Missed opportunities in first overtime cost Wolverines in the end

By Michael Florek, Daily Sports Writer
Published March 29, 2010

FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Late Sunday night, the Michigan hockey team’s season came to an end less than two minutes into the second overtime after Miami (Ohio)’s Alden Hirschfeld beat junior Shawn Hunwick on the stick side for the game-winning goal.

But in some respects, the Wolverines had lost the game in the twenty minutes preceding that point.

Michigan launched 20 shots on Miami goalie Connor Knapp in the first overtime period only to see the puck kept out of the net in a variety of ways.

Shots into the body of the goalie, unlucky bounces and stellar goaltending from Knapp eventually ended their season.

It started early in the period. Michigan had a 15-second power play to start the period and couldn’t convert. But that didn’t stop the Wolverines from carrying the play in the first overtime.

This newfound jump was a surprise to almost everyone in Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. The RedHawks had dominated the second half of the second period and the third period, but couldn’t find a way to put in the clincher in the first overtime.

When Michigan came out for the overtime, it looked like the team that outshot Miami 11-6 in the first period.

“We were getting better in the overtime, which I think amazed the players even that they start taking the game over,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said.

As the Wolverines began to take over the period two minutes into the game, freshman forward Kevin Lynch had an opportunity on a rebound, and this time he put the puck in the back of the net.

But the referee blew his whistle moments before Lynch got it past Knapp. The goal that would have lived on in Michigan lore is now just part of a long list of missed opportunities in the first overtime.

“We played so well, when you hit the cross-bar and when you’re all over the goalie, just couldn’t quite get the puck over him or through him,” Berenson said. “Sooner or later, somebody’s going to score, but we’ve seen the game enough where one team gets the chances and the other team goes down and scores.”

Things that were working during the Wolverines’ seven-game run through the CCHA playoffs and the first round of the NCAA Tournament suddenly weren’t working anymore.

Junior forward Carl Hagelin, who Berenson called “as a good a player as there was on both teams” had a breakaway midway through the period. He pulled the same move that worked a day earlier in Michigan’s blowout against Bemidji State, cutting across the net and sliding it five-hole.

This time, Knapp made the save. Two minutes later, junior Matt Rust let go of a rising wrist shot that hit the post. It was one of those periods for the Wolverines.

“We tried to get pucks on net, we were outhustling them, and in that overtime, we just couldn’t get the puck in the net,” Lynch said. “We just couldn’t get it in the net.”

Even when a high-sticking penalty was called on the RedHawks early in the period, Michigan couldn’t capitalize. It managed just one shot on the power play, part of a 1-for-7 night on the power play for the Wolverines.

They launched 55 shots and even with scoring two goals, they didn’t make anything of their chances when they needed just one. And it was just one chance that Miami had that sent the Wolverines back to Ann Arbor, instead of to Detroit for the Frozen Four.

“We did a good job in overtime to get the puck deep and create chances,” Hagelin said. “They had a lot of turnovers because we forced them to it. Their goalie stood on his head and maybe we weren’t patient enough around the net but we obviously had enough chances to win this game.”