BIG RAPIDS – Michigan captain Jed Ortmeyer came from one direction, alternate captain John Shouneyia came from the other. SMACK! They collided and careened across center ice.
Ferris State skated right by, all the way to the goal, where Jeff Legue beat goaltender Al Montoya. Just like that, Michigan was down four goals less than two minutes into the second period Saturday night.
That play epitomized the way Michigan started both games of its weekend battle with Ferris State. Friday night, the Bulldogs went up 2-0 in the first 3:20 at Yost, but the Wolverines didn’t let the deficit deflate them. They got two quick goals of thier own in the middle of the period and pulled out the 6-4 comeback.
A win on Saturday would have completed the sweep and moved Michigan into a tie for first place in the CCHA. The Wolverines should have known that league-leader Ferris State, in its own rink and with even more to prove, would play with more intensity than it had on Friday. And after beating the upstart Bulldogs once, they should have had the confidence to come out firing on Saturday.
Instead, Michigan spent the first part of the game digging itself into an even deeper hole than the night before. While the Bulldogs were zipping around the ice and hounding the puck, the Wolverines were running into each other. Michigan looked a little like last-place Lake Superior State, while Ferris State looked like best team in the league.
In its biggest challenge of the season – a showdown for first place that gave it a chance to tranquilize the rabid Bulldogs, who had come from nowhere last season (ninth place to be exact) – it’s puzzling that Michigan could come out flat.
“Hockey’s a game of emotion and momentum and we didn’t have either at the start of the game,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said of Friday’s game – although the same could be said for Saturday. “It took us half the (first) period for us to really start playing up to their level.”
If Michigan was going to get pumped up for any weekend this season, this should have been it. And as for playing to Ferris State’s level, great teams don’t try to match their opponents; they set the terms and see if anyone else can meet them. The Bulldogs played that way from the opening of both games.
In Saturday’s game, they attacked the Wolverines, battling for every loose puck and, at times, just skating by their opponents.
Michigan did outshoot Ferris State even while the Bulldogs were controlling play, but few of its 19 first period shots were quality chances. Berenson issued the standard clich