By Greg Garno, Daily Sports Writer
Published January 12, 2013
It was the fourth goal junior goaltender Adam Janecyk let in, and the reaction afterward epitomized the Michigan hockey team’s season.
As Alaska’s Adam Henderson shot down the ice, he flicked a shot at Janecyk, a shot normally handled with a quick glove save. But Janecyk let the puck slip by, allowing the fourth and final goal of the game.
The netminder looked back briefly, before he laid on his knees with his arms stretched flat, his head on the ice.
The Wolverines have been close, but it has been one sloppy pass, one missed opportunity or one blown save that has left them leaving their heads low.
After losing Friday night at Yost Ice Arena to Alaska for the first time since 2006, the Wolverines searched for a way to salvage what was left of a rough season, but they struggled to overcome two opponents: the Nanooks and the power play, in a 4-1 loss.
It was the first time in Michigan history Alaska swept the Wolverines.
“I think we’re fragile,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “In years past, we would lose a game, but we would bounce back the next night. I can't remember being swept like we have been this year.
“We are not putting our chances in, and we are giving up goals we shouldn't give up. We can't make any more excuses, that is the way it is.”
After freshman goaltender Steve Racine gave up four goals in the first two periods of Friday’s contest, Berenson opted to start Janecyk in net. But Alaska didn’t drop off from its strong play the previous night, firing on all cylinders early as the Wolverines began to play catch up.
With a man advantage in the first four minutes, the Nanooks welcomed Janecyk with a goal from Cody Kunyk. Kunyk managed to find himself uncovered and placed the puck just to the left of Janecyk’s glove to grab the early lead. Janecyk finished with 24 saves, but he has allowed 10 goals combined in his past three appearances.
The Wolverines received three extra-man opportunities of their own following the early goal, yet they failed to capitalize on the opportunity. Each time Michigan was a poor pass or man out of place from netting an equalizer.
After killing off one of freshman defenseman Jacob Trouba’s two-consecutive penalties, the Wolverines were unable to hang on in the final seconds of the first period during another Nanook power play. Henderson fired a shot past Janecyk to give the Nanooks a two-goal lead and all the momentum heading into the locker room.
“Everybody in our lineup is on special teams,” Berenson said. “Either on the power-play unit — first unit or second unit — or they are on the PK, and they are just not getting it done. That is the way it is.”
Michigan (7-13-2, 4-10-2-2 CCHA) found more extra man situations in the second period, with four chances in the frame before finally scoring.
Late into the Wolverines’ seventh power play of the game, Trouba ripped a shot that was too fast to handle for Nanook netminder John Keeney to cut the lead to 2-1. Keeney’s play was strong for much of the night, though, making the easy saves and stopping open looks. Keeney finished with 30 saves after giving up four goals Friday.
Alaska (8-8-4, 6-7-3-1 CCHA) committed eight penalties while Michigan committed seven. The Wolverines’ one goal on eight attempts keeps their conversion percentage at .129 on the season — ranking at the bottom of the CCHA.
It took nine minutes into the third period before Alaska struck again, making the most of the depleted Michigan squad. Kunyk found room on the ice, catching senior defenseman Jeff Rohrkemper out of place in his new role.
The momentum officially shifted in Alaska’s favor on the final goal, though, as the Wolverines never managed to rally.
Michigan outshot Alaska, 31-27, generating more offense despite leaving more to be desired from fans and coaches.
“We had a couple of chances we should have scored on,” Berenson said. “Either we’re not bearing down, but obviously we don’t have a lot of offensive confidence.”
The Wolverines now sit at the bottom of the CCHA, with arguably the best chance to turn around the season past them, and like Janecyk Saturday, with their heads held down.