Michigan Hockey: Wolverines Shock Buckeyes; Conclude Regular Season At Yost vs. Ferris State
What: Michigan Wolverines (12-18-2, 9-15-2-2) 9th, 31 pts. CCHA vs. Ferris State (15-13-4, 13-11-2-1) T4th, 42pts. CCHA Friday & Saturday, 3/1-3/2, 7:35 p.m./7:35 p.m. Yost Arena, Ann Arbor, Mi.
TV: Friday-CBS Sports Network; 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
Michigan’s up and down February took another twist last weekend as the Wolverines skated into Columbus and rudely snatched two decisive victories from the Buckeyes, 5-3 and 6-3. They concluded the month 4-2 sweeping both MSU and the Buckeyes while getting swept at Notre Dame. Friday night’s victory was highlighted by a wild third period that saw Michigan enter the period up 2-0. Ohio State scored early to narrow the lead, but the Wolverines struck again to extend it to 3-1. Halfway through the period the Buckeyes tallied a shorthanded goal, only to have Michigan roar back and score a short time later on the same power play. Ohio State pulled their netminder and scored an extra attacker goal with a little over a minute left, but was repelled by an empty net goal to seal the game.
On Saturday, Michigan fell behind early but came back to take a 2-1 lead late into the period. The Buckeyes tied the game with minutes left to send both teams to the intermission knotted at 2-2. The Wolverines came out in the next twenty minutes and carried the majority of the play- even though both teams scored to keep the game deadlocked at 3-3. Midway through the final frame, Alex Guptill skated through four Buckeyes during 4×4 play and scored the game winner on a backhander. Michigan added two more markers to coast to victory. Guptill, the CCHA Offensive Player Of The Week, potted 3 goals and 1 assist to pace Michigan. Phil DiGiuseppe added 2 goals and 1 assist. John Merrill also had 3 helpers this weekend and posted a +5 on Saturday. Lee Moffie posted a +6 on Saturday, on the ice for all six Michigan goals.
The Buckeyes were obviously underestimating Michigan’s will to come into Columbus and sweep them- including Senior night- yet that is exactly what happened to the team that clinched a first round bye when Alaska lost to MSU on Friday night. OSU’s Brady Hjelle was not the dominant goaltender he has displayed all season and was yanked from the Friday night game. Michigan’s Steven Racine won both nights and stood tall under heavy pressure from OSU’s top line of Dzingel, McCormick and Fritz- although all three scored multiple times during the weekend skirmish. The Buckeyes didn’t execute their typical tight checking defensive play and Michigan was the more physical team all weekend.
The sweep marks the first time the Wolverines have taken two games back to back in Columbus since 1991. (Michigan also swept the Buckeyes last season, but only won one game in Columbus, while winning the outdoor game that weekend in Cleveland.) Michigan now moves on to face Ferris State at Yost in the final regular season CCHA series that they will play. The Buckeyes will travel to Miami to face the first place Redhawks in hopes of overtaking the Bulldogs for sole possession of 4th place. Ferris State and OSU are currently tied and will face each other in the quarterfinal round of the CCHA tournament next weekend, with the 4th place team holding home ice advantage.
Profiling The Bulldogs:
Ferris and Michigan squared off in Big Rapids earlier this season, with the Bulldogs earning a 5-0 shutout win and then settled for a 3-3 overtime tie. Michigan won the shootout for the extra point. Overall, FSU has not had as robust a season that they were looking for after competing in the NCAA title game a year earlier. Still, the little school that could is seeking another shot at the CCHA tournament title and entry into the NCAA playoffs. It appears that, like most teams in the CCHA not named Miami and WMU, this is the only way they will make it this season. (Even Notre Dame is a “bubble team” and could fall outside of qualification if it doesn’t finish the season strong.) So, the incentive that the Bulldogs bring into this weekend should be equal to the urgency Michigan is starting to finally show. Michigan takes a 68-29-1 advantage into their final CCHA meeting with FSU, including a 41-10 bulge on home ice. The Bulldogs split a home series with BGSU last weekend, dropping a 2-1 OT game and winning on Senior Night, 4-3.
Four seniors highlight the Ferris roster, with Kyle Bonis (17-7-24, +10) leading the offensive charge. Bonis leads the CCHA with six of his seven PPG’s coming in league play. Senior sniper Travis Ouelette (9-12-21, +12) and junior Garrett Thompson (11-13-24, +9) are the other key forwards and have combined for seven PPG’s. Junior Corey Kane (8-7-15) and sophomore Simon Denis (4-13-17, +6) add secondary scoring and physicality. The blue line is patrolled by sophomore sharpshooter Jason Binkley (2-16-18, +5) and junior Scott Czarnowzan (0-5-5) who lead a very young group featuring four freshmen.
Steady goaltender CJ Motte (14-12-4, 2.16 GAA, .927 save %) has been the Bulldog workhorse this season. His younger brother Tyler is part of the U-18 USNDT and will don the Maize and Blue in 2013-14.
Next season Ferris will become part of the revamped WCHA conference with NMU, LSSU, BGSU and Alaska.
Michigan continues to rebound offensively, this time at the expense of the defensive minded Buckeyes. They were no doubt signature wins this season, especially since many of the CCHA heavyweights struggled against OSU. Still, defense wins games more often than not and Michigan is still not convincing many that yielding three goals per game is an improvement. Actually, anchored at 57th in the country with a 3.59 goals average per game is troubling. Ferris State is a more palatable t12th in the country yielding 2.38 GPG. Michigan is dead last in the CCHA while Ferris is third best. Much of the debate centers around the goaltending- as it should- but once again Michigan is repeating their bad habits turning pucks over and paying the price for being overaggressive offensively. Ferris will bring in a more patient, persistent style that pushes offense when it is made available.
Speaking of offense, Michigan moved up to 18th overall this week scoring 3.09 GPG, while FSU is a modest 32nd at 2.72 GPG. Michigan is the second dangerous offense in the CCHA while Ferris is 6th. Much of Ferris’ offense is generated from their special teams, though. Shut them down on the PP (where their top guns excel) and they appear pretty anemic otherwise. The Wolverines are 28th overall at 17.4% on the PP, where Ferris is a sizzling 21.4% (12th) in the country. Ferris leads the CCHA in this category, where Michigan is 4th.
The Bulldogs also feature a dandy PK, 13th overall at 85.3%, 3rd in the CCHA. Michigan has gotten their PP rolling in the past few weeks- so it should challenge the aggressive Dawgs. The Wolverines only check in at 83.1% on the PK, good for 25th overall, 8th in conference. It needs to be better this weekend and it begins in net- still a weakness when under odd man duress. Michigan has been pretty disciplined this season and holds the 41st spot in PIM’s (11.94). This may be Ferris’ one weakness- the propensity for taking too many penalties- as the Dawgs are at 14.66 MPG, good for 11th worst in the nation.
The Wolverines are entering this weekend playing for a first round CCHA tourney home ice series berth and a chance to move their home record above water for the season. They are also intent on sending five graduates out on a winning note on Senior Night, Saturday. The Dawgs, as I mentioned earlier, are trying to secure the final second round home ice position and a chance to prevent Michigan from playing a first round series at home since the 1987-88 season when the Wolverines lost in three games at WMU (when the CCHA’s first round only had eight teams out of the nine teams in the league then.) Michigan is also trying to keep any chance to extend their NCAA leading 22 straight national tournament appearances. Having home ice in the first round would at least be a good start. Look for the Wolverines to feed off of their first home series in a month. The keys are simple: find some offense or force their young defense to take penalties. Keep the FSU scorers off the board-typically by stunting PP chances. Play better overall defense.
-Freshman Boo Nieves (8-18-26) chipped in at OSU with 3 assists and leads the team in scoring. Sophomore Alex Guptill (11-12-23) has been on a tear lately. AJ Treais (11-12-23) is tied with Guptill- and also added three assists last weekend. Freshman defender Jacob Trouba (9-14-23) notched a PPG and two assists in Columbus. Sophomore Phil Di Giuseppe (8-15-23) is also tied with Trouba, Guptill and Treais. Senior Kevin Lynch (6-13-19) is 1-7-8 in his last eight games.
-Michigan’s goal differential now stands at -16, as the Wolverines have yielded 115 goals compared to scoring 99 this season.
-Michigan is now 5-5-0 in their last ten games while Ferris is 5-4-1.
-Freshman Steve Racine looks to be the go-to goaltender after improving his record to 6-5-2 with a 3.09 GAA and a .883 save %. RS sophomore Luke Dwyer, who has made two exhibition game appearances this season, backed him up last weekend. Junior Adam Janecyk is 3-7-0 with a 3.46 GAA and a .892 save %. Freshman Jared Rutledge is 3-6-0 with a 4.24 GAA and a .854 save %.
-Michigan Coach Red Berenson is trying to avoid his worst season since 1985-86 when, in his second season behind the Michigan bench, his team finished the year 12-26-0. Berenson was 13-26-1 in his first season and 14-25-1 in his third season. He lost a first round playoff series in his first five seasons with four of those seasons on the road for the first round. It wasn’t until 1989-90 that he won his first round series (home) against WMU, eventually losing to MSU in the semi-finals 4-3 (OT). He has not lost a first round series since 1988-89 and eventually won his first CCHA tournament championship in 1993-94.
Miami and WMU will battle for the top spot this weekend. Miami is hosting OSU while MSU is hosting the Broncos. ND is hosting BGSU in a series that Michigan fans will have keen interest. Ferris and OSU will battle for the 4th/5th spots in the CCHA. Alaska is done with conference play and is locked in 6th place and will host the 11th place team (presumably MSU.) BGSU, LSSU (who hosts NMU), Michigan and NMU could jump as high as 7th place or in between 7th and 10th spot. MSU will have to split or sweep WMU to have a chance to jump either Michigan or NMU and climb out of the basement. Michigan is one point behind LSSU and three points behind BGSU. NMU is two points behind Michigan. Michigan could tie for last if they are swept by FSU and MSU sweeps WMU.
Senior Night Good Byes:
GBMWolverine would like to take the opportunity to salute Michigan’s five seniors who will take to the ice Saturday night for their final regular season and possibly their last home game as a Wolverine. Many thanks to Captain AJ Treais, AC Kevin Lynch, AC Lee Moffie, Lindsay Sparks and Jeff Rohrkemper. Michigan won two CCHA tournament titles and earned three NCAA tournament berths, including a National Championship appearance with these student athletes. Good luck in whatever future endeavors you pursue. Go Blue!
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — YostMeister
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