FAIRBANKS – During Friday night’s loss, freshman defenseman Jack Johnson was flustered by the comments and actions from some Alaska-Fairbanks players. In the season’s first five games, Johnson – who, entering the series, had found his way into the penalty box nine times – had the Nanooks keying on him all game long. When the game was over, he had been whistled for three penalties for the night.
During the final minutes of the game, Johnson found himself involved in several scuffles with Nanooks. Michigan captain Andrew Ebbett tried to calm him down so that he could channel his energy into helping the Wolverines get back into the game and earn a victory the next night.
“You can’t go out there and do something that’s going to kick you out of the next game,” Ebbett said. “I just went in there and told him to play with that intensity and that fire for the entire 60 minutes.”
Johnson realizes that despite his 11 points this season, his penalty minutes have been a problem.
“The coaches keep telling me that they want me on the ice and not in the box,” Johnson said. “Being in the box doesn’t do anything to help the team.”
During Saturday’s game Johnson was more patient, and his efforts were rewarded – he scored three points and committed just one penalty.
“We played with an attitude tonight,” Johnson said. “We needed to come in and be a little bit meaner and a little bit stronger along the walls so that we could win those battles they were winning (on Friday).”
Berenson was happy that Johnson and his teammates managed to keep their cool in Saturday’s game.
“I think our whole team was frustrated at times last night. I thought our team discipline and intensity were good,” Berenson said. “You have to watch the second game against the same opponent. Sometimes teams take cheap shots, especially if the game gets out of hand. I thought we did a good job.”
Goalie, Goalie, Sieve: Though Alaska-Fairbanks goalie Wylie Rogers was far from a sieve with his 64 saves in two nights, Berenson was happy to find out that he had two equally-prepared goaltenders on his roster.
Freshman Billy Sauer, who proved himself with key saves to preserve a victory against Boston College and a tie against Michigan State, struggled for the first time during Friday night’s 4-2 loss to Alaska-Fairbanks. On the Olympic ice surface, which is 15 feet wider than a standard ice sheet, Sauer struggled to adjust to the new angles that shooters took.
“I noticed (during Saturday morning’s practice) when I was trying to go over it that I could see myself being drawn towards the short side,” Sauer said. “I just need to make sure in practice this week that the angles aren’t a problem and it was just the wide ice.”
Seeing Sauer struggle, Berenson decided to start senior Noah Ruden during Saturday’s game.
“I think Billy was a little more uncomfortable with the angles of the big rink,” Berenson said. “We just felt that Billy looked uncomfortable on some shots last night, and it was a good chance for Noah to get in.”
Luckily for the Wolverines, Ruden was prepared to jump right into the fire. With his extra years of experience, Ruden adjusted easily.
“You just have to practice it,” Ruden said. “It’s a good thing that we got those two extra practice sessions here. You have to check the angles on the wraps and the dumps and more importantly the guys who are coming in at you. It plays really differently, and if you’re aware of that you can fix it pretty quickly as a goalie.”
Ruden was also prepared to face the first penalty shot the Wolverines have seen since March 2, 1997. Having played in a junior league where they went to shootouts and participated in team shootouts each week in practice, he managed to turn aside Lucas Burnett’s shot easily.
“You have to decide how you want to play it,” Ruden said. “It was late in the period and the ice was choppy, so I knew he wasn’t going to deke, so that helped. You just have to play them straight up.”
Andrew’s a key Cog: After struggling to find the back of the net in the season’s first weekend, freshman Andrew Cogliano has found his form. Cogliano scored one of Michigan’s two goals and added an assist in a losing effort on Friday night. This two-point performance was the third consecutive game that he had scored a goal and assisted on another.
While that streak came to a halt Saturday night, Cogliano was credited with an assist on junior Matt Hunwick’s goal with 2:30 remaining in the Wolverines’ 4-0 victory. This brought his season line to four goals and five assists. All nine of his points have come in the last four games.
Ebbett believes that Cogliano thrived on the larger ice surface because his quickness allows him to beat defenders to loose pucks.
“It was nice out there with the bigger ice,” Ebbett said. “Especially for guys like Cogliano – he’s got a lot of speed. He used it real well tonight.”