Thursday, March 22, 2007

Whatever This Is: Hockey Christmas

Craig:  Welcome to WTI, boys and girls...
Geoff:  Tomorrow the NCAA Men's Ice Hockey tournament begins.
Craig:  It's like hockey Christmas!
Geoff:  Michigan doesn't actually begin play until Saturday night, but other Regionals action is on tap. However, we don't really care about that crap on this site.
Craig:  We're acknowledging it, but that's it
Geoff:  There's no way around it, but the Wolverines have an impressively difficult draw in this year's tournament.
Steve:  Yep, in Denver in the same pool as Minnesota and North Dakota
Geoff:  They open up against North Dakota, one of the hottest (if not the hottest) teams in the country.
Craig:  Rated #7 in the country
Geoff:  But they're #9 in the PairWise, so they get a #3 seed.
Craig:  I do want to say that as tough a draw as it is, I have some confidence for Michigan going in, but that said, it all comes down to Billy Sauer.
Geoff:  Sauer's been good, but he did have the one mistake Saturday night that became the game-winner for ND.
Craig:  I think it's interesting that Notre Dame was able to limit Michigan to just one goal, but they did so by playing ugly, ugly hockey. Hockey that makes small children weep and ask plaintively "Why are you trapping?!?"
Geoff:  I hate watching them play that game. It was like Oilers-Wings last year, just brutal, brutal stuff.
Craig:  Yes, and that's the thing, in a tight game, we saw that it was a small mistake that became a huge mistake. Hopefully Sauer and the D all took something from it.
Craig:  But I don't see NoDak having the right personnel to pull off that kind of style. Especially because a lot of that is reliant on David Brown's continued excellence in net.
Geoff:  I don't think North Dakota sees the need to play like that. It's not their game. Whereas ND all year has been about limiting the shots that get to Brown, letting him stop them all, then pouncing on mistakes in the other zone.
Craig:  Which means that Michigan, will, hopefully, be able to play its game. But they will also need to work on limiting NoDak's chances
Craig:  I do think it will be interesting to have no WCHA or CCHA refs in the Regional
Geoff:  Having no CCHA refs may be a good thing. Shegos was frickin' brutal in the final. The second period saw a ridiculous number of trips to the box, especially by one Jack Johnson.
Craig:  Shegos, why? That's all I can ask.
Geoff:  I think Jack Johnson said something about his mom.
Craig:  Wow, I do think that is the only way you can slow down JMFJ
Geoff:  I'd be willing to put that down to just the one night, except that for the past couple of years his penalty calling has been almost as bad.
Craig:  I wonder if that is as much about points of emphasis as anything
Craig:  But, back to Denver, can any team really feel comfortable in this region?
Craig:  North Dakota probably wishes that they had anyone other than Michigan, and I am sure Minnesota, having been asked about Holy Cross dozens of times this week, is making sure they treat Air Force as if they were actually bringing missiles to the game.
Craig:  Plus, I think there might be some pro-USAFA folks in Denver, because really, I believe it's a very hard thing to cheer AGAINST one of our service academies.
Geoff:  Notre Dame finds a way. We all know they hate freedom.
Craig:  True. True. Plus, it's not like the Gophers are much beloved in that part of WCHA country
Craig:  In all of the previews I have looked at, the consensus on Michigan/North Dakota is, well, you pick, we can't.
Craig:  Which makes me hope it will be a good game, but as a Michigan fan, I don't want a good game, I want six goals in the first for Michigan and then putting it in cruise.
Geoff:  They have the ability to beat anyone in the country. It's putting all the pieces together for four straight games that makes it so difficult.
Geoff:  With the way Sauer's been playing and all the weapons we have on offense, it's a stalemate. I'll give a slight edge to North Dakota for having a lot of recent tournament success and having just absolutely pwn3d the WCHA, the toughest league in college hockey, the entire new year.
Craig:  I think I have to agree. As much as I want to believe, for as much as I will be cheering for them, I don't know how any Michigan fan can be objective and go in to this game with a lot of confidence.
Geoff:  Actually, this might come down to our ability to defend UND's top line without ending up in the box. UND's #1 line has 150 points between them. Stopping them goes a long, long way to winning the battle. This sounds like a job for JMFJ.
Craig:  You know, this looks like a job for Chris Summers. Or someone similar. I just get the feeling, in a game like this, it's getting a goal from an unexpected source that can be critical.
Geoff:  These things often do come down to that.
Craig:  I think it speaks volumes that we're sort of stuck on cliches.
Geoff:  I think it means we should pack it in tonight.
Craig:  I agree. Enjoy the games, and Geoff's great work on the previews and reviews.
Geoff:  Briefly: Tubby Smith took the Minnesota job. It's puzzling and insane and it means Michigan is down to the #2 position available at best. It could break open a coaching logjam as guys move a step up. And we won't know much of anything until Bill Martin speaks. That's all we have on that. Goodnight, everyone.

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