BY RYAN KARTJE
Daily Sports Editor
Published March 29, 2010
FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Locked in their most epic stalemate of the season, with one of their most bitter in-conference rivals in Miami (Ohio) and a Frozen Four appearance on the line, freshman forward Kevin Lynch thought he had stamped the Wolverines’ ticket to Detroit.
But the sound of a referee’s whistle silenced Michigan’s best shot at continuing their eight-game win streak.
With 17:23 remaining in the first overtime of last night’s NCAA Midwest regional final, junior forward Carl Hagelin wrapped the puck around the net, sending it through Miami goalie Connor Knapp’s legs. Lynch took the pass from Hagelin and buried it past Knapp for what looked like the goal to clinch a 3-2 victory.
“I heard the whistle but the puck went in,” Lynch said. “I don’t know why they blew the whistle in the first place. It should’ve counted and I don’t know why it didn’t. It’s just a bad break for us.”
The referee behind the net clarified that play had been stopped in order to call a highsticking penalty on Miami’s Joe Hartman.
Play would stop for a short review after the call, but the director of officiating, Steve Piotrowski, insisted that Miami had touched the puck, thus giving the referee just cause to blow the whistle for the impending penalty.
“That’s a tough one to swallow,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “You can’t win on those calls. Even if he didn’t blow the whistle, he could have said he meant to blow the whistle. He was so intent on calling the penalty that they couldn’t see that the puck was loose, and we were putting it in the net.”
“I was fortunate he blew the whistle fast,” Knapp said. “I knew he blew the whistle before the guy shot it. If the ref can’t see it, he’s going to blow the whistle."
Earlier this season, Michigan experienced a similar fate at Munn Ice Arena against its other CCHA rival, Michigan State, when a referee blew a play dead just moments before freshman forward Chris Brown slammed the puck in when a goal would have tied the game.
But with the season over, the call will resonate as the Wolverines’ best opportunity in an overtime period in which they outshot the RedHawks 20-6.
Standing on their third: With Miami’s starter in net in question before last night’s regional final, the Wolverines didn’t know whether to expect Knapp or CCHA Player of the Year Cody Reichard — especially after Reichard allowed five goals in the two teams’ last matchup.
All they knew was that junior walk-on goaltender Shawn Hunwick would be the one standing between their pipes.
Hunwick finished with a career-high 32 saves, finishing the road he started as Michigan’s most unlikely hero. The loss to the RedHawks was his first since Feb. 27.
And despite the goal that Hunwick said deflected off of his stick, rolling into the back of the net to end it, Berenson appreciated the walk-on’s unexpected contribution to the Wolverines’ season.
“For Hunwick to be into this situation and literally playing as well as any goalie in the tournament, that’s the only reason we’re here,” Berenson said. “He stepped in and played like he’d been playing all year.”
Knapp, whose save percentage is higher than Reichard by just one thousandth of a point, delivered for the RedHawks, tallying 55 saves in the double overtime win, with 20 of those saves coming in the first overtime.
“Like I said yesterday, we have two number-one goalies,” Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. “Tonight was Connor’s night, and we knew he would go in there and do exactly what he did.”
And Hunwick nodded to his opponent’s play in net as the reason for Miami’s 3-2 win.
“Connor Knapp, he was the one facing all the shots,” Hunwick said. “Obviously, it’s something I’m pretty rattled about to lose that game when you put up 55 shots on goal. I guess they deserve to move on.”
Notes: Hagelin and senior defenseman Steve Kampfer were honored after the game as selections for the Midwest Regional All-Tournament team. The rest of the All-Tournament team consisted of players from Miami … Michigan hockey Sports Information Director Matt Trevor said that information about whether Berenson’s contract will be renewed after this season should be released in the next week or so.