ST LOUIS — Two years ago, the Michigan hockey team didn’t come back from a two-goal deficit in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against Air Force. Probably more telling, though, is the fact that it couldn’t. The questions and the glares toward fellow teammates were all present back in 2009.
“We’re having trouble getting that first goal, and bad thoughts start to creep into your head,” senior forward Louie Caporusso said about his experience two years ago in Bridgeport, CT. “We start to think, ‘Is it over?’ You start questioning yourself and your teammates. Senior year, it’s a different story. I’m not questioning anything.
“I’m not letting bad thoughts creep into my head … We know we’re going to keep going.”
Following the 6th-ranked Wolverines’ 3-2 come-from-behind overtime victory over Nebraska-Omaha on Friday — in which the team awaited a 10-minute review of sophomore forward Kevin Lynch’s eventual game-winning goal — Caporusso had a glaring news flash.
His message was clear as crystal — this team is going to “push this season as long as possible,” even if it means having to be a little more resilient heading into its date with Colorado College tomorrow night in the NCAA West regional final game.
The Wolverines headed into the first intermission down 2-0 to Nebraska-Omaha, and it looked as if the Michigan team that finished as CCHA regular season champions was going to bow out early of the NCAA Tournament — again.
But the Wolverines had experienced two-goal deficits all season long. It had scored in the waning minutes of regulation and overtime against Western Michigan to clinch an improbable 5-4 overtime victory back in February.
“When you win when you’re not supposed to win, I think it’s a sign,” Caporusso said after the Senior Night win. “It’s a sign that maybe this is the year for Michigan hockey.”
It had come back on the road against Michigan State and Ferris State only to fall short.
Caporusso and his six other senior teammates haven’t quit all season, and it’s a motto they’ve adopted from one of the country’s most respected coaches.
“The good thing is over the years is our coaching staff has been in situations where we’ve been down,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “We know our team can come back … This year, we’ve found ways to come back in close games where we were down and maybe out. But we came back. They’ve built that confidence, and they’ve earned it.”
The victory against the Mavericks was the 8th come-from-behind win this season for the Wolverines, further proof of their resolve.
Caporusso added that sticking to the status quo and exhibiting an “unlimited amount of patience” were two factors that helped the Wolverines mount a comeback against Nebraska-Omaha.
The Woodbridge, Ont. native registered a goal and assist in the winning effort, saying earlier in the week that he hoped one of his notorious late-season tears would still be available this late in the season.
“I think it’s just desperate hockey,” Caporusso said. “I understand that the season can be over any minute if you don’t show up to play. To be honest, I’m not really thinking about that too much. I’m trying to think about things that can help the team, and if scoring goals is one of them, then so be it.”