Michigan Hockey: Bentley Falcons vs. Michigan -- Preview

Posted at 5:45am — 10/19/2012

Michigan Hockey: Bentley Falcons vs. Michigan — Preview

What: #5 Michigan Wolverines (1-1) vs. Bentley (1-0 1-0 AHA)
Yost Ice Arena Friday 10/18 @ 7:35 p.m. No T.V. Audio on WTKA (1050 a.m.) or on www.mgoblue.com

Recapping Last Week’s Action:
Michigan auspiciously split a pair of games with the RIT Falcons, dropping the season opener 5-4 in OT and coming back the next night with a resounding 7-2 rout. On Thursday, the Maize & Blue opened up a 3-0 first period lead in what appeared to be a thrashing in the making. Derek DeBlois got Michigan rolling at 2:16. Mac Bennett added a 5×3 PPG at 11:41 (Jacob Trouba assisted giving him his first official point) and then Trouba scored on a virtual end to end rush, scoring on an unassisted wrap-around on the PP at 18:37. That is where the fun ended, as RIT scored on a fluke play to close the gap. Freshman forward Josh Mitchell literally threw the puck at the net from an odd angle and it slipped by Jared Rutledge with: 54 left in the period. It seemed to change the momentum of the game and gave RIT life.

Michigan had numerous chances in the second stanza but failed to score. They did have an apparent PPG waived off due to a high stick. RIT pressured late in the period but did not score. Three and a half minutes into the third period, though, RIT’s captain, Chris Saracino scored an unassisted goal on another innocent looking shot. The Wolverines rebounded with their own unassisted effort from Travis Lynch at 5:50, but soon got caught trying to extend the lead. It ended up in a rebound goal from the slot (on the backhand) for RIT with a little more than half the period left. RIT defenseman Greg Noyes slipped in from his point position on a defensive breakdown and was left wide open to walk into the circle and pumped in the tying goal at 15:20. The Wolverines managed to finish off the period but were clearly deflated (a late PP chance for RIT actually produced a glorious short-handed chance for Michigan, but Kevin Lynch was stopped on the initial shot and Zach Hyman was denied on the rebound by RIT netminder Josh Watson). RIT quickly went to work in OT, forcing play into the Michigan zone.

Senior Adam Hartley punched a loose rebound through Rutledge on the edge of the crease and a Michigan defender could not get to it before it crossed the line for the game winning tally. It took: 14 to put a capper on what Coach Berenson deemed as a disappointing outing. Rutledge was called out by the coach in the press conference for giving up soft goals and for appearing tentative. (I am homogenizing these statements- they were much sharper- and much to the chagrin of RIT supporters who thought Berenson was discrediting their effort.) He also pointed to the poor defensive effort by his forwards, who collectively had nine out of the twelve front liners with negative +/- ratings for the game. Michigan outshot the Tigers 44-26 for the game and was 2-7 on the PP. They surrendered no special team goals in 5 RIT PP chances.

Changes were made to the lineup the following night, inserting sophomore forward Andrew Sinelli in place of Hyman, and goaltender Steve Racine in place of Rutledge. The moves paid dividends as both players performed well. It took some time to get going, but Michigan jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead on a mid period goal by defender Lee Moffie and a late period SHG from Travis Lynch. Senior forward Jeff Smith scored (4×4) his first of two goals in the game for RIT, capitalizing on sloppy Wolverines defense to close the lead to 2-1 a little less than five minutes into the 2nd frame. Sophomore Phil Di Giuseppe collected the game winning goal ten minutes later on the first career point, an assist, from Cristoval “Boo” Nieves. In the third period, RIT’s Smith tallied again at 5:18 to cut the lead on a nice passing play to close to 3-2. Captain A.J. Treais came right back with the GWG: 47 later to extend the lead to 4-2. He accepted a perfect pass in the near slot from DiGiuseppe and one timed a shot on one knee ala Brett Hull. Sinelli then got rewarded for his hustle with his first career goal at 9:25. (He was noticeable on every one of his shifts- two strong body checks and a near miss shot off the crossbar on a short-handed chance earlier.) He raced up ice 2 x1 with Mac Bennett, received a perfect pass and half slapped a laser over RIT netminder Jordan Ruby’s glove top shelf to extend the lead to 5-2. Trouba added a PPG with a bomb from the point at the halfway point of the period and senior Lindsay Sparks scored at 11:52 to end the scoring for the evening. Michigan finished the game 1-6 on the PP, where RIT was 0-4. The Wolverines outshot the Tigers 51-23. Bentley, a team with similarities to RIT from the AHA conference, visits Yost arena next.

Profiling The Falcons:
Bentley rolls into Yost arena Friday brimming with confidence after shellacking conference foe Sacred Heart 7-1 this past Tuesday. Coach Ryan Soderquist’s team is filled with veteran talent, but adds eight new faces to the roster. Gone are seven seniors, 53 points in offense, two key penalty killers and a minute’s eater on defense. This year’s addition is more balanced on offense and is being picked to finish 4th in the league coaches poll- after finishing 16-16-8, 13-7-7 (6th) last season. The Falcons dropped a pair of tough games to the Wolverines last season (5-1, 4-1) with both games undecided until midway through the third period. That experience actually helped Bentley, according to Soderquist. Now he thinks that they can avoid the late game collapses and win against the bigger programs.

He may not be far from that considering the talent he is putting on the ice. His first line features two big freshmen: Andrew Gladniuk (1-1-2) and Tyler Krause (0-1-1). Quebec native senior Joe Campanelli (11 points last season) is also big- all three average 6’ and 200 lbs. The second line employed against Sacred Heart is the pure scoring line, consisting of Calgary native and returning AHA ROTY sophomore Alex Grieve (2-0-2 and 15-19-34 last season), AHA regular season scoring champ Brett Gensler (1-3-4, 23-27-50 last season) and sophomore Brett Switzer (0-1-1, 14-19-33 last season) who also hails from Alberta.

The third and fourth lines are balanced also with a combined 81 points along with three seniors and two juniors in that mix. Junior Jared Rickford (1-0-1) played on the fourth line against Sacred Heart and put together an 8-13-21 season last year. Both he and Grieve scored against Michigan last season. Line mate and fellow senior Dan Koudys is a steady PK specialist.

On defense, the Falcons are building on a pair of Zachs: as in Ledford (6’1” 195) and Marginsky (6’6” 220.) Both are juniors. They are joined by sophomores Matt Maher (6’2”, 200) and Steve Weinstein (1-2-3, 2-16-18 last season.) Three freshmen also rotate on the blue line- Matt Blomquist, Kyle O’Brien and Mike Reardon all size up at 6’2” and average about 200 lbs. If anything, the Tigers will not get pushed around. Weinstein is the power play specialist on the point along with first unit snipers, Grieve and Gensler.

Probably the biggest ace in the hole is junior goaltender Branden Komm. The Williamsville, NY native was 16-4-7 last season with a 2.41 GAA and a .923 save %. He stopped 39 of 42 shots in the 4-1 loss to the Wolverines last season. (Michigan scored an empty netter with a little over a minute left.) He will probably bear most of the load, but will have back-up provided by sophomore Blake Dougherty (3 GP, 0-0-1, 3.74 GAA and .909 save % last season.) as well as by freshman Gabe Antoni. Komm literally carried the Tigers late last season and was rated as the 9th best goaltender to watch this season by the USCHO. The AHA brags of two other netminders on the list representing Air Force and Connecticut, while the CCHA was given respect for LSSU’s Kevin Kapalka and WMU’s Frank Slubowski.

Overall the Falcons will go up and down the ice with opponents, and have the offense to match. Ironically, all of the goals scored against Sacred Heart were either on the PP (4) or shorthanded (3). The only goal they surrendered was on the penalty kill. Now, Bentley would be the first to admit that their conference opponent is probably one of the worst teams in college hockey this season, so take their initial results in stride. Still, Michigan will have to continue to improve defensively in order to curb a very dangerous attack.

Tale of the Tape. Sort of.
Bentley only has played one game, so it is hard to judge fairly where they really stand against good opposition. Their special teams accounted for all their scoring, and the game with Sacred Heart turned into a penalty fest. Two things from this: they will not back down to physical play and are willing to take penalties and they are dangerous when placed on the power play (4-8 last Tuesday.) On the flip side, Michigan has yet to yield a PPG, even in their collapse against RIT in game one. They showed that they can score (11 goals) and are at a respectable 23% on the PP. They only took an average of 11 minutes in penalties for the series. The only hole in the picture is the defensive play and the goaltending that still is pretty ragged. Racine surrendered two goals, yet had to rely on his defense to bail him out several times due to slow side to side movement and over-commitment on his angles. Rutledge was a mess- his mechanics, his mental game and his ability to smother pucks showed that he is either still feeling the effects of the eye issue he had or the lack of practice time he endured while recovering. Berenson insists that he’ll be fine, and he should be. I have a hunch that, due to the conference schedule imminently approaching, he’ll see action on Friday.

Michigan’s offense produced points from 10 of their 13 forwards that saw action. (Justin Selman and Andrew Copp were held out injured.) Zach Hyman, Daniel Milne and Kevin Lynch were held off the board and Alex Guptill was held to one assist. Lynch did chip in with 4 PIM’s. The latter two were -1 for the weekend (although Hyman only played in the opener) and Guptill was even. Derek DeBlois and Travis Lynch each share a +4 rating and combined for 5 points. Jacob Trouba, Lee Moffie and Mac Bennett all supported the offense, as expected.

If Selman and Copp are healthy, they will probably be inserted into the lineup- once again, just a hunch. Michigan’s biggest weakness right now is also the area of their least depth- defense- due to injuries to Jon Merrill and now to Kevin Clare who will not play Friday (shoulder.) Sophomore preferred walk-on Mike Szuma will step in for Clare. Look for a simpler breakout scheme and a better emphasis on forward defensive help to ease the stress on the back line.

Bottom line: Michigan can’t afford to fall into the same trap against Bentley that they did against RIT, if they build a lead. Bentley has more forward depth and offensive firepower. A steady 60 minute effort and dependable goaltending should be enough for Michigan to win a tightly contested 4-3 game, with the difference coming against a rugged yet young Falcon defensive unit.

Yostbits:
-Michigan’s defensemen injuries, as I mentioned, are hampering their continuity. Kevin Clare was the latest to go down. (I saw him exit Yost late Friday in a light sling.) He doesn’t sound like he’ll be out long, but Berenson, like Brady Hoke, doesn’t discuss injuries unless it is a long term issue.

– Sophomore defenseman Brennan Serville was kind enough to take five minutes after the Friday game and talk. I asked him what were the biggest changes to the rink that he noticed on the ice and he mentioned that the old lighting scheme made it difficult to pick up the puck on the ring around the boards (dump ins, etc.) where now it is much easier to see. (I don’t know if it helps the goaltending also since it didn’t appear to do much to help on Thursday. From a patron’s standpoint, the lighting is much brighter and consistent, with the light bars positioned on the sides angling down instead of hanging overhead.) He also noted that the back drop of the silver stands also makes it easier to pick the puck up while retreating to the corners. I thought that it was interesting insight. Serville, who came out of the two games with a +1 rating, looked more comfortable on the ice than last season and made less noticeable mistakes. Thanks Brennan for your time.
– Andrew Sinelli was beaming after Friday’s game, and had every right to. It was a career performance for him after being inserted into the lineup. It’s the kind of reward that befits his effort every time he plays. Michigan fans should be happy that Andy changed his initial thoughts of playing for that team in East Lansing and instead, came to Michigan. Good job, Andy!
-Career firsts: Sinelli, as mentioned with his first goal finished +1; Boo Nieves (0-2-2) and Jacob Trouba (2-1-3), added their first career points. (Both freshmen still have to work on their defensive responsibilities, as they finished -1 for the two games.) Kudos also to Steve Racine who posted his first victory in a Michigan uniform. The freshman stopped 21 of 23 shots and appeared confident in his net. He wasn’t challenged that often, but made the stops he should with minimal rebounds. Congratulations to all of you.

– Ironman: Junior defender Mac Bennett, who added a goal and an assist last weekend to go with his +2 rating, also blocked a team high 7 of the 14 total blocked shots against RIT. He was described by some media people as the best overall player on the ice for the two game set.

Around The CCHA:
The rest of the CCHA opened up play with mixed results last week. The Buckeyes traveled to UM-Duluth for a pair of games and split, which is a mild surprise. WMU dropped an OT game to ECAC’s St. Lawrence, and then squeaked out a one goal win in Kalamazoo. Ferris State traveled to Troy, NY for a pair against RPI and only came home with a tie. Miami easily handled Colgate in Oxford, winning 3-0 and 5-1. NMU swept a tight neutral ice two game series from Wisconsin in Green Bay. LSSU and Michigan Tech split their series, with each team winning on home ice. Alaska traveled to Anchorage for the Kendall Hockey Classic and tied Air Force and then dropped a 3-1 decision to Canisius- both AHA conference teams. Bowling Green entertained Union and dropped 5-3 and 4-1 decisions to the Dutchmen. In perhaps the best showing of the weekend, Notre Dame defeated Maine 1-0 in the Ice Breaker Tournament in Kansas City and then followed up with a 3-2 win in the championship game against Nebraska-Omaha. The conference finished the weekend 10-8-2 against teams from the other four conferences in division I college hockey. Not exactly overwhelming, but did demonstrate how tight the league may be once conference play begins.

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