Michigan Hockey: Michigan at Western Michigan — Icers Show Some Life — Face The Lawson Loonies Next In Kalamazoo
What: Michigan Wolverines (8-14-2) (5-11-2-2) T9th CCHA vs. #9 Western Michigan University (14-6-4, 10-4-2-1) T1st CCHA. Friday & Saturday, 1/25-1/26, 7:05 p.m./7:35 p.m. Lawson Arena, Kalamazoo, Mi.
TV: Friday-Comcast Local. Saturday-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 showed a little pride last weekend at LSSU, pumping 46 shots at the Laker net in winning their first true road game of the season on Friday night 6-4 behind a two goal performance from Luke Moffatt and a two assist game from Andrew Sinelli. Jacob Trouba netted the winner off a fine cross ice feed from Zach Hyman, and Alex Guptill sealed the game with under a minute to go with an empty net score. They followed that up with a solid performance on Saturday, but gave up a 2-1 lead early in the game and surrendered a tough 3-2 loss to the Lakers. Both teams played wide open, with the Lakers and Wolverines combining for 75 shots on goal. Michigan gave up the winning tally with about thirteen minutes left in the game, but couldn’t find the equalizer late, as the Lakers outshot them 17-9 in the third frame. Domenic Monardo scored twice for the Lakers, including the winner. Junior netminder Adam Janecyk was in goal for both contests. Michigan is now tied with Bowling Green for 9th place (BG has fewer conference losses and is technically in 8th place) and now sits one point behind 7th place NMU and three points ahead of last place MSU in the CCHA. All four teams have five conference wins.
Profiling The Broncos:
Western Michigan has steadily righted the ship since Michigan last challenged the Broncos at Yost arena in December. WMU went through a lull where their offense abandoned them and hasn’t fully recovered from a 4-3-3 run in their last ten games, including that split with Michigan. It has been good enough to keep the Broncos in the CCHA regular season chase, as rivals Miami and Notre Dame have also slipped in league play lately. Western is sticking by their system of solid defense and goaltending, which has earned them a tie with Notre Dame for the top spot in the CCHA. The other quality that the Broncos have enjoyed is their ability to take care of business at home where they are a robust 10-1-1 this season. Part of it is credited to their fanatical student base that rivals Yost arena for intimidation and rowdiness. The Wolverines will probably not play in front of a more vocal or hostile environment this season- including stops at rivals OSU or MSU. This will not be an easy two game swing for the local side- and it is critical that they overcome the crowd early in order to reduce any momentum or they will get their doors blown off. Let’s just say that there isn’t any love lost for the Wolverines and any additional suffering that can be induced will be welcomed.
The Broncos have gone 3-1-2 in their past six games, including a win and a tie at Bemidji State, the same at home against LSSU and a split at upstart Bowling Green. Captain (senior) Dane Walters is still leading the offense with his 11-8-19 which includes five PPG’s and three GWG’s. Junior Chase Balisy, who was quiet in the previous two meetings against the Wolverines, checks in at 8-10-18 with four PPG’s and three GWG’s. Junior Shane Bershbach (2-12-14) and junior defenseman Dennis Brown (1-12-13) are assist specialists. Freshman Kenney Morrison (6-9-15) is a PP guru who has punched in five PPG’s. Seniors Mike Cichy (3-9-12) and Mike Leone (5-5-10) round out the offense, while junior blueline stalwart Dan DeKeyser has added 2-8-10. Punishing defenders (senior) Luke Witkowski (2-4-6) and sophomore Jordan Oesterle (1-5-6) are underrated. The netminding is handled by super sophomore Frank Slubowski (14-6-4, 1.80 GAA, .920 save %). The rest of the Broncos are gritty, tough and rarely give up a shift to their opponents. The Broncos have extra incentive as they are battling for a berth in the NCAA playoffs and are not happy about their last game against the Wolverines.
Tale of the Tape: No Passing Marks This Season
The Wolverines can’t hide their dismal statistics, but they can try to improve upon them bit by bit. Last week’s effort and result in both games was about as good as a fan can maybe expect this season (attitude, talent, mental toughness etc.) so pundits can take any improvement as a step in the right direction (It was.) Coach Berenson commented rather glumly after Saturday’s tight loss that it is too bad that good effort doesn’t account for much when you don’t get the expected result. It’s a bottom line business, except when you are coaching a team that is hanging on by a few threads. The offense was boosted by a six goal outburst (tying their most goals in a game this season) and then crashed back down on Saturday. It is this inconsistency that has Michigan mired in offensive mediocrity. The defense was boosted by the return of one starter, Kevin Clare, while two others, Brennan Serville and Mac Bennett, remained out of the lineup. Still, they gave up their season average in goals with some of that ugliness falling on spotty goaltending. The PP units seemed to be sharper, although only one marker was scored for the weekend in seven attempts. The PK only allowed one goal in six chances, but at this point, any goals allowed is too many.
Western brings a whole different dynamic, especially at home. Their offense perks up more from a mundane bottom third in the nation, and their miniscule goals against (third best in the nation) gets smaller. The special teams are noticeably better than Michigan’s and will probably be the difference this weekend. Both teams share similar penalty minutes discipline, although Michigan will probably be victimized a bit more on the road.
Michigan Rank WMU Rank
GF 2.88 25th 2.29 T46th
GA 3.50 54th 1.88 T3rd
PP 13.00% 49th 19.51% 19th
PK 82.10% 35th 86.60% 11th
PIM’s 12.25 41st 11.38 46th
Last 6 games 2–4–0 3–1–2
It’s hard to feel optimistic about the perfect storm brewing this weekend. Going into a highly motivated opponent’s rink with such a disparity between their statistics is usually a telling sign. But, there is a small measure of confidence coming out of last weekend. Michigan split against a decent team in their rink, and a similar result against a better team would not be too hard to take. If Michigan can get some offense early, they will have a chance. They will also have to get decent goaltending and win the special team’s battle. Otherwise, they may come home next weekend playing to stay out of last place.
-The Wolverines managed to win their first road win of the season, but still has not been able to finish off the weekend with two wins. Matt Slovin from the Michigan Daily wrote this week about the difficulty of remembering how to sing “The Victors” in the locker room this season.
-Michigan has now scored 69 goals compared to giving up 84 this season for a -17 goal differential and continues to have given up the most goals of any team in the conference.
– AJ Treais tallied on Saturday and leads the team in points (19) and goals (11). Defenseman Jacob Trouba is tied for second (8-8-16) after scoring on Friday night. Alex Guptill (6-10-16) also scored and Boo Nieves (4-11-15) scored the lone PPG on the weekend for the Wolverines. Adam Janecyk moved his record to 3-5-0 with a 3.16 GAA and a .900 save %.
-Michigan has scored 13 PPG’s on the season with freshman defender Jacob Trouba posting five of those goals.
-The Wolverines have won 3 of their last 10 games (3-6-1) including the December 14-15 split with the Broncos at Yost arena.
Sophomore defenseman Brennan Serville missed last weekend’s games at the Soo, but is expected back into the lineup this weekend. Junior Mac Bennett is listed as “week to week” but is expected to be out at least two more weeks with a knee injury.
The CCHA currently has three teams in the running for berths in the NCAA tournament, with Miami (8) ND (10) and WMU (12) leading the way. The one common theme for all three: defense. Miami (1) WMU (3) and ND (5) all stand in the top five defensively in the country. NMU is tied for 16th in the PWR on the strength of their record against TUC’s (teams under consideration) especially since most of that 6-1 record is against WCHA teams. Alaska has moved up to 18th spot on the back of their four game sweep against Michigan and Notre Dame. Conversely, the CCHA’s offensive numbers are…. miniscule. Ferris State is leading the CCHA with a 2.96 (overall) Goals Per Game average which ranks 21st in the country. Michigan’s best statistic is their offensive output, 2nd in the CCHA at 2.88 GPG and 25th in the nation.
Stop snickering… these are the statistics that CCHA fans used to make fun of because they resembled those of the ECAC (EZAC for sarcastic fans) hockey conference. Yes, the conference that hasn’t won a NCAA hockey championship since 1989 when Harvard turned the trick 4-3 in OT in St. Paul against the Gophers.
-Michigan will return to Yost arena next Friday night against hated rival MSU and then will move downtown to JLA for a rematch against the Spartans. This will be the only home game for the Wolverines in February.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — YostMeister
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