Nothing will ever bring home how bizarrely intense people get about spring football than Orson's annual in-depth review of Florida's spring game. It's the closest he gets to being a conventional team blogger, a straightforward piece of analysis long enough to be a Marky Mark Mangino post livened up by Orson's tendency to call things a "boiled bag of rat innards". Orson is writing about defensive tackles. It is April and college football is bored.
Michigan's got one of those this weekend and these are the things I'll be extrapolating answers from the tiniest filaments of evidence about:
Is Can Have Tailback
Michigan's tailback last year was Denard Robinson and when it wasn't Denard Robinson it was people being enraged that Vincent Smith wasn't really fast or falling down past the line of scrimmage. This year some variety of pro-style offense will be deployed; having a tailback becomes significantly less optional.
- Vincent Smith, the 5'6" Pahokeean who was the leading non-Robinson rusher last year with 601 yards. He took 136 carries to get those—4.4 per—and struggled badly against anything approximating a good defense.
- Michael Shaw. Carlos Brown 2.0 averaged a full yard per carry more than Smith mostly because he got hurt after the Bowling Green game.
- Michael Cox. The Loch Ness Monster is reputed to be a stallion of a man capable of great feats. Unfortunately he is 50-50 to run towards the correct endzone on any given play.
- Stephen Hopkins. Hopkins had some fumbling issues and only ended up with 37 carries last year but his size made him an effective lead blocker for Robinson and his rushes promised a Minor-like downhill moose down the road. We're a bit further down the road and Hopkins's new head coach loves him some moose.
- Fitzgerald Toussaint. Toussaint has been vaporware in his first two years. Maybe he can stay healthy for the next twenty seconds.
There is also The Greatest Player In The History Of The World According To Two Jacksons. Thomas Rawls enters with the sort of hype you can only get by being a generic late-rising three star coached by Fred Jackson's son and recruited by Fred Jackson. Since he didn't enroll early we won't get to test the Jacksons' theory that Thomas Rawls encompasses the power of the sun and gently warms the earth each morning.
Looking for: A somewhat lighter, faster Hopkins with a grasp of what he should do. He's probably going to be the best back on the roster and he's now in a system that loves/needs a guy like him.
Fearing: Vincent Smith looks pretty much the same and still has a lock on the top TB spot. It's plausible that Smith's injury lingered into last season—remember he tore that ACL during the OSU game, so he had well under a year to get ready—and that he'll display a lot more speed and agility two years removed from it. If that's the case then maybe he can be a decent Big Ten starter. If he's still the same guy he was last year and he's still at the top of the depth chart and he's getting a lot of carries from the I when Denard could be doing something, guh.
Will only believe three games into the season: Cox as Herschel Walker. That guy is never going to play. He's a redshirt junior and couldn't get a carry last year even when half the tailback corps was injured and the rest was Smith and freshman Hopkins. And this is at tailback, the position where you can leap into the starting lineup on day one if, say, you're a human battering ram who runs like a gazelle. The only RB in recent Michigan history to get noticeably better late in his career was Chris Perry. Everyone else was the same guy they always were.
The Roundtree Question
What do you do with the Big Ten's second leading receiver when his production was predicated on the threat of Denard Robinson running and his position only sort of exists in the platonic ideal of a MANBALL offense?
The answer to this is probably "nothing." Borges said something about running a ton of three and four wide this season. Even if that's forced it sounds like Borges is going to roll with it, especially because his best wideout seems most comfortable in the slot—kinda need to have three WRs to have a slot—and the tight ends are sparse and stone-handed. Late-era Carr teams based out of three wide even after Steve Breaston had moved on to the NFL. Borges is more of a bomber than Carrbord and just spent a couple years running one of those "West Coast" offenses that throws damn near everything out there. So… yeah, expect three wideouts.
Okay, then, but the further question is: what will Borges do with the guy? Roundtree went nuts last year when the threat of Denard Robinson sucked safeties up and saw him stunningly wide open against Notre Dame and Indiana and Illinois and several other times besides. Can Borges run what he wants to run and surround Roundtree with nothing but grass?
Looking for: Michigan safeties to fail spectacularly because they can't decide whether to take Denard or stay back. If you can't do it to Michigan safeties you can't do it to anyone.
Fearing: Borges can't evolve the system to keep ahead of defenses and get those almost free touchdowns. I'm sure he can emulate QB Lead Oh Noes but Michigan had to keep re-arranging it to prevent safeties from showing up in the wrong place at the critical moment. Borges is a smart guy but his knowledge is in another arena. I'm not sure he'll be able to create as many opportunities with Denard's legs.
Will only believe three games into the season: Jeremy Gallon on the field.
Okay, You Run Power, But How?
Michigan ran POWER last year. They didn't run it much, but they did use it as a counter to the constant stretch action. It was fairly successful as a changeup. That move was part of the shift in Michigan's offense away from a true zone read to an odd QB-as-TB thing people called "QB iso" and didn't know what to do with—the AP put him on their All-America team as a "back." Like Rodriguez coming into DeBord's already extant stretch offense, Hoke is walking into a situation where his guys have some clue about what the new stuff is.
Unfortunately, we've seen bits and pieces of power plays run from under center in the practice videos that have invariably been stuffed. This is rock hard evidence it is not a good idea. So, like, what I'm saying is that if you've got Denard Robinson and you want to run power you might as well line up in the shotgun and run it with Denard Robinson, right?
A secondary question: how serious is Hoke about his distaste for zone running? He seems like a pretty hands-off guy when it comes to the offense, but if there's one thing he's stressed on that side of the ball it's that the team "will run power" and fullbacks will have their spine compressed and whatnot. This is something of a problem because Michigan has just completed the transition away from hampeople. Mike DeBord installed a zone stretch running game in 2006 and Michigan started recruiting to it. That first class was David Molk and Mark Huyge, now redshirt seniors.
Everyone recruited since has been either a relatively light and mobile spread OL or a prototypical left tackle. The prototype will be fine in any system; guys like Molk and Omameh and Ricky Barnum might not be. If Michigan spends the offseason putting beef on the interior line it might work out… or it might give them a bunch of tweeners not particularly good at anything.
Looking for: QB power.
Fearing: RB power.
Will only believe three games into the season: Michigan guards as effective drive blockers.
It was at last year's spring game that Robinson went from a freak show who should be moved to tailback to a freak show who should be in the Heisman running. He can't improve that much again without melting anyone who watches him, Ark of the Covenant style, but he was still pretty raw last year. He had bouts of drive- and game-crippling inaccuracy; he occasionally joined the Rex Grossman "f*** it, I'm going deep" club; he was restricted to a set of limited routes that teams adapted to as the leaves turned. He should progress. How much?
Looking for: Incremental improvement.
Fearing: Uncomfortable on drops and still prone to chucking slants well behind his receivers.
Will only believe three games into the season: hopefully that Denard Robinson can do anything.
Hello. What with hockey and dissertation and everything it was a tired, panicked last few days but go to bed at a reasonable hour and stay there for a good while and hey the sun's shining and there's a baseball game tonight. I've also got all these tabs; they're increasingly elderly but oh well.
Elsewhere in getting hammered in the temple. A roundup of post-championship reacts on the Michigan blogosphere. HSR:
The hardest part about the National Championship game last night was that there's no new lesson to glean from it. When you take penalties, you're going to have a hard time winning. When you can't get the puck into the opponent's zone, you're going to have a hard time winning. When you can't get a change in overtime, it's going to be almost impossible to win.
The Sun rose on Sunday in Ann Arbor. It was a beautiful, 80-degree day, the first such day after another long Midwestern winter. Normally I’d be pleased, but yesterday a picturesque spring day felt like a cruel joke.
"I think right now it's pretty tough to reflect on the season when you just lost a national championship game in overtime. If you're a competitor, you're going to be devastated," he said.
"You know the seniors aren't going to get another chance, and they've been the nuts and bolts of this team. Our young guys, they might think they'll get the chance every year, but it doesn't work that way."
So… yeah… if you were in the comments yesterday complaining that I was too down you don't follow the hockey team closely enough. This could be your reaction every spring, too! Season tickets! Get them!
Also in enragement. This is uncharacteristic of Berenson:
“Were they good penalties?” Berenson asked. “I can’t tell you what I really think. I mean, you can’t talk about refereeing and penalties, but when one team gets nine (power plays) and the other four, it doesn’t add up.”
He wasn’t done.
“We’re not out there to take penalties,” he said. “So every time a player falls down, it shouldn’t be a penalty, not in NCAA championship hockey.”
FWIW, it was only the third-period calls that I thought were terrible. The other stuff was either unfortunate, undisciplined, or plain necessary. Michigan took like three straight in the second and didn't call the ref a troglodyte who should be shot into the sun, so… yeah.
That last "boarding" call was some kind of awful, though.
The enlightenment comes. Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd won't be suspended for the season, or placed in stocks in the middle of campus, or forced to wear a hairshirt for picking up a DUI. While that's not so good for Michigan's laser night game throwback spectacular it's closer to sane. Rakes of Mallow somewhat defensively posted a list of recent DUI offenses and their consequences and the consensus is one game unless you play for OSU. [Ed-M: My list is better.] Doctor Saturday:
If anything, Res Life's scorched-earth verdicts against former basketball players Will Yeatman and Joseph Fauria and basketball player Kyle McAlarney — all of whom were booted from school for an entire semester for arguably lesser charges than the trio of alcohol-related offenses on Floyd's record — were evidence of a policy far out of step with the mainstream. As McAlarney wrote the Tribune, the office showed "no compassion, no consideration for me, no feelings whatsoever." Yeatman and his parents also publicly objected to his suspension before his transfer to Maryland.
I'm with him even if I was pulling for a two-game suspension.
Feature thing. ESPN's spring feature on Michigan:
It's so bizarre seeing Urban Meyer try to be part of the media. I expect him to kick himself out of this interview. Also there's actually a lot of interesting* technique stuff in there if you ever wanted to find out what a DL coach does.
*[for a given definition of interesting, which is mine but probably not yards.]
Too cool to live. Free Darko is no more. Amongst the huge list of tributes posted I think Will Leitch is the one who gets it rightest:
Free Darko made me see athletes not as heroes, not as villains, not as humans, but as mythic, god-like creatures, comic and tragic. I don't mean God in a big man in the clouds with a beard sense; I mean in a "release the kraken!" sense.
They were perfectly suited for the NBA. I talked to Shoals a bit when we were both writing for The Sporting Blog; he was disappointed in his traffic numbers and disappointed in the weirdly disjoined TSB and seemed like a guy who was losing faith, getting ready to move on. TSB duly imploded and now FD is scattering to fancy magazine pages of the world.
Random insane NCAA decision of the week. Colleges can no longer subscribe to Rivals and Scout because they provide recruiting information not freely available to the public. The Bylaw Blog is kinda sorta incensed by the unintended consequences of what started as an attempt to reign in AAU coaches in men's basketball:
But it’s the reason Rivals is not a permissible service that shows the deeper underlying problem with the current recruiting regulations. It is not permissible to subscribe to a recruiting or scouting service that provides videos of prospects in non-scholastic competition, unless the videos are free and available to the general public.
The NCAA and its members have fought the growth of non-scholastic youth sports vigorously. Subscribing to video of non-scholastic contests is prohibited. In basketball, going to watch AAU events is tightly restricted. In football, coaches are prohibited from going to any non-scholastic event.
This has resulted in two things: the steady, continued growth of AAU basketball, 7-on-7 football, and all other club sports, and diminished NCAA influence in this area. By removing college coaches from many AAU gyms and football camps, it has become the lawless wild west that the restrictions sought to avoid.
According to Infante, the NCAA should "let go" of high school sports and reorganize around the principle that non-scholastic sports are primary. That sounds radical, but Infante makes a persuasive point: you have no control over something you have completely banned and lots of control over something you are working with. If two rival AAU tourneys are competing for players, the one with college coaches in the house is going to win hands-down.
Meanwhile, Rivals and company should expect a surge in subscriptions from coaches' wives.
Side note: Banning Rivals based on video of "non-scholastic competition" is a weird situation when a lot of newspapers are covering recruiting in more detail these days. The occasional camp highlight video hardly registers on why people subscribe to Rivals—if anyone actually watches video it's of, you know, football—and it would be interesting to see if one of the sites tests the NCAA by cutting camp stuff. Most of it's "Christian Cullen" running a shuttle.
Foot… ball? Yes, they still play it. No, there is no running back. A Daily article on the situation recycles some of Borges' quotes from his recent press availability…
“To say we have a frontline back, a guy we’re saying, ‘This guy’s the guy’ — we’ve had flashes of excellence from all of them and that’s not a decision we have to make today,” Borges said. “But I like those kids.”
…and alarmingly references Vincent Smith and Michael Cox without so much as mentioning Dramatic Cupcake Hopkins. Practice chatter has been silent on him even as guys like Cox, who has never seen the field for a reason, get unearthed and evaluated. Meaningfulosity? About as much as the rest of spring practice, but if you forgot what happens this time of year because you were paying attention to basketball and hockey, we get very very bored and therefore try to parse anything we can out of the faint whisper of the ghost of a tiny fraction of tea leaf that wasn't very large to start with.
The spring game is almost upon us, which means that the recruiting process is about to be in full effect. With two commitments under their belt the Michigan coaching staff could see that number jump very soon. Here's a look at this past weekend's visitor, a few updates on other recruits, and what the future holds.
6'4", 250 lbs.
Aka does not currently have an offer from Michigan, but has been trying to get on campus for some time. He was supposed to make the trip up last weekend with teammate WR/QB Aloyis Gray but the plans fell through. He made the day trip up on Saturday with his coach and was well worth the wait.
It was amazing. When we first got there we took the tour, met with the academic advisor, talked to the recruiting coordinator, then my position coach and Coach Hoke. That was the best part talking to the coaches. I actually built a relationship with them, which I haven't been able to do really with other schools.
Pierre would like to go into nuclear engineering so schools like Michigan and Stanford stand out to him. While he wasn't offered on this trip he did get a chance to talk to the coaches about what he needs to do to earn a scholarship to Michigan.
They said they could offer at anytime, but they definitely will offer if I do good at the one day camp this summer. They all like me, but they just want to see me catch the ball. They said that they only send handwritten letters to certain guys and I'm on that list, they just want to see me in person.
His coach felt the visit was a success and also told Pierre that he thinks Michigan is a good place for a tight end. Aka currently has offers from Arkansas State, Ball State, Bowling Green, Miami (OH), Northern Illinois, Toledo, and WMU. His team essentially only uses their tight ends for blocking, so there's no film of him running routes or catching the ball. If he does well at summer camps he could see his offer list grow.
6'4", 245 lbs.
Spence has racked up offers from almost everywhere and is five star in Rivals' early evaluation. I have done updates with Spence's father and his coach, so now it was time to hear from Noah himself on where he's at in the process.
I'm definitely going to take all my visits, I'm just taking it step by step right now. I'm wide open and just looking at everybody. When I go to narrow it down it will be through a lot of prayer, seeing what my parents like, and if I feel like I fit in with their system and if they have a family atmosphere.
As you can imagine narrowing down a list the size of Spence's can be intimidating and confusing. He has already started to take trips and is looking to the future to see where he can take in next.
I've taken trips to Maryland and Tennessee, and I'll be up to Penn State for the Blue and White game. I'll probably do local schools for now like Rutgers too. Once I have more time I'll go to the further away schools.
Michigan is one of the schools he and his family are interested in seeing over the summer. Spence says that's most likely when he'll make the trip to Ann Arbor.
I've always liked Michigan since I was younger, it definitely interests me. I like them a lot, the coaching staff seems real down to earth. We talk about everything, grades, football, and how everything's going. Not everything is football with them.
Noah and his family are very close, and his father has been helping him along with the process. So it isn't a surprise that Spence wants to make sure his family is comfortable with his final choice as well.
The school has to include my parents, because they're a big part of my life. It has to be all there too football wise and school wise. I think I want to major in kinesiology, but you're going to get a good education at any D1 school really. I'm not really looking for a specific type of defense, I think I can play defensive end or linebacker. The only way to find out if I fit is to go out to practice and look at the schools.
Spence plans on making his final announcement at the Army All American game which will give his suitors plenty of time to show them what they're about. Whoever lands him is not only getting a quality prospect but a quality kid.
6'2", 190 lbs.
West Des Moines, Iowa
Darboh hasn't been talked about too much but has offers from Florida, Iowa, Michigan, MSU, Nebraska, and Notre Dame among others. While he has some big time schools coming after him he says he's still in the researching stage of the process.
I'm trying to find time to go to the schools to learn more about them and see where I fit in. I don't have an exact date of when I want to decide yet. The spring and summer is when all the visits will start. I just want to go to the ones that are closer for now, then later on in the summer go out to the further ones.
The receiver position hasn't been discussed as much as the defensive side of recruiting, but Michigan is losing some big time talent after this season. Coach Mallory has been recruiting Darboh to try to fill those holes.
They said they like my character and they like that I'm a playmaker. I know Michigan has a great football program and I'm trying to learn more about them. I think I'm going up there after my Notre Dame visit. Coach Mallory talks to me about a little bit of everything though. He's friends with my head coach, Coach Wilson so they know each other well.
Amara is a competitive receiver and says he does whatever it takes to win. He doesn't currently have a top group yet, but hopes to have one sometime in the summer.
When I make my decision it's going to be about the connection with the coaches and the offensive system. I'm also thinking about studying business, so somewhere that would help me with my degree. I just want an offense that I have a chance to make plays in, that throws the ball enough to make plays.
Darboh has been out to Iowa and Iowa State since they're basically in his backyard. He plans on going out to Notre Dame for their spring game and planning other trips after that.
Ohio LB Joe Bolden is visiting Michigan on Tuesday [April 12th] with his parents. He was recently up to see Ann Arbor with his coach, who's his uncle, and his dad. He told me recently that he thinks he's closing in on a decision, and that Michigan commit Caleb Stacey has been recruiting him to choose the Wolverines. I'm not sure if Tuesday will be the day he pulls the trigger, but it might help move him towards his decision.
This is a very preliminary list and will absolutely grow as I confirm more names. As usual I will post a permanent list in the diary section during the week.
Ohio LB Kaleb Ringer (6'0", 219 lbs): Making his decision the day before, on Friday the 15th at 6 pm EST. If you haven't figured out what's happening you haven't been paying attention.
Illinois OL Jordan Diamond (6'7", 289 lbs)
2013 Michigan QB Shane Morris (6'3", 183 lbs)
Illinois DT Jaleel Johnson (6'2", 277 lbs): He might be coming up with Jordan Diamond
New Jersey DB DJ Singleton (6'3", 200 lbs): Not sure if he'll be able to make it yet.
Indiana ATH David Perkins (6'2", 209 lbs): Still hoping for an offer, might go to a different spring game.
Michigan LB Tyler Goble (6'0", 232 lbs): Baseball schedule might get in the way. He was recently out to a MIchigan practice and the coaches told him they want him at their camp. He's a former teammate of 2011 commit Brennen Beyer.
Michigan DB Terry Richardson (5'9", 160 lbs): If Terry comes it might be safe to assume that James Ross and Royce Jenkins-Stone will be there, I just haven't confirmed yet.
Like I said I will have more this week as I confirm some names. Stay tuned for that.
4/9/2011 – Michigan 2, Minnesota-Duluth 3 (OT) – 29-11-4, season over
There's a track on the Robert Earl Keen live album I've listened to incessantly since I was maybe a junior in college in which it's just him introing a song with a story. It's about how he went to the second Willie Nelson Fourth of July Picnic. Keen lies that he was "about 27 years old" at the time and had a date—his first date ever. He had so much fun in "the Willy Way" that he had to go take a nap.
He woke up from his nap to hear a man on the PA announcing that there had been a fire in the parking lot and that 40 cars had burned up. The first winner: RHP 997. Now, you might wonder why Keen and I remember that so well. In Keen's case it's because it was his car. In my case it's because I've listened to this story hundreds of times.
Keen's obviously devastated by this news, but his date laughs. Keen reminds her "we don't have a ride"; she responds "I do." Keen is introduced to Tarzan and Adonis, who promise to "take care of her, man." She departs. Keen is left with not enough of a car to carbon-14 date and no date when just a few hours ago he having the best time of his life.
He sits down.
He sits down on the grass. On the burnt grass, the black, burnt dirt and grass, and he weeps. "Big, old, giant tears."
I don't know, man.
I've got a post in the hopper titled "the bottom" that details the stunning descent in Michigan athletics that started when Bo died the day before Football Armageddon and to my eyes stopped on January 17th when Greg Mattison was hired away from an NFL team to coordinate Michigan's defense. Since then the basketball team exceeded anything approximating reasonable expectations, Jim Tressel and Ohio State seem to have started a long, ugly process of implosion, and the hockey team deflected its way to a 50-50 shot at glory. We are finally on the way up.
That doesn't mean they are. Hagelin and Scooter and Hunwick just saw something slip through their fingers they'll never get back. I guess Hunwick has a shot next year but a quick look at the roster shows a team that should be happy to extend the tourney streak—in all likelihood this was it for Tiny Jesus. I'm trying to decide whether this is actually worse than last year. At least last year promised this year; right now it's hard to see Michigan back here for years, like when Boo Nieves is a sophomore and whichever 2013 forwards stick might be awesome. Next year's impact help is playing in the OHL.
So I'm not sure when that shot will come again. Maybe it will be next year—hockey is bizarre that way—but despite a season as frustrating as a conference championship can be by the end I was deeply, deeply invested in Hagelin and the kids who gave him a flag and our 5'7" third-string walk-on goalie with a story the Air Bud producers would send back as too hackneyed. The hours after the North Dakota game were one long shuddering as my body gradually remembered things other than pure terror, and to lose—to frankly deserve to lose—after that was like all the horror described last year but with more finality. That happened and won't happen again and it wasn't enough.
Keen goes on to room with Lyle Lovett and carve out a career as a minor country star who doesn't have to give a crap what Nashville thinks, but being a musician doesn't come with eligibility restrictions. I spent Saturday thinking of all the guys who came and went during Michigan's long championship interregnum: Cammalleri and Comrie and Shouneyia and Hensick and all the other brilliant 5'8" guys college hockey makes into gods. Jed Ortmeyer, who has more work ethic in a finger than I do in my entire body and once killed two St. Cloud players in the first five minutes of a tourney game at Yost. Jack Johnson. Milan Gajic and his magic ability to not score spectacular goals. Jason Ryznar and Craig Murray always seeming way better than they were. Al Montoya sitting in the penalty box. Brandon Kaleniecki living inside the goalie's jersey. Jay Vancik convincing me he was an NHL player. Bob Gassoff, who I once screamed "why even give him a stick?" in the general direction of.
I wrote about the fans and thought I'd write about them after—I guess I am, but not in the way I wanted to. Today we add Caporusso and Vaughn and Hagelin and Langlais and Winnett and Rust and Hogan to the list of people to valorize at some point in the indeterminate future.
As Keen was dripping onto the grass some guy from the festival came up and said "the least we can do is let you meet Willy," but Willy had to go jam with Leon Russell. Many years later he recorded one of Keen's songs as part of the Highwaymen—this is all in the story.
At some point Michigan is actually going to win another goddamned national championship and some of this will be redeemed. Not all of it, though. Shawn Hunwick is never going to do that again, and nothing's ever going to match the Swedish flag and my complete failure to get people to replace all words in the goal cheer with "bork" when Hagelin scores. Things come and go; this one has gone and I'm stunned at how much I miss it already.
Seriously, No Bullets
Why this is so early in the morning. You see, Rudy, the fiancée's dissertation is due today and it's like 350 pages and I edited all of it and at one point there was a sentence with three different serial commas in it and my head exploded and I haven't actually gone to bed yet. So 1) early post because I decided it was now or never and 2) I am going to bed and will see you tomorrow and will bump Tom's weekly when I wake up this afternoon. kthxbye.
Okay, one. Congratulations to Duluth, who got a deserved win. I don't know what it was, but they spent the entire game turning Michigan's defensemen. Were they just blown out from the North Dakota game? I find that hard to believe when they had two days off and Duluth also played, but I hadn't seen anyone get around Michigan's D with that consistency all year. Since that includes UND and some other very good teams I wonder if the semi just took too much out of them.
It's impossible to be mad at a team with no previous titles and so many guys with awesome beards that don't match their blonde hair; congrats.
MGoBlue /Ghostwhistle. Not in picture: Hockey East referee being incompetent.
Site note: If you're here for the official MGo-Take on last night's championship game, only Brian can deliver that. These are my opinions, not the blog's. And my opinion is that "Intent to Blow" is the worst rule in sports:
As there is a human factor involved in blowing the whistle to stop play, the referee may intend for the play to be stopped slightly before the whistle actually being blown. For example, the fact that the puck may come loose or cross the goal line before the sound of the whistle has no bearing if the referee determined that the play had stopped.
I have been saying that for years, mostly because the Red Wings are famous for getting screwed by it like all the time. So when Michigan had their first goal waived off last night, I already knew what I'd be writing about this morning, because "Intent to Blow" is one of those topics that I – like pretty much anyone else with who spends an unhealthy amount of time at Kukla's Korner - get screaming mad about whenever it's brought up. The internet hockey world thinks it's such a joke that it's the nom de plume of its best satire guy.
So of course the consensus most mindfuckingly stupid rule ever goes ahead and rips away a National Championship from Michigan.
I can't get into the ludicrous penalty disparity (thanks again Hockey East) that had M playing one fifth of the game with 20% fewer players; I wasn't taking notes, and don't have the torrent yet. Not that it matters: during the course of a hockey game a puck squirted through a sieve and entered the UMD net several seconds before a whistle was blown. As is always the case with game-altering intent to blow calls, the referee was out of position in the corner, lost sight of the puck, and made up his mind that all official hockey activity had ceased. After making some tea and ambling his way behind the net, he finally deigned to blow his whistle to let everyone else know that hockey activities had ceased, and that all things that had transpired in the interim never happened.
In slow-mo thanks to hal2thevic0r:
The point of the rule, as I understand it, is to discourage dangerous scrums in front of the net between when the goalie goes down on the puck and the ref manages to get whistle to lips. But that is rendered moot by the players, who will play until they hear the whistle. Ultimately the refs should blow a play dead when they lose sight of the puck. However in an age when video replay is available and in use, it's all too easy to use standards for goal scoring and stoppage of play that are not at all subjective: pucks cross lines, whistles blow, and we just go to the evidence.
Above I linked the last round of a "worst rule in hockey" tournament by the Minnesota Wild SBNation site. The blog had this to say:
Intent to blow has crushed all opponents thus far in this competition. The reason is clear. Fans are tired of a rule that has so clearly cost teams games. The referees are not supposed to affect the outcome of a game. They are simply supposed to call the penalties and ensure a fair game. With a rule such as this, they have the subjective control to change the outcome of a game. That's just not acceptable.
The rule of "play to the whistle" seems so simple. It is reviewable, it is fair, and it is indisputable. Was the puck across when the whistle blew? Yes or no are the only two answers. Was the puck across the line when the referee intended to blow the whistle? How are we ever supposed to know that?
I'll go further: Video makes the Intent clause nothing more than a cover for referee fallibility. It's the ref's fault, not the players', if he's out of position and loses sight of the puck because of it. Even good refs can have bouts of incompetence, because hockey changes direction faster than jetpack Smurf Denards on swivel rollerskates.* If he blows an early whistle, well, that's an inevitable thing that happens with human refs. The Intent rule was an understandable standard in the absence of instant replay, because how else do you make a call out of a total clusterf—?
MGoBlue /How dare you question my intent! To the box, all of ye!
Video changes this because we now have what is essentially another referee who's usually in the perfect position and can provide incontrovertible evidence of everything he saw. So if the on-ice ref doesn't blow his whistle until later, what the bloody hell does it matter when he lost sight of the puck, just so long as the video didn't? Why codify errors that are easily avoided? Why keep a rule which its only extant function is to disallow good goals?
I swear if Michigan had scored the overtime winner I'd still hate the stupid rule. If UMD had a goal disallowed I'd still hate the stupid rule. But of course the stupid rule had to be the exact difference in a national title for the one team I can't possibly claim a lack of total idiot bias for.
Due to the butterfly effect we have no idea if the game would have transpired differently had that goal been allowed, but it doesn't change the fact that except for a rule that allows referee incompetence to trump video evidence Michigan scored 3 goals before Minnesota-Duluth did. If you're here from UMD looking for some sour grapes, okay, you have a fine hockey team which played some championship-worthy hockey these past few weeks. Congratulations. Also: the Bulldog is a silly name for a hockey team.
Way to go Champ.
* If you allow that there are competent NCAA hockey refs surely you'll forgive me jetpack Smurf Denards and their associated accoutrements.
Diaries and Whatnot, but First Lose the Shirt
2006 Tigers fans will nod at this: sometimes you have a team that looked kinda good but not like world beaters, and then all of a sudden they're in a miracle season with new traditions and a palpable excitement, and then they topple Goliath and the only thing between it and a championship is the one thing all year they're actually favored a little bit to beat. Then it goes to hell, and not in the "well we came as far as we could" kind of way of freshmen losing to Duke by two but in the 20 errors by pitchers while the dream is shot and stabbed kind of way.
The way Michigan was playing last night after Intent to Blow you thought they were the better team. Then came all the UMD power plays – a few of them actually deserved – and by overtime you could tell Scooter had lost a step and Rust was run ragged and with all of that shaking something had to finally come loose.
It's been five years since the '06 Tigers got within sight of The Thing then fell out of the tree, but all I remember today is the climb. There was gum and Verlander and Inge fouling off 25 pitches from Barry Zito and the Slam in the Bronx, and all of that. Five years from now, what will we remember? The penalties will sting, but more than that it'll be Caporusso's Valentine, Scooter's shot, Rust's defiance of human capacity, a huge Swedish flag, and a tiny little goalie who made big.
Your Diarist of the Week is Gordon, who's already there:
At this time next year, around the time that new banners go up, and old banners get updated, there will be a Carl Hagelin plaque hanging in the north hallway of Yost. Is that anything to be disappointed about?
That's the conclusion of Gordon's diary, but like the 2010-11 Michigan Men's Ice Hockey season, it's not about the end but the journey.
Old Time Hockey?
Before the championship game became literally just this, Brian – as only that guy can do – aptly summarized the "1-0" victory over NoDak as the "world's longest penalty kill." Shortly before that Blazefire made a much less apropos analogy of Berenson's coaching v. UND to a Lloyd game:
"Make that lead hold up, boys! Drive them crazy!"
Just like a Lloyd coached game, UND had chances, and plenty of them. But what they got very little of was the break away, one on that makes goalies around the world wet themselves. Most of their good chances erupted from a pile of bodies, more of which were Maize and Blue than Green and White. But it was always in a pile of chaos that’s hard to take advantage of.
“We’re gonna out-execute them. No mistakes. Do it right every time.”
Blazefire is pretty much wrong on the comparison – that's just my e-opinion – except for the part of the quote I bolded. If you ask me, Berenson's more Fielding Yost than Lloyd Carr or Bo. But I could totally see him telling his players on the bench that whole UND game: "keep up the pressure, you're driving them crazy!"
FTR, I like Blazefire. I just think the analogy isn't a fit.
They Teach You How to Underline in College
Board, meet yourself:
This is but one small sample of wingedsig's survey results, posted mere moments before I was going to post this. I haven't even read through it all yet but it's MGoDemographics and long so giddyup!
User ertai last week laid out his case for paying D-I revenue sport players, comparing Ph.D. students and their stipends on the basis of how much $ and prestige they bring to the university by choosing to do their work here. Some folks negged him out of hand because paying players is going to be a non-starter for the current NCAA folks. But:
As we can see, from a high level perspective, there are many similarities. The difference is that PhD students get a stipend, which varies based on the school and the location. Also schools may offer PhD students different amounts of money for their services based on how good they are. For example, an OSU PhD student choosing between OSU, MIT and Stanford will probably get a larger offer from OSU than one who just got into OSU. Stipends range between 15K to 30K a year, based on the department, school, and your attractiveness as a candidate.
Read and lend your e-pinion – it's obvious he put some time and thought into the proposal. The strongest case I can make against it is that for most schools, even in D-I, the revenue sports can barely bring in enough to pay for the rest of the athletic department, so we'd essentially be going back to a system of a few mega-Haves and the Boise States of the world unable to compete. Michigan would obviously be a Have, but the other 90% would raise so much hell it's a non-starter.
The folks who don't like Johnny RBUAS got a rep in the diaries in zoltan the destroyer, who riffed on Johnny's guest post. Of course, zoltan totally missed the point: the intellectual weakness of a Johnny post isn't in being kindly sentimental to his subjects, just in the bias of choosing Michigan subjects. When I can explain in less than 800 words why Johnny fans like me naturally get bent out of shape when a cynic breaks up our sap, I'll do so. Just a thought from a writer's perspective: the reason the thoughts he puts in M players' heads are those of great good isn't saying they're all heroes; he's doing that because in our own heads we're all heroes. Make sense? Probably not. Have a haterz gif.
In my first or second season at Yost we sat maybe a section over from a guy who really wanted to be funny but mostly yelled things like "I want a piece of you, Ham." You see, it's funny because his last name is "Ham," and ham is also a lunchmeat so you could take a piece of him because he would be salty and delicious. And then you would put him in your mouth. Do you like where this is going? Check Y or N.
A few years later there was this lady in the endzone with a cowbell. She rang it with a ruthless military efficiency at the appropriate times. She was perhaps the best person with cowbell I have experienced, but she played with such intensity she came off as slightly insane. Someone once told me she had failed when she tried out for the hockey band. Ah: she had spent her time at Chateau d'If pounding out the insistent rhythm of "Go Blue" on the dungeon wall.
Maybe around the same time, maybe earlier, there was a generation of supremely vile screamers who sat in the heart of the student section and launched largely incomprehensible rants at whoever was an opportune target. I know they were supremely vile because at that point the visiting parents were seated right behind the visitor's bench—right in front of the vile generation—and screaming matches between them were a common occurrence. Meatheaded fathers trundling up the aisle in search of someone to fight weren't common occurrences, but they weren't exactly uncommon. I remember one particular UNO parent climbing the stairs with death in his eyes.
A few years after that they'd moved the parents and a couple guys who wore costumes to the game closest to Halloween decided they'd just start wearing them all the time, so you'd look over in the student section and see a penguin or Frankenberry or guys dressed up like knights for no apparent reason. This year there's a guy in a dog costume who screams so loud I can hear him across the ice.
There is a man who wears a "666" jersey that says "heckler from hell" on the back. He has always been there.
Hockey crowds invented "can't read, can't write" and, when Bobby Williams was running things into the ground and virtually everyone on Michigan State's team had been arrested or rumored to be having serious life problems with drugs, "snort green, smoke white." When Boston U and future NHLer Brandon Yip came to town someone started going "yip yip yip yip" like the aliens on Sesame Street and soon everyone was doing it and that's probably where the bizarre penalty kill hooting comes from. We used to chant "goalie, sieve" fairly generically until some guy came up with the version that goes from slow to fast to slow again, and now everyone does that.
At some point in the middle of the last decade there was a weird old man who started showing up in the student section. Whenever there was the vaguest impression of a penalty on the other team he would exclaim "HEY!" When the penalty impression was fairly strong he would continue saying "HEY!" for a solid minute. He did this flatly, without affect, just "HEY" repeated over and over with the same intonation. After a few games of this it was a little annoying but when someone started doing it with him to mock him everyone started doing it and it was just this mass of people screaming "HEY" like they are endeavoring to be a hockey metronome. Once it lasted for five solid minutes after a particularly egregious no call.
The student section's favorite name ever was "Cockburn," even though it was pronounced "coburn." This did not matter to them in the slightest.
There was also a comically long edition of If You Can't Get Into College Go To Blank directed at… oh, I don't know… Western or LSSU or Northern or something. Before each verse Superfan's sidekick would call out the next school you should apply to before Western or Lake State or wherever—"Schoolcraft!"
The band director used to dance. When Michigan was winning people would start screaming "dance" at him. There was specific dancing song, and often it was preceded by false starts that would draw boos and chants of "overrated." When the students were baying at their peak the director would finally relent and the dancing music would play and the director would dance and everyone would point at him and chant "Disco Nix," or other appropriate naming device that follows "Disco." Afterwards the noun-sieve cheer was "dancer, sieve."
At some point in the awkward transition period between Jack Johnson's dad dances to everyone dances there were three or four competing dancers, many of whom were just… wow. One of them was the spiritual descendent of Ham Guy and would not be dissuaded from dancing no matter how much you told him he should not do so. He probably had Asperger's even if that doesn't exist anymore.
There is one guy in my fogey section who is awesome. He is a big dude who brings the paper and when he is incensed he does not care he is around very many people who do not care quite as much as he does, he stands and bellows something or other I can't hear because I'm behind him. A few years ago when I was on the other side of the ice there was a guy who got so mad he'd leap up in his seat and lean over the boards so he could scream at the refs good and loud. I don't think he ever got booted out because he looked like an accountant.
Every time I go to the Joe I see one of the ushers from the student section there in civilian clothes, looking so happy he can face the ice the whole time and not kick anyone out for saying something naughty.
Some kid got his mom to make a giant Swedish flag so whenever Carl Hagelin scores it can cover an entire section, and everyone signed it and gave it to him on Senior Night and everyone hopes it's not an NCAA violation so he can keep it. There was a group of guys with vuvuzelas last year who were not annoying.
I was there the first time a kid on the zamboni took his shoe off, and the first time the kid on the zamboni who'd taken his shoe off threw it into the student section. The kid looked delighted he'd done this.
PLAYOFF TIME IS HOCKEY BEAR TIME
|WHAT||Michigan vs Minnesota-Duluth|
|WHERE||XCel Center, St. Paul, Minnesota|
|THE LINE||Come on|
Record. 25-10-6, 15-8-5 WCHA. Duluth is necessarily less terrifying than North Dakota. They're approximately as terrifying as UNO: they finished a point behind the Mavericks in the WCHA and were +28 in goal differential (UNO was +35). Their nonconference performance was a bit better than UNO's, but other than a weird nonconference matchup with North Dakota the opponents were not strong. KRACH—which stopped updating before tournament results came in—has them 7th. Michigan is 6th. (North Dakota was an easy #1.)
The Bulldogs spent time earlier in the year at #1 but struggled late in their conference schedule. After a sweep of Michigan Tech in late January they finished the regular season 3-4-3; their best opponents were CC (one point) and UNO (split). In the WCHA playoffs they beat St. Cloud in the first round, then lost to Bemidji in the quarterfinals.
In the tournament they were fortunate to be the only non-AH/ECAC team in Yale's regional. They beat Union 2-0 despite getting outshot 32-26 by scoring two power play goals. Against Yale they jumped out to a 3-0 lead. After Yale got one back, Brian O'Neill, the goalscorer and Yale's best player, was kicked out of the game on a clean open-ice hit. UMD scored twice on the ensuing five-minute power play and that was all she wrote; Yale did add two PP goals of their own in the third. Yesterday they fell behind in the first period twice but bounced back quickly; their power play scored three more goals. An ND shortie closed the gap but not all the way.
If you're scoring at home, Duluth has two even strength goals in three NCAA tournament games. They've been outshot by 6, 7, and 13.
Previous meetings. None. How about…
Common opponents. Chart? Chart.
|Northern Michigan||3-2||-||-||3-2, 5-0|
|Notre Dame||4-3||-||-||5-3, 4-2||1-3|
|Wisconsin||2-0, 6-5, 3-2||2-3||-||4-4|
|Colorado College||-||4-5||3-3||6-5, 2-1|
|North Dakota||3-2||0-5, 2-4||-||1-0(!)|
Duluth is 7-6-4 with a –1 goal differential; Michigan is 11-3-1 with a +19 goal differential. Woot? Well, here the schedule strength is not close at all since Michigan's only got the one game against North Dakota and four against meh CCHA teams like LSSU and Northern. On the other hand, Minnesota was pretty bad this year and Michigan only got one crack at them—they lost, but if they played four they might have done better than 1-1-2.
Yes, everyone on UMD dyed their hair blond.
Yes, this makes everyone look like eurotrash except the guys with beards.
Yes, the guys with beards just look amazing.
Clint Austin/Duluth News
Dangermen. Also way less terrifying than North Dakota's. Closer to CC's with a stronger second line and much worse depth. CC has six forwards with more than 20 points; four are on a PPG-ish pace. From Michigan's perspective, that's better than UND's six. Their top line is outstanding—brothers Mike (28-26-54) and Jack Connolly (18-41-59) team with Justin Fontaine (22-36-58) to create a line on par with CC's Schwartz/Schultz combo and not far off UND's Frattin/Malone/Trupp. Their even strength numbers are a bit less impressive, as 26 of the line's 68 goals came with an advantage. Scooter actually has more ES goals than Jack Connolly and Fontaine. That's not to say scoring on the PP lots is bad thing—it's just that they're two different phases. North Dakota's even strength scoring was far more intimidating.
The second line is pretty strong as well, with JT Brown's 16-20-36 leading the way and a couple others not far behind. After that scoring collapses. One guy has thirteen points and then it's a bunch of nothing—this should be a game in which Michigan's third and fourth lines dominate.
Defense and goalie and whatnot. Junior Kenny Reiter is a step back from UND's Aaron Dell but is better than the goalies for either of Michigan's regional opponents. He has a slightly above average .914 save percentage. Tiny Jesus is up to .925 after blanking North Dakota.
Faulk has played Michigan before. Mark Bialik/AnnArbor.com.
The UMD defense has one ultra-star in freshman Justin Faulk, a second round pick of the Hurricanes in last year's draft. Faulk has 8-25-33 and is hyped up by many as the best freshman defenseman in the country. Jon Merrill might have something to say about that, but he's very good. The United States of Hockey scouts him:
As I mentioned, a big reason UMD’s power play works so well is because of the threat Faulk provides from the top of the point. Teams don’t want him to unleash his accurate and heavy shot without someone in his face. Due to that, there’s more room down low and on the half walls for the Connollys, Brown and Fontaine.
The other thing about Faulk, as friend of the blog Corey Pronman pointed out, is that he doesn’t shoot if he doesn’t have a lane and is far more than an offense-only defenseman. I think that’s why he’s probably the best pro prospect playing.
People in the NHL think he has "50 point upside."
UMD was hit with the mid-season departure of former Chicago first-rounder Dylan Olsen, who was going to be academically ineligible for the second half of the season. An injury to junior Brady Lamb made them quite thin for a time in February. They're better now, with senior captain Mike Montgomery and freshman sensation Justin Faulk (2010 second-round pick by Carolina) taking most of the big minutes. Lamb and sophomore Wade Bergman will see plenty of ice time. Sophomore Drew Olson needs to be more consistent, but he's been better while paired with fifth-year senior Trent Palm.
Sounds like the third pairing is a bit of an issue.
Special teams. Your power plays per game:
|PP For / G||5.1||4.2|
|PP Ag / G||4.8||4.5|
Duluth is slightly less likely to draw and more likely to commit an infraction. Michigan can't buy a call.
This is the same story as the previous two games: UMD, CC, and North Dakota are 7-8-9 in power play effectiveness, which means they're very very good and you are playing with fire every time you go to the box. The only power conference teams in front of that trio are BC and Miami. UMD's given up only three shorthanded goals compared to CC's 11 and UND's 7, so they're even a bit better than the numbers suggest.
Michigan's mediocre play earlier in the season gave way to an outstanding penalty kill in the tournament. North Dakota could hardly get set up on their five opportunities and CC was shut down. They're still languishing in the 20s; they're playing much, much better than that.
On the flipside it's a matchup between the #27 PP and the #27 PK that will be won or lost by the accuracy of Michigan point shots.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Rust Annihilation Co. Again Michigan comes across a team vulnerable to the incredible shutdown line they've iced since the three-game slide at the three-quarters pole. With last change Michigan will throw Rust, Glendening, and Winnett out there against the Connollys and hope to outscore with their other three lines. (Yes, three. I take it all back, fourth line.) If Rust and company can do what they did to the Schwartzes Michigan is halfway home.
STAY OUT OF THE BOX. I realize this can be difficult when refs think your shoulder is your elbow and ignore boarding and charging from the other team, but seriously: UMD has two even strength goals in the tourney. That's not very many. While Michigan doesn't have many more they are a different sort of team. Michigan is 6th in goals allowed, UMD 17th. If Michigan keeps the penalties in check and kills them the way they did against UND they're three quarters of the way home, leaving…
Scooter, Caporusso, Moffatt, Treais, someone: score. Hagelin and Caporusso will draw the second UMD scoring line, leaving a bunch of mugs up against Michigan's third and fourth lines. With UMD's third defensive pairing also a little shaky, those lines need to be at least +1 collectively. We can't bank on the Annihilation Co actually outscoring the opposition's mad awesome line again.
How likely is this? At least somewhat. UMD's been significantly outshot in the tournament despite a wicked power play; if Michigan can play the game five on five they should have a territorial advantage. They bombed a team with a similar lack of depth in the regional final and only scored two because Joe Howe went Hunwick and Joe Howe's posts did too.
Burlon? I was surprised Burlon wasn't ready to go. Actually, I'm not sure he wasn't. It sounds like the reason he was scratched was Red wanting to leave the regionals lineup intact. That's very strange to me because Clare does not get a whole lot of run—certainly not as much as Burlon would—and there's at least one shift a game where the speed of these good WCHA teams clearly overwhelms his ability to get rid of the puck in an effective fashion. I'm guessing we'll see Clare out there again, but there's a case that you can hide Burlon against these iffy UMD lines, especially with last change. Having him out there for his offense seems like a benefit.
You can make the same case for Sparks over Rohrkemper but that's definitely not happening. /shakes fist
HUNWIIIIIIIIICK. From the North Dakota preview:
Hunwick has done it before this year and while my past self is inventing a time machine just so he can show up right after I type this to slap some sense into me, most win scenarios involve Hunwick setting up halfway to the blue line and stopping every first shot and then doing some crazy stuff you can't even believe is happening.
He probably won't have to do that in this game—shots figure to be at least even—but if he's on like that it's party time. He can't possibly be again, but this is hockey so yeah he could.
Pray like hell. Seriously, yo.
The Big Picture
Win or die.
i just did one of these but in the meantime there has been a TWB post on Shawn Hunwick…
Jon Merrill rang an almost-perfect shot off the crossbar, and with 13:26 remaining in the first period Ben Winnett — a player who had scored all of three goals this season — eventually corralled the rebound and buried it to give Michigan the all-important 1-0 lead. A North Dakota fan flashed his middle finger, one of those derogatory gestures meant to say, “Enjoy it while you can,” in expectation of the inevitable comeback. The Sioux battled back with increased intensity, turning up the pressure on the Wolverines and turning the game into one of those Hockey Games That Take Years Off Your Life. Watching North Dakota play, it was hard not to agree with Middle Finger Guy: This was far from over.
…and a torrent.
4/7/2011 – Michigan 1, North Dakota 0 – 29-10-4, national championship berth
[Ed-M: M 2, NoDak 0 if you count the empty-netter but it felt like 1-0]
42:40: The first time I looked at the clock. You'll note this is still in the first period. At this point I was a bit uncomfortable with the way things were tilted and wanted them to get to the locker room to regroup so they could get back on the relatively even footing it seemed they'd grasped. I mean, North Dakota seemed better but there was a bit in there where this looked like a plausible hockey game.
40:59: Ref gives Michigan embellishment call as player tries to hop around defender to grab the puck. Furious.
40:00: Exhale. Pop on twitter to complain about Rust's elbowing call. Think back to the 2003 Yost regional final when Mark Mink turned a harmless shorthanded CC turnover behind their own net to a wrap-around goal. Remember shouting "you haven't done anything all year but I FORGIVE YOU" at Mink. Half wince at persistent complaints about amount of playing time handed over to Ben Winnett over the years, half take credit for goal since universe tends to say "oh YEAH" at blog assertions.
39:30: This isn't going well. Already.
36:55: Derek DeBlois is headed off the ice when the puck approaches the bench; he hesitates for a second, looks like he's going to play it, and then continues. They call too many men.
34:55: Michigan kills another power play without really letting North Dakota get set up. That's their third; at no point has UND looked dangerous.
35:00: Still not going well at all.
33:03: Ref fails to call a matching minor on a Sioux slash. Power play.
29:50-ish. Hunwick robs Chay Genoway as he plunges into the slot, Eric Werner-style. He receives a cross-slot pass. A pass that goes from one prime shooting area from another is completed and Hunwick makes the save with his body. He's outside the crease as he does this.
29:05: The point at which I look at the clock and say "over half this period is gone" with sudden relief and realize I have been looking at this hockey game as the world's longest penalty kill since the 42:40 mark. I admit this to myself now. We are going to look like Wayne State against Colorado College the night before Mink scores the goal that forgives all: lined up on the blue line like men being executed for treason.
25:00-ish: Gregoire turns Langlais and comes swooping in on net right-to-left. He's on his forehand and has the entire net; Hunwick slides with him and stones him.
24:12: Hunwick drinks water. A friend who sits in the end zones at Yost told me that Hunwick is finicky about his water. Whenever a ref comes by to drink some his body language reads "why do you have to be like that?"
20:00: Exhale. Type "shitshitshitshitshitshitshit" into twitter because at this point analysis is impossible. I'm pretty sure Clare isn't playing much and there have been points when the fourth line has gotten trapped in its own end against the Frattin line that I can remember now but it's fight or flight.
18:00: Ten percent.
16:00: Twenty percent.
15:51: Frattin plays in on Malone as Glendening gets beat around the corner. Hunwick goes for a poke check and gets it; I realize this about five seconds later since the animal terror had been focused on the area behind Hunwick where the puck would pop out as the inevitable, devastating five-hole goal was scored.
I think about how I've seen this story before.
In 2004 Boston College was bombing Al Montoya but Michigan was hanging on to a one-goal lead thanks to goals from Mike Brown and Andy Burns—basically Winnett, except Burns was a defenseman scoring his first of the year. After a hectic nine-minute stretch without whistles in which Michigan finally started playing BC even, Michigan gave up a goal off an offensive zone faceoff. Whole self deflated, etc. BC won in overtime; shots ended up 42-15 BC.
12:33: I am being hunted. A shadow passes to my right as I scurry, tiny legs whirring through wildflowers. The shadow is getting larger.
10:01: AAAAAIIGH FRATTIN—HUNWICK!
I have no idea where the puck is but I don't care because it's not in the net. Air Force did this to us. God, we were good that year.
When I came home my then girlfriend had someone over. I said nothing, went into the bedroom, and closed the door. She silently brought me a glass and some whiskey, and I thought she was as wonderful as anything could be in a universe of total blackness.
9:32: Nothing much is happening righ—DON'T EVEN THINK THAT
8:50: Merrill holding call. This is all my fault.
6:50: Merrill comes out of the box without North Dakota getting much more than a point shot, but Michigan gets stuck in their end just as the penalty expires and is clearly gassed. I remember a game against Maine in which Michigan was down to five defensemen, one of whom was a walk-on, but not like Hunwick is a walk-on. Like a walk-on walk-on. They mostly played four guys. Mike Komisarek was a giant, a future pro who was unbelievably good, but by the end of the game he could barely move, and Maine put the Comrie era to bed.
The puck slides to the blue line, but not out. The linesman doesn't see it that way. Good linesman. I take back everything bad I've ever said about offsides.
5:00: Seventy five percent.
4:00: Now counting in minute increments. At 3:14 I decide there are three minutes left. I hate that 2:37 is still three minutes. 2:16: two minutes. Kill one power play. Come on.
1:13: Goalie gone. "Get it out," someone screams. The puck does not get out.
57.5: A pass slithers out from behind the net and manages to avoid the mess of sticks and skates camped out there. This memory does not require a refresher from wikipedia because it's terrifyingly recent: UMD just scored into a wide-open net against Notre Dame on this exact same pass. Hagelin throws himself at the shot and blocks it. The puck turns heel and ends up right back on Trupp's stick. He walks into the slot and lets it loose; Pateryn has thrown himself at this one and the puck deflects into the corner. It's thrown back out into the same spot on the ice, where Trupp waits; Hagelin has recovered and chucks the puck into the other corner.
44:1: UND recovers and throws a couple passes around the perimeter. The second one is one-timed; Hagelin is again there. He blocks it. Puck turns back into an American hero by somehow lying directly at Hagelin's feet after the block. He's attacked by the defenseman who just fired it; Hagelin evades him; Michigan breaks to center ice three on two; Hagelin passes it over to Caporusso as another Sioux player comes up to stop him; Louie does the same when the last remaining defender approaches him at the blue line; Scooter—of course it is Scooter—slides the puck into the empty net.
Someone tries to shake my hand or something and is hugged.
I didn't want to lead the post with this but there was quality work done on the board last night, most of it inspired by this guy:
[click for big]
Usually bird-flipping maniacs don't look like accountants. Our previous experience tends more towards lawyers:
Two things to note:
- Louie Caporusso giving him the bird right back—I didn't even know you could do that in a hockey glove.
- See the guy in the white giving a death stare that moves from Scooter to the bird-flipper? Yeah, if you watch the Winnett goal that guy flips off Winnett. North Dakota fans: classy.
Complete this photoshop espectacularrrrr.
Hell Yes Bullets
Random guys who played well unexpectedly. Luke Moffat had as much of a game as you can have as a third/fourth liner in a game where you're pinned in your own end most of the time. Melrose was all about Rust, and with reason. Moffie was not exploited—he went with Frattin in the first period and tied up his stick, turning what looked like it was going to be a dangerous chance into a weak shot Hunwick had no problem with.
Rust. RUST. I think we're getting a sense of just how silently good he is. Michigan's late-season renaissance has come with Rust logging huge minutes against top lines and it doesn't seem to matter who's on his wing. A win tomorrow makes Shawn Hunwick a legend and it should probably make Rust one too—Schwartz, Frattin, and UNO's big guns have little to show in three nerve-wracking games. If UMD says the same tomorrow he instantly becomes the most underrated Michigan player in the last decade.
Ref complaint. Seriously, the reason people say "keep your head up" is so you can get hit in the head with someone's shoulder, and calling a charge on Michigan after an obvious charge on North Dakota makes me want to die, not to mention a trip on the goalie late in the game that was totally ignored. Yost Built heard it was Scott Hansen from HE and immediately said "that's the guy who waved off the Ryznar goal in Buffalo"—so, yeah, basically any time Michigan gets a HE crew they will have screwed Michigan at some point in the past.
ESPN non-complaint. Melrose was all about North Dakota last night and people were all about ripping Melrose, but he was right. This was a "sometimes the best team doesn't win situation" and it was obvious on the ice. Kudos to Michigan for doing what they needed to but asking Melrose not to marvel at the Sioux is asking him to turn a blind eye to reality. Red agrees:
“I’ll tell you, they’ve got to be stunned,” Berenson said. “I know we were in '97. We were stunned. There’s so much momentum built up in your season. They rolled through the season, they rolled through their playoffs, they rolled their playoffs, they rolled through the first regional.
“But they’re stunned. They can’t believe it. They’re going to second guess themselves.”
Michigan just beat '97 Michigan. That team was stacked, and saying so doesn't make you a bad dude.
Also, I love Gary Thorn so much.
Gurrrrrgh. Someone retweeted Lee Moffie apologizing for nailing some dude in the crowd:
I followed Moffie since that's entertainment right there, and then it suggested I follow "ajtrea23," which is obviously AJ Treais even if the number is messed up, and I clicked through. Treais's bio:
University of Michigan 13'. The Andover High School 09'. A less dynamic version of TJ Hensick.
My spidey sense told me to Google this and sure enough:
Tell Winnett I'm so so sorry.
The highlights in non-picture format:
Yost Built on the flipper:
didn't you feel like that when Andrew Volkening shut us out 2-0, despite the Wolverines outshooting Air Force 43-13? Didn't you feel like that when Ryan Miller beat us 1-0 in a game that we outshot Michigan State by a 31-13 count?
This is how it feels to have the goalie that makes opposing fans do...well...that.
Sioux fans are going to think about this game--this season--for the next decade as the one that got away. This is going to be their 1997. The year their team was near unbeatable during the year, actually unbeatable for the 2 1/2 months heading into the tournament, and that damn tiny walk-on goalie slammed the door on them.
And you can't have one without the other…