KALAMAZOO — Not once, but twice did the Michigan hockey team squander a first-period lead against Western Michigan this weekend.
During Friday’s contest, the Wolverines opened up the game with a 2-0 lead in the first six minutes, only to end up falling 3-2 to the Broncos. Saturday night’s game wasn’t much different as Michigan took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission, and again, it didn’t capitalize in a 5-1 loss to complete the sweep.
“Last night we had a good start, but then we got behind in the second period and we couldn’t answer the bell in the third period,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson on Saturday. “Tonight the second period was our Achilles heel. We needed the first goal in the third period and we never even had a scoring chance.”
The strong first period wasn’t enough for the Wolverines (5-12-2 CCHA, 8-15-2 overall) to get going on Saturday, as they went on to allow three second-period goals to Western Michigan (11-4-2, 15-6-4).
After Friday’s game, which wasn’t overly physical or chippy, Saturday night had a different feel just 34 seconds into the game. Sophomore forward Alex Guptill and freshman defenseman Jacob Trouba were both given two-minute penalties for roughing after the whistle along with Western Michigan’s Luke Witkowski and Nolan Laporte. This series of events that almost led to a fight started when Guptill and Witkowski nearly came to blows following a stoppage of play. All four players were sent to the box, but neither team played with a man down.
With Guptill and Trouba still in the box, sophomore defenseman Mike Szuma picked up a tripping penalty, sending the Wolverines on their first penalty kill of the night. Michigan’s penalty killers, who held the CCHA’s top power-play unit scoreless on Friday, continued to have success against the Broncos.
The Wolverines went on their second power play of the night with 4:35 remaining in the first period and freshman forward Andrew Copp tallied his fourth goal of the season only nine seconds into the man-advantage. The play was setup by a faceoff win by senior forward A.J. Treais deep in the Broncos’ zone to start off the power play. Despite many good chances by Western Michigan, Michigan would take the 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
With 15:52 left in the second period, the Broncos got on the board after a soft slap shot that was partially deflected found its way past junior goaltender Adam Janecyk, tying up the game at one. When senior defenseman Lee Moffie took a penalty less than a minute later, Western Michigan put in its first power-play goal of the series to give the Broncos their first lead of the game. This livened up the crowd and took away any of the Wolverines’ momentum completely.
“It’s a game of momentum,” Berenson said. “We didn’t hold the momentum and we couldn’t recover the momentum.”
The Wolverines had a chance to tie up the game with 4:56 remaining in the period when freshman forward Cristoval “Boo” Nieves flicked a pass to a rushing sophomore defenseman Mike Chiasson, who had a wide-open look, but he misplayed the puck and barely got off a shot. Offensive miscues were a common theme for the Wolverines this weekend. Whether it was a missed-timed shot, or a missed open net, the Wolverines failure to capitalize plagued them during both losses.
Ninety seconds after the miss, Western Michigan continued to make the best of its chances on a 3-on-2 fast break, when forward Colton Hargrove buried his second goal of the series off of a one-timer. Hargrove’s goal made the score 3-1 and would conclude the scoring for the second period.
After the three-goal second period, the Broncos weren’t done — they scored two goals in the first four minutes of the third frame to extend the lead to four goals, crushing any hope that Michigan had of making a comeback.
“Teams and leaders step up when adversity comes our way, especially when a team gets two quick goals like they did today,” Copp said. “Obviously it’s a momentum shift for them, but we need to answer that right back.”
After the fifth goal allowed Berenson pulled Janecyk for freshman Jared Rutledge. Berenson said that the decision to replace Janecyk was a combination of trying to get Rutledge — who hadn’t appeared in a game since Jan. 4 when Michigan was defeated by the U.S. NDTP team — playing time and also getting Janecyk out of a bad situation.
The Wolverines will be back in action next weekend on Friday night against Michigan State at Yost Ice Arena.