Michigan Hockey: Notre Dame at Michigan — Preview
#7 Irish Up Next For Struggling #13 Wolverine Icers
What: #13 Michigan Wolverines (4-4-1) (2-3-1) T-7th CCHA vs. #7 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (6-3) (3-1) 3rd CCHA
Michigan will tangle with Notre Dame on Thursday 11/15 and Friday 11/16 @ 7:35 p.m. TV: Thursday, CBS Sports Network (ch 255 on Comcast) and Friday on Comcast local (ch 900). Follow the action with Al Randall and Bill Trainor on the IMG Network or track their progress on www.mgoblue.com
Analyzing The Previous Two Weekends:
The Wolverines traveled up to Marquette two weeks ago to face NMU and got a fresh dose of road reality, as they squeezed two gratuitous points out on Friday before losing on Saturday. Michigan jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first game, only to be snowed over by four unanswered goals by the Wildcats. The Maize & Blue chipped away at the lead in the third stanza and eventually trailed 4-3 late in the period. Freshman Defenseman Jacob Trouba took an ill advised contact to the head penalty with a vicious semi-blindside hit to NMU forward Reed Seckel that not only sent Trouba off for the rest of the game, but also tagged him with a DQ for the following night.
Video of the hit can be seen here:
Michigan fought off the five minute major and had less than a minute to attack. After a prolonged 6×5 shift that featured several chances, Captain AJ Treais found a loose puck at the side of the net and scored with less than: 01 left to send the game into OT. The Wolverines had glorious chances to win in OT, but settled for a 1-0 shootout win off the stick of Treais.
The following night, Michigan again fell into a deep hole, trailing at one point 4-0 before mounting a rally that fell short. NMU won 4-3 as Michigan was thin on the blue line and had to use senior forward Jeff Rohrkemper since defensemen Brennan Serville (concussion) and Trouba were out of the lineup. Junior Jon Merrill has still not played due to a fractured vertebra in his neck.
Last weekend the Wolverines split a home and home series with MSU, winning at Yost 5-1 and then getting trounced in East Lansing, 7-2. On Friday, Jared Rutledge picked up his first win as a Wolverine and Michigan charged out to an early 2-0 lead. The Spartans came back late in the second period to close to 2-1 after forty minutes. Michigan’s Derek DeBlois scored the insurance marker off of a MSU turnover early in the last frame which opened the door for goals by Kevin Lynch and Jacob Trouba to close out a 5-1 win. The Maize and Blue spoiled an opportunity for building on their solid effort on Friday by being completely unprepared on Saturday. The Wolverines surrendered a goal in the first minute of the game and allowed three more goals to be scored to skate off at the end of twenty minutes trailing 4-1. AJ Treais closed the margin to 4-2 before MSU salted the game away by adding three more tallies. The bottom line is, Michigan has yet to put two solid efforts together, has failed miserably on the road, and is abandoning any semblance of two way hockey. More on that trend after I profile the next set of games against the Irish.
Profiling The Irish:
Notre Dame enters this series coming off of a very challenging early season schedule that featured a narrow wins over (then) #20 Maine and UNO on neutral ice, a split at home against (then) #13 UM-Duluth, a road sweep of (then) #16 NMU, a home split with (then) #11 WMU, and finally a 3-1 defeat at #1 Boston College. Junior goaltender Steven Summerhays (5-3-0, 1.64 GAA, .932 save %) is carrying the bulk of the early season load and been credited with two shutouts already. Senior netminder Mike Johnson (1-0-0, 2.00 GAA, .929 save %) won his only outing of the year and headlines a four member class. Both goaltenders are benefitting by stout Irish defensive play led by backliners (junior) Kevin Lind (0-1-1, +4), (junior) Stephen Johns (0-4-4, +7) and sophomore Robbie Russo (2-2-4, 2PPG’s). Up front, the junior trio of Bryan Rust (2-4-6, +5, 1PPG), TJ Tynan (2-2-4) and Anders Lee (5-4-9, +2) continue to anchor the top two lines with support from juniors Jeff Costello (2-2-4), Michael Voran (0-1-1, +3) and David Gerths (2-0-2, +2). Underclassmen offense spreads across sophomores Peter Schneider (2-2-4), Austin Wuthrich (1-3-4) as well as freshmen Thomas DiPauli (2-1-3, +4) and Steven Fogarty (3-1-4, 2 PPG’s). Notre Dame will not overwhelm you offensively, but will slowly wear down opponents into mistakes and capitalize on them. They are well balanced, well coached and profit from their defensive minded approach.
Tale of the Tape: No hiding The Facts.
Michigan’s struggles are being veiled by their high octane offensive output. They currently are 2nd in scoring (4.22 GPG) trailing Union. That is about the only good news to share. Defensively, the Wolverines have fallen to 51st (out of 59 teams), giving up an average of 3.56 GPG. Notre Dame, on the other hand, is scoring a modest 2.67 GPG (T-33rd) while yielding a slim 1.78 GPG (3rd) – which is phenomenal considering the offensive units they have competed against. Michigan has the upper hand in PPG production, featuring a PP at 20.9% (16th). The Irish are struggling a bit at 11.6% (T-45th). The Wolverine PK is an abysmal 81.1% (T35th) while Notre Dame is 7th at 89.2%. Both teams are in the middle of the pack in PIM’s, with Michigan averaging 13.8 MPG, while the Irish are 29th at 12.2 MPG. The Wolverine’s average has been inflated due to back to back weekends of over-aggressive play by freshman defender Jacob Trouba.
Conclusion: The Wolverines couldn’t have picked a worst time to play the Irish. The only saving grace may be that the games are at Yost arena. Notre Dame has played extremely well away from South Bend, and will seek to exploit the loose and often careless Michigan defensive play. Yes, the Wolverines have suffered from injuries on the blue line, but overall their forward back checking has been non-existent and their goaltending suspect. This is not a good combination against what I believe may be the best team in the CCHA right now. Coach Berenson promises better dedication to two way play, but, nine games into the season I have only witnessed one game (last week against MSU) that resembled a full sixty minute effort- and that excludes nearly the entire 2nd period last week. These games are opportunities to right the ship and prove that the Wolverines are not only physically, but mentally capable of rising above early season adversity.
Still… I have my doubts.
Friday: Michigan 4-3 (OT). Saturday: ND 5-2.
-I mentioned earlier that Michigan’s travails appear to be more self induced, considering the spurts of remarkable offensive ability sandwiched by bonehead mental errors defensively. No bigger case can be made than the enigmatic play of freshman Jacob Trouba (3-5-8) who has a tremendous influence on the ice- but is quickly gaining a reputation as a cheap shot artist and a knucklehead with his propensity for going for the big hit. Trouba not only highlights the current stretch of selfish play right now, but doesn’t seem to get that his decisions-positive or negative affect his TEAM.
- Another enigmatic figure is Michigan’s Captain, AJ Treais, who is currently in the top five in the country in points (13) and goals (8). Yet, his +/- rating is 0- nata- zilch, meaning he has been on the ice for as many goals against as he has been on the ice producing. AJ is a good guy and an emotional leader, but has to lead this team’s re-emphasis to defense by example.
- On the other side of that coin are three defensemen: Alternate Captain Mac Bennett (my choice for team MVP at this point) is 3-7-10 but is a more important team leading +8. Alternate Captain Lee Moffie (1-3-4, +6) is right behind Bennett. Sophomore Brennan Serville is a stalwart +5 in six games. Kudos also to freshman Boo Nieves who not only scored his first two goals of the season last weekend, but carries a +4 rating. He leads the forwards. Alex Guptill has been steady on one end of the ice potting 4-6-10 so far, and has a +3 rating.
- I don’t want to pile on too much, but junior forward Luke Moffatt just seems to be snakebit right now. He has added four assists on the year, but has not scored a goal and is a team worse -5 (along with junior d-man Kevin Clare.) Hopefully both of these young men will get their collective selves together since we know that they are better than their numbers so far.
- Goaltending: don’t be too harsh, both Steve Racine and Jared Rutledge have seen more rubber this season than Daytona Speedway. Both have a long way to go to improve their games, but both have been victims also. Hard to say which one or both will get the call in net. Either way, it would be no crime if both of them choose to hoist a white flag if the team continues to play as poorly as they have in front of them this season.
-Worth noting: Kevin Lynch has quietly become the balanced contributor this team has been seeking. Offensively he has been steady (3-4-7, +2) and has provided some much needed toughness along the boards without taking too many needless penalties. This past week has been given an Alternate Captain designation for his efforts and will wear the ‘A’ the remainder of the season.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — YostMeister
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