Tech Effect

Submitted by Brian on February 20th, 2018 at 12:23 PM

2/16/2018 – Michigan 4, Notre Dame 2 – 15-13-3, 10-10-3 Big Ten
2/18/2018 – Michigan 1, Notre Dame 0 – 16-13-3, 11-10-3 Big Ten


[James Coller]

About halfway through the third period on Sunday I started to wonder about 1-0 victories, specifically how long it had been since Michigan had made one lousy goal stand up. (ENGs do not count for our reckoning.) I probably should not have done that. It's the kind of thinking you deeply regret when a puck passes behind the goaltender and still deeply regret even when it miraculously squirts out the other side. I still thought it, though. It seemed plausible Michigan would accomplish this thing.

The answer turns out to be shockingly recent: on February 15th of last year Zach Nagelvoort had a 42-save shutout as Michigan squeezed by OSU 1-0 thanks to a Nick Pastujov goal. But the larger wonderment still stands, I think, because you have to go all the way back to the 2011 Life As A Vole national semifinal against North Dakota to hit the next one.

Those games were similar in that both featured Michigan scoring a weird early goal and then hanging on for dear life. They got outshot 2 to 1 in both, and at no point until the final buzzer or blessed Scooter Vaughn empty net goal did victory seem probable. I know this about the 2011 North Dakota game because I remember every terrifying moment of the third period. I know this about last year's Ohio State game, which I probably did not watch, because I saw other games that hockey team played. At no point during either game did anyone wonder about 1-0 victories, because clearly this would not be a 1-0 game.

So they are very different than Sunday's 1-0 win against then-#1 Notre Dame, in which Michigan outshot the Irish by a large margin 5x5. Two power plays and another two minutes of frantic face-clenching action after ND pulled their goalie got ND to near-parity, but not quite, and when the buzzer sounded Michigan had finished its four games against the Big Ten's best team having outplayed them everywhere except their penalty kill. And on Sunday they'd done it in a very un-Michigan way: by matching Notre Dame's relentless discipline.

Each team had one opportunity at a three on two, sort of. Depending on how you want to classify odd-man rushes, it might have been zero. Notre Dame's didn't even get inside the Michigan blue line. I don't think I've ever seen Michigan have a game where they don't give up an odd-man rush. Maybe it's happened against a tomato can here and there, but probably not. The last five or so years of Michigan hockey has been about trying to outscore your mistakes, which they managed to do when they the Connor-Motte-Compher line and at no other point.

It's taken a while for new-era Michigan to work past the recent chaos. Since resuming in January, it appears they have. They're 8-5-1 against a slate of opponents who—except for Michigan State—are all either in the tournament or plausibly on the bubble. That's not the greatest run in the history of hockey; it has been good enough to take them from the deep 20s to a three seed. Expecting more would be insane. Just last year Michigan was hovering amongst the very worst teams in college hockey in Corsi...


white included to demonstrate that there ain't no more teams

...and this year they're a point or two above average. This is a one year turnaround that matches what Mel did when he arrived at Michigan Tech. Tantalizingly, he had another gear from there.

Tech won 13 games the next year and 14 in 2013-14, the first year of college hockey's new landscape. This alone is impressive in the modern context of Tech hockey; that's the first time Tech had won double-digit games since Bob Mancini did it from 1993 to 1996.

That alone would not be impressive enough to grab the Michigan job, but then Pearson had the following three seasons:

  • 29-10-2, at-large bid to tourney as #2 seed, #5 ES Corsi*
  • 23-9-5, WCHA regular season champs, #3 ES Corsi
  • 23-15-7, WCHA playoff champs, NCAA bid, #3 ES Corsi

Unless Michigan hits the Jack Hughes jackpot, Michigan's not going to have another Connor or Larkin for a couple years here. The recruiting pipeline dried up a little deep into the Red era, so they'll have to make do with guys who grind their way up the ranks year by year, like Tony Calderone. It's been tough for Michigan to win with just those guys of late; transcendent talent was needed, and even then it wasn't always enough.

There's no transcendent talent this year. Even Quinn Hughes is a year away from being able to tell when he should plunder the opposition crease and when he should stay back. Michigan scores goals like the one lousy one they made stand up on Sunday: forcing a defensive zone turnover from the opposition and flinging it in over the goalie's shoulder before the defense can re-set. But it works, because they can go a whole game without giving up an odd man rush. For anyone who watched the last few years of Michigan hockey that sounds like a 180 on a dime in a leaky battleship.

Michigan looks ahead of schedule in year one, headed for a wide-open tourney with a couple of recent one-seed Ws painted on its nose cone. It turns out that Mel Pearson was exactly the right guy. Not because he's been in Ann Arbor for 30 years already. Because he'd already walked into a reclamation project with a power washer and some 20-year-olds.


I said last week that sweeping ND was close to a lock at-large, and whatever particularly devastating combination of events would have made that statement untrue have not come to pass. CHN just ran its Pairwise Predictor—20k Monte Carlo simulations of the rest of the season—and Michigan comes out with a 95% chance of a bid, and a two-thirds chance to get a 3 seed or better.

That doesn't mean this weekend's series doesn't matter. Those projections weight games according to KRACH, the statheads' preferred college hockey ranking system, and one of the main reasons Michigan is in near-lock territory is because that system gives Michigan an 82% chance to win any particular game against Arizona State. Splitting this weekend puts Michigan back down in the danger zone:


1-1 this weekend puts Michigan at 13 or 14, most likely

Dave pointed out on the podcast that this year is ripe for bid steals because most of the top spots in the Pairwise are NCHC or Big Ten teams. Providence and Northeastern are the only HE teams currently in the tourney; BC and BU collectively have a ~34% chance to steal a Hockey East Bid. Cornell and Clarkson are the only ECAC teams in at-large spots. CHN gives those two teams a whopping 79% shot at winning the playoff title, but if Cornell does go down a bid steal is likely. Minnesota State is the only WCHA team currently in the field; that's another 38% shot at a steal.

It is possible for Michigan to fall to 14 if they sweep Arizona State and then get swept in the first round of the playoffs by a decent PSU or Wisconsin team, and at that point they'd be vulnerable if two bids get stolen. They are not entirely out of the woods but they'd have to blow it pretty hard to even put themselves in a spot where an odd combination of results booted them.

This weekend is one for focus, though.



February 20th, 2018 at 4:08 PM ^

I just have such fond memories of that game. I’ve read that recap many times as it’s possibly my favorite Michigan victory ever in any sport (maybe along with the Kansas or Cuse games in the 2013 tourney. It doesn’t seem to happen all that often that an inferior Michigan team rises up and knocks out Goliath. Not sure I’ve ever been more ecstatic about a win as I was when the clock finally hit 0:00 against the Sioux

South Bend Wolverine

February 20th, 2018 at 1:27 PM ^

I'm trying not to get ahead of myself on the Mel hype, but it's not easy, man!  The one-year turnaround has been nothing short of astonishing.  What things will look like in year 2, 3, 5, 10 ... you can go crazy pondering the possibilities!


February 20th, 2018 at 1:34 PM ^

I for one am in favor of winning the Jack Hughes sweepstakes.

I'd also like to keep Quin around for another year. He'll be dominant next season if he stays, and that can be a big plus for the forwards as well. The CCM line was magnificent, but they were also helped in no small part by Zach Werenski being on fire from World Juniors onwards. Having that extra man with dominant puckhandling is a huge asset.

Delighted with Mel's progress in year one. A tournament bid wasn't an impossible dream at the beginning of the year, but it was really unlikely. It would be great to be in. 


February 20th, 2018 at 2:08 PM ^

BTW, this isn't worthy of its own thread, but Mlive posted an article listing the 50 greatest Michigan Hockey players. Premise is fine, clickbait, it's going to have some stupid, whatever.

But they have TJ Hensick AND Kevin Porter in the 30s. Behind guys like Jacob Trouba, Max Pacioretty, Dylan Larkin, Andy Hilbert, and Jack Johnson. 

I mean, I love all of those guys. But Kevin Porter is a Hobey winner and keyed a great season, and Hensick was Michigan's best player for four years and SHOULD have been a Hobey winner. 

These guys are also ranked behind Kyle Connor and Zach Werenski, FWIW. 

Top of the list is fine (though Shields in the late 40s and no Hunwick rankles quite a bit) and it's clickbait, but still some dumb here.


February 20th, 2018 at 2:11 PM ^

are always a fun read and fun to discuss.

I would agree both Hensick and Porter should be higher on the list. Very surprised Hensick's game never really materialized for a long NHL run. Guy had some great offensive skills, but think his lack of defense hurt him.  Porter also didn't have the type of career I thought he might in the NHL.

I would also argue Compher and Cogliano should be a little higher on the list then they are.


I would also agree Hunwick needs to be on this list.


February 20th, 2018 at 1:59 PM ^

Great to see UM hockey on the verge of being back in the tourney, where the belong.  This first year turnaround has been fun to watch and expect it to only get better as the years progress.

Nice to see UM hockey actually be able to play disciplined defensive hockey when needed.

Now let's sweep ASU and strengthen our grip on a tourney bid.


February 20th, 2018 at 2:01 PM ^

It’s nice to have the program back on solid ground. Even in the losses we’ve been much more competitive this season. Only good things ahead!


February 20th, 2018 at 2:08 PM ^

...that remind me that Brian has never actually played organized hockey and has very little knowledge about how the game is played on the ice.  Great numbers, stats, and breakdown for the "what ifs" of the PWR, but don't come here for a breakdown of how the team is actually performing tactically on the ice.


February 20th, 2018 at 3:17 PM ^

I was optimistic about the formation of B1G hockey, but the decline in television broadcasts, which was supposed to be one of the benefits, has been a huge disappointment. Along with, you know, empty conference tournaments and lost local rivalries and stuff.

Don't get me wrong, I still like a lot about it (and have caught Michigan on the road when they swing nearby almost every year), but the tv situation used to be a lot better.


February 20th, 2018 at 3:52 PM ^

BTN, of course, but Fox College Sports frequently picked up FSD games. I could have missed one but I have yet to see them do that this year (they do pick up hockey games from other regions, still). 

I am always out of luck for the Comcast games, of course. The relative scarcity of BTN games and the lack of FSD games has been the issue. I don't consider a poorly produced stream that I have to pay extra for anything but a steep downgrade.


February 20th, 2018 at 3:10 PM ^

It's been over a month and the hockey articles have been light (not complaining, just noting) so it's probably not top of mind, but...

Doing all of this without Lockwood is another "who would've thunk it" angle. I saw that kid play in person up in Buffalo at the World Juniors and he is crazy good. Throw a line with him and Hughes on the ice and the opposing D is going to shit its collective pants. 


February 20th, 2018 at 3:55 PM ^

No question the Lockwood injury hurts. The impact is reduced a bit since this is a rebuilding year--we're not a #1 seed with him on the roster. Hopefully he gets fully healthy and he's a significant upgrade for an already improving team.

BTW nice to see another Eberwhite alum floating around. 


February 21st, 2018 at 10:49 PM ^

People forget how good Lockwood is. I feel robbed that we're missing out on seeing him at full strength because of that goddamn hit from behind against Wisconsin that wasn't penalized and the chicken-shit B1G didn't feel warranted a suspension.

He was the only memorable thing about last season, but man I love that kid. If he stays healthy he has a real chance to end up on my Rushmore of Michigan hockey players.


February 20th, 2018 at 3:24 PM ^

Remembering that 2011 frozen four.  UND was a great defensive game and of course Tiny Jesus, Hunwick, standing on his head.

In the final our first goal was waved off for the old 'intent to blow the whistle' though the puck was never covered.  Then the refs proceeded to call 9 penalties on us and only 4 on the home ice UMD team.  Remained tied at 2 deep into overtime when everyone looked gassed.

Its disappointing to lose.  Losing due to reffing conspiracy sucks more because of injustice and disillusionment with the sport.

"Were they good penalties?" Berenson asked.  "I can't tell you what I really think.  I mean, you can't talk about refereeing and penalties, but when one team gets nine and the other four, it doesn't add up."


February 20th, 2018 at 4:13 PM ^

Their offense was ferocious in the tournament and I really can’t recall thinking too many penalties were ‘unfair’ or anything like that. They were skating circles around us and when that happens you’re usually either giving up goals or power plays.

I’ll forever have scorhed in my memory the image of Hagelin and Rust(?) on a 2-on-0 late in the 3rd and failing to convert. We were so close...


February 20th, 2018 at 4:48 PM ^

Finishing plays like that was a problem for the team all year and that opportunity burns in my mind as the one big moment we could have used to take the title.

I was sorely disappointed by the result of the game, of course, and I get reminded of it constantly living here. But by the time the goal was scored in OT Michigan was gassed and running on fumes and it was as non-flukish as any NCAA tournament OT goal Michigan has ever suffered. 

The problem is that UMD was a team heavily reliant on one line, but Red didn't trust anyone other than Rust to check that line, and so Michigan was just as shallow. It was not Red's deepest team and it showed. 

Ugh. What might have been. I *knew* they were going to make the national title game all year, but alas.

I have no such indication this year, but if they somehow miracle their way into St. Paul, I hope I'm in town to catch it.


February 20th, 2018 at 5:23 PM ^

as stranger things have happened.  I think the whole tourney could be very interesting as I don't think there is any clear cut favorite this year and in a one and done format, you need a hot goalie and a couple of breaks and pretty soon your in the frozen four and maybe winning it all.

Now, I'm not holding my breathe, but like I said I have seen crazier things happen, just need to get in first.


February 20th, 2018 at 5:29 PM ^

after the game you called it "sometimes terrible officiating"


I was curious how you reacted to the OSU game last year, if you stooped to needlessly degrading a great OSU team that went to the CFP(and got clobbered by Clemson haha.)  you said:

"We got a totally one sided game. The officials called a different game for OSU than they did for us.

2 penalties for 6 yards in a 2 OT game? We shouldn't even have to say anymore than that"


Those two instances along with the gut punch of Desmond getting tackled in the endzone by sparty have convinced me that sometimes the fix is in.


I'm going to choose to remember a 3-3 game where we got our three in regulation and UMD needed OT to catch up.  


Also, Brians take on the reffing after the game:  "FWIW, it was only the third-period calls that I thought were terrible. The other stuff was either unfortunate, undisciplined, or plain necessary. Michigan took like three straight in the second and didn't call the ref a troglodyte who should be shot into the sun, so… yeah.

That last "boarding" call was some kind of awful, though."


The break away you mention was a 2-1 where their goalie made a great save on hagelin's shot.


Damn it.  Still some bitter medicine.   I;ll get over it some day.  You're probably cool.  The 'Racist Mascot' chant's during the UND game were fun and effective.


February 21st, 2018 at 10:47 PM ^

I've almost completely blocked that game out of my memory. All I remember:
1) We had a goal waived off. Never had the heart to go back and look at if it was a good call, since I to this day can't get Ryznar's one in Buffalo out of my head.
2) Saying "Goal" 1-2 seconds before Duluth won it.
3) At one point late in the game, the banners in the rafters were getting blown around by a draft. The two that kept opening up a gap between them were where, alphabetically, a Minnesota-Duluth banner would go if they won a championship. My reaction was "Well that can't be a good sign...."