Though Michigan played a thoroughly uninspired pair of hockey games this weekend, they were able to come away with a pair of 4-2 wins (each with an ENG) against a feisty Lakers team that wouldn't go away.
They fared much better in a "letdown" weekend than their previous opponent, Miami, who was swept up in Big Rapids by the Ferris State Bulldogs. How big were those losses? The RedHawks are no longer even a #1 seed in the PWR ranking (I don't believe either Alaska game has been entered yet, so I guess that could change). Michigan is now 5 points ahead of both Miami and Michigan State with all schools having 4 games left to play. Notre Dame is nine points back and has been officially eliminated from contention. That means that Michigan needs only split their last four to win the CCHA title outright, and can finish no worse than 3rd in the conference. MSU needs at least a win and a tie next weekend against Michigan to remain in the race. Also of note, Boston University has battled back to become a TUC, which gives us 2 extra wins in that category.
As for our games, we got wins and that's the most important thing. Actually I take that back. I would gladly trade a win tonight for Chad Kolarik's health. He went down awkwardly while killing a 5 on 3 and really struggled to get off the ice, even with the help of a couple of players. Red called it a groin injury and said that "obviously it's pretty serious". You'd like to have him back for MSU next weekend--I'm sure he doesn't want to miss what could be his last chance to play the Spartans--but thinking long-term, we've got four weeks until our CCHA Tournament games and we're six weeks away from the NCAA Tournament. Hopefully we'll have him back when we start playing for keeps, because that would be as big of a loss to a Michigan team as I can remember.
I don't have a whole lot of thoughts on the games this weekend. I thought we played a pretty crappy first two periods Friday night. Kolarik carried this team again (4 goals??!!), and I completely agree with Mike Spath that he should be given serious consideration as a Hobey Hat Trick candidate. Porter should win it, but Kolarik has been our best player over the last month. He's right up there in the statistical categories, he's been incredible on the PK, and he's more than lived up to his end of the bargain as a captain.
I thought Mahoney-Wilson made some nice saves to keep them in the game--particularly his diving stop on Porter after he knocked that rebound right onto his stick. Even though they platoon, I was kind of surprised he didn't get the nod tonight. That kid should probably be their starter.
Another bad bounce off a ref tonight. This time a clearing attempt hit Sergott and stayed in the zone, where the Lakers were able to score. I will say that I think Sergott just might be the best ref in the CCHA, which I actually mean as a compliment. He called an excellent game Friday night and even though we got called for a ton of penalties tonight, I thought most of them were legit. One small complaint: If you're going to call a guy for spearing after the game is over (as he did with Dan Eves last night), he probably should get the game DQ instead of a misconduct. It's a dirty, dangerous play and if you just give him the game misconduct, he really doesn't get any punishment whatsoever. If it was severe enough to call despite the game being over, it was probably enough that he should sit the next night.
I thought Hogan played pretty well tonight. It's tough when you only get in once every few weeks but he's performed admirably when he's gotten a chance. I suppose it's possible we'll see him one more time this season if we have the CCHA locked up with games remaining. Otherwise, I think he's shown that he's a goaltender capable of playing on this level and he'll be ready if we need him.
Was it me or did it seem like the ice wasn't all that great this weekend? I noticed it more Friday night, but it seemed like players were falling all over the place, particularly in the end Michigan defends twice.
It might not be feasible since you'd have defensemen from three pairings out there at the same time, but I'd like to see Summers get a shift up front on the 2nd PP unit once in awhile. It kind of surprises me that a guy with that much offensive talent doesn't play the PP--though to be fair, Hagelin-Caporusso-Turnbull is a pretty good group.
Speaking of Caporusso, couple of pretty goals tonight. The first one was a nice move around the defenseman, which fooled Inglis way too easily. The second was a great shot off a nice hustle play by Turnbull, who seems to be good for a few of those a night. Everyone says Hagelin is the hardest worker on the team, but Turnbull has to be right up there. He always seems like he's making things happen for us.
I have to credit Lake State. That team has some moxie and they showed a lot of heart coming into Yost and playing Michigan really tough both nights. Especially battling back each night after we took a 3-1 lead. I really thought Michigan would have an easier weekend, given LSSU's track record against the "Big Four" this season. But they gave us 2 tough games. It wasn't pretty, but the Wolverines got four HUGE points and are now on the brink of winning their third CCHA title in five years.
Hopefully they didn't lose Kolarik in the process.