Things other than aigh Will Campbell that happened over the break.
Hockey won the GLI.
Yay, divers alarums and all that but unlike most years, when a GLI win would entail a victory over at least one tourney-bound opponent, Michigan beat the last place team in the WCHA and the last place team in the CCHA. It's good they did so, and did so in dominating fashion, but this was a must-win situation for a team currently flirting with missing the tourney more than a big step forward.
Some items on the State game (yrs truly was sleeping in a car during the Tech game):
This is the third game I've seen Michigan play State and it's still stunning just how bad they are. There were three separate shifts where State got stuck in its own end for a minute and a half against Ciraulo, Glendening, and Fardig. The fourth line. The fourth line when two of Michigan's forwards are at the WJC. It's not surprising that Lerg faced more than 100 shots on the weekend.
Could this be it for Comley? He's two years removed from a national championship, which no matter how fluky it was remains a national championship. On the other hand, State is beyond terrible. Their recruiting must have fallen off a cliff, though it's hard to tell in college hockey. They did bring in a first-round draft pick in Daultan Leveille this year (and Leveille is third on the team with… eight points) but Leveille was from the lightly-scouted and lightly-recruited GOJHL, a junior B league a level below the BCHL or OPJHL. While this is a triumph of scouting for State to get on this kid early, it's not exactly a battle won against Michigan, North Dakota, etc etc etc. Just look at the NTDP recruiting: Michigan has eight guys coming in over the next two years and State has two, one of whom is the backup to M recruit Jeff Campbell and the other is Austin Czarnik, the 5'8" cousin of Robbie. Czarnik's doing well this year (8-6-14, tied for 3rd on the team in scoring) but Michigan has Merrill, Moffatt, Jacob Fallon, and Kevin Clare plus Campbell lined up from that year's team.
Comley's old and seems to be flagging; State should probably give him the heave-ho this year or things could seriously slide.
Meanwhile, on Michigan's side of things: If you're looking for a breakout player of the second half it's got to be Brandon Burlon. He was slowed by an ankle injury early, then struggled a bit with rust; of late he's been doing a lot of things that you have to be ridiculously talented to do. In the State game he leapt up into the slot, pounced on a loose puck, and effortlessly labeled one top corner to force a good glove save out of Lerg. In the previous two State games he had a sick end-to-end rush goal and a critical assist when he leapt into the play, created a two on one, and set up an easy, tying tap-in for Hagelin.
Burlon doesn't have Jack Johnson's size or hatred of all living things on skates, but he might have something approximating his puck skills. He's going to blow up in the second half of the season.
Runner-up in this category: Robbie Czarnik, who's either Milan Gajic or Kevin Porter at this point. Both got, and flubbed, a zillion chances as underclassmen. Porter blossomed into the Hobey winner and a surefire NHLer; Gajic squeezed his stick into sawdust and left Michigan the ultimate tease of a hockey player. For Czarnik's sake and mine I hope the pucks start going in.
Louie? I'm still confused about Louie Caporusso, an obviously good hockey player who seemingly has no business leading the nation in goals by four. He's small. He doesn't have the ridiculous dangle of a Hensick or Comrie, nor does he have the ability to teleport from one end of the ice to the other like Tambellini or Cogliano, nor does he have Tambellini's laser wrist shot. He seems pretty good at all these things, just not great. And yet: 18 goals, and a crazy PPG mark as a freshman that was obscured by an injury that held him out a third of the season.
The nearest thing I can figure is that Caporusso is some sort of crazy anticipatory genius who finds open spots on the ice and uses his extremely accurate shot to make the best of things when the puck comes to him. His latest goal (above) against Michigan State, wherein he schooled Leopold Buttery Stotch and came in on Lerg, was perhaps the best example of this to date: Caporusso was travelling at high speed about two inches from Lerg and managed to roof the puck. The angle involved was very narrow. Maybe Caporusso has that Ryan Smyth ability to put himself in open spots and put pucks exactly where he wants them? I will make it my mission to find this out.
Scooter. Scratched with the return of Kampfer. Harsh, man… I thought surely it would be Pateryn or Llewellyn—who is taking a lot of foolish penalties—in the suit. Scooter did make a couple critical errors in the State game at Munn (he was the guy who pinched and yielded the two-on-one that led to State's first goal in that game), I guess. Competition for playing time on D is going to be brutal for the remainder of the season.
Hogan. I guess he's the man, man. I didn't think he was playing any better than Sauer when the two platooned, and the stats back that up. But he's clearly not playing any worse, and when you have these two guys as your options…
- Guy with GAA around 2.0 and save percentage around .910 with no history in NCAA tournament
- Guy with GAA around 2.0 and save percentage around .910 with two consecutive season-killing meltdowns
… you should go with the devil you don't know. No offense to Sauer but I hope we don't see him more than a few times the rest of the year, as that will mean Hogan has continued to play at a high level.
Miami. The upcoming games against Miami—this is hockey, wherein Miami is most definitely not Fake Miami—are the bar-none biggest of the year. Return the sweep Miami inflicted at Goggin and Michigan leaps back into the CCHA race* and gives themselves a significant margin of error as far as making the tourney goes. Get swept again and it will be tooth and nail for a first-round bye in the CCHA playoffs and a tourney bid. Split and eh.
January 9th and 10th: big.
*(Five points back with two games in hand, though Notre Dame remains way far ahead and Michigan would almost definitely have to sweep them in a home-and-home at the end of January to have any chance of winning the league. In all likelihood the regular season title is gone and Michigan is fighting for a first-round bye and secure tourney bid the rest of the way, but sweep the #1 and #2 teams in the country and we're in it, yo!)