that is nice bonus change
Visit from some guy. Someone at TSN—the Canadian ESPN, eh?—took in the Saturday Notre Dame-Michigan game and reported back in volume. Yost did not burn his ears off:
t's been a long time since I last traveled to Michigan's Yost Arena to see a hockey game, as I did on the weekend, and it was about as much fun as I remembered.
The road trip weekend with longtime friends Geoff, Brian and Sparky was a blast, as the energy in Yost Arena makes it a must-see for hockey fans.
I remembered thinking that it was really cool to have a band playing Hail to the Victors during the game the last time I was at Yost (to see the Western Michigan Broncos upset the powerhouse Wolverines in the early 1990s) and it still seemed that way now as the combination of the band and student section kept things lively throughout and was rip-roaring during the third period.
It's kind of novel to have a third party report back without breaking down into tears after hearing Yost's PG-13 penalty cheer (which I still think should be stopped or modified but holy crap some people need to chill).
Elsewhere the guy claims that college hockey "stifles creativity," probably because he's watching a really good Jeff Jackson team. (He does disclaim with "at least on this night.") That's an annoying criticism, as college hockey has a rep for deploying little skilled ninjas that can't find a home in the rough and tumble CHL, or whatever, and that's used as a tool to bash the development potential of college hockey. But when you get a game like Michigan-ND, that's stifling creativity. You can't win.
Le sigh. This doesn't make me feel better and probably won't make you feel better, but Mike Spath has confirmed with CCHA officials that both calls against Notre Dame were incorrect. The first:
The official ruling from the CCHA is any puck directed in by a skate, regardless of intent, regardless of kicking motion or not, is not allowed. However, the call on the ice was a goal because no official saw the puck deflect in off the skate.
So that Miller goal earlier in the year was correctly waved off (despite what appeared to be an allowance for it in the rules) and the CCHA has basically declared all goals that come off an attacking player's skate to be null and void. Okay, the officials on the ice missed it—annoying—and they weren't allowed to use the angle that clearly showed the kicking motion—also annoying but not their fault.
It's the waved-off Michigan goal that really gets me:
The neutral-zone referee thought he saw the net come off and blew the play dead before the puck crossed the goal line. …
CCHA sources admit that the neutral-zone referee should not have blown his whistle when he did, remarking "You have to trust your partner and the deep-zone referee, in this case, was in the proper position to make the call. You only act in that manner if your fellow official isn't in position, if he fell down or is racing down the ice." So essentially, the official on top of the play did not blow the whistle and was rendered useless when the neutral-zone referee blew the whistle prematurely.
There's your two-referee system in action. Here it was actually the veteran ref, Brian Aaron, who assumed his partner six inches from the net couldn't tell if it was knocked off. And even if he didn't the proper action was to let anything not obvious go and review it later. The net never even trembles in the video. Very frustrating.
Meanwhile, Spath predicts Mitera plays against Ferris State and no sooner. He is "behind schedule" according to Red.
Wait, does this mean Scooter has cancer? New Big Ten director of officials Bill Carollo talked with ESPN's Adam Rittenberg recently. Naturally, the Brandon Minor touchdown-like-substance against Michigan State came up:
The good news is no one's died of cancer on that play at Michigan because the right team won the game. Had a mistake with replay given six points when we shouldn't have or vice versa and decide the game, it would have been a much bigger problem. So we were a little bit lucky.
Indeed, and it goes down with the Domata Peko fumble return as the most egregiously awful but thankfully meaningless touchdowns in Big Ten history. I still maintain that the league's policy of staffing the replay box with decrepit ex-officials is a bad idea. Sure, have some guy who knows the rulebook inside and out up there (or, in this case, doesn't) but pair him with someone still amongst the living.
History of shirtless creepy panic. Bleed Scarlet has an excellent piece on how recruiting came to be the way it is, and a roundtable I answered a few questions for. I'd like to highlight this idea cribbed from Vijay of iBlog For Cookies:
Do you favor an early signing period in college football? Would such a proposal help or hurt prospective student athletes?
Brian Cook - “Sort of. I’d like a nonbinding letter of intent program. You sign it and 1) you can’t take official visits to other schools and 2) other schools are not allowed to contact you in any way whatsoever. You can rescind it at any time up until the official signing date. This system seems a lot better than the current one — you’re not really a commit until you sign, and that has some meaning — but doesn’t lock players in any earlier than they get locked in now.”
Anyone see any issues with this setup? I think it's a bulletproof improvement on the free-for-all we've got going now.
Another quick roundup of goings-on:
SC OL Quinton Washington doesn't know what to do. It's either M or South Carolina for him, but there are sources on both sides declaring optimism. For his part:
Washington was supposed to meet with his coach Art Craig today at school but Washington did not come to school. "He's a confused young man right now," Craig said. "He's torn completely in half," between USC and Michigan. Craig said he and Washington are to meet Tuesday morning to discuss the situation.
Washington could announce whenever. Yesterday he wore a South Carolina hat on, uh, "Hat Day." Which I didn't know about. Isn't someone supposed to tell me when Hat Day is?
OK DT Pearlie Graves isn't going to Oklahoma. This is good, but it may not get us entirely out of the woods:
Tulsa East Central defensive lineman Pearlie Graves apparently no longer holds a scholarship offer to Oklahoma, according to the recruiting Web site Rivals.com. Graves, a four-star recruit,had been planning to take an official visit to OU this weekend. Instead, Graves will probably end up signing with Michigan, with whom he’s been committed since November.
Not sure whether the offer was pulled because he didn't visit or he didn't visit because his offer was pulled. However, Texas Tech is supposed to be pushing hard and the insiders are basically saying "I don't know."
SC DE Sam Montgomery cut Michigan.
Though I don't have any new public info on Stokes, Witty, Robinson, and DeQuinta Jones, a quick scan of any Michigan message board will reveal considerable pessimism or even downright panic at some last-second shifts in the recruitment of Stokes and Robinson; since Michigan was the presumed leader in both recruitments that's bad. That strong finish of 3-4 good prospects now seems like a longshot. Here's some Robinson fluff, though. (Via Varsity Blue.)
1. I'll be on WTKA at 4 PM today with John U Bacon. Recruiting will be a main topic of discussion, and we may get into other things.
2. I am going on a fairly ill-timed vacation starting Thursday that will last until the 15th. In my stead there will be a number of guest posters: Dylan from UMHoops, Tim from Yost Built, Tim from Varsity Blue, various Wolverine Liberation Army posters, MVictors, the Hoover Street Rag folks, and others. There should be content every day, and I'll be able to check in at least a few times throughout the course of my absence.
Ball transfer with 19 minutes left in a close contest:
"Something must be done about Michigan basketball … [Beilein] must get control of his program."
Flying elbow with under a minute left in a twelve-point game:
"There was nothing wrong with Hansbrough going after that rebound. There was nothing wrong with him trying to score, or with Henderson fouling him. The problem was it was an excessive foul. The rule as written has nothing to do with intent. I don't think Henderson intended to hurt him, but that's not the issue. It was a foul that was too hard. It doesn't make either of them bad kids."
It's been brought up again and again since Tommy Amaker was deservedly fired: Jay Bilas has completely lost his head about Michigan and shouldn't talk about them, ever. Two years ago ESPN ranked the most underachieving programs from 1997 to 2007, and Michigan was #1 with a bullet. Bilas left them off his ballot entirely. A month earlier he attempted to paint the Michigan basketball program as a decrepit wasteland completely demolished by sanctions then ten years old. Midway through Beilein's first season Bilas laid into some harmless comment by Beilein in a manner so stupid it drew a fisk from Jim Carty, who at that time was not a blogger but a sportswriter. Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski picked it up, too:
The more Bilas shills for Amaker, the more people in basketball laugh at him. Unlike Amaker, Beilein never had the ultimate coaching godfather to pick up the phone and get him a job.
“C’mon Jay, that is terrible,” an NBA scout who watched Amaker’s team regularly in the Big Ten emailed me this week after reading Bilas’ blog rant. “Almost laughable, really.”
Even when Bilas is attempting to defend his ridiculous comments about Michigan in the wake of the Harris ejection he fabricates:
"I respect his right to protect his kid and stand up for him, and I respect that, but that doesn't mean I have to buy it. I don't buy it. I saw (the play) 100 times. That's not a basketball play. That's not the way the game is played. How many games are played every day, high school, college or pro, and players execute rip-through moves, and how many noses are broken?"
This is in reference to Beilein describing it as a basketball play. Bilas leaves something out, though:
Players and coaches from both sides said afterward they thought it simply was a "basketball play." Kramer said he didn't consider it a "dirty" play.
Both Painter and Kramer said they saw nothing dirty in the play. Again: Bilas is suggesting that Harris intentionally clocked Kramer in the face because he was frustrated with 19 minutes left in a game Michigan was leading. But Gerald Henderson didn't intend to hurt Tyler Hansborough when he gave him a flying ninja elbow in garbage time. One of these things is "not a basketball play". The other doesn't consider itself a basketball play, it considers itself a leader.
Every time Bilas opens his mouth about Michigan he flushes more of his credibility down the toilet.
Etc.: Carty goes to town on Bilas on WTKA.
1/31/2009 – Michigan 49, Purdue 67 – 14-8, 4-6 Big Ten
1/31/2009 – Michigan 2, Notre Dame 3 – 19-9, 13-7 CCHA
One of the eternal mysteries of sport to me is why no player has ever lost his mind and gone Tropp on one of the referees. I put myself in their position, having worked so hard my entire life for this one goal only to see some gym teacher ruin it all, and just can't imagine the white-hot blinding rage I'd feel in their situation. You'd think self-control would fail at some point, and there would be An Incident. But, no, apparently not.
The closest thing in my memory is Rasheed Wallace threatening a ref on a loading dock behind some NBA reason or another, but that doesn't quite fit. This is Rasheed Wallace we're talking about here. 'Sheed is one spaced out cat, and it's one thing to clock a guy in a fit of pique during an event and something entirely different to calmly wait for the game to end, shower, get dressed, and then scare the ever-living hell out of some guy with your Cheshire Cat grin and weird bald spot you take everywhere with you because it is attached to your head. (Is there anyone on the planet you would less like to be threatened by on a loading dock? This is a 6'10" man nicknamed "Roscoe" who looks slightly deranged even when he's happy.)
I digress. Saturday was a bad day to be a Michigan fan. It's one thing to lose. It's another thing to lose partially, largely, or entirely because of the incompetence of a referee. And in two separate, critical games refereeing incompetence ruled the day, costing Michigan dearly.
This is a foul and was adjudged one until such point as Scrappy Heady IQ Head For The Scrappy Eckstein started gushing blood out of his nose and the Purdue crowd cried out, at which point it was cause to boot Manny Harris. From there Michigan imploded. Given the results of the past few weeks, they were probably going to implode anyway. But good God.
Incident two has not found its way to the internet, but incident three has. Collectively were even more damaging. One was a Notre Dame goal obviously kicked in that not one of the four people employed to observe these things noticed. The second was a puck lying in plain view of one of the four people employed to observe these things that was blown dead the instant before it was stuffed into the net. By a guy at the blueline. Who then reviewed the play and told Berenson the reason the goal was no good was because the net had been dislodged. A quick calculation reveals that 2 + 1 is larger than 3 – 1.
Red Berenson came as close as he ever does to losing his cool:
"I'm not here to discuss the officiating, but this was a big series, and obviously you want top officials here, but they were two great college hockey games."
Which, you will note, is not very close at all. The Wolverine has some elaboration:
"That's the part as coaches – you can't question the officials but there was definitely a question about the goal that went in off the player's skate," head coach Red Berenson said. "It wasn't under the review camera so they couldn't see it and we had to go by the referee's judgment and that's not always as accurate as it might be. It's disappointing because it was a close game and came down to one goal.
"[On the disallowed goal] that's a tough call because the puck was loose."
Meanwhile, Michael Spath—normally very professional—declared the ruling "ridiculous" in that article.
Both of these games, then, were vexing. Extremely vexing. The fact that one followed right after the other and a spectacularly irritating Notre Dame fan was seated directly behind me at the hockey game combined to make Saturday night one spent searching for a local farm with an emu to punch. Or, you know, basically any sort of flightless, eminently punchable bird. I would have taken a chicken or an ostrich or, I don't know, a cow with big ears. No luck. I was just vexed.
It's not like this stuff is ever going to get better. Someone's got to do these games and if all you've got are Aaron and Hall and Wilkins and Hightower and Bova, you're just going to get hosed periodically. And that's all you're ever going to get because these guys have full-time jobs at which I hope they are considerably better than their weekend ones. (Otherwise there are a lot of crappily organized floor hockey teams around, let me tell you.) But even if regular vexing at the hands of college referees is a given that doesn't make it any less frustrating when it happens.
- UMHoops is one of many to go to the rulebook in an attempt to figure out what it says about ejecting some dude. See also: Varsity Blue. Meanwhile, the Ace of Sports is just pissed.
- Yost Built channels Chevy Chase.
BULLETS OF AAAAAARGGHGHGHGHGHGH
- Jevohn Shepherd's lack of playing time is even more totally inexplicable now. Maybe he can't shoot, but no one can so let's play the 6'5" guy who's scoring pretty efficiently, eh?
- Manny Harris was like 1 for 6 and had five turnovers by the time he was booted. I don't think that's a major reason Michigan lost; they were always likely to regress to their mean and get run out of the gym. Harris is going backwards in a major way. There can no longer be any serious debate about it.
- That spectacularly irritating ND fan was a punk high school kid and, I'm 99% sure, one of the three NTDP players playing for ND next year. At one point he attempted to respond to someone heckling him by saying "if my grades go good [sic] you'll see me on the ice next year." Also, there were a couple other kids with him who were just obviously hockey players. Everything from their 100% Hollister wardrobe to their lingo made it obvious. Also obvious: punk high school kid was attempting to memorize the details of his fake ID.
- Aside from the vexing hose job, the hockey weekend was a productive and encouraging one. They won on the road solidly. They outshot and outchanced Notre Dame at home. Michigan is now tied for fifth in the Pairwise and still has a shot at a top seed if they maintain their level of play over the homestretch of the season. Plus, Mitera should be returning in two or three weeks.
- Okay, the last time we saw Scooter Vaughn he was taking a major for delivering the year's dumbest hit, and the time before that he was responsible for two Michigan State goals in the 5-3 game at Munn, but surely Tristin Llewellyn could use some time on the bench to reflect on the dumb roughing penalty he takes every game, no? Llewellyn's getting walked on a regular basis and doesn't seem to bring much other than the occasional hit.
- There is zero reason to limit review to the goal cam when there are other options available. The concern about "inconsistent enforcement" is a weird one: surely a system that gets as many calls correct as it can is more consistent than one that ignores plain evidence a goal was kicked in because Lake Superior State's game isn't being televised this weekend. More correct calls = good.
|WHAT||#8 Michigan H&H vs #1 Notre Dame|
|WHERE||Joyce Ice Arena (Friday)/Yost Ice Arena (Saturday)|
|WHEN||8:05 PM Friday, 7:35 PM Saturday|
|THE LINE||Uh… do they have college hockey lines?|
|TELEVISION||Friday on CBS College Sports, Saturday on FSN|
Michigan's currently third in the CCHA by percentages—they trail a few teams on which they have two or even four games in hand—and seventh in the pairwise. Though Notre Dame has all but clinched the regular season CCHA crown, this coming weekend means a great deal for the team.
One: it's Notre Dame. Screw those guys in the ear. Two: this is probably the best team Michigan will play all year. They're 19-3-3, unbeaten in 20, #1 in the polls, and a solid #1 seed in the Pairwise. Three: this is the team that knocked Michigan out of the NCAA tourney. See earlier statement about ears and screwing therein. Four: it's hard to tell exactly what's going to go down with the wacky Pairwise this early, but a sweep here and Michigan—believe it or not—is well-positioned to acquire a #1 seed when the tournament arrives. (For one: it'll be really tough for ND to win the comparison when they're 0-2 against M, pending a potential matchup at the Joe.)
About that sweep, though: the last time Notre Dame lost was October 25th. Miami completed a weekend sweep of 3-2, and since then it's been 17-0-3. Though ND's competition since hasn't been rough—mostly bad CCHA teams with UMD and BC interspersed—any win streak of that length says volumes about a team. Michigan just gacked one away to BGSU, after all. This team is the class of the league and perhaps the nation, and if we're being honest with ourselves a split would be just fine thanks.
The key to their success? They really don't give up that many goals. They've given up more than three just one time the entire season, and that was in the season opener (a 5-2 loss at Denver). They've only given up 3 goals on five occasions. They've held an opponent to 0 or 1 goals on fourteen occasions.
That bodes unwell for a Michigan team that has struggled to score against teams as weak as Northern Michigan, Western Michigan, and Bowling Green. First goal will be even more critical than it usually is.
I assume we'll see Hogan, since the last time Michigan ran up against Notre Dame Billy Sauer went all Nickelback on us. (Side note: that post is on the first page of Google hits for "Nickelback sucks"; I could, if I so chose, declare victory and retire a satisfied man.)
Mitera inches closer. Mitera has hit the ice at Yost with the team. Red would like you to hold your horses, though:
"It’s good, but Mitera’s not ‘back’ back,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “It’s all a matter of getting into full practice, full tempo, full intensity and then full contact. I think he’s fine. It’s just a matter of him and the doctors getting confidence.
“He looks fine and he feels fine, but he’s not in shape.”
The Daily links an earlier article in which Mitera said he was aiming to return for the last weekend of the regular season against Ferris, but the latest info from Mel Pearson projected Mitera to return as early as two weekends from now against Nebraska-Omaha.
Return of the jack. Corey Tropp has returned to his USHL team, although he remains "enrolled" at Michigan State. He plans to return next year, but that's not decided:
The plan right now is we’ll sit down and talk at the end of the season. They have to make a decision and I’ll have to make a decision on what I think’s best for me.
Tropp does not come off well in that interview, BTW. Red said his last bit on this stuff, if you're interested in that. (Hoover Street Rag also has a comprehensive recap of the various and sundry reactions.)
Meanwhile, Steve Kampfer testified in court about that other head trauma and Bruce Kampfer has been banned from "most buildings on Michigan's campus"—I bet he can still go to the FXB! Michigan also plans yet another of their periodic crackdowns on potty-mouthed Michigan students:
On Thursday, an e-mail was sent to U-M students reminding them of the warning printed on the backs of their game tickets, which in part reads that "management reserves the right to eject any person whose conduct management deems disorderly, obnoxious or unbecoming. ... We will eject, without warning, individuals who use profane language and/or make obscene gestures."
While I sympathize with the administration about the issue, (if not in the specific instance that occurred Saturday) the way they go about this is the same half-ass tough guy thing every time. It never works and it won't work this time either. Kicking out a dozen kids doing the penalty box cheer does nothing. Either carrot-and-stick the whole student section—and there should be a "carrot" part—into compliance or give up.
(Kampfer testimony HT: Michigan Hockey Net.)