4/5/2018 – Michigan 3, Notre Dame 4 – 22-15-3, season over
John Buccigross freaked out about it. So did Barry Melrose. So did I, when Michigan flung a puck across the slot and Tony Calderone ripped off one of his last trademark snap shots from the slot. This one was a one-timer. An ND defenseman screened the camera from the goal line so I flicked my eyes to the back of the net, where the net would soon bulge in reaction to Michigan's triumph.
Instead, nothing. Buccigross's register cracked glass as my heart sunk. I waited for a replay to see how Cale Morris had desperately flung some extremity or another at the puck and gotten lucky, so I could curse bloody fate.
The replay came, and it was even worse than that: Calderone had plunked Morris in the chest. On a cross-slot one-timer. Because Morris was already on the far post. What the &#*$. That's some Shawn Hunwick business from a guy a half-foot taller. So much for "Cale Morris is a system goaltender."
Half a period later, after the Pastujovs had gritted out a tying goal and overtime seemed inevitable, Michigan did not get a similar save. For ND to get a shot at all after they were apparently trying to run out the period with 16 seconds left deep in their own end is a team-wide thing, but the nature of that shot after Quinn Hughes kind of sort of tied up his man's stick was "mostly harmless."
But for some reason, Hayden Lavigne's attempt to reposition went about as poorly as Morris's went well. He pushed out of the crease vertically, opening up a gap that was less a five hole and more the Seven Nation Army video. The puck dinked his pad and slid to the back of the net.
Ah yes. That old feeling. The burnt, black dirt and grass.
And at least Michigan kind of deserved it? That's all I can say about this tournament format. I don't feel like this was an injustice. They blew a chance to correct various injustices past, for a given definition of "blew." Playing an even-ish game against a really good team and not winning it is… fine? Sort of?
I mean obviously black burnt dirt and grass, but if the difference in this game was having a .945 goalie versus a .910 goalie there can be no complaints to the persistently oafish hockey gods even if the thunderbolt came with five seconds left. From a fan satisfaction perspective I was in fact just happy to be here after one bid in five years, coming off a season in which the only thing keeping them from single-digit wins was, ironically, goaltending that exceeded expectations.
Restoring Michigan back to the juggernaut they were during the 15 prime Berenson years takes time. Michigan is ahead of schedule after the 14-4-1 tear to reach the Frozen Four, and they're back to recruiting like maniacs who want to play maniac hockey.
It feels like the train is coming. Once it is assembled and Michigan loses to Mercyhurst because their goalie makes a mole of saves, I will jump in the bathtub of bourbon and moan that the universe is a simulation created by Knute Rockne. Now I'll just enjoy feeling feelings about hockey again, and having a reason to mope around the house on a Friday with a yawning black pit of despair threatening to send me to my knees every 47.2 minutes.
Sports! Sports are fun!