Friday, November 11
Michigan 1 – @Miami 2
7-3-1 (3-3-1-1 CCHA)
Saturday, November 12
Michigan 3 (SO 0) – @Miami 3 (SO 1)
7-3-2 (3-3-2-1 CCHA)
The Oxford curse continued for Michigan, as the Wolverines haven’t won at Miami in now almost three and a half years. Michigan started out sluggish, especially a problem when the opponent comes out of the gates hot. Miami got on the board less than two minutes in, although it should have been waived off as Hunwick was clearly run over in his crease. The uninspired play continued through the second, as the Redhawks increased the lead to 2-0 halfway through. Michigan was outshot 11-7 in both periods, and since the Wolverines couldn’t seem to get set on offense (that sounds familiar), quality chances were few and far between. The Wolverines finally got onto the board seven minutes into the third with a Glendening, but it proved to be too little two late as Miami held off any further rally attempts. Michigan was outshot 29-21, and while so few shots are ok when many are quality looks (see the Wolverines’ five goals on 21 shots in the previous game), it doesn’t cut it when the shots were the kind Michigan was taking here. The Redhawks didn’t play particularly well, continuing a season-long trend, but Michigan just played worse. The Wolverines managed just one shot on three power play attempts, and were edged in faceoffs, 30-28.
The tables were turned on Saturday, with Michigan coming out of the gate breathing fire. Chris Brown tipped in a Di Giuseppe shot eleven minutes in, and then Di Giuseppe added a cleanup goal of his own four minutes later. After holding off a late Redhawk charge, the Wolverines took the 2-0 lead into the first intermission. Miami clearly had the momentum going into the second, and got on the board just six minutes in. The Redhawks nearly tied it up a minute later but the goal was waived off. Despite being outshot 15-4 and generally pummeled, Michigan somehow maintained a 2-1 lead at the second intermission. The third was more of the same; Miami tied it up about six minutes in, and took the lead on a power play goal two minutes later. The Redhawks nearly increased their lead to 4-2, but for a second waived off goal. With time winding down, Hyman was able to tie the game with a beautiful putback off a rebound. The Wolverines were unable to get anything more in regulation, and the refs failed to call a pretty obvious penalty as time expired that might have had implications for overtime. Michigan did manage to outshoot the Redhawks 4-3 in the overtime period, but five minutes is such a short time span that neither team was able to generate anything serious, and the game proceeded to a shootout. Neither team scored in the first three opportunities, but Miamiput one through with the first extra shooter, and Sparks was unable to answer, giving the Redhawks the extra point. The Wolverines were badly outshot, 41-28, lost the faceoff battle 35-31 and again went 0-3 on the power play.
Some thoughts on the weekend: Michigan got outplayed-badly. They were outshot 70-49 on the weekend, or in other words the shot deficit was the number of total shots they put up on Friday. They were outshot by 50% or more in four of the six full periods, and in the two periods where they weren’t outshot (three counting the five minute overtime) shots were either tied or Michigan outshot Miami by one. Michigan only had one good period-the first period Saturday-and even then Miami had regained the momentum by the end. The Wolverines were sluggish for most of the weekend, and it’s a wonder that the goal numbers were as close as they were.
What may have been factoring into the poor play is the recent, alarming disintegration of the Michigan defense. What began the season looking like a strong point (freshmen mistakes excluded) has of late turned into a liability. Michigan hasn’t been able to get an offense generated, and much of that likely has to do with a sudden inability to clear the zone. At least a few goals the last few weekends come to mind as examples of highly preventable mistakes, where a failure to get the puck out of the defensive zone, after gaining possession, kept things alive for the opposition and led to a score. I’m to the point where I cringe every time it happens, since going back to the national championship game last year it’s almost never ended well. We can has Merrill? Merrill’s original 12 game suspension was supposed to end last weekend, with his first two games back against Miami. Since it was increased to indefinite, the defense continued to miss its undisputed star, and he was sorely needed in Oxford. Here’s hoping that a return soon can get the defensive issues turned around.