Delaware is not a great team – but they’re far from a bad one. After a serious mid-season funk, Michigan has started to play up to the level of some pretty good opposition. There’s still a long way to go before they’re where they want to be (at least three year of recruiting), but for the first time in a little while, the trajectory looks right.
From the official box score, a look at the tempo-free stats:
|Faceoff Wins||7||Faceoff Wins||14|
|Offensive Efficiency||.241||Offensive Efficiency||.297|
Michigan is not going to win games on faceoffs this year, and that’s just the way it is. Sure, they’ll perform well enough at times to make the battle a net positive (as against Mercer and a couple others), but until the cavalry arrives in the 2012 recruiting class, just not getting killed is the best they’ll be able to ask for against excellent FOGOs. That happened Saturday.
Michigan is the worst clearing team in the country (at least they were until the weekend, but I doubt a .714 success rate improved that), and that’s been just as big an issue in the possession game as faceoffs. They’re typically a very good riding team (in fact the best in the nation), but weren’t able to force enough failed clears from Delaware to even things out.
Despite all that, Michigan stayed within striking distance of Delaware, albeit a distance that they were unlikely to close. That was because they held the Blue Hens to about their average adjusted offensive efficiency – quite a feat for one of the worst defenses in America – and scored relatively well with the offensive possessions they got.
Statistically, the star of the show was goalie Emil Weiss. He has been up-and-down this year, in large part because he’s dealt with a frustrating array of injuries. As he builds confidence and health, he has the ability to keep Michigan in a lot of games that they really have no business being in. That was the case on Saturday, as he saved 17 of Delaware’s 28 shots on goal (.607) to keep Michigan close. With the Wolverines’ suspect defense, a save percentage that high is practically a miracle.
One area that Weiss struggled, however, was the clearing game. He committed five turnovers against a team that’s mediocre on the ride, and his defense in general didn’t clear well. That could be a result of Delaware switching up tactics to exploit Michigan’s lack of stick skills (unfortunately, I wasn’t at the game so I don’t know for sure), but it’s a problem nonetheless. Since the problems with the clear were mostly in the first quarter (4/8), the jitters could be explained by inexperience across the lineup.
Nobody stood out among the defensive field players, and Michigan didn’t cause a single turnover on the day. I’m starting to think the Wolverines went with heavy doses of zone, based on that factoid and Weiss’ save percentage. Can anybody who was there confirm?
Offensively, Trevor Yealy and David McCormack stood out with three and two goals, respectively. Willie Steenland contributed two assists (and had only one turnover, a positive performance from that perspective) to round out multi-point scorers.
Brian Greiner had an OK day on faceoffs, not any worse than you’d expect against a stellar talent like Dan Cooney. He won 7 of his 20 draws – and Trevor Yealy?!?! is credited with the other attempt for Michigan, a loss.
For the other side, Grant Kaleikau had two goals and two assists. In all honesty, that’s a pretty good job by Michigan to keep him in check. He also did that on eight shots – seven of them on cage – so he didn’t have a super-efficient day. Nick Diachenko was Delaware’s other offensive standout, with three goals.
Michigan held huge runs to a minimum, something that they’ve struggled with through much of this season. Delaware scored four straight in their largest run. Alas, it start with Michigan down just 5-7, took place through the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarters, and ended any realistic hope of an upset.
This weekend, Michigan welcomes Ohio State into the Big House at 2:30 p.m. The game will take place after the annual football spring scrimmage, and is free to the public.
I was initially planning to have a dedicated post talking about the festivities around the game, but I’m not sure if I’ll get around to that.