Michigan Hockey: U-M Hockey Sinking Fast; Hits The Road To LSSU
What: Michigan Wolverines (7-13-2) (4-10-2-2) T8th CCHA vs. Lake Superior State University (12-11-1, 7-8-1-1) 6th CCHA. Friday & Saturday, 1/18-1/19, 7:35 p.m. Taffy Abel Arena, Sault Ste Marie, Mi.
TV: none. 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 are seeking their first road victory of the season in an opponent’s home rink and are looking to snap a 3 game losing skid after an abysmal weekend home sweep at the hands of the Alaska Nanooks. It marks the first time in Michigan Hockey history that the Nanooks swept Michigan at Yost arena. Michigan is now tied with Bowling Green and Michigan State for 8th place (BG has two games in hand on both programs and is technically in 8th place) and now sits two points out of last place in the CCHA.
Alaska came into Yost arena with a seven game winless string and totally dominated the Wolverines in both games, winning Friday night 5-4 on the strength of a PPG and a shorthanded goal coupled with the same recipe Michigan has served all season: defensive breakdowns and poor goaltending. The Nanooks jumped out to a 2-0 lead and eventually stretched it to 3-2 just after Michigan had fought back to tie it up. The game see-sawed back and forth until the Nanooks, while holding a 4-3 lead early in the third period scored a shorthanded goal to ice the game. Michigan scored a 6×5 goal with a minute left to edge closer but just failed to get the equalizer. On Saturday, Alaska used two Cody Kunyk goals and scored two PPG’s in route to an effective 4-1 win. Jacob Trouba scored a PPG to give Michigan life in the second period and got them to 2-1. Alaska fought off seven other PP chances, though, and then secured the game with two third period tallies to walk out of Yost victorious.
Profiling The Lakers:
LSSU is seeking their first top five CCHA finish in over fifteen seasons and is battling with Ohio State, Ferris State and Alaska in the middle of the CCHA pack. The Lakers are a prototype CCHA team in that they won’t bedazzle anybody with offense, but will slowly grind down opponents with their size and pounce on opportunities. Their biggest strength lies in their defensive prowess both in style and in goaltending. They have won nine of their thirteen home games but have struggled on the road. The non-conference schedule was fairly light, with splits at Bemidji State and Alabama-Huntsville, while splitting a H & H series with Michigan Tech. They did pull off a sweep of Union, although the Dutchmen are not having the type of season that they have enjoyed in the past two years. In conference, LSSU has split most of their series, with home matches with MSU, Ferris and OSU, while traveling to halve with Alaska and Miami. The Lakers swept U.P. rival NMU at home, while getting swept on the road at Notre Dame. Their latest action saw them lose and tie at WMU, although they salvaged a shootout victory.
They are not fancy, but have good offensive balance across their lineup. Their top seven scoring forwards are at or above seven points on the season. The top four defensemen have also chipped in with six points or more. Four seniors lead the Lakers, including their top two goal scorers, Nick McParland (6-13-19) and Domenic Monardo (9-9-18). The junior class is represented well by defenseman Zach Sternberg (3-9-12) and forwards Kellen Lain (3-9-12) and Dan Radke (3-6-9). Sophomore forwards Chris Ciotti (8-4-12), Buddy Robinson (7-5-12) and Stephen Perfetto (4-6-10) have been a pleasant surprise in providing scoring depth. The defense also features sophomore Kevin Czuczman (2-5-7) and freshman Eric Drapluk (1-6-7). The goaltending chores are handled by a pair of juniors: Kevin Murdoch has emerged (7-7-0, 1.96 GAA & .941 save %) to challenge incumbent Kevin Kapalka (5-4-1, 2.69 GAA & .917 save %). Both are capable of shutting down opponents effectively and compliment the defensive style coach Jim Roque implements.
Tale of the Tape: The Wolverines Have Little To Be Happy About
Michigan enters the weekend either in the middle of the pack (offense) in national statistics, or near the bottom (defense). The national pundits are starting to question the talent on this team even after they put out a much better effort against Alaska than they did in the previous game against Bowling Green. The offense has to sellout to score; the defense and goaltending is in such a mess that even Coach Berenson mentioned that the team is “fragile” right now. Still, the numbers do not lie nor do the results. Most glaring: the 5th worst defense in the country and a PP that only poses a threat with Jacob Trouba. Coincidently, they have yielded four shorthanded goals this season, a third as many PP goals as they have scored (12).
Lake State on the other hand is a nominal offensive team that scratches out goals and relishes tight checking games- unless they are playing a team that is handing out goal scoring chances like candy. Their defensive numbers are sparkling, as is their goaltending. They don’t wow you with special team results, but they do not hurt themselves, either. They are a middle of the pack team that has dug themselves out of the dirges of the CCHA basement and is competitive- but not quite ready to challenge for a CCHA or NCAA Title like their wonder teams did in the late 80’s and early 1990’s.
Michigan’s travel troubles will continue, as it seems that they don’t have much fight left in them. Once punched, it appears, as Berenson alluded to, their glass jaw breaks. The Wolverines can play with teams in spurts, but can’t quite overcome their own self inflicted wounds in order to recover. Teams are relishing in Michigan’s sudden collapse and are making an extra effort to punish the Wolverines for years and years of the Maize and Blue doing the same to them. If Michigan takes any points this weekend, it will be out of pride or luck or some combination. If there is a silver lining, it is in the fact that they still are only a good weekend result away from jumping up into the standings in pursuit of some remnant of their 2012-13 goals.
-The Wolverines are now trying to fight for an opportunity to play the lowest seed on the road in the first round of the CCHA playoffs. If they are not careful, they may challenge the Michigan Hockey archives for the worst win-loss record in several decades.
-Michigan has now scored 61 goals compared to giving up 77 this season for a -16 goal differential and continues to have given up the most goals of any team in the conference. They also are in danger of having the least wins in conference pending the results this weekend.
-The Wolverines are 2-11 when their opponents score first and haven’t tallied first in any of their last five games.
- Michigan will hit the road for nine of their next twelve games including this weekend. Next weekend they will move down I-94 and take on the Lawson Loonies in Kalamazoo. WMU is currently sits in third place in the CCHA and, like first place Notre Dame, has only played 14 league games. Second place Miami has played 16 games and will be traveling to Wisconsin this weekend for a couple of non conference battles with the Badgers.
- AJ Treais was held off the scoreboard last weekend, but still leads the team in points (18) and goals (10). Defenseman Jacob Trouba has jumped up into a tie for second (7-7-14) after potting two goals last weekend. Alex Guptill (5-9-14) also scored and Boo Nieves (3-11-14) continues his modest scoring pace. Senior Kevin Lynch and sophomores Zach Hyman and Brennan Serville are the only remaining Wolverines with a positive +/- rating. John Merrill had an auspicious return, yielding two turnovers (one on the PP, one just after a PP expired) that both resulted in goals on Friday.
- Goaltending roulette: Freshman Steve Racine started last Friday’s game and lasted two periods. Junior Adam Janecyk came in and, other than yielding a shorthanded rebound goal, gave Michigan a chance to win. He earned the start on Saturday and played poorly, highlighted by a muffed shot off of his glove and into the net for the final nail in the proverbial coffin that night. Freshman Jared Rutledge was routed in the exhibition game against the U-18 team and was only dressed on Saturday as Janecyk’s back-up. Sophomore back-up Luke Dwyer has yet to see any game action and has not dressed this season.
-Injury update: Brennan Serville is officially listed as “day to day” after getting clobbered from his blind side against BGSU last week. He did not skate in the two Alaska games which forced senior forward Jeff Rohrkemper to move to the blueline. Junior Mac Bennett is listed as “week to week” but will be out at least two–three weeks with a knee injury. Defenseman Kevin Clare is also listed as “week to week” nursing a shoulder injury. Michigan is down to five regular defensemen and only has one reserve forward due to the departure of freshman Daniel Milne to the OHL.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — YostMeister
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