After locking up the CCHA Championship with a 5-3 win last night, the Wolverines were downed 4-3 in overtime tonight up in Big Rapids. It's a disappointing loss, no doubt, but I suppose it's not all that shocking.
Ferris isn't a bad hockey team by any means, they're tough at home, it was Senior Night for them, Michigan had the conference all locked up, Ferris was jocking for the right to face a slumping Notre Dame team in the second round (should they win their first round series), Louie Caporusso (illness) and Chad Kolarik (hamstring) were out, and Michigan was busting Bryan Hogan's road-game cherry.
But if you're going to lose a game, that might've been the one to lose. It hurts the RPI a little bit, but Ferris isn't a TUC so it doesn't affect that comparison, and they didn't play a single team from Hockey East or the WCHA this year, so it shouldn't hurt us in the common opponents category against any of the other top teams (NoDak, CC, UNH). Additionally, CC lost tonight to Mankato (there's the depth of the WCHA again--but Michigan losing to Ferris? That just means U of M isn't that good...) and Michigan Tech became a TUC again, so we moved back to #1 in the Pairwise. Somehow, Minnesota is now a 3 seed. This is a weird weird system we've got here...
As for the games themselves, I don't think that the players are going to have an overly easy week off. As Capt28 pointed out at the Yost Post, Michigan gave up 5 power play goes on the weekend to a team that was pretty far down the charts in power play percentage. We were outshot by 15 on the weekend and gave up seven goals to a team that has struggled to put pucks in the net. They haven't been playing their best hockey as of late, and it's time to get that fixed heading into the postseason.
Based solely upon looking at the boxscore and watching the highlights, it looks like Mitera had quite a nice game Friday night. Three assists, five shots on goal, five blocked shots, and finished +2. That +/- wasn't skewed due to Ferris having all of their goals with the man advantage, as he was out there for a single PPG by each team.
Billy Sauer made 28 saves including a huge toe stop when the game was 5-3. Ferris scored on a couple of shots from the point through traffic and a cross-crease pass that he nearly got over in time to stop.
Michigan's goals came in a variety of manners. Naurato got Michigan started with a hard shot that Nagle got most of. It had enough steam to find the back of the net, however. Lebler scored into a wide-open net off a rebound. Porter's goal was a one-timer off a gorgeous feed from Aaron Palushaj. Pacioretty brought one down the wings and put a shot in that really needed to be stopped if you're Ferris. Caporusso had a pretty tip of a Kampfer shot.
And a thumbs up to Ben Winnett who is starting to contribute offensively. He has points in four straight games.
The big concerns from Friday night: Ferris was 3 for 7 on the power play, with 11 shots on goal. Chris Summers went to the box on three occasions (and five times on the weekend). Michigan took yet another too many men on the ice penalty, which cost us a goal. And Matt Rust took another late-game penalty, this one with 2:16 remaining. Of all the things to have a penchant for, that's probably not the thing to pick.
I have to say, it was a nice site seeing Chad Kolarik skating around after the game. Obviously taking a slow lap around the arena and playing a game are two entirely different things, but the fact that he was able to skate and effortlessly get back to his feet after kissing center ice have to be viewed as good signs.
After giving up three power play goals on Friday night, Michigan gave up two more in the first five minutes and change tonight to dig themselves a 2-0 hole. They were able to climb back into it with goals by Hagelin, Porter (on a two-on-one with Palushaj, who picked up his twenty-seventh assist this year, to match Porter's 27 goals), and Pacioretty, who continues to play well.
Ferris got it tied up early in the third period and then won it with just under two minutes left in OT off a faceoff win. The Bulldogs put 41 shots on net, which is far too many for that team.
I'm sure the coaches and the team are disappointed in the efforts this weekend, but they won the CCHA Championship and that's what really matters. Nobody--even on the team apparently (based on Porter's post-game interview Friday night) --truly expected this, and it's part of what has made this season so special.
Kevin Porter now leads the national scoring race by eight points over Nathan Gerbe. He's taken back the points per game lead from Ryan Cruthers. He's two behind Ryan Jones for the lead in goals, sits third in assists (actually tied with Aaron Palushaj--wow, who saw Pal as a top 3 passer nationally?), second in power play goals (one behind Mick Lawrence from Omaha), and has scored a point in 83.3--repeating of course--percent of our games this year. Additionally, he's the captain of arguably the most surprising team in the country (as well as arguably the best team in the country), he's one of the top defensive forwards out there, and he's taken just seven penalties the entire season. If he doesn't win the Hobey Baker, I'm never paying attention to that award again. It would lose every shred of credibility that it has left after the Hensick fiasco last year, as far as I'm concerned.
The Wolverines will now have a week off as the first round of the CCHA Tournament begins. They'll play a best-of-three series against either Nebraska-Omaha, Alaska, Ohio State, Lake State, or Western Michigan after the bye week. The other plus of being the CCHA Tournament's #1 seed is that it means we can't face MSU or Miami until the Championship/Consolation game (should we make it that far, of course). If the seeding holds all the way through, we'd play UNO, then Notre Dame, then Miami.