Apparently, four penalty-killing opportunities just weren’t enough for Michigan Saturday night, so it decided to give Alaska-Fairbanks an unofficial powerplay halfway through the second period.

Although they were supposed to be at even strength, the Wolverines had only four skaters on the ice while play was in their zone. They quickly recognized the mistake and Brandon Kaleniecki jumped over the boards and sprinted to join his linemates. But Michigan has played so well short-handed this season that teams can rarely take advantage of powerplays – even bonus ones.

Michigan killed six of seven penalties in two games against the Nanooks this weekend, often controlling play despite being a man down. The Wolverines so frustrated the Nanooks that coach Guy Gadowski was left wondering if Michigan was at a disadvantage at all on the penalty kill.

“What penalty kill?” Gadowski asked. “They had two powerplays. They had a 5-on-4 powerplay and they had a 4-on-5 powerplay. It was embarrassing. I think I can count up the number of times we were able to even set up for the powerplay. They had as many chances on their penalty kill as we had on our powerplay altogether.”

Michigan converted one of those chances into a short-handed goal early in the second period. Captain Jed Ortmeyer beat Alaska-Fairbanks goalie Preston McKay to give Michigan a 2-1 lead.

The Nanooks did finally solve Michigan’s penalty kill at 1:52 of the third period Saturday, and Michigan coach Red Berenson pointed out that Alaska-Fairbanks has struggled on the powerplay all year (it has capitalized on just 2-of-28 opportunities).

Still, when Russell Spence put the puck past Montoya, it was the first time Michigan surrendered a powerplay goal since facing North Dakota on Oct. 12. The Wolverines’ penalty kill was ranked fourth in the nation going into Saturday’s game, and they have now killed 29 of 31 penalties.

One reason for that success is that Michigan doesn’t sit back while playing shorthanded.

“We want to be aggressive,” Ortmeyer said. “We want to try and get down on them right away so they don’t have time to set it up.”

Ortmeyer’s short-handed tally was Michigan’s second of the season, and he doesn’t think it will be the last.

“I think with the speed that we have on our team, and that we have for penalty killers, we’re going to have a lot of opportunities this year to get some short-handed goals if we’re aggressive,” he said.

Lesson learned: Michigan broke open both games with a three-goal barrage in the third period. On Saturday, Alaska-Fairbanks pulled to within one in the opening minutes of the period, but David Moss, Dwight Helminen and Ortmeyer all responded for Michigan.

Friday’s game was tied 2-2 until Helminen put the Wolverines ahead at 5:12 of the third, freshmen Kaleniecki and Jeff Tambellini put the game out of reach for the Nanooks.

Sophomore Michael Woodford said Michigan learned the hard way that the third period can be crucial.

“I think we learned our lesson from North Dakota,” he said. We were “up two goals going into the third period and they came back to beat us. So as much as that was a tough loss, it gave the new guys their first taste of how important the third period is.”

Gone again: Sophomore Jason Ryznar’s return from an injured right shoulder didn’t last long. Two shifts into Friday’s game – his first since Oct. 11 – Ryznar separated his left shoulder. He’s expected to be out a couple weeks. The Wolverines double-shifted Friday night, and on Saturday Mark Mink took Ryznar’s spot next to Ortmeyer and freshman Andrew Ebbett.

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