Michigan Hockey: Hockey Struggling To Find Answers; Hosts Alaska Next
What: Michigan Wolverines (7-11-2) (4-8-2-2) T7th CCHA vs. University of Alaska Nanooks (6-8-4, 4-7-3-1) T7th CCHA. Friday & Saturday, 1/11-12/13, 7:35 p.m. Yost Arena, Ann Arbor, Mi.
TV: Friday none. Saturday’s game will be on FSD+. Follow the action with Al Randall and Bill Trainor on the IMG Sports Network (WTKA 1050 a.m.) or track their progress on www.mgoblue.com
The Wolverines look to break a 7th place tie with the Alaska Nanooks. Michigan last played Alaska in Fairbanks during the 2011-12 season, splitting their series thanks to an Alex Guptill OT winner in the second game of the weekend. That launched Michigan on a run that helped secure their 22nd straight NCAA appearance. This will be the final regular season meeting between these programs as conference foes. Alaska will be moving to the re-vamped WCHA next season.
U-M Totally Uninspired In 5-1 Loss to Bowling Green:
Losing to a perennial bottom feeder at home is bad, but getting totally outworked, outscored and physically beaten up on television is beyond the pale. But, that is exactly what happened at Yost arena on Tuesday night. The BGSU Falcons came into town and embarrassed the home team for the entire 60 minutes. BG popped two goals in the first ten minutes of the game (once again a combination of defensive breakdowns and shoddy goaltending) to skate off with a 2-0 lead after one. Michigan also squandered a five minute power play after defenseman Brennan Serville was boarded from behind.
Serville is thought to have a separated shoulder (mid to severe grade, out possibly 4-8 weeks-season) per Michigan Assistant Coach Billy Powers. The Wolverines got one back in the second frame when Mac Bennett spotted Luke Moffatt in the slot and directed a perfect pass that Moffatt deflected top shelf for his first goal of the season. It gave Michigan some life for the next few shifts, which quickly got matched by BG. A spate of bad penalties sandwiched by a pair of Falcon goals ended any chance for Michigan to jump back into the game. The Falcons bottled up the Wolverines from that point forward and added a lunch bucket type goal in the third period, totally outworking Michigan in the defensive zone and finishing strong to the net. The closest Michigan came to an opportunity was a breakaway chance that Travis Lynch rattled off the post in the first five minutes of the third period. Late in the period Bennett was rushing the puck up ice along the boards in front of the BGSU bench and was “clipped” at the knee by BG defender Bobby Shea. Bennett appeared to be seriously injured (no conclusive statement yet from Michigan- although it is hoped to only be a strain or charley horse.) Shea was given a minor. It was apparent though, that the message is being sent to teams that Michigan is not only vulnerable, but is laying down and teams are taking physical advantage of that. This is at least the fifth game this season that the Wolverines appeared to have mailed it in and was totally blown off the ice. Kudos to Andrew Sinelli, Luke Moffatt and Zach Hyman for their efforts. Unfortunately, though, that isn’t enough, as Coach Berenson pointed out during his post game that the turning point in the game (other than the soft goals) was the lack of finishing chances right after Moffatt had scored to bring the game to 2-1. Hyman and Moffatt both had great chances but were denied after Jacob Trouba started a rush up ice. If they had connected, it may have produced a different outcome.
Adam Janecyk started and took the loss, surrendering four goals. Steve Racine cleaned up yielding the third period goal. Andrew Hammond was sharp for BG in earning the win. Jon Merrill saw his first significant action and played admirably. Trouba was not as effective, but couldn’t be faulted for returning to the ice just two days after traveling back from the WJT in Russia. The blue line is banged up, with Kevin Clare out on Tuesday night nursing a chronic shoulder issue, Serville out indefinitely and Bennett possibly out for an extended time. It leaves Merrill, Trouba, Chiasson (who was a healthy scratch), Szuma and Moffie as the only defenseman ready to go for this weekend.
Profiling The Nanooks:
Alaska brings the same type of hard working team that squads like NMU or BGSU have in the CCHA. Not a great deal of firepower, but enough to keep the Nanooks close in most of their contests. Sophomore defenseman Trevor Campbell is their leading points maker (1-11-12). Senior forward Andy Taranto (6-4-10, 28 PIM’s) and freshman Tyler Morley (6-4-10, 3 PPG’s) share the goal scoring lead. Junior Cody Kunyk (4-5-9, 2 PPG’s), senior Jarret Granberg (3-6-9) and junior Colton Beck (4-4-8, 3 PPG’s) provide a balanced threat for the top two lines. Freshman defender Josh Atkinson (1-7-8) has had a good first campaign. Two other Nooks are tied with seven points and four are tied with six points.
The goaltending is handled by a trio consisting of senior Steve Thompson (2-2-0, 3.24 GAA, .876 save %), sophomore Sean Cahill (2-2-1, 2.37 GAA, .882 save %) and freshman John Keeney (2-4-3, 2.39 GAA, .914 save %). None of them are going to lead the Nooks to a run at the CCHA, but they are solid enough where any of the trio can start in the Nooks’ system.
Alaska uses a pesky fore-check and a persistent back check to thwart their opponents and create a counter threat on offense. They are big on the edges and like to cycle in the offensive zone, creating traffic for their opportunities from the blue line. Most of their scoring occurs off of turnovers and rebound chances inside the circles and not on pretty end to end rushes. They are the epitome of the lunch bucket “go to work” type team that thrives on making the little plays and scratching for goals.
Alaska has played the higher profile CCHA teams tight this season, splitting games with Ferris State and WMU, while recently being swept at home by Miami. Earlier in the season in October they stunned North Dakota at home (albeit with six starters for the Sioux suspended) 2-1. They are coming off of a road loss and tie at NMU and a home loss and tie to BGSU.
Tale of the Tape: It IS as bad as it looks:
Both the Wolverines and the Nooks are going through a severe offensive drought. Michigan has sunk further in the national statistics and is one notch below the Nooks in conference offensive statistics. The Wolverines still have a talent edge, but that perception is fading as quickly as their will to work hard every shift. Advantage: Even
The Wolverines cannot sink any lower in the CCHA conference defensive statistics and are only ahead of six other teams nationally. The Nooks are slightly below average nationally, and are slightly ahead of the Wolverines in conference. The x-factor is goaltending, which appears to lean towards anyone playing Michigan right now. Advantage: Alaska
I doubt that either Alaska or Michigan will scare anyone with their power play units. Both are at the bottom half of the national statistics. Michigan has a slight edge in conference. Similarly, Alaska holds the 11th best PK in the nation yet is only 6th best in league action compared to Michigan’s 9th best PK. Advantage: Even
Alaska appears to play with a bit of an edge; carrying the second most penalty minutes average in conference and the 13th worst in the country. Michigan is fifth in conference, but is slightly above average nationally. Teams will continue to be aggressive with Michigan until the Wolverines make them pay on the scoreboard. Of course, showing a little heart and courage defending their injured mates would help, too.
Bottom line: No predictions. Michigan is playing like a team that wants the season to end as soon as possible-as witnessed on Tuesday night against BGSU. I’d go as far to suggest that some are playing uninspired and undisciplined and are unworthy of wearing the block “M”. I can’t say that they are better than any team in college hockey right now, especially with what is being witnessed on the ice, but not known in the locker room. The least that they could do is put out an effort, even if it results in defeat, worthy of the program. They may be shorthanded right now, or they might not be as talented as we all once assumed, but there is nothing preventing them from providing desperation and effort.
– Freshman Daniel Milne leaves Michigan hockey program (Michigan Daily Link)
– The Wolverines have lost to all three teams that are below them in the standings and only stand six points from last place in the CCHA.
– Michigan has now scored 56 goals compared to giving up 68 this season for a -12 goal differential. Alaska has surrendered 49 goals and has scored 43 goals for a -6 differential. The Wolverines have given up the most goals of any team in the conference.
– The Wolverines are 2-9 when their opponents score first. The two wins were over Bentley and Michigan State.
– Michigan will hit the road the next two weekends for series against the Lake Superior State Lakers in Sault Ste. Marie and against the Western Michigan Broncos in Kalamazoo. Both the Lakers and Broncos are battling for a top five finish in the CCHA. WMU is currently 12th in the Pairwise and would be joined as an at-large team in the NCAA playoffs by Notre Dame and Miami unless one of those teams wins the CCHA tournament and receives the automatic bid.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — YostMeister
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