Following a weekend split against top ranked Notre Dame, which was not without controversy, the Michigan hockey team welcomes Lake Superior to Yost Ice Arena for a weekend pair.
The Wolverines split with Notre Dame, winning Friday night 2-1 in South Bend before losing 3-2 Saturday night at Yost.
All the week's talk has been on Saturday's game, where for the first 40 minutes the Wolverines were a total non-factor. It was like the 3-0 loss to Bowling Green at Yost back on January 16. Sloppy play and they barely had any good shots.
The Irish held a 3-0 lead after two periods and seemed to be easing their way to a win, but in the third period Aaron Palushaj and Robbie Czarnik netted power play goals at 4:27 and 8:45 respectively to breathe new life into the team and make it a game.
Czarnik later missed a golden opportunity to tie the game when he whiffed on a centering pass on the doorstep with an open net. The Irish went on to hold, 3-2.
#1 - Notre Dame's first goal went in off the skate of Billy Maday. After a bad turnover in the U-M zone, Calle Riddenwall whipped the puck wide of the net but it went off Maday's skate as he was skating towards the net and redirected in. The referees called it a good goal initially. They went to replay, but it didn't show the play because they can only use the overhead goal cam and the play happened outside the crease area. They talked it over and ruled it good.
Michael Spath of The Wolverine talked to two CCHA sources and wrote, "The official ruling from the CCHA is any puck directed in by a skate, regardless of intent, regardless of kicking motion or not, is not allowed. However, the call on the ice was a goal because no official saw the puck deflect in off the skate."
So while the referees made the right call based on what they saw, it's inexcusible to me that there are four officials on the ice and not one of them saw the puck go in off the skate.
#2 - Late in the game during a scramble in front of Irish goalie Jordan Pearce, the Wolverines found the loose puck and put it in the net. But the goal was waived off. My initial thought at the game was the whistle had blown. According to Spath after the game, Berenson was told the net was dislodged.
Later clarification with his CCHA sources revealed that the neutral ice official thought he saw the net off its moorings, so he blew his whistle before the puck went in. The problem is the net never came off. According to the CCHA sources, the neutral ice official needs to trust the deep zone official and in this case he didn't. The deep zone official was right at the side of the net and has a much better view than someone 75 feet away. So while they technically got the call correct based on what happened, it was yet another screw up by the referees.
As you can imagine, Berenson wasn't happy about it and you can read his comments here.
Anyways, what happened happened and nothing is going to change that. But I think pollsters took it into account, too, because the Wolverines jumped up to #4 in the latest national rankings.
LSSU is having another one of their lower-middle of the pack seasons they've been accustomed to since their downfall. But they haven't fallen as far as Michigan State, whom they swept last weekend. The Lakers are 6-8-6-1 in the CCHA and 9-11-3 overall and they enter Yost Ice Arena on a three game winning steak.
Both games are must-win for both teams for different reasons. Michigan is currently tied for fourth place in the CCHA with Ohio State with each team having 26 points in 20 games. With the top four teams in the league getting a first round bye, it is important for U-M to not lose any ground. They do have some cushion as they are only two points behind third place Alaska and have four games in hand. And with the Wolverines on the verge of a potential No. 1 seed for the NCAA tournament, any loss to an unranked team would be harmful.
The Lakers, on the other hand, are tied for eighth place with Northern Michigan, who has been on a roll as of a late. While their chances of obtaining a first round bye for the CCHA tournament are slim and none, the teams who finish between fifth and eighth place host a first round series, an advantage the Lakers would surly like to have. LSSU hosts Miami and Western Michigan the next two weeks then finishes on the road at Northern Michigan, a series which could ultimately decide who gets home ice.
Michigan needs to put Saturday behind them and take out any frustration on the Lakers. They've already lost games this season to lower tier teams Bowling Green and Northern Michigan and they can't afford to keep giving up two points and tournament position to teams they should beat. I think they accomplish that this weekend. Wolverines win 3-1 and 4-1.
Friday night's game will be broadcast for free on MGoBlue.com. Saturday's game is on Comcast Local and tape-delayed on the NHL Network.