A week after being in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, Michigan was at the forefront of college hockey again last weekend for a better reason, as they took on #1 Notre Dame in a home-and-home series in what was one of the biggest series in the CCHA all season.
Notre Dame has been nearly unstoppable all season long and coming into the weekend, had not lost a game since late October when they were swept by Miami. They had built a huge lead in the CCHA standings despite playing fewer games than most teams. The only team with any hope of catching them was Michigan, who trailed the Irish by 8 points in the standings. A sweep by Michigan would have at least put Michigan within 4 points of the Irish with each team having 4 series left to play. It woud have been a longshot, but at least possible.
It looked like there was a chance of that happening after Michigan snapped Notre Dame's undefeated streak on Friday night with a 2-1 victory at the Joyce Center. The series switched back to Ann Arbor for what turned out to be a pretty crazy game.
Notre Dame's Billy Maday opened up the scoring at 8:15 of the first period. Or did he? Here's The Blog That Yost Built on the goal:
In the first period, Tim Miller has a horrible giveaway. The puck goes onto the stick of Ridderwall who makes a very nice feed to Maday. Maday kicks the puck into the net. Four officials looked at it, several with unobstructed views. Four officials thought to themselves, "Yeah, that was a good goal." Travis Turnbull, who was out by the blueline, looking through a screen, immediately started signaling that the puck was kicked in. But the refs had already called it a good goal, so the replay had to be conclusive to overturn it. No problem. There are 4 camera angles showing the guy kicking it in at best, directing it in (still illegal) at worst. But, oh wait, he was by the faceoff circle when he kicked it in. The asinine replay rules only allow for the overhead camera to be shown to the official, because God-forbid we use everything at our disposal to, ya know, make sure the calls are right. So Brian Aaron went into the penalty box and was shown a lovely shot of the puck going in the net, with no indication as to how it got there, because they weren't in the frame. Goal.
Red Berenson was pretty blunt about it as well: "The one went in off his foot, the camera couldn't see it. If it would have been reviewable, it would not have been a goal."
It's a tough break for Michigan, but those are the rules, I guess. The officials may have much better camera angles at their disposal, but were unable to use them because they didn't have them at Big Rapids, or Sault Ste. Marie, or wherever. But shouldn't the emphasis be on getting the call right, even if it means using whatever means available? Wasn't video review just used at rinks with that capability before it became a league-mandated thing? One thing all fans seem to agree on is that these officials need as much help as possible, so why not give it to them? Using extra camera angles wouldn't give any team a competitive advantage. If anything, not using them gave Notre Dame an extra and probably undeserved advantage.
Anyway, Notre Dame built up a 3-0 lead, and Michigan fought back to bring the game to 3-2 late in the period. Michigan appeared to score the game-tying goal late in the third period, but the referees apparently ruled the net had come off it's moorings and disallowed the goal.
There's a really good video of the play in the FanShots here, and after watching it a couple times, I've come to two conclusions.
1. The net never moves
2. I'm not sure it should be a goal
First, regardless of what happened, I think you can hear the whistle blow the play before the puck crosses the line, even if it is heading unimpeded into the net. So whatever reason the officials give, the play is over anyway.
Also, It looks like the puck is under Jordan Pearce until a Michigan player gives him a pretty good whack which jostles the puck loose, and then he puts it in. Referee John Philo was in a much better position and could see if the puck was loose or not, and he didn't immediately try to blow his whistle, so maybe it was loose, but it seemed like there was a delayed reaction between the puck being under Pearce and the whistle, so maybe the official intended to blow his whistle, but couldn't in time, which again, means the play is dead, and it's not a goal.
The only thing that really doesn't make sense is the apparent explanation of the net coming off the moorings, since it obviously never moves. Who knows. I think you can chalk it up to them lucking their way into the right call.
The win for Notre Dame pretty much locks up the CCHA regular season title. They've got a two point lead on Miami and still have an extra two games to play. Notre Dame's schedule down the stretch is slightly tougher, but it's hard to see the Irish giving away too many points.
Michigan looks to be in solid position for a first round bye in the playoffs, holding four games in hand on third place Alaska, though they have tough series with Ohio State and Nebraska-Omaha coming up that could really affect the standings.