You could see it in his eyes. A defeated Josh Langfeld walked into the press conference after Michigan”s disappointing 2-0 loss to Northern Michigan. Once again the Wolverines couldn”t match the intensity of a lesser opponent even when the game meant so much.
The somber right winger who has played his heart out the past few weeks put his head down and ran his hands through his hair and then softly spoke.
“We can”t be doing this anymore,”” he said, “because it”s going to haunt us.”
It already has.
For the fourth time this season, Michigan won on Friday night against an inferior conference opponent only to fall short with either a loss or tie on Saturday. The Wolverines coast into the arena that second night and just expect things to go their way and they hardly ever do.
Now, the combination of Michigan”s loss to Northern and a Michigan State sweep over Alaska-Fairbanks has pushed the Wolverines five points behind the league-leading Spartans with five games to play.
To paraphrase coach Red Berenson, the Wolverines have “shot themselves in the foot” as far as winning the CCHA title is concerned. Here”s the situation.
The Spartans have only lost three times in 31 games this year.
For Michigan to win the CCHA title, Michigan State has to lose three of its last five.
This includes Michigan beating the Spartans in their two remaining head-to-head matchups with one being the season finale at Munn Ice Arena while hoping that Michigan State slips up in another game the rest of the way.
Oh yeah, Michigan can”t lose another game the rest of the way, either.
But the Wolverines have no one to blame but themselves for the predicament they”re in.
“We still get two chances with Michigan State,” assistant captain Dave Huntzicker said. “We”ll hope for the best, and if we don”t get it oh well we”re going to the playoffs with a second seed, or whatever. And we”ll do our very best to finish as high as we can in our league.”
Lowering expectations? This isn”t too common for a Michigan captain.
Considering how late it is in the season, with every game holding so much importance, other teams outplaying the Wolverines in their own building should be unacceptable. Senior Mark Kosick said words that shouldn”t be necessary: “We just didn”t show up.”
“It takes 20 guys,” Langfeld said. “Some guys aren”t doing what”s necessary to come to the rink and play with an edge.
“You got to look yourself in the mirror and say “Hey, what am I doing wrong?” ”
This team may be the most talented team this year”s seniors have been a part of at Michigan, including the 1998 national title team.
But when guys “aren”t on the same page” to use Langfeld”s words and aren”t coming together this late in the year, what can be done?
It”s the same old story for the Wolverines, and this reccurring theme has to change quickly.
Or being “haunted” will be the least of their worries.
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com