Friday, January 22, 2010

Michigan Hockey: Michigan Wolverines and Ferris State Bulldogs -- Preview

Posted at 4:00pm -- 1/22/2010

Ferris State Bulldogs / Michigan Wolverines Preview

MICHIGAN (13-10-1, 8-7-1) T-6th in the CCHA
Ferris State University (16-6-2, 10-4-2-2) 3rd in the CCHA
Friday 1/22 8:05 PM Yost Ice Arena
Saturday 1/23 8:05 PM Ewigleben Arena, Big Rapids, MI.
Television: Both games on CBS College Sports -- DirecTV Channel 613

Who Let The Dawgs Out?

Michigan and Ferris State have been CCHA rivals since 1982, with Michigan holding a 61-27-3 advantage over the Bulldogs. Michigan is 36-10 in Ann Arbor, 23-17-2 in Big Rapids and has a 2-0-1 mark on neutral ice. The Wolverines have bested FSU six straight times at Yost, dating back to 2006 and has a 9-2-1 record in the last 12 games against their mid-Michigan rivals. Last season Michigan beat Ferris 6-1 and 4-0 in the two meetings.

No Stroll Through The Junkyard This Season:

Ferris State is having one of their best seasons ever, with the 16-6-2 record, being 3rd best in the program’s history after 24 games. (Only the ’79-80 team’s 19-5 and the 02-03 Chris Kunitz led 17-6-1 team had better starts.) In fact, the 02-03 team made Bulldog history winning their very first CCHA regular season title and was awarded with Ferris State’s first NCAA appearance, finishing the season 31-10-1 (Michigan did beat FSU 5-4 in the CCHA championship game that season).

FSU had a twelve game CCHA unbeaten streak snapped last weekend, getting swept at home by Miami. It also broke an eleven game home unbeaten string. Ferris has “snuck up” on the conference foes, picked to finish 8th and 9th respectively by the media and the coaches. The FSU early season non-conference schedule was rather soft (they split a pair of games with nondescript Canisius) and they dropped a pair of games up in Alaska to the Nanooks. Overall, the Dogs are 2-5-2 against ranked opponents (Alaska , UNO, Yale and Miami , with whom they tied and won two shootout games in Oxford prior to last week’s meeting.)

On the other hand, this team has gotten confident and dangerous. FSU had a dominant signature sweep at Notre Dame and has beaten most of the CCHA teams in the league that should have been beaten up to this point in the schedule. FSU still has to face Michigan, LSSU, and MSU, three teams that are jockeying with Ferris in the top part of the standings.

Alpha Dogs Leading Their Pack:

Ferris State’s offense is led by a trio of mature senior forwards- their average age is 24- that are accounting for over 30% of their team’s front line offense. Hobey Baker candidate Blair Riley leads the Bulldogs in points (26) and goals (16). He is currently tied for 2nd in the CCHA in points. He had a ten game points string stopped last weekend. Casey Haines 5-15-20 leads the team with three GWG’s. Captain Cody Chupp 7-15-22 also leads the team’s +/- rating with a +13. That line is a cumulative +32 for the season. Senior Aaron Lewicki also has chipped in with 2-3-5 in his last four games, and is 7-7-14 on the season. Overall, the Bulldogs are #11 in the country in offense and #1 in the CCHA, averaging 3.4 goals per game. The Bulldogs list ten players with more than ten points apiece. Overall, this team is really mature with six seniors, eight juniors, eight sophomores and four freshmen, one of the many reasons why Ferris has worn down opponents this season.

Guarding The Gate:

Ferris also has one of the best collection of blueliners in the conference. Junior Zach Redmond (4-16-20, +8) is lethal on the power play when he is not steadying the back line. Sophomore Brent Wysopal (2-13-15, +4), Senior Matt Case (2-10-12 ) and Junior Scott Wiectecha (1-10-11) are also key components. The eight Ferris defensemen on the roster account for almost 30% of the team’s points and 14% of the team’s goals scored. It is no wonder that Ferris has the #2 ranked power play in the CCHA at 21%, good for 15th in the country. More importantly to coach Bob Daniels, Ferris also is the #2 team in the conference in scoring defense, and #3 overall in the country, only allowing 2.1 goals against per game. The Bulldogs also trot out an aggressive penalty-killing group, #2 in the CCHA at 88.8% efficiency, which is good for #3 in the country.

If you want to look for weaknesses, though, Coach Daniels would be quick to point out the one thing that seems to be the trademark of Bulldog: hockey- penalty minutes. Ferris leads the CCHA in penalties and penalty minutes, with 8-penalties/20.9 minutes per game average. They are #2 in the country in that department. So, they take a great number of penalties, but have been able to overcome them with terrific penalty killing and offense. They have managed to net four shorthanded goals this season. Ironically, Blair Riley also leads the team (along with Justin Menke) in penalty minutes with 48.

The last key element has been the tandem of goaltending skill the Bulldogs have sustained this season. Junior Pat Nagle (7-4-1, 1.86 GAA, .932 Sv%) and Sophomore Taylor Nelson ( 9-2-1 , 2.30 GAA, .921 Sv%) have been outstanding. Both are athletic, with good glove hands.

One other thing I want to point out, though: Ferris is a good road hockey team, but a phenomenal home team. Ferris is 11-2 in their home rink (pronounced A-VAH-glay-vin for you phonics fans) averaging 4 goals per game, while only yielding a little over 2 goals. Their PP is 26.4% conversion, and their PK is an astounding 93.3%.

On the road, though, the Bulldogs are a more human 4-3-2, scoring 2.56 goals and giving up a paltry 1.67 goals. Their PP drops to 11.4% conversion, but the PK is still a respectable 83.7%. The Bulldogs appear to play a wide open “take no prisoners” style at home, and lock it down pretty well on the road. The Bulldogs still average more goals in each period than their opponents and out shoot them 35-29 on average.

Outside of the Miami Redhawks, this will be the most explosive team Michigan will have faced this season…. and that includes teams like MSU and Wisconsin.

Wolverine Notes:

The Maize and Blue faithful have to be concerned about this team’s inability to close a weekend strong after last week’s 6-0 win and disappointing 3-3 tie (and 1-0 SO loss). The Friday night game was actually a carbon copy of Saturday, though, except Michigan didn’t get the breaks that Alaska did. Outside of the penalties the team took, I think the effort was about as good as we’ll see from a group that has no real pure scorer. It was important to at least get points, and the team did. But the guys are going to have to be that much better against Ferris- a team stinging after being swept at home.

Carl Hagelin continues to lead the Wolverines (12-15-27) and Matt Rust has added 8-14-22 now. Michigan is still unbeaten in four games, too, with Bryan Hogan (13-9-1, 2.24 GAA, .902 Sv%) starting to find his groove. Michigan is 9th in the country in team defense (2.29 goals per game), which is 4th in the CCHA. The Wolverines are also 4th in the country in PK dropping to 88.5% after surrendering two PPG’s last Saturday. Ironically, both Notre Dame and Ferris are slightly ahead of Michigan in this category. The good news is the offense is perking, moving to 19th in the country (3rd in the CCHA) with a 3.21 GPG average. The power play has improved to 22nd in the country (5th in the CCHA) at a 20.3% conversion. Michigan is 10th in the country in penalty minutes (3rd in the CCHA behind Ferris and Miami) taking 17 minutes in penalties per game.

Coach Berenson continues to juggle lines to find a consistent balance of scoring from his team. The defense has also started to contribute to the offensive thrust, getting shots through more frequently- as illustrated last weekend with Brandon Burlon, Lee Moffie and Chad Langlais contributing.

This week’s keys to the match up:

1. Stay out of the penalty box, or at least limit the dumb penalties or at least receive no more penalties when the team is already down a man. Ferris State will thump Michigan if the weekend’s games become a parade to the box. The FSU PP is lethal, especially in Big Rapids.

2. Stay within the framework of the game plan at home. Ferris may try to force an up-tempo game with Michigan since the Bulldogs suspect they can skate with the Wolverines, which works to the Wolverine’s advantage. Counter attack without taking chances and force the Bulldogs to take penalties, and then capitalize. The Bulldogs are vulnerable on the road. Take away the offense from their blue line that is vital.

3. Limit the Bulldog chances/shots. They are going to score, and can at any point in the game. Defense will be the key to beating this team, especially in their building. Michigan will have to find a way to put six periods of consistent, solid play together and hope that the team does not get worn down by Ferris’s balance.

4. Maybe this is the weekend that Hogan can steal a game, or two.


Michigan 3 -Ferris State 3 (Michigan wins shootout, 2-1)

Ferris State 4 -Michigan 2

Over/Under on penalty minutes in each game: 30

Written by Yostmeister

Go Blue -- Wear Maize!

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