BOWLING GREEN — There were no excessive celebrations. There was no champagne in the locker room. It was just business as usual on Friday night as No. 4 Michigan dispatched Bowling Green 4-1 at BGSU Arena and clinched the CCHA regular season title. For the seniors, it was their third title in four years, and, for Michigan, it was its ninth title in the last 14.

On Saturday, Michigan (23-3-2 CCHA, 26-7-3 overall) pushed its season-best unbeaten streak to nine games (7-0-2) with a 5-4 win over Bowling Green (13-12-2, 16-14-4) at Yost Ice Arena. After the game, CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos presented senior captain Eric Nystrom with the CCHA championship trophy to celebrate the accomplishment. Nystrom spun around with the trophy in his hands as the Yost crowd cheered. But Nystrom is not Mark Messier and the CCHA trophy is not the Stanley Cup. There is more work to be done.

“We came (to Michigan) to win the big one, but we haven’t done that yet,” Nystrom said. “Not many teams have done that since they’ve been here, and we want to do that and look back and to leave our stamp on Michigan hockey. We made a mission statement this season and the last words are ‘time to join a legacy.’ And we have as good of a chance as anybody right now (to win it all). We have the team to do it.”

Still, after winning the conference crown, Michigan can now cross one of its goals off its to-do list — a list that ends with an open box next to “national championship.” Next item, the Wolverines will host Notre Dame in the first round of the CCHA tournament in a best-of-three series.

On Friday night, four different Wolverines scored, and Al Montoya made 21 saves as the Wolverines reeled in two more points and made it impossible for second-place Ohio State to catch them.

“I can tell you that we did not talk — I didn’t at least — about first place,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “It was about playing well and playing our best hockey this time of year.”

And the Wolverines did play well in their first non-exhibition game in the last two weeks. Junior Andrew Ebbett got the Wolverines started seven minutes into the game when he and Kevin Porter skated into the Falcon’s zone on a shorthanded two-on-one. Ebbett acted as if he would pass but kept the puck and beat goalie Jordan Sigalet to break the scoreless tie. It was the first of Ebbett’s four points over the weekend.

“Coach and I have been talking a little bit over the last couple of days about how, on two-on-ones, I should try to shoot a little bit more,” Ebbett said. “Because I think other teams are going to think I’m going to pass it. I mean, I only have four goals. It was nice to get a shot there, and I’ll thank coach for that goal later.”

After Bowling Green’s Mike Falk tied the game at 1-1, Ebbett helped the Wolverines take the lead again halfway through the second period. The junior skated along the left boards and fired a puck toward the net. Nystrom, who was positioned between Ebbett and the goal, deflected the puck into the top of the Bowling Green net. It was officially the conference-clinching goal.

“I heard Nystrom yelling to shoot the puck,” Ebbett said. “And he was there. He did a great job all night on the power play and five-on-five of just getting in front and screening the goalie.”

After the productive weekend, Ebbett has a more respectable six goals to go along with his 25 assists.

Michigan’s two most reliable scorers — junior Jeff Tambellini and sophomore T.J. Hensick — added goals and Michigan earned its third conference crown in four years.

“It’s a great feeling right now,” Montoya said. “But to tell you the truth, at the start of the season, we expected this, and throughout the whole season, we expected it. But it’s nice to actually get it done, and it’s just one thing that we want to get accomplished, and we can chalk it off the board and move on now.”

The game was highlighted by a number of huge hits, many of which were handed out by Michigan sophomore Mike Brown.

“It was a physical game,” Berenson said. “I thought that Mike Brown was our most physical player. He played a powerful game. And when you’re on the road and the other team is testing you, you need to step up.”

On Saturday after the win, Michigan’s 10 seniors were honored on Senior Night at Yost. The 10 players — all of whom dressed for the game — came out onto the ice, one by one, in a spotlight. They skated down the line and hugged all their younger teammates and met their parents on the ice near the bench as has become Michigan tradition. After posing for photographs, they skated around with Michigan flags and, at the end, put their lips to the ice while the fans stayed and cheered.

“It goes by fast,” Nystrom said. “It’s been a heck of a ride, but it’s not over yet. It was tough swallowing the tears a little bit when we were kissing the ice.”
































Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.