Jack Hallahan had been there before — Penn State, double overtime, sudden death, game-winning goal hanging in the balance.
Friday night was a lot of the same for the junior, except for the fairy tale ending.
Drawing 1-1 with the Nittany Lions (1-0-1 Big Ten, 2-4-1 overall), Michigan made it a point to feed Hallahan the ball time and time again, hoping he would break through like he did last year in the waning seconds to give the Wolverines (1-0-1, 5-1-1) three points. But he was the reason Michigan even got a single point in the Big Ten table.
Leading the Wolverines in both shots on goal and crosses in a game where Michigan clearly dominated, Hallahan netted the equalizer, striking a ball that deflected off a Penn State defender before bouncing past the keeper.
“Honestly, (assistant coach Tommy McMenemy) said to me when I’m crossing it, when I cut in, aim for the far post because if (the ball) misses, then it’ll go in the net,” Hallahan said. “So, I just kept doing that basically until it went in.
“I think that (crossing) is one of the key parts of my game,” the junior continued. “One of my main strengths when I’m playing is trying to be a man that can get a cross in and normally, we’ve got men on the end of the ball and we get a lot of goals from that. It’s whatever is best for the team in that sense and crossing is good for us.”
Creating chance after chance, it seemed as if Hallahan would serve as a hero in the closing minutes once again. Dribbling along the right edge of the box, Hallahan wound up a shot only to have his legs taken out by the Penn State goalkeeper.
“I took a bit too heavy of a touch, and I wanted to get a shot after it,” Hallahan said. “At that point, I tried to cross it (but) the keeper came and I cramped up on my calf.”
As a result, Hallahan spiraled into the wall, and a deafening silence ensued around the stadium as he struggled to get up. He eventually hobbled off his injury and jogged back to the side of the field that he had controlled all night.
“He carried the load on the field,” said Michigan coach Chaka Daley. “I think (Hallahan) got off to a hot start and you know, it’s a simple equation. Like any other sport, if someone’s hot, give them the ball. Let’s see if they can figure it out. There’s no real coaching to that.”
All Daley did was leave Hallahan in for all 110 minutes, the first time Hallahan has played a full game this season. And with a goal or assist in the last five out of six games as well as a start in the last four, it doesn’t look like the Englishman will be disappearing any time soon.