This will rely heavily of Mercer I wrote just a couple weeks ago, with the added knowledge that the Bears are about even quality-wise with Detroit.
Mercer is 1-2 on the year, with the lone victory, yes, coming over Detroit. They lost a nail-biter to Vermont and were blown out by UMBC – and neither of those teams was particularly impressive last year (or so far in 2017).
This probably isn’t a good team – in fact, it’s likely a rather bad one – and with the stage Michigan’s program is reaching, this shouldn’t be competitive. Will the Michigan we’ve seen too much in the past couple years – the one that plays down to inferior competition – show up to spoil it?
From the UDM edition of this preview:
Last year’s leading scorer, Chris Baxa, has moved on, along with his 22 goals and just two assists – he was your finishing attackman. He missed two games, which allowed now-sophomore middie Lucas Wittenberg to draw even with him thanks to 12 goals and 12 assists. Junior Matt Quinn is another key midfielder, and more like Baxa, with a scoreline heavily tilted toward shooting, not feeding. Senior attack Chris Rahill had a scoreline that was tilted toward scoring (the Bears as a team assisted on barely more than a third of their goals last year – not a sharing-type squad), as well.
Thus far it has been three not mentioned in that post – the starting attack line of sophomores attack Jake Nelson and Shawn Carter (Jay-Z?) and senior Kevin Yoggy – who have carried the load offensively. Wittenberg and Quinn are right behind them, but this is an attack-driven offense, even if that status meant relying on unproven players early in the year.
Again, from the UDM preview:
Senior Colin Massa is the leader of the defense. He led close D in takeaways (12) and was close in ground balls (16) last year. Junior Dustin White should start, as well. Mercer has to replace Clay Rivers on the close D, given that he got the lion’s share of minutes, despite only one start in 2016.
Goalie Mike Nugent played essentially every meaningful minute last spring, and had a decent save percentage of .526 despite playing behind a pretty porous defense. Tyler Boardo got 5:26 of backup minutes, which is totally not enough time to read into his .333 save percentage. Transfer Bradley Hodoval played the Vermont game, but the redshirt sophomore saved only .438 of shots faced: we’ll see how good he is against the Titans.
Massa has had shockingly little production so far in 2017: two caused turnovers and zero ground balls. He also committed a penalty in each of the first two games, so it’s not like he hasn’t been on the field, just ineffective. White has been out with injury, resulting in juniors Jake Saad and Willy Deines and freshman Michael O’Brien into bigger roles. This is a caused-turnover happy D, led by the SSDMs, particularly Ensor Walker.
Hodoval has gotten the vast majority of meaningful time between the pipes so far, and is saving a respectable .521 – albeit against one very good shooting squad (Vermont) and two terrible ones.
Only two players have taken a faceoff, and they’re both doing very well so far: Brennen Kiel is nominally the lead guy with a handful more attempts and a winning percentage of .615 to Will Beecham’s “only” .576. This should still be a decent matchup for Michigan.
Mercer has been giving up about three EMO opportunities per game and allowing opponents to convert half of them (that’s bad). Meanwhile, their EMO is right around middle-of-the-pack nationally.
Nothing surprising here: this is a must-win game if Michigan is to be the team it wants to be this year. The Wolverines should be able to take care of mid-major squads, and so far in 2017, they have with ease. It’s when the schedule gets tough that they’re likely to struggle (though hopefully not as bad as against Notre Dame). Building chemistry, confidence, and yes, a bit of a win percentage cushion before they get to the tough ones is what’s at stake here.
Not going to spend too much time on this section because I’ve been derelict in my duties as a blogger and just want to get this up before the game starts.
Michigan takes a relatively easy (though tougher than it should be) game, 17-7.