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Coming Up Short

Michigan falls in the Big Ten Tournament, ending their season

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota 4 - Michigan 2

Joe Wolke

After charging into the Big Ten Championship game behind dominant performances, the Wolverines found themselves in an unfamiliar situation tonight. Despite losing the possession battle for two periods and allowing 20 shots in just the first period alone, the score was 2-1 in Michigan's favor.

It looked as if the stars would align.

In a game that he had be Michigan's best player, Steve Racine was outstanding in net. The power play had netted two goals and for a moment it seemed like the Wolverines would buck the trend of blown tire performances and head to the postseason.

As good as Steve Racine was, Adam Wilcox was better. Turning aside countless quality scoring chances, the Wolverines could not break through.

In the end, the game winning goal came off a defensive zone lapse that left Justin Kloos just enough space to get free and beat Racine.

"Michigan is an outstanding team." Don Lucia said postgame. "The only disappointing thing for me tonight is that they are not going to be in the NCAA Tournament, because they are certainly worthy, and it's too bad we couldn't have got two teams in this year, so that's the only disappointing thing for me. I have great respect for their team, their program and their coaches."

They left it all on the ice tonight, it just wasn't enough. That was a sentiment echoed by both Red Berenson and Zach Hyman after the game.

"It was a great hockey game," Red Berenson said. "We gave up a power play goal that decided the game. I was proud of our team. They played well. Just not well enough."

"I’m upset my career is over here. I’m not upset with the way we played." Hyman noted. "We laid it all on the line and that’s why you don’t want to leave your season on one game."

David Malinowski

An hour away from the coziness of Yost Ice Arena, the Michigan Wolverines took to the ice at Joe Louis Arena for the third time in three days. Faced with the impossible, the Wolverines had to do something extraordinary to keep their season alive.

Unfortunately, they couldn't do it.

Michigan entered the Big Ten tournament extraordinarily hopeful and focused on getting the job done. With a valiant effort and the potential for a party, it looked like the Wolverines might actually get away with murder. It brought a bunch of friends into Gordie Howe's house and decided to have a bit of fun for just one more nights. Against the Golden Gophers, their dreams turned into one big nightmare as they watched another team lift the Big Ten trophy over its head.

The most sour and gut-wrenching scenario came true, but it’s tough to relieve this team of all of the blame it warrants.

Against Michigan State last weekend, it could have earned a bye, a regular season title, and a number one seed had it just beaten Jake Hildebrand one more time on its 38 shots. The Spartans celebrated, however, giving Michigan the tougher road it thought it didn't deserve.

Tasked with winning three games in three nights to keep their season alive, the Wolverines again fell a couple of inches short on glorious chances against Adam Wilcox.

Michigan again fell one goal short.

It’s a narrative that the team is all too familiar with this season, but many questions will haunt this team as the nation’s highest scoring offense will fail to make the national tournament. It will serve as an all-too-familiar reminder of the blatant disappointment epitomized by failing to secure a national berth for the third consecutive season.

The truth is, in this small microcosm of a tournament, Michigan couldn’t be faulted for a lot of things. It breezed passed a poor Wisconsin team, out-coached and scored a hot Jake Hildebrand and an ineffective Michigan State trap, and then had to climb Kilimanjaro in order to keep its season alive.

Simply, Michigan ran out of oxygen and couldn’t hike up the mountain anymore. It was finished, and as angry as it sounds, it deserved to be.

Michigan winning tonight would have been the equivalent of a high-schooler throwing a house party while his or her parents were away for the weekend. After hearing that this vacation would be cut short, the house was to be improbably cleared and cleaned up until the moment mom and dad walked in, catching their child with a mop in his hands and open cans of beer littering the floor.

Don Lucia and his squad walked in on Michigan cleaning up its own mess, and grounded it for the summer.

How does a team with the highest-scoring offense in the nation fall completely flat when it matters? How does a goaltender coming off of a .927 SV% fall off of a cliff and earn the distrust of the coaching staff? How does a blue-line with a potential top-10, possibly even top-5 NHL draft choice prove so ineffective and useless in its own zone? With plenty of questions to be answered in the coming weeks, coach Red Berenson didn’t have any answers before heading back to his room.

"Look, I don't want to take up any more time," he said. "This podium should be for the winners."