For Michigan coach Red Berenson, it was a nice move from someone who hasn’t produced that much this season on or off the ice.
But for Lake Superior coach Frank Anzalone, it was a sign of something his team doesn’t have.
As a Michigan powerplay was winding down late in the first period, Milan Gajic juked out a Lakers defender along the goaline, shot the puck, found his own rebound and then put it between the right leg of the Lakers’ goalie Matt Violin and the left post.
It was just one goal, but to the Lakers it was a backbreaker.
“(Gajic) went backhand-forehand-backhand,” Anzalone said. “I don’t have a guy like that.”
Gajic’s second goal of the season ended up being the game-winner as the Wolverines went on to defeat the Lakers 3-0 to sweep the weekend series after winning 4-1 on Friday. Michigan upped its record to 5-0-1 in CCHA play and now stands tied for third place in the league with Ohio State. The Wolverines trail just Miami and Ferris State, who have each played two more contests than the Wolverines.
While the Lakers are the only CCHA team that leads its all-time season series with Michigan, they had significant trouble generating offense. Other than a couple breakaways that the Wolverines gave up while they were on the powerplay in the second period, the Lakers’ scoring chances were few and far between. This lack of scoring was just another sign that Anzalone has a long way to go in rebuilding a team that he lead to a national championship 14 years ago.
“We’re young, we’re not highly skilled, we’re not going to get any of the top 20 recruits in the nation,” Anzalone said. “We just have to get back to our style, which is being strong over the puck and being tough to get the puck back from.”
The Wolverines took advantage of the Lakers’ penalty kill, which ranks as the worst in the CCHA. Gajic scored seconds after the Lakers has killed a penalty, and freshman Andrew Ebbett scored on the powerplay in the second. Danny Richmond passed the puck through the zone to Ebbett who was open near the right side of the net and beat Violin top shelf.
Then Michigan held on with the help of its top unit: the penalty kill. Lake Superior was able to muster just six shots despite spending more than 15 minutes with an extra man. Up 2-0, Michigan had to kill a five-minute major when Michael Woodford checked Lakers forward David Kellington into the boards, injuring him in the process. But the Lakers weren’t able to take advantage of the extra man as they only fired two shots on goal. Then with Violin pulled in the game’s final minutes, Eric Werner shot the puck from the blue line into an empty net to secure the sweep.
“The penalty killing had to be the difference in the game,” Berenson said.
But the Lakers have been unable to create many chances on anyone this season, scoring just 17 goals in 12 games this season.
“We don’t have a John Shouneyia,” Anzalone said. “We’re not going to score many goals, so we’re not going to win many games. It stinks to lose every game, but that’s just where we’re at right now.”