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Friday, February 15, 2008

Last Weekend: Three points from Miami should have been four but alas, it was not so. Yost Built took a look at both games in detail (Friday win, Saturday tie) for those wishing to assign credit and blame in a more organized way.

What leapt off the page to me, from Friday's game:

The Miami players tried to criss-cross, but Langlais read the play, and picked off the pass. ... Langlais made a good pass to spring Kolarik in all alone. ... And a nice rush by Langlais. ... Palushaj's nifty stick work nearly resulted in another goal that was off a nice keep by Langlais. ... Langlais came up big as well. He picked off a pass at the end of the penalty, brought it into the zone, and threw one in front that nearly connected. ... Langlais had another gorgeous keep at the blueline. ... Porter's slam dunk goal off that beautiful passing play came off another great keep at the blueline by Langlais.
Langlais has gotten a lot of stick from fans for a few critical errors he's made, but he's been a fixture on the blueline for a reason. He's good. Maybe he makes a bad pinch now and then, but he makes up for it.

This Weekend: Lake Superior State. The Lakers are bad. Very bad. Do not believe the Daily article that claims LSSU is on a streak of some sort. Yes, the Lakers have gone 3-0-2 in their last five games, but more properly they're 3-1-2 in three weekends against Ohio State, Western, and Ferris. The Lakers appear to be incrementally better than the worst teams in the league.

This year the CCHA is a heavily stratified league with four teams (Michigan, Miami, Michigan State, and Notre Dame) in a first tier of teams headed for the NCAA tournament, five teams hovering at or around .500, and three teams getting smoked night-in and night-out. Lake State, along with Ohio State and Western, is one of the smokees, and though they're in 10th place their goal differential is the worst in the league.

Guess who's Lake State's leading scorer? None other than Zac MacVoy. MacVoy spent his freshman year at Michigan, playing in about half the games and racking up four points. When it looked like he'd be stuck on the bench for the rest of his career, he returned to juniors for a year. Now he's the Lakers' centerpiece forward. This is good for MacVoy, who from all accounts was a nice kid, but also speaks to the lack of talent in the Soo. If he was still in Ann Arbor he'd be kicking around Michigan's third or fourth line. Other than MacVoy the only real offensive threat is Nathan Perkovich, a strapping young lad who goes 6'5" and has soft hands but can't skate to save his life. He's the dangerman on the powerplay with eight goals.

Uber-goalie Jeff Jakatis, who stole a game from Michigan last year and should have been a Hobey finalist, is gone. In his place is an uninspiring platoon. Both Brian Mahoney-Wilson (good luck with the sieve chant this weekend, kids!) and Pat Inglis sport save percentages under .900.

Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, and Miami have all run up the score when opposing the Lakers, and this weekend should be no different. Expect a sweep; if Michigan can't get it they've blown the CCHA title.

Pairwise Matters. Michigan reclaims the #1 spot from Miami, but their hold on that slot is tenuous despite the head-to-head win. (If Michigan had not been jacked by Shegos and Langseth on Saturday, on the other hand...)

There's happier news elsewhere: current #3 UNH, #5 Denver and #6 North Dakota have no chance to win their comparisons against Michigan without a wholesale implosion. Only #4 CC has a reasonable shot at passing Michigan, and they've got an RPI hill to climb. The upshot: I think Michigan has locked down a top two seed and the right to play one of the small conference autobids even if they lose two more games, and probably three unless CC goes nuts down the stretch.

Other games of interest: Miami takes on Ferris State in Big Rapids. This may be the last opportunity for Miami to drop points with the Redhawks' final two series against two of the three awful teams in the CCHA. A split would give Michigan considerable breathing room down the stretch.

Michigan has a shiny 8-2-2 TUC record they'd like to see remain intact; you should be rooting for UNO -- currently the 25th and last team that counts as a TUC -- from here on out (this weekend they go up against Bowling Green). BU is hovering just outside the TUC zone and was swept by Michigan earlier this year; root for them as the season winds down. This weekend they take on shockingly terrible Maine.

Teams you would like to see do poorly: Northern Michigan, which is getting close to TUC status itself with its sweep of State and owns a split against Michigan, Colorado College, which is the only team other than Miami with a realistic shot at winning its comparison with Michigan, and Wisconsin. Yes, Wisconsin was beaten by Michigan earlier this year and Badger victories help the SOS, but the only way Michigan gets a friendly (and drivable) regional is if the Badgers bomb out of the tourney. If Wisconsin makes it, Michigan is getting shipped somewhere very far away.

Rootin' Guide:

Key Games
BU over Maine
UNO over Bowling Green
Minnesota State over Wisconsin

You generally want any Michigan opponent to win. In the CCHA you would like to see State, Northern, and Lake State win since Michigan plays each four times, but you don't really want Northern to become a TUC. You can feel free to pull for Providence, Michigan Tech, and Minnesota, but only because Minnesota is definitely out of the tourney.