After a weekend in which Michigan and Michigan State took on the same two opponents in opposite order, they’ll both play Colorado State before Arizona State this time around, with the Wolverines playing on Friday and Saturday, while the Spartans have a Saturday-Sunday docket.
Michigan, Colorado State, and Arizona State are widely considered to be in a class of their own atop the MCLA, and by next week, we should know how they’re ordered within that cohort.
Michigan – Friday 7PM, Oosterbaan Fieldhouse
Michigan State – Saturday 6PM, Farmington High School.
Record: 6-0 (0-0 RMLC)
Rankings: 2 (adidas), 2 (Prodigy), 2 (LaxPower), 3 (Computer).
Common Opponents: @ UCSB (W 13-7), @ Simon Fraser (W 13-11).
Colorado State has played a pretty tough slate so far, with a home win over Arizona State last weekend the obvious feather in their cap. They also have a 10-8 road victory over Cal Poly SLO, another very strong team.
The rest of their wins are solid, but not nearly as impressive as the above pair. They took down USCB (13-7), Simon Fraser (13-11), and a weak Washington team (18-9) on their respective home turfs, and also have a 17-5 pasting of Arizona in Fort Collins.
The Rams also tested themselves in the pre-season with scrimmages against MCLA D2 Northern Colorado, and an NCAA team from each division in D3 Colorado College, D2 Adams State, and D1 Air Force. They lost a competitive game to the Falcons by an 11-7 score.
The Rams have spread their points pretty evenly this year, with 21 different players getting on the scoresheet at least once. The leader, however, is senior attack Cooper Kehoe, who is averaging just under 4 points per game with about twice as many goals as assists. A pair of sophomores in attack Austin Fisher and midfielder Alex Devlin are also at or above 2 points per game. Senior captain Garrett Fugier is just below that mark, as the midfielder has 8 goals and 3 assists through six games.
On the other side of the field, defensive midfielder Hayden Porter leads non-faceoff specialists in ground balls with 17, and senior LSM MArk Muskovics is a team captain. Sophomore defenseman Tim Miaskiewicz has 7 GBs, and has even added a goal for good measure.
Senior Andy Flax has played most of the time between the pipes, but four other keepers have played(!), including redshirt sophomore Sean Byrne and freshman Jack Regan, who have gotten into every game.
CSU has had plenty of success on faceoffs this year, with senior Scott Gelston winning a very good .674 of his draws. Sophomore Daniel Warfield is succeeding at a .558 clip himself, with exactly half as many attempts. In what should be a very competitive game, expect Gelston to take most of the faceoffs unless he really struggles.
Michigan – Saturday 7PM, Oosterbaan Fieldhouse
Michigan State – Sunday 4PM, Ralph Young Field
Record: 2-1 (0-0 PCLL)
Rankings: 3 (adidas), 3 (Prodigy), 3 (LaxPower), 1 (Computer).
Common Opponents: Boston College (W 14-5), Colorado State (L 5-6)
Arizona State hasn’t played quite the murderer’s row of CSU, with wins over the likes of New Hampshire (18-4) and hapless Texas A&M (23-2). However, they have a number of solid victories as well, including a 15-5 domination of Colorado in Boulder. They also have a big road win (23-2) over San Diego State, and a neutral-site victory over a good Utah team (12-6).
Home wins over Boston College (technically at a neutral site, but just a few miles away from the ASU Campus) and Santa Clara round out the schedule. They beat the Eagles 14-5. You may recall that BC lost 7-14 to Michigan, and upset State 8-7.
ASU’s lone loss on the year came last weekend against Colorado State (and by the time Michigan and Michigan State play the Sun Devils, CSU will be a common opponent). They lost 5-6 on the road in Fort Collins.
Last year, ASU was The Westfall Show, with freshman Dylan manning the goal, and his older brothers Ryan and Tyler atop the scoring leaderboard. Dylan and Ryan are still around, though Tyler has graduated.
Ryan is reprising his role as the team’s #2 scorer this year, with just under 4 points per game. His fellow 5th-year captain Eric Nelson leads the team with 6 points per game, with a slight emphasis on assists, rather than goals. The team’s designated finishers are all freshmen, with attacks Mike Montella and Jeff Petznick joined by midfielder Logan Quinn with over 2 points per game, almost all in the form of goals. This is a potent offense that has only been held to single digits once on the year.
Sophomore defenseman Ian Anderson was a 3rd-team All-American last year, but the Sun Devils did lose an honorable mention selection from last year’s defense in Justin Krider. Sophomore defensemen Jon Little and Ben Vasko are near the top of the team’s GB leaderboard.
Sophomore Billy Schilling is the team’s primary faceoff specialist, and is winning .619 of his draws. Behind him is junior (and captain) Kris Saunders, who has won fewer than 50% of his attempts.
This is a very tough weekend for both big in-state schools, though Michigan is doing State a favor by giving each team a turnaround of less than 24 hours between games. If the Wolverines have a hard-fought battle with Arizona State especially, it might be tough for the Sun Devils to get up for another big game just 19 hours later.
I do think that this is the MCLA’s best chance for getting a win off the Wolverines this season… but it won’t happen. Though Michigan has played down to lesser competition on the road a couple times in the recent past (loss to Colorado last year, close win at a neutral site against Oregon earlier this season), they’re dominant inside Oosterbaan Fieldhouse, and play their best ball against good competition. I don’t know which game it will be, but I expect them to get a win against one of these teams more comfortably than anybody expected. The other should be a 2-goal or 3-goal game either way, but I think they’ll pull the victory.
As for State, I’m not sure they have the conditioning for back-to-back games against top competition, especially given the results of last weekend (late game near-collapse against UCSB, then a somewhat flat performance on 2 days’ rest against BC). I do think they’ll come close to springing and upset in one of these games, more likely Arizona State, but Colorado State should handle them by a comfortable 6-8 goal margin.