Photo: Daniel Mears / The Detroit News
I don't know. When Miami's final shot deflected behind Shawn Hunwick, I was so emotionally spent from the four prior periods that I barely moved. Midway through the first period I'd decided that leaning uncomfortably up against a stairway railing while drinking beer was the only thing keeping Miami out of Michigan's net. When the game ended the breath in my lung exhaled in a slow sigh and my shoulders slumped forward in dejection. And for once, I had nothing to say.
There isn't anything to say. It's just the way things have gone for Michigan recently. And, in a macro sense, it's the way things have gone for Michigan hockey over the last year. The Wolverines nearly doubled Miami in shots and chances. They buried an overtime winner only to have it waved off by incompetent refereeing. They hit a post in overtime. They were screwed by the refs not in a biblical sense, but in a prison sense. They lost to a team they were clearly better than. Sadly, more the norm than the exception this year.
My thoughts on the refereeing echo those expressed by SCM and Beauford. The quality and consistency of the refereeing in Fort Wayne was an embarassment to the NCAA. How the NCAA can allow this level of incompetence in one of its signature events is inexplicable. Penalties are one thing, but the refereeing in last nights game actually cost Michigan the game. And as a former referee myself, that is something you never, ever want to have on your shoudlers. The collosal FAIL of officiating in this tournament should not go unpunished. Which sadly means it will. This is the NCAA we're talking about.
Miami won. And I do not begruge them that. They took their lumps and found a way to win when the opportunity presented itself. That is what good teams do. While I will congratulate them on their win, I must offer some level of scorn for the way they accomplished this. Miami's style of play is like watching paint dry. It is dull. It is boring. Frankly, it's the exact style of play that the NHL has desperately tried to stamp out over the last ten years. The clutching, grabbing, hooking, flopping, etc. is what make people change the channel and ignore the beautiful game I love. Congratulations. You won. For shame. You're destroying this sport.
Scorn and finger waggin aside, I am immensely proud of this Wolverine team. In a season where nothing seemed to go right, they could have easily thrown in the towel. They could have quit, or said "this isn't our year" and mailed it in. But they didn't. They played at full tilt regardless of the circumstances or the calls going against them. They played like champions play. They played like Michigan Hockey teams play. The fact that this team went from out of the tournament to a call away from the Frozen Four in the span of just three weeks is remarkable, and is an accomplishment that should not be forgotten in the aftermath of the Regionals. These kids did what many considered impossible, they kept a remarkable streak alive, and played with a passion that speaks highly of the character each of them possesses.
I'm proud of our players. And if there's anything to say after last night, that should be it.