Like the Michigan hockey team, I didn’t show up to last
night’s game until the third period.

Jim Weber
Before the “close call,” The SportsMonday Column was originally going to be on what a heartthrob Al Montoya is. Apologies to Katie Westrick, Heather Ross and Stephanie Yeung (from left). (RYAN WEINER/Daily)
Jim Weber

No, seriously. I have a Sociology paper due at 4 p.m. and really
didn’t have time to sit at Yost while they messed around for
the first two periods. But when I saw Nebraska-Omaha’s Scott
Parse put the Mavericks up 2-1 late in the second period on
WOLV,-TV even I panicked. I raced down to Yost Ice Arena convinced
Michigan’s history of playing down to its competition was
finally going to catch up to the team.

Anyone involved in March Madness knows the 12 seed is always
dangerous (granted, the CCHA Tournament’s 12 seed is
equivalent to the NCAA Tournament’s 16 seed, and neither has
ever advanced past the first round).

More importantly, when I got to Yost, I saw Nebraska-Omaha coach
Mike Kemp, who is no taller than 5-foot-6, was wearing his bright
red jacket.

There’s a reason opposing coaches say he is the
best-dressed coach in the CCHA.

Reporters next to me couldn’t decide if it was his lucky
jacket, or he hadn’t planned on taking Michigan to a decisive
Game 3.

Whatever the case, that jacket was straight fire and oozed
confidence.

But even Kemp’s style wasn’t enough.

Over just a three-minute span in the third period, Michigan
turned a 2-1 deficit into a comfortable 4-2 lead.

Following the 5-2 win, Michigan coach Red Berenson waited at the
end of the ice to shake hands with each Maverick player and leave a
short message. He probably told them what a great series they
played — a classy move.

But I like to think he individually told each opposing player:
“Gotcha!”

After the game, Kemp was left in the opposing lockerroom a
broken man: saying the team “battled as long as we
could” — his jacket nowhere to be found.

No matter how little the Michigan hockey team tries or how well
the opposing coach is dressed, Michigan’s half-ass attitude
toward inferior competition will never catch up to it.

Berenson — sporting double coffee mugs (yes, he actually
had two) — described his team’s style as
“heart-attack hockey.”

But is it really that stressful when the outcome is so
predictable?

After watching this team the last four seasons, I’m
convinced Berenson never worried last night.

Each time the Wolverines struggle down the stretch (which they
have now in three of the last four years), it has been free of
consequence. The only thing you can count on is a Frozen Four
berth. By now it all seems pretty ho-hum to me.

2001: Michigan wins just once in its final six regular
season games and loses in the CCHA Super Six Finals to Michigan
State. That’s three loses to State in exactly one month.

The Spartans don’t make the Frozen Four, the Wolverines
do. Go figure.

2002: The top-seeded icers lose the first game of the
CCHA Tournament at home to Lake Superior State, 4-3, after the
Lakers score just 36 seconds into the game and three times in the
first 15 minutes.

2004: The Wolverines go winless in the last two weeks of
this season to put the CCHA regular-season title up for grabs. They
still claim it by a single point. Last night, they come within 13
minutes from becoming the first top seed not to advance to the
Super Six and putting an NCAA Tournament berth in serious
jeopardy.

Berenson said it took the team half the game to loosen up.

Ummm, more like wake up.

I liken it to a parent who tells his child, “Put a coat on
before you get pneumonia!” in the winter.

The kid isn’t going to listen and eventually the parent
just gives up. You both realize that, in the end, it really
doesn’t matter either way.

Nebraska-Omaha goaltender Chris Holt sounded like one of those
parents after the game: “They needed that kick in the butt
from us. Hopefully they can use it going into the Joe and (realize)
how they really need to play all the time, because they obviously
can’t take any team lightly, especially our team.”

Whatever. After four years of complaining the team doesn’t
give 100-percent every night, I’m finished and you should be
too.

It’s a waste of all our time.

Jim Weber can be reached at
“mailto:jamesmw@umich.edu”>jamesmw@umich.edu.

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