“Sea-son’s o-ver! Sea-son’s o-ver! Sea-son’s o-ver!” That chant reigned from Yost Ice Arena with exactly two minutes to play and with Michigan up 3-1 over the soon-to-be eliminated-from-the-postseason Bowling Green. In fact, with Bowling Green’s “season over” and all, many fans left Yost feeling pretty good about their Wolverines. A friend of mine was so confident that he even left before Michigan had added an empty-netter to solidify its lead.
It’s funny, that the fans believed the Falcons’ season was over but the game would be far from it.
Bowling Green coach Scott Paluch, in his first postseason as a head coach, calmly gathered his team after Michigan’s fourth tally and reminded them of one thing.
“There’s still time on the clock,” Paluch said. “We wanted to set up an opportunity. We wanted (Ryan Barnett, Ryan Minnabarriet and Alex Rogosheske) to go out there and get a scoring chance, so we could get our 6-on-5 plays ready.”
Eleven seconds later – before the remaining Michigan fans could finish their traditional “goal count” chant and before Bowling Green could pull goalie Tyler Masters for a second time – the Falcons’ Barnett had already received a rebound off a Kevin Bieksa shot and put it by Michigan goaltender Al Montoya with 1:09 to play.
“They did better than a scoring chance, they put it in the net,” Paluch said of scoring at even-strength.
Fifty-six seconds later, after pulling Masters for the second time, senior alternate captain Tyler Knight hit a floater through traffic and above the left arm of Montoya.
Ummm … Michigan fans? You there? Season’s what?
All of a sudden, this bunch of Falcons, who managed just eight wins all season, began to embody the winning tradition that Paluch had played with when he was a Falcon from 1984-88. Heck, they looked like Michael Vick of the Atlanta Falcons with the way they were avoiding hits and scoring in the final 69 seconds.
But, like Vick in the playoffs this year, a more talented squad ultimately denied their dream run.
And Michigan fans breathed a sigh of relief that Bowling Green’s season was actually over, even though there was debate over how much time was left on the clock after Bowling Green made it 4-3.
That sigh of relief is going to have to be a wake-up call for the most inconsistent third-period team in the CCHA. One night Michigan is blowing a three-goal lead in the final minutes to Western Michigan, the next it’s using the last frame to nearly stage an improbable comeback against league-juggernaut Ferris State.
Will the real Wolverines please stand up?
“When the (regular) season ended last Saturday, we knew the challenge we had coming in (to Yost),” Paluch said. “We were looking at (the series) as an opportunity to do something special, beat a good team and move on to the Joe.”
It’s obvious that Michigan was unaware of the challenge that was going to be before it. This was a Bowling Green team that would give anything to reach Joe Louis. Michigan, in those final minutes, looked as if it had already booked hotel rooms at Detroit’s Marriott Renaissance Center.
This is the same group of Wolverines that saw numerous third-period goals, both for and against them, the week before in Columbus. Yet they just let Bowling Green dictate play as if the final minute was meaningless.
“As long as there is time left, we’re going to keep going,” Paluch said. “We were a few loose pucks away from tying that game.”
Michigan needs to realize, and fast, that teams that are more talented than Bowling Green – North Dakota, Boston University, Notre Dame, Western Michigan and Ohio State, to name a few – have been using the third period to their advantage over the Wolverines for most of the season.
The Wolverines have yet to win a game when down at the beginning of the final frame, and opponents have outscored Michigan in the third 42-40.
For the Falcons, yes.
And if the Wolverines can’t find a way to dominate the third period the way they do the other two, their “Sea-son’s o-ver!” will be coming much sooner than desired as well.
– Hearing “Season’s over!” already has Kyle excited for the Detroit Tigers’ Opening Day. If you’re excited too, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.