It took until Saturday night for me to realize that there are few things more soul-crushing, more buzz-killing than ending in a tie.

But losing in a shootout is definitely one of them. One that the Michigan hockey team now understands after Saturday’s shootout loss to Alaska.

Down by one with just 2:19 remaining in the final period, senior defenseman Chad Langlais picked up a loose puck in the slot and fired it home to the tie the game. Knotted at three and controlling the momentum, there was no way the Wolverines were going to lose this game.

“I felt like, ‘Finally, the puck finally got to the net,’ ” Michigan coach Red Berenson said.

Things were falling into place for a second straight series sweep.

They dominated the overtime, allowing just one quality shot that slid past Hogan and tinged off of the post (resulting in a collective “holy crap that should’ve gone in” from the Yost crowd). Michigan outshot Alaska 6-1 in the additional frame.

So when Nanook forward Dion Knelsen deked junior goaltender Bryan Hogan out of his skates for the first and only score in the first and only shootout in Michigan hockey history, the loudest crowd I had ever heard at Yost Ice Arena came to the same solemn conclusion as I did.

A tie may be like “kissing your sister,” as the old adage says, but losing in a shootout is like your sister publicly humiliating you after said kiss.

Berenson made it clear after the game that the Wolverines “didn’t look very good” in their first shootout action. Junior Carl Hagelin, freshman Chris Brown and sophomore Louie Caporusso — Michigan’s three shootout participants — looked mediocre, failing to challenge Alaska goalie Scott Greenham with any flashy moves or a deceptive shot like Knelsen did for the Nanooks.

But if you take a step back from the disappointment and the salty taste in Michigan’s mouth, being shut out in Yost’s first shootout is about as relevant as Alaska hockey’s viral hype video on YouTube.

What really matters is that the Wolverines’ tallied four of six possible points on the weekend against the team that occupied the coveted fourth spot in the CCHA.

The top three spots in the conference — currently held by Miami (Ohio), Michigan State and Ferris State — are far from changing hands, and with just one spot remaining for a bye in the conference tournament, it’s going to be a dead sprint from pretty much every team, fourth through eighth place, from here on out.

But what the standings don’t tell you is that Michigan has the best opportunity of all to lock down that fourth spot.

Lake Superior State — which currently sits in fourth place — got demolished by the Wolverines when Michigan struggled early on. The closest thing to a signature win for the Lakers was their 3-3 tie of Michigan State two weekends ago. Oh, and they still have matchups with Miami, Ferris State and Alaska remaining.

The Nanooks — now in fifth place — still have to play Miami and Michigan State, and their biggest win came against Michigan at a neutral site in Anchorage. Of course, the Wolverines were still No. 4 in the country then.

And Notre Dame, Michigan’s best competition for that fourth spot, has yet to sweep a weekend all season, despite their solid 2-0-2 record against the Spartans. They do have an easy schedule from here on out, though.

Though the Wolverines eventually lost on Saturday, they showed they could overcome a deficit and have a chance to win the game, something they have lacked all season.

“I liked the way our team battled back and arguably could have had the best of the chances to win it,” Berenson said after the loss.

That wasn’t the case earlier this season, when Michigan either collapsed late or couldn’t muster the offense for a comeback.

Against Boston University in October, the Wolverines’ comeback effort was pulled out from under them when Hogan made a serious puck-handling mistake and lost the game late in the third.

Against RPI in the first round of the Great Lakes Invitational, two goals in the third period were made irrelevant by a Shawn Hunwick missed save, as they lost 4-3.

But on Saturday, the Wolverines showed they could mount a comeback and keep it, even coming close to winning in OT. So who cares if they lost the shootout? Only the CCHA counts it as more than a tie.

Michigan is playing its best hockey of the season, showing what Berenson said was the Wolverines’ most complete 60-minute effort of the year in their 6-0 win on Friday.

The logic may not make sense that a team, barely over .500, is on the fast track to the NCAA Tournament. But if Michigan can overcome the pseudo-humiliation of a shootout gone awry and show the same tenacity it did last weekend in its next two important weekends against Ferris State and Michigan State, the Wolverines might just have the last laugh.

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