DETROIT — In a clash of teacher versus student in Saturday night’s Great Lakes Invitational semifinal, the pupil prevailed.
Michigan Tech coach Mel Pearson, who spent 23 years as an assistant at Michigan under Red Berenson before leaving in April 2011, defeated his mentor in his first try from the opposing bench with a comfortable 4-0 victory.
“(Berenson’s) a great man, and I really learned a lot from him,” Pearson said. “He really helped me a lot along the way. He’s one of the all-time great coaches in college hockey.”
The Michigan hockey team failed to defend its title as GLI champions from the past two seasons.
Michigan came out of the gate buzzing offensively, generating a number of scoring chances including one for senior forward Jeff Rohrkemper who couldn’t get his stick on a puck bouncing in front of an unguarded net.
But it was the Huskies who struck first on their first serious opportunity.
After the Wolverines (6-10-2) dominated the game’s first five minutes, the defense failed to pick up Michigan Tech forward Alex Petan who crept from the blue line into the slot. Linemate Jujhar Khaira flicked a pass to set up the beautiful one-timer, giving the Huskies the early lead.
“One bad play and the puck is in the net,” Berenson said. “That’s a tough pill to swallow. but then you’ve got a lot of time to bounce back from that.”
Michigan Tech (5-10-3) was forced to seek offense from other sources as Blake Pietila, its established leader, is currently playing in the World Junior Championships for the United States in Ufa, Russia. Michigan defenseman Jacob Trouba is also is absent for the holiday tournament as one of Team USA’s alternate captains.
Despite missing their leading scorer, however, the Huskies garnered a majority of the game’s scoring chances. At the 18:06 mark of the first period, Khaira managed to get a stick on a point shot from Riley Sweeney, deflecting the puck past Michigan goaltender junior Adam Janecyk, who was making his second consecutive start.
The Wolverines were given ample opportunity to climb back into the game on the power play, but the unit continued to look as disorganized as they have all season, if not more so. Without Trouba to work from the blue line and anchor the power play, the man advantage created few serious scoring chances.
“We can’t make excuses,” said Berenson. “We had good players playing. But the power play came up short.”
Michigan Tech extended its lead to 3-0 when Petan cruised past sophomore defenseman Brennan Serville on a breakaway and deked past Janecyk. Afterwards, Petan celebrated near the Michigan bench, and senior alternate captain Lee Moffie reached out to punch him, likely out of frustration. Moffie was sent to the penalty box after a fight broke out involving sophomore forward Alex Guptill, who was sent to the box as well.
After the game, Berenson flatly denied addressing the incident with Moffie after the game.
Michigan then killed off the penalty, Moffie skated back into the defensive zone where the Huskies were setting up offensively. Michigan Tech’s Tommy Brown launched a shot from the blue line that skirted through the defense and through the five hole of Janecyk.
The Wolverines will face Michigan State on Sunday at 3:30 after the Spartans fell to Western Michigan in a shootout in the matinee game.