Friday, February 19, 2010

Michigan Hockey: Northern Michigan at Michigan -- Preview

Posted at 8:00am -- 2/19/2010

Michigan Wolverines / NMU Wildcats Hockey Preview

MICHIGAN (17-15-1, 12-9-1-1) 7th in the CCHA (37 points)

Northern Michigan University (14-10-8, 10-8-6-3) T5th in the CCHA 39 points

Friday 2/19, 7:35 PM EST and Saturday 2/20, 7:35 PM EST, Yost Ice Arena

Television: Friday, FSD+. Saturday, Comcast

Tracking the ‘Cats:

Michigan and Northern Michigan have a relatively short competitive history, with Michigan holding a 31-17-5 mark against the Wildcats since 1981. Northern has bounced between the CCHA (’77-78 to ’83-84) and the WCHA (’84-85 to ’96-97) winning the national championship in 1991 as a member of the WCHA. This is the Wildcat’s 34th season as an NCAA Division I hockey program. They re-joined the CCHA in 1997-98. NMU has had better success than most CCHA schools against Michigan, particularly at Yost arena. The Cats are 10-13-2 in Ann Arbor and hold a 6-10-3 mark in Marquette. Michigan has dominated the Cats on neutral ice, posting an 8-1 record since 1983, including four consecutive victories in the CCHA consolation/semifinals/finals at Joe Louis Arena. Michigan has won three of four GLI meetings between the schools and won a 1992 NCAA west regional meeting at JLA, knocking out the defending NCAA champions.


1. Michigan is 7-0-1 in their last eight games at Yost arena, only allowing seven goals and posting a shutout during that stretch. NMU is unbeaten in their last six games (4-0-2) and are 5-2-3 in their last ten games. They have a 5-6-5 road record this season.

2. The Wolverines and the Cats have played each other fairly even in the past several years including last season’s split up in Marquette. Michigan has only managed to sweep one of the past four series with NMU, which occurred in the 2007 CCHA second round playoffs at Yost.

3. Michigan is 26th in the country in scoring average, with a 3.03 goals per game (GPG.) NMU is T31st at 2.94 GPG.

4. The Wolverines are T6th in goals against, at 2.33 GPG. The Cats are 15th in the country at 2.59 GPG.

5. Michigan’s PP ranks 25th at 19.1% conversion, while the Cats rank 8th at 21.5%, and 1st in the CCHA

At over 22% Michigan’s PK has dropped to 7th at 86.9%, while NMU is 16th at 84.2%.

6. Michigan ranks 12th worst in penalty minutes at 16.4 per game. Northern is 13th at 16.3 minutes. Both teams average more penalty time on the road than at their home building.

7. Michigan isn’t the only team that has a Swedish connection. NMU’s Greger Hanson and Erik Gustafsson both hail from Scandinavia.

Cat Attack:

Northern Michigan’s offense is predicated on their quick counterattack and aggressive forechecking style. The Cats have the skill to skate with most teams, but prefer to play a more defensive style in order to turn opponent mistakes into offensive chances. Triggering the NMU offense are juniors Mark Olver (17-21-38) and Greger Hanson (11-20-31). Senior Ray Kaunisto has chipped in with 14-13-27 and sophomore Justin Florek has added 8-17-25. The defense is led by junior Erik Gustafsson (2-24-26) who leads the team in assists. Senior blueliner TJ Miller (4-11-15) is also a steady force for NMU.

The Cat goaltending is secure with senior Brian Stewart (12-8-7, 2.49 GAA, .923 Sv.% and 3 shutouts). Backup Reid Ellingson is 2-2-1 with a 2.39 GAA, .919 sv% and 1 shutout to his credit. Stewart is a streaky goaltender, progressively getting better as he sees more work.

Wolverine Notes:

Carl Hagelin (13-22-35) was quiet in the two losses at UNO, only adding two assists for the weekend. Matt Rust (10-18-28) also was pretty much shut down, only contributing one assist against the Mavs. Chris Brown (12-12-24) added a goal and is now 2nd in rookie scoring in the conference and is also tied for the lead in conference PPG’s with seven. Louie Caporusso led the offense last weekend, scoring twice to raise his totals to 11-14-25 for the season. David Wohlberg has quietly reached 5-14-19. Steve Kampfer continues to lead the blue line offense with 2-15-17.

Brian Hogan fell to 17-14-1 now, with a 2.30 GAA and a .902 Sv.%. Hogan caught the wrath of Red Berenson after this weekend, as the frustrated coach lashed out at his inability to play more consistently and be, as the coach described, the “last line of defense” for his team. More specifically, Berenson was referring to a couple odd man (2x1) breaks that Michigan gave up in Saturday’s game where Coach thought Hogan should have anticipated the play better. UNO scored fairly easily on both rushes.

Chris Summers was held out of Saturday’s game due to an unknown injury. Lee Moffie, conspicuously absent since the BG road win two weeks ago, was re-inserted in the lineup. Moffie, who had been one of the more consistent defensemen of late, was cited for a late game penalty against BG that may have put him in Berenson’s bad graces. Junior Tristin Llewellyn jumped into the rotation and, although showing much better discipline, still contributed to the multitude of blue line mental gaffes that have plagued Michigan all season. Overall, the defense has been horrid, and Berenson decided to vocalize his frustration at Hogan more so than the overall defensive play- bad pinches, over-aggressive checking, bad defensive splits/ positioning, poor line changes, failure to move that first good pass out of the zone, etc. I am not defending Hogan- his play has been tepid at best- but he is not the only reason that Michigan’s play this season has been uncharacteristically sloppy and poor. I also hate to question the heart and effort, but I am seeing the same mistakes as were committed early in the season- as if the mental makeup and chemistry of the team is gone- and I am hoping that our young men have not given up on improving in the last four regular season games.

This week’s keys to the match up:

1. Michigan must regain focus and build back some confidence, one period at a time. Get back to their basic system- move the puck up ice quickly, keep possession, and recover defensively.

2. Michigan must stay out of the penalty box. NMU’s PP is lethal and will be the x-factor in what I deem to be a couple of very tight, emotional games.

3. The Wolverines should also try to exploit NMU’s aggressive forecheck with their speed. The Cats will be content to play a close road game in order to steal some points. Michigan, conversely must find a way to solve Stewart FIRST and put the pressure on NMU to take more offensive risk.

4. Bryan Hogan has to steal a game soon, or at least not give one away. Shaking the criticism will be the first step, making saves and sound positioning will grow his confidence. Of course it would be nice if his defensemen would stop turning the puck over and start playing better in front of him.

5. This is the Alamo as far as the season goes. Win this weekend and it puts Michigan in the position to gain a fourth place finish. Anything less than two wins and Michigan fans can start thinking about a first round playoff series at Yost- the reward for a 5th through 8th place finish. Forget about an NCAA berth- that ship has sailed- with their only hope being a massive tear through the CCHA playoffs and an upset of (presumed opponent) Miami in the CCHA semi-final, then a victory in the final to gain the autobid.


Michigan 3 NMU 2 (OT)

NMU 3 Michigan 2

Written by Yostmeister

Go Blue -- Wear Maize!


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