OMAHA Just one night after doubling up No. 6 Providence 6-3 on the first night of the Nebraska- Omaha Maverick Stampede, the Michigan hockey team was handcuffed by tournament underdog Minnesota-Duluth losing to the Bulldogs in the championship game by a score of 3-2.
Although the game seemed evenly matched throughout, Minnesota-Duluth”s ability to convert on the powerplay made the difference in the game. Both second period goals for the Bulldogs came on the power play. Their biggest goal, however, came in the third period with the team skating at even strength.
With just over three minutes expired in the period and the score 2-2, Minnesota-Duluth freshman Tyler Brosz gained control of the puck in the Michigan defensive zone behind both Wolverine defensemen. Brosz fired a wrist shot from the top of the circle that sailed past Blackburn into the top corner of the net.
Although frustrated by several missed opportunities by his own team, Michigan coach Red Berenson did not take anything away from unranked Minnesota-Duluth, which advanced to the championship game after defeating host Nebraska-Omaha 5-2.
“They”re a good team,” Berenson said. “You have to give them full marks. As disappointed as we are, they played a strong game because they scored the goals that they needed to score in particular the powerplay goals.
“It was one of those games where we couldn”t score when we had to and they scored when they had to. We had an edge early, but after the midway point of the first period, I thought it was a pretty even game.”
Early on, Michigan (1-1-1 overall) was given multiple opportunities to build a strong lead, but was unable to convert those chances into scores.
With 11 minutes to play in the first period, Michigan junior captain and Omaha native Jed Ortmeyer received a breakaway opportunity coming out of the neutral zone, but was stopped by Minnesota-Duluth goalie Adam Coole the eventual MVP of the tournament.
A few minutes later, with the Wolverines on the powerplay, Michigan freshman Milan Gajic fired a shot at an empty net with Coole out of position, but hit the side of the net.
“There”s no question that we had some golden opportunities,” Berenson said. “Ortmeyer had a great chance and Gajic had an empty net setup. Whenever you have two or three good chances like that, you have to put those chances in.”
Michigan finally converted a scoring chance to take a 1-0 lead, but this time it was the individual effort of junior Mike Cammalleri that created the goal.
After Michigan defenseman Brandon Rogers” shot was saved, Cammalleri retrieved the rebound, was stopped on his initial shot, but got his own rebound and fired it over Coole into the goal.
Michigan sophomore Joe Kautz managed to tally his first goal of the season in the second period to give Michigan a 2-1 lead, but the real story of the evening was Minnesota-Duluth”s special teams.
Minnesota-Duluth (2-0-0) converted on two of six powerplay attempts and killed off all four of its penalties successfully.
The Bulldogs first powerplay goal, which tied the score at one, came on a quick shot from the slot by captain Judd Medak, who redirected the puck past Michigan goalie Josh Blackburn. The second, which tied the score at two, came on a hard slapshot from the point by Brosz.
After the goals, Michigan was unable to reestablish control over the game like it had in the first period.
“The penalties really hurt us,” Berenson said. “We are going to have to play better individually and be more consistent as a team if we want to do better. When we play well, we look really good, but when we play bad, we look really bad. There”s no in-between for us.”
“We learned tonight that if you don”t play the best game you have you”re not going to win in the NCAA,” Cammalleri said. “There”s so much parity, we have to come out with our best every night. Tonight we didn”t come out like it was the championship game, and they did.”