Sunday, April 10, 2011

Michigan Hockey

1948 Michigan Hockey Team
Winners of the 1st NCAA Championship Tournement
I am watching the NCAA Championship Hockey Game as I type this like a wannabe sports reporter.  Since 1999, the college championship series has been dubbed the Frozen Four.  I suppose to give it the same marketing buzz as the basketball championships.  This 63rd college Hockey Championship finds the University of Michigan Wolverines against the University of Minnesota - Duluth Bulldogs.  Michigan is going for their 10th championship whereas Duluth is going for their 1st.

For being such a Michigan fan, I was not aware, until today, that Michigan has the most college Division I hockey championships with nine.  They are followed by both North Dakota and Denver with seven each.    Michigan has won the first championship in 1948.  They won again in 1951, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1956, and 1964.  The Wolverines then took a thirty-two year break until their next championship in 1996 and 1998.  Since 1998, Michigan has been tied for third in the Frozen Four in 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2008.  They have been in championship series a record seventeen times.

Clearly, just from reading this blog, I am a Michigan Football fan.  After football, I am a basketball fan having enjoyed the national championship in 1989 and the back to back appearances in the national championship when the Fab Five were Wolverines.  Beyond football and basketball, I have followed swimming, lacrosse, baseball, and softball.  This year I even watched the men’s soccer team on TV as they were in the championship series.  I became interested in Men’s Crew when my son, Aram, rowed for them in 1999 – 2001.

Vic Heyliger was the coach in the glory days of the the 1940s and 1950s.  His record was 228-61-13 in his twelve years at the helm.  Coach Heyliger (1912-2006) hailed from Concord, MA, was an All American hockey player at Michigan, and played center for the Chicago Black Hawks.  Again, until today I was totally unaware of this man and his contribution to Michigan Athletics.

The resurgence in Michigan hockey is due to their current coach Gordon Arthur “Red” Berenson.   Berenson took over the coaching duties in 1984 and has been there ever since:  twenty-seven years. 

Coach Berenson was born in Regina, Saskatchewan on December 8, 1939.  At the recent, Big Chill, the outdoor hockey game in December against Michigan State in Michigan Stadium, Coach Berenson related how he grew up playing on outdoor rinks.  Berenson, like Heyliger, played for the Wolverines while at the business school.  He was also an All American having scored 43 goals in his senior year.  Berenson went on to play for the Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues, and the Detroit Red Wings.  He was on Stanley Cup winning teams both in Montreal and St. Louis. 

Today’s game is what they used to call a humdinger.  This is not a typical Michigan team.  They do not have one twenty goal scorer.  They are a more defensive team than most of Berenson’s and this is not to disparage the defense of any of Berenson’s other teams.  Duluth is a tough, fast, and aggressive team.  They have a rich hockey tradition and have been in the Frozen Four three times. 

Michigan led after the first period 1-0.  They could have led 2-0.  Michigan scored right off of a face-off in the Duluth end.  It was quick and electric.  They could have led 2-0 as an earlier goal was ruled not a goal because the whistle was blown just before the puck was jammed in.  Duluth also had a near goal caroming one off the crossbar with the loudest clang I have ever heard on a TV hockey game.   In the second period, Duluth came out on fire and really took the action into the Michigan end.  They scored one goal off of a face-off kind of paying Michigan back.  Their second goal was scored on a power play.  It looked like Duluth was about to run away with the game when Michigan scored toward the end of the period to tie it up at 2-2.

The third period was incredibly exciting, well played, and scoreless.  Both teams had great scoring opportunities, great defense, and great goal tending.  Duluth’s power play has been on fire in the post season.  Michigan gave them nine power play opportunities which seemed insane but only yielded on goal.  As I said, defense is the strength of this team.  The announcers were astonished that Duluth only scored once off of a power play.  

Shawn Hunwick, the Michigan goalie, has been on fire in the Frozen Four.  He made forty saves against North Dakota, the then top ranked team in the country.  Michigan led most of the game 1-0 and only took a 2-0 lead when North Dakota pulled their goalie at the end of the game.   He made some good saves against Duluth as well.

As the game headed into overtime, the announcers noted the Hunwick could well be the difference in the game.  That was not to be.  Duluth poured on a furious attack that gave the appearance that they had a man advantage even though they did not.  I even told my wife “they are going to score” about ten seconds before they did.  I was not much of a seer.  It was that obvious.  To me it just seemed Duluth wanted it more in the overtime.  It seemed like they had more gas in their engines.  There are probably a few other clich├ęs I could invoke here.

Bottom line, it was a great game.  I enjoyed watching it.  I was a little sad that Michigan lost but not nearly as devastated as in a football loss.  Good game.  Congratulations to Michigan on a wonderful season.  Congratulations to the University of Minnesota – Duluth on winning their first national championship.

I have watched more Michigan this year than ever before.  I have watched them play Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Miami of Ohio on television.  I actually went to my first Michigan hockey game ever.  Jack Hachigian and I went to the Big Chill on December 11, 2010.  It was a great day.  I drove in the night before and stayed at my parent’s house.  I picked up Jack the next day and we headed to Ann Arbor with both Michigan and Michigan State flags aflutter in the cold December air.  It was great being among the largest crowd to watch a hockey game… ever.

I seems I have become a college hockey fan.

1 comment:

  1. Carl hagelin and all over seniors, i will miss you soooooooooo soooooooooooo much!! Carl most of all! Good luck 2 all of u guys!!