MADISON It was supposed to be a game that ended in the soft light of the Wisconsin afternoon, with the No.1 seed Indiana Hoosiers comfortably beating the No. 5 seed Michigan. Yet as the skies turned dark over McClimon Field Friday, and the floodlights took hold in the third overtime, the heavily favored Hoosiers began to wonder why they could not put away the pesky Wolverines

The underdog Wolverines were smelling an upset and playing fearlessly, while the thick tension of the scoreless tie was beginning to suffocate Indiana. Fear of an upset seemed to paralyze Indiana, until Hermann Award candidate Pat Noonan took advantage of a feed from Vijay Dias and blasted the game-winning goal from the right wing, finally ending the triple-overtime thriller, 1-0.

In the two previous meetings against Indiana (7-0 Big Ten, 12-3-1 overall) , Michigan was blown out 6-0 and 3-0. Michigan (4-4, 9-7-1) had to face Indiana playmakers like Pat Noonan (2.17 goals per game) and goalkeeper Colin Rodgers (.40 goals allowed average). Michigan”s best playmaker, Knox Cameron, could only play limited minutes Friday because of a hip injury.

While these factors pointed to a lopsided loss, Michigan coach Steve Burns knew he had a speed advantage at the forward position, aggressive man-marking defenders, and a fearless goalkeeper in Joe Zawacki. He also knew that as heavy favorites, Indiana would tighten up if the game was not blown open early.

While Burns normally employs an aggressive three-forward alignment, he decided to suffocate the Hoosiers defensively and drop an extra man back. To account for Noonan, Burns assigned relentless man-marker James Baez-Silva.

“If we could take Indiana out of its rhythm and play with our line of confrontation about the top of the circle that we were going to take away a lot of opportunities for the counter attack,” Burns explained.

Early on, the Hoosiers were anxious to press forward and jump on the Wolverines with a flurry of goals. But excellent execution of the defensive game plan kept the Hoosiers from scoring. Michigan”s sound positioning prevented Indiana”s forwards from getting clean looks on goal.

Finally, late in the second half, Burns decided to go for the win, inserting Cameron into the game to engineer some late-game scoring heroics. In the next 42 minutes, including three overtimes, Indiana and Michigan went toe-to-toe with scoring chances.

With speedy forwards Robert and Mychal Turpin threatening the Indiana defense, the Hoosiers became wary of a dangerous breakaway. Michigan nearly ended the game on Mychal Turpin”s near-miss of a half-volley over the crossbar. At this point, a game-ending Michigan goal was a real possibility.

Yet Indiana stayed patient and allowed its stars to make adjustments. Noonan”s game-winning strike came as a result of an adjustment by the Indiana forwards to spread wider on attacks on goal, preventing help from Michigan defenders on the flank. The space Noonan created by widening on his last run gave him all the time he needed to uncork the clinching goal.

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