Michigan Hockey: Michigan at Notre Dame — Wolverines Sweep Last Place Sparty; Meet #12 Irish In South Bend — Preview
What: Michigan Wolverines (10-16-2, 7-13-2-2) T8th, 25 pts. CCHA vs. Notre Dame (16-11-1, 12-7-1-1) 3rd, 38pts. CCHA Friday & Saturday, 2/8-2/9, 7:35 p.m./7:05 p.m. Compton Center, South Bend, Ind.
TV: Friday-CBS Sports Network (DirecTV CH. 613); Saturday-Comcast Local (Ch.900). 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 accomplished something last week that they hadn’t done all season: they finally swept an opponent. It couldn’t have come at a better time and against a better rival. On Friday night at Yost arena, Michigan surrendered an early goal by the Spartans, but came back to tie the game on a Derek DeBlois equalizer. Michigan took the lead on the first of two Boo Nieves goals- only to quickly give it back- before Nieves won it. The Wolverines held on in the third period to survive a 3-2 win. Phil Di Giuseppe added three assists in the opener, and then contributed two more at Joe Louis Arena in Michigan’s 5-2 romp on Saturday. Nieves added a goal and two assists and DeBlois scored a shorthanded goal and then added his third goal of the weekend to pace the Wolverines. MSU appears to be the tonic that Michigan needs to boost momentum as the Wolverines moved to 4-1 on the season against the CCHA bottom dwellers.
Jared Rutledge had to get a shot of confidence, stopping 47 of 51 pucks on the weekend and made some key early stops in the Saturday game. Michigan also got well on special teams- scoring twice in eight chances on the PP for the weekend and killing all nine Spartan PP chances. The only blemish was the Spartan’s first goal on Saturday that was scored shorthanded. The Wolverines avoided falling into the basement and pretty well cemented the Spartans behind them, barring some miracle run to end the season. Michigan cleared some room between MSU and NMU and sits tied with BGSU in eighth spot, one point behind seventh place LSSU (who were swept by BGSU last weekend also.) Michigan can potentially move into a first round CCHA tournament home ice spot by finishing the season strong at Notre Dame this weekend and then at OSU in three weeks. The final home weekend will be key as the Maize and Blue will host the Ferris State Bulldogs.Profiling The Fighting Irish:
Notre Dame has fallen on hard times lately- and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Wolverines. It is as if the Irish have hit the proverbial wall after playing a difficult non-conference schedule and then has found the CCHA especially rugged in its final season. It is hardly the team that swaggered out of Yost arena in mid-December after sweeping the Wolverines. Notre Dame has gone 2-7-1 in their last ten games with one of those victories coming last weekend in a home split with Ferris State. They suffered a home sweep the previous week to upstart Alaska, and really hasn’t played with the same bulldog mentality they carried in the first half of the season. Still, the Compton Center is not an easy place to come into and earn points- especially for a top rival. The Irish will have to get back to leaning on their upper class leadership that features four seniors and twelve juniors on the roster. Junior snipers Anders Lee (14-10-24, +11) and TJ Tynan (8-15-23, +7) carry the inconsistent offense. Junior Bryan Rust (7-12-19, +14) and sophomore defender Robbie Russo (5-13-18) have added secondary scoring.
Freshman Mario Lucia- who debuted his season against Michigan after being held out with an early season injury- has produced 9-8-17. The defense is stout- featuring seniors Same Calebrese (1-14-15) and junior Stephen Johns (1-12-13) and jumps up into the offense when they can. Freshman Thomas DiPauli (5-3-8, +6) adds some size and grit on the wing. The biggest issue the Irish have experienced is giving up goals at critical times- particularly in tight games. It has depleted their confidence as well as their precarious position as a NCAA at large candidate as they have played their way into a bubble position. In conference, they have suddenly fallen from the top spot to a fourth position with those pesky Nanooks breathing down their necks.
The true advantage that the Irish have this weekend appears to be goaltending. Junior Steve Summerhays is the stopper for Notre Dame (14-10-0, 1.96 GAA & .921 save %) which has relegated senior Mike Johnson (2-1-1, 2.28 GAA & .912 save %) to the bench. The Irish will wear teams down when they are cycling the puck and utilizing their pinching defense. They yielded very little to Michigan in a previously tight series that saw Notre Dame pull away in the final ten minutes in both contests after forcing the Wolverines into critical mistakes.
Tale of the Tape: Tough Comparison On Paper
The Wolverines- as mentioned earlier- looked fairly effective in most aspects of their game against MSU. The only problem with that is that the Spartans are a terrible team that, exempt from their solid goaltending, would have a hard time competing with anyone in the CCHA. Don’t count on the Irish being as charitable on defense and as anemic on offense. Michigan and Notre Dame are middling offenses on a national basis- but are #4 and #1 respectively in the CCHA. The Wolverines are seeing some fresh faces contributing in bunches now and are gaining the confidence they had early in the season. Defensively, it is a different story. Michigan is dead last still in the CCHA, while the Irish are fourth in the conference while holding 7th nationally. The Irish have the special team’s advantages also, although, as of late, they have looked more vulnerable. Michigan’s Achilles’ heel may be the Irish’s constant attempt to push the offense- even when shorthanded. The Wolverines have surrendered five shorties, while the Irish have scored four times while down a man. Both teams stay out of the box, although it is a slight advantage for Michigan- especially lately where the Irish have been taking a spate of bad penalties.
Michigan Rank Notre Dame Rank
GF 2.86 26th 2.82 28th
GA 3.43 53rd 2.18 7th
PP 14.70% 44th 16.90% 29th
PK 83.80% 25th 84.70% 15th
PIM’s 12.00 43rd 13.10 24th
Last 5 games 2–3–0 1–3–1
Michigan got away with hiding a boatload of mistakes last weekend, even with the afterglow of sweeping Sparty. Reality will smack them if they allow the Irish to carry the tempo and the physical play. The Wolverines have many “IF’s” to overcome- but proved at WMU that they can jump out on the road on teams that are suppose to lock them down. The problem has been whether they can maintain it over 60 minutes- ultimately one of their biggest downsides this season. A split would be monumental and anything more would potentially be a sign of better things to come. The x-factor: goaltending. Rutledge is better than he showed earlier this season and could be finally ready to exert himself at this level. If he falters, or the defense doesn’t support him, it could halt any momentum from last weekend.
-Freshman Boo Nieves (7-14-21) has supplanted the slumping AJ Treais (11-8-19) for the team lead in points. The Captain has one goal in his past eight games. Sophomore Phil Di Giuseppe (5-14-19) is tied with Treais. Sophomore Alex Guptill (7-10-17) and freshman defender Jacob Trouba (8-9-17) round out the top five offensive producers.
-Nieves was given the CCHA’s Rookie of the Week award for his outstanding 5 point weekend against MSU. He has emerged as one of the most dangerous offensive players on the roster.
– Notre Dame and Michigan have split their last ten meetings. This will be their final CCHA regular season match-up as the Irish will move to the Hockey East Association next season.
-Injury update: Junior blue liner Mac Bennett was held out an extra week. He is expected to be back in the lineup this weekend. Junior defenseman Kevin Clare was not in the lineup last weekend and is feared to be lost for the remainder of the season with an undisclosed injury that is thought to be a shoulder issue.
-Michigan’s negative goal differential was reduced to 16, as the Wolverines have yielded 96 goals compared to scoring 80 this season. They were a +4 against MSU. The Wolverines have still been outscored in every period this season.
-Notre Dame has struggled at home- like Michigan- and has an 8-6-0 home record coming into this weekend. The Wolverines are seeking to improve on their 1-6-2 road record.
-Irish junior defenseman Jared Beers was arrested for battery, criminal trespass and resisting arrest at a South Bend bar after patrons complained of Beers taking their alcoholic beverages from their tables. When encountered by the female bar manager, Beers punched her in the face and then stepped on her head. The Mishawaka, Ind. native will head to court on February 19th. He is suspended indefinitely and contributed no points in eight games this season.
-Goaltender Jared Rutledge won back to back games for the first time this season and improved his record to 3-4-0 with a 3.67 GAA and a .868 save %. Adam Janecyk (3-7-0, 3.46 GAA, .892 save %) was Rutledge’s back-up last weekend. Steven Racine (4-5-2, 3.11 GAA, .880 save %) did not dress. Lindsay Sparks, Kevin Clare and Justin Selman were the other scratches.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — YostMeister
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