UMD 3, UM 2: Even before overtime, Minnesota-Duluth put Michigan hockey team on defensive in NCAA final
BY JEFF SHELMAN
ST. PAUL, Minn. - They would remember one shot for the rest of their lives.
That was the message Michigan hockey coach Red Berenson delivered to his team after the Wolverines and Minnesota-Duluth were tied after regulation in Saturday’s national championship game.
If the Wolverines could get the puck past Bulldogs goalie Kenny Reiter, that would erase a Frozen Four weekend in which Michigan’s offense never really clicked and didn’t produce like it wanted.
The memorable shot, however, didn’t come from a Wolverine. Instead UMD’s Kyle Schmidt took a centering pass from behind the net, shot the puck past Michigan goalie Shawn Hunwick and gave the Bulldogs a 3-2 overtime victory and a national championship.
So as the UMD players tossed sticks, helmets and gloves into the air and gathered in one big - and literal - Dog pile, the Wolverines could only stand in front of the bench and watch. Senior Chad Langlais was bent over at the waist. Hunwick watched a replay on the scoreboard. More than 30 minutes later, there were still sobbing Wolverines in the locker room.
“It’s just unfortunate the shot went the wrong way,” Michigan’s Greg Pateryn said.
Said sophomore Jeff Rohrkemper, who scored Michigan’s second goal: “It’s the opportunity of a lifetime gone in the blink of an eye.”
If there was one reason why the Wolverines came up short in their attempt to win their 10th national title in program history, it was an inability to get anything going offensively.
In Michigan’s 10 games leading up to the Frozen Four, the Wolverines scored 42 goals. They had five games in which they scored five or more goals. In two Frozen Four games, Michigan managed exactly four goals, one of which was an empty netter.
“They were the better team,” Berenson said. “Even though the game ended in overtime, it was tough. I didn’t think our team really got to play their best hockey this weekend, for one reason or another. I don’t know what it was.”
Part of the problem was that the Wolverines spent too much time in the penalty box. And when they did have the puck, turnovers and poor decisions made sustaining offense nearly impossible.
“Usually we’re the more dominant team,” Louie Caporusso said. “We take pride in the cycle, keeping the puck in their zone and putting pressure on them. I don’t think we had that for a sustained amount of time this weekend.”
Michigan was called for 10 penalties and UMD had nine power-play opportunities. While the Bulldogs only scored one power play goal, Michigan still spent the equivalent of nearly a period shorthanded.
“I just thought we were on our heels a lot because of penalties,” Berenson said.
And then there were the turnovers.
“Maybe we were a little jittery,” Berenson said. “We made some good play, but too many turnovers. Whether we were not as confident or not as patient with the puck as we should have been, that’s one of the tell-tale signs that we weren’t having as good a game as we needed to.”
That offensive inefficiency put significant pressure on Hunwick. The senior goalie was the reason Michigan defeated North Dakota in Thursday night’s semifinals. He was good again against UMD, but the Bulldogs simply had too many chances.
The reality is that the Wolverines might have been fortunate to have reached overtime.
The Bulldogs applied much of the pressure in the third period and certainly had several good scoring chances. UMD had 36 shots on goal in regulation while the Wolverines had 23.
Pateryn made one of the biggest plays of the game. With UMD on the power play a shot appeared to have gotten past Hunwick with 7:30 to play in regulation. Pateryn, however, swept the puck out of the crease before it crossed the goal line.
While Michigan scored first and led 1-0 after one period, UMD controlled much of the second and third periods.
The Bulldogs evened the score, 1-1, just 1:39 into the second period. After UMD’s Brady Lamb’s shot from the right circle from the right circle was stopped, Oleksuk knocked the puck past Hunwick for the first goal allowed by Michigan at the Frozen Four.
Michigan trailed for the first time in the Frozen Four, 2-1, when UMD freshman Max Tardy scored the first goal of his career. With the Bulldogs on the power play, Tardy was able to secure the rebound of his own initial shot on Hunwick and give UMD the lead.
Michigan tied the game 2-2 at 17:46 of the second period as the Wolverines continue to get offense from unlikely sources. When Rohrkemper backhand a shot in the slot got past Reiter, he scored for only the third time this season.
Michigan’s Ben Winnett, who scored only three goals in the regular season, scored the first goal of the game for the second time in this Frozen Four.
When Michigan’s Matt Rust won a faceoff to the left of the Minnesota-Duluth goal, he pulled the puck back to Winnett at the top of the circle. Winnett made two short strides toward the center of the ice and fired a shot on the left side of the net.
The puck hit off of the skate of UMD’s Justin Faulk and snuck between Reiter’s stick and his leg pad at 14:42.
While some Michigan players were in tears in the locker room and others - some still in their pads - sat in stunned silence, there was also some recognition that losing in the national title game is still quite an accomplishment.
“I’m proud of every guy in this locker room and the way they played,” said senior Carl Hagelin, who had a first period goal waved off.
Before both teams were even out of the building, Hunwick posted this message on his Twitter account: “Hell of a season. We came up short, but I’m proud of every guy in that locker room.”