Michigan Hockey: Michigan at Northern Michigan -- Hitting the Road -- Preview

Posted at 4:00pm — 11/2/2012

Michigan Hockey: Michigan at Northern Michigan — Hitting the Road — Preview

#8 Wolverine Icers Hit The Road For 1st Time Against #20 NMU Wildcats
What: #8 Michigan Wolverines (3-2) (1-1) CCHA vs. #20 Northern Michigan University Wildcats (3-3) (0-2) CCHA
Michigan will meet the Wildcats in Marquette for the final time while conference mates. Michigan played NMU four times last season and was 2-1-1-1 against them. Michigan holds an all time record of 37-19-6 against NMU and has won 6 of the past 8 games and is 7-3-1-1 in their last 11 games against the Northerners. The Wolverines are 16-11-2 in Marquette since first meeting there in 1981.
Games will be at Berry Events Center Friday 11/2 and Saturday 11/3 @ 7:35 p.m. No TV. Audio on WTKA (1050 AM). Follow the action with Al Randall and Bill Trainor or track their progress on www.mgoblue.com

Brennan Serville is out this weekend after suffering a concussion on Saturday night. Mike Szuma will be stepping in for him. Also Steve Racine will be starting in net Friday and, if he plays well, will get the start on Saturday also.

Recapping Last Week’s Action:
Michigan and Miami battled in CCHA action last weekend with both teams earning three points. On Friday night, Michigan surrendered an early PPG goal on a goaltender miscue, but roared back to take a 2-1 advantage in the second period on two AJ Treais bullets. Miami tied the game late in the middle stanza on a shorthanded tally, but gave up the winning goal halfway through the third frame as defenseman Mike Chiasson scored his first goal of the season. The lead was stretched to 4-2 courtesy of an insurance marker by Alex Guptill. Steve Racine earned the victory in acrobatic style, fighting off a very speedy and offensively gifted Red Hawk team. He turned away 30 of 32 shots. Miami’s Jay Williams suffered his first loss in relief of Ryan McKay who was injured in the first period after only facing one shot. Williams stopped 30 of the 34 shots he saw. Miami finished 1 for 5 on the PP, where Michigan was 1 for 7.

The two teams played a very similar game on Saturday, with Miami taking an early lead again. Michigan fought to tie the game on a Travis Lynch tally, then took the lead on a snipe by Guptill to take another 2-1 advantage into the third period. A defensive zone breakdown from a faceoff just 20 seconds after killing a penalty resulted in the tying goal for Miami at 3:48. Within three minutes of that tying goal Michigan was then victimized by lackadaisical coverage as Miami held in a clearing pass and forced a delayed penalty. The forward (Mullins) moved around the Wolverine forward (Derek DeBlois) and, without interference from the Michigan defense, deposited the puck in the net on a nice cross crease backhand play to take a 3-2 lead. Eighteen seconds later they took a commanding 4-2 lead as the Red Hawks clicked on the power play. A long stretch pass from the Miami blueline resulted in a breakaway GWG for Curtis McKenzie, as Michigan was caught in a change. U-M’s Lindsay Sparks got the Wolverines within a goal with a little more than two minutes left, but, after coming close on several chances with the extra attacker, Michigan was unable to solve Miami’s netminder Jay Williams who was able to hang on for the series split. Williams was solid, stopping 37 of 40 shots. Wolverine goaltender Jared Rutledge was victimized by his team’s mental gaffes and took the loss. His play, while not spectacular, was not the main reason for Michigan’s second home loss in five games. He turned away 31 of 35 shots. It was, as Red Berenson described, a disappointment to give away two games at home in the third period, especially with the Wolverine’s struggles on the road. Michigan will now hit the road for the first time this season. Miami scored the only PPG of the game on five chances, where Michigan was denied twice in their two attempts.

Profiling The Wildcats:
Walt Kyle has put together another prototypical NMU hockey squad: Big, fast, physical and locked into their defensive system. Northern has been up and down so far this campaign, starting off well with a neutral ice 2-1, 4-2 sweep of the WCHA’s Wisconsin Badgers. The Cats then traveled to Omaha to take on the Mavericks in what is a carryover from the spirited CCHA battles they use to have. UNO won the first game handily, 5-2, but NMU came back with a better effort, splitting the series with a 2-1 road win. Last weekend Northern opened their home season with a 5-2 thumping at the hands of Notre Dame before falling on Saturday, 3-2. The common theme here, as it has been for the past several years is, NMU is competitive in games but just can’t find enough offense. If their defense and goaltending falter, they have a steep hill to climb to get back into games. So far, consistency on both ends of the ice is lacking.

Nonetheless, the team usually is much tougher at the BEC, utilizing the Olympic size rink to their advantage. They will be looking to rebound against the Wolverines in a series that has been downright nasty the last few seasons. If you will recall last season, Michigan opened their road schedule in Marquette and dropped a 5-3 decision after Shawn Hunwick was ejected for decking a NMU player who got tangled up with him in the crease. Adam Janecyk spelled Hunwick and got roughed up, surrendering the winning goal late in the third period after the Wolverines fought back to tie the game. The following night, Michigan coughed up a late lead, but survived OT to take their lone shoot out win of 2011-12. Both games were physical and penalty filled. Michigan swept a series at Yost to conclude the regular season, including a dramatic 3-2 OT win on an AJ Treais last minute goal.

The Cats are led by a 14 member upper class (7 seniors, 7 juniors.) Senior Matt Thurber leads the offense (1-5-6, +3) followed by a pair of juniors: Reed Seckel (2-2-4) and Stephan Vigier (1-3-4). Sophomore Ryan Daugherty (3-0-3) and freshman Cohen Adair (3-0-3) have provided the primary goal scoring. The blueline is led by senior Captain Scott Macauley (0-3-3), senior and St Paul, Minnesota native Kyle Follmer (0-3-3) and junior CJ Ludwig (0-2-2, 8 PIM’s). The balance of the unit is young, featuring two sophomores, Mitch Jones and Jake Baker, plus a rotation of two seniors and freshman Ryan Trenz who is +3 in his four games. Trenz is one of seven new members to the roster including fellow classmates (forwards) Darren Nowick (2-0-2) and Ryan Aynsley (1-1-2). Junior goaltender Jared Coreau (3-3-0, 2.78 GAA and .907 save %) is highly regarded in the CCHA and will probably go both nights. Freshman backup Michael Doan has gotten in for 13 minutes of mop-up duty.

Tale of the Tape: We’re seeing trends now.
Michigan will have a decided edge in offense during this series. The high flying Wolverines come in averaging 4.8 GPG (3rd) versus the meager 2.33 GPG average (T-43rd) the Cats drag in. Caution though, as I have been preaching for the past several weeks, the Michigan defense and goaltending is surrendering easy goals to opponents- regardless of their offensive prowess. This is a major concern that could make this series tighter than it should be. NMU has the edge in the defensive category- not that it is overly impressive. The Cats are giving up 2.83 GPG (T-34th) while Michigan is being gouged for 3.2 GPG (46th). Michigan holds a 16% PP (T-31st) while NMU is a paltry 2/22 (9%, T-47th). The Cats have killed off penalties at 85% (17/20, T-25th) where the Maize and Blue has only surrendered 2 PPG’s in 20 attempts (90%, 17th). The Wolverines got nicked up by Miami on special teams- giving up PP & SH goals, so I wouldn’t read into their numbers just yet. The big ice will play a factor in special teams, where gap coverage (between the defensemen and the forwards as well as between the two defensemen) will be vital. Michigan has been very disciplined this season to date, averaging 9.2 MPG in penalties (T-52nd), while Northern is averaging an even 10 PIM (T-46th). I am confident that these averages will go up this weekend.

Michigan’s goaltending has been heavily criticized for their performance to date, and with decent merit. Steve Racine has taken the reins effectively (3-0-0, 2.33 GAA and a .913 save %). He is still a little unsteady handling the puck and communicating with his defensive partners, though, which cost him two goals Friday. He’ll continue to split duties with Jared Rutledge (0-2-0, 4.52 GAA and .852 save %). Rutledge had a better outing Saturday and basically got hung out to dry by his team in the third period. He made some difficult saves and really can’t be faulted for the four goals he gave up. Still, Michigan is going to go as far as their weakest link will take them. It’s hard to say that either netminder will cover up for Michigan’s defensive breakdowns, something that Shawn Hunwick did very well his last three seasons. This is why it is imperative that the team rally behind both goalies with better defensive focus even when a decision is made going forward for a permanent starter. It will serve the entire program moving into the playoffs.

Conclusion: Michigan has to come into Marquette with the mindset of sacrificing offense in order to protect their net. They will secure enough scoring chances, even with a more defensive emphasis, to be able to win. Both goaltenders are going to be facing a hostile crowd for the first time, and could get rattled. If Michigan continues to push the tempo and the offense, this series could be a shoot-out. I still can’t see NMU outscoring Michigan in either scenario, though, if both teams play a 5×5 type of game. In the end, the Wolverines have to prove that they will not fade under the pressure of being on the road, and, if confronted with adversity. Both goaltenders will play, presumably. Buckle up, this weekend may be wild. Friday: Michigan 5-4. Saturday: NMU 6-4.

-The Wolverines concluded a 5 game home stand to start the season at 3-2. Not the beginning fans were looking for, especially with losing an opening night affair to a fairly average AHA team in OT. The biggest problem has been the focus applied to each and every shift. Small lapses have cost Michigan two leads in the third period in the games they lost. Michigan looks content to continue to push the offense at all costs, which has burned them. Overall, the Maize and Blue has scored 24 goals while yielding 16.

-Junior alternate captain Mac Bennett (1-4-5) leads the team with a +6 rating and added an assist last weekend. Junior Derek DeBlois improved to +4 with fellow linemates (sophomore) Travis Lynch jumping to +5 and (senior) Lindsay Sparks moving to +3. That line was 2-3-5 against Miami. On the flip side, the top line of Treais-PDG-Moffatt continues to pile up the points on one end, but yield goals on the other (each were -1 on Saturday). They are a collective -6 on the season, (Moffatt is a team worst -3) even with their 2-2-4 line last week. Treais leads the team with 5-2-7 on the season. The line of Kevin Lynch-Guptill (4-2-6) -Nieves continues to impress, netting 2-2-4 last week and are a collective +6 for the season. In fairness, the +/- rating is an individual statistic that doesn’t consider when a player is on the ice with other teammates. Still, it is a good indicator of how a given player or players together are trending.

– The Children Of Yost were their rowdy costume laden selves even with the dampened crowd turn out both nights. Favorite antagonist (coach) Enrico Blasi was serenaded several times on and off the ice and the COY garnered a stern stare from Blasi at one point. I’m sure he will miss the environment at Yost, as Miami moves over to the NCHC next season. It was no surprise that the team celebrated their victory on the ice directly in front of the COY, with Blasi directing traffic. It was, after all, only the sixth win on Yost ice in Miami’s history.

-Blasi, Pt II: It is no wonder this coach gets my CCHA “greaseball- because- I- can’t- say- d-bag” coach of the year award each season. After an obvious goal was scored by the Red Hawks on Friday that got waived off due to the net being dislodged by Michigan goaltender Steve Racine, Blasi screamed at the officials (Brian Aaron and Barry Pochmara) to conduct a review of the play. After providing ‘gong show quality entertainment’ by jawing with Blasi, the officials finally got the call right after delaying a video review. The satisfied Blasi gave a mini goal signal to the crowd behind him when the official signaled a goal. Yes, the officials were just as guilty in their confusion as Blasi was correct in forcing the issue… but his childish behavior in getting to those ends has much to be desired. It blemishes a strong program that he has helped built back for Miami. Not quite the Dynasty they think it is, though.

- “Scratching” my head: After performing solidly on Friday night, sophomore Zach Hyman was scratched in favor of freshman Daniel Milne on Saturday. My curiosity stems from the fact that the line of Hyman-Copp-Selman, who was absolutely on fire against Bentley, was held off the score sheet, yet didn’t yield a goal either. They are a collective +5, where Milne is -1 in his three games, (0) even in the game against Miami. Milne is a hard working young man that plays with an edge and deserves his chance to play-but didn’t produce the same chemistry that Hyman provided his line mates. There are very few forwards that deserve to be scratched right now, so the decision each week has to be difficult. I was just surprised it was Zach. It was the second time this season that Hyman has been sat, so obviously there has to be others expectations that the coaches have that I don’t realize.

-Defenseman Jacob Trouba has made quite an impact so far this season, collecting 2-4-6 and a +1 rating. His shot is as heavy as his body checks, and he can skate like the wind. But he even proved to be mere mortal this weekend, getting schooled by Miami freshman Riley Barber on Friday on a rush that he was scored upon, and then with his -2 performance on Saturday, where it just seemed he was out of sync all evening. (He was victimized on the GWG PP goal, allowing Miami’s resident tough guy, Curtis McKenzie, with whom he had battled with both nights, to get behind him to receive a long pass, skate in and score on the play). There will be better days for the rookie phenom, but he has shown that he has a great deal to learn before he can move on to the next level. He has flashed great skill, and has made Michigan’s PP much more threatening, yet is more reminiscent of Jack Johnson’s propensity for abandoning his defensive responsibilities throughout the first five games. I hope the team’s leaders grab Jacob and remind him that he more valuable staying within the system than going rogue. Trouba also leads the team in PIM’s with eight.

Around The CCHA:
Conference play began last weekend with Miami/ Michigan being the centerpiece series. Notre Dame, as mentioned, swept NMU in Marquette and has leapt to the top of the standings. The Irish have been very strong so far, playing a rugged OOC schedule and then opening CCHA play on the road in convincing style. Irish Goaltender Steve Summerhays was named CCHA Goaltender of the Month for his sparkling 4-1 record with a 1.61 GAA and a .938 save %. Michigan and Miami produced a fair result as both teams will battle for a top five spot in the league. Miami’s sophomore forward Austin Czarnik was named CCHA player of the month, coming off of his 1G 2A weekend against the Wolverines. Fellow linemate Riley Barber was named CCHA Rookie of the Month for his performance in October and also added 1G and 2A against Michigan. Both are tied atop the CCHA scoring race with eight points each.

Alaska journeyed to Big Rapids and split their series with the Bulldogs. The Nanooks dropped a 6-3 verdict Friday before swiping a 3-2 victory, scoring the winner with only: 50 left. BGSU hosted Ohio State and could only salvage a tie and the extra shootout point on Saturday. The Bucks shut out the Falcons on Friday, 1-0. Lake Superior State entertained MSU in the Soo and both teams grabbed three points. LSSU won 3-2 on Friday and MSU won 4-2 on Saturday. Western Michigan took the weekend off and will resume play this weekend in the marquee CCHA match-up at Notre Dame.

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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — YostMeister

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