Notes from the West Regional: that game-winning goal

I know that fans only want to talk about Kevin Lynch’s game-winning goal that sent Michigan ahead and ended Nebraska-Omaha’s season. Unfortunately, the way the game ended overshadows the great sixty minutes of regulation hockey and two minutes of OT that preceded it. The Mavericks scored at 1:35 and 8:18 in the first; the Wolverines scored at 1:17 and 8:36 in the second. Third period? A draw. Great goaltending all game long from UNO’s John Faulkner and Michigan’s Shawn Hunwick.
Seventeen seconds into overtime, UM’s Matt Rust took a boarding penalty and the Mavs peppered Hunwick – I don’t see how UNO had only two shots on goal in OT, but that’s just me – and he got little support from the Wolverines’ defense…until defenseman Jon Merrill threw himself in front of what certainly would have been Maverick Rich Purslow’s game-winning shot on a completely open Michigan cage. Heart-stopping, all the way around.
“I thought it was a real good game,” said Purslow. “Back and forth game. Obviously, we’re not happy with the outcome in overtime, but you know, that’s what happens when a game goes into an extra period. Anything can happen. I just thought it was a hard-fought game both ways.”
I was so impressed with the Mavericks, so happy to see so many players I covered in the CCHA playing such great hockey for Dean Blais. I was sad for the seniors, without question, at the end of that contest. What a crappy way to lose in single-elimination playoff hockey.
I was also impressed with Michigan’s resiliency in that game, and I’ve seen a lot of Michigan hockey this season that was merely serviceable. UNO came out flying and the Mavericks were so dominant in that first period that I thought for certain they’d score a few more in the second without letting the Wolverines back into that game. Very tenacious effort by Michigan.
Who deserved to win the game? I can’t say. Was the call on the game-winning goal correct? Again, I can’t say. The flurry of activity in front of Faulkner that led to Lynch’s winner made it impossible to see the puck from the press box, even on monitors.
In fact, the press was never shown the camera angle that led to the call to overturn the officials’ call on the ice in real-time. (In fact, the first official game box had Greg Pateryn with the game-winning goal.) Remember, the goal was never signaled a goal in play, and it was at a stoppage in play that the officials reviewed it. After 10 minutes and 21 seconds, the signal was made, the Michigan bench swarmed Shawn Hunwick, the Mavericks realized that their season was spent and the game was over.
The official statement released to the press by the NCAA came well into the Colorado College-Boston College game. The statement was issued by Steve Piotrowski, the head of officiating for the CCHA and the secretary rules editor for the NCAA, following a postgame meeting with ECAC referees Chip McDonald and Harry Dumas:
“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 goalies’ leg pad.”
That’s all I’ve got. Impossible to tell anything on the ice from the press box many stories up, and no definitive video view offered to the press afterwards, so I can’t shed any more light on it.
Dean Blais was his usual class act afterwards. With a heart clearly heavy with disappointment, he said, “The referee signaled that it was in and we’re going to accept that.”