It was a significant weekend for University of Michigan hockey, both on the collegiate level and in the pros. This time of year lends itself to import in the sport, as the NCAA started its post-season championship run for the sport. The Wolverines are vying for a chance at the year-end championship, but there was also news concerning the school in the NHL as well.
As March Madness is currently taking place there is also a similar tournament for college hockey, affectionately dubbed The Frozen Four. For this tournament, a number of conference champions are seeded along with other at-large teams to comprise a 16-team playoff bracket. Four locations stage regional games until the top four schools rise to play in the finals, held over two days. This year the champion will be crowned in Tampa Bay.
First, Michigan won a blowout in the opening contest in Allentown, PA by defeating Colgate 11-1. Then later that night the focus shifted to Ohio, where the pros managed to cast the spotlight on the school. Highlight reel goals are a common occurrence in the NHL, as the game lends itself to amazing physical accomplishments on a nightly basis. But even by the high standards in a crowded category Kent Johnson, of the Columbus Blue Jackets, stood out in his game against the New York Islanders.
During the March 24 contest, Johnson scored a rather amazing goal, and then the realization came over everyone to the deeper significance of it on this night. Johnson scored what has been labeled over the years “The Michigan”, a rather difficult and amazing goal. What makes this particular move so rare is how many components have to be just right for the scene to play out. It is why it has only been seen a handful of times in the NHL.
For this to be executed so many factors need to first be in place; a skater needs to be behind the goal, have plenty of open ice, time the move, execute it cleanly, and with the goalie unaware. “The Michigan” involves working to get the puck resting on the upturned stick blade and then swinging it in lacrosse fashion around the net, the force keeping the puck in place as it gets shoved into the top corner of the net above a goalie’s shoulder. Johnson executed this to perfect effect.
KENT JOHNSON WITH A MICHIGAN GOAL‼️ pic.twitter.com/JwhiY8hi6M
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) March 25, 2023
The reason this move is referred to as “The Michigan” is that it was famously scored by Wolverine skater Mike Legg during the 1996 college tournament. As Michigan faced Minnesota in the regional final the team trailed 2-1 but went on the power play. When a teammate with the puck circled behind the goal he became taken out by a Golden Gopher defenseman and as they slid away Legg raced in to get the loose puck.
As looked up the rest of the skaters retreated back to the crease area and Legg found himself alone behind the net. Thinking fast he then crouched down and began to get the puck on his blade, then raced up and whipped his stick around, shoving the puck in the net above the shoulder of Minnesota goalie Steve DeBus.
Now there is even more amazement to be attached to the Kent Johnson score. For starters, he is a former Michigan Wolverine. But even more than that, he shares a bit more now with Mike Legg, as Johnson’s “Michigan Goal” was netted on the very anniversary of that famous score. Considering all of the things that need to be in place to even make such a shot that historical timing elevates things further.
As the weekend finished up, Michigan was locked in a battle with Penn State, winning their regional game in overtime to earn their trip to Tampa for The Frozen Four. On April 6 Michigan faces Quinnipiac, and Boston University faces off with the University of Minnesota, with the championship held on Saturday, April 8.
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