FAIRBANKS — In the northernmost trip the No. 19 Michigan hockey team will make all season, the Wolverines went south.

It was the same routine for the Wolverines after a 4-3 loss to Alaska (Fairbanks) on Friday that dropped it to under .500. Michigan captured an early lead, gave it back up, then couldn’t stay mentally tough. Their late comeback attempt fell short.

Same script. Different location.

After the game, it was more of the same — complete with the figurative post-game head scratching that has become the norm in the last few weeks. The players talked about mistakes, about puck luck and about playing well at times with nothing to show for it.

“We gotta win a game here soon,” said junior forward Chris Brown. “We just need to play better.”

The desperation came too late against the Nanooks (4-7-2 CCHA, 7-8-2 overall). Trailing 4-2, senior forward David Wohlberg scored with nine minutes remaining in the third period. Wohlberg has now scored a goal in two straight games after enduring a month-long pointless drought.

The Wolverines peppered shots on Alaska goalie Scott Greenham for the rest of the third period. Michigan outshot Alaska, 17-5, in the frame, with several of those shots on a late power play, but couldn’t score the equalizer.

“We had our chances to tie it, didn’t go in,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson.“We battled hard in the game.”

For the fifth time in seven consecutive winless games, the Wolverines scored first and gave the lead right back. This time, junior forward A.J. Treais opened the scoring.

Michigan (3-6-2, 7-8-2) outplayed the Nanooks early, but surrendered the equalizer in the first period off a string of mistakes. A Michigan turnover in the neutral zone led to a penalty on Brown. The Wolverines killed off the penalty, but Alaska scored just seconds after Brown stepped back onto the ice.

In the second period, Michigan surrendered two goals in a seven seconds span.

“You give up two goals in seven seconds, that’s unbelievable,” Berenson said. “That can’t happen. I can’t tell you that it was a great goal on their part of a bad goal on our part, but it happened. That’s what happens when you get pucks to the net.”

Freshman defenseman Brennan Serville, who recorded his first career multi-point game on Friday, credited the pair of quick goals to a lack of focus.

“I just think sometimes we get too down on ourselves,” Serville said. “Obviously we’re in a slump, so when things don’t go out way, we tend to lose momentum, lose confidence.”

The Wolverines effectively lost the game on the three unanswered Alaska goals after Michigan’s first.

The Nanooks scored two of those goals in a second period that was especially unkind to Michigan.
Alaska harassed fifth-year goalie Shawn Hunwick from close range in the second frame, firing off five shots on cage from right on the crease, one for a goal. Also in that period, Hunwick had to bail out the defense with five point-blank saves during one Alaska power play.

The Wolverines, in comparison, shot just once from inside the circles during the second. Berenson said his team didn’t effectively move the puck down toward the goal.

“I think part of it is, maybe we’re looking for a perfect shot,” Berenson said. “We’re not getting enough shots at the net, not enough traffic at the net. That’s how hockey’s played now — shots at the net in traffic, and rebounds and loose pucks.”

The loss drops Michigan to 10th in the CCHA, ahead of only Bowling Green.

Yet many players still said that they haven’t been playing poorly — hence the post-game head scratching.

“I honestly don’t think we played a bad game,” Serville said. “We just got to continue what we’re doing and sooner or later we’ll get the breaks, get the calls.”

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