NCAA Tracking: Michigan vs. Union

Tracking college hockey games is something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time but never got around to because of time restraints and me being unable to find video. Quite a few schools are streaming their team’s home games this year, so I figured now would be a good time to get started with this. I’m not sure how many games I’ll be able to track with my other commitments, but I wanted to get at least one weekend series in before the NHL season starts. If I have enough time, I might do one series every weekend as a fun side project to go along with my NHL tracking. We’ll see how things go, though.

Our first breakdown of the year is going to be the non-conference series between the #11 ranked Michigan Wolverines and the Union College Dutchmen. They ended up splitting the series with Union taking the first game 4-3 on the back of two late goals in the third period and Michigan rebounded with a 4-0 win the following night. Special teams were big for both teams this weekend with Union scoring two power play goals in the opener and Michigan scoring a shorthanded goal in both games. They also had the edge in goaltending with freshman Hayden Lavinge pitching a shutout in the second game and senior Zach Nagelvoort making 36 saves in the previous game, albeit in a loss.

What else went into this matchup and how did Union pull off an upset in the first game?

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The numbers are a little skewed for the first game where Union outshot Michigan 40-27 but they had the edge in shots in the following game too and Michigan leaned on their goaltending a little more than I expected. Union has some very good forwards, though and they were able to work the puck behind the net and create some chances there. Left winger Brett Supinski was able to do this quite a bit, setting up three shots from this area, including a few very good scoring chances. They also worked the transition game well, creating more even strength offense off stretch passes than Michigan, including the game-winning goal in Friday’s game.

The problem was they weren’t able to get Michigan’s goaltenders moving around enough unless they were on the power play and they were guilty of trying to make too many plays at the blue line, which resulted in a couple of shorthanded goals for the Wolverines. It’s also worth noting that they had trouble finding the net, which was a problem for both teams but Union seemed to have a more pronounced issue with getting shots through. They had the territorial advantage, but could have done more with it, especially in Saturday’s game.

5v5 Individual Stats                              

Michigan

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Michigan’s first line had a decent amount of success with generating offense at even strength, Lockwood leading the way with four shot assists and Kile doing most of the shooting. James Sanchez had the golden touch in the second game, scoring two goals (one of which was shorthanded) but he also did some great work as a play-maker that shouldn’t be overlooked. This is true of many of Michigan’s forwards, as most of them did a pretty decent job of setting up shots, particularly for their defensemen.

Speaking of which, Sam Piazza had the best stat line among blue-liners with two goals and you can tell he wasn’t afraid to shoot the puck here. However, the first pairing of Nolan De Jong and Nichiolas Boka also played very well this series in terms of setting up shots. Getting offense from your blue line helps and having defensemen who can make plays is incredibly valuable, so these two definitely stood out to me this weekend.

Union

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Spencer Foo had a huge game Friday night with a pair of goals and he along with Mike Vecchione were the catalysts’ for the Dutchmen’s offense that game. Foo was easily their most dangerous player, as he was able to get the puck to areas in between the faceoff circles more than anyone else. He also has a very quick shot, so it gave the Wolverines a lot of fits that game. Michigan put more focus on these two in the rematch and they had trouble generating much of anything, both at even strength and on the power play. The same can’t be said for Brett Supinski, who led the team shots and primary shot assists and showed some creativity for setting up plays from behind the goal line. He walked away with only one assist, but he probably deserved a better fate.

Jeff Taylor was Union’s standout on the blue line, as he started & finished the game winning goal on Friday night and was easily their most effective blue liner from an offensive standout. I thought Matt Krug looked good as well, but he was taken out of the lineup in Game 2.

Zone Entries                          

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The defense play in NCAA hockey isn’t quite at the same level as the NHL, so we had a lot of wide open moments this series and both teams had trouble containing each other in the neutral zone. Union was especially good at generating offense off the rush and this was where a good chunk of their offense came from. The same can be said for Michigan, but Union had more in volume.

Michigan Zone Entries

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Michigan’s top-six didn’t have much of a problem with carrying the puck into the zone with the exception of Calderone, who had a pretty big role on his line. However, the second line had some issues with turning entries into offense, especially Dexter Dancs. Most of his entries were on the boards and he was ahead of his linemates a few times, so this is something they can probably workout in practice. That said, the first line had a pretty outstanding series in this regard and carried the weight for Michigan in the neutral zone. The third & fourth lines had some modest success here too, although they weren’t as reliant on carry-ins as the rest of the team.

Union Zone Entries

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Vecchione & Foo are the standouts here once again, carrying the puck in almost at will when they had the puck in the neutral zone. They seemed to do a better job at creating offense when Vecchione was the one handling the puck, but both posted some very strong numbers here. Foo was especially good at finding his teammates after entering the zone so the entries weren’t just leading to one-and-done chances. The third line was also very impressive with Supinski once again posting some strong numbers and his linemates not being too far behind him.

Michigan Entry Defense

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The De Jong/Boka pairing is interesting because they were both targeted an equal number of times but the former did a much better job of forcing Union to dump the puck in & prevent shots. De Jong was also the only player on Michigan’s defense corps who seemed to a decent job of limiting shots off the rush, so it’s more of a team-wide thing from the looks of it. He was impressive, though. Wasn’t afraid to get aggressive at the blue line and did an excellent job of taking away space from opposing forwards even if he was allowing them to gain the zone. As for the rest of Michigan’s defense, I’m not entirely sure what happened other than they all seemed to get caught in one-on-one situations and opted to hang back more times than not.

Union Entry Defense

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Union’s defense doesn’t have a real standout here, aside from maybe Ben Newhouse, who was inserted into the lineup in Game 2. However, Vas Kolias’ numbers are interesting because he gave up a lot of carry-ins but not many shots. Michigan also seemed to pick on Jeff Taylor when entering the zone instead of Greg Cambpell on Union’s top defense pair.

Michigan Zone Exits

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Once again, De Jong is the standout, exiting the zone with possession on most of his attempts and the Wolverines were able to gain Union’s blue line off his exits. Both players on the top pair were excellent in this regard but De Jong had a bigger workload and was more efficient with his exits. On the flipside, the Piazza/Cecconi pair had some problems and the latter handling most of the workload here is a little interesting. Could be just randomness from two games, but the split is kind of weird to look at.

Union Zone Exits

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Most of Union’s defense was pretty solid on zone exits, with the exception of maybe Campbell. The forwards were a different story. They had some issues at getting up the ice with speed and turned the puck over or simply cleared the puck out of the zone, giving the puck back to Michigan, when they were in trouble. Union was pretty deliberate with their breakouts and had some decent success with stretch passes & getting the puck to forwards in the neutral zone, but the forwards had some issues when they had to skate the puck up the ice.

Conclusion

Union earned their first win, but credit to Michigan for regrouping in the second game and taking away Union’s first line. They were opportunistic in some spots, particularly on the two shorthanded goals, but they played a much better game on Saturday and held Union’s offense in check until they were up by four goals. That said, I was impressed with Union in a lot of areas and they definitely gave Michigan a scare in the first game. They were unranked and are coming off a pretty rough season, but there’s some talent on this roster and it will be interesting to see how the rest of their season plays out. As for Michigan, this probably wasn’t the way they wanted to start their year but they have a lot of things to build off of in Saturday’s game.

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