Monday, April 11, 2011

(Monday) Hockey Notes and Thoughts: This One Was Undoubtedly and Undeniably Earned

The officiating may have made Red Berenson crabby after the game -- though it also could have been the reality of another tough Frozen Four loss for his great program.

However, there was a reality expressed by Berenson at his postgame press conference, when he stated he thought UMD was the better team.

He wasn't as willing on Friday to say the same of his own team after its 2-0 upset of North Dakota. He said multiple times that he felt his team was fortunate to advance, and he felt North Dakota was a better team. They probably were, but Shawn Hunwick was a man in goal with 40 saves.

On Saturday, for the second time in a row at the Frozen Four, the Wolverines were not the better team.

This time around, they weren't fortunate enough to get a great goaltending performance or a fortunate bounce. They got the goaltending, but couldn't get the bounces to overcome a better team.

Some might say that the Yale and Michigan games went the way they did because UMD got fortunate breaks from whistle-happy officials. Of course, that's a pretty narrow-minded view of things, but it's your right to think that way if you do.

Reality dictates that there are different truths. Yale complained that the game was taken away from them with a five-minute major that was called eight seconds after a three-goal deficit was cut to two. But what they conveniently forgot was that Yale played nearly 15 minutes of five-on-five hockey in the third period, and mustered a grand total of four shots on goal.

As for Michigan, they had as many shot attempts (nine) in the third period as Mike Connolly had shots on goal in the game.

In overtime, UMD used their superior depth and skating ability to wear down the Wolverines. A couple of silly icings didn't help, and Berenson's decision not to use his timeout with Matt Rust's line stuck on the ice proved deadly for his team.

Was it a product of Michigan being too locked-in on matching up Rust's line with Jack Connolly's line? Was it a typical coach not wanting to burn a timeout when the game was starting to take the look of one that could last a while?

We'll probably never know.

No matter what, UMD deserves this. They were better than Michigan Saturday, outside of a stretch in the last part of the first period after the Wolverines took a 1-0 lead. They were good enough to beat Michigan, and would have been good enough to beat anyone else this tournament could have placed in front of them.

Simply, the Bulldogs were not going to be denied.

On this night, they didn't wait for a lucky bounce or a fluke bleeder goal to make it happen. They earned everything they got, and they showed why they set such high expectations for themselves when the season started.


If you're going to be in Duluth Wednesday night, you're invited (and encouraged) to stop by Amsoil Arena for the formal and official championship celebration. Doors at the arena will open at 5, with the proceedings getting underway at 6.


A few stats from the weekend:
  • Thanks to that one-for-nine Saturday, UMD's power play "only" clicked at nine-for-32 in the NCAA Tournament. Bums.
  • UMD's penalty kill was awesome throughout the tournament, but never better than at the Frozen Four. They went 23 for 26 in the tourney, but were nine for nine in the Frozen Four, holding Notre Dame and Michigan to a combined total of four shots on goal. Let that one sink in for a second.
  • I complained (well, I brought the fact up) during the first intermission that UMD had won just 7 of 20 first-period faceoffs. They must have heard me. The Bulldogs went 44-25 on draws the rest of the game, with Travis Oleksuk going 17-8 over the final two-plus periods.
  • The All-Tournament team included J.T. Brown and Kyle Schmidt up front, and Justin Faulk on defense. Michigan's Ben Winnett and Jon Merrill, along with goalie Shawn Hunwick, also made the team. Brown was the Most Outstanding Player.
  • Tip of the cap to all the people in St. Paul who worked hard at the arena, most notably Dave Fischer, Mark Bedics, Paul Rovnak, and Wally Shaver, who put up with my deaf ears not hearing the officials' names on Saturday. Also, hats off to everyone at the Embassy Suites for making the four-night stay as comfortable and enjoyable as it was.

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