Wednesday, January 28, 2009

53 Seconds Left in the Third Period

Steve Kampfer via The Game/Michigan Daily
Photo: Michigan Daily

I've watched all five Michigan-Michigan State hockey games this year. In all but one, Michigan came out and blasted State off the ice. In that game, the only one played at Munn, Michigan scored three goals in the final five minutes to secure a 5-3 victory. On Friday, Craig and I went down to the Joe. We saw what we expected: Michigan dominating play, making State look shorthanded even on the power play, and another win. Surprisingly, the game didn't get all that chippy until the very end. Saturday was different.

I didn't have a ticket when I woke up, but I hit the Yost box office as soon as it opened and got a seat. Beer and stilton fries at Ashley's, then back down State Street. My seat was in the south end zone, row 5 just behind the goal State would be defending for two periods. The view was partially obscured by the goal judge's booth and by the fence over the tunnel, but it was a better seat than I was expecting. The students demanded to know "WHERE'S THE MIDGET?" when they saw Palmisano in net instead of Lerg.

36 seconds into the period, Rust beat the MSU defense and Palmisano, fooling him and putting the puck in over his left shoulder. After a weird interlude with a review, the goal appeared to be waved off. In reality it was for a Spartan shot that even I could see wasn't a goal. Weird review. We were confused to see the score put up as 1-0. Then Turnbull took a 3-2 pass from Kampfer and made it a 2-0 game. The anemic powerplay even came through. I saw Lebler doing a great job of screening Palmisano as the puck came around the blue line to Burlon and he uncorked one before Palmisano knew he had the puck. 3-0. At one point, the shots were 11-1 in Michigan's favor.

Unfortunately, the scoring didn't switch ends when the teams did. Langlais took a post hoc, ergo propter hoc tripping call for waving his stick at a State player who took two steps then fell, then Sprague did something I didn't see to get sent off. Schepke then sniped one over Hogan's shoulder. The announcer called it a shortie, but I'm sure it was 4-4 hockey. Then a total defensive breakdown off the faceoff let Andrew Rowe walk in and beat Hogan one-on-one. I had no view whatsoever of what happened at the other end of the rink a few minutes later to prompt a review, but the lamp never lit and the review was denied, so the score remained 3-2 after two periods.

Palmisano had straight-up stoned Hagelin twice in the first period, but at the opening of the second Carl darted past the State defense off the faceoff, took the pass from Rust and deposited it in the back of the net just 12 seconds into the period.

This was followed a minute later by Turnbull making a horrible pass across the middle of the ice in his own zone. State just had to step in and take the shot. Hogan was caught and the puck went past him. Turnbull was furious with himself as he deliberately skated back to center ice. He set himself on the press box side of the circle, cussing himself out. Later in his shift, he skated in on the State net only to be dragged down by Brandon Gentile and ridden into the goal. With Turnbull pinned under him, Gentile smacked him in the face and pushed him around. When Turnbull finally got out from under, he was livid and smacked Gentile right back as they continued shoving. Inexplicably, Gentile didn't get an extra two.

Six minutes later, Palushaj was also taken down heading for the net. Again, no call. But Palushaj took Palmisano down with him. No call. Michigan kept the puck in the zone while chaos reigned in front of the net. Palmisano popped back up, looking for the puck, and Summers blasted one past him to push the lead back out to two. After the goal (and the subsequent review), Palmisano knocked the net off its moorings again to have another chat with Likens about what happened.

With only three minutes in the game, Conboy was deep in the Michigan zone with Llewellyn against the boards, then punched him in the face right in front of a ref. This was the second time Llewellyn had gotten facewashed in front of a ref without getting a whistle. Ridiculous no-call that should have put State in a hole for most of the remaining game. Instead, Llewellyn – never one to shy away from taking whatever revenge he can – hit Conboy as soon as he had the opportunity. I was then surprised to see both Conboy and Llewellyn heading to the box. He must have said one of the magic words, but not magical enough to draw a misconduct penalty.

Conboy and Llewellyn jumped out of the box as State was bringing the puck back up through the neutral zone. As Tropp approached the blue line, Kampfer stepped up and laid a solid open-ice hit on him. Tropp saw him comind and stepped into the hit, staying on his feet. Kampfer turned and headed back into his own zone, as Tropp had dumped the puck off. Conboy sucker-punched him high on the back and Kampfer tumbled over. Tropp skated over and slashed him as he lay prone on the ice. A scrum developed, with Miller going after Conboy and Conboy going after anything that moved (Tropp was ready to be all over anything that didn't).

Both Conboy and Tropp were first led to the penalty box. Then Tropp was escorted to the tunnel. We screamed at him as he went by. Then they decided Conboy was done too. By this time, I'd realized it was Kampfer who had again gotten jumped from behind and it was Conboy again with a dirty hit. As he passed under me, I screamed obscenities at him so loudly that one of the scratches came out and stared at me. The student section was going apeshit. Finally, Kampfer got to his knees, then Langlais and Wohlberg helped him off the ice.

I thought about it all going out on FSN with a sort of grim satisfaction. At least there'd be a wide audience who saw what happened; what goons Conboy and Tropp are. I wondered if the visitors' locker room was still just a curtained-off area under the stands and if some of the students were going to start something. The game ended, and after seeing that there wasn't going to be a brawl in the handshake line, I took off before anything else could happen. It was an ugly atmosphere.

I never want to see anything like that again. If I see a guy, regardles of team, go into the boards awkwardly or take a hit from behind, it never fails to give me that little jolt of fear in my chest that maybe this guy isn't getting up. And it's worse when it's Kampfer, and a hundred times worse when he takes a vicious slash when he's on the ground and entirely defenseless. It's a pair of cowardly acts.

Note: I know this post is ridiculously late, but it's my God-given right as a guy on the internet to shoot my mouth off about anything and everything.

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