By Bob Miller / Michigan Beat Writer
In the end, it just wasn't meant to be for Michigan in this year's Frozen Four final.
Maybe, it was that they were spent physically and emotionally from their upset win in the semifinal over North Dakota.
Maybe, in the end, Minnesota-Duluth was simply the better team.
If that were the case, they were better by just a little since it took sudden death overtime for the Bulldogs to win their first-ever national championship over a Michigan team that gamely held on even beyond regulation time.
The 3-2 final score, achieved by Minnesota-Duluth just over three minutes into overtime, gives a hint at the intensity of the nearly 64 minutes of hockey in the final.
For Michigan, the obvious emotion was the disappointment. For the record, Michigan was led offensively for the second straight game by Ben Winnett and defesively by the goaltending of Shawn Hunwick, but the Wolverine's own words describe it the story best.
"Tough loss," said Michigan coach Red Berenson. "I think looking at the big picture, St. Paul did a great job in hosting this, and the University of Minnesota. Everything was first class. This is a great hockey environment, and great attendance and great crowd. These players had a chance to play in a real special event, and I think obviously Minnesota Duluth is a proud champion. They should be. It's the first time they've won a national championship and good for them. They were the better team. Even though the game ended in overtime, it was a tough I didn't think our team really got to play their best hockey this weekend, for one reason or another. I don't know what it was. But it's a tough loss. Shawn Hunwick was terrific. He gave us a chance and it wasn't to be. The overtimes, you never know what happens."
Michigan assistant captain Louie Caporusso lauded his teammates, saying, "they've all been unbelievable, unbelievable all year. Look at a guy like Scooter (Vaughan) who stepped up and played an important role all year. And Ben Winnett had a great weekend. If it wasn't for him, I don't know if we would have been in the final game. Played unbelievable. Guys go unnoticed. A guy like Matt Rust goes unnoticed. Those guys win championships. They're in the shadows, unsung heros. They played unbelievable."
"I thought we had a strong defensive effort, faceoff goal, and a power play," said Hunwick. "Where Johnny makes a good play and the puck goes right back to the guy, a little bit of bad luck and there at the end in overtime, anything can happen. But it was a strong defensive effort. And we gave up 37 shots. But I thought the team played really well."
Caporusso summed up the whole experience.
"We all know Michigan hockey, we don't let up, usually we're the more dominant team," said an emotional Caporusso "We take pride in the cycle, keeping the puck in their zone and putting pressure on them. I don't think we had that for a sustained amount of time this weekend. But, I think on the other hand we played well defensively, everyone filing out to the net, branching out.
So just for whatever reason, it didn't click this weekend, but hopefully these guys will get it next time."