GRAND RAPIDS This weekend in the NCAA West Regional, Michigan eked out a hard-fought 4-3 win against Mercyhurst Saturday and eased past St. Cloud 4-3 yesterday.
That”s right, the Wolverines needed a late goal by Andy Hilbert to beat the Lakers, the lowest-seeded team in the tournament, and then dominated the Huskies the team that Michigan coach Red Berenson called the best in the tournament for most of yesterday”s game.
However they did it, the result is a trip for Michigan in two weeks to the Frozen Four.
This shouldn”t come as too big a surprise, considering Michigan played its best this season against good teams that weren”t named Michigan State, and always had trouble against the teams it should have beaten easily.
That isn”t to say that the Huskies didn”t make things interesting. Keith Anderson cut the Wolverines” advantage to one goal with just over five minutes left in the game. But Michigan held on for the trip to Albany.
“We knew it would be a tough game and we knew St. Cloud would be a formidable opponent,” Berenson said.
“This is an unbelievable feeling right now,” freshman Joe Kautz said.
Sophomore center Mike Cammalleri was named the MVP of the regional, capping a performance that saw him score two key goals and assist on Hilbert”s game-winning goal on Saturday.
The Wolverines came out determined yesterday, sensing a glowing opportunity to erase the disappointment of a season that saw them ranked at the top of the league in early November before falling to as low as eighth in the polls.
Yesterday”s score was a bit deceiving, as Michigan seemed to control the pace throughout, outshooting the Huskies, 33-20.
While St. Cloud was able to put three on the board, it had no answer for two of Michigan”s most reliable playoff performers, seniors Mark Kosick and Josh Langfeld.
“Our seniors led the way,” Cammalleri said. “We knew they were capable of doing that. They”re a great class.”
Kosick got Michigan on the board at 13:30 of the first with a redirect off a Mike Komisarek shot from the point on the powerplay. Langfeld followed with a breakaway score off a feed from Kosick four-and-a-half minutes later to stake Michigan to a 2-0 advantage that the Wolverines would never relinquish.
From that point forward, Michigan played the second two periods pretty even with the Huskies. A St. Cloud goal at 6:38 in the second was followed by a Cammalleri tally to restore Michigan”s two-goal advantage. And Mark Hartigan”s goal for St. Cloud early in the third was overshadowed by Michigan captain Geoff Koch”s poke past St. Cloud goaltender Scott Meyer.
The Wolverines” biggest problem was the penalty kill, as St. Cloud”s three goals all came on the powerplay. It was also pretty evident by the end of the game that Michigan was tiring, a result of playing two games in two nights and meeting an opponent that had a bye on Saturday.
But in the end, the extra rest could not help the Huskies.
“The bye has a big advantage, but it”s not a guarantee,” Berenson said.
The Wolverines had more trouble on Saturday afternoon against the Lakers. Mercyhurst got off to a quick lead and kept the game tied at 2-2 until the third period. After the Lakers took a 3-2 lead, goals by Kosick and Hilbert gave Michigan the win.