GRAND RAPIDS With twenty seconds left in yesterday”s NCAA West Regional game against St. Cloud, Josh Blackburn made the save of the season for Michigan.
At the time, No. 2 seed St. Cloud trailed the No. 3 seed Wolverines, 4-3. The Huskies who were behind for virtually the entire game had pulled within a goal on a tally by Keith Anderson with just over five minutes left to play.
Desperate for the equalizer, St. Cloud pulled goalie Scott Meyer for the extra attacker, knowing that it had maybe one more chance to tie the game.
As the fans at Van Andel Arena sat on the edge of their seats with baited breath, St. Cloud gained control of the puck behind Michigan”s net. Joe Motzko took a centering pass in front of Blackburn and flipped a one-timer that was ticketed for the yawning top-left corner.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Blackburn saved the day both literally and figuratively for Michigan. Completely out-of-position, he lunged across the crease and made a diving save of Motzko”s shot.
As the Michigan faithful roared their approval and the stunned Huskies looked on in disbelief, Blackburn calmly flipped the puck to the referee.
With one miraculous swoop, the junior netminder had vaulted his team into the Frozen Four and sent the WCHA champion Huskies home for an early vacation.
“I saw somebody out of the corner of my eye heading to the backdoor, and I didn”t know exactly where he was at,” Blackburn said. “He didn”t get good wood on it, and it kind of flipped up a little bit.
“I just dove over there and tried to get whatever I could in front of it. It popped up into my glove.”
“Blackburn doesn”t surprise us,” Michigan coach Red Berenson added with a chuckle. “He continues to make big saves. Every team makes mistakes, and it seems like when we do, he has a way of making up for it.”
He scores, He wins: Although both of the Wolverines” wins this weekend were certifiable nail-biters, Michigan faithful need not have worried too much for one fairly simple reason Mike Cammalleri scored both nights.
Cammalleri, the West Regional MVP, had a goal and an assist on Saturday and a goal on Sunday as Michigan advanced to the Frozen Four. The Wolverines” record now stands at 17-1-2 this season when Cammalleri scores a goal.
“It was a lot of fun to play this weekend,” Cammalleri said. “I”m so excited about going to the Frozen Four, and I”m really proud of our whole team.”
Simply a-maiz-ing: Fans in attendance for Saturday”s game against Mercyhurst were treated to a surprise, as Michigan took the ice donning maize sweaters for only the third time this season.
The Wolverines” 4-3 triumph over the Lakers was the first time they were able to win this season while wearing maize. Both previous times Michigan broke out its third sweater, the Wolverines lost to Michigan State 1-0 at Yost Ice Arena on Nov. 4, and 4-2 at Joe Louis Arena on Feb. 17.
People, people everywhere: The announced attendance for yesterday”s Michigan-St. Cloud game was 9,484, which set a new NCAA West Regional attendance record. The previous record was 9,468, set at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis on March 25 of last year. Van Andel Arena has now been the site of three of the four largest crowds in the history of the West Regional.