BY MICHAEL EISENSTEIN
Daily Sports Editor
Published March 22, 2009
DETROIT — In his first five periods of the CCHA Championships, sophomore goalie Bryan Hogan gave up just two goals.
Hogan arrived at Joe Louis Arena as arguably the most overlooked goalie of the four in Detroit. His Alaska counterpart in the semifinals, senior Chad Johnson, was named the conference’s Player of the Year. Notre Dame goalie Jordan Pearce, who was between the opposing pipes in the championship game Saturday, came in with a better goals-against average, save percentage and win percentage.
Yet it was Hogan, in the midst of shutting down the nation’s No. 2 team, who was outshining them all — at least until the floodgates opened in the final frame and Hogan let in four goals on 12 shots, sealing a 5-2 Fighting Irish victory and CCHA Tournament title.
It was the Wolverines’ first loss in nine games at the Joe, dating back to a 2-1 loss in the 2007 CCHA finals to Notre Dame.
“It was a tough game for Hogie,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson, who added Sunday that Hogan would remain the team’s starter in the NCAA Tournament. “Even the first goal was a goal I don’t know if he saw, but it wasn’t a good goal, and the pucks started to go in on him. And it was one of those games where it was the goalie’s worst nightmare, the puck going in too easy.”
Despite the loss, Michigan still earned the final No. 1 seed for the upcoming NCAA Tournament in the East Regional. The Wolverines will face Air Force on Friday in Bridgeport, Conn.
Notre Dame's first goal seemed inconsequential at the time. It came more than halfway through the second period, and the Wolverines still held a one-goal lead at the end of the frame. Michigan had only lost once before — 2-1 to Western Michigan in November — when it led entering the third.
But Notre Dame freshman forward Billy Maday’s lamp-lighter turned out to be a momentum-changer.
“Once they got their first goal — that was an easy goal — we were getting bounces, and then they started getting the bounces and that's kind of how the game went," Berenson said. "That first goal gave them life and got them back in the game. Had we got the next goal, the game was probably over, but that didn't happen.”
Instead, the Irish scored again one minute and 45 seconds into the third off forward Calle Ridderwall’s redirect in front of the net. Moments later, Notre Dame forward Ben Ryan closed in towards the goal from the bottom left circle. He sent the puck past senior captain Mark Mitera (who finished minus-two on the night) and beat Hogan top right shelf.
The two-goal Wolverine lead built up by freshmen Luke Glendening and David Wohlberg in the opening 23 minutes disappeared within 20 seconds.
Before the Irish added a couple more tallies in the final 10 minutes, Michigan had never given up more than three even-strength goals in an entire game, let alone in a 20-minute period.
“Hogan was working hard and that’s all you can ask for,” Summers said. “It was a team loss and I don’t think that anything should have to do with Hogan. It’s five guys on the ice.”
After the NCAA Tournament selection show on Sunday, Berenson said he wasn’t worried about Hogan’s confidence for Friday’s opening-round game against Air Force, the East Regional’s lowest seed. He cited Michigan State goalie Jeff Lerg’s lackluster performance in the CCHA Championships two years ago and how the goaltender turned things around to lead the Spartans to a national title.
Just before their miracle run, Lerg surrendered 11 goals at the Joe, including a 5-2 semifinal loss and narrow 7-6 overtime win over Lake Superior State in the third-place game.
Berenson’s example was echoed by Summers and Miller on Sunday as the three put Hogan’s poor performance in perspective entering the final weekends of the season.
“Hogan’s a tough kid,” Summers said Sunday. “It’s how he reacts to it and how he responds in this week’s practice and the next game coming up. I think he’s a tough enough kid that he can come fully prepared and play the best that he can.”
No matter how he bounces back, it’s difficult to get rid of the sour taste of seeing five periods of solid hockey unravel when the team is 20 minutes away from a championship.
“Obviously, we’ve got to regroup, whether it's defensively, offensively, goalkeeping, everything," Berenson said. "It was a disappointing third period. Otherwise, I thought we played a good game.”