Michigan's Win Recalls '97 Epic Loss
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
ST. PAUL, Minn. In 1997, Michigan forward Brendan Morrison — accepting the Hobey Baker Award in a Milwaukee hotel one day after his team was stunned in the semifinal by Boston University — stood up and said, "Sometimes the best team doesn't win."
His comment drew cheers from the Michigan fans in attendance, but was seen as an ungracious act of defiance by many others.
But Morrison was right. And 14 years later, the shoe was on the other foot.
"They were the best team," Michigan coach Red Berenson said of North Dakota, the team his Wolverines had just beaten, 2-0, to reach the national championship game. Michigan was outshot 40-20.
"In '97, we were the best team," Berenson said. "They thought it was sour grapes (what Morrison said), but it wasn't. The next year, I said the same thing again when we won (the championship) and Boston College was the best team."
In 1997, Michigan was the defending national champs and returned practically the whole roster — a roster filled with future NHL players, like Morrison, John Madden, Bill Muckalt and Marty Turco. The Wolverines rolled through the regular season, winning everything there was to win. Boston University was a big underdog.
In an epic game for the ages, Boston University — with Chris Drury and Shawn Bates — took it to Michigan physically. The Terriers fell behind 1-0, but staved off a five-minute major penalty, and wound up scoring the next three goals. Morrison scored late to make it a one-goal game, but BU held on. The Terriers, two years removed from their own national title, lost the championship game to North Dakota.
This year's game had many similarities, and the game immediately came to mind for Berenson — before and after.
But there were differences too. Where BU physically punished the Wolverines in 1997, this year's Wolverines played physical to an extent, but a more patient defensive game too.
"BU came and they ran us physically and we couldn't score on our power play," Berenson said. "(This year), it wasn't like one team was running over the other team."
Just like 1997, Michigan is Michigan like BU was BU — meaning, this is a proud, formidable program with plenty of its own talent. It can be an underdog only so much. BU coach Jack Parker said at the time, "We're BU, we're pretty good too."
Berenson was not as defiant about it, but the sentiment was the same.
"We play in a physical competitive conference," Berenson said. "This is CCHA hockey, and it's all we play. We didn't change our games to come here. We can play against any college hockey team any way they want to play. But we couldn't compete against (North Dakota) offensively. Not that we changed our style, but we really had to play well without the puck."
And get the game of a lifetime out of 5-foot-7 walk-on goaltender Shawn Hunwick.
"I think (North Dakota) had a harder time selling Michigan to their team, that (we are) a team that could beat them," Berenson said. "And I don't blame them, look at the numbers. But we've won 28 games — we've won games too — but they've had a better season."
But not a better night.