Mike Cammalleri needed just one shot to notify the Yost Ice Arena crowd of his return to action Friday night.
The junior center took full advantage of his team”s first powerplay opportunity, receiving a pass from junior John Shouneyia and whistling a slapshot past Alaska-Fairbanks goalie Preston McKay to give the Wolverines a 1-0 lead that they would never relinquish.
Cammalleri along with teammates Mike Komisarek, Dwight Helminen and Eric Nystrom participated in the World Junior Championships over winter break and had not played a game with the Wolverines in more then a month. Cammalleri Michigan”s leading goal scorer was named the Top Forward of the international tournament, tallying 11 points in seven games.
Along with Cammalleri”s goal and assist in the Wolverines” 7-0 rout of Alaska-Fairbanks, Helminen made his presence felt in the third period by scoring Michigan”s fifth goal of the night on a shot from the top of the right circle. Komisarek also contributed to the onslaught, assisting on freshman Jason Ryznar”s powerplay goal that gave the Wolverines a 2-0 lead.
“It”s a morale boost for our team,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson of the return of the tournament participants. “I think our team realized that we”re good without them, and we”re better with them if we”re all playing the way we”ve shown we can play in their absence, and that”s what you saw (Friday).”
But Saturday was quite a different story for both the returnees and the rest of the Wolverines, as they could not generate enough grade-A scoring chances to rattle the Nanooks” backup goaltender, Lance Mayes.
Berenson whose players have competed in the World Juniors in past years knew that he couldn”t count on the tournament participants to carry the load in their first series back. The effects of not playing with the team showed in Michigan”s 3-1 loss to the Nanooks.
“This is a different kind of hockey,” said Berenson at Thursday”s practice. “It”s more intense, it”s more physical, and everything happens quicker on the ice. We”re going to put (the returnees) back in the lineup, but the guys that are going to make the difference are the guys that have been carrying this team Shouneyia and (captain Jed) Ortmeyer.”
Missing offense: One of the main factors in Michigan”s lackluster performance in Saturday night”s loss was its inability to turn good defense into offense with solid passes in transition. The Wolverines turned the puck over at the blueline countless times, which kept them from finding a rhythm offensively.
With a 2-1 lead entering the third period, Alaska-Fairbanks put the clamps down on defense, taking an ultra-conservative approach to the final stanza. The Nanooks iced the puck whenever they could and made no effort to add to their lead. This defensive style frustrated Michigan and put even more pressure on the Wolverines to find a way to score.
“They got the puck and just iced it,” senior Craig Murray said. “It”s a good point on their part. They”re up 2-1, they don”t need any more goals to win and we”re pressed (to score). It”s a bit frustrating, but they played well with the lead.”
Same Old Problem: After Friday”s 7-0 romp of the Nanooks, the Wolverines knew from experience that they would have to keep their focus to win again on Saturday. Last season, Michigan beat Alaska-Fairbanks 8-0 on Friday and fell to the Nanooks 5-2 the next night.
But the Wolverines didn”t learn from history and came out flat and overconfident in Saturday night”s loss.
“The outcome of (Friday) night”s game was probably handled better by their team than our team,” Berenson said.
Said Murray: “We talk about it and say don”t get too high, don”t get too low, but it”s (easier) to say that than do it. You win 7-0 and it”s tough to keep some of those thoughts out of your mind.”
You”re a good man: Freshman walk-on Charlie Henderson continued his emergence as a consistent scorer in Friday night”s victory, tallying a shorthanded goal and two assists on the evening. Henderson has now recorded seven points (3-4) in just eight games.
One Man and a Baby: Alaska-Fairbanks head coach Guy Gadowsky was missing in action for the Nanooks four-game road swing against Michigan and Miami, Ohio.
Gadowsky remained home in Alaska with his wife, who is in the later stages of a pregnancy and expected to give birth any day.
Had the birth occurred last Wednesday or earlier, Gadowsky would have joined his team for the series at Yost.
The Nanooks posted a 3-1 record in Gadowsky”s absence.