The Michigan hockey team’s matchup against Bowling Green was never expected to be perfect. But it should have been an improvement.
Junior defenseman Jon Merrill was starting for the first time since his fractured vertebrae put him out for the first half of the season. Freshman defenseman Jacob Trouba was back in the linup after returning from the World Junior Championship. And junior goaltender Adam Janecyk seemed to be emerging as the frontrunner behind the crease.
But to put it gently, nothing quite worked out the way the Wolverines expected in the Falcons’ 5-1 trouncing of Michigan on Tuesday night.
“I don’t know what the break did for some teams, but I can’t say it helped our team,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “We’ve been struggling defensively and we’re still struggling defensively.”
Bowling Green (3-7-1 CCHA, 6-10-5 overall) took an early lead in the first period when Janeyck’s blocked shot rebounded off to the side and was tapped in at the edge of the crease.
And the Wolverines barely had time to recover when the Falcons beat Janecyk five-hole from the slot just minutes later.
Sophomore defenseman Brennan Serville was ushered to the locker room after hitting his head on the boards and injuring his shoulder. Bowling Green’s Brent Tate received a game misconduct, and Michigan (4-8-2, 7-11-2) went on the first power play of the night. Though the Wolverines were better at controlling the puck in the Falcons’ zone, they were still unable to register any quality shots at net.
Serville’s absence hit an already troubled blue line especially hard, leaving just five players in the rotation. Berenson said the defensemen looked sleepy during some of Bowling Green’s goals. The players beg to differ.
“Losing Brennan, he’s a big part of our (defensive)-corps (but) no excuses,” said senior defenseman Lee Moffie. “A guy goes down, we’re ready for that, we do conditioning for that.”
In fact, Bowling Green looked revitalized coming off its five-minute major keeping the puck in front of Janecyk as the first frame wound down. Kevin Lynch took a cross-checking penalty in the waning minutes, putting Michigan back on the defensive.
At the start of the second period, it seemed as if the Wolverines had finally begun to find its legs. Junior forward Luke Moffatt redirected in a slapshot from junior defenseman Mac Bennett to tally his first goal of the year and begin to reduce the goal deficit.
Though Michigan finally started swarming around Bowling Green goalie Andrew Hammond and had ample opportunities around the net, the puck just wasn’t going in for them.
It did, though, go in for Bowling Green — when the puck slipped through Janecyk’s legs, Ryan Carpenter was the only player in the vicinity. A quick tap in, and the Falcons regained a two-goal lead, shortly followed by another soft goal to put them up 4-1 entering the final frame.
“It’s harder to score when you need to score, but we’ve (come from behind) before,” Berenson said. “We had a couple of attempts, but we didn’t play enough in their zone. (Bowling Green played) with a lot more enthusiasm than we were and that’s disappointing.”
Freshman Steve Racine took over goalie duties for the third stanza, though the swap didn’t do much to change the Wolverine’s fortune — Bowling Green still notched a fifth goal on a quick wraparound, and Michigan never came close to finding any offensive firepower necessary for closing the gap. It certainly didn’t help morale any when Bennett went down late in the period with a lower body injury.
According to Berenson, the decision to switch Janecyk for Racine was as much to do with the game stretching further out of reach as it was with Janecyk’s poor play, and the starting position still remains up in the air.
“I was hoping that (Janecyk) would give us a better game and (then) the puck went in too easy,” Berenson said. “We need our goalie to play better and we need to jump start our team and sometimes, a goalie can do that.”