(Photo courtesy of Miami Athletics)
As the next season began to unfold, it was apparent that our players were locked in. I could sense it, as did our fans, but it wasn't lost on the national media either.
Of the 30 weeks in the hockey season, we were the # 1 ranked team in the country for 28 of them. Then tragedy struck again, but this time it had way more magnitude than a game of hockey.
Late in the season our student manager, who was very close with our players, suddenly passed away. It was heartbreaking for everybody in our program, and I don't know if I would have ever been able to get through that without already being rooted in my faith. But just because bad things happen in your life, it doesn't mean God stopped loving you or gave up on your happiness. It's just part of the challenges we need to face, and God wants us to use the adversity to grow closer to Him.
I can still vividly remember that time in my life, because while we were dealing with our manager's passing we then suddenly had to play without one of our defenseman, who was diagnosed with an enlarged heart. If you knew those players like I did, and how much they cared for each other, it felt like a fitting diagnosis.
We won our first game in the 2010 tournament by holding off Alabama-Huntsville 2-1 to earn a spot in the quarterfinals. We were one win away from reaching the Final Four again, despite everything we had been through. Standing in our way was a tough Michigan team, who had just beaten us a week earlier in our conference tournament, and to nobody's surprise the game went into overtime. One goal was going to send one team to the Frozen Four, and end the season for the other. Sudden death.
When I talk to people about the best game I've ever been a part of, I don't necessarily think about the 2009 final. I think about the 2010 quarterfinal, where overtime wasn't enough to separate us from the Wolverines.
We were going to double overtime.
As the game went deeper and deeper into the night, fatigue started to set in for both teams. It was going to come down to who had conditioned better all season, and who wanted it more.
More than 80 minutes into the game, we finally got our answer.
Alden Hirschfeld, who had suffered through the championship loss with us the year before, grabbed the puck near the left board and turned around to snap off a wrist shot. And as the puck flew into the net, I knew we had done it. We were going back to the Frozen Four.