Monday, April 11, 2011

Another loss

This is what happens when you Google image search "disappointment"

Anyone who's played EA Sports' NHL series knows the feeling: when the AI starts flawlessly passing the puck around the offensive zone, and despite your best efforts, you're unable to get a hold of the puck to clear, you know you're about to be scored on. Such was the case when Minnesota-Duluth finally punched home the winning goal on Saturday. When Michigan got the puck to center ice but not far enough to complete a line change, Michigan was scrambling. "This is where they score. We're tired and can't get off the ice," I said to my optimistic roommate who thought I was being a little too negative in the light of a do-or-die situation in the national championship game. And sure enough, a Minnesota-Duluth player came streaking in from the point and scored a slam dunk goal before Michigan was able to recover.

"We never win," my brother texted me.

When Michigan had a goal called back because the ref wanted to blow the whistle earlier but didn't, it became obvious that they were going to lose this game by one goal. It happens every year. Even if the team didn't really deserve to win, and they didn't, just like they didn't against North Dakota, they should've won. Lots of years, they should've won, but they never do. And if there's anything more disappointing than not being good enough, it's not being good enough when you've convinced yourself that you are: basketball being ranked #15 preseason, 4-0 and 5-0 starts in football, getting robbed before the Frozen Four last year, and basically getting robbed this year. How many times can Michigan rise from the ashes only to go up in another blaze of glory?

The worst part of losing this game is that Minnesota-Duluth was wholly unlikeable. Aside from their fans holding an overwhelming majority in the crowd--and being shown every 10 seconds mugging at the cameras like drunken mules--the team on the ice was chippy and antagonistic. They expected to win, acted like it, and then did. The cosmos are stacked against Michigan.

Thus ends another disappointing season of Michigan athletics. One team imploded spectacularly to the tune of a new head coach. Another team overachieved and looks to have a positive future. And this one has taken its last gasp before a flood of seniors leaves the program. Maybe next year will be better. It probably won't be.

  • It's difficult to blame Red Berenson for anything this season--by all accounts this team shouldn't have even been as successful as it was--but the team didn't look like it had a gameplan against Minnesota-Duluth. Michigan's players had no sense on control. They pushed the puck forward regardless of whether or not there was a teammate there and ended up giving the puck away in the neutral zone more times than I'd ever seen before. There was absolutely no defensive regrouping and Michigan's breakout consisted of one play--chip and chase up the boards--that the Bulldogs dominated with a strongside forecheck. The team spent the entire game pounding its head against a brick wall and expected it to crumble.
  • Most of Michigan's penalties were deserved. They played an embarrassingly undisciplined game. Part of that was Minnesota-Duluth jawing at them, but they had a scouting report: this team loses their cool.
  • Both of the Bulldogs' goals in regulation were fluky, but so too was Michigan's second goal. That's hockey.
  • I've never seen a hockey team at this level pass the puck into the middle of their defensive zone that many times. It's hockey 101.
The next sporting event of importance is Michigan's Spring Game and then sweet release. My heart simply can't take much more of this. It's the offseason for all of Michigan's major sports. Time to recharge your batteries and sacrifice your farm animal of choice in the hope that running the power-I 25 times a game isn't as barbaric and ineffectual as it seems.


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