OMAHA Against Michigan State last week, Michigan not only picked up one CCHA standing point, it also picked up needed big-game experience for a young team.
That added experience for Michigan paid off Friday night in the opening game of the Maverick Stampede, against No. 6 Providence, in the form of a 6-3 win.
The Wolverines exhibited their depth as two players on each of the top three lines scored a goal.
Michigan wanted to pressure Providence early and take advantage of a team that was yet to play a game this season. The effort paid off as Michigan never trailed, nor did it let Providence get closer than a one-goal deficit.
The Friars” wet feet showed in the first shift of the game when the Wolverines created several scoring opportunities by keeping the puck in the Friars” zone with hard checks leading to turnovers.
Michigan set a fast and physical tone, as junior captain Jed Ortmeyer and sophomore defenseman Mike Komisarek delivered strong checks, while pushing the puck up ice on odd-man rushes.
“We brought the play right to them from the start,” Komisarek said. “We had a great first shift and built on that. We did a lot of good things took a hit to make a play, got the puck in deep. Guys were blocking shots and we played well on the power play.”
Michigan struck first on the powerplay after Providence freshmen Cody Loughlean was called for an unnecessary tripping penalty. Michigan took advantage of the powerplay and make passes relatively uncontested.
After being fed from down low by Ortmeyer, Komisarek fanned on a slap shot from the point, sending the puck into the middle zone. Freshman Jason Ryznar, who had been setting a screen in front of the net, opportunistically skated to the puck, twirled and shot without setting himself in an attempt to put a shot on goal.
Providence goalie and second team All-American Nolan Schaefer never saw the shot coming. Schaefer admitted that he was a little nervous from the faceoff, which was compounded by Michigan”s early attack.
Less than two and a half minutes later, with Michigan forward John Shouneyia and Providence senior Drew Omicioli in the penalty box for coincidental hitting after the whistle, Michigan struck again.
This time it was two freshmen hooking up. David Moss backhanded a Milan Gajic shot that hit the post and rebounded right in front of the net.
With Providence reeling like a boxer after a hard one-two combination, coach Paul Pooley called a timeout to settle his team and get it back on track.
“We weren”t very composed at the start of game so I asked the team if they were ready to play,” Pooley said. “We needed to get the nervousness out of us, calm down and do what we were supposed to do and just relax. We were really uptight and nervous. I could see it in our guys eyes, and we weren”t making good decisions with the puck.”
After the timeout, Providence began to settle down and play more consistently. With seven minutes left in the period, the Friars took advantage of a Michigan mistake. Having cleared the zone, the Friars were able to pick up a loose puck in the natural zone and skate in for a breakaway on which Jon DiSalvatore slid the puck past a sprawled-out Josh Blackburn.
After several strong shifts, it appeared as if Providence might get back into the game. But Shouneyia took a pass from sophomore Joe Kautz, who picked up the loose puck after a screened shot.
“I though we got off to a good start,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “We jumped them pretty well and put a couple of chances in, and after that it was pretty even. We always managed to score the go-ahead goal that kept us up by two goals so they were also timely goals. We had some good efforts at some key times and we didn”t let them play as well as they can play.”
The Friars pulled within a goal midway through the second period to make the score 3-2. But Providence never got closer than that, as Michigan scored the next three goals to cement the game and two more overall standing points.
With the win, Michigan advanced to the championship game of the Maverick Stampede, where it attempted to use its newfound experience to win its first regular-season tournament since the 1996-97 Great Lakes Invitational.