GREEN BAY, Wisc. — Two minutes into the Michigan hockey team’s first-round game in the NCAA Tournament, there didn’t appear to be much of a game.
Cornell coach Mike Schafer had barely settled into his spot on the bench. He blinked — Wolverine captain Luke Glendening hammered home a rebound and Michigan led, 1-0.
Schafer blinked again — Michigan junior forward Kevin Lynch’s shot found the back of the net.
Barely two minutes into the Midwest regional semifinal, Michigan looked ready to cruise into the next round against Ferris State. The game, and Cornell’s season, seemed all but over. Or was it?
Schafer called the earliest timeout he can remember calling in his coaching career — just 93 seconds into the game. And it changed everything.
So did the replay review that followed by the referees. They ruled that sophomore forward Luke Moffatt had interfered with Big Red netminder Andy Iles. The goal was disallowed, and Cornell had a second life.
“It was illegal contact with the goaltender in the crease, which did not allow him to play his position,” the referees said in an official statement.
Michigan coach Red Berenson was less confident. In fact, the disallowed goal weighed so heavily on his mind after his team’s crushing 3-2 overtime loss that he began his opening statement in the postgame press conference by mentioning it.
“The goal that was disallowed was obviously a factor in the game,” Berenson said.
It became more than a factor. The game’s entire complexion was changed. The Big Red played like a team with absolutely nothing to lose. And why shouldn’t they have? The nightmarish start proved to be nothing more than a bad dream.
Instead of buckling to the second-ranked Wolverines, Cornell proved resilient. And it caught the Wolverines off guard, no matter how highly they thought of the Big Red.
“When I popped one in, emotions were running high,” Lynch said. “We’re a strong enough team where we could come back (from the disappointment of the no goal). … Obviously, we would’ve liked to have had that goal. Going up 2-0 would’ve been huge.”
Though the Wolverines couldn’t hang on to the lead that eventually disappeared, they never let the game out of their reach. In fact, when Lynch did finally score — a blue-collar goal late in the third period off of a grade-A chance in front of the net — his disallowed goal became all the more important.
But when Schafer called timeout just over a minute into the game, his counterpart Berenson didn’t even think that the tally could be taken off of the board. Then, when the call came for a review, he was confused.
“I was wondering why it was being reviewed,” Berenson said. “I thought they called a timeout because of the momentum. … If I were their coach, I probably would’ve called a timeout, too.
“When a player goes through the crease, typically — and I’m not questioning the officials — but, typically, they’ll blow the whistle. If he’s out of the crease, you’ll probably let it go.”
The timeout did end up being about momentum, but not in the let’s-stop-the-bleeding manner Schafer probably intended. Rather, when the referee crossed his arms to signal the disallowed goal, the momentum swung toward Cornell. The Wolverines felt helpless when the officials changed the call.
“Goals are precious this time of year,” Berenson said. “If you score (one), you’d like to know they’re sure. And I’m sure they were sure. … We had something going (before the review).”
Berenson couldn’t have asked for a more promising opening two minutes from his team. But the disappointment of the stripped goal made the Wolverines look like the ones with an uphill climb, not the Cornell team that then trailed.