CSKA Ann Arbor

CSKA Ann Arbor

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on April 12th, 2016 at 11:01 AM

[Sherman/MGoBlog]

Yesterday I was thumbing through a notebook I use for interview prep and found a projected line chart I wrote last summer for the 2015-16 hockey season. It had Tyler Motte, JT Compher, and Alex Kile on the first line; I had Kyle Connor on the second. I chortled under my breath and moved on. It was only in doing research for this piece that I rediscovered how long- two months(!)- the lines were arranged as such. It's easy to forget that Michigan started their season without Connor, Compher, and Motte together, with the trio we'll affectionately remember as the CCM line not seeing game action until the beginning of December.

Connor, Compher, and Motte launched a four-month-long assault on the Big Ten and the Michigan record books that produced numbers that will be tough to come across in the near future. They also produced the kind of moments that become seared into your sports consciousness; sports memories tend to be grounded in moments, not the chronology of events. I still remember walking up State Street after some game during the 2007-08 season and marveling at Kolarik and Porter the whole way back. I don't remember which game, but I remember exactly what it felt like to be a witness to something special. I liked Michigan hockey before 2007-08, but the credit for why I care enough to want to break down every goal scored over the course of every season falls squarely on Kevin Porter and Chad Kolarik's shoulders.

That feeling was back this year. For the first time in at least eight season we weren't just watching great players play, we were watching players play perfectly off of each other and accomplish things that caused that voice in the back of your mind to pick up decibels until it's practically screaming at you, reminding you that this is something to hold on to, something that doesn't happen every season.

The numbers give context to the memories: Connor led the nation in scoring and goals, Compher finished second in scoring nationally and led the country in assists, and Motte finished fourth in scoring nationally. Motte scored a goal in 12 straight games, a Berenson-era record; Connor ended the season with a 27-game point streak, another Berenson-era record. Connor scored more goals than any other freshman in Michigan history while finishing second in all-time freshman points. Compher had the second most assists of any junior in Michigan history. Compher, Connor, and Motte were three of the top 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker, which is just the third time in the award's history that one school has placed three players in the top 10. (Michigan also did it in 1994, when Steve Shields, Brian Wiseman, and David Oliver were finalists.)

Michigan's roster next year will look different, and it's not just because it's missing two guys (and possibly a third) who scored in droves. The way they played together is what set the CCM line apart. It's something that you don't see in hockey very often these days; creativity and communication can create beautiful plays, but the system a player is a part of has to allow the player to take some liberties for that to transpire. Michigan's system is well suited for that, and the results speak volumes not just about the system but about the way the abilities of three players blended to create a scoring threat that was nearly unstoppable.

Igor Larionov wrote a piece for The Players' Tribune that I've seen passed around NHL circles again recently, and the crux of his argument is that players are told to over-simplify their game at too early an age in order to eliminate risk. In his mind, this stifles creativity and leaves only a handful of players in the NHL who think the game three or four moves ahead and then act on those suppositions. In his words:

Our philosophy was about puck control, improvisation, and constant movement. Now, the game is all about “north-south,” chip-and-chase. We moved side-to-side and swooped around the ice looking for open spaces. A backward pass was just as good as a forward pass. You didn’t have to see your linemate. You could smell him. Honestly, we probably could have played blind.

Michigan had three boundlessly creative players on the same line. Connor's accuracy and quick release made him the perfect finisher, always open thanks to his linemates' ability to maintain possession and positioning near the net. Compher had some of the finest olfaction of any Michigan skater I've seen, seemingly throwing the puck around blindly only to put it precisely on the tape of his teammate's stick. Motte could turn and lift a puck from a sharp angle in such a way that the puck seemed to explode off his blade; he was the perfect netfront presence.

With a few exceptions, these three showed that you can be responsible defensively while also being creative offensively, and in the process they crafted moments that transcended box scores. To borrow from Red Berenson by way of Dickie Moore, you can't buy that kind of fun.

[After THE JUMP: I empty out my "CCM line" gif folder]

Exit Tyler Motte

Exit Tyler Motte

Submitted by Brian on April 6th, 2016 at 1:03 PM

16712389159_b66c6823df_z

[Paul Sherman]

The band, it is no longer together:

That's particularly bad since Motte was widely regarded as the least likely CCM line member to leave. Berenson did tell The Michigan Insider that he was "betting" on a Compher return, but Compher and Motte have been joined at the hip for years now—this news could impact his status.

Motte's lightning release and mind-meld with Compher led to a point explosion as a junior. Last year he recorded a 32-24-56 line in 38 games. He banged home the OT winner against Notre Dame in the tournament. He'll be acutely missed on next year's team.

Goal-by-Goal Analysis: Notre Dame

Goal-by-Goal Analysis: Notre Dame

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on March 29th, 2016 at 10:23 AM

NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional Semifinal

Friday, March 25, 2016

Michigan 3, Notre Dame 2 (OT)

1st period

SELMAN GOAL, MICHIGAN

UM 1 ND 0 EV 10:31 Assists: Kile & Downing

Nieves wins the draw back to Downing. The wingers go in motion off the draw, with Kile going from right to left. This picks up the attention of the defender in front of the net, who takes a few steps with him. Meanwhile, Selman is skating through the faceoff circle, now left unoccupied thanks to the defender being drawn out toward Downing.

m nd 1-1

Two defenders are watching Kile as he receives the pass from Downing. Nieves has locked up the defender nearest Selman in the high slot; he did so immediately off the draw, and this is just where they ended up. Selman is blitheringly open, though ND goaltender Cal Petersen is square to Kile. Selman's shot catches him off guard, and he isn't able to move across and re-square before the puck's behind him.

m nd 1-2

[You already know the OT winner is after THE JUMP why have you not clicked yet]

This Week's Obssession: The Greatest Michigan Forward Since…

This Week's Obssession: The Greatest Michigan Forward Since…

Submitted by Seth on March 23rd, 2016 at 2:15 PM

The Question: How does Kyle Connor compare vs. the Michigan forwards you've seen?

24378256541_7074cd494d_b

Bill Rapai/MGoBlog

The Responses:

David: So, my first year of season tickets at Yost was my junior year in college, 05-06. I vaguely watched Michigan hockey in the previous years before, but I made a concerted effort to follow the team, game-by-game, during that 05-06 campaign. I went to a couple of games (and watched a few more on tv) during my first couple years and I remember them losing to BC in '04 and the Colorado College Collapse in '05, but my serious Michigan Hockey fandom began the following season. I just looked up a ton of stats from that 04-05 team and they scored A TON. Eight skaters had double digit goals and thirteen (!!) had 20+ points. Unfortunately, I'll have to let our resident old dudes talk about Tambellini, Hilbert, and Cammalleri.

From what I've seen, I think Connor has to be the best. Not only does his pedigree match up (torched the USHL), but his exquisite skill (see the GTG on Saturday) and sheer volume of production -69 points in only 36 games- exceed anyone else in the last decade (Hensick took 41 games to get 69 points).

My quick Top 5:

5. Carl Hagelin. Our favorite Swede never quite got to 20 goals and only once to 50 points. Hagelin was a terrific skater, a terror on the PK, and maybe the fastest I've seen at Yost. Just never hit Elite in terms of production. He's carving out a nice NHL career, though.

[After the JUMP: Comrie, Cam, Ort, Hagelin, Larkin, Porter, Hensick, Tambo…?]

Goal-by-Goal Analysis: Big Ten Tournament Final

Goal-by-Goal Analysis: Big Ten Tournament Final

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on March 22nd, 2016 at 2:59 PM

Saturday, March 19, 2016

#20 Minnesota 3, #7 Michigan 5

1st period

MOTTE GOAL, MICHIGAN

MINN 0 MICH 1 PPG 09:33 Assists: Connor & Werenski

Werenski moves the puck to Connor as the rest of Michigan's power play works to establish position.

bttf 1-1

Connor holds the puck and the defenders all look like they're infested with lice, moving and twitching and adjusting and readjusting while Connor just holds and holds and holds a little longer. The defenders, especially the one nearest Connor in the faceoff circle, seem very worried about the cross-ice one timer to the opposite wing.

bttf 1-2

That works to Michigan's advantage, as everybody just forgot about Motte in front of the net. Connor passes and Motte spins in a circle and shoots. Schierhorn stops the first shot, but Motte flips his own rebound into the top corner; he regularly puts the puck top shelf from angles that seem like it should be impossible to lift the puck.

bttf 1-3

2nd period

COMPHER GOAL, MICHIGAN

MINN 0 MICH 2 PPG 01:31 Assists: Werenski & Connor

Werenski's pass for Connor hops over his stick and goes to the corner, but the puck's eventually reversed back to Werenski. He sees how bunched up and shifted the defense is and how open Compher is on the other side of the ice and makes the easy pass.

bttf 2-1

When Compher receives the pass he has a wide open half of the net, but he can't settle it and doesn't regain control until where he is in the screen shot below. He throws a backhander on net that Schierhorn stops.

bttf 2-2

Compher manages to stop quickly and chop at the puck, which is sitting in front of Schierhorn's pad. One of Compher's hacks lifts the puck up enough to get over his pad.

bttf 2-3

[After THE JUMP: a comeback, an undressing, a tournament championship]

Goal-by-Goal Analysis: Minnesota- Part 2

Goal-by-Goal Analysis: Minnesota- Part 2

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on March 1st, 2016 at 4:59 PM

Friday, February 26, 2016

#20 Minnesota 3, #6 Michigan 2 (OT)

1st period

MARODY GOAL, MICHIGAN

MINN 0 MICH 1 EV 07:18 Assists: Selman

Nieves dumps the puck in so Michigan can change, but Dancs heads in to forecheck. He takes away the passing lane behind the net, so Seeler carries it up the boards and passes across for Glover.

min sat 1-1

Glover decides he’s going to spring someone with a stretch pass before he looks where he’s passing; he doesn’t see that Selman’s entering the zone through the same lane he plans to use.

min sat 1-2

Glover digs in to try and start skating backward, and Selman uses that gap to his advantage, passing it through Glover’s legs and giving Marody a one-on-one with Schierhorn.

min sat 1-3

Marody pulls the puck to his backhand and leaves it there long enough to get Schierhorn to hit the ice. He doesn’t seal the ice, but there’s not enough of a gap to entice Marody to shoot.

min sat 1-4

Marody instead pulls the puck around Schierhorn, who makes a valiant effort to poke-check the puck away that barely misses.

min sat 1-5

[After THE JUMP: Tyler Motte’s signature shot, deflections, disappointment]

Goal-by-Goal Analysis: Ferris State

Goal-by-Goal Analysis: Ferris State

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on February 22nd, 2016 at 1:58 PM

Friday, February 19, 2016

#6 Michigan 5, Ferris State 2

1st period

MOTTE GOAL, MICHIGAN

UM 1 FSU 0 EV 05:48 Assists: De Jong & Compher

Michigan capitalizes on a Ferris State defensive-zone turnover as De Jong picks off a pass that’s flung up the boards.

fsu 1-1

De Jong settles the puck and sees Motte cutting to the middle of the ice. He threads a pass through a fraction of a second before the passing lane is cut off by the Ferris State skater near the blue line.

fsu 1-2

Motte gets the puck and surveys his options. With Connor in front of his defender and screening, and with the defender in front of him giving a big gap and getting ready to attempt to block a shot, Motte decides his best option is to take a stride and shoot.

fsu 1-3

Motte releases a shot through the defender’s legs, and the puck goes through the goaltender’s five-hole before he can butterfly. Connor sliding in front certainly helps, but so does having one of the quickest releases in the country.

fsu 1-4

[After THE JUMP: Some very gif-able goals]

Goal-by-Goal Analysis: Michigan State

Goal-by-Goal Analysis: Michigan State

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on February 9th, 2016 at 11:38 AM

Friday, February 5, 2016

#5 Michigan 2, Michigan State 3

1st period

No scoring

2nd period

Cox goal, Michigan State

UM 0 MSU 1 EV 10:41 Assists: penalty shot

I can’t remember GBGAing a penalty shot goal before, but it fits in with how strange a game this ended up being. Cox gets the puck in the neutral zone off a nice stretch pass that puts him behind two defenders, and while Werenski starts to close in he then does this.

msu 1-1

If you’re wondering why there was a penalty shot when the puck still ended up on net, read the third bullet below. (Also, though Racine had to make a save, the puck wasn’t shot; it rolls on net from the position pictured above.)

msu 1-2

It looks like Cox is going to shoot from his off foot, and Racine’s in good position to stop this.

msu 1-3

He then executes a really nice toe-drag to get the puck to his backhand. Racine has to get his leg pad down and shifts his weight to Cox’s left.

msu 1-4

Cox pulls it back across to his forehand; this gets Racine to his left, which opens up the five-hole long enough for Cox to get the shot he was looking for.

msu 1-5

[Things get better after THE JUMP]

Goal-by-Goal Analysis: Penn State

Goal-by-Goal Analysis: Penn State

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on February 2nd, 2016 at 1:00 PM

Thursday, January 28, 2016

#15 Penn State 4, #6 Michigan 7

1st period

MOTTE GOAL, MICHIGAN

PSU 0 UM 1 EV 08:55 Assists: Connor & Compher

Penn State tries to clear the zone and can’t; Compher picks the puck off, carries laterally along the blue line, and fires a long shot into the mess of people in front of the net. Connor and two PSU skaters get their blades on the puck at the same time, sending it airborne.

psu 1-1

Skoff doesn’t see this and has no idea where the puck is. His defensemen do, as they wave at it in an attempt to bat it aside as it falls into the crease. Compher charges the net and draws the attention of one defender, while Connor draws the attention of another. These two draw one defensemen away from the net; in the screen cap below the other (#11) is turning to pursue. All of the defenders appear to be more concerned with where Michigan’s skaters are located instead of where the puck is located. Motte, who’s in front of two defenders, see that the puck has rolled toward the far-side post and is close to Skoff’s leg pad.

psu 1-2

He launches himself in that direction, pushing the puck over the line in the process.

psu 1-3

Berger goal, Penn State

PSU 1 UM 1 EV 13:49 Assists: Varley & Marsh

At the end of GBGA last week, I wrote about how dangerous Penn State was when you let them cycle. They’re a puck possession team, and the clearest path to success for them would come from Michigan being unable to clear the puck out of their defensive zone.

That’s exactly what happened here, with Penn State maintaining possession for an extended period of time and working the puck up and down the boards. We start with Varley carrying the puck along the boards. He’s matched by Kile. The problematic piece of cycling is the confusion it can cause defensively; with guys skating in circles and weaving between opposing defenders, assignments can get lost.

That happens here, as Piazza shoves Berger and sticks with him for a second before drifting toward the top of the faceoff circle.

psu 2-1

Obviously I don’t know what was communicated on-ice, but my best guess is that Piazza thought he had switched with Nieves and Nieves didn’t know that. Varley shoots, Racine stops it, and the rebound ends up to his left, where an unchecked Berger awaits. Selman attempts to lock him up with his stick, but Berger’s able to backhand it past Racine.

psu 2-2

[After THE JUMP: Motte your average weekend (please don’t fire me)]

Goal-by-Goal Analysis: Ohio State- Part 2

Goal-by-Goal Analysis: Ohio State- Part 2

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on January 20th, 2016 at 2:09 PM

Previously: Part 1

Sunday, January 17, 2016

#6 Michigan 8, Ohio State 6

1st period

WARREN GOAL, MICHIGAN

UM 1 OSU 0 EV 01:45 Assists: Calderone & Martin

The puck rolls back to Martin off of a faceoff, and he calmly moves it down the boards when he sees a defender screaming toward him.

osu s 1-1

Calderone’s touch pass is so quick that he doesn’t have it on his stick long enough for that alone to justify a screen cap. Tomkins’ reaction, however, makes it worth drawing up, as he’s still standing and looking at Calderone when Warren’s about to shoot.

osu s 1-2

Warren’s already extended, the puck is halfway to the net, and Tomkins has yet to drop into his butterfly. He whiffs on this one, getting his pads extended after the shot’s in the net.

osu s 1-3

Joshua goal, Ohio State

UM 1 OSU 1 EV 09:17 Assists: Greco & Moser

Greco drives wide and shoots, but Cecconi smothers the shot. The puck ends up falling behind them, and Greco somehow manages to flip it in the air. It hits the top of the net and eventually ends up behind it.

osu s 2-1

Joshua turns and (accidentally?) knocks Werenski’s stick out of his hands; Werenski bends to retrieve it, while Joshua skates ahead, grabs the puck, and brings it to the side of the net for a wraparound attempt.

osu s 2-2

Racine is able to paddle the puck away, but he does so directly in front of him. That’s…not ideal. I mean, I understand the poke check, but smothering it would be nice.

osu s 2-3

Joshua reaches back about as far as humanly possible to gather the puck, and a split second later Cecconi and Kile’s blades come together to create a mini-wall in front of Racine. Somehow Joshua flips is over that and inside the post to Racine’s right. Hard for him to stop a point blank attempt where the guy’s unchecked.

osu s 2-4

[After THE JUMP: we’re terrible we’re great we’re terrible we’re great we’re terr]