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Game Notes (1/23): Michigan vs. Western Michigan

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01-24-2004, 02:22 AM
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Oilers Chick
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Game Notes (1/23): Michigan vs. Western Michigan

MICHIGAN vs. WESTERN MICHIGAN

Tonight抯 matchup at Lawson Arena in Kalamazoo was hard-fought, entertaining affair. The first of a home-and-home weekend series between these two CCHA foes featured lots of chippiness, at times some wide-open play and some excellent goaltending by Al Montoya and Scott Foster.

The chippiness began early and often in this tilt. It didn抰 take long for the parade to the penalty box to begin as WMU freshman centreman Paul Szczechura and Michigan senior (and team captain) Andy Burnes got matching roughing minors at the 1:56 mark. While Michigan is known for being one of the best skating teams in the league, WMU isn抰 too shabby either. The Broncos got the early jump on the Wolverines as they applied some great pressure in the Michigan zone as well as win the territorial battles. Michigan struggled to get out of their own end early. As a result, Montoya was forced to come up big for the Wolverines stopping some real beauties by WMU. Later in the period at the 9:48 mark, WMU freshman defenseman Ryan Mahrle was called for a hold, putting the Wolverines on the power play. Although they didn抰 score, it did give the Wolverines some life. Michigan tried for much of the game to dictate the flow of the game and using their tremendous team speed to their advantage whenever possible. At times it worked as the game began to open up. Michigan head coach Red Berenson was doing some line juggling as he was trying to get sophomore Andrew Ebbett off the schnide. Ebbett was in the mist of a 14 game goal-scoring drought. He was placed on a line with the 𛇝 twin towers of juniors David Moss (CGY) and Jason Ryznar (NJ). This line was actually quite effective tonight, not only on the score sheet, but also in the puck battles and scrums that fired up throughout the game. The wide-open style benefitted the Jeff Tambellini (LA) Dwight Helminen (EDM) Eric Nystrom (CGY) line for Michigan as well as the Jeff Campbell-Vince Bellissimo (FLA) Brent Walton lines for WMU. Both were arguably the best lines for each team respectively in the game. Both created some great end-to-end action and some excellent scoring chances. Towards the end of the first period, WMU was guilty of some poor defenseive play in their own as turnovers created some great breakaway as well as odd-man rushes for Michigan. However, Broncos sophomore netminder Scott Foster stood tall in net to keep the Wolverines off of the board. To make matters worse for WMU, team captain and lead scorer Dana Lattery was assessed a checking from behind call at 19:55 after ramming Nystrom into the boards.

The opening of the 2nd period, saw the Broncos short-handed as Lattery was finishing serving his minor penalty near the end of the first period. After WMU had finished killing off the penalty on Lattery, they were right back to winning the territorial battles as the Wolverines were again guilty of spending too much time in their own zone and giving teh Broncos too much skating room. Again, it was Montoya who would bail out his teammates with some fantastic saves. At about the 6 minute mark of the period tensions would flare up again, with Jason Ryznar right in the middle of it all. He would earn a trip to the penalty box along with WMU senior centerman Paul Davies for roughing. However, Ryznar would draw a double-minor in the fracas. Allthough, no scoring came out of it as a result, it did manage to get both teams fired up. However, Michigan抯 territorial problems continued.

That would all change at the 17:39 mark as junior Milan Gajic (ATL), whose been hot as a pistol for Michigan lately would get the Wolverines on the board first. It came off of what looked like a WMU turnover that resulted in a breakaway for Gajic. He skated in and shot the puck at the net, where Foster makes the save but gives up a rebound. However, Broncos freshman defenseman Kyle Bushee, who was coming in late to try and defend on the play, accidentally put the puck into the net with his skate as he was backing into Foster. Sophomore forward Brandon Kaleniecki would draw the lone assist on Gajic抯 goal.

The final stanza saw the Wolverines coming out with more energy and a sense of urgency. They began winning the puck battles and were quick to jump on the loose pucks. At the 4:05 mark, WMU would capitalise on a Michigan turnover. It began with Montoya making a nice save but giving up the huge rebound. The Michigan defenders were slow at reacting to the loose puck. WMU sophomore Vince Bellissimo (FLA) is johnny-on-the-spot as he retrieves the puck from near the corner boards and just fires it at the net. Sophomore Bent Walton is parked in front of Montoya for redirected tip-in for the score. Bellissimo and junior defenseman Mat Ponto would be credited with the assists on Walton抯 goal. The Wolverines would answer at the 5:59 mark with a controversial goal scored by freshman defenseman Jason Dest. Dest shot the puck from the left sideboards. As he抯 about to release the shot, Wolverines junior Eric Nystrom (CGY) was crashing the net at the same time trying to fend off a Broncos defender. Nystrom ends up bumping into Foster, who goes down shaken up. By the time, the shot is launched Foster is down on the ice leaving the entire left side of the net open for Dest to score into. Foster was on the ice for several seconds, certainly shaken but appeared alright to continue. Despite the vehement protests by WMU head coach Jim Culhane, the goal stood. Sophomore Jeff Tambellini (LA) and Junior Dwight Helminen (EDM) would be credited with the assists on Dest抯 first career goal. (Yes, they gave him the puck too!)

Things started to get pretty ugly at the 8:30 mark when WMU captain, senior Dana Lattery would be assessed a 5-minute major penalty for charging into Montoya. Montoya, who loves handling the puck, was trying to pass over to a teammate behind the net when Lattery comes in to rock his world. Aside from having his mask get taken off as a result, Montoya didn抰 seem fazed by the hit. In fact, he winked at the crowd sitting behind his net when he was putting his mask back on and resume play. From there, things started to really heating up. A couple of freshman defensemen got together to exchange some unpleasantries at one another as WMU抯 Kyle Bushee and Michigan抯 Matt Hunwick each earned a trip to the penalty box at the 10:30 mark. At the 12:14, it would be Gajic and WMU senior Lucas Drake getting together and earning a trip to the penalty box. With Lattery still serving his major penalty, Michigan saw an opportunity to extend their lead. At 12:33, they would score their lone power play goal of the game. Junior David Moss (CGY) gains puck possession and proceeds to fire a shot from the goal line that somehow manages to make it into the net. The puck looked to have ricocheted off of Foster抯 left skate and into the net. Helminen and junior defenseman Eric Werner would be credited with the assists on Moss goal. At the 17:05 mark, the Wolverines would seal the victory as sophomore Brendan Kaleniecki would take advantage of a terrible WMU line change. Kaleniecki, who was himself trying to get off of the ice for a line change, suddenly found himself being dished the puck by Werner, who saw Kaleniecki behind the play amid the WMU line change and drops a backhander to him. Kaleniecki then skates in alone on Foster putting a nice deke on the netminder before slipping the puck just inside the left post for the score. Werner would be credited with the lone assist.

While it wasn抰 the prettiest win for Michigan, it was a win that they desperately needed nonetheless. Michigan, who were tied for 5th in the CCHA going into tonight抯 game was chasing several other teams....including WMU, who were tied for 2nd in the CCHA coming in. WMU, after a slow start went 7-1-1 in their last nine games before tonight. Furthermore, Michigan, whose road woes has been a source of their less than stellar record thus far, finally won a game away from Yost Arena in a while.

Both goaltenders played extremely well. However, Montoya was arguably the better of the two, despite facing less shots. He made some terrific saves, including one where he himself turned over the puck to WMU抯 Jeff Campbell behind his own net, then is able to make a fantastic sprawling save to deny Campbell an almost sure goal on a nice wraparound.

Both teams had players whose play was worth noting. The Tambellini-Helminen-Nystrom line was perhaps the Wolverines best line and best group of players all night. Tambellini had some excellent scoring chances on breakaways utilising his blistering speed to his advantage. Helminen was excellent in his playmaking this evening and had two assists to show for it. Another Wolverines player worth noting was the exceptional play of freshman T. J. Hensick. Hensick, who is NHL draft eligible for the upcoming NHL draft was superb and seems to get better with each game. The creative freshman with excellent skating ability seemed to be everywhere on the ice tonight. An aspect of Hensick抯 game that is quite impressive is his ability to read plays and his hockey smarts.

For WMU, Scott Foster played an excellent game, despite being sacked with the loss. He made a number of very impressive stops on Michigan players, including numerous chances by Eric Nystrom in the first period. Dana Lattery, who抣l likely garner some NHL interest as an undrafted free agent at season抯 end, was both dynamic and a real thorn in the side of the Wolverines. Lattery is a very strong, rugged power forward who posseses some great agility and hockey sense. However, he could use some work in keeping his emotions in check. Vince Bellissimo is another WMU player who also had a terrific game. Bellissimo is an excellent skater who possesses some real nice hands and great on faceoffs. His keen sense of reading and following plays make him a wonderful playmaker as well.

The home-and-home series concludes tomorrow night in Ann Arbor.

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01-26-2004, 02:01 PM
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Thanks for the excellent game summary, Oilers Chick! Just to add a PS, the Wolverines completed the home and home sweep of the Broncos with a 7-0 victory at Yost on Saturday night...

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01-26-2004, 05:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheNorm#30
Thanks for the excellent game summary, Oilers Chick! Just to add a PS, the Wolverines completed the home and home sweep of the Broncos with a 7-0 victory at Yost on Saturday night...
How did Ryan Mahrle look?

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01-29-2004, 11:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Schlep Rock
How did Ryan Mahrle look?
Sorry, didn't catch Saturday night's game live--only saw the summary.

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