BOSTON — With 4:28 to go in the final period of Saturday’s game against No. 10 Boston University and the Michigan hockey team up, 3-1, junior forward Max Shuart found himself on a breakaway. After receiving a diving poke-check pass from freshman forward Kyle Connor, Shuart deked once before putting the puck past the Terrier goaltender.
Shuart’s goal allowed the Wolverines to finally breathe a sigh of relief, putting an exclamation point on an overall successful weekend.
“It was nice to get it going in the third and get the lead up a little bit,” said junior forward JT Compher.
The goal shouldn’t have been the first time the Wolverines breathed a sigh of relief, though. In fact, Shuart’s goal should have been the cherry on top of an undefeated weekend in Boston.
Michigan should have passed its first real test of the season with flying colors, twice beating a highly ranked Boston University side that hadn’t lost in three weeks.
That’s not what happened, though. Instead, the Wolverines’ second game was the only one in which they came away with a win.
Less than 24 hours prior to their 4-2 win Saturday, the Wolverines held a two-goal lead at the end of third period, similar to one they held in their game the next night.
But the difference was that the minute the Terriers got on the scoreboard with 9:16 left in the game, the once-quiet Agganis Arena woke up, and pandemonium ensued.
Boston University scored again to tie the game just 12 seconds later and finished off the Wolverines with three minutes left in the game with a goal from defenseman Doyle Somerby.
“We saw we were up 2-0 heading into the third, and we really wanted to lock down the (defensive zone), which took away from our aggressiveness,” said junior forward Tyler Motte after Friday’s loss. “Intensity from our end went down a little too low. Obviously, you have to defend the lead, but we also have to play our game, and that’s not something we did.”
If Michigan had kept its pedal on the gas for 10 more minutes, it could have walked out of Boston with two massive wins.
It’s like doing really well on an exam, but missing out on the big point questions and still getting a B+ even though you only missed one or two problems.
“We just played a very good hockey team,” said Boston University coach David Quinn after Saturday’s game. “They’re big, strong and fast. Their forwards keep you on your heels, and they were the better team over the weekend, without question.”
And most would agree with Quinn. The Wolverines were the better team for five-plus periods.
But the Pairwise Rankings don’t take into account losses that were almost wins. That’s not how it works.
No matter how many questions you get right on the test, if you only get 88 percent of the points on an exam, you usually get a B+. No ifs, ands or buts.
The computer will just see that the Michigan went on the road to Boston University and came away with both a win and a loss.
While the end result wasn’t ideal, by no means was it terrible either.
In fact, the series was quite a good showing by the Wolverines and one they should be proud of. Boston was the 10th-ranked team in the country and sports some of the best players around, including 2014-2015 First Team All-American defenseman Matt Grzelcyk, as well as forward Jordan Greenway and defenseman Charlie McAvoy, two highly touted freshmen who played on the United States Under-18 National Team a year ago.
“(Boston University’s) a good team,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “They’re going to win a lot of games, and they showed it on Friday. We didn’t let them play well tonight.”
After playing no ranked teams prior to the weekend series, the Terriers presented the Wolverines with Berenson’s first gauge of how his team matches up against college hockey’s elite. Also considering the fact that the Wolverines had never won in Agganis Arena, just getting one win was impressive.
“Anytime you win Boston, it’s a good win,” Berenson said.
But the reality is that the Wolverines played their best hockey of the season and had two wins well within their grasp, and 10 minutes of hockey separated them from just passing their first test to blowing it out of the water.
A B+ performance isn’t bad, but an A+ performance was definitely there for the taking.
Minh Doan can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @_minhdoan.