I had to DVR the game due to my own hockey game tonight, and as soon as I pulled up the menu, I swore. My recording, which I had extended by 90 minutes and then set the timer for the show after that and extended it another 90 minutes (I wasn't taking chances with our game or the NMU game going to OT) had resulted in a 2 1/2 hour recording of our hockey game, an hour and a half gap, and then another recording. Combine that with the knowledge that the NMU game had, in fact, gone to OT, and I knew I wasn't going to see everything. "Well," I jokingly said to my buddy, "maybe we'll be ahead by so many goals that it won't matter."
Unbelievably, that was the case. The Wolverines, playing with newfound confidence, played quite possibly their best all-around game of the season, scoring once in the first, once in the second, and three times in the third en route to a 5-2 win. Despite it being a 2-1 game heading to the third, aside from a few minutes early on and a couple minutes after Miami cut Michigan's lead to one, I never felt like the game was slipping from our grasp.
The defense was great, the goaltending was even better, and Michigan scored in a variety of ways.
First let's talk about the best story in college hockey--Shawn Hunwick. He made some huge stops throughout the contest, showing that, yes, the team is playing well in front of him, but that there's a reason for it. He's stopping pucks. He's not giving up the soft goal every night. He's battling, he's making saves, and the team has rallied behind him. The defense is diving to block shots, they're back-checking like crazy. They're playing the type of hockey you'd expect to see out of a Michigan team. But Hunwick. The one that will make the highlight reel was the stick save diving to his right, but he had a couple of pad saves that were every bit as good.
The defense helped out, blocking shots, clearing pucks, and there were a couple of great individual efforts by our forwards coming back to help. Two that I remember in particular: In the second period, Hagelin had one that saved a goal. In the third--I believe when it was still a game--Brian Lebler got on his horse to get back and break up a fantastic scoring chance.
The goals: Tristin Llewellyn put a blast through to put the Wolverines up 1-0. In the second period, with the score the same, Michigan scored one of the prettiest goals you'll ever see. Miami went for a line change and Luke Glendening made a hit to keep the puck in at the blueline. He took his man out of the play and that, combined with the RedHawks change, led to a 4 on 1 for the Wolverines in the Miami zone. Treais to Kampfer to Treais to Moffie and the puck was in the back of the net and the Wolverines had a 2-0 lead.
Miami would close within one on a 4-on-4 situation that was created by what I thought was a pretty weak embellishment call on David Wohlberg, which wiped out a would-be power play. Miami had numbers coming down into the Michigan end. Moffie got back to even it up, but Langlais slid to try and knock the puck away from Wingels. Wingels stepped around him and put a laser up under the bar.
In the third, the floodgates opened. Hagelin passed one to Matt Rust in the slot. It hit him and deflected to the far post where Kevin Lynch was waiting to slam it home. Then Brian Lebler got a great tip on a shot by Rust before Lynch capitalized on a rebound. Miami added a late power play goal, but it didn't matter. 5-2 Michigan final.
Hagelin and Rust each had three assists in the game, and Steve Kampfer was +3 on the night, which makes him a pretty incredible +23 in his CCHA Tournament career, and +13 in this year's edition, if I did that math right.
Hagelin has points in 15 of his last 16 games. Game One against LSSU is the only game since the end of January where he hasn't had a point. He has 4-14--18 in that span.
So now the Wolverines get the Northern Michigan Wildcats. The teams split a series at Yost in February with NMU winning Friday night 3-1 (with an ENG) and Michigan coming back on Saturday with a 5-4 victory. In that 3-1 loss, the Wolverines outshot the Wildcats 39-21. Check out the snarkiness in this post from the loss in the Friday night game. That was exactly 1 month ago. My how things change.
So, a quick NMU preview since it's 3 in the morning here:
They beat Ferris State 5-4 in overtime to make it to the CCHA Championship Game. That was a strange one. I watched most of the game, and NMU dominated the early portion but Ferris was leading. The NMU came back with 3 goals in 1:02 to take a 3-1 lead, got up 4-2 early in the third, and gave up back-to-back goals about a minute apart for the game to be tied, then won it fairly early in OT.
I know Brian Stewart has been up and down a lot this year. He made some stops, but I wouldn't consider this an "up" game for him. The second goal came on a harmless-looking wrap-around but Stewart lost his post. The third goal was on par with the worst goals Hogan has given up this year. It, too, was harmless. A little wrist-shot from the blueline that beat him. He did make 35 saves in the win, however.
The Wildcats are led by Hobey-finalist Mark Olver, who has 19-29--48 in 37 games. Ray Kaunisto (17) and tonight's hero Greger Hanson (16) also have put up some goals. They have five guys with 4+ PPGs on the season. They also have two-time CCHA Best Offensive Defenseman Erik Gustafsson, who has 3-28--31 on the season. They have 5 30-point scorers and 8 20-point scorers.
Stewart is 18-9-7 on the season with a 2.41/.926. In his last 10 games, he's given up 0 or 1 goal on six occasions, and more than 2 just three times. Not surprisingly, he's won nine of his last 10 starts. He has faced a LOT of rubber. Since the start of February, he's made 43, 51, 17, 22, 38, 27, 27, 33, 32, 30, 35 saves. The 17 and 22 were against a terrible WMU team.
NMU is 20-11-8 on the season (13-9-6-3 in the CCHA). They have been just 8-7-5 away from home, however. Below .500 on the road, and a couple wins at neutral sites. They really weren't having a great season, but like Michigan, they're peaking at the right time. They haven't scored fewer than two goals in a game since January 12th, a span of 17 games. They've also scored 42 goals in the 11 games since the start of February.
Offense: 22nd (3.08 gpg)--Don't look now, but Michigan is actually 12th in that category.
Defense: 12th (2.51 gpg)
Power Play: 10th (20.5%)
Penalty Kill: 17th (84.3%)
Combined Special Teams is a very strange stat, but they've actually got the top-ranked special teams in the country, based on success rate.
Northern seems to be pretty solidly in the tournament based on a couple scenarios I ran. Even with them losing tomorrow, I still see them in 9th or 10th in the PWR. They're looking for their first CCHA Tournament Championship since 1981, but the Wolverines need this win to make the NCAAs. It's amazing that after the frustrating season Michigan has had, they're one win away from making the NCAA Tournament and, quite honestly, being a team that no one will want to play in the first round.
Get it done, boys.