Thursday, April 3, 2008

Woverine Blogging: Michigan Hockey

I sort of picked on Michigan Hockey the other day. Given how dire things look for the next football season and the continued, decade-long slid of the basketball program from rule-bursting scandal to national joke, that's unfortunate because they're about all a Michigan Man has to boast about. Not exactly as prestigious as hoops or the gridiron because, you know, they're a non-revenue sport. The kind that doesn't get hours of prime time coverage or show up in the SportsCenter highlights and, thus, might as well not even matter. But, you also know, that's underselling them a bit.

At the moment, they're playing in the national collegiate playoffs, headed to the Frozen Four.

To get there they had to beat Niagara and Clarkson in the East regional. Niagara boasted the second-best offense in the nation - always a scary prospect in the one and done format of the hockey playoffs where anything can and does happen. And Clarkson looked like a formidable team of destiny, having finally gotten past Cornell and looking to get to their first Frozen Four in decades.

But Michigan came into the regional with the best offense in the nation, having been ranked #1 in the polls for most, if not all, of the year and the number one overall seed in the tournament. And although they've been to the final rounds of the tournament some twenty-odd times, more than anyone else, they hadn't since 2003. A drought they were definitely looking to relieve.

They slaughtered Niagara with forward Kevin Porter, the odds-on favorite for the Hobey Baker (That's college hockey's version of the Heisman Trophy. Except named after a Word War I soldier who died in a plane crash instead of the ex-linesman who ran the athletic club that gives out the award and still couldn't even win his own trophy these days.) setting a playoff record with four goals in a single game.

And although they had a tougher time against Clarkson, they still posted a shutout with goalie Billy Suaer playing out of his mind. Easily winning a tense duel with his counterpart at the other end of the rink.

That means that when the tournament starts up again - on the 10th, after a long layoff - that Michigan will be up against CCHA rival Notre Dame. Who beat MSU and squeaked into the round of four as a #4 seed out of the West regional. First time that's happened, if memory serves.

In a one-game series anything can happen but it looks like Michigan is primed for a return to the championship where they'll face off against either North Dakota or Boston College, both perennial contenders. But both looking like a good match-up for the powerhouse that is the Wolverines this year.

If only because it's likely one of the few times I'll get to say it this year, Go Blue!

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