Coming off of back-to-back shutout wins over Lake Superior, Michigan goalie Josh Blackburn knew that he would need an equally stellar performance against Nebraska-Omaha this weekend if he was going to keep his team in the hunt for the CCHA title.
But while the Wolverines were able to notch a sweep over the Mavericks, Blackburn had some difficulties.
Hampered by an injury to his right hand and some misjudgments Blackburn struggled to handle the puck over the weekend, particularly in delivering it to his teammates.
The injury occurred on Friday night in pregame warm-ups, and made stick handling difficult.
“(He) took a shot on his index finger, and he had to have it stitched up,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “He got through it better (Friday) than (Saturday), but (Saturday) it was really sore. Imagine trying to swing a baseball bat with four stitches in your index finger, and it”s the same thing.”
Blackburn still managed to make 15 saves in Friday”s win and another 19 in Saturday”s 6-3 triumph. But time and time again, Blackburn seemed out of sync when transitioning the Wolverines from defense to offense.
Saturday night was particularly troublesome. Blackburn began the game by hitting Michigan defenseman Nick Martens with a clearing attempt, and the rest of the contest followed the same pattern.
The senior ventured out of his net often, but only on a few occasions did those travels result in successful control of possession for Michigan.
“I didn”t do such a good job (on Saturday night) communicating,” Blackburn said. “As of late, we”ve been doing a pretty good job communicating, but tonight it was my fault.”
“Bout a man named Jed: Michigan forward and Omaha native Jed Ortmeyer once again had a solid weekend against his hometown team.
The junior captain tallied two goals in Saturday”s game. Ortmeyer also threw his body around, playing with the type of physical intensity that has been a staple of his all season.
“Ortmeyer continues to be a leader,” Berenson said. “I don”t think there was a better player all weekend.”
When the Wolverines played in Omaha on Nov. 16 and 17, Ortmeyer was the Wolverines” most intimidating physical presence. He also assisted on Eric Nystrom”s game-winning, overtime goal in Michigan”s 3-2 win in the second game of that series.
This weekend”s sweep gives the Wolverines a 7-2-1 advantage in their all-time record against Nebraska-Omaha with all of those games coming in Ortmeyer”s three years at Michigan.
“I chose to come to Michigan, and a lot of people back home probably don”t agree with that back home,” Ortmeyer said. “It”s a good feeling to be able to show that I feel like I made the right decision.”
Over the limit: With Friday night”s overtime contest, Michigan has now played in 10 overtime games this season, the second most in team history. It is one behind the record of 11 set in 1983-84, when the Wolverines posted a 5-5-1 mark in overtime.
This year, the Wolverines are 3-2-5 in extra sessions, but hold a 2-0-1 mark against Nebraska-Omaha and are 3-1-4 in the CCHA.
“This isn”t an easy league,” Berenson said. “There are no easy teams in it, and we haven”t rolled over anyone. We battle every night.”
Home sweep home: It wasn”t just the players that enjoyed the Wolverines first regular season home sweep in CCHA play since Jan. 5-7 against Lake Superior.
With time winding down in the third period, “Disco Dan” (or Dan DeSena outside of Yost), the Michigan band leader, got into the action, symbolically sweeping a music stand in front of him while performing his trademark victory dance in celebration of Michigan”s win.