DETROIT — The Michigan hockey team endured a 48-minute scoreless drought during Saturday’s CCHA Championship game against Western Michigan, a decision that the Wolverines eventually dropped, 3-2.

Michigan tried to avoid penalties at all costs, but ironically, that was where the team found its biggest break of the game.

“I think that game … it’s just a reminder of how important all the little things are in a game, whether it’s a penalty, a faceoff or even a line change,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson.

Six minutes into the third period, sophomore defenseman Jon Merrill had a nasty knee-first collision with a Bronco, sending both players flying head-over-skates onto the ice.

The Western Michigan player took several minutes to skate off, and Merrill took a five-minute trip to the sin bin.

The Broncos had already scored a power-play goal that evening, and it was bad timing for the Wolverines, who were trailing by three in the final frame with one of their top penalty killers in the box. Somehow, it became an opportune moment for Michigan to start to stage its comeback.

Two minutes into the penalty, sophomore defenseman Kevin Clare brought the puck down the ice, deked around the Broncos’ defense and slipped the puck past Western Michigan goaltender Frank Slubowski.

Suddenly, the prospect of a late-game comeback didn’t seem so lofty anymore. And with the help of a Bronco five-minute game misconduct two minutes later, a Michigan win finally seemed within reach.

“Going into the third period, we thought we had a chance (of winning),” said senior forward and captain Luke Glendening. “But (the power play) kind of opened our eyes a little bit more.”

And thanks to junior defenseman Lee Moffie’s one-timer just minutes later, the Wolverines were within striking distance. With the deficit finally narrowed to just one, Michigan still had time remaining on the power play.

“Whether it’s a bounce of the puck or a goal post of a little bit of luck (the game can go your way),” Berenson said. “Either way, that game could have went into overtime and then we could have got lucky and won just like (Friday).”

But no matter how much Michigan itched for that final goal, the puck just didn’t find twine.

The Wolverines rallied as the stanza wound down, and they finally seemed to find the energy they had been missing for most of the game. With possession in the Broncos’ zone, sophomore defenseman Mac Bennett had Michigan’s last good look of game with three minutes left.

That shot was just inches away from propelling Michigan into overtime.

Overtime has been kind to the Wolverines this year, with the squad boasting a 6-0 record in games decided in extra time, including a double-overtime victory the previous night over Bowling Green.

After the game, it was obvious that Berenson genuinely believed that Michigan could pull through.

“I liked the way we came back in the third period,” Berenson said. “We needed one shot, and we had that shot, but it didn’t hit the net.”

The clock ran out on the Wolverines on Saturday. But Michigan prefers that it happens now rather than in the NCAA Tournament.

“We were hoping for two (goals), but that’s just the way it goes sometimes,” Glendening said. “I thought our power play looked better tonight, and that’s a step in the right direction for the tournament.”

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