Oh, so close.
Michigan’s hockey season ended with a 3-2 loss to Minnesota-Duluth in overtime of the NCAA championship game Saturday night at the Xcel Center in St. Paul, Minn.
Kyle Schmidt took a centering pass from Travis Oleksuk behind the net and Schmidt made sure tucking the puck behind Michigan goalie Shawn Hunwick for the game-winner just 3:22 into overtime.
“I didn’t get over and across in time,” said Hunwick, who was named to the all-tournament team at the Frozen Four and made 35 saves Saturday. “It all happened so fast.”
“We got tired, we made a mistake and it was over,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson.
Michigan ends the season at 29-11-4 and the Wolverines are 9-3 all-time in NCAA championship hockey games. Ironically, in Berenson’s two previous NCAA finals visits, Michigan won 3-2 in overtime both in 1996 and 1998.
Minnesota-Duluth ends the season 26-10-6 and it was the first-ever NCAA hockey title for the Bulldogs. Minnesota-Duluth had only one NCAA final appearance before Saturday and that was a four-overtime loss to Bowling Green in 1984 at Lake Placid, N.Y.
Minnesota-Duluth is also the NCAA Division II football champion.
“They were better than we thought they were,” said Berenson. Minnesota-Duluth was ranked No. 1 at midseason but struggled down the stretch.
The Bulldogs outshot the Wolverines, 38-24.
It was a controversial loss for the Wolverines. Michigan was whistled for 10 penalties and held the Bulldogs to only one power-play goal in nine chances.
“I think penalties had a big part in the game,” Berenson said. “Just too many penalties. Were they good penalties? I can’t tell you what I really think. I mean, you can’t talk about refereeing and penalties, but when one team gets nine and the other gets four, it doesn’t add up. We just thought we were on our heels a lot because of penalties.”
In addition, Michigan had a goal disallowed in the first period. At 15:40 of the first frame, Mac Bennett fired a shot at Minnesota-Duluth goalie Kenny Reiter and Chris Brown apparently tipped in the rebound under the goalie’s pads. But a quick official’s whistle apparently nullified the goal.
Michigan scored the first goal of the game when Ben Winnett, who scored only three goals all season, scored his second goal in two nights with 5:18 to play in the first period. It came after Michigan’s Matt Rust won a faceoff draw and got the puck back to Winnett who fired the shot.
Mineesota-Duluth scored twice in the second period to tie the score on goals by Oleksuk and a power play score by Max Tardy.
With 2:14 to play in the second period, Michigan tied the score when Jeff Rohkemper got only his third goal of the season on a backhander.
Both teams had plenty of chances to score in the third period and early in overtime both teams made rushes to the net.
Michigan’s Hunwick, Winnett and defenseman Jon Merrill were named to the all-tournament team.
Berenson called Minnesota-Duluth, “the real deal.” He also said, “I just wish we could have given them a better game.”
For more info: mgoblue, annarbor.com, ESPN