While Michigan took care of business last weekend, sweeping Lake Superior State,
Miami (Ohio) apparently didn’t hear that its remaining schedule was a cakewalk. The now fifth-ranked RedHawks got swept by Ferris State in Big Rapids.
Now, Michigan has four games to cash in on its recent consistency and the inconsistency of others.
The Wolverines have a five-point lead in the CCHA standings with just two weekends left and have already clinched a first-round bye in the conference playoffs. All Michigan needs is four points to clinch its first conference title since 2004-05. That could be two wins and two losses. Or four ties.
In other words, Michigan could probably coast to the end of the regular season and still raise another banner to the rafters of Yost Ice Arena.
But with senior alternate captain Chad Kolarik, the Wolverines second-leading scorer, out for the foreseeable future with a hamstring injury, the Wolverines need to fight for the title rather than wait for it to come to them.
Despite Kolarik’s injury, this team has had the right attitude all season. There’s no reason it should change course now.
Leadership from Kolarik and captain Kevin Porter has kept Michigan on an even keel. And the hunger from the squad’s 11 freshmen has kept everybody energized.
This team should be confident about its chances, but hungry too, because nothing will be easy in the next two weekends.
First, Michigan has a road-and-Joe series with Michigan State, which is five points back in the standings, too. This is the same Spartan team that brought the Wolverines back to earth less than a month ago, winning 1-0 at Yost and settling for a 2-2 tie at Munn Arena because of an unlucky bounce that let Michigan tie the score in the last two minutes.
Without a home game this weekend, the task is even tougher for Michigan. The Wolverines haven’t won in East Lansing since the 2004-05 season. A win at Munn would be a nice boost for this team going forward, but it won’t come gift-wrapped.
If Michigan ekes out a couple points against Michigan State, and that’s definitely an “if” with Jeff Lerg in the opposite net, there will still be work to do in the season’s last weekend.
Ferris State is a good team. Not just that, the Bulldogs are a dangerous adversary this time of year.
Take a look at what they did to Miami last weekend.
On Friday, they went goal for goal and got the last laugh in a 6-5 win. The next night, Ferris State played staunch defense, holding the nation’s top offense in check en route to a 3-1 victory.
Ferris State is the real deal. Chances are, when the Michigan series rolls around, the Bulldogs will be fighting for the fifth seed and the right to host lowly Western Michigan in the first round.
Michigan’s advantage is that the Friday game is Senior Night at Yost, one last chance (well, except for the home playoff series?) for Porter to show off in front of the home crowd. But the pageantry won’t guarantee a win. Two years ago, the Wolverines lost on Senior Night to – you guessed it – Ferris State.
But this year’s team has already set itself apart from past Michigan squads. It has the chance to finish up what has been a special season so far. But the Wolverines can’t expect the regular season crown to come to them – they have to go out and get it.
In the final two weekends, fans should sit back and enjoy an exciting finish. The Wolverines should do just the opposite.
– Sandals can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.