Michigan hockey coach Red Berenson entered the Wolverines’ season opener on Saturday needing just one win to become the sixth coach in history to reach 700 wins.
But at the end of No. 4 Michigan’s 4-4 tie to Mercyhurst, he accomplished a far less honorable milestone. After going up 4-0 midway through the second period, the Wolverines (0-0-1) gave up a four-goal lead for the first time since 1988. Berenson had just 48 wins back then.
Michigan rebounded with a 4-2 win over Western Ontario on Sunday, but the game was an exhibition and doesn’t count toward Berenson’s win total.
“It’s going to happen, we’ve got all season,” Berenson said. “But we don’t want to be talking about it a few weeks from now. This should’ve happened tonight, and it’ll happen, but I’m not worried about that. I’m just worried about our team playing well.”
Penalties derailed the Wolverines’ offensive momentum Saturday. After taking only one penalty in the first period, the team took six in the second, including a five-minute major and a game misconduct on senior left wing Carl Hagelin. The Wolverines killed off the major and over a minute of five-on-three, but midway through the second, the Lakers finally capitalized.
Almost a minute after senior center Matt Rust’s shorthanded marker made the lead four, Mercyhurst’s power play completed three quick passes, resulting in a backdoor goal that left senior goalie Shawn Hunwick helpless.
The first goal was the only one the Lakers scored on their eight power play opportunities, but it was enough to change the momentum.
“The sign of a good team is not to let a waterfall effect happen,” Rust said. “When they got that first goal, the flood gates just opened. It was a stupid play that we wouldn’t normally make.”
Michigan took two more penalties in the third to slow down its offense further. It ended up playing nearly half (29 of 60 minutes) of regulation with a man in the box. Mercyhurst cut the lead to one just 27 seconds after the final penalty. The Wolverines took an extra two minutes in the five-minute overtime to finish with 31 penalty minutes in total. Mercyhurst had it.
“I think the penalties might have taken their toll on our players,” Berenson said. “But still, we had enough chances to win and we gave up too much. You can’t expect to win games when you give up four goals.”
As the game went into overtime Michigan had more chances to get Berenson his 700th win. The Wolverines fired four shots in the extra period. And in the final minutes, senior right winger Scooter Vaughan hit the post after a faceoff win.
But Mercyhurst also had their opportunity to get their coach, Rick Gotkin, a milestone win. With Gotkin looking for his 400th win, the Lakers had a final rush down the ice after Vaughan hit the post. After a shot from the left side, the puck sat in the crease to Hunwick’s left. Senior defenseman Chad Langlais dove and swiped the puck away to save the tie.
The teams had a shootout, which Mercyhurst won 2-1, but it was only a “try-out” shootout since the game was non-conference.
“We had good chances — isolated good chances — sometimes they go in, sometimes they don’t,” Berenson said. “Then, they had a couple, too. … We can’t do some of the things we did tonight and get away with it.”