By Michael Laurila, Daily Sports Editor
Published March 9, 2013
Earlier this week, when asked about the upcoming first-round playoff series against Northern Michigan, Michigan hockey coach Red Berenson said that it would be important for the Wolverines to get off to fast starts and to use the Yost Ice Arena crowd to their advantage.
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After Saturday night’s 6-2 victory, mission accomplished.
Michigan (11-15-3 CCHA, 15-18-3 overall) used two high scoring first periods to sweep the Wildcats (9-16-4, 15-18-4) and advance to the second round of the CCHA Tournament. During Friday night’s 3-2 victory, all three goals came in a flurry of scoring during the first period, and the Wolverines used two quick goals on Saturday to take a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
“The first five minutes of the game was huge because that team was going to come out and try to show that they could bounce back and show that they can outplay us and do what they have to do to win here,” Berenson said. “This was their game, and I thought our team came out and really played hard and didn’t let them play well.”
Less than two minutes into the game, sophomore forward Andrew Sinelli took the games first penalty, but having successfully killed it, sophomore forward Alex Guptill forced the puck past Northern Michigan goaltender Jared Coreau to give the Wolverines a 1-0 lead.
Michigan dominated the game early on Friday night, and the Guptill goal gave Saturday’s game a similar feeling. Wildcat head coach Walt Kyle took a timeout immediately following the goal in what appeared to be an attempt to stop the flood gates from opening again.
But Michigan would get on the board again when freshman defenseman Jacob Trouba fired a slap shot from just inside the blue line. This gave the Wolverines a two-goal lead and all of the game’s momentum. With 29 seconds left remaining in the first period, Northern Michigan got on the board after freshman goalie Steve Racine allowed a rebound to bounce directly to a Wildcat player in front of the net, making the score 2-1.
Despite the game being just a one-goal game after the first 20 minutes, Michigan tallied an impressive 23 shots, compared to just six from Northern Michigan. This was a day after the Wildcats notched just five shots in the first period. The Wolverines would finish the game with 50 shots, compared to just 20 from Northern Michigan.
“When you have the puck in their zone, they’re likely not going to finish with many shots,” said junior defenseman Mac Bennett. “And that happened. You’re going to win a game if you have 50 shots, and the less shots Steve had to see the better.”
The second period started out slow, with neither teams necessarily gaining the momentum, but the Wolverines struck again six minutes into the period on a Bennett power-play goal. It was his sixth goal of the season, and put Michigan back up by two goals.
A minute and a half later, after a strange series of events that ended with Coreau out of the net and three Wildcats sprawled across the crease in an attempt to stop the puck from scoring, the referees called a penalty shot. Senior forward A.J. Treais was called upon by Berenson to take the shot, but Coreau made a nice glove save.
The failed penalty shot attempt wouldn’t end the period’s action though, as freshman Andrew Copp scored with 2:35 left in the second frame, giving the Wolverines a commanding 4-1 lead.
When these two teams met earlier in the year, Michigan rallied for three goals during the first game’s third period to tie up the game and ultimately win in a shootout. That wouldn’t be the case again though, as junior forward Luke Moffatt’s goal less than three minutes into the third period gave the Wolverines a dominant 5-1 lead and all but eliminated Northern Michigan from the game.
After another penalty shot was called with under ten minutes remaining, Copp buried it home through Coreau’s five hole, making the score 6-1. Northern Michigan got a goal late in the game, but it was too little too late.
The special teams, which were exceptional on Friday, played with a similar vigor on Saturday night. The power-play unit followed up Friday’s impressive two-for-three performance with two more power-play goals on Saturday. Though the penalty killers didn’t tally a short-handed goal like on Friday — one of senior Kevin Lynch’s two goals — they did hold Northern Michigan’s power play scoreless yet again.
“I think that was the best game we’ve played all year. We started hot, finished hot, and we were great all around,” Bennett said. “I thought our special teams played really well. We dominated the game, and we knew kind of beforehand that we wanted to stick the dagger in (Northern Michigan) and we did.”
Michigan will be back in action next weekend, traveling to either Notre Dame or Western Michigan for the second round of the CCHA playoffs.