TheMaizeAndBlueReview - Oh, what a very bad night
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Oh, what a very bad night

For the second time in a week, Michigan sports fans were reminded that being the favorite with high expectations doesn't mean anything in the NCAA Tournament if the Wolverines don't give their best effort. A lackluster performance did in the basketball team against Ohio and has now ended the hockey team's season too ...
Had one only caught the first two minutes of Friday's Midwest Regional semifinal loss to Cornell, they wouldn't have believed how the final 58 minutes of regulation and four minutes of overtime unfolded, as U-M did exactly what a No. 1 seed is supposed to do. The Maize and Blue jumped out to a 2-0 lead at 18:27, scoring a pair of markers by senior Luke Glendening and junior Kevin Lynch just 22 seconds apart.
But when Cornell called a timeout, the referees decided to take an extended look at the Wolverines' second marker, ultimately ruling that sophomore Luke Moffatt had run into Big Red goalie Andy Iles. Goalie interference nullified the goal.
"I was wondering why it was being reviewed," head coach Red Berenson said. "I never got a clear interpretation of what happened. They said a player went through the crease and there was contact with the goalie, and then another player put the puck in. When a player goes in the crease - and I'm not criticizing the officials - but you either blow the whistle or you don't [to call a penalty].
"Did the player keep the goalie from making the save? We didn't get a good look at it because it was at the other end.
"It's disappointing obviously."
When can a goal be a blessing in disguise for the team that surrenders it? When it's disallowed like Friday's marker because all that great energy Michigan had built dissipated in an instant, and Cornell, seizing the opportunity, grabbed momentum.
"We're not a team that lets that get in our head," Lynch said, almost trying to convince himself that was true. "Obviously we would have liked to have had that goal and going up 2-0 would have been huge but that stuff doesn't get in our head. We're a team that keeps pushing and pushing, so, no, I don't think we got deflated from that."
Maybe it didn't affect Lynch, who wound up one of the few Wolverines to play hard from his first shift through his last, but it seemed to rattle the rest of his teammates. The Maize and Blue looked like they were skating through mud over the next 18 minutes, beaten to almost every loose puck, barely hanging on as the ice tilted significantly in Cornell's favor.
When the Big Red struck at 10:10 on the power play, you could almost feel an onslaught coming.
To Michigan's credit, and thanks to goalie Shawn Hunwick, U-M didn't allow another goal, but the Wolverines were clearly on their heels and needed something, anything, to breed some confidence.
They got that chance when Cornell went down a man with 29 seconds remaining in the period, giving Michigan a wraparound power play that would give them a jump as the second period began.
Unfortunately, U-M didn't find its confidence in the locker room during intermission. The power play looked sloppy, with defensemen Lee Moffie and Jon Merrill both botching opportunities to keep the puck in the zone on relatively easy plays. Merrill's flub led to a turnover at the blue line and a 2-on-1 the other way, which Cornell converted into a shorthanded tally - the first shorty Michigan allowed all season - for a 2-1 lead 40 seconds into the period.
Fortunately, (and as it turns out, unfortunately) for Michigan, Cornell didn't play smart in the second, taking penalty after penalty - five total - as U-M enjoyed 9:37 of power-play time, including 2:14 with a two-man advantage. It should have been even longer, but 10 seconds after the Big Red's Armand de Swardt was handed a five-minute major for contact to the head, Moffie took a penalty for checking from behind, reducing the Wolverines' power-play time.
The power play is supposed to serve as a reward. Good teams can win a game based on their special teams alone, but Michigan entered play ranked 45th nationally in converting just 15.3 percent of its chances all season - one of the worst power-play units in Berenson's 28-year history. Even more distressing, U-M had just one goal in its last 24 opportunities (4.2 percent).
Michigan registered 13 power-play shots during the five second-period chances, but couldn't put one past Iles. And to make matters worse, Merrill was called for hooking on another breakaway after his misplay at the blue line, giving Cornell a penalty shot. Hunwick, though, came up with the save at 17:33 of the period, keeping the one-goal deficit intact.
"We got shots, but we didn't score, and that was the frustrating part," Berenson said. "We needed to score. Especially when you're trailing in a game - your power play needs to score. And then when Hunwick stopped that penalty shot, that was huge. The score is 2-1 at that point, and then we still had power play time. We had to score, and we didn't."
The power play was so anemic that Berenson admitted after the game his wish for the third period was for the two teams to play 5-on-5 hockey, feeling his team was better suited when the game was even then when it had a man advantage.
There was still hope, but it was fleeting - U-M was just 3-8-0 all season when trailing after two periods.
Thanks to Hunwick, Michigan survived the first 15 minutes of the third unscathed despite sleepwalking through them. The Wolverines should have been playing desperate hockey, but their best scoring chance came on a wraparound attempt by fourth-line winger Jeff Rohrkemper.
Then, suddenly, a jolt. Senior defenseman Greg Pateryn dove to keep a puck in the offensive zone. Sophomore defender Mac Bennett spotted a pair of teammates in front of the net, and rifled the puck in their direction. Moffatt got a stick on it and Lynch banged it home for the tying goal at 15:59 of the third period.
The goal gave new life to U-M, and like they had in the first two minutes, the Wolverines brought pressure like a top seed was capable of. They dictated play, fired shots at Iles, and tilted the ice back in their favor. But they couldn't score, two glorious chances in the final 30 seconds both turned away by Cornell's goalie. And while they had momentum going into overtime, the Maize and Blue wasted the chance to put their foe away, giving the Big Red the chance to regroup in intermission.
Cornell would emerge as the hungrier team, reestablishing its pace of play and forcing Michigan back onto its heels. It's no surprise it ended quickly, with Big Red forward Rodger Craig scoring 3:35 into the extra session on a rebound in which poor backchecking from U-M's forwards provided Craig the open ice to swoop in.
What the loss created for Michigan was questions: how much did the disallowed goal affect the Wolverines? How much did their ineffective (and brutal) power play ruin their confidence? And what do you make of this season?
"Goals are precious this time of the year," Berenson said. "You look around college hockey and games are 2-1, 3-1. A goal is important. If you score it, you want to make sure the referees are sure, and I'm sure they were sure. I don't think it deflated our team but it didn't excite us."
"We had a strong start with Luke popping one and then when I put in, emotions were running high," Lynch added. "But that was early enough in the game where I don't think it could have affected the outcome. We're a strong enough team where we could have come back, and we did at the end of the game."
Too little too late.
Michigan didn't lose this game in the first two minutes of the first period or in the final five minutes of the third period. It lost this one in all the time in between. A first period gone awry, a second period of wasted opportunities and a third period in which it took far too long for the desperation to kick in.
Like in 2009, when U-M was also a No. 1 seed and fell in the first round to Air Force, Michigan encountered adversity and didn't know how to respond to it.
The Maize and Blue had spoken earlier in the week how they enjoyed being the underdog in both the 2010 and 2011 tournaments, and Berenson did his best to sell his team that they weren't any better than the opponents they would see in Green Bay. That's fine - a team should respect its opponent - but it should also be the better team when it's supposed to be the better team.
Playing the underdog role takes the pressure off, but Michigan was not the underdog, and champions acknowledge their responsibility as a No. 1 seed and dictate play, and battle through any challenges. That didn't happen Friday and U-M is headed back to Yost, its season complete, because it wasn't mentally tough enough. Not on this night at least.
As for the aftermath ... a few loonies will call for Berenson to step aside (that was actually a repeated post last night on The Fort), but such talk is silly. Michigan was one goal away from winning the national title in 2011. This defeat is disappointing, inexplicable, but as the basketball tournament has proven, it happens.
The real shame is that four seniors, including Hunwick, will be forced to depart after three consecutive heart-wrenching losses in NCAA Tournament play (all overtime 3-2 defeats), and will look back on their last game in uniform with regrets.
"When I came to Michigan, I just wanted to be a part of this team," said Hunwick. "I never thought I'd be in this position, win championships, and it's bittersweet. I'm happy with the career I've had but you never want to give up a goal that ends your season and I've done that the last three years, and now to end my career, with overtime losses."