It was an ending no one expected, especially not the 25 players in Colorado College’s locker room.
After a scoreless first period, Michigan State’s second-period scoring came swiftly: three goals — two power-play goals and a quick strike off of a faceoff — in a span of 10:24.
But the Tigers had their chances, too, racking up a 42-23 advantage in shots for the game.
Left wing Derek Patrosso, CC’s only player from Michigan, spoiled Michigan State goaltender Jeff Lerg’s shutout bid with 8:53 left in the game, but the Tigers couldn’t inch any closer, even with goaltender Richard Bachman pulled for the final two minutes.
It’s the kind of loss that sucks the breath out of you.
I wasn’t sure what to expect as I walked into the locker room for the first time ever — reporters are only allowed in locker rooms after NCAA Tournament games — but the scene is one I will never forget.
The Tigers’ faces were tear-stained and pained. Some hugged. Some sat, their heads cradled in their hands, while others’ stares were so intent, they seemed ready to play 60 more minutes.
At that moment, it was hard to remember the trophy-hoisting of early March and the whoops and hollers that accompanied many a cutthroat three-on-three game at practice.
But the Tigers’ silence spoke volumes about how much they cared for one another and for the shared dream of winning a national title, which slipped from their grasp tonight.
And captain Scott Thauwald and senior Jack Hillen explained the meaning behind that silence in the press conference next door. It was less about the loss itself and more that the loss cut short the experience of a lifetime.
Said Thauwald: “In the last five years, I have developed unbelievable friendships with these guys that I will have for the rest of my life. This team is a special team and the friendships and relationships are something I will take with me. You will never have a close group like a college hockey team.”
Added Hillen: “It’s tough right now. The only thing I can say is that I have played with some incredible hockey players that came through here in my four years. I will never forget the players I played with… . I’ve made some unbelievable friendships and it’s just tough because I will never sit in the locker room again with those guys and those friendships, it will never be the same.”