For being a hockey game played in a football stadium, Saturday's game between Wisconsin and Michigan felt more like a game played on the hardwood at the Kohl Center.
On Saturday afternoon I was driving to a hockey game--and subsequently driving back home, since I suck at reading schedules--and I heard this stat on the radio: Wisconsin basketball coach Bo Ryan has just a .500 record in Big Ten road games over his career, while his home record in conference games is like 8000 games over .500. Why the difference? Among the conspiracy theories are that you basically have to beat the Badgers by double digits to make up for the free throw deficit you're going to face, and the visitor's rim at the KC has been tightened to near comical levels to make sure it kicks out all but a perfect shot in the second half--twice in the past month the Badgers have overcome double digit deficits in the first half and ended up winning by 8 points.*
Back to the hockey game, overall, I thought it was a success. I enjoy the idea of spectacle every now and again in college hockey. Apparently Minnesota really liked the idea, and will likely be one of the next to try it--and the idea of resurrecting the Minnesota Hockey Classic is a genius one, albeit difficult with Bemidji shedding their second-class citizen status. Hypothetical, but Minnesota State could play Bemidji and St. Cloud could play Duluth earlier in the day, and then they could clear out and make way for the riot police and first responders necessary for an evening Minnesota/North Dakota game.
But at the same time, I guess I can see why the WCHA didn't want this game played as a league game between Wisconsin and Minnesota. The ice was certainly a factor in the game, including Bryan Hogan having Lake Mendota in his crease for two periods--I was shocked they didn't switch ends after 10 minutes in the third period-- and overall draining the quality of play. Scott Gudmanson let in a soft goal because he lost the puck in the lights and stands(as opposed to Wisconsin's first goal, which was Bryan Hogan's standard one soft goal per game. Good to know it wasn't a roof that was causing that.) And I wouldn't have been comfortable seeing those two officials they found officiating a WCHA league game.
As for the late penalties that got all the attention, eh, they were judgement calls. My faith in the ability of the people doing the judging should be well known by this point, and I think we all knew which way some of those close calls were going to go late in the game. Certainly those calls weren't as obvious as putting a shoulder into someone's back and sending them head first into the boards being two minutes for cross-checking. If anything, it was a showcase to the rest of the country that sadly, that is the best the WCHA has to offer when it comes to officiating.
But you have to credit to Wisconsin for taking advantage of those opportunities, deserved or not. They clearly found a hole in Michigan's penalty kill and did a nice job of executing twice in a row. That extra bit of talent and discipline will probably be the difference between Wisconsin getting a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament, and Michigan just missing out on the tournament.
*These conspiracy theories aren't necessarily the opinion of the Western College Hockey Blog, except in this case they are.