First place in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association was up
for grabs Saturday night, and one team was ready for the opening
faceoff.

When the puck was first dropped, Miami played with the intensity
it failed to bring in the beginning of Friday’s 4-1 loss to
Michigan. Midway through the first period the RedHawks had outshot
the Wolverines 12-1.

But it only lasted for about a dozen minutes. From then on, for
every one good play the RedHawks made, almost immediately
afterward, they would make one or two bonehead plays.

And did Michigan ever capitalize.

Its 8-5 win may have been sloppy and may have left Michigan
coach Red Berenson displeased, but with the home sweep the
Wolverines are now one point ahead of Miami in conference
standings.

“I think we did send a message,” said T.J. Hensick,
who gave Michigan control of the game with a two-minute flurry.
“Going into the weekend, we wanted to emphasize that
we’re the team to beat in this league and I think we showed
that. Last night was a big win and then it carried over into
tonight. I think confidence and momentum will help us as the season
goes on with our next six games.”

Miami’s Matt Christie opened the scoring at 11:50, but 20
seconds later the RedHawks gave Michigan a powerplay. While on the
man advantage, forward Milan Gajic nestled into his sweet spot on
the ice — the left faceoff circle — and ripped a
one-timer past RedHawks goaltender Brandon Crawford-West to even
the score.

Miami still had some mettle and retook the lead 2-1 when RedHawk
Matt Davis weaved through Michigan’s defense and poked the
puck through goaltender Al Montoya’s legs.

Michigan’s response was just as swift. With the puck along
the boards, defenseman Eric Werner swooped in on the right side and
quickly fired a pass across the ice to center Dwight Helminen, who
snapped a wrister for the goal.

And that was when Hensick went to work and personally delivered
Miami a message on behalf of the Wolverines.

Less than 30 seconds after Helminen’s goal, the freshman
center won a faceoff in the RedHawks’ zone and quickly
delivered the puck to linemate Brandon Kaleniecki. With winger
David Rohlfs’ 6-foot-3 body screening Crawford-West,
Kaleniecki quickly fired a one-timer into the top right corner of
the goal to give Michigan a lead it would never relinquish.

But he was far from done. Immediately after the goal, Hensick
— who is small on the ice but surprises opponents with his
physicality — was looking for someone to flatten. He found
Miami’s John Lenz, and leveled him near mid-ice, snapping his
stick in half in the process.

Ten seconds later, the Wolverines were on the powerplay, and 35
seconds after that, they had a 5-on-3 advantage. After methodically
passing the puck and looking for a hole in Miami’s defense,
junior Brandon Rogers fed Hensick across the ice. The freshman
forward, whose 36 points lead the team, quickly redirected the puck
just inside the post past Crawford-West with 2:18 left in the
period to make it 4-2.

The goal capped a wild 5:52, during which the two teams combined
to score six goals. When the two teams headed for the locker rooms,
Michigan had fired 13 of the final 14 shots on goal in the period
to surge ahead.

“It was pretty crazy,” Rogers said. “It
wasn’t the style of hockey we were trying to come out and
play. We didn’t come out that well but we started to pick it
up at the end of the period. The puck was bouncing for them a few
times and luckily for us a few more times. It wasn’t our best
period, but we were able to come out with the lead.”

Miami showed signs of life as it came back onto the ice and
scored a goal at 2:03 to cut the lead to one. But Joe Pomaranski
committed a penalty 23 seconds later, and Rogers made the RedHawks
pay by tallying a goal from the right faceoff circle. Michigan
added two more goals in the period to take extend its lead to
7-3.

“They kept scoring, and we kept scoring,” Hensick
said. “You never knew which one was going to be the
game-winner.”

The No. 8 Redhawks (15-7-2 CCHA, 18-11-3 overall) came into the
weekend believing years of frustration at Yost Ice Arena would come
to an end, but left reeling. Saturday’s loss was
Miami’s 17th straight in Ann Arbor; Michigan is 38-2-1 at
home against Miami.

“We had too many defensive lapses,” said Derek
Edwardson, who leads the CCHA in scoring with 40 points. “It
had nothing to do with goaltending. We had too many lapses, gave
them too many good chances.”

Friday’s game was far different, with Michigan in control
from the start. An early penalty gave Michigan a powerplay, and
winger Eric Nystrom set up center David Moss for an easy goal with
a nice pass at 4:12. Forward Jason Ryznar added a goal with just
over four minutes left in the first period when, on a two-on-one,
he stretched his arm out and batted a pass from linemate Andrew
Ebbett toward the net. Miraculously, he placed it perfectly, just
past Crawford-West’s left leg. From there, Montoya made it
stand, allowing just one goal when a collision left a loose puck in
front of the net for the RedHawks to clean up.

After Friday’s win, Berenson emphasized the importance of
the game’s start, saying: “We knew the start of the
game would be huge. We had to put our best foot forward early to
get some momentum and get the crowd in the game.”

But, because the No. 5 Wolverines (16-5-1, 21-8-1) were unable
to duplicate their fiery start on Saturday, Berenson came away from
the weekend just happy to be in first.

“That’s college hockey,” Berenson said.
“It’s heart attack hockey. It is good we won two games.
They were huge games to win. I like the game last night. Tonight, I
don’t know what it was but we got through it and we’ll
take it.”

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