Sophomore goalie Adam Janecyk looked like a different player in Saturday night’s game against Lake Superior State.
The night before, Michigan coach Red Berenson thought Janecyk looked scared when he was asked to take to the goal after fifth-year senior starting goaltender Shawn Hunwick was after taking a puck to the mask.
The last time Janecyk saw playing time was in October, when Hunwick was ejected from the Northern Michigan game. By the time Janecyk made his first career start for the Wolverines on Saturday, though, he was ready. He anchored the team well, despite the 2-2 shootout loss, after a 4-2 win on Friday night.
“There were a lot of question marks about Janecyk, and I think he showed us that he can play (and) he can give us a chance,” Berenson said. “He was more in sync with the game. Tonight he was smooth and in position. He looked confident.”
Janecyk was tested early on Saturday when Michigan (6-6-4 CCHA, 12-8-4 overall) went on the penalty kill. He made the easy saves and the Lakers didn’t score on their power play, though Janecyk was caught out of position more than once. Michigan also found itself on the receiving end of “puck luck” — Lake Superior State either missed a wide-open target or just barely had their shot deflected in another direction.
The game remained relatively quiet until the end of the second period. Senior forward David Wohlberg’s shot was saved by Laker netminder Kevin Kalpalka, but deflected off a defenseman and into the net with five minutes left in the stanza.
Lake Superior State (6-6-2, 12-9-3) briefly tied it up, but freshman forward Alex Guptill gave the Wolverines the all-important lead going into the third frame.
An unfortunate bounce off of Janecyk’s pads slid the puck to the stick of Lake Superior State’s Buddy Robinson, and Robinson had no problem poking the puck past Janecyk to knot the game at the beginning of the third period.
If you ask the players, they will tell you that was the game’s turning point.
“To be up one goal in the third period, you’ve got to win the little battles,” said senior forward Luke Glendening. “We did some of that tonight, but we weren’t burying our chances. To be so close, it’s frustrating.”
The frustration was a 180-degree turn for Michigan, which was riding high on Friday night after pulling out a victory over the Lakers.
Friday saw the season debut of sophomore defenseman Jon Merrill, who was suspended from the team since the beginning of the season for a violation of team rules. He tallied his first point of the year with an assist on Wohlberg’s goal.
Hunwick also made big saves, and kept Lake Superior State off the boards until the second period. But then he was hit by an injury.
The team wouldn’t disclose the nature of Hunwick’s ailment. Midway through the first period, a Laker slapshot hit the netminder in the mask, sending Hunwick and his helmet to the ice. Hunwick was visibly rattled, but he slowly got up and went back to the net, where he remained until the third stanza when Janecyk got the call.
Michigan was clinging to a one-goal lead with nine minutes left in Friday’s game. But a frantic last couple of minutes combined with an empty-net goal from junior forward Chris Brown sealed the game for Janecyk and the Wolverines.
If Janecyk looked scared Friday when he took to the ice, he didn’t show it on Saturday. On Saturday morning, the trainers decided Hunwick wasn’t ready to play, so Janecyk had all day to mentally prepare himself for the game.
“Ask a goalie, they’ll tell you 90 percent of playing goal is mental,” Berenson said. “If (Janecyk) talked himself into a good frame of mind, then he’d be ready.
“I’m sure the other team is pressing too. Without Hunwick in the net, they think they can take advantage of a new goalie. It wasn’t so.”
Janecyk stopped 34 shots during Saturday’s game and denied four of six shots during the shootout.
“(Janecyk) doesn’t have a lot of game experience, but we expect him to come in and do a job,” Glendening said. “Everyone is his biggest fan on this team. That confidence in him gave us confidence.”
The shootout loss was difficult for the Wolverines to swallow, especially when the tide seemingly began to turn after a long winless streak spanning the month of November. Though one could argue that walking away with four points this weekend is better than just three, the team doesn’t see it that way.
“It was a step forward with the win,” Glendening said. “I can’t say (Saturday) is a step forward for us. We threw that one away.”