It's amazing how easily we take things for granted. We become acclimated and everything turns into background noise, only to gain our attention when things shift unexpectedly. It's how I felt when I graduated and moved out of Ann Arbor, and it's how I've felt about this year's hockey team.
I was introduced to Michigan hockey in 2006. Having grown up in a house with a die-hard Michigan State alum for a mother and a father who cared more about what went on in the philosophy and astronomy world than the sports world I had some catching up to do. I remeber reading the Daily's hockey season preview and thinking that becoming a fan of Michigan hockey was just a natural extention of my love of the Red Wings. I folded up that newspaper insert and stuck it in my backpack so that I could re-read it whenever I wanted. My conversion to a Michigan hockey fan had begun.
I never made it to a game that season. Instead, I had to rely on keeping up with the team through Daily articles and watching the few games that I could find on TV. Jack Johnson became something of a folk hero to me, a player that I still regret not seeing play while he was wearing the winged helmet. I vowed to myself that I would not make the same mistake twice.
Fall 2007 rolls around and mini-season ticket packages go on sale. A few friends, my girlfriend (who's now my wife) and I decide to get a mini season ticket package. I'll never forget going to my first game at Yost. If there's one arena in the world that can't possibly be done justice by TV this is it. I remember walking in through the cramped corridors and past the ornate woodwork. Then you walk into the stands and it's a fluorescent blast of white exacerbated by a sheet of ice. The corridors scream history while the inside of the rink just screams. If Michigan hockey is powered by a fuse box it only has one switch and that switch, which is permanently flipped, has "ON" printed above it on label tape.
I went to a CCHA playoff game that season and was struck by how the regular season atmosphere is essentially the same as the playoff atmosphere. There's no way for it to get louder and rowdier than it already is, especially when you're in the student section. At the time that seemed hard to believe. Again, I wasn't used to Michigan hockey just yet. Having been a Red Wings fan for so long you get acclimated to regular season games with half empty lower bowls that switch to rabid sell outs when the second or third round of the playoffs roll around.
The energy of Yost spoiled me, and I didn't realize that until this season. When things are about to be taken away from you, that's when you realize just how good you had it. I didn't think there would be a CCHA playoff game at Yost this year. Not after watching a team that had block M's on the front of their jersey but looked oh so unfamiliar otherwise. Now I realize just how amazing the atmosphere at Yost is. Now I realize just how important the CCHA playoffs are. These aren't throwaway games anymore, this is our ticket to the tournament. And, finally, I'm watching a Michigan team that I recognize. This is a team that somehow, someway dug deep and emerged from the shell of...well, whatever that was that took the ice from October through February. Maybe they realized what I realized; it's easy to take things for granted until you're about to lose them.
There aren't many goals to breakdown here, but that's a good thing. A team that was allowing almost four goals per game gave up two this weekend. Two! And I can't even make a joke about only giving up two and it not even being non-exhibition play because they gave up more than that to like Windsor, man. Let's analyze:
07:59 Ferris State 0 Michigan 1: PP Goal Kevin Lynch (7) from Andrew Copp (9) & Alex Guptill (15)
The play starts with the puck pinned against the boards. Michigan fights to maintain possession but loses. A Ferris State player whacks at the puck for what seems to be a sure clear...until Mac Bennett steps in the way. Bennett holds the puck in the zone and deftly passes the puck up the boards as soon as it hits the ice, catching Ferris State out of position.
Guptill recieves Bennett's pass and starts to spin. He notices Copp skating around him and dishes what looks almost like a shovel pass to Copp, who then skates around the psuedo-pick and cuts in towards the faceoff circle. This leaves one Ferris State defender trapped behind Guptill while the other (the guy in the faceoff circle in the screen cap above) has to come over and cover Copp.
Copp makes a truly spectacilar pass through Guptill that ends up right on the tape of Lynch's stick. Lynch is now all alone in the high slot facing a goaltender who is going to have to move side-to-side to stop a shot.
Lynch doesn't hesitate, roofing a shot over the goaltender's glove that makes his Gatorade bottle jump.
11:54 Ferris State 1 Michigan 1: Zach Dorer (1) from Justin DeMartino (10) & Travis Ouellette (13)
Michigan loses another board battle, getting upended in the corner by a Ferris player who rims the puck around the boards. As the puck follows the yellow line and goes towards the Ferris State defenseman the Michigan defender steps up to close the gap, which is the right play under these circumstances.
Ferris' defenseman has two options here: pass the puck to the point man or throw it on net and hope for the best. He chooses to throw the puck on net and see what unfolds.
Nothing really "unfolds," but it definitely bounces. The puck deflects off of a Michigan defender in front of the net and past Racine, who was stellar on non-fluke plays.
Last weekend it was an Ohio State player but unfortunately this weekend it's Racine who gets HAGERUP FACEd.
Hey look this is controversial
Ferris State decides to pull their goaltender in the waning seconds of overtime, which results in a push towards their net by Michigan and an ensuing scramble to get the puck from behind it. Now, let's talk fundamentals for a minute. There are normally five skaters on the ice. If you pull your goalie you're allowed one more, which makes six. Counting the maroon guys in the screencap above gives us six, which is fine. That's what the rules say are permitted.
Three seconds later Ferris State gains possession and sends the puck ahead to a skater who just happens to be all alone near center ice. Let's count again. There are six Ferris skaters (one is off camera in the lower left hand corner, but there hasn't been enough time elapsed for him to get off the ice on a line change so we know he's there). Then there's the guy who's circled. A seventh. A seventh skater! Luckily Racine channeled his not-Jimmy-Howard and stonewalled the guy on the breakaway but wow. Not cool, man. Not cool.
From here the teams headed to the shootout. In my experience there's not a good way to screencap a shootout goal and do it justice, so instead I'd recommend clicking the link below and enjoy watching a senior forward and freshman goaltender seal the win.