Sunday, December 07, 2008

First Rays of a New Rising Sun

The first thing that struck me at the game yesterday was the number of people in Duke gear at Crisler, as well as the number of people in Maryland or UNC gear. Hate knows no bounds I suppose.

We made our way to the seats and we began assessing our chances. I had said one chance in one hundred when I bought the tickets in October, but that one chance was worth it. When Michigan beat UCLA, that number jumped up a little, maybe one chance in ten, but that fell a little bit when Coach Beilein's team lost to Duke the next night at Madison Square Garden. All we wanted was for Michigan to stay close for a while, maybe make Duke play from behind a little, and let the chips fall where they may. What we got was somewhat more remarkable.

Take a look at the game flow and you can see that it never really was a game that either team seized control of at any point until very very late. But this game was also rare in that its signature moment ended up being the tipping point. Let us step back for a moment to see how we got there.

I've only seen Michigan a couple of times under Coach Beilein, and I liked the idea of what they were trying to do, and against UCLA, I felt that it was coming together, that maybe this could be the end of the drought in the Big Dance, and at the very least, maybe something that would be worth watching through the long winter. I was also still getting to know this team. I knew Manny Harris was special and I was excited to see DeShawn Sims inserted in to the starting line-up, but my knowledge of the Zack Attack (Novak and Gibson) and Kelvin Grady's stealth magic would only present itself during the course of the game.

Duke had just beaten a very good Purdue team in West Lafayette on Wednesday, so it was going to need a pretty much perfect game to beat them, I thought. The key would be simple, if Duke's threes didn't fall, Michigan had a chance.

I've always been convinced that opposing teams struggle to shoot at the tunnel end of Crisler, because it's a weird shooting background, and Duke's 2-for-17 shooting in the first half may have laid testament to my theory. But there we were at halftime and Michigan was up by two points. I was hesitant, but I wanted to believe.

The moment was simple though, with about nine minutes left in the second half, Duke had just taken a three point lead and it looked like Michigan was going to be forced to play catch-up for the rest of the game. All of their hustle, diving for loose balls, keeping rebounds alive, bouncing balls off Duke players to get the ball back out of bounds, it was going to be too little to get the win. But then Michigan set up their offense on their end of the floor, having beaten the Duke press, and found Zack Novak in the corner for a wide open three. Tied at 53, Greg Paulus missed a three, DeShawn Sims who looked like a man possessed grabbed the board, launched a beautiful pass down the floor and seven seconds later, Novak, again, in the corner, another three, and Duke took a time out. Crisler was loud, it was Yost loud. (Props to the Maize Rage for being there an hour before the game and for committing to the team wholeheartedly. Well done ladies and gentlemen.) The entire arena believed it could be done and sure enough, Michigan never trailed again.

It was not a cakewalk the rest of the way, it seemed like every time that the Crisler crowd was ready to blow the roof off the building, Duke would hit a big shot and quiet the crowd. But the boys never let it bother them, they counter-punched every time. They hit their free throws down the stretch, and soon enough, the court was stormed, the plaudits came in, and Michigan basketball signaled that it may, in fact, be back.

It will take some time to figure out if this game really means something. If Michigan falls down in the Big Ten season, then it's just a high point in another wandering year. But for now, I will prefer to think of this as Hendrix stated, as the first rays of a new rising sun, and hopefully one that will shine for a nice long day.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Liveblog: Hockey at Sparty, 12/6/2008

Good to see we're getting the same level of great Comcast broadcasting we all know and love. Art Regner is nearly inaudible as the Spartan band is still getting miked.

Michigan gets a nice opportunity on Lerg in the first minute, but he stops the initial shot and the rebound. Gazley then gets a chance, but Hogan (yep, he's out there) stops it. And Scooter Vaughan's going off for a bit of a hook on Leveille.

Oooh. Michigan gets a shorthanded opportunity courtesy of Tim Miller and Lerg dives across to stop him on a long wraparound. Then Hogan makes a nice save on the other end. 1:15 left in the penalty...and it's killed.

Even without the power play, MSU is spending a lot more time in the Michigan zone tonight than last night. 15:30 left. Palushaj's line is out there, and now we see some sustained time in the MSU zone. Ooh, drop pass from Caporusso, but Palushaj can't get a clean shot off. Shift change. Winnett intercepts a pass at the MSU blue line, but can't keep his feet. Naurato passes to behind the net, a shot is made, but Lerg has the post covered. We're at the first break.

And we get our first scuffle of the night. Lerg juggles a shot, and Turnbull is engaged with Turek, who directs him into the post, and then takes offense.

Langlais breaks up a potential 3-1, thank goodness. And now Naurato takes an penalty for interference, in putting his elbow through Shelgrens head. And it's Summers, again, having a great opportunity to drive the net, but Lerg stays with him and denies the shorty.

Fardig bulldogs around the MSU net again, with Miller backing him up, and forces Lerg to freeze the puck again.

Things have just gone Comcastically pear-shaped with the broadcast here. But we've got a draw in the Michigan zone, 0:41 left in the penalty, and 8:59 remaining in the first. Michigan sends it down the ice, but State comes back quickly and the shot is deflected into the netting.

We're bak at full strength now. 5:45: Llewellyn gets a nice shot on Lerg with a little traffic, but it bounces off. Lot of back and forth action now. Summers tries to go from blue line to goal, but MSU's going to get a hooking call, I think. We'll find out when we come back.

  1. Cable in the Classroom is still a thing?
  2. You have to give MSU credit for getting a Nick Drake song for their university spot

Hagelin gets a sweet opportunity from the right faceoff dot on a pass from Burlon, but in the time he needs to settle the puck, Lerg gets over to make the stop and freeze the puck.

Oh my goodness. Fantastic wraparound opportunity from Kivisto hits the post and drops into the crease for Hogan to freeze. Final break of the period, under 3:00 to go.

MSU icing. 1:21 left in the 1st. I noticed Glendening out there for the first time on that last shift. Lebler's out. DQ? Hogan stops a long shot from the blue line with 9.6 seconds left in the period. The period ends without further heroics.

Last night's box score lists Lebler with a game misconduct, so this seems like Red's decision, and I have to agree with it. Lebler has a history of taking hitting-from-behind penalties and should have figured out what not to do by now.

Carl is late for his inter-period interview with Art Regner. Carl slams the Wolverines' level of intensity in the first period, so I think Red's looking for a little more out of them in the second stanza.

They don't show it very well at first, but MSU's exuberance gets the best of them and Tropp goes to the box for cross-checking with 19:18 left. After a Michigan opportunity, Crowder gets a shot in on Hogan. MSU's concentrating on defending right in front of Lerg, keeping 3 guys down there and one man up, harassing the man with the puck. One more rush. Couple shots on the power play, but nothing too dangerous.

Llewellyn and a couple of Spartans exchange pleasantries. Rust tries to shake a defender, but the defender picks the right side and bodies him away from the puck.

Apparently this game may or may not still be an official sell-out. Really?


We're at the break. 12:36 to go in the 2nd.

Caporusso took a rising shot that Lerg gloved, but he dropped the puck. However, he covered up before anyone had any chance at it.

Fightin' round the world! Llewellyn decks Crowder with a clean hit, but then follows it up with an extra elbow to the head. Crowder then goes off and winds up in the box too. And Llewellyn gets the extra pair, so MSU has a powerplay for the next 2:00. About 11:00 to go. And Petry immediately scores on a shot from the high slot. He put it just under the crossbar. I hate dumb penalties. MSU 1, Michigan 0.

Another penalty coming up, but this time it's MSU in the box. 10 minutes to go now. We look like we're dragging here. Turnbull drives the net, but MSU cuts off the pass to center. Summers has a shot from just inside the blue line. Powerplay ends after State clears a loose puck in front of Lerg. Oy. With Merrifield coming out of the box, MSU gets a 2 on 1 that morphs into a 3 on 2. The trailer gets the puck and shoots wide. Michigan takes the puck up offsides, and we're at the middle break.

Hogan steps up as MSU takes another mid-wrange wrister in transition. We haven't won at Munn since '04-'05. Scooter Vaughan comes in to take a short wrister, then Lerg has to slide over quickly to handle the second chance from the other side. Naurato gets demolished by Petry, but the elbow is borderline and he gets whistled for it. Eh. I'll take it, I guess. 1:30 left in the PP, 5:41 in the game.

Ooh. MSU gets a jump up-ice, but Langlais takes the puck away. As he tries to come back up, Crowder cross-checks him right in front of the ref and he's going to the box. On the delayed penalty, Caporusso comes in on Lerg, but it goes wide.

YES! Shot from the blue line by Pateryn is handled by Lerg, but Turnbull is in the right place to put home the rebound. Michigan 1, MSU 1.

We have an additional 1:42 left on the Crowder penalty and keep the puck in the MSU zone after the draw. You can hear the goal chant. AND HERE WE GO AGAIN! Wohlberg's pass from the red line to Turnbull is deflected, but Lerg can't cover up before Turnbull pops it past him. Michigan 2, MSU 1.

2:06 left after an MSU icing. Michigan's got a much better jump to their step following Turnbull's goals.

With about 40 seconds left, Winnett digs one out of the corner, but neither of his linemates are ready for the centering pass.

The puck goes in the back of the net behind Lerg again, but the whistle had clearly blown.

And so we have another end-of-the period fisticuffs session. Petry took a shot from Czarnik right after the buzzer to kick it off.

Red thinks we've been trying to get too cute with the puck, and he's definitely looking for more effort and more intensity from his team in the third.

Man. Schepke's shot leads to a huge rebound, but Michigan clears the zone. MSU's next shot bounces off Hogan, but this time off to the side. The next time we aren't so lucky. Hogan stops the initial shot, but Gazley is left entirely alone as he comes up and neatly fires it behind Hogan after it rolls off his stick on a clear attempt. Michigan 2, MSU 2.

Oof. Wohlberg almost gets one with a defender hanging all over him.

OH COME ON. We give up a 3 on 1 to MSU and it's Gazley again. Vaughan made a horrible steal attempt and ended up hanging Hogan out to dry when Llewellyn ends up being the only man back. MSU 3, Michigan 2.

We've just crossed the 18:00 mark. MSU's getting physical around their own goal. At 16:28, Vaughan gets back this time to break up a 3-on-2 and sends Petry sprawling into the post.

MSU wins the draw. Wohlberg leads Caporusso too far on the outlet, but Michigan gains the zone anyway. Icing on MSU at 15:50. Fardig loses the draw, but Michigan keeps it in the MSU end for a little while longer. After an exchange of possessions, Langlais fires one in on Lerg, but Fardig can't collect the rebound. Hogan hangs on in the Michigan zone to set up another face-off, which Michigan wins. Burlon stickhandles up and passes off to Naurato, but Lerg handles the one-timer.

Rust tries a spin-o-rama to pass to an open Hagelin in the slot, but it rolls off his stick. On the other end, Llewellyn decks his man. Play comes back the other way and Llewellyn's in the middle of it on that end too when extracurriculars erupt around Lerg.

We're playing 4-on-4 after everything is sorted out. Wohlberg and Sturges are in the box. Palushaj is a stickhandling monster, but we're back to full strength on both sides without incident.

7:44. Nothing much has happened in the meantime. Not a lot of dangerous chances on either end. MSU is dedicated to protecting that 1-goal lead. Even with the puck deep in the Michigan zone, only three Spartans are anywhere near UM territory.

Palushaj gets his stick held, and that sets up a Michigan powerplay. Michigan gets some pressure on the delayed penalty, but Lerg freezes it and, with 5:59 left in the game, Michigan goes on the power play. Wait, what? We're 4-on-4? Ridiculous.

OHH, Tim Miller couldn't put one away behind Lerg. Hagelin circles and fires, but Lerg handles it. Hagelin to Rust, who deflects it, but it goes over Lerg. Vaughan can't hold it in after a Langlais shot and we get a shift change. Back to 5-on-5 with 3:55 left.

WOOO!!! Burlon's been doing a lot of handling the puck. He jumps up and gets the outlet pass. When Crandell jumps over to attack him, he slides the puck across the goal mouth to who else but Carl Hagelin who bangs it home. Michigan 3, MSU 3.

Vaughan follows up a missed shot and digs the puck out of the corner. Palushaj gets the puck near the middle of the Spartan zone and passes over to Wohlberg in the slot, who immediately passes to Caporusso on the backdoor and that puck is BURIED. Michigan 4, MSU 3.

1:31 left in the game. The puck gets tied up behind the MSU goal under Czarnik with 1:04 left. Lerg is pulled as soon as MSU can clear the zone. It's a mess down by the UM goal. DAGGER! Winnett lifts it out, Turbull collects it near the MSU blue line and puts it in the back of the net for his hat trick. Michigan 5, MSU 3.

17.9 seconds left. Turnbull's first career hat trick, which sounds about right. Michigan wins at Munn for the first time since 2004. Nice comeback effort, twice eclipsing an MSU one-goal lead. Turnbull had a great game, Hagelin stepped up, and Michigan overcame what had been a sluggish performance. What a fantastic weekend to be a Wolverine.


(Julian H. Gonzalez, Detroit Free Press)

Friday, December 05, 2008

Liveblog: Hockey vs. Sparty, 12/5/2008

Michigan seems to have opened things up with a spring in their step, getting some shots in on Lerg early. Turnbull had a nice open-ice hit on a frosh defenseman. Man, Lebler had a couple of great looks at the net, but Lerg was tremendously quick. A lot of the action is centered on the corner where the zamboni doors are. Damn. Caporusso tried a slick move to get Wohlberg a tap-in, but couldn't do it, as he was running out of space in front of the net.

And here we have the first dirty Spartan play of the night. Caporusso got railed in the back by Gentile. He was about a yard away, and his head went into the boards. Dangerous, filthy play. Scooter wastes no time in settling that score and a full-fledged brawl breaks out. Caporrusso was mixing it up with Daultan Leveille. Gentile should be gone, no question. 5:00 + DQ. He's at least getting the misconduct tonight.

Anyway, they line up to drop the puck with Michigan having a one-man advantage. Nobody can find a seam, then Naurato makes a bad pass that lets Crowder come down the other way, but it isn't dangerous. The first shot is a weak one from the point that Lerg handles easily. Summers drives the net and tries to tuck it short side, but Lerg holds the post. Dangerous pass on the give and go from Naurato back to Czarnik, but it's just a broken up chance, not anything more serious. Sparty's in all of our passing lanes. Only a minute left on the PP. GAHHHHHHH. Giving up a 2-on-1 with a puck that hopped outside the blueline. Llewellyn got tripped up by the linesman trying to handle a pass back to the line from Wohlberg. Vaughan took the passing lane away, but Hogan couldn't stop Schepke's shot. MSU 1, Michigan 0.

OHH. Loose puck right in front of Lerg and Wohlberg roofs it just over the bar. He lifted Petry's stick and had it sitting there. Oh well.

6:00 break. The ice is so entirely tilted in our favor, but we're not getting too many really dangerous looks. We're being kept along the boards with bad angles and clogged lanes. Need to get more shots on net.

Turbull just destroyed Adam Henderson. A weak shot, Lerg covers up, Winnett skates in...vanilla stuff. And he gets jumped. Turnbull gets in the middle of it too. Matt Crandell's heading to the box with Turnbull. Scooter got a good look at the net, but Lerg handles it. Caporusso tries to find Palushaj in front of the net, but the pass goes behind him. After a Sparty possession, we get a change. Summers does well to handle Gazley coming up on an intercepted pass. On the other end, we get an odd stoppage in play.

Things are starting to get chippy out there, you might say. Players on both sides are trying to make the big open-ice hit. Crowder goes to the box for something. Someone for Michigan went too, because we haven't actually gotten serious about this yet.

Palushaj made a nice move, knocking the puck off the boards and around Crandell, making a move in on Lerg, but he's held on the play.

Well, here we are now. Another scuffle breaks out. Tropp gets a subtle elbow and then goes off on Wohlberg, who really doesn't know when to quit. We only have 1:40 left in the period. We're going to continue 5-on-5, but Tropp is given a misconduct. BAH. Puck loose in front of Lerg, and we're getting a weak call for goalie interference on Palushaj. 1:00 left and 1:40 on our PK.

NICE hip check by Vaughan, absolutely taking his man (Tim Buttery) right off the puck and breaking up an MSU possession. Hogan is sharp off a draw to make a save. And at the end of the period, Summers takes a chop and shrugs it off, rather than kick off Round 4.

Teddy bear toss! Woooo!

MSU doesn't threaten on the remainder of its powerplay. Fardig levels Nill in the neutral zone. Michigan has numbers momentarily, but Sparty catches up. Another interference call. This is idiotic. Palushaj again. I fail to see how it's a penalty when he's CROSS-CHECKED into him b--


Summers creates a turnover, Rust jumps on it, and feeds Summers crashing the net trailed a beaten Petry. He backhands it behind Lerg and we're tied at one.

Anyway. Turek cross-checked Palushaj and Palushaj went to the box because Jeff Lerg is made of porcelain.

Fardig gets a nice block, as MSU is still on the power play. MSU is trying--- Ooooh, nice stop by Lerg. Michigan is flying up-ice, Wohlberg has his man beaten and Lerg goes post to post to slam the door when he's fed by Summers.

Penalty over. Dull, this game is not. Sooner or later Wohlberg's going to come up with something.

And he intercepts a pass and feeds Palushaj, but Lerg is in position for a stop without too much danger. Seriously? Again? These stoppages are mostly the back of the net lifting up. Puck goes over the boards and we're at the break with 13:37 left in the second.

Fardig was left alone in the slot with the puck, but Lerg was hugging the post. MSU comes back the other way, but the Wolverines are quick enough for Burlon to catch up and take away the tap in. Sprague ends up in the net.

YESSSSS!!! Wohlberg!!! The Caporusso line is buzzing, and Palushaj slides the puck across the slot to Wohlberg, who just gets his stick under him to knock it past Lerg. Michigan 2, MSU 1.

Whoa. Pateryn absolutely destroys Sturges in front of the bench. Offsides, and we're at the break at 9:23.

Naurato gets surprisingly good composite on a rolling puck inside the blue line, but Lerg has a clear sight line and stops it. The #1 line is out again. Burlon kicks it low and Palushaj stickhandles, looking for space or a man. Wohlberg skates out from behind the net and puts a shot off the goalpost. They hold it in, Caporusso skates out from behind the net into the slot, draws a crowd, and backhands the tap-in over to Palushaj. AWESOMENESS. Michigan 3, MSU 1.

And we're getting all fighty again. Rust is coming down through the slot as Lerg is jumping out to cover the puck. Rust is going to the box, and this is more deserved than either of Palushaj's, IMHO. Two Wolverines in the box, so it looks like we'll be down a man, with Czarnik joining Rust. It's Petry in the box for MSU.

MSU controls off the draw, but the shot from the point is deflected wide. Oh, Hogan. Schepke's shot is dangerous, and Hogan gives up a weak rebound as he's lying on his face. He gets up just enough to deny the follow-up from the next Spartan. Yikes. Why isn't this game over now? 0:30 left in the power play. Hogan makes a save though screened. Gazley has a good look, but Hogan denies him. By far this is the best pressure MSU has had all night. Penalty expires. 5:00 left. MSU still has a buzz from their effort on the power play. Kind of a dangerous feeling here.

Michigan steadies the ship, and we make it to the break when Lerg covers up.

Look, that was dumb. Lebler, you're a moron. Instead of taking the puck and putting it deep into the MSU zone, he elects to rail Ben Warda from behind and it's an obvious 5:00 penalty. I thought he'd taken care of that imbecilic tendency after last year. He's no stranger to this!

MSU isn't buzzing the way they were before just yet, but they're getting solid chances. I hate, hate, hate such stupid penalties. MSU icing. 35.5 seconds left in the period, 2:54 in the Lebler call. We make it to the end of the period without further significant action.

The FSN penalty clock isn't on, but I think we've got about 1:19 left in the powerplay. We're doing an excellent job thus far of holding strong and denying access to the offesnive zone. A lot of long clears. About 30 left now. Llewellyn hits Winnett who launches a long shot that Lerg handles without trouble. MSU's been better on draws than you'd expect. Hagelin plays the puck back into our zone to kill the rest of the penalty. There's some trouble clearing, but we get it out. Another easy shot on Lerg and he freezes again.

Caporusso gets called for what may or may not be offsides. Turnbull came up lame on his last shift and uses this to stretch out.

The pace is starting to pick up. Michigan gets soem opportunities, but Lerg handles the shot and the follow-up. Llewellyn emulates Scooter and gets a solid hip-check on Turek. Petry dogs it a little and the ref doesn't give him the icing. After a stoppage, we find out that Turnbull blocked a shot with his right ankle. Ouch.

Caporusso does some beautiful stick-handling to bring the puck all the way up-ice and is rewarded, as it looks like a Spartan is headed to the box. It's Sprague for tripping. We're at the 14:00 break.

Ooh, and we're getting a 5-3 powerplay. 1:23 left in Sprague's penalty, and Turek is impounded for cross-checking. Caporusso, Hagelin, and Palushaj are out. Burlon takes a shot from the blue line, then sneaks in, but his shot is wide and bounces to Lerg. Hagelin gets called for a crease violation and the puck goes out of the zone. MSu's done well with the 5-3, it's now 5-4. Turnbull is back out and looking OK. MSU gets another clear, and this PK is over for them. Turek comes out looking for the puck. Turnbull dumps it into the MSU zone and we get a change. Winnett finds the puck at his feet, can't control it for a shot, but corrals it and passes across to Summers. His shot is wide, but goes RIGHT to Wohlberg for his second goal of the night. EXACTLY what we needed there; extend the lead in the third. We've got about 9:00 left in this one as we head to the break. Michigan 4, MSU 1.

WE ARE A HOCKEY SCHOOL! Everyone follows Turnbull as he gets the puck from behind the net. He kicks up to Pateryn, who gets it to Naurato all alone at the edge of the circle, and it's Michigan 5, MSU 1.

Comley takes a time-out. Lerg was totally hung out to dry on that last one. He hasn't given up a single bad or even mediocre goal this game. It's the rest of the team letting him down. Palmisano will replace him in goal.

Obvious tripping call on Gazley, taking down Rust at the blue line. This could get out of hand. Caporusso is the object of a knee-on-knee hit, and he comes up limping. Could be a sell job. At least, that's what I'm hoping. So we're 5-3 for a while. Michigan is content to do nothing but make passes, with this game well in hand. 5-4 now. Palmisano makes a stop on a shot through traffic. Louie's back out there. He looks fine. Penalty over, 4:30 left.

WE WANT MOOOOOOOORE GOALS! Burlon drives the net and gets his first collegiate goal. Michigan 6, MSU 1.

And we take a roughing call with 2:35 left. OK.

Rust gets in the middle of a pass across the goal mouth to break up an MSU chance. I really want to hold this score for the rest of the game. Fardig clears it, and he's been his usual bulldog self on the PK tonight. And I'm pretty sure the crowd just got a "You're welcome" after we crossed the 1:00 mark.

Michigan runs off the last 55 seconds without incident. We haven't beaten MSU this badly since 1996, when it was an 8-1 margin.

Quick thoughts: Summers was a beast on both ends of the ice. That first goal, the shortie, that got us moving, and it was a result of the hard work he'd been doing all game. The Caporusso-Palushaj-Wohlberg line was the other standout tonight for the Wolverines. Wohlberg, in particular, looked fired up for his first game against the Spartans and came away with a well-earned pair of goals and it could've been more. Don't have a letdown tomorrow, boys. I'm sure Hogan's getting the start.

The only real minuses were on special teams. The power play couldn't crack MSU with a pair of 5-on-3's and a 5:00 major. And on the other side, Lebler's penalty for hitting from behind was indefensible. If Gentile gets a DQ, so should Lebler. Tomorrow's going to be interesting.