Michigan’s amazing run is over and hopes of playing in the Frozen Four in Detroit are gone after Miami won last night’s Midwest Regional final 3-2 in double overtime. In what was an absolutely thrilling game, both teams had their chances throughout the night and ultimately Miami’s goal early on in double overtime proved to be the difference. Actually, let me correct that. Miami’s goal early on in double overtime proved to be the official difference. The difference in this game should have been a Michigan goal early on in the first overtime. The Wolverines scored, but because another idiotic referee lost sight of the puck, Michigan was yet again screwed over at the hands of an early whistle. The goal didn’t count, and after missing out on plenty of chances during the remainder of the first overtime, Michigan’s season came to an end in the second overtime.
For the first time ever with Shawn Hunwick in net, Michigan was not the first team to score. 12 minutes into the first period, Miami’s Pat Cannone quickly shot the puck by Hunwick off of a pass that came out in front of the net. The power-play goal put the RedHawks on top 1-0, but that lead didn’t hold up for very long.
Only 1:28 later, David Wohlberg fired a wrist shot at Miami goalie Connor Knapp (Cody Reichard, who gave up 5 goals against Michigan in the CCHA semifinals, did not play) and followed his rebound to put the puck in the net. Wohlberg went strong to the net and came away with the puck after the rebound. Knapp couldn’t find the puck at first, and by the time he tried to cover it, Wohlberg was putting it in the right side of the net to tie the game at 1.
Only 49 seconds into the second period, Chad Langlais fired a shot from close to the blue line and scored a power-play goal. The shot may have deflected off of a Miami player, causing it to change direction and go past Knapp. Regardless, the shot was an absolute laser and suddenly Michigan was up 2-1 on the RedHawks.
Just like in the first period for Miami, Michigan’s lead did not hold up for very long. Miami went on a power play and Pat Cannone scored again about two and half minutes after Langlais’ goal. The puck was put on net and found its way underneath Shawn Hunwick’s right leg. Hunwick froze to ensure that the puck didn’t go anywhere, but there was no whistle and Cannone poked it in to tie the game. It was surprising there wasn’t a quick whistle in this situation considering how fast the whistle was blown in the first overtime on Michigan’s goal that should have won the game, but more on that in a second.
During the remainder of the second period and early stages of the third period there wasn’t a lot of action outside of a few chances for Michigan. Twice David Wohlberg was stoned by Connor Knapp on a shorthanded breakaway in the second period, and in the third period the puck nearly went in, but Knapp covered it right near the goal line.
Towards the end of the third period is when the action really picked up. It felt like Miami was on a permanent power play during the latter stages of the period with the way they were playing. Michigan was getting worked, and the constant pressure nearly paid off for the RedHawks with three minutes left in regulation when a shot was lobbed at the net and hit right off the post. The puck bounced right to Shawn Hunwick, allowing him to cover and everyone to take a deep breath. Michigan caught a break during the last minutes of regulation by going on a power play, but it was unable to do anything, as Miami still had complete control of the game. As a result, this game was headed to overtime.
This game should have been over 2:37 into the first overtime. The Michigan team should have poured over their bench to celebrate with Shawn Hunwick. The Michigan fans should have gone nuts and been able to start putting together their Frozen Four plans. On April 8, Michigan should be playing Boston College at Ford Field.
I say should for all of the above-mentioned scenarios because a Michigan goal was waved thanks to one of the incompetent referees that made up an absolutely awful crew. They were terrible for the Bemidji State game, and they were even worse last night, taking away Michigan’s game-winning goal.
Here’s what happened: Carl Hagelin’s speed allowed him to catch up to a loose puck in the Miami zone and quickly skate behind the net for a wraparound. The puck made its way under Connor Knapp, who had absolutely no idea where it was, and right out to Kevin Lynch. Lynch quickly shot it into the open net for what should have been the game-winning goal. Problem is one of the referees blew the play dead a split second before the puck went into the net. Apparently he lost sight of it or thought a Miami player gained possession of it since there was a delayed penalty.
Why the whistle was blown so quickly this time around is beyond me when you consider that Miami’s second goal wouldn’t have counted if they had been that quick in the second period. If there was any consistency, the referee should have waited to make sure the puck was indeed frozen before blowing the whistle. And if it was about Miami gaining possession, then the ref is just as idiotic considering no Miami player had control of the puck. Hell, Knapp was still spinning around trying to find it when the whistle was blown.
All in all it was just a complete and utter screw job by the referees at the worst possible time. They were bad all weekend, especially last night, and all I can say is there’s a special place in hell for John Gravallese and Jeff Bunyon, the incompetent dumb asses who let this game continue when it should have been over.
Despite the awful break, Michigan continued to battle and dominated Miami for the entire overtime. Shots in the overtime were 20-6 in favor of Michigan, and the Wolverines nearly scored again with around seven minutes left when a Matt Rust snap shot hit the crossbar. Unfortunately Michigan just couldn’t score (for a second time), meaning this game was headed to a second overtime.
1:54 into the second overtime, Miami’s Alden Hirschfeld came up with the puck after there was a battle on the sideboards for it and fired a shot that bounced off of Shawn Hunwick’s pad and into the net. Unfortunately this one counted, giving Miami the 3-2 win and trip to Detroit for the Frozen Four. I will give credit to Miami for continuing to battle (they were outshot 57-35!) and playing a hell of a game, because they are a very good team. At the end of the night, though, the story of this game for Michigan fans will be the blown call that took away the Wolverines’ chance to play in a Frozen Four in Detroit. That was the dream from the very beginning of the season, and that was the dream throughout the amazing run this team went on in the last month. Because of a quick whistle, that dream was taken away from Michigan. To say every Michigan player, coach, and fan was heartbroken last night would be an understatement.
As bad as the ending of this season was, this team deserves all of the credit in the world. Considering where this team was a month ago, the fact that they were in position to be a goal away from the Frozen Four is just amazing. With that in mind, I say thank you to the coaches and players (Shawn Hunwick especially, as he played off the charts) for a hell of a run. It’s too bad incompetence prevented it from continuing in Detroit in a couple weeks, but either way, thank you for giving all Michigan fans something to feel good about this last month. It was an unforgettable run and hopefully a momentum-builder for next season.