Friday, April 11, 2008

Notre Dame 5, Michigan 4 (ot)

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.

Dammit.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

well said. pretty much sums up my feelings.

i had a sneaking suspicion that facing jeff jackson in the semis might be problematic - he had red's number at lssu in the 90's. took us a while to beat him, and when we did we found a national championship.

in the end, this will be a great learning experience for red and this team.

enjoy the final. it's great fun to go with no real rooting interest. we always root against the team with the most obnoxious fans.

Anonymous said...

I am not as optimistic about next year. Losing a few big guns that really drove the team hurts more than I think you are wanting to admit and the goalie situation is still in flux as Sauer can't be relied on in big games.

I think this was a huge blown opportunity that we will regret for a while. The WCHA won't stay down for long and this was a year in which their conference was not as strong. When that league rebounds in the next year or two, I could see them going on another run of titles. We were the top seed this year and had any easy path to this point. The team needs to capitalize on that kind of an opportunity. Instead, they blew it.

d-flo said...

As a Red Wings fan, I take solace in the fact that the Colorado Avalanche have drafted a goalie with a 7.5 GAA in their building.

Great season, Billy, but you're messed up between the ears. Hogan for goalie in 08-09.

Anonymous said...

Hogan for goalie in 08-09??? I couldn't agree with you more!!!

Kurt said...

Tim,

I pretty much agree with your observations although I agree with the comment above that losing Porter and Kolarik will be huge. We saw that after the 98 title.

I was very disappointed but I could not be upset with Billy - look at all the work he put in and all the progress he made. Plus we had significant defensive breakdowns last night. Personally, I want him to be the starting goalie at next year's NCAAs so he can exorcise the demons. But I do want (and think) Hogan to get much more experience next year so that we truly have a capable backup either way.

Oh, and I cannot see why Morrison takes flak for that comment - that's like a truism in hockey. In this case, this team beat ND two other times this year and carried play for significant portions of the game. But yes, ND capitalized on its chances. And it's not like ND had no talent. Remember, ND was ranked #1 a good portion of last year and was ranked ahead of UofM preseason. They are a pretty good team that is peaking at the right time.

Anonymous said...

you wanna give shit to MSU for beating Maine and that being easy last year, well at least they did it. UM got a gift in facing ND and they blew it. Porter was surely the best player in college hockey and Kolarik was definitely snubbed but where was Porter tonight? he was absolutely invisible.

Packer487 said...

It will hurt to lose Porter and Kolarik, no doubt, but we also lost guys like Hensick and Cogliano last year (not to mention a ton of defense scoring) and people picked up the slack.

I fully expect Caporusso and Palushaj to score more goals next year because they both consistently were able to get scoring chances. Rust and Hagelin are great players and I think they'll get more PP time as well. Czarnik and Wohlberg can both play. I wouldn't expect us to score as many goals next season, but I thought the same thing this year. It would really help if the soon-to-be senior class steps up.

I still see Sauer as the #1 goalie next year. Even though he went pucker, pucker, pucker last night, he still had an amazing season. I do think they'll look to get Hogan more work, perhaps significantly more work depending on how he plays.

And yes, we had the same chance MSU did last year and didn't get it done. Missed opportunity for sure.

The WCHA has a lot of good teams. We're a good team. Even in their run of titles it's not like teams weren't competitive with the WCHA representative. Minnesota beat Maine in OT, Wisconsin had two one-goal games, Denver beat Maine 1-0, Minnesota got a huge break in the semis against Michigan the year they smoked UNH. It was an impressive run for their conference, but apart from the year they put 4 teams in the FF it wasn't like they were blowing teams out of the water (and even that year, DU had a huge scare against Bemidji and CC got down 3-0 against us). Just because the conference might be "up" again doesn't really mean that Michigan won't have a shot.

J said...

My question is this: is there any chance that anyone bolts? I mean, even a couple of the freshman have been drafted. Or are Porter and Kolarik the only ones leaving?

Zach said...

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".

As a die-hard Wisconsinite Packer fan and U-M student, I had the exact same feeling. Looking to next year, both teams very young but lose their top player(s) for next year (Favre=Porter/Kolarik). Hopefully we can be back in the last four in both next year, because goodness knows Michigan football and our non-existent quarterback will not be anything I want to focus on.

Sioux_Me in GF said...

Congrats to Mr. Porter -- well-deserved and pre-ordained. He was screwed on the All-American list, just like JPL and a few other CCHA notables. I am already itchin' to read the pre-season posts (and in-season analysis) from your CCHA perspective. The epic meltdowns of the two top seeds were painful for each of us to watch -- the faithful Fighting Sioux fans even more so! At least the local kid (Jake Marto) had the balls and heart to say "I'm not done yet!" Several others played for the emblem on the front and the tradition on their shoulders, but it's hard to skate in a hole that deep! How much beer does it take to get that bad taste out of your mouth, I wonder?! Great season -- see you next year, if not before!

Sioux_Me in GF said...

Oops! I meant Kolarik got screwed on the All-American list -- Porter was deservedly there. Read before you post, eh?

Anonymous said...

That shortie on Sauer was a case of great shot not bad goal. Give credit to the shooter for a wicked backhand in a perfect spot. Honestly the defender should have never have let the ND player get that off.

A case of one too many for Billy though and I agree with the hook by Red.

Sauer has improved each year so I see no reason to panic with him next year.

phillip said...

Billy let that third goal in because he was protecting the crease under his arm where the second goal inexplicably went through... if he had gotten his blocker up just a tad, it would have been an easy save. Brian at mgoblog has a picture.

My first glance on the shot was that it was a great shot in the upper corner that he could not have gotten to... but upon further review, he should have blocked it into the corner with ease.

I actually think the first goal was the most forgive-able. The guy was moving through traffic, made a cut to the middle of the ice and ripped a quick, well-placed shot. Also, I'm 98% sure Tim Miller was trailing the play, and he just watched it all happen from directly behind - absolutely LOAFING into his back-check, when he could have EASILY disrupted the play. When I saw him in the replay there, it was probably the most frustrating moment of the night for me. That established the direction of the game in a hurry.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised you didn't mention the numerous blown offiseds calls against Michigan. I suggest you go back and watch the tape. The refs did a wondeful job of negating Michigan's great speed advantage throughout the game by whistling several perfectly legal rushes across their blue line. It was disgusting, and you could see our players starting to complain vociferously by the 3rd period.