EAST LANSING — Just three of the people who skated during each of the Michigan hockey team’s practices last week knew what it was like to beat Michigan State at Munn Ice Arena — Michigan coach Red Berenson, associate head coach Mel Pearson and assistant coach Billy Powers.
Trailing 3-2 with three minutes remaining in Saturday’s game, the current Wolverines didn’t look like they would experience that feeling, even with sophomore goalie Bryan Hogan starting in goal both games of the weekend series for the first time this year.
But Michigan mustered three goals in the closing moments — including senior Travis Turnbull’s empty-netter to complete a hat trick — and pulled out a 5-3 win. The victory marks the Wolverines’ first three-game winning streak against the Spartans, dating back to last year, since the 1995-1996 season.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve had our way with this team,” said Berenson, who hasn’t seen his team complete a weekend sweep of Michigan State since November 2004. “It was a good weekend.”
The most-telling “three” might have been that Michigan fell behind three times this weekend — and came back each time.
After giving up a shorthanded goal in the first period of a 6-1 win Friday, the Wolverines answered with three goals in each of the next two frames. On Saturday, Michigan surrendered the lead at the beginning of the second period, and again at the start of the third period. But the Wolverines responded both times with two scores within a minute of each other at the end of the each period.
“They’re believing in each other,” Berenson said. “You can see it.”
It was the first time this season Michigan won both Friday and Saturday night since Nov. 1 against Ohio State. And the Wolverines did it the first time they had the same starter between the pipes both nights: Hogan.
Berenson named Hogan the starter for Saturday after the goalie’s 18-save performance in the team’s win Friday. The coach added that he thought senior goalie Billy Sauer “can play just as well,” but Hogan has been the one in goal for “our best games, certainly our best offense.” And it shows in his 8-1 record in the crease — the reason Berenson chose to start him.
“We haven’t won a game here since ’04 since (former Wolverine and first-round NHL draft pick) Al Montoya was in goal,” Berenson said. “You look at everything, and you have to go with Hogan. He didn’t look good for a portion of the third period, but we got the goals back for him.”
After Hogan let the Spartans take the lead by allowing two quick goals — one off a rebound up the middle, the other off a beautifully set up 2-on-1 — there was no let up for the Wolverines. Freshman defenseman Greg Pateryn skated over to Hogan after the second goal to reassure him. And after the game, many players gathered around Hogan and exchanged a few words before the handshake line.
Hogan’s emergence as the No. 1 goalie is coming at a critical juncture for Michigan. The Wolverines don’t play again until the Great Lakes Invitational at the end of the month, and were desperate to climb out of the bottom half of the CCHA standings with the first half of the season coming to a close. They are now within three points of third-place Alaska.
And with its third sweep of the season, Michigan is playing much more confidently and finally seems to be clicking much more than earlier in the year.
“We’re very confident,” sophomore top-line center Louie Caporusso said. “Any time you’re able to come back with under four minutes left, and you’re able to win the game, that definitely helps your confidence. We’ll definitely take it on to the GLI and have a good break here.”