Heartbroken: Michigan Loses to Miami 3-2 in Double Overtime

By · Monday, March 29, 2010 · 2:05 PM |  Share | 6 Comments 

Michigan’s amazing run is over and hopes of playing in the Frozen Four in Detroit are gone after Miami won last night’s Midwest Regional final 3-2 in double overtime.  In what was an absolutely thrilling game, both teams had their chances throughout the night and ultimately Miami’s goal early on in double overtime proved to be the difference.  Actually, let me correct that.  Miami’s goal early on in double overtime proved to be the official difference.  The difference in this game should have been a Michigan goal early on in the first overtime.  The Wolverines scored, but because another idiotic referee lost sight of the puck, Michigan was yet again screwed over at the hands of an early whistle.  The goal didn’t count, and after missing out on plenty of chances during the remainder of the first overtime, Michigan’s season came to an end in the second overtime.

For the first time ever with Shawn Hunwick in net, Michigan was not the first team to score.  12 minutes into the first period, Miami’s Pat Cannone quickly shot the puck by Hunwick off of a pass that came out in front of the net.  The power-play goal put the RedHawks on top 1-0, but that lead didn’t hold up for very long.

Only 1:28 later, David Wohlberg fired a wrist shot at Miami goalie Connor Knapp (Cody Reichard, who gave up 5 goals against Michigan in the CCHA semifinals, did not play) and followed his rebound to put the puck in the net.  Wohlberg went strong to the net and came away with the puck after the rebound.  Knapp couldn’t find the puck at first, and by the time he tried to cover it, Wohlberg was putting it in the right side of the net to tie the game at 1.

Only 49 seconds into the second period, Chad Langlais fired a shot from close to the blue line and scored a power-play goal.  The shot may have deflected off of a Miami player, causing it to change direction and go past Knapp.  Regardless, the shot was an absolute laser and suddenly Michigan was up 2-1 on the RedHawks.

Just like in the first period for Miami, Michigan’s lead did not hold up for very long.  Miami went on a power play and Pat Cannone scored again about two and half minutes after Langlais’ goal.  The puck was put on net and found its way underneath Shawn Hunwick’s right leg.  Hunwick froze to ensure that the puck didn’t go anywhere, but there was no whistle and Cannone poked it in to tie the game.  It was surprising there wasn’t a quick whistle in this situation considering how fast the whistle was blown in the first overtime on Michigan’s goal that should have won the game, but more on that in a second.

During the remainder of the second period and early stages of the third period there wasn’t a lot of action outside of a few chances for Michigan.  Twice David Wohlberg was stoned by Connor Knapp on a shorthanded breakaway in the second period, and in the third period the puck nearly went in, but Knapp covered it right near the goal line.

Towards the end of the third period is when the action really picked up.  It felt like Miami was on a permanent power play during the latter stages of the period with the way they were playing.  Michigan was getting worked, and the constant pressure nearly paid off for the RedHawks with three minutes left in regulation when a shot was lobbed at the net and hit right off the post.  The puck bounced right to Shawn Hunwick, allowing him to cover and everyone to take a deep breath.  Michigan caught a break during the last minutes of regulation by going on a power play, but it was unable to do anything, as Miami still had complete control of the game.  As a result, this game was headed to overtime.

This game should have been over 2:37 into the first overtime.  The Michigan team should have poured over their bench to celebrate with Shawn Hunwick.  The Michigan fans should have gone nuts and been able to start putting together their Frozen Four plans.  On April 8, Michigan should be playing Boston College at Ford Field.

I say should for all of the above-mentioned scenarios because a Michigan goal was waved thanks to one of the incompetent referees that made up an absolutely awful crew.  They were terrible for the Bemidji State game, and they were even worse last night, taking away Michigan’s game-winning goal.

Here’s what happened: Carl Hagelin’s speed allowed him to catch up to a loose puck in the Miami zone and quickly skate behind the net for a wraparound.  The puck made its way under Connor Knapp, who had absolutely no idea where it was, and right out to Kevin Lynch.  Lynch quickly shot it into the open net for what should have been the game-winning goal.  Problem is one of the referees blew the play dead a split second before the puck went into the net.  Apparently he lost sight of it or thought a Miami player gained possession of it since there was a delayed penalty.

Why the whistle was blown so quickly this time around is beyond me when you consider that Miami’s second goal wouldn’t have counted if they had been that quick in the second period.  If there was any consistency, the referee should have waited to make sure the puck was indeed frozen before blowing the whistle.  And if it was about Miami gaining possession, then the ref is just as idiotic considering no Miami player had control of the puck.  Hell, Knapp was still spinning around trying to find it when the whistle was blown.

All in all it was just a complete and utter screw job by the referees at the worst possible time.  They were bad all weekend, especially last night, and all I can say is there’s a special place in hell for John Gravallese and Jeff Bunyon, the incompetent dumb asses who let this game continue when it should have been over.

Despite the awful break, Michigan continued to battle and dominated Miami for the entire overtime.  Shots in the overtime were 20-6 in favor of Michigan, and the Wolverines nearly scored again with around seven minutes left when a Matt Rust snap shot hit the crossbar.  Unfortunately Michigan just couldn’t score (for a second time), meaning this game was headed to a second overtime.

1:54 into the second overtime, Miami’s Alden Hirschfeld came up with the puck after there was a battle on the sideboards for it and fired a shot that bounced off of Shawn Hunwick’s pad and into the net.  Unfortunately this one counted, giving Miami the 3-2 win and trip to Detroit for the Frozen Four.  I will give credit to Miami for continuing to battle (they were outshot 57-35!) and playing a hell of a game, because they are a very good team.  At the end of the night, though, the story of this game for Michigan fans will be the blown call that took away the Wolverines’ chance to play in a Frozen Four in Detroit.  That was the dream from the very beginning of the season, and that was the dream throughout the amazing run this team went on in the last month.  Because of a quick whistle, that dream was taken away from Michigan.  To say every Michigan player, coach, and fan was heartbroken last night would be an understatement.

As bad as the ending of this season was, this team deserves all of the credit in the world.  Considering where this team was a month ago, the fact that they were in position to be a goal away from the Frozen Four is just amazing.  With that in mind, I say thank you to the coaches and players (Shawn Hunwick especially, as he played off the charts) for a hell of a run.  It’s too bad incompetence prevented it from continuing in Detroit in a couple weeks, but either way, thank you for giving all Michigan fans something to feel good about this last month.  It was an unforgettable run and hopefully a momentum-builder for next season.

Bring on Miami: Michigan Takes Down Bemidji State for 5-1 Win

By · Sunday, March 28, 2010 · 12:52 AM |  Share | Leave a Comment 

The final score of last night’s Michigan-Bemidji State game really doesn’t reflect just how close the action was at times.  Although Michigan did end up winning by a comfortable margin of 5-1, this game was very much in doubt until the Wolverines really got things rolling in the final ten minutes of the third period.  Michigan went from being up only 2-1 to leading 4-1 thanks to a pair of goals by Carl Hagelin.  An empty-netter in the final minutes gave Michigan a 5-1 lead and sealed the victory, allowing the thousands of Wolverines fans in attendance to start celebrating.

Michigan got the scoring started in this game six minutes in when Luke Glendening deflected a shot by Chad Langlais into the net.  This shot came after a power play for Michigan expired, but the Wolverines kept applying the pressure and it paid off in the form of a goal by Glendening.

During the rest of the first period, Michigan had to kill off penalty after penalty.  It seemed like the majority of the calls were extremely questionable, but the Wolverines didn’t let that bother them and killed all of them off.  The whistles quieted a bit in the second period, but there was no scoring until Louie Caporusso sniped a shot off a nice setup to put Michigan on top 2-0 with 38 seconds left in the period.

In the third period, similar to what happened in the Northern Michigan game, Bemidji State scored a goal to cut the deficit in half.  The goal was scored just more than ten minutes in and seemed like it was going to set up a tension-filled finish.  As it turns out, though, a great deal of tension was relieved thanks to Carl Hagelin scoring a goal on a 2 on 1 advantage.  Hagelin wasn’t done there, though.  After Michigan took a penalty around four minutes later, Hagelin scored on a shorthanded breakaway.  Suddenly Michigan led 4-1, and this game appeared to be as good as over.  That feeling became even more solid when Brian Lebler put the puck into an empty net to give Michigan a 5-1 victory.

Shawn Hunwick made 26 saves in this game, including a few close calls that were just absolutely amazing to watch.  Hunwick somehow managed to get a piece of the puck when it seemed like Bemidji State would for sure score, and his exceptional play made up for the fact that Michigan missed out on quite a few close calls as well.

Miami beat Alabama-Huntsville 2-1 before Michigan’s game was played.  That means that the Wolverines will take on the RedHawks on Sunday night (8 p.m. on ESPNU) with a trip to the Frozen Four in Detroit on the line.  Although Michigan just destroyed Miami a week or so ago, it’s going to be tough to win a game over a team like the RedHawks twice in such a short period of time.  Not only that, but if that blowout provided anything, it was probably a wakeup call for the RedHawks.  For the Wolverines, that big win showed that they are capable of beating anyone in the nation, Miami included.

All I can say is that this game is going to be absolutely epic.  There was a lot of red in the crowd during Miami’s game, and it was basically all maize and blue when Michigan took the ice.  The two fan bases coming together with the Midwest Regional title on the line will create an unbelievable atmosphere and an arena that will be buzzing from start to finish.  Here’s to Michigan keeping the magic alive and clinching a trip to the Frozen Four at Ford Field.

Go Blue!

To the Tournament We Go: Michigan Beats NMU 2-1 for CCHA Title

By · Sunday, March 21, 2010 · 8:31 AM |  Share | 1 Comment 

(From CCHA.com)

Midway through the first period back on February 25, Bryan Hogan went down with an injury and was forced to leave the game.  Replacing him was Shawn Hunwick, a walk-on goalie known only to the most avid fans because he had seen such little playing time in his career at Michigan.  In fact, the only substantial playing time he had was back at Joe Louis Arena during this season’s Great Lakes Invitational.  Hogan was struggling big time and was pulled after the second period.  Michigan made a comeback attempt, but Hunwick surrendered the game-winning goal on one of the few shots he faced in 20 minutes on the ice.  The next night Hogan was back in net just like usual.  He was viewed as this team’s only starting-caliber goalie, playing so much during the season that he led the nation in minutes on the ice.

So on senior night in came Shawn Hunwick, who left me with very little confidence that Michigan would defeat Notre Dame.  Hell, every time Notre Dame entered the zone and had a look at a shot I was nervous.  After all, Hunwick was inexperienced and nothing more than depth on the roster.  There was a reason Hogan had started every game during the season, but Hunwick, with no time to warm up or anything, immediately started to prove me wrong.  He made some great saves and the entire team started to play better and better as time went on.  By the end of the night Michigan was up 4-0 and that nervous feeling went away.  Hunwick didn’t allow a single goal en route to a perfect senior night, recording a combined shutout with Bryan Hogan.

At the time this seemed like nothing more than a fluke and a great story for one night in a season that was riddled with bad ones.  That seemed even more like the case after Hunwick had a rough second period at Notre Dame a couple nights later, leading to a 5-3 loss to the Fighting Irish.  The good feelings quickly went away, as the realization set in that Michigan was without its starting goalie and was only a single game over .500.  To make matters worse, Michigan missed out on a first-round bye in the CCHA playoffs and was the seventh seed.  To say that there was little hope in Michigan’s NCAA tournament streak staying alive would be an understatement.  The only way for the Wolverines to make the tournament was to emerge as the CCHA playoffs champion, which seemed like it would take a miracle.

Even after Michigan convincingly beat Lake Superior State at home during the first round of the playoffs, outscoring the Lakers by a combined total of 11-2 in the two games, the chances of making it to Joe Louis Arena looked slim, let alone winning the whole thing.  That is because Michigan had to go to Munn Arena, a place where it hadn’t won two consecutive games since the 70s.  Like Michigan, Michigan State was playing for its season, so the odds were clearly stacked against the Wolverines, especially with captain Chris Summers now out with an injury and Bryan Hogan still not healthy enough to even return as a backup.

Just as it would all month long, however, Michigan shocked everybody and not only swept the Spartans, but dominated them outside of a few minutes at the end of the first period in the second game.  The Wolverines outscored MSU 10-4 in the two games and clinched their ticket to Joe Louis Arena in what was suddenly being called “Yost West” thanks to an invasion of Michigan fans.

Next for up Michigan: Miami, one of the top teams in the nation, and a team that came to Yost earlier in the season and swept Michigan in dominating fashion.  Once again, hopes of just getting to the championship game seemed slim, although it looked like Michigan was peaking at the perfect time in front of a goaltender who was playing with loads of confidence.

Michigan continued to play exceptional hockey against the RedHawks and took a surprising 2-1 lead into the third period on Friday.  In the final period, Michigan exploded for 3 goals, ran a goalie who is a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, and took down Miami by a score of 5-2 to advance to the championship game.  Suddenly a bid to the NCAA tournament wasn’t a long shot; it was only one win away.

In the CCHA championship on Saturday night, Michigan went up against Northern Michigan, which split a series with the Wolverines at Yost Arena last month.  NMU was the team that secured the fourth and final bye in the CCHA playoffs and a team fresh off of an overtime victory on Friday against Ferris State.  The Wildcats definitely appeared beatable, but the question for Michigan was if it could keep this amazing run going for at least 60 more minutes to extend the season and extend the NCAA tournament streak to 20 consecutive years.

During the first period, there was no scoring but plenty of action.  Michigan came out red hot and put lots of pressure on NMU.  The Wolverines were unable to score any goals, however, which looked like it could wind up being the story of the game since there were so many close calls.  NMU countered with some sustained pressure of its own for a good part of the period and had a few close calls as well.  The biggest moment in the first period, though, was when Luke Glendening checked a Northern Michigan player from behind with 2:30 to go and was given a game misconduct.  Not only was Michigan now missing a great player in Glendening, but it had to kill off a five-minute major as well, or so it originally appeared.

About a minute into the penalty kill, Northern Michigan took a slashing penalty.  21 seconds later the Wildcats had a player sent to the penalty box for interference, giving Michigan a power play that carried over into the second period.  Michigan was unable to score during the power play, but a good part of that five-minute major was useless for Northern Michigan.  The Wildcats did go on the power play again, though, and even ended up with a brief two-man advantage after David Wohlberg was called for a holding penalty.  Michigan luckily killed off the 5 on 3 and then killed off Wohlberg’s penalty as well, allowing play to return to 5 on 5 for the first time in what seemed like an eternity.

Michigan killed off another penalty five minutes later, and then frustration continued with the refereeing after a Northern Michigan player boarded a Wolverine and only got two minutes.  Considering Glendening received a game misconduct in the first period for a similar play, the thinking was that the NMU player would get the same penalty.  He didn’t, however, and Michigan failed to score during the power play, leaving things all evened up for when the Wolverines went back on the power play at the end of the second period.

With the clock winding down on the period, Michigan didn’t appear to have a whole lot going for it on the power play.  Northern Michigan was doing an excellent job of blocking shots and preventing Michigan from having any open lanes.  On top of that, Matt Rust lost his stick behind the net and had to go to the bench, briefly leaving Michigan with only four players in the zone.  Suddenly, though, out of nowhere came Louie Caporusso, who jumped onto the ice to replace Rust.  Caporusso immediately got the puck and fired it past NMU’s Brian Stewart for the game’s first goal.  It was an absolutely great wrist shot that came very unexpectedly because Caporusso wasn’t even on the ice a few seconds prior.

Nearly midway through the third period, Michigan had yet another power-play opportunity.  This time around Michigan was getting sustained pressure on NMU and just barely missing out on a goal.  Caporusso, for example, put a big rebound right off the post.  Had the puck been just a little over it would have went right into an open net since Stewart was on the ground.  The close call turned out to be a good thing, though, because it directly led to the eventual game-winning goal.  Steve Kampfer ended up with the puck at the blue line after it hit the post, and he slapped a pass down low to the left of the net.  Caporusso once again seemed to come out of nowhere and quickly deflected the puck into the net off of his stick.  It was a perfect setup and a perfect shot that put Michigan on top 2-0 with 11:07 to play in the game.

Northern Michigan wasn’t going to make this easy for Michigan and fought back with a goal of its own two minutes later.  Michigan turned the puck over in front of the net, and a bad bounce off of a skate put the puck right on the stick of Andrew Cherniwchan, who put it past Shawn Hunwick for a goal.  Suddenly this was only a 2-1 game and there were still more than nine minutes left to play.

Michigan tightened things up and managed to run down the clock without allowing any big scoring chances.  There was another turnover that gave NMU a decent shot, but it never even found its way to the net since it was blocked by a Michigan player.  The clock kept winding down and NMU pulled its goalie with a minute left.  Michigan barely missed the empty net once, but it wasn’t exactly playing to score a goal.  The key thing was to make sure NMU didn’t have a chance to tie the game and to run out the clock, and that is exactly what the Wolverines did.

With 11 seconds left on the clock, the puck found its way to the back of the net and Steve Kampfer pinned it up against the boards.  Kampfer, along with Louie Caporusso, managed to keep the puck pinned until the clock stopped with 2.5 seconds left despite being cross-checked and hit in the back of the head.  It seemed like the clock stopped before the whistle and should have run out, but it proved to be unimportant because a Northern Michigan player was sent to the penalty box for cross-checking.  The celebrating immediately began on the Michigan bench because the ensuing faceoff was moved to the NMU zone as a result of the penalty, meaning it was nearly impossible for the Wildcats to score with only 3.5 seconds left in the game (for some reason the refs put an extra second on the clock).  The puck was then dropped and time did run out, and Michigan poured over the bench to celebrate the 2-1 victory, CCHA championship, and automatic bid to the NCAA tournament with Shawn Hunwick and the other players already on the ice.

This amazing run to the NCAA tournament was filled with things that seemed beyond unlikely back when Bryan Hogan was injured against Notre Dame on February 25.  Michigan swept Lake Superior State, swept Michigan State in East Lansing, destroyed one of the top teams in the country, and then beat Northern Michigan on Saturday to keep the NCAA tournament streak alive.  This run included Louie Caporusso going on an absolute tear and playing like he did last season after being nonexistent for most of the regular season.  This run included solid defense despite Chris Summers missing the Michigan State series and both games at Joe Louis Arena.  And most notably, this run included an absolutely outstanding performance by Shawn Hunwick, who was merely a backup goalie with almost no experience a month ago.  Hunwick played so well that he was named the MVP of the tournament on the same ice where he gave up the game-winning goal in Michigan’s loss to RPI back in December.  Who would have ever thought that a walk-on goalie would be leading Michigan to the NCAA tournament under these circumstances, especially when you consider Hunwick’s unlikely path to joining the Michigan team in the first place.

Although a movie could be made right now about Hunwick and the way this team came together to make the NCAA tournament, hopefully there is some magic left that will have to be added to the script in the future.  Of course I’m talking about the NCAA tournament, which is now a reality after being nothing more than a dream for most of the season.  The selection show for the tournament is at 11:30 a.m. Sunday morning on ESPN2 and will reveal where and who Michigan will play next week.

Because Michigan moved all the way up to a tie for 11th in the PairWise Rankings, it appears that the Wolverines will end up with a 3 seed.  As far as where it will play, it looks like Michigan will be headed to either Worcester or St. Paul.  Based on who Michigan would draw in those two regionals, I’m hoping Michigan goes to St. Paul, where USCHO thinks it would play St. Cloud State in the first round and then possibly play Wisconsin if it is victorious.  In the Worcester regional Michigan could end up having to play North Dakota in the first round and then Boston College if it makes it to the next round, which is less than ideal.  Then again, most Michigan fans (myself included) were hoping to not play Miami in the CCHA semifinals, and that worked out quite well for the Wolverines.

At this point I’m just glad Michigan got into the tournament to keep the streak alive.  Obviously the dream would be for the Wolverines to win two games to make it to the Frozen Four at Ford Field and then win a national championship in front of tens of thousands of Michigan fans, but the fact that they even have an opportunity to do that is great considering how improbable it once seemed.  Besides, regardless of what happens in the NCAA tournament, I think this was one of Red Berenson’s best coaching jobs ever, and that’s saying something.

Michigan Dominates Miami for 5-2 Win, Advances to CCHA Championship

By · Saturday, March 20, 2010 · 1:02 AM |  Share | 2 Comments 

Michigan played with a purpose on Friday night and absolutely let Miami (Ohio) have it in the second CCHA semifinal.  With their NCAA tournament hopes on the line, the Wolverines played an excellent game from start to finish and won 5-2 thanks to an onslaught in the third period.  Taking a 2-1 lead into the final 20 minutes, the game was far from determined.  That was no longer the case about seven minutes into the final period, however.  The Wolverines scored 3 times in the first half of the period to take a 5-1 lead and chase goalie Cody Reichard, who is actually one of ten finalists for the Hobey Baker Award.  Miami added a late goal to cut the lead down to 3 goals, but that was about the only thing that went right for the RedHawks in the third period, as Michigan went on to win 5-2.

Michigan got the scoring started 8:50 into the first period when a Tristin Llewellyn shot found its way to the back of the net after appearing to be deflected at least once.  This was only Llewellyn’s second goal of the season and the third of his career, and it came right after Miami killed off a penalty.  The score after one period was 1-0 in favor of Michigan thanks to some great saves by Shawn Hunwick and some bounces that went in the Wolverines’ favor as well.

In the second period, Michigan increased its lead to 2 goals when Lee Moffie scored on an absolutely beautiful play.  Thanks to an awful change by Miami, Michigan ended up with a 4 on 1 and took advantage of the RedHawks’ mistake with some perfect passing.  Cody Reichard could do very little to stop Moffie from scoring right on the doorstep, because Michigan was able to pass the puck three times to set up the goal.

Miami did get on the board towards the end of the second period when Tommy Wingels made a great fake and sniped a shot past Shawn Hunwick, but Michigan kept it together and headed into the second intermission with a 2-1 lead.

The third period opened with Michigan going on a power play and capitalizing on the advantage.  Kevin Lynch scored after Carl Hagelin threw the puck in front of the net on a wraparound and had it deflect off of Matt Rust and right to Lynch for another goal right on the doorstep, giving Michigan a 3-1 lead.  Three or so minutes later Rust set up Brian Lebler for a goal on a nice redirection, making it a 4-1 game.  The nail in the coffin came less than two minutes later when Lynch added his second goal of the period to give Michigan a 5-1 lead.  Reichard was pulled after this goal, and although Michigan didn’t score on the backup, it had a comfortable lead and was able to finish the game in rather relaxing fashion.  As mentioned, Miami did score a late goal, but all it did was make the score look a little more respectable, because Michigan still won 5-2.

I don’t know how Michigan has been able to play so well without Chris Summers (he was out again on Friday) and Bryan Hogan, but this team seems to have gotten hot at the right time.  Hopefully the Wolverines have enough left to keep this streak going for at least one more game, because Michigan’s NCAA tournament hopes will rest on Saturday night’s CCHA championship game against Northern Michigan.  NMU beat Ferris State 5-4 in overtime on Friday afternoon, meaning Michigan will have to go through the Wildcats to keep its NCAA tournament streak alive.  These two teams have met twice before this season, splitting a two-game series at Yost last month.

Saturday night’s CCHA championship game is set to start at 7:35 p.m. on FS Detroit.  If you are unable to watch the game on TV, you can instead view a stream of the game on FS Detroit’s website.

Michigan Sweeps MSU in East Lansing, Advances to CCHA Semifinals

By · Sunday, March 14, 2010 · 8:00 AM |  Share | 2 Comments 

Despite being without goalie Bryan Hogan and captain Chris Summers, Michigan swept Michigan State with a 5-1 win on Friday and a 5-3 win on Saturday.  The wins came in front of a Munn Arena Yost West crowd that had lots and lots of Michigan fans in attendance (on the radio broadcasts the Michigan chants were louder than the MSU ones).  The invasion of Munn Arena was a definite success, just as the play on the ice was for the Wolverines.

Friday’s game was straight up dominance from start to finish.  Carl Hagelin scored 7:06 into the game on a breakaway, and David Wohlberg put it past Drew Palmisano three minutes later.  Three more minutes later Louie Caporusso scored his first goal of the night to put Michigan on top 3-0.  All 3 goals were scored within a span of six or so minutes, and Michigan State looked just absolutely shell shocked.

Steve Kampfer scored a power-play goal only 21 seconds into the second period to continue Michigan’s dominating play.  Michigan State did show some life with a power-play goal of its own 14:31 into the period thanks to the puck taking a weird bounce as it went past Shawn Hunwick.  Any hope MSU had of making a comeback was put to rest, however, thanks to Louie Caporusso.  With only 43 seconds left in the second period, Caporusso scored his second goal of the game to put Michigan on top 5-1.  This was a deflating goal for MSU and was basically the end of the game.  Aside from a goalie change by Michigan State, nothing really happened in the third period.  Michigan won 5-1 and set itself up for a chance to sweep the Spartans on Saturday.

The start of Saturday’s game looked like a repeat performance of what happened on Friday.  Matt Rust scored 8:25 into the first period on a power play, and only 21 seconds later A.J. Treais put it past Drew Palmisano to make it 2-0.  Rick Comley decided to not play around and pulled Palmisano after Treais’ goal.  Replacing him was Bobby Jarosz, who stopped all 7 shots he faced in the third period on Friday.

As the first period winded down, Michigan had all of the momentum and looked like it was well on its way to another victory.  That all changed after Chad Langlais and Tristin Llewellyn took a couple of penalties, though.  Michigan State took advantage of the 5-on-3 and Andrew Rowe quickly scored with 3:05 left in the period to cut the lead in half.  Still on a power play, Rowe scored again only 36 seconds later to tie the game up at 2.  Michigan looked shell shocked for a change, and that was especially evident after MSU went back on the power play following another penalty by Llewellyn.  With less than a second left on the clock, Nick Sucharski scored to give Michigan State its first lead of the weekend.

The Wolverines were facing some serious adversity heading into the first intermission, but boy did they respond in the second period.  After giving up 3 quick goals like Michigan did, including 1 with less than a second left in the period, it would have been really easy to lose all composure and fall apart.  The intermission couldn’t have come at a better time for Michigan, though, as it got things together and flat out dominated Michigan State in the second period, starting with a Ben Winnett power-play goal less than four minutes in.  That was the only goal Michigan scored in the second period, but its dominance showed up on the stat sheet in the form of shots on goal.  Michigan outshot the Spartans in the period 16-1, which is just absolutely astounding and pretty much sums up how dominating of a period it was for the Wolverines.

Michigan managed to carry that momentum into the third period and retook the lead when Chris Brown scored just 2:40 into the final stanza.  The Wolverines later killed off a penalty with nine minutes left in the game and played some great defense in front of Shawn Hunwick, who faced 11 shots in the final period.  As time was winding down, MSU had a few looks but couldn’t get any decent scoring chances.  Goalie Bobby Jarosz was pulled with around a minute left and Michigan didn’t even give the Spartans a chance to sustain any pressure in its zone.  Instead, after dumping the puck into MSU’s zone, Michigan kept applying pressure and David Wohlberg stole the puck and sealed the game with an empty-netter with 31 seconds left on the clock.  The celebration officially began shortly after as Michigan won 5-3.  Amazingly, this was the first time Michigan won back-to-back games in East Lansing since 1975, and these victories definitely couldn’t have come at a better time.

With the sweep of the Spartans, Michigan advances to the CCHA semifinals at Joe Louis Arena for the 21st consecutive season.  Which team Michigan will play is still to be determined because Ohio State beat Miami (Ohio) in overtime on Saturday to force a third and deciding game in that series.  The other series were sweeps, as Ferris State and Northern Michigan both only needed two games to take care of business.  With the way the CCHA playoffs are reseeded after each round, two scenarios exist for the semifinals:

If Miami beats Ohio State…

#1 Miami vs. #7 Michigan
#3 Ferris State vs. #4 Northern Michigan

If Ohio State beats Miami…

#3 Ferris State vs. #8 Ohio State
#4 Northern Michigan vs. #7 Michigan

Quite honestly, I would much rather see Michigan play NMU rather than Miami.  On paper it would be a much easier path to the NCAA tournament for Michigan if it had to go through NMU and then either Ferris State or Ohio State.  Miami has showed that it can be beat recently, but I’d rather not have Michigan go up against one of the top teams in the country.  After all, Michigan is just two wins away from an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament, so the easiest path possible would be ideal at this point.  Either way, the fact that Michigan has made it this far is pretty great all things considered.

Michigan’s sweep of MSU actually vaulted the Wolverines all the way up to a tie for 16th in the PairWise Rankings.  It’s time like these where you look back and just cringe at how poorly Michigan played at times this season, because if you could turn one or two of the losses on the schedule into wins, then this team would be in good shape for an at-large bid.  Actually, had the CHA conference tournament not taken away an at-large bid (Alabama-Huntsville won the tournament, meaning Bemidji State will get an at-large bid), Michigan would have an outside shot at making it into the NCAA tournament without having to win the CCHA playoffs.  I imagine there is still some scenario out there that would make that possible, but it is probably so unlikely that Michigan should only bother worrying about what it can do, and that is keep the tournament streak alive with two wins in Detroit next weekend.

Perhaps the best part of sweeping Michigan State is the fact that the Spartans’ season is now over.  The Spartans dropped all the way down to 18th in the PairWise Rankings (below Michigan), meaning they will for sure not be getting into the tournament as an at-large team.  MSU would have been in good shape if it made it past Michigan, but getting swept burst the Spartans’ bubble and actually put them in worse shape for an at-large bid than Michigan.  If you would have told me that a few weeks ago, I probably would not have believed it.

(Side note: Because this weekend’s games were broadcast on Comcast, I had to watch Michigan State’s online stream (a live feed from their videoboard and their radio announcers).  Thankfully there was a coupon code to watch the action for free, because I definitely would have been pissed off if I actually paid for it.  The video wasn’t too bad, but the announcers were awful.  I expected them to be homers and don’t have a big problem with that, but the color commentator especially was just so obnoxious.  Every time there was a possible penalty or a scoring chance he would start screaming “COME ON” and sounded like a loudmouth fan.  It was pretty ridiculous and beyond annoying, but the best part of the audio feed came right after Saturday’s game.  The radio broadcast went to a commercial, but the audio feed was still playing on the stream and allowed everybody to listen to the following exchange between the producer and who I believe was the play-by-play announcer.

Producer: “That’s unprofessional. Stop.”
Announcer in a really defensive tone: “FINE!”

I wish the producer wouldn’t have waited so long to call out the announcer for being unprofessional, but that was a pretty funny way to end the stream, which was shut off almost immediately after.)

Michigan Beats Lake Superior State 6-0 for Series Sweep

By · Monday, March 8, 2010 · 2:12 AM |  Share | 1 Comment 

Michigan is moving on to the next round of the CCHA playoffs after sweeping Lake Superior State.  The Wolverines took a 1-0 series lead into Saturday night after winning convincingly on Friday and finished off the Lakers with a one-sided 6-0 victory.  Michigan scored 3 goals in each of the first two periods on its way to winning 6-0 in a game that was about as close to perfect as it gets.

Louie Caporusso got the scoring started for Michigan with a wrap-around goal 6:37 into the first period.  Jeff Rohrkemper scored his first career goal about seven minutes later to put Michigan on top 2-0, and then only a minute and a half or so later Caporusso scored his second of the night.

The second period got started with Caporusso’s third goal of the game.  There was a delayed penalty for goaltender interference, and Michigan quickly went down the ice and Caporusso put it past the Lake Superior State goalie for the hat trick only 46 seconds into the period.  Carl Hagelin added two goals of his own in the second half of the period to put Michigan on top 6-0.  LSSU changed goalies in the third period and there was no more scoring.

Shawn Hunwick stopped all 28 shots he faced to record his first career full-game shutout.  When he replaced an injured Bryan Hogan against Notre Dame he didn’t give up any goals, but he and Hogan shared the shutout.  This time around it was just him, and it was well deserved.  Hunwick played very aggressive and made some nice saves as a result, including one in the first five minutes of the game where he robbed a Lake Superior State player of a goal on a centering pass.  Hunwick came out of the crease and cut off the one-timer with his leg, giving Michigan a momentum boost that ended up leading to the game’s first goal shortly after.

All of the higher seeds swept the lower seeds in the first round of the CCHA playoffs.  Each round is re-seeded, meaning Michigan will play at Michigan State in the quarterfinals.  MSU needs to win this series to solidify its NCAA tournament hopes, and Michigan needs to win to simply keep its season going.  The winner of the series will advance to Joe Louis Arena and be two victories away from an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament.  Since an automatic berth is the only way Michigan will keep its postseason streak alive, it must first win the best 2 out of 3 series in East Lansing and then win a couple games at Joe Louis Arena.

Here is a look at all of the matchups from the quarterfinals:

#1 Miami (Ohio) vs. #8 Ohio State
#2 Michigan State vs. #7 Michigan
#3 Ferris State vs. #6 Nebraska-Omaha
#4 Northern Michigan vs. #5 Alaska

All of Michigan’s games are set to start at 7:05 p.m., and the first two will be broadcast on Comcast 900.  Sunday’s game won’t be on TV since it will only be played if necessary.

Saturday Quick Hits: Michigan Takes 1-0 Series Lead with 5-2 Victory

By · Saturday, March 6, 2010 · 1:35 PM |  Share | Leave a Comment 
  • Michigan opened the CCHA playoffs with a solid 5-2 win over Lake Superior State last night.  Michigan outshot LSSU 43-23 and the score reflected that considering the Wolverines never trailed.  Part of that was because Shawn Hunwick played well in net for Michigan.  Both of the goals he gave up went off of Michigan players and into the net, so they weren’t really his fault.  One hit off of A.J. Treais on a centering pass and went right past Hunwick for a goal, and the other one changed direction off of Chris Summers’ skate, causing Hunwick to let it go in.

    If Michigan wins tonight, it will advance to the quarterfinals of the CCHA playoffs and would likely play Michigan State next week.  If the Wolverines lose, there will be a third and deciding game at Yost tomorrow night.

  • Michigan can’t practice at Crisler Arena because the Big Ten wrestling championships are taking place there.  This is exactly why there is such a need for a practice facility.
  • The women’s basketball team lost to Michigan State on Friday by a score of 61-50.
  • Just days after establishing a top 10, Lawrence Thomas decided to go ahead and commit to Michigan State.  It was a given all along that he probably wasn’t coming to Michigan, but I’m surprised he made a commitment this early.  From the beginning it looked like he would end up at State, but for it to happen this quickly just sucks.  Say what you want about MSU, but they are going to have a great group of linebackers down the road if they all live up to the hype.
  • The Detroit News profiled Dave Brandon.
  • As expected, the Gator Bowl is headed to the ESPN family of networks next year (1:30 p.m. on ESPN2).  The move isn’t the only change for the New Year’s Day bowl lineup, as the Outback Bowl will now start at 1 p.m. on ABC.  The Capital One Bowl, which normally occupies that timeslot on ABC, is moving to ESPN at 1 p.m.  All three of these games feature Big Ten and SEC teams, so I don’t fully understand the thinking behind making them start at basically the same time.  Typically fans want to watch games involving their conference (at least I do), but now that will be tough to do with three going on at the same time.  There was overlap in the past with the Outback and Capital One Bowls, but not to the point where they started within minutes of each other.

Michigan Folds in Second Period, Falls to Notre Dame 5-3

By · Sunday, February 28, 2010 · 3:14 AM |  Share | Leave a Comment 

Because Northern Michigan won on Saturday night to complete its sweep of Lake Superior State, Michigan couldn’t have moved into fourth place to get a first-round bye in the CCHA playoffs regardless of what happened in South Bend.  What did happen, though, was one tremendous period followed by an absolute disaster.  Michigan blew a 2-0 lead and ended up losing 5-3, capping off a terrible regular season in a very fitting fashion.

Michigan led 2-0 after the first period thanks to Louie Caporusso and David Wohlberg.  Caporusso scored only 36 seconds into the game by coming down the right side of the ice and shooting the puck over Notre Dame’s goalie, who for some reason decided to crouch down in anticipation of a shot.  There was a shot, but it went right over the goalie and into the net.  Later in the period Wohlberg made an awesome deke to get around a Notre Dame player (as well as two others who seemed to be sleepwalking out there) and followed with a quick backhand for a goal.  Wohlberg’s goal came after Shawn Hunwick stoned a Notre Dame breakaway, giving the entire team a big boost of momentum.

Michigan seemed to be in good shape and well on its way to another victory even after Notre Dame made a great play to score on a redirected shot early in the second period.  I say that because it looked like Chris Brown put Michigan on top by 2 goals again with 1 of his own shortly after the deficit was cut in half.  No goal was signaled initially, however, so the play was reviewed after the next whistle.  The only angle available to the referees — an overhead shot — seemed to show that the puck went in and quickly exited the net after wrapping around the crossbar.  Referee Mark Wilkins disagreed, though, and upheld the call of no goal despite it looking like the puck was in.  I’m sure the argument was that the overhead angle didn’t show enough evidence that a goal was scored, but to me it looked like the puck clearly was in and past the crossbar for a split second.

Instead of leading 3-1, Michigan was only up 2-1 and pretty much fell apart in the following minutes.  Notre Dame tied the game on a shorthanded goal, took the lead on an even strength goal exactly a minute later, and extended its lead to 2 goals by scoring on a power play 5 or so minutes later.  Shawn Hunwick went from looking extremely good to extremely bad very quickly, and suddenly we saw exactly why Bryan Hogan had started every game of the season before last night.  All of the goals seemed rather soft, as did the Fighting Irish’s fifth goal with 5 minutes left in the game.  That was a big one because Louie Caporusso scored early on in the third to make it a 1-goal game.  Michigan tried to tie things up and had some great chances, but Notre Dame stood tough and iced the win with that fifth goal in the latter moments of the third period.

As a result of this loss, Michigan finished in fifth place in the CCHA with 43 points.  That sets up a series with Lake Superior State at Yost Arena this coming weekend.  These two teams played each other twice way back at the end of October at LSSU.  Michigan won both games of the series rather convincingly, taking a 5-1 and 6-3 victory back home to Ann Arbor.

If Michigan wins the best 2 out of 3 series and advances to the next round of the CCHA playoffs, there is a very good chance it could get matched up with Michigan State.  That would be interesting, to say the least, but that is looking way too far ahead for right now.  For Michigan to keep its NCAA tournament streak alive it has to win the CCHA playoffs, and that can only happen one step at a time.  Step one in this instance is taking care of business at home against Lake Superior State.

Here are all of the first-round matchups for the CCHA playoffs:

#5 Alaska vs. #12 Western Michigan
#6 Nebraska-Omaha vs. #11 Bowling Green
#7 Michigan vs. #10 Lake Superior State
#8 Ohio State vs. #9 Notre Dame

The four teams that will receive first-round byes are #1 Miami, #2 Michigan State, #3 Ferris State, and #4 Northern Michigan.

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