Michigan hockey team's run ends in 3-2 double-overtime playoff loss to Miami (Ohio)
Lon Horwedel | AnnArbor.com
FORT WAYNE, Ind. - The miracle run on ice ended just before midnight.
For more than 80 heart-wrenching minutes Sunday night, the Michigan hockey team threw every shot it had against the NCAA Tournament's No. 1 seed.
Somehow, a team that faced so much of an uphill battle for the past month and that seemed to be running out of gas, rediscovered new life. But when a apparent goal was waved off in overtime and another on-target shot hit the crossbar, the Wolverines couldn't find the shot it needed to extend its season.
Just like that, Michigan's improbable run to a Frozen Four berth ended when Miami sophomore Alden Hirchfeld scored 1:54 into double overtime, giving the RedHawks a 3-2 NCAA Midwest regional championship victory on Sunday night at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.
"Obviously, right now, no one's really pleased with losing like this," center Matt Rust said. "Having battled back with the way the season was from the start 'til now, it's a killer."
Michigan (26-8-1) nearly ended the game 2:37 into overtime when Kevin Lynch punched a rebound of a Carl Hagelin wrap-around shot into the back of the net. But following a video review, officials determined that the play had been whistled dead before Lynch scored the apparent game-winner.
NCAA Director of Officials Steve Piotrowski said the whistle blew to assess a penalty that was called on Miami on the play. A lengthy review ensued - the first of which established when play had been stopped in relation to when Lynch got his stick on the puck. Game officials also ruled that a Miami player touched the puck while it was in the crease, stopping play.
"I thought it should have gone in," Lynch said. "I heard the whistle, but I don't know why the whistle was blown."
Michigan coach Red Berenson said he was not given a reason why Lynch's goal did not stand.
"That's a tough one to swallow," Berenson said. "There's a loose puck in the crease and the referee blew the whistle because he was calling a penalty on them and yet, we had control - or were about to have control - of the puck."
The disallowed goal was just part of a dominating overtime performance when the Wolverines - who appeared gassed for much of the third period - outshot Miami 20-6. Besides Lynch's controversial disallowed goal, Rust hit the crossbar with a shot - all part of a collection of chances the Wolverines had to end the game and move on to their 24th Frozen Four appearance.
Miami goalie Connor Knapp kept the RedHawks alive, making 53 saves, including 20 in the first overtime.
"Unless you're playing, you're on pins and needles because one shot can win you or lose you the game," Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. "We've been on the wrong side of those a few times in the past few years.
"Obviously, it goes into overtime like that and one shot can win it for you."
Lon Horwedel | AnnArbor.com
After staving off defeat to Michigan throughout the first 20-minute overtime period, Miami (29-7-7) wasted little time in finishing off the win in the second overtime. Hirschfeld fired a shot from the left wing, clipping goalie Shawn Hunwick's pad en route to the back of the net.
For the first time in seven playoff games, Hunwick found himself surrounded by his teammates following a loss. Afterward, he found senior captain Chris Summers and apologized.
Summers smiled and told the walk-on goalie he had nothing to be sorry for.
"It's tough when a senior's season ends, especially your captain," Hunwick said. "I told him I was sorry I gave up a goal that led to his season ending, but we went on a pretty nice run."
The loss was difficult, especially considering the way Michigan rebounded from a demanding third period to come back to re-establish itself in the first overtime period.
But Miami scored when it got the chance, advancing to face Boston College in the national semifinals in Detroit. Berenson called among the toughest he's had during Michigan's 20-year run of playoff NCAA appearances.
"I can't really remember a team that came into the tournament like this one," Berenson said. "With all the adversity we had, the challenges we had - going to Joe Louis having to win. (Saturday night) was do or die, tonight was do or die .
"There's a fine line between winning and losing and I don't even feel like we lost."
The controversial no-goal in overtime wasn't the first time video replay came into play.
Miami appeared to capture the lead at the 17-minute mark of the third period when Pat Connone - who scored the RedHawks' previous two goals - back-handed a shot that hit the post and appeared to find the inside of the net before the puck bounced back and was covered by Hunwick.
After review, the ruling on the ice remained and the game remained deadlocked at 2.
The score remained tied into the third period after the Wolverines and RedHawks traded power-play goals in the second period.
The Wolverines captured a brief lead when Chad Langlais scored on a perfectly-executed play 49 seconds into the period. But Miami turned to the power play to knot the game at 2. Connone scored his second goal of the night to draw Miami even.
In the moments following Sunday's heart-breaking loss, players found difficulty in putting Michigan's run to the regional semifinals in perspective. In the hallway outside Michigan's locker room, teammates exchanged embraces - the emotion of a season-ending loss still evident on their faces.
"This is the most proud I've ever been of a Michigan hockey team," Summers said afterward, his voice cracking with emotion. "It's kind of sad to say the season's over, but I'm so proud of the guys that are sitting in the locker room right now."
Jeff Arnold covers Michigan hockey for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at email@example.com or 734-623-2554. Follow him at Twitter @jeffreyparnold.