Wednesday, November 15, 2006 - Matt Ranville
UM Starts Season by Splitting Weekend Series
A disturbing pattern has emerged: Michigan strikes hard on Friday night, then drops its intensity on Saturday. We drop Miami, only to see them hand us one of the ugliest losses in Yost history. We thump Northeastern, only to see them storm back and steal a game in our barn the next night.
Miami was a tough team, and they played tough hockey. Blasi’s crew are defending CCHA season champs, and we knew they’d be tough. Enrico B. and his staff are solid coaches, and the fact that they adjusted to take a game from us isn’t too big a shock. But, Northeastern?
“Power Play” was the theme for the first match against Northeastern, with UM and the Huskies each converting on 3 of them. Rohlfs hit first, and Michigan held their 1-0 lead until late in period one. Kevin Porter struck early in the second, but NE hit only 3 minutes later, and then again less than 2 minutes after that. Kevin Porter, who has emerged as a powerhouse on offense, scored the game's only even-strength goal with 5 seconds left in the second to tie it back up. Then, after 2 periods, 41 shots (19 for NE, 22 for UM), and 6 goals, the two teams suddenly dropped into their shells. Part of that may have been that there were 12 odd man situations in the first 2 periods, and the team's were trying to stay clear of the penalty box. There were only 3 odd man situations in the third period. It may have been an attempt at good officiating: establish control early, and try not to change the outcome of the game. On the other hand, it still changed the outcome of the game, as it was decided in OT on… yes, a power play goal by Porter. It was troubling to see UM struggle with an opponent that they should have easily dropped, and it definitely was a bad omen for what would happen the next night.
Game two’s theme was defense. Or lack of it, actually, as Michigan gave the puck up repeatedly and let Northeastern get one prime scoring chance after another. Michigan struck early, with Johnson netting a goal less than halfway into the first, but the second period turned out to be Michigan’s undoing. The Huskies struck twice early in the second, then again mid-way through the third to take a 3-1 lead. Part of what killed Michigan was an egregious call, or rather, group of calls. Joe Vitale from Northeastern took a blatant run at Bill Sauer, slamming the UM goalie against the cross bar. Jack Johnson did exactly what he should, and jumped Vitale. Being college hockey, where cheating gets a small penalty (choke, cough, Maine!), and an honest fight gets an ejection, Johnson was sent from the ice with a fighting penalty and a disqualification. What should have been an intent-to-injure call on Vitale was called as “goaltender interference,” thus rewarding the east coast cheaters for their unsportsmanlike tactics. If anyone doubts how important Jack Johnson is to UM, all they have to do is watch tape of this game. Michigan went zero for 12 on the power play, and struggled on defense. Johnson’s absence left a huge hole at both ends of the ice and on special teams. The Wolverines tried to even it up, and Porter came through with a timely goal for Michigan to make it 3-2 with under 4 minutes to go, but that was as close as it got.
And things got worse before they got better.
Next up, UM pays for it’s sins in the Purgatory of Munn before getting back into the heaven of Yost.
See you on the ice!