BY CASANDRA PAGNI
Daily Sports Writer
Published April 9, 2011
ST. PAUL, Minn. — It was one shot members of the Minnesota-Duluth hockey team will remember for the rest of their lives.
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And one the Wolverines would give anything to have back.
Just over three minutes into overtime of the NCAA Championship game, the Michigan hockey team was on the losing end of the battle. The Bulldogs defeated the Wolverines, 3-2, securing their program's first NCAA title and sending Michigan’s seven seniors and the rest of the team back to Ann Arbor empty handed, all in a matter of seconds.
“It’s the opportunity of a lifetime gone in the blink of an eye,” sophomore forward Jeff Rohrkemper said.
While the outcome of game came down to one shot by the Bulldogs, the Wolverines had more than 60 minutes in which they could have controlled the outcome. Minnesota-Duluth out-shot Michigan all night, but the resilient and defensive-minded Wolverines continually found ways to battle back.
Even when Michigan took its ninth penalty of the game — a boarding call to sophomore forward Kevin Lynch with just under 10 minutes remaining in regulation — the Wolverine penalty killers preserved the tie. The Bulldogs boast the 10th best power play in the nation, but Michigan was able to hold the Minnesota-Duluth man advantage to 11 shots on nine opportunities and allowed them to score on it once.
“You never want to kill nine or 10 penalties in a game,” senior forward Carl Hagelin said. “But today we had to do it. And obviously some guys get more tired than others. It’s tough … I think we did a good job, only allowed one goal and they had a really good power play. So obviously some of us got a bit tired by playing too much PK.”
The Wolverines got out to an early lead when senior forward Ben Winnett scored his fifth goal of the season — and second goal of the Frozen Four — five minutes into the first period, but Minnesota-Duluth sustained pressure on Michigan defenders and senior netminder Shawn Hunwick all night.
The Bulldogs tied the game at one just under two minutes into the second period and then took the 2-1 lead eight minutes later on the power play. But led by a strong class of seniors, Michigan kept confidence high on the bench. It had been down in plenty of games this season, even in the NCAA regional semifinal against Nebraska-Omaha.
Near the end of the second period, junior defenseman Greg Pateryn slapped a shot from the blue line in front of Minnesota-Duluth netminder Kenny Reiter. In front of the net, sophomore forward Jeff Rohrkemper got a hold of the puck and back-handed it to beat Reiter on the right side to tie the game at two.
“I think the top players just about neutralize each other throughout the game, and it’s an unexpected or unsung hero that ends up scoring a goal ... Rohorkemper’s goal was a fluky goal, but it was a huge goal.”
Hunwick, who made 40 saves against North Dakota on Thursday to lead the Wolverines to the NCAA Championship, kept the Wolverines in the game again on Saturday. Dubbed “Tiny Jesus” by Michigan fans for his, at times, indescribable saves in St. Paul, Hunwick lived up to the nickname and got the Wolverines to overtime against the Bulldogs.
While Hunwick kept the Minnesota-Duluth offense and power play at bay long enough for the Wolverines to have a chance on Saturday, sudden-death overtime was a different story.
At 3:22 into the extra frame, Minnesota-Duluth senior Kyle Schmidt’s shot in front of the net was the game-winner. When Bulldog forward Travis Oleksuk got the puck behind the net on the right side of Hunwick, he slid it to Schmidt who one-timed it to earn a National Title for Minnesota-Duluth.
“It’s a tough loss,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “Shawn Hunwick was terrific. He gave us a chance and it wasn’t to be.”
Pateryn added: “We knew it was going to be a really ugly goal. We knew it was going to be quick. This is what overtime is sometimes. We knew it was going to take one shot and it did, but it wasn’t for us.”