"What (Michigan coaches) told me is that they're focusing on point guards right now, but if anything opens up, they'll definitely come back on and recruit me as hard as they were," said Towns
If anyone on MgoBlog is like me, this is the time of the year you start thinking about possible Away Game Road Trips for the upcoming Michigan Football Season. It would be great if I had the time and money travel to every away game, staying in a hotel at a prime location for a long weekend of bars and football, but I’m not at that point in my life right now. I (like most others) have to find a balance between time, effort and cost in deciding which away games to attend. The following information is to help people with their planning and hopefully you guys can help me with any advice you may have. These away games are a huge part of my Michigan Football season, and I have always said that one away game equals three average home games. I love visiting the towns, meeting the opposing fans and hearing a nearly silent stadium every time Michigan scores a touchdown. Go Blue!
9/1 vs. Alabama
Getting There: 1203 miles/ 19hrs. 29min. Flights from DTW: $471+
Where to Stay: 20+ hotels available within 4 miles of the stadium at $50-$324/night
Early StubHub Prices: $315+
My Take: My first reaction when I heard about this neutral site game was “I wish it was a home and home”. I would have paid almost anything to travel down to Alabama. I can’t justify paying $1000 for air fare, $600 for a hotel, $600 for two tickets and a couple hundred for a rental car. That’s almost $2500 for a couples days with a football game thrown in. Yes, I could have extended the trip and maybe drove down to Austin to make a vacation out of it but that’s a lot of money for Texas.
9/22 at Notre Dame
South Bend, Ind.
Getting There: 169 miles/ 2 hrs. 55 min.
Where to Stay: 6 hotels available within 2 miles of the stadium at $269-$420/night
Early StubHub Prices: $315+
My Take: South Bends close proximity to Ann Arbor makes this really tempting. I would probably drive there in the morning and tailgate all day. Then drive home after the game. $300 is a lot for a football ticket but given the fact that my only other expense would be food, gas and parking, it would actually be one of the least expensive away games to attend.
10/6 at Purdue
West Lafayette, Ind.
Getting There: 296 miles/ 5 hrs. 4 min
Where to Stay: 1 hotel available within 2 miles of the stadium at $244/night
Early StubHub Prices: $70+
My Take: I already booked my hotel room for this game. Purdue is an easy ticket to get and a laid back stadium atmosphere. This is the first time I’m staying in West Lafayette. I’m staying at the Holiday Inn Downtown and I have been told that there are bars and restaurants within walking distance of the hotel. The last time I visited Purdue for a game we drove down that morning and arrived two hours before the game. We drove back immediately after the game. It was a long day but still a great time.
10/27 at Nebraska
Getting There: 748 miles/ 12hrs. 38min. Flights from DTW: $453+. Another option that I am considering is taking the train from Ann Arbor for $109 roundtrip (17 hours).
Where to Stay: 2 hotels within 1 mile of the stadium. $225-$600/night. 16 hotels available 1-3 miles for the stadium at $43-$346/night.
Early StubHub Prices: $219+
My Take: I’m definitely going! I have family that lives five minutes from the stadium. Yes, ticket prices are expensive but not having to pay for a couple nights at a hotel easily offsets the ticket price. I have friends that are also making the trip to Lincoln that have said the hotel choices are pretty bad. They said that you either pay a ton for an average hotel or you are staying in a dump. They actually opted to stay a 30 minutes outside of Lincoln.
11/3 at Minnesota
Getting There: 650 miles/ 11 hrs. 29 min. Flights from DTW: $316+
Where to Stay: 10+ hotels available within 2 miles of the stadium at $80-$150/night
Early StubHub Prices: $99+
My Take: I have never been to Minnesota but I love the fact that they have their own outdoor stadium now. With affordable tickets and cheap hotels, I will definitely be making a trip up there sooner rather than later. Other than the Mall of America, I know absolutely nothing about Minnesota.
11/24 at OHIO
Getting There: 191 miles/ 3 hrs. 11 min.
Where to Stay: 11 hotels available within 2 miles of the stadium at $75-$230/night
Early StubHub Prices: $323+
My Take: This would definitely be a “get in and get out” type of road trip. I know everyone has their stories about Columbus but I have to get down there for a game one day to see for myself. Again, tickets are and will always be expensive to OHIO, but at least it's close and you don't have to stay the night.
* all mileage is from Ann Arbor*
I hope this has got everyone thinking about their 2012 Away Game Road Trips. So where are you planning to go this year?
Michigan Hockey: 2012 Recuits
|Boo Nieves||Right Wing||Indiana Ice||6'3||185||Left|
Our top forward prospect in the 2012 class is Cristoval "Boo" Nieves and he is a guy to get excited about.
If we were going by a star system for recruiting, which hockey does not use, he would be a borderline 5* prospect. Scouts love his balance of size, speed and playmaking ability enough to call him Top-30 prospect in the upcoming NHL entry draft. The only knock against him was his decision to play his senior year at Kent Prep instead of at a higher level, although he will be joining the Indiana Ice as his high school season has concluded.
He has the ability to make an impact right away for Michigan no matter which line he plays on. Whether it is taking the spot vacated by Luke Glendening or on a lower line, he will be able to provide scoring that was not there. It's just a matter of how fast he adjusts to the speed and talent at this level that decides how much of an impact he has.
|Daniel Milne||St. Mike's Buzzers||5'11||175|
Daniel comes into the 2012 season as quite an unknown, as you can see the chart is much smaller for him because I could not find any specifics out about him.
One thing is certian though, this kid can play. He played Junior A hockey for the powerhouse St. Michael Buzzers finishing with a 16-31-47 line. The Owen Sound Attack thought highly enough of him to trade up and take him in the third round of the OHL draft, despite him only being 17 years old.
Because of my inability to find film or relevant information regarding position, I can not say what role he will have in the 2013 season. I do feel like he can be a huge sleeper like Phil Di Giuseppe was for us last season, and like I said with Nieves any scoring done on the fourth line is an improvement for Michigan.
|Justin Selman||Right Wing||Souix Falls||6'1||187||Left|
Our third forward recruit in the 2012 class comes to us from Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. Not a huge prospect in terms of the scouts buzz, but he is listed as a prospect who can sneak into the draft in the late rounds.
As a player who is known more for his physical play, Justin will most likely start on the 4th line and work his way up. He is the perfect candidate for the Vaughn/Lebler breakout player of the year down the road, as a big bodied forward who plays on the checking line until having a 20-30 point senior season.
|Jacob Trouba||Defense||NTDP/USA U20||6'2||194||Right|
All Hail the gem of our recruting class. He started his season with the NTDP before moving up to the U20 team.
Jacob Trouba is expected to be drafted very early in the upcoming NHL entry draft. Just from looking around at various mock drafts he looks to fit in around the 8-11 range, which means nothing because it is an internet mock draft but still gives us an idea what kind of player we have.
As of this point we do not know the role Jacob will play for the Wolverines yet, that is because we do not know the status of Jon Merrill and Lee Moffie. If they stay the pairs could look like this; Merrill-Moffie, Bennett-Trouba, Clare-Serville, with Chiasson and Carrick picking up extra minutes at the end. If they do not stay Trouba becomes a necessity and is first pair the second he gets on the ice.
Either way most people have him as a one-and-done prospect and I don't see anything that would challenge that statement. He has great offensive ability, great speed and is a physical player with outstanding vision.
He will be our highest drafted defensmen since Jack Johnson and it was a miracle we got him for a second season, so much that Carolina traded him because he wouldn't come up. That was a very uncommon situation so don't expect it to happen again.
Here is another player Wolverines fans should get excited about, because he is about as underrated as you can be. Carrick is a shutdown defenseman who is praised for his hockey I.Q. He will be drafted, but it remains to be seen where.
A smart blueliner with great puck skills and good size, Connor will anchor the Wolverines defense in the future. With a large group of D-Men coming back this season he will have to earn his playing time, which I think he can do. Look for him to get minutes on the third pair to start out, before working his way up later in his career.
Jared comes into the 2012 season as the presumed starter. He is a very good goalie but scouts looked at him as a developmental prospect, not a goalie you want to throw into the fire from day 1.
With that being said Josh Blackburn is an excellent coach who developed Sauer, Hogan and Hunwick, so if anybody can get Jared playing at a high level fast it's Josh. It doesn't hurt that he could have one of the deepest bluelines in the NCAA next year in front of him.
Expect a battle for the top spot between Jared, Janny, Dwyer, and newest goalie Steven Racine.
|Steven Racine||Goalie||Georgetown Raiders||6'0||180||Right|
Steven is the darkhorse in the Great Goalie Competition of 2012. After a few rough seasons in the USHL he really hit his stride playing for Georgetown (OJHL), going 15-0 last year and posting a GAA of 1.66 and a SV% .938. He is a little older than Rutledge coming in at 21.
It's no secret Red loves big goalies and Racine fits the mold. I really believe he is going to make a big push for the starting spot, If not we have a good solid netminder to build around for future teams.
It was a relatively quiet week in recruiting—in fact, there were no commitments for any team until the weekend—but Rivals did update their rankings with a large group of three-star prospects, so the numbers are a little less wonky this time around. Changes since last rankings:
3-24-12: Notre Dame picks up Colin McGovern and Hunter Bivin.
3-25-12: Wisconsin picks up Austin Ramesh.
UPDATE: Notre Dame picks up Mike McGlinchey and Malik Zaire.
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||24/7 Avg||Avg Avg^|
^The average of the average rankings of the three recruiting services (aka the previous four columns). The figure is calculated based on the raw numbers and then rounded, so the numbers above may not average out exactly.
NOTE: Unranked recruits are counted as one-star players. This may be a bit unfair this early in the process, considering there are many unevaluated recruits out there at this stage, but that's life.
On to the full data:
This is my first Diary entry. Go easy please.
UPDATE - Since the team got a huge makeover within hours of me posting it, I thought I'd make some update in the wake of the three transfers. I've updated the table with thoughts on the transfers and what it means for the other players. At the very end I have some thoughts on recruiting needs. As for Burke, if he leaves for the NBA (an unwise decision in my mind) then you can burn this piece and ask Illinois fans how it feels to miss the NIT because that's where we'd be headed without a single ball-handler.
Brian stole a lot of my thunder with his comprehensive game recap before I could get this posted, but I think there’s enough to discuss here that the post is still worth doing.
I considered breaking this long post up into in a series of smaller posts, but I suspect that there will soon be a flood of “looking toward next year” content in the Michigan blogsphere so I might as well get it all in now to launch that discussion.
I think there are three parts to any premature basketball preview and I’ll cover two of them here – player summaries and biggest off-season questions. The third, conference outlook, has to wait until the dust settles on the NCAA Tournament and the NBA draft deadline passes. Without further ado, let’s get started - which means….
Oh boy – not another alter ego voice.
Yep, that’s right – much like Temptation without War Chant you can’t have a long diary on MGoBlog without an alter ego chiming in.
Does that also mean we need a…..
…..Chart? Yes, yes we do. Below is a chart full of player summaries that touches on two critical aspects of the 2012-2013 season: what should the player be working on over the summer and what is a realistic outlook for their role next year?
|Player||He should spend all summer.....||Next year he will.....|
|Trey Burke||Breaking a hard hedge. Ask students on campus to run a hard hedge against him while he's walking to class. Learn how other teams defeat it while it cripples Michigan at times.||
Play 90% of the time and be a contender for conference player of the year.
UPDATE - ....realize what a great decision it was to stay at Michigan.
|Tim Hardaway||Dribbling!! His shooting should stabilize and he played well down the stretch. More rebounding would be nice, but he needs to be a reliable ball handler next year to take pressure off Burke and reach his star potential.||
Be the team's leading scorer and show more consistency with his outside shot, but will still have a couple plays per game that drive fans and coaches nuts.
UPDATE: ....searching for a mid-major out east where he'll be happy. Apparently he was unhappy and struggled with the rigors of a big time program and academic institution....though this is a big loss for Michigan and a shocking one to me. He would have been the starting PF and the third best player on the team.
UPDATE: ...take a redshirt season and wonder if he made the right choice leaving an offense that was perfect for him and a team poised to make another title run.
|Jordan Morgan||Doing layups and having Mike Barwis teach him to jump from flat footed.||Get the chance to be the starter but will get a quick hook if he's struggling with McGary and Horford breathing down his neck.|
|Matt Vogrich||Dribbling with Hardaway. Someone has to be an alternate ball handler and Vogrich has one last chance to be more than a role player if he can show the ability to handle the ball.||
Reprise his role as jump shooter off the bench. He may get a chance to start early in the year but is best suited to his 7th man role where he can park in the corner and hit 3s.
UPDATE: Needs to play more with Hardaway since GR3 will spend more time at the PF spot.
|Jon Horford||Rehabbing his foot and practicing a mid-range jumper. Of the three centers in the rotation he's the most likely to have the skills to play PF in this offense.||Compete with McGary to be the back-up center, sometimes getting 20 minutes per game and sometimes playing the McLimans 5-10 minutes for rebounding and shot blocking.|
|Mitch McGary||Learning the nuances of the offense from Jordan Morgan. McGary will step on campus with significantly more skill and talent than Morgan but needs to match his ability with the pick-and-roll in order to earn significant minutes.||
Start the season as energy off the bench and will have the opportunity to get significant minutes. Some fans will be disappointed at a pedestrian freshman season, but the outlook will be bright.
UPDATE: I still see him purely as a center, but maybe JB will break out a twin towers offense without Smotrycz.
|Glenn Robinson III||Learning from Zach Novak how to be Zach Novak. GR3 has a chance to be the spark off the bench at either forward spot and will have far more athleticism than Novak, but he could use a lesson in grit to help fill the void left by the captain.||
Be a significant factor in how far the team goes. Needs to spell Smotrycz at the 4 or play the 3 at times,
UPDATE: He's now slated to start at PF unless Jon Horford has a huge off-season or Bielfeldt surprises.
|Nik Stauskas||Learning from Stu Douglas how to play the second guard spot in this offense. Much like the other freshmen, Nik will be more talented than Stu, but has to fill his role to be truly effective early in his career.||The favorite to start at the SG spot and be the second ball-handler the team needs. Could play more minutes than anyone other than Burke and Hardaway if he shows he's ready for that role….and Michigan probably needs him to be.|
UPDATE: Follow McCallum around the Detroit campus instead? The skepticism about his role in this offense was apparently warranted - hopefully he can find a better fit.
UPDATE: Enjoy his redshirt season at a smaller school.
Shooting mid-range jumpers. There's an opportunity for minutes at the PF spot for someone who can hit a midrange jumper and mix it up inside a little.
UPDATE: Needs to enter the season trying to prove he could be the starter at PF.
UPDATE: Best case he will have a Morgan-like leap as a RS-Freshman and grab the starting spot. Worst case he needs to be good enough to play 10-12 minutes per game competently.
|Blake McLimans||Learn to run the pick-and-roll. He played some critical minutes with Horford out but the offense bogged down with him on the floor. His best chance at staying relevant would be to play PF and show he can run the offense.||
Learn to enjoy the view from the bench because unless Ted Valentine and Ed Hightower ref the same game it is unlikely that we'll need a 4th string center next year.
UPDATE: May see a few minutes per game at PFsince he can shoot and knows the offense.
Learning how to swing a rally towel or working with the genetics department to reconfigure himself into a back-up point guard.
UPDATE: I guess we didn't need the genetics department to turn him into a PG, his transfer should allow us to sign one to take his spot.
UPDATE: Enjoy Division-2 basketball?
Wow – that was a lot of reading and a lot to digest. Let’s break it down into some critical team areas now.
What is the biggest reason for optimism heading into the off-season?
Simply put – Trey Burke. He will be a contender for conference player of the year and would likely be on his way to the NBA lottery if he were a measly 3 inches taller. He should fill the leadership role vacated by Douglas and Novak well and gives us a chance to win every game we play.
UPDATE: Try not to think about him leaving....it will just make you cry.
Having depth and recruiting talent will make the season interesting, but Burke will ultimately determine how far this team goes. He had an amazing freshman year, but there is still a lot of room for growth on both ends of the court. Solving the various high-screen defenses he saw will allow him to be more dominant and open up more opportunities for his teammates.
What is the biggest reason for concern?
This is a more complex thing to address, but allow me to answer in the form of a question – who is the second ball handler on the team next year?
Wait – I ask get to answer a question for a change? Okay – I’ll say…..uh….hmm….that freshman with the funny name?
Nik Stauskas is the one you’re thinking of, and he’s a popular choice. But he’s a freshman and is also 6’6” tall. When was the last time you saw a good ball handler taller than 6’4” at Michigan? Jalen Rose 20 years ago?
In my opinion, finding someone to handle the ball besides Burke is the biggest concern going into next year. Douglas (and to a much lesser extent Novak) filled that role perfectly and Michigan doesn’t have a back-up point guard stashed on its bench. Maybe Stauskas will be the answer we’re all hoping for, or maybe Hardaway and Vogrich will improve their handles well enough to fill this role, or maybe Brundidge makes a huge leap forward – hopefully someone does. Otherwise opponents will just press full court and double Burke until someone else shows they can handle the ball.
UPDATE: Did I mention that thinking about Burke leaving would make you cry?
Who is the most important player next year (besides Burke)?
Obviously Burke comes first because we’ve established that there is no other option to run the offense and he’s so sensational. It may also be obvious now that Stauskas, despite being the lowest rated incoming recruit, may be the next most important player on the team. He needs to fill the 2-guard role on both ends of the floor well enough to play major minutes given the other options. If Stauskas struggles to earn minutes, there will be a large void at the guard spot – a big problem in a guard oriented offense.
Hardaway is critical for the team to succeed, but there are other players to help when he goes into his funks. Smotrycz needs to show that he can be a consistent threat playing his natural position and be the third scoring option for the team, but he’s already shown that to some extent and there are other options if he struggles. McGary isn’t as important given the depth and experience at center. Stauskas is the one player who fits nicely into the offense as the second guard and has the biggest shoes to fill.
How excited should we be for McGary? Is this going to be like the Fisher era with Vaught, Mills, Webber, Howard, Taylor, and Traylor? (on the court, not off)
Well, I’ve personally lowered my expectations for him and I think most fans would be wise to do the same. From the videos I’ve seen he’ll be a great addition to the team with his size, athleticism, rebounding, and hustle…..but not an all-conference contender anytime soon. He looks like a bigger, better version of Jordan Morgan – which is great, but not the next Webber. I suspect he’ll be a solid contributor and play a lot of minutes but won’t stuff the stat sheet until his sophomore year.
Wait a minute – he’s Michigan’s best recruit in a really long time and you’re bashing him?
No, I think he’ll turn out to be a great college player if he stays for2-3 years but will not make the immediate impact some are expecting. There are several reasons:
- Big men take longer to adjust to the college game, even though he’s old for his class.
- He doesn’t yet have a jump shot that will make him versatile, making him purely a center in Beilein’s offense and not a power forward. But Michigan’s offense doesn’t feed the post players like MSU or an NBA team would. He’ll have to get his points like Morgan does – which is fine but limits his upside.
- He’s stepping into a crowded center competition with two guys that know the system and have contributed in the past.
I actually think McGary may have the smallest impact on next year’s of all the recruits given that both Stauskas and GR3 are better fits at replacing the void left by the seniors. McGary will contribute and be fun to watch, but lower your expectations to fully enjoy it rather than wondering why he isn’t dominant.
Speaking of McGary, how is the center depth chart going to play out?
This is going to be fascinating since Beilein only historically plays one true post player and now has three players worthy of ample playing time. Even Tom Izzo with his deep bench only plays two true centers. I think Morgan will remain the starter for a lot of next year but I like Brian’s 15-15-10 prediction for minutes with McGary splitting equal time. Let’s sit back and enjoy the ride – we’ll never have to worry about foul trouble, teams with a lot of height, or seeing McLimans or Smotrycz play critical minutes at center.
What do you think the rotation will be?
I thought about predicting minutes per game, but Brian did an admirable job of that already. Instead I’ll talk in generalities. Here’s the rotation as I see it:
- Morgan (on a short leash)
GR3 (energy off the bench at the 3 or 4, replacing Stauskas or Smotrycz)
- McGary (essentially getting starters minutes)
- Vogrich (basically the same as this year, maybe a few more minutes at best)
- Horford (the 3rdstring center still averaged 8 minutes per game this year)
Brundidge (a few minutes spelling Burke)
Christian(suddenly one of these two needs to play a fair amount of minutes at PF)
Wow – that rotation sounds like something to be excited about!
That’s a true 9-man rotation, dwarfing the deepest rotation Beilein has ever had at Michigan, and a few spare parts that are still viable options.
UPDATE: Until another recruit joins the incoming class (more below) that's still possibly a 9-man rotation if Bielfeldt steps up or McLimans plays more at PF.
Next year is going to be a unique experience for this program with the depth, talent, leadership turnover, height, and relative youth. The B1G will be as tough as always, but Michigan should be a contender once again, even if there are some growing pains early in the season.
UPDATE: So we suddenly have scholarships to offer...what should we do with them?
Obviously we should take one or maybe two guards and whoever the coaches feel is deserving of a scholarship. There has been plenty of speculation at MGoBlog or UMHoops about players who may be available, so I won't spend too much time on specific names since no one really knows and no one has an official offer.
What I will say is this - I want a true point guard in this class....and I don't care what their star rating is, how big they are, whether they have pro potential, or any of that stuff. I think every team needs a back-up PG who can play 10-15 minutes per game where he runs the offense, doesn't turn the ball over, plays good defense, and hits the occassional open shot. The kind of guy who will play four years, possibly all of them as a back-up, work his tail off, be thrilled to play for Michigan, and be a great insurance policy if the starter can't play. Everyone needs one of these types of players and we're sorely lacking one. Even if Burke stays another year, we still will only have one PG the following year and that person would be a true freshman.
I can think of two perfect examples of this - Travis Trice at MSU and Stilman White at UNC. Both were undersized 3-star recruits surrounded by higher ranked players and lacking any other major offers. Both players stepped up with a few minutes per game when their teams needed it. Both will be around for three more years being solid system guys. We need one of those.
Of all the names mentioned so far, Spike Albrectch seems like the closest fit to this role. He's a true PG who has lead both his AAU and Prep teams to a lot of success playing a ton of minutes. He's played with many of our two best incoming recruits. He can hit a three pointer if left alone. And he's essentially the same size as those two examples listed above. Maybe there are better choices out there and if so I hope the coaches can sign them. If not, I'd gladly welcome Spike to fill that role.
It was loud. It was dramatic. It was legendary. It was historic.
It was the weekend Jed Ortmeyer achieved greatness. It was the weekend a mascot was ejected. It was the weekend Ron Mason coached his last game, and Ryan Miller played his last game. It was the weekend the CCHA Humanitarian of the Year almost murdered a dog. It was the weekend Denver stole Michigan’s locker room. It was the weekend the NCAA reconsidered its regional hosting policy.
It was one of the greatest sports experiences of my life. And incredibly, it was ten years ago this Friday.
You wouldn’t have expected this if you watched the first game. Ron Mason’s Spartan squad played so lifelessly against Colorado College that they forgot to even pull the goaltender (Michigan arch-nemesis Ryan Miller) until it was too late. I was preparing for a standard, slightly-louder-than normal playoff game against St. Cloud when I heard it: the chant that irrevocably signaled that the weekend would be among the most memorable in Michigan history.
“WE WANT MOLLY!”
“WE WANT MOLLY!”
“WE WANT MOLLY!”
On March 22 and 23, 2002, the six-team NCAA Hockey West Regional came to Yost Ice Arena. The teams were Denver, Minnesota, Michigan State, Michigan, Saint Cloud State, and Colorado College. The two days of hockey that those teams produced comprised the greatest weekend in the history of Yost. You can find the results in a database, and the results will tell you that Minnesota beat Colorado College and that Michigan beat Denver to advance to the Frozen Four. Those were the results.
This is the story.
The Molly Game: Yost at its Craziest
Michigan was a four seed drawn to play St. Cloud State as a 5 seed, a rematch of the West Regional final from the year before in Grand Rapids. Early pregame talk about the game surrounded St. Cloud’s inability to win in the NCAA tournament (the program didn’t win a game until 2010) and Michigan’s presumed home-ice advantage.
The conversation changed when the Michigan Daily picked up a quote from SCSU on-ice cheerleader Molly McGannon, who told the St. Cloud Times that she was treated poorly by Michigan fans in Grand Rapids. Her quotes spread all over town. “They’re horrible people,” she said. She further predicted that, on Michigan’s home ice, “They’ll be worse.”
She was right.
The initial team warmups were a normal affair, but as soon as the Michigan team left the ice and the band had concluded its pregame rendition of “The Victors,” the two sections reserved for Michigan students erupted in loud “WE WANT MOLLY!” chants. When Saint Cloud cheerleaders and the Husky mascot, Blizzard, emerged from the entrance behind the north goal, the noise became a roar.
As the cheerleaders performed their standard pregame routine of skating around in circles and waving pom-poms, the students showered them with catcalls and insults. It was loud, menacing, and for the husky mascot, infuriating. The routine ended as the Saint Cloud players took the ice from the north endzone; the students began waving and howling “Ooooooooooohhhhhhhhhh” expecting them to depart promptly. They did not understand that the cheer team procedure involved remaining on the ice almost until faceoff; following their exit, cheerleaders traditionally entered the grandstands for the hockey action during the period.
The cheerleaders would not be entering the stands at Yost.
Michigan took the ice and began its customary counter-clockwise warmup skate. Star defenseman Mike Komisarek noticed that two cheerleaders were standing in formation on Michigan’s half of center-ice, and as he skated around he very deliberately lowered his stick and tapped the back of the girl’s skates, nearly causing her to fall. After “The Victors” concluded students resumed taunting the cheer team, whose members were now so psychologically shattered that they could only exchange terrified glances at each other.
During player introductions the cheerleaders continued to be jeered on the ice, occasionally interrupted by the introduction of players. When each Michigan player was introduced, the mascot would skate up to them and take fake-swings at their heads with his hockey stick while spewing taunts. He was not being ironic.
Following introductions, the cheerleaders finally left the ice to a muffled C-YA chant as the teams huddled around their respective goals. The Husky, however, refused to leave, and a linesman eventually had to corral him and physically escort him to the north exit, behind the goal Michigan was huddled around.
That’s when the mascot speared defenseman Brandon Rogers.
And that was when backup goaltender Kevin O’Malley, who was named CCHA Humanitarian of the Year just the week before, launched himself toward the exit. He went fully airborne, blasted straight through the linesman, and attacked the mascot just inside the door. It was total chaos.
Then the actual game started.
It was a good one; Michigan charged to a 3-1 lead in an electric first period, chasing Husky goalie Dean Weasler. Enigmatic freshman winger Milan Gajic scored the goal of his life, a behind-the-back spin-pass to himself behind the goal followed by a gliding skate out front and a roofed shot. But the moment everyone remembers was this one, perhaps the best hit in Michigan history, served by the peerless Jed Ortmeyer.
St. Cloud crept back into the game, trailing only 3-2 in the third, but star forward Mark Hartigan missed a wide-open net after deking past Josh Blackburn. St. Cloud could not recover, and Michigan won 4-2.
It was time for Michigan to play #1 seed Denver.
The Denver Game: Yost at its Loudest.
Michigan’s new locker room, still a sparkling part of the facility, was much nicer than the other three locker rooms available for regional competitors. In the week leading up to Regionals, Denver made a stink about this and Michigan was ordered to vacate its locker room and allow top seed Denver to use it.
After the game, Red Berenson said, “Maybe they shouldn’t have taken our locker room away.”
This game doesn’t get the legendary treatment of the game the day before, but it was my favorite part of the weekend and one of the best sporting events I have ever witnessed. Many fans who were there say that it was the loudest they’ve ever heard Yost Arena; the only game that comes close was the ’98 regional game against North Dakota.
It was a wonderful game. That ’02 Denver team was terrific, and they played a defensive, checking style very similar to the MSU teams of the era. Goalie Wade Dubielewicz was a dominant player, and after their WCHA title many favored them to win the national title.
After a scoreless first period the teams traded five goals in the second. Michigan seemed to be in good shape up 2-1 until Mike Komisarek attempted to kill a penalty by grabbing the puck and throwing it 150 feet down the ice; the resulting 5-on-3 allowed Denver to tie the game, and they took a 3-2 lead a short time later.
Denver never gave away third period leads--they were 28-1 when leading after two. The crowd was nervous, or at least subdued; I was terrified. This was it, the season on the line, needing a goal against an impenetrable team.
Eric Werner tied the game 4:47 into the period. The crowd was back. Raucous “Go! Blue!” chants traded sides. Every hit was cheered, every shot exhorted. Michigan took control of play, but as the clock ticked down overtime seemed certain.
Jed Ortmeyer did not come to Michigan as an exceptional offensive talent, and NHL scouts never drooled over his physical attributes. He had the face of a teddy bear. There were always players on Michigan who were more imposing, players who were better skilled. But Ortmeyer was a remarkable leader and a tireless worker. And he lived for these moments.
With less than two minutes left, Mike Cammalleri fed him the puck in the neutral zone...
(Look closely for the Michigan player who pulls the net off its moorings to allow the rest of the team to pile on top of Ortmeyer. Red trains smart players.)
Ortmeyer’s goal blew the place up. I’ve attended UM-OSU football games at both venues; I’ve been to games at Texas A&M and LSU; I’ve been to Red Wing playoff games; but I’ve never been in a place like that. The audio on the recording simply does not convey how ear-bleedingly loud Yost was. The Denver players couldn’t look away from the crowd--they were beaten, it was over, and they knew it.
Often forgotten, the officials stopped the game for ten minutes to deal with a timekeeping problem. The crowd roared unceasingly throughout the stoppage. When retiring rink announcer Glenn Williams gave his celebratory “You’re Welcome!” to the students, they went nuts. When Eric Nystrom flipped a puck from center ice into the open net, the place went bonkers again.
At the conclusion of the game, after the handshakes, Ortmeyer organized an improptu fan salute, before it was a regular procedure. The players gathered in the center circle and faced outward, grins on their faces, and raised their sticks in the air. The crowd gave one last, deafening cheer. Triumph.
What a weekend.