Terrier power play unleashed in 7-2 win over Wolverines

BY MICHAEL EISENSTEIN
Daily Sports Editor
Published October 26, 2008

BOSTON — You could sense the frustration in Michigan forward Brian Lebler’s punches during his third-period fight with Boston University’s Vinny Saponari.

Clif Reeder / Daly

You could see the disappointment in acting captain Chris Summers’ swollen eyes as he left Agganis Arena.

And you could hear the deflation in sophomore defenseman Tristin Llewellyn’s voice as he tried to put the No. 5 Michigan hockey team’s 7-2 embarrassment into words.

“Somebody shot your dog — it’s that type of feeling,” said Llewellyn, who was on the ice for two of No. 6 BU’s five power-play goals in a special teams-dominated game.

The Wolverines hadn’t surrendered seven goals since their 8-5 loss to North Dakota in the first round of the NCAA Tournament two seasons ago. Michigan (4-2-0) gave up more than four goals just twice last season.

“It’s a wake-up call,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said after the team’s first loss to a non-conference team in 12 games. “We realize how much better BU is right now than we are.”

The game’s opening 15 minutes were a back-and-forth battle, but once BU (4-1-0) capitalized on two weak scoring chances in the first period’s final five minutes, the Terriers never lost momentum.

Nothing epitomized Michigan’s collapse better than BU’s dominance on special teams.

Entering Saturday, the Terriers had scored on just 3-of-30 power-play opportunities. Against the Wolverines, they converted 55.6 percent of the time (5-for-9).

The Terriers' strategy on special teams is very similar to Michigan's, but BU simply looked more prepared.

“It was like we were playing against each other, playing against ourselves,” said BU coach Jack Parker, who uncharacteristically didn’t show his team film of the Wolverines before the game. “Their power play didn’t surprise us. Their penalty kill didn’t surprise us.”

BU had great puck movement on the man advantage, cycling the puck so quickly that the injury-depleted Michigan unit often collapsed into a small square in front of the goal. The Terriers were often positioned well inside the circles, much closer than their usual spot just inside the blue line.

As a result, BU registered 18 of its 32 shots at very close range, between the crease and bottoms of the circles.

But the game’s lopsided special teams performances had nothing to do with the number of power-play opportunities. The Wolverines had three more man-advantage chances (12-9) than the Terriers but converted just twice, both in the third period.

Michigan’s power-play unit grew frustrated as time went on and often forced passes through the core of BU’s penalty killers. Berenson didn’t see his team form any sort of rhythm.

“I can pinpoint two or three good scoring chances in the game and that was it,” Berenson said. “You can’t win a game like that.”

The Wolverines' struggles were mostly rooted in their transition game. Michigan frequently turned over the puck in the neutral zone.

BU controlled the game’s two 5-on-3 advantages, even the one Michigan had. The Terriers scored during their two-man advantage, and while they were down by two men, they shut the Wolverines down for 64 seconds.

Michigan is the third top-10 team the Terriers have faced this season. But the Wolverines haven’t played nearly as difficult a schedule, making this weekend’s loss a wakeup call

“Well, we took a step in the wrong direction,” Summers said. “But we’re going to be focused in Monday’s practice and get back at it.”