Mason NEEDS this, Pistons, after all you've put him through
Sitebulletins. We are two weeks away from the Spring Game and the it's hard offseason after. We'll be ramping up the usual stuff—profiles of the incoming freshmen, ranting about offsides in hockey, recaps of our insane predictions—and yes, now is the time when a Sugar Bowl UFR gets done. All timely like.
There are a couple of complicating factors, most prominent: knee surgery. I'm having it. Unfortunately they've moved the date from April 17th—blissfully amidst nothing at all—to April 10th. That's four days before the Spring Game. Glarble. I'll do my best to give you the usual breakdown, but I'm not sure how with-it I'll be. I'm supposed to be able to walk in two weeks, so hopefully I'll be coherent after four days.
The other project, one that I wanted to get started on earlier, is whacking the server in the right spot so it's a bunch faster. This should be doable, but it is going to take some time. Between that and the surgery don't be surprised if my posting frequency drops a bit. I'll get at least one thing up a day; the rest of the time is going to be spent on laying a groundwork for keeping things upright when next season rolls around. Death to the 503.
goodnight, sweet prince
Read this. I linked it in the game recap post but really, if you haven't read Zach Helfand's article on the Cornell game you should:
GREEN BAY, Wisc. — The crease is empty now.
The custodians in the Resch Center stands are picking up trash, and with plastic gloves they shove Skittles wrappers and used napkins and programs that show a picture of a 5-foot-6 goaltender that used to play for the Michigan hockey team into a large plastic trash bag.
It is a quarter till midnight.
Below them, on the ice, the crease is empty.
Forty-nine minutes ago, at 10:56 p.m., it wasn’t. Forty-nine minutes ago, there was a goaltender named Shawn Hunwick lying on his right side across that crease, and a puck was there, just past the crown of his helmet.
It's one thing to execute a long-form article over weeks and another to bash something really good out on deadline. Helfand has chops. Googling reveals a planned graduation date of 2014. I feel old.
Stephen Nesbitt also has a good column on Hunwick's exit, one in which Hunwick says a blog called him a "waste of space." Doesn't sound like me, but I do like Fawlty Towers… hmmm… phew. No hits except some false positives in which commenters call each other wastes of space.
As long as we're moping about the Cornell game and early exits, the HSR writes on Michigan's last three tourney losses, all of which were 3-2 in OT after a disallowed goal. Ay yi yi. Holdin' The Rope is also attempting to hold its head together with its hands. Center Ice previews the incoming recruits.
We must prevent anyone from attending this event. The NCAA is bound and determined to prevent any hockey regional from selling out, even the best conceivable scenario of Minnesota-North Dakota at the X:
-That said, the NCAA did their best to neutralize any home ice advantage at the XCel Center by making sure no one would attend. Tickets for each session cost $57, and there was no re-entry between the two games on Saturday, meaning fans were pretty much stuck inside the XCel all day if they wanted to see both games. The end result of the blatant price-gouging was an announced crowd of 10,974 for a regional final between Minnesota and North Dakota. That doesn't look terrible, but as Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald pointed out, last week's WCHA Final Five quarterfinal held at the same building between Denver and Michigan Tech, and played on a Thursday afternoon drew an announced crowd of 11,489. The NCAA ran an event less successfully than the WCHA. This year's regional final was also outdrawn by the 2007 regional final between the same two teams, but held in Denver.
The prices for regionals are so ridiculous they can't even sell out a Minnesota game in Minnesota.
I just don't even know, man. There's a Michigan fan on the USCHO board who rails on this broken playoff system, spawning huge multi-page threads that make me want to find the people who think it's impossible to move back to home regionals and throttle them.
College hockey needs to grow the sport at home, where it's in competition with the CHL, and not in Tampa or St. Louis. Move to two weekends of best two out of three series on home ice and follow it up with a Frozen Four. You bring the game to the people who support it, not hundreds of miles away, and cease the embarrassment of having three thousand people in arenas that seat three times that many. The current system is essentially a giant middle finger to the people who fill arenas during the regular season.
Even when they can get it right, they don't: Michigan is hosting in Grand Rapids next year when there is a Toledo regional available. That's an extra four hours roundtrip so Bowling Green, a school with almost no chance of making the tournament, can host. And WCHA fanbases all get shut out.
A little more Merrill info. Red, at least, expects him back:
As for Merrill, a second-round pick of New Jersey, Berenson said: "Merrill will get some interest, but right now his heart is at Michigan. I don't see him doing anything."
While Red's been wrong before, that's a think in the right direction on my Bayesian Merrill departure meter. The Daily also throws this in an article on Wohlberg's departure for the AHL and other matters:
Sophomore defenseman Jon Merrill is the only Wolverine who hasn't appeared to make a decision regarding his status for next season.
Not sure if that's an assumption or the prospect of losing Brown/Guptill is not on the table. That would be nice, getting everyone back. It's happened. It's rare, but it's happened. Once, I think.
Anonymous surveying. Rothstein took some anonymous survey questions($) when he was giving exit interviews to the 19 seniors and returns with word that Jerald Robinson is the pick for breakout player. One comment on him:
"He obviously hasn't played that much, but he has everything you need to be a great receiver. All he needs is the opportunity, and once he gets that, I know he'll do well. I think he'll definitely have a breakout year this year, because Junior (Hemingway is) leaving and (Darryl) Stonum isn't on the team, so we need him to step up, and I think he will."
Ryan, Toussaint, and Denard(!) are 2-3-4. There is much else of interest behind that paywall, but… yeah, paywall. I can probably tell you that Rothstein asked whether players liked Rodriguez and got generally positive but mixed responses. The responses to the same question about Hoke: "Yes – 19."
These grapes are truly sour. I either missed this or just forgot about posting on this article. Whichever it is, here it is. Possibly again. It's an Andy Staples piece from January on decommitments of top 100 recruits that has a couple of fascinating figures:
Of the 500 players ranked in the Rivals100 for the classes of 2007 through 2011, 73 (14.6 percent) decommitted at some point during their recruitment. Of those, 62 (12.4 percent) ultimately signed with a school other than the one to which they originally committed. …
Of the players who decommitted, 34.2 percent either failed to qualify, transferred or were dismissed. … Of the players who made one commitment and stuck to it, only 18.7 percent either failed to qualify, transferred or were dismissed.
The washout rate for guys who picked more than one school is almost double that of players who stuck with their one true love. So we didn't want Pharaoh Brown anyway. (Yes. Yes, I did want Pharaoh Brown. Fiddlesticks.)
About 15% of players end up switching. That seems higher in the South, FWIW, as some of those switches are involuntary. I'd guess Michigan loses fewer from this class, and going forward in the Hoke era.
Irvin hype clarity. I haven't been entirely sure what to think about Zak Irvin since the recruiting sites have such divergent opinions on him. Scout has him a generic three-star; Rivals thinks he's a top 50-type player. Via UMHoops, here's an indication that local observers lean towards the latter. The Indy Star is commenting on the snub of Bryson Scott, a Purdue commit who was only named to Indiana's second tier junior All-Star team:
Six players are named to the core team and it’s pretty clear in my mind that’s he’s one of the six best players in the junior class. I’d rate him or Hamilton Southeastern’s Zak Irvin as the top in-state prospect currently in the 2013 class. Plus, Scott has led his team to the regional each of the last two years and he averaged more than 25 points a game as a sophomore.
Irvin is on the "core" team that will scrimmage the seniors twice in preparation for their annual game against Kentucky.
Etc.: Keith Olbermann eulogizes Bert Sugar, Michigan grad and story fountain. MSU lists 6'7" Tyler Hoover as a starter at DT. Many happy Masseys to him. This would be much more fun if MSU's OL was the shambles it should have been last year. Michigan is back on Monte Morris. Rittenberg goes to Sweet 16, comes back advocating for home sites in CFB playoff.
The only reasonable explanation. Michigan State lost the outright title, still won a share, and collectively reacted like this…
…the likely explanation is that they were more focused on denying Michigan than their own team. That game meant very little in the grand scheme of things to MSU. It mattered to OSU and Michigan.
No, it wasn't hard to root for Ohio State yesterday. I didn't even notice.
Irrational optimism getting less irrational. Michigan has two five-star sorts in its upcoming recruiting class and the guy I'm most excited about may be the other dude. That is 6'6" shooting guard/potential Burke backup Nik Stauskas, who just outdueled Nerlens Noel, a 6'10" center who recently reclassified to 2012 and instantly became a top five player after doing so, for tournament MVP at the NEPSAC championships. He is not just a shooter($):
Nik Stauskas (Mississauga, Ontario/St. Mark’s)
2012, SF, 6-6, 205
Stauskas finished with 19 points but his impact on the game far exceeded that total, as he not only scored the ball in different ways but also facilitated for others in both pick and roll as well as drive-and-kick action. While the complete versatility of Stauskas’ offensive repertoire was on full display, the most impressive part of his performance was that innate star quality that allowed him to make big play after big play at the most pivotal moments of the game.
The main thing keeping him from being another five-star type recruit is his athleticism. That shouldn't prevent him from being a shot generator at the college level—he'll enter with far more skill than Stu Douglass had, for one. I mean, look at his evil beard:
IF that does not fill you with confidence, nothing will.
Stauskas also drew raves from NERR. Meanwhile, Mitch McGary's Brewster team suffered an upset while Glenn Robinson III helped his team win their first sectional title since '97. All that and more at UMHoops.
McCray/Gedeon/Levenberry: Linebacker is the new offensive line
brief comment on the linebacker crunch. My trapper keeper with Michigan's projected recruiting class surrounded by hearts has at least two slots for linebackers, but if the third guy is going to be O'Daniel/Levenberry/Gedeon it probably has three. Sam Webb first thought this was not the case, but recently reversed course.
It should be clear why after a quick glance at the depth chart by class. With announced positional rearrangements taking Beyer and Paskorz away from the SAM spot, that is now the sparsest position on the depth chart. Insert First World Problems GIF here. Michigan has three more years of Jake Ryan, two of Cam Gordon, and nothing else. Even if you figure one of the 2012 recruits is destined to move down—something the coaches denied on Signing Day—that would seem to make a third linebacker a reasonable acquisition.
Even if that's the case now, if O'Daniel and Levenberry hew to their current plans and take their decisions to Signing Day there's a pretty good chance room opens up for one of them. The current assumption on this site is 22, but that assumes Michigan only loses two players to attrition*.
That's an extremely conservative estimate. If Michigan gets up to 24, they can take…
- Another RB
- Two more WRs
- A third TE
- Another CB
- Two DL
…and still have a couple spare scholarships. You may have spotted the assumption here: Michigan will only take one three-tech/SDE type in this class. I think that's reasonable after taking four (Wormley, Godin, Strobel, Henry) last year, especially with two 2011 recruits coming off redshirts and the possibility/likelihood that Wyatt Shallman ends up weighing 280 by his sophomore year.
When all is said and done the bet here is Michigan has a couple scholarships to play with in January and SLB is an excellent candidate to use one of those spares even if Michigan already has a couple linebackers committed. It sounds like McCray and Gedeon are about to drop; if Levenberry changes his mind and attempts to commit on his Spring Game visit he's not getting turned down.
BONUS HYPOTHETICAL EXTRA SCHOLARSHIP DISTRIBUTION DESIRE: Cornerback. Michigan… uh… has fewer blue chip guys there than anywhere else in the last two classes.
/runs around laughing maniacally
//falls in trough
/continues laughing maniacally
We do it better than Todd Graham.
*[Two more players are assumed to not be getting fifth years.]
A rule to live by. Orson just tossed this off and I'm thinking of embroidering it on a sampler or something:
Never have anything to do with a recruit who wants to sign after Signing Day.
This may be sour grapes.
June building stuff. The Washington Post highlights Cato June, new head coach at Anacostia High School in DC. He's filling his staff out with a familiar name:
June quickly turned to [retired HC Willie] Stewart, asking him to help coach the Indians next fall. He also named his close friend and Michigan roommate Walter Cross, the 1997 All-Met Offensive Player of the Year from Oxon Hill, as his offensive coordinator — the same position Cross held at Potomac (Md.) this fall.
Apparently anyone in DC can transfer without a reason, so if June gets things off the ground Anacostia could be a fertile ground for recruiting—not that Brady Hoke needs another one.
Bye-week hockey events. Michigan pulled the worst possible opponent in the second round thanks to Northern Michigan going down in flames against Bowling Green and all other higher seeds holding. They go against Notre Dame, who gave them a very tough weekend about a month ago. The Irish are 19th in the Pairwise and entering a do-or-die weekend for tourney hopes.
The key for Michigan will be watching Notre Dame's goalies play as poorly as they have in all games not against Michigan. Steven Summerhays put up a .945 in the M-ND series; for the year he's at .908.
Pairwise. Michigan's off weekend saw them move up thanks to a one-point weekend from Minnesota-Duluth that cost them the regular-season WCHA title and put their one-seed in flux. Michigan still doesn't win that comparison—I told you it would be tough—and still wont even if they sweep next weekend despite UMD drawing 12-22-2 Minnesota State. Michigan can win the comparison by sweeping ND and doing better than UMD at the conferences' respective finals… as long as UMD doesn't lose this weekend.
Weird system: you are rooting for UMD to win this weekend and get annihilated at the Final Five.
BONUS CCHA BIDS ODDITY: remember that period in the season when seven CCHA teams were destined for the tournament? That's been whittled down to four as of today. Five of the first six teams out of the tourney are CCHA teams. Western, Lake Superior, and ND can still play themselves in.
It's March, so it's time for huge Daily profiles. Luke Glendening is first up:
It was late April 2008, and the Michigan hockey assistant coach had just extended a one-year tryout offer to Luke Glendening, a forward recruit from The Hotchkiss School, a prep institution in Lakeville, Conn.
“You’re on a one-year tryout,” Powers told Glendening. “If you’re good in practice, you’ll stay.”
Powers left him with one last word of warning.
“If you have somewhere else to go, you should probably do it.”
We're living in the golden age of angles, I'm telling you.
A fantastic idea. Mike Spath proposes a new format for the NCAA tournament:
To start, the NCAA should collaborate with the NHL to form six permanent sites, rotating among the six for the four yearly locations: Boston, New York, Detroit, Minneapolis, Denver and Toronto. The Frozen Four would also rotate among those six cities instead of taking us to Tampa Bay or Washington D.C.
That would be excellent. You might want to add a Philadelphia or Pittsburgh but that's fine. No more Green Bay, St. Louis, Tampa, etc. Take the money the NHL is giving you and use it to lower ticket prices so you get a local crowd—part of the horrendous attendance in Fort Wayne was the $90 session passes—and try to fill those buildings as much as you can. If you want to "grow the sport" you can promise a local regional/FF to areas considering the addition of hockey programs.
In response to this idea, the NCAA announced the next six Frozen Fours would take place in New Zealand.
Retconned history. The New York Times has a look at how the Big East fell apart featuring this tactical error back in the day:
Tranghese tried to tell the Big East’s university presidents and athletic directors as much as early as 1989 when he was Gavitt’s assistant. Gavitt thought the conference needed to bring Penn State into the fold. Penn State was an independent at the time, looking for the security of a conference.
The membership voted no, with St. John’s, Villanova and Georgetown leading the resistance. At the end of the meeting, Gavitt asked Tranghese what he thought about the decision. “I said, ‘We will all rue the day about this decision,’ ” Tranghese said. “I understood how big football was. I didn’t understand how big it was going to become.
“At that point, the Big East had so much success in the ’80s, everybody sort of forgot about it. But I felt looking back on the history of the Big East, that was probably the biggest mistake we made.”
The conference has been regularly pillaged since and will be a nationwide amalgam of mid-major football schools minus flagship Syracuse as a result. I wonder if the Big Ten would still be ten teams today if the Big East hadn't screwed it all up in the late 80s.
Etc.: Wojo on Sunday's events. I bet a dollar Burke and Cody Zeller end up splitting the freshman of the year award. From Old Virginia takes a look at where lacrosse is headed, speculating that Michigan will eventually end up in a "Western" conference with OSU, PSU, Detroit, Air Force, and Denver. BSD recaps the PSU-M game from their perspective. Michigan engineers elect Bender to school board.
3/25/2011 – Michigan 3, Nebraska-Omaha 2 (OT) – 27-10-4
3/26/2011 – Michigan 2, Colorado College 1 – 28-10-4, Frozen Four
The course of the season showed that if Michigan was going to make the Frozen Four they were going to do it one way: narrowly. If you need a number, during the course of the UNO broadcast they put up a stat showing Michigan's record in one-goal games was 10-3. That's just how they do.
That record is now up to 12-3 after history's greatest video review and the Joe Howe show (wsgs Joe Howe's Posts) and if there was ever any chance we remembered this hockey team as the weird one that kind of reminded you of Ron Mason that's gone now. This team isn't trying to win games –1 to –2 but you'd be forgiven if sometimes you thought they were.
It's working, though. I spent the second intermission Saturday thinking about Buffalo, when Michigan dominated Minnesota for two periods but didn't put enough of that domination on the scoreboard to prevent Minnesota's rally from tying the game; Michigan lost the game and Al Montoya's brain in overtime on one of those bizarrely frequent OT goals that comes from almost the goal line on the left side of the net*. I spent the third period thinking about how beautifully boring it was until Red channeled into Lloyd Carr by slipping Jeff Rohrkemper out there for a power play shift. He was immediately punished for punting from the 34 by a Rohkemper boarding penalty and nine seconds later CC fumbled a puck into the net. Everyone braced for a storm. That storm was a single pea-sized hailstone. The most nervous moment after that was a bunch of players rooting for the puck on the boards with the goalie out and twenty seconds left.
Michigan had outshot their opponent 43-22, played a game universally acclaimed as their best of the season, and won 2-1 because Scooter is an animal and pucks that come off Lee Moffie's stick will hit the post and go in even if they have to deflect off three guys to do it. There is a natural inertia pulling them towards narrow wins you're uncertain about; even now that they've reached the Frozen Four there's a feeling they don't really match up with a North Dakota.
There's also the feeling they just might, though. Because what the hell, Michigan's 11-1 since the line shakeup after Michigan's dismal 0-3 stretch against MSU and Miami. Season goals slipping away and faced with the question of how to get the most use out of some good forwards who never, ever score Michigan put together a vintage Todd Marchant checking line and let anyone who might put the puck in the net forget about guys like Jaden Schwartz.
This has been remarkably effective. If the announcer didn't bring his name up every time he wasn't making a joke-type assertion about the "hockey hotbeds" of California, Texas, and Arizona, the viewer could have forgotten about Jaden Schwartz. Lingering irritation at Matt Rust's bad OT penalty against UNO evaporated as his line erased Schwartz, Schwartz, and Schultz with a healthy assist from Jon Merill at his most subtly awesome. The Schwartzes got their goal on a four-on-four scramble; everything other than that was frustration. In the second period they started jawing and shoving people because they were getting nothing. This was one day after they turned defending national champs Boston College into a lump of smoking carbon.
I watched North Dakota pummel two teams, one of them not even in the ECAC, this weekend. I remember Michigan's last two not-very-competitive matchups against them. I have considerable doubts that Michigan will beat them since they're by far the best team left standing. Doubts about doubts come when you close your eyes and see Jon Merrill gently shepherding you, the puck, and a hockey team into a deep, peaceful sleep as Matt Rust obscures the face of North Dakota Hobey finalist… oh… you know… what's his name.
*[Almost certainly an artifact of my introduction to college hockey but they seem to happen all the time: Josh Langfeld's championship winner, the Vanek goal (at 1:00) that put Michigan out in Buffalo, and ND's winner against Merrimack were all bizarre nothing shots from the same area of the ice that took the goalie by surprise.]
A Tiny Window Of White Bullets
Also the other two goals but mostly Scooter!
You do not have a twitter account that concerns itself with Michigan hockey if you didn't tweet "Scooter" followed by one to three exclamation points after his goal, which was completely unbelievable even as it was happening. CC does not have the greatest defensemen in the world but holy crap where did that come from?
Monster faceoffs. Michigan both faced and received extended periods of 5-on-3 time in the first period, and during both they got clean, critical faceoff wins. Moffie's goal was a direct result. The lack of a CC goal on their terrifying PP was greatly aided, as well.
Clare escape. To recap the thing I kept talking about during the game: after a tough shift in which Pateryn and Clare got caught in the zone forever, allowing the Schwartz line to get out against them and some other random non-Rust forwards, Red pulled Clare out of the lineup for more than a period. Pateryn took shifts with the second pair D to give guys a break. Clare returned about halfway through the second and actually got some PK time a bit later, which I guess makes sense because your breakout on the PK is slapping the puck down the ice. I saw him out there a couple times in the third, as well, but his minutes were minimized.
All this invites questions about Burlon's availability. He's got two weeks to recover from his strep and penicillin reaction, so I imagine he'll be in the lineup. Losing 15 pounds is kind of a lot, though, and I wonder how effective he'll be.
RNG in full effect. Hockey's vaguely weighted plinko system was a little more random than normal this time around: FF participants are two three-seeds, a two, and a one. One seeds went 2-2 in the first round, bringing their record against fours to 11-9 the last five years. That goes beyond "anything can happen" into "your excellent season gets you nothing."
What's wrong? I don't think you can blame the Pairwise. The "better"* ranking system, KRACH, already updated for the weekend's results and still has Yale a #1. The only difference between KRACH's top seeds and the PWRs is putting Denver above Miami, and there's a fair chance that wasn't the case before the events of the weekend.
You can blame insular schedules. Yale's nonconference schedule consisted of single games against CC, Air Force, Cornell, and Vermont and an "Ivy Shootout" against other ECAC members. The only evidence we had that Yale was a top seed other than their ECAC schedule was a 5-1 win over a .500 WCHA team and a 2-1 record against Atlantic Hockey—yeah, they'd already lost to first-round opponent Air Force.
This vapor-thin trail coupled with some other ECAC nonconference games convinced the ranking systems the conference didn't suck despite years of evidence to the contrary. The last ECAC team to make the Frozen Four was Cornell in 2003 and that last to win a title was Harvard in 1989.
That only explains perpetually disappointing ECAC #1s, which are rare. The rest of it is on a tournament format which has #1 Miami play #4 UNH in New Hampshire in a single-elimination game.
*[FWIW, KRACH is mathematically pure but has a tendency to go nuts about nonconference results. In certain years it would put up to eight WCHA teams, some well below .500, into the field.]
Abandabuildings. It was no surprise to see literally every seat in the upper bowl in St. Louis empty. We wondered if a couple of friends had actually made the trip despite stern clucking about teaching the NCAA a lesson, and I said "if they did they'll be on TV because they'll be the only people there," and midway through the second there they were. Even the NCAA's comically generous numbers only show 55% capacity.
Every year we get sterile half-full buildings as teams get shipped halfway across the country and fans have to deal with the possibility they'll get on a plane to see their team play once, or if they're lucky play twice and make the Frozen Four and then you've blown your budget on regionals already. Insert usual rant about using home sites here.
The good news is the NCAA has not selected regional sites past next year. In the past sites have been selected three to four years out, so that's a clear sign this failed format is on its last legs. Last year there was a report out of Grand Forks that change was coming, with home sites and "super regionals" of an undetermined nature.
The bad news is that once again the CCHA has no regionals within hundreds of miles of it—the closest is in Green Bay as the St. Louis regional moves to St. Paul. At least Michigan's getting out of that rinky-dink operation, and as a bonus the failures of its commissioner* now directly benefit it.
*[Seriously, what has Anastos done since 1998 that a lump of quartz couldn't? The CCHA has gone nowhere, and has clearly become the region of the country that either gets screwed over by the committee or can't scrape together a bid that makes any more sense than having a regional in St. Louis.]
I am Jack's total lack of surprise. The crew doing the Yale-UMD game that chucked Yale's best player out of the game for a clean open-ice hit were from the CCHA. Yale's coach was infuriated enough afterwards to lead his presser with "the game was taken away from us." Yet more reason to be happy we're getting away from the league—hopefully most of the refs don't follow.
Via Boyz in the Pahokee as per usual.
Daily game story and gallery featuring a great shot of the Scooter(!!!) goal:
Everyone in the shot including Scooter is thinking "WTF?"
“I think they did have a few pretty good shots early on,” Hunwick said. “But this is an opportunity to play for the Frozen Four. I think I made a couple good saves. It’s pretty easy to stay in the game when you’re playing to go to the Frozen Four. They didn’t really get anything going too much until they got into the power play. Once they got into the power play, I really had to be sharp.”
Seriously, that power play was terrifying. That first period five on three was awful.
Torrent of the CC game.
I know you're all busy sticking needles into your Coach K voodoo dolls—for safety's sake make sure your doll is not actually Coach K before inserting—but about an hour ago Michigan's hockey fate was determined. Drumroll, please:
1. Boston College
4. Colorado College
Michigan plays at 5:30 on Friday on ESPN3, with ESPNU replaying the game at 11:30.
Yeah, so to get to a hypothetical final Michigan probably has to beat Boston College and North Dakota, but that's why you show up on Friday against Western Michigan instead of whatever that was. Michigan split with UNO at Yost earlier this year, losing 4-2 on Friday and winning 6-1 the next night. Shots were 35-25 Michigan on Friday and about even Saturday.
Let me take this opportunity to urge anyone considering going: don't. You'll notice that the CCHA is the only conference not to have a region, you know, within hundreds of miles of it. A couple years ago there were regionals in Wisconsin and Colorado. The CCHA is the only conference to get so regularly screwed. I don't think the committee actually cares—if they did we'd have home regionals for top seeds—but on the off chance a St. Louis regional featuring 50 people in an NHL building is the hockey equivalent of Houston Nutt signing 37 kids you should save your money.
You may resume poking K right in the eye.
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)
Wow. After years of screwing one and two-seeded Michigan teams, the committee went off the reservation and gave Michigan the kindest possible draw in the history of draws:
1. Miami vs. 4. Alabama-Huntsville
2. Bemidji State vs 3. Michigan
That bracket is crazy better than going to Massachusetts to play WCHA champion North Dakota and facing a probable road game against BC if you survive that. Michigan gets to play virtual home games against Bemidji, the #8 overall seed—North Dakota is #5—and probably Miami, a team they just beat handily. I have no idea why the committee would do this except the big one: attendance. Fort Wayne is now going to be packed and Michigan's chances of making it to Detroit probably just doubled. This is totally unfair for the rest of the field.
UPDATE: Just to emphasize what a favor the committee just did Michigan, everyone thinks KRACH is a much better rating system than the Pairwise. KRACH has North Dakota 4th and Bemidji 13th. In its world, Michigan is 10th and actually a favorite in the first round game. Of course, then Michigan has to take on #2 Miami instead of #5 BC, but I'll take it.
UPDATE II: Tickets here.