Dec 9, 2011; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines players celebrate their win against the Michigan State Spartans at Yost Arena. Michigan won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

Michigan Hockey: Bows out of NCAA, Banquet Closes out Season, and Captains Named

Posted at 6:00am — 4/5/2012

Michigan Hockey: Bows out of NCAA, Banquet Closes out Season, and Captains Named

Michigan Hockey Bows Out Of NCAA Tourney Prematurely
There is seldom a good explanation for losing a game that your program is expected to win. It still bites at the players on the 2011-12 hockey team as they finish up their classes and go their separate ways. The bottom line is, the team fell short of expectations and dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to the underdog Cornell Big Red in the NCAA Midwest Regional semifinals.

Michigan started out the game in good fashion- scoring twice inside the first two minutes- but had their momentum swiped away as a technically correct call of goaltender interference erased the second tally. Michigan never fully regained the momentum and Cornell outplayed them from that point. The Big Red scored on the power play to tie the game and the Wolverines failed to capitalize on seven power play chances of their own- including a lengthy five minute advantage which included a 5×3 for over a minute.
It was the deciding factor and one weakness that haunted the Maize and Blue all season.

Add the fact that Cornell’s second goal came shorthanded in the second period to take a 2-1 lead only magnified their deficiencies.

Now, don’t take this the wrong way- each and every member on that team worked hard every shift. It was the simple case that Cornell took advantage of defensive miscues and Michigan could not find the net. Kevin Lynch (who deserves special mention for playing perhaps one of his better games of the season) buried a rebound late in the third period to give Michigan a chance at pulling this game out and moving on. But it was his line that also were caught out in OT in a coverage error that led to the shot- and great save by Shawn Hunwick- and eventual rebound goal that sealed their fate. Cornell was just better that night and the lackluster play that was creeping back into the Wolverines’ lineup the last ten games finally caught up to them.

It was a painful and mind numbing way to end the season- one that had the Wolverines seeded #1 in their region and had been tabbed as the favorite to advance to the Frozen Four. Shawn Hunwick dug down deep, recovered the puck and showed how Michigan men ultimately handle defeat- by skating to the Cornell bench and offered the puck over to a speechless assistant coach. It was probably his greatest save and one that the Cornell faithful appreciated.

This marked the third straight overtime defeat in the NCAA playoffs for the Wolverines, all by an identically painful 3-2 count. It was the last hurrah for perhaps one of the best goaltending stories in Michigan history, and a sad reminder of how the best team doesn’t always play their best and is defeated short of their goals.

So, what went wrong?

March 17, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines defender Lee Moffie (13) receives congratulations from Luke Moffatt (9) after scoring in the third period against the Western Michigan Broncos at Joe Louis Arena. Western Michigan BroncosMandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

Basically, the offense dried up. Michigan didn’t meet their average goals per game in any of their CCHA playoff games (except for the OT tilt with BGSU) and their reliable first line struggled after the Miami series in February. Secondary scoring carried the team, as did points from the blue line.

The defensive play was not poor, but key lapses cost the team goals- much like in November. Confident players like Jon Merrill and Lee Moffie uncharacteristically were victimized in their last few games, including glaring turnovers against Cornell.

Special teams faltered- with the team’s playoff PPG average below 5% conversion. They also gave up their only shorthanded goal of the season against Cornell. The penalty kill was good, but gave up goals in their last three games.

No one can fault the goaltending- as Red stated several times- it will be hard to expect that kind of goaltending next season. Yet, Shawn Hunwick can only be accused of perhaps trying to help his team too much, giving away glaring turnovers while handling the puck that cost Michigan in the CCHA championship against WMU. Overall, Michigan appeared sluggish and was outplayed during long stretches of their final three games.

Dekers Banquet Closes Out Season
Naturally an event that follows such an abrupt defeat is bittersweet. This year’s event (MC’s by Red Wings PBP announcer and former Wolverines PBP man, Ken Kal) was also overshadowed by the announcement that junior Chris Brown was opting out of his senior season and moving on to the pro ranks, signing a three year entry level deal with the Phoenix Coyotes. The writer will be especially somber to see Brownie leave- especially since his offensive prowess, gregarious nature and leadership will be missed. Good luck, Big Tex.

The mood was subdued, yet the gathering at this annual celebration was reflective and appreciative towards our departing seniors. Hunwick’s amazing story continues when the free agent was contacted by the Columbus Blue Jackets and offered the opportunity to sign a contract for the remainder of the season. (The Jackets have suffered an unusual string of injuries to their top two netminders this season.) Hunwick suited up against the Detroit Red Wings and backed up the very goaltender (Allen York who played at RPI) that beat him in his first significant goaltending opportunity at Michigan in the 2008 GLI. Hunwick is not a ‘Rudy’ story- first he was accepted to Michigan without remedial help- and second and foremost, the kid has Division I talent. Maybe he does not possess long term NHL talent, but at least he is maximizing his opportunities. How ironic seeing a set of Maize and Blue pads and mask in Columbus- at least for his first game. No folks, we can’t make that up.

In lieu of Hunwick, sophomore defenseman Lee Moffie stepped in and delivered Hunwick’s stirring farewell speech that spoke of perseverance, grabbing opportunities and enjoying every minute at Michigan.

Senior Greg Pateryn reflected on his time at Michigan and spoke of the humbling aura that tradition enveloped him with. Pateryn elected to stay on and not sign an AHL contract, instead waiting until after graduation and then moving on to the Montreal Canadiens camp in the late summer.

Dec 9, 2011; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines defender Lee Moffie (13) skates with the puck during the game against the Michigan State Spartans at Yost Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

Fellow classmate David Wohlberg did sign with the New Jersey Devils affiliate and scored his first professional goal on March 30th. He did not attend the banquet, but sent his sentiments to Mac Bennett to read. Wohlberg stressed the growth and nurturing he received by the coaches- even though he referred to it more in the nature of being pushed more than reinforced. Coach Berenson was still not pleased he missed the event and the remainder of his classes for graduation, but wistfully reminded the crowd that it is ultimately their choice.

Captain Luke Glendening reminisced about his struggles to continue hockey, but was reminded that perseverance and desire will lead to opportunity. His chance came as a preferred walk-on (and later a scholarship) and was the team’s best example of hard work, dedication and determination. His humble tone, resonated by the plea to the teammates he leaves behind- to enjoy all the benefits of Michigan and step away to do things you normally would not do on campus. His leadership was a fine tribute to the many Michigan players who wore the ‘C’ before him. He announced this week that he signed a contract to finish up the AHL season with the Boston Bruins affiliate.

The event closed with awards being issued to junior Jeff Rohrkemper (Academic Athlete), Luke Glendening (Sportsmanship), Alex Guptill (Most Colorful Rookie and Scoring Leader), Lee Moffie (Most Improved Player), Greg Pateryn (Outstanding Defenseman) and Shawn Hunwick (Most Valuable Player and Coaches Choice for Team Player).

The Children of Yost were gracious enough to lend the beautifully designed Fielding H Yost flag to the Dekers Banquet and will be an annual staple at future Michigan Hockey events. The event closed with the annual gifts presented to the coaches by the Dekers and also a special senior sponsored memento offered to Coach Berenson. In turn, Coach Berenson presented the graduating seniors with their rings as sponsored by the Dekers.

Yost Arena Renovations Begin
Michigan fans will not be able to enter Yost arena as deconstruction of the south bleachers and press box has now begun. There will not be any ice availability until the Fall and parking around the building is limited. Completion of the renovations is targeted by September.

Next Season’s Captain’s Announced
Senior Forward AJ Treais was announced as Michigan’s Captain and will be joined by junior Mac Bennett and Senior Lee Moffie as Alternate Captains. Five seniors are scheduled to return next season: Treais, Moffie, Kevin Lynch, Jeff Rohrkemper and Lindsay Sparks.

A seven member freshmen class will be coming in including two new netminders. A full preview of the 2012-13 team- the last Michigan team to play in the CCHA- will be done at the end of this summer. No further defections are expected, as Berenson is confident that Jon Merrill will return for his junior year.

On a final note, I want to extend my personal thanks to the fine hockey writers over at the Michigan Daily for their kind words this season. I also want to express thanks to all of the fans who were kind enough to express support- on twitter, at Yost and otherwise. Shoutouts to section 11 at Yost and to my many friends around that old barn. Last, I want to thank the coaches and players for their time & patience, and to the students, especially the Children of Yost to whom I will be dedicating a special feature this coming week.

See you next season.

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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — YostMeister

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