The unexpected successful season for Michigan ended last night at the Frozen Four in Denver as the Wolverines rallied from a 3-0 deficit only to lose 5-4 in overtime to Notre Dame.
Notre Dame will play Boston College, who dominated North Dakota in the first semifinal as Oxford native Nathan Gerbe had three goals and an assist in the 6-1 victory, Saturday night for all the marbles.
For top-ranked Michigan, though, it was a heartbreaking way to see their season come to a conclusion. Goaltender Billy Sauer was yanked by head coach Red Berenson after allowing three goals on nine shots in the first 20 minutes.
"He's been our bread and butter goalie all year, but I just didn't like the way that the game was going," Berenson said. "It looked like he was fighting the puck. There were two goals that he probably would have stopped any other night. We just watched the No. 1 goalie in the country (North Dakota's Jean-Philippe Lamoureux) give up six goals in the game before ours. That proves that it doesn't matter what you've done, it's what you do at this stage of the season. We had to change the momentum of the game and that helped our team a little bit. It was a tough decision, but you're trying to win the game anyway that you can."
Freshman Bryan Hogan came in and made 18 saves the rest of the way. Calle Ridderwall's second goal of the game ended it 5:44 into the extra session (pictured above).
"Notre Dame is a great team and I knew they were going to come out the way they did," UM senior captain Kevin Porter said. "They had a couple good bounces and they capitalized when they needed to. We just needed to regroup after the second and that's what we did. We came out and I thought we played well the rest of the game."
Chad Kolarik scored twice for the Wolverines (his 29th and 30th goals of the year) with his second coming just 2:16 into the third period to tie the game at 3-all. Hogan also drew an assist on Kolarik's first goal.
"That was huge," Berenson said of Kolarik's third-period snipe. "That goal got us back in the game again. Getting the puck into the net was the thing that we needed. We were trying to get power plays, but we're going up against the top penalty-killing team in the nation. They showed it tonight. They didn't give up much. We weren't able to capitalize for the majority of the game. I can't tell you that they were great plays, but second efforts around the net, rebounds. These games aren't won with good plays, they're won by ugly plays and second efforts. That's what we used and it definitely gave us the momentum we needed in the third period."
Matt Rust and Carl Hagelin also tallied for the Wolverines. Rust's goal came 15 seconds after Kolarik's first goal midway through the second period. Hagelin's marker at 14:39 of the third sent the game to overtime and set-up Ridderwall's heroics.
Aaron Palushaj added three assists for UM, who finished the season with a 33-6-4 record.
Captain Mark Van Guilder, Ryan Thang and Kevin Deeth scored the other goals for the Irish, now in their very first NCAA title game. Jordan Pearce stopped 29 shots for Notre Dame and Justin White (Traverse City) chipped in two assists.
Photo by Candace Horgan/USCHO