The Catchup: Hockey

Submitted by Brian on December 29th, 2008 at 2:03 PM

Things other than aigh Will Campbell that happened over the break.

Hockey won the GLI.

gli-champs

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.

caporusso-roofs-it

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!)

Comments

Sparky79

December 29th, 2008 at 2:29 PM ^

Comley at NMU = Win national title, then team falls into sucktitude.

Comley at MSU = Win national title, then team falls into sucktitude.

Is Jeff Lerg sprawling on the ground or standing up? It's hard to tell. He's small.

Michigan Arrogance

December 29th, 2008 at 2:31 PM ^

"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."

yes... i don't get him either. certainly a good player, but not a top flight player in any single aspect of the game. except putting biscuits in baskets. burlon is turning out to be a ++ player, not the 'good for a FR/servicable' we expected.

with kampfer back, summer stayed on the blue line, yeah? so, maybe summers will stay back there, given the return of rust & pal after the WJT. we'll certainly need all the help we can get for the Miami series.

speaking of miami, what's up with them? i thought they had lost a bunch of guys to graduation but they reloaded pretty fast.

about state: they are, most likely, the worst team among the big 3 conferences. can't score, can't stop anyone from scoring. w/o lerg, they might be 2-18. off the top, only 3-4 teams are worse than they are (all in the ecac/smaller leagues). does state have the balls to fire comley 2 years after a title? lets hope not. ND has taken their place in the league, and i'm fine with that.

Homer

December 29th, 2008 at 2:33 PM ^

Your goalie comparison left out the fact Sauer made the NCAA all-regional team last year, and was likely the scond choice for MVP in Albany behind Porter. Of course, then came Denver. My hope was that Billy was going to continue the maturation process this year and keep playing well further into the tournament. That scenario is looking less likely now.

I'm perplexed by how the team can play so much better in front of Hogan, but there appears to be sufficient data to indicate that it's not just a statistical anomaly. I still think we need an on-his-game Sauer, along with team playing as if Hogan is in net, to make any noise in the tournament this year.

Wolverine In Exile

December 29th, 2008 at 2:46 PM ^

Comley is showing that he doesn't have the cajones to play anything other than goon hockey. And if you don't have all-world goalie play, you're screwed (see New Jersey, NHL). Michigan, ND, and Miami all play fast paced skill hockey well, so if you don't have an entire blueline corps of Scott Stevens-es and Derian Hatcher-s to make the dynamite go boom on incoming waves of forwards, eventually the skill is going to win out and you're going to be stuck playing Chicago Blackhawk hockey circa 2003-6 while the rest of your division is playing Red Wing puck possession or Philly Legion of Doom hockey and kicking the snot out of you. Maybe Comley could get away with this at Northern back in the 80's early 90's, but the NCAA hockey talent pool is MUCH deeper than it was then, and every top team has 2-3 legit NHL'ers on the roster. The thing I don't understand is how State isn't at least going 50% with UM on the NTDP kids and getting real top grade talent in. I mean wasn't Lerg a lightly regarded recruit that was supposed to back up Super Mario Goalie a couple years?

Re: Louie-- he reminds me of a mirror universe Igor Larionov, where he is in perfect position all the time, but instead of passing copiously like The Professor, Louie's stick skills are used shooting. Not the fastest, or hardest shot, or fanciest skater, but has a great hockey sense. Maybe a better comparison is he's the Keyshawn Johnson of college hockey...

Michigan Arrogance

December 29th, 2008 at 3:22 PM ^

i don't know who makes the biscuits. i don't know who buys the ingredients. i don't know who takes the biscuits out of the oven. but i do know this: Cap puts said biscuits into baskets really, really well.

jaster

December 29th, 2008 at 4:04 PM ^

After watching this kid last year, I told people he'd be Michigan's 2nd most dangerous player this year, offensively, after Max Pacioretty. Well, Patch left, so Caporusso became #1, and here's why.

Louie succeeds for four reasons:

1. Vision. Louie sees the ice very well. His hockey mind is a second or two ahead of most players, which gives him a huge advantage. Not something that can be coached. You have it or you don't.

2. Willingness to go to the net. This kid has no fear of traffic, despite his diminutive size. If he sees an opening, a lane, or a flat-footed defender, he's making a b-line towards the crease and will create something 9 times out of 10.

3. Soft, soft hands. The shot itself is good, though not great. It's his hands that make it work. It's his hands that enable his deft puckhandling and his ability to roof a shot three inches from the goalmouth.

4. Speed. He's a quick son of a bitch (see: Leopold Buttery Stotch), which is a force multiplier for items 1-3.

No other player on the team (and few in the NCAA) has this combination of offensive skills. Sure, maybe Palushaj has more vision. And maybe Hagelin has more speed. But no one has that entire skillset.

Alaska Hokie

December 29th, 2008 at 5:01 PM ^

I'm glad MSU is struggling. UAF takes a swing out there this week, and since they're in third place in the CCHA, I'm hoping for big things. Here's hoping Michigan sweeps the No. 1 and 2 teams, helping UAF move into the No. 1 spot.

lhglrkwg

December 29th, 2008 at 5:21 PM ^

my favorite part of the season so far is watching the freshman get better and better. none of them did a great deal at the beginning of the season but robbie and david are close to being sick, burlon has been doing well, and i haven't been watching greg a whole lot but he hasn't been bad

Yinka Double Dare

December 29th, 2008 at 6:01 PM ^

Speaking of sucking, what the hell happened to NoDak? Seemed like they might have turned a corner on the season but then went out and lost to two rotten teams at the GLI. Even assuming they were without some guys for the world juniors, that's still awful.