Gabby Ceritano/Daily. Buy this photo.

All season, the Michigan hockey team has been the bully on the block. Its NHL draft picks and depth have lit up the box score. But Friday, the youth of this team showed more than its talent as its mistakes and carelessness allowed No. 17 Western Michigan to roll over the top-ranked Wolverines, 5-2

From the opening puck drop, Michigan little resembled a team coming off of two top-five victories last weekend. 

“We did not play with a work ethic, too many mistakes,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson said. “We made more mistakes tonight than we probably have all four games combined. We just didn’t handle the puck very well.”

The Wolverines were uncharacteristically careless with the puck. Its breakouts were choppy and they were unable to smoothly enter Western Michigan’s defensive zone. Typically, Michigan is dangerous in transition, with players like sophomore forwards Kent Johnson and Matty Beniers leading the way. But tonight, the Broncos’ stout defense prevented any such opportunities. 

Early in the second period, sophomore defenseman Owen Power slid a pass to Johnson. Located in the slot, Johnson had a great chance to cut the two-goal deficit in half. Unfortunately for the Wolverines, Johnson couldn’t handle the pass and generate a shot. It was one of many missed opportunities for Michigan on a night where they looked sloppy and flat.

“We got out-worked,” senior defenseman Nick Blankenburg said. “We didn’t compete as hard as we needed to be up to our expectations. It’s a learning experience for us…we’re just gonna learn from it and move on to tomorrow.” 

Western Michigan’s fourth goal came via another Wolverine error. Sophomore defenseman Jacob Truscott was beaten in a race for the puck in the Michigan defensive zone. After losing the battle, a stampede of Broncos rushed into the play for an odd-man rush. A clinical passing display resulted in an easy goal, extending the lead back to three. 

Even on its worst night of the season, though, the Wolverines’ talent meant they were never quite out of it. With 11 minutes left in the game, Johnson found the back of the net after a redirected Hughes shot. Johnson’s tally gave his team and the crowd life, injecting a pulse of energy into an otherwise unenthusiastic effort.

Despite the glimmers of hope, Michigan ultimately fell short. They were 0-6 on the power play, an area of the game that they typically dominate. Sophomore forward Brendan Brisson had his usual one-timer looks, but none of them hit the twine.

“I don’t know if anything went wrong and obviously we were 0-for-6 but sometimes you’re just not getting the looks that you want,” Blankenburg said. “I think we just gotta simplify and not overcomplicate things.”

This loss does not define the Wolverines, especially considering its already strong résumé. Western Michigan deserved to win tonight, but Michigan proved that it may be its own kryptonite. They did not move the puck well and its backchecking was lazy.

Tomorrow’s rematch in Kalamazoo will be telling of the Wolverines’ ability to handle adversity and bounce back from a loss.