BIG TEN CHAMPS [Patrick Barron]
I thought Michigan's offense was very lively tonight. They played another skilled team and had the better scoring opportunities. The game went through stretched of carrying play for both teams, but it seemed that Michigan was able to consistently get deeper and closer to the slot for their chances. Shots on Target ended close to even, but I think Schierhorn stopped a few more difficult opportunities.
This was definitely a game for the CCM line, most of the damage coming on the Power Play. However, the game-tying goal in the early third was something to behold. Compher has just been a wizard with the puck the entire season. With a guy in his sweater, he had a cross-ice pass to an open Connor who just ole'd Schierhorn (who probably played the situation correctly) from inside the dot and beat the charging defenseman to the post, sneaking the puck in the open net. Adam will have fun with that one. It was the Hobey cherry on top of his Hobey sundae season. He has 35 goals and 34 assists. He is NOT JUST A SHOOTER. Connor now has an nine point lead on the second place point-getting...his center, JT Compher, who has a six point lead on their linemate, Tyler Motte. Compher also leads the nation with 46 assists, 8 more than 2nd place. Connor and Motte are first and second in goals with 35 and 31, respectively. Michigan has NINE players with double digit goals; nine players with 20 or more points; and six skaters with 30 or more. I don't know what else to say about this offense.
Another terrific game defensively for the Wolverines. Again, they allowed 33 shots to get to Racine, but -just like yesterday- most of them came from a distance and away from the dangerous areas near and in front of the net. Minnesota does have quality players and did generate a few nice scoring chances, but Michigan limited them -for the most part- to what Racine was able to see and stop. Also, Piazza looked just fine playing for a suspended Downing. Compher talked about the first goal in the intermission, saying that it was on a forward not locking up the trailing Bristedt (who notched his 20th of the season...no slouch there). The defensemen seemed to have dramitically improved in the second half of the season (minus the OSU series), looking more comfortable on the puck, riding attackers away from the net, and staying sound defensive position. I'm starting to believe that this level of defense can take them far.
Goodnight Minnesota [Patrick Barron]
Michigan top Power Play line is just bonkers. The entire Power Play is nuts. They were 14 of 25 in the last five games entering the B10CG. And went 3 for 4. 17 of 29, 59% in last six games, now. The top line gets all three goals, tonight, as Motte, Compher, and Werenski all score...Werenski with the winner late in the 3rd. Its really not even just the goals. There were multiple opportunities where the puck could have easily gone in before it actually did. The puck movement and passing is just incredible. Each player knows where to be and seems to be in slow motion as the pass always seems to go to the open player...the entire point of a power play. You honestly just cannot take penalties against this team.
Michigan did a fantastic job staying out of the box, tonight, conceding only one man advantage. Unfortunately, they were unable to get the kill. Minnesota kept the puck in the zone the entire time and eventually Compher lost his stick. The puck soon found its way to an open shooter on JT's side and Racine really didn't have much of a chance. You don't like to give up Man Advantage goals, but if you're only in the box once, I can live with that.
Steve Racine was fantastic, tonight. And actually, he has been for a while. He's been criticized for a few clunky goals allowed -and he's had a few- but he's also saved the day on more occasions than are credited to him. Again, the defense was sound for the most part, keeping the majority of shots away from the dangerous areas, but Racine was up to most of the ones that leaked through...including flashing the glove and stoning Tyler Sheehy midway through the third to keep the game tied. He also had a ridiculous kick save off a deflection a few minutes later.
You can probably place a little blame on him for the second goal. While it does appear that there was some contact to his pad/skate, he looked a little gumpy and slow trying to get back across the crease to defend the wraparound. I don't think it was entirely on him, but that was definitely very awkward. It also might have been Martin that hit him, making the entire sequence rather unlucky. Other than that, he was very strong to start and end the game
BONUS: ODD MAN RUSHES
I only had two. There were a couple I was close to tallying but decided against it. The first was late in the opening period, a 3v2 with De Jong and Piazza back. Nothing of note came of it. The second was a little dicier. A neutral zone turnover lead to a 2v1 that Martin made a perfectly time dive to smother the pass and take the puck to the corner. This is very good. I will keep taking this.