Before the weekend series, I wrote up a preview on changes I’d like to see and calling out a few players to step up. To quote Han Solo, “You know, sometimes I amaze even myself.” All kidding aside, any time you come away with a road sweep, it’s a good weekend. So lets take a look back at the points of emphasis.
• First emphasis from the preview was special teams. The Lakers came into the game with an impressive 30 percent conversion rate. The Michigan penalty killers did a fantastic job holding them to 1-for-13 on the weekend, with LSSU’s only power play goal coming on a five-on-three advantage. Though I don’t have any actual numbers, Michigan’s PK unit seemed to get more shots on goal than LSSU’s PP unit during Friday’s game.On the flip side, Michigan’s power play finished the weekend 2-for-11, with both PP goals coming Saturday. That’s close to their season average 20 percent conversion rate. So the Wolverines won the special teams battle.
• Of course, the other issue to look at is simply taking penalties. If there’s a place for improvement, it’s playing more discipline hockey and not getting lazy when you get a big lead.
During Friday’s game Michigan was whistled five times during the first 12:30 of the third period, which gave LSSU a 5-on-3 and their only goal. Despite having a comfortable 4-0 lead before the parade to the box started, I imagine Coach Berenson wasn’t too pleased with it nonetheless. Perhaps they can get away with it against an opponent like LSSU, but getting lazy with the lead and taking bad penalties isn’t a habit they should be getting in to against any opponent, regardless of score.
• Coming in to the weekend, Michigan was averaging just 2.75 goals per game. Their top line was struggling; Louie Caporusso and David Wohlberg had zero points in four games. I mentioned that for Michigan’s offense to get going, they needed to get going, and I didn’t think Scooter Vaughan, who had zero career goals, was the answer after spending a weekend on the top line with them. I thought Scooter was better as a third/fourth line role player. I suggested someone like Czarnik geting elevated. He was off to a good start and had played with Wohlberg at the U.S. NTDP and prior to that.
Well, Scooter did get put in to a fourth line energy role and excelled. He showed great speed and hustle all weekend and was rewarded with his first career goal and nearly got his second but missed an empty net. He also had an assist Saturday. One Laker fan next to me was very impressed by Vaughan in both games. I think he’s found his niche.
Wohlberg and Czarnik did play together, though on the second line with Matt Rust. The trio cycled the hell out of LSSU’s defenders. It reminded me of the line of Jason Ryznar, David Moss, and I think David Rohlfs from a few years back (the former two’s senior year) and how they could dominate cycling along the boards. Rust, Czarnik, and Wohlberg just put on a cycling clinic at times. Rust continues to step up offensively and had two goals and an assist. Wohlberg had a pair of assists, and Czarnik had no points, but had his chances offensively and did a very solid job back checking and taking the puck away several times from LSSU players.
And Caporusso centered Carl Hagelin and Chris Brown, another strong mix of speed and skill and Brown gives them a physical presence, too. Hagelin was his usual self flying all over the ice and putting pucks on net. He had a goal and two assists. Caporusso had great chemistry with Brown, slipping the puck to the freshman several times for scoring opportunities. Louie also had a goal and two assists, and Brown had two goals and one assist. Great job by the top scoring line!
• Another stat I pointed out was Michigan’s second period slowdown. Through four games they had only scored two goals in the second period and put 26 shots on goal, while their opponents had scored four goals in the middle stanza and put 29 shots on goal.
This past weekend Michigan only came away with one second period goal, which happened Friday night. But the positive points are that they held LSSU to zero second period goals and out shot them both nights during the middle frame. Friday night shots were 10-7 for U-M in the second period and Saturday night the Wolverines buckled down defensively and out shot LSSU 15-3 in the second stanza.
•Bryan Hogan was solid in net. Still gave up a few rebounds in the slot area, but for the most part he gloved or held on to the pucks fired right at him, and he came up with a few dandy saves. An awesome sprawling right pad save late in the first period Friday night prevented LSSU from gaining any momentum. Saturday night he came up with a few more big saves, including stretching his right skate backwards while lying on his stomach to prevent a wraparound goal. He took an onslaught of shots during the first period Saturday and held his ground despite two early LSSU goals.
• Give the Lakers credit for coming out strong Saturday night. Friday night they looked absolutely pitiful, but they put up a good fight Saturday and the final score doesn’t reflect how the game was played out. Michigan bounced back from two LSSU leads then finally settled down in the second period. But it wasn’t until Brown’s goal with 6:18 left in the third period that they started to pull away, and after that goal you could clearly see Michigan’s intensity level pick up a few notches.