Michigan hockey coach Red Berenson said that the fourth-ranked Wolverines had something to prove in their series against No. 6 Ferris State. Michigan holds the higher ranking, but the Bulldogs brought an undefeated record with them to Yost Ice Arena.
And they’ve beaten some of the nation’s top programs in No. 16 Miami and RPI. The Wolverines failed to establish themselves in their first test of the season at No. 14 Northern Michigan.
Michigan made a statement on Thursday in a 5-2 victory.
Ferris State (2-1 CCHA, 6-1 overall) had surrendered just five goals all year — less than one per game.
The Wolverines equaled that mark in the opening game of the series.
“It’s good to score against a team that doesn’t allow goals,” Berenson said. “We knew goals would be precious, and maybe that’s why we played a little more opportunistic.”
Michigan (1-1-1, 5-1-1) found most of its success by moving the puck down low. It fired nine shots on goal from the top of the crease in the second period despite failing to get a shot from close range in the first.
The Wolverines capitalized on those second-period opportunities to jump out to a 3-0 lead.
“It’s all about the dumps,” said sophomore forward Derek DeBlois. “We weren’t really skating it into the zone that well so (it was) just getting pucks by their ‘D’ and working hard. Good things happen when you go to the net.”
Michigan’s power play came alive after sluggish play against Northern Michigan. The Wolverines entered the contest just 5-for-28 with the man advantage, and their failure to convert on a five-minute penalty in overtime against the Wildcats forced them to settle for a two-point shootout victory.
The power-play unit played effectively on Thursday, converting on two of five chances. Freshman forward Phil DiGiuseppe scored Michigan’s first goal of the night on a power-play chance off a feed from junior forward Chris Brown. Senior forward David Wohlberg converted for the Wolverines’ third goal when he fired an open wrist shot in space in front of the crease with the man advantage.
Michigan, at least temporarily, put to rest any concerns about the effectiveness of its power play. The Bulldogs had denied opponents on 27 of 28 power play opportunities before Thursday.
“I can’t tell you it was any great execution,” Berenson said. “It was shots finding their way into the back of the net and second efforts on loose pucks and a little bit of puck luck. But if you have the puck in their zone enough, things will happen.”
The Wolverines’ forwards harassed Ferris State goalie Taylor Nelson in the later periods. Screens and traffic in front of the goal combined with Michigan’s improved ability to get the puck down low created scoring chances.
“I think just getting the puck to the net (worked for us),” senior forward David Wohlberg said. “The goalie couldn’t see much. (As) Red says, what the goalie can’t see, he can’t save.”
Berenson still wants to see more success from the other end of his special teams. Both of the Bulldogs’ goals came on the power play.
Yet Michigan made improvements in the areas it focused on after the Northern Michigan road trip. The offense played with more opportunism in its second CCHA series and proved its power play could score. The defense, despite struggling with a man down, denied Ferris State in 5-on-5 play.
“We had to play better than we played last weekend, and that might be a common theme all year,” Berenson said.
Brown said that he considered Michigan the underdog coming into the series. The Wolverines didn’t play like it.