Michigan played neither horseshoes nor hand grenades in Oosterbaan Fieldhouse Saturday afternoon. Fortunately, I think the program is still young enough that a moral victory counts for something – just not in the record book.
From the official box score, a look at the tempo-free stats:
|Faceoff Wins||15||Faceoff Wins||18|
|Offensive Efficiency||.395||Offensive Efficiency||.326|
This was a fast-paced, up-and-down kind of game, the type Michigan fans have come to expect in Oosterbaan Fieldhouse, and the type that is very good for generating excitement about the sport.
U-M managed to build a healthy lead in possession, and was very game offensively. They just couldn’t get that last stop (after a chance to end the game without needing that stop) in overtime. Regardless of a loss counting in the record book no matter the final score, there was a lot to like out of Michigan.
Brad Lott went up against one of the most dangerous faceoff men in the country (for the second week in a row) and won that battle. It’s safe to say at this point that, when he’s healthy and available, he’s going to be a strong asset for Michigan on faceoffs, regardless of opponent. He won 18 of 33 (all against Doug Tesoriero), picking up ten ground balls himself, while allowing only five GBs for Tesoriero, and allowing just one assist to him – and Tesoriero has been a pretty big offensive threat in his career.
Michigan’s offense was balanced and wide-ranging, with seven different multi-point scorers. Kyle Jackson (4G, 0A) and Peter Kraus (3G, 1A) led the way with four apiece, Mike Francia had three (2G, 1A), while Doug Bryant and Ian King had two goals apiece, and David McCormack and Dan Kinek had two assists each. The U-M offense is rounding into form as one that can score from several different positions – including backups at those positions – and should continue to get better.
Michigan has been a bit of a volume shooting team in the recent past (with a couple strong midfielders and not a whole lot else), but that seems to be improving rapidly. It helps to add talent at attack like Ian King, but it seems the Wolverines are more able to make good decisions with the ball when it comes to launching on cage, and better at aiming for the scout on the opposing goalie. Only King (a very acceptable two goals on six shots, two on goal) shot a ton and didn’t score on at least half of them. Michigan’s shooting is efficient, and the offense as a whole should follow suit with more experience. Cornell goalie Brennan Donnville saved only eight shots while allowing 14 goals, and it sounds like the Michigan shooters played a big role in that by shooting to their scout on him.
Defensively, all reports have been that Robbie Zonino played very well, and at the very least gave his team a chance to win. That’s encouraging, but his numbers still aren’t great (.444 save%), so the defensive unit in front of him must have been very shaky. Still, if he plays that well against lesser opposition – even though they’re down from recent seasons, Cornell is a tough out – Michigan will be fine this season.
That defense, though. Nearly a .400 offensive efficiency for the opponent, and in a game where first-hand reports indicate Zonino played very well. That’s going to have to be shored up to a degree. Also Michigan might not be playing many more teams (with Penn State and Johns Hopkins in the rearview mirror) with that type of talent in the attack. Mack Gembis caused three turnovers and Dakota Sherman caused two for the Maize and Blue.
For Cornell, it was an attack-driven offense, no surprise given the thinness of Michigan’s lineup on close D thanks to injuries. The starting attack combined for nine goals and an assist, most of that production coming from Matt Donovan (5G) and Dan Lintner (3G). A dominating scorer at attack has long been the bugaboo of the Michigan defense, and it’s one they’ll have to deal with again soon. The Wolverines did pester Donovan into three turnovers and Lintner into two. Midfielder Connor Buzcek (2G, 2A) was also productive for the Big Red.
The Wolverines did indeed ride Cornell into more failed clears than they’d previously had all season (as predicted), and another aspect of the preview – that Michigan would have more EMO opportunities – also came true. However, I would have bet on the gap being bigger. Michigan had eight attempts to Cornell’s four, with each team converting half. U-M’s Thomas Orr fouled out, which may be the thing I most regret missing by not being in attendance.
Michigan has a two-game Southern swing on deck. The Wolverines start with a contest at High Point Wednesday, and follow that up by heading to the other Carolina Saturday to take on first-year program Furman. Michigan lost to High Point last year in a disappointing outcome, and this will obviously be the first contest against Furman.
The Wolverines’ goal should be to sweep the trip. That gets them some revenge on High Point for last year’s game, and just as importantly would return them to a record above .500 with a tough week against Bellarmine (on the road) and Maryland after that.