Mass Hysteria Comment Count

Brian March 30th, 2009 at 10:39 AM

3/27/2009 – Michigan 0, Air Force 2 – End of Season


Naurato (left) and Lebler; Ariel Bond from the Daily. 

Well, at least I don't have to make a tedious case that the way the NCAA hockey championship is determined is close to a random number generator. Reality has done that for me. Yost Built summarizes the chaos over the weekend:

-3 #1 seeds are out.
-3 #2 seeds are out.
-The only remaining #2 was down 4-2 with 40 seconds left in regulation. They scored with .8 seconds left to send the game into overtime.
-That wasn't even the latest a goal was scored to send a game to OT as UNH popped one in against North Dakota with .1 second left and won in OT.
-Cornell scored with 18 seconds left in regulation to beat Northeastern.
-A game was won in double OT on a shot that went through the net.

Hell, Michigan's loss against Air Force wasn't even the craziest thing to happen. Notre Dame got behind Bemidji State 4-0 and ended up losing 5-1. Literally the only team that adhered to expectation was BU, the sole one-seed to make the Frozen Four.

Today we stand at the edge of history, with Bemidji State—a team whose conference will cease to exist as soon as it is eliminated, if, you know, anyone bothers to do so before they win a national title—ticketed for the Frozen Four. Michigan outshot Air Force 44-13 and lost. In their next game, the Falcons were denied in double overtime by the above-mentioned shot that went through the net and was subject to a tortuous ten-minute review before it was declared a game-ending goal.

If ever there was a time for this particular youtube embed, this is it:

Does all this make me feel better? Well, yeah, kinda. When the misery was all Michigan's, it was weekend ruining. When Jeff Jackson (and the rest of the favored planet) can empathize, eh… that's single-elimination playoff hockey.

Travis Turnbull, who was this close to murdering a half-dozen people over the past couple months, probably disagrees.


I was actually planning on doing something else on Friday but the looming possibility of knife-twisting overwhelmed all. At this point I care about the hockey team as much as I care about football—for which you can blame/credit the back-to-back Yost regionals earlier this decade—and there is no point at which a football team finds itself at the mercy of the fates like college hockey teams do during the tournament.

Maybe this is an effect of the limited information we have in football. There are so few games that teams become their results; "deserved" doesn't enter into it. Teams become legendary because they win all their games, or in some cases win all but one and get lucky, and then that it. They exist as their body of work.

Hockey teams have a body of work, which is thrown into the pairwise blender and spat out somewhere else and then they show up and hope. I've mentioned this before: pucks bounce. And sometimes a seemingly harmless shot from the half-boards finds the millimeter of space the opposing goalie provides, and sometimes your first-round draft pick defenseman and senior captain gets walked and sometimes the team you're rooting for seems bound and determined not to score any goals that don't bore a hole through the opposing goalie and then you scream profanities and go mope until you fall asleep.

So ends Michigan's 2008-09 hockey season, and dude: lame. I wish I had something more enlightening to say about it, but when you outshoot the opponent by more than 3-1 and lose there's not much you can say except "goddammit."

Berenson himself drops the strange results from 97 (when Michigan had one of the great college hockey teams of all time and got bounced) and 98 (when a shell of the 97 team got hot in the tourney and won a national title) whenever someone puts a microphone in his face and asks him about his chances. I can almost rattle off his speech verbatim by this point: "the best team doesn't always win" etc, etc, etc.

But even if the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune are old hat by now, this one had to be incredibly disappointing. Michigan was up 2-0 in the CCHA championship game, looking to extend their streak in non-controversial games to 21-1. Ninety minutes later the scoreboard reads Michigan 1, Opponent 7 and the season is over without anything to mark its passage.

The picture above says it all: what the hell was that?


  • Man, that second goal was a killer. It's two-on-two coming into the defensive zone and Mitera steps up in a completely insane way, creating an unnecessary two-on-one. If he's been on the ice a month you have to play him and hope; I don't think that play happens if Mitera has another season of experience behind him instead of rehab.
  • Well… next year. Primary flight risks are Summers, Palushaj, and Caprusso. If you made me guess I'd say Palushaj is gone and the others return. Seniors are Mitera, Turnbull, Miller, Fardig, and Naurato. (Also Sauer.) No offense to any of those guys, but that's two fourth-liners and two third-liners who occasionally got sucked up into scoring lines for physical presence along the boards and so forth and so on. Lebler and Winnett should be able to step into those roles, and then you've got a probable second-round NHL draft pick at power forward plus the U18 team's leading scorer.

    The team should be very good again.

  • Turnbull spent his last couple months in a Michigan uniform seriously pissed off (which was not entirely outside the bounds of reason), from the misconducts in the Ferris game to a wide variety of incidents with referees. I don't know why or anything, but it's worth noting.



March 30th, 2009 at 1:18 PM ^

After their goalie's first couple of saves in the first period, all I could picture is J.S. Giguere stoning the red wings over and over and over again. He reminds me of Giguere's style too the way he is big and doesn't move well, yet somehow every shot happens to hit him or the post. I really did not want to relive something like that again.

Also, to add insult to injury....the red wings played later that night, 40+ shots....shut out 2-0. Bad day for my hockey teams.

Jimmy Ballgame

March 30th, 2009 at 11:12 AM ^

The guy was absolutely nuts in the CCHA semi final against Alaska. I was sitting in my seat just waiting for him to snap. I would love to see him play an agitator role in the NHL.


March 30th, 2009 at 12:18 PM ^

Please check my comments on the bottom of the hockey preview posted Friday for an explanantion of the weekends events.

Double bonus points for The Smiths tag at the top Brian, perfecct band for M fans recently.


March 30th, 2009 at 11:49 AM ^

I was half expecting kittens all weekend long.

The ESPN article makes some waves about the lack of drafted players on Air Force. Am I correct in assuming that they are also bound to the two years military service? Are NHL teams particularly averse to waiting for service academy players, especially given the list of relatively unencumbered talent from juniors?


March 31st, 2009 at 6:03 AM ^

An AFA grad owes the AF 5 years of service after graduation. I know there's a route for some players, in special cases, to essentially apply to have their service commitment shortened or waived, but that is an exception. One of my best friends played for AFA through 2004, and he was still committed to 5 years of service, along with the rest of his classmates.


March 30th, 2009 at 12:08 PM ^

... but zero visits to the championship game in over a decade is starting to seriously piss me off. At least my lust for Jeff Jackson as our next coach was somewhat tempered by Notre Dame crapping the bed in Grand Rapids.


March 30th, 2009 at 12:29 PM ^

i was all set to criticize the lack of clutch scoring this year and the iffy goaltending that we have had for years---then notre dame does way worse by losing to bemidji state. do we need to re-orient and focus on regular season success [with 30-35 games to prove ourselves] vs tourney success [4 games max]? do we have to once again genuflect before the image and thoughts of coach bo [total emphasis on big ten championship]?


March 30th, 2009 at 12:32 PM ^

I would argue that you can't give a description of the game based on shots taken vs. goals scored. That Air Force team was about as solid a defensive hockey team as I've ever seen. Their ability to keep players out of the front of the net was a beautiful thing to see, really. I think any team that went up against Air Force that night--with the possible exception of BU--was in for an early exit.

The only reason Vermont was able to score on Air Force was because they finally started to experience the wear and tear of playing two playoff games in as many days. The fact that the game went to two overtimes was only even more indicative of the wall that AF put up along the blue line and the inside hash marks. Props to them for a very tough weekend. If they had a better offense, they'd be in the Final Four right now.


March 30th, 2009 at 1:00 PM ^

Granted, Corey, their defense may have looked solid. I did not see all of the game, so this is me floating an idea out there, but 44 shots seems like a lot for a defense to allow. M has averaged 33.4 per game this season.

Might we just be agreeing that the "quality" of shots was low, and easily seen/stopped?


March 30th, 2009 at 1:48 PM ^

Shots in volume that aren't particularly difficult to stop just make the goalie hotter. Michigan didn't have too many chances that were side-to-side or screens. This definitely wasn't like the goaltending performance we saw in the 2 Western games last week.


March 30th, 2009 at 3:06 PM ^

Agreed. The shots that were making it through to the net were pretty easy to stop for the most part, which makes the goalie more confident for those few harder ones. AF made it pretty difficult to get in front of the net, and they were also doing a very good job of blocking the tougher shots from the outside before the puck could even get to the goalie.

Michigan Arrogance

March 30th, 2009 at 3:40 PM ^

as the 13 allowed. M played well enough to win, but they wiffed on some golden opportunities and had 1-2 poor plays on D. usually, when you get 44 SOG, these combine for a tight 4-2 or 3-1 victory... friday it all went terrible and led to a loss. i'm sure that the AFA played solid D (don't get ESPNU), but M played better D giving up just 13 on goal. even if you look at scoring opps, it was probably M 10 or 12, AFA 5. for anyone who saw the broadcast, was there a graphic of this nature?

Wide Open

March 30th, 2009 at 4:58 PM ^

For the third straight year, a #4-seed will play for the national championship (the Miami/Bemidji State winner).

Very, VERY little surprises me about this game anymore.

EDIT: Oops...FYS was a 3 seed in '07. If that tournament ever happened.


March 30th, 2009 at 5:50 PM ^

that was precisely what i did with my friday night. you can't really say much except 'what the f just happened' and then lay in bed pissed off till you exert the last bit of energy left thinking about what should have happened


March 30th, 2009 at 6:52 PM ^

is just strange. There's enough randomness in hockey that the best team probably isn't much more than a 3:2 favorite against another very good team. (Going by KRACH, this year BU and ND appear to be exceptions to that rule, but Michigan - ranked #3 - wouldn't be above 3:2 against #11 BC.) Even in a seven-game series, crazy things happen all the time; by the numbers, a team that's a 3:2 underdog in a single game becomes a 5:2 underdog in a seven-game series

Doesn't stop me from enjoying it, but I don't think there's a single sport whose championship is more random.


March 30th, 2009 at 7:59 PM ^

I'm probably not going to be making any friends by saying this, but I'm glad the hockey season's over and we can move on to the Final Four, the Masters, draft news and maybe even a little baseball.
I'm not a hockey hater, but this sport does NOT translate well to TV and very few people outside of Canada, the Midwest and New England give a rat's ass about it.