Michigan begins the quest for an unprecedented fourth-straight MCLA Championship Tuesday afternoon against the Lions of Lindenwood University. Both schools are expected to be in their final MCLA season, as Michigan is rumored to be making an immediate jump to D-1 in 2012, and Lindenwood is in the final year of a transition to Division-2 ball.
Tuesday 4PM MDT, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park
Record: 13-3 (GRLC 1A South)
Rankings: 16 (Seeding), 15 (adidas), 19 (Prodigy), 30 (Computer).
Common Opponents: @ Florida (W 14-13 OT), @ Colorado State (L 5-17), Missouri (W 15-14 2OT), Missouri (W 10-7).
How They Got Here
Despite a pretty good record, Lindenwood never climbed very high in the polls, as they lost to both nationally-relevant teams they faced (Florida State and Colorado State). However, they managed to get repeat victories over Missouri and Illinois in the GRLC Playoffs to capture the conference’s automatice bid. Both regular season victories came in two overtimes, as did the GRLC Championship Game triumph over the Illini.
Against common opponents, Michigan has much better performances. The Wolverines reduced Florida to a bloody mess with a 26-6 season-opening victory, while Lindenwood needed overtime to defeat the Gators on the road. Michigan dominated Colorado State in Oosterbaan, while Lindenwood was uncompetitive in a loss away from home. In two games against Missouri – both at home – Lindenwood won by a combined 4 goals, including a two-overtime thriller in the first matchup. Michigan, on the other hand, never let Missouri come close, with a 15-goal victory that probably could have been much uglier.
In games not against common opposition, the Wolverines again have an edge. They played the LaxPower #2, #4, #5, #8 (twice), #15, #16, and #17 teams over the course of the season. Lindenwood played #6 Florida State, but the next best MCLA team they played was #26 Missouri (outside of Colorado State, a common opponent), who is barely in Michigan’s top 10 toughest opponents on the year. Of course, there’s also the small caveat that LU spent part of the year facing D-2 squads, though only Florida Southern was better than the majority of their MCLA opposition.
One thing that stands out about Lindenwood’s schedule (aside from weak strength, for the most part), is the number of close games they played. They reached the end of regulation with the score tied on four separate occasions, and three of those went into a second overtime period. The Lions won all four of those contests. Many of their other wins were decided by just a handful of goals. If this game comes down to the wire (please no), they’ve been there before, and know how to finish in the clutch.
Despite some decent performances on the scoreboard, Lindenwood does not have a lot of high-scoring individuals. Only 3 guys who played every game are averaging more than two points per contest, and only one of them is over 3 (a pair of guys who have missed games are also over 2 PPG). Junior midfielders Jordan McKay and Andrew Peterson are atop the scoring chart, and both of them have about twice as many goals as they do assists. Senior attack Joshua Arras is mostly a distributor, and he’s third on the team in points. 19 different Lions have scored this year.
Junior Julian Barnes appears to be the team’s #1 close defender, as he’s got the most ground balls among long poles (a sketchy way to determine for sure, but with limited statistics, it’s the only way to tell). Defensive middie Will Delgrosso, a 4th-year sophomore, is the team’s top GB earner among non-faceoff guys. Redshirt sophomore Jacob Crews is second-best among longpoles.
In goal, junior Danny Ashlock has been the #1 option, playing all but two games, with freshman Adam Ure getting time in 5 contests. Ashlock saves .614 of shots faced, and is making 13.9 saves per game. As he’s allowing nearly 9 goals per game, that means Lindenwood is allowing 23 shots on goal per game – and that’s against far less talented offensive teams than Michigan. For reference, Michigan opponents are putting fewer than 12 shots on goal per game, whereas the Wolverines are putting 21.3 on the cage in each contest.
On faceoffs, 5th-year junior Richard Wilson has the most attempts, and he’s winning at a very strong .660 clip. Sophomore John Pettis has about a third of Wilson’s attempts, and is winning .632 of them.
All signs point to Lindenwood being a decent team (probably the best 16-seed Michigan has faced in their current reign of terror), but really not the type of squad that should put a real scare into Michigan. Faceoffs should be a question mark, as the Lions seem to be very successful there, and Michigan has been up-and-down. At the end of the day though, Michigan is the much better overall team. They won’t run up the score – preferring to play backups instead, if the opportunity arises – but should get a comfortable win. 19-6 in favor of the maize-and-blue.
For another breakdown of Lindenwood, check out Josh Hagerman’s take on UMGoBlog.