Ok, ok, ok. The Big Ten added two impressive scalps to its resume over the weekend in #3 Arizona and #2 UK. Wisconsin also scared the living daylights out of #1 UNC. Crow away, BT partisans, as no matter what happens the rest of the way, the conference has had the best tournament of any in the tournament, period.
The mild annoyance of another Spartan run in the tournament is mitigated by the further proof it provides that Douche Sharpe has no idea what he's talking about, ever. EVER EVER. I have nothing but antipathy for Michigan State and all it stands for (in summary: beer and timekeeper cheating), but I have to note that MSU's senior class has handled itself with nothing but class for every moment of their four years, has won an awful lot, and has never popped their damn jerseys. Anyone disputing their achievements, or the way they got them, is an idiot.
Well, I managed to see the final two periods of the CC game, and needless to say, I wish I hadn't. My posting was delayed by more stupid computer issues, but honestly I don't think I would have anything to say over the weekend anyway. Nothing other than my best Droopy Dog impression, anyway.
That one hurt, worse than any Michigan game I've ever watched except maybe the OT loss to Minnesota in the Frozen Four. Up 3-0 halfway through the second, playing extremely well for the second night in a row... and then it all fell apart, starting with Brandon Rogers' idiotic boarding penalty to put Michigan down two men. CC scored off a fluky bounce on the ensuing power play when Nystrom blocked a CC shot and the puck went right to the tape of Sertich and into the net and Michigan started pulling back. I won't detail what happened next in an effort to preserve my failing sanity. Read a recap if you like.
Anyway, a second night of absolutely atrocious refereeing from HE's Hansen did not help matters. Hansen, who is either a moron or a communist, missed a slew of obvious calls and absolutely cost Michigan the game when he allowed an obvious high-stick deflection to stand for a CC goal and then failed to explain it to the Michigan bench in any satisfactory way. They even reviewed the goal and for a second night screwed Michigan out of a goal. Why bother to even review goals if you're going to get it wrong anyway? If Red won't say it, I will: the state of refereeing in college hockey is absolutely unacceptable. Nearly every game is a disaster, even in the NCAA tournament.
That's not to take credit away from a very good CC team. They're talented and disciplined, but I think Michigan takes 7 of 10 from the Tiger, which is what makes the whole thing so awful. Michigan was looking like national champions.... and then... nothing. I had Michigan figured for Columbus about halfway through the game, but I suppose with all the miracle comebacks Michigan's foisted upon other teams throughout the years--96 North Dakota, 98 Denver, 99 Denver, etc, etc, etc--it was bound to come back and bite Michigan eventually.
In conclusion, bleah.
Right, right, the Big Ten has three teams in the Elite Eight of the bouncy bouncy tournament, which is vindication of a league that was maligned all year for being composed entirely of autistic ducks or whatever, according to a bunch of people.
But... not so fast, my friend! Let's look at the murderer's row of opponents the Big Ten has dispatched:
#12 Old Dominion
#11 Northern Iowa
#10 NC State
That's two teams from major conferences and one team that was expected to make it past the first round. MSU's win over Duke is impressive, but anyone watching over the past couple weeks could have told you that the paper-thin Blue Devils were ripe for the taking, especially with JJ Redick doing his best Gavin Groninger impression during the tournament.
Now come the tests. Illinois has a dangerous Arizona team up next. MSU has a deep and talented UK team (with extra special Joe Crawford drama!). Wisconsin will be up against North Carolina. If two of these teams make it into the Final Four, begin crowing with gusto, Big Ten partisans. But don't pretend that because Wisconsin and Illinois can totally claim that they're way better than a bunch of double digit seeds that the league didn't deserve the rap it got.
As predicted, Michigan throttled Wisconsin tonight 4-1. The Badgers were never really in the game, going down 4-0 before scoring a meaningless goal with under five minutes to go in the game. Michigan outshot the Badgers in the first period 18 to 4 and controlled the entire game save for a few instances of sustained pressure Wisconsin managed in the second period.
There was absolutely no criticism that can be made about Michigan's performance tonight, but the same cannot be said for the referee, Hockey East's Hansen, who let UW get away with hooking, holding, and the whole variety grab-bag of interference penalties the entire night and refused to call numerous dangerous instances of boarding and charging by UW. A properly officiated game would have seen UW playing a man down the entire game. That wasn't even the worst of the officiating atrocities tonight. The worst was an obvious Chad Kolarik goal being ignored by the video replay judge. Why have the replay if you are going to completely ignore the evidence presented to you?
Anyway, Wisconsin reminded me more of an overmatched CCHA team with no offensive clue than a high-powered WCHA dynamo. That expected WCHA dynamo will show up tomorrow when Michigan faces off with Sertich, Sterling, and, oh yeah, a bunch of other guys in Colorado College uniforms. The NCAA's top four scorers will all take the ice tomorrow, with the CC duo running 1-2 and Tambellini and Hensick following up in third and fourth, respectively, after a combined 7 points tonight.
Should be a barn-burner, but CC will have to play much better than they did in squeaking by what should have been an overmatched Colgate team 6-5 with a late third period goal. It says here that they will, but Michigan will come with fire and brimstone and grind out a solid victory.
Did anyone else notice that Cincinatti had a player named Jihad Muhhamad? Are you kidding me? That's like naming your newborn Saudi Arabian infant "Crusade Jesus." I'm just saying it wouldn't go over very well.
Hey, look, Amaker's on TV for some reason. "Defining Success" by American Express. Apparently American Express defines success as "missing the tournament entirely." Also, Amaker hasn't changed his hairstyle since he was at Duke.
Since Snowbird, Utah has a) high speed internet in its hotel rooms and b) not much else, I find myself with some time on my hands, as is usually the case after breakin' yoself skiing. I managed to catch the CCHA championship game against OSU and now offer some belated thoughts.
I thought the game was quite encouraging going into the tournament. Michigan ran over OSU, outhitting them signficantly, which almost never happens when Michigan runs into a physical OSU-type team. Usually Michigan contents itself with getting a little beat up and winning anyway. Not so against OSU. Nystrom, Brown, Ryznar and company were all over the ice stapling Buckeyes to the boards. Nystrom has begun to assert himself as captain on the ice in a way that is somewhat reminiscent of Ortmeyer. Michigan will need to sustain that physical play against a tough Wisconsin team that plays a lot like the Buckeyes (only one BILLION times better because they are from the holy WCHA).
Also encouraging was Montoya's play. It was the first very good game I've seen from him probably all year. He couldn't possibly have stopped either goal and made several good saves. He wasn't forced into making a great one (except maybe a pad-stack off a rebound). No shakiness occurred and was not tempted to scream "get back in the net!" even once. He looked, dare I say, focused. I know, I know. I talk the crazy.
The bad, well, I shudder at the prospect of Sertich and Sterling rushing into the offensive zone against just about any of our defenders, should the anticipated CC-Michigan matchup occur. Moss was missed. His return for the tournament is still up in the air, and followers of this blog know the irrational affection I have for the heady Moss. But there isn't a whole lot to dislike about the OSU game, to be honest, and I have high hopes entering the NCAA tournament.
I believe I'll be able to catch the game tomorrow, but I will be on a plane for any hypothetical second-round game until about six, so I will miss maybe half the game, perhaps even more if Northwest Air screws up, but, come on, what are the chances of that?
Don't answer that.
Anyway, my predictions for this weekend: Michigan throttles the reeling Badgers, and wins against CC by shutting off Sterling and Sertich and peppering McElhinney. Columbus awaits.