A moment stuck with Jacob Hayhurst from the day the Michigan hockey team lost to Michigan Tech in the Great Lakes Invitational finals.
The moment he missed ate the graduate transfer in the proceeding days. Even five days after, he still found himself worked up at the thought of it.
He had dreamed of the opposite outcome, of burying the puck into the back of the net to give Michigan a chance to win the tournament, a chance to lift the first-place trophy and a chance to start the second half of the season with two much-needed wins.
Instead, in the final minute of play, Hayhurst hit the post twice, ultimately unable to convert his chances. He couldn’t score the game-tying goal, and when the Wolverine captains lifted the runner-up trophy, there were no smiling faces.
Everyone was upset, but Hayhurst most of all.
“I was pretty upset about it, because it would have been a fantastic victory for a team,” Hayhurst said. “And ultimately, the opportunity was on my stick at that moment. And I didn't do what needed to be done.”
He hadn’t just wasted two golden opportunities in crunch time. All throughout the game, he was given chances, put in spots others on the team would have loved.
“He had one in the first period, wide open in the slot all by himself, stone cold, 20 feet out,” said Michigan coach Mel Pearson. “Buried it right in (the goalie’s) chest.”
It was emblematic of his scoring struggles all season long.
When then-sophomore forward Josh Norris left Michigan to sign with the Ottawa Senators, Pearson desperately looked around for ways to fill the gaping hole left by Norris’s departure. High school commits weren’t an option. Most of them commit years in advance, leaving few viable options left for Pearson to probe. But Hayhurst was available and immediately eligible as a graduate transfer.
His skillset in particular stuck out to Pearson and the coaching staff, and they brought him in. But his lackluster showing thus far has netted a mere five points in 20 games.
“I don’t mind saying he’s had, I think, a disappointing first half as far as his offensive production of play goes,” Pearson said. “We probably expected more from him and … I’ve given him the opportunity and ice time that he’s received and the players he’s been able to play with.
“And I’ll tell you it’s disappointing, and I’m sure he would say the same thing.”
High expectations were set for Hayhurst from the start, when the coaching staff pitched him on the top line with senior forwards Jake Slaker and Will Lockwood, the returning two highest scorers from the year before. He was given top-line minutes, but the top-line offense failed to click, and he was a large reason why.
So Pearson shifted him around, trying to find the right fit. He was tested on all four lines, given a variety of minutes, but he still wasn’t able to produce.
But being paired with sophomore forwards Garret Van Wyhe and Nolan Moyle offered a glimpse of what Hayhurst is capable of doing.
“I think as it came to the Christmas break, you could see that as a line, and as an individual, that my game kind of just was on an uprising,” Hayhurst said. “It was going up. And then even coming back from Christmas break, I think the line I’ve been playing with, Garrett Van Wyhe, Nolan Moyle, and myself. I think we’ve created a lot of chances together, and I think it’s just a matter of time before they start going in for us.”
It’s the fit Pearson hoped Hayhurst will find, and he thinks success will follow.
“The silver lining of all of this is there’s a lot there,” Pearson said. “So hopefully he can get it together and have a real strong second half and we need him.”
Hayhurst doesn’t want to hear the sound of the post, the clank that sends him hoping it would go post-to-net. He wants to turn things around and score goals, so that moments like the GLI won’t haunt him anymore.