As a CC alum who has followed their hockey team closely for nearly the last 10 years, I thought that I'd pass along a preview/scouting report to enhance the viewing experience for those of you who will be watching the game tonight.
CC Hockey 2010-2011 First-Half Team Overview: CC is 12-8-1 on the season (8-6 in WCHA, good for 5th place) with the nation’s 7th toughest strength of schedule. They are 13th in RPI, 11th in the KRACH, and tied for 12th in the very preliminary Pairwise comparisons. All of this suggests they’ll be a solid bubble team come tournament time. After a slow start in first month of the season, the Tigers went on a tear, which was kick-started by a 9-2 thumping of Denver. Beginning with that game, they’ve gone 9-3, including a split against a very good Nebraska-Omaha team. They’ve been without team scoring leader Jaden Schwartz (11-15-26, the nation’s 4th leading scorer) the last four games, going 3-1, while he’s been with the Canadian national junior team. CC plays an up-tempo style that put an emphasis on team speed over size. They are very strong on special teams with 22% success rate on the power play, and 87.4% on the PK. CC is also very young, with 16 underclassmen compared with only 10 upperclassmen (4 seniors, one of whom is the walk-on goalie).
The Forwards: With Jaden Schwartz joining the Canadian team, Scott Winkler (the only other NHL draft pick on the team besides J. Schwartz) out since Oct. 22nd with a wrist-injury, and William Rapuzzi injured with a concussion last night against MSU, the forwards will be young, with the veterans double-shifting at times. Watch out for seniors Stephen Schultz (10-13-23) and Tyler Johnson (13-8-21, who leads the nation in PPG with 8), as well as sophomore Rylan Schwartz (5-19-24), Jaden’s older brother. Keep an eye on junior Nick Dineen (7-6-13) for greasy-goals and on the PK. After that, a variety of freshman and sophomores round out the lineup, with an assortment of jitterbug slot-ninja types in Archie Skalbeck (5-7-12), Dakota Eveland (1-6-7), as well as Alex Krushelnyski (2-6-8, yes, that Krushelnyski, son of Mike, former Red Wings player/coach).
The Defenseman: CC’s defenseman are solid, if unspectacular, headlined by senior and captain Ryan Lowery (1-10-11) and junior Gabe Guentzel (3-10-13). Lowery is usually paired with freshman Eamonn McDermott (1-3-4) and Guentzel with sophomore Joe Marciano (0-5-5). Those four will eat a lot of minutes, especially in PP and PK situations, as CC’s third pairing has been inconsistent, with a constant rotation through the season.
Goalies: Joe Howe has been the top goalie for CC this year, posting decent numbers (10-7-1, 2.64 GAA, .911 SV%, with 3 shutouts) following his freshman campaign last year that saw him earn freshman-All America honors. He’ll occasionally make the spectacular save, but is more well known for being a durable, reliable between-the-pipes guy. When he’s on, though, he can steal a game. Backup Josh Thorimbert has only played in 4 games this year (2-1, 3.06, .909, 1 shutout), and will likely only play in the event of a blowout or injury.
Key Matchup: Michigan’s key to the game is to play a physical style in order to keep CC’s speed at bay, while not taking penalties, because CC will make them pay. Also, it would be to Michigan’s advantage to turn this into a game of attrition, tiring CC and force them to play their inexperienced 3rd and 4th lines and 3rd defensive pairing. This would be a very good win for either team, especially in terms of Pairwise comparisons at the end of the year.
Meaningless fearless prediction: Michgan's talent, even sans Merrill and Brown, will overwhelm the short bench and inexperience of CC, and but Tigers will keep it close until an empty-netter ices the cake.