The Old, The Quick, And The Dead

Submitted by Brian on February 14th, 2012 at 12:39 PM

2/10/2012 – Michigan 2, Michigan State 3 – 17-10-4, 11-8-4 Gongshow
2/11/2012 – Michigan 3, Michigan State 2 (OT) – 18-10-4, 12-8-4 Gongshow


Jake Chelios is actually older than his dad. LSJ

Sometime over the weekend one of the announcers mentioned that David Wohlberg and Torey Krug were teammates back when they were little kids and that struck me as odd because Wohlberg is a senior and Krug is a junior. However, a quick birthdate check shows that Krug is only a few months younger than Wohlberg and they could have been on the same teams.

Then you check Chris Heisenberg because one of your buddies asks you if State has anyone coming in next year worth noting and the birthdates leap off the page:

  • Michigan: '94, '94, '94, '94, '94, '93, '91
  • State: '94, '93, '93, '93, '93, '93, '92, '92, '91 (soph transfer), '90 (almost certainly a walk-on, also a junior transfer)

Michigan's always had a few overage kids scattered around the roster—Langlais and Chiasson are the most recent. Often they're depth guys picked up late when Michigan has a roster hole to fill. That '91 above is goalie Steve Racine, who's being brought in to back up NTDP goalie Jared Rutledge. That's inevitable when the NHL is signing guys every summer and every quality NHL-draft eligible player has been committed to a school for two years.

Michigan State has made them the rule rather than the exception, though. Two of eight underclassmen are the proper year for their class. Two of six juniors are as well. The seniors are the only class that looks vaguely like a team that recruits at a high level: five guys who came to college immediately after receiving a high school degree, four who didn't. The creeping Comleyization is clear. 

And yet every game Michigan plays against them is a narrow, stomach-churning affair. This made all the sense in the world when they were coming off a November from hell. It makes less after they've gone on a run that sees them leap to second in the PWR.

Rivalry? I guess. After the Lee/Merritt defections blew up a basketball team it's hard to scoff at all clichés.


The thing about it is: while MSU has played Michigan relatively even this year, that talent distribution has lead to years in which the Spartans are awful alternating with ones in which they're decent. When they're decent they finish a few games back of the champion, make the Joe sometimes, and limp into the tournament as a three seed. Once they managed to spin this into a national title but no one thinks that was anything more than a few near-random games.

So unless there's a galvanizing event like Corey Tropp using Steve Kampfer's head for driving practice, games against State have to compete with those of ten years ago on their own terms. They come up flat most of the time. The best days of this rivalry are so long ago that Michigan State's players can remember them.


I couldn't have done it without your hatred of scoring chances, fun, and America

I miss the days when I loathed Mason's brand of suffocating anti-hockey. It's just not the same when you're beating Torey Krug and a bunch of guys who fondly remember Charles In Charge. When the Big Ten fires up I'll probably switch maximum hatred to Minnesota (because obviously).

The good news is that Heisenberg's page shows Tom Anastos's philosophy. State's got one 2013 commit, an NTDPer, and five 2014 guys. Four of them are '96es. Who knows if they're any good yet, but at least Michigan State is back to recruiting like a team that expects to be elite instead of Southern Northern Michigan.

It will take some time for the Comley geezers to clear the roster, though. We're looking at another five years of Michigan-Michigan State hockey being a cute regional showcase before there's any hope of violent, bowel-shaking clashes. And we're relying on a guy whose first year of coaching is this one. Ask again later.

Bullets that don't understand this newfangled grunge stuff

League status. Ferris State's resounding sweep of Notre Dame (ND's only goal on the weekend came after Ferris took a 5-0 lead Saturday) makes them a heavy favorite. Baseball standings are not super useful anymore but here they are anyway:

Rank Team W L T Pts. GF-GA Games GB
1 Ferris State 14 6 4 47 70-56 24 -
2 Western Michigan 12 9 3 42 63-56 24 1 2/3
3 Michigan 12 8 4 41 72-53 24 2
  Lake Superior 11 9 4 41 60-60 24 2
5 Michigan State 11 10 3 38 70-62 24 3
6 Ohio State 11 10 5 39 73-71 26 3 2/3
  Miami 11 11 2 36 59-53 24 3 2/3
  Northern Michigan 9 9 6 36 62-67 24 3 2/3
  Notre Dame 11 10 3 36 60-62 24 3 2/3
10 Alaska 7 15 4 27 58-68 26 7 2/3
11 Bowling Green 4 16 4 19 34-73 24 9 1/3

If the Bulldogs take care of BGSU next weekend they've got it in the bag unless Western takes all six points in the final league series. Michigan is fairly secure for a first round bye and a second round home series, but the parity of the league is such that Michigan could play damn near anyone in the second round.

Aside: Ferris is now 20-8-4 and #2 in the PWR rankings. They are in position to turn in the best year in program history, and good for them. Bob Daniels's teams have always played an interesting up-tempo style of hockey and if they had a bastard or two along the way at least they were bastards who scored a ton of goals. (Chris Kunitz most prominently.)

I hope they can find their footing in the rapidly approaching new world order. If Michigan isn't going to continue "so-called rivalries" (Berenson's words) against Miami and Notre Dame they'd better be filling their nonconference schedule with Michigan teams. I'm not up for 14 Atlantic Hockey opponents every year.

Pairwise status. Michigan's weekend was as close to a nonentity as is possible: their RPI hardly budged and their record against teams under consideration got slightly worse. Teams move around them, however, and Michigan slipped. That's because Ferris surged forward after a sweep of a strong opponent and BC won the Beanpot.

The ballpark estimate from a couple weeks ago—that Michigan needed to go 6-2 down the stretch to have a one-seed when the playoffs start—is looking a little shaky at the moment after Denver swept Minnesota. That plus some dumb COP stuff gives them the comparison against Michigan despite a yawning RPI gap; you want them to lose a bunch down the stretch.

Teams you want to lose:

  • Ferris State. Comparison is based entirely on RPI and Michigan will win if Ferris slips up down the stretch.
  • Denver. Michigan can't do anything but hope Denver loses games against TUCs.
  • Alaska. Michigan's only opponent near the TUC cliff. M's 1-1 record against them means they would like to see them drop out.
  • Northeastern. See Alaska except M is 0-1 against them.
  • BC. Michigan has that comparison at the moment but it's narrow and they'll lose it if BC beats them in RPI.
  • Lowell. See BC.

It is still status quo: it will be hard to take comparisons against UMD and BU; everything else is fair game.

Treais. All of the secondary scoring is coming from AJ Treais, and he's doing most of it himself. There was a good cycle to get him a scoring opportunity on Saturday but the rest of it is just Treais taking shots from decent or bad angles and sniping it. Hope he can keep it up.

Lynches. Kevin got two this weekend but I was not surprised when Red said this postgame:

“I can tell you, there were times in the third period I thought about not putting him out in the overtime,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “That line got caught in their own zone and they got in trouble. And I thought, I don’t know if I can trust them in the overtime.

“I know that Kevin’s had a good record against Michigan State. I know he’s had a good record at Joe Louis. They got one shift in overtime, and bingo. So you never know.”

That's officially the fourth line, and it's scary when they get caught out there with the bottom pairing and can't clear the zone. Michigan seemed to carry play when that wasn't happening; that was happening far too often.

At least they scored, something you can't say for…

Nominal third line. I don't get it. They look somewhere from pretty to very dangerous when they're out on the ice but the Hyman-Moffatt-Sparks combo cannot put a puck in the net. Hyman has two goals on the year; Sparks hasn't gotten a point since he returned from the land of healthy scratches, and Moffatt has done a little bit of damage but on the power play IIRC.

But it looks like they will score at some point. Sparks is shoveling passes across the crease with regularity; someone is going to get a stick on one of them and put it into the net. Sparks also rang a post last weekend. It'll come. Maybe.

Rolling lines versus riding your horse. It seemed like Krug and Shelgren got literally every other shift both nights, didn't it? It was certainly a different approach than Red's determination to roll his lines and pairings pretty much evenly even when the back end isn't holding up their part of the bargain. Red has occasionally taken a sixth defenseman out of the equation but it seems like M would benefit from putting the big line out there more frequently.

Etc.: WCHA teams murder each other. Photo gallery. Yost Built on the weekend. Someone put together a script to bomb the Hobey vote for Hunwick. 21 minutes of Jacob Trouba isolation video.



February 14th, 2012 at 12:53 PM ^

I use to play hockey with Jake Chelios when I was a Bantam with the Birmingham Rangers, and although he might have gotten a lot better and matured physically throughout the years, he was never really that good. I love that picture though, just reminds me of the glory years


February 14th, 2012 at 1:17 PM ^

There are guys I used to play with who are 89 birth years that play for a few of the teams listed in those standings. However, as Brian said, those teams are not considered elite recruiters like Michigan so they're going after different guys.

When good players fall through the cracks of the OHL draft they often go to a league they feel will give them a shot at a scholarship, like tier 2 Junior A in Toronto, top junior B leagues in Western Canada, or the excellent leagues in Michigan. So they end up late to the party as 20 year old freshmen who had to spend extra years proving their scholarship worth. That happens with a lot of Canadian kids. I've also known at least a dozen kids who destroyed their NCAA eligibility by playing in a few OHL games and continue to regret it because they had to settle for CIS (still great hockey) instead of a Div 1 scholarship in the US even though they were good enough.


February 14th, 2012 at 5:51 PM ^

I totally agree my best friend worked out for a year trying out Junior hockey teams and professional hockey teams. When we graduated he weighed about a buck 50 and was about 5-9. He worked his ass off and ended up getting picked up by the Bismark Bobcats in the NAHL. In there first season they won the NAHL championship. He played travel hockey his whole life and didn't win many championships. This should him the work ethic, determination, and what it takes to win a championship.His second season he made it to the NAHL all star game in Ann Arbor. He still didn't have many D1 offers, after playing the weekend in Ann Arbor he started to get interest from a good number of D1 schools. He got an offer from University of Massachuesttes Amherest. He headed to UMASS a 6-2 200 pound 21 year old Freshman Forward. The three years off aloud him to sharpen his skills a mature physical and mentally. He has played in a lot of games this year for UMASS and got an assist in his first game. Over winter break another friend and I went to Massachuesttes were we got to watch him play at Providence and play in an out door game at Fenway Park vs Vermont. Without those three years he probably wouldn't have been able to play D1 hockey. UMASS is really young and this year they have beaten BC and BU. I know he didn't get to play for UofM which I hoped he would (to slow) but it's awesome he is playing somewhere. The time off is very important for some athletes, although Michigan doesn't really sign guys like this I think it great for college hockey. Allows for better play and it allows for the athletes to mature.


February 14th, 2012 at 1:22 PM ^

Bob is a close family fact, he's my God Father. He is one hell of a coach, and routinely does more with less at Ferris. He played at MSU, and we always kind of hoped they'd give him the chance to coach there, but they looked over him for, IMO, two completely idiotic hires. I still have mixed feelings about this becaues I hate MSU hockey, but want the best for Bob. He could really excel there.

At this point, he will probably be at Ferris until he's done coaching, but believe me, if you gave this man a program with a little more name recognition, he'd have them at Michigan caliber in a matter of years.

The Wonderful 135

February 14th, 2012 at 1:27 PM ^

I finally made it to a game.  I live in VA, so this was a huge deal to me.  So glad we won...and a great game at that.

My two cents:

First, it sucks that our home-and-home is actually home-and-neutral.  There were a ton of MSU fans at the game.  It was really hard to tell who had better support.  Never a good thing when you already lost on Friday.

Second, we missed a lot of passes.  Ironically, we had some beautiful passes that set up great chances and at least one goal.  But notice that our game-winning OT goal was off of a BAD MSU back-ice blunder.  So many times during the game we failed to connect simple passes.  What's really weird is that the majority of the passes were on target, but were mishandled by the recipient.  This not only minimized our offensive potential (by turning the puck over in the MSU zone), but also seriously hurt our defense.  Those multi-minute-long attack sequences by MSU were drastically extended by multiple failures to connect passes.

All negativity aside, it was nice to be home.  And an ugly win is still a win.  I just hope we work these kinks out before playoffs.

The Wonderful 135

February 14th, 2012 at 2:03 PM ^

I wasn't arguing against the Joe (I love when we play there).  I was only speculating as to why we may have struggled with MSU in the first place.  Scary stuff.

P.s. I definitely almost heart-attacked when MSU hit post number 3? 4?  Couldn't take it anymore.


February 14th, 2012 at 1:55 PM ^

For the record ND scored on Saturday night at the end of the first period but was still down 2-1.  They controlled the first 5 min. of play in the second before Ferris took over.  The only reason I know this is b/c I was at the game.  My mind told me to root for ND but my heart just couldn't do it. 

Michigan Arrogance

February 14th, 2012 at 3:08 PM ^

i'm not counting mins played or anything, but it's pretty standard practice to roll the 4th line at every other opportunity and I assume Red has been doing that. Unless you're really a deep team whose 4th is practically indistinguishable from the 2nd.


February 14th, 2012 at 8:37 PM ^

After last night's Beanpot championship, we now win (barely) the comparison with BU.  As long as we stay ahead of BU in the RPI, we win that comparison unless they face and defeat BC in the Hockey East conference tournament.  It's also helpful for us if either BC or BU manage to lose to Northeastern at any point.  BU plays them in three weeks to close their regular season, and since both BC and BU have won all of their games against Northeastern, any loss by either team to NU helps us, and wins against NU don't hurt us. This is because the Common Opponents comparison is calculated by adding the individual winning percentages against common opponents, not from overall record.  So rooting against Northeastern is fine UNLESS they're playing BC or BU, in which case you should root hard FOR Northeastern.


February 15th, 2012 at 9:28 AM ^

Actually, Ferris is number one in the Pairwise right now.  I agree that Michigan has a great chance to pass everyone except UMD and BU, especially BC and Ferris, who we beat head-to-head yet hold very slim edges in RPI.  Great analysis!