I started photographing Michigan sports in Spring of 2012. I had just finished my Sophomore year of Undergrad in engineering and wanted to do something with my photography skills, so I joined the Michigan Daily. The 2011-2012 season was Michigan's 22nd consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament. Photographing this 2012-2013 team was obviously a very special opportunity for me and one that I was excited about.
But apparently I was a curse that led to a three year NCAA tournament drought. Or at least many have told me this. Sorry, guys.
But this weekend the curse was broken as Michigan played in the NCAA Tournament in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Since most Michigan could not make the trip, I wanted to make a Diary that gives a feel for what the atmosphere was like. Away games/environements have always intrigued me. Unfortunately I chose the last game of the year to start one but better late than never, right?
The Notre Dame game was a fun preview of the years to come. Fans of both teams travelled well. When teams took the ice, it was a battle of the bands with the fight songs. "Let's Go Irish" chants were drowned out by "Let's Go Blue" chants, and vice versa.
Not every Michigan player dressed, but they did all travel. As a fan, it's tough watching your team go into overtime because there's really not much you can do. As a player though, it must be much worse. They looked far more nervous than any fan (as seen above).
Unlike the Big Ten Tournament, plenty of Michigan fans showed up to cheer on the team. This was to be expected, as Ann Arbor to Cincy is about 4 hours, versus 12 hours to St. Paul. The stadium still wasn't full and the upper deck was tarped off, but there were certainly enough there to create a decent atmosphere.
The hockey bands really gave the college sports atmosphere. The arena still played RAWK MUSIK (actually it was a lot of hip-hop mash-ups that they probably pulled from a YouTube playlist), but hearing Notre Dame and Michigan's fight songs back-to-back was a refreshing sound. Even the Northeastern band traveled quite well (as did their fans, though to a lesser extent than all the other teams).
Speaking of Northeastern, they were thoroughly handled by North Dakota. Despite scoring the first goal, they found themselves down 5-1 in the 2nd period to UND. The above photo pretty much sums up the game.
Steve Racine played lights out all weekend. This save above was a wrap-around by Notre Dame in overtime that was saved by the blade of Racine's skate.
Moments later, Michigan scored, players celebrated, and Notre Dame fans went home looking sad.
The next day, North Dakota fans arrived with strong energy. Though they are now officially the "Fighting Hawks", "Let's Go Sioux" chants echoed all game long.
Also in attendance: Michigan AD Warde Manuel. I don't think he changed facial expressions once all game.
Sioux Fighting Hawks had some supporters from Ohio, too, celebrating in front of some Miami (Oh) and OSU fans. Something tells me they were cheering more for not-Michigan rather than North Dakota.
"Fighting Hawks" doesn't appear to be catching on any time soon.
If you're looking for a moral victory, after the North Dakota player scored he got taken out by the ref. So there's that.
It took until the 3rd period for North Dakota to take a 4-2 lead in this game. They dominated most of the pace and you couldn't help but feel that it was only a matter of time until they went ahead. In the first period, shots were 22-5 in favor of North Dakota. The players received a lot of support as they left the ice, Racine especially.
Red Berenson gave no mention of retirement at his press conference. He did applauded the efforts of his seniors, and praised the efforts of North Dakota. Could this have been his last post-game press conference?
If you were unable to attend the tournament in Cincinnati, I hope this has helped give you a feel for what it was like! A thrilling overtime win over Notre Dame and 2.5 periods against one of the best teams in the country made for an exciting weekend of hockey. (This is also my first Diary post so go easy on me!) I'd like to make more of these when I travel to away games in the future.
See you in the Fall!
If this is Goodbye, then thank you for our program [Patrick Barron]
BIG TEN CHAMPS [Patrick Barron]
I thought Michigan's offense was very lively tonight. They played another skilled team and had the better scoring opportunities. The game went through stretched of carrying play for both teams, but it seemed that Michigan was able to consistently get deeper and closer to the slot for their chances. Shots on Target ended close to even, but I think Schierhorn stopped a few more difficult opportunities.
This was definitely a game for the CCM line, most of the damage coming on the Power Play. However, the game-tying goal in the early third was something to behold. Compher has just been a wizard with the puck the entire season. With a guy in his sweater, he had a cross-ice pass to an open Connor who just ole'd Schierhorn (who probably played the situation correctly) from inside the dot and beat the charging defenseman to the post, sneaking the puck in the open net. Adam will have fun with that one. It was the Hobey cherry on top of his Hobey sundae season. He has 35 goals and 34 assists. He is NOT JUST A SHOOTER. Connor now has an nine point lead on the second place point-getting...his center, JT Compher, who has a six point lead on their linemate, Tyler Motte. Compher also leads the nation with 46 assists, 8 more than 2nd place. Connor and Motte are first and second in goals with 35 and 31, respectively. Michigan has NINE players with double digit goals; nine players with 20 or more points; and six skaters with 30 or more. I don't know what else to say about this offense.
Another terrific game defensively for the Wolverines. Again, they allowed 33 shots to get to Racine, but -just like yesterday- most of them came from a distance and away from the dangerous areas near and in front of the net. Minnesota does have quality players and did generate a few nice scoring chances, but Michigan limited them -for the most part- to what Racine was able to see and stop. Also, Piazza looked just fine playing for a suspended Downing. Compher talked about the first goal in the intermission, saying that it was on a forward not locking up the trailing Bristedt (who notched his 20th of the season...no slouch there). The defensemen seemed to have dramitically improved in the second half of the season (minus the OSU series), looking more comfortable on the puck, riding attackers away from the net, and staying sound defensive position. I'm starting to believe that this level of defense can take them far.
Goodnight Minnesota [Patrick Barron]
Michigan top Power Play line is just bonkers. The entire Power Play is nuts. They were 14 of 25 in the last five games entering the B10CG. And went 3 for 4. 17 of 29, 59% in last six games, now. The top line gets all three goals, tonight, as Motte, Compher, and Werenski all score...Werenski with the winner late in the 3rd. Its really not even just the goals. There were multiple opportunities where the puck could have easily gone in before it actually did. The puck movement and passing is just incredible. Each player knows where to be and seems to be in slow motion as the pass always seems to go to the open player...the entire point of a power play. You honestly just cannot take penalties against this team.
Michigan did a fantastic job staying out of the box, tonight, conceding only one man advantage. Unfortunately, they were unable to get the kill. Minnesota kept the puck in the zone the entire time and eventually Compher lost his stick. The puck soon found its way to an open shooter on JT's side and Racine really didn't have much of a chance. You don't like to give up Man Advantage goals, but if you're only in the box once, I can live with that.
Steve Racine was fantastic, tonight. And actually, he has been for a while. He's been criticized for a few clunky goals allowed -and he's had a few- but he's also saved the day on more occasions than are credited to him. Again, the defense was sound for the most part, keeping the majority of shots away from the dangerous areas, but Racine was up to most of the ones that leaked through...including flashing the glove and stoning Tyler Sheehy midway through the third to keep the game tied. He also had a ridiculous kick save off a deflection a few minutes later.
You can probably place a little blame on him for the second goal. While it does appear that there was some contact to his pad/skate, he looked a little gumpy and slow trying to get back across the crease to defend the wraparound. I don't think it was entirely on him, but that was definitely very awkward. It also might have been Martin that hit him, making the entire sequence rather unlucky. Other than that, he was very strong to start and end the game
BONUS: ODD MAN RUSHES
I only had two. There were a couple I was close to tallying but decided against it. The first was late in the opening period, a 3v2 with De Jong and Piazza back. Nothing of note came of it. The second was a little dicier. A neutral zone turnover lead to a 2v1 that Martin made a perfectly time dive to smother the pass and take the puck to the corner. This is very good. I will keep taking this.
This happened a lot (Patrick Barron)
**Since Adam and I are doing a rather interesting behind-the-scenes hockey stats project, my access to Michigan Hockey has increased expotentially. There is still a lot of working out how everything will come together and what it will reveal but we're both pretty excited. Since we've began to look at some that stuff, I figured it might not be a bad idea to reflect some overall ideas on a per game basis for the Michigan Hockey team. This may develop, stay remotely similar, or disappear completely. Hopefully, more of the former. We'll start with four areas and go from there.**
If you've followed Michigan Hockey this season, there's really not a lot left to describe about this offense. They generated 57 shots on target, last night, rather evenly throughout the game (18, 22,and 17). Many of these looks came from dangerous areas: around the crease, in the slot, and inner halves of the faceoff circles. Kyle Connor had 2 more goals; Boo Nieves also had 2 on Senior Night; Motte, Werenski, and Selman each tallied a couple of assists, as well. As will be emphasized throughout, Penn State only dressed 16 skaters. There's no question that this played into Michigan's ability to control play all night long.
As seen by the previous section, Penn State basically had 3 lines and 3 pairings. Michigan's defense, for the most part, was largely irrelevant. Scanning the shot charts, there were very few shots even ATTEMPTED at Michigan's net: 60 (25 coming in the 3rd, once the game was out of hand). Michigan for comparison had 90, with almost 30 per period. Just glancing at where these attempts came from, maybe only 10 came from threatening areas in the first couple periods. Penn State is 6th nationally in goals (3.69/game) and averages a shade over 42 shots target/game. So, to be honest, I think the result was probably a little more due to Penn State's personnel limitations than Michigan's locking them down. M did have their normal stretch of sloppy defensive play that forced some great saves from Racine (and then Nagelvoort).
Again, Penn State threatened very little for the 'in doubt' first 30 or so minutes. The defense kept most of the threats to the perimeter, aside from a few lapses. Racine played well in his final game at Yost. The goal came on a deflection from Cecconi as he was tracking a PSU attacker and crossed Racine's vision. Tough luck for Racine. He was great in every other opportunity he was presented with...though there were not a lot of them. Because of the offensive barrage, Racine was afforded the chance to be ceremoniously taken off for last 12 minutes. FWIW, Nagelvoort seemed to play well, as Michigan's defense sagged off towards the end of the game. Nagelvoort made 9 saves in 12 minutes versus Racine's 21 in 48 minutes.
Michigan was phenomenal last night. 3/6 on the power play and 3/3 in their first three attempts. Once it was 5-1, M had a 5 min PP (due to a red card to Penn State's Ricky DeRosa) and then a 5-on-3 for 2 minutes. They did not score, but at that point, the game was all but decided. The puck movement from the top line (Werenski, Kile, Motte, Compher, Connor) is just ridiculous. Its the best I've seen in a long time at Yost. Maybe the best I've seen? I know Hensick, Porter, Tambellini, etc had some great ones, as well. But that was a while ago. Michigan's PP leads the nation at a 29.5% clip. Last night, clearly no exception. On the flip side, Michigan only took 1 penalty and allowed just 1 shot on that penalty kill...and it came from the neutral zone. Again, Penn State only had three forwards lines.
BONUS: Odd Man Rushes
Still in the infancy of deciding how to track these and what to do with them but from what I counted last night: 4 OMRs given up for Michigan.
- The first 2 were soft 3v2s that didn't even result in a quality look.
- The third was Cecconi with an awful centering pass from the blue line that was picked off and Scheid came in on a rush before Martin caught him at the top of the circles. Racine calmly blocked the shot into the corner.
- The fourth was a neutral zone giveaway that left Downing back in a 2v1 but a nice back-check from Warren nullified the opportunity.