60 Seconds.

Nearly a decade ago, that was all that stood between our hockey team and the National Championship. 60 seconds.

With a 3-1 lead, all we had to do was waste away the last minute before the NCAA title would belong to the Miami (Ohio) Redhawks.

You could feel the anticipation in the arena as the final minute approached. Fans were excited for our team, but I had been waiting for that moment longer than most. I played for Miami from 1990-1994, and served as a tri-captain for '93-94 squad. We didn't win a title during my playing days, but now in my 10th year as the MU head coach, we were sixty seconds from claiming the trophy.

And then it happened.

A lot of you might not know my name, but if you are a hockey fan, you almost certainly remember this game. And if you were in the arena that night - especially sitting as a coach behind the Miami bench - it's a moment you'll never forget the rest of your life.

As we prepared for a faceoff with 1:19 to play, I could sense the desperation Boston University was playing with. For three straight shots leading up to the faceoff, we couldn't clear the puck out of our zone. It was a flurry of shots from BU, but as the one minute mark approached, we were still clinging onto the 3-1 lead.

That's when things began to fall apart. A backhand shot from BU tucked underneath the arm our amazing goalie, Cody Reichard, to cut our lead to 3-2 with 59.5 seconds to go. But the key word in that sentence was lead. We might have been a little more anxious now, but we still had the lead.

As the seconds began to melt away, BU began to play with more desperation. They carried the puck into our zone again, and now it was a race against time. There was the first shot that went wide.

45 seconds.

Then there was the turnaround blast that sailed wide again.

38 seconds.

Then there was the battle behind our net and another shot that went wide.

22.5 seconds.

But the next chance they got was one too many, and BU got an open wrist shot from inside the right faceoff circle. The shot snuck just underneath the right crossbar, and with 17.4 seconds left the game was suddenly tied at 3-3.

It was devastating, but we still had a game to play, with a chance to win it in overtime. The rest of regulation came and went, as did the first several minutes of OT. Then the nightmare repeated itself for a third time. As BU lined up for a slapshot, one my assistant captains, Kevin Roeder, laid his body on the ice to block the shot. The puck deflected off him and past Cody's shoulder.

Overtime over. Game over. Season over.

It was, simply put, the most devastating loss of my career. But I believe that the Lord gives us curveballs in life to remind us how much we need him, and to bring him to the forefront of what we do and why. As I found out over the next several years, even though we lost that game, we still won. We won over people's hearts back home in Ohio, and as we attempted to reach the Frozen Four a year later, they now had our backs more than ever before.


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(Title photo courtesy of Miami Athletics)

Thomas Hager