Coming into this weekend, if you had offered me 3 points on the road against the #1 team in the country, I would've gladly taken it. With the way Michigan was playing coming into the weekend along with Miami's desire to validate their program, I pretty much expected a split. But, much in the same way Michigan State was unhappy with their three points against Michigan a couple weeks back when they gladly would've taken it at the start of the weekend, I'm pretty bummed out right now.
Up 5-3 past the halfway mark of the third period, it's disappointing that Michigan couldn't find a way to complete the sweep. They played a great, great weekend of hockey, but the result tonight was disappointing.
First, the good:
-Give Kevin Porter the Hobey. Not that Ryan Jones wasn't very good this weekend, because he was, but Porter was better. Tonight he had a goal and an assist, was +1 and had an incredible 10 shots on goal. His line was the most dangerous, tallying four of our five goals. And he did his best Jed Ortmeyer impression and absolutely laid Nathan Davis out.
-Chad Kolarik set the tone for the team in practice and backed it up with his play, as he was arguably Michigan's best player on the weekend. He was fantastic, scoring a goal on a wicked wrister and provided a beaaaautiful feed to Porter for our fourth goal, which was a nice play all around (Pacioretty fed Kolarik who drew the D to him and found Porter wide open at the back post).
-Since I've talked about two of our top line forwards, I might as well include the third. Enjoy Max Pacioretty while he's here folks. It's pretty clear that Les Habitants struck gold on their first round pick. He had 2 goals as well as an assist. After a slow start largely due to a broken hand that didn't get much pub, Pacioretty has been excellent, scoring points in 19 of his last 21 games. The top line combined for 4 goals, 3 assists, and 20 shots on goal. Yikes.
-Travis Turnbull once again was really good. He scored very early on off a beautiful pass from Naurato and saved a goal with a nice back-check in the last five minutes of the second period.
-Dan Dickerson. They need to let him do play-by-play of hockey games more often. I thought he did nice job, and he's got a great voice. Well done.
-Billy Sauer. Not his strongest performance tonight. The first three were forgivable. He was screened on the first one, the second was just a goofy play and I'll expand on that in a bit, but it was a 2 on 1 nevertheless. The third was a seeing-eye shot that found its way through 5 bodies and he never saw. The fourth and fifth goals though? Those were right out of last year. The fourth goal, again, I'll expand on this in a minute, took a strange carom, but all he had to do to make it a non-controversy was catch the puck. He didn't, it fell into the slot, and Miele buried it. The fifth goal shouldn't have happened. There was a soft shot into his chest, and he left the rebound. The play continued and they put one in. He does get credit, however, for saving our bacon in the second period. It was 3-2 at the time, the puck came out to center ice, and Kampfer made a horrible decision to try and beat the Miami player to the puck. He didn't, and it led to a 2 on 1. Miami got a great scoring chance, and Sauer robbed him with the glove. If he doesn't make that save, we go down 4-2 and I have a hard time believing that we come out of there with a point.
-The next big-time thumbs down goes to Kevin Langseth. It's not often that a linesman can truly eff a game up, but he managed it tonight. Quite honestly, he turned a nothing play into a goal for Miami. The RedHawks were bringing the puck up 2 on 2. Mitera's back, nothing is going to happen. Incredibly, Langseth stepped away from the boards into the play and Mitera, who was skating backwards, tripped over him. It appeared that Langseth was trying to get out of the way of a Michigan player getting ready to jump onto the ice, but instead of taking a stride backwards, he moved out. It led to a 2 on 1 for Miami and their second goal of the game. It also deserves mentioning that late in the period, Travis Turnbull appeared to hold the puck in at the Miami line, creating a 2 on 1 for Caporusso and I assume Naurato. Langseth blew it dead. To be fair, it was close enough that even the replay was inconclusive, but if the puck hit Turnbull's right skate, which I think it did, the play was on-side.
-Shegos, you don't escape my wrath either. While tonight's game was much better from a penalty standpoint, we still had two problems--and they were major. On Miami's first goal, why did the rush start? It was because Carl Hagelin got hauled down in the offensive zone. That being said, I don't have a problem with letting the teams play, and if that was the case, I'm fine with it. But then why call Langlais for a relatively minor hook not ten seconds later? Just be consistent. Either they're both penalties and the goal shouldn't have happened, or neither is a penalty and we shouldn't have had a man in the box. They didn't score on that PP, so it's not a huge deal. The other one? That's a huge deal. Michigan is up 5 to 3, with 8 minutes left in the game. Miami shoots the puck on net and Sauer deflects it off his blocker. The puck appeared to hit the netting above the glass and deflect back into the play. Sauer mishandled it and Miami scored. Again, the replay wasn't 100% conclusive, but the trajectory of the puck as well as the bounce it took make me believe it was off the netting. I don't see a puck taking a bounce like that off glass. The announcers seemed pretty sure that it hit the netting as well. I also have to question the decision to not replace the two panes of glass that broke. That seems like a huge safety issue to both the players and fans.. It didn't hurt anyone, but I have to believe that neither pane would've taken a hard check very well.
-The Michigan Bench: How on Earth do you end up with six guys in the play that late in overtime? I'd have to check the tape, but I don't think Michigan was even in the middle of a wholesale line change. We had some pressure in the offensive end--though some of that might've been due to having an extra guy--and the penalty kind of screwed things up. That's an inexcusable infraction at any time, but especially with under a minute to go in OT.
It's hard to ignore this story, even though he's not really relevant to this team anymore. Kevin Quick has signed on with the Norfolk Admirals on a tryout basis. Going from prep hockey to the AHL in a half-season is a big jump. It appears that the Lightning/Admirals will address his situation in the near future. Tris Wykes, a writer who covers the Admirals, caught up with Quick Saturday night. He obviously didn't say much beyond that he made a "bad decision".
Overall though, a very good weekend of hockey. Had Michigan won this game, they would've been the odds-on favorite to win the CCHA, up three points with six games to play. Now we're in a dog-fight, especially considering we have two more games against Spartina. Miami faces Ferris, Western and OSU. That series against Ferris is on the road, however (we have them in a home-and-home) so maybe the Bulldogs can help us out. If we don't get at least 3 of 4 points from Sparty, Miami is going to be in good shape. MSU pretty much removed themselves from the race by getting swept by Northern Michigan. They'd have to sweep Michigan to even have a prayer, but even with that, I don't think they can make up 4 points on Miami.
The other thing that was good to see was that the RedHawks had given up four goals just one time all season, and Michigan put four and five on the board. Great performance against what was the top defensive team in the country.
Now we head into yet another trap weekend. It's never easy to come off an emotional weekend, to have a rivalry game on the horizon, and have to face one of the bottom-feeders of the conference, but that's exactly what we face in playing LSSU next weekend. Hopefully they'll use the NMU ties as a lesson in what happens when you don't respect your opponent as much as you should.
It's hard to complain about 3 points on the road against the #1 team, but that tie tonight sure does feel like a loss. But, we regain first place and likely take back the #1 ranking and that sure beats getting punched in the face.
It's very rare that I'll go back and watch the tape of games, but I think I'm going to do that this week. It's worth breaking down at least the goals, scoring chances, and penalties to see what happened upon a closer look.