DETROIT – All that was missing from this weekend’s showdown with Michigan State was the Scooby-Doo ending.
When we left the Wolverines on Friday/Senior Night, the seniors were being trotted out to a non-student-filled crowd that clapped for their four-year warriors. Unfortunately, the celebration of the careers of Mark Mink, Jed Ortmeyer, Mike Roemensky, John Shouneyia and J.J. Swistak occurred after they were embarrassed by the Spartans in a 4-0 loss. And the hype for Red Berenson’s 500th career coaching victory had to wait for another day.
Wayne also lost “Wayne’s World” to Noah’s Arcade, as Casandra went away with Benjamin.
The Wolverines were riding on a wing and a prayer, but now that wing was on fire and the prayer was being answered by Satan.
The next night came, though, and the long-haired prophet known as Garth entered and offered that this weekend be concluded with “the mega-happy ending.”
Michigan delivered it with no disappointments, and for the first time this season, it was the seniors that carried the rest of the team on their shoulders. It’s not that the senior class hasn’t been effective this year, but it’s that they’ve been the reliable crutch to hold the team up until a Jeff Tambellini or Al Montoya can singlehandedly get the win. Saturday night – a night after the seniors were supposed to party at Yost Ice Arena – the fiesta was brought to Joe Louis Arena.
When the Spartans kept Tambellini in check both nights – as well they should have after his four-goal weekend against them two weeks ago – and Montoya was at his worst between the pipes, it was the captain and his four compadres who showed why the Wolverines are a different team when March and April rolls around.
The one-night turnaround began with Ortmeyer’s postgame comments on Friday night.
“You know what, I’ll take the blame, my team wasn’t ready to play,” Ortmeyer said of Friday night’s loss. “It was a night for the seniors to be on top of things and … I can’t explain it.”
He didn’t need to explain it. His team wasn’t ready to play. He knew that, and like Wayne and Garth waving their fingers and arms to go to a better world, he erased the stench of Friday night by accepting the blame.
So on Saturday night, when Montoya let in goals he normally saves, the captain’s line dug deeper – Ortmeyer, Shouneyia and Tambellini were plus-three on the night. When the high-scoring Tambellini couldn’t get wide open looks, his upper-classman linemates each finished what the freshman started for them. And when Berenson needed a group of guys to get him his 500th win, who else could he count on more than his two-year captain and those who went the distance for him as players?
“Orty’s a great captain and he’s going to take a lot of heat for (all the negative things the team) does,” Roemensky said. “He’s a great leader, and for him to have the game he had tonight shows how he can bounce back. And we just bounced back from (Friday) night’s game … to come out with that edge tonight.”
For Roemensky, his final regular season game against the Spartans was one to hang his hat on. After Friday night when he couldn’t get a shot by Michigan State goaltender Matt Migliaccio, he buried one off of a Shouneyia feed to give Michigan its first lead of the game and finished with a team-best plus-three rating for the night.
Saturday night was not just the perfect Senior Night for the Wolverines, it was also the quintessential atmosphere that was sorely missed on Friday. With all the students away on spring break, the weekend opener at Yost seemed more like a football game at the Big House (and that’s the farthest thing from a compliment). But thanks to an energized 20,058 – many being students returned home – at Joe Louis, Michigan had its fans become the momentum changer for two different deficits.
Now I’m not one for saying a crowd can win a game in any sport, but there is something about the energy of a crowd being paralleled with the energy of the teams they are watching. Michigan is a team that needs noise, whether it is good or bad. Except for losses at a rowdy Ferris State and at home against Notre Dame, Michigan has lost when it has played in low-energy arenas.
When Michigan lost to North Dakota in Buffalo, it was quiet enough for every word on the ice to be heard in the third-level press box. At Northern Michigan for the Wildcats’ sweep of the Wolverines, the crowd was into the game once they knew Michigan couldn’t come back. Even at Munn Ice Arena in East Lansing two weeks ago, there wasn’t a continuous buzz amongst the crowd until the Spartans went up 4-1, causing a quick two-goal rebuttal by Tambellini.
It’s obvious that the seniors fuel off the crowd more than anybody, because they know it may be the last time they hear those roars.
So here’s a plea to those Michigan faithful who can venture to Columbus next weekend and to all the rounds of the postseason in the weeks following: Be proud, be loud … and “party on, Wayne. Party on, Garth.”
– If you think that Ed O’Neill’s appearance in “Wayne’s World” was vastly underrated, please contact TheDailyJanitor@umich.edu.