Note: Real life stuff kept this from getting posted earlier. Good luck to the team vs. MSU this weekend.
Friday night, I went directly from a work event to the Michigan hockey game at Yost. I threw a jersey over my sweater and joined the flow of people streaming into the arena.
I climbed up through the stands, higher and higher. Section 11 is off in the northeast corner of the building, shoehorned into the space behind the new "Lettermen Landing" they added in the most recent renovation. Row 1 doesn't even start until about 12 rows up from the ice sheet. I climbed to Row 19 and went all the way to then end...and saw this.
I'd gotten my ticket just a few days before, after the game had already been proclaimed a sell-out, so I knew my seat would be bad. But I still expected it to be, you know, *there*.
I ended up sitting behind a travel hockey team from Louisville, who behaved pretty much like 11-year-olds who play travel hockey. One kid, the most hyperactive of the bunch, was a big Notre Dame fan, and he was trying to convince the whole team to cheer for the Irish (and he had a lot to cheer about in the first six minutes), but the quiet kid in the Michigan hat was having none of it. Other than their practice of body-checking each other the whole game, they weren't that bad.
I didn't end up sitting next a well-dressed young man with a dirty blonde brush cut and his mother. When they reached their seats, she started complaining about their tickets. Maybe a recruit that Rodriguez doesn't care that much about? Whatever the case was, they went off to improve their lot and were presumably successful.
Michigan started off playing bad hockey. Notre Dame instantly was the team getting all the pressure, and they made it pay off. The first goal looked pretty soft to me, but the second was a good chance for the Irish. In the first six minutes, we put ourselves down by two goals and we were being completely outplayed. We were getting absolutely murdered on faceoffs, from what I saw, and the Irish penalty kill was very effective.
The second period turned it all around, and Kevin Porter's slapshot was what set the tone. Matt Rust looked like he was going to be the goat of the period after taking a penalty for goaltender interference and later a completely unnecessary minor for cross-checking. But on his first shift after stepping out of the box he ripped a shot from the circle that Pearce would probably like to have back to tie the score at two apiece.
The third was a battle up and down the ice. I thought we had shot ourselves in the foot when Chris Summers took a 5:00 major for checking from behind, but the penalty killers turned in a phenomenal performance. When Chad Kolarik took the puck on a shorthanded breakaway, the Irish had no choice but to take a penalty of their own, ending the threat. Aaron Palushaj had his own breakaway and was bumped on the shot. Pearce made the save and Palushaj, off-balance, crashed into him, taking the net off its moorings. Palushaj was sent to the box for 2:00 for charging, which...he couldn't possibly change direction on one skate, but if you're going to go that hard into the net, you can't be surprised when that call goes against you. The Wolverines killed that penalty off too, and despite the chances both sides were manufacturing, it looked like it was going to overtime. Instead, a scrum developed near the ND net as time wound down. Brandon Naurato tried to get a shot on goal, but was mauled by his man. His backhand instead slipped to Louie Caporusso who buried the game-winner with 20.3 seconds left on the clock as pandemonium erupted. What a fantastic game.
Saturday night was a lot more boring, but I like it when we blow out our opponents. The Palace was nominally half-empty, but it felt like there were even more open seats. Red elected to dress 11 forwards and 7 defensemen, which was a little odd, but he later said that it was to avoid a situation like last night, where we found ourselves down to 5 defensemen for most of the 3rd after the Summers penalty. Notre Dame had their chances, but Sauer looked a lot sharper than he had on Friday. ND started Phillips, their freshman, and he had an off night. He looked to have Kolarik's shorthanded try well covered, but it leaked through and he never really recovered. It was a 4-1 game when he left in the 2nd.
The Palace was like a morgue, despite the best efforts of some Michigan fans and the ND band. I really missed having our pep band around. From what we could tell, ND had some sort of strange chimera band, with members of the hockey band, basketball band, and a drumline wearing baseball jerseys. They were adequate, but they should never play "Soul Man". Two small sections in the arena were ND students, so there wasn't much of a collegiate feel to the game.As was mentioned elsewhere, the ice was pretty terrible. The promotions crew that usually works Pistons games helped make it worse during the intermissions, sliding around on the ice and gouging it up with plastic shinguards and grippers for their shoes. They fired a seemingly infinite number of t-shirts into the crowd (several of which were promptly returned to the ice when their recipients realized they were all ND shirts). The zamboni driver missed a wide streak near the middle of the ice in the first period. Awesomely, the refs forced him to go back out and redo the shameful patch.
Finally, I hate it when I see our fans acting like jackasses, so it pains me to relate the story of two guys in their 40's who should know better. They stumbled to their seats in the first period and we could smell the reek of beer from 8 rows back. When the Notre Dame band played, Jackass #1 (in his Harley Davidson jacket) would stand up and flip them off, and his friend would occasionally join him, if he wasn't on yet another beer run. It was like watching a pair of 8-year-old kids who just figured out what the middle finger is and don't think their parents are looking. They also started trash-talking one of the college-aged ND fans near them, but I doubt they made any sense. In the 3rd period, when they were well and truly beyond smashed, Jackass #2 started throwing his jacket in the air when something good happened for Michigan. An usher came down to talk to them several times. Once, while the usher's back was turned, Jackass #2 threw his jacket in the air just to show what a badass he is. This makes sense when your mental age has been dialed back to 6. Of course the usher saw what he did, and shortly thereafter the two morons left. Hopefully they didn't commit vehicular manslaughter on the way home, though somehow I doubt it.