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Michigan hockey falls in the Frozen Four for the second straight year

A three-goal third period fueled Quinnipiac over Michigan.

NCAA HOCKEY: MAR 26 Div I Championship Allentown Regional - Team v Team Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Another Frozen Four, another heartbreak for the Michigan Wolverines.

Michigan fell 5-2 to the Quinnipiac Bobcats on Thursday night and their season came to a screeching halt in Tampa Bay. Despite the three-goal final deficit, the game was high-octane chaos that entered the last period in a dead heat.

The first period was chaotic and frenetic throughout the entire 20 minutes. Michigan came out tight and its nerves were like blood in the water for this veteran Quinnipiac team.

Fresh off an expired power play, the Bobcats sustained pressure in their offensive zone and eventually banked home a rebound off the back of Michigan goalie Erik Portillo. Just over five minutes into the contest, Quinnipiac was up 1-0. Less than 90 seconds later, however, it was tied again.

Quinnipiac’s goal seemingly shook the nerves right out of the Wolverines and the young team got to work in search of the equalizer. Freshman defenseman Seamus Casey took it upon himself as he drove and weaved from the point, straight to the doorstep and buried the tying goal.

Casey’s electric goal ignited the Wolverines and the up-and-down play continued. Unfortunately, this style got the best of an over-aggressive Luke Hughes, who unintentionally re-opened the door for the Bobcats.

Slightly out of position beyond the offensive blue line, Hughes could not catch up to the Quinnipiac breakaway, which reestablished a one-goal lead with 8:39 remaining in the period.

Michigan would generate scoring opportunities, but nothing came from them. In net, Portillo made three massive saves to keep this a one-goal game after the first period.

In the second, Michigan finally got its backcheck going to help out Portillo. The breathtaking pace continued and after several near-chances, the Wolverines finally got through.

Seemingly to atone for his earlier mistake, Hughes knifed through the middle of the Quinnipiac defense and found All-Galaxy forward Adam Fantilli in the right circle, who unleashed a nuclear blast to tie the game at two apiece.

The equalizer recharged the Wolverines, who would largely control the remainder of the period. While no more goals were scored, Michigan continued to build momentum until the buzzer.

Most expected Michigan to pull away in the final frame, but instead, the third period saw Quinnipiac quickly get on the board. Less than 90 seconds into the period, the Bobcats batted ANOTHER rebound into the net off the back of Portillo.

To their credit, the Wolverines didn’t panic and continued to apply pressure on Quinnipiac. Several scoring chances developed, including Eric Ciccolini hitting the crossbar on a power play. However, the Wolverines could not find their third equalizer of the game.

With around seven minutes remaining and Quinnipiac running clock, a Bobcats defender sleepily threw a puck on net from the blue line. Portillo was caught off guard by the puck dump and the shot sailed over his left shoulder and into the net to put the Bobcats up 4-2.

Quinnipiac would add an empty-netter for insurance and end the season for the Wolverines. The Bobcats will face Minnesota on Saturday night for the National Championship.

Portillo stood on his head at times but also made a few uncommon gaffs that ultimately cost the Wolverines. Offensively, Michigan struggled with the defensive effort of the Bobcats and hit the crossbar twice for good measure.

For the second consecutive year, despite an overwhelming talent advantage, the Wolverines could not get past a veteran team in the Frozen Four, and the title drought will extend for a 26th year.