Michigan Hockey: CCHA Tournament — Semi-Finals — Michigan vs. Miami Redhawks — Preview
Wolverine Hockey Pulls Off Stunning Sweep At WMU; Take 24th Straight CCHA Semifinal Trip
Michigan Wolverines (17-18-3) 4th seed, vs. Miami University (24-10-5) 1st seed, Saturday in CCHA Semi-finals 4:35 p.m. JLA, Detroit
TV: 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
#2 Notre Dame (23-12-3) will face #3 Ohio State (16-16-7) in the other semifinal at 1:05 p.m.
The winners will move on to the championship game Sunday at 2:05 p.m. in the final CCHA tournament championship game with an automatic bid to the NCAA at stake. This game will also be shown on FSD.
Now this is getting interesting. The Wolverine hockey team with its collective back to the wall pulled off another weekend road upset sweep similar to the 2010 march to the CCHA Championship. The resilient Michigan team rolled into Kalamazoo and stunned the Broncos 4-3 Friday before applying an old fashioned tail kicking Saturday, 5-1.
Sophomore sniper Phil DiGiuseppe staked Michigan to a 1-0 lead about nine minutes into the game and freshman Justin Selman scored late to send the Wolverines and their 2-0 lead to the dressing room after 20 minutes. Reminiscent of the previous visit into Lawson Arena, the Broncos roared back with three goals in the second period sandwiched by a Jacob Trouba goal to tie the score after two periods. Trouba blasted a PP goal early in the third period to give Michigan the lead that they nervously protected for the remaining sixteen minutes. Goaltender Steven Racine was solid again, fending off 15 of 18 shots- a season low for Western- to steal the victory.
The next night, Michigan took control early on Senior Alternate Captain Kevin Lynch’s 10th goal of the season at the 1:08 mark of the first stanza. Colton Hargrove’s 2nd goal of the weekend brought the score even late in the period- but that was it for the Broncos. What happened next thrilled the vocal minority of Michigan fans that traveled out I-94. The Wolverines entered the second period- their statistically worst period all season- and thrashed Western with four goals. Sophomore reserve forward Andrew Sinelli was left alone in front of a half open cage and received a brilliant feed from Captain A.J. Treais to notch his first ever game winning tally at 2:53. Alex Guptill- probably the hottest forward for Michigan currently- drilled home a PP goal at 10:09. Junior Luke Moffatt was credited with assists on both of Sinelli’s and Guptill’s goals. Junior Derek DeBlois scored just 49 seconds later to extend the lead to 4-1 (which chased Slubowski) before Guptill capped it with his second goal of the period with :18 left on the clock. Moffatt and Treais also assisted on that game sealer. Michigan fought off several PP chances in the third period and skated off with a decisive sweep to move on to their 24th consecutive CCHA semi-final appearance at JLA in Detroit. Racine was sharp in turning aside 22 shots including several breakaways in the last period.
For WMU it was a devastating weekend that is leaving them in NCAA tournament limbo, while the jubilant Wolverines repaid the Broncos for derailing their attempt to secure the CCHA tournament championship the last two seasons. Michigan will now face a true one and done test when they take on the CCHA regular season champions, the Miami Red Hawks, in the semifinals on Saturday.
Scouting The Red Hawks:
Michigan’s semi-final opponent has been the most consistent team in the CCHA this season and is probably the stiffest test that Michigan will face in the playoffs to date. The Wolverines split a pair of games at Yost in October, winning 4-2 and losing 4-3. The Red Hawks are ranked #3 in the country and are one of the top defensive teams in college hockey. They will have a berth in the NCAA tournament regardless of what transpires this weekend, but could solidify a #1 regional seeding, presumably at the Midwest Regional in Toledo. Miami is led offensively by freshman Riley Barber (15-23-38, +15, 4 PPG’s), sophomore Austin Czarnik (14-22-36, +20, 4 SHG’s) and rugged senior Curtis McKenzie (9-13-22). On defense, freshman Mathew Caito (5-15-20), senior Steven Spinell (1-11-12, +16), senior Joe Hartman (0-5-5, +11) and freshman Chris Joyaux (0-4-4, +12) carry the load on the blue line. The two headed goaltending tandem provided by freshmen Ryan McKay (12-5-2, 1.20 GAA, .954 save %) and Jay Williams (12-5-3, 1.89 GAA, .926 save %) are the real story for Miami. McKay leads the nation in both goals against average and save percentage. The remainder of the roster is disciplined and talented, all capable of contributing on both ends of the ice.
Miami’s biggest weakness is their offensive inconsistency which has been overcome most of the season by the smothering defensive style that they play. It was no more emphasized than in last weekend’s three game series win over Michigan State, where the Spartans pulled the surprise 3-0 in the opening game before succumbing 4-1 the next two nights. Like Michigan, Miami can score in bunches and is dangerous all of the time. Czarnik, for instance, leads the NCAA in shorthanded goals with four and Miami as a whole has scored eight shorties, second in the country. Furthermore, as another example of the maddening offensive Achilles heel that may be the Red Hawks weakness, in the past ten games they are 7-3-0. In their seven wins they have scored 26 goals. In their three losses they scored 1 goal and were shut out twice. Similarly, in their non-conference schedule, Miami was 5-2-1, including 1-0 losses to Robert Morris and Wisconsin. They keep games tight and are confident that they will not allow opponents to score. The secret to beating Miami is to score early and enough to have them play catch up-
then lock it down defensively. Conversely, falling behind by even a single goal is a death knell. It is difficult to play from behind against this team.
Tale of the Tape: Another Tough Sell
Michigan’s recent eight game unbeaten streak has been a balance of consistent goal scoring throughout the roster, steady defensive play both 5×5 and on the penalty kill, plus the outstanding goaltending of Steven Racine. A month ago it was only a dream to reach the CCHA semi-finals and hopefully win the final CCHA tournament championship and extend their 22 year NCAA tournament appearance string. Today, the vision is a bit more clear, with the Wolverines playing about as well as they can and needing to put one more superior performance together in order to give themselves a shot at the crown.
The Wolverines are tied for 9th overall in the country in offense, producing 3.21 GPG compared to Miami’s middling 2.54 GPG (30th.) The consensus is, both teams are capable of offensive fireworks and both teams are capable of being shut down. Michigan has proven over the course of the last few weeks that they can overcome solid defensive teams and goaltending. Miami only needs to produce enough offense to give their defense and goaltending the primary mission of winning the game. Coach Berenson was quoted this week during the media call as describing Miami as “scary”. Berenson said that “they can score with anybody and defensively they are the best team in the league. They don’t give up much, they don’t need much and they have a lot of offensive firepower.” That is not just coach-speak, it is what Miami has been all season. Considering Michigan’s improved offensive confidence and Miami’s inconsistent offense, this category is probably even.
On defense, Miami holds a 1.62 GPG average and sits #2 in the country behind the ECAC’s Quinnipiac (1.59 GPG.) Michigan has yielded less than two goals per game in the past ten, but still has pockets of weakness that teams haven’t taken advantage of. Their 3.29 GPG average is 51st in the country. Michigan will advance only if Racine stands on his head and gets the type of shot blocking and defensive support the team has given him of late. The advantage is clearly Miami’s.
Special team statistics have improved for Michigan, as they hold an 18.99% PP conversion, good for 19th. Miami counters with a nominal 15.7% PP, which is often driven by their top line. Conversely, the Red Hawks are the 6th best PK team in the country at 88.2% while the Wolverines are 16th at 84.9%. Michigan held the Broncos scoreless in nine tries last week. The Wolverines have tallied five times while shorthanded, while giving up six goals (including one earlier this season to Miami) while on the PP. This will be the x-factor since Michigan has improved on both sides of the puck, while Miami literally shuts down opponents and creates offense while shorthanded. This segment is also even.
Michigan is 7-2-1 in their last ten, while Miami is 7-3. Michigan is 2-2 on neutral ice, while Miami is 1-2. The Wolverines appear to be more disciplined, only averaging 11.68 MPG in the sin bin (T42nd) while Miami is more aggressive, averaging 13.46 MPG (T20th). Michigan enjoys momentum currently and is a much better, a more desperate team than the one Miami faced at Yost. On the other hand, the Red Hawks are under little pressure and will, as Coach Enrico Blasi describes, “play their game” like they have all season. Slight advantage to Michigan.
Why buck the trend? The writer called for Michigan to lose a close series last weekend and was impressed with the moxie and determination that this team has shown. Still, the heart bleeds blue and will gladly trade a superstitious declaration of defeat in exchange for a chance to advance to Sunday’s final. If I am wrong, then I will apologize with a smile. If I am right, then I am satisfied to know that the Wolverines will give everything they have against one of the best teams in the country. Forgive me fans, it’s for the karma: Miami 3 Michigan 1 on a late empty net goal.
– Sophomore Alex Guptill (14-19-33, 4 PPGs, 3 GWG’s) has been on a tear lately. The big forward gathered four points against WMU (2G, 2A) and was robbed on several other chances. He now leads the team in points. Senior Captain A.J. Treais follows next (11-18-29) and added three assists last weekend. Freshman Boo Nieves was shut out of the scoring but is tied for second at 8-21-29. Sophomore Phil Di Giuseppe added 1G and 1A to boost his points total to 9-19-28. Freshman Jacob Trouba (12-15-27) scored twice and has 7 PPG’s on the season. Senior Alternate Captain Kevin Lynch (10-14-24) has scored five PPG’s on the season and had 1G and 1A against WMU. Junior Luke Moffatt (3 assists) is now at the 20 point plateau (7-13-20.) Freshman Andrew Copp (9-10-19, +4), Junior Derek DeBlois (10-8-18, +4) and junior defender Mac Bennett (6-12-18) round out the top offensive producers on the roster.
-Michigan’s goal differential now stands at -3, as the Wolverines have yielded 125 goals compared to scoring 122 this season. A successful weekend should also push the Wolverines into the + column in goal differential.
-Copp, Deblois and sophomore defenseman Mike Szuma lead the team in +/- rating with +4.
-Freshman Steve Racine earned both victories over the weekend again to improve his record to 11-5-3 with a 2.66 GAA and a .895 save %. RS sophomore Luke Dwyer, who has made two exhibition game appearances this season, did not dress. Junior Adam Janecyk (3-7-0, 3.46 GAA and
a .892 save %) backed up Racine along with freshman Jared Rutledge (3-6-0 with a 4.24 GAA and a .854 save %.) Senior Lindsay Sparks was a healthy scratch both nights, as was senior Jeff Rohrkemper.
-Junior forward Luke Moffatt (Business) was Michigan’s candidate for the CCHA Scholar-Athlete Award, given yearly by the conference.
-Michigan entered into the USCHO top 20 poll at #20 this week, the first time that the Wolverines have bounced back into the top 20 since 11/9/12.
-Kevin Lynch has now gathered 11 points in his last 14 games.
-The Wolverines will play the Red Hawks for the 104th time in their history, with Michigan holding a 72-27-4 all time edge.
The National Scene:
Currently three teams from the CCHA qualify for the NCAA playoffs- #3 Miami, #, #12 Notre Dame and #14 WMU. Both Miami and Notre Dame will qualify regardless of their outcomes. WMU will only get bumped if other conference tournament upsets occur sending auto-bids to teams currently out of the top 16 in the PWR. Michigan or Ohio State could make things interesting if either or both advance to the CCHA final-meaning that another team that is in the top 16 will get bumped. Upsets *could* occur in addition to that possibility and WMU could be out IF Niagara loses in the AHA semi-final or final; If Colorado College or Wisconsin wins the WCHA; If Boston University or Providence wins the Hockey East; OR if Brown or Yale pull the (unlikely) upset in the ECAC conference.
IF Michigan pulls the upset and repeats what it did in 2010, it will be assigned to the Grand Rapids (West) Regional as the host and the 4th seed and will face the #1 seed in the regional semi-finals. That team right now is most likely the overall #2 team in the country, Minnesota.
Look for a brief preview of Michigan’s opponent Sunday IF Michigan defeats Miami and moves on to the CCHA Final. Otherwise, a wrap-up report of the season will follow next week, leading up to the NCAA tournament.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — YostMeister
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