Nieves notices Kile skating toward the slot but not the defender nearest him and has the puck knocked away. Stecher recovers the puck he knocked away and taps a pass ahead to Caggiula. From there, it's off to the races through the neutral zone.
Here's how Michigan's defensive zone looks as Caggiula crosses the blue line: one defenseman—Martin—back, and so only one man to beat.
Caggiula takes a fairly harmless shot from the high slot, one which Racine stops easily. The shot itself isn't that dangerous, and the only reason I can see taking it is Caggiula either assumes he can't get around Martin because he's gapped up well or he's assuming he's going to get a rebound; he's right about the rebound.
Martin tries to get a stick out and almost deflects the puck, but it does (barely) clear it. Racine's leaning back but ultimately unable to push up and back before the puck's in the net.
[After THE JUMP: the last six goals of the season]
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.
North Dakota split against Wisconsin, somehow, and swept MSU 3-1 and 4-1.
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)_/¯
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.
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.
There's been a ton of bitching about this move on both sides, which I expect from NDNationers literally still upset about something that happened in 1910. I expected less of that from the Michigan side of things but our thread here is about 80% "f*** Notre Dame." I wish Bo had never said "to hell with Notre Dame." It is the crying Jordan of things Bo said.
I downvote all of you metaphorically. Michigan and Notre Dame should play. In hockey, in football, in whatever. Curling. Sure, curling. They have a strong AD and quality revenue programs, they are a historical rival, they are a geographic fit. Not playing them—not wanting to play them—is juvenile.
This goes double for hockey given the situation the Big Ten finds itself in. Simply put, the schedule is much better off with four games against the Irish than it is without those games. (Especially because those will be home-and-home weekends.) The league is much better off with Jeff Jackson in it than outside of it.
The downside is… what, exactly? Notre Dame will feel less pressure to join the Big Ten in all sports? If you think hockey factors into that decision one iota I have news for you.
No, don't add Arizona State
A seven team conference is a bit odd but is doable. The league schedule expands to 24 games, one team is on a bye they can fill with a nonconference series every week, it's fine. FWIW, Brad Traviola says an eighth team is not currently on the table:
Notre Dame makes seven, and Big Ten deputy commissioner Brad Traviolia said there are no current plans to expand to eight. Some Illinois and Nebraska fans wish their club team would upgrade to varsity, but such a move requires major funding and proper facilities.
Moving to eight gets tricky. Options:
28 game conference schedule. With 28 conference games your nonconference gets very restricted. Michigan and MSU are in the GLI every year and the cap is 34, leaving just four slots for new teams. This was the worst thing about the 12-team CCHA.
14 game conference schedule. Opposite problem, nowhere near enough.
Two divisions of four, 20 game conference schedule. This was more or less the CCHA's solution after they went to 12. They rotated pairs of teams through groups of four so the schedule did change up.
Play everyone three times, 21 game conference schedule. Logistically difficult. Some of the odd games could be taken care of in switch weekends like the old College Hockey Showcase. M would travel to Minnesota for Friday and head to Wisconsin on Saturday while MSU did the opposite, that sort of thing. The eighth team would probably have to be a geographic pair for Penn State, though, and there isn't one that makes sense. I mean, Robert Morris is in Pittsburgh but do we want to add Robert Morris?
All of these have costs in a way that adding team #7 does not, and so the hypothetical eighth team had better be worth it. A team in freakin' Arizona with zero history is not worth it, especially when the Big Ten does not need another RPI anchor. Arizona State doesn't have a name brand in any sport, let alone hockey.
Yes maybe add someone else
There are teams that would be worth it if they were amenable. Foremost is North Dakota, a fierce rival of Minnesota and Wisconsin who Michigan also has a ton of history with. North Dakota is an incredibly well-supported program that would bring a buzz to Yost every time they showed up.
As a Midwest-ish state flagship school, North Dakota fits the Big Ten reasonably well. Bringing them in would mitigate some of the Minnesota hate for the new arrangement. It would improve the overall quality of play. It avoids some of the optics problems with adding a school with a bunch of other D-I programs—North Dakota is D-II in everything else. [Update: this is no longer true.] If they want in the Big Ten would be dumb to say no.
Would they? I think they probably would. Despite being perennially one of college hockey's best teams, just four North Dakota games were on national TV this year. From the Big Ten's perspective you do get a small bump by adding North Dakota, the state, to the footprint. And as mentioned, UND-Minnesota was the fiercest rivalry in college hockey once Michigan State went into the crapper. (And probably before that.) NoDak is the easy #1 choice.
If the Artists Formerly Known As Sioux don't want to come, there are other programs that would be worth it:
Miami. Quality program with a new rink. Hating on Enrico Blasi is great fun. Geographic fit makes three-game league configuration feasible.
Whichever Minnesota program the Gophers want. St. Cloud, UMD, whatever. Good programs that will be good in the future. Mitigates Gopher hatred of new league. Geographic fit.
Western or Ferris. Neither team is going to knock your socks off with their on-ice performance but they are a geographic fit and old CCHA rivals.
Let's Play Hockeysuggested Miami along with Arizona State, UConn, and UNO. Only Miami should be a viable contender amongst those schools. UConn has most of the baggage ASU does and is already in Hockey East. The only reason they would join the Big Ten is in the faint hope that would be a prelude to joining in all sports, and see Notre-Dame-to-the-Big-Ten-in-all-sports above for my take on that. UNO is a good program vaguely in the footprint but it's not much better or worse than a lot of schools a lot closer.
Notre Dame keeping its NBC contract is good
This is not the right take at all:
Keeping the TV contract is what actually surprises me the most about Notre Dame to B1G in hockey. B1G flinched. https://t.co/cQ4i3ifJwG
This isn't basketball or football. The BTN cannot televise all of its hockey. Other channels pick up games for the rest of the league all the time; there is no reason not to allow Notre Dame to do the same. Meanwhile now I know two road games will definitely be on a channel I get. From a fan's perspective anything that gets a game on TV is good; the NBC contract takes pressure off the Big Ten Network's limited programming space.
Now we can definitely do the State Championship thing
Trophies are good [Patrick Barron]
Notre Dame now becomes an obvious choice to fill out the field for the Michigan hockey championship I've been advocating since the dissolution of the CCHA. There are seven hockey programs in Michigan spread across three conferences now; they should play each other, and they should give someone a trophy for it.
Add Notre Dame in now and divide the eight teams into groups of four that switch annually. Michigan and MSU are never in the same group. Two WCHA teams are in each group. Hypothetical groups:
Each team plays the others twice. Teams in the same conference have an early-season conference series that counts towards the standings without adding additional nonconference commitments. The top two in each group advance to the GLI. The bottom two play a consolation round at the Joe either a couple days before or at the same time. Hand out a big ass trophy to the winner.
This is a:
Six-game commitment for the WCHA teams, ND, and one of M/MSU.
Eight-game commitment for M/MSU every other year and WMU.
Michigan, MSU, and MTU have already committed two of those games with their annual participation in the GLI. With a 24 game conference schedule Michigan would have 2-4 dates to play with annually and could still go out to Boston, play a tomato can, that sort of thing.
It is doable, and it would make the GLI a bigger event. It would provide a semblance of the old CCHA and amp up early season nonconference games. It's more or less adding an FA Cup to the college hockey schedule. The state of Minnesota would probably follow suit in short order.
Maybe things can start making sense now
ND to the Big Ten makes sense. Could this be a new era of not shooting yourself in the foot in college hockey? Please Tiny Jesus make it so:
No regional sites have been selected past 2017. And, according to Kristin Fasbender, the NCAA’s director of championships and alliances, the committee and the college hockey body as a whole will explore whether a new structure to the regional portion of the tournament, which could include playing games at campus sites, is a more viable option.
“I think there is continued conversation about [changing the regionals],” said Fasbender. “The committee keeps talking about what [the tournament] looks like when we go forward.
“We’re in a year here where at our four regional sites, none of our host institutions are in them. So I think we’ll continue to have this conversation as we get into the championship in Tampa and at the coaches’ association meetings in April and the [NCAA Division I men's ice hockey] committee meetings in June and trying to talk more about what we want to continue to look at globally for the whole tournament as we go forward.”
It's long past time to move to campus sites. North Dakota earned the opportunity to host a regional. Instead they're in Cincinnati, playing in front of nobody. But I'm a broken record about neutral site college hockey.
“Expansion is brought up every time the Big Ten is mentioned so (the move) is a good step in the right direction,” Berenson said. “It makes sense geographically. It’s not like we’re going out to play Rutgers or something. We’re playing a team that is in the Big Ten footprint.”
I wonder where fightin' bird guy is today. North Dakota may want to stop playing Frozen Four semifinals. First you've got the Life As A Vole Hunwick game…
…and then last night a Minnesota defenseman with zero goals on the season scored a shorthander with 0.6 seconds left to knock them out. Seriously.
North Dakota won their consolation game in the league playoffs to push Michigan out of the tournament, which I was mad about but maybe I should thank them because I would be waking up in a dumpster today if that had happened to Michigan. I would not feel well.
Minnesota plays Union for the title tomorrow at 7:30. Go Union, if only to see Mark Emmert's head explode. THE CALL IS COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE, MARK.
I mean why would you want to do that. An excellent article on Fox Sports about Derek Mason, former Stanford DC and new guy at Vanderbilt discusses how Mason came to prominence thanks to his ability to adapt to the hurry-up spread offenses that are kind of a big deal when you're in the same division as Oregon. Mason lays out the four things that up tempo does for your offense, and while they're really only three things if you can divide it's a good framework for understand why the spread keeps spreading, Danielson be damned:
1) Defenses get stuck in one call
While defensive coordinators enter a game with a long list of plays, the defenders on the field are often forced to play the same call repeatedly when the ball is being snapped every 14-18 seconds. The middle linebacker often looks to the sideline only to see the defensive signal-caller frantically gesturing to repeat the last call.
2) Defenses don’t get ready in time
Even when defensive players get their play call on time – some defenses will often call two or three plays in advance when facing an up-tempo team – you will often see the defenders unsuccessfully scurrying to get into their proper alignment before the ball is snapped.
3) One-on-one matchups
Tackling a skill player one-on-one in space is one of the most difficult tasks in football. Up-tempo offenses often operate out of a spread scheme that forces defenses to cover the entire width and length of the field, as Mason noted.
4) More snaps per game
I'm not clear on why more snaps are necessarily better, at least insofar as you get more snaps because you're moving faster. More snaps are obviously good because that means you didn't punt; outside of that the only thing I can think of there is that defenders tend to get tired more quickly than offensive players. Substitution patterns certainly indicate that's the case.
I would also add that a high tempo team is more flexible in its approach to the clock: for them slowing it down is a matter of hanging out at the line of scrimmage longer than they usually do. For a team that does not operate in a hurry-up environment, accelerating is considerably more difficult.
Mason's reacted to the above issues by having hybrid players who may not be the best at any one thing but can straddle the line between run support and pass coverage, having simple, quick playcalls, and training their defenders the way Oregon trains offense: relentless pace.
Anyway: Hoke talk about toughness is grating these days because he's content with an offense that doesn't try to make it tough on other people. Toughness is something Michigan has to have because things are being done to them. (It is also grating because Michigan finished dead last in tackles for loss allowed in year three of being a Tough Team that Runs Power.)
Excellent timing. You may find yourself suddenly more interested in this profile of Mark Donnal the Daily published five days ago. He's getting hype; let's hope it pans out.
Donnal’s not sure when exactly it was, just that it came around the middle of the regular season, but he turned a corner. He’d found success against Morgan and Horford enough in practice that he knew he belonged.
“I started to pick up everything, and my game started to come back to me, and I’m getting in the flow of the college game,” Donnal said.
If it wasn’t for the redshirt, Morgan and Horford might have had to worry about their job security.
“He’s becoming a force,” Morgan said. “He’s hard to guard down there in the post, and he’s definitely come a long way.
“Over the past couple months, he’s just become really good. Really dominates, shoots the ball well.”
Donnal is still just 18—he's young, like Caris—and has upside yet to tap.
Brace yourself! Someone at Penn State has been in the photoshop doin' the shrooms.
James Franklin being a great recruiter is a kids these days kind of thing.
At least we're not alone. On the one hand, Ohio State has a real spring game with a player draft and opens practices to students, and this makes me sad because it's clear their athletic department doesn't have quite the contempt for their fans that Michigan's does. On the other, they're not immune from Creating The Future either.
Didn't know Ohio State was charging $20 for a scrimmage. Guessing the same dipshit there who tries to seize blog assets came up with that.
On a third, mutant hand, imagine a version of the Michigan spring game that anyone, dipshit or not, could believe was worth 20 dollars. OSU knocked the price down to 5, apparently. I wonder if there are punting drills.
Here's a hard and round number for you: 10 years. That's how long its been since Michigan has won a Big Ten championship. To locate a gap that pronounced in Michigan's storied and (schadenfreude alert) oppressively self-congratulatory history, you have to hearken back to the pre-Schembechler era.
Those programs are Notre Dame and especially—especially—Penn State, which author Michael Weinreb is a fan of. Until Sandusky blew everything all to hell, Penn State was recruiting kids by noting that they'd never been on probation.
Their mantra of "Success With Honor" implies that most places having success don't have honor. Michigan's is just about winning football games. Penn State was stuck so far up its own butt smelling roses that they allowed the worst thing in the history of college football to happen. You might not want to claim Michigan's history is "oppressively self-congratulatory" in that context.
Ok, bro. Get The Picture finds this assertion in Northwestern's appeal to the national NLRB:
Contrary to the Regional Director’s findings, Northwestern scholarship football student-athletes are not “initially sought out, recruited and ultimately granted scholarships because of their athletic prowess on the football field.”
I would have believed this in the 1980s. Nowadays the only school that can claim that with a straight face is Purdue.
Orson says he'd trade the Swamp for this as long as the interior was searing orange, and… yeah, you'd have to do it. I await Spencer's longform piece on Turkish soccer with bated breath, and not just because I once pretend-managed a Turkish third-division team to the Champions League title despite Turkey's restrictive rules on foreign soccer players. Also because in Turkey things like this happen:
YANKEES: "We're sick of being the Yankees. Would you like to be the Yankees?" METS: "Jolly good. Here's Mr. Met and a legacy of crippling failure."
Also they have doner kebab. They are probably the origin of doner kebab. Go Turkey.
The usual. Kam Chatman is up to #38 on ESPN's final recruit rankings and draws mention as one of their top risers:
Kameron Chatman, Michigan: He’s a classic late bloomer who has continued to improve at a rapid rate and yet very clearly still has his best basketball in front of him. A highly skilled southpaw with excellent size on the wing, Chatman’s frame has now started to fill out at a much more rapid rate, giving him the versatility not just to splash 3s over contesting defenders but also to diversify his offensive game around the rim. He’s also a deceptively good ball handler and very good passer, all of which will be utilized in Michigan’s offensive system. The bottom line is that it was clear he was still trending up, so he jumped 13 spots.
Michigan nearly tripled everyone except Auburn. Ohio State chipped in 232.67, Michigan State 126.81, Penn State 48.14. Yes, the Nittany Lions were beat out by Georgetown, Case Western, and NYU on a college football blog—it's the Zack Mills era again. As your reward Orson will produce fawning Michigan content, but thanks to the parsimony of the rest of the league we came up only halfway to the 50k tattoo level. Orson has a special message for everyone, as well:
Dear MGoBlog commentariat.
I would like to thank you, the Michigan fanbase, alums, and assorted daywalking saints of the Great Mitten State, for both your generosity and enthusiasm in taking part in the EDSBS Charity Drive and for helping us raise $25,000 for the cause of refugee resettlement. We at EDSBS are fond of harumphing in the direction of your Michigan Man-ness in the name of gentle mockery, but this one is from the heart to Michigan Men and Women who make the concept so much more than a hollow saying. HARUMPH! from the bottom of our gin-soaked heart, MGoBlog.
We love you, and we thank you. Now that we're all awkwardly emotional, um [XKCD CARTOON OR MUPPETS GO HERE. ]
Orson asked what I'd like to see as he temporarily re-skins EDSBS and I was like "Tim Biakabutuka but we should ask the internet," so throw your ideas for anything below this post.
This Week In "I Forgot About This Draft." I threw a bunch of links in a post with the intent of getting to them later and totally forgot about them, thus robbing you of my opinion on Brady Hoke's contract*, some memories of Vada Murray, one with an embarrassing URL, and Chad Ford saying "a number of NBA scouts($)" believe Darius Morris needs to return to school. Also this, the most Michigan sign ever:
The Michigan Difference is saving refugees while making wikipedia jokes.
*[Why is Hoke's buyout double Rodriguez's? What's the benefit of locking yourself in like that when your man would "walk to Ann Arbor"? Like… in the unlikely event Hoke wins three games the next three years wouldn't you want to move on to the next guy?]
Yes, sir, anything you want me to convert to sir. Buried towards the end of a lengthy profile of 6'6", 330 pound weightlifting champ and OL walk-on Gary Yerden is this biographical tidbit:
Yerden is a Jehovah's Witness….
…one who gets results, no doubt.
Sundry basketball recruiting bits.UMHoops hit up last weekend's Pitt AAU tournament and came back with scouting reports and seven minutes of Glen Robinson III video. (Nick Stauskas was supposed to attend but got sick, leaving Robinson the featured attraction.) The scouting video reveals many, many dunks but not a whole lot of play in a structured halfcourt offense—such is the nature of AAU.
It's apparent that Robinson will instantly be Michigan's best athlete when he arrives. Dude can get up. His shooting is more of a question. He's got a nice-looking stroke but started that tournament with some bricks worthy of Brent Petway. He did warm up late.
As for the class of 2011, Max Preps has put out their final top 100. It features Burke and Brundidge in their usual slots between 60 and 80 (in this edition Brundidge is 62, Burke 80—the usual, one most Michigan fans with an opinion believe is backwards), and then here's a surprise:
That would make Bielfeldt about as big of a prospect as Matt Vogrich, who showed up 100th on Scout's list because he was "the best shooter in the country" but didn't make any other. The Maxpreps list says it is a "composite" based both on high school production and college potential, the former of which helped the ultra-productive Bielfeldt.
So… I'll take a Vogrich-level 6'9" PF. Michigan didn't have a ton of irons in the fire for 2012 anyway and if Morris jets before he's a senior they'll still have an open scholarship for SIM BHULLAR(!).
Notre Dame series not so permanent. Remember when Michigan and Notre Dame agreed to play for 30 straight years? Not so much. We know they're taking a break in 2018 and 2019 and now David Brandon is creating the future in a way that might not include the Irish:
"I have to have seven home games a year. If you think about a nine-game Big Ten schedule, there will be one year I have four home games and one year I have five. In the year that I have four, I have to play every one of my non-conference games at home, so I can't be in a world where I have four Big Ten home games and I'm supposed to play Notre Dame (in South Bend). I can't live in that world. Those are the kinds of issues I have to deal with."
Let's ignore David Brandon speaking like he's the Queen of England for a second: a nine game conference schedule means the ND/OSU/Nebraska home-home-home thing might come to a head. It's possible that Michigan gets their way and won't have to change their ND schedule—the conference has a motivation to protect a rivalry game TV apparently loves because for insane reasons they get 11/12ths of the revenue—but if they do it's doubtful the series continues unless ND is willing to have UM and USC be home or away at the same time. They might since they tend to have another marquee opponent regularly and the Michigan game is important for their TV contract (which they don't have to share).
Ramgod shamgod. Add "mascot" to the list of things associated with OH OL Kyle Dodson that are epic:
I feel molested just looking at that thing. It's a Tom of Finland Thundercat, and it wants to sexy wrestle me.
Etc.:Kenpom adds coaching resumes. Now I don't have to thumb through each page to confirm last year's Michigan D was the best Beilein has fielded in a BCS conference. Zach Travis's spring game post is bullish on caveats before getting into opinions. Forward Thinking on Kaleb Ringer.
4/7/2011 – Michigan 1, North Dakota 0 – 29-10-4, national championship berth
[Ed-M: M 2, NoDak 0 if you count the empty-netter but it felt like 1-0]
42:40: The first time I looked at the clock. You'll note this is still in the first period. At this point I was a bit uncomfortable with the way things were tilted and wanted them to get to the locker room to regroup so they could get back on the relatively even footing it seemed they'd grasped. I mean, North Dakota seemed better but there was a bit in there where this looked like a plausible hockey game.
40:59: Ref gives Michigan embellishment call as player tries to hop around defender to grab the puck. Furious.
40:00: Exhale. Pop on twitter to complain about Rust's elbowing call. Think back to the 2003 Yost regional final when Mark Mink turned a harmless shorthanded CC turnover behind their own net to a wrap-around goal. Remember shouting "you haven't done anything all year but I FORGIVE YOU" at Mink. Half wince at persistent complaints about amount of playing time handed over to Ben Winnett over the years, half take credit for goal since universe tends to say "oh YEAH" at blog assertions.
39:30: This isn't going well. Already.
36:55: Derek DeBlois is headed off the ice when the puck approaches the bench; he hesitates for a second, looks like he's going to play it, and then continues. They call too many men.
34:55: Michigan kills another power play without really letting North Dakota get set up. That's their third; at no point has UND looked dangerous.
35:00: Still not going well at all.
33:03: Ref fails to call a matching minor on a Sioux slash. Power play.
29:50-ish. Hunwick robs Chay Genoway as he plunges into the slot, Eric Werner-style. He receives a cross-slot pass. A pass that goes from one prime shooting area from another is completed and Hunwick makes the save with his body. He's outside the crease as he does this.
29:05: The point at which I look at the clock and say "over half this period is gone" with sudden relief and realize I have been looking at this hockey game as the world's longest penalty kill since the 42:40 mark. I admit this to myself now. We are going to look like Wayne State against Colorado College the night before Mink scores the goal that forgives all: lined up on the blue line like men being executed for treason.
25:00-ish: Gregoire turns Langlais and comes swooping in on net right-to-left. He's on his forehand and has the entire net; Hunwick slides with him and stones him.
24:12: Hunwick drinks water. A friend who sits in the end zones at Yost told me that Hunwick is finicky about his water. Whenever a ref comes by to drink some his body language reads "why do you have to be like that?"
20:00: Exhale. Type "shitshitshitshitshitshitshit" into twitter because at this point analysis is impossible. I'm pretty sure Clare isn't playing much and there have been points when the fourth line has gotten trapped in its own end against the Frattin line that I can remember now but it's fight or flight.
18:00: Ten percent.
16:00: Twenty percent.
15:51: Frattin plays in on Malone as Glendening gets beat around the corner. Hunwick goes for a poke check and gets it; I realize this about five seconds later since the animal terror had been focused on the area behind Hunwick where the puck would pop out as the inevitable, devastating five-hole goal was scored.
I think about how I've seen this story before.
In 2004 Boston College was bombing Al Montoya but Michigan was hanging on to a one-goal lead thanks to goals from Mike Brown and Andy Burns—basically Winnett, except Burns was a defenseman scoring his first of the year. After a hectic nine-minute stretch without whistles in which Michigan finally started playing BC even, Michigan gave up a goal off an offensive zone faceoff. Whole self deflated, etc. BC won in overtime; shots ended up 42-15 BC.
12:33: I am being hunted. A shadow passes to my right as I scurry, tiny legs whirring through wildflowers. The shadow is getting larger.
10:01: AAAAAIIGH FRATTIN—HUNWICK!
I have no idea where the puck is but I don't care because it's not in the net. Air Force did this to us. God, we were good that year.
When I came home my then girlfriend had someone over. I said nothing, went into the bedroom, and closed the door. She silently brought me a glass and some whiskey, and I thought she was as wonderful as anything could be in a universe of total blackness.
9:32: Nothing much is happening righ—DON'T EVEN THINK THAT
8:50: Merrill holding call. This is all my fault.
6:50: Merrill comes out of the box without North Dakota getting much more than a point shot, but Michigan gets stuck in their end just as the penalty expires and is clearly gassed. I remember a game against Maine in which Michigan was down to five defensemen, one of whom was a walk-on, but not like Hunwick is a walk-on. Like a walk-on walk-on. They mostly played four guys. Mike Komisarek was a giant, a future pro who was unbelievably good, but by the end of the game he could barely move, and Maine put the Comrie era to bed.
The puck slides to the blue line, but not out. The linesman doesn't see it that way. Good linesman. I take back everything bad I've ever said about offsides.
5:00: Seventy five percent.
4:00: Now counting in minute increments. At 3:14 I decide there are three minutes left. I hate that 2:37 is still three minutes. 2:16: two minutes. Kill one power play. Come on.
1:13: Goalie gone. "Get it out," someone screams. The puck does not get out.
57.5: A pass slithers out from behind the net and manages to avoid the mess of sticks and skates camped out there. This memory does not require a refresher from wikipedia because it's terrifyingly recent: UMD just scored into a wide-open net against Notre Dame on this exact same pass. Hagelin throws himself at the shot and blocks it. The puck turns heel and ends up right back on Trupp's stick. He walks into the slot and lets it loose; Pateryn has thrown himself at this one and the puck deflects into the corner. It's thrown back out into the same spot on the ice, where Trupp waits; Hagelin has recovered and chucks the puck into the other corner.
44:1: UND recovers and throws a couple passes around the perimeter. The second one is one-timed; Hagelin is again there. He blocks it. Puck turns back into an American hero by somehow lying directly at Hagelin's feet after the block. He's attacked by the defenseman who just fired it; Hagelin evades him; Michigan breaks to center ice three on two; Hagelin passes it over to Caporusso as another Sioux player comes up to stop him; Louie does the same when the last remaining defender approaches him at the blue line; Scooter—of course it is Scooter—slides the puck into the empty net.
Someone tries to shake my hand or something and is hugged.
I didn't want to lead the post with this but there was quality work done on the board last night, most of it inspired by this guy:
[click for big]
Usually bird-flipping maniacs don't look like accountants. Our previous experience tends more towards lawyers:
Two things to note:
Louie Caporusso giving him the bird right back—I didn't even know you could do that in a hockey glove.
See the guy in the white giving a death stare that moves from Scooter to the bird-flipper? Yeah, if you watch the Winnett goal that guy flips off Winnett. North Dakota fans: classy.
Complete this photoshop espectacularrrrr.
Hell Yes Bullets
Random guys who played well unexpectedly. Luke Moffat had as much of a game as you can have as a third/fourth liner in a game where you're pinned in your own end most of the time. Melrose was all about Rust, and with reason. Moffie was not exploited—he went with Frattin in the first period and tied up his stick, turning what looked like it was going to be a dangerous chance into a weak shot Hunwick had no problem with.
Rust. RUST. I think we're getting a sense of just how silently good he is. Michigan's late-season renaissance has come with Rust logging huge minutes against top lines and it doesn't seem to matter who's on his wing. A win tomorrow makes Shawn Hunwick a legend and it should probably make Rust one too—Schwartz, Frattin, and UNO's big guns have little to show in three nerve-wracking games. If UMD says the same tomorrow he instantly becomes the most underrated Michigan player in the last decade.
Ref complaint. Seriously, the reason people say "keep your head up" is so you can get hit in the head with someone's shoulder, and calling a charge on Michigan after an obvious charge on North Dakota makes me want to die, not to mention a trip on the goalie late in the game that was totally ignored. Yost Built heard it was Scott Hansen from HE and immediately said "that's the guy who waved off the Ryznar goal in Buffalo"—so, yeah, basically any time Michigan gets a HE crew they will have screwed Michigan at some point in the past.
ESPN non-complaint. Melrose was all about North Dakota last night and people were all about ripping Melrose, but he was right. This was a "sometimes the best team doesn't win situation" and it was obvious on the ice. Kudos to Michigan for doing what they needed to but asking Melrose not to marvel at the Sioux is asking him to turn a blind eye to reality. Red agrees:
“I’ll tell you, they’ve got to be stunned,” Berenson said. “I know we were in '97. We were stunned. There’s so much momentum built up in your season. They rolled through the season, they rolled through their playoffs, they rolled their playoffs, they rolled through the first regional.
“But they’re stunned. They can’t believe it. They’re going to second guess themselves.”
Michigan just beat '97 Michigan. That team was stacked, and saying so doesn't make you a bad dude.
Also, I love Gary Thorn so much.
Gurrrrrgh. Someone retweeted Lee Moffie apologizing for nailing some dude in the crowd:
didn't you feel like that when Andrew Volkening shut us out 2-0, despite the Wolverines outshooting Air Force 43-13? Didn't you feel like that when Ryan Miller beat us 1-0 in a game that we outshot Michigan State by a 31-13 count?
This is how it feels to have the goalie that makes opposing fans do...well...that.
Sioux fans are going to think about this game--this season--for the next decade as the one that got away. This is going to be their 1997. The year their team was near unbeatable during the year, actually unbeatable for the 2 1/2 months heading into the tournament, and that damn tiny walk-on goalie slammed the door on them.
Record. 32-8-3, 21-6-1 WCHA. Yeeeeaaaargh. NoDak's dominating run through the WCHA ended in regular season and playoff championships and the underlying numbers are almost more impressive. The Sioux had a +50(!) goal differential in 28 conference games and were +86(!) overall.
North Dakota hasn't lost since January 28th and hasn't even tied since February 18th. In their last 15 games they are 14-0-1 and most of those games have been hammerings. A large chunk of that is due to playing Michigan Tech four times (total goals: 28-4) in a weak section of their schedule, but like holy balls. Two weeks ago they were the sole one seed to come out of the regionals and they did it without drama, annihilating RPI 6-0 and Denver 6-1.
They are an easy favorite to win the title, but Michigan has weighted plinko on their side this time.
Previous meetings. None. How about…
Common opponents. Chart? Chart.
That's less alarming than it could have been. UND is 9-4-1 with a +8 GD. Michigan is 8-3-1 with a +9 GD. Schedule strength is crose enough. These are all good opponents (and Minnesota), suggesting that maybe when it comes to the top of the schedule the teams perform similarly. Too bad that suggestion gets way less powerful when you throw in games versus teams like Miami and Denver in.
Matt Frattin is so tired of having to do this every game
Dangermen. Like UNO, North Dakota has three solid lines of scorers. Like Colorado College, the top line is lethal. This is not a very good combination if you are going up against them. Hobey lock Matt Frattin leads the nation in goals with 36 and added 24 assists. Who's up for queefcore-scored highlights? You are:
Meanwhile, Jason Gregoire missed around a dozen games and still checks in with 25-18-43. Corban Knight, Evan Trupp, Danny Kristo and Brad Malone are all essentially PPG scorers, and then there's Brett Hextall (yes that Hextall) and his 13-16-29. If you ordered the rosters on a PPG basis you'd run through two full lines of Sioux before reaching the second Wolverine*.
These guys come in all shapes and sizes. Malone is a prototypical power forward with 108 penalty minutes who does most of his work in and around the crease; Trupp is one of those little buggers listed at 5'9". Mostly they're big, though. Rare is the North Dakota player under six foot and most are heavy for hockey players. They score lots, too.
*[This is a tiny bit pessimistic since Gregoire and Kristo both missed a big chunk of the season, allowing some of the other guys more time in high leverage situations (read: power play) to put up points. But not very.]
Defense and goalie and whatnot. After a couple of opponents whose goalies were less statistically impressive than Shawn Hunwick they run up against one for whom that is emphatically not the case. Sophomore Aaron Dell is in the top ten in save percentage with a .924. Hunwick's .922 is hot on his heels, FWIW, but it was nice going up against a couple of tourney teams and thinking "it's more likely their guy implodes than ours."
As for the defense, they are Chay Genoway, Jake Marto and huge. Geonway is basically Chad Langlais surrounded by snipers, a 5'9"—four FAKES out of five, there—defenseman able with the puck. He's got 31 assists on the season, good for eighth nationally. Marto is their version of Merrill. He's around 6'0", has 8-11-19 (five of those even strength), and took just three minor penalties the whole year. The other four guys are all at least 6'2" with freshman Derek Forbort topping out a 6'5". They're not offensive threats, but they don't have to be.
Special teams. Your power plays per game:
PP For / G
PP Ag / G
Despite a well-deservedrep for beingdicks, North Dakota doesn't rack up penalty minutes quite like Red's old teams that had so much talent they didn't have to care. They do take more than their share of minors but kill 86% of them—fifth—and have eleven shorties. Since they've only given up 28 PPGs… yeah, they do not care about going to the box.
That talent allows them to draw a ton of penalties—they are second nationally in opportunities behind only Colorado College. Their power play is very, very good, too. It is just ahead of CC's at 23.3%, so if you thought watching the Schwartzes ping-pong the puck around was terrifying you're in for more of the same when Michigan is shorthanded.
Michigan remains mediocre in both phases but the penalty kill has dragged itself up from the mid-30s to 22nd in recent weeks.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
No pressure, and by no pressure we mean turn this coal into a diamond or we kill your dog
Burlon readiness check: harsh. Michigan's main advantage relative to 90% of college hockey is the ability to throw out any defense pairing against a top line and have confidence they will not get bombed. That was not the case last weekend when Kevin Clare was forced into the lineup by Brandon Burlon's allergic reaction; in the two weeks since Burlon has regained most of the weight he dramatically lost* and has been practicing on the regular. Given how leery Red was of putting Clare out even against CC's mediocre-at-best second and third lines, there's no chance he doesn't go with Burlon even if he's not saying so publicly.
So… how are you feeling, Brandon? Strong and good? Yes? Ready to live up to Red's declaration it's like "nothing ever happened"? We ask because there's no shallow end here. If anyone's going to be sheltered it will be Lee Moffie and even he is going to have a hard time escaping some very dangerous players. Burlon is going to have to do heavy lifting right away. If he's trying to check Malone in the crease it might not go so well.
*[80% of that was water but whateva.]
Enjoy your front-row seats, fourth line. I think we might see Moffatt on the power play some and Michigan will throw them out there every once in a while, but the fourth line is going to be vapor.
Scooter! Vaughn's moment of brilliance ended up being decisive and it will take something like it to take what looks like a loss and turn it into a win. Maybe from Scooter, maybe from someone else, but scrappy gritty Novakgoals aren't going to get it done against North Dakota. There might be some, but without someone stepping up and saying "Hobey this, Frattin" the prognosis is grim. Another breakaway that ends without even the threat of a goal would not be so good.
Of course, Michigan could just let Moffie shoot from the point at every opportunity and watch it pinball around, catch the post, and deflect in. That works too.
Carl/Rust. Michigan's other big advantage is they can ice a truly shut-down checking line and back that up with Carl Hagelin. I think they can keep it relatively even when those guys are out there—the problem is going to be the third line—and that should keep it within the range where bouncing pucks matter. Shut North Dakota down as long as possible, put something past Dell, and watch the pressure ratchet up until it shatters glass.
STAY OUT OF THE BOX. Stay out of the box. No box. Srs.
Steal it. Hunwick has done it before this year and while my past self is inventing a time machine just so he can show up right after I type this to slap some sense into me, most win scenarios involve Hunwick setting up halfway to the blue line and stopping every first shot and then doing some crazy stuff you can't even believe is happening.
Believe in the plinko. The NCAA tournament is stupid and unfair and a disaster and this year that's the way we like it.
“[The Fighting Sioux] roll three pretty strong lines, so I think their depth is their biggest strength,” said Blais, who guided North Dakota to two national championships during his 10-year tenure from 1994 to 2004. “But they might be more talented [than Michigan] because of players like Frattin and Genoway that can make a difference in a game.”
Profile of Brendan Morrison in the Daily: 2400 words. No pictures by "Danger Nesbitt" this time but some archived stuff from the Daily in a slide show.
They're both good pieces but since the length and care taken in the Daily article is no exception—this happens like all the time—it's a good example of why it seems like the best sports section covering Michigan, period. The students are all trying to get clips that will get them jobs that will probably never let them write anything as good as the thing they did when they were writing to impress potential employers, because who has the money for that? Also the Daily kids obviously care. That's not something you can say about everyone. Or even most people. Also also, the Daily pieces seem specifically written for the web what with their multimedia aspects and newshole-crippling length.
7) They have the #2 offense and the #3 defense in the country. That ranks them second in scoring margin (+2.00 goals per game) behind only Yale, which doesn't really count since we all know the ECAC sucks.