The last time the Michigan hockey team skated off the ice at Yost Arena, it had just been swept at home in a weekend series for the first time since 1999.
Since that embarrassment against Northern Michigan four weeks ago, the ninth-ranked Wolverines have preached desperation and intensity on the ice. During Michigan”s trips to Alaska-Fairbanks and Nebraska-Omaha, it posted a 3-0-1 record with this renewed sense of urgency.
But Friday night, when the Wolverines returned home for the first time in almost a month to face No. 1 Minnesota, Michigan”s new mentality vanished. The Wolverines were dominated by the Golden Gophers, who scored three goals in the first seven minutes, building a lead that would prove to be insurmountable.
“The first period really killed us,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “We expected Minnesota to be a good team, but there was no reason for us to come out and be on our heels like that.”
“If there was (a sense of urgency tonight) we didn”t show it,” junior forward Mike Cammalleri said on Friday. “The desperation wasn”t there in our game and that is something we will search for.”
Michigan”s 5-2 loss to the Golden Gophers dropped the Wolverines” home record to 1-3, equaling their total number of home losses from last season. In order for the Wolverines to move up from the middle of the pack in the crowded CCHA standings, they”ll have to learn how to win at home.
“We need to start sending a home-ice presence and make this the type of building that opponents don”t want to play in,” Cammalleri said.
Michigan (4-3-2 CCHA, 6-5-2 overall) took the first step in the right direction Saturday night, winning the second game of the ninth College Hockey Showcase against Wisconsin by a score of 5-3.
Komo to the Rescue: In Michigan”s two victories at home this year, the Wolverines have utilized some extra offensive punch from defenseman Mike Komisarek. In the team”s first win against Western Michigan on Oct. 20, the sophomore tallied two goals in the 5-3 victory.
Saturday against the Badgers, Komisarek struck again, recording two goals. One of his scores was a shorthanded tally after senior Craig Murray won a faceoff in the Wisconsin zone.
“It”s something we work on in practice,” Komisarek said. “Walking across that blue line and firing shots on net, trying to find the right angles and not getting the shot blocked. Luckily, for me, they”re getting through.”
Stoning Gophers: Michigan senior goaltender Kevin O”Malley played his first minutes of the season Friday night in mop-up duty for starter Josh Blackburn.
Blackburn gave up five goals before being pulled in favor of O”Malley with 16 minutes left in the third period.
O”Malley, who performed well in exhibition play, proved once again that he is a much-improved goaltender. He stoned seven shots, including a few point-blank opportunities on a Minnesota powerplay. O”Malley held the Golden Gophers scoreless during his stint in net, further earning the confidence of Berenson.
“I was not worried to put O”Malley in,” Berenson said. “He showed me that he is ready to play in a game. He has looked good in practice, and he made some good saves and showed me that he is ready.”
Thinking ahead: Prior to the Wolverines” victory over Wisconsin Saturday, Michigan was 0-2 against the WCHA this season, with losses to Minnesota-Duluth in the Maverick Stampede and Minnesota on Friday.
Saturday”s victory was crucial for the Wolverines” postseason hopes because victories against nonconference opponents play a large role in deciding which teams receive at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament.
“When you look back at these games at the end of the season with the pairwise rankings, and getting a bid to the NCAA Tournament, these games are obviously huge,” Komisarek said.
Michigan will face two more non-CCHA opponents before season”s end. The Wolverines will face Harvard on Dec. 15 and North Dakota in the Great Lakes Invitational over winter break.
Take a seat: After returning from a high ankle sprain last weekend, Michigan junior defenseman Mike Roemensky was removed from the lineup for Saturday night”s game with the Badgers. Roemensky was replaced by freshman Nick Martens, who saw his first action of the season.
“He was a healthy scratch. We weren”t happy with our team last night, and he was one of the players we took out of the lineup,” Berenson said.
Notes: Michigan junior forward Mark Mink was moved from the second line to the fourth line in the middle of Friday”s game. Freshman Milan Gajic was moved up in his place Each of the four Wolverines” centers tallied a point against Wisconsin The Badgers haven”t beaten the Wolverines since 1993, and are 2-15-1 in College Hockey Showcase play The attendance of 6,917 at the Minnesota game was the largest since Yost”s major renovation prior to the 1996-97 season.