NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- It was the most terrible of mirages, the cruelest of teases, the hollowest of empty promises.
The Union men's hockey team scored the goal, won the game, won the series and was improbably moving on to the ECAC Hockey quarterfinals.
Until they weren't, just minutes later.
Moments after the Dutchmen's Gabriel Seger scored what appeared to be the game-winning goal in double overtime, Yale sophomore Graham Lillibridge scored his first goal of the season, and this was the one that counted, giving the Bulldogs a 2-1 victory at Ingalls Rink on Sunday night.
No. 7-seeded Yale (15-15-2) advances to the ECACH quarterfinals against Quinnipiac next weekend, while shell-shocked No. 10 Union (8-25-4) can only wonder what might have been.
Seger's goal was quickly waved off, and after an eight-minute video review by the officials, the ruling was upheld because Union's Vas Kolias had made contact with Yale goalie Corbin Kaczperski as the puck went in.
Shortly after play resumed, Union goalie Darion Hanson lost his stick for the second time in overtime, and the Bulldogs were able to take advantage when Lillibridge's shot from the point through a screen whizzed past Hanson, sending the Yale players into a crowd of celebration along the boards.
The dejected Hanson stayed on his knees in the crease for several minutes, consoled by junior classmate and roommate Josh Kosack.
"Shocked. You battle for five periods all night, and then, especially the two minutes before thinking the game's over ... You're on top of the mountain and just like that it's over," Hanson said. "Initially, it's just shock and disbelief. Then you sit here and still don't think it's even fully set in."
"I'm sure it'll hit us a little bit harder ... it's hitting us pretty hard right now, to be honest," the senior wing Kolias said.
"There's only so much you can tell them right now," Union head coach Rick Bennett said shortly after the game. "It's final now. The jubilation, that's what stings. When we scored, it's like, 'This is awesome.' I saw them wave it off right away, and to reverse it, it would've taken an awful lot. They did their jobs."
Keith Allain, the Yale head coach since 2006, said he'd never experienced such a quick emotional turnaround in a game, especially a series-decider like this.
"When at first I thought they scored, I thought how devastating it would be for our guys, because we played well enough to win," Allain said. "To have that taken away from us would've been disappointing for sure."
On the Seger goal that was waved off, senior Anthony Rinaldi passed from behind the net to his linemate, who buried the puck with no hesitation.
The Dutchmen weren't past their initial reaction when an official skated to center ice from the sideboards waving it off. The replay showed Kolias skating through the play and drawing contact from a Yale player.
"I went to the net, got hung up by a D-man, got taken down and I guess my foot must've gotten into his [Kaczperski's] pad when I was sliding to the corner," Kolias said. "I did what I could to avoid him. Sometimes you don't get the call you want. They reviewed it, and you've got to respect the process."
"It happened so quickly, I was so happy, I went immediately to Seger and then they took 25 minutes to review it, so ..." Rinaldi said.
"He was going hard to the net, and either it's he got pushed in or it was by his own volition," Bennett said. "They just deemed it by his own volition. It was a 50-50, whether he pushed him or not. The kid actually made contact with him [Kolias]."
Hanson finished with a single-game career-high-tying 50 saves, as Union was outshot 46-13 after the first period.
Still, the Dutchmen were in position to win the best-of-three series, after having won just seven games during the regular season.
For the third time in this series, Union scored first, on Anthony Rinaldi's goal at 14:06 of the first. He redirected a centering pass from Matt Allen for his team-leading ninth goal of the season.
The only puck that got past Hanson in regulation was a low shot from the point that Brett Jewell tipped up just under the crossbar to tie it at 1-1 at 5:15 of the second period.
Hanson kept Union in the game in the third period, making several difficult saves on good scoring chances for Yale, while the Dutchmen needed over half the period just to record a shot on goal.
He also survived what appeared to be a sure goal for the Bulldogs during a power play midway through the period, when Teddy Wooding had the puck at the bottom of the left circle with plenty of net to shoot at. He bounced it off the top side of the crossbar and dropped his head as he circled away.
Wooding had another chance to win it when he got a short-handed breakaway, but Hanson shifted to his left to make the save at the last second.
With 1:18 left, Yale went on a 2-on-1, with Luke Stevens choosing to shoot instead of pass, and Hanson kicked that one away, too.
"These guys battled hard all the way to the end, and that's all we can ask of them," Bennett said.
"What a game, what a series," Allain said. "They really made us work for it. We played 3 1/2 hockey games, we scored five goals, they scored four. The margins were that tight.
"I felt like we earned it. But when you get into a second overtime and you win it, you've got to understand that you should feel fortunate. I mean, you need a break when you get to that point, right?"
"It's disbelief that we did win," Hanson said. "Then we sit for 15 minutes, and they score, and it's disbelief that we didn't win. This whole game, mentally, it's been a lot.
"But it's hockey. It's why we play."
Union 1 0 0 0 0 -- 1
Yale 0 1 0 0 1 -- 2
First period -- 1, Union, Rinaldi 9 (Allen, Seger), 14:06. Penalties -- Brierley, U (holding), 1:01; Schmidt, U (tripping), 19:11.
Second period -- 2, Yale, Jewell 2 (St. Ivany, Sweezey), 5:15. Penalties -- Yale bench (too many players on the ice, served by D'Orsi), 10:27.
Third period -- None. Penalties -- Kolias, U (tripping), 6:54; Sweezey, Y (cross-checking), 12:16.
First overtime -- None. Penalties -- Foo, U (hooking), 13:44; Lillibridge, Y (hooking), 17:46.
Second overtime -- 3, Yale, Lillibridge 1 (ua), 3:10.
Shots on goal -- Union 8-8-3-1-1 -- 21. Yale 6-17-14-11-4 -- 52.
Power-play opportunities -- Union 0 of 3. Yale 0 of 4.
Goalies -- Union, Hanson L, 7-24-4 (53 shots-51 saves). Yale, Kaczperski W, 14-13-2 (21-20).
T -- 3:45. A -- 700.
Referees -- Bob St. Lawrence, Tom Steinel. Linesmen -- Jim Briggs, Patrick Dapuzzo.