Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Best Seats in the House


I know I'm late on this one, but by the time I got home on Saturday night I didn't want to bury Jeremy's excellent band post, and then the Ferentz thing exploded, overshadowing everything else. But I was at both College Hockey Showcase games last weekend, playing in the Alumni Pep Band.

Game 1:  Michigan 3, Wisconsin 2 highlights

Michigan played 59 minutes of dominating hockey. They were far and away the better team when matching up against the Badgers, who were kept in the contest by their goalie, Connelly, and a few posts. Michigan got decent pressure from the start, but nothing was going in. Then Lebler took a weak but somewhat legitimate-looking 5:00 major and game misconduct for hitting from behind. This was a huge turning point in the game. Our penalty kill came out and denied the Badgers time and again. Then, with :07 left in the Lebler penalty, Kolarik took a great feed from Steve Kampfer, carried it in, and solved Connelly for our first goal of the night. On the powerplay in the second, Palushaj sent a puck back to Kolarik behind the net who fed Porter in the slot to push the lead to 2-0. Soon after, Kolarik was again sitting behind the net when he found Pacioretty out in front for another powerplay goal.

As time in the 3rd started winding down, I began to relax just in time for Wisconsin to finally dig in and get a powerplay goal of their own that I can't fault Sauer on. Then, just seconds later, our defense entirely abandoned the entire left side of the ice, hanging Sauer out to dry and giving Wisconsin an easy goal. In 0:18, we've gone from cruising to the finish to fighting for our lives. The second goal finally refocused everyone and they hung on for the win.

One other thing about the game was that McInchak called a ton of penalties; 17 in all for nearly 60:00 (40 without the misconducts). Everything felt broken and choppy. At least he called them consistently, but strict enforcement like that got old.

Game 2:  Michigan 5, Minnesota 1 highlights

OH, IT WAS GLORIOUS. After the first goal, I was thrilled. After the second, ecstatic. After the third, I thought we might be able to win this thing after all. Then I started screaming at the defense to clear the zone, but time and again they couldn't get it done, and Sauer had no chance on a fluke goal where the puck bounced off Kevin Quick's skate and into the net. I swear, they must have spent a full minute and a half set up like they were on the powerplay. But Michigan stepped up again and banged home a fourth goal. And then in the third period they added a fifth one to kill any hope Minnesota might have had.

We opened this game a lot slower than the one against Wisconsin. Two early powerplays went nowhere; in fact we spent a lot of time in our own zone fighting the Gophers off. Our best early chance came when Porter had a shorthanded breakaway. He couldn't get the goal, but he drew a slashing call. Near the end of the first, he had another breakaway opportunity, this time on the powerplay, but the Gopher defender wrested the puck away...only to have it land on Chad Kolarik's stick before being deposited in the back of the net.

In the second, the Wolverines pulled away. Porter found Kolarik wide open near the faceoff circle on the powerplay. Like The Blog That Yost Built says, he had to be perfect on his shot or we'd be wondering about that decision. Porter's goal just a few minutes later is one of those ones that make you want to kill your own goalie, because it really was all his fault. He whiffed on the clear and was dead from that moment.

Ben Gordon's flukey goal put the icy knot back into my stomach. Michigan couldn't find a way to clear the zone without taking an icing call, so they kept letting the play go and it finally bit them. As you can see, he just flung the puck vaguely in the direction of the net and it bounced off Quick's skate. A minute and a half later, the Gophers took another penalty and started killing it really well, denying the Wolverines the zone. I was complaining to the trumpet next to me that we weren't getting any pressure with our powerplay. He started to say that Minnesota's PK was really aggressive, but it left them vulnerable– And then Porter got loose and scored. Way to illustrate a point, Minnesota.

Five minutes into the third, Ben Winnett's goal basically ended the game by making it 5-1. This was amazing. Michigan beats Minnesota for the first time since I was a student and I get to play "The Victors" for them. Fantastic.

We have an Ohio State University for two at home this weekend and then a home-and-home with Bowling Green the next before the break preceding the GLI. We're perfectly capable of going into it 17-1-0, which is ridiculous, but possible. We're still better than a much-improved BGSU and OSU sucks on toast. OSU did beat Wisconsin early in the season, but since then they've been swept by the likes of Ferris and UNO, and they salvaged a tie with Robert Morris to avoid being swept by a CHA team (OSU fans have heard about it and they want this Robert Morris guy to know that he should watch his back. Who does he think he is?). 16-2-0 with a split against the Falcons is what I'm hoping for, because I desperately want to pound OSU in SOMETHING and you have to have a bad night somewhere in there.

No comments: