Three scores from Michigan's Fabio Pereira in the second half, including two penalty kick markers, led to the conclusion of a season that saw the Purple Eagles earn their first berth into the NCAA tournament in program history.
"I am incredibly proud of the entire team," head coach Chase Brooks said. "The guys worked very hard all season long and unfortunately tonight it just wasn't meant to be. All season the bounces have gone our way, but tonight they all went against us. That being said, the guys still competed until the final whistle, pushing for that goal to get us back in the game, but Michigan was always a half step quicker and a little bit sharper."
Despite the Wolverines (11-9-1) holding a lofty 18-1 shot advantage, it was Niagara with the go-ahead goal in the 59th minute of play.
The Purple Eagles broke the scoreless game as the duo of senior Bryan Da Cruz and sophomore Micah Paulino, who combined for the game-winning tally in the MAAC finals, teamed up again to give NU the 1-0 lead. Paulino fed a through ball to Da Cruz who ripped a shot past Michigan keeper Adam Grinwis, marking sixth tally of the season, and Paulino's fourth assist.
The lead was short lived though, as the Wolverines responded with three unanswered goals to pull ahead by two tallies with a little over 20 minutes remaining in the game.
The contest was knotted up at 1-1 at the 65th minute after an NU foul in the box led to a penalty kick. Pereira stepped to the line, slipping the ball into the left corner as NU keeper Brett Petricek dove right.
Two minutes later, Pereira put the home team up, 2-1 over Niagara with a blast from 25-yards out that was deflected off a Purple Eagle defender into the lower right corner of the goal. Pereira solidified a second round battle with No. 5 Akron for the Wolverines at the 72nd minute of play off another penalty kick marker.
The Purple Eagles refused to go away and pressed forward in the remaining 20 minutes of play, but Niagara was unable to find the back of the net as U-M held on for the win.
Petricek finished the game making a career-high 11 saves.
"This is definitely the direction this program needs to go," added Brooks. "This season was a building block and a great step forward for the future. The seniors deserve a lot of credit for the success this program has seen. They have worked very hard, and the foundation they have set for this team will only help us find success on the field. Now we're excited for the off season, and to start preparing for next year and hopefully accomplished everything we did this year and more."
With the loss, Niagara concludes its season with a 13-2-4 mark. The 2012 Purple Eagles will go down in the NU history books as the squad began the campaign with a program-best 12 game unbeaten streak, and wrapped up with the program's first ever MAAC Championship.