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GLI Recap

I'm about as timely as an announcement from Budd Lynch with this, but I was at the GLI, so I may as well write about it. My writing on the GLI will mainly focus on Michigan, since they won, and because I watched both of their games. I only saw the first period of Michigan Tech/Michigan State, and about 4 minutes of MSU/PC, because my love for you only runs so deep.

My three word summation of the Michigan vs Providence is this: Michigan got lucky. Providence came out playing great. They did an excellent job of trapping Michigan and keeping Michigan buried in their own end. They were basically controlling the game.

Then Michigan came down to the other end of the ice, got the puck in front of the net, fanned on it once, fired a weak pass that bounced off a defenseman’s skate, and trickled into the net in slow motion.

Providence controlled the play for most of the rest of the period until towards the end when Michigan tried to break the puck out of their zone, and a Providence defenseman fell down, giving Michigan a 2-on-1. Brian Lebler brought the puck down the wing and waited way too long to make a pass. Travis Turnbull was already past the net by the time the puck got to him, but Providence goalie Tyler Sims, correctly figuring a pass was out of the question, had overcommitted to the shot, and was late sliding over to the other side of the net. Turnbull was able to bank the puck in off the sliding Sims for the goal.

Michigan was up 2-0 after one period and the game was effectively over. Providence outshot Michigan 16-3 in the period, and really, 2 of Michigan’s shots wouldn’t have even counted as shots on goal if they hadn’t gone into the net.

From that point on, Providence had to start gambling. They started over-committing defenseman in the offensive end which led to a lot of odd-man rushes for Michigan, and Michigan, to their credit, started to capitalize, and the score of the game got a little out of hand.

Providence looked about as impressive as a team could look on the wrong end of a 6-0 ass-kicking. It seemed like everyone on their team was huge, and could lay a hit. At one point in the game, a PC forward laid out Michigan defenseman Mark Mitera, something I’m fairly confident hasn’t happened to Mitera since Peewees. They seem like they’d be an absolute bear of a team to play in a tight game or if they got the lead. Michigan could not break the puck out against them in the first period. Plus, their dark jerseys look really menacing.

Offensively, they looked like the hockey equivalent of a chucker in pick-up basketball. I suggest printing out a shot chart from that game and handing it out next time you’re seated next to someone that complains about your team needs to shoot more. They finished with 50 shots on goal, but later that night, I watched Billy Sauer’s 15-save shutout against Alaska earlier this year, and I felt like he made just as many quality saves in the Alaska game as he did in the Providence game.

Like I said, I only watched the first period of Michigan Tech against Michigan State. I did leave the arena feeling pretty good about Michigan Tech’s chances though. Everybody is saying that Michigan State didn’t play with a lot of fire this weekend, and that may be true, but they certainly had their chances to win the game in the first period on Friday. They had a number of quality chances with net to shoot at that they couldn’t finish off. If they had put a few more goals on the board, gotten a lead, and turned the game into more of a shootout, I think they would have rolled past Michigan Tech(and subsequently, given a much better effort in the final, as opposed to the malaise of a crappy third-place game). Instead, Tech scored first, kept the game close and low-scoring, and got Michigan State to play WCHA-style hockey, where the first one to score twice wins.

I did see some Michigan Tech fans complaining about the Fox Sports Detroit crew saying Tech wasn’t talented as Michigan State. I may have taken it more seriously if that hadn’t come moments after saying how awesome Tech did at finishing off scoring chances against MSU, in a game where they scored a whopping two goals in the first 59 minutes of play.

The final between Michigan and Michigan Tech was absolutely fabulous hockey. Long games like that are almost anti-climatic when they end because I want to see more great hockey. For a scoreless game, there were a lot of great chances.

Ironically, in a game where they were held scoreless, I thought Michigan showed how talented they are offensively. To play against a team like Tech that is so defensive-minded, and create that many breakaways/semi-breakaways is absolutely incredible. I’d be really curious to see what this team could do on an Olympic-sized ice sheet and had an extra 15 feet to work with. They even make the smaller NHL-sized ice seem huge with the way they spread the other team out.

Tech deserves a lot of credit for putting themselves in a position to win the game despite being out-chanced that badly by Michigan. Through the first period, I was pretty confident in Michigan’s chances. I figured that if they were generating quality chances like that, it was only a matter of time before one went in. After the second period, I felt like Tech had the better chance, because they had dragged Michigan into the type of game that Tech wanted to play; low-scoring where one bounce could be the difference. After the third period, I figured the game was a toss-up, and it was. Michigan Tech hit the post, Michigan’s tip found the net.

A lot of that credit goes to Robbie Nolan, who played a career game. Some of the saves he made were absolutely incredible. A lot of credit also goes to Tech’s penalty kill, which was outstanding. Late in the game, if a Tech defenseman got beat, they were content to take a penalty rather than give Michigan an odd-man rush, which was a good idea, considering how well they killed penalties.

In the end though, it’s probably not a huge surprise that Michigan won. They definitely held the majority of chances, especially as the game went on, and it was nice to see the Wolverines win the GLI again. You have to feel bad for Tech and their fans, for another GLI heartbreak. Hopefully they’ll be back in the final again soon, because they had a great turnout of fans, which made for a very fun atmosphere.

A few other random notes…

Kevin Porter- During last year’s NHL draft, there was a player described has having great acceleration, but not great top speed. It sounds silly, but I think that describes Porter pretty well. He showed some amazing quickness, splitting the defense at least half a dozen times, but couldn’t quite get that extra half-step to give him more time. But like I said, if they end up on an Olympic sheet in an NCAA regional, he’s going to be incredibly dangerous.

When did Mark Mitera become the best defenseman in the country? He hasn’t been on the ice for an even-strength goal since Michigan’s first game of the season. The nice thing about the easy first-round game was that he got a fair amount of rest for the final, where he logged a lot of ice time. He was absolutely dominant on the defenseman end.

Chad Langlais…..was good on the powerplay. He’s like Mitera’s exact opposite.

Billy Sauer has been mentioned only once so far, which is odd given his MVP performance. I was planning to try to write something longer on him, but if it doesn’t materialize in a way I like, I’ll say this: He was pretty good.

Thanks to the magic of Comcast On Demand, I got to watch games from earlier this year between Michigan and Alaska and Notre Dame against Lake Superior.

Watching Michigan take on Alaska, my first thought was, wow, the bottom of the CCHA really is bad this year. Still, the Nanooks showed some nice flashes of a run-and-gun counter-attacking team that should be fun to watch once Doc gets more of his players in the lineup, but for now, they don’t really have the personnel to fit their style. It’s also promising that Nathan Lawrence, the only DelCastillo recruit on the team, looked like one of the better players on the team.

The game also made me disappointed that Carl Hagelin wasn’t playing in the GLI. It’s really fun to watch a player that works that hard all the time.

I didn’t watch Notre Dame/LSSU that closely. Nathan Perkovich looks like a fantastic player though. Notre Dame is solid as always, and incredibly deep. They’d probably be the CCHA team I would be most afraid of playing in the NCAA tournament. An unfortunate corollary to Notre Dame’s hockey success is that Notre Dame fans have actually started showing up at their games, making them instantly less likable.