Before I get into the fact that, yup, it happened again, I have one image running through my head over and over. It's a scene from Mystery, Alaska--for my money, the greatest sports movie ever. After a crushing defeat in which the team from Mystery put a shot off the post in the waning seconds and the Rangers scored one goal thanks to a BS no-call, the silence is broken by Burt Reynolds--the coach of the team--clapping. One by one, the heartbroken fans stand up and slowly clap along with him, until the crowd is cheering so loudly you would think the team had won.
So Michigan Wolverines:
(The clip I'm thinking of is at the thirteen second mark.)
So yeah, it happened again.
Michigan has been plagued for at least a couple of seasons by replays gone wrong, quick whistles when the puck is loose, slow whistles when it's not, pucks kicked in, and it happened again.
In the first overtime session, Carl Hagelin wrapped the puck around the net. Connor Knapp spun in a circle because he had no idea where it was. Kevin Lynch got to the loose puck and slammed it into the n........TWEEEEEEEET! Roughly a tenth of a second before Lynch put the puck into the goal, the whistle sounded. Play's dead. No goal. What made it even more agonizing was the fact that on Miami's second goal, the puck sat underneath Hunwick's pad for at least a second before Cannone chipped it out from under him into the net. The ref darn near touched his toes in an effort to see the puck. Not this time. TWEEEET! Maybe he was tired too.
Michigan continued to dominate the first overtime, outshooting the RedHawks something like 20-6 and outscoring them 1-0. Usually that's enough in sudden death overtime, but tonight it apparently wasn't. Anyone who has watched playoff hockey for any amount of time knew how this one would end. When one team dominates an overtime session and doesn't score, they typically don't win.
Sure enough, just a couple of minutes into overtime, someone named Alden Hirschfeld corralled a loose puck and slipped it past Hunwick for the game winner.
It was the type of game that we've seen so many times before. Outshoot the other team badly, have a goal waived off for no reason other than sheer incompetence, lose in the most heartbreaking way possible.
That said, this one doesn't feel as bad as some of the others (e.g. 2003 Frozen Four in Buffalo). Part because I had all but said goodbye to this season three months ago. Part because we were playing with the house's money just to make the tournament. And part because it was just so goddamn predictable that we were going to lose after the goal was waived off.
It was an amazing effort out of these Wolverines, however. David Wohlberg had a great individual effort for our first goal--to answer Miami's power play tally very quickly. He was a man possessed in the early part of this game. In addition to his goal, he had 2 or 3 breakaways that he just couldn't convert. He also made one of the defensive plays of the season in one of the overtime sessions, though at this point I couldn't tell you what it was if my life depended on it. Just that it was really darn good.
Carl Hagelin seemed like the only player on either team with any jump in his step as the overtime dragged on, and he darn near won the game on three or four different occasions. Matt Rust rang one off the crossbar in the first overtime. Shawn Hunwick made several incredible stops to save our season. Chad Langlais and Louie Caporusso each had huge blocks in the extra session.
Rust, Hagelin, and Lynch combined for 21 shots in the game.
You've got to give credit to Connor Knapp, who was stellar between the pipes for Miami. He stopped 55 of Michigan's 58....err...57 shots, many of which were at point blank range. He stopped 20 shots in the first overtime alone.
In the end, Michigan had plenty of chances to put this one away and just couldn't quite put that third puck past Knapp. They had two uninspired power plays at the end of regulation and during the first overtime (that was our consolation prize for the game-winning goal being waived off....a power play).
That being said, it was a phenomenal effort and it was really enjoyable to watch this team come together through the stretch run. They realized how to "play the right way" (to use a Larry Brown term) and they just may have found themselves a goalie in the process.
Had we won tonight, this is the section where I would be blasting the hell out of those incompetent boobs that were officiating the game. Having lost, it would sound like sour grapes, so I'm not going to complain about much else other than the fact that I really wish they had called a penalty when Hagelin was hauled down right in front of the ref about 20 seconds before Miami scored their second goal. With the way they were calling the second period, you have to make that call. There are a lot more things to complain about, but...whatever.
I will say this. If you're an official, there's only three things that I ask: 1) Call it both ways. 2) Don't decide the game. 3) Don't lose control of the game and let Andrew Conboy assault somebody. This pair massively failed on two of those three requests.
It wasn't a great season. But the last month sure was one heckuva ride. They came up a little bit short, but it was completely unexpected that they ended up making it as far as they did. In January, I can't say I would have complained if you told me we'd be in double OT with a shot to go to the Frozen Four on the line--or that we'd have a chance to get screwed on yet another quick whistle with a regional championship on the line.
Thank you, Shawn Hunwick.