Super goaltending can't save UM in Big Ten title game loss
Detroit — The loss was written all over their faces.
Two outstanding offensive players for Michigan, both drafted by NHL teams, and a legendary coach who has not achieved a berth in the NCAA Tournament for a third season, after securing one for 22 straight.
Zach Hyman and Andrew Copp were wrungout emotionally after a 4-2 loss to a powerful Minnesota team, that occurred despite brilliant goaltending by Steve Racine and yet another goal and another assist by Hyman, a senior playing in his last game for the Wolverines.
Berenson may have been spent, too. But, at 75 years of age, and with 59 of them gone since his first season in junior hockey in Saskatchewan, he is a bit more practiced at devastating losses.
Minnesota is certainly in the NCAA Tournament. Michigan is not.
Barring some miracle that almost certainly no one in college hockey across the nation expects, the 10 at-large selections made by committee for the 16-team tournament will not include Michigan, again.
And that is tough.
"We just came up short," said Copp, the captain, from Ann Arbor, who is drafted by the Jets. "We achieved some things this year. We had some really good runs.
"Also, though, just a little inconsistent.
"All in all I don't think anyone's been overly happy with our year, but we accomplished some things we set out to do."
Hyman, a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, talked about how the team gave it a good shot.
"We knew that they were a fast team we were going to have to adjust to," he said.
"The past few games we played really well. I'm upset because my career is over here. I'm not upset because of the way we played.
"I mean, we laid it all on the line.
"And that's why you don't want to leave your season on one game. Anything can happen and they got the last goal."
Berenson complimented Minnesota and a brilliant effort by his goaltender Racine, who against enormous odds, especially in the first period, gave the Wolverines a chance to be victors.
"It was an end-to-end game," he said. "Minnesota jumped us, I thought, in the first period, and Racine had to play really well.
"And then we got going in the second, and ended up with a 2-1 lead, and lost that. We gave up a power-play goal. That decided the game.
"There wasn't much to choose.
"I was proud of our team. I thought they played hard and they played well; just not well enough.
"Minnesota is a good team, and they deserved to win."
Minnesota entered the game with the top power play in the nation, and its winning goal came with the man advantage.
Sophomore forward Justin Kloos held the puck long enough in the slot to avoid a sprawling Michigan defender, before firing a wrister by Racine, at 9:29 of the third period.
Kloos was assisted by Leon Bristedt and Michael Brodzinski.
Minnesota added an empty-net goal by senior Travis Boyd with 21 seconds left.
The teams played evenly for the first several minutes of the opening period, and the shots reflected it at 4-4.
But for the final 13 minutes of the frame, Minnesota dominated play and the geography of the ice, outshooting Michigan 16-3.
At times, Racine was astonishing.
He provided evidence of what was to come, early with two big saves on Taylor Cammarata, the sophomore forward for Minnesota, who was drafted by the Islanders, from point-blank range, around the two-minute mark.
At 13:42, Racine snapped a glove save on a high wrist shot by senior Kyle Rau, the top goal scorer for Minnesota, drafted by the Panthers.
Then, a few minutes later, he did the same to Kloos, who broke in on the right wing.
Just at the buzzer, Michigan showed some spark, when Hyman, their leading scorer, accelerated down the left wing, cut sharply to the net, skated across the crease and fired one just wide of the right side of the net, which was available to him.
Mostly, however, braced by Racine, Michigan was fortunate to leave the opening frame with the score 0-0.
It could easily have been three or four goals for the Golden Gophers, without the junior from the Buffalo, N.Y. area.
"I mean, he kept us in the game," Hyman said of Racine. "If we hadn't gotten through that period, it would have been over then."
Both teams scored twice in the second.
Michigan took its third consecutive penalty against the top power play in the nation, and Minnesota made them pay.
The Golden Gophers opened the scoring at 2:30, with Boyd, a senior forward drafted by the Capitals, scoring his 18th, from Rau and Cammarata.
But Michigan, which entered the game with the third-ranked power play in the nation, countered at 6:14 with a man-advantage goal of its own.
Alex Kile scored his 13th of the season. Cristoval "Boo" Nieves and Hyman.
It was a tic-tac-toe passing play, and Kile was left alone at the crease to the right of Minnesota's goaltender Adam Wilcox.
Despite a continuing fusillade of shots by Minnesota, Michigan would go up 2-1.
Hyman got his 22nd goal of the season, also on the power play, 3:18 later as Minnesota took its second penalty of the period.
The goal was unassisted, as Hyman skated out of a corner, through several Minnesota defenders, and tucked the puck by Wilcox.
"Well, you can see how he drove the net," Berenson said. "He had a guy on his side, and he just powered through the traffic to the front of the net, and he beat the goalie.
"He single-handedly tried to take the team on his back, and he's been doing that all year. It's been a pleasure for me to coach him and watch him emerge as the player he's become."
Racine was not through.
At 11:35 of the period, he made perhaps the finest save of the tournament, when Sam Warning sent a perfect pass to Boyd.
Racine pushed hard off the right post, hit the ice in a sprawling motion and came to rest near the left post, with his glove outstretched, and the puck in it.
But he only preserved Michigan's one-goal lead for 59 seconds as the Wolverines' poor defensive deployment allowed a two-on-one break.
This time, Racine was not miraculous, and the game was tied 2-2.
Michigan found its better offense toward the end of the period and finished with a flurry of shots and lots of play in the Minnesota end. But the Wolverines failed to score.
They outshot them in the period, 10-5.
Michigan also outshot Minnesota, 9-7, in the third and nearly went up 3-2 early in the period when Kile broke in clearly, but failed to score.
Minnesota got its third goal. Michigan did not
"Sure it stings," Berenson said of a third consecutive season out of the NCAA tourney.
"We put ourselves in a spot, and we couldn't get out of it. So, we'll talk about it a little more, once it sinks in.
"But, you know, it is what it is."