Michigan Hockey: Preps For Outdoor GLI Tournament
Michigan Hockey Preps For Outdoor GLI Tournament; Copp Named Alt. Captain For Team USA At WJT
What: #3 Michigan Wolverines (10-2-2) Vs. WMU (7-8-3) and either MSU (5-9-1) or Michigan Tech (6-9-5)
When: Friday 12/27, 7:05 p.m. Comerica Park, Detroit, Mi. Saturday 12/28, Time TBD (Championship or 3rd game)
TV/Radio: FSD & The Michigan Hockey IMG Radio Network (1050 a.m. Al Randall, Bill Trainor)
www.mgoblue.com for gametracker and streaming.
The Wolverines move to downtown Detroit for the annual GLI tournament- an affair that will be showcased at Comerica Park this season in coordination with the NHL’s January 1st Outdoor Winter Classic between the Red Wings and the Maple Leafs being held at Michigan Stadium and NHL alumni games (between Toronto and Detroit) at Comerica Park also. The OHL and AHL will also participate with Plymouth taking on London along with Saginaw vs. Windsor outdoors in Detroit and the Toronto Marlies challenging the Grand Rapids Griffins. A series of youth and high school games will also take place.
The hockey bonanza that includes the Wolverines will challenge the depth of the team as Michigan will be without alternate captain Andrew Copp, freshman Tyler Motte and freshman JT Compher. All three were trying out for the U-20 USA World Junior Team that is playing in Malmo, Sweden this year. Copp was named alternate captain for team USA and Motte is likely to be on the roster. Compher unfortunately broke his left foot blocking a shot in practice and was cut from the roster. He is likely to miss 3-4 weeks and will not be ready to play for the Wolverines until mid to late January.
This is not only a short term blow to the Wolverines- losing three of their top six forwards- and their top two points leaders- in the GLI, but potentially hurts the Maize and Blue’s offense as it cranks up the B1G Ten schedule after the 1st of the year against Wisconsin and MSU. (Copp, 9-5-14, Compher 5-9-14 and Motte 5-3-8 also add other intangibles such as special teams play and faceoffs which are little things that win games.)
Nonetheless, Michigan’s defense remains intact with senior Captain Mac Bennett (1-4-5) and their goaltending is sound with both Zach Nagelvoort (6-2-1, 1.67 GAA and .944 save %) and Steve Racine (4-0-1, 2.77 GAA and .925 save %.) The offense will lean heavily on junior Alex Guptill (6-6-13), senior Luke Moffatt (5-7-12), junior Phil Di Giuseppe (4-8-12), senior alternate Captain Derek DeBlois (2-6-8) and sophomore Boo Nieves (1-7-8.)
Michigan ranks 17th in offense (3.21 GPG), 6th in defense (2.07 GPG), 5th in PP (34.07%). T-34 in PK (80.6%) AND 39th in PIM’s at 11.50 MPG. They currently sit 5th in the RPI- a component of the PWR rankings that is influenced by strength of schedule (10th.) Michigan should still be a favorite in the GLI, but, as we have seen in the past, anything can happen. The fact that the games are outdoors will also influence the conditions and may neutralize any skill advantage the Wolverines may bring.
Michigan’s semi-final opponent Western Michigan is no stranger to the Wolverines. The Broncos have moved over the NCHC and currently anchor the bottom of the conference with Minnesota Duluth and Miami. They have lost a good deal of their talent that took the program to a CCHA tournament championship over Michigan two seasons ago and an unceremonious two game dumping by the Wolverines on their home ice in last season’s CCHA quarterfinals. But, the Broncos do return a core group of talent led by senior forward Shane Berschbach (7-14-21), junior Justin Kovacs (8-10-18) and senior Chase Balisy (2-11-13). The defense is anchored by junior Jordan Oesterle (2-7-9), senior Dennis Brown (2-6-8) and sophomore Kenney Morrison (2-4-6). Junior netminder Frank Slubowski (5-6-3, 2.53 GAA and .913 save %) is having a nominal season, but is the go to goalie in K-zoo. Sophomore Lukas Hafner (2-2-0, 1.42 GAA, .930 save %) has seen action in 6 games. The Broncos are not going to wow anyone with offense (2.56 GPG-T37th) but are T15th in defense (2.39 GPG.) Their weakness is their special teams: the PP is 50th converting 12.77% of their chances. Conversely, the PK is 28th in the country at 82.3%. The Broncos are undisciplined, ranking 7th worst in the country in PIM’s at 16.50. That is not a good combination against an opponent that ranks top five in the country in PPG’s. Of course, the neutralizing fact of having Michigan’s top two offensive players out will impact Michigan’s ability on the PP.
The winner in the first semi-final will take on either MSU or Michigan Tech. Michigan has not played MSU and swept Michigan Tech at Yost in two close, one goal victories including an OT game. MSU was swept by WMU in a home and home series and by MTU in Houghton. WMU and Tech has not played this season. Michigan Tech brings in a diverse and balanced scoring threat with sophomore Alex Petan (9-7-16), junior Tanner Kero (7-8-15), freshman Mike Neville (2-9-11) and senior Blake Hietala (4-5-9). Sophomore goaltender Pheonix Copley was the GLI MVP last season and sports a 5-7-4 record with a 2.18 GAA and a .921 save %. The Huskies play tight games and are very aggressive on their penalty kill.
Michigan State has begun to play better as of late going 2-2-1 in their last five including an impressive OT tie and shootout win over #1 Minnesota. The injury bug bit the Spartans who still may be without two key offensive components. Senior Greg Wolfe (7-5-12) paces the Spartan attack. Three others are tied with 9 points: freshman Mackenzie MacEachern and seniors Jake Chelios and Lee Reimer. Sophomore netminder Jake Hildebrand (4-7-1, 2.50 GAA and .915 Save %) has shared time with senior Will Yanakeff (1-2-0, 2.61 GAA, .918 save %) although Hildebrand is the clear #1.
The Spartans hold a slight advantage on offense, with a 2.33 GPG average (47th) while Tech averages an anemic 2.15 GPG (53rd.) MSU holds opponents to 2.60 GPG (28th) where thew Huskies are 17th) at 2,40 GPG. Both teams PP is abysmal, with the Spartans at 12.68% (51st) and Tech at 10.68% (56th). ). The Huskies do bring the best PK to the tourney at 84.7% kill rate (15th). The Spartans are a 46th best 78.5% on the PK. Tech holds the dubious distinction of being the worst penalized team in the country at 17.85 MPG average. State has the best disciplined team in the GLI, taking an average of 9.93 PIM’s (50th).
Michigan has to figure out how to generate offense without sacrificing their defense. WMU has had the Maize and Blue’s number in neutral site match-ups. Michigan 2-1 OT. MTU handled the Spartans pretty well earlier this season, but I have a feeling that the Spartans turn the tables. Spartans 3-2 OT.
Michigan repeats, drubbing their in-state rival for the 2nd consecutive time outdoors. Wolverines 4-2.
-Michigan’s netminder Zach Nagelvoort remains #1 in goals against average and #4 in the country in save %. He was named the B1G Ten’s #1 star two weeks ago for his efforts in the 2-2 tie against Ferris State.
-Poll watch: Michigan remained at the #3 spot this week despite the tie against now #2 Ferris State (who then defeated MSU in East Lansing.) #1 Minnesota (12-2-2) was idle as was #14 Wisconsin (8-5-1). SCSU and Providence round out the top five.
-First half thoughts: the polls pegged Michigan a pre-season top five team and they have pretty much played to that level. The intensity has decreased from the early part of the season, yet Michigan has found ways to compete and win games. The second half will be even more challenging for this young team. Overall, B+. The team is on track for a 20+ win season and a berth in the NCAA tournament.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — Yostmeister
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