Michigan Tech Brings House Down in 2 OT Thriller
by Michael H. Babcock/CHN Reporter
HOUGHTON. Mich. When the WCHA imagined a new playoff format — all games on campus of higher seeds — it envisioned exactly what it got: A tight battle in front of a sold-out crowd.
But it got a little more, too — two overtimes of tense hockey with everything on the line.
For the home team, it was about as good as it gets; Michigan Tech’s Shane Hanna scored the game winner in the second overtime to set off an eruption in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, as the Huskies won the Broadmoor Trophy for winning the WCHA tournament by defeating Bowling Green, 3-2, Saturday night.
“I’ve been around 35 years of college hockey, I’ve won national championship games in overtime, I’ve lost them in overtime. I can tell you, this game had everything that those games did,” Huskies coach Mel Pearson said. “Overall it was a great display of college hockey for the WCHA.”
Hanna’s goal came on a stretch pass as the Falcons went for a change. It was a shocking result for Hanna, and not just because he’s a defenseman. After eating up a lot of minutes through three periods, he missed the first overtime period with an undisclosed injury. It made it all the more surprising when he was streaking to the far blue line.
“We had good control and I saw they were changing,” the assistant captain said. “I hopped up hoping something would happen.”
His defensive partner Matt Roy made it happen with a perfect headman pass to led him to open ice. All that was left was a hard wrist shot from the top of the circle to send the Huskies to their second NCAA tournament berth in three seasons.
“I’m so excited for our players,” Pearson said. “They’ve earned this opportunity.”
While the Huskies were celebrating their success, the Falcons had to be wondering what happened. The visitors came into the third period down by two goals, and did exactly what they needed to do to climb back into the game.
“I’m extremely proud of our guys,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said. “It was if we were going to keep playing or we’re not, and those kids kept playing.”
The Falcons buckled down defensively -– holding the Huskies to no shots in the first 16:26 of the third period. More importantly, they buzzed offensively. Scoring chance after scoring chance quieted the home crowd.
And then they struck. Twice in 24 seconds. The first a marker by Joe McKeown after owning possession deep in the offensive end, and the second by Matt Pohlkamp after intercepting a clearing attempt. The momentum was completely in the hands of the visitors at that point.
“We needed to get out of the third period,” Pearson said.
When they finally did, the tides turned back to the even hockey of the first two frames. The first overtime period was back and forth, with both squads ringing the iron. The second overtime both teams picked up right where they left off with quality chances to end it.
“Overtime is a tough thing, because you want it so bad,” Bergeron said. “Both teams want it so bad.”
Instead, it was more heartbreak for Bowling Green, which fell short of its first NCAA bid since 1990.
The post-game celebration included a basketball-style storming of the ice by Michigan Tech fans after the Broadmoor Trophy was presented. That special moment for Huskies fans was made possible by the new playoff format of the WCHA, something both coaches lauded.
“That’s what a championship game is supposed to be like,” Bergeron said, remembering back to years past with smaller crowds in much larger neutral arenas. “We were hoping as a league that it would be like this. Michigan Tech earned the right to play at home, and their fans showed up.”
Coach Pearson agreed, “That’s what you want with something on the line. Hats off to the WCHA for coming up with this format.”
The Falcons finish their season with a 21-18-2 record, including winning seven of their final eight games. The Huskies move to 23-14-7, and will play in the NCAA tournament beginning next week.