Hockey Preview: Boston University, NCAA Regional Final

Hockey Preview: Boston University, NCAA Regional Final Comment Count

Brian March 25th, 2018 at 12:34 PM

1023_boston_university_terriers-alternate-1999THE ESSENTIALS

WHAT #8 Michigan (21-14-3) vs
#15 Boston U(22-13-4)
WHERE Underground Printing Center
Worchester, MA      
WHEN 4 PM
LINE Michigan 55% (KRACH)
TV ESPN2

yip yip yip yip yip yip yip yip yip yip yip!    

THE US

Michigan managed to stay out of the box long enough for their 5v5 superiority to tell, but it was a hell of a thing getting there what with the third-period goal from Northeastern that tied the score at 2-2 and set the stage for Michigan's traditional 3-2 playoff OT loss. But one bad leg-lift from Cayden Primeau and Cooper Marody's five-hole shot with under five minutes left sent them through. Hooray plinko!

THE THEM

It's us? Sort of? Like Michigan, BU was idling a couple games under .500 for much of the year before a late breakout got them to the tourney. Like Michigan, there are several players of great interest to the NHL on the roster—BU has three first-round picks and certain top-ten pick Brady Tkachuk. But the comparisons start diverging there.

BU's upset of top-seeded Cornell is welcome news if you believe ranking systems like Pairwise and KRACH; it's less welcome if you want to compare NHL draft picks. BU continues to be the Kentucky of college hockey, stacked with five-star prospects (if anyone bothered to rank college hockey prospects) and beset by puzzling swings in performance. BU had to win the Hockey East playoff title to even get in; they would not have been an at-large and only made it up to 15th by winning said title.

BU is probably the most talented team in college hockey, and went 12-8-4 in conference play. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Some of this may just be bad luck. BU's possession numbers are on par with Michigan's but a 7.6 shooting percentage at even strength has held down their numbers substantially. NHL statheads look at shooting percentages in the same way Kenpom acolytes now talk about three-point percentage defense: mostly random and begging to return to the mean. But usually when they're talking about this they're talking about a specific player playing one season. In BU's case, they've had a team-wide low shooting percentage for all four years that College Hockey News has advanced stats on. It looks like a coaching issue. 7.6 is low even for percentage-challenged BU, though.

9940522_web1_nhlnotebook-jan0618-2

Jordan Greenway is one of 7 NTPD alums on the BU roster

As a result none of BU's top guys have gotten to a PPG except sophomore Dante Harper, who was knocked out for the year in early January. The remaining top guns are Tkachuk (8-22-30), Jordan Greenway(12-21-33), Bobo Carpenter(20-15-35), and Shane Bowers(17-15-32). From there it again drops off to guys scoring a half PPG or fewer. The forward corps has been somewhat disappointing.

BU's made up for it with a number of excellent offensive-minded D. They've gotten 30 goals from their blue line this year, a quarter of their total and the most in college hockey. Sophomores Dante Fabbro (a first round pick of Nashville) and Chad Krys (a second round pick of Chicago) are dangerous puck-movers to keep an eye on.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Michigan will have a disadvantage against just about any team in a penalty-filled game, but despite the buckets of talent BU possesses this game will be close-ish to even. BU's penalty kill isn't much better than Michigan's at 79%, 44th nationally. Their power play is good—15th—but not in Northeastern's class and just a few percentage points higher than Michigan's. Staying out of the box is job one for this team for as long as they get to keep playing; in this game it's not also jobs two and four.

GOALIE

BU's played first-round pick Jake Oettinger virtually the whole year; his Lavigne-esque .918 save percentage is also Lavigne-esque in that there's a huge gap between his even strength %, which is .932, and his PK %, which is .851.

THE KEYS

STAY OUT OF THE BOX. Just one of these this time.

Thunk BU's top line. Michigan's top line held Northeastern's big line to nine even strength shot attempts and got off 19 of their own in a shocking display of dominance. BU isn't quite as dependent on their top guys as Northeastern was, but that'll still go a long way towards a victory.

Quinn Hughes vs everybody. Hughes was the best player on the ice yesterday, and has been the best player on the ice for most of the past couple months. He has not yet turned this into boxscore numbers that match his impact. Now would be a good time for that.

PREDICTIONS

are stupid

Comments

Puck Preview: North Dakota, NCAA Tournament

Puck Preview: North Dakota, NCAA Tournament Comment Count

Brian March 26th, 2016 at 11:47 AM

18j51e13xcurlpngEssentials

WHAT Michigan vs
North Dakota
WHERE Homesure Lending Arena
Cincinnati, Ohio
WHEN 6 Eastern
March 26th, 2016
THE LINE Michigan +180
North Dakota -220
TELEVISION ESPN2

Yes, I found a college hockey line.

BASICS

North Dakota is a version of Michigan that plays in a much better league. They are 31-6-4 on the year, 19-4-1 in NCHC play, and have generally bombed opponents. Their top line features three guys who are all at least +38. Brock Boeser, Drake Caggiula, and Nick Schmaltz are their version of CCM, and while they aren't quite as prolific offensively they probably would have been if they got to play Michigan's schedule. Boeser is their Connor. The prolific freshman had 26-28-54 this year.

Here's a slight difference: North Dakota is really good at defense. So they're a version of Michigan that doesn't make you want to stab stabby stab stab.

COMMON OPPONENTS

North Dakota split against Wisconsin, somehow, and swept MSU 3-1 and 4-1.

OFFENSE

Boeser-UND

Boeser is also a first round pick of a Canadian NHL club

North Dakota is 7th in scoring at 3.6 goals per game. The aforementioned "CBS" line drives much of the play; there's a solid second line and then you get a number of guys who have lines like 6-4-10 and 9-6-15—scrappers.  There's a huge dropoff in +/- after the first line. If Michigan had a line that could be described as a "checking" line this would be a clear situation in which they should be deployed, but Bryan Rust ain't walking through that door.

The scoring down the roster gets even a little shallower when you consider that a guy like Luke Johnson (10-10-20) has half of his goals on the power play and is even on the season. This is not a team that should overwhelm Michigan's bottom six.

Do not sleep on the North Dakota defensemen. The impression I gathered from yesterdays game is they are not wilting flowers who pick up second assists by accident. They are supremely confident on the puck, willing to take major chances in their own defensive zone to break forechecking pressure and maintain possession. And they achieve this a shocking percentage of the time. The ice tilted towards Northeastern's goal in large part because of the D corps's ability to handle the puck. They have five different D with at least 15 points and get a bunch of goals out of the defense corps. Junior Troy Stecher leads the way with 8-19-27. He's not Werenski, but all of their guys are big and skilled.

The CBS line is very capable of the tic-tac-toe goals we've seen Michigan score big chunks of the year. Preventing the kind of odd man rushes that Notre Dame deployed to score their first goal yesterday is a major key. Can Michigan accomplish that? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

DEFENSE

Again with the defensemen: North Dakota is #3 in scoring defense at just 1.85 goals per game. They split time between Matt Hrynkiw and Cam Johnson in goal, settling on Johnson midseason. That decision has paid off; Johnson's .934 save percentage is 7th nationally.

Part of that is North Dakota's ability to prevent quality scoring chances; part of the GAA is the fact that North Dakota is massively outshooting opponents. Their even-strength Corsi of 56% is fourth nationally. (Michigan's at 52%, FWIW.) Opponents are averaging just under 25 shots a game. North Dakota plays most of their games in the attacking end.

SPECIAL TEAMS

North Dakota's surprisingly meh on the power play, just 21st of 60 teams. Their penalty kill, however, is very good—6th and that's before you factor in their 8 short-handed goals. (Those are spread relatively evenly over the roster, FWIW.)

Let's try this again: Michigan's rampant power play is #1 nationally at 32%, having scored on an amazing 17 of 29 opportunities over their last six seven games. Notre Dame, of course, did not take one single penalty during Friday's game. If Michigan wants to get chippy early, that might not be the worst idea.

A FEELING OTHER THAN TERROR?

Nope. North Dakota was extremely impressive in a 6-2 dismantling of previously red-hot Northeastern yesterday. That Northeastern team just swept Notre Dame, who Michigan struggled against for two solid periods before getting a grip on the game in the third. That line above is 2:1 in favor of North Dakota, and that feels about right.

The nature of the Northeastern win allowed the Fightin' Blanks to rotate four lines for most of the game. Meanwhile Michigan had to ditch the fourth line and heavily double-shift CCM; they also played a (mercifully brief) overtime period. UND will be fresher. That could be a pivotal difference.

This game is likely to go one of two ways: a repeat of the Northeastern game yesterday as Michigan finds out that playing a 19-4-1 NCHC team is not like playing Penn State, at all, or a relatively even battle where Michigan's speed and skill is enough to disrupt the puck-moving skills of the North Dakota defensemen. Or they could play both of those in one game, as they did yesterday.

The former is either a sad blowout or a rear-guard action like the one led by Tiny Jesus in 2011. The latter is likely to come down to which top line can put together more mindblowing goals, and whether Michigan's defense corps gives away a goal or two by doing something awful.

Either way North Dakota is an obvious favorite. But, hey, plinko is in our favor this time, especially if there are a bunch of penalties.

26010240926_7f0fefb18b_z (1)

[Patrick Barron]

Comments

Puck Preview: Ohio State Part 2

Puck Preview: Ohio State Part 2 Comment Count

Brian February 20th, 2015 at 11:03 AM

Army Penn State HockeyTHE ESSENTIALS

WHAT Michigan (19-11, 11-5 B10)
vs
PSU (16-12-4, 8-7-1 B10)
WHERE Pegula Ice Arena,
State College PA
WHEN 7 PM Friday
3 PM Saturday
LINE nope
TV BTN plus (ie: no)

[@ right: Bill Rapai]

THE THEM

It says something that Penn State's farm-fresh program has become instantly competitive in the Big Ten. Half of that is Penn State, which is regularly selling out and has an attractive hockey-specific arena to offer.

6_1114290[1]

The other half is the worrisome state of the league.

Things seemed a bit more worrisome three weeks ago, when Penn State was  7-2-1 in the Big Ten and had vague at-large hopes. Since they've been in a tailspin, losing five of their last six.

THE GENTLEMEN OF NOTE

  1. Taylor Holstrom, Casey Bailey, and David Goodwin. Addressed as a group because they are a group. Penn State has a very legit top line. You can see it in the plus-minus: these guys range from +12 to +14; there's a second-ish line that's just above even, and then you get into minuses.
  2. Bailey leads PSU in scoring with a 21-16-37 line. 1) that production has continued in the Big Ten (10-10-20), and 2) a lot of that production is even strength, with just 4 PP goals.
  3. Holstrom is the setup man with a 7-22-33 line.
  4. Goodwin is a highly productive third wheel at 13-16-29.

PSU has another three or four guys who are somewhat productive depending on whether you're looking at the season as a whole or just the Big Ten. Scoring threat drops off relatively swiftly after that.

Michigan would be advised to try to line-match the Copp line against the Penn State gunners, but that'll be more difficult on the road.

THE GOALIE

All three Penn State goalies have seen significant time this year. Over the last month the competition has narrowed to juniors Matthew Skoff and PJ Musico. Musico has a solid .923 save percentage but has struggled somewhat lately; Skoff is at .905. Despite that disparity, Skoff has seen twice as much time as Musico.

Skoff and Musico both gave up five goals last weekend to Ohio State, so your guess is as good as any. Whoever gets the Friday start will see playing time Saturday contingent on his performance.

THE SPECIAL TEAMS

Penn State's power play is effective at 22%; their penalty kill is weak at 80%. Similar to Michigan except slightly worse in both categories.

THE LAST TIME

PSU and Michigan split a series at Yost back in November. Penn State scraped out a frustrating-for-M 3-2 win in a game they got outshot 40-28. The next night Michigan bombed 'em 8-1 in a game where shots were a lot closer. Hockey is weird.

THE STAKES

Michigan has a three point (ie: one game) lead on Minnesota for the Big Ten title, with MSU and PSU lurking around .500 further back. A sweep guarantees Michigan a piece of the title if they get at least a split from the MSU home and home finale; drop points, as Michigan has been wont to do of late, and they'll be relying on Meh Minnesota to help 'em out. (They've done that, splitting their last two series.)

Even more importantly, Michigan is the definition of a bubble team in the pairwise. They have four games left against .500-ish teams, and three are on the road—going 3-1 in this stretch should see them enter the Big Ten Tourney with a good shot at an at-large bid even if they don't get the auto. Anything worse and things start to look dicey.

If Michigan does end up hunting an auto-bid they would very much like to do so from one of the bye spots in the Big Ten tournament. Two games in two days is much easier than three in three.

Penn State's got a decent record but they've got a very bad SOS number so they're definitely on the outside looking in when it comes to an at-large. They are five points back of second place in the league and the second bye, so that's likely their goal.

THE PREDICTION

If Michigan can keep the top line contained with the Copp line and use Hyman and Larkin to strike at the relatively soft underbelly of the Penn State roster… they could still be undone by randos unchecked in the slot and bad goaltending. But this does look like a relatively good matchup for Michigan: a team that's been scuffling that doesn't punish mistakes much save for the guys everyone needs to be alert for.

Here's hoping they can get 1-0-1 or better.

Comments

Puck Preview: Gophers Part 2

Puck Preview: Gophers Part 2 Comment Count

Brian February 13th, 2015 at 11:56 AM

1KOYAMA0304GALLERY[1]THE ESSENTIALS

WHAT Michigan (16-8, 8-2 B10)
vs
Minnesota (14-9-3, 5-2-3 B10)
WHERE Mariucci Ice Arena
Minneapolis, MN
WHEN 9 PM ET Friday
8 PM ET Saturday
LINE nope
TIX pricey: 50 bucks on Stubhub
TV BTN Friday
FSD+ Saturday

 

THE THEM

Year-in, year-out the Minnesota roster is littered with NHL draft picks. 2014-15 is no exception, as it's quicker to run down the guys who have played in more than half of Minnesota's games who haven't had their name called. A whopping 15 Gophers have been drafted, including eight(!!!) defensemen.

But of late Minnesota fails to turn this surfeit into a hockey team worthy of it surprisingly often. They're coming off three excellent years; the four before that saw one tournament bid, that from a 19-17-9 outfit that got run by BC 5-2 in the first round.

This year the Gophers are just okay at 14-9-3. They've gone 1-3 against Duluth* and lost to RPI #1 Minnesota State; they did beat BC authoritatively. Despite the sweep at Michigan's hands in January, they've been making their hay against the rest of the league. They're undefeated against the rest the Big Ten (in pairwise terms at least) at 5-0-3. You'd think that and a bag of donuts would get you no pairwise traction and some donuts, but 3-0-1 against Wisconsin and Ohio State was sufficient to lift the Gophers from 20th to 14th in the Pairwise.

Minnesota is the exact opposite of Michigan State, philosophically. They are a free-wheeling, attacking hockey team that activates their defensemen more than any team in college hockey. If anyone's going to have a D leading their team in scoring, it's the Gophers, and junior Mike Reilly does in fact do so with a 4-24-28 line. He's one of two D with a PPG nationally.

But he's not Jordan Leopold. That Reilly leads with that line speaks to a lack of out-and-out stars in the forward corps. They've got a few guys hovering around a PPG, but those guys lean heavily on Minnesota's killer power play. The three leading Gopher scorers have 17 PPGs and 14 even strength goals. Minnesota is not a big, physical outfit that generates a lot of opportunities in the zone. Rushes and power plays are where they thrive.

*[Minnesota managed four nonconference games against the same team by playing them in the season-opening Ice Breaker tournament plus a new Minnesota version of the GLI in addition to a regularly-scheduled home and home.]

THE GENTLEMEN OF NOTE

  1. Kind of everyone. As mentioned, talent out the ears.
  2. F Kyle Rau. Senior Panthers draftee led Gophers with 40 points last year and is top scoring forward this year. He's a little quick bugger effective in tight spaces.
  3. F Hudson Fasching. Hasn't translated massive hype to production just yet but is Minnesota's top even strength scorer with eight goals. Combines elite size with skating and hands.
  4. F Sam Warning. Warning doesn't get PP time but scores anyway. Excellent PK guy, fast as hell, probably the Gophers' best two way forward. Undrafted(!).

THE GOALIE

minnesota-adam-wilcox-011314[1]

Adam Wilcox is struggling much like Michigan's platoon is. After starting his career with .920 and .930 save percentages, he's bottomed out as junior. He is currently 60th of 78 qualifying goalies with a .901. Whether that's on Wilcox or his team's defense is difficult to determine—sample sizes need to be super large for you to say anything about save percentages confidently. Those samples are hard to get in a short college season.

FWIW, Nagelvoort's recent run here has him up at .914 for the season. That's not great, but it is approaching middling.

THE SPECIAL TEAMS

Michigan needs to stay out of the box. I know, everyone always says that. I mean it, yo: the Gopher power play is currently connecting at 29% rate! That is by far tops nationally. Michigan is #3; both teams are killing at a crappy 80% rate.

Two awesome power plays going up against two bad PK units means that penalties take on an even larger share of importance.

THE LAST TIME

Michigan announced their intention to make a run at the tournament with a stirring comeback after Andrew Copp took a major penalty and Minnesota scored twice on it to take the lead. Zach Hyman powered past a Gopher defender, flipping the puck to Justin Selman; Selman shoved it in the net. A whistling Cutler Martin snap shot in overtime finished the comeback.

The next night was the 7-5 barn burner featuring zero defense from anyone. So… yeah, should be entertaining at the very least.

THE STAKES

Massive. Both these teams are barely on the right side of the NCAA bubble. A sweep by either would solidify a bid and leave the loser in a precarious position. A split helps Michigan more than Minnesota thanks to the way college hockey calculates RPI*; that would be equivalent to going… uh… 1.2-0.8 this weekend.

The road weighting plus the bonus from beating a top 20 team, which Minnesota will remain, would keep Michigan where they are. It might even move them up a little if the teams in front of them have a bad weekend.

These two teams are also competing for the Big Ten title. Michigan is in first with 24 points; Penn State trails by two; Minnesota is six back. A Gopher sweep would put them right in the thick of things. Michigan doing the same would just about eliminate Minnesota and make it a two-horse race.

*[Dumbly. The way they have it set up means that two teams playing four games, two at home and two on the road, can split and have those games weighted as 4.8 games (if the road team wins all) or 3.6 games (home teams win all). Same results, different outcomes. Not good eats.]

THE PREDICTION

A split seems reasonable.

Comments

Puck Preview: Michigan State Again

Puck Preview: Michigan State Again Comment Count

Brian February 6th, 2015 at 4:21 PM

10-1-a-a-haag-green-shirt[1]THE ESSENTIALS

WHAT Michigan (15-8, 7-2 B10)
vs
MSU (10-11-2, 4-3-2 B10)
WHERE Not Yost,
Thanks Dave Brandon
WHEN 8 PM ET Saturday
LINE nope
TIX nope
TV BTN

Villiam Haag has a top quality hockey mullet

THE THEM

This is the same opponent Michigan had last week in a game that would normally be at Yost but is instead outdoors in Chicago. As a result season ticket holders are enjoying a six week gap between home games. Adding insult to injury, the announcement that this game would be in Chicago came after the season ticket renewal deadline.

This is Dave Brandon reaching back to us from beyond the grave to torment us one last time, so here's an opportunity to give thanks that he darkens our doorstep no longer. It is ultimate Dave Brandon to take a Michigan State game out of one of the cathedrals of college hockey in favor of something called the "Coyote Logistics Hockey City Classic" at a three-quarters empty NFL stadium. You and your logistics can go straight to hell, or Arizona. Wherever.

But… right… the game.

Michigan State remains Michigan State. They won the Joe Louis Arena contest the way they usually win games, scraping out a low-scoring snoozer thanks to a puck that bounced off multiple things before hitting the net, and then packing all six guys on the ice inside their crease for the remainder. It's ugly to watch and frustrating to lose to, but that's just the way things go against a style like that sometimes. It's .500 hockey against just about anyone, be they overmatched or… uh… undermatched.

More detail on MSU can be found in the previous post. In brief, MSU is a defensively responsible outfit with little offensive talent and a penchant for extremely conservative hockey.

THE STAKES

Michigan fell a couple spots after last weekend's loss. They would still be in the tournament if the season ended today… unless conference tournaments went badly. They're solidly on the bubble. Losing again would push them out temporarily and eat up another one of the losses they can sustain before the end of the regular season.

Also, Michigan is five points clear of PSU and MSU for the Big Ten title—PSU has a game in hand. (College hockey awards three points for a win, remember.)

There are few stakes for MSU, which will be missing the tournament for the third consecutive year and sixth time in the last seven unless they win the Big Ten tournament. They could get within striking distance of Michigan for the conference if they win again, but sustaining that doesn't seem in the cards.

THE PREDICTION

Hockey predictions are even dumber than most predictions, but Michigan does need to adjust the way they play if they're going to have a game that reflects the talent gap between the two teams. Michigan is far too prone to giving up uncontested shots from the slot and has gotten frustrated by MSU's tendency to lay five guys on the ice in front of any shooter.

Scoring the first goal is even more important than it is usually, as when MSU has to chase a game they come out of their shell and into the uncomfortable world of trying to play actual hockey. On the other hand, they are highly adept at choking out scoring chances.

Comments

Puck Preview: Michigan State

Puck Preview: Michigan State Comment Count

Brian January 30th, 2015 at 11:15 AM

635491874635460024-MSU-Mich-Hoc-2318[1] THE ESSENTIALS

WHAT Michigan (15-7, 7-1 B10)
vs
MSU (9-11-2, 3-3-2 B10)
WHERE Joe Louis Arena,
Detroit, Michigan
WHEN 7:30 pm ET, Friday
LINE nope
TIX the box office will have lots
TV Fox Sports Detroit

THE THEM

I haven't done a hockey preview for a while because I've never had much to say other than "this guy has a lot of points and this guy is drafted," but I guess it's better than nothing.

Michigan State is in their Nth consecutive year of mediocrity or worse, their fourth under former CCHA commissioner and non-hockey-coach Tom Anastos. After an opening year a few games above .500, Anastos's teams have lingered in a territory above terrible but below average; this year they are still that at 9-11-2. They're coming off a sweep of a drastically undermanned Ohio State team, so they've got that going for them.

Anastos teams tend to be defensively responsible and hopelessly dull, and this year is no exception. State is 45th of 59 in scoring and 25th in defense. They stay out of the box, kill penalties well, and struggle on the power play. They have a couple guys with a modicum of skill and a bottom six that tries to grunt their way towards goals. They have a couple of high draft picks on the defensive end and play a conservative system that tries to shut down space in the neutral zone, so at least that hasn't changed.

This is a Ron Mason team without an NHL top line or, you know, Ron Mason.

THE GENTLEMEN OF NOTE

  1. Matt Berry. The diminutive senior is State's most skilled player. He leads the team in points with 16 despite missing several games due to injury earlier this year and is the only MSU player on a PPG. He's in the little puck wizard mode.
  2. Mackenzie MacEachern. MacEachern is a rare breed indeed, drafted in the third round out of Michigan high school hockey. Reminiscent of Justin Abdelkader minus the dumb penalties, MacEachern is the most physically imposing opposition forward.
  3. Villiam Haag. Is named "Villiam Haag." (Try-hard Swede is also active defensively and has established a spot on the top line thanks to two-way play. Think Matt Rust.)

THE GOALIE

Junior Jake Hildebrand has seen every minute of MSU's season; his .918 save percentage is middling but significantly better than Michigan's platoon.

THE LAST TIME

Michigan won the GLI final 2-1 with Zach Hyman and Andrew Copp scoring; Michigan was actually outshot 29-32. MSU was missing Berry; Michigan was down their four WJC participants (Werenski, Larkin, Compher, Motte). They skated seven defensemen in that game, in fact.

THE STAKES

Michigan has played itself into an at-large bid for the tournament and must keep winning to stay there. The Big Ten offers no favors to Michigan's schedule strength.

Michigan State has no hope of an at-large bid. At this point Anastos has to be on the verge of losing his job if anyone in East Lansing still realizes the hockey team exists. It's been four years of mediocrity with no light at the end of the tunnel and a retiring Red Berenson is kicking MSU's ass on the recruiting trail.

It's time for Michigan State to get a real coach and start winning some games—crappy MSU was fun for a while but I'm over it. If Anastos wants to keep his job winning against Michigan is the best way to do it.

THE GUY WHO HASN'T CHANGED

Kampfer-assaulter Andrew Conboy was just dropped by his ECHL team for cross-checking a dude in the teeth. Stop hiring this man, hockey teams.

THE PREDICTION

Hockey predictions are dumb, but whatever: Michigan is still vulnerable to turnovers and WTF defensive play but if this was an even game last time they should have a major advantage now that they've got four of their six best players back in the lineup versus just Berry for MSU. Stay out of the box and get solid goaltending and this train should keep rolling.

Comments

Puck Preview: Minnesota

Puck Preview: Minnesota Comment Count

Brian February 14th, 2014 at 12:59 PM

I haven't been doing hockey previews this year because hockey kind of evaporated there for a long time and when it came back I didn't want to pick up the baton again just to tell you the things you could learn by going to the team page of opponent X on College Hockey Stats. So I'm going to morph this into a status update/preview thing with a new format. A work in progress.

11636357875_02fa44dbcb_z[1][At right: an understandably perplexed Red Berenson. Bill Rapai photo]

THE ESSENTIALS

WHAT Michigan at Minnesota
WHERE Mariucci Arena,
Minneapolis, Minnesota
WHEN Friday: 9 PM Eastern
Saturday: 8 PM Eastern
LINE college hockey lines, junkie?
TV Friday: BTN
Saturday: FSD

State Of The Bid

Actually, first…

State Of The Pairwise

The Pairwise rankings got revamped in the offseason, yet again. Like the BCS rankings, each iteration drops more and more stuff until you're left with something simple but unsatisfying. This iteration dumped the "teams under consideration" factor entirely. Now everyone is under consideration, even Michigan State.

The only factors left:

  • RPI
  • head to head
  • common opponents

Since RPI breaks all ties, Pairwise comparisons against teams you haven't played devolve to a straight RPI comparison. The only way for the PWR to deviate from straight RPI is for you to be –2 in head to head or lose head to head and common opponents. This happens once in Michigan's 58 comparisons, as Michigan's grim loss to Western in the GLI lets their superior COP play. But since the tiebreaker for tied teams is the individual comparison, and the tiebreaker for multiple tied teams is RPI the only way that hurts Michigan is if Western is one of the teams right next to them in the standings.

Nowadays, PWR == RPI to a 95% confidence. At this instant the PWR follows RPI to the letter save for Colgate ranking in front of Maine.

So it's kind of dumb now, because RPI is dumb. But it was kind of dumb before, what with teams popping above or below an arbitrary cutoff point radically altering the standings up until the last day of the season*. Meanwhile, the RPI is different but perhaps equally as dumb this year, as an attempt to reform it brought about these changes:

  1. Road wins and home losses are weighted by a factor of 1.2; Road losses and home wins are weighted by a factor of 0.8.
  2. Points get added for "quality" wins against the top 20 according to RPI.

It seems like the first change is an effort to prevent Big Ten teams from larding their 14 nonconference games with a ton of home outings. In the NHL, teams get about 55% of their points at home. There is some advantage to balance, but the change seems to make the system as biased in favor of the road team as it was in favor of the home team.

Meanwhile, the quality win bonus is the kind of thing you find stapled on to systems people know don't work but are trying to ad-hoc themselves into something that looks like it works right. The upshot of that change is that you'd rather beat Wisconsin and lose to Penn State than vice versa, and hey look maybe the team already knows this. Do they know that you'd rather beat both Penn State and Wisconsin? Someone tell them this.

Right. So now…

*[WORTHLESS ASIDE: Back in the days when I could stand the USCHO message boards there was one guy who responded to all the valid complaints about the volatility of the PWR system by claiming that the system was not volatile because it only existed on the day the field was selected. Eventually it became clear that this was not the guy being willfully obtuse. He actually believed this.

He had something like 100k posts by the time I left, and is probably heading towards a million now. In other news, a virus that wiped the hard drives of everyone who had posted on USCHO in the past year would increase the average IQ of the internet by 20%.]

ghostbusters-3-logo3[1]State Of The Bid

RPI is everything now; Michigan is tenth in RPI and tenth in the PWR, which would have them comfortably in as a three-seed. Michigan has a comfortable gap over the #11 team in RPI; they're closer to 6th than 11th.

Unfortunately, the RPI changes have blown up the exceedingly useful Sioux Sports feature that would let you know approximately what your RPI would be if you won X of your remaining Y games, because that's impossible to predict with the quality win bonuses.

Michigan has just one team with any of those win bonuses on tap, but they're big ones: Minnesota. Four games against the currently #2 RPI team in the country offer the potential of reward if Michigan can even split; meanwhile a home series at Penn State is a minefield waiting to happen, as is a home and home with dismal MSU. OSU is in the middle. Eyeballing it, 6-4 down the stretch would probably be good enough to keep them in the tourney as long as they got something off of the Gophers.

On the positive end, short of doing something like take three from the Gophers and run the table the rest of the way, a one-seed is out of the question. Moving up to a two is very doable; as mentioned, a couple of bumps the right way in the PWR and they'll be the top #2.

State Of The Hockey

You tell me, man. Michigan followed a grim four-game skid with a sweep of MSU that was filled with fortunate bounces and even gameplay, and playing MSU even is really bad news. Then they swarm Wisconsin, unfortunate to not sweep the Badgers one weekend before they sweep the Gophers. Everything's going just peachy after a 7-3 win against Penn State on Friday, and then… splat.

Saturday's 4-0 loss to Penn State was alarming on multiple levels. Nagelvoort gave up two awful bad angle goals that squeezed through his five hole, and all of a sudden it was last year all over again.

The only thing we've learned about this year's team is nothing. On an individual level you've got certain guys performing and certain guys not; on a week-to-week basis you could get anything from a throat-crushing of a top-ten team to one million unchecked guys running through your own slot.

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Nieves is the modern day Milan Gajic.

There are two primary issues: lack of production from Michigan's cadre of highly touted, veteran scoring-line wings and the defense. These have been the issues all year, and they are compounding as the year progresses. Boo Nieves is stuck on one goal; Phil Di Giuseppe has five. Guptill is doing a bit better, but the team has exactly one player cracking a PPG, JT Compher.

The team struggles immensely to generate scoring chances at even strength. I'm not sure if it's a lack of confidence or effort, but watching every rush end with a shot from the top of the circle is beginning to wear, as is Michigan's total inability to complete a pass on a two on one. The skill guys on this roster don't have much in the way of skill. Meanwhile, the offensive ability of the defensive corps can be summed up like so: Kevin Clare (career goals: 3) is one of two D who play on the power play.

The defense kind of is what it is. We knew that it was going to be shaky going in, and then Kevin Lohan got knocked out for most of the season. Not getting even one player in the all-conference discussion from Guptill/Di Giuseppe/Nieves/Moffatt is what's really hurting Michigan. The days when a random nondescript forward became an impact player as a junior/senior seem pretty far away.

But all I wanted them to do at the beginning of the year is make the tourney and they're on track to do that.

Gophers Loom

Minn Mankato Minnesota Hockey

You just got Skjei'd. No, I don't know how to pronounce it either.

Minnesota is perennially packed with talent and occasionally plays like it; this is one of those years. Despite the sweep last weekend they're still locked into a one seed at 19-4-5. Both of those losses were 2-1 affairs in which Minnesota outshot Wisconsin, in one case badly. Their sole other losses were at Notre Dame and against UMD; they have had inexplicable difficulty with MSU, going 2-0-2 with two one-goal wins.

There is no one scoring star. Minnesota has nobody averaging a PPG. They do have piles and piles of depth, with five guys over 20 points already and four more over 16. They roll three true scoring lines.

If there is a star, it's a guy who is nowhere to be found on point lists: defenseman Brady Skjei. (Skjei is somehow pronounced "Shea," in case you're wondering where this Skedge guy is on the broadcast.) Shea, a sophomore, was a first round pick last offseason and was the cornerstone of the World Junior defense corps. He's got size, strength, and defensive skill. He is legit.

Goaltending has been excellent, with sophomore Adam Wilcox a true #1—his backup has 84 minutes on the season. He's got a .930, which places in him a tie for 11th with Nagelvoort*.

Michigan's six points back of the Gophers and can tie for the conference lead with a sweep. Good luck with that. For RPI/tourney purposes, a split would be super.

*[Expand the nets. There are 12 out of 82 qualifying goalies with a .930, 28 with a .920, 47 with a .910, and a whopping 62 with a .900. Goalies are too good.]

Comments

Puck Preview: Ferris State

Puck Preview: Ferris State Comment Count

Brian March 23rd, 2012 at 1:30 PM

The final team in Green Bay this weekend. First round opponent Cornell was profiled a couple days ago; Denver yesterday. Doing the entire regional is not a jinx. It is a way to work out nervous energy. I told my wife that today was the first round of the hockey tournament and got a worried "oh" in response.

Oh crap oh crap oh crap oh crap

Jason Cook, a member of Ferris State University's Rube Goldberg team the Underdogs, pauses from his work to give a high-five to Ferris State's mascot, Brutus the bulldog. The Underdogs, from Big Rapids, Mich., finished second today (Saturday, 4/3) in the National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest at Lambert Fieldhouse. (Purdue News Service photo/Dave Umberger)

rubenat04-ferris.jpg
The Essentials 

WHAT Michigan(?) vs Ferris State(?)
WHERE Green Bay, heart of the CCHA
WHEN 9:30 Eastern Saturday
LINE College hockey lines, junkie?
TV ESPNU/ESPN3
Ferris and Denver play at 5:30 today if you'd like to check out a VERY HYPOTHETICAL second round opponent.

Ferris State

Record. 23-11-5, 16-7-5 CCHA. Ferris won the CCHA by four points despite winning just one of five shootouts. They were going to have a rumble with Michigan at the Joe for the top seed in Green Bay until two overtime losses to Bowling Green saw them shockingly dumped from the CCHA playoffs. Ferris got locked into a two seed as a result.

They achieved what they did mostly with defense. Ferris is a little bit better than average at putting pucks in the net (a hair under three goals per game is good for 21st) and is top ten at keeping them out (2.2, 10th). Their goal differential in the league was an impressive +18. Michigan (+25) and Miami (+19) did beat them out, but Ferris spread their goals out much more effectively than the mercurial Wolverines and Redhawks.

Previous meetings. Michigan's lone bright spot in their awful streak last fall was a sweep of the Bulldogs that looks inexplicable now. Michigan hammered the eventual league champions 5-2 and 4-0; they'd win one of their next nine games.

It makes even less sense when you dive into some of the ancillary stats, in which the teams were dead even. Shots were basically even over the weekend. On Friday both teams had two power play goals. On Saturday the teams combined to go 0/11 with a man advantage. Penalty kills were also even over both days.

The only stat separating the teams were goals, goals, goals. Taylor Nelson gave up five goals on 28 shots; backup CJ Motte got the Saturday game and gave up four on the same number. Hunwick's save percentage for the weekend was .962. Note that Michigan's seven goal advantage came entirely at even strength.

Common opponents. Too many to mention since Michigan and Ferris are conference-mates. At least for now. This is probably even; the Bulldogs may have won the league but the different league playoff runs bring that back to parity.

1-23-Hockey[1]

Ferris needs Matthew Kirzinger to produce if it expects to advance

Dangermen. Ferris State's scoring is a lot like Michigan's: a top line does most of the work and gets they get decent support from the second line. After that there is little. Ferris's scoring drops off a lot faster than Michigan's. CenterIce scouted them before the fall series:

Don't get me wrong these guys can play, but what I saw from the film was the inability to finish plays. Time after time I watched a Ferris forward stickhandle through miami defenders, or make the perfect pass only to miss the net. A lot of the goals scored were due to Miami being shorthanded or being to slow, or a shot from Bolivia. That being said we still have to respect the team who is 15th in team offense because they do have a lot of skill.

The top guys are all upperclassment in the same point range. Winger Matthew Kirzinger (10-22-32) is the setup guy for Kyle Bonis (18-11-29) and Jordie Johnston (18-15-33). The second line does a little bit of scoring, but five of Travis Ouellette's nine goals have come on the power play, as have three of Garrett Thompson's nine. They don't get much even strength production outside of the top three.

Senior defenseman Chad Billins is also a power play threat—he has 7-22-29 with five of those goals coming with a man advantage.

Defense. These guys are defenders first, second, and third. Billins gets that power play run and has an assist rate that indicates he's doing something more than picking up second assists; even so no FSU defender has more than two goals at even strength.

Elaborately-named Scott Czarnaowczan is the other guy on the top pairing with Billins; he was a nominee for the league's top defensive defenseman at the end of the year.

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undeserving of first team all conference but still pretty good goalie clapclapclap

Goalie. Taylor Nelson was not better than Shawn Hunwick over the course of the season but he would have been a deserving second-team all conference selection with his .920 save percentage and 2.18 GAA. Freshman CJ Motte got a dozen games as well, but Bob Daniels isn't likely to go away from his senior unless things go pear-shaped.

As noted above, neither goalie had a good outing in Michigan's sweep early in the year.

Special teams. Your power plays per game:

Ferris Michigan
PP For / G 4.7 3.7
PP Ag / G 4.4 4.2
As has been the case for all teams not named Cornell, this preview will suggest that Michigan would like to play five on five the whole game. Ferris's power play is no great shakes (19.5, 24th) but is far superior to Michigan's. The penalty kills are about equal.

Michigan vs Those Guys, Hypothetically

Single elimination hockey. Is insane.

Usual statement about playing five on five a lot. Goes here.

Match Pateryn and Bennett with their big line. Michigan has last change and given the steep dropoff in even strength production they should try to get their best defensive lineup out there against Kirzinger/Bonis/Johnston. That is Pateryn plus some combination of defensive forwards.

Get the same goalie gap. The difference in Michigan's dominating sweep early in the year was almost entirely in net.

Grind it out. Ferris is a neutral-zone clogging, space-denying, odd-man-rush-prohibiting team of grit and sand that's gotten where they are despite a total lack of NHL draft picks. They will make whoever they play work for any chances they happen to get. Michigan will need guys like Guptill and Deblois and Brown and Glendening to win board battles if they want to get anywhere.

The Big Picture

Cornell first, of course. In the blessed event of a second-round game, Michigan must win or be thrown out the airlock.

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Puck Preview: Denver

Puck Preview: Denver Comment Count

Brian March 22nd, 2012 at 2:49 PM

Ah, hell, let's do the whole regional.

BONUS CORNELL CONTENT: check out MGoUser ecormany's scouting report of the Big Red. He's a Cornell season ticket holder. Also kdrake offers some impressions from the Cornell-CC series.

crWJ09mayqze3wf4sYl6V0VYo1_400[1]The Essentials 

WHAT Michigan vs Denver(?)
WHERE Green Bay, heart of the CCHA
WHEN 9:30 Eastern Saturday
LINE College hockey lines, junkie?
TV ESPNU/ESPN3

It's a pioneer. It is also Sinbad. This description is not about his comedy, obviously. It's about how he played basketball at Denver with a silly looking afro.

Denver

Record. 25-13-4, 16-8-4 WCHA. I'm not sure how a WCHA team with that record falls to a three seed, but that's Ferris State's problem before we can complain about it. FWIW, KRACH is in near-lockstep with the Pairwise when it comes to ranking Ferris and Denver.

The Pioneers finished third in the WCHA—a game and a half ahead of streaking one-seed North Dakota—with a +17 goal differential. After beating Wisconsin in three games to open the WCHA playoffs they won OT games against Michigan Tech and UMD, the second in double OT, before getting clubbed by North Dakota in the final 4-0. Take that with a grain of salt. By the end of that game Denver was down to three defensemen one night after going to double OT.

In keeping with the regional's ALL THE OVERTIMES theme, three of Denver's last four games have been playoff OTs. Michigan is coming off consecutive weekends with playoff double OTs. Ferris State got bounced by Bowling Green thanks to two overtime losses two weeks ago. And ten of Cornell's last 21 games have gone to OT. Prepare for fetal position hockey this weekend.

Outside of the league, Denver had one very impressive win and one bizarre loss. They beat BC in Boston to open the year, then lost to BU the next night. They beat Princeton in late November, then lost to Miami. They beat eventual one-seed Union 3-1 and smoked Air Force 7-1. They hosted Alabama-Huntsville… and split, giving the Chargers one of their two wins on the year.

Previous meetings. None. How about…

Common opponents. Both teams have wins against BC. Michigan, of course, got clubbed by Union at the tail end of their November fail; Denver beat them. Michigan went 2-1-1 against the Redhawks Denver lost to, and Michigan swept Denver's first round opponent. Denver will obviously be 1-0 against Ferris if this preview becomes relevant.

Dangermen. This is hard to judge given Denver's extensive but murky injury issues:

DU coach George Gwozdecky on Sunday said his six injured players — forwards Jason Zucker, Chris Knowlton and Beau Bennett, and defensemen Paul Phillips, Josiah Didier and David Makowski — are all “day-to-day” and questionable for Friday’s NCAA Tournament opener against Ferris State.

The Denver Post's Mike Chambers guesses that Zucker and Didier will be fine, Bennett will return, and that Makowski will play but only on the power play. Bennett and Makowski have been out since December; Zucker and Didier picked up injuries in the WCHA title game.

As a result of the injuries, Denver fans are feeling a bit of pessimism. One emailer:

I've see a few of their games this year and I am not holding my breath for this team to go deep in the tournament. The scoring dries up at times and the defensemen had issues clearing the puck earlier in the season. More than likely the goalie won't be determined until the day before and they both are pretty solid (either Brittain or Olkinuora). The Shore brothers and Zucker are the biggest scorers on the team, so losing Zucker would hurt if he can't play. Philips is a solid defensemen, but he might be out as well. This team is kind of wounded right now and young.

Thanks
Brandon

Uncertainty aside, this team has some elite scorers on it the likes of which have ceased to exist in the CCHA. If Denver fans think their team sees scoring dry up they'd be appalled by the CCHA: Denver is 9th nationally in goals for, with Michigan one slot behind them.

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Drew Shore

The top two lines are centered by the Shore brothers, Drew and Nick. Drew drives the bus for Denver with 21-31-52 and a +21. Given the plus minus ratings it looks like Denver has run a blender through its lines all year. Luke Salazar and Ty Loney are currently Shore's linemates. Salazar has 12-17-29, a +18, and just one minor penalty on the year; Loney has 10-11-21 and appears to be the gritty guy who provides grit and stuff.

The second line is explosive offensively but has struggled to keep its head above water. Nick Shore has 13-28-41 and is a –1 on the year; Zucker has 22-24-46 and is just +6. Some of this may not be their fault, as Denver has been missing two of their best defensemen for most of the year.

Defense. Injury clouds the picture even more here. Denver was down to five defensemen after the Didier injury against North Dakota; while they will get players back for the tournament how many will make a big difference. It sounds like Didier should be fine, Phillips still out, and Markowski limited.

That would mean Denver rotates through five guys on the blue line with occasional shifts to the returning Markowski; on a hypothetical second-night matchup they would be more tired than Michigan's guys, inevitable overtimes held equal.

In the absence of the injured, freshman Joey LaLeggia is the main man. He's +15 on the year and has 11-27-38. Those are astounding numbers given that he's only got three power play goals. LaLeggia's brilliant freshman season saw him named the CHN rookie of the year. He's not a big guy—just 5'10"—but he's been a rock for the Pioneers.

John Lee appears to be LaLeggia's partner. he's  the muscle in the pairing at 6'2" but is also a good skater; he was a fifth round pick of the Panthers in 2007. If you're adding that up, yeah: he's 23. Veteran. Scott Mayfield is a penalty-prone stay at home guy with massive size (6'4") and an excellent draft pedigree (a second rounder). He may be deployed in an effort to slow down Brown and/or Guptill depending on how long the fracturing of the top line lasts.

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Sam Brittain is 60-40 to be the guy

Goalie. Denver has three different goalies with double-digit games, something I don't think I've ever seen before. Junior Adam Murray, the least impressive statistically, only got his starts thanks to an injury to sophomore and Panthers draftee Sam Brittain. Once Brittain returned he and freshman Juho Olkinuora split starts. Both have impressive save percentages (.931 and .924, respectively). Despite Brittain's slight edge in that category his GAA is a couple tenths worse than Olkinuora (2.39 and 2.18). You'll note that neither of those is very high.

Denver fans aren't sure who will get the call this weekend. Based on recent play Brittain has the edge. He stopped an alarming 67 shots in the double OT win over Duluth; the next night Olkinuora was bombed for four goals on 18 shots before getting pulled for Murray in the third. I'd guess Brittain gets Ferris State and will maintain that spot in the event of a win that isn't 6-5.

Special teams. Your power plays per game:

  Denver Michigan
PP For / G 4.1 3.7
PP Ag / G 4.3 4.2
The numbers are blowout for Denver. Their power play is 11th, clicking at 22%. Michigan's is 46th at 15%. Michigan has a better penaltky kill at 85%, but Denver is middle of the pack at 82%. Stay out of the box.

Michigan vs Those Guys, Hypothetically

Single elimination hockey. Is insane.

Take care of the puck. Bob Daniels on the Pioneers:

“After watching tape on DU, we realize we have to be careful with turnovers. They’re a team I think, full of predators. They have so much skill up front that any type of turnover, could be very dangerous. We’re going to turn pucks over, but we want to make sure we’re very careful where they occur.”

- Ferris State Head Coach Bob Daniels

If you're thinking of Michigan's recent tendency to cough up horrible turnovers, you're not alone.

Hope the relatively chipper injury report is a front. If Zucker's out that's a big boost.

Wear them down if at all possible. Denver's shorthanded on the blue line and will be playing the second game of a back-to-back. If the first one is close or the inevitable overtimes are unbalanced, a steady diet of dump, chase, cycle could have the Pioneer defensive corps sucking wind in the third. A corollary…

Survive an offensive onslaught in the first period or so. Hypothetical Denver matchup is a rare one in which the other team has a clear edge in offensive talent. Michigan will have to ride it out and get to the part of the game in which they're fresher.

For the love of God stay out of the box. Obviously. Michigan prefers games like the ones they had against Notre Dame where penalties are rare animals.

The Big Picture

Michigan of course has to beat Cornell to find themselves against Denver. From there, win or disintegrate into component atoms.

Comments

Puck Preview: Cornell

Puck Preview: Cornell Comment Count

Brian March 20th, 2012 at 3:52 PM

CornellBigRed[1]The Essentials 

WHAT Michigan vs Cornell
WHERE Green Bay, heart of the CCHA
WHEN 8:05 Eastern Friday
LINE College hockey lines, junkie?
TV ESPNU/ESPN3

It's a bear.

Cornell

Record. 18-8-7, 12-4-6 ECAC. The Big Red were a clear #2 to the dominant Union Dutchmen in the ECAC this year, finishing two and a half games clear of third-place Harvard and putting up a +20 goal differential in conference. Union was a whopping +38(!) and Yale was somehow +13 despite finishing .500 in ECAC play; no other league team topped +5.

They made the ECAC semis but then got smoked by Harvard* 6-1:

They bounced back with a 3-0 win over Colgate in the consolation game.

Cornell made the tournament with defense, giving up only 2.1 goals per game in the league. Their offensive numbers were middle of the pack, as per usual. Cornell has been built on tight checking and excellent goaltending since I've been following college hockey.

As an Ivy, Cornell played an abbreviated schedule but the shorter ECAC league schedule did allow them some opportunities to test themselves against teams across college hockey. Results were mixed, with losses to Mercyhurst (a barely above .500 Atlantic Hockey team) and UMass (a 13-18-5 Hockey East team) against a win over Niagara and an old-style three-point weekend against Colorado College. They also lost in overtime to BU at Madison Square Garden.

For what it's worth, KRACH really does not like the ECAC this year. One-seed Union would be the last team in the tournament if it was used to seed the field; Cornell would not even be on the bubble at #22. The nearest CCHA team is #19 Lake Superior, if you're looking for a conference analog.KRACH overrates schedule strength considerably, but the ECAC's performance in the tournament of late reinforces the skepticism of pure math. The 2003 edition of Cornell was the last ECAC team to make the Frozen Four. Atlantic Hockey and the CHA—which doesn't even exist any more—have been more recently.

*[That is courtesy RPI TV, which provides ludicrously high-quality streaming video of various RPI sporting events. Paging Dave Brandon to aisle Something Fans Actually Want.]

Previous meetings. None. How about…

Common opponents. Few. Both beat Niagara in one-off games; Michigan's win was by a more comfortable margin than 1-0. Michigan annihilated St. Lawrence; Cornell swept them but won only 1-0 and 4-3 in overtime. On the other hand, Michigan got crushed by Union at Yost at the tail end of their terrible streak earlier this year. Cornell got a win and a tie out of two games.

image

Greg Miller is three points short of a PPG.

Dangermen. If the point totals for the Big Red's leading scorers don't seem impressive, keep in mind that they've only played 33 games to Michigan's 40. They're just above average in scoring at 2.9 goals per game. (Michigan is a tie for tenth with North Dakota at 3.25.)

In any case, Cornell has two guys around a PPG, junior Greg Miller (14-16-30) and senior Sean Collins (13-11-24). Collins was a Blue Jackets seventh-round pick in '07, FWIW. Both of those guys are very good at staying out of the box, with just nine minors between them on the season, but it's Miller who drives the bus. They center the top two lines: Miller is +20, Collins +4. Brian Ferlin (8-13-21 and +15 in just 26 games) appears to be another top line guy along with John Esposito (7-8-15 in 22 games, +13). [UPDATE: Cornell fans mention that Ferlin is out with an injury.]

After the big two, Cornell has a bunch of guys between six and eight goals on the year. Two are defensemen; six are forwards. Cornell's scoring goes three lines deep but lines two and three are not outfits you really have to gameplan for.

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Defenseman Nick D'Agostino is dangerous on the PP when not getting kneed by opponents. (NH Register)

On the power play, watch out for defensman Nick D'Agostino. With six goals he's the Big Red's leading power play scorer.

Defense. Again, it's hard to extrapolate much here without watching Cornell play a ton. D'Agostino has all the power play points and Joakim Ryan also has 6-10-16; D'Agostino, Kirill Gotovets, and Braden Birch have all been drafted late. It's Birch and Gotovets with the big +/- numbers. Those two are either a shut-down top pairing or a second pair sheltered from the top lines of the ECAC by the high-scoring guys.

Goalie. Cornell starter Andy Iles is like an ECAC Hunwick. He's 5'8" and played every minute Cornell was on the ice this year save the five or so given up to Open Net. His save percentage isn't quite in Hunwick's stratosphere but it is a solid .918; his GAA is a hair over 2.1. CCHA comparables are OSU's Cal Heeter and MSU's Drew Palmisano, both of whom put in .918s this year.

The video from the Harvard game above was not Iles's best day but a couple of differences between him and Hunwick are immediately apparent. Hunwick is much more aggressive at coming out of his crease than Iles, and there was one goal where he waved his glove at a shot and missed entirely. I can't remember a glove side shot Hunwick had a shot at going in since the doom at the end of Fort Wayne.

It looks like there will be room over the shoulders for a Wohlberg, Brown, or Treais to snipe at.

Special teams. Your power plays per game:

Cornell Michigan
PP For / G 3.9 3.7
PP Ag / G 4.0 4.2

Cornell's penalty kill has been a major weakness all year. They're at 79% and are 48th of 58 teams. That's right: Cornell's PK is worse than Michigan's power play, which is 46th. The Big Red's power play isn't much better at 40th; Michigan's PK is a decent 13th. This is a rare game in which Michigan wouldn't mind a lot of penalties… as long as they're evenly distributed.

Michigan vs Those Guys

Single elimination hockey. Is insane.

Nowhere to hide. It's not exactly going up against North Dakota but Cornell has enough scoring depth that Clare and Chiasson/Serville will get thoroughly tested. ECAC teams are usually short on footspeed, which should help prevent the ugly shifts where those guys get caught in their own end for 90 terrifying seconds… but most of these guys can shoot and you know we're getting at least one of those.

Get the zone on the power play. One of the primary reasons Michigan's power play sucks out loud is they have no way to carry the puck into the zone and have been consistently poor at dumping, chasing, and setting up.

Against Cornell they'll be getting power play opportunities against one of the worst penalty kill teams in the country. If they can get set up, they can have success. Getting there has not been easy.

Pound, pound, pound. While Cornell is a big hockey team, the impression I've gotten from watching highlights against Harvard and BU is that they're pretty vulnerable to getting leveled. They may not be accustomed to the pace of play in leagues outside their own and Michigan may have an opportunity get turnovers in dangerous areas if they press hard.

Hunwick > Iles. Michigan goes up against Shawn Hunwick's ECAC doppelganger and should have an advantage in net. If they don't much of their expectation of victory evaporates. I'm not overly concerned about this since Hunwick's had maybe one or two bad games since Michigan removed its head from its rectum in December, but you know the drill: single elimination playoff hockey.

Pray. Here it comes. Drawing an ECAC team is usually good news. Still… pucks bounce.

The Big Picture

Win or die.

I'll have briefer capsules on Ferris State and Denver later in the week.

Comments