By Jeremy Summitt, Daily Sports Editor
Published November 15, 2013
OMAHA, Neb. — Michigan’s three captains have said goals will come as long as the second-ranked Wolverines continue to create quality chances. In Friday’s game at Nebraska-Omaha, scoring opportunities were hard to come by, and there were minimal signs of life from a dormant Michigan offense in a 3-2 loss to the Mavericks.
“I thought we were a little rusty,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “We haven’t played in two weeks so we weren’t as good with the puck as they were.”
A two-goal third period from Nebraska-Omaha (6-5-0) proved to be the difference, ultimately.
The Mavericks knotted things up at two just three minutes into the third when the Wolverines (6-2-1) left sophomore forward Aaron Pearce open in the slot. Pearce made them pay, scoring his first-career goal and giving Nebraska-Omaha the momentum they needed to bury Michigan.
Junior forward Josh Archibald netted what would be the game-winning goal after weaving his way through the Michigan defensemen for his team-leading ninth goal of the season with 14:17 remaining in the game.
“We just couldn’t get it back,” Berenson said. “I thought we came back and responded and played hard but we couldn’t get the all-important guy going.”
Michigan’s offense finally became visible with 4:15 to play in the middle stanza when senior forward Luke Moffatt netted a power-play goal from the right on a nifty one-timer. Freshman forward JT Compher and sophomore forward Boo Nieves picked up assists on Moffatt’s team-leading fifth goal of the season.
Just three minutes later, it was the connection between Compher and Moffatt that put the Wolverines in the lead. This time, Moffatt found Compher on the left circle, where the freshman buried his first goal of his Michigan career.
“Our power play was clicking really well,” Compher said. “We had a few nice plays and got the puck to the net and it was good to get the first one.”
Berenson chose to ride the hot hand of freshman goaltender Zach Nagelvoort in favor of fully healthy Steve Racine. Nagelvoort was unable to record his fifth win in six starts, despite making 28 saves along the way.
“He’s been great all year, and it’s nice to have a dependable guy back there,” Compher said. “We got to help him out more. There were a few mistakes that can’t happen out there.”
Nagelvoort staved off multiple 2-on-1 chances early in the second period, but what has been a superb penalty-killing unit for the Wolverines wasn’t able to kill a 5-on-3 power play. Senior defenseman Michael Young received the puck in the slot, and fired it into the top corner to give Nebraska-Omaha the first goal of the game with 9:47 remaining in the middle stanza.
The majority of the Wolverines’ wins this season can be attributed to their strong defensive efforts, but even those weren’t present in Friday’s loss. Michigan rolled into the weekend with the nation’s second-best scoring defense, allowing just 1.75 goals per game.
Against a high-flying Mavericks’ offense that posts 3.30 goals per game, there isn’t much room for error. The Wolverines left men open in front of the net more times than they were scored on, and let Nebraska-Omaha’s speedy forwards fly right past them on the wings.
“We were a little frustrated,” Moffatt said. “That’s a game we should win, we believe.”
But defense can’t win you every game anyway when your team struggles to put the puck in the net. After shuffling every line heading into the weekend, Michigan coach Red Berenson will have some more decisions to make for tomorrow’s rematch in Omaha, but he'll have to do so with just six defensemen.