First off, I have to give credit to the NMU Wildcats. Michigan went 3-0-2 against them this season but not a single one of those points was easy. They're a pretty talented hockey team. Olver, Sirota, Stewart, Butcher, Siddall, Gustafson...they're all good players. With only one of their ten players with double-digits points scheduled to leave school--and with Stewart back--I would expect NMU to be right in the mix for a bye next season in the CCHA.
Michigan was fortunate to get out of that game with a win. They scored some crazy goals--at least three hit NMU players and deflected into the net--and were able to overcome a sub-par power play and a fairly shaky outing out of Billy Sauer, who never seemed to look comfortable in the net. I think shaky is probably the right word for it. He fought the puck an awful lot, but I don't think he played badly. They weren't bad goals (maybe Olver's goal was, but Olver also hauled down Porter on that play), it just wasn't an especially strong outing.
I have to give a call to Tim Miller first off. He had two goals and an assist tonight. Must be something about playing at Joe Louis Arena. That's where all four of his goals have come. Neither goal was especially pretty, but they all count the same and he ended up with the game winner via driving hard to the net. He's had a rough season offensively, but he's played a big part in two of our most-important wins of the year.
There have been a lot of unsung heroes on this team: Steve Kampfer, Chris Summers, and Carl Hagelin are three of them. Travis Turnbull also belongs high up that list. He's third on the team in goals (wow!) and fifth on the team in points, and you'd never know it for the pub he gets. And he's had some huge goals this season. He's been really impressive this season.
Next, Matt Rust and Scooter Vaughan, especially Matt Rust, for gutting it out with injuries that weren't insignificant by any means. Rusty has a broken leg and he still was flying out there. He did a nice job defensively and on the PK.
Mark Mitera's hot streak offensively continued with two more assists, giving him twelve points in his last six games.
Next up, the Miami RedHawks, who shocked Notre Dame by scoring with just over 3 seconds left in regulation to send the game to OT, and then pulling off the win. With the losses by New Hampshire, CC, and North Dakota today, these will be the #1 and #2 teams heading into the tournament.
Obviously, if Michigan wins, they're #1. Miami needs a win out of Northern Michigan in the consolation game plus a win over Michigan to take the top spot as far as I can tell.
For Wisconsin, they need Princeton to beat Harvard in the ECAC title game, BC to beat Vermont in the Hockey East title game, and NMU to beat Notre Dame in the CCHA Consolation game. If all that happens, it actually looks like they'd be a 3 seed. But if any of those games don't go their way, they're out. Weird. That scenario would actually leave Notre Dame in the tournament and knock Minnesota State out.
There are a few scenarios that would move North Dakota up to the #3 overall seed and keep them out of Colorado Springs (mainly if they win the consolation game with CC). In that situation, it would have New Hampshire as #4 and CC as #5. It would be interesting to see if the committee would have the gonads to take New Hampshire out of that Worcester regional and send them to Colorado Springs as the bracket would dictate.
As for Miami, they've won seven in a row and have gone 7-2 since Michigan took three of four points from them. Carter Camper didn't play in those games, but he's back now and has scored four points in the three games since his return. Also, Nathan Davis was just coming off his injury when these teams met previously. He's back into playing shape and has 13 points in his last 11 games.
In the series earlier this season, Michigan's top line and top power play unit were spectacular. They accounted for six of Michigan's nine goals on the weekend. Max Pacioretty, in particular, had a stellar weekend. He will return from his one game suspension.
Jeff Zatkoff didn't have the kind of weekend you would expect out of a guy who has put up the numbers that he has put up. He gave up nine goals on 66 shots and several just plain beat him up over the glove.
Michigan won on Friday night due to an incredible first period where they put up four goals. They allowed just 8 shots on net through the first two periods and were playing stellar defense all around. Saturday Michigan had a two-goal lead and Miami was able to battle back with the infamous goal that may or may not have hit the netting and another late in the contest.
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It will be interesting to see if Piotrowski cares about the (unfounded) complaints about Shegos doing the Michigan/Miami series earlier in the season. I'd expect to see him on the ice tomorrow. Hopefully if Langseth is on the ice, he stays away from Mark Mitera this time.
That North Dakota/Denver game today was a lot of fun. Lots of back-and-forth action, great goaltending, great scoring chances, and an unbelievable goal by Maiani to pull off the win for DU. I kind of lump the Pioneers in with Michigan State. You have to consider them a contender because of their goalie. They might not be the best team on paper, but I'd be scared to play them if their goalie was on. Mannino was amazing today.
I haven't seen a ton of WCHA games this year, but it seemed to me as if they were calling things closer today (and in the Minnesota/St. Cloud game last night) than they did in some of the semifinal matchups. I've heard a lot about how they don't typically call anything in the WCHA, but for the most part, I thought both of those were pretty well-officiated games.
Minnesota is a much better team since they put in Kangas as the full-time starter. That kid is good.
It's almost inexplicable that Minnesota and North Dakota don't score more goals than they do. I was watching these games and seeing a slew of forwards that are "name" guys and extremely good hockey players: Wheeler, Barriball, Carmen, Oshie, Duncan, Gordon, Kozek, etc. It's not all due to the way the games have been called.
Tomorrow should be a great day of hockey. You've got Michigan/Miami going for the #1 overall seed (and a chance to lay another brick in the building of the Miami hockey dynasty), NMU/Notre Dame in a possible elimination game for the Irish (and Wisconsin), CC/NoDak in a game no one thought would be the consolation game (but which could keep NoDak out of Colorado Springs), Minnesota continuing their incredible run by taking on Denver, Harvard/Princeton in an elimination game for them (and Wisconsin), and BC/Vermont in an elimination game for the Catamounts, who are looking to return to the NCAAs for the first time since 1996-97.