ST. LOUIS — After 60 minutes of hard-fought, back-and-forth hockey, the game-winning goal in the first game of the NCAA tournament’s West Regional took 10 minutes and 21 seconds to score.
Michigan beat Nebraska-Omaha 3-2 in overtime on Friday, with a lengthy review of Kevin Lynch’s game-winner at 2:35 of the extra session.
“We knew that this would be a close game,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “The teams if you look at them on paper … there wasn’t much to choose. Maybe it was fitting that it came down to overtime and the team that got a break ended up winning the game.”
Greg Pateryn’s shot came from the right point and rebounded off the back boards to the front of the net, where it appeared to be touched first by Lynch before hitting a UNO player and goaltender John Faulkner. There was no goal called at the time of the play, and the referees reviewed the goal at the next stoppage of play — although it’s not clear yet why the play was stopped in the Michigan zone when it was.
“We’ve had tough losses, obviously, but just the circumstance in overtime — the potential national championship, gone,” said Mavericks coach Dean Blais. “You can’t really do a whole lot when your whole team is sitting around the dressing room and ended their season on such an abrupt moment.”
“We talked in the locker room that it’s not going to be a pretty goal that wins the game,” said UNO senior Joey Martin. “It’s probably one of the toughest ways to lose, just waiting for that call. Once they called it a goal, it just kind of sinks your heart.”
The Mavericks jumped out to a 2-0 lead after one period on goals by Rich Purslow and Alex Hudson. Purslow scored on a short-handed breakaway at 1:35, taking a pass from Martin and beating Michigan goaltender Shawn Hunwick five-hole for the one-goal lead.
At 8:18, Hudson made it 2-0 when he capitalized on Ryan Walters’ quick feed from behind the goal line near the right post.
Michigan nearly mirrored Nebraska-Omaha in the second period, scoring at 1:17 and 8:36. Louie Caporusso’s power-play goal was a shot from the top of the right circle that went through traffic — including UNO defenseman Andrej Sustr’s legs — and found the near side of the net, clean, to cut the Mavericks’ lead to one goal.
Lynch had the tying goal on a beautiful play from Chad Langlais, who took the puck in the right corner, swiveled to elude two defensemen and dished across the crease to Lynch, who went to the opposite side for the 2-2 tally.
The scoreless third period saw chances for both teams, early on as the Wolverines took penalties and later when UNO had to kill. At 17 seconds into overtime, Michigan found itself down a man with Matt Rust in the box for boarding.
“I thought the penalty in overtime was huge, to kill that penalty,” said Berenson. “We were in our zone and with a break one way or another or a bounce one way or another, it could have been a different outcome.”
One specific bounce could have ended it in the Mavericks’ favor in their OT power play, when Purslow had an open back-door net, with Hunwick drawn completely to the right. Wolverines defenseman Jon Merrill flew to the crease, turned the puck away, and then threw himself prone to the ice and blocked another shot — making the save of the game.
“I think the puck came out and … I thought the season could be over right here,” said Hunwick. “Jonny got a stick on it and redirected it wide. Yeah, Jonny definitely saved the day.”
When the game-winning goal took over 10 minutes to review, Lynch said that the longer it took, the more confident the Wolverines were of the outcome.
“I knew it was in,” said Lynch. “At first I was pointing, not even recognizing that play was going on. When it took them that long to review it, I figured it was a good goal.”
Blais said that he didn’t want to comment on the game-winning goal. “The referee signaled that it was in and we’re going to accept that,” he said.
Steve Piotrowski, the secretary-rules editor of the NCAA ice hockey rules committee, issued a statement after the game:
“The officials’ initial on-ice call was no goal. There was reasonable evidence to believe the puck had completely crossed the goal line. The play was stopped at the next non-advantage situation to allow an opportunity for the on-ice referees to review the video. Following video review, the on-ice referees determined through conclusive video evidence that the puck had completely crossed the goal line and exited the net by way of the goalie’s leg pad.”
Video: Michigan coach Red Berenson:
Video: Michigan’s Shawn Hunwick:
Video: Nebraska-Omaha coach Dean Blais: