MADISON — In front of 55,031 people, the Michigan hockey team still felt isolated.
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In the frigid confines of Camp Randall Stadium, with nothing above them but black sky and stadium lights, both Wisconsin and Michigan made the long walks from their locker rooms underneath the stands to the ice.
All eyes were on the Badgers’ trek, which was lined by a throng of youth hockey players. On the other side of the field, the Wolverines shared the path only with the zambonis.
It seemed fitting in the end. Even with the novelty of an outdoor game, No. 19 Michigan had the same feeling of loneliness it has experienced for much of the season, with only itself to blame.
The Wolverines took two straight penalties with under six minutes left in the game. Two ensuing power play goals by No. 3 Wisconsin (16-7-4) gave the Badgers a 3-2 victory.
After going up 2-1 midway through the third, Michigan was playing out of character. Despite being ranked 11th in the country in penalties, they had been called for just one penalty the entire game.
That all changed with about six minutes remaining. And it’s only fitting that in an event that had as much to do with the winter weather as the game itself, it was a Summers that cost the Wolverines.
Senior captain Chris Summers was called for a tripping penalty. Ten seconds later, the puck was in the back of the Wolverines’ net.
With about two minutes left, Summers was again called for a penalty. As he argued with the referees en route to the penalty box, the red-clad fans in attendance went into a frenzy, jumping and chanting throughout the entire television timeout and into the Michigan penalty kill.
“We were, I thought, carrying the play five-on-five and it’s unfortunate that calls have to be made at certain points in the game,” Summers said. “That’s just the way the games goes. … He obviously saw something I didn’t, or maybe 70,000 other people.”
Thirty-four seconds into that penalty kill, Wisconsin defensemen Brendan Smith, who scored Wisconsin’s first power play goal, jumped into the slot. Smith took a cross-ice pass and one-timed it past junior goalie Bryan Hogan’s glove.
With the same man in the box, the same player scored on the same play that led to the second Wisconsin goal.
“We knew pretty much what they were doing, and they’re good at it,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “It’s five-on-four so you really have to do a good job and we didn’t. They excuted as good as it gets.”
From the beginning, the game was unusual for Michigan (16-13-1). It gave up the first goal of the game early in the first period, usually a bad sign for the Wolverines. They are just 2-11-1 this season when the other team scores first.
But they clawed back scoring one in the first and broke the tie when freshman Kevin Lynch gained the blue line and let go of a wrist shot that cleanly beat Badger goalie Scott Gudmandson.
“Obviously the ice wasn’t too good so just getting shots on net was our focus,” Lynch said. “So off the faceoff, we lost the draw but it came right to (junior forward) Carl (Hagelin) and he gave it to me and I kinda just held onto it. I got across the blueline and just let one go.”
Despite Lynch’s momentum changing goal, Michigan lost the lead because it hurt themselves. It was the same way the Wolverines have been costing them games all season.
A late power play goal by then-No. 9 Ferris State just 1:25 after Michigan had scored cost the Wolverines at least one much-needed point in the CCHA standings two weeks ago. Bowling Green’s only road win of the season came with two power play goals in third at the hands of the Wolverines.
But despite this being a non-conference game, the late goal hurt Michigan a little more, mostly because the experience that started out as a lonely one ended on an even more solemn note.
“We came here to win and we didn’t do that,” junior forward Ben Winnett said. “So at the end of the day it’s a tough loss for Michigan hockey.”