"That’s a great hockey team we played tonight," Bemidji coach Tom Serratore said. "They have a lot of octane, and every time we had a breakdown, they took advantage of those opportunities. … Michigan’s the hottest team in the country, and it might be the best team in the country right now." -- Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
When Bemidji State brought the game to a one goal margin on what was quite literally their one millionth power play of the evening, I'll admit that the tiniest amount of "oh no" crept into my head. Despite the scoreboard reading 2-1 Michigan had largely dominated play throughout the evening, and given the universe's current predilection for inflicting pain in the most ingenious ways possible on the Maize and Blue, I was concerned. Then something spectacular happened, this team stomped on the gas pedal and blew the Beavers quite literally back to their very northern homes. Two minutes after the Beavers got on the board, Michigan answered, and then added two more tallies to put the game out of reach. Final score 5-1, and the looks on the faces of the few Miami (Yes,That Miami...In Hockey) fans still in attendance reflected the type of performance they had just seen again from a team they will face this evening with a trip to Detroit and the Frozen Four on the line.
Since I was slightly disparaging of the Journal Gazette's blatant Notre Dame bias in my Fort Wayne preview, I think it's only fair to point out when they manage to say something that makes sense:
Credit, again, goes to goaltender Shawn Hunwick, a 5-foot-7, 163-pound mite who had played only 18 minutes before getting the start Feb. 25 against Notre Dame. Since then, he’s won 8 of 9 games, including the last seven.
Against Bemidji State, which reached the Frozen Four last year, he stopped 25 of 26 shots. His best came midway through the second period, when the Beavers’ Jordan George accepted a pass all alone in front of the net before Hunwick sprawled to stop him.
Hunwick played a whale of a game, with the lone goal coming on a ripped one-timer by Ian Lowe that was quite simply a gorgeous shot. With my very limited ability to analyze hockey, it seemed like Hunwick did a much better job controlling rebounds this game and stepped up every time when called upon, including a spectacular sprawling stop midway through the 2nd period.
A quick aside if I may, of the announced attendance (I believe for the day) of 4,133, Michigan fans were the vast majority. This included a healthy number of students, pep band, and Michigan all-time rushing leaders, which made the atmosphere a decidedly awesome one. Among people also in attendance not named Mike Hart were AD Dave Brandon and, please feel free to correct me on this, but I think Nick Sheridan. Not wanting to be "shady guy with camera" I decided one photo of Mike Hart would suffice for crowd representation. That concludes my impression of TMZ for this column, back to the game.
The way this game was called lead to a certain amount of Michigan fan consternation, the final tallies in terms of penalty minutes (Michigan 20, BSU 12) and power play opportunities (Michigan 4, BSU 7) serve as some justification for that feeling. Despite that, the Michigan penalty kill was rock solid throughout the evening, giving up one goal, but also scoring one of their own on a fantastic Carl Hagelin shorthanded breakaway. Hagelin ended up with 2 goals for the evening, while Luke Glendening, Louie Caporusso, and Brian Lebler each contributed scores of their own.
So now the stage is set: Michigan will face familiar foe Miami this evening (8 pm EST on ESPNU) with an opportunity to go to the Frozen Four. Could we have possibly asked for more considering where this team was but two or three weeks ago? Not at all.