The No. 6 Michigan hockey team gained confidence in a mild upset over No. 3 Miami (Ohio) in its CCHA opener. But on Saturday, with a change in the wind, the Wolverine defense deteriorated and gave the RedHawks a triplet of goals in the third period before losing 4-3.
On Friday, senior forward A.J. Treais headlined Michigan’s 4-2 win, tallying a pair of goals off of 6 shots against Miami, plugging his second multi-goal contest this year.
Treais credits his timely success to making “lucky” shots, but Michigan coach Red Berenson translates it as something different.
“He can come in here and sit and dead pan that he’s just having fun and what not,” Berenson said. “But when the game’s on, there’s something going on in him, whether it’s passion or pride and responsibility. But he’s definitely finding a way to lift this team.”
But Treais’s minimal production and the lethargic defense on Saturday stifled the Wolverines’ opportunity to sweep. Michigan forfeited the trio of goals in a three-minute span after carrying a narrow lead into the third period.
It was a late surge for the RedHawks, coming back with vengeful efforts after being tagged with their first defeat of the season. Miami had suffered the loss in its first road game at the hands of Treais and the Wolverines’ gutsy offense.
In the first two minutes of play on Friday, Guptill tussled with Miami, which set the tone for penalty-plenty contest. He was sent to the box for indirect contact to the head after the whistle.
Though Michigan may have provoked the weekend’s scrappy play, it still stands with the lowest number of penalties in the conference (9.2 minutes per game), but fell to third in penalty kills (90.0 percent), giving the No.1 spot to none other than Miami (93.1 percent).
The RedHawks, however, were scorned on multiple occasions, notching 20 minutes of penalties over the weekend.
“We’ve got to watch when we take our penalties,” said Miami coach Enrico Blasi. “The timing of those penalties is crucial. … When you take offensive zone penalties and a penalty on the power play, it takes the momentum away.”
On Saturday, Miami bounced back and racked an early goal four minutes into the opening frame en route to its 4-3 win. Though freshman goaltender Steve Racine posted a solid performance on Friday, Berenson stood by his decision to split goalies.
Freshman Jared Rutledge let one slip past him, surrendering the 1-0 lead to forward Riley Barber and the RedHawks. The rookie netminder found temporary rhythm as the game progressed, inking 31 saves, but gave up the three-straight tallies to Miami in the final stanza.
In an uplifting two-thirds of the game, sophomore forward Travis Lynch found the rebound off junior forward Derek DeBlois and knocked it in the net to tie it up deep into the first period.
The Wolverines registered back-to-back tallies as Guptill hammered the puck home for the one-goal lead, assisted by sophomore forward Kevin Lynch 9:10 into the second period.
Though tempers seemed to just simmer, compared the chippy play the night before, the final two minutes of the middle frame was a not-so-friendly reminder of the existing rivalry. At the RedHawks’ goal cage freshman defenseman Jacob Trouba bullied Miami forward Chris McKenzie and both were sent to the sin bin for roughing.
That’s when the Michigan defense started to fall apart at the seams and Rutledge was served three-straight pucks to the net.
“It’s disappointing to go into the third period with a lead at home in the second game of a series that is a must-win and to have a defensive lapse like we had,” Berenson said. “We got out powered, out muscled going to the net and we had no answer for it.”
The RedHawks’ clinched the finale on a power play with DeBlois in the box for holding. Though the Wolverines closed the gap in the last two minutes with senior forward Lindsay Spark’s rebound goal, Miami maintained its lead and secured the win.
“I think we were kind of sleeping,” said junior defenseman Mac Bennett. “That’s going to sting a little.”