3/2/2018 – Michigan 6, Wisconsin 5 – 19-13-3, 11-10-3 Big Ten
3/3/2018 – Michigan 7, Wisconsin 4 – 20-13-3, 11-10-3 Big Ten
keystone flops [Bill Rapai]
Just when you think Michigan has banished chaos from its ranks, Wisconsin rolls into town. This weekend's playoff series was, in a word, bonkers. Michigan scored on their first shot Friday; Wisconsin scored on their first shot Saturday. In between there was a lot of hyper-aggressive forechecking from the Badgers, power play goals by Michigan, and wave after wave of odd-man rushes both ways. Your favorite and mine was a four on one(!) set up by Quinn Hughes and finished with authority by Dakota Raabe and Niko Porikos:
— Michigan Hockey (@umichhockey) March 4, 2018
This is the hockey equivalent of Brent Hibbits throwing down that thunder-dunk on Isaac Haas. It was that kind of weekend.
In the aftermath, Wisconsin is wondering what happened to their season…
“We expected more out of this group,” said sophomore center Trent Frederic, who led the team with 17 goals. “It is what it is. It’s hard to look back and say we could have won here, could have won here.
“I wouldn’t say we really ever got any bounces all year. Last year, some stuff went our way. Maybe we weren’t as fortunate or maybe that was ourselves. But it just felt like one of those years (where) we were always fighting it.”
…and your author agrees. Michigan played the Badgers four times in their Hey We're Good Now second half and got more or less run out of the building twice. That did not happen against anyone else. One of those times they got run was Friday, a 6-5 Michigan that saw Wisconsin pile up a 53-29 shot advantage. It was all for naught because Michigan was 4/5 on the power play. The only other team that's handed Michigan their ass like that this year is—sigh—Ohio State. OSU is fighting for a one seed. Wisconsin's season is over because they are 5 games below .500.
Wisconsin is almost terrifying. They're VCU on ice. They crippled Michigan's breakout Friday in a game that felt immediately out of hand, but Michigan scored first because one of their defensemen let a puck dribble by him and suddenly Michigan had a two-on-one gifted to them. It continued in this vein, which Michigan scoring slam-dunk PP goals as the Badgers got the puck to the left point and tried to shoot it through four or five bodies, with some success.
In the aftermath there was nothing to do but be glad those maniacs are done and hope that Michigan gained some valuable experience at breaking out of the zone against a heavy forecheck. I guess they were resilient? When Wisconsin punched, Michigan punched back. That they had to punch back after they flung the puck from their defensive zone directly to a Wisconsin stick and then fished the puck out of the net… well, they fixed that on Saturday, a much saner game by shot counts (but not goals). Nicholas Boka's return gave Michigan a second pair of defensemen who have the confidence and skill to break that forecheck, and the tables turned.
The bid's locked in now and the rest of the season is gravy. But also BC, BU, North Dakota, and Minnesota are down or flailing towards the finish line. There's no juggernaut this year, and now that Michigan's in they've got as good a shot as anyone. As long as they stay out of the box.
[After THE JUMP: a mercifully boring pairwise section and an invitation for small schools to jump in a lake.]