Monday, October 17, 2005

The Wonderful Weekend That Was

We'll start with hockey since this is sweet, even if it is the kiss of death. After a pair of impressive wins this weekend, coupled with losses from pretty much everyone else in the country, Michigan is now the #1 hockey team in the country in both the USCHO and USA Today polls. I never would have believed that we'd see Michigan atop the polls this soon into a season where they're breaking in so many new players. I don't expect them to stay there, since they are going to have their ups and downs, but it'll be nice for a little while at least. Hopefully they avoid reading their own press clippings and getting the "OMG! Look how freakin' sweet we are!" attitude that the football team seems to get most years.

Thoughts on the weekend which saw Michigan hockey surge from #7 to #1 in the polls, Michigan football pull off a last-second thriller, the Wings keep rolling, and a touching tribute to a fallen star in the IRL race:

Friday Night: The crowd was rocking at Yost like we haven't heard since the victory over Denver in the NCAA Quarterfinals. It was the second loudest crowd in the old barn since the renovation (and it only missed being #1 by 4 people) and you could tell by the electricity in the crowd. What followed was one of the best college hockey games we've seen in years.

I said before the game that I wanted to see a few things...One of them was that Jack Johnson still be the best player on the ice against a quality opponent. He was. He scored in the opening minutes of the game on a 5 0n 3 and his goal was almost forgotten after the rest of his performance. The short list: He levelled two BC players on the same shift, the latter of which brought back memories of Game 4 of the 1997 Stanley Cup Finals when Konstantinov rocked a Flyers player and stood over top of him for a moment. He also took a slapshot from the point that knocked the BC goalie's mask off. Oh yeah, and he was the #1 star. But more than anything, he was simply the best player on the ice whenever he was out there. His spin-o-rama works everytime he tries it, and he makes his teammates better. Sometimes the best compliment you can give a defenseman is that you didn't notice him on the ice. Jack Johnson is not that type of defenseman. I'm officially out of adjectives to describe him. I've never seen Bobby Ryan play, but I can stay with 100% certainty that Anaheim made a horrible mistake taking him over Johnson.

Bill Sauer was very good in net. I thought both goals he gave up were weak, but he made a few wonderful saves. I can handle a couple softies in a game like that out of a freshman. It was different last year when it's your #6 overall pick doing it. Overall, the freshman played in his first big game and passed the test with flying colors. He's painful to watch handle the puck. That's the last time I'm going to harp on it unless it costs us a goal, but that is definitely the area where he needs the most improvement.

Cogliano was buzzing, even though he didn't get anything to go in (that would come later in the weekend). Cook didn't play well, but BC's speed wasn't a good matchup for him. MacVoy sat out, and I believe BC's speed was the reason for that as well. And once again, TJ Hensick stepped it up when we needed him to.

The last minute of the game was insane. Cogliano gets sent off for a charging the goalie call, then 30 seconds later, BC scores on a 6 on 4 to tie it. The air went out of the place for a couple seconds, and then Shegos makes a Daunte Culpepper-like motion with his hands and then waives the goal off. Bill Sauer is caught on TV going "Thank you!". Probably both questionable calls, but after he called the first one on Cogliano, he had to call the second one.

I hate the new checking from behind rule. I understand the need to get it out of the game, but I'm sick of 5 minute majors and losing a player for the entire game for a check that's borderline if it's even a penalty. Ebbett got tossed from that tilt, and I only caught the tail end of the check, but it was extremely iffy.

Overall a great win for a young team facing their first big test of the year. BC is a good, good hockey team and they're going to be scary later on in the year. Boyle is an absolute truck and I was extremely impressed with Collins. He was the best player for them.

Saturday: Boring-ass first half, decent third quarter, phenomenal fourth quarter. Everyone's covered it already, so I'm not going to spend too much time talking about this game, but man oh man, what a finish. This football season has been really tough for me since my teams are now a combined 5-7--and couple that with me being almost desensatized to Michigan losses (when PSU went up 18-10 and took the lead very late in the game I just laughed) and hating the student section more and more every time I sit in it--so it was nice to have a game remind me exactly why I love football so much. After Super Mario scored, I just dove on the first person to turn around and give me a high-five. It doesn't get much better than a last-second win, with enough controversy to keep the PSU faithful bitching for another few years. I wouldn't have it any other way. It's just more fun.

Fun side note: After the game, my dad was at Meijer and as he was walking in, a guy in a PSU jersey was walking out. My dad goes "Sorry about that, but it was a really good game." to which the PSU guy blows up "YOU GUYS SUCK! MICHIGAN'S SUCH A BUNCH OF CHEATERS!" He went on for a little while and my dad just goes "I only have one thing to say....WE OWN! PENN STATE!" and walked away. Just hilarious.

Anybody have any clue as to why Manningham barely saw the field in the first half? I didn't notice him until the third quarter. I've also made it my personal goal to get the band to play the Mario Brothers theme when he makes a big play. It's just too perfect not to use.

Carr admits that he should've been more aggressive on the series after Hall's INT, so I won't criticize him for that. But I do have a big big problem with the punt out of the field goal formation. It's 4th and 4 on like the 34 yard line. If you go for it and make it, you win the game. If you go for it at miss, they've still got a long way to go before they're in tying-FG range. Chances are, your punter is going to nail one into the endzone from there, since Ryan (and Rivas) aren't really known for the coffin corner punts. Essentially you're risking 15 yards of field position for a chance to win the game. Have faith in your guys to make a play.

I see the logic in getting PSU to use up their timeouts, but in doing so, you give up any REAL effort to make a first down and therefore are essentially giving them the ball back. I'm sorry, but in college football, 2-3 minutes is an eternity, even with no timeouts, because the clock stops on first downs. I would have rather had Michigan at least make a legit effort for a first down or two that would ice the game. You don't have to do anything risky, but don't just run it up the gut against a defense that's expecting run (Note: Unlike us against Minnesota, PSU stopped it!).

Overall they showed a lot of heart in winning that game, and Henne showed that the freshman Chad Henne is still down there somewhere (we'll ignore the play with 6 seconds left). I pretty much wrote them off after that horrid series of events that put PSU up 18-10, but they dug down deep and pulled it out. Good on them! BTW, it doesn't look like it from the TV angle, but from the low angle it looks like Henne was VERY close to being down when he had the ball ripped away from him. Way closer than I thought it was when I saw it live.

And Mike Hart should be everyone's favorite player. That kid just amazes me. He had one run that just blew my mind...the one where he dragged the pile about 5 yards. IBFC has the video. And believe you me, that one is saved to my hard drive now.

A couple quick thoughts about the Wings game Saturday: First off, it was sad to see Brett Hull hang em up. It depresses me when guys retire that I grew up watching, because it means I'm getting old too. I missed the first period of the game, but it seemed to me that the Wings got outplayed for wide margins of the game. Luckily Manny Legace was fantastic in getting the shutout, and they were able to slip a couple pucks by CuJo. It's nice to see them still win a game when they don't have their best effort, and to see their goalie bail em out, because it won't happen much once Osgood is back. The better Manny plays, the more likely it is that he'll be our starter, so it was especially nice.

Sunday: Green Bay's bye week meant that they move up by a half-game in the horrid NFC North. The Lions crapped one away as only they can, and the Vikings look worse and worse every week. I'm scared Tice gets fired this week and they get up to play for their new coach against GB on Sunday. Ugh.

Meanwhile, Michigan hockey was crapping on Merrimack's face. Kevin Porter had a hat trick in the first period (the last goal coming on a mini 3-0 after Johnson stole the puck and made an excellent feed to Porter), Cogliano got his first 2 and added 2 assists, Hensick had yet another multi-point game, and Zac MacVoy had one of the prettiest goals you'll see (shooting it with his back to the net, through his legs).

Once Cogliano got his first, you could just feel it that the flood gates were opening for this kid. He hadn't been great in the first 3 games, but he was getting his share of chances. I don't think you'll see too many more occasions where this kid goes 3 games without a point. He's getting chances solely based on his speed, and he's got as good of vision on the ice as anyone we've got. Johnson was once again excellent with his second-career playmaker, in four games. Travis Turnbull was great again this weekend. Also, with the lopsided score, the freshmen got a ton of icetime. Cogliano, MacVoy, and Tyler Swystun tallied their first career goals. Kolarik has been fairly quiet thusfar this season (though 3 assists through 4 games isn't exactly bad). But the story thusfar has been Hensick, Hunwick, and Johnson. 10, 9, and 8 points respectively, through 4 games. Yikes.

Noah Ruden was very good in net, despite a weak first goal. Merrimack had some quality chances once the Wolverines called off the dogs, and for the most part he was up to the task. That was nice to see as well.

Around the country, Minnesota only managed a loss and a tie with Alaska-Fairbanks (haha), Denver got swept by Maine, CC and OSU was a crazy weekend around the country. At this very early point in the season, every single team in the WCHA has a loss. Crazy.

The IRL race featured Bryan Herta's visor popping open while he was going 215 mph, temporarily blinding him and forcing a pit stop which ruined a pretty good run. Danica Patrick thwapped Jacques Lazier upside the head after their wreck (he claims she punched him, which would just be funny), which was completely his fault no matter what Chip Ganassi and Lazier say. The touching moment of the day was Dario Franchitti taking his car over to Turn 2, where Greg Moore lost his life 6 years ago, and doing donuts after his win at the spot where his friend perished. It was a nice tribute, and a hard reminder of the worst auto racing accident I've ever seen (I almost stopped watching racing after Moore died, because I never wanted to see something that awful again). The only thing that kind of sucked about the race was that Tony Kanaan lifted from the gas coming to the checkered flag, so that Franchitti could get the win. If he was going to let Dario win, why even pass him coming out of turn 4? Andretti-Green ended up 1 (Wheldon), 2 (Kanaan), 4 (Franchitti) and 8 (Herta) in the points. And they won something like 11 of the 17 races, and kept the streak alive of having someone on the podium every race for something like 40 straight races. That's just sick.

On another note, Lazier's wreck brought the tally of Ganassi cars in the fence to 28 for the 17 race season. That's an expensive year. According to ESPN, the amount of money in torn up equipment for Ganassi Racing topped the ENTIRE Champ Car series. Oww.

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