It was his team’s first setback in seven weeks, but Michigan coach Red Berenson saw enough issues to warrant a significant lineup overhaul following the Wolverines’ 3-2 loss to Ohio State Friday night.
“I think we have to be willing to change,” Berenson said. “Sometimes change is better than staying the same. We were having a pretty good roll there for a while. And I think we have to be able to adapt in terms of who’s playing well, who’s improving, who’s not.”
Berenson adjusted three of his four lines, and, for the first time this season, skated a line of all freshmen.
The changes paid off, and Michigan bounced back to defeat Ohio State, 4-2, Saturday night in a game marked by end-to-end action.
The trio of freshmen on Michigan’s second line – Carl Hagelin, Matt Rust and Aaron Palushaj – got the Wolverines off to a fast start. Michigan was shut out for 57 minutes Friday night, but the second line struck twice in the opening eight minutes Saturday, ensuring the scoring drought wouldn’t be repeated.
Rust scored Michigan’s first goal, bouncing a puck off Ohio State goalie Joseph Palmer and into the net from behind the goalline.
Hagelin followed up with a goal less than four minutes later, tapping a puck in from the goalmouth.
Palushaj didn’t register a goal, but he had the three assists and nearly beat Palmer on a spin around backhander in the third period.
“The line of Aaron, Matt Rust and Carl Hagelin played unbelievable,” freshman Max Pacioretty said. “They had two quick goals that got us going. Hopefully that gives us some confidence, and we can build off that.”
A fourth freshman, goalie Bryan Hogan, did his part in earning Michigan (9-1-0 CCHA, 14-2-0 overall) a win.
Playing in his first collegiate game with junior Billy Sauer getting the night off, Hogan faced hockey’s ultimate test to preserve Michigan’s lead midway through the first period.
With his team already shorthanded, junior Tim Miller covered the puck in Michigan’s crease, which resulted in an Ohio State (2-8-0, 4-11-1) penalty shot.
Tommy Goebel took the shot for the Buckeyes, but couldn’t beat Hogan’s aggressive technique. The freshman knocked the senior’s shot over the goal with a quick blocker save.
Pacioretty added to the first-year fun, netting a power-play goal later in the first period. The Montreal Canadiens’ first-round draft pick notched another goal in the second period, finishing a perfectly executed two-on-one with senior Kevin Porter.
Surprisingly, Michigan’s senior leaders – Porter and Chad Kolarik, the nation’s two leading scorers entering the weekend – had a relatively quiet night, statistically.
“(Porter) had one point tonight,” Pacioretty said. “He’s been having three-point nights almost every night, but he still played an awesome game, blocking shots and making hits. It helps us to see our captain doing little things like that, and he’s happy for (the freshmen) when we put stuff up on the scoreboard.”
A night after Michigan’s senior-led win streak came to an end, it was the freshmen that might have jumpstarted Wolverines’ next run.