When the No. 6 Michigan hockey team went to bed last night, it was sure to thank the hockey gods for the return of junior Mike Cammalleri in time for the CCHA playoffs and for last-place Lake Superior”s (4-22-2 CCHA, 8-27-2 overall) inability to muster enough offense to pull off an upset.
Lake Superior entered this weekend on a 10-game winless streak (0-9-1) and held the worst record in the CCHA, with just four conference wins all season. The Lakers had been playing the worst hockey in the CCHA and had only faint dreams of upending CCHA regular season champion Michigan (19-5-4, 24-10-5).
“Right now we are a 12th-place team trying to get into the middle of the pack,” Lake Superior coach Frank Anzalone said Friday night. “We are doing the best we can with what we”ve got.”
But despite these obstacles, Lake Superior was able to put up a fight and push the best-of-three series to the limit before falling 4-1 in last night”s deciding game. Michigan, which lost the first game 4-3, bounced back Saturday night 4-1 to even the series at one game apiece.
Yesterday, after 19 minutes of scoreless hockey and with Michigan on a 5-on-3 advantage, Cammalleri faked a shot from the right faceoff circle that sent Lake Superior goalie Matt Violin to the ground. This allowed Cammalleri to walk in for his fourth goal of the weekend. Cammalleri went on to score once more to complement his hat trick the night before.
Cammalleri “is obviously a special player,” Michigan captain Jed Ortmeyer said. “He just adds that much more depth to our team and it is a huge bonus to have him back in our lineup.”
Despite a 2-0 deficit and an inability to muster any offense, Lake Superior hung around until it was able to draw within one early in the third period. Aaron Davis made the score 2-1 after slipping a weak wrist shot past senior goaltender Josh Blackburn, who was possibly starting his last home game.
Less than three minutes later, the Lakers had a strong chance to tie the game, but a two-on-one was wiped out by an offside call.
Five minutes later, Michigan freshman Eric Nystrom cemented the win for the Wolverines when he scored on a 3-on-2 with a backhand shot from the circle.
“We had to have a “live to see another day attitude” today,” Cammalleri said after yesterday”s game. “I think it helps our team when we have to play with desperation. When a team has its back against the wall and can find a way to win, it shows some character.”
Michigan got itself in a hole on Friday night when, less than a minute into the game, Lake Superior”s Chris McNamara got a breakaway from his own blue line and slid the puck through Blackburn”s legs for a shorthanded goal. It was the first of two Lake Superior breakaways in a two-minute span, both of which beat Blackburn cleanly through his five-hole.
Lake Superior added two more goals before Michigan was able to get on the board. A late Jed Ortmeyer goal would pull Michigan to within 4-3, but it was not able to force overtime as Lake Superior held on for the upset.
With the series victory, the Wolverines move on to play in the Super Six at Joe Louis Arena next Saturday. They will face the lowest seeded team remaining, a team which will have played in a play-in game the night before.