BY MARK BURNS
Daily Sports Editor
Published February 19, 2011
Prior to Saturday's contest against Western Michigan, the Michigan hockey senior class was in agreement that a come-from-behind 3-2 win against Notre Dame three years ago was its most memorable moment at Yost Ice Arena. Then-freshman forward Louie Caporusso scored with 20.3 seconds left on the clock to propel the Wolverines past the Fighting Irish.
But on Senior Night this past weekend, senior Carl Hagelin's game-tying and game-winning goals – with just 2.9 seconds remaining in overtime against the Broncos — might have caused a stir in the minds of the seven-member class.
“It definitely ranks up there as one of the best games I’ve (seen) here at the University of Michigan,” senior Louie Caporusso said after the win.
Hagelin tallied the Wolverines’ final two markers in the dramatic 5-4 victory on Saturday. The comeback win completed the weekend sweep of Western Michigan (9-8-9-5 CCHA, 15-9-10) following Michigan’s 6-3 victory on Friday.
“He plays with energy everyday, but it seemed like he was trying to do something special,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said of Hagelin on Saturday. “And we knew what that was, and obviously he did that. Maybe we have to play the Swedish national anthem every weekend.”
On Saturday, with Western Michigan grabbing a go-ahead power play tally just three minutes into the third period to lead 4-3, Michigan would have to come back for the second time on the night in hopes of potentially securing a victory — it had bounced back from a 3-1 deficit in the first period.
As play continued in the final stanza, the Wolverines (18-7-1-0, 21-9-4) pressed even harder, particularly the line of Caporusso, Hagelin and sophomore Chris Brown. The Wolverines out-shot the Broncos, 34-24, with some of the final shots obviously being the most important.
It wasn’t until 39.1 seconds remained on the clock that senior goaltender Shawn Hunwick was pulled for an extra attacker. Hagelin flicked a soft wrister on net, with the puck deflecting off a Bronco defenseman’s leg and squeaking past goaltender Jerry Kuhn, sending Yost into a frenzy.
Following the game-tying tally, Kuhn raised his arms above his head in frustration — a sign the momentum had swung in Michigan’s favor.
“I think they just had that look in their eye,” Berenson said in the post-game press conference on Saturday. “They were tired. You could just see them pushing through it in that last minute.”
The Yost faithful had to wait less than 10 minutes of real time to jump into a hysteria once again. At the 4:31 mark of overtime, the Wolverines went on their fourth power play of the game when senior forward Scooter Vaughan was interfered with.
Holding a 5-on-4 advantage and having an earlier power play goal to its credit, No. 11 Michigan had hopes of sending its senior class out with a victory in front of the 6,838 people in attendance. Sophomore defenseman Lee Moffie carried the puck into the Western Michigan zone as seconds remained, leaving a drop pass for Hagelin.
The co-captain let a half slap shot go from the top of the left circle with 2.9 seconds left on the clock that banked off the left post and into the net to cap off the dramatic comeback.
“Our class had one of the most intense Senior Night games,” Hagelin said. “Today, we had to battle back and show some character.”
The victory kept Michigan just one point behind Notre Dame for first place in the CCHA, with two games for each team remaining in the schedule. Following the win, Hagelin joked that he approached first-year Bronco coach Jeff Blashill, saying Blashill told him he’d get a win against the Fighting Irish next weekend in the last two games of the regular season.
But more important, the Wolverines are slowly getting some of the luck they didn’t receive last season — a year in which they had to battle just to make the NCAA Tournament. In the current campaign, Michigan is all but guaranteed a lock for its 21st straight tourney.
“When you win when you're not supposed to win, I think it's a sign,” Caporusso said. “It's a sign that maybe this is the year for Michigan hockey. Sometimes last year, we couldn't get a win and it was tough. Every game, we would get bad calls, bad bounces and sometimes, it works out for you. Hopefully this is the year.”
After the game, the seven seniors skated around Yost — each donning a University of Michigan flag and Hagelin sporting a student-made Swedish flag too, a token of appreciation given to him by the Children of Yost, the student cheering section.
“That’s as good as it gets,” Berenson said of the come-from-behind win. “Our crowd is so good. Our players will never get to play in front of crowds like this, the enthusiasm and all the little things going on. It doesn’t get any better than this.”