We in sports love to overanalyze.
It makes us feel like we’re part of the action.
Sometimes, though, sports are as simple as the air we breathe and the water we drink.
Miami was better than Western Michigan on Saturday night.
And the sun will come up tomorrow.
Plain and simple.
There’s no reason to speak of panic or concern. The No. 3 team in the country beat the No. 6 team in the country. The night before, the reverse was true. And given the shot total in Friday’s game (32-23 Miami), one could argue the RedHawks should have won that game, too, had it not been for the other-worldly play by WMU goalie Frank Slubowski in the 2-0 win.
Could the Bronco power play, which went 0-for-5 Saturday, have been better? Absolutely. (By the way, the stat about Western winning when it scores a power play goal and losing when it doesn’t bore itself out again this weekend). But an accurate postmortem of Saturday’s game shouldn’t include exaggerated observations of what Western did wrong. To pin Saturday’s defeat on the power play would be shortsighted and, frankly, unfair to the RedHawks.
Miami was just better. Better out of the gate in the first period. Better in its own end. Better along the boards. Better in puck battles. Remember, this is a program that’s made the NCAA tournament the last seven years in a row, has the nation’s top-ranked defense (allowing just 45 goals in 30 games) and has won five of its last six contests.
The RedHawks — who looked more like a red wave — didn’t budge Saturday. Their freshman goaltender, Ryan McKay, was stellar in his third shutout of the season. Their defense prevented Western from doing anything of significance around the net. And their forwards buzzed and pestered Bronco defensemen who’ve grown used to otherwise timid opponents giving them room to operate in their own zone.
Miami wasn’t scared.
And Western shouldn’t be ashamed.
Fans who have gotten used to basking in the glow of WMU’s 13-2-1 record at home this season just aren’t used to seeing the Broncos “take it on the chin,” as defenseman Danny DeKeyser described it Saturday night.
Alas, this is what happens sometimes when two heavyweights collide.
ALONG THE RAIL …
- Speaking of heavy, Kenney Morrison has a monstrous slap shot. When the Broncos are on the power play, everyone in the building knows where the puck is going: to number 7 at the left point so he can wind up and crank it. Morrison is quite capable of torching goalies from 60 feet away, but the next step in the freshman’s evolution will be the ability to judge when to let it rip and when to pump fake the oncoming defender and pass or pedal, find a clear lane, then shoot. Right now, it appears his only setting is SHOOT. He tried multiple times Saturday to blast the puck through the approaching defender’s shin pads (hey, if anybody could do it…) and it resulted in the puck skittering onto a Miami stick or ricocheting out of the zone.
- Coach Andy Murray said after the game that the insertion of backup goaltender Lukas Hafner to begin the third period was the result of Slubowski not feeling well. ”Frank just wasn’t well,” Murray said. “It had nothing to do with his play or special motivational tactics. He was getting worse so it was just time to take him out.” Mind you, that was only the fourth appearance for Hafner this season. Slubowski has started all 30 games.
- Which begs the question: does Slubowski and his career .918 save percentage have a shot at the NHL? Your comments welcome below.