Friday, March 19, 2010
Michigan Hockey: Michigan vs. Miami -- CCHA Tournament Semifinal Round at Joe Louis Arena
Posted at 8:00am -- 3/19/2010
MICHIGAN VS. MIAMI HOCKEY PREVIEW
WHAT: CCHA Semifinal game #2
#17 MICHIGAN (23-17-1) 7th seed
#2 Miami (26-6-7) #1 seed CCHA Regular Season Champs
Friday, 3/19 8:05 PM Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, Mi.
TV: Big Ten Network or FSD live streaming
What’s At Stake?
Michigan is driving to become the first CCHA team to win a CCHA tourney title from below the 4th seed. They come into this game red hot, sweeping their first two opponents in the first and second rounds, including the epic brooming of instate rival Michigan State at Munn Arena.
The Wolverines face their biggest challenge yet, taking on the #2 ranked Miami Redhawks. Michigan is making its 21st straight appearance in the CCHA semi-finals, and is 14-6 in the past 20 years. They have played in the final 8 of the past 9 seasons and have an overall 8-6 record in the championship game. Michigan has secured 8 Mason Cups in the past 16 seasons.
Michigan leads the overall series with Miami, 68-22-3, and stand 4-0 in the CCHA playoffs against the Redhawks, including 3-0 at Joe Louis Arena. The two teams last met in the 2008 CCHA tourney championship game, with Michigan prevailing 2-1. Miami and Michigan are deadlocked at 5-5-1 since the ‘06-‘07 season. The high flying team from Oxford, Ohio swept Michigan earlier this season at Yost, winning a tight 3-1 affair and then cruising to a 5-1 penalty filled game the next night. This started a 4 game home losing string at Yost for Michigan and sent the Wolverines reeling.
The Redhawks have been a consensus #1 or #2 team in the country for the entire season, although the coaches and media did not predict such a dominating year for Enrico Blasi’s squad. Most had Miami picked to finish in the CCHA behind Michigan and Notre Dame. Miami’s veteran team caught lightning in a bottle after succumbing at home in the first round of the playoffs last season, and charged all the way to the national championship game before giving away a two goal, late third period, lead and eventually losing in overtime to Boston University.
Miami has never won the Mason Cup, awarded to the CCHA’s tourney champion. The Redhawks make an 8th Joe Louis Arena appearance in the CCHA championships, and possess a 4-8 record in Detroit. Miami has registered an overall 24-34 CCHA tournament record. Miami boasts of three regular season CCHA championships, 92-93, 05-06 and 09-10.
Miami and Michigan hold the best winning percentages in the country the past four seasons. Miami’s .702 is #1, where Michigan’s .664 is #2. Both teams are looking to achieve objectives this weekend: Michigan needs to win a 9th conference tournament championship to move on to the NCAA tourney for a 20th consecutive year. Miami is eager to hang its first CCHA tourney championship banner at JLA and secure a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament, and possibly win a first ever national title. As a matter of fact, two of the four teams playing this weekend are looking to hang a first ever CCHA tourney championship flag. Number 12 Northern Michigan (which won titles on its home ice in 1980 and 1981) will face #8 Ferris State (who lost to NMU in 1980 and Michigan in 2003) in the first game for the right to meet Miami or Michigan in the championship game on Saturday. The last team (not named Michigan, MSU or Notre Dame) to win the CCHA tourney title was Ohio State back in 2004. Previous to that, it was Lake State in 1995.
Ironically, Miami has been the bridesmaid and not the bride three times: 1993 (vs. LSSU) 2006 (vs. MSU) and 2008 (vs. Michigan). Coach Enrico Blasi lost his first ten meetings with Michigan before turning the program around. He is 8-20-1 all time against the Maize and Blue.
Miami Hawkey Highlights:
Miami has one of the deepest, most talented rosters in college hockey and are led by a large cast of upperclassmen, highlighted by senior Jarod Palmer’s (17-27-44). Junior’s Andy Miele (15-27-42), Tommy Wingels (16-25-41), Carter Camper (15-23-38) and Pat Cannone (12-16-28). Further, the Redhawks highlight one of the most potent offenses in the CCHA. Miami’s strong on the blue line with freshman Joe Hartman ( 6-8-14), junior Vincent LoVerde (3-8-11) and senior Brandon Smith (6-4-10). The outstanding sophomore goaltending tandem of Cody Reichard (18-3-3, 1.64 GAA and .930 save %) and Connor Knapp (8-3-4, 1.96 GAA and .920 save %) backstops the best defensive team in the country.
Miami was not gun shy about playing one of the toughest non-conference slates in the country. The Redhawks enjoyed marquee wins over SCSU and UNH, while tying North Dakota and UNH. They also suffered losses to the (soon to be defunct) CHA conference champion Bemidji State and a humiliating sweep to Robert Morris. Miami also swept CCHA foes Michigan, NMU and Ferris State this season.
Tale Of The Tape:
Michigan and Miami play a fast, up-tempo brand of entertaining hockey. Miami has been more successful this year in containing opponents and by being more balanced offensively. Still, the comparisons are not ridiculously different. The Wolverines moved from 21st in scoring nationally last week to 15th this week (3.27 GPG) while the Redhawks are 8th (3.51 GPG). Similarly, the Wolverines are 8th in defense, only allowing 2.32 GPG. Miami allows a meager 1.79 GPG, good for 1st overall amongst the 58 D1 hockey schools. Both teams have nominal powerplay numbers, with Michigan ranked 24th (19.2% conversion) versus the Redhawks’ 33rd (18.4%). Michigan’s penalty killing statistics dropped to 7th best (86.3%), where the Redhawks are 4th nationally at 87.3%. Michigan finally faces a team with the same discipline issues, though. Michigan has improved to 16th worst in the country, averaging of 16.1 minutes per game. Miami is #1 in the country at 21.5 minutes per game.
Michigan is finally looking like the team we all thought they could be this season. The team performance last weekend was dominating, and it will have to be even better this weekend. They will still have to get the job done without their Captain, Chris Summers, who hasn’t recovered from a knee injury. Bryan Hogan has recovered sufficiently enough to practice, but will not start against Miami. Instead, Shawn Hunwick will be asked to backstop the Wolverines against one of the toughest teams in the country. He brings a 5-2 record with a 1.97 GAA and a .908 save % into this weekend. Hogan, if pressed into duty, sports an 18-15-1 record with a 2.33 GAA and a .901 save %.
Louie Caporusso has taken the team’s offense on his back, taking over the team lead in goals with 18. He has 39 total points on the season. He will need to continue his torrid production for the Wolverines to advance.
Carl Hagelin improved his point leadership with a goal and an assist last weekend to move his totals to 17-26-43. Matt Rust follows both Caporusso and Hagelin, holding a 13-22-35 total. Steve Kampfer continues to lead the blue line with 3-16-19.
Michigan is looking to stay perfect in the CCHA championships against Miami, NMU, and/or Ferris State this weekend. The Wolverines are a perfect 10-0 combined against these teams at JLA. Conversely, Miami has never beaten Michigan three consecutive times in one season.
Five Reasons Michigan Will Beat Miami:
1. Miami is 7-2-1 in the last ten games, while Michigan is 6-4. The difference is, Michigan is playing extremely confident right now, and actually has a better neutral ice record this season than Miami. This is an improved and more dangerous team than the Hawks saw in November, even with the injuries.
2. Michigan has to/should score more than the one goal Miami allowed them in each game earlier this season. The offense is finally clicking, and Miami showed chinks in the armor last week in the three game series with Ohio State. The Bucks took the Hawks to the brink before bowing out.
3. The Wolverines will continue to buy into the aggressive forecheck and backcheck used last weekend. The best offense has been an ability to shut down opponent chances and counterattack. The Wolverines have scored 21 goals in their past four games.
4. Michigan is finally clicking on the power play, and Miami may get frustrated enough to give them multiple chances. The Wolverines must capitalize on at least one of them.
5. Hunwick will outplay Reichard or Knapp. If not, the season will end on Saturday in the consolation game. Tall order for a guy whose heart is bigger than his ability, especially in a pressure packed game like this. But, he is a gamer and I believe the team is better in front of him.
Five Reasons Miami Will Win This Game:
1. Miami is big and fast- the Redhawks wore Michigan down in the previous meetings to the point where Big Blue erupted in frustration. The Redhawks have the best depth in the CCHA, the best goaltending tandem in the country and play the best team defense in the country. They are on a mission.
2. The Redhawks are so serious about this game that Blasi refused to let his team talk to the media to give Michigan any bulletin board material. The Redhawk team will either come out in business like efficiency, or look tight and nervous. I am betting on the former. They have big time talent and the experience from last season to get beyond any butterflies.
3. Miami will not make the same mistakes that a young MSU team made last week. They will patiently wait and force Michigan’s vulnerable defense into turnovers, cycle the puck and attack the net. Hunwick will not be able to stop what he cannot see.
4. Miami has better offensive production across the top three lines, and has more blue line scoring punch.
5. Secretly, Miami knows that a win not only puts them in the position to claim both CCHA titles, but also knocks Michigan out of the NCAA tournament. It will be sweet vindictive justice for every fan not rooting for Michigan, which will probably be about a 50/50 split at JLA. Blasi personifies that attitude at Miami and would enjoy every minute of it.
Northern Michigan 4 Ferris State 3
Semi final #2
Miami 3 Michigan 1
Michigan 3 Ferris State 2
Miami 5 Northern Michigan 2
Written by Yostmeister
Go Blue -- Wear Maize!