Friday, March 05, 2010

Michigan Hockey: Lake Superior State at Michigan -- Preview

Posted at 4:00pm -- 3/5/2010


WHAT: CCHA First Round Series, best 2 out of 3 games

MICHIGAN (19-17-1, 14-13-1) finished 7th in the CCHA
Lake Superior State University (15-16-5, 10-15-2) finished 10th in the CCHA

Friday & Saturday, 3/5-3/6 7:35 PM Yost Arena
Sunday, 3/7 (if necessary) 7:35 PM Yost Arena

Friday and Saturday games will be seen on TV: Comcast (Friday) and FSD (Saturday).

Full Steam Ahead:

Michigan finds itself in the rare position of needing to play a first round series, while LSSU is trying to find the first half form that propelled them into NCAA tournament consideration. Both teams share a rich hockey tradition, although LSSU has not been in the NCAA spotlight since the mid-90’s.

Michigan first took on the Lakers in December of 1973 and owns an overall 57-46-6 mark over the Lakers, including a 26-18-3 advantage at Yost arena. Michigan has controlled the series as of late, running a 13-2 record since 2000. Michigan has also won nine straight since February of 2007. Ironically, one of the two victories in the last decade came in the 2002 second-round CCHA match-up at Yost, where LSSU dropped a three game series.

Michigan has faced Lake State numerous times in the CCHA playoffs, and has had epic battles against the Lakers during LSSU’s heyday in the late 80’s/early 90’s. The Lakers won three national titles during that time period, and own a 4-2 record against Michigan in the CCHA tourney semi-finals and finals. Michigan holds an overall 4-5 mark in the CCHA playoffs against Lake State.

Steady As She Goes:

Lake State has been mired in the lower half of the CCHA for the past 12 seasons and is trying to break past program inconsistencies with coaching, recruiting and facilities stability. Head coach Jim Roque has been a positive influence, helping to re-unite the Laker community in supporting his efforts to re-build the program. LSSU has just made a commitment to improve their athletic facilities (including Taffy Abel Arena) in better hopes of curving the uphill recruiting battle against much bigger and broader CCHA resources.

The Lakers started the season in good order, and faced the Wolverines over Halloween weekend. Michigan won a rare road sweep in Sault Ste. Marie, beating LSSU 5-1 and 6-3. It was the only road sweep Michigan enjoyed this season, and derailed a pretty good LSSU non-conference start. The Lakers flirted with the top 25 then faltered in their bid to earn a top four finish, going 1-8-1 in their last ten games since beating UNO in mid-January. The Lakers have dropped their last five games, including an overtime and regulation loss to NMU last weekend.

Setting Anchor:

Lake State is a hard working group that struggles offensively and relies on keeping more offensively gifted teams in check with a smothering defensive style of play. They have a couple of sharpshooters in juniors Rick Schoefield (15-13-28) and Will Acton (10-14-24). Former Wolverine (senior) Zac MacVoy is a big strong winger that has added 6-14-20 for the Lakers. Freshman Ben Power (3-15-18) and junior Chad Nehring (12-5-17) have also chipped in offensively. Sophomore center Fred Cassiani (5-9-14) is a water bug that likes to get his nose dirty, and is a top faceoff and special teams forward. The blueline is anchored by senior Steven Kaunisto and senior Simon Gysbers (6-9-15). LSSU graduates a total of eight seniors this season, including backup goaltenders Pat Inglis (3.68 GAA, .889 Sv%, 1-2-0) and Mitch Edmondson. The main work between the pipes is handled by junior Brian Mahoney-Wilson, who sports a 2.62 GAA, .914 Sv% and a 14-14-5 record.

Tale Of The Tape:

The Lakers are ranked 47th in scoring, averaging 2.53 GPG. Michigan is 27th with a 3.1 average. The gap widens with the goals against average, as the Lakers give up an average of 2.97 (33rd) while Michigan only allows 2.41 GPG, good for 9th in the country. Both teams take an average of 33 shots per game. Michigan holds a special teams advantage also, holding an 87.3% PK (6th) while LSSU’s PK is 84.2% or 15th in the nation. The Lakers convert 16% of the PP chances (42nd), while the Wolverines are slightly better at 18.7% (29th). Maybe the biggest statistical advantage the Lakers regards their discipline. Michigan averages almost 17 minutes in penalties per game (10th), while the Lakers only take 13 minutes per game (37th). One other note- the Lakers are very aggressive on the PK, and scored six shorthanded goals this season, while giving up four against. Michigan scored four shorties and gave up three, including one to Notre Dame Saturday night (while scoring one that wasn’t counted.)

Wolverine Notes:

The Wolverines ended their topsy-turvy regular season last weekend with a loss at Notre Dame. Unfortunately, that wasn’t their only loss, as junior goalie Bryan Hogan suffered a groin injury that, according to Coach Berenson, will most likely keep him out of action this weekend. The task has been handed to seldom-used back-up Shawn Hunwick, who, like his teammates this season, gave Michigan an inconsistent, shaky performance against the Irish. Hunwick will start only his second career game and posts a 1-2 record with a 2.88 GAA and a .860 Sv.%.

Carl Hagelin pretty much led the point’s race for Michigan all season, and finished with 14-25-39. Matt Rust followed his line mate with an 11-21-32 finish. The guy who has found his scoring touch finally is Louie Caporusso, who closed out the season 13-17-30; including 10 points in his last 8 games. Chris Brown enjoyed a fine freshman season, adding 12-13-25. Senior Brian Lebler notched 11-9-20 and sophomore David Wohlberg tallied 6-14-20.

The Blueline corps didn’t have the offensive season they expected. Senior Steve Kampfer finished on top with a 2-15-17 line. Chad Langlais- probably the most dynamic offensive threat on the blueline, added 4-11-15. Captain Chris Summers also added 3-12-15. The other four defensemen in the rotation combined for a total of 33 points in offense for Michigan.

Matt Rust and Louie Caporusso lead Michigan against the Lakers with 7 career points, each.

Five Reasons Michigan Will Advance:

1. The Yost Advantage. Michigan seldom plays poorly against teams they should beat at home, especially in the playoffs. The Lakers are 6-10-2 on the road this season and are mired in a terrible slump.

2. Better Scoring Depth. The Wolverines have more balanced scoring in their lineup, especially now that Caporusso is adding second line points. Outside of LSSU’s top line, they have no big game breakers.

3. Special Teams. Michigan may take more penalties, but they have better penalty killing and a somewhat better power play. It’s all about execution. That and not killing their PP chances by taking dumb penalties of their own.

4. Coaching. Red Berenson will squeeze the most out of his team, while Jim Roque will try to deflect the pressure off of his team. Red doesn’t lose many playoff series at Yost.

5. Michigan has better team speed, team defense and talent. Now, the Wolverines get a chance to have some fun with a fresh playoff start, instead of wilting under the pressure of high expectations. Once again, it hinges on execution.

Five Reasons Lake State Can Pull An Upset:

1. Because Goaltending will be the X-Factor This Weekend. Mahoney-Wilson has the ability to keep the Lakers close enough in the event that Michigan’s goaltending falters. This is probably the single most plausible reason, especially if Michigan plays loosely, and/or Hunwick serves up a few soft goals.

2. If LSSU Takes Advantage Of Special Teams Chances. Once again, Hunwick will be tested during LSSU’s powerplay opportunities, and I expect that the Lakers will fling as much at the young netminder as they can. Michigan needs to remain disciplined or they will get burned.

3. By Pouncing On Defensive Turnovers. LSSU will pressure Michigan’s defense to create more offense. Michigan’s biggest weakness against their opponents has been an inability to cut down turnovers. LSSU may not be an offensive juggernaut, but if the Lakers get the lead, Michigan may be forced to open up- which will accentuate risk.

4. If The Lakers Break Their Scoring Drought. LSSU has only scored 0 to 1 goal per game in nine of their past eleven games, and has been outscored 38-13 over that stretch. They can win if Michigan gives up more than three goals per game in this series.

5. By Placing All The Pressure On Michigan. Good teams use pressure to motivate them to execute. Average teams get nervous and make more mistakes. On the other hand, LSSU will not win if they do not take advantage of Michigan’s mistakes and inconsistent play. Just the same, LSSU has many of the same problems, so it will come down to limiting mistakes and taking advantage of the opponent’s mistakes. The Lakers, I imagine, will come in loose and have no expectations. This mindset could help them.


Michigan 3 LSSU 1

LSSU 4 Michigan 2

Michigan 2 LSSU 1 (OT)

Written by Yostmeister

Go Blue -- Wear Maize!

1 comment:

Jim R. said...

Let's hope we get the win. This team needs to play with some passion for a complete series.

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