably the star of the weekend if it wasn't Copp. Two goals against and many quality saves.
The one goal on Saturday was a little strange—still not sure if that was deflected or just unexpected—and is a bit concerning. Racine has had games like that where he makes a bunch of good stops and then lets some bizarre stuff in; it's a major weakness.
Despite it, the kid looked good… confident post-to-post, able to come out on shooters when it's appropriate, and seemingly technically sound. I was watching Saturday's game with a couple of guys who have played the position as kids and on the beer league level and they also thought he'd come a long way. My amateur impressions are that I see a ton of places where pucks can slide through Rutledge, and Racine provides not only a bigger guy but one with fewer gaps as he moves around.
Michigan should still try to find another goalie next year; I think Racine has a decent chance of developing into a quality guy. If he does, Josh Blackburn for president.
Copp. At the beginning of the year I said I thought he could be more than a fourth-line PK guy like the Swistaks and Fardigs before him who came from the end of the USNTDP bench. I didn't think he'd be centering the top line by the end of the year. I cannot overstate how excellent he looked this weekend: he played smart, made nice passes, took a couple of high-quality shots, and seems to have become the on-ice leader of the team. Not bad for a late add.
I'm guessing the split between football and hockey—he was Skyline's QB—held him back and now that he's finally focusing full time on one he's making a leap. At 7-9-16 he's ten points off the team leaders, but that's with very little PP time and after spending big chunks of the year down the depth chart. He's making a late-year leap and I bet he sees those points go up a lot next year.
Nieves. Another guy who is rounding into form as his freshman season comes to a close. A lot of guys who become stars start out slowly as freshmen and then emerge in the second half of their first year—Palushaj, Pacioretty (though he never came back), and Tambellini spring to mind. He's showing that he may be a guy Michigan can lean on heavily next year.
Next year. This was discussed in a UV last week, but it's all about offseason departures. Michigan loses Sparks, Lynch The Elder, Treais, Moffie, and Rohrkemper. Only three of those guys really play important roles. Sparks and Rohrkemper get scratched a lot. Moffie is the 4/5 defenseman if Clare is healthy. Lynch is okay but eminently replaceable. Only Treais might sting. Most schools are going to lose players more important than one guy with 20-something points, though.
But what with the rampant rumors about dissention in the ranks, an already-bulging roster, and a recruiting class that could have as many as eleven kids in it, defections are all but inevitable. Merrill, Trouba and Bennett will have NHL options; Di Guiseppe, Guptill, and Nieves will also. Other guys may just want to leave.
Michigan is committed to bringing in at least seven of those guys: forwards Evan Allen, Bryson Cianfrone, JT Compher, Alex Kile, and Tyler Motte plus defensemen Michael Downing and Nolan DeJong. Hockey is an equivalency sport so not all of those guys are necessarily on full rides and Michigan lost Daniel Milne midseason, but if they're going to keep the roster at its currently rather packed level they are going to suffer a defection. If they don't, they will carry nine defensemen into next year. If they suffer lots, then Max Shuart, Spencer Hyman, and Kevin Lohan may also join up, and then there's the goalie situation.
Michigan is a team that could go into next year featuring Trouba, Merrill, Bennett, and projected first-rounder Downing as their top four defensemen… or they could lose half of those guys and end up icing Mike Szuma quite a bit.
Meanwhile at forward, Compher is a high-end prospect expected to go in the middle of the first round; Allen and Motte are second and fourth in NTDP scoring. Cianfrone was projected as a first-round OHL pick before his Michigan commitment but has struggled in the USHL with a 3-14-17 line in 39 games. An emergency appendectomy may have something to do with that, he is small (5'8"), and he is young, but it looks like his star has fallen. Kile on the other hand has put up a PPG this year with Green Bay. At least one or two of those guys will probably end up on a big line.
Here it's less precipitous a dropoff if only because none of the forwards are near Merrill or Trouba's level, but Guptill's been playing well of late and it would suck to lose Nieves just as he starts rounding into a player.
In any case, find or grow a goalie and the talent will be there for a major bounce-back year as long as there's a guy to grab folks by the scruff of their neck. Please hockey Jesus, don't let Trouba's only year at Michigan be this floundering one.