By Liz Vukelich, Daily Sports Writer
Published March 16, 2012
DETROIT — All week long, the No. 3 Michigan hockey team emphasized how it made a mistake by overlooking Bowling Green three weeks ago, and were adamant that it has learned its lesson and wouldn’t repeat that mistake.
Despite trailing for nearly the whole game, the Wolverines pulled back from trailing nearly the entire game to advance to the CCHA Championship game on Saturday with a 3-2 double overtime win over the 11-seed Falcons at Joe Louis Arena.
The past two weeks, Bowling Green was desperate to show the CCHA why it was deserving of playing in the title game despite finishing the regular season in the conference basement with just five wins.
Friday was no different. The Falcons wanted it bad from the opening faceoff, and left the Wolverines trailing in their dust. And Michigan coach Red Berenson could see Bowling Green's will for over 80 minutes.
“Give Bowling Green a ton of credit,” Berenson said. “They were the real deal, we saw that again tonight. It was anyone’s game.”
Bowling Green took advantage of a Michigan penalty midway through the first period, to score the first goal of the evening. Camden Wojtala took to the puck to the bottom of the circle, where his shot was redirected from the crease by Ryan Carpenter to beat fifth-year senior goaltender Shawn Hunwick gloveside.
Bowling Green looked like the better team in the first frame — Michigan remained sluggish, and though it outshot the Falcons it didn’t have any inspiring looks.
And if the Wolverines tried to steal some of the momentum back during the second frame, well, they didn’t. The Falcons started the period with a one-on-one against Hunwick after Michigan’s second defensive line caused a turnover in the zone.
Hunwick swatted the shot away effortlessly with his stick. But he wasn’t so as lucky the next time. As Hunwick tried to clear the puck from behind the net, Bowling Green took possession, and a one-timer from Marc Rodriguez over Hunwick’s left shoulder was all it took to put the Falcons up by two.
All the while, the Falcons continued to out-work the Wolverines.
“I thought we were slow,” Berenson said. “I thought we were deliberate with the puck and tentative. It wasn’t our pace that we wanted to play at.”
And even though Michigan scored with just seconds remaining in the stanza, it had nothing to do with hustle or grittiness and everything to do with luck. Sophomore defenseman Jon Merrill’s shot from the point inexplicitly bounced past teammates, defenders and Bowling Green netminder Andrew Hammond.
It may be luck, but Michigan will take it when it can.
“Puck luck is puck luck, there’s nothing you can do about that,” said sophomore forward Luke Moffatt. “The only thing you can do is work hard and hopefully you get granted with a nice opportunity.”
Despite having closed the goal deficit entering the final period, the Wolverines still seemed to have difficulty finding its footing.
That is, until there were less than three minutes left. Sophomore forward Derek DeBlois collected the puck from behind the net and blindly dished it between his legs to senior forward David Wohlberg cruising toward the front of the net.
With one flick of his wrist, Wohlberg put Michigan pulled Michigan into a 2-2 deadlock, propelling the game into overtime.
The defense that had left Hunwick out to dry during regulation found the hustle that it had been missing for much of the game, throwing bodies in front of pucks and players to protect the crease.
It turned out 20 minutes of extra hockey still wasn’t enough, and the Wolverines found themselves in last week’s situation, entering double overtime.
And the results were the same. Just over a minute into the second overtime, junior forward A.J. Treais wrapped the puck around the crease. As bodies pilled up over Hammond, Moffatt found the puck to tip it in.
“We knew it was going to be an ugly goal,” Moffatt said. “At that point in the game, you’ve got to drive to the net hard and get there for a rebound. I was fortunate.”
It wasn't pretty, but Michigan narrowly avoided Saturday’s consolation game. And for a team that only partly learned its lesson from three weeks ago, that’s pretty consoling.
The Wolverines will face off against Western Michigan — who downed Miami (Ohio), 6-2, in the first game on Friday — in the CCHA Championship game at 7:35 p.m. (Fox Sports Detroit) on Saturday.