Michigan Hockey: CCHA Tournament — Finals — Michigan vs. Notre Dame — Preview
Motivated Wolverines Move On To CCHA Championship Game Against Arch-rival Notre Dame
#20 Michigan (18-18-3) vs. #11 Notre Dame (24-12-3)
2:05 p.m. Sunday 3/24 Joe Louis Arena, Detroit.
TV: The Championship game will be shown on FSD
What’s at stake:
Michigan is challenging for their 10th CCHA tournament championship in 17 championship game appearances (out of 24 straight CCHA semi-final appearances) and can only qualify for the NCAA Tournament with a victory. Notre Dame is seeking their 3rd CCHA Tournament Championship and will qualify for the NCAA Tournament regardless of the outcome.
Rewinding Saturday’s Semi-final Action:
Notre Dame and Ohio State squared off in the early tilt with the Buckeyes drawing first blood on a Ryan Dzingel goal. The Irish came back on a Peter Schneider tally to knot the score. The two teams remained tied until early in the third period when ND’s TJ Tynan scored a PPG to give the Irish a lead they would not surrender. Jeff Costello sealed the game with an empty netter. The Irish dominated the game with a punishing, physical style and badly outshot the Buckeyes. Ohio State’s season ended with the loss.
In the nightcap, both Michigan and Miami came out hard as the pace of the game was fast and physical. Luke Moffatt rang a shot off the goalpost halfway through the stanza and Miami also came close late in the period if not for the diving clear that defenseman Jacob Trouba provided for goaltender Steven Racine. A hard shot trickled through Racine and hit the post, then slid precariously through the crease before Trouba cleared it from danger.
In the second period, Michigan blew out the Red Hawks in a period of 2:10. Andrew Copp scored the first of his two goals in the period, finishing a shorthanded 2×1 break with Kevin Lynch, going five hole on Miami goaltender Ryan McKay. Copp then scored on a one time shot from the right circle after accepting a beautiful feed from Trouba. Luke Moffatt then drilled a top shelf laser thirty seconds later on a feed from behind the net to make t 3-0. Seconds later AJ Treais finished off a three way passing play that was created off of a Miami turnover to give the Wolverines a 4-0 lead. It also chased McKay in favor of Jay Williams. Miami scored a late period goal to give them some life after forty minutes. In the third period, Michigan’s Alex Guptill pounded a PPG home inside the first minute to extend the lead to 5-1. Miami scored a PPG at the five minute mark, but Guptill struck again to ice the game in the latter stages of the period. This is the second consecutive trip to the final for Michigan and the second straight year that Miami suffered a 6-2 defeat in the semi-finals. It also marks the most goals that Red Hawks have surrendered this season. Michigan finishes their CCHA playoff record at 7-0 against Miami all-time. The Red Hawks will await the NCAA tournament pairings after the conference championship game on Sunday. Michigan goaltender Steven Racine advanced his record to 12-5-3, knocking away 33 of 35 shots on goal. The Wolverines pounded Miami with 27 SOG, scoring six times against arguably the best goaltending tandem in the country.
Scouting the Fighting Irish:
Notre Dame has dominated the Wolverines this season- there is no sugar coating it. The Irish swept Michigan for the first time in 20+ years this past Fall in Ann Arbor and then turned the trick again in South Bend in February. It also happens to be the last time Michigan has lost. The games at Yost were close affairs until the third period when the Irish displayed a ferocious forecheck and pinned Michigan deep in the last ten minutes of both games. Mistakes cost the Wolverines late. In contrast, Notre Dame simply ran roughshod over Michigan in South Bend, scoring at will and never letting up off of the gas. It also proved to be the turning point of the season for Michigan- as they have now ripped off an 8-1-1 record in their last ten games including sweeps over Ohio State, NMU and WMU along the way.
In the meantime, the Irish have righted a leaky ship that saw their CCHA title chances slip through their hands. They were perhaps the best team in the conference in the first half of the year, only to suffer tight losses and injuries to key players along the way. They have quietly put together another string of wins, going 7-1-2 in the same period that Michigan found itself. The Irish finished second in the conference and dispatched BGSU in two tough games in the quarterfinals. Their lone defeat was suffered at Miami during
the regular season campaign which essentially ended their bid to overtake the Red Hawks for the CCHA title. Their two ties were in Kalamazoo against WMU- games that both teams took the extra shootout point.Jeff Jackson (MSU, ’78) – long a nemesis of Red Berenson especially during the early 90’s while coaching at LSSU- is a master at preparing his teams in the playoffs. This will be the second time Michigan will face him in the CCHA final while behind the Irish bench. Notre Dame defeated Michigan in 2007, 2-1 for their second championship.
The Irish are a blend of size, grit and balance. They have outscored opponents 115-85 this season to accent that balance. The offense is led by four juniors: Anders Lee (19-18-37, +17), Bryan Rust (15-18-33, +22), Jeff Costello (10-18-28, +15) and TJ Tynan (10-17-27). Freshman Mario Lucia (12-10-22) was named to the CCHA All Rookie Team. Sophomore newcomer Peter Schneider hails from Austria and arrived during the second half of the season. The supporting cast features gritty freshman Thomas DiPauli (5-7-12), sophomore Austin Wuthrich (4-4-8) and two blue collar lunchbucket juniors David Gerths (9-1-10) and Mike Voran (4-7-11).
On defense, sophomore Robbie Russo (5-18-23), senior Sam Calabrese (1-19-20), junior Stephen Johns (1-12-13, +10) and junior Kevin Lind (2-3-5, +19) are solid defenders that often jump into the offense.
Junior goaltender Steven Summerhays (20-11-2, 1.99 GAA, .921 save %) is solid, yet unspectacular. He is backed up by senior Mike Johnson (4-1-1, 2.36 GAA, .907 save %.)
The Irish are physical, can control the tempo and give opponents little room on the ice. The biggest difference between ND and Miami is their experience and physical maturity- so expect the Irish to try to bang Michigan and force the defense into turnovers. It seemed to be the same model that worked this season so far.Tale Of The Tape: Emotion Over Statistics
The Wolverines are rolling on offense right now, disproving the theory that a strong defense always neutralizes a good offense. Still, Michigan is one game away from completing an amazing march through the best teams in the CCHA: sweeping 4th place OSU during the regular season in Columbus; sweeping the 3rd place and 9th best defensive team (WMUBroncos) out of the playoffs on their ice; dominating the 2nd best defensive team in the nation in a manner that no other team has done this season… and are now facing a team that has dispatched the Wolverines fairly easily this season.
The Wolverines are bringing the 6th best offense into the championship game (3.28 GPG) while the Irish are 23rd in the country at 2.95 GPG. It doesn’t make the Irish any less dangerous, considering they have scored 20 goals against Michigan this season in four games. If the Irish try to go toe to toe in a wide open game, this favors Michigan. I don’t see that happening unless Michigan can pound Notre Dame for multiple goals in a short period like they did at WMU and against Miami. Still, I give Michigan a slight edge right now.
Michigan won’t be able to correct the poor defensive average (51st, 3.26 GPG) they earned over three quarters of the season. Discard that, though. Michigan is only giving up an average of two goals or less during their winning streak. I don’t see that changing, especially with the new realization of desperation they are showing. Every player on the roster is selling out defensively, although Coach Berenson was not pleased with the sloppy odd man rushes the Wolverines gave up in the second half of the game against Miami. Memories of the thirteen goal blitz that the Irish put up in February is too fresh.
Notre Dame is a stout 8th in the nation at 2.18 GPG. It is not that Summerhays is a game stealer as much as ND’s defense is THAT good. They are rough, physical and give no room to opponents entering their zone. They block shots, clog passing lanes and then transition to offense very quickly. If Miami was “scary” which Berenson described them as, then Notre Dame is frightening. It will be like playing a similar team with a little better offensive balance and a little less defensive credentials. Notre Dame gets the nod in this category.
The special teams battle has Michigan at 20th in the PP (18.79%) compared to Notre Dame’s 18.56% conversion (T23rd.) Both are fairly consistent right now and will be a push.
The penalty killing teams are not far apart either, although Michigan has only allowed one PPG in 20 playoff game attempts so far- which was allowed to Miami long after the game was decided. Michigan checks in at 17th now holding an 84.7% kill rate. Conversely, the Irish are 34th at 82.1%- an area Michigan did exploit in South Bend the last time the teams met. I give Michigan the edge overall.
Michigan is 42nd in PIM’s at 11.69 MPG, where the Irish are 28th at 12.74 MPG. Not a huge difference, except that extra minute may be enough of a chance for Michigan to score. Michigan is tied for 4th in the country in SHG’s with 7, shared by four other teams, where the Irish have scored 5 (T14th with 10 other teams.) The Irish are undefeated (4-0) on neutral ice this season, where Michigan will have a partisan crowd in Detroit. Advantage: Even.
Expectation: Michigan needs to win, period. They are a confident, loose team now that is playing on all cylinders. It is rare that any team can play another five times and dominate them, although Michigan held that spell over MSU this season. Still, I remember 2007-08 when Michigan dominated the Irish in the same fashion all season until they met in the Frozen Four- and the Irish stunned the favored Wolverines in OT.
Again, I am going to play the karma game and smile if I am wrong. If the season and Michigan’s 22 year NCAA streak ends, I know our program will be back and I know that this team redeemed itself for the complete disaster it was for most of this season. If it continues, the pride and honor of taking the final CCHA championship will be Michigan’s. It will be well earned and savored. I hope that is the case, but, for karma’s sake…. Notre Dame 3 Michigan 2.
-Michigan will say goodbye to seniors Kevin Lynch, AJ Treais, Jeff Rohrkemper, Lindsay Sparks and Lee Moffie on Sunday as they make their final appearance on Joe Louis Arena ice. Good luck gentlemen.
-Michigan is seeking its 10th CCHA Playoff Crown, in Red Berenson’s 29th year behind the bench.
-The CCHA is dissolving for good after 42 seasons. During that time, eight national champions came from the CCHA: BGSU (1) MSU (2) Michigan (2) and LSSU (3). MSU was the last champion in 2007. NMU actually won their only championship in 1991 as a member of the WCHA. No other members have won a national title.
NCAA Tournament Update:
Ohio State was officially eliminated with its loss to Notre Dame. Miami and Notre Dame will receive bids. (If the Irish don’t win the CCHA tourney title where an autobid is extended.)
WMU has been officially eliminated, a blow to a team that had a solid season but fell victim to upsets in the conference tournaments.
If Michigan wins, Yale will be out of the tournament (since Canisius was the upset winner of the AHA and Niagara has an at large bid based on top 16 PWR). Had Niagara won the AHA tournament, WMU may have gotten the bid that Canisius will now receive- unless Michigan would win which would have also eliminated the Broncos.
If Notre Dame wins, Yale will be in and Michigan will be eliminated.
Stay tuned to the website forum for a brief update after tomorrow’s game. There will either be a Michigan NCAA tourney profile or a season ending wrap –up column next week.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — YostMeister
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