Sometimes the best team doesn't always win.
Sorry, I had to lead with that since there's a clear parallel to Morrison with Porter winning the Hobey tomorrow.
I'm really trying to keep things in perspective. At the start of the year, suggesting that this team would make the Frozen Four would be viewed as a complete homer pick. It's hard to say that this wasn't a successful season. It doesn't make things any less disappointing though, as this was clearly a missed opportunity. They exceeded expectations, but when the #1 team doesn't make the championship, you missed a shot when the window was open.
The first period pretty much doomed them. Getting down 3-0 was just too big of a hole to dig yourself into. Even though Michigan was able to tie the game at 3 and again at 4, I have to believe Michigan expended too much energy coming back. Notre Dame was pretty clearly the better team for the second half of the third period as well as the overtime.
Billy Sauer was horrid. I had an all-time classic rant after the first period, and I'm still kind of in shock that Bad Billy picked this game to rear his ugly head after the way this season went, but he had an amazing season so I can't be too harsh. I would have a hard time faulting him on the first goal as it appeared to be a defensive breakdown which allowed Ridderwall to walk right into the slot. But he didn't respond after giving up the first goal. Instead, he gave up a horribly soft goal just 42 seconds later and followed it up with another weak goal with just 35 seconds remaining in the first period, which was an absolute killer even if we did come back to tie.
I feel really bad for the kid. He was brilliant pretty much the entire year and picked a horrible time to have an off game. This game pretty much locked it in that I'm never going to be completely comfortable with him in net, but he still deserves a lot of credit for helping Michigan accomplish everything that they were able to this season. He drastically improved this season, and it's important to not forget that even in light of this disaster.
It took a lot of balls for Red Berenson to give him the hook after the first period, but I completely agree with the move even though Hogan had next to no experience. Sauer didn't have it, and rather than let it snowball like North Dakota's situation earlier in the day, he shook things up and it damn near worked. It would've been really interesting to see the decision had Michigan won that game. I don't think there would have been a question that they would've gone with Sauer on Saturday, but it would've been a unique situation to be in. (For the record, I would've played Sauer in the Championship) It just sucked that we ended up in a place where we needed to depend on our freshman goalie who had only played a half-dozen times this year. It was a bad spot to put Hogan in, but he performed pretty well all things considered.
As I said, I feel bad for Billy Sauer since his outstanding season--the best statistical season a Michigan goalie has ever had--will be overshadowed by his performance tonight. Mostly, though, I feel bad for Kevin Porter and Chad Kolarik. Kolarik put this team on his back once again and scored twice to get Michigan back into the game. Porter didn't play well (no shots on goal? Really?) but I would've loved to see those guys get a shot at the Championship. I feel as bad for the two of them as I did for Jed Ortmeyer when he didn't get his much-deserved shot at it.
I have to give a call to Matt Rust and his line. I thought they were awesome tonight--Rust in particular. Apart from Kolarik, he might have been our best player. And I'm impressed as hell with the resolve of this team to dig themselves out of their hole and not pack it in like the Sioux did. Those are about the only positives I'm taking out of this one. Because it sucked really bad.
It really didn't seem like anything good happened when we put Caporusso's or Fardig's line out there. I swear, every time Fardig's line was out there, they'd clear the puck, I'd say "Good job, Digger" and then Notre Dame would regain possesion, come down, and score. Mitera being -3 didn't help either.
I'll have to go back and watch the game again, but basically, I thought the first and fourth goals were complete defensive lapses, the second and third goals were horribly weak, and the fifth goal was a nice save and nobody found Ridderwall on the rebound. Always great when a kid has 3 goals the entire season and you let him score twice in the National Semifinal.
Don't take this as criticism of Red Berenson, but I've never understood why hockey coaches are so reluctant to use timeouts to halt the other team's momentum. Right after we scored the tying goal, Notre Dame tilted the ice in their favor for a significant period of time before they went ahead 4-3. And in overtime it seemed like they had the momentum on their side for a couple shifts before they won it. I was kind of surprised we didn't use our timeout to settle things down a little bit.
We had a really great time though. The Pepsi Center is beautiful and we had a lot of fun interacting with fans of the opposing teams. There were some people in the box behind us that were great, including one Notre Dame grad who I wished well in the Championship Game. It was also kind of funny that when we pulled into a liquor store by our hotel, we were met by a North Dakota charter bus that was headed to the same liquor store. I guess this was the college hockey version of the Walk of Shame. Just a bunch of people finding a way to drown their sorrows.
When we celebrated in the bar after Notre Dame beat MSU, in the back of my mind I was thinking, "This is the way you felt when the Giants beat the Dallas Cowboys too". And wouldn't you know it, our season ends much in the same way that Green Bay's did. A surprising team that surpassed all expectations, but still probably didn't go as far as they should have and had their season end in disappointment. And much like with the Packers, I'll root for the team that beat us to win it all. I'd love to see Notre Dame keep it in the CCHA, even if it would hurt to see the CCHA go back-to-back and not have Michigan hang a banner.
I'm so disappointed right now, but this was a really enjoyable season. They won the GLI for the first time in forever, they made the Frozen Four for the first time since 03, they won the CCHA and CCHA Tournament, they won the College Hockey Showcase, they beat Minnesota...and pretty much none of it was expected.
The future still looks bright. Porter and Kolarik are huge losses, but with the maturity of the freshmen and the very talented incoming players that we've got, there's no reason to think that Michigan can't contend again next year. It's just disappointing to not take the opportunity when it's there.
Also in the CCHA, Miami lost Jeff Zatkoff today. They'll likely be starting a freshman out of the NAHL next season. They'll have a big drop-off in net.
That's all I've got for now. I'm going to try to enjoy the next two days in Colorado, hopefully see a good hockey game for the title, and hope that we don't have to slog through a foot of snow in Nebraska again on the way home. Because that sucked worse than losing to ND.