3/28/2010 – Michigan 5, Bemidji State 1 – 26-17-1
3/29/2010 – Michigan 2, Miami 3 (2 OT) – 26-18-1, season over
Indiana's state motto is "The Crossroads of America," which promises nothing more than the ability to leave it. As you do so the towns radiating northward from Fort Wayne on I-69 have ill-omened names like Angola and Waterloo and make you wish you had a heinous ex-girlfriend named Ashley or a bone to pick with Auburn, color or university, doesn't matter. There, the flat American expanse of a pitch-black highway makes prime brooding habitat. Nearby zings of color and denuded trees that make their presence known by obscuring something flashing red in the distance provide momentary focal points that slip past, their steady movement drawing the primitive sections of your intelligence and slightly distracting you from the reason you're staring grimly at a Big Lots that closed hours ago. The recent past recedes at 80 miles an hour, except five miles into Michigan where there is a cop. Fragments of your heart throw ropy pseudopods to each other and pull, slower than that. But steady.
Because 1997-98 was the year my teams had fantastic success and I had idiotic ideas, the first two Michigan hockey games I saw were a 4-0 win over New Hampshire in a national semifinal and a national championship game featuring an overtime winner from Josh Langfeld. I thought it was pretty cool, but that was all. I'd meant to get season tickets but it had slipped my mind. That year I also watched the Rose Bowl at my then-girlfriend's house. At one point her mom mentioned a Washington State touchdown would win her a quarter in squares. The GF and a mutual friend sort of tittered in a corner about things unrelated to the game. I was just a freshman. I'd go to a Rose Bowl later.
The next year I took up a residence in the Yost student section that ended only this year, six seasons after I graduated for the second and final time. Every season since there has been that crushing moment when the puck goes in the wrong goal and it's all over. Though it's hard to distinguish between levels of terror emanating from the reptilian sections of your brain, it seems to me these days the most knee-buckling moments of the sporting year come when the hockey team is playing in the NCAA tournament.
There's something different there. Each football season defines itself, and by the end it usually seems you got approximately what you deserve. A single-elimination hockey tournament after 40 games is the closest sports comes to Russian roulette. In hockey, the way you die is always a thunderbolt. And so I think the most painful part of every sports year for me is that horrible instant when the red light goes on and your whole self just deflates. I keep thinking the word "crushing," unrelated to anything else. Just an adjective, floating on the mile markers.
But the alternative to knee-buckling terror was just to not be here at all, for March to be a unbroken expanse of asphalt in the middle of nowhere. To get here is something after a 10-10 start and that ignominious road sweep at UNO that ended any hope of an at-large bid or even a bye in the CCHA tourney. I had been planning a series on what went so horribly wrong with the three major sports and was just waiting for hockey to make an undignified exit, probably at the hands of Michigan State, before embarking on it. They were just another flailing team caught in Michigan's winter of discontent, no different from a football team that can't punch it in from the one against Illinois or a basketball team that can't even turn a top-15 preseason ranking into an NIT bid.
As Michigan walked into Munn three weeks ago all 2009-10 offered was the same thing Indiana does: eventually, it ends. Now, at least, there is some redemption and schadenfreude and plain old inspiring victory, things Michigan fans needed reminding about. When it comes to the history books, this team will be one that picked itself up off the mat without its captain and starting goalie and was a heartbeat away from a Frozen Four. As it is, they picked up a banner and extended Michigan's tournament streak to twenty years.
By the end, they were Michigan hockey again. After fading badly towards the end of the third period they found their legs and terrorized Miami in overtime, launching twenty (official) shots to their six. They were struck down by bloody fortune and did not deserve their fate. They are like their compatriots before them, and will be remembered for a heroic stand. They died like Vikings.
Fifteen minutes past Angola, Indiana keeps its promise and releases you. Here, too, ends this year. Now we bury it and move on with some little hope thanks to a tiny goaltender and some feverish backchecking that point towards better days.
Obviously, this John Gravallese guy robbed Michigan of the game thanks to his galaxy-spanning incompetence. The irony of waving off a Michigan goal because you called a high-sticking penalty when 1) it's overtime and you aren't calling anything short of attempted murder and 2) amongst the zillion calls you missed in regulation were two blindingly obvious high sticking calls perpetrated by Michigan players—we clearly heard both in row 18—is head-exploding. For the wave-off to occur because you "lost sight of the puck" when zero players on the ice are reacting like the goalie has it—the goalie wasn't even down—after you allowed a Miami goal that Hunwick had pinned under his pad for a second or two is just despair inducing. At that moment my righteous anger broke and I awaited the inevitable end.
The reaction of a potentially apocryphal HE ref who knows this guy has appeared on the message board: "it happens" To which I say: look at Shawn Hunwick above and say that. "It happens" is the reaction of a failure of a person. As WolverineBoston puts it: "refs aren't humans." During the interminable replay that we knew was pointless, and the interminable (and totally impermissible) replay following that to determine whether a faceoff should be in Miami's zone or the neutral zone, we joked that they were making the refs watch the goal over and over again so they'd feel terrible. But I bet Gravallese doesn't even care.
I mentioned this after the Bemidji game, but it would be one thing if this guy was making a mockery of hockey in a the dispassionate manner of a badly malfunctioning robot. It's entirely another for him to make every call as if he is using the Hammer Of Thor to Dispense Justice To Wrongdoers. His children secretly hate him.
If you need the rule, it's been dug up here. Maybe they should change it to something less ambiguous, like getting the puck out of your zone if the opponent brings it in. No one really cares if a play is accidentally blown dead at center ice, but the ambiguity of what counts for possession is can be disastrous in the attacking zone. Forcing the team that took the penalty to clear the zone is 100% clear.
- Did we miss Ariel Bond taking a season-defining photo of the football team? She nailed the basketball season and that item above just about obviates the need for me to put all these words beneath it.
- I liked Fort Wayne's arena a lot but if they're going to have future NCAA tournaments there they need to make a change. Unlike every arena I've ever been to, at Fort Wayne the benches are on the same side of the red line, which means when one team has a short change the other has a long one. (Michigan State has benches on the opposite sides of the ice but they're also on opposite sides of the red line.) The home team gets two short and one long; the road team two long and one short. Okay, I guess, not really anything you can do about it and the higher seed did earn that privilege. But once you get to overtime you need to start alternating. Michigan was facing a long change for four of five periods in that game.
- It's not like Robbie Czarnik was great or anything while at Michigan, but seeing Jeff Rohrkemper limited to three or four shifts after the first period made me pine for a guy Michigan could throw out there as a functional fourth-line forward. After a couple early shifts from the fourth line that went poorly, Michigan abandoned them entirely in favor of occasional shifts from Scooter to give someone on the top three lines a breather; Winnett saw a shift here and there at even strength and played his usual inexplicable amount on special teams. They would have been better off dressing Moffie if that's as much as they were going to play Rohrkemper. (By the way, Czarnik is currently averaging over a PPG at Plymouth, further evidence that there's a considerable gap between NCAA and CHL hockey. Every Michigan player to leave for the CHL has seen his scoring explode as the competition level deflates. My favorite example is Jason Bailey, who had a 0-0-0 and was -11 in 19 games at M his sophomore year and scored half a PPG in 70 OHL games.)
- Shawn Hunwick finished the year 8-3 with a 1.82 GAA and a .918 save percentage against a tougher than average schedule, and late in his audition that was not an effect of his team shielding him from any and all scoring chances. The goalie competition is on for next year, and I'm guessing they'll add a freshman they can redshirt if they can find a guy they like.
- I actually screamed out "CARL" at one point in the overtime. I never use first names. I think I have a problem.
- The open thread on the game logged 1271 posts and 24k views; I am 100% positive the first is a record for MGoBlog 3.0.
- More on individuals a bit later; I'll take a look at next year soon.
If you're looking for some punishment, the Daily has comprehensive coverage with a game story, column suggesting that the team's late-season run is something to hold on to, a piece on the missed(-ish) opportunities in the first overtime that spelled doom, and a piece on the "questionable, disappointing" no-goal call. Too bad they misspelled "outrageous" and "soul-crushing." Also there is a flickr set.
*(not a typo, and no, I'm not apologizing)
As expected, Michigan basketball guard Manny Harris has elected to forego his senior season with the Wolverines to declare himself eligible for the NBA Draft. Press release quotes from Manny Harris and coach John Beilein:
"After long discussions with the U-M staff and my family and friends, I have decided to pursue my dream of professional basketball and leave U-M early for the NBA," said Harris. "It is important for me to thank the University of Michigan, Coach Beilein and his staff, my teammates, my professors, as well as all those in the athletic department who have helped me over the last three years. My growth as a person and player wouldn't have been possible without them.
"I will always appreciate the college game and what it has done for me, but playing professional basketball has always been a goal and I feel it is the best time to pursue that. I will always be a Michigan Wolverine at heart and bleed Maize and Blue forever."
"Manny believes it is his time to move on to the NBA and we fully support him," said U-M coach John Beilein. "It was a tough decision for him and we are prepared to assist him in every way we can as he begins this new chapter in his life. Manny has assured us he plans on successfully finishing this semester, which would put him in a position to graduate from Michigan with just one more academic year."
"In three short years, Manny has compiled outstanding career numbers in points, rebounds, assists and steals -- milestones many very good players do not reach during a four-year career. I have many fond memories of Manny's time at Michigan. He has been clutch in so many big wins we certainly will miss him however we wish him nothing but the best in his professional basketball career and beyond."
That's mostly boilerplate, obviously. A few notes from the press conference, with bonus DeShawn Sims material as well:
- Regarding his draft stock: "I believe the work you put in is what you get out." He's not worried about his projections for the draft, and will simply work hard to achieve his dream of playing in the NBA. If that means he has to play in Europe or the D-League first, he's willing to do so.
- Harris plans to hire an agent, and will not be able to return to Michigan next season. He will keep working out with Michigan's coaches and strength staff to prepare for the NBA.
- Manny said it's very hard to leave Michigan, but at the end of the day you've got to make a decision. He consulted AAU coaches, old high school coaches, and family and friends.
- Manny stressed that his relationship with Coach Beilein is good (despite butting heads with him a few times this year), and he will always support the program and Michigan. Playing the 3 position at Michigan is "a great experience," and he would encourage any talented guard to come play at Michigan. Beilein's probably happy about that, as he said, "If there's a kid out there who will help us replace Manny, we'll recruit him."
- For all Manny did for this team, Beilein pointed out that it's his clutch free throw shooting that the team might miss the most.
- DeShawn Sims said that Manny feels like he's been around longer than his three years, because he's had to bear so much responsibility from the beginning.
- DeShawn will definitely attend the Portsmouth Invitational. He's working out in Ann Arbor with Michigan's coaches and Manny to prepare for the NBA.
- Sims said that next year's team will be improved because the players will understand the system, and chemistry will be improved. He noted that poor chemistry might have been the source of some of Michigan's troubles this season.
Bork. Daily photostream.
Currently in Fort Wayne and about to go explore the wonders of central Indiana—as indicated by my mysterious tweet, the War Memorial Coliseum is hosting the Indiana Alpaca Invitational next weekend, which I would totally go to if it was in Jackson.
Bork! Good thing the enormous Swedish flag made it out here. It would have been a shame not to have it during the few minutes in the third when Hagelin took over and turned the game from terror incarnate into a pleasant victory. It was retroactively weird to watch Hagelin wind up on his own blue line and think "this can be a breakaway" when two Beaver defensemen were a good twenty feet in front of him, but that's exactly what happened. There were a couple other shifts when he was just flying all over the ice. He's equaled Ortmeyer in my book.
Apparently he's a lock to come back next year, which is good. Not getting a senior year out of him would be heartbreaking.
Ice conditions: wack. Apparently the Miami players laid into the ice quality at their postgame press conference and in the stands you could tell something was wrong by the number of people plain falling over. At first these were mostly UAH players and given the rest of their play it was within the realm of possibility that their skating just included a lot of falling over, but when a bunch of Miami players got in on it that was proof enough. In the second game it seemed a little better but not much.
Refereeing: thoroughly wack. My favorite was the crosschecking call when a BSU guy was on a partial break and no one on Michigan could have cross-checked the guy if they had go go gadget arms, but the chintzy roughing penalties paired with an uncalled boarding on BSU that could have been five were second. Third was Hagelin getting two for getting hit after the whistle. He's Swedish, man.
This John Gravallese guy is one of those refs who makes his calls like he's bringing Truth and Justice to hockey. Just make the calls like a robot, thanks. This goes double when the calls in question are questionable to outrageous.
Hunwick: !!!. I thought "that's a goal" like four times in that game and Hunwick made three saves (the other whistled over the net), most of them impressively agile reactions to rebounds or passes. That was an excellent game, and not "for a walk-on." There was even a significant reduction in the number of shots kicked into the slot to linger and terrify.
Turnovers: guh. I didn't really mind Llewellyn's penalty since it seemed to be one of those that get called for hitting a guy too hard, but he was the culprit on a couple of late-game turnovers that would be considerably worse if they happened against Carter Camper. Burlon was the other guy who seemed to struggle. He let a BSU guy wide on their first real scoring chance and Hunwick had to make two quick saves in succession. No one should ever get around a guy who skates like Burlon.
Miami: flat? I don't know. They dominated according to shots and play but they didn't score an even-strength goal against a bad team, only got their second PP goal because of some hilariously bad play from the UAH goalie, and didn't seem to have a huge territorial advantage at 5x5 after the first ten minutes. Miami resistance in the neutral zone was minimal in the second and third during the brief stretches UAH wasn't killing a stupid penalty. Maybe that was a strategic move… but their performance didn't make me think the CCHA semi was a fluke.
Not that I expect 5-1, Temporarily Benevolent Michigan Walk-on Tolerating God. I'm just saying that I don't expect the ice to be slanted much either way and this is way more of a coinflip than you'd think given the season-long metrics on both teams.
NCAA: lol. There are video boards at the arena. They never show replays of anything.
Fitness? The Miami game was at least close enough that the Redhawks couldn't take the third period off, but I'm slightly worried that all those penalty kills will take their toll. At points late in the second Michigan looked really tired and the fourth line took considerably more shifts than I expected in a game with an extra 2:30 of commercials every period. A lot of people were complaining about fourth lines being nonexistent with the extensive TV timeouts, but Michigan's took a regular shift. Diabolical plot to be fresher today or penalty-kill-induced damage mitigation?
Atmosphere: meh. I really like the War Memorial Coliseum, as it's one of those buildings where the seats go straight up and the sight lines are great, but announced attendance yesterday was 4k. I can't wait to see the dozens of people who make the trek out to St. Louis next year.
It's time to go to home sites for top seeds. As I was flicking through the channels on Friday to see what ESPN2 was televising instead of NMU-SCSU in overtime, I struck upon a Division II women's basketball game between Emporia State and Fort Lewis. It was packed out. It was in a 2,300 seat arena. It had way better atmosphere than frickin' Albany. The Frozen Four can fill an NHL building. The regionals obviously can't.
The NCAA should got to a system where schools submit bids at whatever arenas they want as long as they meet certain standards and the top seed in each regional to submit a bid that meets approval gets it. This avoids the "what if Huntsville gets a one-seed" problem.
Please win tonight. K thx.
A home game is now in the books as Michigan downed the IPFW Mastodons for a three game series sweep. Michigan brought the offense, collecting 47 hits for 30 runs. IPFW was the bad team that was expected, and our players didn't disappoint, at least on offense. Pitching had some less than stellar moments, but in the end, the guys that got into trouble kept the losses to a minimum.
Game by game review, series thoughts, and a look at Tuesday's Eastern Michigan game follow:
Rumors flying, with an official decision Monday:
"I'm going to make my decision on Monday," Harris told The Daily this afternoon in a phone interview.
He declined to comment further.
General feel is that this presages a departure, possibly an irrevocable one. I'd think Manny would at least leave the door open for a return based on the returns from predraft camps. If he doesn't, that says a lot about his relationship with Beilein, IME.
At least there's that. Darren Everson has a great piece on Michigan's recent malaise and the hockey team's bounce-back that won't have much news for anyone who's lived through this year but is a great summary if you need to explain why you're sitting in the bathtub clutching yourself to someone who's not a Michigan fan.
Mary Sue Coleman shows up at the end to provide a throwaway quote, prompting a complaint from Dave Birkett about her tendency to show up in the WSJ but turn down local requests. This is probably because the WSJ asks her questions like "Do you like to win?" and local papers are more likely to ask eleven questions in a row about the threat Demar Dorsey poses to local schoolchildren. You must lie in the bed you have made.
Give me back that filet of goalie. Give me that goalie. If you've been watching the NCAA tournament you, like me, must have the bizarre Filet o' Fish jingle stuck in your head. There is but one thing as persistent this day:
Shawn Hunwick had a decision to make:
Go to Albion and become the school's first goaltender, or ...
Walk-on at Michigan. [ed: this story manages to spread one sentence over three(!) paragraphs, which must be a record.]
For the few moments the blinding television lights remained locked in on him, Shawn Hunwick played it cool.
In almost three years at Michigan, Hunwick played exactly 18 minutes of college hockey. But he never complained, never skipped, and never asked for playing time. He just kept his mouth shut, and did his job.
There is also an article from [NEWSPAPER REDACTED]. It covers exactly the same ground as the 37 other articles about Shawn Hunwick. Give me that fish.
Berenson's locked Hunwick in an electrical closet since the CCHA finals in a desperate attempt to keep his head on straight. We'll see if it works. Hunwick finds the electrical closet roomy, by the way, and thinks it's an honor to be in an electrical closet at Michigan.
Meanwhile, Louie Caporusso on avoiding that Air Force thing again:
But according to Caporusso, the formula for avoiding an early exit like last year is simply “shooting the puck on net with a purpose.”
“If we give him a lot of confidence and start building him up in our head, then it’s only going to make it harder on us,” Caporusso said. “I find if you brainwash yourself to believe that they don’t have a good goalie, you’re better off putting the puck in the net.”
The final countdown. Center Jon Horford just signed on, replacing Ben Cronin's wonky hip with a rail-thin post with some touch near the basket and good passing skills.
I don't want to steal too much of UMHoops's thunder as Michigan approaches what will be a critical couple weeks for the basketball program, but a high level overview: Michigan has two scholarships open and they may fill both of those slots despite the jam that would cause in the class of 2011. The candidates:
- Mount Pleasant SF Trey Zeigler. Ziegler is similar to Manny Harris, but higher rated on average. He is down to a top five of Michigan, Central, State, Arizona State, and UCLA. Complicating factor: his father is the head coach at Central Michigan. Zeigler could sign up to help his dad, whose job security is shaky.
- Detroit Denby SF Isaiah Sykes. Sykes can't shoot but he can get to the rack at will and is in the 6'5" range with long arms and a feverish desire to rebound. He has no offers after a high school career that saw three transfers; he didn't even play the first half of this season.
Michigan will obviously take Zeigler if they can get him. Sykes is the wildcard. Beilein's been to a number of his games recently, spurring both UMHoops and AnnArbor.com to get video and scouting reports on the guy. If Zeigler ends up going elsewhere—the tenuous conventional wisdom is that it's probably CMU or M—I can't imagine Beilein won't offer Sykes and end up with him.
Would Michigan take Sykes if it got Zeigler, though? Maybe. Michigan could free up another scholarship in 2011 for a post if they did not offer Laval Lucas-Perry a fifth year, and it's possible they wouldn't have to do that if someone transferred because of a lack of playing time in the aftermath of Zeigler, Sykes, Hardaway, and Smotrycz (who will push Novak from the four to the two and three) arriving. If I was Beilein I'd make my decision on Sykes independent of Zeigler.
The spring signing period starts in two weeks.
And fin. There was some hubbub in the comments when Michigan State reinstated a number of players who participated in the PREWB. Included were BJ Cunningham and Mark Dell, the highest profile participants not immediately booted. This set Dantonio up for a buffeting.
Why I can't figure. State has lost eight(!) players as a result of the PREWB, and six of them hadn't had previous run-ins with the law. This is not like Glenn Winston's reinstatement. None of the guys who are back on the team got any jail time; just about every program in the country would have done the same thing.
You can hammer Dantonio for two things here: letting Winston back on the team after months in jail after an unprovoked attack on a pair of innocent bystanders, lying about Roderick Jenrette's freshman year suspension. The actual handling of the aftermath here seems appropriate. Both guys who played in the Alamo Bowl, by the way, are gone. That wasn't on Dantonio.
While we're on Michigan State: they've got a goofily named quasi linebacker on their depth chart too. They've got a "STAR" listed and might be moving to a 3-4, or some other defense with three dedicated down lineman and an array of hybrids.
Happy trails. The Blue Gray Sky is packing it in. This site's relationship with those guys fell off a cliff after we did an article exchange before the '05 M-ND game. Mine was a description of my experience after the painful 2002 loss, after which a young child came up to me and literally said "good game, mister" as if I had fallen into Pleasantville. I added in some stuff about Notre Dame's program not being very good, which was basically true, and how this made Michigan's rivalry with them frustrating because they did things like lose two of three to Ty Willingham.
Theirs deployed "Skunkbears" and actually featured these two sentences:
Yost was but the first in a litany of men of low character to hold the reins at UM. ... Gary Moeller was frustrated that he couldn't pick Notre Dame up, drink it, and then drive into a ditch.
It was kind of like punching your brother in the arm and getting a baseball bat to the head in return. Suffice it to say there were no more article exchanges.
Even so, BGS was one of the first blogs to materialize out of the ether and when they weren't dredging up apocryphal stories about people who have been dead for 70 years, they were drafting incredibly research-heavy pieces I was jealous of. It must have been nice to have a blog with eight or so contributors; one of them could just hole up for months and come out with a precise breakdown of formations organized by down and distance. I can't find that in particular, but I did find their "Four Plays" series, which was a 2006 version of Picture Pages on steroids. They were good. They were Notre Dame fans who posted on ND Nation, but they were also good.
Etc.: Dennis Dodd says "if there were ever a coach to root for, it's Rich Rod." Is that a good thing?