In full disclosure, I'm not a Michigan Hockey guru. I could not tell you the starting line. I would tell you that "pairwise" is a complete mystery to me, but I don't think that would necessarily illustrate how little I know because as far as I can tell, pairwise is a mystery to nearly everyone. I've always liked hockey, and I can fake my way through a fairly coherent NHL discussion. I knew, mostly from reading this site as well as mgoblog and yostbuilt, that Michigan hockey over the past few months was going just about as well as Basketball, and football, and nearly every other sport for Michigan over the past few years. Somehow, "not well" doesn't seem to capture it. To add to the misery, starting Goalie Bryan Hogan was injured, and 5'nothing walkon Shawn Hunwick skated between the pipes looking like a pee-wee player on the wrong end of a firing squad. There wasn't just a chance that Michigan was going to miss the NCAA tournament for the first time in 20 years. Michigan was just going to miss the tourney. It was foregone.
So when it was reported that Lake State's team had the flu (like, the whole team) for the first game of the CCHA tournament, it likely didn't matter. Hell, YostBuilt just wished that LSSU would just mercy-kill us out of the gate so that it would just be over with. But Michigan won, and moved on to play Michigan State, with whom there's some...ahem...history.
Improbably, Michigan won again - and moved on to the Joe to face Miami, OH, who already had a #1 seed locked for the tourney. Michigan has played Miami tough previously, but fallen short. This was most certainly not a traditional Michigan vs. Miami matchup in which both teams are evenly matched - this was going to be brutal. Every time a puck was dumped into the zone was a chance Hunwick's status as "guy happy to be on the team" would catch up with us. Slowly, however, this team was changing. They were spending huge amounts of time in the opponent's zone. The offense, which had seemed lackadaisical all year, started playing with urgency. And Shawn Hunwick was changing from Pee Wee to Ryan Miller.
Michigan beat Miami. Then they beat Northern Michigan to win the CCHA and gain a berth in the NCAA tournament that seemed just 2 weeks ago to be not only an improbability, but an impossibility. Shawn Hunwick, a legend of Rudy proportions, earned tournament MVP - he's a Rudy that actually did something.
This particular story is not something that Michigan fans are accustomed to seeing played out - not in hockey, not in football, not in basketball, softball, field hockey, you name it. The story we're most accustomed to - and the root of the fanbase's angst over the past few years - is the story of a dominating team with a huge athletic advantage cleaving their way through inferior teams to play another team from another conference who had similarly cleaved their way through the conference to reach the bowl game/tournament game. We're used to clashes of the titans; not scrappy underdog come-from-behind wins. That's the exact story being written here - a team that wasn't supposed to from a program that perennially does, well, they did it. And in a period of time during which Michigan fans have had very little, they've given us something to believe in.