Michigan Hockey: Michigan State at Michigan — Hockey Renews Rivalry With MSU In The CCHA “Battle of the Basement”
What: Michigan Wolverines (8-16-2, 5-13-2-2) T9th, 19 pts. CCHA vs. Michigan State University (7-16-3, 5-12-1) 11th, 16pts. CCHA Friday & Saturday, 2/1-2/2, 6:35 p.m./4:05 p.m. Yost Arena & Joe Louis Arena.
TV: Friday-BTN; 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 traveled last weekend to WMU and dropped both games, losing Friday 3-2 and Saturday 5-1. The Maize & Blue took the lead in both games- 2-0 on Friday, and 1-0 on Saturday- only to see their opponent rally back. Friday’s game was particularly disheartening as Michigan jumped all over the Broncos in the first ten minutes, but couldn’t hang onto the lead. Western scored twice in the last eight minutes of the opening stanza to take the momentum. It was a physical affair that came down to which team would yield the go ahead marker. WMU got that goal on a defensive zone breakdown in the 2nd period and held on. They kept Michigan off the board, even though they had more chances and couldn’t convert.
On Saturday, Michigan did open the scoring again, but quickly yielded the lead and the game. It was clear that they didn’t have the same intensity as on Friday, and WMU willed their way past Michigan. It was the first time the Wolverines had lost at Lawson Arena in a decade, and the first time the Broncos swept the Wolverines since the 1986 season, Coach Berenson’s second behind the Michigan bench. There wasn’t much that Berenson could say about the weekend other than that the effort has been better, but the execution still hasn’t been where it needs to be to win games. Western held onto their lead in the CCHA with about five weeks left in the regular season.
Profiling The Spartans:
Michigan State’s season has paralleled Michigan’s in many ways: lack of offense, tough bounces and injuries. There are clear differences in the squads (Michigan’s roster has more NHL draftees and, on paper, should be better except for goaltending) and MSU’s defense is extremely young compared to Michigan’s. But, neither team will suggest that they have played their best hockey and it is evident in where they are in the standings. Michigan is suffering through its worst season in over 30 seasons (prior to Berenson’s coaching start) and MSU is already ahead of them, stringing together six straight substandard seasons since snatching a National Championship (behind Bryan Lerg in net) in 2007. The Spartans are anchoring last place in the CCHA, but are within a good weekend’s result of overtaking the Wolverines and giving them that honor. They also have a much easier path to finishing the season than Michigan, if you consider more home games as an advantage.
Matt Berry (11-9-20) has been the Spartan’s offense for much of the season. The sophomore had a career night in East Lansing earlier this season against the Wolverines. Freshman Matt DeBlouw (6-10-16), sophomore Brent Darnell (6-9-15) and sophomore Tanner Sorenson (8-6-14) are the other young guns for the Green & White. Junior Lee Reimer (3-9-12), senior Greg Wolfe (3-7-10) and senior Kevin Walrod (3-6-9) pretty much lead the more experienced Spartans on the score sheet. Defensemen Matt Grassi (1-1-2) and Jake Chelios (2-5-7) are the most prominent blue liners, bringing along the other freshmen and sophomore defensemen in the lineup. Goaltending has been surprisingly good despite the Spartans poor record. Junior Will Yanakeff (3-5-1, 3.78 GAA, .873 Save %) has not been the same force as in his first two seasons and has struggled in his last few starts. The net minding duties have mostly been delegated to rising freshman Jake Hildebrand (4-11-2, 2.08 GAA, .937 Save %). Hildebrand has kept the Spartans in their games, but has fallen victim to anemic offensive support.
Tale of the Tape: No Where To Go But Up
There wasn’t much that any Michigan fan could take away from last weekend’s bushwhacking in Kalamazoo- the Wolverines busted out fast, but succumbed to soft goaltending and not taking advantage of their power play chances last Friday. Saturday’s game was simply out of hand before the game’s halfway mark and Michigan fell back into their season long habit of folding the tents up and checking out. The offense was challenged by a very sound WMU team that doesn’t allow much. Michigan scored three goals in the series- just above their 2.77 season average (28th) and didn’t take advantage of numerous chances. Those chances, with effort, will present themselves against the Spartans- but don’t expect that the degree of goaltending they have faced will be less. The Spartans come in with a bottom barrel offensive average of barely over two goals per game- but that production will be enhanced by how poor the Michigan goaltending tandem has been. The Wolverines surrendered seven goals in their one loss to the Spartans, while only allowing three in their two wins. Hard to tell which Spartan offense or Michigan defense will show up, considering their near bottom NCAA goals against average. Conversely, the Spartans are surrendering a respectable 2.77 goals against mark-ironically the same as Michigan’s offensive output- so any improvement this weekend will certainly aid the Spartans. Both programs have struggled on the power play, with the Spartans holding a slightly better average. The one area, outside of goaltending that the Spartans have a clear edge in is their penalty killing, which is a NCAA 12th best (and ironically has not scored a shorthanded goal this season.) Neither team will take an enormous amount of penalties, but, considering the rivalry and the built up frustration from this season, I wouldn’t be surprised if it spills out sometime this weekend.
Michigan hasn’t dropped a game to MSU at Yost in three seasons (11/2009), yet you can’t count on past history in order to compare or predict this season. Michigan isn’t measurably better at home against good teams, but has handled their business against teams equal or worse than they are. It will still come down to goaltending first, then either team’s offensive execution- generated 5×5 or during special team’s play. Right now I wouldn’t be surprised in any outcome… but a comfortable Michigan victory at Yost and a tight loss on Saturday in a neutral setting is about as speculative as I can get without seeming to be too biased.
– AJ Treais was held off the scoreboard last weekend but still leads the team in points (19) and goals (11). Defenseman Jacob Trouba is second (8-9-17) after adding a point last Friday night. Alex Guptill (7-10-17) scored the Wolverine’s second goal last Friday and Boo Nieves (4-12-16) added an assist last weekend. Phil DiGiuseppe (5-9-14) also tallied Friday. Adam Janecyk suffered both losses, moving his record to 3-7-0 with a 3.47 GAA and a .892 save %. It’s difficult to say who will get the start this weekend. Jared Rutledge (1-4-0, 4.33 GAA, .849 Save %) mopped up for Janecyk last Saturday and didn’t yield a goal. Steve Racine (4-5-2, 3.11 GAA, .880 Save %) last saw action against Alaska.
-The Wolverines have notched two of their eight wins against the Spartans this season and could be meeting for the final time this season. Michigan has dropped seven of their past ten games and is 1-4 in their last five games at Yost. The Spartans have won twice on the road this season and has yet to win on neutral ice.
-Injury update: Sophomore Brennan Serville and Junior Mac Bennett are expected to be back in the lineup this weekend. Senior Lindsay Sparks has been the sole forward scratched the last two weekends.
The CCHA currently has four teams in the running for berths in the NCAA tournament, with Miami (T3) ND (T14), Alaska (T11) and WMU (8) leading the way. The Irish are in a precarious position, barely hanging onto an at large position, while Alaska has strung together six straight wins and has leaped into an at large spot. Of course there is too much season left to think that all four teams will gain at large spots and with the CCHA tournament winner also earning the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. That will be Michigan’s only chance at extending their 21 year tournament qualification streak.
-Michigan will hit the road next Friday and Saturday night against rival Notre Dame, return home for a bye weekend and then will take on Ohio State in Columbus for two games on the 22nd and 23rd. They will conclude the regular season at home against Ferris State on March 1st and 2nd.
-Rumors circulating through the Michigan Hockey blogging community have centered around the Wolverines adding another goaltending prospect for next season by utilizing the departed Daniel Milne’s scholarship availability. Michigan also announced that their roster may add another defenseman out of the BCHL in 2013-14, moving the potential roster to 30 for next season. The Michigan coaching staff either knows or anticipates further early departures off of the roster that will also lose five seniors to graduation.
-Not quite the worst, but embarrassing anyway: After doing a quick analysis of the 14 worst teams* out of 59 in NCAA Division I hockey (based on record-with ties counted as ½ win) I have come up with this list using win percentage as the criteria for ranking:
1. Sacred Heart 0-22-2 .000 8. Clarkson 5-13-6 .333
2. Alabama-Huntsville 3-17-1 .167 9. MICHIGAN 8-16-2 .346
3. Alaska-Anchorage 3-16-5 .229 10. Maine 7-14-4 .360
4. Harvard 5-13-1 .290 11. Vermont 7-13-4 .375
5. Bemidji State 5-14-5 .313 12T. Army 7-12-3 .386
6. MICHIGAN ST. 7-16-3 .327 12T. N’Eastern 7-12-3 .386
7. American Intl. 5-14-4 .333 14. Mich Tech 7-12-4 .391
*Of course, this is purely subjective and doesn’t include schedule analysis or conference affiliation. Still, it has been a forgettable year.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — YostMeister
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