You know, it wasn't all that long ago where I'd start these game recaps by saying it was the same thing over and over again and be really pissed about it. But right now, I'm happy to keep on writing it.
Yet another great effort by the Michigan Wolverines in a 5-1 win in the Midwest Region semifinals over Bemidji State in a game that was much closer than the final score.
Luke Glendening got the Wolverines going at the 6:15 mark on a gorgeous tip of a Chad Langlais shot. Glendening darn near had two more fairly early on in the game. Bakala made a nice save sliding to his right to stop Glendening off a BSU turnover, and then he stacked the pads and robbed our sophomore alternate captain again in the second period on a pretty feed from Caporusso.
Louie Caporusso may have not gotten as much ice time as he's accustomed to due to all the Michigan penalties, but he sure did make one count late in the second. Chris Brown picked a Beaver's pocket and fed Caporusso cross-ice. Louie took his time and uncorked a shot into the top corner with just 38 seconds left in the second period to give the Wolverines a 2-0 lead heading into the third.
BSU would answer on their sixth power play of the night. Shortly after blasting a shot off the post, they got the Wolverines running around a little bit and leading scorer Ian Lowe blasted one past Hunwick to pull the Beavers within one.
Michigan regained the two-goal lead quickly, though. Hagelin and Lynch worked a two-on-one beautifully with Hagelin feeding Lynch and then getting the return pass for an easy goal. Hagelin would add another tally, this time after a questionable (and predictable) call on Rohrkemper. Rust found him for a shorthanded breakaway and he slipped it under Bakala to put the Wolverines up 4-1. A Brian Lebler empty-netter sealed the deal and a game that was 2-1 with under ten minutes to play turned into a rout.
Shawn Hunwick made 26 saves in the victory--and a pretty decent number of those were grade-a scoring chances. The first two stops of the game were both great pad saves. He also made a phenomenal save with his arm, diving to his left after a Beaver was left all alone in front of the net. He was fantastic between the pipes yet again. He looks comfortable back there and Michigan looks really comfortable with him back there. And notice how many players jumped to his aid when the Beavers were jabbing between his legs trying to knock a puck loose late in the third.
That was a really entertaining hockey game. Very up and down, a lot of great rushes, a lot of nice stickwork by the defensemen. Aside from the frequent whistles to send Michigan players to the penalty box as if they were playing Wisconsin, the game had a great pace.
Steve Kampfer continued his fantastic play in the post-season with a pair of assists and a +2 rating. Chad Langlais had a pair of assists and was +3 on the night. Summers was rock-solid in his return. It's nice to have him back.
That Hagelin/Rust/Lynch line has turned into something special. 2-4--6 and +7 for the game. Lynch has fit in great with those two and he's playing the best hockey of his young Michigan career at the right time. And you can't possibly say enough about Hagelin and Rust. Not just what they've done offensively, but their incredible work in their own zone and on the penalty kill. They're so fun to watch out there and their speed has just been a complete B for teams to play against. Hagelin cracked the 50 point mark with his (very unselfish) assist on Brian Lebler's ENG. He has 19-31--50 on the season and looks like someone who could be a legit Hobey candidate next season.
Add in Caporusso coming to life and the Wolverines have a pair of extremely dangerous lines. Cappy has 13-7--20 since the outdoor game.
Where this game was really won, however, was on the penalty kill. From the 9 minute mark of the first period until the 3 minute mark of the second, the Wolverines had to kill off five full BSU power plays. That's 10 minutes of penalty killing in a 14 minute span, and an incredible eight minutes in a ten minute span from 13 minutes of the first to 3 minutes of the second. They killed off the rough equivalent of back-to-back major penalties and gave up 5 shots on goal in the process. The penalty kill was just ridiculous.
Short of putting on a Bemidji State jersey and trying to knock the puck past Shawn Hunwick, I'm not sure what else the officials could have done to aid the Beaver cause tonight. Doubtlessly, there were a couple of really, really stupid penalties on our part but a few of those were ridiculous, especially with regard to the other stuff they were letting go. My favorite was our guy getting blasted after the horn sounded to end the period and the penalties getting evened up. I also really enjoyed how there was a call literally ten seconds after I asked my dad, "So how long will the officials wait to give them one more power play [late in the game]?" So predictable. They need to play smarter tomorrow against Miami. I know the BSU power play is far better than Miami's, but we were playing with fire tonight and I'm not overly anxious to do it again.
Here's a fun fact for you: After being held off the scoresheet in five of Michigan's first eleven games, Hagelin has only failed to register a point in four games the rest of the season. Two of those were the weekend against FSU. Since that series (on January 22 and 23), the first game of the LSSU series is the only game he hasn't registered at least one point. Incredible. He's still only 35th in the country in points per game, but he's only 3 back of second place in the national scoring race (tied for 8th overall). If they re-did the Hobey voting right now, wouldn't Hagelin have to get some mention?
So now we get the matchup that everyone wanted to see: Michigan vs. Miami. The rematch of the CCHA Championship. Miami knocked off Alabama-Huntsville 2-1 today, and while they held a substantial lead in shots on goal, I wasn't overly impressed. They did kind of sit back once they got a 2-0 lead. The best thing that they likely got out of that game was some confidence for Cody Reichard, since he had had a couple of rough outings in a row.
I'm not going to spend much time previewing the RedHawks. They're a helluva hockey team and everything I wrote last week still applies. We should be in for a great one tomorrow night. It wouldn't shock me a bit if whoever wins this game wins the National Championship. Keep doing what you're doing, boys.
Elsewhere, there were a couple of shockers today:
-The RIT Tigers are off to the Frozen Four after blowing out the University of No Hardware.
-The team that I think pretty much everyone was afraid of, North Dakota, bowed out in the first round. They got down 3-0 to Yale and couldn't quite complete the comeback. Yale looked much better than I expected, and they got their first NCAA Tournament win since something like 1952. That was a stunner.
In the other games, BC and Alaska played a tight one with the Eagles coming out on top and Wisconsin knocked off St. Cloud in a penalty-filled game to reach the Frozen Four and earn a date with Cinderella (RIT). They look really solid, though I swear they've been on the power play for 90% of the minutes I've watched them play this year--or at least that's what it seems like.
Six teams left and the Michigan Wolverines are still standing.