How many people would be surprised if I told you that we lost a game where we gave up multiple power play goals, gave up multiple goals to defensemen, took an ungodly number of stupid penalties, and lost most of the critical draws down the stretch?
It looked like Michigan might salvage a point out of a 3-1 deficit when David Wolhberg banked the puck off Will Yanakeff's leg with under 15 seconds to go in regulation to tie the game, but Frenchie tipped in a shot from (guess where) the point not too far into overtime to give MSU a 4-3 victory.
The game was basically an exhibition of the same play that has plagued Michigan for the last two seasons. It's getting hard to watch. Here's a partial rundown:
-David Wohlberg put MSU on three power plays during the game on two elbowing calls and a hooking penalty at center ice. His third of the night was a completely needless elbow, away from the play, in the offensive zone, right in front of the ref.
-Shawn Hunwick got his Al Montoya on and just clocked Dustin Gazely with his trapper. Was it funny? Yes. Did he drop him? Yes. Was it particularly smart in the third period of a tie game? No.
-In both cases, those penalties might not have been so bad if we didn't follow each of them up with another penalty during the Spartan power play. Chad Langlais was rushing the puck and after the puck went into the corner, shouldered his man into next week. Scooter Vaughan took a hooking penalty on Hunwick's power play. Both times, MSU scored with the 5 on 3.
-Llewellyn went all Dave Shand and "Closed the Gate" on an MSU player who was rushing the puck, sandwiching him with his defense partner. The only problem was the pass got across to the left wing who walked in all alone on Hunwick. We got away with that one, but where's the defensive responsibility? That's the crap I used to do in NHL 2K4. Matt Trevor is nodding his head.
-MSU was 2 for their last 25 on the power play. 2 for 7 tonight! Leave it to our PK to stop the bleeding. God forbid we cover a point man. You'd think that after Wisconsin defensemen put in roughly 27 goals in the last two seasons, and we turned five or six other defensemen into Bobby Orr that we'd figure out how to stop that. But no. Puck goes back, defenseman bombs shot, goal. Doopy dooopy doooo. Torey Krug, first multiple goal game of his career, and he managed to get the hatter from back on the blueline. The game winner was also a shot from the point that was tipped on the way through. MAKE PLAYS!
On the bright side, it was another game where I got to watch Jon Merrill play hockey. You want to talk about a kid that has lived up to every ounce of the hype, this is it. He's poised with the puck, he always seems to make the right plays, his defensive-responsibility has allowed Langlais to freelance a little bit more (and did he have the jets on tonight!), and best of all, he stays out of the box! Here's the list of players on our team that have fewer penalty minutes than Jon Merrill:
Hell, even Shawn Hunwick took as many penalty minutes tonight (4) as Merrill has this entire season. (I haven't seen the box score for tonight, so it's possible Merrill ended up going off in one of the scrums, but I don't think so.)
Merrill also made a gorgeous keep at the blueline which helped set up Wohlberg's tying goal with 12 seconds left in regulation.
We suck in overtime. 0-5-9 in our last 14. How is that even possible?
It's just frustrating as a fan to watch the same game over and over. The ending doesn't change. If you were to make a list of players who have lived up to expectations this year, is there anyone on that list beside Merrill, Hogan, Burlon, and Vaughan? Maybe Hagelin (still hitting a point per game, though he certainly hasn't taken the step forward to be a Hobey contender)?
The good thing about college hockey is that there's still plenty of time. We're still in good position to make the tournament and then you only have to get it together for four games. Hopefully we end up in the Saturday-Sunday regional.