The slim hope that the University of Wisconsin men's hockey team held of returning to the Kohl Center for the first round of the Big Ten Conference playoffs expired while the Badgers were still playing their regular-season finale against Michigan on Saturday.
All that was left to decide after Penn State's victory over Notre Dame extinguished the Badgers' chances was where UW would be headed next weekend, and what kind of momentum it would take there.
The Badgers hoped to finish the regular season the same way they finished the first half, with three straight victories. They made it happen with a heart-stopping finish. Two of them, really.
Ty Emberson's tying goal with 1:07 left in regulation and Linus Weissbach's goal 2:05 into overtime provided a 4-3 victory over the Wolverines at the Kohl Center.
Jack Gorniak set up Emberson's rebound goal with a shot from the left side, then had an apparent goal in overtime waved off because the Badgers were ruled after video replay to have made a premature substitution.
Less than a minute later, however, Weissbach fired a shot from the left side that beat Michigan goaltender Hayden Lavigne. This time, there was no review and the Badgers celebrated a Senior Night victory by swaying to "Varsity" on the ice.
"Crazy," Badgers coach Tony Granato said. "I don't know that I've ever seen what I saw tonight."
It was the second straight overtime victory for UW, which won 5-4 on Friday. The Badgers and Michigan played four overtime games this season.
The Badgers needed to sweep Michigan and have Notre Dame earn five or six points at home against Penn State for the Badgers to get the fourth seed for the playoffs and host the Wolverines in the first round.
With that possibility nullified by Penn State's 3-2 victory at Notre Dame — a game that wrapped up while the Badgers and the Wolverines were tied 1-1 in the first period — UW had three potential destinations.
A tie would have sent them to Minnesota. A loss would have given them a rematch at Michigan. The victory, courtesy of Weissbach's seventh goal of the season and first collegiate overtime score, took them to Penn State, where they split a series last weekend.
Weissbach collected the puck in the neutral zone and entered the zone as the only Badgers player among five Michigan skaters. He found some space and fired past Lavigne's glove.
Before that, Gorniak appeared to give the Badgers the victory when his shot from the left side got through Lavigne's pads.
But Michigan challenged the play to check for offside, and while the officials were looking at video replay for that, they found that a UW player hopped onto the ice too early on a line change, nullifying the goal for a premature substitution.
"I've got to go to the rules committee and figure all these rules out," Granato said. "You get an additional timeout in overtime. They use that timeout to challenge the offside. But when you challenge the offside, when they're in there, they look at the offside, they look at goaltender interference and they can go back and see if there was an illegal line substitution.
"So the goal was disallowed because there was a substitution behind the play that was more than the 5 feet (allowed). That wipes out a goal. That has to change. That's no good for hockey."
But Granato lauded his team's ability to persevere after having already celebrated what they thought was a victory. Weissbach scored 49 seconds later.
"It didn't really affect us," Weissbach said. "We just stuck to it and got the goal at the end, so it was nice."
The Wolverines were swept for the first time this season and fell to 9-1-3 after a loss. Needing at least two points to get home ice for the quarterfinals, they instead finished tied with the Badgers for fifth place but lost the second tiebreaker to UW. They'll open the playoffs at Minnesota.
"To lose in overtime — last night was tough and this one's equally as tough," Michigan coach Mel Pearson said. "A minute left and we're playing pretty well. You get a bad bounce. We didn't get any puck luck when we really needed it this weekend.
"It's really tough," Pearson continued. "We get the reprieve on the (waved-off) goal and we don't take advantage of it. Tough, tough weekend of hockey. I can't tell you that they're that much better than us. They got the bounce and the goal that they needed — both nights."
Earlier, the Wolverines showed their resiliency with a second-period comeback from a 2-1 deficit.
Midway through the period, Michael Pastujov threaded a pass to the left side of the crease, where Jimmy Lambert swept in his second goal of the series and fourth of the season.
With 3:13 left, Will Lockwood forced UW's Wyatt Kalynuk into a turnover in the corner of the Badgers' defensive zone by tripping him up. Lockwood then fed Nick Pastujov for a putaway in front of the net for a 3-2 Wolverines advantage.
Michigan (13-14-7, 9-10-5-2 Big Ten) fell to 11-3 when leading after two periods. The Badgers (13-16-5, 9-10-5-2) improved to 2-11 when trailing going into the third.
For the first time in four games between the teams this season, Michigan got the jump on UW early. Freshman defenseman Jack Summers scored his first collegiate goal off a Michael Pastujov drop pass following a pass into the corner for a 1-0 lead.
But goals by Kalynuk and Matthew Freytag gave the Badgers the lead going into the first intermission.
Kalynuk sent a slap shot from the left point past Michigan goaltender Lavigne (25 saves) and into the bottom left corner of the net.
It was the defenseman's ninth goal of the season but just his second in the last 17 games.
Freytag made it 2-1 with 16.2 seconds left, tapping his stick on the ice to call for a pass from Max Zimmer and firing past Lavigne when the puck got to him.
That gave Freytag, one of the six seniors honored on Senior Night, four goals in his last five games.
The opening period could have been a lot more lucrative for the Badgers. In between the two UW goals, Tarek Baker was awarded a penalty shot after he was tripped on a breakaway by Summers. Baker beat Lavigne with a deke but hit the right post.
And Badgers freshman Brock Caufield fired high of a wide-open net on the rebound of a Jake Bunz shot.
The misses briefly proved costly in the second period when the Wolverines scored twice to take the lead.
Making his eighth straight start for the Badgers, Daniel Lebedeff stopped 28 shots.
UW dressed all six of its seniors, who were honored before the game in their final regular-season appearance at the Kohl Center.
Two of them entered the lineup after sitting out Friday's victory: Jarod Zirbel joined Seamus Malone, Will Johnson and Freytag among forwards, and Bunz joined Peter Tischke on defense.
UW also honored UW band director Michael Leckrone as its honorary captain. Leckrone, who is retiring after 50 years at the school, dropped a ceremonial puck before the game to extended applause.
The finish, with the team staying on the ice to salute the fans and Leckrone, will be hard to forget.
"We haven't done that, but we wanted to honor the fans tonight, especially Professor Leckrone," Freytag said. "He's been here for 50 years. So to have him do that one last time and be able to celebrate, that was pretty special."
Michigan 1 2 0 0 — 3
Wisconsin 2 0 1 1 — 4
First period: M — Summers 1 (M. Pastujov, Lambert), 4:07. W — Kalynuk 9 (Weissbach, Gorniak), 8:50; Freytag 6 (Zimmer, Messner), 19:43. Penalties: J. Dhooghe, W, 14:58; Luce, M, 14:58.
Second period: M — Lambert 4 (M. Pastujov, Summers), 10:23; N. Pastujov 11 (Lockwood), 16:47. Penalty: Zimmer, W, 8:17.
Third period: W — Emberson 4 (Gorniak, S. Dhooghe), 18:53. Penalties: Weissbach, W, 1:36; Raabe, M, 1:36; Ahcan, W (minor, misconduct), 12:41; Malone, W (minor, misconduct), 12:41; Moyle, M (minor, misconduct), 12:41; Van Wyhe, M (minor, misconduct), 12:41; Blankenburg, M, 12:41.