Realistic expectations for this contest did not include “Michigan wins” anywhere. The goal for the Wolverines, for better or worse, was to show some signs of life to take forward into next year, and to not get blown out. They came close enough to accomplishing that.
From the official box score, a look at the tempo-free stats:
|Faceoff Wins||4||Faceoff Wins||14|
|Offensive Efficiency||.174||Offensive Efficiency||.324|
This was a pretty slow game – not out of the ordinary for either team. Denver absolutely dominated possession, and was more efficient with what they had. That’s a pretty simple recipe for reeling in wins.
Might as well start from the very beginning. Denver has been a decent faceoff team this year, but not an exceptional one. Michigan has had spurts of good play, but simply not enough chemistry (or GB ability) to get pulled up by the bootstraps. The Pioneers dominated in this one. Chase Carraro – the ECAC Specialist of the Week – was 12/16 and Chace Calkin 2/2. That’s a great afternoon at the dot. Brad Lott was 4/11 for the day before Michigan decided to throw a pole out there to lose the final seven draws and just try to play some defense.
Speaking of defense, it may seem unfair to reward a .324 performance, but taking a look at things, that’s an outstanding day from the Michigan D. Given that Denver has averaged a .426 mark – adjusted for schedule strength – the Wolverines’ 50th-ranked defense holding them more than .100 below the season average is really good. The Wolverines’ defensive unit spent a lot of time on the field getting tired, and had to (unsuccessfully) fight off four EMO opportunities… they played way above their heads.
I saw a tweet that implied – or may have outright stated, I don’t remember and I didn’t watch the game – that the Wolverines played a lot of zone defense against Denver’s high-powered offense. That certainly is going to slow the game down (something Michigan has tried to do when the likes of Hopkins and Ohio State weren’t pouring goals on them with reckless abandon), is going to cover some of the athletic/experience problems of a limited defense, and feature a strong goalie… that seems like a good plan when you have Gerald Logan between the pipes, no?
Speaking of Logan, he backstopped that zone defense to a .586 save percentage, which is pretty darn good. I don’t think the Michigan coaching staff’s long-term goals have anything to do with a zone defense, but it might have been a nice tool to have in the kit in some games this year. It’s easier to teach guys to be good communicators than it is to teach them to be better athletes.
Offensively, the usual suspects were MIA. Zero points for Mike Hernandez, Kyle Jackson, Thomas Paras, and Will Meter (who started at midfield…?). Among that group, only Paras took a bunch of shots with seven. They just didn’t have a chance to be very involved in the game. 12 turnovers on 23 possessions will do that to ya. Meter had three himself, but seven of the remaining nine were committed by seven different players (the last two were credited to team). Against a talented team like Denver, you expect an inexperienced team like Michigan to turn the ball over, but you’d certainly like to see the unforced stuff (five of the turnovers) go away by this point in the season, if at all possible.
Moving to the offensive players who did put up offense, the leader was clearly Mike Francia, the only multi-point scorer. He had one goal of his own and assisted on tallies to Willie Steenland and… himself? (methinks theres an error in the boxscore). Davids Joseph and McCormack also scored for Michigan.
Denver had assists on 11 of their 12 goals, which at least means Michigan was making the Pioneers earn it. Eric Law had five points on a goal and four assists, and three other Denver players had four total points. Those numbers sound scary, but again, Denver was well below the season-long adjusted efficiency, so how much fault can you find? Both DU goalies played a half, and neither saw a whole lot of action.
The official boxscore. Michigan official site recap. Denver recap. Postgame interview with Bill Tierney. You can pay to rewatch the whole game. The highlights are free, but the buffering situation is terrrrrrible.
That’s it for the Wolverines. It’s about thanking the outgoing players for their contributions to the early years of the program, and preparing for next year’s squad. This was effectively Michigan’s first year as a program (they announced a Division-1 team after Marquette and High Point, both of whom played this year for the first time), so the freshmen and incoming recruits should be able to make a much bigger leap from this year to next than we saw from 2012 to 2013.