A cursory glance doesn't reveal many similarities between Michigan basketball and Michigan hockey these days. After all, one team took the court this weekend with a share of the B1G title on the line and fans that lined up something like 22 hours before tip-off. The other team took the ice this weekend with no title on the line and not even a live televised feed of their games.
Take a closer look, though, and some broad similarities appear. Basketball and hockey are both games of runs. It's just the way the game goes when there are no pre-established offensive and defensive turns. You hit and you'll get hit back. You exert pressure and that pressure will eventually be exerted on you. Michigan basketball ended on the wrong side of a run, suffering a knockout punch that was one part bad luck and two parts missed opportunity. Michgan hockey, on the other hand, survived the inevitable pressure Northern Michign exerted after Michigan took a 3-0 lead.
A 3-0 first period lead wasn't something the Wolverines could rest on. Too many times this season they've taken an early lead only to be swept away by the undertow of another team's run, late goals and late pressure that were too much to overcome. With their postseason hanging in the balance Michigan responded on Friday, doing what was sufficient and holding serve in the third period to weather the storm and in the process made that dim glimmer of hope we hold that Michigan can extend its NCAA tournament streak to 23 consecutive seasons a little brighter.
06:39 Northern 0 Michigan 1: PPG Jon Merrill (2) from Boo Nieves (20) & Phil Di Giuseppe (17)
Merill starts the rush and moves the puck to PDG, who carries the puck down low. Northern is in a basic box on the PK and they move down to compensate for PDG. Norther does do a good job of taking away the pass to the slot, but the vulnerability they open is at the point. By all moving below the dots in the faceoff circle they make it easy for PDG to wheel up the boards and pass it back to Merrill.
Merrill waits for Boo to cycle up and passes it to him above the faceoff circle. It's really Boo that makes this play possible, as he skates to his left and draws the attention of three Northern defenders, two of which move left with him.
Merrill moves laterally back to his right and Boo dishes to him because he has a wiiiiiiiiide open shooting lane. The shot takes bounce off of a Northern player in front of the net to get in, but it finds the back of the net nonetheless.
15:11 Northern 0 Michigan 2: PPG Kevin Lynch (8) from A.J. Treais (13) & Alex Guptill (16)
Treais has the puck at the point and moves it into the corner to Guptill. Guptill carries up and back down the boards before cutting towards the slot. This draws two defenders and opens up a pass to Copp in the corner.
Guptill's decision to skate into the slot means that the defender who should be covering the point has to collapse on net and cover him, even if only for a second. That same defender has to double back and can't get to the point in time to stop a slapshot from Treais, who just got the puck back on a pass from Copp.
Treais' slapshot is stopped but a huge rebound is kicked out directly to Lynch. He's unchecked and snaps a shot past the goaltender, who can't do much about it since he's already hit the ice.
18:30 Northern 0 Michigan 3: SH Kevin Lynch (9)
Michigan loses a board battle but it ends up benefitting the Wolverines as the Northern player throws a cross-ice pass to no one. Northern's point man tries to come and chop at the puck to keep it in the zone but Szuma gets to it first and pokes it out of the Michigan zone.
Northern regroups and gathers the puck in front of their bench, but two players run into each other as one goes off for a line change. Lynch sees the opportunity and charges hard, stealing the puck and creating a breakaway.
Y'ALL JUST GOT TREY BURKE'D
Lynch fakes the shot and Northern's goalie takes the bait. He then glides through the crease and flicks the puck into the twine abyss available over the goaltender's left pad.
04:57 Northern 1 Michigan 3: Kory Kaunisto (5) from Wade Epp (4) & Jake Johnson (2)
Northern wins an offensive zone draw but Trouba is the first to the puck. He tries to pass behind the net to what momentarily looks like an open man, but he gets hit as he's passing and ends up turning the puck over. I don't fault him for the play Trouba tried to make, as passing behind the net seemed like a better play than blindly passing behind himself.
No Michigan players have skated much since the faceoff. With four defenders around the net and no one covering the point (the closest M player is circled in blue) Northern moves it back to the blueline for what should be a wide open shot.
The puck gets tipped and is redirected past Racine. There's really not much he can do to stop this one.
16:00 Northern 2 Michigan 3: Darren Nowick (6) from Stephan Vigier (14) & Ryan Daugherty (11)
Northern starts their breakout and carry the puck with speed through the neutral zone. As the puck carrier cuts towards the middle of the ice Bennett picks him up, though there are two circle players that could have done so. Bennett should have continued skating backwards in order to cover the front of the net but didn't.
The guy cutting towards the middle passes to the wing, who rips a shot through the Michigan defense.
Racine makes the initial save but gives up a rebound and pays dearly. The guy circled is the one that was able to slip in behind the defense because of Bennett's blown coverage, and he tucks the puck in to narrow Michigan's lead to one.
I'll try to get a GBGA of Saturday's game up....sometime. Not sure when, but I'm working on it. Look forward to more pictures, more laughs, and most importantly moooooooooore goals.
(Burke photo cred: Julian Gonzalez, Detroit Free Press)