Michael Florek: Remember Senior Night, but don't forget about the ultimate goal

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By Michael Florek, Daily Sports Editor
Published February 20, 2011

If you were at Yost Ice Arena Saturday, you'll remember it.

You’ll remember senior forward Carl Hagelin’s wrist shot that bounced off a defenseman and through Western Michigan goalie Jerry Kuhn’s legs to tie the game. You’ll remember Hagelin’s slap shot that rang off the post and found the back of the net with 2.9 seconds left in overtime to win it, causing Kuhn to stare straight through the Yost rafters for the second time. You’ll remember the crowd and that it was Senior Night.

It will be a part of the legend of Carl Hagelin forever. But if at the end of the season you remember this as the Class of 2011’s legacy, this year is in trouble. It’s not this game that matters. It’s how this team can build off the win.

This was a big conference game — No. 2 vs. No. 4 in a race for the regular season CCHA championship that will come down to the final weekend. It was a late-season game, where the games are a little more important in determining whether you get into the NCAA Tournament and what seed you get.

But Michigan didn’t necessarily need to win Saturday’s game to make the NCAA Tournament, especially after their win on Friday — but they got it. And barring a Chris Webber too-many-timeouts-choke-job in the Wolverines’ final series and CCHA playoffs, they will be in the Tournament for the 21st straight year.

I understand Senior Night is a time for reminiscing. This year’s seniors experienced a freshman year Frozen Four, a disappointing first-round loss in the NCAA Tournament as sophomores, and the rise of Shawn Hunwick last year as juniors. They had a lot of reminiscing to do. And like every other class, they deserved the celebration. But the season goes on.

“I can’t believe we’re almost done,” Hagelin said.

Almost done. Michigan has a lot of hockey still to play. This isn’t last season, where everything after obliterating then-No. 2 Miami (Ohio) in the CCHA Tournament semifinals felt like a bonus scoop of ice cream.

Despite its lack of a goal-scoring magician, and despite Michigan coach Red Berenson coming into nearly every post-game press conference pointing out five or six ways his team could’ve lost, this team believes it's the year.

“When you win when you’re not supposed to win, I think that’s a sign,” senior forward Louie Caporusso said after Saturday’s game. “That’s a sign that maybe this is the year for Michigan hockey.”

Caporusso and the rest of the team have been around long enough to know that when a program is on its third straight decade of making the postseason every single year, most people are just biding their time until the NCAA Tournament.

So remember Saturday’s game for what it was — one of the best sporting events you’ve ever attended. Remember Hagelin’s two goals to remind everyone that Michigan was Michigan and Western Michigan was Western Michigan. Remember the Senior Night festivities, and the Class of ’11 doing pushups at center ice after the game because according to Hagelin, “It just felt like that was a moment to do push-ups.”

But if you’re a Michigan fan, you better hope this was the beginning of the seniors’ legacy — not the end.