It had been a rocky road for the Michigan hockey team.
The 14th-ranked Wolverines – who were once ranked as high as No. 5 in the nation – had lost four of their last six games.
But with the entire roster together for the first time since Dec. 2 and a game against conference cellar dweller Bowling Green in front of them, the Wolverines were in a position to start the season’s second half off on the right foot.
And they did just that.
Michigan pummeled the Falcons, 5-0, at Yost Ice Arena last night.
“For everyone to come back together and get a strong performance like we did tonight is a good way to start the second half,” senior David Rohlfs said.
During the recent rough patch, Michigan coach Red Berenson had been critical of how his team failed to take control at the start of games. But from the onset last night, Michigan (9-5-0 CCHA, 14-8-0 overall) kept the pressure on Bowling Green, generating numerous scoring chances.
Junior Chad Kolarik broke through less than three minutes into the game with a redirection of a T.J. Hensick shot for a power-play goal, his 100th point as a Wolverine.
Although Michigan entered the locker room after 20 minutes with just a one-goal lead, the Wolverines limited the Falcons (3-12-0, 5-17-1) to just one shot in the first period and peppered goalie Jimmy Spratt with 13 of their own.
Sophomore netminder Billy Sauer, who has struggled lately, delivered his first shutout in more than a year, saving all 22 shots he faced. Bowling Green never sustained enough pressure to faze the Walworth, N.Y., native.
Clinging to a one-goal lead late in the first period, Rohlfs nearly made it a two-goal margin with a breakaway attempt that clanked off the crossbar.
But what he couldn’t do with about two minutes to go in the first, he accomplished about two minutes into the second period.
Rohlfs benefited from a “knuckleball” shot from the blue line that floated off the goalie’s glove and into the net, ending a four-game point drought. At the post-game press conference, neither Rohlfs, Sauer or Berenson knew exactly what happened on the play, but they gladly accepted the result.
After being paired with Hensick and junior Kevin Porter for much of the year, Rohlfs made his first appearance on the team’s third line alongside sophomores Tim Miller and Brandon Naurato. And Berenson liked what he saw out of that line.
“I thought Rohlfs was huge on that third line for us,” Berenson said. “They are so good defensively, and they did some nice things offensively as well.”
Rohlfs continued his offensive contributions later with a breakaway goal midway through the third to cap the win.
As conference season enters crunch time, the Wolverines hope that the end of Rohlfs’s point skid will be a sign of things turning the corner for their team, too.
BGSU 0, Michigan 5