Lift The Stick

Submitted by Brian on October 14th, 2013 at 4:12 PM

10/10/2013 – Michigan 3, Boston College 1 – 1-0

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MGoBlue

I once watched a YouTube video of Luke Moffatt scoring five goals in one game. He'd just committed to Michigan and was still playing AAA with Little Caesars or Honeybaked or whatever, and I was told that he was the best 15-year-old playing hockey in the world. I believed it, and Luke Moffatt believed it.

Every waking moment since has been something of a disappointment after that high, for both of us. For me, at least, that's a compartment. For Moffatt it's been his life. Moffatt's prospect status slid until he was a seventh—and last—round draft pick. At Michigan he trundled through seasons that were matched and surpassed by guys who never thought they were the best player on their team, let alone in the country: 5-8-13 as a freshman, 6-10-16 as a sophomore. Last year he was an idling third-liner who finished –8 as the team he probably thought he'd be leading to a national title and incidental Hobey Baker missed the tournament for the first time since evolution was a thing.

My buddy who grew up playing hockey and still knows way more about it than I do heaped derision on him: no check, no effort, no defense, no care. I thought that was a little unfair. But only a little. Luke Moffatt kind of symbolized everything that was wrong with last year's team.

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Boston College is fast. Michigan was fast; Boston College is still. Michigan has little bursts of fast. Boston College lives on it, and whenever you see them live it jumps off the ice. Boston College is fast. Get your back turned at the wrong time and throw the puck the wrong way in your defensive zone and you are in for a harrowing minute and a half as they swarm you, talons out.

Michigan endured a few shifts like that, and when that happens the mind turns to old games in the tournament against these guys where Michigan was just able to keep up for a while before collapsing, exhausted, as soon as BC tied it. You know that one game I'm thinking about. The one with nine minutes without stoppages.

When I felt that coming on, Michigan lifted a stick. Boston College, which is fast, would be coming out of the defensive zone and then a Michigan guy would have the puck and not quite know what to do with himself. After the puck hit the corner, Michigan would pen Boston College in their zone for a change. I kind of expected this. I've been talking up Andrew Copp and JT Compher for six solid months now.

I did not expect my confirmation-bias riddled self to fist pump because Luke Moffatt was shouldering his way through to keep possession, finishing checks, and playing like the best goddamn 15-year-old on the planet, seven years later. Forget the two power-play snipes. Forget everything about them except Moffatt's comically exaggerated goal celebrations after. Those were Jean Claude Van Damme-level overacted. They were wrestling heel moves. Forget the snipes. Remember the reactions, and apply it to Luke Moffatt plundering through the offensive zone to acquire or re-acquire possession.

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MGoBlue

Why is Luke Moffatt on the second line next to the all-effort freshmen? Go to hell, that's why. Luke Moffatt is tired of being a guy who was a prospect. Luke Moffatt is tired of my buddy popping on message boards to trash his effort level. Luke Moffatt is tired of being a third liner. Luke Moffatt is done with that crap. Go to hell, says Luke Moffatt. He says it directly to me and my hissy fit last year. And I say yes, sir.

Luke Moffatt's going to get a major and game misconduct he deserves. And I'll say yes, sir.

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After Moffatt buried the 3-1 goal, Michigan had a relatively easy time of seeing Boston College off the ice in the third period. They were desperate; they managed five shots. Michigan put the clamps down, as the clock ticked down and an odd feeling of security descended, last year momentarily seemed like a hazy dream. After that moment it was real, and still bleeding in front of you because Michigan had taken its stick and sliced it across the throat.

Afterwards, Michigan gathered at center ice as they always do. I always watch this. It feels different every time. This time, it was rocket-fueled resentment and a chin held high. We are not them, despite largely being them. That is not us. This is us.

They lifted their sticks as they had Boston College's, and announced their presence. This is not last year's team. An ice shavings-covered, slavering Luke Moffatt is plenty of evidence of that.

[After the JUMP: tracing the outlines of what happened at RIT, Coppwaii.]

Bullets

Probably! I was bleeding to death in the back of an airplane when Michigan played RIT and have no idea what happened or how to feel about a 7-4 win in which Michigan rips off four goals in the first 13:32, blows the lead during a disastrous second period, and then reclaims it to win. The shots are alarming: Michigan got outshot 46-27. Taking ten minors against RIT's five has something to do with that.

Some of the many goals:

That's De Jong getting walked on RIT's first; Evan Allen's game winner was a total fluke.

RIT's official site posted all of RIT's goals:

What happened:

  1. De Jong gets walked.
  2. Puck pops out into the slot between Bennett's feet, unchecked guy in slot slams it home.
  3. Di Giuseppe gets caught playing D 4-on-4, plays it horribly, two on one pass trickles through, Racine can't close five hole.
  4. PP shot from high slot gets through, deflected, save, rebound pops up and is whacked out of midair into the net.

#3 is a little soft, the others were no-chancers. I think I'd rather have the team make some grim defensive errors than have Racine let in soft stuff. Hopefully a bit of a fluke; no time to judge before a challenging series against UNH this weekend.

Well, how do you do. Tweeted out something during the game about how the 2-1 score after two may have been a little flattering despite the shots for (25) and against (16) and do believe that since BC hit two posts and missed an open net after Racine went on a Montoya-worthy vision quest. The game was dead even despite Michigan's significant shot edge, because BC's chances went wide or clanged off the post while Michigan's hit the goalie.

Still… how about that? If Michigan played BC in a tourney game tomorrow I'd walk in feeling okay about that.

Copp emoji goes here. Copp is not only the all-effort future two-time captain but a guy who 1) knew exactly what he was doing when he flung the puck at the goalie from behind the net to bounce it off him and score and 2) zipped a one-time tape-to-tape pass to Moffatt for his second power play marker. Here is my current Copp emotion level.

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Get ready for GIS searches for "kawaii," Google. I'm going to be all up in that.

Freshmen defensemen to the rescue. BC returned Johnny Gaudreau, a diminutive player in the stickhandling goal maniac bastard mold who scored a PPG as a freshman. They got back three other guys with at least 36 points last year. And they generated almost nothing off the rush and did get outshot significantly. The only time I saw a defenseman make a particularly wince-worthy play was late when Gaudreau broke Brennan Serville's ankles on a rush. Downing, De Jong, and Lohan outperformed any reasonable expectation by furlongs.

De Jong in particular had a couple of really impressive Merrill-like plays where he gathered the puck in a difficult situation, fended off an opponent, and moved it to the right place at the right time. De Jong drawing onto the top line instead of Downing was either a pretty good sign or a really bad one; two games in it's still probably the former despite that goal above. This is all too good to be true and there will be dispiriting errors at some point that see scratches draw in; holding BC to one goal in game one is about as good as it gets.

Suddenly: depth, wow. Found Michigan's lines in this one really weird. To review:

  1. Kile-Copp-DeBlois
  2. Moffatt-Compher-Motte
  3. Di Giuseppe-Nieves-Hyman
  4. Allen-Lynch-Sinelli

Michigan seems to have built their lines around three pairings: Copp-DeBlois. Nieves-Di Giuseppe, and Compher-Motte. The former two worked well last year and Compher-Motte has been a thing for the last two years on the NTDP; in this one the NTDP guys showed the value of that connection on one particularly telepathic rush that resulted in a scoring chance. Build your roster around those three pairings and you've got three solid scoring lines, maybe four when Guptill comes back and knocks Kile down to either the PDG-Nieves line or fourth line. Even now that fourth line features a kid in Evan Allen who got a lot of PP time and has a wicked shot.

Against RIT, Michigan put Sinelli back on the bench and apparently installed Guptill on the top line even if the line chart Michigan put out said he was on the fourth line. He assisted on a PP goal, Michigan's first; the second goal was DeBlois from Guptill and Copp.

Racine check in. Ideally he gets the water-bottle snipe from the top of the circle; understandable that he didn't. 20 other saves, several quite good, and seemingly improved rebound control are reassuring. If BC had in fact dumped in a couple of those goals they narrowly missed none of them could have been blamed on Racine even a little.

It would have been nice if someone was there to see it. Announced attendance was 76% of capacity. Yost was pretty good; it is no longer what it was. I am trying to make my peace with it. At some point, though, the prospect of a sold-out, bloodthirsty crowd has to be more of a driver towards wins than a marginal increase in profitability for a department that's already printing money.

Life exists outside of spreadsheets, people! No, it is not ironic that I am exclaiming this! I feel things deeply! You're a jerk!

Comments

JeepinBen

October 14th, 2013 at 4:30 PM ^

But re: Shots - take into account what your eyes show you. MGoBlueline's Corsi discussion is a good place to start. I don't know if college stats track scoring chances but not all shots are created equal. And shots taken are a better gage of momentum/who is outplaying whom than just shots on goal.

When I was a kid hockey coaches used to shout "HIT THE NET" when kids were shooting. This results in a lot of shots into the goalie's chest. Coaches now teach "Shoot to score" in that you'd rather have a kid miss a corner (while aiming for a corner) than just hit the goalie.

Point is, game can be played pretty evenly even with a shots-on-goal disparity. It's good for this team to have a chip on their shoulder, should be a fun season.

Edit: hooray hockey coverage on MGoBlog

Adam Schnepp

October 15th, 2013 at 11:36 AM ^

This is probably as good a place as any to mention that I should have the Corsi post for the BC game published in the next day or two. Thought about making the posts a regular Thursday thing that people could read before the games on Friday and Saturday. 

I haven't finished the analysis yet but midway through the 2nd Michigan's slightly behind BC if you sum everything (goals, shots, misses, blocks) together. The boxscore has Michigan outshooting BC over the course of the game; BC has a lot of missed or blocked shots so far.

skurnie

October 14th, 2013 at 4:38 PM ^

We've covered this a bit on the forum already but I was at the BC game and thanks to the students, Yost was rocking opening night.

The band and students were just great throughout. I was disappointed with my section...maybe 30% didn't even stand up to cheer during Michigan goals. It was my two year old daughter's first ever hockey game and she had a great time and STOOD THROUGHOUT, I should add.

Either way, it was a great start to the season and exciting to get a big win at home. 

Bando Calrissian

October 14th, 2013 at 5:51 PM ^

God dammit the Up In Back crowd is getting judgmental about Yost now?

For about twenty five years now, Yost has built a crowd that is probably as knowledgable about the game they're watching than any other on campus. College hockey breeds that, the kind of folk who bring an NCAA rule book in their pockets and buy Frozen Four tickets nine months before anyone knows who's in it.

Lets not turn Yost into the kind of place where fandom is measures in leg exertion.

Bando Calrissian

October 14th, 2013 at 6:22 PM ^

Ding ding ding.

And the "Children of Yost" don't help by monopolizing one side of the ice while the other half of the student section does nothing. And granted the ticket sales aren't what they used to be, but in the glory years when the students took up that entire side of the ice, it was one unified block of noise and intimidation. The last five years, it's been that one group of people next to the band who have taken an identity unto themselves, and a sparse collection of people who don't know what's going on.

Bottom line: What used to be the most spontaneous, organic, and unified student section in college hockey is now just about a second-rate version of the Lawson Lunatics' cheap imitation of the Yost experience.

gwkrlghl

October 14th, 2013 at 8:12 PM ^

I have no clue what's going on at Yost. I had season tickets for 3 years (08-10) but have seldom been to Yost before or after so I don't have a great sense for what's been going on for 10 years. Papers could be written on the subject but I did seem to sense it fading even a bit in my 3 years there. In a nutshell, I kind of think all the changes in Yost have removed some of the charm of Yost. Goal horns, having to remove the first few rows, having it all nice and renovated/not a cool old rink anymore, piped in music, etc. It just feels so much more sanitary now when I go in there and everything is shining white. Not like I remember it being where the students and the band made all the noise in the poorly lit rink. However, none of those changes were made till after 2010 when I graduated so it probably can't be put on any of those things anyway. Someone write a diary with their best theory

Lionsfan

October 14th, 2013 at 8:23 PM ^

First, where exactly did you find your profile picture? Because it's pretty cool

 

Second, I wonder if part of the "disorganized-ness" has to do with the CoY not being an official group with the school? As far as I know they're not part of the Michigan Student Assembly.

The Maize Rage has weekly meetings and stuff, whereas when I was at Yost last year, it kind of seemed like there was just 3-4 guys, and I don't even know how to say this, but 3-4 "cool guys" running the show, and if you weren't in with them then too bad. Again, just my impression

gwkrlghl

October 14th, 2013 at 9:20 PM ^

1. I took the picture myself in 2007 or 2008 (I think) at that tailgate that's always just past Revelli & the train tracks on the left. The guys who always have a big TV under a tent? (Google maps is telling me the approximate address is 277 E Hoover.) I chuckled at it at the time and finally took it off my cell phone this week.

2. I don't think CoY has much to do with it as they didn't come around till 2009 or so. The unorganized-ness of it was part of what made it great. Nobody really led (except the guys with the cowbells) and everyone just knew the chants. Sometimes people would make stuff up. Sometimes someone makes up a dance, then the whole student section does it and now it happens at the Big House

Bando Calrissian

October 15th, 2013 at 1:09 AM ^

I've been going to Yost since the early 90s. I've been on both sides of the ice in terms of student and non-student tickets. I've seen some pretty amazing stuff come out of that student section over the years, and what I've seen in the last three-four years is a pretty steep and depressing decline. The renovations have done a number on the Yost atmosphere, that's for sure. At the same time, the students have changed, too. And, unfortunately, I put a lot of blame on the "Children of Yost." Put plainly, they don't need to exist as an institutional entity.

There has never been an organized Michigan Hockey student section. It never had a name. It just happened. And that's what made it so great. The best part about Yost was the fact that it was never forced. It was never organized. Things just happened, then snowballed, then became something great. You never needed a meeting or a newsletter or an SOAS account. It was never anything more than people showing up to a hockey game who knew what was going on, and were willing to let things just develop outside the confines of a formal group. Everything was completely organic. And it never tweeted during games, much less pick fights within the fanbase (see: the twitter slapfight with Brian and attacks on individual MGoUsers last season).

Yes, things change, but there wasn't anything broken. Just part of Yost's transition into a minor league arena experience, I guess.

streaker

October 14th, 2013 at 8:32 PM ^

Can't disagree that a once united student section has become a one sided free for all. I hope the COY bring more into the know instead of having the echoing, off beat 2.5 "ugly goalie" chant sound high school-ish. 

Great write up Brian.... and good job with the preview along with Spath on TKA. 

 

Md23Rewls

October 14th, 2013 at 4:47 PM ^

College hockey doesn't look right now that goalies can wear cat eye cages. I don't know how many people I have to complain about this to before goalies are forced back into cages that provide worse sightlines for the sake of my aesthetic pleasure, but I'm willing to complain to all of them.

UMQuadz05

October 14th, 2013 at 4:47 PM ^

Oh man, I was at that tourney game. Still one of the most intense sequences of hockey I have ever seen, and even though we lost it was one of the coolest. It was the opposite of the last football game- Michigan played well and lost to a great team that just played a little better.

gwkrlghl

October 14th, 2013 at 4:52 PM ^

As optimisitic of a write as I've seen on a while in here. I unfortunately did not catch either game either but it sure seems like we're getting more out of freshmen to this point than we previously thought was possible/probable. We'll see if they can hold up but like I've mentioned elsewhere, their career has already been a trial by fire (#4 BC, in front of 11,000 on the road) and they've held up pretty darn good. We'll see if it continues, it doesn't get any easier with the following 4 freakin games:

  • @#13 UNH twice
  • #15 BU
  • #9 Umass-Lowell

Someone in the AD hates the hockey team because the first 6 games are brutal. At least no one will question our SOS come tournament-choosin time. At least we catch a break after that with eleven straight against unranked (but still good) teams

Adam Schnepp

October 15th, 2013 at 11:29 AM ^

Exactly what I was thinking. Things could have gone really poorly as far as the early schedule goes but there's been a distinct difference between last season and this season already in terms of energy and effort and it's paid off. SOS looks good right now, the team's record looks good, the mid-season schedule looks good, Brian's write up looked good; if this team continues on the trajectory they've set there shouldn't be much guessing come tournament time.

JustGoBlue

October 14th, 2013 at 5:31 PM ^

on Rivals but the last several times we've had 10+ freshman (1998, 2002, 2006, 2008), 3 of those years went pretty well.  1 title, 3 frozen fours.  Small sample size, but pretty good precedent.

Michigan Arrogance

October 14th, 2013 at 6:09 PM ^

I was at the RIT game-

a few bad penalties by young Dmen, some indecisive play in their own defensive zone contrinuted to some SOG. Racine was solid- calm, in position.

the SOG were partly a result of the penalty disparity. I'm not too worried long term b/c of that.

can't wait to see how the UNH series goes.

enlightenedbum

October 14th, 2013 at 7:16 PM ^

So maybe it's because I read the blog and you've been talking him up for a long time, but from watching the BC game on TV and the exhibition game I think I would have made an EEEEEEEEEE I'm A Little Girl for JT Compher tag.  Holy hell has that kid been impressive.  Red has him playing in all situations, he flies around, makes really good and really smart plays, seems to see the game like the really great players.  Most encouraging debut by a freshman (non-Trey Burke dfivision) in a while at Michigan.  He made me think about Carl Hagelin in a way that was not "man, I fucking miss Carl Hagelin."

And just generally, we seemed a lot faster and quicker to the puck than we have in a while.  I'm pretty encouraged, without being able to watch the RIT game.