Michigan Hockey: Midwest Regional — Cornell Big Red vs. Michigan Wolverines — Preview — Part II
#3 Michigan Hockey Poised For Long NCAA Run In Midwest Regional
#3 Michigan (24-12-4) vs. #14 Cornell Big Red (18-8-7)
9:00 p.m. Friday 3/23 Resch Center, Green Bay, Wisconsin
DirecTV Channel 208
#6 Ferris State (23-11-5) vs. Denver (25-13-4)
5:30 p.m. Friday 3/23
Saturday: Regional Championship Game, 9 p.m.
What’s at stake:
All four teams are vying for the Midwest regional championship and a berth in the Frozen Four on Thursday April 5th in Tampa, Florida.
Charting The Wolverines:
Let’s face it, fans- the Wolverines came up short last weekend mostly on the way they started Friday’s game- which parlayed into a 2OT marathon that left them dragging on Saturday. Michigan eeked out that win, but then matched WMU’s early intensity until the Wolverines got behind. It was mental blunders and fatigue that led to the bad clears, fat rebounds and lack of defensive zone coverage in the loss to WMU. As Coach Berenson stated earlier this week, “we need a good start- offensively, defensively, we need discipline good old fashioned defensive hockey.” I noted above that a weakness I have scouted throughout this year has been the lack of a physical tone from our blue line- outside of Greg Pateryn. Bennett, Clare, Moffie and Merrill all have to get their noses a bit more bloodied or bigger teams- like Cornell- are going to take the same tact that Miami (earlier this season), NMU, Northeastern, Union and WMU all took in defeating Michigan: crash the net, look for rebounds and score on those chances. Our defense struggles to clear bodies or tie up sticks and often lose the individual battles in front of the net. Freshmen Mike Chiasson has not been in the lineup much, but his classmate, Brennan Serville, is bigger and must start using his size to take the man off of the puck. This issue will be multiplied in the one and done urgency of the playoffs.
The Wolverines in general are more of a skill and finesse team outside of banger Chris Brown (12-17-29) and CCHA ROTY Alex Guptill (16-17-33). David Wohlberg tied Guptill in scoring (16-17-33), but also adds size to his surgical wrist shot. Lee Moffie tallied 7-25-32 so far this season from the blue line and just edges out second line threat AJ Treais at (15-16-31). Look for fellow linemates Phil DeGiuseppe (11-14-25) and Luke Glendening (9-11-20) to continue their outstanding second half play.
Hobey Baker candidate Shawn Hunwick had a subpar weekend (to his own standards) in Detroit, but held the fort for the most part this season with a 24-11-3 record with 5 shutouts, a 1.98 GAA and a .933 save %. He is the most important element to Michigan’s march in the NCAA playoffs, and is chomping at the bit to get back to the Frozen Four.
PLEASE VOTE FOR HIM AT: Shawn Hunwick for Hobey
Cornell is not a team that will allow Michigan to free wheel- it will clog the neutral zone, use its size along the boards and be as sticky in their defensive zone as any of the other solid CCHA teams Michigan saw this season. The difference is, Cornell has two solid snipers and is capable of burning opponents on transition while shorthanded (they have scored five shorties this season.) Michigan MUST score first to put them on their heels and open up their game. ON paper, Michigan should win, have better depth and typically can handle big, slow teams.
It won’t be pretty, but if Michigan tailors their style to last season’s simple, defensive package- they win.
Looking At Denver/Ferris State:
The Pioneers come into their tilt a battered team and may be without one of their top offensive catalysts, Jason Zucker (22-24-46) who suffered an upper body injury in Denver’s 4-0 loss to UND in the WCHA title game. Still, Denver is formidable offensively with the Shore brothers Drew (21-31-52) and Nick (13-28-41. WCHA ROTY Joey LaLessia (11-27-38) mans a very aggressive blueline. Goaltending chores are split between freshman Juho Olkinmora (9-8-3, 2.18 GAA and .924 save %) and Sam Brittain (8-3, 2.39 GAA and .931 save %.) Brittain got the call in the WCHA tourney and took Denver through three rounds before succumbing to UND. Denver is 11th in the country on the PP at 22% and is 27th on the PK at 83%.
Denver is the ONLY other school besides Michigan to post 20+ wins in the last 11 seasons.
Ferris State suffered a humiliating best of three game second round playoff loss to Bowling Green two weeks ago and yet still finished strong enough to earn a 2 seed in the NCAA playoffs. The Bulldogs have only faced Denver once and defeated them in a regular season tournament over a decade ago. This is their first NCAA tourney meeting. Ferris is led by Jordie Johnson (18-15-33), Matt Kirzinger (10-12-22), Kyle Bonis (18-11-29) and Chad Billins (7-22-29). First Team All CCHA goaltender Taylor Nelson (18-6-3, 2.18 GAA and a .920 save %) will be severely tested. FSU has the 24th PP in the nation at 19.5% and is T7th in PK with an 85% kill rate.
Ferris has to prove that their defense, which took a sabbatical against BGSU, is for real. Denver will yield goal scoring chances in lieu of their own offensive risk taking. It should be an entertaining game that will hinge on Denver’s ability to solve Nelson and Ferris’s ability to stay patient and counterattack. Denver is running on three cylinders and still is a dangerous team.
Midwest Regional Final: I like Michigan to emerge against either opponent, if they can get past Cornell. If they advance, I’ll set up another mini-preview prior to Saturday’s regional final.
What About The Other Regionals?
In the East, Union is my choice to emerge from Bridgeport, although Miami and UML are excellent teams and the difference is miniscule. It could set up an all-CCHA semi final in Tampa if Miami emerges to play either Michigan or Ferris State. UMass-Lowell is looking to advance to their first Frozen Four.
Defense wins and I like Union’s ability to shut down MSU and the Miami/UML winner. It would be a delicious subplot for Michigan to seek revenge for the caning Union delivered to them at Yost, also, this past November when Michigan was clearly not the same team as they proved in the second half.
In the Northeast, BC is the clear favorite and should be. BUT, after they struggle past AFA, they will have a difficult regional final against defending National Champ UM-D OR Hockey East rival Maine. I’d like to see a BC-UM-D final but ultimately, BC should emerge from what is practically a home ice advantage in Worcester.
The most intriguing regional is the chosen “region of death” in St.Paul featuring Minnesota/BU and WMU/North Dakota. BU is a terrific team that has been in BC’s shadow all season. Minnesota has some of the top offensive players in the country, but its underbelly is soft- even with home cooking. WMU and their rowdy fans will get a dose of their own medicine against a terrorizing UND squad. I like UND to emerge to play BC in the other Frozen Four semi-final.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — YostMeister
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