DETROIT — It didn’t take long for North Dakota’s David Hale to get out of coach Dean Blais’ doghouse.
Twenty-four seconds, to be exact.
Hale sweated in the penalty box for two minutes after putting the Fighting Sioux shorthanded seconds into overtime. But his worries turned to glory 24 seconds later as he scored the dramatic game-winner in North Dakota’s 5-4 triumph over No. 9 Michigan Friday.
“It made it that much sweeter,” Hale said with a grin. North Dakota (8-9-1) will face Michigan State in the championship game Saturday night at 7:30 p.m., after Michigan (10-6-3) plays in the consolation game for the second straight year.
The loss ended the Wolverines’ six-game unbeaten streak and lengthened their losing streak at the GLI to four straight games — Michigan’s longest in 32 years of competition at the tournament.
While Hale was all smiles after the game, the same couldn’t be said when he entered the penalty box — his third trip of the game — after hauling down Jed Ortmeyer on a breakaway at the start of overtime.
The sophomore defenseman nervously watched the Wolverines pelt shot after shot at North Dakota freshman netminder Jake Brandt. After standing anxiously in the hotseat, Hale jumped out of the box and into the back of one of North Dakota’s several odd-man rushes.
“David Hale didn’t play one of his better games,” said Blais, who mentioned Hale’s poor passing and untimely penalties. “So I don’t know if it was ironic at all that he scored.”
Yet another taste of irony came early in the second period, when one of Hale’s penalties led to a penalty shot — a rarity in the college game — with North Dakota up 3-1. Even more rare, the shot was awarded to an unlikely grinding forward.
Junior J.J. Swistak, who has three career goals, got stoned by Brandt on his attempt.
Swistak said he looked down too long as Brandt rushed out and pokechecked Swistak with his entire body — flipping Swistak over onto the ice and the puck safely out of harm’s way.
While Swistak couldn’t capitalize on his golden chance, three different Wolverines did in the third period to help Michigan come back from behind twice in the final stanza.
Freshman David Moss and senior Craig Murray’s goals tied the game at 3-3, but a controversial go-ahead goal by North Dakota nearly took the heart out of the Wolverines.
As freshman James Massen carried the puck across the Michigan blue line, junior Ryan Bayda appeared well offside. But the referees didn’t blow the whistle, and Massen passed to Tim Skarperud, who found a streaking Ryan Bayda on the right side. Bayda backhanded the puck past Blackburn for a 4-3 lead.
While both Michigan and North Dakota were Frozen Four participants last April, the Fighting Sioux lost four of their top players to the NHL ranks — including the nation’s two leading scorers from last season, Jeff Panzer and Bryan Lundbohm. Bayda said that having 10 freshmen in the lineup each night, along with their offseason losses, contributed to their slow start.
The win “was tremendous,” said Bayda. “After how we’ve struggled all season, to come together with a solid performance and beat Michigan — it’s a dream.”
Ironically, Michigan lost three of its top five scorers to the World Junior Tournament in Europe over the holidays, but the Wolverines still contributed to a high-scoring affair that featured 81 shots on goal.
Michigan’s leading scorer, Mike Cammalleri, top defenseman Mike Komisarek, and two key freshmen in Eric Nystrom and Dwight Helminen represented nearly 40 percent of the Wolverines’ scoring, and a lot of their speed — which had an effect on Michigan’s performance.
“Considering our team and our lineup, I feel we played hard and well,” Berenson said.
Joe Smith is a sports editor for The Michigan Daily and can be reached at email@example.com.