Ahh, October hockey. So easy to lose sight of it in all the football talk. Michigan has already played 3 real games, including a pair in the CCHA. They opened the season with 2 periods of solid hockey that looked like it was leading up to comfortable win over Mercyhurst, a team that plays in that Sun Belt of hockey conferences, Atlantic Hockey. OK, maybe that's unfair. They could be Conference USA. Whatever they are, the Wolverines let a 4-0 lead evaporate into a 2-1 shootout loss. Even though the game goes into the NCAA books as a tie, it's still a big disappointment to let up on the gas like that.
Michigan responded the next night with a 4-2 exhibition win over Western Ontario. Generally Canadian teams aren't very good, but Yost Built noted that UWO is supposed to be one of the better ones out their, with a goalie who has a fair amount of OHL experience under his belt, so this one is probably an even better win than it looks.
Last weekend, Michigan played the rare series with Bowling Green that wasn't a home-and-home, sweeping the Falcons 4-1 and 4-2. Bowling Green was a terrible team last year, yet still managed to take a game at Yost, so it's good news to see a pair of moderately decisive victories to start the CCHA season. Shawn Hunwick got the Friday start and Bryan Hogan the Saturday, and that looks like it'll be the rotation in the early part of the year. Hogan also got the start on Tuesday night for the exhibition game against the US Under-18's in a 3-0 shutout.
So...that's the season thus far. One bad data point to start the year, a few encouraging ones to follow it up. We'll see how the rest of it goes. I don't expect the domination we got from the '07 team, but I'm hoping we don't see the "excitement" we got last year. Up next is a single game this weekend with New Hampshire out in Durham. Just like the BU game last year, we don't get any TV coverage. What's up with that, Hockey East?
New Hampshire is led by senior forward Paul Thompson, who put up a 17-19--36 line last year, a big step down from departed Hobey Baker finalist Bobby Butler's 27-50--77, but Thompson could very well blow up this year like Kevin Porter did in '07-'08. Nobody has more than one goal goal yet, but freshman Phil DeSimone has a couple of assists to go along with his tally, making him the points leader at 1-2--3. UNH's goalie is junior Matt DiGirolamo, who's played sparingly over the last couple of seasons. He had a .906 SV% and 3.24 GAA in four games last year, and he's at .899/4.01 this year after their series with Miami, for what that tiny sample size is worth. He's backed up by two guys who have yet to register any statistics, junior Tyler Scott and freshman Jeff Wyer.
Like Michigan last year, New Hampshire squeaked into the NCAA tournament. Unlike Michigan, they had to sit on their hands and hope for things to fall their way after losing their Hockey East first-round series to Vermont. The Wildcats made it in as a #3 seed and proceeded to absolutely demolish what was supposed to be a good Cornell team with a spectacular defense by a score of 6-2. The University of No Hardware then turned around and were horsewhipped by RIT by an identical 6-2 margin. Woo, single-elimination hockey!
This is all to say that I have no idea what to expect on Saturday night. You could get Good UNH or Bad UNH on any given night. This year, they've already lost to Miami 6-3 and beaten Miami 6-3, while tying a St. Francis Xavier (a Canadian university) 3-3 in an exhibition. They seem to be an entirely schizophrenic hockey team, and I think someone's walking out with a 5-3 win, but I don't know who. Game on.