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Faulty power play difference-maker in Michigan loss

Adam Glanzman/Daily
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By Liz Vukelich, Daily Sports Writer
Published March 24, 2012

GREEN BAY, Wisc. — Michigan coach Red Berenson bluntly stated that Cornell’s special teams were a “factor” and “a big part of the game” in No. 2 Michigan’s 3-2 overtime loss against the Big Red in first round of the NCAA Tournament.

That’s a bit of an understatement. Cornell’s special teams were clear difference-makers in a game that saw 27 minutes of penalties for the Big Red but no power-play goals from the Wolverines.

Cornell’s own power play knotted up the game with Michigan in the first period and its penalty kill propelled them forward in the opening minute of the second frame.

That second stanza was what started the slew of penalties. The referees could not keep their whistles away from their lips, with the game being paused often to march various players into the penalty box.

Amidst all the whistle blowing and game stoppages, Cornell’s Armand de Swardt took a five-minute major penalty and game misconduct for contact to the head. It seemed like the answer Michigan was looking for, the perfect occasion to make a statement and get back in the game.

Hardly. Ten seconds after the call was made, junior defenseman Lee Moffie took his own trip to the sin bin, throwing away part of the Wolverines’ valuable opportunity.

Once Moffie left the box, Michigan still had another three minutes to try and make the most of its man advantage. And the team tried its best, getting 13 shots on goal during the course of the game misconduct.

But the puck didn’t find twine. The closest thing the Wolverines saw to a goal during that five-minute stretch was just a loud clank off the post.

“We had 13 shots on goal during that five-minute major,” Berenson said. “We didn’t score. That was the frustrating part, especially when you’re behind in a game.”

But just like Moffie’s penalty, the power-play pendulum took another swing in Cornell’s direction when sophomore defenseman Jon Merrill’s tripping penalty resulted in a Cornell penalty shot.

Locke Jilson took a weak shot on goal that fifth-year senior goaltender Shawn Hunwick easily saved. And though it was still a sobering reminder to the Wolverines about how costly mindless penalties can be, Michigan seized the momentum back again to play what Berenson considered to be some of the team’s best hockey of the night.

“We felt that we played well in the last five minutes of the second period,” Berenson said. “We just wanted to play the game five-on-five and get some pace going, get some momentum going.”

The power play visibly struggled all year. The Wolverines converted a measly 15 percent of the time with the man advantage. Cornell doesn’t have that much better of a record at 17 percent, but with the Big Red holding onto the lead for the most of the night, their primary concern was simply to starve off Michigan for as long as possible.

Despite the special team’s woes, junior forward Kevin Lynch didn’t think the power play’s problems deflated the morale of the team at all during that five-minute period.

“For us guys on the bench that aren’t on the power play, we just try to get the team going,” Lynch said. “We just try to get our team going, and we get out there, we just try and do the best we can.”