It's only a few hours before the puck drops on Michigan's first appearance in the national championship game since 1998, and I find myself totally incapable of coming up with anything that's worth reading. If you want a preview, go over to Yost Built, MichiganHockey.net, mgoblog, or a few other places. Even the preview I wrote in 45 minutes three weeks ago might be worth it.
I saw my first Michigan hockey game in 1993. I was 12, and my family went to see the very first College Hockey Showcase at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Almost by mistake I stumbled on the '96 and '98 national title games in overtime, and in between I went to Day 1 of the '97 GLI. But I can pinpoint the moment that everything changed for me: January 29, 2000.
My friend Sara was a huge Mike Comrie fan, and for her birthday party we all went down and got standing room tickets at Yost. We climbed up and up into the rafters in the north end zone. The game was against Ohio State, and there was a t-shirt giveaway. I wore it for the UNO game just a couple weeks ago. The game was one of those classic ones where the better team takes a ton of shots, but can't get many quality chances. Michigan's Sean Peach scored early, but OSU got one back in the 3rd, and that's how it ended. But not for me.
I think that's how it starts for a lot of Michigan hockey obsessives – You see a game at Yost, and you want more of that. By next season, I was traveling to the CCHA Super Six, and skipping out of a UAC meeting early to watch Michigan die like Vikings against Minnesota in the Frozen Four.
I've never witnessed this moment for Michigan hockey. I've watched three championships in person – '05, '08, and '10 – and none of them featured Michigan.
It's been 13 years since Michigan last made it to this point. I remember the exit in '01 to BC and Brian Gionta (the OG of magic midgets), the furious comeback against Minnesota in '02 that wasn't enough, that horrible thing in '03 to Minnesota where you thought they might just might do the thing but Thomas Vanek is soul-killingly good at hockey. In '04 it was BC again, when scoring chances just seemed to melt away and whistles ceased to exist for vast stretches of the game until it was Ben Eaves connecting on a mid-air rebound and it was over, then in '05 Al Montoya and the rest of the team imploded and let a 3-goal lead to CC evaporate. '06 was a NoDak bludgeoning; '07 was a NoDak bludgeoning where a frustrated TJ Hensick said the magic words and somehow Eric Ehn is walking out of there with his Hobey Baker. I was there in '08 sitting right in front of Brian when Billy Sauer let in a couple soft goals, and one of my favorite Michigan teams ever just ran out of gas in an overtime loss. '09 was Volkening stealing one for Air Force. '10 was Waterloo, Indiana. And even this year: What are the chances we win that game against UNO if the review goes the other way?
My point is this: The best team doesn't always make it this far, the best team doesn't always win, but Michigan has made it this far and they have that chance. And it's almost hard to believe that it exists. I hope they take it.