Michigan Hockey: Bowling Green at Michigan -- Preview -- Look Ahead to Cornell

Posted at 4:00pm — 11/21/2012

Michigan Hockey: Bowling Green at Michigan — Preview– Look Ahead to Cornell

#19 Michigan Hockey: Trying To Find Their Identity Before The Season Slips Away

What: #19 Michigan Wolverines (4-6-1) (2-5-1) 9th CCHA vs. Bowling Green (2-8-3, 1-5-2-1) 10th CCHA. Wednesday, 11/21 7:35 p.m. Yost Arena TV: Comcast local (ch 900). Follow the action with Al Randall and Bill Trainor on WTKA (1050 a.m.) or track their progress on www.mgoblue.com
Saturday, 11/24 8:00 p.m. Madison Square Garden vs. #13 Cornell Big Red (3-3-2, 1-3-2) 7th ECAC. TV: MSG Network. Radio: IMG Network.

Analyzing Last Weekend’s Action:
The Wolverines went toe to toe with Notre Dame at Yost Arena last weekend, but dropped both games, 3-1 and 4-1. On Friday, Michigan jumped out to an early first period 1-0 lead on Justin Selman’s first career goal after a bad ND turnover deep in their zone. The lead held up into the second stanza until the Irish capitalized on poor Michigan coverage while shorthanded. ND sprung a 2×1 break after a neutral zone turnover that led to the tying goal. The game stayed knotted until late into the third period- after Michigan had failed to score on numerous opportunities.

The Irish pressed hard and forced a turnover after a faceoff deep in Michigan’s zone. The ensuing pressure ended up with a coverage error after a poor clearing attempt and a wraparound goal when freshman netminder Steven Racine became caught out of his crease. The Irish sealed the win with another coverage error goal minutes later. Michigan appeared frustrated after hitting at least three goal posts during the game, including a laser by Alex Guptill that he thought went in, which would have given the Wolverines an early third period lead.

Saturday night was a carbon copy of Friday, only this time the Irish took the early lead on a first period PPG by defenseman Stephen Johns. Michigan’s Jacob Trouba drilled home the tying goal in the second period after great work by the line of Copp-Hyman-Milne that forced a turnover behind the net. The puck squirted out to the top of the circle where Trouba stepped into it and beat ND goaltender Steve Summerhays high to the short side. The Wolverines nearly took the lead near the end of the period when Phil DiGiuseppe broke in on Summerhays and beat him, only to have the puck clank off of the right corner of the crossbar, skid across the crossbar and then off the corner post on the opposite side of the net. The officials viewed the play but ruled that it did not go in.

Both teams had chances in the third period as the game opened up a bit, but nothing was settled until about 5:00 remained when, after Racine poorly played a dump-in, Lee Moffie got crossed up with Mac Bennett while trying to reverse the puck in their zone. The puck was turned over and fed to a cutting Irish forward for the game winner. About a minute later the Irish pressured again and scored the insurance goal after another coverage error. Johns added an empty netter with seconds left for the final score. Steve Racine was in net for both losses and played well in defeat. Both games illustrated teams that are moving in opposite directions- one that got stronger as the game progressed and applied their will on Michigan.

The other that seemed to play nervous and cautious in an effort to hang on with a team that has been in pressure games this season. Hopefully the Maize and Blue will grow into a team that will not lament their missed chances and take advantage of the positive changes that took place in their defensive effort. Mistakes will happen- as in all sports it is a game of inches- yet Michigan needs to overcome those errors and make the bounces go their way. Michigan only gave up 19 shots in the Saturday game- their lowest total in two seasons- yet could not convert offensively. As newly minted alternate captain Kevin Lynch firmly stated, “It is not the mistakes that are killing us. It is how we are reacting to those mistakes which are taking us out of games. We should have the attitude that we will score the next goal to tie the game.” (Lynch is referring to Notre Dame’s third goal that Michigan allowed shortly after ND took the lead late in both games.)

The Wolverines now face Bowling Green in a crucial CCHA midweek game before flying out to NYC to face non conference foe Cornell in a holiday weekend tilt at Madison Square Garden. The BGSU game is critical since Michigan has already dropped five conference games, including three at home. They will face Ferris State on the road for two games the following weekend before a mid December series against WMU at Yost. That will end Michigan’s first half of the season which featured series against four teams (out of the seven CCHA teams they faced) battling at the top of the CCHA. The Wolverines cannot afford to drop too many more CCHA series or face a tough path to both the CCHA championship and to the NCAA tournament. Worse yet, Michigan’s second half schedule is primarily on the road which magnifies the mountain that the team has forced itself to climb.

Profiling The Falcons:
Bowling Green headed into this season feeling very good about their sudden resurgence in the CCHA. They were invigorated by a trip to Joe Louis Arena (after upsetting NMU in three games) and after a near upset of Michigan in the CCHA semi-finals. Their roster was bolstered with upgraded freshmen talent and a solid core of returning starters. Unfortunately for them, reality has dealt the program a dose of reality so far this season in that the program is not quite at the same competitive level that propelled them in the playoffs last season. The Falcons have yet to win a game at home (0-6-2), dropping a series to Union and single games to OSU and MSU, while tying OSU and WMU. They have a respectable showing on the road though at 2-2-1, including wins over Colgate and MSU (a 1-0 shutout) and a tie at the AHA conference leading Niagara Purple Eagles to open the season. Last weekend Ferris State demoralized the Falcons at BG by overcoming a third period collapse (BG scored three third period goals to tie the game) only to have Ferris score the GWG fourteen seconds into OT. The Dawgs finished the sweep the next night.

So, what does this mean? Typically, at this point of the season, not a whole lot. But BG has always circled their games against Michigan and has played pretty sticky on the road. Combine that with the Wolverine’s lost identity, it could spell more trouble for the locals. The Falcons are not going to scare the Wolverines with the same offensive voracity as some of the other CCHA teams have so far this season, yet, BG always seems to find a way to scrap a goal or two at critical junctures- something the Wolverines had trouble preventing last week. The Falcons are very young- with 17 underclassmen on their 29 man roster. The four man senior class is led by goaltender Andrew Hammond (1-5-1, 3.37 GAA, .883 save %) who had to battle back from an early season injury. He is splitting time in net with freshman Tommy Burke (1-3-2, 2.27 GAA, .897 save %). The Falcons went pretty much as Hammond went last season, but is not getting the same consistency from that position that was provided during the playoffs. Defensively, senior Bobby Shea (2-1-3, +1, 18 PIM’s) provides toughness and some offensive punch. He partners with fellow senior blueliner Ryan Peltoma. The real headliners on the blue line so far this season though have been a trio of sophomores: Mike Sullivan (0-4-4, +5), Rusty Hafner (1-1-2, +5) and Connor Kucera (1-2-3). A fourth sophomore, Marcus Perrier has struggled so far (-11 with 14 PIM’s.)

Up front, the Falcons depend on their youth to produce goals. Sophomore forward Ryan Carpenter leads the offense (4-5-9, +3) followed by fellow classmates Dan DeSalvo (1-7-8, 16 PIM’s), Adam Berkle (2-5-7, 20 PIM’s.) and Dajon Mingo (2-5-7, +3.) Freshman Mark Cooper (3-1-4, -3) has added some secondary scoring, but has wrestled with his defensive responsibilities. Junior forwards Cam Wojtala (3-1-4, -4) and Bryce Williamson (2-1-3, -2) fall under the same category- definitely dangerous in the offensive zone, yet frequently caught up ice after the puck is surrendered.
Tale of the Tape: An Unusual Pattern Is Developing

The Wolverines re-dedicated a strong effort to two way hockey last weekend, and, if that play is carried over into this week’s games, it should give them a better chance to succeed. The offense should re-emerge against Bowling Green although they have been pretty stingy against better competition. Michigan carries in a 3.64 GPG average (4th) into the Wednesday game, significantly better than BG’s 1.77 GPG average this season (54th.) Michigan’s Achilles heel, even against average offenses, has been their inability to keep the puck out of their net. The Wolverines average 3.55 GPG defensively, which notches them at an alarming 53rd overall. BG has only allowed 2.92 GPG which ranks them T-36th. At face value this will suggest a very ragged, sloppy contest- depending on how well the teams stick to their patterns. The last thing that BG wants to do is get into a special team’s battle with Michigan. The Falcons are a miserable 55th in PP conversion (8.2%) and are allowing a near worst (57th) 26.3% conversion to opponents on their PP (or a 73.7% kill rate). Michigan, on the other hand, is a respectable 18% (24th) on the PP, and is a subpar 81.4% (t-37th) on their PK. The problem for Michigan is, they are yielding PPG’s (and shorthanded goals) to aggressive opponents. Look for BG to take some risks in both areas to test the Wolverines ability to set up on their PP chances and penalty kill. Similarly, look for Michigan to exploit the Falcons while on the penalty kill since BG has yielded five SHG’s this season. (Michigan has yielded two so far, against Miami and ND.)

From a discipline point of view, the Falcons can be a bit feisty, but so far, as a team, only average 11.69 PIM’s a game. That checks in at 41st (worst) in the country, compared to Michigan’s 12.55 PIM’s per game average, or 33rd (worst) in the country. Unless something stupid happens, this should be a non-factor for this game.

Conclusion: Michigan is reeling mentally after playing a pretty solid weekend against Notre Dame. Technically two things beat them: inability to convert offensive chances and late game defensive errors. BG will not pose the same defensive difficulties, although Michigan must be patient initially with BG’s sticky forecheck and trapping style. A lead is imperative in order to force BG to open up. The sedate Yost pre-holiday atmosphere may take whatever air is left out of the balloon, though, especially if BG gains an early lead. It will also produce more pressure on a team that needs to start taking advantage of their chances. The obligatory mention about goaltending and defensive turnovers is in order. At this stage, a win against a downtrodden team is still a win. A loss though will be devastating and is always a possibility when a team is struggling like the Wolverines are.

Michigan 4-2.

Advanced Peek At #13 Cornell Big Red:
The Wolverines travel to NY for a re-match against the Cornell Big Red, the program that dumped them out of the NCAA tournament last season (3-2 in OT.) Cornell has gotten off to a slow start (3-3-2) and is 0-3-2 in their last five games and has been outscored 19-16 this season. They are big on the edges and blue line and feature some dynamic upper class talent. Cornell will not overwhelm with speed or offense, but will play a very tight checking, physical style. They are averaging 2.00 GPG (T50th), 2.38 GA (18th), 17.9% PP (25th) and an 81.6% PK (36th.) They have been a little more aggressive this season averaging 13.75 PIM’s (T-22nd worst). The Big Red swept Colorado College in Ithaca, NY to start the season, but since then have only picked up a tie and a win against ECAC foe, Colgate.

Cornell is still expected to right the ship (Some Ivy League / ECAC teams usually start their season later than other conferences) and will have played four less games than Michigan. They are led by junior all-ECAC goaltender Andy Iles (3-3-2, 2.09 GAA, .923 save %) as well as all ECAC defenseman (and captain) Nick D’Agostino (1-3-4). D’Agostino pushes the offense from the blueline while partner (sophomore) defender Joakim Ryan (0-6-6) is a power play specialist. Stay at home (senior) Braden Birch is a lock down defender. Freshmen defensemen Reece Wilcox (+3) and Gavin Stoick (USNDT) have been impressive. Look for senior forwards Greg Miller (3-2-5) and John Esposito (3-1-4) to headline the offense along with sophomores Joel Lowry (3-2-5), Brian Ferlin (0-3-3) and Cole Bardreau (1-3-4) as well as junior Dustin Mowrey (2-1-3).

Overall, Cornell returns 8 of their 9 leading scorers from last season and 4 of their top 6 defensemen in addition to Iles in net. This game will mark the first time Michigan has played Cornell in New York since their initial game in 1965. Michigan and Cornell are 3-3-1 overall against each other.

It is hard to say which Michigan team will show up for this game, but, considering it is on the road (technically at a neutral site ) against a quality defensive team, I am certain that Michigan will have to put together an equally impressive balance of offense, defense and goaltending to snatch a victory. Never underestimate a Berenson team…. Michigan, 3-2.

-AJ Treais continues to lead the Wolverine offense (8-5-13), but was held off the scoresheet last weekend to go with his -2 rating. He is 14th overall in country in scoring. Mac Bennett leads the team in +/- with a +6 and is tied with Alex Guptill (4-6-10) for second in team scoring (3-7-10.)

– Goaltender worries: Steve Racine (3-3-1, 2.93 GAA, .885 save %) and Jared Rutledge (1-3-0, 4.46 GAA, .855 save %) are going to be keys to Michigan’s chances as we wind down the first half of the season. One of them needs to step up and rise above the average play both have demonstrated. Racine has had problems handling the puck and both are suffering from confidence issues. Hang in there, fellas.

-Injury update: Coach Berenson told the media that Jon Merrill’s neck fracture is not responding as fast as they had hoped and he is most likely out for “several more months”. This could effectively endanger this season and /or his career at Michigan. No other details are available.

– Michigan has scored one goal more than they have yielded this season (40-39).

– Those of us at GBMWolverine want to extend our best wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving. I am personally thankful for health, family, employment and the privilege to report on Michigan Hockey for our fine readers and posters.

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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — YostMeister

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