DETROIT — Entering the CCHA tournament as the seven seed, the Wolverines easily took care of Lake Superior State and Michigan State en route to the Joe.
But standing in Michigan’s way to the CCHA championship game against Northern Michigan on Saturday night was the conference’s regular season champions and No. 2 team in the nation, the RedHawks.
The Michigan hockey team defeated Miami (Ohio) 5-2 Friday night at Joe Louis Arena.
Miami won a mountain of honors Thursday night at the CCHA awards show. The RedHawks’ goalie, Cody Reichard, won the conference player of the year award, and Miami’s coach Enrico Blasi won the CCHA coach of the year award among numerous first-team all-conference selections. The task of taking the RedHawks on was daunting for a team that underachieved all season.
Michigan started the game slow, and didn’t record a shot on goal until seven minutes into the first period. But junior goalie Shawn Hunwick withstood Miami’s quick start and bought the Wolverines’ offense some time to get going.
Michigan struck first and it all happened so fast the RedHawks didn’t know what hit them. Junior defensemen Tristin Llewellyn scored his second goal of the season when junior forward Carl Hagelin passed him the puck back out to the point, and Llewellyn decided to rip a slap shot instead of reset to go up 1-0. Entering the game, the Wolverines were 20-4 when they scored first.
The Wolverines struck again in the second period when they caught Miami during a line change. The mistake left Michigan with a 4-on-1. A tick-tac-toe passing sequence later, and freshman defenseman Lee Moffie deposited the puck past the CCHA player of the year.
Miami responded with about three minutes remaining in the second period. After Michigan turned the puck over in the RedHawk’s zone, Miami junior forward Tommy Wingels carried the puck up the ice and had a 2-on-1 with senior defenseman Steve Kampfer the last defender back. Wingels pulled the puck back as Kampfer went down to block the puck, and Wingels walked around Kampfer and placed it just under the bar over Hunwick’s shoulder for the goal.
Just a few minutes into the third, freshman forward Kevin Lynch scored when the puck trickled to the backside of the net and he was wide open for the goal. Senior forward Brian Lebler barely got his puck on a pass from junior forward Matt Rust a few minutes later and the puck barely got past Reichard. Lynch added on another goal with just under 13 minutes to play in the third period and Michigan took a commanding 5-1 lead. Reichard was subsequently pulled — the first time he’s been pulled all season.
The Wolverines will take on Northern Michigan Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena at 7:35 p.m. for the CCHA’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.