COVERAGE NOTE: I will be in the Soo this weekend giving live play-by-play via a CoveritLive chat. I already have the chat room posted at Michigan Hockey Net if you want to setup a reminder. The chat will kick off around 6:30 p.m. tonight and Saturday. The puck drops at 7:05 p.m. So stop by and chat with your fellow Wolverine hockey fans!
Now then, Michigan travels to "da U.P., eh!" to open their CCHA schedule against Lake Superior State.
The Wolverines (2-2-0 overall) are coming off a bit of a disappointing weekend which saw them narrowly hold off Niagara, 3-2, before dropping a 3-2 decision at Boston University. U-M rallied from a 2-0 deficit against the Terriers to tie the game with five minutes left, but a bad play by goaltender Bryan Hogan led to a wraparound goal with 2:30 remaining to give BU the victory.
The Lakers, on the other hand, are off to a solid start this season, sporting a 1-1-0 conference record and 4-2-0 overall. They started the season getting clipped, 4-3, at Minnesota-Duluth, then rebounded with a win at Michigan Tech and sweep of Canisius. LSSU opened CCHA play with a 3-2 win over Ohio State, then lost to the Buckeyes, 4-3, the following night. As I said with Niagara last week, don't be surprised if the games are close.
SPECIAL TEAMS: This weekend could very well come down to special teams and Michigan cannot afford to get in to penalty trouble, where through four games they are already averaging 6.5 penalties per game for nearly 18 minutes. If they do, it could be a long night as the Lake State power play has converted 30.8 percent (!) of their chances in six games. The Wolverines' penalty kill has been solid, giving up two goals in 21 attempts for a 90.5 percent kill rate.
On the flip side, Michigan's power play has converted 4-of-21 man-advantages for a 19 percent success rate, while LSSU's penalty kill has fended off 22-of-25 power plays, good for 88 percent. However, whereas the Lakers power play has been firing on all cylinders every game, the Wolverines have only netted those goals in two of their four games. Their last game against Boston U. they went 0-for-7.
OFFENSIVELY INCONSISTENT: It's early in the season and you expect some ups and downs. In Michigan's two wins they have scored nine goals, given up three goals, and went 4-for-11 on the power play. In their two losses, they scored two goals, given up five, and went 0-for-10 on the PP. Overall, just 2.75 goals per game, a far cry from the near four goals a game U-M teams of the past have averaged.
The bright spot has been the Matt Rust line. Rust has 2-3-5 to lead the team. Line mate Carl Hagelin has 2-1-3 and isn't shy about shooting with a team-high 14 shots on goal. Freshman Chris Brown is off to a solid start with 2-1-3, and sophomore Robbie Czarnik is starting to show the fire power we thought he'd bring last season with 2-2-4 in four games.
CALLING OUT: Louie Caporusso and David Wohlberg. Composing two-thirds of Michigan's top line most of last season, both players have yet to register any points through four games. If Michigan's offense is to get going, these two have got to start producing.
Of course, I'd also like to see a third player who can stick on their line rather than playing musical chairs. Ben Winnett started the season with them then missed a game due to a groin injury. Defenseman-turned-forward Scooter Vaughan then joined them. Not certain that I like that as Vaughan is an unproven forward and I don't think anyone is expecting a lot out of him offensively. Perhaps a good third or fourth line role player who can provide some energy, but to throw him in at top line forward? I'd rather see someone like Robbie Czarnik elevated. He's off to a good start and brings a better offensive skill set that can complement Capporusso and Wohlberg and hopefully help jump start them, too.
SECOND PERIOD SLOWDOWN: Looking at Michigan's stat sheet, there's an interesting breakdown. The Wolverines have scored six goals in the first period, two in the second, and three in the third. Their opponents have scored two in the first period, four in the second, and two in the third.
In shots on goal, Michigan has thrown 41 shots on goal in the opening period, 26 in the second, and 50 in the third. Their opponents have fired 27-29-29 in the three periods. So the second period is when Michigan scores least, shoots least (by awide margin), and gives up the most goals.
REMEMBER ME?: Michigan fans might see a familiar name when they look over the LSSU roster...#27 Zac MacVoy, who is also the Lakers leading scorer with a goal and six assists. MacVoy played his freshman year at Michigan in 2005-06 and had a goal and three assists in 20 games. He left Ann Arbor because he thought he wasn't going to see much ice time and wanted to play more. After a year in the USHL, he transferred to Lake Superior State. Last year he was their leading goal scorer with 14 goals and third in points with 26. With the two seniors who were above him gone, MacVoy will be counted on to lead LSSU's offense this year. Definitely bank on him bringing his 'A' game this weekend against the Wolverines.
RADIO: MGoBlue.com will have the audio stream or you can listen to LSSU's stream at WYSS-FM (scroll past the KISS info for LSSU hockey and a listen live link). There is no TV coverage this weekend.