BIG RAPIDS – Four goals down in a hostile road environment would have been tough enough for the Michigan hockey team to overcome. But struggling to make up that ground while killing penalties proved to be too steep a hill for the Wolverines to climb in Saturday’s loss to Ferris State.

Michigan took 12 penalties, damaging the comeback bid. Three of those whistles came late, forcing the Wolverines to play four of the final 10 minutes with fewer than five men on the ice.

After the game, it wasn’t his Wolverines that coach Red Berenson was upset with.

“I don’t know if it was as much us taking a penalty as it was someone deciding that it was a penalty,” Berenson said. “It’s not like it’s black and white. I just thought that this game had too much on the line to be calling penalties that … (were) judgement calls.”

One of those whistles was directed at Brandon Rogers for a hit well behind the play. The penalty came just three minutes after Jeff Tambellini had cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 4-3 with Michigan’s third-straight tally. The two-minute minor promptly shifted the game’s momentum and brought the raucous crowd at Ewigleben Arena back into the game.

“That’s the problem even being a referee, is every time a player falls, if there’s contact, is that a penalty?” Berenson said after the game. “A lot of times it’s out of the corner of your eye, just like it’s out of the corner of my eye.”

Back again?: Milan Gajic hung around the ice after the pre-game skate Friday, just like he always does. But instead of firing pucks at the open net or skating a few extra circles in the Michigan zone, the sophomore forward sat quietly on an empty Wolverines’ bench. His eyes locked intensely forward.

So far this season, Michigan has been waiting for the Burnaby, British Columbia native to breakout.

On Friday, he seemed to have an added focus, and that translated into his best game of the season. Gajic’s two goals led the Wolverines to the 6-4 win.

But Gajic’s most important contribution may not have been his goal scoring. Just eight minutes into Friday’s game, with the Wolverines already trailing 2-0, the sophomore squeezed the puck through a defender’s legs to a wide-open Andy Burnes in the slot. Michigan’s alternate captain waited a second before firing a wristshot under the crossbar that brought the Wolverines back into the game.

“It just seemed like the puck was going my way,” Gajic later said. “Every time I turned around, it was right there.”

The sophomore’s second-year struggles have been widely discussed. As a freshman, he tied for sixth on the team in scoring and showed flashes of why he set a record for goals, assists and points for the British Columbia Hockey League’s Burnaby Bulldogs two seasons ago. But before this weekend, he had managed just five goals and six assists on the year and sat out games against Bowling Green on Nov. 8 and 9 due to academic suspension.

“I’ve been concerned about him, because he’s a better player than he’s shown,” Berenson said. “And tonight he showed some flashes of Milan Gajic. Obviously he can really help our team out if he plays that well with the puck.”

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