Michigan Hockey: Wolverines Regroups After Dismal GLI; Takes On Badgers In Madison
What: #8/9 Michigan Wolverines (10-4-2) (2-0-0) Vs. #14 Wisconsin Badgers (11-6-1) (2-2-0)
When: Friday & Saturday 1/10 & 1/11, 9:05 p.m. (Fri.) and 8:05 p.m. (Sat.) Kohl Center, Madison, Wi.
TV/Radio: FSD (Friday) & The Michigan Hockey IMG Radio Network (1050 a.m. Al Randall, Bill Trainor)
www.mgoblue.com for gametracker and streaming.
Maize and Blue get swept in GLI-first time since 2000:
The Wolverines knew that there would be some adversity heading into the second half of the season. What they didn’t realize is that it would reach up and bite them at a tournament they usually excel at. Unfortunately, the excitement of having the annual tournament held at Comerica Park wasn’t enough to propel Michigan in either game. Not even the sudden appearance of JT Compher- who was suppose to be out a month with an injured left foot at the WJT – and Tyler Motte- the victim of the last round of cuts from the USA World Junior Team (who was also suffering the flu) could spur the Wolverines. They were flat. They were downright awful defensively, and appeared a bit disinterested in general. The good news is, if there is any to share, is that this didn’t cost them conference wins. Small consolation, but lessons learned nonetheless.
Michigan dropped a tough 3-2 overtime loss to WMU in what was truly their worst defensive effort since…. well, last season. The Wolverines jumped out on top 1-0 on a JT Compher shorthanded goal to lead after twenty minutes. WMU came out and dominated the remaining forty minutes, tying the game on a blown defensive assignment and then taking the lead on a defensive zone giveaway and partial breakaway. Numerous other chances were denied by goaltender Zach Nagelvoort who still appeared a bit shell shocked. Michigan’s Travis Lynch tied the game in the third period by snapping a long wrist shot that rang crossbar and dropped in the net. Both teams played cautious hockey the remainder of the game. In the OT period, Michigan’s Phil DiGiuseppe took an ill advised checking from behind penalty that the Wolverines had just about killed. WMU forward Josh Pitt went end to end through four Wolverines and beat Nagelvoort with: 18 seconds left to win the game for the Broncos.
The Wolverines went on to face arch-rival MSU (who lost their opener in a shootout to MTU) and were completely dominated from the opening faceoff. MSU scored an early goal and held that lead into the third period where they cashed in on two other opportunities and won 3-0. Michigan netminder Steve Racine made 37 saves in a losing effort. Michigan just couldn’t solve MSU netminder Jake Hildebrand who shut out the Wolverines. It was the second consecutive year that Michigan suffered a shutout at the GLI.
Michigan coach Red Berenson didn’t mince words, claiming that yes, the weather conditions did affect the play (since the ice was warm and sticky) but both opponents had to play in the same conditions. It took much of the skill out of the game, but Berenson reinforced the idea that Michigan didn’t compete like they can and that the two strengths that carried them in the first half- their offense, specifically their PP- and their defensive play, especially goaltending- didn’t execute. It was a lost weekend as far as completing any goals, Berenson insisted. No excuses were offered, as some suggested the team missed Andrew Copp and looked sluggish after a fairly light December schedule. Either way, dropping games to sub .500 teams did not go unpunished as the program dropped in the polls and are now positioned firmly in the middle of the NCAA pairwise rankings (#9). Any further slides will suddenly make Michigan a bubble team come March. They look to right the ship this weekend against an improving and somewhat underachieving Wisconsin team.
Wisconsin, on paper, probably is the one of the most complete teams in the B1G Ten conference and was expected to compete for the inaugural title in March. The first half of the season was mixed, though and not quite to the level that most Badger fans thought the program would be. The roster features 16 upperclassmen (15 have seen ice time) as well as one of the most talented underclassman in the country. But, injuries have slowed the team, particularly in net and the Badgers limped through the first two months of the season, including embarrassing lopsided losses at BC and BU. They did manage a road split against Miami and got swept in Minnesota. The schedule eased up a bit and the Badgers have won seven of their past eight, including a conference sweep vs. Penn State and a recent non conference split with old WCHA conference mate Alaska Anchorage, in Madison.
The Michigan /Wisconsin series will be a good measuring stick for both teams. Neither appears to be playing their best hockey, but still hold hope of giving Minnesota a run at the regular season crown. The Badgers will have to overcome injuries (again) as senior Sean Little (1-3-4) will miss the series. Little is a PK specialist and typically shadows the opponent’s top forward. Also missing will be super sophomore Nic Kerdiles (8-9-17) who is an offensive dynamo and anchors one of the top two lines. He got dinged up last weekend after returning from the WJT in Sweden. Still, the Badgers will lean on senior forwards Michael Mersch (11-8-19), Mark Zengerle (2-18-20) and Tyler Barnes (9-9-18) for their offense. Secondary offense is provided by junior Joe Labate (6-6-12) and frosh sensation Grant Besse (5-4-9.) The defense is well represented by offensive minded junior Jake McCabe (5-10-15) as well as seniors Joe Faust (1-8-9) and Frankie Simonelli (4-3-7.) The supporting third and fourth lines are seasoned and sprinkle in offense periodically. Offense hasn’t been the issue (3.50 GPG, 9th) as much as ill timed defensive struggles (2.83 GPG, 32nd.) It didn’t help that starting netminder Joel Rumpel missed a chunk of games. The junior is 8-1-0 with a 1.93 GAA (10th) with a .928 save % (14th). He was forced into relief for back-up (junior) Landon Peterson (3-5-1, 3.47 GAA and .879 save %) in last weekend’s opening 4-3 loss to Anchorage. Rumpel will most likely start both games.
Wisconsin’s special teams are average on paper (16.44% PP/38th and an 84.1% PK/18th) but always seem to be one of the key factors in games against Michigan. The Badgers have tallied three shorthanded goals to Michigan’s two for the season. Neither Michigan nor Wisconsin take an unusual amount of penalties (39th and 40th respectfully at around 11 MPG), but home cooked officiating history in Madison usually gives the Badgers more of an advantage, especially when the Badgers were in the WCHA. One other factor: Kohl Center is an Olympic size ice rink at 97 x200, which aids up tempo fast skating clubs. Michigan is 1-0-1 this season on Olympic ice, playing at UNH. The downside is that it puts more pressure on defensive gap play and forward backchecking, something that Michigan has been steadily regressing in execution. The Wolverines hold an overall 63-58-8 series lead all time, but are 1-1-1 in their last three games against the Badgers, with two of the last three in Madison including the outdoor game at Camp Randall stadium held 2/6/10 (3-2 loss) and a 4-4 tie at the Kohl Center on 11/26/10. Michigan’s last home meeting was a 3-2 win during the College Hockey Showcase on 11/26/09.
-Michigan’s offense slumped outdoors and now sits 23rd (2.94 GPG). The team defense, which seemed to still be on break during the GLI, is T8th (2.19 GPG). The power play really faltered in the last three games and dropped to 21st at 20.97%. The penalty kill, which has been average all season, sunk to 36th at an even 80% efficiency. (A good PK is usually benchmarked at 85 %.)
– JT Compher continues to lead the Wolverines offense (6-9-15) followed closely by Andrew Copp (9-5-14). Alex Guptill (6-6-12), the slumping Luke Moffatt (5-7-12) and Phil Di Giuseppe (4-8-12) are tied for third overall. Motte, Boo Nieves and Derek DeBlois are tied with eight points.
-Michigan’s netminder Zach Nagelvoort (6-3-1, 1.78 GAA, .940 save %) is #5 in goals against average and #4 in the country in save %. Zach has hit a bit of a wall, though, going 0-1-1 in his last two starts. Steve Racine (4-1-1, 2.81 GAA, .925 save %) may start one of the two games, like at the GLI.
Michigan dropped dramatically to the #8 spot this week in the USCHO poll and #9 in the USA Today poll. Minnesota regained the #1 spot after dropping down to #2 for two weeks. They defeated RPI and tied Colgate (losing a shootout) in the Mariucci Classic. Wisconsin dropped from #13 to #14 following their split with Alaska Anchorage. They had won four straight over CC and Alabama Huntsville prior to last week’s split. Michigan will be the first ranked team Wisconsin has played since they lost their series to Minnesota.
Copp shines at WJT:
Alternate Captain Andrew Copp (0-5-5) was third overall during the USA’s short run at the U-20 World Junior Tournament over Christmas. He was considered one of the top forwards and led the US squad to a 3-1 record during round robin group play. (They dropped a tough loss to Canada, and then lost to Russia in the medal round quarterfinals, knocking them from the tournament.) Finland eventually won the Gold Medal over host Sweden, with Russia knocking off Canada for the Bronze.
Freshman defender Kevin Lohan returned to the ice for conditioning after a severe knee injury against Michigan Tech. He had surgery and is considered “ahead of schedule” as far as rehab, but his return is still questionable this season.
– Michigan will be off until January 23rd (Thursday) when they renew their rivalry with MSU at Joe Louis Arena. (The game was moved to a Thursday to accommodate MSU/Michigan basketball on Saturday 1/25.) The Wolverines will travel to East Lansing
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — YostMeister
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