In what was probably the most competitive game they’ll see for the rest of the year until the MCLA Tournament rolls around, Michigan built up a 9-3 lead against Arizona State, but let that lead slip to 9-8 before finally stepping it back up to finish with a 12-10 win.
The story of the game was Arizona State’s resilience. Most MCLA teams fold when they face a big deficit against the 3-time defending champs, but the Sun Devils had the desire and the talent to claw their way back into the game.
My assumption is that Michigan is not going to come out smelling like roses in this. We shall see, from the official game recap:
|Faceoff Wins||15||Faceoff Wins||10|
|Offensive Efficiency||.300||Offensive Efficiency||.303|
Michigan was the less-efficient team on this day, for the first time since the double-overtime victory over Oregon. Since they came out on top on the scoreboard, that means they dominated possessions.
It was at the faceoff X that Michigan really impressed me. Brian Greiner took every faceoff, and won 60% of them against a pretty good faceoff guy. That was partially on account of wing play, as there were lots of 50/50 ground balls, but it was still a good performance. I noticed Austin Swaney replaced Trevor Yealy on one of the wings later in the game. Greiner also had a clean win that led to a nice goal.
The ride/clear game showed the biggest difference between the two halves. I would guess Michigan failed on one or two clears in the first half, whereas Arizona State was successful on only one or two of their own. After the half, however, ASU stepped up their ride, and also managed to beat the Wolverines’ ride a few times of their own.
In terms of time of possession, Michigan dominated the game, even in the second half when the number of possessions was probably about even. They took their time on offense, and backed up nearly every shot they missed. Arizona State went for transition attempts, and managed to back up maybe 40% of their shots.
With the way the game played out, it’s important to talk about the success of the ride. Michigan’s 10-man was absolutely dominant in the first half, but not-so-successful after halftime. Part of this was probably due to the players being a little gassed (this was their second gam against top-3 competition in 24 hours, after all), but Arizona State’s players really calmed down as well. There were not nearly as many lazy or dropped passes, and even when Michigan checked the ball away, the Sun Devils were able to continue controlling it and advance.
On the offensive end, Thomas Paras and Trevor Yealy botch notched hat tricks for the Wolverines, and Joey Hrusovsky had four assists, along with a goal of his own. Alex Vasileff had a pair of goals for the maize-and-blue (or all-grey, as they were wearing on this day).
I didn’t think Harry Freid had his best day – though he’s certainly earned the right to having an occasional off-day – as he marked Arizona State’s Eric Nelson throughout the second half, and #13 for the Sun Devils had 5 goals on the game. Again, that’s probably a result of playing 2 huge games within 24 hours. JP:
“We came out on fire as we’ve been doing but I think we got a little tired.”
He says it’s a recurring problem for the team in second quarters, but it’s also important to note the high-caliber competition on consecutive days.
The standard keeper-switch was executed at the half, with Stone allowing 5 goals and making 2 saves, while Fowler allowed 5 goals and made 5 saves. Two of the goals on Fowler came on broken 10-man rides, one of which came when he wasn’t near the net at all (he also flew in from out of the net on a broken 10-man ride to make a key save). Stone didn’t see as much action, but one of his saves was a very impressive kick-save. He also erased an Arizona State player on the 10-man ride, checking him out of bounds to regain possession for the Wolverines.
This game was close, but a bit of luck could have made it a blowout (no excuses, just the facts, ma’am – Michigan had 53 shot attempts to ASU’s 33, and dominated possession). Michigan hit probably 10-15 pipes, which is a ludicrous number, especially against a good goalie. The Sun Devils hit 2 or 3. Cue the Mighty Ducks reference: “Half an inch the other way, and you would have missed completely.”
This game reminded me a lot of the Boston College game. The Eagles were the only other team to continue playing hard and working for everything even when they went down by a decent margin at Michigan. Arizona State, unlike Boston College, had enough talent that their desire was able to pay off by getting back within striking distance.
I would be remiss not to talk about some of Arizona State’s players. #13 Eric Nelson was the Sun Devils’ best offensive threat, and #15 Ryan Westfall was pretty good in the midfield. He had decent stick skills, and looked huge out there (what is he, like 6-5?). Probably the best player on the field for either team was ASU’s goalie #20 Dylan Westfall. He kept his team in the game when they were struggling early.
On the other end of the spectrum, #1 Billy Schilling for the Sun Devils is a dirty player. He was hit with two separate unsportsmanlike/unnecessary roughness penalties in the game, and both were well-deserved. It was a shame to see something like that, especially when the rest of the Sun Devils played a clean game.
This weekend is going to be great preparation for the MCLA Tournament. Has any other team played semi-final and final-caliber competition on back-to-back days this season? (Much less the #2 and #3 teams in the nation on consecutive days).
A single-play next weekend for the Wolverines, as they’ll welcome GRLC member Missouri to Oosterbaan Fieldhouse. The Tigers are 9-1 on the year, with their only loss to Illinois, a top-25 team that’s likely to represent the GRLC in Denver.