By @MichaelCaples –
ST. PAUL, Minn. – It’s cliche, yes.
There’s really no other way of describing it, however.
The Michigan Wolverines just lost in heartbreaking fashion at the Frozen Four.
Just minutes after Michael Pastujov scored the game-tying goal to even the Wolverines’ national semifinal match-up with rival Notre Dame at 3-3, Jake Evans managed to get the puck through the legs of Michigan goaltender Hayden Lavigne.
With 3.7 seconds remaining in regulation, the Fighting Irish retook the lead. Shortly thereafter, the 3.7 seconds expired, and the Wolverines’ magical run came to a bitter end.
“I just want to take a moment to congratulate Notre Dame, Jeff Jackson, his staff and their team, they did a great job all year and I wish them all the best,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson said after the game. “Having said that, I’m extremely proud of our team – especially our seniors. I thought as the game wore on there we were starting to play. We were finally starting to play, and unfortunately it was a bad bounce there at the end.
“It’s good to be back here. Michigan will be back here again. My only regret is that I don’t have more time with the seniors. The seniors were outstanding to us this year, and I wish I had them back for another few years.”
Here is the game-winning goal – the strike from Evans that sends Notre Dame to the national title game against Minnesota Duluth.
This is how Michigan’s season ends:
— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) April 6, 2018
“Yeah, it’s definitely fun playing in this environment and a great rink and a great crowd,” Evans said after the game. “These tight games, obviously you want to keep piling up goals but that’s not going to happen this time of year. It’s a lot of fun because our team’s so much confidence right now. Down one, down two, or if they get a late goal, we’re calm, we’re a unit and nobody’s getting angry, nobody’s getting down, everybody’s staying up. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Tony Calderone, Dexter Dancs and Michael Pastujov scored for the Wolverines’ in their season-concluding contest at the Xcel Energy Center in Minnesota.
Hayden Lavigne, a sophomore goaltender largely responsible for a 14-5-2 run through the second half of the season for the Wolverines, made 25 saves in the game.
— Michael Caples (@michaelcaples) April 6, 2018
The Wolverines struck first in the contest, as Calderone fired a quick shot past goaltender Cale Morris at the 8:19 mark of the first period.
After concluding the first period with the 1-0 score, Michigan added to its lead quickly in the second with the help of a fortunate bounce. Dancs’ shot hit Notre Dame defenseman Dennis Gilbert and dramatically changed direction, fooling Morris in the process. At just 17 seconds into the second period, it was the fastest goal in a national semifinal since at least 2000.
The Fighting Irish stormed back, however, on goals from Andrew Oglevie and Evans. Before the Wolverines could retreat to the locker room for the second intermission, it was already 2-2.
In the third, it was Notre Dame’s turn for a quick goal, as Cal Burke beat Lavigne 1:35 into the final frame.
Michael Pastujov evened the score at the 14:38 mark of the third, firing a loose puck to the top corner of the Irish goal during a scramble that saw he, his brother Nick and their linemate Jack Becker all fighting for the puck outside the crease.
Evans’ goal put the Irish back in the drivers’ seat, however; the Irish’s victory was the first time in five meetings between the two clubs that the team who scored first didn’t end up winning at the end.