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Posted on Mon, Mar 29, 2010 : 2:14 a.m.

After an unlikely run, Michigan hockey team exits the NCAA tournament heartbroken

By Michael Rothstein


Michigan's Carl Hagelin ponders what could have been as he listens to his coach Red Berenson, answer questions at a post-game press conference following the Wolverine's 3-2 double overtime loss to Miami on Sunday night.

Lon Horwedel |

FORT WAYNE, Ind. - They didn’t move from their spots on the ice, an entire team devastated. Heartbroken. Crushed.

Michigan hockey didn’t look like they’d be in the NCAA tournament a month ago, let alone playing for a berth in the Frozen Four. Then again, the Wolverines never expected this run, this season, to end like this.

The tension rose. Every check mattered. Every shot sent a murmur through the half-maize, half-red crowd at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. They waited, watched and wondered when it would happened.

So as Alden Hirschfeld’s wrist shot bounced off the right pad of Michigan goalie Shawn Hunwick and into the back of the net in double overtime, there was nothing else the Wolverines could do.

It’s amazing how much a small black object weighing six ounces can empty a soul.

“You’re just, the blank eyes just look at it,” junior center Matt Rust said. “You don’t know what to do. You’re just so emotionally drained and everything is just sucked out of you.

“That’s the only thing I can say. Every bit of energy, every bit of emotion you have, is just gone.”

The Wolverines, left for nothing a month ago, played the No. 1 team in the country even for over four periods before the wrist shot erased all of that in a second, giving Miami a 3-2 win that will resonate for a long time in Ann Arbor.

In a split-second, the Wolverines’ season was over. Their run, seven straight wins to be one step from the Frozen Four, concluded in cruel fashion. And in that moment, senior defenseman Steve Kampfer dropped to his knees.

Emotion spilled out of him. Did that really happen, he thought. Is this it? Am I done?

“I can’t even put it into words,” Kampfer said. “I was so distraught.”

Soon enough, the realization settled. He was among the last in the traditional handshake line, Michigan coach Red Berenson behind him. He made it through, went back to Michigan’s locker room for the final time as a Wolverine and all of the emotion of four years flowed out.

He couldn’t help it. Not when his team lost like that, when everything … just … ends.

It’s more cruel than a game-winning shot in basketball or an overtime field goal in football because of the randomness of it all. Any shot can go in, for either team. But it didn’t for Michigan. So Kampfer cried.

And it was a well-earned one.

“As soon as I got in the locker room, that’s when everything turned around,” Kampfer said. “I realized my four years were over. I’ll be the first one to say I was crying.


Michigan players mob teammate David Wohlberg after he knocked in a first period goal against Miami to tie the game Sunday night. It was a night of up-and-down emotions for the Wolverines.

Lon Horwedel |

“I was definitely crying a lot. It’s hard. It’s hard to put into words.”

No one really could. The emotions on their faces, as Kampfer did all he could from breaking down in a flood of tears again, showed it all. It was displayed on the beaten, battered and bruised arms of Hunwick, who sat by himself in the locker room after the game ended.

Not all the bruising came from Saturday night, it was more of an accumulation of the past three weeks, but as he put on the pants of his pinstripe suit, pulled his thin-striped buttondown shirt - still buttoned - over his head and then adjusted his still-tied tie, the walk-on who could do no wrong for three weeks stood there still looking shocked.

“We didn’t think it was going to end like that,” Hunwick said. “We thought we were going to come out on top.”

For a while, it looked like Michigan would. It outshot Miami (Ohio) 20-6 in the first overtime. The Wolverines had multiple opportunities, including a goal waved off and another shot that hit the crossbar.

The dream run with the walk-on goalie, the still-recovering-from-injury captain and the team that was trying to play for a national championship essentially at home looked to be alive.

Between periods, junior forward Louie Caporusso said, Michigan kept reminding itself it had nothing to lose, even if in reality it had everything in the balance. They kept saying Miami is supposed to be here, they had all the pressure.

And while that’s true, Michigan knew what it was playing for, too.

Then Hirschfeld stepped in and ripped it all away, sending Michigan into a locker room filled with silence and tears.

“Just dead,” Caporusso said. “It was just a dead locker room. That’s what happens when you come so far and it’s just taken right from under you.”

Michael Rothstein covers University of Michigan sports for He can be reached at (734) 623-2558, by e-mail at or follow along on Twitter @mikerothstein.



Wed, Mar 31, 2010 : 7:26 p.m.

Michael: You obviously glossed over the biggest play of the game: Michigan's winning goal in the first overtime. The goal was disallowed supposedly because a penalty was being called on a Miami player. But Michigan had the puck, so the whistle wouldn't blow until Miami regained possession. The on ice official blew the whistle erringly because Miami touched the puck but never possessed it. After the game NCAA officials supervisor Steve Piotrowski told a Daily reporter that the whistle blew because Miami "touched" the puck. I've attached the actual rule itself which clarifies the possession question. Michigan has been paying the NCAA for its mistakes since Chris Webber stepped on campus nearly a generation ago. Today an NCAA probe into the misuse of football "practice time" threatens sanctions, probation or worse. It's time the NCAA is accountable for its own mistakes. The NCAA owes Michigan a rematch against Miami next Tuesday night at Ford Field. I don't think there's another game scheduled there that night. c. The appropriate on-ice official shall use a delayed whistle when a foul is committed against the team in possession of the puck, thereby HR-50 RULE 4 / PENALTIES postponing the stoppage of play until the offending team shall have possession and control of the puck. The last player to control the puck, other than the goalkeeper, is the last player to be deemed in possession of the puck. Control of the puck is defined as the act of propelling the puck with the stick, hand or skate. Possession and control is not a rebound off the goalkeeper, an opposing player, the goal or the boards or any incidental contact with the body or equipment of an opposing player. Batting the puck with the hand or kicking the puck is considered to be controlling the puck. Touching the puck (e.g., poke check or deflection) is not considered control of the puck. During a delayed penalty, a goal may not be scored by the penalized team as a result of a deflection off of a penalized team player.


Mon, Mar 29, 2010 : 10:14 p.m.

Damn this team had a GREAT run. As a Michigan alum, I feel that this team represented my great university with the type of character and fight that make me proud to be a Michigan Wolverine. Thanks to Red and the boys for bringing some much needed pride back to A2. Go Blue!