Michigan 4 - Western Michigan 3 (1-0 Series Lead)
"We are absolutely willing to do whatever it takes to not let in a goal. You get in front of any shot, you're diving; you're desperate. More importantly, you're playing a style on defense, and you have positioning on your guy."
What a game. When was the last time you can remember Michigan being in such a close, gut wrenching game that they actually came out on top of? It's been a long time but it feels good to know that we can still win one when we have to.
This game started feeling like it would be a blowout. Michigan was pounding Western on the forecheck, putting pucks on the net and getting sharp goaltending from Racine. The lone mistake early was a Serville pinch that gave the Broncos a 2-on-1, they missed the pass across and Michigan countered quick. Lynch hit the line hard and found Di Giuseppe for a beautiful top shelf rip to give the Wolverines a 1-0 lead. Later in the period Selman came flying down the ice and put a hard shot on net, grabbed his own rebound and made it 2-0. Lawson was empty, Western looked out of gas and Michigan was in full control of this game.
Unfortunately the second period has been less than kind to Michigan this year and tonight was no different. Starting out 4-on-4 Michigan failed to clear the zone and the Broncos quickly had their first of the night. In the preview I mentioned that the player Michigan had to look out for was Colton Hargrove, immediately after the first Western goal Michigan turned the puck over in the neutral zone and big Hargrove had their second of the night. The storm had to be weathered if Michigan would have any chance to stay in the game, so what did they do? Put the puck on the stick of the teams best player, Trouba gained the zone faked a shot, and sent a wrister past Slubowski for a 3-2 lead. Although it was short lived, Western tied the game 3-3, Michigan had made it out of the second.
Our third period was like playing the waiting game. Michigan once again put the puck on the stick of Jacob Trouba and he sent a rocket past Slubowski for a 4-3 lead, and the Wolverines went back to the conservative style that is so aggravating to watch. It seemed like Michigan was just hanging on in the face of a WMU onslaught, but unless you saw the box score you wouldn't have guessed that the Broncos only had four shots on goal. The Wolverines played hard on the boards, they hustled for pucks down in their zone, and they turned back the Broncos over and over again until the final buzzer sounded.
Tomorrow night Michigan heads back to Lawson with a chance to win their 8th in a row and sweep Western. Not only that but a feat that seemed impossible can become reality, a sweep could see Michigan back in the Top-20.
1) Justin Selman
Easily the best game of Selman's career. Besides scoring the 2nd goal he forechecked hard, he battled for loose pucks, lead the team with six SOG and a +2. This is the kind of effort Michigan needs if they want to move on, and tonight they got it.
2) Goaltending still solid
It would be easy to back off the hype that Racine has gotten lately after tonight's game, but a closer look says that you shouldn't. Looking back at the tape it's hard to put either of the first two goals on him and the third was tipped by his own player. What impressed me was his bounce back after the second period, he kept Michigan in this game and when they gave him a lead he closed it out.
3) Di Giuseppe
You can't ask for much more than what he's been giving in the last few weeks. Early in the season when Phil wasn't scoring he was almost invisible, tonight he came out hard on the forecheck and gave Michigan a complete game in all four zones. It sends a message that no one is giving any less than 110%.
I added another this week because I thought that it was an important point to make. The night started rough with the pinching but it got worse, especially with the turnovers. I really thought that Brennan Serville had turned the corner and was becoming a mainstay on the Wolverine blueline, after tonight I need to see more consistency before I can revisit that idea.