Michigan Hockey: Review After The Bye Week
Thoughts on Michigan Hockey after Their Weekend Sweep Of Michigan Tech 11-1/11-2
Michigan’s offense is doing just enough to win. It’s not that they don’t have the ability to score, but it is a combination of playing defensive minded teams with solid goaltending and the lack of scoring from our key EXPERIENCED forwards. By that I mean guys like Alex Guptill, PDG and Boo Nieves. (PDG was flying all weekend and scored a goal Friday, so I am cutting him some slack.)
Luke Moffatt is contributing regularly and Nieves is just snakebit around the net. He has been skating hard and getting chances, but has been stopped by decent goaltending. Guptill, on the other hand, is hardly playing like the physical, goal scoring forward the Dallas Stars drafted. He has been slow on the backcheck, confused in the offensive zone and has not been the physical force that one would expect. He did take eight SOG on Saturday, many from close range. It is just my observation, but many of the shifts that the Hyman-Guptill-Nieves line took ended up with long periods of time in our defensive zone pinned down because of the MTU forecheck. Hyman and Nieves both used their speed to create several dangerous chances though. Our offense was basically carried by Andrew Copp this weekend… exactly what leaders on this team are suppose to do. Our freshmen (Motte, Allen, Compher, and Kile) were shut down for the most part. Reserve forwards Justin Selman and Andrew Sinelli were inserted into the lineup (for Kile and Allen) and made Red Berenson look like a genius on Saturday, as they combined for the winning goal. There is a good deal of pressure on the offense since the production from the blueline is practically non-existent outside of Mac Bennett. Nolan DeJong did log his first point as a Wolverine, assisting on Copp’s first period PPG.
Who can complain about giving up zero 5×5 goals on Friday and one 5×5 goal on Saturday? Both of the goals allowed on Friday were on special teams (a PPG and a shortie). Zach Nagelvoort had much to do with the defense both nights, but for the most part the defensive corps has played solid, now T3rd in the NCAA in team defense with a 1.75 GPG average (T3rd in the country.) The combination of Kevin Clare, Brennan Serville, Bennett, Mike Downing, Kevin Lohan, Nolan DeJong and Mike Chiasson has bent but has not broken so far this season. A mid third period miscue allowed the Huskies back into the game Saturday, but overall, the defense has played within itself and has played much better in front of their goaltender. Sadly, Lohan went down on Friday with a serious knee injury which will require surgery. The prognosis is that he *may* return this season, but will be out a minimum of 3+ months. Mike Chiasson was inserted on Saturday and, while he is not the physical presence that Lohan is, he adds an offensive element to the lineup. The Wolverines are down to Mike Szuma and Spencer ‘Bus’ Hyman as defensive reserves.
The power play unit was less than spectacular this weekend, going 1-9 on the PP and yielding a game tying SHG on Friday. (Berenson alluded to the fact that he had five forwards out on Friday and made sure both PP units had at least one defenseman on the ice on Saturday.) After what appeared to be a promising start of the season, the PP is now 10th best in the country at 25.9%. Not bad, but not as effective as it started. There is a lack of creativity on the PP and the lack of an offensive threat from the blueline has opponents being very aggressive on their PK.
The PK unit was very strong last weekend, but this was against an extremely anemic MTU PP that came in at 5.5%. They connected once in eleven tries, which boosted Michigan’s kill rate to 84.2% T21st in the country. The game ended on Saturday with Tech on a PP, combined with an extra attacker which made for an extremely nervous last two minutes. Travis Lynch, Derek DeBlois and Zach Hyman were very effective on the kills including blocking a bevy of shots.
What can be said negatively about freshman netminder Zach Nagelvoort? The kid is playing like a senior, allowing just three goals this weekend and making many key saves late in both games. He is now 2nd in the nation in GAA and T2nd in save %. Berenson has a dilemma when Steve Racine is fully healthy from his injury. With a bye week on tap and a two game roadtrip to UNO in two weeks, I imagine Nagelvoort will get the start on Friday. Berenson may platoon Racine and Nagelvoort or just ride the hot hand. It’s a great problem to have and probably the #1 reason the team is 6-1-1 going into this weekend’s break.
Michigan was challenged this past weekend by a hard working, fast and physical MTU team. They are well coached and have a good defensive system that limits opponent’s chances. Their goaltending is strong, although the winner on Saturday was probably stoppable. They controlled parts of the action on Friday and particularly on Saturday (even though both teams were sluggish.) The biggest issue MTU has is their finishing ability which is indicative by their GPG average.
Michigan’s talented freshmen class has integrated well into the roster and is contributing every night, especially on the blueline and in net. The seniors have been productive and are leading by example. The Wolverines have passed their first two road tests and have only lost a one goal game to a veteran Hockey East team that won their league last season and went to the Frozen Four. So far there has not been an easy game on their schedule- even the single game road win at RIT turned frightening after jumping out to a 4-0 lead in the only game this season where Michigan failed to bring their defense.
There is plenty of room for improvement, though, as the offense (with a modest 2.75 GPG-T28th) has scratched out goals at key times (two overtime wins in their six victories) and needs to start burying more of their chances in regulation. The schedule will not ease up in November, as the team travels to Omaha to face a physical and offensive minded Mavericks team in two weeks. They will come home to face Niagara and then close the month with a home and home B1G Ten series with Ohio State. The defense will now have to regroup with the loss of Lohan and the goaltending will continue to be tested in tightly contested games. Sooner or later the freshmen will hit a wall and the depth on the team will be called upon like it was on Saturday. Berenson re-focused the troops on reducing shots on goal which was evident Saturday night.
Given all of the above, the team is playing above expectations after their grueling round robin with Hockey East and is now considered an outside threat to Wisconsin and Minnesota once conference play begins. Based on early observations, Michigan can certainly compete with the other B1G Ten teams, but still remains an underdog to a very potent #1 ranked Minnesota squad.
Come to the message board and give us your thoughts, agree or disagree.
Just a reminder you must be a member to participate on the Message Board. Here is the link for the registration page for those people interested in becoming a GBMWolverine member of our message board. GBMWolverine Register.
Please comment on our GBMWolverine Message Board about this article and read what others comment. Make note that our message board has changed so make sure you change your favorite/bookmark as well for the direct link.
You can contact us at our e-mail address: GBMWolverine
Written by GBMWolverine Staff — Yostmeister
Go Blue — Wear Maize!