Dennis Janson: US World Cup tie with Portugal recalls a 2009 devastating loss —closer to home

CINCINNATI -- It was like a follow-up punch in the gut.

Watching team USA let a World Cup soccer win slip from its grasp in the dying seconds against Portugal was painfully reminiscent of a moment much closer to home that unfolded in 2009 — in a different sport and a completely different venue. But the pain was all too similar.

Miami University’s men’s ice hockey team waded its way through the thicket of traditional college powers to make the Frozen Four, the semi-finals of the NCAA Championship, ultimately advancing to the title game against Boston University. The Boston Terriers had four championships to their credit, the upstart Red Hawks meanwhile represented a school that had never won an NCAA team title of any stripe. In fact, MU had never played beyond the round of eight in the tournament while BU was playing in its 10th NCAA final.

Cue the rout music, right? Not so fast.

The bottom seed in the West Regional of the 16 team playoff, Enrico Blasi’s team was undaunted by the hands-down favorite that had resided as the top ranked team in the country much of the season.

And when a 1-1 third-period tie went away with Tommy Wingels and Trent Vogelhuber goals just 3½ minutes apart for a 3-1 Miami lead, Cinderella was being fitted for her golden slipper.

The college hockey world, much like American soccer interests, held their collective breath only to go unrewarded.

When Zach Cohen claimed a Nick Bonino rebound and put a back-handed shot over Miami goalie Cody Reichard with 59.5 seconds left, BU had pulled within a goal. 

The Terriers went for broke with an extra attacker. With just 25 seconds remaining in regulation, Miami failed to clear the puck from their zone (sound familiar) and Hobey Baker Award winner Matt Gilroy deftly passed to Bonino who scored the tying goal with 17.4 seconds left.

Heartbreak? Hardly.

Miami gathered itself and pressed its case in overtime only to have Cohen’s slap shot ricochet off Miami defenseman Kevin Roeder’s leg with just enough loft to clear Reichard’s shoulder for the game winner 11:47 into OT.

That was one of the most gut wrenching sports moments I care to remember.

At least until June 22, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Unlike Miami though, team USA has a chance to play on, competing against Germany Thursday and a chance to advance to the Round of 16. 

Fully mindful that every second, especially the last, count the most.


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