By ERICK LEHMAN, Managing Editor
The 13th-ranked University of Michigan-Dearborn Wolverines will take on the 20th-ranked U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen in the first round of the ACHA Division-I National Tournament tomorrow night from the Edge Ice Arena in Bensenville, Ill.
Here is a breakdown of each of the two teams and what happened when the teams met back in mid-September to open their respective seasons, as well as a prediction for tomorrow night’s game.
Jeff McFarland: 17 goals, 21 assists, 38 points
Ryan Urso: six goals, 29 assists, 35 points
Nic Laburn: 15 goals, 19 assists, 34 points
Gino Darin: 15 goals, 14 assists, 29 points
Andrew Palushaj: 13 goals, 15 assists, 28 points
*Note: Tyler Groat is the second leading scorer on the team with 25 goals and 12 assists for 37 points. However, Groat has not played since leaving a Jan. 16 game against Adrian College early due to an injury. He missed the final seven games of the Wolverines regular season, and all three games of the GLCHL tournament.
Nate Ferris: 19-2, 2.18 goals against average, .921 save percentage
Goals for: 127
Goals against: 77
Goals for per game: 4.38
Goals against per game: 2.66
U.S Naval Academy (20-17)
Trent Lulow: 17 goals, 32 assists, 49 points
Jack O’Hear:19 goals, 27 assists, 46 points
Matthew Harrigan: 15 goals, 25 assists, 40 points
Matthew Caine: 22 goals, 16 assists, 38 points
Christopher Day: 8 goals, 26 assists, 34 points
Matthew Truninger: 20-14, 3.23 goals against average, .892 save percentage
Goals for: 146
Goals against: 129
Goals for per game: 3.95
Goals against per game: 3.5
The last time these two teams met…
These two teams met back on Sept. 11 and 12. The Wolverines came out victorious in both games, defeating Navy 7-1 in the opening game, and posting another seven spot on the Midshipmen in game two, winning 7-4.
The Wolverines had a spread-out effort in both games, getting goals from Darin, Laburn, McFarland, Palushaj, Marcus McSweeney, Mike Scarpello, Tyler Dalton, Michael Payne, Troy Saunders, and Tyler Groat.
Navy received goals from Caine, O’Hear, John Linenger, and Alexander Vandenberg.
Nate Ferris stopped 16-of-17 shots in the first game, and was pulled midway through the second period of game two for Patrick Carney.
Truninger stopped 57-of-69 shots in the two games for Navy.
If you look at stats, the Midshipmen would likely hold the edge here. Navy has three forwards who have scored at least 40 points this season. However, the Midshipmen have played plenty more games than the Wolverines. I have to give the edge to the Wolverines in this category. They have found ways to score, and against top tier teams in the nation. While only scoring two or three goals against these teams doesn’t seem like much, it is all it takes to win.
Defense is tough to judge. While I obviously have not seen the Midshipmen play in person, I have to look directly at stats. Looking at stats for the defenseman is a challenge. The ACHA does not keep a tally on plus/minus like the NHL, and judging by offensive output doesn’t necessarily tell the tale of your defensive corps. So, I am going to combine the defense with the goaltending, look at shots each goaltender has faced and use that as the measuring stick for defensive ability.
These teams are nearly identical in shots allowed per game. UM-Dearborn is allowing 28.2 shots per game, while Navy is average 28.6. Again, Navy has played eight more games this season. The Wolverines lead goaltender has allowed 57 goals and stopped 661 shots on the year, while the leading Navy goaltender has stopped 898 shots and allowed 109 goals on the year. While the shots are nearly identical, the Wolverines have given up far less goals.
While this could ultimately be due to better goaltender play, normally a solid defensive unit helps alleviate pressure off of the goaltender. This has to be yet another nod to the Wolverines.
Erick: The Wolverines are riding hot wave, taking down Indiana Tech in the first round of the GLCHL tournament — a team that has been a thorn in their side all season. They followed that up with knocking off the sixth-ranked team in the nation, then the fifth-ranked team in the nation the next day. The Wolverines will hinge off the success of goaltender Nate Ferris, who stopped 48 shots in a winning effort against a strong Adrian team, and held off a strong offensive attack from Davenport a mere 16-hours later.
The Wolverines have been a spread out offensive attack since they have been without Groat, who was quiet against the Midshipmen the last time these two teams met. I expect the Wolverines to continue to use a team effort to overwhelm Navy and take them down in the first round, setting up a showdown with the fourth ranked team in the nation and defending national champion, Central Oklahoma.
The Wolverines have grown up a lot since the last time these two teams met, and while I believe Navy has as well, the quality of talent UM-Dearborn has faced and beaten has set them up for this moment. Looking back at the box score from the first series of the year against Navy and seeing the line pairings is quite funny. The lines have been nearly perfected by head coach Chris Haltinner since then, allowing the Wolverines to give a maximum effort from all four forward lines in this tournament.
I don’t think the Wolverines will drop seven on Navy for the third time in three meetings, but I do expect the Wolverines to succeed based on another stellar performance from goaltender Nate Ferris. I cannot predict a score, but the Wolverines will win this one.
Ricky: UM-Dearborn has been surprisingly successful without its freshman phenom Tyler Groat. But the Wolverines have found other ways to win, and are led by Nate Ferris, who has posted a 19-2 record and .921 save percentage in net this year. Ferris is hot, carrying the Wolverines to their first conference tournament title in over 17 years after stopping 105-of-111 shots in three games. Chris Haltinner knows you need a strong figure in net when it’s win-or-go-home season and that’s what he has in Ferris.
I will be quite surprised if UM-Dearborn doesn’t beat Navy to advance to a Friday showdown against Central Oklahoma. I think the Wolverines will score at least five goals and Ferris will continue his strong late-season play.