I agree with much of what was said in the comments on the last post. The passing was junk for an awful lot of the game. Breakouts in skates, passes behind guys in the other zone. It was weird. They'd kind of cycle between looking really good and looking...well...like a team that should lose to a 4-seed.
I also agreed with the comment that Turnbull was one of our best players tonight. He might have a short fuse, he might have looked as if he was going to go Corey Tropp on the official tonight, but he was all over the ice out there. Every time Michigan was doing something good, it seemed like #9 was around the puck.
Lots of individual play at times. I don't think it was a lack of respect for Air Force on an individual level as much as it was guys just wanting to make plays. Kind of more like a "Screw this, I'll do it myself" type thing. The crowning moment was when Mark friggin Mitera tried to split two defensemen in the third period.
In one-and-done hockey, so much of it is goaltending. And while Hogan only gave up two tonight--and one you couldn't blame him a bit on--going down a goal to a team that you're dominating is a complete back-breaker. Especially on a goal like that. If you think about it, aside from Montoya's sophomore year when we lost to BC, the goaltending has been a major letdown in every tournament loss since Josh Blackburn was here. Montoya gave up a shit goal in overtime against Minnesota, he didn't bail the Wolverines out once in giving up 4 straight to CC, Ruden got lit against NoDak, Sauer got lit horribly against NoDak, Sauer killed us against Notre Dame last year, and Hogie gave up a junk goal tonight.
Volkening, on the other hand, has played in back-to-back-to-back win or go home games. He's posted back-to-back-to-back shutouts. That's money right there.
Maybe all of our 40+ shots weren't great chances, but he made some really darn good saves. And he made the saves you need your goalie to make if you're going to advance. Maybe he didn't flat out rob anyone like Pearce did to Lebler last week, but he was solid the entire night. He's really quick with the pads.
Really what it came down to was Michigan couldn't get it done on the power play, they couldn't stay out of the box, their goalie gave up a soft one, the forwards were 0-for-43 on shot attempts, and Air Force had a great goalie playing at the top of his game. Plain and simple, we choked on applesauce. Again.
That being said, it's really hard to place blame on anyone in particular for this loss. The forwards didn't get it done, but they put 43 shots on net and had quite a few really grade A chances that Volkening stopped. You just have to tip your hat to him. He was better today than Michigan's collection of NHL-caliber talent. The defense? They gave up a few chances, but they only allowed 13 shots on goal. Even Hogan gave up a bad one, but he only gave up two goals. If you told me this morning that Michigna was going to give up two, I probably would have taken it. Especially if you told me we'd put 40+ shots on the other guy.
The power play was about half good and half bad. They had some really great shifts out there. There was one power play we had toward the end of the second period where Michigan must have controlled the puck in the Air Force end for 3 1/2 minutes straight. They were all over the Falcons. They just didn't do the most important thing and put the puck in the net. But there were also too many cases where we just got nothing going offensively. The worst one was when Air Force rushed it end to end, sent it back to a defenseman in their own zone, he chilled for a good ten seconds before a Michigan guy could get down to pressure, and then he iced the puck. Just awful. But overall I thought the power play was pretty good tonight. They looked like they knew what they were doing tonight. They just couldn't solve Volkening.
So goodbye to Tim Miller, Travis Turnbull, Mark Mitera, Danny Fardig, Billy Sauer, and Brandon Naurato. Thanks for four fun years, guys. Miller and Turnbull played every single game in their careers. That's pretty impressive.
What's most alarming is that we've had three first round exits in the last four seasons after having just one instance of making the tournament and not winning a game in history. That needs to get fixed. Losing to NoDak at NoDak is excusable. We all knew we were fooked in that one. I guess it just speaks to the competitiveness of college hockey and the strength of the teams toward the bottom of the bracket. It's pretty amazing how many of these teams have really awesome goaltenders. In a one-and-done against teams with solid goaltending it's pretty rare to have an easy game. I'm going to go nuts if we don't win four-straight one of these years. How the hell has it been over a decade since we've won a title with the teams we've had? Dammit.
First time we've been shut out in 71 tournament games. Unreal. Another really fun stat: 13 shots is the fewest shots on goal by a team that has won a game in the history of the NCAA Tournament.
As bummed out as I am right now, at least I'm not a Princeton fan. I think I'd need therapy if Michigan blew a game like they did. Holy buckets. Up 4-2 with 40 seconds to play and they lose? Yikes.
Also on the bright side, Jack Campbell, Jon Merrill, Chris Brown, Kevin Lynch, and AJ Treais were named to the USA roster for the World Under 18 Championships in April.