Quick hits on the Michigan/ND championship game before I get into talk about the NCAA Tournament Bracket:
-Sauer was outstanding. He made one mistake and it ended up being the game winning goal. But when you only give your goalie one goal of support, you're asking him to be perfect in order to win the game. That's a tall task. He played a great game.
-Notre Dame had the "luck of the Irish" with them on St. Patrick's Day, as we hit at least 4 goalposts--if not more.
-That was one of the worst officiated games that I've seen this year. Before the "sour grapes" comments come out, let me say that there were horrible calls against both teams. I don't believe that it cost us the game. I just feel Shegos was beyond brutal last night. The no-call on Hensick's breakaway not only kept us from getting a 5 on 3 or a penalty shot, but it also took us off the power play since Porter took a stupid-ass penalty five seconds later. Hensick was also boarded later on in the game, which was at least a two-minute penalty, but probably should've been 5. To be fair, though, the "throwing the puck" penalty on Notre Dame that had us on the power play at that moment was extremely weak as well, IMO. Notre Dame intentionally knocked the net off while Hensick was circling around the offensive zone. Those are just a few of the ones that I remember (I obviously remember the ones against us more clearly...I have no doubt that a lot of them went in our favor as well). The hit from behind on Hensick was the worst of the lot, however.
-I thought Mitera was pretty bad throughout the weekend. Kolarik was fairly quiet as well. Don't remember seeing him out there apart from missing that chance with about 10 seconds left.
-Summers had another strong game. I really like what he adds to that second line.
Now onto talk about the NCAAs:
As soon as the "BU/MSU" graphic graced my television, I had roughly the same reaction that Brian did.
Unlike a lot of my friends over at The Yost Post, however, I really don't feel that we got screwed, per se. Yes we ended up in the Bracket of Death. Yes it's very likely that our season will come to an end next weekend. Yes it sucks that even though we beat MSU, they get to stay home in a not-so-difficult regional while we get shipped out West and face the very real possibility of having to go through North Dakota, Minnesota and Boston College to get to the championship game while MSU would face something along the lines of Boston University, Notre Dame, St. Cloud. But I still don't feel that we got "screwed".
You could make the argument that since Michigan won the comparison with MSU, and finished ahead of them in both the regular season and conference tournament that we should've been rewarded by getting to stay home. The only problem with that argument, however, is that by flipping Michigan/North Dakota with Michigan State/Boston University, as the numbers go you would be giving the number one seed in the tournament a tougher 2 seed (#7 overall vs. #8 overall) as well as a tougher #3 seed (#9 vs. #10). It may not be that way in fact (as Michigan and North Dakota are likely both better than Boston University and Michigan State), but if we're going based on fact then there's no way in hell Clarkson should be a #1 seed.
Michigan--as the worst #2 seed in the tournament--hasn't done anything to deserve to be rewarded. We didn't win the CCHA, we didn't win the CCHA Tournament. We had plenty of chances to jump up and grab a low-one/high-two seed and get a nice cushy regional out East, but we didn't grab the chance when we had it, and as such, I don't think we've got a leg to stand on.
The team that really got screwed in all of this is actually the Gophers. Instead of getting to face the #16 team, Alabama-Huntsville, the committee decided to swap UAH in favor of the #15 team (I assume for attendance purposes), the Air Force Academy. So instead of getting to face a team that was six games under .500 in the regular season, they get to play the nation's second-leading scorer along with a team that's playing fairly close to home (It would basically be the equivalent of Michigan playing in Grand Rapids).
Then, instead of getting a team in MSU--that wasn't assured of a spot in the tournament until they scored a seventh goal against LSSU yesterday--as their three seed, they get one of the hottest teams in the nation in North Dakota.
It's a screwy system that actually gives the #6 team in the country the easiest road to the Finals out of anybody. There's no question that the system could be better, but at least this way there are no arguments about teams being snubbed...only the brackets that have been arranged.
So, do the Wolverines have a chance? Yes, although I think the chances of each team coming out of the region is something like:
North Dakota: 40%
North Dakota smoked us last year, but in the interim our goaltending has gotten better, theirs has gotten worse. They aren't scoring as many goals as they did last year, we're scoring more. And we're also not facing them in their own building.
On the downside, North Dakota has been playing extremely well as of late. They haven't lost in regulation since the first game of 2007, and they haven't lost by more than a goal since Mid-December.
If we get through the Fighting Sioux, we would likely face a Minnesota team that freaking owns us. No, they aren't the same team that ran off 22 in a row without a loss earlier in the season (and beat us 8-2 in the process). They've been strangely human since then, going 8-8 over their next 16 games before winning 3 straight to take the WCHA playoff championship.
We're also not the same team that got beat 8-2 by them earlier in the season. Sauer has been much improved since that point, Chris Summers has sparked the second line, and I feel like we're playing a much better all-around game (Probably four of our best six games of the season have come in our last four games). The game would be on a normal-sized sheet of ice as well. For those reasons, I would give us a chance against the Gophers, but I still think they have us figured out, and our team is a bunch of Tyler Hirsches (cheap shot??) against them.
I don't think it gets to that point though. As much as I'd like to say differently, I think we go out in the first round to North Dakota for the second year in a row.
It's too bad that we got the draw that we did. This team is rounding into form nicely, and with a different draw (like the one that St. Cloud received), we really could've made a run for the Championship Game. We're the #8 seed overall, but the only teams in the country that are probably better at this point are Minnesota, North Dakota, Boston College, and I suppose you have to include Notre Dame as well, even though I feel we outplayed them yesterday.
It's just too bad that we ended up playing one of the hottest teams in the country, and then potentially a game against a team that has our number more than anybody. But...we didn't take care of business against Notre Dame. If we had, we probably would've ended up as the #5 or #6 seed rather than in the Bracket of Death. We've got no one to blame but ourselves.