Detroit appears to be doing the usual Detroit thing: struggle through the non-conference, then turn things up when MAAC play arrives. Canisius is not the strongest competition, but then again few in the league will be. Survive and advance mode, activated.
From the official box score, a look at the tempo-free stats:
|Faceoff Wins||5||Faceoff Wins||13|
|Offensive Efficiency||.258||Offensive Efficiency||.158|
The Titans were destroyed in possession. The faceoffs were a struggle as we’ve come to expect, but the clearing issues that have popped up from time to time were as bad as I can recall this season. Only a ton of clearing opportunities saved Detroit from being snowed under when it comes to having the ball.
Of course, UDM more than made up for that with one of the best defensive performances of the year. Some of that was Canisius killing itself, but more was about the goalkeeping performance for Detroit.
So, about that goalie play. I’ve been warming up to Jason Weber since early in the season, and this was the performance that should lock down the job. He faced 23 shots on goal, and saved 17 of them. Even if the Griffins were calmly lobbing the ball into his chest (which could be the case – there’s a reason they’re one of the worst five offenses in the country), that’s a strong outing. Those saves led to Detroit’s edge in clearing opportunities. Perhaps the best part for Weber? He was responsible for zero of UDM’s six failed clears, with nary a turnover to his name all afternoon. Hats off to you, sir.
The rest of the defense was up-and-down. There’s something to be said for letting Canisius get off 36 shots (which really isn’t that many in 38 possessions), but another to be said for very few of those being good enough to beat the keeper. It all works together as a unit. Something interesting? The late-season transition to a pressure-heavy defense that we’ve seen each year out of UDM really looks like it won’t arrive. Only five of the Griffins’ 14 turnovers were forced by a Titan. Three were caused by attackmen (two for Tom Masterson and one for Kyle Beauregard) and one by a faceoff specialist (Damien Hicks), so only Paul Bitetti forced a TO in this contest among defensive players.
Shayne Adams was Detroit’s offensive leader with three goals and an assist. He also committed just one turnover. Scott Drummond and Masterson each had a goal and two assists, while Alex Maini added two goals of his own. It has become a more balanced offense.
Detroit’s Sports Info people must have grown sick of my complaints about so few shots being on goal (as a proportion of total shots taken), because they’ve switched to a boxscore presentation that doesn’t show that factor. Fortunately, Canisius helped me out. Mike Birney shot eight times with only two of them on the cage (and he also committed four turnovers), so not a particularly efficient performance out of him. That’s the norm, but his ability to change a game with the longball is also important. Drummond only had one on cage out of six shots, and Shayne Adams shot eight times with four on cage, but three of those four were in the net, so no complaints there.
Turnovers weren’t a huge issue for Detroit in this one (something that cannot be said for the rest of the season), aside from the struggles clearing. UDM committed 14 errors giving the ball away, and six of those were forced by Canisius, Eight unforced turnovers… that’s improvement for UDM in a game where they had 31 possessions. MAAC play seems to bring out their best.
The Titans are going to struggle on faceoffs this year, full stop. Having seen Damien Hicks perform pretty well in the past, there has to be some sort of adjustment to wing play Detroit can make (I don’t think “bring back Houtby and Hebden” is an option, unfortunately) to at least help draw closer to even. Damien Hicks went 5/17, with the silver lining that he was able to pick up three ground balls himself. Marcus Butters also burned his redshirt (I believe), losing his only draw.
Aside from faceoff specialist Tim Edwards (who also had a goal and an assist), it’s hard to find many stars for the Griffs. Nick Tuttle and Billy Jaccobi had two goals apiece, While Austin Romantic had a goal and an assist. Four of six Canisius goals were assisted.
This game really wasn’t even as close as the final score indicates, despite Edwards’ best attempt to steal the win. Once UDM took a 2-1 lead, they never relinquished it. The Titans led 8-4 with under five minutes left, but on the ensuing faceoff from the eighth UDM goal, Edwards scored a quick one. Then Canisius got an EMO goal (on a freakin’ offsides, of all things) to get back within two with barely more than a minute to go.
Of note: Detroit was pretty short-handed in this one. Regular starters Andy Hebden and Nick Garippa (OK, not a starter, but the top D-middie might as well be) did not participate. The result looks even better when you consider this wasn’t the whole Titans’ team. No word on why those guys and others did not participate.
Detroit’s run through conference play next sees them stick around home, playing Quinnipiac Saturday on Titan Field. The Bobcats are in their first year as a MAAC team – they played in the NEC last year – so they’re looking to take home the crown in their first season in the league.
The TFL numbers make Detroit a slight underdog, and the last time these squads faced – last March, again in Detroit – a slim margin went in favor of QU. With the conference standings on the line, UDM should be able to turn things on and play another competitive game – maybe getting the win this time.