Both state of Michigan teams are playing in Kentucky today. Anybody making the double-dip?
Bellarmine started the year with a loss at Robert Morris, not exactly the most inspiring beginning to the year. That’s not to say either team is terrible, but it’s certainly a lower level than Michigan is (finally) expected to be in Year six.
This is a pretty long rivalry-type substance. The Michigan club team (led by John Paul) scrimmaged the Knights regularly, and this was briefly a conference game during the brief period of time that both were members of the ECAC. U-M lost the first two varsity matchups in resounding fashion, then took an overtime victory and won in a blowout in 2015 (the teams did not square off in 2016).
With 2015 leading scorer Austin Shanks transferring to Ohio State before last season, the Bellarmine offense took a big step back. Tucker Ciessau, however, had a pretty nice season (23G, 13A), and will play both midfield and attack in 2017 – starting at attack against Bobby Mo. Fellow attack starter Ryan Coukoulis had basically no production as a part-time starter (he also missed multiple games due to injury, in his defense), but the diminutive 5-9, 160-pounder scored two goals in three shots against the Colonials. Freshman (and Brother Rice grad) Morgan Macko was the third starter up front.
The midfield starters for Bellarmine included their LSM and short-stick D-middie, so the actual offensive starter that’s most notable is big (6-5, 220) Jack Perkins, an outside bomber who was the team’s second-leading scorer with 19 goals and six assists last year, though he began 2017 with two assists and just three shots against RMU. Dylan Gatt – a similar finish-only type – has graduated, and junior Andrew Schoenick should be another starter on the offensive midfield.
The only defender who was a real problem for opponents last year was LSM Taylor Stuart, who was the only double-digit turnover causer on the squad. He’s graduated, along with close defenders Cole Killion and Shane Healey, and short-stick D-middie Reid Wesley. That’s a lot of personnel turnover.
Evan Kalish was a starter at both LSM and close D last year, though, he he will step in to be a key member of the defensive unit – don’t be surprised if the knights try to match him up on Mikie Schlosser as much as possible. The lone returning D starter (at least full-time) is Kevin Fahey, though he didn’t garner preseason all-conference honors (the only Knight who did was Ciessau).
Chase Rose was the primary starting goalie for Bellarmine last year, but he was relegated to the bench to begin the Robert Morris game, with freshman Jordan Dondoyano getting the starting nod instead. They both saved 60% of shots faced, though Dondoyano saw three times as many in almost exactly three times as much playing time: so far, they’re very similar, and the defense plays similarly in front of them.
Bellarmine was a pretty good faceoff team last year with Connor Harryman working the X, but he is among those Knights who exhausted their eligibility last season (with all those seniors, the 6-9 record has to have been a pretty serious disappointment). Senior Tyler Nangle took every draw against RMU, and finished at .455. Last year, he was a .382 faceoff man, so this should be a serious advantage for the Maize and Blue if Mike McDonnell’s dominance against Detroit was anything other than a mirage.
Bellarmine cleared very well against Robert Morris, and held the Colonials to .833. The Knights have had spurts over the years of being a pretty hard-riding team, so they may be trying to transition back to that. However, with Mikie Schlosser serving as a prety effective one-man clear, and Michigan’s overall ability in transition, it shouldn’t bite the Maize and Blue.
Robert Morris had three man-up opportunities and failed to convert a single one… though this early in the year, it’s impossible to say if that’s a credit to the BU man-down defense or a strike against Bobby Mo.
This is a game that Michigan should win, and comfortably so. Like the game against Detroit, though, the history and rivalry factors make it to tough to know if they’ll simply take care of business against an overmatched opponent or fall victim to some of the emotional factors surrounding the game, especially since it’s on the road.
With a victory, there’s a decent chance that the Maize and Blue – currently receiving votes in the media polls – enters the rankings for the first time ever at 4-0. That would provide a pretty nice bit of hype going into the contest at a Notre Dame team that should be a minimum of No. 4 nationaly as long as they take care of Georgetown today. Stakes are new and fun, yeah?
I’m feeling a pretty comfortable win here, which should come as no surprise.
- Tommy Heidt hasn’t built buzz as an elite keeper because the final scores of each Michigan game look a little closer than the contests actually were. Although U-M is allowing eight goals/game, he’s only allowing 6.2 (Gunner Garn’s GAA of more than 42 is not so beautiful right now). Against a Bellarmine team that has only a few offensive weapons, he should be able to improve on his .667 save percentage this year, which is already outstanding.
- Michigan will spread the ball around pretty well offensively. The attack of Ian King, Rocco Sutherland, and Brent Noseworthy is starting to get some outstanding chemistry going, and the midfield, while not prolific yet, has talent. Finding production from middies other than Mikie Schlosser – who had to take on defensive responsibilities with Chase Young unavailable against Detroit – will be a nice boost going into the Notre Dame game.
- Mike McDonnell should have a full game that’s as good as his third and fourth quarters were against Detroit. Bellarmine will probably try to play a pole on faceoffs just to muck things up, because otherwise they will not have a very fun day trying to compete with their poor faceoff group against McDonnell and U-M’s good wing play.
This should be a blowout, with the caveats about team motivation (and, a new experience for Michigan, looking ahead) playing complicating roles. However, the talent disparity has grown too great for the Wolverines to not make an easy day of this one. 16-7 Michigan wins.