OMAHA “It was like night and day.”
Defenseman Mike Komisarek”s words perfectly describe the Michigan hockey team”s performance in its split at Nebraska-Omaha this past weekend.
After getting outplayed, outhustled and outworked in Friday night”s 4-1 loss to the upstart Mavericks, Michigan came back with a vengeance to the tune of a 4-1 win on Saturday night, “salvaging” the series and keeping the Wolverines within three points of first-place Michigan State in the CCHA.
“The bottom line today is that we outworked them,” freshman Andy Burnes said after Saturday night”s victory. “In every aspect of the game, we outworked them. We outhit them, we beat them to the loose puck. I think it showed we wanted the game more tonight.”
By refusing to let the combination of the smothering Nebraska-Omaha forecheck along with the Mavericks” rabid fans dictate the flow of the game like they did on Friday night, Michigan showed its composure and quieted the crowd at the same time.
And it didn”t take long.
After Nebraska-Omaha”s David Brisson was called for a penalty within the first ten seconds of the game, Michigan capitalized on the ensuing powerplay before the first minute wound down. Andy Hilbert won the faceoff in the offensive zone, tapping the puck back to Jeff Jillson at the point. Jillson sent a slap shot at Nebraska-Omaha netminder Dan Ellis.
Ellis steered the puck right to Mike Cammalleri, who flipped the errant rebound past the freshman goalie to give the Wolverines a one-goal lead.
“It was huge,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson, who mentioned how important it was when the Mavericks scored the first goal in the previous night”s game. “We needed to score the first goal of the game. As the game went on, I thought we could have had four or five goals. Ellis played well and kept the game close.”
Following his impressive 34-save performance on Friday night, Ellis helped the Mavericks weather the storm in the first ten minutes of Saturday”s game when the Wolverines were peppering him with “golden” scoring chance.
But the masked man at the other end of the ice was even better.
As Nebraska-Omaha gathered its bearings and put the pressure back on the Wolverines, Michigan goalie Josh Blackburn stepped up for another solid showing.
And in a 180-degree twist from Friday”s game, undisciplined penalties did the Mavericks in instead of the Wolverines. After Mark Kosick notched the Wolverines” second powerplay goal late in the first period, Nebraska-Omaha picked up numerous penalties, including four in the third period alone.
We kept “shooting ourselves in the foot time and time again,” said Nebraska-Omaha coach Mike Kemp.
The Mavericks” lone powerplay goal came with just two minutes remaining in the second period, but it wasn”t enough.
Michigan put a damper on Nebraska-Omaha fans” “We believe” and “Beat Michigan” signs with two third-period tallies, including an empty-netter by Bill Trainor.
Friday night”s loss was reminiscent of prior defeats at the hands of seemingly inferior teams, including setbacks to Alaska-Fairbanks, Ferris State, Michigan Tech and Ohio State.
“I don”t know,” Andy Hilbert said about his team”s struggles to sweep a weekend series. “It”s something we obviously have to overcome. We can say it all we want but we have to do it and learn how to become a two-a-weekend team.”